“Faithful Forgiveness”: the Perseverance of Forgiving Saints

[This was delivered to my homiletics class at Westminster Theological Seminary on April 30th, 2009]

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“Faithful Forgiveness”: the Perseverance of Forgiving Saints

TEXT: Matthew 18:21-35


  • Forgiveness is an interesting thing.
    • Church talks much about it, but doesn’t seem to understand it well
    • I think it’s because the church focuses on the outward sign of sins more than the heart
    • Forgiveness, though, resides almost completely in the heart
    • This makes it more telling of our true state than other sins
    • This is an issue of security

The Big Picture of the Parable:

  • Disciples: “Who’s the greatest in the Kingdom?”
    • They have some things right about the Kingdom in asking Jesus this question
    • but, they have some big things wrong
  • So Jesus calls a kid to his side
    • Says, “only people like this kid are both in the kingdom and the greatest”
    • You guys aren’t acting like people that are in the kingdom at all.
  • Jesus lays out a clear formulae for dealing with other wronging us.
    • Peter still doesn’t get it.  He’s looking for more legalism.
    • So Jesus tells a parable.

The Parable:

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 times seven. “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.”

  • There is a king with good news!
    • He wants restored standing with his servants
    • So he “preaches” this good news by placing the weight of punishment on the servant.
  • Out of pity, he offers forgiveness
    • the servant doesn’t take it.
    • I don’t think the servant represents a Christian
  • He is sent to live among the other servants
    • tries to get a debt paid by another servant
    • when he can’t he throw him in jail
    • The king hears about it
  • He Throws the servant into the hands of the jailers into the eternal fire

What do we do with this?  Look back at the context more deeply.

  • Jesus says this is an issue of security
  • So what does it look liek to live properly in the Kingdom.
  • Let’s look back.  Jesus uses the child to show four relational dynamics within the Kingdom.
    • (1) He gives Security: “woe to those who lead this child into temptation.”
    • (2) We fight sin: “if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.”
    • (3) He draws near in our fight: Parable of the lost sheep”
    • (4) We forgive others: “When your brother wrongs you…”
    • It seems that the believer who knows both the security and intimacy of Christ in their fight with their sin will ultimately respond by being willing to forgive others in light of their sin.

How do we know where we are in this?  how do we do it?:

  • In relationship
    • the servants true colors were shown after leaving the King’s chamber
    • not on Sunday morning
    • relationships expose who we really are
  • Forgiveness, then is a relational issue
    • it’s relational, not legal: it’s about restored relationship, not emotional passivity
    • it’s active, not passive: it requires sacrifice
    • it’s mercy, not justice: we trust God’s wrath, not our own


  • How do we “forgive from the heart”?
  • The servant was put somewhere he could “pay all his debt”
  • God has ordained two places where our debt can be paid
    • First place, Hell: it’s just and satisfactory
  • Second place, the Cross
    • Where Christ took on the wrath due us for our debt
    • This purchases for us security, we then fight sin, and he draws near.
  • Our hearts preach what they believe about God
    • when we don’t forgive, we are thinking the cross wasn’t sufficient to secure us
    • nor give proper wrath against sins against us
    • this is suppose to hearken us back to our own debt, and then to God
  • So as it is in the parable, so it is even now
    • we have a king with good news who wants to be in restored relationship with us
    • will we not trust him?
    • repent and turn to your savior.

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