Bible Study on Forgiveness

Personal Weaknesses

Sometimes I will take into account a wrong suffered even after the other person has apologized for it. Later I may remember and bring it back up.

I may forgive someone once or two or three times, but have a hard time if they keep making the same mistake.

I often want the other person to say they are sorry and wrong and then I will forgive them. It’s not truly forgiving for me if I wait for the other side to repent.

I likely view the other side’s sin as more serious than my own, even if I am partly at fault. I am focusing on the other person’s problem instead of my own.

Ten things the Bible teaches on forgiveness.

  1. God is a forgiving God.

  2. God wants to forgive us.

  3. We are commanded to forgive.

  4. We should forgive others because God has forgiven us so much.

  5. How we forgive others has a direct relation to how God forgives us.

  6. God’s standard for forgiveness is much higher than ours.

  7. Most of our attention should be paid to ourselves, not others. We should focus on our sins instead of others.

  8. We should not take a record of wrongs.

  9. A loving person will forgive.

  10. That forgiveness will show itself in action.

Ten things the Bible doesn’t teach on forgiveness.

  1. That we deserve other’s good deeds.

  2. That we have certain rights we must defend.

  3. That we should only forgive if they ask us to (Stephen). This applies to God because He is the judge, but we should forgive even if others don’t ask us to (revenge is God’s).

  4. That forgiveness means there will be no consequences.

  5. That we only have to forgive a limited number of times.

  6. That we only have to forgive small things.

  7. That Christians are unable to forgive.

  8. That forgiveness is only words and not actions.

  9. That it takes time.

  10. That forgiveness is equal to ignoring something.

  11. That forgiveness is optional.


What is forgiveness?

What is the Biblical basis on why believers should forgive?

What is God’s standard of forgiveness?

Is forgiveness optional for believers?

What are some common obstacles/reasons why people/you don’t forgive?

Whose benefit is forgiveness for, the offended or the offender?

What may false forgiveness look like?

Are there any sins we are not required to forgive?

Who is sin against?

How many times should we forgive?

What practical steps should we take when someone sins against us to be sure that we forgive them?

What is the opposite of forgiveness?

What negative consequences will bitterness have in our lives?

Definition of forgiveness-


  1. To grant for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.)

  2. To give up all claim on account.

  3. To grant pardon to a person.

  4. To cease to feel resentment against.

  5. To stop being angry at someone.

To forgive means that we give up all bitterness, resentment, anger, and malice against someone, not keeping a record of their wrongdoing, but instead treat them with kindness and mercy and do our best to reconcile.


    1. The Biblical basis for forgiveness. What is it?

      1. God is a forgiving God. He takes the initiative (Hebrews 10:17-18, Nehemiah 9:18, Psalms 99:8, Colossians 2:13)

      2. We are commanded to forgive.

      3. Jesus forgave.

    2. Consequences of being unforgiving. What are they?

      1. God will not forgive us.

      2. It will give the devil a foothold in our lives.

      3. It will prevent us from learning the lesson God wants to learn.

      4. Broken relationships (Esau-Jacob, countless marriages).

      5. Ineffectiveness in work or other areas.

    3. Marks of being unforgiving. What does unforgiveness or false forgiveness look like?

      1. Taking into account a wrong suffered.

      2. Being selfish.

      3. Easily angered.

    4. True forgiveness

      1. Is based on God’s forgiveness.

      2. Doesn’t need to be asked.

      3. Isn’t limited to a certain number of times.

      4. Isn’t limited to small sins.

      5. Realizes that sin is primarily against God.

      6. Focuses on one’s own wrongs.

      7. Comes out of a loving heart.

      8. Helps not only the offender, but the offended.

      9. Reconciles to the offending party and reaches out in kindness.

    5. Examples of forgiveness

      1. Joseph

      2. David

      3. Jesus

      4. Stephen

      5. Esau – negative

    6. Practical steps to take in forgiving others

      1. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

      2. Confess your own sins first.

      3. Be quick to listen.

      4. Be slow to speak.

      5. Be slow to become angry.

      6. Do our best to reconcile.


Matthew 18:21-35 – Parable of the unforgiving slave – In this passage there is both a command, an example, and a consequence. The command is to forgive the same person up to seventy times seven times. Jesus point is to show we should forgive again and again without limitation. His standard is far higher than even the most compassionate human’s.

The example is what God has forgiven us. No matter how serious someone has sinned against us it is not even close to the amount we have sinned against God. How much have we sinned against God? Every sin we ever commit, inside or out, is against God. Because it is against our Creator and Savior it is that much more serious. The ten thousand talents represents a virtually infinite number. Our sin is so great we can’t count it or even attach a number to it. Let’s say we are good people and that we only sin 5 times a day. That means if we live to be just 70 years old we will have committed roughly 125,000 sins. Each one is against God and each one grieves His heart. Yet He is willing to completely forgive all of that with no cost to us. Jesus paid all of the cost. He is willing to completely forgive it although He did nothing against us and we are 100% at fault.

So the reasoning is this: because God has freely forgiven us so much we ought also to forgive others the comparably “nothing” sins they commit against us. We don’t even deserve for others to treat us well. Lack of forgiveness often comes when we think about our rights and how those rights have been violated. Well, we don’t have rights. We have also committed sins against many others and probably against the very person we won’t forgive.

This passage also records the consequence of being unforgiving. If we don’t forgive others then that is evidence that we don’t truly belong to God and therefore God will not forgive us either (Matthew 6:14-15). It is very clear. If we won’t forgive others then God will not forgive us. So next time you are tempted to hold a grudge remember what God has forgiven you. This should inspire you to forgive the person. If it doesn’t, remember that if you don’t forgive God is not going to forgive your sins either.

Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13 – Command on forgiveness. Here is another command to forgive. We are to be kind and tender-hearted. Tender-hearted is the opposite of hard-heart. The hard heart wants to punish the person for their wrongdoing. They want them to feel hurt just as they hurt us. The hard heart wants to hang it over the head of the perpetrator.

Proverbs 19:11 – The wisdom of forgiveness – It is wise to be slow to anger. Being quick to anger helps no one. A lot of serious quarrels would be avoided if the two sides practiced this principle at the beginning. So many times a very little thing erupts into a big thing because one or both are not slow to anger. At the very beginning of a problem we need to be calm and quiet. We can try some practical things such as thinking what to say before we just blurt it out, not raising our voice, etc.

Matthew 7:1-5 – Command to examine ourselves first. Judging others and an unforgiving spirit are very similar. Most of the time not forgiving someone is the result of a judgment when we say he/she did something wrong. One reason for the lack of forgiveness is that we too often are thinking of others’ problems instead of our own. Our focus is on what HE did wrong and how HE hurt me. If instead we approach it from what mistake we made and how we can correct it we will find that the problem will be largely reduced.

1 Corinthians 13:5 – Connection between love and forgiveness. This verse shows the clear connection between love and forgiveness. A loving person will be quick to forgive. A spiteful person will be slow to do so. Also, a loving person does not seek his own so will not be quick to think of his own rights. A loving person does not get angry quickly. And a loving person does not keep record of wrongs done against him. All of these things combined will help us to be forgiving people.

Nehemiah 9:17 – God’s character. God is a forgiving God. He more than anyone has the right to not forgive. He would be perfectly fair and just to destroy everyone and send them to hell. He would have been perfectly fair and just to wipe out the Israelites when they worshipped the golden calf and repeatedly rebelled against Him. But God did not forsake them. He is patient, gracious, and compassionate. He is always ready to forgive as can also be seen in the parable of the lost son (Luke 15:11). Since God is forgiving, we should be too.

Ephesians 4:26-27 – Practical command on anger. This verse commands us not to let the sun go down on our anger. A practical help on forgiveness is to forgive quickly. Don’t let a problem fester and sit there. The longer a problem stays there the worse it will get. If we let it stay overnight it is only going to grow. The grudge and bitterness will grow as well. This gives the devil a foothold on our lives. Bitterness and resentment will spread to many other areas. What could it spread to? Complaining, lying, outbursts of anger, bickering, lack of joy, etc.

This brings out an important point I want to discuss. In many countries “face” is a big deal. Often when a person does wrong or a problem exists between two people the normal solution is to ignore it. The thinking I guess is if it is ignored the problem may go away. Will it go away by itself? No. These things don’t go away by themselves. If we do wrong we need to go to the person and confess and ask for forgiveness, even if we lose a lot of face. If the other side is at fault, we also should go to them and bring the problem out into the open to try to solve it. We should not do so in a prideful way, but out of a desire to fix the relationship and bring them closer to God. Forgiveness does not equal ignoring the problem.

James 1:19-20 – Qualities related to forgiveness. This verse tells us some things that will be very helpful if we have conflicts with others. It tells us some practical steps to take to ensure that conflicts don’t escalate. We need to be quick to listen and slow to speak and slow to become angry. That means we need to listen to the other side and try to understand where they are coming from. Maybe our mind has greatly magnified their wrongdoing and what we think they meant is worse than what we they really did mean. Perhaps what we think we need to forgive is much more serious than what we actually need to forgive. We should listen to the other side. We should be slow to speak, for if we speak a lot sin is unavoidable. We also need to be slow to become angry and not have a bad temper. All these things will help us be more forgiving and stop the conflict before it breaks out.

Matthew 5:23-24 – Command. Deal with problems quickly. If giving an offering, leave it there and be reconciled first. It’s urgent.

Psalms 99:8 – God’s character. God is a forgiving God, and yet an avenger of evil deeds.

Luke 7:40-50. Parable of the two debtors – This passage shows a likely benefit of forgiving others. The benefit is that the person you forgive is likely to appreciate it and the two will have a closer relationship. However, the main point of this parable is that the person God forgives much will love Him more.

Examples –

Positive Examples:

Joseph – Genesis 50:17-21. We can learn a lot from Joseph’s experience. God has a perfect plan for us. Even if terrible things happen to us at the hands of other people, we should realize that God has a plan and purpose for it. Maybe He wants us to learn a lesson. If I am impatient He might send an annoying person into my life, not to hurt me, but to teach me patience. Or, as with the case of Joseph, He might have a bigger plan or purpose in mind. If when these troubles come from other people, we remember that God is in control and wants us to go through this, it will help us to forgive that person, knowing that it is from God.

Also it shows that with God’s divine grace we can forgive anyone. Sometimes we will say, “I can’t”. But actually, if we belong to God, we can. God gives us the ability to forgive.

Also, Joseph didn’t just say he forgave them. He protected them. He gave them a home. He comforted them and provided for them. He showed his forgiveness to them. It is not true forgiveness to say we forgive somebody but do not reconcile with them. It is not true forgiveness if we say we forgive them, but then don’t want anything to do with them and treat them as an enemy or even just ignore them. Joseph showed that in his heart he had no ill-will or malice towards them.

David – 2nd Samuel 16:7-14.

In this story, David is cursed by a man named Shimei. David’s soldiers wanted to kill him for cursing the king, but David had mercy on him. Notice David’s response in verses 10-11. He realized that maybe God wanted this guy to curse him. Because of this he would not take revenge. The guy deserved to be punished. David had the authority to punish him. But David had self-control and restrained himself and his men. Why? He knew that God was in control and maybe wanted to teach David something. This does not mean though that David ignored this guys’ sin. When David died he gave instructions to Solomon on how to deal with Shimei. Forgiveness does not mean that there are no consequences for doing wrong.

Jesus – Luke 23:24. Father forgive them for they know not what they do. Jesus is the greatest example of forgiveness. He forgave those who killed Him. He had done nothing to deserve it, coming to save those very people. They deserved to be destroyed, but Jesus had a heart of mercy and compassion.

Stephen – Acts 7:60 – One might say, sure Jesus is God. He can forgive. He is supposed to. But Stephen, a human just like you and me, also forgave. He forgave the very people who were killing him, just like Jesus did. We can see from Jesus and Stephen that there is no sin to terrible for us to forgive.

Negative Examples:

Esau – Genesis 27:41. Esau was mistreated and cheated by his brother Jacob. As most humans would, he held a grudge. He even desired to kill Jacob. Esau was unforgiving and selfish.

Personal Applications

If I say I forgive something, I will never bring it up again as a weapon against that person.

I will do my best to forgive somebody the tenth and one hundredth time as if it was the first time.

If I argue with my wife, I will stop to think what I did wrong and not wait for her to confess before confessing my own sin.

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