Matthew 6:15 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Matthew 6:15, NIV: But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15, ESV: but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:15, KJV: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Matthew 6:15, NASB: But if you do not forgive other people, then your Father will not forgive youroffenses.

Matthew 6:15, NLT: But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins.

Matthew 6:15, CSB: But if you don't forgive others, your Father will not forgive your offenses.

What does Matthew 6:15 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

This is the counterpoint to Jesus' positive statement in the previous verse (Matthew 6:14). He makes this two-part remark to emphasize part of His model prayer for His disciples (Matthew 6:9–13). The key phrase being underlined is "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12). While the combination of these statements is easily misunderstood, they must be considered in the full context of Jesus' teachings.

Jesus said in the previous verse that those who forgive others for their sins—meaning wrongs done to us by others—will be forgiven by their heavenly Father. Now He adds the reverse; in logic, this is referred to as the contrapositive. His claim here is that those who refuse to forgive others will not be forgiven for their own sins by God.

Two aspects of this verse are difficult to process. First, human nature struggles to conceive of forgiving those who have hurt us. Human beings can do truly depraved, horrible things to each other. Some atrocities are difficult to describe, or to think about, let alone forgiving someone who has done them. All the same, Jesus insists we understand how much God has forgiven us for. A parable He gives later (Matthew 18:21–35) explains that we have all sinned against God, and by comparison, our sin against God is far more than any person can sin against another.

Read carelessly, this teaching is also difficult to square with the idea that God's grace is a free gift, one in no way dependent on a person's works. Yet that is the persistent teaching of both the four Gospels and the New Testament (John 3:16–18; Titus 3:5). Jesus' death pays for our sin and His perfect righteousness becomes our own through faith (Romans 3:21–26). Jesus does not mean that forgiving others is a condition for salvation, but that forgiveness is the expected condition of those who have been saved.

Does this mean those who refuse to forgive others can still be saved? Ultimately, that is the wrong question. God's intent is for all true Christians—those who have been born again, who have been forgiven by the death of Jesus for their offenses against God—to turn and freely forgive anyone who has wronged them (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). In other words, this verse speaks to evidence of salvation, not a requirement for salvation itself (James 2:14–17; John 14:15; 1 John 4:19–21). Unforgiveness is inherently contradictory to godliness.