About Jesus Steve Sweetman
Concerning the following article, I realize that the comments I make are not accepted by all, yet on the other hand, many people would agree with what I say.
Concerning the Mat. 18 Scripture, what I say is definitely not the whole picture of this parable. Maybe at some point I will write a more detailed article on this parable.
If you have any specific comments feel free to let me know your thoughts. I feel that my understanding is not yet complete on this subject.
Our Debts And
Jesus, in Mat. 6:12 taught us to pray by saying, "forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors". I think as Christians we often think this verse means, "forgive our debts, or sins, when and because we forgive others of their sins against us". This interpretation makes God's forgiveness towards us conditional on our forgiveness towards others. Yet, is God's forgiveness towards us conditional on anything we do? No. It is conditional on what Jesus has already done for us. We need only to repent and trust Jesus in order to make this forgiveness reality in our lives.
The Greek word translated as debt in this verse is the word "opheilema". This word means "something specific that is owed to someone". When we sin against someone, we sin not only against that particular person, but against God who created that person. We are in debt both to God and to the person we sin against. Therefore we need to find forgiveness from both God and the one we sin against. Finding forgiveness brings reconciliation between us and God. It can also bring reconciliation between us and others if both parties are willing to co-operate in the forgiveness process. Reconciliation cannot take place if only one party forgives.
Is Jesus saying that we will only be forgiven of our sin when we forgive others who sin against us? I don't think so. This way of thinking does not correlate properly with Scripture in general. The basis on which we are forgives has nothing to do with what we do or don't do. Once again, the basis of our forgiveness with God depends solely on what Jesus has done for us, and our response to Him.
Jesus is merely making a statement here. He is saying, "as I forgive others Lord, I know that you have forgive me". Forgiveness is not conditional on us forgiving other, or else we would never find forgiveness with God. Yet the more we understand God's forgiveness towards us in light of our depravity, the more we will forgive others.
Jesus is really teaching us something about forgiveness in this part of His prayer. He is teaching us that we should naturally extend forgiveness towards others since God has extended forgiveness towards us. There's two aspects of forgiveness here. One is God forgiving us, and the other is us forgiving others. These are not conditional on each other. The second is merely an outgrowth of the first.
Jesus speaks a parable about forgiveness in Mat. 18:21-35 in response to a question asked by Peter. Peter ask Jesus how many time he should forgive his brother. Peter thought that maybe 7 times was sufficient, but Jesus said that the number is more like 77 times. I don't think Jesus was encouraging Peter to get out a piece of paper and record his acts of forgiveness, and when they reach 78 to stop forgiving. Most people think that 77 means an infinite number.
In explanation of Jesus' response He tells a parable. A master had a number of servants. One particular servant owed the master lots of money. The master was ready to collect the debt but because the servant begged him to give him more time to pay, he cancelled the debt altogether. The begging of the servant seems to suggest repentance on the servant's part, at least in my thinking. The master did not give the servant more time to pay up. He cancelled the debt completely. The servant was totally free of debt. The cancellation of the debt was based on the servant's begging.
You would think after this act of graciousness that was bestowed on the servant that he would do the same to others, but he didn't. He demanded that a fellow servant who owned him money pay up immediately, even though the fellow servant begged him, just as he had begged the master. The fellow servant was put in prison as a result. The first servant received forgiveness after he begged, but did not extend it to another servant, even though he begged as well. Jesus, in his prayer in Mat,6:12 teaches us that "we will forgive, because we are forgiven".
Jesus ended this parable by saying that when the master of the first servant found out that he had not been gracious to another, he had the servant thrown in prison until he paid his whole debt. The master therefore re-instated the original debt that he had cancelled. The master withdrew the forgiveness once given to the servant.
In Mat. 18:31 the master told the evil servant that he originally cancelled his debt because of his begging, or apparent repentance. Therefore the re-instatement of the debt was not merely based on the servant's mistreatment of someone else. The master went back to the issue of the servant's begging, the issue of repentance. The debt was re-instated because of a lack of true repentance. The humble and repentant attitude that this servant had in the beginning did not carry on in his life beyond that point. Forgiveness was withdrawn because repentance was not seen in the servant's life. Forgiveness therefore depends on repentance.
Notice that the second servant begged just like the first servant begged. If this begging is an example of repentance, then according to Jesus, the first servant should have forgiven his fellow servant. This is what bothered the master, and what bothers Jesus. The first servant's debt was cancelled because of his repentance. When that servant had an opportunity to forgive another based on the other person's repentant heart, he didn't, resulting in the re-instatement of his own debt. To me, it is clear that forgiveness depends on repentance. Where there is no repentance, there is no forgiveness extended. When one ceases to have a repentant heart, forgiveness is cancelled.
Did this master forgive the bad servant 77 times? It doesn't look like he did. At the first sign that there was no true repentance, forgiveness was withdrawn. The same with us today. If we say that we have repented and receive forgiveness, and then either turn our backs on repentance, or had not really repented in the first place, there will be no forgiveness found for us. To me, one moral of this parable is that God demands true repentance and faith before forgiveness is issued to us. If these truths are found in our lives, we are forgiven., and reconciliation will be the result.
When we repeat this prayer found in Mat. 6, we are telling our Father that we will forgive others because He has forgiven us, and we have accepted His forgiveness which can be seen in our lives because we have repented and have trusted in Him. We will thus extend forgiveness to others when they ask it of us with a humble heart. How can we deny them.