“Emmanuel’s Reciprocity” – Matthew 18:21-35

February 21st, 2016

Matthew 18:21-35

“Emmanuel’s Reciprocity”

Auxiliary Text: Luke 7:36-50

Call to Worship from: Psalm 32


Service Orientation: All healthy, mutually encouraging and godly relationships have at the core of their being a willingness to forgive.  Our willingness and motivation to forgive is proportional to our knowledge of ourselves and our sinfulness, and God and His holiness.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  So watch yourselves. “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.  If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” —  Luke 17:3-4                                                           


Background Information:

  • This is a parable, which means when Jesus says, “the kingdom of heaven may be compared to,” he does not mean the kingdom is precisely like this. Embellishment and exaggeration are allowed in a parable just as they are in children’s fables to make a point.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 523)
  • (v. 21) It was Rabbinic teaching that a person must forgive another three times. Rabbi Jose ben Hanina said:  “He who begs forgiveness from his neighbor must not do so more than three times.”  Rabbi Jose ben Jehuda said:  “If a man commits an offense once, they forgive him; if he commits an offense a second time, they forgive him; if he commits an offense a third time, they forgive him; the fourth time they do not forgive.”  The biblical proof that this was correct was taken from Amos.  In the opening chapters of Amos, there is a series of condemnations on the various nations for three transgressions and for four (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 13; 2:1, 4, 6).  From this, it was deduced that God’s forgiveness extends to three offenses and that he visits the sinner with punishment at the fourth.  It was not to be thought that people could be more gracious than God, so forgiveness was limited to three times.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 225)
  • (v. 22) The escalation from seven to seventy-seven reflects the boast of Lamech in Gn 4:24: “If Cain is avenged sevenfold [see Gn 4:13], surely Lamech is avenged seventy-sevenfold.” (The reminiscence of Cain gives added point to the concept of forgiving a “brother.”) the disciple must be as extravagant in forgiving as Lamech was in taking vengeance.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 705)
  • (v. 22) There is an interesting use of the number “seventy times seven” in Dn 9:24, which gives a preview of the future of the Jewish people. The prophecy reads, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 371)
  • (v. 22) In other words, God promised the Jews that He would forgive and forgive and forgive for this perfect number of times (“seventy times seven”). We know of course that He has inserted the church age between the sixty-ninth and seventieth seven and has gone on forgiving and forgiving and forgiving in spite of the crime of Calvary.  He will go on forgiving until time will be no more.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 372)
  • (v. 23) The “servants” (douloi, lit., “slaves”) may include high-ranking civil servants in a huge colonial empire, for the amount of indebtedness is astronomical (v. 24). Yet Jesus may simply be using hyperbole to make clear how much the heirs of the kingdom have really been forgiven.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 406)
  • (v. 24) A talent was the highest unit of currency, and ten thousand was then the highest Greek numeral. So how much was “ten thousand talents”?  It was the highest or largest imaginable amount.  Robert Gundry says “zillions.”  Zillions of dollars would be the modern equivalent.  The lesson then drawn from this largest number is this:  like this servant we are in the deepest possible debt to God, and like this servant we can’t come close to paying our debt, and therefore like this servant the only choice we have is to plead for mercy from the king.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 524)
  • (v. 24) It was more than the total budget of the ordinary province. The total revenue of the province which contained Idumaea, Judaea and Samaria was only 600 talents; the total revenue of even a wealthy province like Galilee was only 300 talents.  Against that background, this debt it staggering.  It was this that the servant was forgiven.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 226)
  • (v. 24) The major problem is that the translation “ten thousand talents” does not do justice to the Greek that is used here. It actually says “myriad talents,” which is indefinite.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 553)
  • (v. 24) A talent was originally a weight (probably about thirty kilograms) of metal; when used as a monetary term without specifying the metal involved, it would probably have been understood to be of silver. While the exact amount varied, a talent of silver was conventionally reckoned at six thousand denarii.  If one denarius was an acceptable day’s wage for a laborer (see 20:1-15), a single talent would then represent what a laborer might hope to earn in half a lifetime.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 706)
  • (v. 24) Ten thousand (myria, hence our “myriad”) is the largest numeral for which a Greek term exists, and the talent is the largest known amount of money. When the two are combined, the effect is like our “zillions.”  What God has forgiven his people is beyond human calculation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 706)
  • (v. 25) Such indebtedness could not possibly be covered by selling the family into slavery (v. 25): top price for a slave fetched about one talent, and one-tenth that amount or less was more common.  The practice of being sold for debt was sanctioned by the OT (Lv 25:39; 2 Kgs 4:1), but such slaves had to be freed in the year of Jubilee (every fiftieth year).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 406)
  • (v. 28) The one hundred denars amounted to one six-hundred-thousandth part of the canceled sum. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 707)
  • (v. 30) The similarity of his fellow servant’s plea (v. 29) to his own (v. 26) does not move this unforgiving man. He has him thrown into a debtor’s prison (v. 30).  Even an inexpensive slave sold for five hundred denarii, and it was illegal to sell a man for a sum greater than his debt.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 406-7)
  • (v. 34) Though torture was forbidden by Jewish law, the practice was widespread in the ancient world. Debtors could be tortured in order to make them reveal unacknowledged sources of money.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 178)
  • I am aware of only a few times in the Gospel of Matthew where Jesus uses the term “Hell” in reference to unbelievers (13:42, 50; 23:15, 33). Most of the “Hell” texts and many of the judgment passages, like the one before us, are given to Christians.  Look again at verse 35 with that thought in mind: “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother [fellow Christian] from your heart.”  Who is the “you”?  The disciples listening then (18:1) and the disciples reading now–yes, “you.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 530)
  • Jesus is so relevant here. For these final five verses correct three popular views in the church today.  First, that God will save all people (universalism).  Second, that God never gets angry, and if he gets angry (an unlikely “if”) he certainly never gets angry enough to eternally judge someone.  Third, warnings about Hell don’t apply to professing Christians.  All of those ideas, according to Jesus, are wrong.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 528)


The question to be answered is . . . What does Jesus want us to take away from His Matthew 18 teaching on relationships within the body of Christ?


Answer:  It all comes down to forgiveness.  And we will only be able to forgive others as we recognize how much we have been forgiven.


Why would the Lord tell such a parable to His disciples?  One of them had an unregenerate heart; he was a mere pretender and he ended up in perdition.  His name was Judas.  And why should the parable be told in the local church?  The ranks of church members often include some who have never been truly regenerated.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 374)


The Word for the Day is . . . Forgive


“Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you.” —  Archibald Hart


Forgiveness is letting go.  Untying the knot that binds us to another who has hurt us.  —Gary Smalley


Do you know the meaning of the Greek word “Forgive?”  It means to “let go.” —Steve Brown


We don’t want to forgive others because it makes us even, not superior.   —Steve Brown


You thought our national economy is bad.  Our spiritual economy has been in a depression for thousands of years.  Our debt is astronomical (see 18:24).  We should all be embarrassed–red in the face because of how much we are in the red–personally and corporately!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 170)


What does Jesus teach us in this passage?:

I-  God forgives the contrite and broken person repenting of their insurmountable and inconceivable debt.  (Mt 18:21-27; see also: Ezra 9:6; Ps 51:1-18; Isa 64:6; 66:2; Mt 5:3-12; Acts 2:38; 5:31)


Here Jesus depicts human beings, due to their sin, not as being $10,000 in debt or $40,000,000 in debt or even $75,000,000,000,000 in debt, but rather as being zillions of dollars in debt to God.  Which means what?  It means Jesus thinks deep down (and not so deep down) people are really, really bad.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 524) (red, bold, enlarged emphasis Pastor Keith)


I honestly cannot believe how many people think they can pay the debts they owe to God.  They think they can perform ten thousand deeds of righteousness to make up for their ten thousand debts of sin.  This is foolishness.  The debt is too huge and our so-called good works are actually filthy rags (Isa 64:6), good for nothing.  We absolutely need grace.  Since we have received it, we should be the last people to grab our brothers or sisters and demand that they pay their debts to us.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 556)


The one who is not merciful is inevitably so unaware of his own state that he thinks he needs no mercy.  He cannot picture himself as miserable and wretched; so how shall God be merciful toward him?  He is like the Pharisee in the temple who was unmerciful toward the wretched tax collector in the corner (Lk 18:10ff.).  By contrast, the person whose experience reflects these beatitudes is conscious of his spiritual bankruptcy (Mt 5:3), grieves over it (5:4), and hungers for righteousness (5:6).  He is merciful toward the wretched because he recognizes himself to be wretched; in being merciful he is also shown mercy.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 25)


To expect to enter the sphere of God’s mercy without repenting from our sin is but wishful thinking.  And for the church to offer hope of God’s mercy apart from repentance from sin is to offer false hope through a false gospel.  God offers nothing but merciless judgment to those who will not turn from their sin to the Savior.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 192)


When you and I think, “Well, I haven’t sinned as much as this person or that person,” we show that we have no clue as to the extent of our own sin.  Our debt is deep–infinitely deep.  But Christ has paid it.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 246)


The churches that mature in health and effect lasting change are the ones that come to God in brokenness and humility and beg Him to produce the obedience of faith in them.  ( Donald J. MacNair; The Practices of a Healthy Church, p. 231)


It is important to note also that he does not offer to make at least a down-payment on his debt.  The implication is clearly this:  he makes no such offer for the simple reason that he has nothing!  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 706)


What this servant wanted was a patient king.  What he got was a patient and compassionate and forgiving king!  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 525)


Obviously the doctrine of justification by faith only is absolutely essential.  There has never been a revival but that this has always come back into prominence.  This doctrine means the end of all thinking about ourselves and our goodness, and our good deeds, and our morality, and all our works.  Look at the histories of revivals, and you will find men and women feeling desperate.  They know that all their goodness is but filthy rags, and that all their righteousness is of no value at all.  And there they are, feeling that they can do nothing, and crying out to God for mercy and for compassion. Justification by faith.  God’s act.  ‘If God does not do it to us,’ they say, ‘then we are lost.’ (David Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Revival, p. 55)


Here is an extraordinary picture of God’s compassionate love for the genuinely repentant sinner who throws himself on His mercy.  The man only asked for patience so that he might try to repay the king, but instead the king released him and forgave him the debt.  That is what God does with the sin debt of those who come to Him in humble and sincere penitence.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 150)


It isn’t surprising that this servant, put in the situation he was put in, would reply the way he did.  But what is out-of-this-world unexpected is that the king, out of compassion, would cancel the debt completely:  “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (v. 27).  This is amazing grace.  The slave wanted a chance to repay, but what he got was a “complete remission of debt.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 525)


The heart of sin is rather the persistent refusal to tolerate a sense of sin, to take responsibility for one’s sin, to live with the sorrowful knowledge of it and to pursue the painful way of repentance.  Evil people are simultaneously aware of their evil and desperately trying to resist that awareness.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 99)


Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes.  Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail.  “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)


Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit.  For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” (Patrick Morley;  The Man In The Mirror, 286)


I know of only two alternatives to hypocrisy:  perfection or honesty.  Since I have never met a person who loves the Lord our God with all her heart, mind, and soul, and loves her neighbor as herself, I do not view perfection as a realistic alternative.  Our only option, then, is honesty that leads to repentance.  As the Bible shows, Gods’ grace can cover any sin, including murder, infidelity, or betrayal.  Yet by definition grace must be received, and hypocrisy disguises our need to receive grace.  When the masks fall, hypocrisy is exposed as an elaborate ruse to avoid grace. (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?,  204)


True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Jam 1:22, 26; 1 Jn 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin  (Cf. Jn 16:8).  (J. I. Packer;  Rediscovering Holiness, 123-124)


It is an imaginary story designed to make a point in a striking way, and the more improbable the sums involved, the greater the audience’s gasps of astonishment and the greater their amazement both at the unheard-of generosity of the master and at the obtuseness of the slave.  Larger-than-life imagery makes for compelling listening and is not well served by pedantic explanation.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 704)


No true forgiveness comes apart from repentance and acceptance of the atoning work of Christ. (William L. Playfair, M.D;.The Useful Lie, 106)


Heidelberg Catechism:

Q12.  According to God’s righteous judgment we deserve punishment both in this world and forever after:  how then can we escape this punishment and return to God’s favor?

  1. God requires that his justice be satisfied (Ex 23:7; Rom 2:1-22). Therefore the claims of his justice must be paid in full, either by ourselves or another (Isa 53:11; Rom 8:3-4).


Q13. Can we pay this debt ourselves?

  1. Certainly not. Actually, we increase our guilt every day (Mt 6:12; Rom 2:4-5).


14Q. Can another creature—any at all—pay this debt for us?

  1. No. To begin with, God will not punish another creature for what a human is guilty of (Ez 18:4, 20; Heb 2:14-18). Besides, no mere creature can bear the weight of God’s eternal anger against sin and release others from it (Ps 49:7-9; 130:3).


Q15. What kind of mediator and deliverer should we look for then?

  1. One who is truly human (Rom 1:3; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:17) and truly righteous (Isa 53:9; 2 Cor 5:21; Heb 7:26), yet more powerful than all creatures, that is, one who is also true God (Isa 7:14; 9:6; Jer 23:6; Jn 1:1).


Q16. Why must he be truly human and truly righteous?

  1. God’s justice demands that human nature, which has sinned, must pay for its sin (Rom 5:12, 15; 1 Cor 15:21; Heb 2:14-16); but a sinner could never pay for others (Heb 7:26-27; 1 Pt 3:18).


Q17. Why must he also be true God?

  1. So that, by the power of his divinity, he might bear the weight of God’s anger in his humanity and earn for us and restore to us righteousness and life (Isa 53; Jn 3:16; 2 Cor 5:21).


Q18. And who is this mediator—true God and at the same time truly human and truly righteous?

  1. Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 1:21-13; Lk 2:11; 1 Tm 2:5), who was given us to set us completely free and to make us right with God (1 Cor 1:30).


Q19. How do you come to know this?

  1. The holy gospel tells me. God himself began to reveal the gospel already in Paradise (Gn 3:15); later, he proclaimed it by the holy patriarchs (Gn 22:18; 49:10) and prophets (Isa 53; Jer 23:5-6; Mic 7:18-20; Acts 10:43; Heb 1:1-2), and portrayed it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law (Lv 1-7; Jn 5:46; Heb 10:1-10); finally, he fulfilled it through his own dear Son (Rom 10:4; Gal 4:4-5; Col 2:17).


II-  We need to forgive others’ debt as God has forgiven ours.  (Mt 18:28-34; see also: Prov 19:11; Isa 40:2; Mt 6:12-15; 7:1-4; 26:28; Lk 7:36-50; 17:3-4; 23:34; 1 Cor 13:4-8; Eph 4:30-32; Col 3:12-14)


True forgiveness always entails suffering.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 101)


He does this to show that the spirit of genuine forgiveness recognizes no boundaries.  It is a state of heart, not a matter of calculation.  One might as well ask, “How often must I love my wife, my husband, my children?” as to ask, “How often shall I forgive?”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 704)


Often the best way to win is to forget to keep score.


God calls us to get into the game, not to keep score.


Here our Lord is commanding Peter (and us) to stop counting and start forgiving.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 522)


Just imagine if God kept count of my sins (not to mention yours).  Through Christ, God doesn’t keep count.  So don’t you keep count!  That’s the point.  Got it?  As God in Christ forgives us again and again and again, so we are to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ again and again and again.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 522)


Law keeps count; grace does not.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 145)


Record keeping is not to be considered, and a Christian with a forgiving heart thinks nothing about it.  He forgives the hundredth offense or the thousandth just as readily and graciously as the first–because that is the way he is forgiven by God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 145)


Peter’s question was misconceived; if one is still counting, however “generously,” one is not forgiving.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 705)


The parable thus speaks of the totally unmerited grace of God which forgives his people more than they could ever imagine because they are unable to help themselves.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 706)


It is clear from this parable that one motive for forgiving others ought to be the recollection that we all need forgiveness at God’s hands ourselves.  Day after day we are coming short in many things, “leaving undone what we ought to do, and doing what we ought not to do.”  Day after day we require mercy and pardon.  Our neighbors’ offenses against us are mere trifles, compared with our offenses against God.  Surely it ill becomes poor erring creatures like us to be extreme in marking what is done amiss by our brethren, or slow to forgive it.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 166)


Because God has forgiven all our sins, we should not withhold forgiveness from others.  Realizing how completely Christ has forgiven us should produce a free and generous attitude of forgiveness toward others.  When we don’t forgive others, we are saying that we appreciate God’s love and forgiveness but that we’re unwilling to give it to anyone else.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 366)


Positively stated the one and only main lesson of the parable is this:  Prompted by gratitude the forgiven sinner must always yearn to forgive whoever has trespassed against him, and must do all in his power to bring about complete reconciliation.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 709)


Christians are at their best when they are forgiving.  Because they themselves have been forgiven so much by God, they, of all people, should be most forgiving of others, especially of fellow believers.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 143)


There was something wrong with Peter’s approach.  It smacked of rabbinism.  It sounded as if the forgiving spirit were a commodity that could be weighed, measured, and counted; as if it could be parceled out little by little up to a certain well defined limit, when further distribution would have to stop.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 704)


Forgiveness is difficult, costly, and painful.  To forgive means that the innocent one carries his own wrath at the sin of the offending one and resolves his indignation through love!  A refusal to forgive means that we keep the offending person as “beholden” to us, as obligated or indebted to us.  To forgive means that we release the other person, that we accept the loss that has come to us from their offense, and let them go free.  In forgiving we actually carry our own wrath at their sin and resolve this through love, refusing to make them feel our wrath and extending to them acceptance, love, and fellowship.  God has done just this in Christ, reconciling us to Himself, absorbing our hostility into Himself, carrying His own wrath at our sin, and speaking back the word of acceptance.  “God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, nor counting men’s sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19).  This verse makes reconciliation central to the meaning and the message of grace.  (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 28)


To forgive is not necessarily to forget.  Although the truly forgiving person will refuse to dwell on an offense, there are sometimes continual reminders of it that we cannot control.  Nor does forgiveness involve excusing a sinful offense.  Sin is always sin, and true love and mercy never try to make sin anything but what it is.  But forgiveness does involve ending the bitterness, anger, and resentment that not only do not remove a sin but rather add to it.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 157)


Peter, then, realizes that he must forgive the brother who has sinned against him, that is, that he must take the initiative in bringing about complete reconciliation, but how often must he reveal this merciful attitude, this disposition of sweet reasonableness?  Must he forgive “up to seven times?”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 703-4)


Forgiveness is the fragrance the petal of the flower sheds on the heel that crushes it. — Mark Twain


III-  Failure to forgive demonstrates your unwillingness to accept, and thus negates, God’s forgiveness. (Mt 18:35; see also: Mt 5:23-24; 6:15; Lk 6:37; Jn 16:8; Jam 2:12-13)


An unwillingness to extend mercy is proof that a person has never received mercy.  God’s forgiveness must of necessity create a forgiving spirit.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 178)


Lord Herbert once said, “He who cannot forgive others breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 155)



To be an unforgiving Christian is an oxymoron.   —Greg Laurie


Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death-warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer.  —Charles Spurgeon


A man can as well go to hell for not forgiving as for not believing.  —Thomas Watson


The Bible is not saying that it’s easy to forgive or that it’s natural to forgive; however, it’s Christian to forgive.  In fact, the Christian has no other option.  We forgive not because we have to, but because in love we are compelled to.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 247)


Nothing moves us to forgive like the wondering knowledge that we have ourselves been forgiven.  Nothing proves more clearly that we have been forgiven, to show mercy and to receive mercy:  these belong indissolubly together, as Jesus illustrated in his parable of the unmerciful servant.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 47-8)


This is what a Christian brother not forgiving a guilty but repentant brother looks like to God.  It’s despicable.  It’s disgusting.  It’s completely irrational.  And that’s Jesus’ point:  don’t act like this irrational idiot.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 527)


The master was willing to forgive a debt the slave could never have paid, but will not forgive his refusal of an act of generosity which was within his power.  If he is determined to insist on his just deserts, he shall have them.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 708)


No one believes on Christ and is justified who has not already been given a new nature.  This new nature is the nature of Jesus himself or, as we could also say, it is God’s own forgiving nature.  Thus, although the new nature does not manifest itself entirely at once, if we are justified, that nature will increasingly and inevitably express itself in our forgiveness of others, just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us.  We will be able to pray, as Jesus instructed us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 397)


Forgiveness is the stuff of true godliness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 142)


Even to ask for repayment after he himself had been forgiven so much was grossly insensitive; to abuse and imprison his debtor for failure to repay so little was, in the words of one commentator, a “moral monstrosity,” to say nothing of foolishness, because in prison the man could not earn money to pay his debt.  Such unforgiveness not only is morally unthinkable and bizarre but irrational.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 153)


“It may be infinitely worse to refuse to forgive than to murder.  Because the latter (namely murder) may be an impulse in the heat of the moment where as the former is a cold and deliberate choice of the heart.”   (Alister Begg sermon, Measure for Measure)


In human courts of law, previous conviction increases the penalty for a further transgression.  The man in the parable was arrested, arraigned, tried, and sentenced not because of his ten-thousand-talent debt, but because of his wicked behavior toward his fellow servant; however, his punishment was made commensurate with what he had once owed.  Because of his new sin, he would not be eligible for parole until he paid the equivalent of his former debt.  Mercy had been replaced with wrath.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 374)


What we need to recognize is that Jesus is not giving the whole of the gospel message in one story.  What he says is true enough, that there is an unbreakable connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of other people.  Such a word is intended to snap us out of our lethargy and confront us with the life-changing power of the gospel.  But it does not mean we are saved by forgiving others or that salvation, once acquired, can be lost.  Jesus is only saying that, whatever else is involved (and a great deal more is involved), forgiveness must be part of what it means to be a Christian.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 396-7)


Getting into debt was serious business in the ancient world.  To be forgiven of a debt was almost unheard of in pagan circles.  Because this man would not forgive another, the king decided not to forgive his debt either.  Instead, the man would be tortured until he paid back the millions he owed.  This man effectively received a life sentence.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 365)


…there are at least two essential marks of the upright heart.  First, it trembles at the word of God.  It feels precarious and helpless and in tremendous need of mercy.  Then, second, it trusts the mercy of God to forgive and help and save. (John Piper; The Pleasures of God, 222)


Paul characterizes godless men as unrighteous, wicked, greedy, evil, envious, murderous, deceitful, malicious, gossiping, slanderous, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, and unloving.  The climaxing evil of that long list, however, is being unmerciful (Rom 1:29-31).  Mercilessness is the capstone marking those who reject God’s mercy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 193)


Pure mercy is a gift of God.  It is not a natural attribute of man but is a gift that comes with the new birth.  We can be merciful in its full sense and with a righteous motive only when we have experienced God’s mercy.  Mercy is only for those who through grace and divine power have met the requirements of the first four beatitudes.  It is only for those who by the work of the Holy Spirit bow humbly before God in poverty of spirit, who mourn over and turn from their sin, who are meek and submissive to His control, and who hunger and thirst above all else for His righteousness.  The way of mercy is the way of humility, repentance, surrender, and holiness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 194)


Forgiveness reflects the highest human virtue, because it so clearly reflects the character of God.  A person who forgives is a person who emulates godly character.  Nothing so much demonstrates God’s love as His forgiveness.  A person who does not forgive is therefore a person lacking in godly character and without Christlike love, no matter how orthodox his theology or how outwardly impeccable his morals appear to be.  A Christian who will not relinquish a hateful, resentful attitude toward someone who has wronged him is a person who knows neither the true glory of his redeemed humanity nor the true glory of God’s gracious divinity.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 16-23, 143)


Note the vividness of “You wicked servant” or as we would say today, “You scoundrel” or “villain.”  The original is very emphatic.  It places the words “all that debt” at the very beginning of what follows after “You wicked servant.”  This brings out the emphasis better than do the renderings that disregard word order.  The immensity of the debt thus stands out, and so do the amazing character of the generosity that had been shown, and the baseness of the first servant’s refusal to allow this noble spirit to govern his actions.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 708)


As 6:15 has already made clear, God, whose generosity is beyond measure, will nonetheless not forgive the unforgiving.  They must expect the punishment which their unforgiven sin deserves.  And the forgiving-ness which he expects of his people is not a reluctant or merely verbal concession which leaves the underlying problem unresolved, but a genuine, warm forgiveness “from the heart” so that the broken relationship is fully restored.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 708)


If ingratitude and inhuman cruelty like that didn’t upset God, we’d have a major ethical dilemma on our hands.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 529)


Notice that the king did not throw the servant to the torturers because he failed to pay what he had owed.  That which provoked the king to wrath was not how the servant had managed the king’s money but how he had managed the king’s mercy.  He had failed to be a good steward of the king’s grace.  The only way this servant had continued to enjoy freedom and life was by the grace of the king.  But when the king forgave him all that he owed, the servant showed no grace, no mercy for other people.  The king was not willing to put up with that.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 555)


The parable assumes that disciples are, by definition, forgiven people.  It makes unmistakably clear that the initiative is with God:  it is because he has first forgiven that we can be expected, and indeed enabled, to forgive.  But the forgiveness we have already received may be forfeited by our failure to forgive in our turn.  It was freely given, but it must not be presumed on.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 703)


Here Jesus warns Christians about Hell to wake them up and move them on, to push them to persevere.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 530)


Forgiveness flows out of mercy, and mercy flows out of love.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 191)


Jesus sees no incongruity in the actions of a heavenly Father who forgives so bountifully and punishes so ruthlessly, and neither should we.  Indeed, it is precisely because he is a God of such compassion and mercy that he cannot possibly accept as his those devoid of compassion and mercy.  This is not to say that the king’s compassion can be earned:  far from it, the servant is granted freedom only by virtue of the king’s forgiveness.  As in 6:12, 14-15, those who are forgiven must forgive, lest they show themselves incapable of receiving forgiveness.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 407)


There is therefore laid upon every member the paramount duty, of which he must be always conscious and never tire, of forgiving the personal wrong that may be done to him.  Once the willingness to forgive is abandoned, the raison d’être (reason or justification) of the Christian fellowship is lost.  The society of the forgiven has no meaning if those who are forgiven are themselves unforgiving (21, 22).  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 174)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who has empowered you with the emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and social capital necessary to be able to forgive all wrongs against you and thus allow you to live free of bitterness, anger, revenge and resentfulness.


. . . . Forgiveness, mercy and grace are not cheap – they always cost the one giving it, never the one receiving it.


Forgiveness is a prerequisite for love.  — Steve Brown


Every time you refuse to forgive or fail to overlook a weakness in another, your heart not only hardens toward them, it hardens toward God.  You cannot form a negative opinion of someone (even though you think they may deserve it!) And allow that opinion to crystalize into an attitude; for every time you do, an aspect of your heart will cool toward God.  You may still think you are open to God, but the Scriptures are clear:  “The one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20).  You may not like what someone has done, but you do not have an option to stop loving them.  Love is your only choice.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 70)


If we do not move in divine forgiveness, we will walk in much deception.  We will presume we have discernment when, in truth, we are seeing through the veil of a critical spirit.  We must know our weaknesses, for if we are blind to our sins, what we assume we discern in men will merely be the reflection of ourselves.  Indeed, if we do not move in love, we will actually become a menace to the body of Christ (Mt 7:1-5).   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 75)


Forgiveness is to be a way of life for Christians.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 553)


“It is the saints who have a sense of sin.” as Father Danielou says:  “the sense of sin is the measure of a soul’s awareness of God.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 183)


When the question is asked, “Who must take the first step toward reconciliation:  the one who inflicted injury, or the one who suffered injury?” the answer is “Both” (verse 34. Mt 5:23, 24, cf. Col 3:12-14).  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 709)


Our Lord does not mean that offenses against the law of the land and the good order of society are to be passed over in silence; he does not mean that we are to allow people to commit thefts and assaults with impunity.  All that he means is that we are to study a general spirit of mercy and forgivingness towards our brothers and sisters.  We are to bear much, and to put up with much, rather than quarrel; we are to overlook much, and submit to much, rather than have any strife; we are to lay aside everything like malice, strife, revenge and retaliation.  Such feelings are only fit for pagans:  they are utterly unworthy of a disciple of Christ.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 165)


A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.  —Ruth Bell Graham


“If you want to know the problem in any organization, look for the ego.  There is no forgiveness where there is ego.


When a church learns to forgive, they’ll be able to grow.

When a marriage learns to forgive that relationship will be able to grow.

When a team learns to forgive, that team will be able to grow.

When an organization learns to forgive, that organization will be able to grow.  —Steve Brown


God will forgive anyone anything except for those who don’t forgive anyone anything.  — Steve Brown


If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying! — Tim Keller


Note that this parable is not so much about our action–what Peter is asking about, “How many times shall I forgive?”–but about our attitude.  It is about getting our hearts in the right place to forgive.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 523)


Gospel Application:  The power of the Gospel destroys any notion of “works righteousness” and is the Spirit of Jesus living in those who believe.  That same Spirit was able to forgive those who rejected, abused and crucified Jesus on the cross.


Christ’s cry on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (27:46), was the cry of a zillion times a zillion sins laid on one man.  Yes, the cross of Christ is deeper and wider and vaster than you can ever fathom.  And that’s no exaggeration.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 524)


With Jesus’ calculation, the implications are obvious.  He puts to rest any notion of works-righteousness.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 524)


If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator.  If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist.  If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist.  If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer.  But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior.


Spiritual Challenge:  You will be empowered to forgive in proportion to how much you recognize God has forgiven you.  See yourself as a helpless, damned sinner deep in debt to God who was rescued by Jesus.  Then you will be able to forgive and live life in joy, freedom and love rather than in bitterness, bondage and hate.  (Ps 32:1; Jn 8:32-36; Rom 6:22; 8:1-2; 2 Cor 3:17; Gal 5:1; Jam 1:25).  



There is a direct correlation between a lack of forgiveness and a lack of self-knowledge.  When you know yourself, you will forgive.  (Steve Brown, Born Free, 184)


Believers who are the most desperate about themselves are the ones who express most forcefully their confidence in grace….Those who are the most pessimistic about man are the most optimistic about God; those who are the most severe with themselves are the ones who have the most serene confidence in divine forgiveness….By degrees the awareness of our guilt and of God’s love increase side by side.  —Paul Tournier  (Don Matzat, Christ Esteem, 42)


You see, if I’m forgiven without condition, you can’t make me feel guilty.  If God loves me, you can’t manipulate me by threatening to take away your love.  If God knows my secrets and doesn’t condemn me, my secrets can’t be used as blackmail.  If you have power and threaten to use it against me and I don’t care, your power is no longer real power.  —Steve Brown


It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent:  it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion.  They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance.  But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness:  they are parading into the kingdom before you:  for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy.  (Brennan Manning ; Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)


When we forgive, we free ourselves from the bitter ties that bind us to the one who hurt us.  — Claire Frazier-Yzaguirre


Not willing to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.  — Mark Gungor


Do we want to give proof that we are at peace with God, washed in Christ’s blood, born of the Spirit, and made God’s children by adoption and grace?  Let us remember this passage:  like our Father in heaven, let us be forgiving.  Has anyone injured us?  Let us this day forgive him.  As Leighton says, “We ought to forgive ourselves little, and others much.”  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 166)


It is not that Pastors should preach grace only or that they should preach law only.   The problem (as I see it) is that pastors need to preach a more intense grace, a more unfathomable love of God, and a more forgiving and compassionate God; and at the same time God’s utter contempt, abhorrence and disgust with our sin.  We should more intensely preach God’s Law and the tragic consequence of our disobedience.  It is not Law and judgment only, or grace only that drives us to repentance; but a powerful understanding of both at the same time.  Our preaching has become anemic, narrow and superficial  because we preach only law or grace and not an extreme of both.  —Pastor Keith





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