Is Forgiving Others a Condition for Salvation? (1 of 2)

unforgiving servant 1

Q. I have a Christian relative who tells people that they have to forgive everybody or they cannot go to heaven. She quotes Matthew 18:21-35, “if we don’t forgive others then God won’t forgive us.” She says God won’t forgive us means we will go to hell, and many Christians will end up in hell. I told her Jesus was talking about forgiveness, not heaven or hell, and nowhere in the bible does it say we have to forgive everybody as a condition to heaven. What did Jesus mean when he said God won’t forgive them if they don’t forgive others ?

A. This is a very good question. You are correct in observing that Jesus was talking about forgiveness, not heaven or hell. You are also right in indicating that the Bible does not make forgiving everyone a condition for salvation.

When the rich young ruler and the expert in the law who wanted to test Jesus asked Him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, our Lord did not tell them to forgive everyone. Instead, He told them to keep the commandments, something impossible for them to do, so that they will rely on God’s grace rather than their good deeds.

Mk 10:17, 19 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” … “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” (Also Lk 18:18, 20)
• Lk 10:25-28 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

When the jailer asked Paul and Silas “what must I do to be saved?”, they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus”, not forgiving others.

Acts 16:30-31 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.”

So forgiving everyone is not a condition for salvation. Repentance from sin and faith in Christ is. Then what does Mt 18:35 mean? I think the key is in recognizing who that verse addresses, and how does God deal with them. Let’s analyze it to see what does it say.

(To be continued)

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