An exposition of Matthew 18:21-35. This message by Pastor Rod Harris was delivered at Trinity Baptist Church on Sunday morning, August 16, 2009.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but good relationships require hard work! They do not come “naturally.” They require constant maintenance and it is an unending battle. You may be thinking, “What kind of relationships is he talking about? What kind of relationship requires constant battling? It must be a mother-in-law thing.” No, I mean common, ordinary, run or the mill relationships. If you are going to maintain a good, healthy relationship with anyone, you will have to work at it. Whether it is a relationship with a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend, and a coworker – relationships are work. There will be hurt feelings, differences of opinion, different perspectives and that leads to conflict. The question then is how do you respond to conflict? How do you respond to strained relationships? That is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching recorded for us in Matthew chapter 18.
In the early part of the chapter our Lord instructs us about “greatness” in the Kingdom of heaven. He says we must become child-like if we desire greatness. He then warns about our actions causing others to stumble or falter in their faith. Then in verses 15-20 he deals specifically with seeking restoration for fractured relationships. He tells us that, as individuals, we must be willing to pursue every avenue of reconciliation. And he says that as a church, we must be willing to safeguard the fellowship. The driving force or concern about each of these actions is the sake of the Gospel and the extension of God’s Kingdom. In our text this morning this thought is taken a step further.
Text: Matthew 18:21-35
Do you ever struggle with forgiveness? Not asking for it – granting it. Do you easily forgive others? Are you quick to forgive? Keep in mind we are talking about forgiveness and not probation. There is a difference.
Do you get “historical” whenever someone asks you for forgiveness?
Note the context of this passage. It is found in a question asked in verses 21-22. Remember the issue in 15-20 was reconciliation. It related to dealing with a brother who had sinned against you. How must you respond?
Immediately Peter came to Jesus with a question. I’m convinced Peter was a Baptist preacher – he asked and then answered his own question!
“Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”
The typical rabbinical teaching of the day suggested that you are to forgive your brother three times. For the fourth there is no forgiveness. The conventional wisdom of the day had set a standard. And given the attitude of the world of that time it was fairly generous. The ancient world was not a “forgiving place.” Character traits such as humility, service and self-restraint were not considered virtuous by most folks. The rabbis taught that you must forgive – three times.
Peter doubled that and threw in one more for good measure. That brought the number up to seven – the perfect number. The number representative of the divine. You can almost see the smile of self-satisfaction on Peter’s face. He was proud. You know he has given a good answer before. He is confident he has done it again. He is fully expecting another, “blessed are you Simon son of John. Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but rather my Father in heaven.” But our Lord’s response shocked Peter and his fellow disciples as our Lord laid down one of the principle laws of kingdom living.
Through this passage we are reminded that:
Thesis: Kingdom living demands a life of perpetual forgiveness.
There are two things I want us to note in this text. We’ll note the principle laid down and then the rationale behind the principle.
- The principle stated (18:22)
- How are we to fulfill this command? (18:23-35)
As the people of God we are called to a life of perpetual forgiveness. We can do this because we have experienced the grace of God. We forgive because we are forgiven. I am forgiven by the grace of God and it is by the grace of God I forgive others. Relationships are work. I am responsible before God to do all within my power to be right with others. That will demand a life of forgiveness and grace.