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Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 30, 2022 12:01 am

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 30, 2022 12:01 am

Since forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian faith, we of all people should be known as those who forgive. Today, R.C. Sproul discerns the nature of forgiveness in Jesus' parable of the unforgiving servant.

Get R.C. Sproul's Teaching Series 'The Parables of Jesus' on DVD with a Digital Study Guide for Your Gift of Any Amount: https://gift.renewingyourmind.org/2305/parables-of-jesus

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When someone sins against you, how many times should you forgive them?

Jesus said 70 times 7. In other words, when I forgive somebody who has sinned against me, what does it mean to forgive them? If I say, I forgive you, that's a very weighty pronouncement. When God forgives you, He holds that sin against you no more. I think all of us recognize that truth, that when God forgives us, He no longer holds that sin against us. But when it comes to forgiving others who've sinned against us, well, that can be tough. Yet God has called us to live counter-culturally, not to hold a grudge, not to be vengeful. Indeed, we are to forgive.

This week on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul is taking a close look at some of Jesus' parables, and the one today will help us see why we should be known as merciful people. In our last session, we looked at the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, and we considered the whole question of forgiveness as it relates to our justification. Now in this session, we're going to look at another parable that also focuses on this question of forgiveness and one that is a little bit frightening, I think, to all of us. And this one is found in the 18th chapter of Matthew's Gospel, and it's called the parable of the unforgiving servant. Let's listen to this parable. And then Peter came to Him and said, Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?

Up to seven times. Jesus said to him, I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold with his wife and children in all that he had, and that payment be made. The servant therefore fell down before him saying, Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. And he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what you owe. So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.

And he would not, but went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servant saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and they came and told their master all that had been done. Then his master, after he called him, said to him, You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?

And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him. So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses." Now it's important for us to understand the context in which Matthew gives us this parable.

You may have noticed already that this is part of the eighteenth chapter of Matthew's gospel, which gives us the classical instructions for church discipline. Let me back up a little bit and review some of that for you, where we read in chapter 18, verse 15, if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you've gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen in a tax collector. Surely I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say, if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven, where where two or three are gathered together in My name, there I am in the midst of them. This last verse, of course, is one of the most misquoted verses in all of the Bible, because every time we get together for a Bible study or for a church service, we plead this verse that if two or three are gathered in His name, there He is in our midst.

Well, that's true, of course. But the context in which that promise is given is in the context of church discipline. One of the most difficult things that ever befalls the church is to confront a person in the congregation who refuses to repent of their sin. This begins by saying, if your brother sins against you, go to him alone, privately.

Tell him about it. If the person repents, you've won your brother. If he refused to repent, then you go with one or two other witnesses. And if they still refuse to repent, then you go and bring the proceedings of the church. And if they still refuse to repent, then they are to be to you as a heathen. That is, this is the recipe for excommunication. There's only one sin for which anybody has ever excommunicated in the body of Christ, and that sin is impenitence for the sin that brought you unto discipline in the first place. There are multitudes of sins that could cause the church to become involved seeking your repentance, but only if you persist in impenitence can it lead actually to being cut off from the body of Christ.

So I mentioned that this is the context in which Peter raises the question. So that if somebody sins against Peter, and he goes and sees that person, and the person repents, and Peter forgives him, then Peter is asking the question, how many times do I have to do this? Seven times? And Jesus said to him, I do not say to you seven, but up to seventy times seven, as many as it takes. In other words, when I forgive somebody who has sinned against me, what does it mean to forgive them? If I say, I forgive you, that's a very weighty pronouncement. When God forgives you, He holds that sin against you no more. And if you sin again against Him, and He forgives you again, He doesn't say, that's two, because the first one has already been wiped away.

And that's what we don't do. Somebody sins against us, asks for our forgiveness, we give our forgiveness, they do it again, and we say, that's two, which reveals that we didn't really forgive them the first time. Because if we really grant forgiveness, we're saying, I remember this against you no more. But Peter is asking, he's got a scorecard, and he wants to know, how many times do I have to go through this process? Seven? Jesus says, seventy times seven, Peter. And to illustrate his point, he tells the parable, the parable. And he said, therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. I want you to, first of all, feel the enormity of the weight of this debt, the highest monetary unit among the people of that day was the talent. It was an extraordinary sum of money, even a single talent. In Herod's whole kingdom, his annual revenue for the whole kingdom was nine hundred talents. So, this servant owed the king more than ten times the annual revenue of King Herod.

It was untold millions and millions of dollars by our standards today. It was a sum of money that no servant of any king in the ancient world would ever be able to pay. Now, there's a lesson there just in that as Jesus compares us to debtors like that, saying that we are debtors who can't possibly pay their debts. I am indebted to God. Every time I break His law, I become a debtor, and my debt to Him is virtually infinite. That's why it's so foolish to think that you can work your way into heaven because you're required perfection.

And if you sin just once, there's nothing you can do to make up for that sin because to make up for that sin because you were already required to be perfect. So, we are in that position of being debtors who can't possibly pay our debts. Now, this man, like the publican in the last parable, had nothing to barter. He had no collateral. He had no currency to place in light of his debt. The only thing he could do was beg, to plead, hoping against hope against hope that the King would give him a stay, would give him more time, would be so patient that he might have a second chance to make up for what he owed the King.

But how foolish was that? Because even if the King would have given infinite patience, infinity would not have been long enough for this man to work off his debt. He was a debtor who couldn't possibly pay, and he didn't even realize the enormity of his debt. But he knew enough of it to know really his only hope would be to be found in the compassion of the King.

And that's what the King did. He said as he was not able to pay, first the King commanded that he be sold, I'm going to sell you, I'm going to sell your wife, I'm going to sell your children, and we're going to auction off every one of your possessions so that you can be starting to make payments on your debt. The servant therefore fell down before him saying, Master have patience, I'll pay you all. And the Master was moved with compassion. And his compassion was so profound, his pity was so great, that he released him from the obligation altogether. He didn't forgive him just 5,000 talents or 8,000 talents or 9,000 talents. He forgave him of every cent that he owed him. Can you imagine what that servant felt like when he walked out of the King's presence that day? The weight that fell off his back, I'm free.

10,000 talents, I don't owe another penny. What a King! How great is his compassion.

His mercy is incalculable. As soon as he walked out the door, he saw another one of the servants who owed him 100 denarius, a pittance, a pittance, a couple of days' wages that the guy could have paid back very easily. And he demanded payment and laid hands on him, grabbed them by the throat, started to choke him, saying, Pay me what you owe. So his fellow servant fell down at his feet, into a posture of pitiful begging. And he said, Please, have patience with me, and I will pay you all. Isn't it interesting that Jesus has this second servant using exactly the same words that the first servant had used with the King? Have patience with me, that the first servant had used with the King.

Have patience with me, and I will pay you all. And he would not, but went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt. Now this radical act of ingratitude, this failure to pass along, even a tiny portion of the compassion that the first servant had experienced at the hands of the King, was not overlooked by his friends.

They saw him grab the man by the throat. They saw him throw him into prison. And they had to talk about this as the most ungrateful man in the history of the world. And so they were grieved, and they came and told their master all that had been done. So the master called this first servant back to him, and he said to him, "'You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?' And his master was angry and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due him. First he was threatened with justice. Then he received mercy, and he despised the grace of the King.

And in despising that mercy, dear friends, he got justice." That's enough lesson right there to keep us thinking of the grace of God every day in our lives, because the minute we take it for granted, the minute we refuse to be a conduit for the very grace that has saved us, then we can expect to receive nothing less than God's justice from His hands. And so Jesus applies the parable this way by saying, "'So my heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses.'" Now, there's a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about this whole notion of forgiveness among Christians. I hear all the time from people the idea that the New Testament requires Christians to forgive people who sin against them unilaterally, whether the people repent or don't repent. But we are to give unconditional forgiveness to everyone who sins against us.

I'm not sure where that idea comes from. It may come in part from the spirit that was displayed by our Lord Himself, who when He was in the midst of being executed by those who despised Him, prayed for their forgiveness from the Father, "'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.'" Now, certainly from that episode, we can grant from Jesus' example that we certainly have the right to forgive people unilaterally and not require repentance at their hands.

We can be that gracious if we choose. But it doesn't mean that it's required. If it were required to give unilateral forgiveness to everyone who sinned against you, then the whole previous section of Matthew 18 would make no sense at all. There would be no provision for church discipline. There would be no provision for going to somebody and confronting them for sinning against you. So you're not obligated, if some Christian in your church steals your wallet or steals your car, to then say, well, I forgive you, brother.

You have every right to go to him and say, you've wronged me, give me back my car, or you've slandered me, and ask them to repent. And if they don't repent, then you follow the rest of the instructions given in the 18th chapter of Matthew where you bring two witnesses and so on. So again, if you're required on every occasion to give unilateral, direct, unconditional forgiveness, that whole process wouldn't make any sense whatsoever.

But here's what is obligated. If you confront your brother who has sinned against you and they repent, then you must forgive them. We must stand willing to forgive any insult, any offense that anybody has given to us at any time should they repent of that sin. I experienced a problem when I was in seminary and was a student pastor in a church, and I offended a lady in the congregation. And she was very angry, and I went to her and apologized in tears. And she would not forgive me.

We had an 85-year-old ex-missionary to China who had spent 50 years in China, five years in a concentration camp, separated from his wife, was in another concentration camp, one of the most godly men I've ever met. And I went to see this lady a second time, and I wept, and I said, please forgive me, she wouldn't. So I went to see the man who was the moderator of the church, the 85-year-old retired missionary, and told him what happened. He said, well, you made two mistakes. You offended her in the first place.

You shouldn't have done that. Your second mistake was apologizing twice. When you went and repented and she refused to forgive you, then the calls of fire were on her head, not on yours. And so when we offend somebody, we are called to repent and to apologize. But likewise, if they offend us and they come and they apologize, not seven times, 70 times seven, we have to stand ready with the same compassion that was manifested by this king who forgave his servant of multi-millions of dollars that he couldn't possibly, possibly pay. The Christian has to be a person who is of a forgiving spirit.

Holding grudges, allowing bitterness to grow up in your lives is one of the most destructive things that we can ever do. And the application Jesus gives comes straight from the Lord's Prayer. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.

That's a scary prayer to pray. If we're not willing to forgive those who have sinned against us, we should not ever expect God to forgive us when we sin against Him. But since forgiveness is at the very heart of the Christian faith, we of all people should be known as forgiving people.

That's Dr. R.C. Sproul with a message from his series, The Parables of Jesus. We learn so many practical lessons in this parable, especially the weighty responsibility we have to forgive as we ourselves have been forgiven. You know, it's so easy to quietly hold a grudge against someone, but Jesus' parable today cut right to the heart of that attitude.

We're looking at the parables of Jesus all week here on Renewing Your Mind. They are a rich treasure of lessons for us. We'd be happy to send you this 12-part series on two DVDs. Just call us today with a donation of any amount, and we will send them to you. Our number is 800-435-4343.

If you prefer, though, you can give your gift and make your request online at renewingyourmind.org. This series is just one of hundreds of courses you can take online with Ligonier Connect. And with a community subscription, your entire congregation, Sunday School class, or homeschool group can join a worldwide community of growing Christians. You'll be able to learn from gifted theologians and teachers on a vast number of theological subjects.

We invite you to find out more by going to connect.ligonier.org. After telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asked a question. This was the easiest question that this lawyer had ever been asked. Which of the three men do you think was the neighbor? The lawyer couldn't miss it. He said, the one who showed mercy on him.

This is one of the most familiar parables that Jesus told, but we can sometimes miss some of the key lessons He wanted us to learn. R.C. will explore them tomorrow, and we hope you'll join us for the Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-04 15:11:06 / 2023-03-04 15:19:22 / 8

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