Yes, God will forgive your sins if you take the proper steps. The Bible says that God is “ready to forgive” and that he “will forgive in a large way.” (Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:5; Isaiah 55:7) When he forgives us, he does so completely. Our sins are “blotted out,” or erased. (Acts 3:19) God also forgives permanently, for he says: “I will no longer remember their sin.” (Jeremiah 31:34) Once he forgives, he does not rehash our sins in order to accuse us or to punish us again and again.
However, God’s forgiveness is not based on weakness or sentimentality. He never bends his righteous standards. For this reason, he refuses to forgive some sins.—Joshua 24:19, 20.
Steps to gain God’s forgiveness
Acknowledge your sin as a violation of God’s standards. While others may have been hurt by what you did, you must first recognize that your sin is an offense against God.—Psalm 51:1, 4; Acts 24:16.
Feel a deep sorrow for your sin. This “sadness in a godly way” leads to repentance, or a change of heart. (2 Corinthians 7:10) It includes regret over the wrong steps that led to the sin.—Matthew 5:27, 28.
Change your course of action, that is, “turn around.” (Acts 3:19) This could mean that you avoid repeating a single wrong action or practice, or it could mean that you may have to change your whole way of thinking and acting.—Ephesians 4:23, 24.
If your sin is serious, speak to someone who is qualified to provide the spiritual help you need and who can pray in your behalf.—James 5:14-16.
Misconceptions about gaining God’s forgiveness
“I have sinned too much to be forgiven.”
As long as we follow the steps that God sets out in the Bible, we will be forgiven, since his capacity to forgive is greater than our sins. He can forgive serious sins as well as those that have been repeated many times.—Proverbs 24:16; Isaiah 1:18.
For example, King David of Israel was forgiven of adultery and murder. (2 Samuel 12:7-13) The apostle Paul, who felt that he had been the world’s worst sinner, was also forgiven. (1 Timothy 1:15, 16) Even the first-century Jews whom God held responsible for killing Jesus, the Messiah, were forgiven if they have a change of heart.
“If I confess to a priest or a minister, my sins are absolved.”
No human is now authorized to forgive a fellow human for sins against God. Although confessing to another person can help a sinner to recover, only God can forgive sins.—Ephesians 4:32; 1 John 1:7, 9.
If that is so, then what did Jesus mean when he told the apostles: “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you retain those of anyone, they are retained”? (John 20:23) He was describing a unique authority that he would give to the apostles when they received the holy spirit.—John 20:22.
As promised, the apostles received this gift when the holy spirit was poured out in 33 C.E. (Acts 2:1-4) The apostle Peter used this authority when judging the disciples Ananias and Sapphira. Peter miraculously knew about their deceptive scheme, and his judgment indicated that their sin would not be forgiven.—Acts 5:1-11.
That miraculous gift of the holy spirit, like other gifts such as healing and speaking in tongues, ceased after the death of the apostles. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10) Thus, no human today can absolve another person of sin.
In the Bible, the word “spirit” is translated from the Hebrew word ruʹach and the Greek word pneuʹma. Most often, those words refer to God’s active force, or holy spirit. (Genesis 1:2) However, the Bible also uses those words in other senses:
These meanings all share the sense of something invisible to humans that produces visible effects. Similarly, the spirit of God, “like the wind, is invisible, immaterial and powerful.”—An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by W. E. Vine.
The Bible also refers to God’s holy spirit as his “hands” or “fingers.” (Psalm 8:3; 19:1; Luke 11:20; compare Matthew 12:28.) Just as a craftsman uses his hands and fingers to do his work, God has used his spirit to produce such results as the following:
By referring to God’s spirit as his “hands,” “fingers,” or “breath,” the Bible shows that the holy spirit is not a person. (Exodus 15:8, 10) A craftsman’s hands cannot function independent of his mind and body; likewise, God’s holy spirit operates only as he directs it. (Luke 11:13) The Bible also compares God’s spirit to water and associates it with such things as faith and knowledge. These comparisons all point to the impersonal nature of the holy spirit.—Isaiah 44:3; Acts 6:5; 2 Corinthians 6:6.
The Bible gives the names of Jehovah God and of his Son, Jesus Christ; yet, nowhere does it name the holy spirit. (Isaiah 42:8; Luke 1:31) When the Christian martyr Stephen was given a miraculous heavenly vision, he saw only two persons, not three. The Bible says: “He, being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand.” (Acts 7:55) The holy spirit was God’s power in action, enabling Stephen to see the vision.
Fact: The King James version of the Bible includes at 1 John 5:7, 8 the words “in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth.” However, researchers have found that those words were not written by the apostle John and so do not belong in the Bible. Professor Bruce M. Metzger wrote: “That these words are spurious and have no right to stand in the New Testament is certain.”—A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.
Misconception: The Bible personifies the holy spirit, and this proves that it is a person.
Fact: The Scriptures do at times personify the holy spirit, but this does not prove that the holy spirit is a person. The Bible also personifies wisdom, death, and sin. (Proverbs 1:20; Romans 5:17, 21) For example, wisdom is said to have “works” and “children,” and sin is depicted as seducing, killing, and working out covetousness.—Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:35; Romans 7:8, 11.
Similarly, when the apostle John quoted Jesus, he personified the holy spirit as a “helper” (paraclete) that would give evidence, guide, speak, hear, declare, glorify, and receive. He used masculine personal pronouns such as “he” or “him” when referring to that “helper.” (John 16:7-15) However, he did so because the Greek word for “helper” (pa·raʹkle·tos) is a masculine noun and requires a masculine pronoun according to the rules of Greek grammar. When John referred to the holy spirit using the neuter noun pneuʹma, he used the genderless pronoun “it.”—John 14:16, 17.
Misconception: Baptism in the name of the holy spirit proves that it is a person.
Fact: The Bible sometimes uses “name” to stand for power or authority. (Deuteronomy 18:5, 19-22; Esther 8:10) This is similar to its use in the English expression “in the name of the law,” which does not mean that the law is a person. A person who is baptized “in the name of ” the holy spirit recognizes the power and role of the holy spirit in accomplishing God’s will.—Matthew 28:19.
Misconception: Jesus’ apostles and other early disciples believed that the holy spirit was a person.
Fact: The Bible does not say that, nor does history. The Encyclopædia Britannica states: “The definition that the Holy Spirit was a distinct divine Person . . . came at the Council of Constantinople in ad 381.” This was over 250 years after the last of the apostles had died.
Centuries ago, a divinely inspired prophet foretold the time when man would be at peace with nature. Illness would be eliminated. Families would build their own houses, plant their own fields, and enjoy the fruits of their labors.—Isaiah 11:6-9; 35:5, 6; 65:21-23.
Jesus performed powerful works that showed on a small scale how such prophecies will become a global reality. His death was fundamental to the future elimination of every cause for sorrow. So important was Jesus’ death to the fulfillment of God’s purposes that Jesus commanded his disciples to commemorate it.—Luke 22:19, 20.
This year, according to the Bible’s lunar calendar, the anniversary of Jesus’ death falls on Tuesday, April 11. Jehovah’s Witnesses invite you to meet with them on that date to listen to an explanation of how his death can benefit you and your family.