Is forgiveness of sins conditional or unconditional? It’s become rather common to hear the statements, “God sees my heart,” “God understands,” “God is love,” “God is not petty,” etc. as an excuse for self-justification.
On the contrary, precisely because God does see into every person’s heart, we should sit up and take notice. Do we have any justification at all from the scriptures that because God is love, He will pass over our sins as if they did not matter?
Peter says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pe 3:9).”
The Lord has a heart of forgiveness; He is ever ready and willing to forgive. Even so, let us not forget that it is His will “that all should come to repentance.”
Repentance is a command God has decreed unto all mankind.
“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).”
Impenitence can lead to chastisement. Our heavenly Father does not sit idly by while His children go astray. As a loving Father, He reaches out to pull us back to the right path.
David committed the abominable sins of adultery and murder. “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (2Sam 11:27).”
Imagine the Lord pardoned David unconditionally because He is love, and because He understood that David was only a fallible man, susceptible to temptations and unholy desires. What would have happened to David thereafter? He might have become numb to sin.
David was brought to his senses when the prophet Nathan confronted him of his sins. “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man (2Sam 12:7)!” David acknowledged his sins; he made no attempt at self-justification.
“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die (2Sa 12:13).”
David was pardoned only when he repented of his sins, not before. The Lord was willing that David should come to repentance, but He would not be untrue to Himself and forgave without David repenting.
The Lord Jesus, in His model prayer, taught His disciples to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Mat 6:12).” Our Lord wants His disciples to have a heart of forgiveness like the Father. But this in no way removes the condition of repentance.
If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that the gospel would be redundant. Why reason “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come (Acts 24:25)” when the Lord has already turned a blind eye to sins?
If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that the Lord Jesus was contradicting Himself when he declared, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).”
If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that John the Immerser was preaching false doctrine when he said, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8)…”
The apostle John wrote in his first epistle:
“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:8-10).”
Confessing or acknowledging our sins and guilt before the Lord is an act of repentance. It is a fruit of repentance the apostle’s namesake was preaching about so many years before (cf. Lu 3:8). When a Christian with contrite heart seeks forgiveness in humble repentance, our Father is faithful and just to forgive, and to cleanse His erring child from all unrighteousness.
There is no reason for the children of God to continue in sin. In fact, we cannot. Paul put forth the argument:
“Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Rom 6:16-18).”