Sunday Messages

Matthew 18:21-35 by Pastor Dan Walker
Jesus' teaching on forgiveness is hard hitting. He told us that if we don't forgive others, than God won't forgive us. In this message, we look at parable on this principle of forgiveness that illustrates it in graphic detail. Learn why forgiveness is required and how to give it.
Duration:30 mins 21 secs

Today we begin a new message series “Profound Stories.” We’re to take a look at just some of the parables that Jesus taught. Parables are stories of common situations in Jesus’ tie that illustrate spiritual lessons. So parables are in fact, profound stories that have a deeper meaning. Jesus told over three dozen parables through the course of his ministry. His parables often address difficult issues and are very hard-hitting. So much so, that many parables are not often preached on in our day. But, we preach God’s Word just as its written here at Life Church.

This week I received an email from a lady in North Carolina. Let me read what it said. 

I live in Charlotte NC and lead ladies Bible studies and mentor ladies online and at my church. I'm currently taking courses at Biola in apologetics and I just wanted to let you know how much I have been able to learn from your solid Biblical teaching and study notes. I played one of your sermons on decision -making for one of my women's Bible study groups recently since we were building on decision making from a Biblical World view.

Your material is sound and that's not so easy to find in our current church culture. Thank you for being obedient to God's calling. I have huge churches all around me here in NC and I grew up in church, but I have found that numbers don't mean much unless people are taught to be true disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep on keeping on for the Lord. God will honor your courage in upholding the truth of His Gospel. Thank you! Laurie.

Our church is not just reaching people in St Louis, but across the country with prophetic truth from God’s Word. Today we’re going to tackle a difficult topic with our message entitled “Forgiveness Required.” The principle that Jesus is going to illustrate with his parable is summarized in

Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)  For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Giving forgiveness for those who have been forgiven is not optional, it is required, or you forfeit your forgiveness. The problem is that forgiveness is not easy, especially when you’ve been deeply or repeatedly hurt by someone else. Unforgiveness leads to conflict that can continue for years or a lifetime of bitterness, anger and grudges. And, if you believe what Jesus said, which I do, unforgiveness will result in the loss of your forgiveness. So, let’s begin by looking at a few verses on forgiveness that Jesus taught on …

Why forgive?

Forgiveness involves one person sinning against another. Jesus taught in Luke 17 that we shouldn’t tempt or cause another person to sin in any way. And we shouldn’t sin against or hurt another person. But what if another person sins against or hurts us? Or tendency is to be first and foremost concerned about our hurt, rather than the other person. But Jesus taught that we should …

Be concerned for others

Luke 17:3-4 (ESV)  Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,  and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

Our first response when a brother, a fellow believer, sins against us is to rebuke them. To rebuke someone is to let them know that what they have done to you is wrong and that it has hurt you. Rebuking someone accomplishes a number of things. It lets the other person know that their behavior is wrong and unacceptable and so protects you. Secondly, it gives the other person the opportunity to repent and so grow spiritually. If the other person repents, then we are to forgive him.

Forgiveness is releasing your right to take revenge or judge another person. But what if the person keeps on sinning against you and saying they repent? Jesus says that we must keep on forgiving them. We must …

Have a forgiving attitude

Matthew 18:21-22 (ESV)  Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

In Jesus’ day, the rabbis taught they you only needed to forgive someone three times. Peter, went from the three of the rabbis to seven times. Jesus said to Peter, it’s not about keeping count. It’s about having a forgiving attitude. When Jesus said seventy-seven times, he did not mean we needed to keep track of that many offenses. He meant that our forgiveness must be unlimited, just as God’s is.

What about those who habitually sin? Must we be their door mat, must we allow ourselves to be hurt repeatedly? The answer is no. Jesus taught in Matthew 18:15-17 the procedure to follow when you rebuke a fellow believer and they do not repent of their sin. This church discipline provides recourse to those who habitually sin within the church. Forgiveness must be unlimited, but others must also be held accountable for their actions as well.

Does Jesus’ teaching mean that we must rebuke those around us for everything we think they’ve done wrong? The answer is No. God’s Word teaches us that love overlooks a multitude of wrongs. We overlook smaller wrongs and forgive in our hearts. Larger wrongs are addressed by following Jesus’ teachings. Forgiveness opens the door for you to be a peacemaker in your relationships.

Understand God’s forgiveness

Jesus has just taught us that we must give unlimited forgiveness. He goes on in Matthew 18 to tell us a parable story that illustrates and expands on his teaching on forgiveness. The first part of this profound story helps us to understand God’s forgiveness but realizing that …

Our sin debt is unpayable

Matthew 18:23-25 (ESV)  “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.  And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  

 Jesus’ story begins with a king, who represents God in this parable. The king wanted to settle the accounts or debts that his servants owed him. The story focuses on a servant whose debt was ten thousand talents. A talent was around eighty pounds of gold, so 10,000 talents would be hundreds of millions of dollars by today’s standards. How this servant incurred such a enormous debt is not told us. The point of the amount of his debt is that there was no way that this servant could possibly pay the debt.

Since the servant could not pay, the king ordered that the man, his wife and his children be sold into slavery, along with the sale of all his possessions. Even if the servant’s family worked for the king for a lifetime, they could never repay the debt. The application of this aspect of the story to our lives is that our sin has incurred an enormous unpayable debt towards God. We have broken God’s laws through sin and justice requires us to pay for our crime. As we cannot pay the fine, we are likewise ordered into eternal punishment. Yet …

God mercifully forgives

Matthew 18:26-27 (ESV)  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’  And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.

The servant begged the king to be allowed to pay back the debt. This was a plea of desperation, which actually made no sense. There was no way the servant could pay back everything and the king knew it. Yet, out of pity and compassion for the man and his family, the king released him from slavery and forgave the entire 10,000 talent debt. This first servant had received the king’s great mercy and forgiveness. In the same way, God chooses to mercifully forgive those who confess their sins and ask for his forgiveness. They are set free from bondage to sin and eternal punishment.

The parable could almost end here, for a very important lesson has been taught by Jesus. We need to understand that the sin debt that every person on the planet has towards God is impossible for anyone to pay back. No amount of money, no amount of good works, no amount of prayer or whatever you can think of could pay this debt. We are in a hopeless situation without God’s mercy. But if we humbly admit our sin, turn from it and ask for God’s forgiveness, He will mercifully grant it to anyone who asks. But that last segment of this profound story shows us the requirement to retain God’s forgiveness in our lives. For you see, contrary to what many churches teach, God’s forgiveness can be lost. In order to retain God’s forgiveness in our lives, we must forgive others who sin against us. So, let’s look at the last part of the parable and the …

Consequences of unforgiveness

Remember that the first servant had been forgiven a debt he could never have repaid. He didn’t deserve to be forgiven, but the king in His mercy forgave him. Now we’re going to see what happens when someone has been forgiven, but does not obey Jesus’ command to forgive others. The sin of unforgiveness …

Reveals a misunderstanding of God’s forgiveness

Matthew 18:28-30 (ESV)  But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.  

The first servant found one of his fellow servants who owed him 100 denarii, about 100 days wages, consisting of perhaps $20,000. Not a trivial some, but a debt that could easily be paid over time, in the range of a car loan today. This first servant seems to have an anger issue as well, assaulting the second servant, choking him and demanding payment. The second servant pleaded with the first servant with almost the same words that the first servant had pleaded with the king. Contrary to how the king treated him, the first servant refused to give the second servant time to repay and had him put into prison to work off his debt away from his family. Some of the king’s other servants saw this exchange between the two servants and reported it to the king.

Results in revocation of God’s forgiveness

Matthew 18:32-35 (ESV)  Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’  And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Those who have been forgiven but don’t forgive others are judged as wicked by the King. They have been forgiven an unpayable debt and should readily extend mercy and forgiveness towards those who owe a much smaller debt against them. What were the consequences? The master put the first servant into prison until he could pay all the debt. Could that debt ever be repaid? The answer is no, not in an entire lifetime, so this was a life or eternal sentence. 

In case any of Jesus’ listeners missed the point of this profound story, Jesus adds in the last verse. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart. Forgiveness is required in order for a believer to retain God’s forgiveness. Unforgiveness that is not repented of and in turn forgiveness given, will result in the loss of God’s forgiveness which has eternal consequences.

Many people attempt to justify their unforgiveness towards others in a variety of ways. These excuses are often rooted in pride. We do not want to humble ourselves and offer to forgive. We feel like we are offering the other person a free pass and saying that what they did was alright. We believe that they do not deserve to be forgiven.

People often say things like “After what they did to me, I could never forgive them.” We must remember that what we have done to God is far worse than what people have done to us. We didn’t deserve to be forgiven, but God forgives us anyway. So we, in turn can forgive others through the grace that God gives us. Let’s watch a short video about forgiveness called “The Forgiven.”

How can we apply this profound story of Jesus to our lives? Take inventory of your own life and relationships. Do you have any strained relationships with family or friends because of hurts in the past? Think of someone you need to forgive because of a past hurt. Pray for that person and ask God to bless them. Then pray for yourself, that God would give you a forgiving attitude. If its possible, take the initiative to go to the person, offer forgiveness seek to bring about reconciliation of the relationship.

Perhaps you know of someone holding a grudge against you. Take time to pray for the person and ask God for an opportunity for restoration. Pray that God will bless that person and bring about a change of heart. If you were in the wrong, consider going to the person and repenting of your sin. If you were not in the wrong, do what you can to bring about peace to the relationship. Reconciliation always takes two, but we need to be faithful to do our part and so maintain our relationship with God. God has made peace with us through Jesus Christ and calls us to be peacemakers.