In Acts 3:19 we read, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out…” We notice that “sins being blotted out” are conditional, based upon repentance. Without repentance our sins will not be blotted out. God has always desired that men repent (2 Peter 3:9), for without repentance we can never be forgiven. The word repent means, “to change one’s mind for better, heartily to amend with abhorrence of one’s past sins” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions). Jesus made it abundantly clear that the sinner must repent or perish (Luke 13:3, 5). We notice that He said “EXCEPT ye repent ye shall all likewise perish.” The word except carries the meaning of “if not or unless” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary).
It seems that we are going through a time when many are seeking to forgive and forget without repentance being in the conversation. Individuals as well as congregations transgress God’s word and live in that condition for years without repenting. Then after a period of time someone decides to forget and forgive those who have lived in that condition for years. Biblical forgiveness it dependent upon repentance. Anyone who has sinned must repent BEFORE forgiveness can be obtained. When an individual or a congregation is withdrawn from, that fellowship can only be restored through repentance. Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and IF he repent, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).
Sin separates men from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). To be separated from God means that one is walking in darkness and thus out of fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7). God does not overlook any of our sins. He requires confession of sins (1 John 1:9) and repentance (Acts 8:22).
What Does Forgiveness Mean? It does not mean that we can forgive even when one does not repent. We pray that repentance will come so that fellowship can be restored. However, our desires or prayers will NOT remove the guilt of sin for the one who has sinned. If such were possible why did Jesus give clear instructions in Matthew 18:15-17? He commanded, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15). If forgiveness can be granted without repentance, why would we be required to “go and tell him his fault?” If we can forgive without repentance He would have said, “just put the fault out of your mind and forgive him.” Why did Nathan say to David, “Thou art the man” in 2 Samuel 12:7? The answer is clear. David had sinned and needed to repent so as to obtain forgiveness!
When we ignore God’s commandments concerning repentance and the forgiveness of sin, we cause people to feel secure when they are not secure at all. It is impossible for us to forgive sins without the acknowledgement of sin and repentance of those sins. Just how many souls will be lost because we did not require repentance from those who were guilty? How many will be lost due to sins in their past which have never been forgiven? We have already observed that sins can never be forgiven “except ye repent.” Why is that hard for some to understand?
One person said he would just go ahead and forgive a transgressor even though there was nothing said about repentance. The person said I love them and want them to be forgiven. I believe that every faithful Christian wants the sinner to be forgiven. However, a faithful child of God will confront sin and never try to dismiss sins without repentance. Truth is… we cannot remove any sin without repentance coming from the guilty party. To try to do so will cause a soul to be lost! The faithful child of God must seek to restore the unfaithful (Galatians 6:1-2). Question: If we can forgive without confession and repentance why do preachers offer the invitation seeking to restore the erring child of God? We could just skip that part of the sermon if sinners do not need to repent!
Truth is --- God will not overlook sin and we dare not overlook or dismiss that which God will not.
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