14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV).
Jesus makes it very clear that our forgiveness is conditional. The little word “if” carries much weight. It directs attention to personal responsibility to do something to be forgiven by God. Namely, if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us. If not, then God will not forgive us. Jesus did not say to only forgive your brethren, but “men” (anthropos, person, human being). The gospel teaches Christians to put on hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Christ’s sermon to this point has repeatedly called on kingdom citizens to have a heart that is ready to forgive (Matt. 5:7, 9, 23-24, 39-42, 44). To withhold forgiveness brings punishment from God, not blessing (remember the unforgiving servant, Matt. 18:27-35). If we do not forgive from the heart, we will be punished, too (Matt. 18:35). Now, since forgiveness is conditional, why is there such objection when the gospel tells us of other conditions we must meet to be forgiven by God? The gospel says faith and confession of faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism are conditions sinners must meet to be forgiven by God (John 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). So, it is false and futile to say salvation (forgiveness, remission of sins) is unconditional. Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, do I have faith to submit to God’s conditions to be forgiven of my sins?
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” (Acts 10:34–35, NKJV)
God’s love for sinners is unconditional: “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…” (Jno. 3:16). God’s salvation of sinners is conditional: “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jno. 3:16). Today’s verse helps explain the condition of faith (“whoever believes in Him”) that saves sinners “by grace” (Eph. 2:8). First, God’s conditions for salvation are impartial. God’s very nature demands it to be so. Next, salvation conditions are universal (“in every nation”). Next, we learn that “whoever believes in Him” is one who fears God. Reverence for God implies one fully submits to God’s will, not his own. Such a submission, reverent faith “works righteousness.” That is, this person is obeys the commands of Jesus in order to be saved. Jesus and His apostles commanded belief, repentance, confession of faith and water baptism to be saved (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16; Rom. 10:9-10). Do you fear God? Will you work righteousness? If so, He will accept you. Yes, salvation is conditional, and Jesus Christ sets the conditions (Matt. 28:18-20).
If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15, NKJV)
Love is not unconditional. Worldly-minded people think love is unconditional, allowing them to justify their sin and demand your acceptance of them in spite of their sin. “Love is love”, they say, and, “if you love me you will accept me unconditionally”. These statements display a self-serving definition of love. God teaches us to love sinners, but He never teaches us to love sin or to have fellowship with, endorse or approve those who live in sin (Eph. 5:8-11; 2 Jno. 10-11). Those who love Jesus keep His commands. Obedience is the condition He stipulates as the love He accepts. Jesus went on to say, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (Jno. 14:21). Do you love Jesus? Your answer is found in whether or not you are obeying Jesus.