Conditional versus UnConditional Forgiveness

Forgiveness of sins is a central teaching of the Bible and Christianity. In the beginning of the Bible the first man, Adam, sinned against God. The end of the Bible describes the final judgment towards sinners who reject God’s salvation. But, in the middle of the Bible, men who recognize their sinfulness… seek “forgiveness.”

But how do we receive forgiveness? What are the requirements for one to receive forgiveness?

This is where it becomes extremely important to “rightly divide” the Bible, noting what standard applies to the Nation Israel versus that which applies to the members of the Gentile “body of Christ.”

The so called ‘Lord’s Prayer’ was given by Jesus to His Jewish disciples while preaching CONDITIONAL Forgiveness.’ But most Christians ignore the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, had come in His earthly ministry to speak ONLY to those of the Nation Israel. Therefore, many Christians today mistakenly try to apply Jesus’ words to Israel… as if they apply to the members of the church, “the body of Christ” today.

… he [Jesus] answered and said, I am not sent but [except] unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:24 (KJV)

  1. Jesus of Nazareth instructed Israel as to the basis available to Israel for their ‘forgiveness of sins.’

14 For [only] IF ye forgive men their trespasses, [then] your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But IF ye forgive NOT men their trespasses [first], neither will your [heavenly] Father forgive your trepasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (KJV)

  1. By contrast, Paul, “the Apostle to the Gentiles” of this age (Rom. 11:13), wrote as follows what the resurrected Jesus From Heaven, in His ‘heavenly ministry,’ had given Paul to write to the Gentile believers of the church called “the body of Christ.”

32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as [or, in the same way as] God for Christ’s sake HATH [already] Forgiven You. Ephesians 4:32 (KJV)

Now, “Do you see any difference in these contrasting verses concerning forgiveness?”

Some say, “No, in both the needy are forgiven, and are told to forgive.”

That’s true, but HOW is the forgiveness granted in each case – is there a requisite requirement?

Read the above two verses again, carefully, to note ‘Who exactly is the one who forgives FIRST?

Do you see the difference? In #1, the Aspirant Must forgive first, but in #2 God has Already Forgiven first.

Since “words” mean something and the Bible uses “words” that are “the truth,” we can forget what ‘man’s religion’ and ‘denominational hierarchy’ teach and rather cling to the “words” of God in the Bible.

Forgiveness Under Law Comes Only With Conditions!

Forgiveness is something only God can give. It is not something we can claim for ourselves by ourselves. Under the law God gave forgiveness under condition.

God could not just forgive unrighteous, faithless, evil sinners. This would be unjust and unholy. Justice must be served by ‘the Just One.’

To receive forgiveness Israel, from the Old Testament time, required the Nation and its individuals to confess their sins and perform as God instructed. Forgiveness required priests, sacrifices, and confession in Leviticus 5:5-6; Lev 6:7.

  • What if they did not offer the sacrifice, or sacrificed without the priest, or would not confess their sins?
  • Answer: they did not receive forgiveness. This Forgiveness was then ‘CONDITIONAL.’

God required humble hearts, obedience, and prayer in 2 Chronicles 7:14 to forgive Israel (2 Chron 7:14). If a man said he had faith in God to forgive him, but did not humble himself, pray, or turn from his wicked ways, then his faith is in vain.

In Matthew 6:14-15 Jesus teaches his Jewish disciples how to pray according to “the law” (Matt 5:17). In this popular prayer pattern Jesus says forgiveness comes by forgiving other people: forgiveness was conditional.

“For IF ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But IF ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” – Matthew 6:14-15

As you see Jesus was simply upholding the Moses Law for all of Israel. Jesus then said, thus saying, IF they did NOT forgive others, then they would NOT be forgiven. Their faith in Jesus for forgiveness would be vain if they did not first forgive other people their trespasses. This is also in accord with what James later wrote to ‘the twelve Tribes of Israel’ saying, Faith without works is dead [in vain]” (James 1:1, 2:17).

By Contrast … Forgiveness Under Paul’s Grace Gospel Is Without Conditions.

Under today’s “the dispensation [age] of the grace of God” the Old requirements for forgiveness have changed. “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Cor. 5:17b (KJV)

Since the meaning and scope of Christ’s substitutionary death of the Cross was kept secret, hid in a “mystery [as the secret plan of God],” the revelation of the “mystery changed how forgiveness is now granted by God.

Forgiveness before today’s “the dispensation of the grace of God” was conditioned upon performance under its requirements requiring men to perform per God’s instructions under “the law.” But today, we “are NOT under law, but under grace.” God’s forgiveness today is granted according to God’s Unconditional grace.

“ …. for ye are NOT under the law, but under grace. Romans 6:14 (KJV)

According to “the mystery [secret] of Christ,” salvation today is offered FREELY through the finished Cross-work of Jesus Christ to all who BELIEVE His death was for them.

“Even [that is] the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; 24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [the sacrificial payment] through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” Romans 3:22-25 (KJV)

Free salvation includes free forgiveness by God’s grace through faith without any condition for us to perform (Eph 1:7; Rom 4:5). This is “the mystery” of the “gospel of the grace of God” for all men today... if they will believe [trust in Christ].

“For by Grace are ye Saved through Faith; and that NOT of yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: 9 NOT of works, lest any man should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (KJV)

God’s justice does require performance to forgive. God’s grace required the performance of Jesus Christ at the Cross in order to justly forgive those who will believe. (Rom 5:8).

God did NOT require our performance in order to give us forgiveness, nor do we require the performance of others to grant forgiveness to them.

“… forgiving one another, even as [in the same manner as ] God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” – Eph. 4:32

The motivation to forgive under grace is for Christ’s sake, who died and forgave us freely. This motivation is one of love completely without condition since our forgiving others was not a condition for our own forgiveness.


Both the law and grace offer forgiveness and instruct God’s people to forgive, but according to the law, forgiveness is granted upon performance. According to grace forgiveness, is freely received through faith in Christ … before we do anything.

Many people wrongly depend on their own humility, their own forgiveness or kindness toward others in order to receive forgiveness for their own sins. Today, this is a misplaced hope and a vain faith that should be in Christ’s work and not our own.

The law is just to require an eye for an eye, and for someone to always pay for forgiveness. Praise God, according to His grace, Jesus Christ died for our sins, and forgiveness is now given freely by grace without condition.

(Note: Emphasis has been added to many of the KJV Bible verses above for clarity.)

Questions or Comment?

You can make comments or ask questions using this form. I welcome your questions and comments for discussion but … I will not engage in arguments with anyone. We can always agree to disagree.