Well, it has been a “few days” since we have last visited this topic. These thoughts were garnered from my devotion of May 8th, 2015. Principles, questions, observations and thoughts are generated in my mind as I meditate and contemplate on an event in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.
As I have mentioned I am using John MacArthur’s One Perfect Life, published by Thomas Nelson Publishers. I am examining and meditating through an event a day from this marvelous harmony. MacArthur has broken the life of our Lord down into 215 events. So for the first 215 days of 2015 my topic for devotion is the life of Christ.
We now come to some of my thoughts on this particular event. MacArthur lists this event as number 95 in his harmony. It is taken from Matthew 18:15-35. What really intrigued me about this passage, not to discount the obvious spiritual application for my soul, was that this passage is known as the official “church discipline” procedural guideline.
I have come to wonder if this is correct. First of all, as you may recall, I have already stated that I do not believe the gospels are written for the primary use of the church. I don’t think they are teachings, doctrinal treatise, procedures, or standard operating procedures for the church. I think the translation of ekklhsia was incorrect. I think it was forced on the translators by King James himself. I think it should have been translated “assembly.”
Second, I don’t think it is an instructional guideline for the church to follow as a means of disciplining church members. If you read it correctly it was written to individuals who had been sinned against or offended by a fellow believer. It is instructions for the offended believer to utilize in order to restore fellowship with someone who has sinned against them.
Thirdly, don’t be “hog-tied” by the future tense used by Christ when he said, “…I will build my assembly, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, NKJV) It was revealed in the Old Testament and reiterated in the New Testament that God through Christ the Messiah would form an assembly for His glory of both Jews and Gentiles. The completed realization of this formation is yet future. It was future when Peter made his declaration and Christ voiced His response. So, I do not think that the church is mentioned in the gospels, including Matthew nor do I think that this is a procedure directed to the church.
Having stated these things, let me get to the topic of this third and final post on Jesus and Forgiveness. The topic is the seriousness of the forgiveness of someone who has offended us or sinned against us. Many who considered themselves believers and even as believers in good standing of a local fellowship have failed to consider just how serious a matter it is in failing to forgive someone who has sinned against us.
I have seen believers throughout my years in the church who have held grudges and resentment against fellow believers and/or church members, even for years. I have seen on one occasion where a member would not sit on the same side of the building as another member who have offended them. We are all aware of churches that have split and remain “out of fellowship” with fellow believers over issues of sin and offense.
Are they not aware of just serious this is? Apparently not! Well Christ illustrates how serious this matter of refusing to forgive a sinning brother/sister and then makes an almost unbelievable summary statement. One would almost not believe it if Christ Himself had not said it and it had not been recorded under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Christ told a story of a King who wanted to settle financial matters with his servants. He called in a servant who owed him 10,000 talents (this may or not be a literal amount – it was used to show a huge or significant amount of debt owed). The servant begged for mercy and time in order to pay. The King ultimately forgave the debt.
This same servant went out and came across an individual who owed him a hundred denarii (approximately 3 months of common labor wages). I think Christ used this amount to contrast the great debt of the original servant.
We know that the second servant begged for mercy and time in the same manner as the original servant. However, the original servant was not moved by the compassionate plea for mercy and demanded payment. Since the fellow couldn’t pay he had him thrown into debtor’s prison to work off the debt.
Somehow the King got wind of this event. He sent for him and accused him of refusing to have mercy on someone who owed him a little amount when he had forgiven an infinite debt of the servant. He demanded to know why he did not show the same mercy that he had been shown. So the King through the original servant into debtor’s prison until he paid the entire debt that was owed the King.
Then Christ made an extraordinary statement; “So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.” (Matthew 18:35, NKJV) Read that a number of times and let that sink in. Do you see have serious it really is if we refuse to forgive a fellow brother or sister in Christ?
First of all, the “infinite” debt of 10,000 talents is to be taken as a representation of the debt of sin Christ forgave each one of us who are genuine believers. This was an infinite debt that we could never pay if we were required to pay our debt of sin.
Second, the little debt of the second servant was used to show our little these offenses against us really are when people sin against us in relationship to the debt Christ forgave us.
Third, if we as believes fail or refuse to forgive other believers, Christ will discipline those who fail to do so. Let me say God will not at any time or for any reason revoke the salvation of a true and genuine child of God. But God will begin to chastise the believer who refuses to forgive. Listen God will not overlook the harshness or lack of compassion of His children against other Children of God. Some believers spend most if not all of their days under discipline or chastisement because they refuse to forgive someone who offended them or sinned against them.
As believers and children in the family of God we are required (and enabled) to display the activities of the divine nature that has been implanted in us through the indwelling Holy Spirit towards any who offend us or sins against us. If we refuse to do so we can and will be severely chastised or disciplined by God in order that the order and unity of God’s family be maintained. It is a proven fact that many personal, psychological, and health related problems are at the core of being unwilling to forgive someone.
Listen to Titus 3:2-7, “…for we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:2-7, NKJV)
The lesson is this: prompted by the gratitude that we as having been forgiven by Christ for all of our horrible sin, we must always desire to forgive anyone who has sinned against us. We must do everything in our power to affect reconciliation with anyone who sins against us.
Otherwise we will pay the price of discipline and chastisement for as long as it takes for our will to break and submit to the will of God and forgive those who have sinned against us.