Summary: A sermon that deals with the importance of us forgiving those who have trespassed against us so that God may for us our trespasses.
"The Freedom in Forgiveness"
Matthew 18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Introduction: How many of you have ever been to a concert where the musicians in the orchestra where tuning their instruments. It wasn't a particularly pleasant sound was it? As a matter of fact it was sort of like someone scraping their fingernails on a chalkboard! The reason for this tuning is simple. Instruments slip out of tune so easily. Forgiveness is the same way. It's so easy for our hearts to get "out of tune" where forgiveness is concerned and the result is broken, busted, bruised and bleeding relationships. What is the answer and is there a solution? I believe we can learn some important truths from this section of scripture that will help us understand for about forgiveness.
I. THE LIMITATIONS ON FORGIVENESS
First, some background on this passage that will be helpful. Jesus has just finished using the word "trespass" in verse 15 in relation to a brother sinning against another brother. This must have set Peter's mind to work and so he asks the Lord the question in verse 21. Peter being a Jew understood that the Jews taught that they were to forgive a trespass three times. Peter more than doubles that figure to seven times and Jesus multiplies it by a factor of seven times again. What does this all mean?
a. Such limits are subjective
Have you wondered yet how the Pharisees came up with the number three in regard to how many times they were to forgive someone? It comes from their readings in the OT about how many times God forgave His enemies. It was the rabbinic teaching in Jesus day that a man must forgive three times. One rabbi said that if a man committed an offense once, twice or even three times, you must forgive him, but by the fourth time you did not have to forgive him.
b. Such limits are synthetic
By synthetic I mean that the Pharisees based this number on how they really felt about those who had offended them. This was a reasonable number in their minds; it was all that could be humanly expected of them. The trouble is we aren't dealing with what can reasonably be expected but what God expects of us. This is proper. Only when we grow in grace and the knowledge of Christ, and increase in faith, will we also increase in forgiveness and mercy. Then we will understand that we live every moment of our lives, not on the basis of justice, but on the basis of mercy received from heaven. Justice would have sent us to hell. How soon Christians forget and begin to act on the basis of law and justice! We need greater faith, greater love for God and greater appreciation of God's grace, in order that we may rise to this level of practicing unlimited forgiveness to our brothers and sisters.
c. Such limits are sinful
Jesus told a parable to his disciples in Matt. 18:23-35. There was a king to whom people owed great debts and one man in particular who owed 10,000 talents was brought before him. Although it is not specified, we can assume that the talents were made of gold and if there were ten thousand talents, each talent weighing seventy-five pounds, and if each pound was 16 ounces and each ounce of gold would be worth about $1,200, then this man's debt would be worth $144 billion) This man's debt was infinite, and he was absolutely incapable of paying it. In the same way, the debt we owe God is of infinite proportion in scope.
This man could not pay up, and the great king commanded that the servant, his wife, his children, and all he owned be sold into slavery. The man fell down before the king and pleaded and beggedfor mercy! (Matt. 18:26) We are told that the king was moved with compassion and forgave him all his debt. Through the king's great mercy alone, he was forgiven his infinite debt.
But in Matthew 18:28 we see the forgiven man looking for a fellow servant who owed him 100 denarii, which would be equal to about three months' pay for a working man. Compared to his own huge debt, this was "chicken feed!" But when he found the man, he grabbed him, choked him and demanded his money. This other man also fell down and begged for patience. But the forgiven servant was not moved by any feelings of mercy. Even though the debt was comparatively small, he showed zero mercy and threw the man into prison.