I heard it said recently that God does not forgive the unrepentant. There are two reasons that come quickly to mind that tells my heart that such a statement is a false understanding. One is found in Jesus. The second is found in God’s relationship with Israel as expressed in Isaiah 43.
First, Jesus. Scripture tells us, “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us ALL TO FALL ON HIM.” (Isaiah 53:6 NASB)
Jesus paid the price for our forgiveness before we could repent, and He paid it for ALL. I don’t know about you, but in my understanding, all means ALL. All mankind goes astray from God and His way. Jesus took ALL of our sin to the cross and paid the price of sin for ALL, purchasing God’s forgiveness from sin.
God’s forgiveness stands ready to receive by each of us because of Jesus. God’s forgiveness has nothing to do with us. We cannot earn it or buy it. Though repentance is required, our repentance does not buy God’s forgiveness. Our repentance simply reaches out like a hand ready to receive that which is already ours in Christ. It is ready and available for us before we seek it when we bow to the Lordship of Christ, admit we are sinners, and commit ourselves to following God in Christ’s likeness. Failure to seek it through repentance is failure to possess that which is ready and waiting for us.
Point 1: God has already forgiven ALL HUMANKIND because of Jesus.
My second reason for belief in God’s forgiveness even toward the unrepentant is found in Isaiah 43 as recorded in the NASB. Here we find Israel in the throws of rebellious sin. As God calls their sin against them, he proclaims His heart over them, forgiveness issued despite unrepentant sin.
“You have bought Me not sweet cane with money, Nor have you filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices; Rather you have burdened Me with your sins, You have wearied Me with your iniquities. I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I WILL not remember your sins.” (Isaiah 43:24-25)
This is the very definition of forgiveness. “I wipe out your transgressions (erasing the record of them) and I will not remember your sins (holding them in account against you)” was a present tense promise to Israel. Forgiveness was already there for them, in the midst of sin. God is proclaiming here, “Though I am wearied by your constant sin, I forgive you for My own sake.”
When God pointed this out to me, I asked Him why He chose to forgive for His own sake. Clearly to my heart came this understanding, “Darlene, if I had not chosen to forgive in the midst of sin, I never would have put My Son on a cruel cross for such a wretch as you.” I’m so grateful God forgave all, and held it out for me to receive.
Point 2: God’s forgiveness is for His own sake, that love may reach out to the unlovable.
God’s forgiveness is already there for hands of repentance to receive. Repentance is the hand that possesses God’s merciful forgiveness. But consequences can still come even though we are forgiven. We must not confuse consequences in this life as unforgiveness.
In our Isaiah passage, God proclaims, “… I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, And I WILL not remember your sins. Put Me in remembrance, let us argue our case together; State your cause, that you may be proved right. Your first forefather sinned, And your spokesmen have transgressed against Me. So I will pollute the princes of the sanctuary, And I will consign Jacob to the ban and Israel to revilement.” (Isaiah 43:24-28 NASB)
God forgave Israel’s sin for His own sake, but the consequences of sin were not stopped.
God has warned us from heaven’s throne, giving us the laws that teach us how to keep His way. With those laws God set the consequences that come to sin, not the least of which is the consequence of failure to acknowledge Christ and receive Mercy’s forgiveness. That consequence is eternal separation from God. Though God has already forgiven, failure to receive it requires the consequence for that sin.
Despite God’s forgiveness that is ready for receipt, we can refuse the gift and suffer the consequence. But God’s forgiveness remains intact. It honors the price Jesus paid. And we, who have received God’s gift of eternal mercy through Christ, may still have to deal with consequences for choices in this life. Sex out of marriage, though repented of, can still lead to pregnancy. Your consequence does not mean God has failed to forgive. Consequence is the law of life in a fallen world. But God, out of love and grace, will walk with us as we deal with the results of wrong choices.
Now here is the thing, Love. We are instructed in Ephesians 4:32, that we ought to “forgive others, just as God in Christ also has forgiven us.” God’s forgiveness in Christ was before creation and continues to us post Christ’s fulfillment. It stands at the ready for our reception. Our forgiveness must do the same. We forgive in Christ for our own sake, making forgiveness a gift made ready in likeness to our God.
Who are you holding unforgiveness toward? Jesus paid the price so you, who are forgiven, can escape the shackles of unforgiveness and walk free from sin. Get a box and wrapping paper and make your forgiveness ready for that one to receive when the hand of repentance reaches out to you.