Enjoy the Freedom & Power of Forgiveness
Matthew 18:21-35 (Pastor Heo)
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. 23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 “The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. 28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
The last verse is the key verse from today’s reading. Remember this not only in your brain, but also in your hearts. This is the conclusion:
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
One time, Peter asked, “Lord, how many times should I forgive? 7 times? Wow! So many!” At that time (and in the Bible) the number 7 is a symbol of perfection.
How about you and me? Can we forgive 7 times? Only 3 times? Not even one time?
Peter probably expected praise from Jesus for showing his great faith when he offered to forgive up to seven times. At that time, the rabbis taught that 3 times to forgive was sufficient.
But if we look at this passage clearly, we can see Peter’s serious mistakes:
- 1. He lacked humility – he was proud, he was sure that OTHERS would sin against him, but not he against others. Yes, when others hurt us, we remember this very clearly. But we have difficulty to remember our own faults against others.
- 2. He asked in measured limitations – if there is a limitation in numbers, then there is no true love in your heart – “Be rooted and established in love to know how wide, how long, how deep, how tall is the love of Christ – so that we may be filled to full perfection in the love of God.”
1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” What number is there? NONE. If there was a number, we would surely exceed it and go beyond God’s limited forgiveness (in this scenario).
This parable deals with the power and freedom of forgiveness. This parable is not about our salvation – about grace, freely given. The emphasis here is about forgiveness between brothers – not on God’s forgiveness of sinners.
From verse 23-27:
10,000 talents – how much is that? This debt was CANCELED.
At that time, 2,000 years ago, even 1 talent was enough to start a business (50,000,000 Won?)
At that time, in another parable (Matthew 25?) the Master (king) was going on a long journey and he gave 1 talent to one servant, 2 to another, 5 to another – entrusted to them.
At that time the entire TAX of Jerusalem was 800 talents.
Ordinary people had to work 20 YEARS to make ONE talent. So, it is ludicrous to think that one slave could ever borrow 10,000 talents from the king – it was obvious that he was STEALING when the books were checked.
His story is like our story – he is a guilty debtor. He was an enemy of the king, as we were once enemies of God. He thought he could repay the king by his own effort as we once thought we could pay for our own salvation through our good works. He was powerless in his debt, and at one time, we also were powerless in our sin. Both of us received merciful debt forgiveness.
“The servant’s master took pity on his and CANCELED the debt and let him go.”
100 denarii – how much is that? – CHOKING over this amount – PRISON for this amount.
At that time, an average worker earns 1 denarius per day. This debt was very small compared to what this servant owed the king. 10,000 talents = a bus full of money. 100 denarii = a pocket full of money. This wicked servant grabbed, choked, threw him in jail. This second servant used the SAME method, pleading that the first servant had used “Please, have mercy, have patience.”
This first servant had been forgiven, but was unwilling to grant to others what he’d already received. He and his family had been spared the shame and suffering of the prison, but he refused to spare his friend.
If we receive unconditional forgiveness from God and then don’t forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ, we are WORSE than him.
The King delivered this servant from prison, he saved him – but this servant actually put himself back in prison. He did exercise justice and cast his friend into prison – and the king said basically, “OK, cool. Let’s live by ‘justice’ then. Here’s your justice. I’ll do to you just as you have done to him.”
Conclusion: 35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”
In the Lord’s prayer, we pray all the time, “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
Jesus says, “If you forgive when others sin against you, also my Father will forgive you, but if NOT, then he WON’T.”
- Eph 4: “Be kind and compassionate with one another.”
- Col “Bear with each other. Forgive whatever grievances you have against one another.”
But, we must not forget the conclusion of this matter. This doesn’t mean “if you don’t forgive, your salvation is lost/canceled.” It also doesn’t mean “God MUST forgive you when you forgive others.”
You must understand the true meaning of forgiveness:
What is the ground/foundation of the assurance of salvation?
The assurance of salvation + the assurance of forgiveness = BOTH necessary, mutually exclusive. Without one, you can’t have the other.
Jeremiah 31:34 “The Lord (Jehovah) declares, ‘I forgive your sins. And if I forgive your sins, I remember them NO MORE.’”
Just like ONE salvation = eternal and never changes, likewise ONCE forgiveness against our original sin = eternal and never changes.
If we have assurance of salvation + assurance of forgiveness, then what is the ground/basis for our assurance?
- We must repent. But this is not the ground upon which God forgives us.
- We must have faith. But this is not the ground upon which God forgives us.
God cannot forgive/pardon sin/sinners MERELY on the ground of a sinners forgiveness. This would be impossible for a righteous God to do. He can forgive ONLY when the penalty is ALREADY paid.
For Him to forgive, and for us to receive his forgiveness, Christ died upon the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.
This is the ONLY ground/basis upon which we can have the assurance of salvation + forgiveness. Even as he was dying on the cross, he prayed “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Even there, he had HUGE compassion for those who sinned against him.
In this world, the worst kind of prison is an unforgiving heart. We are throwing ourselves into prison and torturing ourselves if we don’t forgive others.
We must experience the power of forgiveness in our hearts. If we live only by justice, we put ourselves in prison. But if we live by forgiveness and mercy, giving others what God’s given us, we can experience true freedom and power of forgiveness and the forgiving of others.
No matter our experience, we cannot fully enjoy freedom, peace, and joy without forgiving others.
Yes, we show the true condition of our own hearts by the way we treat others. If we are humble and repentant, we can willingly and easily forgive others. But where there is pride and a passion for revenge, there is not a place for forgiveness.
Let me show the power of the real freedom of forgiveness in the Bible:
Stephen (Acts 7)
He preached a very wonderful, powerful, marvelous and biblical sermon. His sermon is one of the most powerful sermons in church history. But how did the congregation react? Clapping? Thank you? Nope. Death. By stoning.
Imagine I’m preaching here and someone in the audience began stoning me.
But Stephen did not even pay for this. He prayed for them as they killed him. “Father, do not hold this sin against them.” Why? What made him do this? Was he different? No, a normal man, filled with the Holy Spirit – anointed to do this. The power and freedom of forgiveness that he’d personally experienced empowered him to do this and forgive his own murderers as they were murdering him.
We must experience, enjoy the power of forgiveness deep in our hearts and makes us gentle and forgiving of others.
Our brothers and sisters, coworkers, neighbors, family members – we should forgive them all deeply, readily, quickly.