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Welcome to the Pastor's Desk of
Senior Pastor Frank Douglas


Forgiveness within the Kingdom of God

(Matt. 18:15-35) 

One of the greatest challenges within the life of the Christian Believer is to exercise forgiveness when we are offended. Jesus teaches that forgiveness and compassion is essential for Kingdom living.  Matthew 18:15-35 gives us an insight into Jesus’ teaching on forgiveness and compassion.  Join me as we explore Jesus’ teaching in selected passages.  

Having demonstrated that Kingdom living commences with conversion and thrives in humility, Jesus also teaches us that Kingdom living is predicated on forgiveness and demonstrating compassion.  As Kingdom Believers we are yet not glorified.  The possibility of us offending others is a reality.  Jesus warns us against offences (Matt. 18:6-7).  Jesus moves from provocation to sin to the importance of avoiding sin of any kind.  Using graphic language, Jesus meticulously cautions us how to deal with the issue of sin within our lives (Matt. 18:8-9).  In other words, remove yourself away from the potential or source of sin.  Jesus is not advising His Disciples and us to engage in mutilation of our body.  As the Messiah and King, Jesus is using picturesque language to crystallize the truth we must position our self for a complete and thorough repudiation of sin from our life.

Jesus now turns his attention to the parable of the Lost Sheep (Matt. 18:10-14).  Kingdom Living entails caring for the well-being of our brothers and sisters in the Lord.  Notice, although only one sheep is missing, the shepherd’s whole routine is altered.  The shepherd concentrates all his energy on recovering that lost one.  He is prepared to subject the ninety-nine at some risk in order to ensure the safety of the one sheep that strayed.  Observe the shepherd rejoices over the one strayed sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray (18:13).  There is a peculiar joy over bringing one that is lost into the fold.

Drawing on the principle of civil law in Israel (Deut. 19:15), which regulates evidence in a court of law Jesus outlines the teaching of church discipline and excommunication.  Let me remind us that Kingdom authority is mutually inclusive with Kingdom living. 

The converse is also true.  Jesus reminds His Disciples of their delegated authority (Matt. 18:18).  Church leaders are delegated with this authority.  Jesus instituted church discipline by authorizing the Apostles to prohibit or permit certain kinds of behaviour; this is the power of “binding” and “loosing” sins (Matt. 18:18; John 20:23).  The “keys of the Kingdom”, first given to Peter and defined as power to bind and loose (Matt. 16:19), have usually been understood as authority to oversee doctrine and impose discipline.  Jesus Christ gave the authority to the Church in general and the ordained leadership in particular.  This is the lesson Jesus is teaching in Matthew 18:15-20.

Jesus is not only interested in exercising discipline He is cognizant of the need for forgiveness and compassion to be demonstrated within the Church and Kingdom.  Therefore, in response to Peter’s question:  "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" (Mat 18:21 NKJV).  Jesus teaches us the Biblical truth that:  Kingdom living is predicated on forgiveness and demonstrating compassion.  This truth is reflected within the passage (18:15-35).

There was a rabbinic view that one need to forgive only three times:  “If a man commits a transgression, the first, second and third time he is forgiven, the fourth time he is not forgiven” (Yoma 86b).  Jesus is not concerned with a petty forgiveness that calculates how many offenses can be disregarded before retaliation becomes acceptable.  Jesus teaches that genuine forgiveness is wholehearted and constant.  Jesus rejects Peter’s seven times with decision.  Observe, Jesus uses a parable of the Unforgiving Servant (18:23-34) to teach the Disciples and us why Kingdom living is predicated on forgiveness and demonstrating compassion.

As modern readers of the parable, to understand the magnitude of the level of forgiveness involved, the servant owes the king the equivalent of $6 billion.  On the other hand, his fellow servant owes him only $12,000.  Apparently, there is a vast difference in the debts which are owed.  Notice, the king is a compassionate man.  He moves with compassion and forgives the servant who owes $6 billion, without any conditions (18:27).  There are no conditions and no hesitation to forgive.  It is an act of pure grace.  However, the forgiven servant refuses to exercise compassion and forgiveness to his fellow servant.  He imprisons the servant until he can repay the debt (18:30).

What lesson can we learn in this unit?  Jesus teaches us a critical lesson from this passage.  Jesus teaches us how essential it is to genuinely forgive.  Notice Jesus’ warning against un-forgiveness (18:35).  Kingdom living is predicated on forgiveness and demonstrating compassion.  As Kingdom Believers, forgiveness must be a way of life for us.  When we consider what we have been forgiven off we cannot withhold forgiveness from any person who offends or sins against us.  Forgiveness is critical in a sinful world where people are sinners.  Firstly, we are all in need of being forgiven.  Secondly, people keep on sinning against us so that we ourselves are constantly confronted with situations in which as the followers of Jesus, we are required to forgive.

Finally, as a challenge, it is easy to withhold forgiveness.  We must refrain from false outward evidence of a forgiving heart while harbouring a grudge against one who has offended us.  “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us” (Matt. 6:12) is a prayer that we must pray with genuine searching of our heart.  We are recipients of extraordinary grace.  Those who receive extraordinary grace must act in accordance with the grace they receive.  Remember, the Biblical truth, Kingdom living is predicated on forgiveness and demonstrating compassion (18:15-35).  Go ahead, live out this truth every day, forgive others and show compassion to all.

Frank Douglas

Lead Pastor

North Park Worship Centre

 




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