What does Scripture say on forgiveness and repentance?
There is no place in Scripture that suggests that God forgives the unrepentant, those who persist in rebellion against him. But Scripture does say that God forgives the repentant, even those who had deserved death. The entire chapter of Ezekiel 18 is devoted to this teaching. After a long and thorough teaching, its closing words:
"For I take no pleasue in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!" (Ezekiel 18:32)John the Baptist taught in the same vein:
preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:4)Jesus began his preaching on the same note when he came out of the wilderness after his baptism:
From that time on Jesus began to preach, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17)And again,
I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. (Luke 5:32)Jesus' summary of his message and blessing to the world, recorded at the end of Luke's gospel, showed that this is the continuing message of his church for all times:
repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47)This same message was taken up at Pentecost by the apostles, as their spokesman Peter proclaimed,
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)Peter, knowing the teachings of God in Ezekiel, knowing the teachings of Jesus, explained it to those who were impatient with waiting for the last day:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)God brings people to repentance in the way he has chosen, which is exalting Christ:
God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. (Acts 5:31)Paul also taught that God's kindness and patience also lead people to repentance (Romans 2:4). Peter wrote again of God's grace, and of the humility of repentance, saying "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (I Peter 5:5). John the apostle also taught the same, that in humility and repentance we hope in God who has decreed forgiveness for those who turn to him:
If we claim we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)God has promised forgiveness to the humble, the penitent, those who call on him and turn to him.
Conclusion and Continuation
Time and again, Scripture answers that God forgives the repentant; he lifts up the humble, those who turn to him and call on him and admit their sin are promised the goodness of God, who is faithful and just. But the conversation is very much incomplete at this point. Next, God willing, we will look at Christ and our forgiveness.