Songs and Praise
   

 
 
 

Less 126 A CHRISTIAN'S ATTITUDE OF FORGIVENESS

 
Matthew 18:21-35;

Lesson 126 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ"s sake hath forgiven you" (Ephesians 4:32).

I Unlimited Forgiveness

Peter questioned Jesus regarding the number of times that he should forgive his offending brother, Matthew 18:21; Luke 17:3, 4 Peter's opinion was that seven times would be sufficient to forgive, but Jesus answered, 'Until seventy times seven,' Matthew 18:22; Micah 7:18, 19; Romans 12:18-20; Ephesians 4:32

II The King and His Indebted Servant

The king, reckoning with his servants, found one who owed him 10,000 talents, Matthew 18:23, 24; Romans 14:12; II Corinthians 5:10 The servant had nothing with which to pay, so the king commanded him to be sold, Matthew 18:25; II Kings 4:1 The servant asked for mercy, promising to pay all the debt in due time, Matthew 18:26 The king had compassion on his servant and forgave the debt completely, Matthew 18:27; Psalm 32:1, 2; 40:1, 2; 86:5

III The Unmerciful Servant

This same man, still a servant, finding a fellow servant who owed him 100 pence, demanded immediate repayment, Matthew 18:28; Ezekiel 45:9 The fellow servant asked for the same mercy the servant had just received, but mercy was denied, Matthew 18:29, 30; Philemon 18,19 The unmerciful attitude of the forgiven servant grieved all who beheld it, Matthew 18:31; Psalm 119:158; Luke 19:41; Hebrews 13:3 The king, hearing what had been done, called the servant to account and delivered him to the tormentors till all should be paid, Mat¬thew 18:32-34; Luke 19:20-24; II Thessalonians 1:8, 9

IV Forgiveness Enjoined

We must thus forgive our brother if we expect any forgiveness from our Heavenly Father, Matthew 18:35; 6:14, 15; Proverbs 21:13; James 2:13

NOTES

To be forgiven is wonderful, but to have a forgiving heart is the greater grace. Consider what God has done for us. When we are permitted to enter Heaven and enjoy the manifold blessings of that Celestial City, it will be the result of God's love for our souls and His forgiveness of our sins. 'Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered' (Psalm 32:1). No sin shall enter Heaven, 'for sin is the transgression of the law' (I John 3:4). 'Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city' (Revelation 22:14).

Christian Forgiveness

When Peter came to Jesus with the question, 'Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?' Peter knew it was imperative to forgive. Jesus had already instructed His dis¬ciples on this lesson and they had not quickly forgotten. During the Ser¬mon on the Mount, Jesus taught His disciples to pray with that model, all- comprehensive prayer known the world over by Christian people. 'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:12), is one of the principal themes of that prayer. At that time Jesus emphasized the im¬portance of forgiveness: 'For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heav-enly Father will also forgive you: but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses' (Matthew 6:14, 15).

Old and New

It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than three times. As Jesus revealed how to treat an offending brother (Matthew 18:15), Peter realized that a law of more tender dealing was to prevail in the church than existed in the synagogue. Perhaps he felt that his com¬passion and charity were very great when he expressed willingness to forgive seven times.


The act of forgiving does not come easily to the average man, especially when the trespass has caused much inconvenience, a terrible injury, or great distress. To seek forgiveness is difficult, too, for the sinful man. Even when he knows that he has done wrong, how seldom will he admit the guilt; but how quickly will he speak to defend his actions and go to any length to cover his fault! It seems that by nature man is a vindictive being. Revenge is the natural motive of a sinner, but it has no place in the heart of God's children. 'Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord' (Romans 12:19). Peter learned this lesson thoroughly, for he wrote in his epistle, 'Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing' (I Peter 3:9).

Another Lesson

Jesus' answer to the question was, 'I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.' The Lord gives a number so great that in all likelihood it would never be reached by one person, to show that there could be no limit to the number of times we must forgive, and that there is no limit to the extent of forgiveness we are to have in our hearts. Jesus did not intend that we should in any wise keep a record of our brother's trespasses against us, but He intimated that we should make a constant practice of forgiving injuries until it is natural and absolutely sincere. There is something of ill will in scoring up the trespasses we for¬give, as if we would allow ourselves to be revenged when the measure is full. Peace is preserved, both within and without, by passing over injuries without reckoning how often, forgiving and forgetting them, as God for¬gives and forgets our trespasses against Him when we repent of them. God multiplies His pardons (Psalm 78:38); and so must we, if we expect any mercy in the Judgment.

Jesus Illustrates

To illustrate further how important forgiveness is and how little men forgive, at most, in comparison with what they are forgiven, Jesus gave this parable of the unmerciful servant. It enforces the rule just laid down to Peter, and draws the contrast between God's patient forgiveness and man's unpitying cruelty.


The king in this parable refers to none other than God, and the servants are the inhabitants of the earth. One servant who owed 10,000 talents was brought before the king. A talent of silver is valued at more than $1,000, which would make this servant's debt at least $10,000,000. How did he ever get into debt so far? Every sin committed is a debt to God, not like a debt to an equal but to a superior. It is like the debt of a servant to his master by withholding his service or by wasting his master's goods. All of us are debtors. The debt must be paid. We are subject to the demands of the law of God. Calvary's Ransom, the Blood of the Lamb, applied to our hearts and lives is the only thing that will balance our accounts.


An account is kept of these debts, and God reckons with us con¬cerning them. He constantly reminds us through our conscience, to call us to account; but some men continue in their own way without heeding. Occasionally they are brought face to face with judgment while they still live; such seems to be the case of this servant. He realized his great debt, and he realized, too, that he had nothing with which to pay.

Justice's Demands

If God should deal in strict justice, we would all be condemned as insolvent debtors. Justice demands satisfaction. The servant had con- tracted this debt by his willful and wasteful ways, therefore he might justly be left to suffer its consequences. 'His lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made' (Matthew 18:25). That is, something toward a payment should be made, for it is impossible that the sale of one so worthless should amount to the payment of so great a debt.

All Forgiven

There is only one path of hope for the convicted sinner: that is humbling himself before God and seeking forgiveness. This way of escape was proved by this servant who besought his lord and asked his mercy. He acknowledged the debt and sought for patience and time, but it is folly to expect that these alone will save. Reprieve is not pardon. He who had nothing to pay fancied he could pay all; but his lord in wisdom and mercy, and out of pure compassion, forgave all because the servant humbled himself and sought mercy. He went out of the king's presence absolutely free! Though the debt was vastly great, the king forgave it all. Thus may our sins, though flagrant and very numerous, be pardoned on Gospel terms. 'He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities' (Psalm 103:10).

Mercy Forgotten

Now the parable drives the lesson of forgiveness home to our hearts. The servant who had been so freely forgiven the $10,000,000 debt took his fellow servant, who owed him 100 pence (about $15), by the throat and demanded immediate repayment. The fellow servant humbled himself, fell down at the servant's feet and sought for patience and time in which to pay the debt. The cruel servant would grant none of these, but went and cast him into prison until the debt should be paid, however small and in¬significant it was.


All the fellow servants, when they saw what was done, being very sorry, told their lord all that had taken place. If men's sins grieve the servants of God, how much more do they grieve the Spirit of God, for His omniscience takes note of all sin. The Christian may often find occasions for sorrow because of sinners, but these should also be occasions for prayer. The Christian's complaints of the wicked should be brought to God and left with Him, for in so doing he will find a measure of relief from those burdens.


'Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, 0 thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?' (Matthew 18:32, 33). He that will not forgive shall not be forgiven. The utmost that the servant could do was to cast his fellow servant into prison, but he was himself delivered by the king to the tormentors.

Our Duty

Thus can the duty of forgiving be seen, and one must forgive from the heart. No malice can be harbored there, nor ill will to any person. No projects of revenge are to be sheltered there, or desires of revenge, as there are in some who outwardly appear peaceable and reconciled. 'The
LORD looketh on the heart' (I Samuel 16:7), and if any of these things are present His all-seeing eye will surely' detect it.


If one finds himself insufficient for these things, he can pray for more grace. 'God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble' (James 4:6). The importance of having this grace of forgiveness is readily understood when one realizes that it is necesary in order to maintain the oneness of the Gospel, the oneness of faith and purpose in the body of believers. At times things come up which would bring a cross or discord between two members of the church; and unless there is a spirit of repent¬ance on the one hand and forgiveness on the other hand, there is no possi¬bility of restoring unity. Unity in the body of Christ is necessary for the maintenance of the high standards of the Word of God.


The absolute need of forgiveness is revealed again when it is observed in the light of prayer. A man cannot get a prayer through to God, and an answer back from Him, unless forgiveness is exercised. 'And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your tres¬passes' (Mark 11:25, 26). Jesus reiterated this thought of essential for¬giveness when He said, 'Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift' (Matthew 5:23, 24). Gifts and prayers to God are accepted only when forgiveness is manifest in the heart and life of the man who is coming to God.

QUESTIONS

1 Peter felt that he should forgive his brother how often?
2 Had Jesus said anything to His disciples about forgiveness before this time?
3 How often were the Jews in the synagogue willing to forgive?
4 What was Jesus' answer to Peter's question? What does Jesus expect of us today in this respect?
5 In the parable of the two servants, how much money did the first servant owe his lord?
6 How much money did the fellow servant owe the servant?
7 What did the servant's master do for him? Why?
8 How did the servant treat his fellow servant?
9 What lesson are we to learn from this parable?

 
   
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