Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible: Powerful Lessons

Sharing is caring!

The Biblical accounts in this post exemplify the power and healing of forgiveness.

I’m completely convinced that every time we approach God’s Word it has the ability to transform our hearts, mind, and life.

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even two dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).

Scripture is living and active.

More than a mere textbook or gathering of historical facts, the Bible is God-breathed and “useful in teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

It’s to our benefit to remind ourselves of this often.

I’m asking the Lord to breathe a fresh, life-transforming Word over you and me in a way that leads to transformation today as we look to Scripture to teach us about forgiveness.

I know this topic can get a little uncomfortable sometimes…

If you happen to come across a rough patch as you read this post, resist the temptation to retreat to another page in cyberspace!

Stick around with me to the end, keeping in mind that God never convicts to condemn, but to restore and heal!

Always for our good, and always for His glory!

Now let’s dive in!

Forgiveness in the Bible

The Importance of forgiveness cannot be overstated, and this theme is woven through the fabric of Scripture from beginning to end.

There are two ways forgiveness is demonstrated in Scripture:

1. God’s forgiveness extended to people.

When we confess our sins with a repentant heart God is faithful to forgive us.

We can have confidence that God will forgive in response to our sincere repentance.

This type of forgiveness is vertical – from God to people. Thinking about God’s forgiveness likely invokes feelings of gratitude, peace, humility, hope, and assurance.

2. God calls His people to forgive other people

The second type of forgiveness is horizontal – in other words, extended from one person to another.

Thinking about this type of forgiveness may mean coming to terms with pride when it comes to either:

  • Asking for forgiveness from someone who you wronged in some way.
  • Extending forgiveness to someone who hurt you..

Colossians 3:13 tells us, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

In theory, we may want to forgive in order to lessen the grasp of resentment, anger, or bitterness that threatens to get a hold on us, but we wrestle with a voice inside that screams, “What happened wasn’t fair!” and we may battle with a desire to even the score and lash out to hurt your offender and make him or her suffer as you did.

It’s not easy to forgive others who hurt you. Especially when the wound is deep, resulting in trauma, devastation, and/or heartbreak.

Oftentimes the closer a person is to you, the more intense the sting. A family member, close friend, or trusted church leader are a few possible examples.

Thankfully, we’re not left to forgive others in our own strength or ability.

The Holy Spirit enables and empowers us to follow Jesus’ command to forgive others.

examples of forgiveness inside open bible

Old Testament Examples of Forgiveness


The story of Joseph never fails to move me deeply.

In one of the oldest recorded stories of human trafficking, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. 

This unimaginable act of betrayal resulted in suffering in Joseph’s life in many ways.

Ultimately, Joseph recognized God’s sovereign hand over his life and situation, but the consequences of his brother’s betrayal were nonetheless painful. 

Suffering was not limited to only Joseph, either! His father mourned the loss of his precious son, thinking he died – his brothers’ alibi as to why their brother didn’t return home! 

Suffering caused by a family betrayal rarely effects only one person, and the ripple effect of its consequences can be widespread.

After years of severe famine, the brothers were reunited when they found themselves in a time of need.

There was a massive shift in position as their brother, Joseph, stood before them with power and authority. 

Rather than lash out in anger or retaliation, Joseph extended love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

I’m excited to share with you Charles Swindoll’s commentary on the moment the brothers came face to face:

“After suffering years of consequences brought on by his angry brothers’ mistreatment he lived to see the day when the tables were turned. Vulnerable, needy, and at his mercy, all those guilty guys stood before him without a word of defense. And when they discovered that he was Joseph – their long-lost younger brother whom they had deliberately wronged – they were overwhelmed with anxiety. They knew he had them completely cornered. Joseph was the respected prime minister… Powerful, wealthy, surrounded by bodyguards, the ultimate model of authority. And they? Weak, bankrupt, unprotected,to the core. It was Joseph’s moment. Now is the time to unleash his rage and torture each one to the end of his life. And why not? They had it coming… In spades! Instead, Joseph did the unexpected, which shocked his brothers down to their worn-out sandals. No grudge. No, get even, fight back attack. Not even a tongue-lashing. Those who deserved human hatred received supernatural treatment. Grace won that day. He forgave them… And the rest is beautiful history.”

Charles Swindoll

Have you ever experienced the betrayal of a family member? 

I have.

The wound is deep and the heartbreak is nothing less than devastating.

Like Joseph, we can recognize God’s plan and sovereign hand over our life, but that doesn’t take away, or minimize, our suffering and the consequences that result from our family member’s sinful choices. 

If you’ve experienced this in your life, this story likely resonates with you as it does me. 

I wish we were able to study this entire story from beginning to end together… I encourage you to take time and read this account in Genesis 37-47. 


King David, a man noted as “a man after God’s own heart”, lamented after his act of adultery and cried out with a sincerely repentant heart for forgiveness.

God is always faithful to forgive. We never need to doubt this truth.

It’s important for us to understand while forgiveness is certain and always complete when the Lord forgives, the consequences of sin may remain in our life as a result.

We see evidence of this in the story of David.

He was completely forgiven, but the consequences of his sin were very costly. The Lord sent Nathan the prophet who proclaimed that he could expect the following to come to pass in his life:

  • His sin would be made public
  • The baby born to Bathsheeba as a result of his adultery would die.
  • David’s sinful actions would be repeated throughout his future family generations. (See 2 Samuel 12:11-14)

Each of the above came to pass, as always in the case. When God declares something will happen, you can take to the bank. It will come to pass.

The People of Ninevah

The Lord called Jonah to preach a message of repentance to the people of Ninevah.

God would destroy the city unless they repented from their sin and turned to the Lord.

The people in this wicked city heard and heeded Jonah’s message, and revival broke out as the people turned from their evil ways, tore their clothes, covered themselves in ashes, and acknowledged the Lord.

God’s mercy and grace was extended to the evil people in this land and they were spared its destruction. (Jonah 3:10)

New Testament Examples of Forgiveness


The book of Acts records the death of the first martyr, Stephen, and the scene preceding his death was undoubtedly seared forever in the mind of every bystander and participant that gathered.

Stephen was described as, “a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people” (Acts 6:8).

Stephen was arrested for bogus charges and brought before the Jewish council, the Sadduccees. In response, he launched into a speech about God’s relationship with Israel and the truth of who Jesus was. This was convicting to those gathered who rejected Jesus. (Acts 7)

The crowd became furious, gnashed their teeth, and began canvassing the ground for a rock to hurl directly at this man whose face, “was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). 

The shouts of the crowd pierced his ears with a loud voice and the thuds of stones pummelling against him no doubt had a distinctive thud.

There was an official present, Saul, who had the authority to stop the injustice, but instead he allowed the coats of those participating to gather at his feet as he gave consent to his death.

In the midst of this hate-filled mob, a window into heaven opened above for Stephen. He didn’t hold back with the view presented to him, “Look, he said, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56)

The anger of the crowd intensified and they charged at him.

As Stephen was beaten down and sapped of his strength, Scripture tells us what he did…

Hold onto your hat.

“While they were stoning him, Steven prayed, Lord Jesus, received my spirit. Then he fell on his knees and cried out, Lord, do not hold this in against them. When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:59-60)

Forgiveness extended to the ones who were actively taking away his life – unjustly.

Those words could only come from a person who was “full of God’s grace and power”.

Regardless of how many times I read this story, it always takes my breath away.

rainbow symbolizes God's promises


There is no sin beyond the forgiveness of God, and Paul’s life testifies to this truth. 

After Sephen’s death, Paul breathed out murderous threats as he literally went door to door looking for followers of Jesus to kill as he sought to destroy the Church. (Acts 8:3)

Paul hated Christians at this time of his life. Remember, he was the official who stood and gave approval as Stephen was stoned. 

Seething with anger, hate, murderous threats, and a plan to capture and kill followers of Christ as he walked on the road to Damascus, the Lord had another plan – and His sovereign plan always trumps the plans of any man.

Jesus revealed himself to Saul on that road and he was radically transformed.

I’d encourage you to take a moment to read Acts 9 and savor every detail of this miraculous encounter. 

Paul’s radical transformation led him to preach the salvation message of Christ Jesus to the very Church he sat out to obliterate!

Paul’s dramatic life conversion demonstrates: 

  • No sin is too bad, ugly, or hopeless for God to forgive
  • No person’s sinful past is tainted beyond God’s ability to forgive
  • No sinful entrenched lifestyle serves as a barrier to God’s forgiveness 

Someone needs to hear those truths today. Take a moment to reread those above points and absorb each one.

No person is out of reach when it comes to God’s ability to forgive. 

Keep that in perspective regarding yourself – and other people in your life such as:

  • Family members who don’t know Jesus.
  • Friends, acquaintances, and coworkers that are not in a saving relationship with Jesus.
  • People who persecute you.
  • Corrupt political leaders.
  • Celebrities.
  • People in the occult.

Apart from a saving relationship with Jesus, a person is spiritually dead. 


Like in the physical realm, there are no degrees of dead!

You’re either alive or dead. 

Take a moment to think of someone you may have thought of as being “a helpless cause” when it comes to transformation with Christ.

Now remember Paul.

No person is too far gone, apart from the forgiveness of God’s grace. 

Persecutor Saul was transformed into the Apostle Paul.

Never stop praying for the person / people who came to your mind, and never give up hope.  

God is capable of transforming a life in an instant, just like he did for Saul. 

Just like he did for you and me.

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

This parable found in Luke 15 tells of a father and two sons.

The younger son asked his father for his share of inheritance and after giving it to him, he blew it all away irresponsibly in wild living and in waste.

This young man had a mentally rehearsed plan as to what he would say upon returning home, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, father I have sent against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” (Lk. 18-19)

Before he could open his mouth, he was met by his father who was running toward him with open arms after seeing him in the distance.

He was met with forgiveness and grace as his father celebrated his return.

Just like the way God does when we go to Him, our Heavenly Father.


Before Jesus died, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times – just as Jesus foretold. (see Mt. 26:69-73)

Immediately after he realized what he did, we’re told: “Then Peter went outside and wept bitterly” (Mt. 26:73).

Have you ever wept bitterly in response to your sin like Peter?

I have.

The next time Peter saw Jesus is recorded in John 21:5,7-8, and it was after He rose from the dead:

“Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord’! As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, ‘It is the Lord’, he wrapped his outer garment around him for he had taken it off and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from sure, about 100 yards.”

Peter jumped in the water and swam fast as he could to get to Jesus. The others stayed in the boat, but Peter jumped right in the water.

Peter sincerely repented, embraced forgiveness, and His fellowship with Jesus was restored. 

We can learn from Peter. In response to a repentant heart, run, don’t walk to Jesus.

Healing and restoration await in the presence of Jesus. 

Jesus, the Son of God

The greatest example of forgiveness is with our Savior. 

And the recipient is every person who comes to Him in repentance. 

Scripture describes our nature in vivid detail regarding our condition when a Holy, perfect, fullness of the godhead died for us:

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:10).

“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath” (Ephesians 2:3

God’s enemies. Objects of wrath. 

Pretty descriptive words, don’t you think? 

Descriptive and accurate to exactly who you and I once were before we surrendered our lives to Jesus.

Thankfully, Ephesians continues in verse 4, “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich and mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead and transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.” (Eph. 2:4-5)

The more we understand: 

  • The depth of our own sin and the great debt we could never have paid.
  • The precious gift of eternal life that was given to us while we were yet sinners, objects of wrath.
  • The lavish mercy and grace of our heavenly Father extended in His forgiveness – unworthy as we are. 
  • The depth of God’s love that He sent His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ to die so we may live.
  • We have full forgiveness of our sins – we’re not partially forgiven.

The more we grasp the above points we come to the realization:

Who am I to withhold my forgiveness of others in lieu of the forgiveness the Lord has extended to me?

pin of 8 examples of forgiveness in the Bible

I’m confident every person reading my words has been wounded by another person. 

For some wrongs, forgiveness comes easily, for others, you may wrestle with actually wanting to nurse a grudge and hold onto unforgiveness, but doing so will only cause you more harm – not the other person. 

I want to caution you, based on the authority of Scripture, that unforgiveness can actually cause you to become captive in a spiritual stronghold. Very intentional steps need to be implemented to break free from this type of spiritual bondage.

I believe with all my heart that Jesus knows that extending true forgiveness is often very far from easy. Not to mention very far from how you’d like to respond when wounded.

Forgiving someone who did you wrong is a choice. 

A choice to surrender to God’s standard, will, and way while yielding to the authority and power of the Holy Spirit.  

A choice to let go of grudges and trust in the healing process and the power of forgiveness.

You may find the 5 truths regarding forgiveness in the post helpful. They include facts about forgiveness that aren’t always addressed or understood, and if you’re struggling with forgiveness, you’ll likely find them very helpful.

On the other side of obedience for God’s people is freedom and healing and will truly be to the benefit of your own sake. I’ve experienced this truth many times in my life.

Take a moment before moving forward with your day to stop and consider how the Lord would have you respond to what you’ve read today.

Do you need to humble yourself and go to the Lord to seek His forgiveness?

Is there someone who has hurt you and you’ve been nursing a grudge against? Maybe you haven’t even stopped until right now to consider that you need to forgive him or her, and as you’ve read this post, their name hasn’t left your mind…

Maybe you need to extend grace to yourself and forgive yourself for something that you’ve already asked the Lord to forgive you for, but you can’t seem to let go of self-condemnation.

If that describes you, I’d like to bring Romans 8:1 to your attention, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

No condemnation.

Think of it this way… if the Lord has declared you forgiven, who are you to say otherwise? That’s exerting yourself and your thoughts over what God has declared to be true. 

There are many points of application you and I can make from these powerful examples of forgiveness from Scripture.

Related to Powerful Examples of Forgiveness in the Bible:

Bible Verses on Holding a Grudge: Why Forgive?

Powerful Prayers to Break Spiritual Strongholds

What the Bible Says About Pride

Bible Verses to Break Free From Insecurity in Relationships

Sharing is caring!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *