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Forgiveness and the Kingdom 

Matthew 18:15‑35


The Christian's Response to Others' Sins Against Him


In the normal course of human relations, one brother will sin against another.  Jesus prescribed that the offended brother should go to the one who sinned against him in an effort to restore his brother.  Edersheim tells us this was in stark contrast to the teaching of the Jewish rabbis.  They said the offending party must make an effort to correct the problem in the presence of witnesses.  Sometimes, they even required such to be repeated three times.  Obviously, their concern was not for the condition of the offender.  Instead, they practiced a form of humiliation.  Of course, if the offending party was aware of the offense, he too was obligated to correct the problem (Matthew 5:23‑24).


Even if the brother was not restored in the first approach, Jesus directed his followers to take one or two others with him.  They could help deal with the matter in an effort to restore the brother.  The loving way to handle the matter focused on gaining the lost brother.  It was only after taking the matter to the church, without success, that the brother was to be treated as one who refused the knowledge of God.


"How Often Shall My Brother Sin Against Me, And I Forgive Him?"


Peter's response to the Lord's instruction makes it clear he did not understand the heart of love.  The rabbis taught "forgiveness should not be extended more than three times," according to Edersheim.  So, Peter probably thought he was being generous when he asked if he should forgive his brother up to seven times.  However, Jesus' answer shows he was more concerned with his disciples having the type of loving heart that could truly forgive.  Then, numbering offenses would be out of the question. 


Actually, the bounds of a Christian's forgiveness should be the same as the bounds to God's forgiveness.  After all, those who would be children of God must strive to exhibit the love of their Father (Matthew 5:43‑48).  Such thinking is apparently behind the parable Jesus went on to tell.


The Marvelous Grace of God!


The King in this parable stands for God.  He called in his servants to settle accounts.  One was brought before him who owed 10,000 talents.  A talent weighed approximately one hundred thirty‑one pounds in gold and one hundred seventeen pounds in silver.  In other words, the debt owed by the servant was 1.17 million pounds of silver, minimum!  With twelve troy ounces to a pound and an ounce going for even $3, the total debt is a staggering $42,120,000!


Edersheim well said, "We are debtors to our heavenly King, Who has entrusted to us the administration of what is His, and which we have purloined or misused, incurring an unspeakable debt, which we can never discharge."  He went on to say, "But, if in humble repentance we cast ourselves at His Feet, He is ready, in infinite compassion, not only to release us from meet punishment, but ‑‑ O blessed revelation of the Gospel! ‑‑ to forgive us the debt."


God's wonderful love for mankind can be seen in the king's willingness to forgive such a great debt.  The singer of Israel proclaimed, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us."  Thus, he told his people,  "O Israel, hope in the Lord; for with the Lord there is mercy, and with Him is abundant redemption" (Psalm 103:12; 130:7).  God is willing to take the deep stain of sin and remove it if we will but obey.  To those who are willing to repent and be changed by baptism into a new man, he has promised a complete blotting out of sin.  To those in Christ who confess, he promises faithfully to forgive (Acts 3:19; 1 John 1:9).


The Unmerciful Servant


The servant did not appreciate fully what the king had done for him.  Such can be seen in his finding a fellow servant who owed him the equivalent of $70 and demanding payment.  His fellow servant made the same appeal he had made to the king.  Yet, he would not even give him time to come up with the money but cast him into debtors' prison.


His fellow servants' shock at his actions is seen in their reporting the incident to the king.  Here was a man who truly could not recognize the beam just removed from his own eye by the mercy of the king.  He has now gone forth to remove the speck in his fellow servant's eye (Matthew 7:1‑5).  Instead of condemning, he should have been forgiving.  After all, those who would be forgiven by God must be forgiving (Matthew 6:12, 14‑15).  Paul told the Ephesian brethren, "And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you" (4:32).


God's Response to the Unforgiving Heart


When the King heard what had happened, he was angry.  He expected his servant to imitate his forgiveness.  Because he had not, the master restored his original debt and delivered him to the torturers until he had repaid the whole debt.  Imagine the unending goal of repaying such a debt from within prison walls!  It would be an eternal process filled with suffering.


Jesus stated, "So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."  After all, each of us has sinned in the sight of God.  Our sins are worthy of eternal death (Romans 3:10, 23; 6:23).  Yet, God gave the indescribable gift of his own Son's death on Calvary to set us free (2 Corinthians 9:15; John 3:16‑17)!  "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).  Surely, out of simple gratitude for the release from such a great debt, we should forgive those who sin against us.


Discussion Questions


1.  Contrast the worldly versus the Christian response when one sins against another. 


2.  What mistaken notions do you see in Peter's question about the number of times to forgive?


3.  Describe the greatness of your sin debt and God's gracious forgiveness.


4.  What made the forgiven servant treat his fellow servant as he did?


 5.  What facts make it important for us to willingly forgive others?

 --Gary Hampton, author, evangelist, and preacher training school director