Two of the best known verses in the Bible dealing with forgiveness come in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:14-15: "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."
However, since our sins are forgiven when we accept salvation from God as a free gift (Romans 6:23) how could it be that Jesus taught people that their forgiveness by God was dependent upon their own forgiveness of others? If this is a correct understanding of these verses, then our eternal life is contingent upon our attitude of forgiveness towards others.
There are many scriptures which teach that our salvation and eternal life are dependent only on our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, His death upon the cross for our sins, and His subsequent resurrection. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no-one can boast." There is no mention here of a requirement for us to forgive others before we receive salvation.
And Ephesians 4:32 says, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." This verse turns the thought around entirely, and tells us that we should forgive each other because God has already forgiven us. There is no thought of God withholding His forgiveness until we forgive. How, then, can the Christian reconcile Matthew 6:14-15 and Ephesians 4:32?