The suggested limit on God's power to forgive


Many people keeps saying that God will only forgive someone that makes it to the confession booth or is perfectly contrite. I’ve seen many situations posed. Here is my problem. This limits God as well.

Supposed God actually loves you but you commit a sin. You don’t get a chance to get to church due to circumstances but God really does love you and wants to forgive you. But he can’t cause you didn’t make it. Else he would make sure you do make it by divine power. Cause he has to deliver you to the booth to forgive you, right?

Or say he loves you but knows you very well. You sinned and died as a result. But before you died you were not repentant. Reason why is because, as God knows, you are always very stubborn but eventually you’ll come around. It’s just the way you are. But this time you didn’t have time. God can’t forgive you because you didn’t meet the conditions to allow God to do so.

I think what some people are saying is true is actually not. Why does God need men to meet criteria before he can forgive. Isn’t God’s heart a real heart? A real heart can forgive before it’s even been asked to do so. I believe God can forgive whoever he wishes to whether or not a person can meet certain criteria. It just depends on God and what he wants to do.

If you disagree, can you explain why God cannot forgive you unless you meet conditions? Does God ever want to forgive an unrepentant person? Does God ever want to forgive someone who did not make the booth in time? You get the idea.


God is omnipotent. God is love.
So to answer your question you need to delve into the full meaning of God’s power and God’s love.

God doesn’t just forgive who he wishes, he desires to offer forgiveness to everyone. Not all accept it.


For the record, and in answer to your comment on the other thread, I do not place any limitations on God’s ability to forgive at all, I believe that God’s mercy, love, forgiveness are in abundance. He’s far more loving, merciful, forgiving than we can ever be. My point was simply that the scriptures do teach us quite a few things that suggest that we aren’t all following God’s teaching even when we may think we are. An example of this is in the bible where people say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not…’ and Jesus sends them away.

I believe that God will forgive us absolutely anything if we truly repent… even the most heinous of crimes. Regarding the torture thing from the other thread, God knows what you can withstand, and he’s the righteous judge. The thing is, the bible does state that we should not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, rather that we should fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. It also states that whoever tries to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake will find it. These bible verses aren’t just thrown in there to fill out the bible a bit, they have real significance.


Jesus is very serious about such…as is Paul etc etc…

We know not the the day or hour…those who do such and such sins (serious sins) (see Pauls Letters) will not enter the kingdom of God (if they have not repented and been restored to life in Christ of course)…strive to enter by the narrow door for the broad is the way that leads to destruction and narrow the way that leads to life and few find it…etc etc.

There is the reality of mortal sin and the reality that we might die in that choice (remember it is a freely chosen choice - deliberate!).

How many simply have a bad will and want to live in mortal sin …and try to repent in the last part of life? Too many I imagine. They presume that they will be able to repent…and return to God…they do not realize the gift that life in Christ is!

We enter into a state of salvation (adults) via faith and baptism. We repent, believe and are baptized into Christ - we are a *new creation *- we have true life and all that goes with it. The *Holy Trinity *dwells within etc…

Now if a person should commit a mortal sin - what then?

Well Jesus gave us the great Sacrament of Confession where we can repent -even with imperfect contrition (such as fear of hell) -and he will absolve us of our sins and return us to life. His blood will wash them away.

Now what about prior to confession or when we cannot get there? Well there is perfect contrition.

1452 When it arises from a love by which God is loved above all else, contrition is called “perfect” (contrition of charity). Such contrition …obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible.

Perfect contrition can coexist with lesser motives and it is does not mean the “most intense” but the perfect “kind” meaning it arises out of love of God above all…God can in again infuse that charity and grace into our soul (God is who forgives…and brings us to life)…despite our other lesser reasons that are present.

Now what if a person does not think they have this contrition at this time…should he give up hope? No while still seeking to get to Confession - and seeking to have perfect contrition - he continues to pray and ask Jesus for both.

And if he should come to his final moments before such? Can Jesus even in the very last moments give this grace? Yes. We are not to presume on such -but rather continue to seek Confession - the way he gave us for mortal sin after the life of baptism has been put aside.

Together with the kind of verses I noted at the beginning one has to keep those regarding the Love of God…of the Parable of the Prodigal son, the lost coin and the Good Shepherd.

Let us -if we fall into such mortal sins - turn back to Jesus right away - calling out to him for forgiveness and seeking out the means he has given us -where he especially meets us with life again…

Note too:

Can a person who has not heard the Gospel and has Faith and has been Baptized - be saved by Jesus in ways we do not know? Yes it is possible.

But what is the way Jesus gave us? Faith and Baptism. Those who believe and are baptized Jesus says…

God can work outside the normative ways God has given us…he is not bound by them…but such is the way we are to go…

…and it is not something we give ourselves…tis the Gift of God. It is life in Christ from his death and his resurrection - tis true life.


Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
and you forgave the guilt of my sin.
~ Psalm 32

God is faithful to forgive, so do not wait until you make it to the confessional to confess your sins to Him.
The confessional box has a great deal to do with a disciples discipline. It’s an act of love on the part of the disciple attending, and an act of love on the part of God providing that assurance of grace in the sacrament. The sacrament of reconciliation in the Church is an act of faith on the part of the disciple towards God, and an act of the disciples faith towards God’s Church.

We may already be forgiven if we’ve confessed to him in prayerful contrition, and I’d bet that we are (as spoken in the psalm above), but we need to stay right with His Church too and always pay a visit to the confessional when we know that we should, as a disciplined disciple would who’s following the teachings of his/her Lord and God, including the sacraments.

The sacraments are instruments of God’s grace, but God is not bound by them. He can work also outside of them.
He is faithful to forgive. As disciples we must also be faithful to Him, and that means being faithful to His teachings which are embodied in the sacraments of His Church.


To add a note to what I said earlier - regarding the act of perfect contrition - part of its nature - includes the* desire (at lease implicit) for the Sacrament*. It is not something unrelated to the Sacrament. And as the CCC notes one is to resolve to go as soon as possible to Confession.


This is too legalistic. If someone is repentent and fully intends to use confession, then I don’t think God will condemn the man who dies on his way. We are bound by the sacraments. Not God.

As said, people are bound by the sacraments, not God. These aren’t rules imposed upon God, they are guides given by God to us for staying in communion with him and his church. God’s forgiveness is freely given. But he gives us the opportunity to reject that forgiveness.

If a man dies before repenting, then he won’t repent after death. He’s no longer able to change.


The are yes not “rules” - rules are for games like monopoly and chess…

But we are not simply “guides” either I would not use that word here…if we should fall into mortal sin…that is if we should deliberately choose for whatever reason to do with full knowledge and complete consent that which is gravely evil…if we commit a mortal sin that is …if we choose death…then the way Jesus has given us (and it is by divine institution…and is normative by divine institution) is the Sacrament of Confession where the authority given by Jesus to bind and loose is exercised …and Jesus absolves the sin and returns the person to life. True life.

And as you note there can be the case where a person already has been reconciled via the desire for confession and contrition arising out of love of God above all (perfect contrition) …before getting to the Sacrament.


I can no longer edit this, but I would like to improve the phrasing here: We are bound by the sacraments. God is not.


Ha. We know what you meant. :smiley:


We must keep in mind* all* that Jesus taught us in the Gospels…the way is narrow…many will say “Lord Lord” but not enter in…the man not wearing the wedding garment is what? Thrown out of the feast…the parable of the sower…you know not the hour …etc


The parable of the prodigal son, the parable of the lost coin and that of the Good Shepherd who leaves the 99 to go look for the 1…etc

The questions of life and death are quite serious.

There is though no sin that Jesus cannot forgive if we repent. Even the worst possible sins can be washed away in by his blood.

Jesus is the merciful savior - he loves us and desires that we have true life and have that in abundance…in him is that true life! That is why he came…

We though still have our free will…and he will not force us…and some may presume on “having time” when they do not…

Let us always repent and believe the good news. Believe in him and his mercy and love. If we fall into such sin…let us quickly repent.

Let us always turn to the Lord - and let him carry us on his shoulders as the Good Shepherd.


God does know us.
And we will be judged with that infinite knowledge of us.

I doubt final judgement will be us placed against some laundry list of sins.
It will be much more intimate and painful then that.


You have made some very good points.

I believe that God cares primarily what is in our hearts, and will let someone who sinned into heaven if he or she is still a good person.


Venial sin is yes compatible with heading towards heaven. Though it will be purified before they get there.

But if a person is in a state of death - in a state of mortal sin -they are in a state of choosing against God - so no they do not enter into heaven if they die in that state.

Not without that state changing …

Yes God sees our hearts - and more importantly God changes our hearts - fills them as it were with the life of Grace in Christ. Thus “making us good”.

It is Jesus Christ in his death on the cross and his resurrection who gives us this life via grace and faith and baptism. Makes us a new creation. Makes us truly good. Temples of the Holy Spirit.

A person is a good person in the sense of “going to heaven” if they are “in life” if they are living in Christ as a person who is in a state of grace. It is the person who is in this state of grace that is “still a good person”.

If one commits a mortal sin one is no longer in that life. No longer a “good person” in that sense. They are not made good by the Holy Spirit. Thankfully though Jesus gave us another Sacrament - Confession - where he washes a repentant person of the mortal sin. And as soon as they fall - or if they cannot get to that Sacrament they can know forgiveness by desire for it (at least implicit) together with perfect contrition. And God can give that grace even in ways we know not -even in the last moments (though we are not to fall into presumption knowing this is possible–but are to quickly repent and return to him in the Sacrament).

But it is important to note that we do not earn heaven by being a good person…that is we do not earn initial justification - we do not “do good” so that we may go from death to life. I want to give that clarification so readers do not mistake what is the case and do so with emphasis.

Can it happen that a person who seeks God who through no fault of their own do not come to know Jesus and his Church …and who seeks to live according to the actual graces they have had in life …seeking to sincerely live according to goodness - that in ways known to God - Jesus can save them? Yes that can happen. It is not though that they are saved by being good…or by sincerity etc…but by Jesus in ways we do not know.

Jesus though gave us the mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all - and it is via faith and baptism into him (and normally sacramental repentance if one should sin mortally after such) …that salvation …true life…is offered…


I believe that God loves us so much that he would never force mercy on us.
He allows us the freedom to choose his grace. In my own life, I have radically chosen against God, in opposition to his invitation to choose him.
The result of that choice is death. Just as the kingdom is coming all around us, so is the alternative to that kingdom.

That God allows and honors our choices is grace itself. Our freedom is a grace. It is grace to suffer consequences for those choices, because those consequences shine the light of day on our choices, and draw us back to the Father.
On Thanksgiving, it is good to contemplate God’s constant and enduring offer of mercy, and the open door he allowed me walk through.

At some point, we realize that it is not we who are “good”, but God alone who is good. He does know what is in our hearts, as you say, and he finds us in need of a salvation. He offers it to us.

Our response is invited, but he will not violate us.


To sin is your free choice. To choose God is your free choice.

I think Ezekiel 18 is worth a read.


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