The Witness

Volume 41, Issue 5

February 1, 2023

Does Forgiveness Require Repentance?

Be on your guard! If a brother or sister sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day and turns back to you seven times and says, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive.” The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

In Sunday’s sermon, I talked briefly about the relationship between forgiveness and repentance. Jesus’ words in Luke’s Gospel seem to indicate that forgiveness requires repentance. According to John McKinley, writer and associate professor of theology at Talbot School of Theology, Jesus’ instructions in the above passage make it clear that forgiveness is not possible (or required) without repentance. McKinley contends:    

"Overlooked in common Christian understanding of forgiveness is the necessary part of repentance by the wrongdoer. This part is implied in Jesus’ command: 'If your brother sins, go and show him his fault' (Matt 18:15, NASB). The result of telling the other person what was done to us is that the brother, who may or may not have known he had done wrong, once being made aware of the fault, takes responsibility in repentance. In other words, when that person repents, forgiveness is the next step and free response of removing another’s guilt.

Jesus is clearer about repentance as the necessary condition of forgiveness in Luke 17:3-4, 'If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, "I repent," you must forgive him' (NASB)."

Though McKinley’s argument is valid and consistent with Jesus’ instructions in this portion of Luke’s Gospel, I think he misses one of the greatest examples of forgiveness also found in Luke’s Gospel. While hanging on a cross and suffering some of the worst abuse and trauma imaginable, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” In the same verse, Luke also recorded, “And they cast lots to divide his clothing.” When Jesus offered these words of forgiveness there was no repentance. Among the wrongdoers, no one took responsibility for their actions or showed remorse for his pain. Instead, they were placing bets (i.e., casting lots) for who would get to take home his stuff. When he asked for something to drink, he was mocked and given vinegar. When he cried out to heaven in agony, the soldiers were silent and dismissive.

And yet, in the midst of his despair, trauma, and pain, Jesus forgave them. Even more astonishingly, he asked God to forgive them. On the cross, he demonstrated the very words he preached in his Sermon on the Mount, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . . (Matthew 5:44).” In the midst of his suffering, Jesus chose forgiveness long before his enemies even recognized their sin or considered the possibility of repentance. As a result, he was able to release himself of the burden of their sin, commend [his] spirit into the hands of the Father, and be free to experience the fullness of God’s love.

Though it would be satisfying for those who have wronged us to repent, in some cases that is just not going to happen. The reason is most likely multifaceted. Some may not believe our pain is their fault. Others may blame us. Some may know they were wrong, but are too ashamed to face it or admit it. Whatever the reason, if we withhold our forgiveness until we receive their repentance, we will always be bound by the burden of their sin. The miracle of forgiveness is not only what it does to the one who needs to be forgiven, but also what it does to the forgiver. Not only does it release the wrongdoer from their debt, it also frees the one holding that debt from its weight.

Like McKinley, I believe repentance is required in order to be released from the weight of our own sin. Unless we acknowledge our sins, apologize and turn from them, we will always carry the burden of their weight. However, I disagree with McKinley that our call to forgive those who have sinned against us is required only if the wrongdoer repents. The miracle of God’s grace not only releases us from the guilt and pain of the sins we have committed, it also allows us to release the pain and burden of the sins committed unto us. We no longer have to carry that weight, be defined by their pain, or bound by their sin. They must carry the burden of their sin. If we withhold forgiveness for their sins, we too will carry the burden of their sins. By offering forgiveness even when there is no repentance, like Christ, we too can commend our spirit into the hands of the Father, and be free to experience the fullness of God’s love.            


This Sunday, February 5th

We return to our usual Sunday schedule this week: 8:45 AM Early Worship, 9:50 AM Sunday School, and 11:00 AM Traditional Worship. We hope you'll join us. Travis' sermon is, "A Slow People," based in Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23. If you cannot join us in person, tune in through our website or Facebook group page.

A baptismal service is scheduled for Sunday, February 12th. If you are interested in being baptized, please contact a pastor or the church office (540-343-7685).

Wednesday Nights

Join us tonight for Wednesday Night Dinner (5:30 PM for those who signed up), Youth Missions Group (6:00 PM), Adult Bible Study (6:15 PM - on Psalm 78:1-8, "We're in Trouble Now"), Children's Choirs (6:15 PM), and adult choir rehearsals (usual times). Adult Bible Study will be livestreamed through our website and on Facebook.

Following are our upcoming February menus:

  • February 8th - chicken & dumplings, salad, & dessert
  • February 15th - fajita seasoned chicken, red beans & rice, corn, chips & salsa, & dessert
  • February 22nd - sloppy joe, tater tots, fried cabbage, salad, & dessert


Please make or change dinner reservations by calling the church office (540-343-7685) by 5:00 PM the Monday prior to dinner. Dinner costs are $7/adult (ages 13+), $5/child (ages 4-12), children 3 and under are free, and the max per family (living in the same household) is $20. First-time guests are complimentary.

Youth Choir Mission Tour

There is a signup sheet in the choir room for this summer's Youth Choir Mission Tour to Niagara Falls! Our dates are June 3rd - 8th, and the cost is $330/person. Please sign up as soon as possible. A $100 deposit is due February 12th to secure your spot.

Youth Choir Fundraisers

Let the Love Flow Fundraiser Meal: See a Youth Choir member as soon as possible to purchase your tickets ($10/each) for our February 12th luncheon. Menu: fried chicken, twice baked potato, green beans, roll, & dessert. Pick up your meal to go as early as 10:45 AM, or sit down in our gym as early as 11:45 AM for food & fellowship.

Youth Choir Raffle: Get your raffle tickets for a chance to win a Gift Card Bouquet! First prize is $200 in gift cards, second is $100 in gift cards, and third is $50 in gift cards. Each ticket is $2. Purchase your tickets before or after worship at the Welcome Center, or see Terry Hough. We will draw a winner Sunday, February 12th.

JOY Seniors

Join us for food, fun, and fellowship on our first trip of 2023: we will have lunch at The Green Goat February 7th. You can ride the bus (leaving the church at 11:00 AM) or drive yourself (meet us at the restaurant by 11:30 AM). Please sign up at the JOY Seniors table so that we can have a head count for reservations.

Happy Hearts is sponsoring an event Thursday, February 16th, 10:00 AM - noon in the small dining room. Want to wash away those winter blues? Join us for fun and fellowship as we make homemade, all-natural sugar scrub. Double the fun by inviting a friend or making a jar for a friend. These make great gifts! Please sign up and pay at the JOY Seniors table by February 9th. The cost is $7 per 4 oz. jar.

Preteen Ice Skating

Preteens will meet Sunday, February 19th immediately following the 11:00 AM worship service. We will have lunch and a devotion. We'll head out to Lancerlot for ice skating, 1:00 - 3:00 PM. Cost is $8/child.

Attention: Youth

Tonight we will be painting in the youth room. Please be sure to wear clothes that can get dirty.

Mark your calendars for March 5th, which is Youth Sunday!

DNOW weekend (March 17th - 19th) is rapidly approaching, and registration is OPEN! Please sign up as soon as possible. Click here for the registration form.

Sydney Myers

Our Lady of the Valley #453

650 N. Jefferson Street

Roanoke VA 24016

Sunday, January 29th:

  • 10:30 AM Worship - 273
  • 9:15 AM Sunday School - 203

Please extend a warm welcome to Katie Wickline, who recently joined VBC by profession of faith. Her address is 1519 Muse Drive, Vinton VA 24179. A baptismal service is being planned.

Please also welcome Bobby Estienne, who has joined VBC by statement. Bobby is husband to Jodi and father of Colson Estienne. Their address is 130 Cedar Avenue, Vinton VA 24179. (Pictures not available.)


On Sunday we had a Deacon Ordination & Installation service. Following is a current list of all of our deacons, for your reference. Each deacon serves a 3-year term. There will be a Deacons' Meeting this Sunday, 12:30 - 2:00 PM.

  • Bo Bohon, David & Debra Semones, Christina Epperly, Randy Whitmer, Ray Cooper, Susan Foster, Ray Graham, and Barry Trent (these deacons will serve through the end of this year).
  • Dock Epperly, Laura Lea Harris, Nick Jones, Travis Lang, Andy & Lisa Nicely, Mark Olsen, Belinda Williams, and Joanna Williamson (these deacons will serve through the end of 2024).
  • Donna Jackson, Rita Martin, Tyler Lyon, Billy Meador, Gari Melchers, Jennifer & Ken Williamson, Lori Rodgers, and Mike Foster (these deacons will serve through the end of 2025).

Boys & Girls Club

The Boys & Girls Club is in need of monetary donations to purchase snacks. If you would like to support them in this way, please make checks payable to Vinton Baptist and notate "Boys & Girls Club snacks." Thank you!

Help Refresh Our Youth Space!

We have a number of projects needing to be accomplished to refresh our youth space. Some involve basic cleaning and painting; others require more creativity and specialization. We would also love to entertain any ideas you may have for our space. Please click here for more details and consider signing up for a project.

Children's Worship Volunteers Needed

With Sarah's transition, we will need extra help in Children's Worship each Sunday. Please consider volunteering either as a teacher or as a helper. We need extra helpers at the 11:00 AM service because we tend to have more children at this service. Please click here for the sign-up sheet (dates run through February) and help us out. Thanks!!

Bible Reading Plan

Wasn’t it refreshing to get two day's worth of catch-up on our Bible reading plan? That’s one of the benefits of our 2-year plan!

We finished Genesis on Sunday, and I would like to get your feedback on what you’ve read so far. If you read Genesis all the way through for the very first time, what jumped out at you? If you’ve read Genesis multiple times, did you gain any unique perspectives this time around?

I love the narrative of Joseph and his walk with God. His life and his choices in the face of hardship are astonishingly inspirational. I have read this portion of Genesis multiple times over the past couple of years, but something “new” struck me yesterday as we finished it up: God led both Joseph and, by extension, the Israelite people through incredibly difficult times, and yet those difficult times somehow fell within the will of God.

Oftentimes, when we go through difficult circumstances, and we just feel like we’re getting beaten up at every turn, we cry out to God with a desperate, “WHY? What have I done to deserve this?” We’re never really told that Joseph had such a reaction, although my understanding of human nature would lead me to believe it’s entirely plausible. We are told – by Joseph himself – that he knew God put him through some of those difficult times in order to save his own family (45:5-8, 50:19-21).

On a broader scale, God led the Israelites to Egypt through Joseph’s family due to a “famine [that was] severe in all the world” (41:57). They remained in Egypt until Jacob died, and then until Joseph died, and then until “a new king, who did not know about Joseph, came to power in Egypt” (Exodus 1:8). Then they became slaves. Was God unaware of this circumstance? Had he forgotten them?

Remember when Jacob/Israel heads for Egypt in Genesis 46? God appears to him in a dream and assures him, “’Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes’” (46:5). Going to Egypt was part of God’s plan.

Before Jacob/Israel dies, he passes along to his family his trust in God to return them to the Promised Land (48:21-22); Joseph does the same, making his family promise that they will bury him in the Promised Land (40:24-25).

When I think ahead to the suffering that the Israelites will experience at the hands of the Egyptians (we’ll be reading about this in Exodus), I can put myself in their shoes and ask, “Why?” While the answer to that question may never be fully known, can I still trust that somehow this was part of God’s plan? While it doesn’t make sense to my finite mind, and while it’s okay to question God and search for answers, I hope that we can somehow be reassured that some of the suffering we go through is part of God’s plan for our lives and that he will bring good out of it.

In theological terms, these questions are about theodicy: if we have a good God, why do bad things happen? And even more specifically, why do bad things happen to his people? Theologians – and people in general – have been wrestling with this subject for thousands of years. The narratives of Genesis and Exodus provide fertile ground for exploration. I would love to hear your thoughts as we move on into Exodus.


Click here for a printable copy of our Bible reading plan, or pick up a hard copy at the Welcome Center. You can also access the plan through our VBC app on your mobile device. Just click on "Bible Reading Plan" across the bottom menu of the app.

AARP Tax-Aide

AARP Tax-Aide will offer free, in-person tax preparation in the Vinton Baptist library Thursday mornings from February 2nd through April 13th. This program is open to taxpayers of all ages, and AARP membership is not required. The AARP volunteers have been trained in most basic tax situations; however, they are not able to process complicated returns. For more info on returns that can and cannot be processed through this service, click here. You may make an appointment now by clicking here, or you can call 540-345-2820. AARP will not accept walk-ins. Please note that the library will be unavailable for church member use on Thursday mornings through mid-April.

Updated List of Blessing Box Needs

Please donate the following items if you are able: Hamburger Helper meals (any kind), pudding/Jello, men's and women's shampoo, cans of Chef Boyardee products (like Spaghettio's, ravioli, etc.) Donations can be dropped off in the Blessing Box bin at the Missions Tables.

Update from Ukraine

We received an email from our Ukrainian friends Bogdan & Zhenia Zubtsov last Thursday, January 26th. If you would like to read their most recent update, please click here.

The JOY Seniors Council would like to thank VBC members for their contributions to the "Soup for Seniors" collection. Your contributions will provide meals for local seniors in need. A special thanks goes to the LOA Sunday School class for their generous donation.

February 2023 Calendar