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The verses in dispute:

“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭6‬:‭14‬-‭15‬

Cf.

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭2‬:‭1‬ ‭

If a believer refuses to forgive another person for a time, or even dies in that state, Jesus is also their advocate despite their sin. If unforgiveness is a sin according to Jesus, then does Christ stop being their advocate if they die without forgiving another man?

Q: How do we reconcile these two verses?

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    The unforgiving person (f truly regenerate) will be convicted by the Holy Spirit and will be brought to repentance of their hard-hearted unforgiveness ; then they themselves will feel the forgiveness of the Father. I do not see any 'contradiction' or need to 'reconcile' anything. As is often the case with this type of question, one need only see the process involved that, as it unfolds, lends the true narrative.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 5, 2022 at 20:27
  • @NigelJ so your answer is related to regeneration?
    – Cork88
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 0:31
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    Yes, indeed. Being born again is essential to repentance and to faith and to the experience of justification, without which there is no experience of remission of one's own sins and therefore the concomitant dismissal (aphesis) of the trespasses of others against oneself.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 2:05
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    There are transgressions for which forgiveness may take an entire lifetime. I do not think that Jesus' words in Mt 6:14-15 refer to such cases or to specific instances of unforgiveness, but to the general disposition of one who persistently and willfully denies mercy to others. Such a disposition jeopardizes our relationship to Christ. Reference Mt 35:43; if we regard Jesus' words concerning the need to clothe the nakedness of others from a spiritual perspective, they are a reminder that spiritual charity will be considered a direct token of our relationship to Christ.
    – Nhi
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 22:00
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    You remind me of the Sadducees in Matthew 22. However, the general principle holds true as Jesus gave it: "But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.". Anyone moved by the Spirit of Christ won't persist in an attitude of unforgiveness.
    – enegue
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 12:01

3 Answers 3

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We can reconcile Matthew 6:14-15 with 1 John 2:1 by taking a few more verses from 1 John 2:1-4. Let's read 1 John 2:1-4

1 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.

2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands.

4 Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.

Jesus sacrifice himself for our sins to be forgiven. If we did not forgive others their sins, then we were liars as we did not keep His commands. As the truth (advocate) is not with that person, then Matthew 6:15 is the reasonable judgement.

15 But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

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  • You mentioned: “As the truth (advocate) is no longer with that person” how do you get from that verse (1 John 2:4) that the truth was ever with that person who makes the claim to know God to begin with?
    – Cork88
    Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 21:38
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    @Cork88 - good spotted, I apologize. I made a correction to my wording. Commented Jan 25, 2023 at 22:11
  • I hope God does not hold me to this standard very strictly. But I did upvote the answer ;-) Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 19:56
  • @DanFefferman - Thank you. But we all know God is strict. Hope the truth help us. Commented Jan 28, 2023 at 4:53
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Jesus is speaking to the nation of Israel. Their pardon of sins was conditional. As a nation that did not accept their Messiah, therefore did not accept forgiveness for their sins. This in turn made them unable to forgive others. Their hearts remained hard as a nation. They lost their pardon until:

From Mount Zion a Deliverer will come: He will remove all ungodliness from Jacob; And this shall be My Covenant with them; when I have taken away their sins. Romans 11:26-27

Their are differences between the evangel that was given to the nation of Israel and the mystery that was kept hidden and given through Paul.

Forgiveness is one. Here forgiveness is through God's grace. There are no conditions attached.

It is in Him, and through the shedding of His blood, that we have our deliverance--the forgiveness of our offences--so abundant was God's grace, Ephesians 1:7

"Is far, far beyond the measure in which we forgive others. More ever, our forgiveness is not at all dependent on our extending this favor to others. With them it was probational and temporary; With us it is irrevocable and eternal.... Concordant commentary"

The circumcision evangel demands repentance, baptism (Acts2:38) and works (James 2:14). And good conduct, and conferred a probational pardon, calling for continual cleansing. They knew nothing of the justification by faith which is ours in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). In which all possibility of condemnation of vanishes... Concordant literal commentary

New Edit:

Colossians 3:1:15 talks about one's new life in Christ and how we are to forgive.

Therefore as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on hearts of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, 13bearing with each other and forgiving each other. If anyone should have a complaint against another, even as also the Lord has forgiven you, so also you. Colossians 3:13

How are we to forgive each other? Completely, on the basis the way the Lord has forgiven each one of us.

be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, as also in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 432

So again our basis to forgive each other is to recognize how the Lord has forgiven each one of us. God had already forgiven us before we knew we needed to be forgiven.

God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19

It's when the Spirit of God shows us our sin and we are able to acknowledge it and accept His forgiveness that enables us to forgive others.

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  • I feel as if you didn’t address Jesus’ advocacy in His active office as our advocate as believers, with respect to men not forgiving when they ought to. For tha nation of Israel no doubt would have been addressed, but his disciples were also addressed: (Matthew 5:1).
    – Cork88
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 7:10
  • @Cork88 Thanks for your constructive comment and therefore I added to the end of my post.
    – Sherrie
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 12:22
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    @Cork88 If one is in Christ, there is no condemnation. Even if that same one has not forgiven someone else who's offended or hurt them. In Christ forgiveness is not conditional, nor acceptance based on their performance of what they do or don't. It's all based on Christ finished work and His alone. That's where life begins for a believer.
    – Sherrie
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 16:17
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This question about Matt 6:14, 15 has many facets which will be treated separately before bringing them together.

Unforgiveness

Jesus teaching in Matt 6:14, 15 is essentially repeated in His parable about the unforgiving servant as recorded in Matt 18:21-35. This idea is further reinforced by Paul's teaching in Rom 12:14-21.

Parakletos = Mediator/Advocate

In John 2:1, the operative noun, "advocate/mediator" is παράκλητος (parakletos), describing one aspect of the ministry of Jesus. Exactly the name noun is also used of the work of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16, 26, 15:26, 16:7. That is what in John 14:16, the Holy Spirit is described as "another helper/advocate".

Now, the primary role of a mediator is to bring two parties together - the advocate is a go-between, speaking for each party. In the case of the Holy Spirit who operates on our consciences, the work of salvation is far more than merely forgiveness but involves reformation of the sinner's life by (John 16:8-11):

  • convict of sin, ie, showing the sinner where the life needs reformation
  • revealing righteousness, ie, showing the sinner how to live a righteous life that imitates that of Jesus
  • revealing judgement, ie, that the prince of the world (Satan) is condemned and defeated enemy

Types of sin

Sin could be classified in several ways depending upon whom the sin is against:

  • sin against oneself, ie, private sin
  • sin against a neighbor or friend
  • sin against God

Now, it is clear that all sin must be confessed to God because the NT teaches, that no matter who the victim of sin is, sin is still sin against God, 1 Cor 8:12, ps 51:4, Prov 14:31, Deut 20:18. See also 2 Sam 12:13, 14, Gen 39:9, 1 Sam 12:23, 1 Sam 14:34, 2 Chron 19:10, Prov 17:5, Jer 34:19, Eze 13:19.

However, if a sin against my person "A", I should NOT confess the sin to person "B" but seek forgiveness from both God and person "A". See Matt Matt 18:21, 22, Luke 17:4. It also follows that a private sin (that does not affect others) should only be confessed to God.

Great Sinners

Rom 3:10-18 makes clear that sinners are all "great sinners" in the sense that we do not even realize the extent of our sinful depravity. This means that as sinners we do not even realize some of the sins we have committed, and thus cannot even confess them. Sometimes we realize we have committed such sins sometime later when it is too late to confess to the victim(s) because they have either died or are otherwise unavailable.

It is for all these unknown or ignorant sins that we desperately need Jesus as our Advocate with the Father. Rom 3:23-25 says that we have been forgiven/justified - a great promise indeed.

Conclusion

Where possible and practical, all know sins should be confessed to the victim(s), else we run the run the risk of ignoring the Holy Spirit's pleadings to reveal sin in our lives and thus close off the channel of God's reforming grace.

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  • can you clarify your conclusion? If we are saved by grace, the. What do you mean by: “thus close off the channel of God's reforming grace.” ??
    – Cork88
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 0:31
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    @Cork88 - God's grace transforms (over time) the sinner into a person that does not want to sin. We are saved by grace to "do good works", Eph 2:8-10. However, this is not done against the sinner's will but cooperation with the miraculous work of God.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 2:00
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    So how in your answer, does this particular question get answered? “If unforgiveness is a sin according to Jesus, then does Christ stop being their advocate if they die without forgiving another man?” I feel like that wasn’t necessarily explicitly stated in your answer, although your answer was theologically and biblically sound in terms of a detailed analysis.
    – Cork88
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 6:22
  • I have asked the same question till now none no one has answered Cork88 Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 7:30
  • @Cork88 - that is the point of my answer - Jesus never stops being an advocate, BUT if a person refuses the Salvation, then that person puts themselves beyond the limits of grace by rejecting salvation.
    – Dottard
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 10:04

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