Matthew 6:14 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 6:14, NIV: For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Matthew 6:14, ESV: For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,

Matthew 6:14, KJV: For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

Matthew 6:14, NASB: For if you forgive other people for their offenses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.

Matthew 6:14, NLT: 'If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.

Matthew 6:14, CSB: "For if you forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well.

What does Matthew 6:14 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

Jesus has concluded a model prayer to God the Father (Matthew 6:9–13). Famously referred to as the Lord's Prayer, this is meant as an example—not a mantra—for His disciples and followers. Here, Jesus returns to a key point in that prayer. As part of the way believers are to pray, Jesus mentioned asking God to "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). That can be understood fairly easily. It means asking God for forgiveness, as well as declaring our forgiveness of those who have wronged us.

What Christ teaches here is that forgiveness is conditional, but only in a very specific sense. If you forgive the sins of others against you, Jesus says your heavenly Father will also forgive you. If you don't forgive, you won't be forgiven (Matthew 6:15). Of all the instructions Jesus gives in the Sermon on the Mount, this is among the most challenging. It is also extremely easy to misunderstand, if not considered carefully. Taken with no other context, Jesus seems to be saying we earn God's forgiveness after we forgive the sins of others against us, and we lose forgiveness when we refuse to forgive others. Difficult or not, Jesus is speaking with the authority of God, and He always means what He says. We should never dismiss Jesus' teaching because it is hard to understand or to reconcile with other teachings. We should also not leap to conclusions which don't make sense of His other words.

In His other messages, Jesus repeatedly emphasized that God is displeased by those who refuse to forgive others despite being forgiven for much greater wrongs by God (Matthew 18:23–35). There is a clear sense in Christian teaching that unforgiving attitudes are inherently sinful. At the same time, Jesus is speaking before His own death as the final sacrifice for human sin. His blood, His loss of life, is the payment for sin, including the sin of unforgiveness (John 3:16–17). God takes Jesus' death as payment for the sins of those who trust in Christ and gives to them credit for Jesus' sinless life. None of us will be accepted into eternity by God based on our ability to forgive others (Titus 3:5), but on the basis of Jesus' perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Paul describes it this way in Colossians 2:13–14, "And you, who were dead in your trespasses…God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross."

Taken together with the rest of the Bible, we see that salvation—forgiveness from God—is based on faith, and it is permanent (Romans 3:20; John 10:28). However, there are signs and "symptoms" one would expect to see in a person who is truly born again (James 2:14–17; John 14:15; 1 John 4:19–21). It makes sense that appreciating all God has forgiven in us ought to make us willing to forgive what others might have done to us (Colossians 3:13; Ephesians 4:32). Forgiveness towards others is a common-sense, expected indicator of someone who's been saved.