A challenging teaching, which has been promoted by some believers is the idea of self-forgiveness. It seems to be an offshoot of the self-esteem movement along with almost any other biblical term you can attach to the word self. The words which are popular in using the self with them, including self-worth, self-image, self-confidence, etc., are similar in that they usually have a high view of self in common.
A person who believes he needs to forgive himself has sinned in some manner and is in need of forgiveness. Sin requires forgiveness in order to be cleansed from it and have the guilt removed. Adam and Eve tried to take care of their sin themselves, and God sought them out and provided His forgiveness. God gave them a coat of skins requiring that blood be shed with the instruction of a coming Savior Who would be the Lamb. He would cleanse from all sin (John 1:29).
A careful study of the concept of self-forgiveness in the Bible does not bring forth any passage that would support having any power to forgive oneself. The Biblical truth centers on the fact that God alone has the ultimate power to forgive us of our sins. I John 1:9 along with many other passages support this truth very carefully. Since we are cleansed of all unrighteousness from God, we do not need to add to the Scriptures the idea that we also must add to God’s cleansing of us by forgiving ourselves. This should challenge us to find Biblical proof that God wants us to have this power.
Christ’s blood is sufficient to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. When a believer would state that he must also forgive himself, he is stating that he must add something to God’s already sufficient provision. A believer is not able to save himself or even keep his salvation (Philippians 1:6).
The problem is more that we must fully trust in God’s provisions spiritually for us, and we must stop trying to provide for ourselves in some manner. God’s provision includes the power in the blood of Christ to deliver from present sinful habits by God’s helping us to replace and pattern those sinful habits with His defined righteous action. He has provided all the biblical methods as well as His power to help us accomplish this sanctification process. Ephesians 4:22-24 and Colossians 3:8-10 are two passages among many that teach this truth.
Christ’s forgiveness of our sins plus our forgiveness is adding a work to our salvation and God’s progressive sanctification process. Christ’s forgiveness of our sins plus our acceptance of His forgiveness is God’s Plan for us. Adding anything to God’s forgiveness is heresy because it adds to the forgiveness we can receive from God only.
Along with many other Scriptures this Biblical method of forgiveness is carefully put forth in Ephesians 1:7, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”
If a man could forgive himself, then he would not need a perfect sacrifice. If a man can forgive himself, the end result of that thinking would be that we could be can free ourselves and ultimately might even earn our own redemption. This is blasphemous. The Bible teaches that only Christ can forgive us of our sins. We cannot forgive ourselves from the sins we commit against an infinite, holy, sovereign God. There is no Biblical need to do this.
Any person struggling with self-forgiveness is experiencing conviction from the Spirit of God. The Biblical remedy is accepting God’s provision in the forgiveness that He has sufficiently given in Christ and His shed blood (I Peter 1:18-19).
Some believers have a difficult time receiving and trusting fully in God’s forgiveness for what they have done. They may even ask God to forgive them, but the lingering feeling of conviction remains. This is clearly a lack of trust in God’s Word, which disables them from fully appropriating the grace He provides for them. Instead of basking in the forgiveness God has provided, believers will often keep rehearsing what they have done and renewing feelings of guilt, remorse, shame, embarrassment, and even stating, “I can’t believe I did that.” They are thinking wrongly about who they are because they are not good enough to keep themselves. Only persons with a high view of who they are would be shocked at what they did. They can choose to do right with God’s power and be delivered. When sins are forgiven, believers should be “. . . forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, [they] press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).