"Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses." Matthew 18:33
Ok! Take a deep breath and let’s continue. Yes it is a heavy text to swallow but it is also a necessary passage to digest. The entire context of this text is Matt. 18:15-35. It starts with Christ talking about these close relationships in our lives. Christ desires for us to be at peace among ourselves. In Verse 18-20, Christ stresses to us the importance of unity and what can be accomplished when we can agree together in His name. Christ even went so far as to say that when we come together in His name that His presence would be with us. In verse 21 the disciple named Peter asked a question about forgiveness. Peter’s basic question was about forgiveness toward his brother. Please note the word brother in this text can mean a blood brother or a close relationship such as a friend or neighbor. The exact question was, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” The question itself reeks of arrogance and pride. What about his sin against his brother? That is a question that must be personally pondered. Getting back to the question of Peter. Well, how oft do we forgive? Jesus answered with a statement and a story. I want to deal with both categorically.
First: How much forgiveness?
Jesus answered by saying that seven times was not enough but rather seventy times seven. There is certainly a bigger meaning to this answer than counting out four hundred ninety times of forgiveness. There is a Biblical principle that is revealed here. When it comes to the interaction of forgiveness and the sinful condition of man, simple addition won’t get the job done. Jesus revealed to His disciples that forgiveness had to be multiplied to meet the human demand. The song writer William R. Newell penned these words in 1895, ‘Mercy there was great and grace was free, pardon there was multiplied to me.... ‘ At Calvary.’ What a tremendous song! The sacrifice of Christ on the cross of Calvary shows the power of multiplied forgiveness. One must look honestly at the need that each one of us possess. We have more need of forgiveness than we can obtain. There is more need of grace than we can afford. May each one of us properly see our need of forgiveness. In light of this let us explore the second point.
Second: Why forgive at all?
I will take for granted that you have read the text and will therefore summarize the story. The story is of a man which had a debt and a debtor. The debt he owed has been estimated at several million dollars. The debt he carried has been estimated as a few dollars. He owed millions and he had loaned out a few bucks. The story says his loan was called. His banker brought him in and wanted payment. He even stated that if need be the wife and children could be sold to pay this debt. This man falls down and begs for time to pay his debt. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion and completely forgives the debt. The words are, “loosed him, and forgave the debt.” What an amazing act of forgiveness!! However, this forgiven man goes out to collect from his debtor. You read it right!! He has just been forgiven millions of dollars and now he goes to collect a few bucks. Let’s watch this unfold. Surely in the spirit of forgiveness he will let this go. V. 28 paints the picture. He walks out of the bank a free man only to grab his fellow-servant and take him by the throat saying, ‘pay up.’ His fellow-servant has the same reaction he just had in the bank. This man now falls to beg for mercy just like the man who has received mercy. Yet this time there is no mercy shown. For a few dollars the forgiven servant cast his fellow-servant into prison. This is more than a mind can comprehend. This would seem like a fairy-tale until Jesus makes application. Yes, you are right! Jesus is looking right at us as he makes application in V. 35. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
This is one of the most serious passages of Scripture you will ever read. It is stating, in plain terminology, that I must be willing to forgive horizontally (forgive those around me) if I want to be forgiven vertically (have forgiveness from God). That doesn’t answer the question of how oft I should forgive. It erases that question completely!If Christ has multiplied His forgiveness to you and I, then you and I should forgive the trespasses of others. Just forgive. Eph. 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
- Pastor Jon Brock