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Last week I ran an article by Levi Sides about the importance of forgiveness. Church, we need to forgive when someone has sinned against us, and when they ask for our forgiveness. AND WHEN THEY REPENT . . .

Does forgiveness mean that I say, “I’m sorry, please forgive me,” and then go back and commit the sin again? NO, one hundred times NO!  

What is repentance?

  Forgiveness can only be given when the sinning party truly repents of sin. Notice that Jesus says in Luke 17:3-4. “If he repents, forgive him. . .”   If, he repents!

In Matthew 3:8 John the Baptist would not baptize until they had repented of their sins.  In Mark’s account of John’s baptism, we find that “. . . all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sin.”  What motivated their baptism by John? They confessed their sin, but, obviously, they had a change of mind which resulted in first confessing their sin, then in the change of life (the Greek word for repent is metanoéō to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider morally, feel compunction—repent).

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 we read of the occasion where a man in the church at Corinth had his father’s wife. Paul made it clear that the church was to “purge out the old leaven” (expel him), and “deliver him to Satan.” The man who had his father’s wife must repent!  It seems that (to me at least) in 2 Corinthians 7 Paul writes of the incident in 1 Corinthians 5 and says, “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it—though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.” Notice that the GODLY grief over the sin committed against GOD or someone PRODUCES THE REPENTANCE. 

Repentance is often interpreted as being sorry, hence, we think it is more of a feeling than taking action to make things right. We punish ourselves in our thoughts and feelings, which torments us, and it seems that the repenting never ends. 

  In the Hebrew language the idea of repentance is not just a state of mind, but a DECISION.  “It is decided to turn away from where you are headed and moving back toward God. Abraham Joshua Heschel stated that repentance is “a change in man’s conduct which brings about a change in God’s judgment.” We turn from darkness to the light. It is heading back to God.  Notice Joel 2:12-13” ‘Yet even now,’ declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”

Perhaps the greatest example of repentance is found in the story of Joseph and his brothers. We remember that his brothers sold Joseph into slavery, and after many years, (with God working behind the scenes in Joseph’s life) he becomes the second “in command” behind Pharaoh himself. We then remember that his brothers came and bowed down before him, as Joseph’s dreams stated they would. He treated them harshly (not for revenge) but to see if they had TRULY REPENTED. He heard them discuss what evil they had done to Joseph earlier and tested them to see if they truly had changed. (See Genesis 42-45). 

Beloved, for us to forgive there must be a corresponding repentance in the one who has sinned against us. We must be concerned about their immortal souls and where they will spend eternity.

May we all repent when we sin; further, may we forgive when someone who has sinned against us, has repented.

Tommy Tidwell

(Some of the points made in this article come from Dr. David Warren, a former professor at Heritage Christian University; and


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