Monday, March 10, 2014

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant - Matthew 18:21-35

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. 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. 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. 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. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 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.”

So what are we to make of this, especially in light of Ephesians 2:8-9?

The commentaries either say that this parable is referring to Christians who, if they don’t forgive, will not lose their salvation but will be punished; or, that the servant who didn’t forgive was never really saved in the first place.

Both of these explanations show the problems that crop up when we try to apply portions of Scripture to ourselves that aren’t intended to be applied to us. The Lord was talking about the kingdom. He says so clearly in verse 23. During the kingdom, a person who doesn’t forgive will not be forgiven. Period. This is a carryover from the law, as the Lord explained in His Sermon on the Mount: For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses (Matt 6:14-15).

If this seems impossible to live up to, that is the whole point. The law was given to show that all men are sinners. So how can anybody live up to this, even in the kingdom? And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (Ezek 36:27; c.f. Jer 31:33).

The parable was not intended to be applied to us today. Yes, we should forgive, but as a response to what Christ has already done for us: And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Eph 4:32). 

Under law (Matt 18:21-35), a person forgives others and then is forgiven by God. Under grace (Eph 4:32), we are forgiven in Christ and our response should be to forgive others. This makes it no less important, and in fact, if we live by grace, it makes it much easier to do.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sermon Notes on a Sunday Morning - Ephesians 1:2-3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

Grace to you

Paul always begins the same way — "grace and peace."

Grace is a panacea — a cure for everything.

Problem of sin (Corinthians)?  Solution - grace, not the law (1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 9:8; 12:9).
Problem of legalism (Galatians)?  Solution - grace (Gal 1:6-7; 2:21).
Problem of fighting (Philippines)?  Solution - grace and peace, not the law (Phil 1:7; 4:23).
Problem of worshiping and following the law of angels (Colossians)?  Solution - Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Col 3:15).

Grace gives us what we don't deserve.
Mercy doesn't give us what we do deserve (hell or annihilation).

and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Those who are justified always have peace with God.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).

The only way we can be sure we have peace with God is through the eyes of faith — it's all because of Calvary.  If it depended upon what we did, we could never be sure (Rom 4).

Peace with honor; He didn't sweep our sins under the rug.

Grace comes before peace.

We should give the message of grace and peace to each other.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Bless God?  He's already blessed beyond measure. The blesser has to be in a higher position than the blessee (Heb 7:7; cf. Ps 50:12).  How can we bless God?

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’ (Matt 25:40).

We can bless God by blessing His people (Prov 14:31; 19:17).  Be a giver (Rom 15:25-27).

We can bless God by speaking of His work and will before people (Neh 9; Acts 2:4; 20:18-24).

who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.

God showed on the cross what He thought of sin.  God spent His wrath on the Son.  He isn't mad anymore. Now we have to answer to the Son, and He isn't mad either — if we have placed our faith in Him.

God was Jesus' judge — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mk 15:34)

Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (Jn 20:17)

Jesus hadn't yet ascended into heaven to sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat, but He could say "my Father" and "my God" because the sacrifice was accepted.  And we are accepted in the beloved.

He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved (Eph 1:5-6).

Paul wrote this epistle from prison.  He ignored his circumstances and concentrated on his blessings — "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ ... who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing."

He was caught up to the third heaven (2 Cor 12:1-3).  Is this why he could ignore his circumstances?  No. He was caught up to the third heaven 20 years before he wrote Ephesians.  The glory and drive begins to fade after awhile.  He (and we) had to constantly re-motivate himself through the Word.