Why True Repentance Preceeds True Forgiveness

The Bell of Truth Tolls
By: Kimberly Dimick
Today, Kimberly addresses the common advice victims are told: "To forgive and move on." Too often we are taught to give "easy grace," not realizing the spiritual danger we put our offender in. Also, easy grace allows the offender to continue abusing.



We are not condoning an ATTITUDE or HEART of unforgiveness but that true forgiveness does NOT precede true repentance. Yes, our hearts are always WILLING to truly forgive WHEN and IF the person repents.


We wait like Jesus does, longing for one sinner to come to repentance, receiving them with great joy.


I also used to believe that forgiveness MUST be given even if one never asks to be forgiven.


Well, even God does not forgive us if we do not repent, so, this did not make sense to me. This is a difficult subject but the more I poured over the Scriptures today, I have had my eyes opened to truths I have never pondered or sought God on because I believed what I had been told.


Yes, we can RELEASE or let go of a person into God's hands so that they "might" repent one day. God can bring to bear His disciplines and chastisement so that they WILL come to the knowledge of God. The Holy Spirit WILL convict of sin, as this is His role. Jesus wishes that NONE would perish but in this declaration Jesus, is still acknowledging many will certainly PERISH, indeed.


That release, however is not forgiveness. It has more to do with healthy boundaries and guarding our own hearts. It is the fruit of the spirit of self-control or taking back the responsibility of our own lives of what we will allow and not allow to into our spirit and protects our relationship with Jesus.


This necessitates cutting off the wicked, the foolish and evildoer from affecting us. We do not just allow an unrepentant person sinner to keep sinning against us IF it is within our control to do so. What control? Sometimes, we are sinned against and have no power to get out of the situation.


I remember watching a story of a woman who was in a Concentration Camp in Nazi Germany. Years later, the man who was responsible for her sister's death found her and came to her to ask her for forgiveness. The man was undone and distraught at the sight of her but wanted his guilt assuaged (without receiving the ONE who took his guilt for him). She looked straight way at that man and said, "NO, I will not forgive you, I have no power to forgive you for your sin. ONLY and UNLESS you have repented and received Jesus Christ as the Savior for your sin,THEN I will happily forgive you." That man walked away.


She was right in NOT forgiving him because he refused the sacrifice for his sin.


This attitude is HONORING Jesus by presenting to the SINNER the WAY of Salvation. We instead give an easy forgiveness/grace message and are in danger of letting people think there is not a danger of HELL to avoid!!


Take the rich young ruler. Now, it would seem this man was genuinely wanting to understand salvation and the way to God. Yet, when Jesus told him what to do to be saved, (sell all that you have and follow Me), the man walked away from Jesus UNSAVED and UNFORGIVEN.


Notice, that Jesus did not chase that man down and beg him to repent. Now, personally, I would have been fooled by that kind of person's "fake apology" and "so-called" repentance.


We must be careful to not run after the unrepentant when they clearly reject Jesus Christ.


That man wanted his sins forgiven by what he could DO, in accordance with the law, even though he stood before the ONE who was the LAWGIVER and knew what it took to satisfy the law's demands. We do not have to "sell all" to be saved. That wasn't the point. Jesus went for WHAT was keeping that man from true repentance.


Offering easy forgiveness – false grace – we become evil's accomplices!


This understanding does not lead to bitterness; it leads to truly loving a sinner enough to tell them they are not forgiven with the hope they are convicted even more and led to Jesus, SO they will repent.


If we offer forgiveness without that person understanding their NEED for repentance we do MORE damage not less.


By telling a person they need to, "Repent" helps them realize their repentance will demonstrate THEIR desperate need for God to help them change thinking, attitudes, and behavior. If NOT then they are left unforgiven and unchanged. We do NOT want to get in the way of that person coming to genuine contrition and experiencing true, glorious forgiveness.


If we do not confront when we can that they need to repent then we give the unrepentant the message that Christ's brutal death upon the Cross is all for naught and that God's demands for JUSTICE are frivolous. We marginalize our DEBT and what it took to forgive us of our DEBT before a HOLY God.


The best time to forgive is when a person repents with genuine contrition.


When and only when a person repents and we refuse to forgive then we will not be forgiven as in the, "Our Father" says,… "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." A person who asking God to release them from the debt of their sin IS repenting in this prayer. They understand that their SIN….. IS…..a debt they owe God but cannot pay without Jesus' sacrifice.


We tend to read the second part, "AS we forgive our debtors", meaning God saying, we give "unconditional forgiveness". But, what God is saying is when someone REPENTS and asks for forgiveness in the same way, AS we ask to be forgiven our debt, then forgive them their debt also.


Unconditional love is not the same as unconditional forgiveness.


Now, it makes sense that we are tender-hearted toward one another, forgiving one another JUST AS, Christ has forgiven us.(Ephesians 4:32) And in, Colossians 3:13; "Bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even AS Christ forgave you, so you also must do.


Well, HOW did Christ forgive us? WE REPENTED and RECEIVED forgiveness through Christ! When others REPENT it should be A GIVEN to forgive.


The word debt used here presupposes the debtor certainly DOES know they owe a debt and understands the magnitude of their DEBT toward God and others. To marginalize the absolute NEED for repentance sends a message that Salvation did not take Jesus paying an immeasurable and unfathomable price. This understanding actually magnifies our need and others to REPENT, not lessens it.


Matthew 18, says, IF a brother refuses to REPENT, even after being confronted with their sin and with witnesses against him so that his sin is established before witnesses they are to be cast out of the Church and treated as a SINNER (a Gentle unbeliever, a tax collector).


Paul, also says to remove people from the "church" who refuse to repent of sin even to the point of handing them over to Satan. In these cases, this was one who had known Jesus but would not continue in walking out salvation. Conversion can only be sustained as we walk out our sanctification and receive all Jesus paid for us to embrace.


We know WHAT Jesus meant about this in the, "Parable of the Unforgiving Servant". The King forgave a huge debt of a servant who at that moment was truly repentant. But, soon after this same servant turned around and demanded a man pay his paltry debt back to him. Though the servant begged him for time to pay his debt and was truly sorry for its delay in payment, the other refused to give the same forgiveness to him the King had graciously granted. Jesus said to hand him over to tormentor, demanding repayment of every last cent. *


But, WAIT! — Didn't Jesus tell Peter, a few verses before to forgive seventy times seven? Then why did the King NOT forgive that wicked servant but threw him in prison? I believe because the point Jesus is making is to keep us mindful of the DEBT we owe God but cannot pay and when another comes to us with true repentance we are to forgive their debt to us as well. Notice that the other servant was repentant. He was not acting like man who did not understand the magnitude of the debt he owed that man. He was begging for the same mercy the other servant had begged God for only moments before.


In Matthew 18, Jesus talked about coming to Him as a little child with trust in Jesus. BUT, those who came against one with child-like faith was in danger of eternal damnation because of their treatment of His child.


The Message Bible says it clearly and succinctly in Matthew 18: 1-7; "Who is highest ranked in the Kingdom? (Notice WHO is being addressed! Those in the Kingdom, NOT unbelievers.) For an answer, Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in! Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. “But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to those who give these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don’t have to make it worse—and it’s DOOMSDAY to you if you do."


Here Jesus is talking about mistreating His children and that those who do such are NOT of the Kingdom. They are NOT forgiven or else they would not be facing damnation. This is sobering and should make us want to speak truth even more to the unrepentant!


We fear being "unforgiving" when in truth we are guilty of telling people they are forgiven when they are NOT.


Yes, we LOVE of our enemies and those who hurt and harm us but loving our enemy and praying for their salvation is not the same as FORGIVENESS. Again, we forgive AS Christ forgave us. When did Jesus forgive us? When we REPENTED.


Yes, be ready to forgive when one REPENTS but NOT as many believe, forgive everyone under any and all circumstances.


Scripture clearly says, we forgive," IF your brother repents", "IF you confess your sin", "IF you humble yourself", "IF one repents and believes." God REQUIRES repentance and so must we. It is impossible to be accepted by God unless one repents. Why would God ask us to "forgive" a person who has not repented? He does not. Love them, pray for them, preach the Gospel to them…YES!


Mark 1:15; “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”


Luke 13:3; "I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."


Acts 3:19 (a); "Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord."


Here is something else to think about. Yes, Jesus has forgiven the whole world. Forgiveness IS available to ALL through the Cross by anyone who REPENTS and turns from their sin by believing the Gospel. We know however, that all men everywhere will NOT repent and so they have rejected Christ's atoning sacrifice and forgiveness of sins.


Forgiveness, then, is only for those who repent and believe...


Again, in Matthew 18, So, there is truth to this as well. When we deal with unrepentant people who claim to be a "a brother" and he continues on in sin, then we do not "loose" them from their sin but IF they repent, then we permit or "bind" forgiveness to them. Jesus was giving us HIS AUTHORITY in the earth. it is NOT based in our OWN authority or power (exousia) but in the power of attorney to act in Jesus' stead, that He gave to ALL believers. Jesus also gave the right to the church, to discipline, SO THAT, there would be HOPE to lead the unrepentant one to true forgiveness. (It is a travesty of our faith that Churches will NOT follow God's Word on this! Imagine how many marriages that could be saved!)


The words we say to each other are eternal!


Matthew18: 20; “Take this most seriously: A yes on earth is yes in heaven; a no on earth is no in heaven. What you say to one another is eternal. I mean this. When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action. And when two or three of you are together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.”


Now this verse is in the CONTEXT of disciplining an UNREPENTANT brother! Where are the verses then that tell the fellow believers to forgive him? In the same way we can bind and loose, so too does the believer say, YES or NO, to an unrepentant brother and Jesus is witness to it, He is there.


He is there? I thought this was concerning prayer but it is prayer in the context of confronting a brother. It is concerning telling a brother, "NO or Yes", concerning whether or not he is allowed to partake of the believer's fellowship! We have the right (authority) to tell an unrepentant brother that he is out of line with God’s Word and has no right to fellowship with God’s people. Why? So he will REPENT! Jesus Himself is witness to this and will confirm it. Whatever we ask in His Name even in outing the unrepentant person will be done!


Paul did this in the Corinthian Church by handing them over to Satan. Wow! Not only was there no forgiveness offered for IMMORALITY but the severity of being put out was to lead to REPENTANCE.


How many people in our Churches our sexually immoral and yet, we turn a blind eye to it? How many abusers are there and yet, we treat them as brethren?


This is against God's Word. If as believers we don’t require repentance on the part of the offender, we stand in the way of that person’s coming to see his need for God and experiencing His forgiveness. It is actually the opposite of what we have learned. We need to tell a brother they are in danger of damnation so they will turn to Jesus once again!!


Corinthians 5: 4-6;"In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" (if we allow sin to go unchecked it will effect others by making them think it is allowable!)


1 Timothy 1:20; "Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme."


1 Corinthians 5:13; "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES." (There is no forgiveness here in the verses being offered. The point is that the person needs REPENTANCE.) Christians can authoritatively declare what is acceptable to God or forbidden by Him because they have His Word.

This is the true definition of the "root of bitterness" that must be rooted out.


By the way, this is ALSO the true meaning of a "root of bitterness". It is NOT someone who is struggling with the bitter circumstances and hurts of life but it is about allowing an unrepentant person to think that he can get away with whatever he wants thus sending the message to other believers that he does not have to repent of sin and thus profane God's Name and DEFILE others. Paul compared this to Esau, who thought he could sell his inheritance and still be accepted.


God gave the TERMS of a covenant relationship!! In these verses it is interesting because God was speaking to those who were not present as yet! That's the New Covenant believer! The warning is not thinking we can do anything we want and still be in true repentance. We can go beyond the limits of being able to even repent at all! We can be given over to a reprobate mind if we continue on without repenting. How sobering!


Deuteronomy 29:14-21; "I’m not making this Covenant and its oath with you alone. I am making it with you who are standing here today in the Presence of God, our God, yes, but also with those who are not here today. You know the conditions in which we lived in Egypt and how we crisscrossed through nations in our travels. You got an eyeful of their obscenities, their wood and stone, silver and gold junk-gods. Don’t let down your guard lest even now, today, someone—man or woman, clan or tribe—gets sidetracked from God, our God, and gets involved with the no-gods of the nations; lest some poisonous weed sprout and spread among you, a person who hears the words of the Covenant-oath but exempts himself, thinking, “I’ll live just the way I please, thank you,” and ends up ruining life for everybody. God won’t let him off the hook. God’s anger and jealousy will erupt like a volcano against that person. The curses written in this book will bury him. God will delete his name from the records. God will separate him out from all the tribes of Israel for special punishment, according to all the curses of the Covenant written in this Book of Revelation."


Hebrews 12:15-17; (is the cross-reference to Deuteronomy 29). This "root of bitterness" is put in CONTEXT of exchanging our birthright in Christ for a LIE!! "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be NO IMMORAL OR GODLESS person LIKE Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for REPENTANCE, though he sought for it with tears."


We tell people they should fear becoming bitter and we do them an injustice. There is no reason for bitterness when we understand that forgiveness is not required of us. It makes it easier to trust God to help deal with our offenses and opens the way to love.


One's outrage at an unrepentant person is normal because the justice of God is holy. God is angry at injustice too. He HATES it. God is not bitter because He has a holy hatred.


To love righteousness we must hate unrighteousness.


When we see our brother will not repent we are more likely to be more concerned not less concerned for their soul. It moves us to seek to help the unrepentant one by bringing them before others to be confronted privately and then publicly for their soul's sake.


Forcing forgiveness makes it worse for the wounded. It does no favors for the one who wounded to begin with. It sends the wrong message that they are "right with God". Maybe we would all be more aware of seeking repentance when we hurt others knowing this as the truth…


Forgiveness is a two-way process!


It must include both aspects to be Biblical. It is MORE LOVING to NOT give forgiveness until contrition and remorse is demonstrated than it is to offer forgiveness without the offender’s acknowledgment of intentional wrong…


The PURPOSE of forgiveness is to heal RELATIONSHIPS between God and man and between people. A relationship can NOT be healed when there is no repentance neither with God and thus with others.


It is Repentance > then forgiveness > then reconciliation > then restoration. To be reconciled and restored may also demand Restitution. Simply, Repentance looks like something.


We have been taught the exact opposite!! We are told to pardon others with no demands put upon the offender. This is dangerous both for the offended AND the offender because it devalues the significance of repentance if we give forgiveness without it. It marginalizes the severity of the wrong done to the offended as well.


IF they repent then by all means forgive and do it joyfully!

What should we do then when one offends or sins against us?


We CAN love, pray, know God will avenge on our behalf, and is intimately aware of our hurt. Keeping these truths in front of us will help us to bear up under wrong-doing and deepens our trust in God. We leave ROOM for God to handle the offender.


Romans 12:19-21; "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says the Lord.Therefore, 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (This verse says nothing about forgiveness but about loving others in spite of their wrong-doing.)


Hebrews 4:13; "And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."


Psalm 147:3; "He heals the brokenhearted, And binds up their wounds."

Scripture does NOT teach that we need to forgive our enemies. Instead, we should love them and pray for them. Love and forgiveness are NOT one in the same.


…Speaking in terms of marriage, (as this is our focus most often), a husband can become our ENEMY when he abuses a wife in any way including defrauding one financially, sexually, emotionally and physically. This kind of man is hardened in heart, treacherous, a traitor. (Malachi 2:10) He is an angry, volatile, violent, impatient, raging, blaming, and is filled with hypocrisy. We know what Jesus said about about hypocrisy! (Matthew 23) He is unrepentant, stiff-necked and deemed rebellious. He will NOT turn and live according to truth, but instead lives according to the flesh which reaps destruction and effects her and brings about an atmosphere of spiritual death.


He willfully denies and withholds love to a wife who is also his sister in Christ thus clearly making known that he does not love or know God.(1 John 4:8) It is a man filled with pride, has no humility, chooses immoral behaviors, brings unrest and destroys peace within the home. This opens the door to demonic captivity and bondage. An enemy is one who defrauds his family, profanes his covenant vows, and brings dishonor upon the Name of Christ, discrediting Jesus as the ONE who has the right to our lives. He is one who continues in sin without remorse or repentance. An enemy brings DISGRACE to God, and cares nothing for the Lord's clear instructions in His Word concerning being a husband.


To give forgiveness without repentance then sets the OTHER person up to stay stuck in sin without any confrontation of it. It takes speaking BOLD truth to wake up unrepentant brethren or sinners. We cannot declare forgiveness without repentance/contrition either. When a believer walks in God's true forgiveness we can say with certainty, "Brother you are forgiven and forgiveness is loosed to you by His faithful Word." An unrepentant person will remain in grave danger as their sin leads to destruction. They must repent to continue on the pathway of redemption.

Proverbs 16:19; "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall."


Proverbs 29: 23; "A man’s pride will bring him low. But the HUMBLE in spirit will retain honor."


Proverbs 8:13; "The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, And the perverse mouth I HATE."


Matthew 16:19; “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,” He said; “and whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”


Again, in, John 20:23; “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained”.

These keys are given in the context of teaching on forgiveness of sin!! … This is very serious and we MUST understand these truths rightly. It causes me to TREMBLE at the responsibility I have as a believer.


I can declare to a truly repentant person, "Because you have repented and believe Jesus for forgiveness, your sins are LOOSED, your sins ARE forgiven. You can walk in the freedom of your forgiveness. Your eternity is secured through the Cross."


Conversely, I can equally declare, "Your sins are BOUND to you and you do not have forgiveness and are in danger of eternal damnation!"


With love and concern,



Kimberly Dimick and her husband, Joshua Dimick, know how it feels to lose everything: marriage and family, church and reputation, finances and careers, and so much more. Together and separately they have walked the path of Love, a narrow path, a path that is lonely and not well-used.

They intimately understand the soul-shattering pain of separation and divorce and they also know "The Way Home" to a life of choosing unconditional love.

The surprising answers to a happy marriage are shared in her posts, articles, and their book-in-progress.

As you venture on this journey with Kimberly and Josh you will experience how God shines His most brilliant light in her darkest hours. Today their mission is to provide a voice to women suffering in silence, shining the Light of Truth into the dark places.

As you journey with Kimberly and Josh you will witness a true life transformation that will shatter the misinformation and lies commonly fed to women that keep them in false submission.

More Marriage Advice & Letters from Kimberly Dimick

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