PROMISES TO BELIEVERS (CHRISTIANS)
As true Christians - people that have put the entire faith in Jesus - we are promised many things in the Bible. Listed here are just some of them:
God is faithful to FORGIVE the sins of those who repent and turn to Jesus
Will are under the PROTECTION of God
We will be the BRIDE OF JESUS (Believers before the rapture)
We are CHILDREN OF GOD
God has made a lot of promises through Bible prophecy to the Church. As we see the Lord fulfilling every promise He has made to the Jews, we can be assured that He will fulfill all the promises He has made to the Church through His Prophetic Word.
He has promised that one day very soon, His Son will appear in the Heavens. There will be the shout of an archangel and the blowing of a shofar, and all the dead in Christ will be resurrected to meet Him in the sky. And those of us who are alive will be taken up also, not even experiencing death (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). We will receive glorified, perfected bodies (Isaiah 35:5-6 & Philippians 3:21). We will return to Heaven with the Lord to await the end of the Tribulation (John 14:1-4). While in Heaven, we will be judged to receive our degrees of rewards (2 Corinthians 5:10) and we will celebrate our union with the Lord at the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 19:7-9).
We will then return with the Lord to this earth (Revelation 19:14), and we will reign with Him for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6). During that glorious reign, we will see the earth flooded with peace, righteousness and justice, as the waters cover the seas (Isaiah 11:1-9).
At the end of the Millennium, we will be removed from this earth to the New Jerusalem the Lord has been preparing for us, and from that vantage point, we will witness the greatest fireworks display in history as God envelops this earth in fire, burning away the pollution of Satan’s last revolt (2 Peter 3:10-13). Out of that fiery inferno will come new heavens and a new earth where we will live forever in the New Jerusalem in the presence of Almighty God and His Son (Revelation 21:1-7).
Maranatha! Come quickly, Lord Jesus!
1 Corinthians 2:9 – Spiritual Wisdom
1Co 2:9 But as it is written:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Revelation 20:4-6 – The Saints Reign with Christ 1,000 Years
Rev 20:4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.
1 Corinthians 15:50-58 – Our Final Victory
1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
What are the promises of God?
There are many, many promises of God in Scripture. In each promise, God pledges that something will (or will not) be done or given or come to pass. These are not flippant, casual promises such as we often make; these promises of God are rock-solid, unequivocal commitments made by God Himself. Because God is faithful, the recipients of the divine promises can have full assurance that what God has pledged will indeed be realized (Numbers 23:19).
Here are just a few of the promises that God has made:
Promises of God in the Old Testament.
God promised to bless Abraham and, through his descendants, the whole world (Genesis 12:2–3). This promise, called the Abrahamic Covenant, pointed to the coming Messiah for whom Abraham looked (John 8:56).
God promised Israel to be their God and make them His people (Leviticus 26:12–13). Old Testament history is teeming with examples of God fulfilling this promise.
God promised that if we search for Him we will find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). He is not playing hard-to-get. “Our God is near us whenever we pray to him” (Deuteronomy 4:7).
God promised protection for His children (Psalm 121). He was the vigilant watchman over all Israel.
God promised that His love will never fail (1 Chronicles 16:34). He is faithful in every way.
God promised Israel that their sin could be forgiven, their prosperity restored, and their nation healed (2 Chronicles 7:14). Repentance opened the road to fellowship and blessing.
God, under the terms of the Mosaic Covenant, promised prosperity to Israel for obedience and destruction for disobedience (Deuteronomy 30:15–18). Unfortunately, Israel eventually chose to disobey, and the nation was destroyed by Assyria and Babylon.
God promised blessing for all who will delight themselves in His Word (Psalm 1:1–3). Simple faith has its rewards.
Promises of God in the New Testament.
God promised salvation to all who believe in His Son (Romans 1:16–17). There is no greater blessing than the free gift of God’s salvation.
God promised that all things will work out for good for His children (Romans 8:28). This is the broader picture that keeps us from being dismayed by present circumstances.
God promised comfort in our trials (2 Corinthians 1:3–4). He has a plan, and one day we will be able to share the comfort we receive.
God promised new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Salvation is the beginning of a brand-new existence.
God promised every spiritual blessing in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). Whereas, in the Old Testament, Israel had the promise of physical blessing, the church today has been promised spiritual blessings “in the heavenly realms.” Our inheritance is reserved for us (1 Peter 1:4).
God promised to finish the work He started in us (Philippians 1:6). God does nothing in half measures. He started the work in us, and He will be sure to complete it.
God promised peace when we pray (Philippians 4:6–7). His peace is protection. It will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ.”
God promised to supply our needs (Matthew 6:33; Philippians 4:19). Not that we get everything we want, but our needs will be taken care of. We are more valuable than the birds, and our Heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:26).
Jesus’ promises in the Gospels.
Jesus promised rest (Matthew 11:28–30). Burdens are lifted at Calvary.
Jesus promised abundant life to those who follow Him (John 10:10). Following Jesus brings us more spiritual fulfillment than we could have anticipated. We leave boring behind.
Jesus promised eternal life to those who trust Him (John 4:14). The Good Shepherd also promised to hold us securely: “No one will snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:28).
Jesus promised His disciples power from on high (Acts 1:8). In this power, they “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6, ESV).
Jesus promised that He will return for us (John 14:2–3). From then on, we will be with Him always.
There are many more promises of God that could be listed. All of them find their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ, “the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3). “No matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Corinthians 1:20).
How do I know which of God’s promises are for me?
There are literally hundreds of God’s promises in the Bible. How can we know which promises apply to us, which promises we can claim? To frame this question another way, how can one tell the difference between general promises and specific promises? A general promise is one that is given by the Holy Spirit to every believer in every age. When the author penned the promise, he set no limitations on time period or recipient.
An example of a general promise is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This promise is based on the forgiving nature of God and is available to all believers everywhere. Another example of a general promise is Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This promise is made to all believers who, refusing to worry, bring their requests to God (v. 8). Other examples of general promises include Psalm 1:3; 27:10; 31:24; John 4:13-14 (note the word “whoever”); and Revelation 3:20.
A specific promise is one that is made to specific individuals on specific occasions. The context of the promise will usually make clear who the recipient is. For example, the promise of 1 Kings 9:5 is very specific: “I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” The preceding and following verses make it clear that God is speaking only to King Solomon.
Luke 2:35 contains another specific promise: “And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” This prophecy/promise was directed to Mary and was fulfilled in her lifetime. While a specific promise is not made to all believers generally, the Holy Spirit can still use a specific promise to guide or encourage any of His children. For example, the promise of Isaiah 54:10 was written with Israel in mind, but the Holy Spirit has used these words to comfort many Christians today: “my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed.”
As he was led to take the gospel to the Gentiles, the apostle Paul claimed the promise of Isaiah: “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth” (Acts 13:47). Isaiah’s promise was originally meant for the Messiah, but in it Paul found guidance from the Lord for his own life. When claiming one of God’s promises from Scripture, we should keep the following principles in mind:
1) God’s promises are often conditional. Look for the word “if” in the context.
2) God gives us promises to help us better submit to His will and trust Him. A promise does not make God bend to our will.
3) We cannot presume to know precisely when, where, or how God’s promises will be fulfilled in our lives.
What are some of the exceedingly great and precious promises mentioned in 2 Peter 1:4?
At the start of his second epistle, the apostle Peter writes these encouraging words to believers: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3–4).
God’s great and precious promises: their source. Peter says these promises stem from God’s “glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:3). He has made promises to His people in His Word because He is glorious and because He is good.
God’s great and precious promises: their recipients. Peter is writing to those who have received faith in the Savior (2 Peter 1:1). In verse 3, Peter refers to them as being “called” by God. The promises of God’s Word benefit believers in Jesus Christ.
God’s great and precious promises: their description. The promises God has made to His children are “great” or, as some translations say, “magnificent.” Not only that, but they are “very” great. And they are “precious”; that is, God’s promises are of inexpressible value. What God has promised is exceedingly magnificent and of the utmost worth.
God’s great and precious promises: their result. It is through the promises of God that we “participate in the divine nature”—we undergo a radical spiritual transformation and are made new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Having a new nature, we are no longer bound by the old sinful nature and are free from “the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire” (2 Peter 1:4, CSB). The promises of God have a sanctifying effect on us. With the Word of God in our hands and the Spirit of God in our hearts, we now have “everything we need for a godly life” (verse 3).
God’s great and precious promises: their message. So what are some of the promises to which Peter refers? All of God’s promises are wonderful, but we will look at some of the promises related to Peter’s next words, promises concerning the believer’s forgiveness, eternal life, and participation in the divine nature:
Psalm 23:6, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Isaiah 1:18, “‘Come now, let us settle the matter,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.’”
Ezekiel 36:26, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.”
John 6:37, “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”
Matthew 11:28–29, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
Acts 2:21; cf. Joel 2:32, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”
Acts 10:43, “Everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”
Acts 13:39, “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
John 10:28, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 14:3, “I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
John 14:19, “Because I live, you also will live.”
John 6:40, “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
These are not just empty words. They are God’s “great and precious”—magnificent and valuable—promises to us in Christ. They are more than words on a page; they are reality.
What is forgiveness?
Forgiveness in the Bible is a “release” or a “dismissal” of something. The forgiveness we have in Christ involves the release of sinners from God’s just penalty and the complete dismissal of all charges against us (see Romans 8:1). Colossians 1:14 says that in God’s beloved Son “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” The Amplified Bible translates the last phrase like this: “the forgiveness of our sins [and the cancellation of sins’ penalty].” God’s gracious forgiveness of our sin is to be the measure of our gracious forgiveness of others (Ephesians 4:32).
To some people, forgiveness may seem like weakness or letting an undeserving person win, but it has no connection to weakness or even to emotions. Instead, forgiveness is an act of the will. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is a deliberate act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what he or she has done to you.
What is forgiveness in relation to salvation?
Forgiveness is an integral part of salvation. When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is comparable to financial debt being erased. When Jesus said, “It is finished,” from the cross (John 19:30), He was literally saying, “It is paid in full” (tetelestai in Greek). Jesus took the punishment we deserved, so, when God forgives us of our sins, we are free; we no longer live under that debt. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold that sin against us (Psalm 103:12).
It is impossible to have salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s deliverance from the consequences of sin. God’s salvation in Christ is the ultimate example of extending forgiveness. God’s forgiveness must be accepted through repentance and faith. Have you accepted forgiveness from God?
What is forgiveness of others?
Forgiveness is also an essential part of the life of believers. Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Similarly, Colossians 3:13 says, “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” The key in both passages is that we are to forgive others as God has forgiven us. Why do we forgive? Because we have been forgiven!
The Bible tells us that we are to forgive those who sin against us. We keep no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5) but forgive as many times as necessary (Matthew 18:21–22). Refusing to forgive a person demonstrates resentment, bitterness, and anger, none of which are the traits of a growing Christian. Biblically, forgiveness is not just something that the offended person offers; it requires the offender to receive it, bringing reconciliation to the relationship.
God promises that, when we come to Him confessing our sin and asking for forgiveness, He freely grants it for the sake of Christ (1 John 1:9). Likewise, the forgiveness we extend to others should know no limits (Luke 17:3–4).
What is the relationship between salvation and forgiveness?
When we accept Jesus as our Savior, we receive salvation and forgiveness. But that’s not all. The Bible says we also receive justification, redemption, reconciliation, atonement, propitiation, and regeneration. Each of these theological terms expresses wonderful truths about the blessing we receive when Jesus becomes our Savior. Salvation and forgiveness, while related, are not exactly the same.
The term salvation comes from the Greek word sozo, which means “to be delivered, rescued.” Salvation is deliverance from the penalty of sin, that is, eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23; Matthew 25:46). Salvation is God’s rescuing us from our deserved fate. Salvation also includes a more immediate deliverance from the power of sin in this life. Sin has lost its dominion over the saved ones (Romans 6:14). Faith in Jesus Christ rescues us from the empty and meaningless life described in Ecclesiastes and provides us with a life that is abundant and fruitful (John 10:10; Galatians 5:22–23).
The term forgiveness comes from the Greek word aphiemi, which means “to let go, to give up, to keep no longer.” When Jesus forgives us, our sins, trespasses, iniquities, and transgressions are erased, wiped off the record. Forgiveness of sin is analogous to financial debt being erased. When God forgives us of our sins, we are free. Our sins are wiped out. God will never hold them against us (Psalm 103:12).
Salvation and forgiveness are closely related. There is no salvation without forgiveness. Salvation is God’s delivering us from the consequences of sin. Forgiveness is God’s erasing our sin debt. To use a financial illustration, forgiveness is God’s shredding the documents that list our debt, and salvation is God’s letting us out of debtors’ prison. Praise God for the wonderful salvation and forgiveness He has provided. May our lives reflect gratitude for all He has done for us (Romans 12:1).
What does the Bible say about forgiveness?
The Bible never gives a “dictionary” definition of forgiveness, but it shows us many examples of it. The greatest of all examples is the forgiveness of God. Although the following passage does not use the word forgive, it describes the concept of God’s forgiveness perfectly:
Psalm 103:8–12: The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
It is important to note that forgiveness operates in the realm of sin. In the majority of the passages in the Bible that contain the word forgive or forgiveness, sin is mentioned. The following are typical examples:
Genesis 50:17: I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly. Now please forgive the sins of the servants of the God of your father.
Exodus 32:32: But now, please forgive their sin.
Leviticus 4:35: In this way the priest will make atonement for them for the sin they have committed, and they will be forgiven.
1 Samuel 25:28: Please forgive your servant’s presumption.
Matthew 12:31: And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
Luke 5:20: When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
For a person to find true forgiveness, he or she must admit the sin. This is called confession. If a person tries to pass off sin as a mere mistake, human failing, or temporary lapse of judgment; or if he or she simply denies the sin altogether, it is a barrier to forgiveness.
1 John 1:8–10: If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.
God forgives sin, yet this does not mean that He simply “looks the other way” or “sweeps it under the rug.” The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23), and that penalty must be paid. In the Old Testament, God allowed for a sacrificial animal to take the place of the sinner. Leviticus 5:15–16 says, “When anyone is unfaithful to the Lord by sinning unintentionally in regard to any of the Lord’s holy things, they are to bring to the Lord as a penalty a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value in silver, according to the sanctuary shekel. It is a guilt offering. They must make restitution for what they have failed to do in regard to the holy things, pay an additional penalty of a fifth of its value and give it all to the priest. The priest will make atonement for them with the ram as a guilt offering, and they will be forgiven.”
The writer of Hebrews observes, “The law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Hebrews 9:22). However, the blood of sacrificial animals did not actually pay for sin. It simply postponed the judgment until a better sacrifice could be offered to pay the full penalty of sin and make forgiveness possible. Hebrews 10 explains this in depth, but the following excerpts from that chapter outline the flow of the argument:
The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:1–4)
Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. (Hebrews 10:11–12)
“This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” And where these have been forgiven, sacrifice for sin is no longer necessary. (Hebrews 10:16–18)
In order for God to forgive us, Jesus gave Himself as the sacrifice for sin. Jesus alluded to that sacrifice at the Last Supper when He told His disciples, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). After the resurrection, the apostles carried the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ throughout the world, preaching to both Jews and Gentiles:
Acts 10:43: All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
Acts 13:38: Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.
Ephesians 1:7: In [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
So God forgives people on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. The only requirement is that sinful people confess their sin, turn from it, and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior. Once a person has experienced the forgiveness of God, he or she is then able (and responsible) to forgive others. “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13). In fact, those who refuse to forgive betray the fact that they do not understand how much of their own sin they need to have forgiven. Christians should be willing to forgive people who have sinned against them. Every person has wronged God far more than they have been wronged by other people. Jesus illustrates the point in Matthew 18:21–35:
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?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
“At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
We often hear the phrase forgive and forget, and this can be misleading. As a rejoinder to this phrase, sometimes we hear, “I’ll forgive, but I will never forget.” To forgive and forget does not mean that a person who has been wronged develops some kind of sanctified amnesia. A person who has been abused will never forget that it happened. A person who has suffered from an adulterous spouse will always remember that experience. A parent who has had a child abducted will probably think about that crime every day he or she spends on earth. Yet, it is possible for each of these people who have been sinned against to forgive and also to forget, as long as the biblical definition of forget is in view.
In the Bible, remembering and forgetting do not have to do with retention of information in the brain. In Genesis 8:1, after the flood, “God remembered Noah.” Does this imply that for a while God had forgotten about Noah, misplaced him among the flood waters, and then one day He remembered and thought He had better check on him? No, the biblical concept of remembering has to do with “choosing to act,” and forgetting means “refusing to act” on the basis of something. When the Bible says God “remembered” Noah, it means that God chose to act on Noah’s behalf and sent a wind to help the waters recede more rapidly. God promises that, under the New Covenant, “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; cf. Hebrews 8:12; 10:17). God does not forget that people have sinned, but, when He forgives, He chooses not to act on the basis of those sins. It is similar to the sentiment expressed in 1 Corinthians 13:5 where “love keeps no record of wrongs.” In the phrase forgive and forget, the two terms are really synonyms. Both mean that the person who has forgiven will not continue to hold that sin against the wrongdoer or take it into account in future interactions. A person may remember that it happened, but he or she can choose not to act on it—that is biblical forgetting.
Many wonder about forgiving people who have sinned but have not confessed, repented, or asked for forgiveness. Sometimes in court, the victims of a crime will get to speak to the perpetrator before the sentence is passed. Often the victims will tell how the crime has impacted them and ask the judge to impose the strictest sentence. But, on occasion, the victim will say to the perpetrator, “I forgive you.” Is this forgiveness valid if the convicted criminal has not confessed and asked for forgiveness?
The answer is both “yes” and “no.” On one hand, the victim often forgives the criminal so that he or she will not be eaten up by hatred for the criminal. The forgiveness granted by the victim in court does not absolve the criminal from any legal penalties, so the state is still right to prosecute. On the other hand, God forgives people when they confess their sin and ask for forgiveness; forgiveness only comes through faith in Christ, which involves a spiritual transformation. In the courtroom example, even if the victim “forgives” the criminal, there can never be the establishment or restoration of a relationship unless the criminal confesses his sin and actually seeks forgiveness.
The goal of biblical forgiveness is not only to benefit the victim but to restore the sinner. This cannot happen without the acknowledgment of sin on the sinner’s part. Therefore, in some cases the one who has been sinned against is right not to “let it go” until the sinner has asked for forgiveness. Good parents should be willing to forgive once their wayward child has confessed and asked for forgiveness, but they are right to withhold forgiveness until their child has taken the steps necessary to allow the reconciliation. It would be foolish for a father to simply forgive his teenage son for disobeying his rules (and the law) by drinking and driving if the son does not acknowledge that what he did was wrong. However, the father should be willing to forgive when the conditions are right. In some situations, granting unrequested forgiveness cheapens the concept and ignores the seriousness of the offense.
A person should always be willing to forgive every time forgiveness is requested, as Jesus taught. It goes without saying that on some of those occasions the request may be insincere, or, even if sincere, the person will commit the same offense against us again at a later time. After all, isn’t this what we do to God, and isn’t that how He forgives us?
In some cases the one who has been sinned against is right to simply “let it go,” even if forgiveness has not been requested, and in other cases the one sinned against needs to wait until the offending party has confessed and asked for forgiveness, so that the relationship can be restored. This is the principle behind church discipline, as outlined in Matthew 18:15–17. If the confrontation of the sinner brings about confession, then reconciliation and forgiveness are offered. If the confrontation is unsuccessful, excommunication from the church is the final result. As a general rule regarding petty slights and offenses in the family and in the church, a person should let them go—“turn the other cheek,” as Jesus put it (Matthew 5:39). However, if the offense is such that turning the cheek is not possible, the offended party is obligated to go talk to the offender about it. Under no circumstance does one have the right to harbor resentment, nurture bitterness, or gossip about the offense.
Here are some questions to ponder in relation to forgiveness:
• Have I confessed my sin and received God’s forgiveness?
• Is there anyone whom I have sinned against and from whom I need to ask forgiveness?
• Is there anyone who has sinned against me and has asked me for forgiveness, but I have refused to forgive?
• Is there anyone I am holding a grudge against for past wrongs?
• If there is an unresolved issue, will I simply “let it go,” or will I go talk to the offender about it? (Continuing to hold a grudge is not a biblical option!)
• Would I be willing to forgive if the offender asked me for forgiveness?
Ecclesiastes 7:20 – The Value of Practical Wisdom
Ecc 7:20 For there is not a just man on earth who does good And does not sin.
Romans 3:22-25 – Christ Took Our Punishment
Ro 3:22 We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. 24 Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. 25 For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.
Romans 6:15-23 – From Slaves of Sin to Slaves of God
Ro 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! 16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. 19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness. 20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 John 2:1-2 – The Test of Knowing Christ
1Jn 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world. 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
Isaiah 53:4-6 – The Sin-Bearing Messiah
Is 53:4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
Ephesians 1:7 – Redemption in Christ
Eph 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace
Romans 3:21-26 – God’s Righteousness Through Faith
Ro 3:21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Hebrews 10:11-18 – Christ’s Death Perfects the Sanctified
Heb 10:11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. 15 But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, 16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” 17 then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.
Jeremiah 31:31-34 – A New Covenant
Jer 31:31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— 32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Matthew 26:26-29 – Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper
Mt 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”
Hebrews 8:11-13 – A New Covenant
Heb 8:11 None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” 13 In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Acts 10:42-43 – Preaching to Cornelius’ Household
Act 10:42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
Acts 13:38-39 – At Antioch in Pisidia
Act 13:38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; 39 and by Him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.
1 John 2:12 – Their Spiritual State
1Jn 2:12 I write to you, little children, Because your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake.
Romans 8:1-8 – Free from Indwelling Sin
Ro 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Colossians 1:9-14 – Preeminence of Christ
Col 1:9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. 13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Psalm 130:3-4 – Waiting for the Redemption of the Lord
Ps 130:3 If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with You, That You may be feared.
Psalm 86:1-7 – Prayer for Mercy, with Meditation on the Excellencies of the Lord
Ps 86:1 Bow down Your ear, O Lord, hear me; For I am poor and needy.
2 Preserve my life, for I am holy; You are my God; Save Your servant who trusts in You!
3 Be merciful to me, O Lord, For I cry to You all day long.
4 Rejoice the soul of Your servant, For to You, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
5 For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.
6 Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer; And attend to the voice of my supplications.
7 In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me.
Micah 7:18-20 – God Will Forgive Israel
Mic 7:18 Who is a God like You, Pardoning iniquity And passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever, Because He delights in mercy.
19 He will again have compassion on us, And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins Into the depths of the sea.
20 You will give truth to Jacob And mercy to Abraham, Which You have sworn to our fathers From days of old.
Psalm 103:8-12 – Praise for the Lord’s Mercies
Ps 103:8 The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.
9 He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Acts 22:14-16 – Paul’s Defense at Jerusalem
Act 22:14 Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’
Luke 7:36-47 – A Sinful Woman Forgiven
Lk 7:36 Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat. 37 And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited Him saw this, he spoke to himself, saying, “This Man, if He were a prophet, would know who and what manner of woman this is who is touching Him, for she is a sinner.”
40 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” So he said, “Teacher, say it.”
41 “There was a certain creditor who had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 And when they had nothing with which to repay, he freely forgave them both. Tell Me, therefore, which of them will love him more?”
43 Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”
And He said to him, “You have rightly judged.” 44 Then He turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has washed My feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head. 45 You gave Me no kiss, but this woman has not ceased to kiss My feet since the time I came in. 46 You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Confess and Repent – Return to the Lord
Forgiveness requires confession (admission of sin) and repentance (turning away from the sin)
Romans 3:9-12 – All People Are Sinners
Ro 3:9 Well then, should we conclude that we Jews are better than others? No, not at all, for we have already shown that all people, whether Jews or Gentiles, are under the power of sin. 10 As the Scriptures say,
“No one is righteous—not even one.
11 No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God.
12 All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.”
1 John 1:8-10 – Fellowship with Him and One Another
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Acts 2:38-39 – Peter’s Sermon
Act 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
Isaiah 43:24-26 – Pleading with Unfaithful Israel
Is 43:24 You have bought Me no sweet cane with money, Nor have you satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices;
But you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities.
25 “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins.
26 Put Me in remembrance; Let us contend together; State your case, that you may be acquitted.
Acts 17:29-31 – Addressing the Areopagus
Act 17:29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
Isaiah 1:16-20 – The Wickedness of Judah
Is 1:16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow.
18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient, You shall eat the good of the land;
20 But if you refuse and rebel, You shall be devoured by the sword”; For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
Proverbs 28:12-14 – The Righteous Are Bold as a Lion
Pro 28:12 When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory; But when the wicked arise, men hide themselves.
13 He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.
14 Happy is the man who is always reverent, But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
Isaiah 55:6-7 – An Invitation to Abundant Life
Is 55:6 Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
Acts 3:17-23 – Preaching in Solomon’s Portico
Act 3:17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, 20 and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, 21 whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. 22 For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’
2 Chronicles 30:8-9 – Hezekiah Keeps the Passover
2Ch 30:8 Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His wrath may turn away from you. 9 For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and your children will be treated with compassion by those who lead them captive, so that they may come back to this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful, and will not turn His face from you if you return to Him.”
2 Chronicles 7:12-14 – God’s Second Appearance to Solomon
2Ch 7:12 Then the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said to him: “I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. 13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Daniel 9:8-14 – Daniel’s Prayer for the People
Dan 9:8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. 9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. 10 We have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets. 11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him. 12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem. 13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the Lord our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth. 14 Therefore the Lord has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice.
1 Kings 8:44-52 – Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication
1Ki 8:44 “When Your people go out to battle against their enemy, wherever You send them, and when they pray to the Lord toward the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name, 45 then hear in heaven their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause. 46 “When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to the land of the enemy, far or near; 47 yet when they come to themselves in the land where they were carried captive, and repent, and make supplication to You in the land of those who took them captive, saying, ‘We have sinned and done wrong, we have committed wickedness’; 48 and when they return to You with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who led them away captive, and pray to You toward their land which You gave to their fathers, the city which You have chosen and the temple which I have built for Your name: 49 then hear in heaven Your dwelling place their prayer and their supplication, and maintain their cause, 50 and forgive Your people who have sinned against You, and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against You; and grant them compassion before those who took them captive, that they may have compassion on them 51 (for they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out of Egypt, out of the iron furnace), 52 that Your eyes may be open to the supplication of Your servant and the supplication of Your people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to You.
Psalm 51:1-9 – A Prayer of Repentance
Ps 51:1 Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness, That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, A broken and a contrite heart—These, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 32:1-7 – The Joy of Forgiveness
Ps 32:1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent, my bones grew old Through my groaning all the day long.
4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer. Selah
5 I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” And You forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.
7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
Will God forgive me?
Are you feeling guilty and desperate? Mortified by some of the things you’ve done? Wondering if forgiveness is possible? The conviction of sin can bring us to a place of feeling helpless and hopeless. Our shame tempts us to think that no one, much less God, could forgive us. We might wonder how we can go on. What possible hope could there be?
Have you heard that God is a forgiving God? Have you heard about His great love? Let’s start with the good news first: no one is beyond God’s forgiveness. No matter what you have done, you have not out-sinned God’s ability to forgive you.
The Bible tells us that all humans have sinned (Romans 3:23). Each of us is deserving of eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23). No matter the sin—rape, murder, terrorism, adultery, theft, pride, gossip, jealousy, lying, not fully loving others, etc.—we deserve to be punished. It’s an all-or-nothing scenario. God does not judge us on whether our "good" outweighs our "bad," but on whether we will accept His way of salvation.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:16–18, ESV).
God made a way of forgiveness, not just for some sin but for all of it. There is no sin that God cannot forgive. No matter what you’ve done, God will forgive you if you come to Him in faith.
There is only one way of forgiveness. God won’t forgive you because you promise to do better next time or because you make amends or because you do good deeds. No, He will forgive you because Jesus paid the penalty for sin on your behalf.
Jesus was fully God and fully human. He was without sin and lived a perfect life. But He was crucified on the cross. He died a sinner’s death. The Bible tells us, "For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Corinthians 5:21, ESV). Jesus took on our sin so that we wouldn’t have to bear it. He did the work and paid the price so that we could receive forgiveness.
We know Jesus spoke truth and that His sacrifice on our behalves was effective because He rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3–4, 20–22). Jesus died and was buried, but He was physically raised back to life. Jesus conquered sin and death. He made it possible for us not to be stuck in our sin and guilt and shame. He made a way for us to move past despair and into true life (John 10:10). He offers forgiveness to us if we will put our trust in Him.
Do you want to receive forgiveness from God today? There is no one prayer that will grant you this forgiveness. As has been explained, forgiveness is made possible through the work of Jesus Christ. But we can receive this forgiveness by asking God for it, in faith, through prayer. You might say something like this:
"God, I know that I have sinned against you. I know that I am deserving of being separated from you forever. I know that I can’t possibly make it up to you or become righteous in myself. I need your forgiveness. You have provided a way. You sent your Son Jesus to live a perfect life, die, and rise back to life on my behalf. You have paid the price that I owed for sin so that I might be forgiven and enjoy fellowship with you. Please forgive me, God. I believe in you. Remove my guilt and bring me into new life in your Son. Thank you that I can trust that you will do this. Thank you for providing a way of forgiveness and for accepting me into your family. Amen."
If you have prayed this prayer and truly believed it in your heart, you are forgiven. You have been made new in Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have become a child of God (John 1:12–13). Give God praise for releasing you of the burden of guilt and despair.
Prayer for Forgiveness of Sins
Do you want to know, how to be forgiven by God, what a prayer for forgiveness of sins is, or how to become a Christian? If you want to know, what does the Bible say about forgiveness or how to go to heaven, you’ve come to the right place. In this video about God’s Forgiveness, Pastor Nelson walks you through what the Bible says about forgiveness.
Acts 13:38 declares, "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you."
What is forgiveness and why do I need it?
The word "forgive" means to wipe the slate clean, to pardon, to cancel a debt. When we wrong someone, we seek their forgiveness in order for the relationship to be restored. Forgiveness is not granted because a person deserves to be forgiven. No one deserves to be forgiven. Forgiveness is an act of love, mercy, and grace. Forgiveness is a decision to not hold something against another person, despite what they have done to you.
The Bible tells us that we are all in need of forgiveness from God. We have all committed sin. Ecclesiastes 7:20 proclaims, "There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins." First John 1:8 says, "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us." All sin is ultimately an act of rebellion against God (Psalm 51:4). As a result, we desperately need God’s forgiveness. If our sins are not forgiven, we will spend eternity suffering the consequences of our sins (Matthew 25:46; John 3:36).
Forgiveness – How do I get it?
Thankfully, God is loving and merciful – eager to forgive us of our sins! 2 Peter 3:9 tells us, "…He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance." God desires to forgive us, so He provided for our forgiveness.
The only just penalty for our sins is death. The first half of Romans 6:23 declares, "For the wages of sin is death…" Eternal death is what we have earned for our sins. God, in His perfect plan, became a human being – Jesus Christ (John 1:1,14). Jesus died on the cross, taking the penalty that we deserve – death. Second Corinthians 5:21 teaches us, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." Jesus died on the cross, taking the punishment that we deserve! As God, Jesus’ death provided forgiveness for the sins of the entire world. 1 John 2:2 proclaims, "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world." Jesus rose from the dead, proclaiming His victory over sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:1-28). Praise God, through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the second half of Romans 6:23 is true, "…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Do you want to have your sins forgiven? Do you have a nagging feeling of guilt that you can’t seem to get to go away? Forgiveness of your sins is available if you will place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Ephesians 1:7 says, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace." Jesus paid our debt for us, so we could be forgiven. All you have to do is ask God to forgive you through Jesus, believing that Jesus died to pay for your forgiveness – and He will forgive you! John 3:16-17 contains this wonderful message, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him."
Forgiveness – is it really that easy?
Yes it is that easy! You can’t earn forgiveness from God. You can’t pay for your forgiveness from God. You can only receive it, by faith, through the grace and mercy of God. If you want to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive forgiveness from God, here is a prayer you can pray. Saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Jesus Christ that can provide forgiveness of sins. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and to thank Him for providing for your forgiveness. "God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness! Amen!"
I have committed _____ sin. Will God forgive me?
Insert whatever sins you have committed into the ______. Yes, God can and will forgive any sin. The doctrine of atonement is what explains salvation and forgiveness of sin. God imputed Christ’s righteousness to those who humbly ask for forgiveness of sin (Isaiah 53:5-6; 2 Corinthians 5:21). He paid the full price for our sin, and believers are forgiven fully for every sin they commit—past, present, and future. There is also daily forgiveness as we confess our sins and forsake them for our sanctification. If you compare any sin to the murder of Jesus, it pales in comparison, yet Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
The concepts of salvation and forgiveness of sin are inextricably linked. Fortunately, God’s grace is sufficient for any and all sin, whatever sin you put in the blank. Receiving forgiveness of sin is up to the individual. That is the first issue; will you receive the salvation (forgiveness of sin) that Christ is offering? If the answer is "yes," then you are fully forgiven of all debt of sin (Acts 13:38-39). This forgiveness comes by faith in Jesus and God’s grace alone, not by works or good deeds (Romans 3:20,22). Salvation begins by humbly acknowledging that we will never be good enough to get into heaven on our own merit and that we need forgiveness of sin. Accepting Jesus Christ means believing that His death and resurrection paid the penalty for all sin ever committed and that it is sufficient to cover all sin (1 John 2:2).
So, if you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, God has already forgiven all your sins. If you have not, confess your sins to God, and He will cleanse you and restore you to fellowship with Him (1 John 1:8-9). Even with forgiveness of sin, you may still experience feelings of guilt. Feeling guilty over sin is actually a natural response of our conscience, and it is there to remind us not to repeat sinful patterns. Understanding that Jesus is fully capable of forgiving any measure of sin is the hope of our salvation. Understanding forgiveness is the cure for guilty feelings.
Knowing that forgiveness is really a beautiful, graceful gift from a God who loves us allows us to see how truly wonderful He is. When we contemplate our own sin and how wretched and unworthy of forgiveness we are, it becomes clear that God is loving, compassionate, and worthy of our worship. Our sinful pride that resists asking for forgiveness is what stands between us and a relationship with a caring Savior. But for those who ask for forgiveness of sin, they can believe that Jesus is sufficient and eager to forgive and save them from their sin, and they will ultimately enter into His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4).
Do Christians have to keep asking for forgiveness for their sins?
A frequent question is “what happens if I sin, and then I die before I have an opportunity to confess that sin to God?” Another common question is “what happens if I commit a sin, but then forget about it and never remember to confess it to God?” Both of these questions rest on a faulty assumption. Salvation is not a matter of believers trying to confess and repent from every sin they commit before they die. Salvation is not based on whether a Christian has confessed and repented of every sin. Yes, we should confess our sins to God as soon as we are aware that we have sinned. However, we do not always need to be asking God for forgiveness. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ for salvation, all of our sins are forgiven. That includes past, present, and future, big or small. Believers do not have to keep asking for forgiveness or repenting in order to have their sins forgiven. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins, and when they are forgiven, they are all forgiven (Colossians 1:14; Acts 10:43).
What we are to do is confess our sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). What this verse tells us to do is “confess” our sins to God. The word “confess” means “to agree with.” When we confess our sins to God, we are agreeing with God that we were wrong, that we have sinned. God forgives us, through confession, on an ongoing basis because of the fact that He is “faithful and just.” How is God “faithful and just”? He is faithful by forgiving sins, which He has promised to do for all those who receive Christ as Savior. He is just by applying Christ’s payment for our sins, recognizing that the sins have indeed been atoned for.
At the same time, 1 John 1:9 does indicate that somehow forgiveness is dependent on our confessing our sins to God. How does this work if all of our sins are forgiven the moment we receive Christ as Savior? It seems that what the apostle John is describing here is “relational” forgiveness. All of our sins are forgiven “positionally” the moment we receive Christ as Savior. This positional forgiveness guarantees our salvation and promise of an eternal home in heaven. When we stand before God after death, God will not deny us entrance into heaven because of our sins. That is positional forgiveness. The concept of relational forgiveness is based on the fact that when we sin, we offend God and grieve His Spirit (Ephesians 4:30). While God has ultimately forgiven us of the sins we commit, they still result in a blocking or hindrance in our relationship with God. A young boy who sins against his father is not cast out of the family. A godly father will forgive his children unconditionally. At the same time, a good relationship between father and son cannot be achieved until the relationship is restored. This can only occur when a child confesses his mistakes to his father and apologizes. That is why we confess our sins to God—not to maintain our salvation, but to bring ourselves back into close fellowship with the God who loves us and has already forgiven us.
In regards to forgiveness, is there a difference between willful sin and ignorant sin?
Though God makes a distinction between those who sin in ignorance and those who sin willfully (Numbers 15:27-31), repentance is always necessary to receive forgiveness (Mark 1:15; Acts 2:38; Acts 26:18). Repentance is literally a change in one’s attitude about God and accompanies saving faith in Christ (Acts 3:19; 20:21; 26:20). Without it there can be no forgiveness. Jesus said, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3; cf. 17:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9).
To sin willfully is to be proud and presumptuous in one’s defiance of God (Psalm 19:13; Hebrews 10:26). Willful sins bring God’s judgment, sooner or later, but sins of ignorance are not excusable, either: “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed” (Ephesians 4:17-19; see also Acts 3:17-19; Acts 17:30-31). Forgiveness is available to all, but we leave it to God’s sovereign grace to cause the transgressor to truly repent in order to be pardoned (Ephesians 2:4).
Those who reject Jesus and His gospel in ignorance must accept Him in repentance in order to receive forgiveness of their sins. Jesus made this abundantly clear: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It doesn’t matter whether someone misses the way because of ignorance or because of willful rebellion—he has still missed the way.
People are not as ignorant as they may claim, however. No one can be utterly ignorant of God, and no one has an excuse to live in disobedience. The apostle Paul said, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:18-20).
Though we may at times sin in ignorance, we can always be assured of God’s forgiveness. The apostle Paul is a classic example of this truth: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13). Yet for those who willfully and habitually sin, Peter makes it clear that “if they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21).
John gives us clarity on the matter of forgiveness: “If we say 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” (1 John 1:8-9).
What does the Bible say about forgiving yourself?
The Bible has a lot to say about forgiveness, but it does not specifically address the concept of forgiving oneself. Usually, we talk about “forgiving yourself” when a person expresses persistent guilt over past sin or remorse over negative consequences caused by an earlier decision. We might personally feel the need to “forgive ourselves” for our mistakes in order to move forward in our lives.
Forgiving yourself ultimately comes from understanding God’s forgiveness. The Bible is clear that every human has sinned against God (Romans 3:23), and that all our wrongdoing is against God (Psalm 51:4; Genesis 39:9). Thus, the essential thing we need is God’s forgiveness, which is available to us through the person and work of Jesus Christ. All who put their faith in Jesus are fully forgiven of their sins. They are counted as righteous before God, eternally justified (Romans 5:1–11; Ephesians 1:13–14; 2:1–10). We do, of course, still struggle with sin, but God is faithful to cleanse us when we confess to Him and restore us to right fellowship with Him (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2). Jesus’ sacrifice was enough for any and all of our sins. Forgiving yourself, then, actually has to do with receiving God’s forgiveness.
It is helpful to compare our forgiveness of others with our forgiveness of ourselves. Matthew 18:21–35 records the parable of the unmerciful servant. In it, a master forgives the exorbitant debt of one of his servants, only for that servant to demand a much smaller amount from a fellow servant. The master said, “Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33). As we have received forgiveness from God, we are to extend that forgiveness to others. There are no higher standards than God’s. Our sins against one another are sins against God; it is His laws that we have transgressed. There is no way a person, including ourselves, could sin against us more than against God. When we understand that God’s standards are what count and that He has graciously extended forgiveness to us, we can extend that same forgiveness to others—and to ourselves.
While this might be simple to understand in concept, forgiving yourself can be difficult in practice. We regret our bad decisions, and we are remorseful over the ways they have hurt ourselves and others. The enemy continues to accuse us and remind us of our sins. Others in our lives might do the same. There are times we might even think it is repentant or laudable to refuse to forgive ourselves, as if our punishment of ourselves will atone for our sins. But that is not at all the message of the gospel. In fact, the Bible is quite clear that we could never make up for our own sins. We are sinners who are dead in transgression (Romans 3:23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1–10) and hopeless apart from Christ (John 3:16–18, 36; Romans 5:6–8). The gospel tells us that God’s wrath for our sins has been poured out on Jesus; justice has been served. Living in guilt or self-punishment is a denial of the truth of the gospel.
Oddly enough, forgiving yourself means admitting your own sinfulness. It requires admitting that we are imperfect and unable to become perfect on our own. It means acknowledging the depths of our depravity. It means rejecting the idea that our efforts will ever atone for our wrongdoings. But it also means receiving and walking in the fullness of God’s grace. When we humble ourselves and receive God’s grace, we can let go of our own angst against ourselves for our wrongs. We come to understand that the Creator of the universe loved us so much that He not only made us, but overcame our rebellion against Him.
The wonderful thing about God’s forgiveness is that it is not merely transactional; it is relational. When we are saved, we become children of God (John 1:12). We receive the indwelling Holy Spirit who transforms us (Philippians 2:12–13). He is with us forever (John 14:16–17; Ephesians 1:13–14). Our sins do have genuine and often heartbreaking consequences in our lives. But God is faithful to use even that for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28–30; 2 Corinthians 1:3–7). We are not left to wallow in the consequences of our sins. Instead, God helps us endure through them, and we can see His redemptive abilities (James 1:2–5).
Forgiving yourself can be especially difficult when your sin has had a negative impact on someone else. It is important to seek forgiveness from those we have wronged and to reconcile where possible. Again, God is the one who enables this reconciliation. Living in shame will not fix a broken relationship or remove the harm that you have done. But the truth of the gospel can.
Paul, in many ways, set an example of forgiving oneself. He had been a violent persecutor of the church. But rather than live in shame and regret over what he’d done, or think that God could not use him, or constantly remind himself of his sin, he spread the gospel broadly. This was not from penance or trying to make up for his past. Rather, it was out of understanding God’s great salvation. Paul writes, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Timothy 1:15–17). Paul’s sin actually became an avenue by which God was glorified. Rather than refuse to forgive himself, Paul readily received God’s forgiveness and rejoiced in it.
In Romans 7—8 we see another example of this. Paul bemoans his continual struggle with his sin nature, a battle common to every believer in Christ. But he doesn’t say he’ll just try harder or that he’ll never forgive himself. Rather, he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 7:24—8:2).
Reminders of past sin can be used as prompts to praise God for His mercy and grace. Current negative consequences from our past sin can be reminders of God’s faithfulness in the midst of them. They can be prompts to prayer and reliance on God for endurance, rescue, and transformation. Forgiving yourself is actually just receiving God’s forgiveness in its fullness. In that, there is much freedom (Galatians 5:1)!
Mark 11:25-26 – Forgiveness and Prayer
Mk 11:25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. 26 But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
Matthew 18:21-22 – The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Mt 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. … 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. 35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”
Matthew 6:9-15 – The Model Prayer
Mt 6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Luke 6:37-38 – Do Not Judge
Lk 6:37 “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 17:1-4 – Jesus Warns of Offenses
Lk 17:1 Then He said to the disciples, “It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! 2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. 3 Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. 4 And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”
Matthew 5:21-24 – Murder Begins in the Heart
Mt 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Proverbs 17:9 – The Lord Tests Hearts
Pro 17:9 He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends.
Ephesians 4:30-32 – Do Not Grieve the Spirit
Eph 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.
Colossians 3:12-14 – Character of the New Man
Col 3:12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.
James 5:13-16 – Meeting Specific Needs
Jam 5:13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
1 Peter 3:8-9 – Called to Blessing
1Pe 3:8 Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
Romans 12:14-21 – Behave Like a Christian
Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. 17 Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Why should I forgive?
Forgiveness is a familiar topic in the Bible. In fact, God’s plan to forgive mankind of their sins is the major theme of the Bible (1 Peter 1:20; John 17:24). So, when wondering why we should forgive those who sin against us, we need look no further than the example God gave us. Christians must forgive others because God has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32).
Jesus gave a parable in Matthew 18:21–35 about why we should forgive. He tells the story from the perspective of a king who has forgiven a servant of tremendous debt. But then that servant encounters another servant who owed him a few dollars, and the forgiven servant deals harshly with his fellow servant and demands instant repayment. When the king learns what had happened, he is furious and orders the one he had forgiven to be punished until the huge debt was paid in full. Jesus ends the parable with these chilling words: “That is how My Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (verse 35).
Forgiveness is mandatory for all those who have experienced the forgiveness of God (Ephesians 4:32). Jesus taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” (Matthew 6:12), reminding us that God holds us accountable for paying forward what He has done for us. Refusing to forgive those who wrong us is an insult to the Lord who has forgiven us much more. We forgive as an act of gratitude for all we have been forgiven.
Those who have been forgiven by God are transformed into forgiving people. To approach the Lord and ask for His forgiveness while at the same time refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters is the height of hypocrisy. If a person who claims to be a Christian refuses to extend forgiveness to others, that person is showing evidence that he or she is not truly born again. We forgive others because it is in our (new) nature to forgive (see 1 John 3:9).
Forgiveness is not letting an unrepentant sinner off the hook. Rather, it is an eager readiness to extend mercy to those who have wronged us. When we forgive, we free ourselves from the bondage someone’s wrong has created for us. It is impossible to live in complete obedience to God when someone else controls our emotions. Followers of Jesus are to be controlled by nothing but the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). In order to grow spiritually and live in submission to God’s Word, we must obey even the difficult commands about forgiveness (Luke 6:46).
Forgiveness is often a window through which the world glimpses the mercy of God. As the popular slogan goes, “You may be the only Bible some people ever read.” When we forgive, we model God’s teachings on kindness, mercy, love, and humility. People cannot see Jesus in us when we are walking in bitterness and anger. When all we can talk about is how we were wronged, how someone betrayed us, or the wounds we are carrying, we lose sight of our primary mission, which is to make disciples (Matthew 28:19). Unforgiveness makes us self-focused instead of God-focused and steals our love, peace, and joy (see Galatians 5:22).
Forgiveness comes more easily for some than it does for others, but we are all required to forgive if we want to walk in fellowship with God. Some find it hard to forgive because they have a misunderstanding of what it means to forgive. Forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation. We can forgive from the heart while keeping betrayers at a distance. Forgiveness does not allow unrepentant abusers back into our lives, but it does allow the peace of God back into our lives.
From the cross, Jesus prayed for His murderers: “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). We reflect Jesus when we forgive the ones who wronged us, and for believers being like Jesus is the ultimate goal (Romans 8:29).
If I do not forgive others, does that mean my sins are not forgiven?
Learning how to forgive someone who hurt you is a difficult task. When faced with forgiving someone, or trying to forgive and forget, some ask the question, If I don’t forgive others will God forgive me? In this video, Pastor Nelson with Bible Munch answers the question, “If I do not forgive others, does that mean my sins are not forgiven?”.
Matthew 6 does not teach that our eternal destiny is based on our forgiving other people; however, it does teach that our relationship with God will be damaged if we refuse to pardon those who have offended us. The Bible is clear that God pardons sin by His grace based on Christ’s work on the cross alone, not on man’s actions. Our right standing before Him is established on one thing only—the finished work of Christ (John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The penalty for the sin that is rightly ours is paid by Christ, and we obtain it by grace through faith, not by any righteous deeds of our own (Ephesians 2:8-9). No one will be able to stand before God demanding that his sins be forgotten simply because he has forgiven others. Only when we are born again and given a new life through God’s Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ are our sins forgiven. Therefore, Jesus is not referring to God’s initial act of forgiveness (reconciliation) that we experienced when we first believed the Gospel.
What He is referring to is the day-to-day cleansing we obtain when we confess our sins in order to restore fellowship with our heavenly Father—the fellowship which is interrupted by the daily tarnishing of sin that affects us all. This is not the wholesale cleansing from sin that comes with salvation by grace through faith, but is more like the foot-washing Jesus describes in John 13:10. The “whole body is clean,” He told the disciples, but their feet were dirty from their walking in the world. Forgiveness in this sense is what God threatens to withhold from Christians who refuse to forgive others.
In Matthew 6 Jesus is teaching disciples how to pray and in doing so outlines how we are restored into intimacy with God whenever we have displeased Him. In fact, Jesus instructs us to build into our prayers a request for God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have harmed us (Matthew 6:12). If there are those we have not forgiven when we ourselves pray for forgiveness, then practically speaking we are asking God not to restore a right relationship with us after we sin. To emphasize the importance of restoring broken relationships with our brothers and sisters, Jesus states that asking for God’s forgiveness for one’s own sins, all the while withholding forgiveness from someone else, is not only bizarre but hypocritical. We cannot possibly walk with God in true fellowship if we refuse to forgive others.
To be sure, an unforgiving spirit is a serious sin and should be confessed to God. If we have unforgiveness in our hearts against someone else, then we are acting in a way that is not pleasing to God, making our prayers and a proper living relationship with Him difficult. God will not hear our prayers unless we also show ourselves ready to grant forgiveness. To quote John Calvin on this verse, “If we are not harder than iron, this exhortation ought to soften us, and render us disposed to forgive offenses” (Commentary on Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Vol. 1).
A second biblically plausible interpretation of Matthew 6:14-15 is that it is saying anyone who refuses to forgive others is demonstrating that he has not truly received Christ’s forgiveness himself. Any sin committed against us, no matter how terrible, is trivial in comparison to our sins against God. If God has forgiven us of so much, how could we refuse to forgive others of so "little"? Matthew 6:14-15, according to this view, proclaims that anyone who harbors unforgiveness against others has not truly experienced God’s forgiveness. Both interpretations strongly deny that salvation is dependent on our forgiving others. Whether Matthew 6:14-15 is speaking of "relational forgiveness," or whether it is a declaration that unforgiveness is the mark of an unbeliever, the core truth is the same. We should forgive others because God, through Christ, has forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). It is wrong for someone who has truly experienced God’s forgiveness to refuse to grant forgiveness to others.
Since God withholds forgiveness, can we?
When and how to forgive someone, that’s the question. Since God can withhold forgiveness, can we? What does forgiveness mean and are we expected to forgive and forget even if there is no confession and repentance? In this video, Pastor Nelson with Bible Munch answers those questions looking at forgiveness in the Bible, steps to forgiveness, and what the Bible says about forgiving others.
The Bible speaks a great deal about forgiveness, both God’s forgiveness of sinful human beings and the forgiveness that human beings should have for each other. But they are not two separate, unrelated issues of forgiveness; rather, they are vitally linked. Intimacy with God and day-to-day cleansing are dependent on our forgiveness of others (Matthew 6:12), and our forgiveness of others is to be patterned on and an example of God’s forgiveness of us (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). So, this question is an important one.
We need to make an effort to understand God’s forgiveness of us if we are going to forgive others in a way that reflects God’s forgiveness. Sadly, in recent decades the word forgiveness has taken on a connotation of “psychological freedom” instead of freedom from sin, and this has brought some confusion about the whole concept of what it means to forgive.
It is true that the forgiveness God extends to us is conditional upon our confession of sin and repentance. Confession involves agreeing with God about our sin, and repentance requires a change of mind concerning the wrong attitude or action and a change in behavior that evinces a genuine willingness to forsake the sin. Sin remains unforgiven unless it is confessed and repented of (see 1 John 1:9; Acts 20:21). While this might seem a difficult condition for forgiveness, it is also a great blessing and promise. Confession of sin is not an act of self-condemnation but of seeking God’s provision of the remedy for sin in forgiveness through Christ.
God’s requirement that we confess and repent of sin does not mean God is unwilling or unready to forgive. He has done everything on His part to facilitate forgiveness for us. His heart is willing, not wanting anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9), and He has gone to the most extreme lengths imaginable to provide the means by which He can forgive us. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, God freely offers us that forgiveness.
Scripture says to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:32) and love one another as we are loved (John 13:34). We should be willing and ready to extend forgiveness to anyone who comes to us confessing his sin and repenting (Matthew 6:14–15; 18:23–35; Ephesians 4:31–32; Colossians 3:13). Not only is this an obligation, but it should be our delight. If we are truly thankful for our own forgiveness, we should have no hesitancy in granting forgiveness to a repentant offender, even if he wrongs us and repents again and again. After all, we, too, sin again and again, and we are thankful that God forgives us when we come to Him with a true repentant heart of confession.
That brings us to the question at hand: should we forgive a person who does not confess his sin and is not repentant? To answer this properly, the term forgiveness needs some explaining. First, what forgiveness is not:
Forgiveness is not the same as forbearance. To forbear is to patiently endure a provocation, overlook a slight, or maintain self-control in the face of frustration. Forbearance causes us to weigh someone’s sinful action or attitude with love, wisdom, and discernment and choose not to respond. Scripture uses various words for this quality: patience, longsuffering, endurance, and, of course, forbearance (see Proverbs 12:16; 19:11; 1 Peter 4:8).
Forgiveness is also not forgetting. God does not suffer from amnesia about our sin. He remembers very clearly; however, it is not a remembering to condemn us (Romans 8:1). King David’s adultery and Abraham’s lying—these sins are recorded for all time in Scripture. God obviously did not “forget” about them.
Forgiveness is not an elimination of all consequences. Even when we are forgiven by Christ, we may still suffer the natural consequences of our sin (Proverbs 6:27) or face the discipline of a loving Heavenly Father (Hebrews 12:5–6).
Forgiveness is not a feeling. It is a commitment to pardon the offender. Feelings may or may not accompany forgiveness. Feelings of bitterness against a person may fade with time without any forgiveness being extended.
Forgiveness is not the private, solitary act of an individual heart. In other words, forgiveness involves at least two people. This is where confession and repentance come in. Forgiveness is not only about what happens within the offended person’s heart; it is a transaction between two people.
Forgiveness is not selfish; it is not motivated by self-interest. We do not seek to forgive for our own sakes or to relieve ourselves from stress. We forgive out of love of God, love of neighbors, and gratefulness for our own forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not the automatic restoration of trust. It is wrong to think that forgiving an abusive spouse today means the separation should end tomorrow. Scripture gives us many reasons to distrust those who have proved themselves untrustworthy (see Luke 16:10–12). Rebuilding trust can only begin after a process of reconciliation involving true forgiveness—which, of course, involves confession and repentance.
Also, importantly, forgiveness offered and available is not the same as forgiveness given, received, and transacted. This is where the word forgiveness on its own with no qualifier is often used differently from, and beyond, how God’s Word uses it. We tend to call the attitude of forgiveness—being willing to forgive—“forgiveness,” just the same as the actual transaction of true forgiveness. That is, in popular thinking, as long as a person is open to granting forgiveness, he has already forgiven. But this broad definition of forgiveness short-circuits the process of confession and repentance. Forgiveness offered and forgiveness received are entirely different, and we don’t help ourselves by using a catch-all word for both.
If this is what forgiveness is not, then what is it? An excellent definition of forgiveness is found in the book Unpacking Forgiveness by Chris Brauns:
God’s forgiveness: A commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.
General human forgiveness: A commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.
Biblically, full forgiveness is not just something that the offended person offers; it requires that the offender receives it, bringing reconciliation to the relationship. First John 1:9 shows that the process of forgiveness is primarily to free the sinner; forgiveness ends the rejection, thus reconciling the relationship. This is why we must be willing to forgive others—if we aren’t willing to forgive, we refuse to allow others to enjoy what God has blessed us with. Modern pop psychology has wrongly taught that “forgiveness” is one-sided, that reconciliation is unnecessary, and that the purpose of this unilateral forgiveness is to free the offended person of feelings of bitterness.
While we must not harbor bitterness in our hearts (Hebrews 12:15) or repay evil for evil (1 Peter 3:9), we should make sure we follow God’s lead and not extend forgiveness to the unrepentant. In short, we should withhold forgiveness from those who do not confess and repent; at the same time, we should extend the offer of forgiveness and maintain an attitude of readiness to forgive.
Stephen, as he was being stoned to death, illustrates the principle of forgiveness. Echoing Jesus’ words from the cross, Stephen prays, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60; cf. Luke 23:34). These words show a definite willingness to forgive, but they do not indicate a completed transaction of forgiveness. Stephen simply prayed that God would forgive his murderers. Stephen held no bitterness, and, when and if his murderers repented, he wished them to be forgiven—what a wonderful example of loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44).
The Bible commands the counter-intuitive action of feeding our enemy when he is hungry (Romans 12:20). There is nothing to say we must automatically forgive our enemies (or trust them); rather, we are to love them and work for their good.
If “forgiveness” is given prematurely without the prerequisites of confession and repentance, then the truth has not been dealt with openly by both parties. If the offender doesn’t acknowledge his sin, then he really does not understand what it means to be forgiven. In the long run, bypassing confession or repentance doesn’t help the offender to understand the significance of sin, and it precludes a sense of justice, causing the offended person to battle even more against bitterness.
Here are some key guidelines for godly forgiveness:
- acknowledge the fact of evil (Romans 12:9)
- leave vengeance to the Lord (verse 19)
- leave no room for bitterness, revenge, grudges, or retaliation
- have a heart ready to forgive at a moment’s notice
- trust God to give you the ability to overcome evil with good, even to love and feed an enemy (verses 20–21)
- remember that God has instituted governing authorities, and part of their God-given role is to be “God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer” (Romans 13:4). One reason you don’t have to avenge yourself is that God has authorized government to provide justice.
Understand What You Need Protection From – This is a Spiritual War
1 Peter 5:8-11 – Submit to God, Resist the Devil
1Pe 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9 Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10 But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11 To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
2 Corinthians 11:12-15 – Paul and False Apostles
2Co 11:12 But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. 13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Ephesians 6:10-13 – The Whole Armor of God
Ep 6:10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.
2 Corinthians 10:2-6 – The Spiritual War
2Co 10:2 But I beg you that when I am present I may not be bold with that confidence by which I intend to be bold against some, who think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
Zechariah 4:6 – Vision of the Lampstand and Olive Trees
Zec 4:6 So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts.
Luke 10:17-20 – The Seventy Return with Joy
Lk 10:17 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.” 18 And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. 20 Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
Matthew 16:18-19 – Peter Confesses Jesus as the Christ
Mt 16:18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
The LORD Will Protect HIS People
Psalm 37:39-40 – The Heritage of the Righteous and the Calamity of the Wicked
Ps 37:39 But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in the time of trouble.
40 And the Lord shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked,
And save them, Because they trust in Him.
2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 – Pray for Us
2Th 3:1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, who will establish you and guard you from the evil one.
John 17:14-16 – Jesus Prays for His Disciples
Jn 17:14 I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.
2 Timothy 4:17-18 – The Lord Is Faithful
2Ti 4:17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom.
Psalm 23 – The Lord the Shepherd of His People
Ps 23:1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.
Psalm 121 – God the Help of Those Who Seek Him
Ps 121:1 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—From whence comes my help?
2 My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper; The Lord is your shade at your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day, Nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.
8 The Lord shall preserve your going out and your coming in From this time forth, and even forevermore.
2 Chronicles 13:10-18 - Abijah Reigns in Judah
2Ch 13:10 But as for us, the Lord is our God, and we have not forsaken Him; and the priests who minister to the Lord are the sons of Aaron, and the Levites attend to their duties. 11 And they burn to the Lord every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense; they also set the showbread in order on the pure gold table, and the lampstand of gold with its lamps to burn every evening; for we keep the command of the Lord our God, but you have forsaken Him. 12 Now look, God Himself is with us as our head, and His priests with sounding trumpets to sound the alarm against you. O children of Israel, do not fight against the Lord God of your fathers, for you shall not prosper!” 13 But Jeroboam caused an ambush to go around behind them; so they were in front of Judah, and the ambush was behind them. 14 And when Judah looked around, to their surprise the battle line was at both front and rear; and they cried out to the Lord, and the priests sounded the trumpets. 15 Then the men of Judah gave a shout; and as the men of Judah shouted, it happened that God struck Jeroboam and all Israel before Abijah and Judah. 16 And the children of Israel fled before Judah, and God delivered them into their hand. 17 Then Abijah and his people struck them with a great slaughter; so five hundred thousand choice men of Israel fell slain. 18 Thus the children of Israel were subdued at that time; and the children of Judah prevailed, because they relied on the Lord God of their fathers.
Psalm 32:6-7 – The Joy of Forgiveness
Ps 32:6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You In a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters They shall not come near him.
7 You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah
Psalm 34 – The Happiness of Those Who Trust in God
Ps 34 :1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
9 Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.
10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the Lord shall not lack any good thing.
11 Come, you children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Who is the man who desires life, And loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.
14 Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.
15 The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their cry.
16 The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, To cut off the remembrance of them from the earth.
17 The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, And delivers them out of all their troubles.
18 The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit.
19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the Lord delivers him out of them all.
20 He guards all his bones; Not one of them is broken.
21 Evil shall slay the wicked, And those who hate the righteous shall be condemned.
22 The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who trust in Him shall be condemned.
Ps 55:22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.
Deuteronomy 31:6 – Joshua the New Leader of Israel
Dt 31:6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.”
John 14:25-27 – The Gift of His Peace
Jn 14:25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Psalm 91 – Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God
Ps 91:1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence.
4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you.
8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked.
9 Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling;
11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
13 You shall tread upon the lion and the cobra, The young lion and the serpent you shall trample underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him;
I will set him on high, because he has known My name.
15 He shall call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him, And show him My salvation.”
The Battle Belongs to the Lord
Psalm 3 – The Lord Helps His Troubled People
Ps 3:1 Lord, how they have increased who trouble me! Many are they who rise up against me.
2 Many are they who say of me, “There is no help for him in God.” Selah
3 But You, O Lord, are a shield for me, My glory and the One who lifts up my head.
4 I cried to the Lord with my voice, And He heard me from His holy hill. Selah
5 I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me.
6 I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people Who have set themselves against me all around.
7 Arise, O Lord; Save me, O my God!
For You have struck all my enemies on the cheekbone; You have broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongs to the Lord. Your blessing is upon Your people. Selah
Deuteronomy 1:28-31 – Israel’s Refusal to Enter the Land
Dt 1:28 Where can we go up? Our brethren have discouraged our hearts, saying, “The people are greater and taller than we; the cities are great and fortified up to heaven; moreover we have seen the sons of the Anakim there.” ’ 29 “Then I said to you, ‘Do not be terrified, or afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes, 31 and in the wilderness where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, in all the way that you went until you came to this place.’
Deuteronomy 20:1-4 – Principles Governing Warfare
Dt 20:1 “When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt. 2 So it shall be, when you are on the verge of battle, that the priest shall approach and speak to the people. 3 And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; 4 for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’
2 Chronicles 32:7-8 – Sennacherib Boasts Against the Lord
2Ch 32:7 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
Psalm 20:6-9 – The Assurance of God’s Saving Work
Ps 20:6 Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed;
He will answer him from His holy heaven With the saving strength of His right hand.
7 Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.
8 They have bowed down and fallen; But we have risen and stand upright.
9 Save, Lord! May the King answer us when we call.
Proverbs 21:29-31 – The Lord Considers the Heart
Pro 21:29 A wicked man hardens his face, But as for the upright, he establishes his way.
30 There is no wisdom or understanding Or counsel against the Lord.
31 The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But deliverance is of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:3 – Old Testament Examples
1Co 10:3 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
2 Peter 2:4-9 – Doom of False Teachers
2Pe 2:4 For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; 5 and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; 6 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
Angels Protect Us
Hebrews 1:13-14 – The Son Exalted Above Angels
Heb 1:13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?
Matthew 18:10-11 – The Parable of the Lost Sheep
Mt 18:10 “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven. 11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
Matthew 26:52-56 – Betrayal and Arrest in Gethsemane
Mt 26:52 But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. 53 Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? 54 How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” 55 In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me. 56 But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”
Psalm 91:11-12 – Safety of Abiding in the Presence of God
Ps 91:11 For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.
12 In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.
Psalm 34:1-8 – The Happiness of Those Who Trust in God
Ps 34:1 I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
2 My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
3 Oh, magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.
4 I sought the Lord, and He heard me, And delivered me from all my fears.
5 They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces were not ashamed.
6 This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, And saved him out of all his troubles.
7 The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!
Note MANY examples of angel protection through Biblical History below:
Biblical History of Divine Intervention & Protection
Genesis 19:12-25 – Sodom and Gomorrah Destroyed
Ge 19:1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. …12 Then the men said to Lot, “Have you anyone else here? Son-in-law, your sons, your daughters, and whomever you have in the city—take them out of this place! 13 For we will destroy this place, because the outcry against them has grown great before the face of the Lord, and the Lord has sent us to destroy it.” 14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who had married his daughters, and said, “Get up, get out of this place; for the Lord will destroy this city!” But to his sons-in-law he seemed to be joking. 15 When the morning dawned, the angels urged Lot to hurry, saying, “Arise, take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be consumed in the punishment of the city.” 16 And while he lingered, the men took hold of his hand, his wife’s hand, and the hands of his two daughters, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city. 17 So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.”
Exodus 14:13-29 – The Red Sea Crossing
Ex 14:13 And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. 14 The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” 15 And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. 16 But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. 17 And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. 18 Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”
19 And the Angel of God, who went before the camp of Israel, moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud went from before them and stood behind them. 20 So it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. Thus it was a cloud and darkness to the one, and it gave light by night to the other, so that the one did not come near the other all that night.
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided. 22 So the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea on the dry ground, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. 23 And the Egyptians pursued and went after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.
24 Now it came to pass, in the morning watch, that the Lord looked down upon the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and cloud, and He troubled the army of the Egyptians. 25 And He took off their chariot wheels, so that they drove them with difficulty; and the Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the face of Israel, for the Lord fights for them against the Egyptians.”
26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, that the waters may come back upon the Egyptians, on their chariots, and on their horsemen.” 27 And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and when the morning appeared, the sea returned to its full depth, while the Egyptians were fleeing into it. So the Lord overthrew the Egyptians in the midst of the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered the chariots, the horsemen, and all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. Not so much as one of them remained. 29 But the children of Israel had walked on dry land in the midst of the sea, and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
Exodus 15:1-19 – The Song of Moses
Ex 15:1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and spoke, saying:
“I will sing to the Lord, For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!
2 The Lord is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation;
He is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
3 The Lord is a man of war; The Lord is His name.
4 Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; His chosen captains also are drowned in the Red Sea.
5 The depths have covered them; They sank to the bottom like a stone.
6 “Your right hand, O Lord, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O Lord, has dashed the enemy in pieces.
7 And in the greatness of Your excellence You have overthrown those who rose against You;
You sent forth Your wrath; It consumed them like stubble.
8 And with the blast of Your nostrils The waters were gathered together;
The floods stood upright like a heap; The depths congealed in the heart of the sea.
9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My desire shall be satisfied on them.
I will draw my sword, My hand shall destroy them.’
10 You blew with Your wind, The sea covered them; They sank like lead in the mighty waters.
11 “Who is like You, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like You, glorious in holiness, Fearful in praises, doing wonders?
12 You stretched out Your right hand; The earth swallowed them.
13 You in Your mercy have led forth The people whom You have redeemed;
You have guided them in Your strength To Your holy habitation.
14 “The people will hear and be afraid; Sorrow will take hold of the inhabitants of Philistia.
15 Then the chiefs of Edom will be dismayed; The mighty men of Moab,
Trembling will take hold of them; All the inhabitants of Canaan will melt away.
16 Fear and dread will fall on them; By the greatness of Your arm
They will be as still as a stone, Till Your people pass over, O Lord,
Till the people pass over Whom You have purchased.
17 You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance,
In the place, O Lord, which You have made For Your own dwelling, The sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.
18 “The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”
19 For the horses of Pharaoh went with his chariots and his horsemen into the sea, and the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them. But the children of Israel went on dry land in the midst of the sea.
Exodus 17:8-13 – Victory over the Amalekites
Ex 17:8 Now Amalek came and fought with Israel in Rephidim. 9 And Moses said to Joshua, “Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand.” 10 So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. 11 And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. 12 But Moses’ hands became heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. And Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. 13 So Joshua defeated Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.
Joshua 6:1-20: The Destruction of Jericho
Josh 6:1 Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.”… 16 And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city! 17 Now the city shall be doomed by the Lord to destruction, it and all who are in it. … 20 So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat.
1 Samuel 17:45-51 – David and Goliath
1Sa 17:45 Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46 This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.”
48 So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. 49 Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. 50 So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. 51 Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it.
2 Kings 6:8-18 – The Blinded Syrians Captured
2Ki 6:8 Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, “My camp will be in such and such a place.” 9 And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, “Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.” 10 Then the king of Israel sent someone to the place of which the man of God had told him. Thus he warned him, and he was watchful there, not just once or twice. 11 Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was greatly troubled by this thing; and he called his servants and said to them, “Will you not show me which of us is for the king of Israel?” 12 And one of his servants said, “None, my lord, O king; but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom.”
13 So he said, “Go and see where he is, that I may send and get him.” And it was told him, saying, “Surely he is in Dothan.” 14 Therefore he sent horses and chariots and a great army there, and they came by night and surrounded the city. 15 And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 18 So when the Syrians came down to him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, and said, “Strike this people, I pray, with blindness.” And He struck them with blindness according to the word of Elisha.
2 Kings 19:10-36 – Sennacherib’s Threat and Hezekiah’s Prayer
2Ki 19:10 “Thus you shall speak to Hezekiah king of Judah, saying: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem shall not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 11 Look! You have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands by utterly destroying them; and shall you be delivered? 12 Have the gods of the nations delivered those whom my fathers have destroyed, Gozan and Haran and Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? 13 Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, and the king of the city of Sepharvaim, Hena, and Ivah?’ ”
14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord. 15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God. 17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands, 18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them. 19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”
20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’ … 35 And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead. 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.
2 Chronicles 20:1-22 – Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir Defeated
2Ch 20:1 It happened after this that the people of Moab with the people of Ammon, and others with them besides the Ammonites, came to battle against Jehoshaphat. 2 Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar” (which is En Gedi). 3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord. …
9 ‘If disaster comes upon us—sword, judgment, pestilence, or famine—we will stand before this temple and in Your presence (for Your name is in this temple), and cry out to You in our affliction, and You will hear and save.’ 10 And now, here are the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir—whom You would not let Israel invade when they came out of the land of Egypt, but they turned from them and did not destroy them— 11 here they are, rewarding us by coming to throw us out of Your possession which You have given us to inherit. 12 O our God, will You not judge them? For we have no power against this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” 13 Now all Judah, with their little ones, their wives, and their children, stood before the Lord.
14 Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the sons of Asaph, in the midst of the assembly. 15 And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
18 And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19 Then the Levites of the children of the Kohathites and of the children of the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel with voices loud and high.
20 So they rose early in the morning and went out into the Wilderness of Tekoa; and as they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, O Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem: Believe in the Lord your God, and you shall be established; believe His prophets, and you shall prosper.” 21 And when he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: “Praise the Lord, For His mercy endures forever.”
22 Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.
Daniel 3:19-25 – Saved in Fiery Trial
Dan 3:19 Then Nebuchadnezzar was full of fury, and the expression on his face changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. He spoke and commanded that they heat the furnace seven times more than it was usually heated. 20 And he commanded certain mighty men of valor who were in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, and cast them into the burning fiery furnace. 21 Then these men were bound in their coats, their trousers, their turbans, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. 22 Therefore, because the king’s command was urgent, and the furnace exceedingly hot, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego. 23 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished; and he rose in haste and spoke, saying to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 “Look!” he answered, “I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.”
Daniel 6:10-23 – Daniel in the Lions’ Den
Dan 6:10 Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. 11 Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. 12 And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king’s decree: “Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?” … 19 Then the king arose very early in the morning and went in haste to the den of lions. 20 And when he came to the den, he cried out with a lamenting voice to Daniel. The king spoke, saying to Daniel, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?” 21 Then Daniel said to the king, “O king, live forever! 22 My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me, because I was found innocent before Him; and also, O king, I have done no wrong before you.” 23 Now the king was exceedingly glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no injury whatever was found on him, because he believed in his God.
Matthew 4:1-11 – Satan Tempts Jesus
Mt 4:1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.
3 Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ”
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ”
8 Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”
11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.
Acts 5:17-21 – Imprisoned Apostles Freed
Act 5:17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation, 18 and laid their hands on the apostles and put them in the common prison. 19 But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, 20 “Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.” 21 And when they heard that, they entered the temple early in the morning and taught. But the high priest and those with him came and called the council together, with all the elders of the children of Israel, and sent to the prison to have them brought. 22 But when the officers came and did not find them in the prison, they returned and reported, 23 saying, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!”
Acts 12:5-11 – Peter Freed from Prison
Act 12:5 Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church. 6 And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison. 7 Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. 8 Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.” 9 So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11 And when Peter had come to himself, he said, “Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.”
Acts 26:12-18 – Paul Recounts His Conversion
Act 26:12 “While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests, 13 at midday, O king, along the road I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you. 17 I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, 18 to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.’
Acts 27:21-26 – In the Tempest
Act 27:21 But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss. 22 And now I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23 For there stood by me this night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve, 24 saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar; and indeed God has granted you all those who sail with you.’ 25 Therefore take heart, men, for I believe God that it will be just as it was told me. 26 However, we must run aground on a certain island.”
What does the Bible say about protection?
Ultimately, our protection comes from God. In times of physical and spiritual attack and in threatening situations of all kinds, those who trust in the Lord find Him to be a strong Protector. “He shields all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 18:30). Here are some other passages that emphasize the protection of God:
“You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance” (Psalm 32:7).
“You make your saving help my shield, and your right hand sustains me; your help has made me great. You provide a broad path for my feet, so that my ankles do not give way” (Psalm 18:35–36).
“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word” (Psalm 119:114).
“Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! . . . But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high” (Psalm 3:1, 3).
Under the Old Covenant, God promised physical protection to His people, the Israelites, as they kept the law (Deuteronomy 7:11–26). That divine protection extended to keeping them safe against the nations that would come against them as they entered the Promised Land: “I will send My terror ahead of you, and throw into confusion all the people among whom you come, and I will make all your enemies turn their backs to you” (Exodus 23:27, NASB). Here we see God protecting those whose actions accorded with His foreordained plans and purpose.
Psalm 121 is a wonderfully encouraging song for those who trust fully in God. The psalmist first identifies that his help comes from the Lord of all the earth (Psalm 121:1–2). He then instructs us on the attentiveness of the Lord toward His children—the One who never slumbers is on duty night and day (Psalm 121:3–6). Finally, the psalmist assures us that the God who watches us will keep us from harm and that He oversees all our activities now and forever (Psalm 121:7–8).
Individuals who knew the protection of God include David (Psalm 18:3; 54:7; 138:7); Noah (Genesis 7); Daniel (Daniel 6); and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Daniel 3). God’s protection was even evident in Job’s life. Yes, Job suffered many trials as a result of the attacks of Satan, but God established boundaries that Satan could not cross. Satan was limited to doing only what God allowed, and nothing more (Job 1—3). Through all the misery and afflictions Job endured, God was protecting him from greater harm. God also protected Job’s faith, allowing Job to be tested only so far before He stepped in and spoke to Job (Job 38—42). Job could not see God working behind the scenes, but he came to understand that God’s protection is sure and faithful. God promises His people, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (see Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5; 1 Chronicles 28:20; Hebrews 13:5).
In Scripture, God used several means of protecting His people, including angels (Psalm 91:11–12), fire (2 Kings 1:9–10), floods (Judges 5:21), escape routes (Acts 9:24–25), royal decrees (Ezra 6:11–12), pagan armies (Acts 23:23–24), and insomnia (Esther 6). God’s power and creativity are unlimited.
God’s promise of protection does not guarantee that we will never know pain or loss. Job’s story shows us that, although God is able to deliver us out of every physical calamity or trouble, it may not be His will to do so. Sometimes He uses trials to purify us. At these times, we should “count it pure joy” because, by allowing trials, God tests our faith to develop a deeper faith so that we persevere and grow to maturity and Christlikeness (James 1:2–3). Protecting us from trials is not always beneficial to us.
Also, God does not always shield us from the results of our own sins or the negative effects of the sins of others. Our world is fallen, and we endure its hardships. Many in Jesus Christ endure persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus assured His disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). In every situation, however, God remains in control, and our sufferings have a limit. God will not allow us to be tested beyond our ability to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13). “The waves may toss and roar,” God says, “but they can never pass the boundaries I set” (Jeremiah 5:22, NLT).
The promise of physical protection is not ours under the New Covenant; rather, our focus is on God’s spiritual protection against the enemies of our soul. For our spiritual protection, God has given us spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:10–18) and His own peace to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). The essence of God’s protection is the eternal indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:21–22). It is this protection that Paul had in mind when he wrote, “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:18). The Romans could do their worst, but Paul had confidence that “to be absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8).
The believer is sealed for the day of final glorification (Ephesians 1:13–14). No matter what happens in this world, heaven is our home. We are spiritually safe. “Blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:8). We draw near to God and trust His protection. We invite His work in us, knowing that He will accomplish His good purpose in our lives (Romans 8:28–39).
How can I receive the protection of God?
Because of man’s sin and the subsequent curse that poisoned the perfection of God’s creation, the world is often a dangerous place. People suffer every day from natural disasters, crime, car accidents, poor health, and more. It’s natural to seek protection from the pain and sorrow of life. Does the Bible promise us the protection of God when we become part of His eternal family?
There are many verses in God’s Word that seem to promise God’s physical protection. For example, Psalm 121:3 says, “He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber.” In verse 7 the psalmist declares, “The LORD will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life.” As Israel entered the Promised Land, God promised them that He would never leave or forsake them (Deuteronomy 31:6).
At first glance, it does seem that God promises to protect His children from harm. But if that were the case, why do so many Christians around the world struggle with persecution, illness, loss, accidents, and injuries? We all know Christians whose “foot” has “slipped.” Is God breaking His promise, or are we missing something?
First of all, we should interpret the Old Testament promises of physical safety in the context of the Mosaic Covenant. As the children of Israel were obedient to the covenant, God promised them various material and physical blessings—on their crops, livestock, children, etc. (Deuteronomy 28). The Old Covenant was very much concerned with earthly blessings, and physical protection was among them. This was the basis for Hezekiah’s prayer when he was smitten with a fatal illness (2 Kings 20:1–6). Throughout the Old Testament, we see God protecting His people in order to bring His plans to pass (e.g., Exodus 1:22—2:10; 1 Kings 17:1–6; Jonah 1).
It is important to understand that we are under the New Covenant, not the Old. God does not promise to keep believers in Christ from all physical harm. There are certainly times when He does mercifully shield us from situations where we would sustain injury or loss. Paul and Luke’s survival of the shipwreck in Acts 27 and Paul’s imperviousness to the snakebite in Acts 28 are cases in point. Today, however, God’s promises to believers usually refer to spiritual protection.
When we believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, the Holy Spirit immediately enters our lives. We are sealed for eternity and brought under God’s spiritual protection from that moment on. This means that, regardless of our future sins or the schemes of Satan, we will never lose the salvation God has granted (2 Timothy 1:12). There is nothing that can ever separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:38–39). In addition, we are given freedom from the dominion of sin—we are no longer slaves to sinful thoughts, desires, and actions, but are born into a new life of holiness (Romans 6:22).
Throughout our lives, God will continue to “guard [our] hearts and [our] minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7), providing the strength, peace, and perseverance we need to make it through any test or trial. His Spirit grows in us fruit that will strengthen our Christian walk (Galatians 5:22–23), and He provides us with powerful tools with which we can fend off the enemy’s spiritual attacks (Ephesians 6:10–17).
There is nothing wrong with asking for physical protection from God, as long as we realize He does not always see fit to grant it. He knows we are strengthened by the trials that come our way, and in each physical trial, we are assured of His spiritual protection. So, rather than seeking complete physical protection from God, we can agree with James when he says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2–3).
BRIDE OF JESUS
What does it mean that the church is the bride of Christ?
The imagery and symbolism of marriage is applied to Christ and the body of believers known as the church. The church is comprised of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and have received eternal life. Christ, the Bridegroom, has sacrificially and lovingly chosen the church to be His bride (Ephesians 5:25–27). Just as there was a betrothal period in biblical times during which the bride and groom were separated until the wedding, so is the bride of Christ separate from her Bridegroom during the church age. Her responsibility during the betrothal period is to be faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 11:2; Ephesians 5:24). At the rapture, the church will be united with the Bridegroom and the official “wedding ceremony” will take place and, with it, the eternal union of Christ and His bride will be actualized (Revelation 19:7–9; 21:1-2).
In the eternal state, believers will have access to the heavenly city known as New Jerusalem, also called “the holy city” in Revelation 21:2 and 10. The New Jerusalem is not the church, but it takes on some of the church’s characteristics. In his vision of the end of the age, the apostle John sees the city coming down from heaven adorned “as a bride,” meaning that the city will be gloriously radiant and the inhabitants of the city, the redeemed of the Lord, will be holy and pure, wearing white garments of holiness and righteousness. Some have misinterpreted verse 9 to mean the holy city is the bride of Christ, but that cannot be because Christ died for His people, not for a city. The city is called the bride because it encompasses all who are the bride, just as all the students of a school are sometimes called “the school.”
Matthew 25:1-13 – The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins
Mt 25:1 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. 2 Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. 3 Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. 5 But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. 6 “And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ 7 Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut. 11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.
Revelation 19:7-9 – Heaven Exults over Babylon
Rev 19:7 Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” 8 And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. 9 Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ”
Ephesians 5:22-33 – Marriage—Christ and the Church
Ep 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.
Matthew 9:14-15 – Jesus Is Questioned About Fasting
Mt 9:14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” 15 And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.
John 3:28-29 – John the Baptist Exalts Christ
Jn 3:28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
Revelation 21:9-21 – The New Jerusalem
Rev 21:9 Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.”
Marriage of the Lamb
To understand the wedding feast of the Lamb and his bride, we need to know something about Jewish wedding customs in the 1st century Galilee.
In describing a first-century Jewish wedding, D.A. Carson in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary describes the setting this way: “Normally the bridegroom with some close friends left his home to go to the bride’s home, where there were various ceremonies, followed by a procession through the streets – after nightfall – to his home. The ten virgins may be bridesmaids who have been assisting the bride; and they expect to meet the groom as he comes from the bride’s house…Everyone in the procession was expected to carry his or her own torch. Those without a torch would be assumed to be party crashers or even brigands. The festivities, which might last several days, would formally get under way at the groom’s house.”
What were common marriage customs in Bible times?
While there were many different cultures throughout the world in Bible times, the Bible itself mostly follows God’s chosen people, the Israelites, through the coming of the Messiah. Therefore, this article will focus on Jewish marriage customs.
Marriages in Bible times were not made for love, per se, but for the mutual benefit of both families involved. Jewish marriages were usually arranged by the fathers of the bride and groom and would begin with a betrothal, or engagement. The bride’s and groom’s feelings on the marriage were not usually taken into consideration, and it was possible that the bride and groom had never met before the betrothal. Betrothals could even be agreed upon when the couple was very young. In these cases, the engagement would stand until the bride and groom were old enough to marry.
Contrary to the practice of many other cultures, in which the bride’s father would pay the groom’s family a dowry, in Jewish culture the groom’s father paid a bride price, or mohar, to the bride’s family in order to negotiate the betrothal and, in essence, “purchase” the bride. The groom would also give a gift to the bride called a mattan, which became a part of the property the bride would bring into the marriage. These gifts were not always monetary; they may have been property or even services provided to the bride’s family. A good father was expected to share the mohar with his daughter or give it over to her entirely.
A Jewish betrothal was an important part of the marriage process and was as binding as marriage itself. Those initiating the betrothal and witnesses to the event would likely sign a marriage contract called a ketubah. Therefore, if one or both parties wished to end the betrothal, they would be required to get a divorce. We see this in the case of Mary and Joseph, who were pledged to be married; when Mary was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit, Joseph considered divorcing Mary quietly to protect her reputation (Matthew 1:18–19). However, after an angel visited Joseph in the night, Joseph decided to continue their betrothal. As a betrothed couple, Mary and Joseph were essentially husband and wife, and they later married (verse 24), although they did not consummate the marriage until after Jesus was born (verse 25).
It was a common custom for the bride to join the groom’s father’s household, rather than the groom and the bride establishing their own household. So, if the bride and groom were of a marriageable age, the groom would return to his father’s house after the betrothal to prepare a bridal chamber. This process traditionally took a year or more (the length of time being dictated by the groom’s father). When the place was complete, the groom would return and fetch his bride. The bride would not know the day or hour of her husband-to-be’s return, so the groom’s arrival was usually announced with a trumpet call and a shout so the bride had some forewarning.
Before the ceremony, which was attended by a select few (most likely family), the bride would take part in a ritual cleansing. After the ceremony, the couple would attend a wedding feast in their honor. It was customary for a wedding feast to include a much larger crowd than the ceremony itself, and it was a great celebration provided by the groom’s family. Jesus Himself attended a wedding feast in Cana, where He performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. At this marriage feast, the groom’s family had run out of wine, which could have damaged their reputation. So Jesus’ mother, Mary, appealed to Him for help on behalf of the family. Jesus responded by turning the water into even better wine than the family had served previously. (For a full account of the wedding at Cana, see John 2:1–12.)
In His time on earth, Jesus often used Jewish marriage customs as a beautiful allegory of God’s relationship with the church, His “bride.” Jesus purchased believers with His blood, shed on the cross for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:19–20; 11:25). He is currently preparing a place for us (John 14:3), and at a future time no one knows (Matthew 24:36) He will return for His bride with a trumpet call and a shout (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17). The dead in Christ and those alive in Him will be taken to heaven, where they will be joined forever with the Lord (Revelation 19:7) and take part in the marriage feast of the Lamb (verse 9).
Are there parallels between Jewish wedding traditions and our relationship to Christ?
Jewish wedding traditions at the time of Christ are a fascinating study topic, and certain parallels can be seen between those customs and Christian theology. In the Bible, the Church is sometimes metaphorically understood to be Jesus’ Bride (Revelation 21:2, 9–10; 19:7; 22:17).
The Mishnah Kiddushin (the section of the Talmud dealing with “dedication” or betrothal) specifies that a bride is acquired by a groom in one of three ways; one involves the groom leaving his father’s home and traveling to the bride’s home to “purchase” her for a price. The groom gives a token or a dowry, and its value must be known to the bride. In all cases, the wife can only be acquired with her consent. The marriage contract, or ketubah, is then established, and from that moment on the bride is sanctified, or set apart, exclusively for her bridegroom. It is customary for the groom and bride to drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction has been said.
This prenuptial process can be seen as symbolic of Christ’s work on our behalf. Jesus left the home of His Father (heaven) and traveled to the home of His prospective Bride (earth) to purchase her for a price; that is, His own blood (1 Corinthians 7:23). His Bride has joyously consented to the match. He has given her a priceless token, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:6–16). With the establishing of the ketubah (the New Covenant), Jesus’ Bride was sanctified for Him (1 Corinthians 6:11). The communion wine is symbolic of the covenant by which Christ obtained His Bride.
The Shulkhan Arukh, an exhaustive presentation of the details of Jewish law, elaborates regarding the two stages of marriage: the betrothal (kiddushin, meaning “sanctified”) and the consummation of the marriage (nisuin, translated “elevation”). Kiddushin is not engagement as we understand it. It is a binding agreement in which the woman is legally considered the wife of the man. It was routine in Jesus’ day for kiddushin and nisuin to be separated by as much as a year. During that time the bridegroom would construct the marital home.
This, too, can be viewed as a metaphor for spiritual truth. After sealing the covenant with the Church, Jesus ascended to His Father’s home to prepare a dwelling place. Just prior to His death, Jesus told His disciples, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2–3).
According to Jewish marriage law, when the time came for nisuin, the groom would return for his bride, accompanied by male escorts. The exact time of his arrival was not usually known in advance (see Matthew 25:1–15). The groom’s arrival was announced with a shout. The Church’s Bridegroom has been separated from His Bride now for nearly 2,000 years, and one day He will come for her and snatch her from the earth to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:17). We don’t know when exactly this will happen; we must be ready and remain faithful (Mark 13:33). Jesus will be accompanied by an angelic escort, preceded by a shout, when He returns for the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:16).
After being whisked from her home, the Jewish bride remained hidden at the groom’s father’s house for seven days. Similarly, the Church will remain “hidden” for a period of seven years, during the prophesied tribulation period. After the seven days, the Jewish bride left the bridal chamber unveiled; likewise, after seven years the Church will return to earth with Christ, in full view of all (Colossians 3:4).
Viewed as an analogy, Jewish wedding customs have great significance for both believers and unbelievers. If you are a believer, you must remember your devotion to your Bridegroom so as not to commit spiritual adultery against Him (see James 4:4). The apostle Paul says to the Church, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” He then warns us not to allow our minds to be “led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:2–3).
If you are an unbeliever, now is the time to reevaluate your belief system in light of Jesus’ words and the prophecies of Revelation. Don’t be left behind in the rapture. Jesus offers eternal life to all who repent and believe.