9 Powerful Truths You Need To Know About Forgiveness In The Bible (2023)

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The topic of forgiveness in the Bible is extensive. And yet many Christians struggle to actually put what the Bible says into practice.

The reality is forgiveness is HARD. But while hard, forgiveness also offers us a way into a better life. The freedom that you can experience is worth it.

So we are going to dive into some Bible verses about forgiveness and then look at some practical lessons we can apply to our life.

What Is Forgiveness?

Let’s start by defining exactly what is forgiveness.

Merriam-Webster says that forgiveness is “to cease to feel resentment against an offender” or “to grant relief from payment of debt.”

Simply put, to forgive is to let go of the wrongs that have been done to us.

In this article we are specifically exploring forgiveness in the Bible and the definition here is largely the same. But the Bible changes some of the terms. Debt is replaced with sin. According to the Bible forgiveness is God’s promise to not count our sins (our debt) against us. That’s the picture of grace.

The Bible doesn’t stop there. Forgiveness isn’t just bestowed upon us. We are called to forgive those around us. Our forgiveness of those who have sinned against us is a reflection of God’s forgiving our sins.

Forgiveness means that God is letting go of the wrongs that we have committed against him. And in response we are to do the same for those that have wronged us.

So, what does the Bible say about forgiveness?

Bible Verses About Forgiveness

Alright, let’s look at some Bible verses about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a rather large topic in the Bible. From cover to cover you will find forgiveness as a key message in just about every book.

Let’s look at some of the highlights. First in the Old Testament.

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  • In Isaiah, it describes our sin as a bright red stain and God’s forgiveness as washing us white as snow. (Isaiah 1:18)
  • Jeremiah carries a similar message about God’s forgiveness. (Jeremiah 31:34)
  • David writes extensively in the book of Psalms praising God for his forgiveness. (Psalm 32:5, 38:3-4, 51:2-5, 86:5, 103:10-14, 130:4)
  • Solomon talks about the wisdom and benefits in forgiving others. (Proverbs 17:9)

In the New Testament it continues this theme and expands on it.

  • Jesus embodies God’s forgiveness of us. (Matthew 26:28)
  • Jesus builds on this by saying we are not only to receive forgiveness but to give it. (Matthew 6:14-15)
  • Jesus challenges us to take forgiveness beyond the point of fairness. We don’t stop forgiving. (Matthew 18:21-22).
  • Later in the New Testament Paul continually mentions the importance of forgiving others in his letters to the early church. (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13, Romans 12:17)
  • And James offers practical wisdom on loving our neighbor through forgiveness. (James 2:8)

The Bible verses about forgiveness fall into two broad categories. God forgiving us, and in response we are to forgive those around us.

Of course these are just the highlights. There’s much more that could (and should) be covered about forgiveness in the Bible. But we would be here all day if I listed every verse. I think the above verses give a broad view of how the Bible portrays forgiveness.

For a full list of Bible verses about forgiveness check out: Bible Verses About Forgiveness

9 Powerful Truths You Need To Know About Forgiveness In The Bible (1)

9 Lessons Forgiveness In The Bible Teaches Us

Now that we’ve looked at what the Bible says about forgiveness, I want to break that down into lessons we can take away.

Here’s 9 lessons that we can pull from forgiveness in the Bible.

1. We Forgive Because We Were Forgiven

The Bible is clear from the front to the back that God is a God who forgives. He’s paid our debts, forgiven our sins, and set us free. We have been forgiven much.

Our response isn’t to hoard this to ourselves. But to pour it out on those around us. God has generously given us grace and therefore we are to do the same.

This is the message from the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:21-35). His large debt was forgiven. But he went out to demand small debts that were owed to him be paid. He missed the heart of forgiveness. We are to forgive because we have been forgiven.

2. We All Need Forgiveness

We often have an inaccurate picture of who we really are. Sure, those people over there need forgiveness. But we aren’t as bad as them.

But forgiveness in the Bible paints a different picture. Romans 3:23 tells us that we ALL have fallen. We are ALL in need of forgiveness.

At the cross we find that we are all broken and incapable of saving ourselves.

3. God Forgives Us As We Forgive Others

Maybe one of the most challenging teachings from forgiveness in the Bible is that we are forgiven when we forgive. (Matthew 6:15, Luke 6:37)

In the Sermon On The Mount, Jesus lays out one of the most difficult, and life changing, teachings of his ministry. In it he says, “But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:15

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Our relationships with others have a direct impact on our relationship with God. We cannot love God and hate a person he created. Our lack of forgiveness breaks our relationship with God.

This does’t downplay the hurt that others have caused us. And this certainly doesn’t mean we instantly forgive. It’s a process. It can take time. But we should be moving towards forgiveness rather than harboring hate.

4. Forgiveness Sets Us Free

When we are harboring hatred in our hearts we think we are hurting the person who wronged us. But in reality we are only hurting ourselves.

Unforgiveness grows bitterness in our heart. It festers. The Bible tells us that and science has proven it to be true. It can lead to real symptoms such as depression, anxiety, heart issues, stress, and diabetes. (Source: Mayo Clinic and John Hopkins)

When we forgive we are set free. We can experience the good life that God has for us.

5. Forgiveness Isn’t Fair

We like things to be fair. The message of karma has infiltrated our western culture. You get what you deserve. Good or bad. That’s what we want. We want each person to get what they deserve. But that’s rarely reality in this world.

The reality is karma isn’t true. The Bible shows a different way to live. Romans 3:23 says we all deserve death, but God instead gives us life. Forgiveness in the Bible isn’t about people getting what they deserve, it’s about people getting what they need.

By definition forgiveness isn’t fair. It’s letting go of a debt that someone has racked up. They deserve to pay, they deserve punishment. Karma says they should pay. The Bible says we should forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t fair. It gives us what we need, rather than what we deserve.

6. Forgiveness Is Extended To EVERYONE

Jesus teaches us that we aren’t to just forgive our friends, but also our enemies (Luke 6:27). Jesus extends his forgiveness to all, and we are to do the same.

This might be the hardest step in forgiveness. To forgive our enemies is to forgive the people who have caused the most amount of harm to us.

Again, this isn’t something that we do overnight. This is process. That’s why Jesus tells us to pray for our enemies. This allows us to see them as God does and for God to transform our heart.

7. Forgiveness Isn’t About Forgetting

Forgiving someone does not mean that we forget their actions. Nor is it excusing the pain they caused us.

Forgiving someone means that we let go of their sin. We aren’t going to dwell on it anymore and let it affect our life. We don’t forget it or say that it was okay. And it also doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t be consequences should they be warranted.

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It just means that we are ready to move on. You are letting go of the debt they owe you.

8. Forgiveness Isn’t A One Time Affair

When Jesus was asked how many times we should forgive someone who has wronged us, he answered “seven times seventy.” (Matthew 18:21-22)

This isn’t a Bible math problem. The number seven in Jewish culture represented “perfection” or “completion.” What Jesus is saying is that you should forgive the “complete” amount. In other words, we are to keep forgiving until there’s no more to forgive.

Forgiveness isn’t something we do once. It’s the way we live our lives.

9. Jesus Is Our Ultimate Example

Jesus doesn’t ask us to do something he’s unwilling to do himself. He is the ultimate example for us to follow. Through Jesus the sins of the world are forgiven. All of them. Even the really heinous ones.

He’s done the heavy lifting. He’s set the example. Our charge is to do the same for those around us. He’s forgiven each of us of much. Therefore we are able to forgive those who have wronged us.

Also check out: What Does It Actually Mean To Follow Jesus

How Do We Forgive Someone?

I want to end by looking at how we can actually practice forgiving those who have wronged us. For many they will read a list like this and struggle to apply in to their life. So let me give you a few practical methods so you can practice forgiveness.


This should always be our first step towards forgiveness. Pray for God to change your heart and provide healing. Don’t just pray once, but pray consistently throughout this process.


Forgiveness isn’t going to happen overnight. The more serious the sin against you the longer it will likely take to forgive. Give yourself time. Don’t just forgive the person once, forgive them daily until it sinks into your heart.


I am a firm believer that everyone needs counseling at some point in their life. Likely, multiple times. If you’ve been wounded deeply you will likely need someone to help you process what happened and how to move forward in a healthy way.


There’s power in words. When we speak our forgiveness out and let the person who hurt us know they are forgiven, real change can happen. Depending on your situation this might look different. And it’s wise to seek out counsel on how to do this in a safe and healthy manner.

Closing Thoughts On Forgiveness In The Bible

It’s clear that forgiveness in the Bible is a dominant theme. We are reminded time and time again that we are forgiven and challenged to go do the same for those around us.

Forgiveness is not easy. But it is necessary for followers of Jesus. Without forgiving we will be unable to be forgiven. Our lives will suffer. If you want to live the good life that God has for you then you need to be willing to forgive.

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Jeffery Curtis Poor

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What are the 7 steps to true forgiveness? ›

7 Steps to True Forgiveness
  • Step 1: Acknowledge. Acknowledge the hurt. ...
  • Step 2: Consider. Consider how the hurt and pain has affected you. ...
  • Step 3: Accept. Accept that you cannot change the past. ...
  • Step 4: Determine. Determine whether or not you will forgive. ...
  • Step 5: Repair. ...
  • Step 6: Learn. ...
  • Step 7: Forgive.
Dec 10, 2013

What are the principles of forgiveness in the Bible? ›

The Lord expects us to forgive one another as he has forgiven us. Romans 3:23 teaches that all have sinned and lack the glory of God. We need forgiveness because we have sinned against God, ourselves and others. The one who has received forgiveness, has to give forgiveness as well.

What are 4 things that forgiveness is not? ›

What forgiveness is not: 5 common misconceptions
  • Forgiveness is not a feeling.
  • Forgiveness is not pretending you were not hurt.
  • Forgiveness is not condoning what the person did to you.
  • Forgiveness is not trusting the offender.
  • Forgiveness is not relieving the person of responsibility.

What are the 3 types of forgiveness? ›

The three types of forgiveness are: exoneration, forbearance and release. Let's take each in turn. Exoneration is the closest to what we usually think of when we say “forgiveness”.

What are the 4 R's of forgiveness? ›

Responsibility: Accept what has happened and show yourself compassion. Remorse: Use guilt and remorse as a gateway to positive behaviour change. Restoration: Make amends with whomever you're forgiving, even if it's yourself. Renewal: Learn from the experience and grow as a person.

What are the 4 types of forgiveness? ›

The four types of forgiveness are Cheap Forgiveness, Refusing to Forgive, Acceptance, and genuine Forgiveness.

What are the 3 importance of forgiveness? ›

Forgiveness can lead to: Healthier relationships. Improved mental health. Less anxiety, stress and hostility.

What are the three essential elements of forgiveness? ›

But those three elements need to be achieved before letting go (point 4) is possible. A lot of people want to leapfrog the feelings and rush to letting go, that's a problem I often see.
The effective attempts tend to share four common elements:
  • A. Express the emotion.
  • B. Understand why.
  • C. Rebuild safety.
  • Let go.
Sep 4, 2009

What two sins cant be forgiven? ›

— J.F.D. Rev. Graham: Only one sin that can't be forgiven is on God's list — and that is the sin of rejecting Him and refusing His offer of forgiveness and new life in Jesus Christ. This alone is the unforgivable sin, because it means we are saying that the Holy Spirit's witness about Jesus is a lie (see Luke 12:10).

What is a sin that Cannot be forgiven? ›

One eternal or unforgivable sin (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit), also known as the sin unto death, is specified in several passages of the Synoptic Gospels, including Mark 3:28–29, Matthew 12:31–32, and Luke 12:10, as well as other New Testament passages including Hebrews 6:4–6, Hebrews 10:26–31, and 1 John 5:16.

Can you be angry and still forgive? ›

Anger and forgiveness are partners

In reality, anger and forgiveness work together (and often at the same time) in any real healing process. Though anger and forgiveness may seem to be opposing forces, they are actually completely equal partners in the journey toward healing.

What is God's standard of forgiveness? ›

This means that when we repent and ask God to forgive us of our sins, we can trust that Jesus' death on the cross paid the penalty for all of our sins – it is enough. God set the standard for forgiveness as the cross, paying the debt for our sins and the sins of every person who's ever wronged us.

What is the key to forgiveness? ›

Forgiveness includes acknowledging that you are hurt, accepting the pain as your own, and being honest with yourself about the effect it's had on you. Forgiveness happens by being honest about what it was like for you to be betrayed, lied to, offended, mistreated, and abused.

What are the two sides of forgiveness? ›

Learning to let go. There are two sides to forgiveness: decisional and emotional. Decisional forgiveness involves a conscious choice to replace ill will with good will.

What are the five stages of forgiveness? ›

Worthington has distilled the REACH plan: Recall the hurt; Empathize with the one who hurt you; Altruistically decide to forgive; Commit publicly to forgiveness; and Hold on to that forgiveness.

How did Jesus teach forgiveness? ›

' (Luke 23:34). This act of forgiveness shows that any act can be forgiven. In John's Gospel (20:23) Jesus tells the disciples, "If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven".

What is the hardest thing about forgiveness? ›

A wound may heal, but you'll always be left with a scar.

What is the first stage of forgiveness? ›

Hallowell says the first step to forgiveness is acknowledging what happened. Talk to someone you trust and open up about how hurt, sad or angry you may feel. Let your emotions out, and don't apologize for them. Don't withdraw or isolate yourself.

What Bible verse says you must forgive to be forgiven? ›

Matthew 6:14-15 In-Context

13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. ' 14 For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

How many scriptures are there on forgiveness? ›

The word “forgive” appears 127 times throughout the books of the Bible. The graph below shows the locations of each appearance.

Why does God want us to forgive? ›

In fact, because God loves us so much, He sent His one and only Son to die for our sins so that we can have eternal life with Him. It is important to understand that if God had not forgiven us, we could never be saved. Therefore, we ought to forgive others.

Why is forgiveness so important to God? ›

What often is not underscored is that one of the main reasons the Lord commands us to forgive others is so that we are no longer under the power and injury of the injustice that we have experienced. In other words – receiving and giving forgiveness – is a main way the Lord heals you and brings wholeness to your life!

Why is it difficult to forgive? ›

Ways that hinder forgiveness may include: holding on to the grudge, thinking it will somehow punish the other person so we can feel righteous; hoping we will be protected from getting hurt again; believing that fairness and justice must be served, since the other person was wrong; and/or.

What does forgive 70 times 7 mean? ›

Jesus speaks of forgiveness beyond what anyone had ever considered before: seventy times seven! Many commentaries understand this to mean that Jesus was telling Peter that he should forgive his brother a limitless number of times.

What are the two reasons why we must forgive? ›

Forgiving others allows us to overcome feelings of anger, bitterness, or revenge. Forgiveness can heal spiritual wounds and bring the peace and love that only God can give.

What are two importance of forgiveness? ›

Why should we forgive? The Stanford Forgiveness Project has shown that learning to forgive lessens the amount of hurt, anger, stress and depression that people experience. People who forgive also become more hopeful, optimistic and compassionate and have enhanced conflict resolution skills.

How many times can sin be forgiven? ›

Matthew 18: 21-22 21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

How many times can you repent for the same sin? ›

There are two things to remember here: (1) God's mercy is indeed infinite, and (2) true repentance means forsaking your sins. On the one hand, because of the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ, repentance is available to everyone, even those who have made the same mistakes many times.

Is adultery an unforgivable sin? ›

Jesus forgives all sin

The Bible teaches that the blood Jesus' shed on the cross covers all sin, including infidelity. “… the blood of Jesus, God's Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). This means that any sin we commit, including infidelity, can be forgiven when we come to Jesus with a repentant heart.

How do I blaspheme the Holy Spirit? ›

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is willful, wide-eyed slandering of the work of the Spirit, attributing to the devil what was undeniably divine. These people had seen as clearly as anyone could see and understood as lucidly as anyone could understand that Jesus performed his miracles by the power of the Spirit.

What are some examples of blasphemy? ›

Spitting on a cross, drawing pictures in the Qur'an, tripping a rabbi—all of these are rude in general, but because they combine a sacred religious person or thing with rude behavior, they're also blasphemous.

How do I know I am saved? ›

The Bible clearly teaches that the moment a person turns from his sin and trusts in Jesus to be forgiven of his sin, he is saved (Acts 2:37-41). He has passed from spiritual death to spiritual life (John 5:24) and has been declared not guilty in God's court of law (Rom 3:21-26).

When should u not forgive? ›

Reasons Why It's OK Not to Forgive Someone

If you're still experiencing PTSD as a result of their actions (particularly relevant for childhood abuse). If you really feel, even after someone has expressed their apology and offered to amend their future behavior, that you're not in a place to forgive them.

Can you forgive someone and still not talk to them? ›

Forgiveness can help you reconcile

First, it's important to understand that you can forgive someone without resuming contact or picking a relationship back up. You can forgive someone even if you know you can never have the same relationship. Depending on the circumstances, you may even need to avoid contact.

Which verse teaches about forgiveness? ›

If we confess our sins, Jesus will forgive us (1 John 1:9) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. James tells us that confession leads to healing (James 5:16).

What does true forgiveness look like? ›

Forgiving others does not mean condoning that behavior, encouraging that behavior, or just letting someone off the hook. Forgiveness means acknowledging what has happened but not allowing yourself to hold onto a grudge, which may cause you immeasurable physical and emotional pain.

What does the Bible say about forgiveness and letting go? ›

God's forgiveness is actually said to be conditional upon forgiving others ( Matt 6:14 ; 18:35 ; Mark 11:25-26 ; Luke 6:37 ). Jesus says that there ought to be no limit on the number of times that one should forgive another so long as the offender repents and asks for forgiveness ( Matt 18:21-22 ; Luke 17:3-4 )."

What is true forgiveness? ›

Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.

What are facts about forgiveness? ›

Forgiveness Makes You Happier and Healthier

Many studies have shown that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who do not. Holding on to grudges can harm your health by acting as a chronic stressor.

What does true forgiveness require? ›

While there is some debate over whether true forgiveness requires positive feelings toward the offender, experts agree that it at least involves letting go of deeply held negative feelings.

Did you know facts about forgiveness? ›

Many studies have shown that people who forgive are happier and healthier than those who do not. Holding on to grudges can harm your health by acting as a chronic stressor. If you are unforgiving, you get a burst of the stress hormone cortisol every time you think about the offending event.

What Jesus says about forgiveness? ›

Jesus taught, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you” (Mt 6:14). Peter asked Jesus how often it is necessary to forgive, and Jesus replied, “Seventy-seven times” (Mt 18:22), a number to be taken symbolically, not literally, for the never-ending way that we ought to forgive.

What are the 5 steps of forgiveness? ›

Worthington has distilled the REACH plan: Recall the hurt; Empathize with the one who hurt you; Altruistically decide to forgive; Commit publicly to forgiveness; and Hold on to that forgiveness.

How do you truly forgive someone from your past? ›

Once you feel ready to forgive, you can take a few additional steps to make sure you're really ready.
  1. Talk through your feelings. Before you can forgive someone, you'll want to make sure you can put your feelings about what happened into words. ...
  2. Find the bright side. ...
  3. Forgive smaller things first. ...
  4. Forgive yourself.
Apr 27, 2020

How do you forgive someone who purposely hurt you? ›

Here are eight ways to work on that.
  1. Get mad, feel hurt and grieve. ...
  2. Ask yourself whether your anger is constructive or destructive. ...
  3. Don't worry—you aren't saying the offense was OK. ...
  4. Practice stress-reduction techniques. ...
  5. Remind yourself why you want this person in your life. ...
  6. Set boundaries.
Dec 12, 2019

When can you no longer forgive someone? ›

If forgiving someone guarantees that they're back in your life, and if that puts those around you (like your children or family) at risk. If that person pressures you to partake in negative behaviors, for example, drinking if you're sober. If that person doesn't respect your boundaries.


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