Responsibility of rebuking before forgiving

This is a followup post for Forgive Sins Or Retain It? where Jesus taught to retain sins if the sinner who sinned against us refused to heed to our rebuke. This important teaching of Jesus was pointed out as a comment when the mentioned post was shared in the Facebook page.

Luke 17:3-4 “Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a day returns to you, saying, ‘I repent,’ you shall forgive him.”

Matt 18:15-17 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

In both the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus Christ very clearly taught that we must rebuke or tell the person who sins against us regarding their fault. If they didn’t hear us, we can take a couple of more witnesses and finally the church. If they still didn’t hear them, let them be a stranger to us. The reason why we treat a well known person as a stranger is simply because we retain their sins and have not forgiven them.

John 20:23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Retaining sins are identical to the above verse in John except the details of rebuking and the sinner not listening is not mentioned. Since Jesus was speaking to His disciples who were well aware of His teachings, they know exactly when to forgive and when to retain. Hence, the details of when to retain and forgive was not mentioned.


When a person who repeatedly keeps sinning against us, comes and says ‘I repent’, we must forgive every time he asks forgiveness. If the person didn’t come to us, we must go and let the person know the fault and rebuke him. If he repents, we must forgive him. If he didn’t, we can call a couple of more people and the church as witnesses. If he still didn’t hear we don’t need to forgive him but treat him as a stranger.


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