Matthew 18

Introduction

‘At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Matthew 18:1

The Greatest In The Kingdom Of Heaven

Mark tells us that Jesus sat down, Mark 9:35, in other words, Jesus adopts the position of a teacher which signalled to the disciples that teaching was coming. It’s then disciples came to Jesus and asked, ‘who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’

It appears that selfish ambition is beginning to creep in among the disciples, Mark 10:35-45, in fact, this subject came up four times when they were with Jesus, Matthew 20:20-28 / Mark 9:33-34 / Mark 10:35-45 / Luke 22:24-27. In Jesus’ kingdom, He Himself would be the One with all authority, Matthew 28:12 / Ephesians 1:20-23.

The Child Object Lesson

‘He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’ Matthew 18:2-5

Jesus didn’t need to ask what they were arguing about because He already knew and so, knowing what they had been disputing, Jesus took a child into His arms and used the child as a model of the humility that should characterise the disciples, Mark 9:36-37.

It must have disappointed Jesus greatly to see the disciples competing for power while He was preoccupied with His coming suffering.

Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt? He’s about to go and die for the world and all the disciples can do is argue about who is going to be the greatest! Matthew 20:20-28 / Mark 10:35-45 / Luke 22:24-27.

There’s no doubt that the disciples were still thinking that Jesus was here to establish a physical kingdom, Acts 1:6, and they wanted to know who was going to be in charge.

Jesus tells them they must ‘change’, which means to change their thinking, change their lives, change their attitude, Acts 3:19 / Acts 28:27. The need for change by the apostles was because of their sin of worldly pride and ambition.

They must also become ‘like little children’, children submit to their father’s rule, they trust their father will always do what is right and as a result, they will obey their fathers. As Christians, we need to have the same submissive attitude toward our heavenly Father if we want to receive eternal life, James 4:6-7 / 1 Peter 5:6-7.

The humility of a child should always be the characteristic of the disciple of Jesus, we should always be willing to serve and put others before us, not thinking too highly of ourselves, Mark 10:35-45.

Jesus wants disciples who are humble like a child, free from prejudice like a child, teachable like a child, lovable as a child, He wants His disciples to have the same simple faith of a child, trust like a child, He doesn’t want His disciples to worry about anything but trust their Father and He wants His disciples to be as innocent as a child.

Welcoming a little child in Jesus’ Name refers to the complete acceptance of a child-like believer because of their innocent and unrestrained trust in the Lord. If we welcome a disciple of Jesus who is of the character which Jesus discusses in this context, we receive Jesus, Matthew 10:40-42.

Causing To Stumble

‘“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.’ Matthew 18:6-9

We should never underestimate the severity of Jesus’ warning here, make no mistake about it, He isn’t just speaking about someone causing someone else to stumble in terms of causing someone to sin but He’s speaking about someone causing someone to stumble to the extent that they cause them to lose their soul, in other words, they cause someone to lose their eternal salvation, Luke 17:2.

The result of someone doing so is worse than death. Jesus mentions a ‘large millstone’, this is the large millstone which is turned by a donkey, which contrasts with the smaller millstones which are turned by the human hand.

Why is their fate worse than drowning? Deuteronomy 32:35 / Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30. Simply because eternal death is worse than physical death. Anyone who persecutes Christians in order to cause them to stumble will be held accountable, Luke 17:2.

Anyone who seeks to cause God’s children to stumble will not receive any deliverance but will be punished because they hurt God’s children, Romans 12:19 / Hebrews 10:30.

Because Jesus uses the word, ‘woe’ we can be sure of the seriousness of the crime and the punishment of the crime, Luke 17:1 / 1 Corinthians 11:19 / 1 Timothy 4:1.

Not only does Jesus gives us the warning, but He also gives us the promise that ‘such things must come’. We shouldn’t be surprised when these things happen, and people fall away because of them, so we must be diligent and help each other and watch out for each other’s souls.

When it comes to any passage of Scripture, context is always the key and with these verses, we must keep them in context. The reason for this is that some sincere people have read these verses and taken them literally, but Jesus didn’t mean that a person should literally cut off one of the limbs of their body.

As far as I’m aware all commentators agree that Jesus uses a figure of speech in order to emphasise the seriousness by which one must consider those things that would cause them to fall.

Remember the context is that the disciples are having problems with selfish ambition concerning greatness, and so Jesus is emphasising that they should seriously consider their attitude, or else it will lead to their condemnation, Matthew 5:29-30 / Matthew 25:41 / Matthew 5:29-30 / Mark 9:35-45 / Colossians 3:5.

If we were to think about these words in physical terms, sometimes if a person had a disease such as gangrene, in order to preserve their life, they would need to be an amputation performed to preserve their life.

It’s much the same spiritually, there may be sins which need to be cut off from our lives in order for us to inherit eternal life, Matthew 5:22 / Matthew 10:28 / Galatians 5:19-21 / 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9 / Revelation 20:14-15.

Jesus explains that severe punishment will be rendered to those who harm the flock of God, Matthew 10:28. Hell is a  place that no one wants to go to, Matthew 5:29-30 / Matthew 25:41.

We could focus on those who cause others to stumble but maybe it’s useful to look at ourselves as Jesus wanted the disciples to do. We must be on our guard against false teachers and those who would encourage us to stumble, mainly those in the world but we must also take a good look in the mirror and ask ourselves, is there is anything in our lives which needs to be cut off? Our soul is just too precious to play games with, our eternal salvation is just too important to throw away.

The Parable Of The Wandering Sheep

‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven. “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should perish.’ Matthew 18:10-14

Jesus now gives a warning to anyone to would become a stumbling block to the ‘little ones’, that is, the humble children, He’s just speaking about, Matthew 18:2-9.

These ‘little ones’, as all Christians do, have angels in heaven, who are ever in the presence of the Father, and serve those who are being saved, which is a clear reference to guardian angels, Psalms 34:8; Hebrews 1:14.

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘the angels, seeing the face of the Father’.

‘This is an allusion to the privilege granted by eastern monarchs to their chief favourites, a privilege which others were never permitted to enjoy. The seven princes of Media and Persia, who were the chief favourites and privy-counsellors of Ahasuerus, are said to see the king’s face, Esther 1:14 / 2 Kings 25:19 / Jeremiah 51:25. Our Lord’s words give us to understand that humble-hearted, child-like disciples, are objects of his peculiar care, and constant attention.’

Notice that Matthew 18:11 isn’t included in most translations, but the footnote says, ‘For the Son of Man, came to save what was lost’. Luke 15:4-10 / Luke 19:10.

This verse actually adds another reason why no harm should be done to His followers. The Son of man has so loved them as to come into the world to lay down His life for them, Luke 19:10 / John 3:17 / John 12:47.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning ‘the parable’.

‘Christ spoke this parable twice, evidently for a different purpose on each occasion. In this instance, it stands for the infinite love and solicitude the Lord has for the very least of his human children; but in Luke’s account of it, it appears to have been spoken as an argument against the Pharisees who would go to a lot of trouble for a lost animal but had no regard for a lost man. The parables are the same, but they are spoken with significant variations, Luke 15:3-7.’

Let me share with you 5 points from this parable about the love of God.

1. The love of God is an individual love.

The 99 sheep weren’t enough for Jesus, He wanted the whole lot, Luke 15:4. And when one went wandering, He wasn’t going to rest until He brought it back home again. Jesus is telling us that He has a love to offer that’s not just for everyone, but a priceless love especially for you.

The Palestine shepherds were experts at tracking down their sheep and they could follow the tracks of their sheep for miles and they would go to any lengths to bring that sheep back.

Our God is not happy until the last one is gathered in. Paul when he recognised that he was a sinner, he also understood that God’s love was an individual love, 1 Timothy 1:15.

2. The love of God is a patient love.

We all know how stupid sheep are, they are such foolish creatures. And so to a degree the sheep had no one but itself to blame for the dangers it had got itself into. The sheep might be foolish but thank God the Good Shepherd would still risk His life to save it, John 10:11.

Thank God that even though mankind can be foolish, God in His love loves even the foolish man who has got no one to blame for his sin and sorrow but himself. Thank God that He is a loving, patient God, 2 Peter 3:9.

3. The love of God is a seeking love.

The flocks of sheep in Palestine were very often communal. In other words, they didn’t belong to an individual, they usually belonged to the whole village.

And so because of that, there were usually two or three shepherds with them, that’s one of the reasons the shepherd could leave the other 99. Because if they couldn’t leave the sheep with other shepherds when they returned they would find that other sheep would have gone astray.

The shepherd wasn’t willing to wait for the sheep to come back, He went out to search for it. For in Christ Jesus, God came to seek and to search for those who wander. He’s not content to wait until men come home, Oh, no! He goes and searches for them, no matter what it costs Him.

The shepherds of Palestine would always make the most strenuous and the most sacrificial efforts to find a lost sheep. Jesus came to find us before we thought about finding Him, John 10:7-10 / Luke 19:10 / 1 John 4:9-10. He came to seek and to give life, but not just life but life to the full. The love of God is a seeking love.

4. The love of God is a rejoicing love.

This parable is all about joy, you see when the shepherd went to find the lost sheep, they had a rule. And the rule was that if the sheep couldn’t be brought back alive, then where possible, the sheep’s fleece or bones must be brought back to prove that the sheep was indeed dead.

When one of the flock goes astray and returns home, instead of reminding them of their sin, maybe we can put their sin behind God’s back like He does with ours when we get lost and come back to Him, Matthew 18:13-14.

If you’re involved in a sin, which is dragging you away from God, then you can be sure that if you repent and turn back to God there will be rejoicing in heaven, Luke 15:7.

The day you became a Christian was a day of rejoicing and if you’re not a Christian today and one day you decide to become a faithful follower of the Lord, then heaven will rejoice with you too. The love of God is a rejoicing love.

5. The love of God is a protecting love.

It’s not just a love that seeks, it’s also a love that saves. There can be a love which ruins, there can be a love that softens but the love of God is the protecting love which saves a person for the service of their fellow men, Psalm 34:18-20 / Psalm 55:16-17 / 2 Corinthians 12:10.

In other words, it’s God’s protecting love that makes the wanderer wise. It’s God’s protecting love that makes the weak strong. It’s God’s protecting love that makes the sinner pure.

Its God’s protecting love that makes the captive of sin a freeman of holiness. Its God’s protecting love that makes the overpowered by temptation the conqueror of sin.

God’s love is a protecting love and God’s love will not only protect us in this life but also in the life to come. Because as long as we’re faithful to Him, then you can be sure that nothing can separate us from His love.

Paul says there is nothing in heaven or hell or on this earth that can stop God from loving you, Romans 8:34-39. Jesus says, no-one will snatch us from God’s mighty hands and that’s because He’s a protecting God, John 10:27-30.

Dealing With Sin In The Church

‘If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.’ Mathew 18:15

Dealing With Issues Privately

Unity between believers has always been paramount in Jesus’ teachings, because it speaks so much about our own relationship with God Himself, in terms of obedience to Him.

The way we act not only with outsiders but also with our brethren should reflect the love of God and the unity we have with each other and Him. As Christians we must deal with situations the way Jesus asks us to, how else will the world know we are different from them?

It’s a sad fact that many Christians go about settling their differences the way the world does, the offender often doesn’t care what someone thinks and has no interest in listening to the complaint.

The offended often tell everyone else what has happened, instead of personally speaking to the person who offended them, or as in most cases, they take the matter straight to the church and bypass Jesus’ first instruction.

In my experience, if Christians would only follow Jesus’ instructions on these matters, all parties involved would save themselves and the church, a whole load of unnecessary, strife, stress and heartache. Let’s see what Jesus commands to help us keep unity within the church.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke of the innocent party who remembered that someone had a complaint against him, Matthew 5:23-24 and here Matthew informs us that Jesus is speaking about the one who causes the sin in the first place, Luke 17:3. Notice that the person who has been sinned against must make the first move and go to the offending brother.

One thing which is clear is that if we take Matthew 5:23-24 and Matthew 18:15 and read them together we see that both parties involved have the responsibility to approach each other.

Both parties have the responsibility of keeping unity between them, both parties must do whatever it takes to keep the peace between them, Romans 12:18, this is why Jesus speaks about ‘between the two of you.’

In other words, not all faults are or need to become ‘public’ announcements, some matters can be dealt with privately, 1 John 5:16. I’ve heard way too many issues being publicly announced from the pulpit, I’ve heard too many preachers pointing out someone’s sin, especially if they have been affected by it.

The pulpit isn’t the place to deal with personal issues, ‘go and point out their fault,’ will always mean ‘go and point out their fault’. Galatians 6:1-2.

What Kind Of Sins Are We Talking About?

‘To point out their fault’ means to rebuke, convict, reprove him but the rebuke needs to be gently done, not in anger, for man’s anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God, James 1:20.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul teaches Timothy how to treat the brethren if they need to be rebuked, an elder should be rebuked as you would your father, in the same way, Naaman’s servant rebuked him for not obeying the Prophet Elisha, 2 Kings 5:12-14.

When a brother or sister speaks reckless words against you to your face, words which damage your character, words which are not true would certainly be in mind here.

Maybe if a brother or sister deliberately causes you physical harm, this can be things like physical harm, things which cause you to lose your job or affect your health. Maybe it’s a sin which involves damage to your property or results in your property becoming lost or stolen.

What’s The Purpose Of Dealing With Matters Privately?

I don’t know about you but there have been times in my Christian life when I offended someone, and I wasn’t even aware of it, until I heard it through ‘the grapevine,’ so to speak. This was a matter which could have easily been avoided if that person had come straight to me because as it turned out, he totally misunderstood what I was teaching.

We could have settled the issue in minutes if he came straight to me, so I could explain, instead, he spoke to every other member about it, rather than simply coming straight to me.

In the context of the passage here, Jesus is teaching that the real purpose of the two brothers or sisters coming together is to open the way up for communication because when the two parties begin to speak to one another, hence Jesus says, ‘if they listen’, it opens up the door to accept the plea for forgiveness from the offending brother or sister.

Shouting and arguing back and forth doesn’t do them or the church any favours and making it public straight away doesn’t help matters either.

So often many things can be discussed and settled privately if both parties would simply agree to listen to each other. If we listen to Jesus’ words and put them into practice the result is unity, peace and winning the offending brother or sister over but when we ignore Jesus’ words and instead of dealing with the matter privately we make it public, it makes it so difficult for the offending brother or sister to redeem themselves and make things right.

Yes, if we have been offended, we’re left feeling hurt and let down, but do we seriously think that making a public scene about it will make it easier to win our brother or sister over?

Of course not, think about his feelings, think about his reputation, the longer we leave matters, or we just go public with it first, the harder it will be to win our brother or sister over, simply because we dealt with it in the wrong way, Leviticus 19:16-18.

Dealing With Issues With Witnesses

‘But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ Matthew 18:16

It’s clear that Jesus is saying that there may be some occasions when going straight to the offending brother or sister won’t settle the issue and so He tells us that the offended should take one or two others with him back to the offender.

The word, ‘others’ in the above text, should be the word, ‘witnesses’ as this adds an important meaning to the text, Deuteronomy 17:6 / Deuteronomy 19:15 / John 8:17 / 2 Corinthians 13:1 / 1 Timothy 5:19 / Hebrews 10:28.

There are two schools of thought about the witnesses, some believe that they were the ones who actually witnessed the sin taking place in the first place and others believe that the witnesses were there to stand as a witness to what was being said and the final outcome, in other words, if the offending brother or sister doesn’t repent, they would be witnesses to this fact.

We could also say that having the presence of the witnesses would also highlight to the offending brother or sisters the seriousness of the matter.

Notice so far, that the offending brother or sister has now had two chances to make things right, privately and now with witnesses present. Jesus now takes it to the next level, he says if they still won’t listen take the matter to the ‘church’.

Dealing With Issues Publicly

‘If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church.’ Matthew 18:17

The Church!

Interestingly, the church wasn’t established until the day of Pentecost, Acts 2, yet Jesus speaks of the ‘church’ here before it’s established. There are two schools of thought about what the word, ‘church’, ‘ekklesia’ is referring to here in these passages.

One suggests that Jesus is speaking about the principles which should be enforced when the church is established and the other suggests that this is referring to the Jewish assembly in the synagogue.

Whichever side we come down on, we must be consistent with the rest of Scripture, if the offended party hasn’t been able to encourage the offending brother or sister to repent of their wrongdoing, then the matter needs to become public, that is dealt with within the church, 1 Corinthians 6 / 1 Timothy 5:20 / Titus 3:10.

Reminder!

All too often when someone wrongs us we want to speak to our friends first and really ‘set the scene’ about what our offender did to us and just how much they’ve hurt us. All too often people go straight to the elders of the church and ‘spill it all out’ about what’s happened.

Both of these ways of dealing with someone who offends us are unscriptural, we must always go to the offender ourselves first and foremost, if that doesn’t work, take witnesses and if that doesn’t work take it to the church.

Disfellowship

‘And if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.’ Matthew 18:17

This is the result of someone who simply refuses to listen to anyone and admit their wrongdoings, they haven’t listened to the offended, they haven’t listened to the witnesses, they haven’t listened to the church.

When a person becomes so unrepentant, they’ve placed themselves in a situation where the church has no choice but to disfellowship them, although the reality is they have disfellowshipped themselves from the church, Ephesians 5:21 / 1 Corinthians 5:11 / 2 Corinthians 2:6-7 / 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15.

To be treated like a pagan or a tax collector was interesting because they were both classed as ungodly and dishonest by the Jews in general, so those listening would understand the full extent of Jesus’ words, those who are unrepentant should be avoided, 1 John 5:14-16.

‘Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. ‘Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.’ Matthew 18:18-19

We must remember Jesus going on to speak about something else here, no with His words, He’s highlighting the seriousness of the matter He’s just been discussing.

In other words, He’s saying that what is agreed on by the church on earth concerning the unrepentant spirit of the sinner, has already been recognised by God in heaven, Romans 16:17 / 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 / Titus 3:10-11.

When the church as a whole, and that’s very important that the whole church is involved, withdraws its fellowship from the unrepentant brother or sister, then the sinner can’t expect or should even expect to have fellowship with God. We’ll deal with how it’s done at the end of this part of the study.

There is strength and unity when the church prays together on such matters, Acts 4:24ff and this is the example of unity we read about throughout the New Testament Scriptures. Unity must prevail even during difficult times when dealing with a brother or sister who is much loved by the church.

Notice that Jesus mentions ‘if two of you on earth agree’, this again is in reference to unity in prayer, two people praying together. Those who are unrepented need our prayers, they need God’s help, why?

Because of their sinfulness, their eternal destiny is at stake. We also see the closeness of the relationship between Jesus and His Father, He calls Him, ‘my Father’ here and when He was teaching the disciples to pray He said, ‘our Father’, Matthew 6:9 / Luke 11:2.

Seriously Misunderstood

‘For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.’ Matthew 18:20

Time and time again I’ve heard Christians say that ‘where two or three are gathered, Jesus is present’. This to me suggests that if we were alone, Jesus wouldn’t be present, but if there were two or three gathered, then someone ‘guarantees’ that God will be amongst us, this is simply not true. Acts 17:28. The church is the body of Christ which is made up of individual members and so wherever one Christian is, the church is.

Was He present when the offended party went to the brother or sister who offended them? Yes. Was He present when the offended party took the witnesses along to sort matters out? Yes.

Was He present in His church, when His church was left with no choice but to disfellowship the offending brother or sister? Yes. Was He present when the church made the final decision? Yes.

Jesus is simply implying that the agreement of Christians on matters that relate to their unity with one another is paramount. Jesus is ever-present even when difficult decisions need to be made through prayer.

Thought On Church Discipline

Church discipline is one of those topics which isn’t spoken about or even taught very often within churches, simply because either people don’t understand the reason for it or don’t know how to enforce it but in most cases, church discipline is mainly neglected and not practised because the leaders feel they don’t want to confront anyone and upset the flock. This sadly is the downfall of many a congregation.

‘Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’ Matthew 18:21-22

After teaching about the importance of unity within the church, it appears that Peter needed some things cleared in his head. He’s basically asking Jesus, “Lord what I really want to know is, how often should I forgive my brother, as many as seven times, is that enough?”

And in Peter’s mind, he was looking to be complemented by Jesus because he was willing to forgive more than most people would. In the Jewish, mindset many Rabbis’ taught that a man was to be forgiven 3 times, but no more than 3.

And so what Peter did was, he multiplied this number by two and then added an extra one in there just for good measure. And he patted himself on the back and thought to himself, ‘Look what a wonderful person I am, to be willing to forgive like that.’

Peter was willing to forgive but his mistake was that he measured himself by human standards rather than by divine standards. Jesus answers Peter and more or less says to him, ‘Peter, you shouldn’t just forgive your brother seven times, but seventy-seven times’.

Now please don’t misunderstand what Jesus is saying here. He’s not saying, ‘we forgive someone 77 times and when we get to 78 that’s it, we don’t have to forgive them anymore.’

He’s not saying that, what He’s saying is that a person should always be ready to forgive, it’s not a matter of counting, it’s a matter of conduct, Matthew 6:12 / Matthew 18:35 / James 2:13.

The Parable Of The Unmerciful Servant

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “The servant fell on his knees before him.’ Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.” Matthew 18:23-27

Jesus teaches us 3 things about relationships, and He’s going to reveal more truths about the kingdom of God.

1. When it comes to the divine nature of forgiveness, God is merciful and just.

It’s obvious that the king who owns everything is God, the debt stands for sin and the servant stands for all of mankind. And the first thing that strikes you with the King is His pity.

The King couldn’t hold His pity back from His servant who had wasted his money. And that’s because that’s the kind of God we have, He is merciful to everyone, Psalm 130:7 / Isaiah 1:18 / Psalm 103:12.

God is willing to forgive all of our sins. Because although He is merciful to us, He is also just in forgiveness. The heart of this parable is that God will not forgive us our sins unless we freely forgive others, Matthew 5:7. Forgiving others is truly a Christian grace.

The Law of Moses didn’t obligate a man to forgive his fellow man, the forgiveness of enemies wasn’t regarded as a virtue in Israel. But Jesus comes along and says, ‘forgiveness is a duty’. Jesus says, ‘If someone sins and they repent, then it’s your duty as a Christian to forgive that person,’ Luke 17:3-4.

We need to be careful not to get involved with their sin too but if they have truly repented and are seeking forgiveness from you, you can’t hold their sin against them. Because all that does is stop that person from learning from their mistakes and stops them from growing into the likeness of Christ, Ephesians 4:32.

There’s not an offence which is so great that your brother or sister can commit against you that you cannot forgive. I’m not saying it will be easy to forgive, but what I am saying is that you need to forgive them because we’re to forgive each other just as God forgave us, 1 John 1:9.

Remember that the man who has no pity for his fellow man, will not get pity from God, Matthew 6:12. That text was never meant to be rehearsed week in and week out. That text was meant to be understood and lived by.

God forgives us we have forgiven others. In other words, we must forgive others before we can be forgiven. Jesus says that when it comes to forgiveness, God’s forgiveness and man’s forgiveness of each other are inseparable.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.” Matthew 18:28-30

2. He says that ‘human judgement is always condemning’.

The unmerciful servant has just had all his debts cleared by the master and this poor guy who only owed him 100 denarii was grabbed by the throat, and this was nothing less than pure heartlessness.

During these times in Greek and Roman culture, it was common practice for a debtor to be taken by the throat and brought before the court to stand trial.

You’ve probably heard the saying, ‘he almost choked the life out of me’. That saying came from the Greeks and what it meant was that this debtor was going to be made to pay his debt. So what he was basically doing was demanding payment, in other words, he was saying, ‘pay me what you owe me!’

And in the unmerciful servant’s mind, he’s probably thinking, ‘honest people pay their debts’. But what a short memory he hasn’t he?

It was only moments ago that he had ‘ten thousand talents’ cancelled and yet the text tells us that even though his fellow servant begged and pleaded with him, he didn’t listen and so he had him thrown into prison.

The unmerciful servant expected from his fellow servant what he didn’t expect himself. In other words, it’s very easy to see other people’s faults and failures, but we’re so slow when we look at our own. It’s in mankind’s nature when we judge people, to also condemn them.

What did Jesus say about condemning judgment? He said before you go judging and condemning others, take a close look at yourself first, Matthew 7:1-5.

Take a look at your own life and see if you are sinless. Or in the words of Jesus when he’s speaking to those who claimed that a woman had been caught in the act of adultery in John 8:7 ‘Let you who has no sin throw the first stone.’ If only we were as gentle and as understanding and as kind to others as we are to ourselves.

‘When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.” Matthew 18:31-34

3. All men are debtors to God.

The unforgiving spirit of the wicked person stirred anger in the heart of the forgiving master. Even those who witnessed the unforgiving spirit of the man were grieved. As a result, he was tortured and put in prison until he could pay off the debt.

I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, you are a debtor to God and you need to know that, Isaiah 53:6 / Romans 3:23. In other words, man’s relationship to God is one of debtor to creditor.

We owe much more than we can ever pay. Jesus deliberately chose the two sums of money mentioned in the parable, because both amounts are extreme.

Jesus said that ‘the servant owed his fellow servant 100 denarii.’ A denarii was a Roman coin, which was worth around 5p or 6p, which made the total debt around £5 or £6.

But Jesus that ‘the unmerciful servant owed the king ten thousand talents. It’s hard to imagine just how large an amount of money that was. The talent was worth around £500 so that meant that 10,000 talents would be worth around £5,000,000.

This was a staggering amount of money, it was an unimaginable amount of money. When you read your Biblical history, it’s said that Judea, Idumea, Samaria, Galilee and Perea brought 800 talents in tax money every year. So this guy’s debt was much more than all the tax money brought in from many provinces.

What’s the point Jesus is making? The point is simply this, neither guy could pay! And it is the same with our obligation. How much do we owe Him?

Because some people believe that they owe Him nothing and yet they breathe in His air, they enjoy His sunshine and rain but yet they never give Him a passing glance or an ounce in return.

Some people acknowledge that they owe the Lord something, but others confess that they owe much. This parable of Jesus screams out and says to each and every one of us, ‘you owe the Lord much more than you can ever pay.’

What can we give to God? Shall we give Him some animal sacrifice? We can’t give Him animals because He owns the animals, Psalm 50:9-10. Or shall we give Him our life-long service? Luke 7:10.

So if our debt to God is enormous and if we really have nothing with which to release our obligation, then salvation truly is of divine grace and not of mortal merit. We all are debtors because none of us has anything to offer God.

Jesus warns us that, we too will be punished, if we are not willing to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ if we’re not willing to show mercy to others when we’re in so much need of it ourselves, James 2:13.

When our brothers or sisters sin against us, we must forgive them, Matthew 6:12-14 / Matthew 7:2 / Mark 11:26 / Luke 6:37 / Ephesians 4:32 / Colossians 3:13 / James 5:9.

I don’t know if you have noticed but this parable has got many contrasts.

For example, there’s a contrast between Peter’s number and the Lord’s number. Peter was willing to forgive seven times but the Lord said to forgive infinitely.

There is another contrast between the two debts. One was almost a silly sum of money, the other was unpayable. And likewise, the wrongs were done to us and the injuries we receive from our fellow servants are amazingly small in comparison with the magnitude of our sins against God.

And lastly, there is a contrast between the creditors. The mighty king forgave but the lowly servant wouldn’t. If God is willing to forgive the more, then surely we should be willing to forgive the less.

Go To Matthew 19

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