11 August, 2016

Matthew 18:21-35—The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O 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? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses (Matthew 18:21-35 KJV).


Rev. Herman Hoeksema

The parable of the unmerciful servant […] apparently offers some difficulty. For if we apply the parable in all its parts and transfer it to the reality of the Kingdom of heaven, then it appears to teach that God makes the forgiveness of our sins dependent on our forgiving one another's trespasses. And this also appears at first glance to be the meaning of the conclusion which the Savior draws at the end of the parable: "So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses". . . . But he who values the principle of explaining Scripture with Scripture and who wants to abide by the pure Reformed truth can never find satisfaction with such a method of explanation. For he knows that God is unchangeable. He also knows that with God the forgiveness of debt means the blotting out of the debt in the blood of Christ. There is no forgiveness except through atonement, and there is no atonement except through satisfaction, and there is no satisfaction except through the payment of the debt and the bearing of the punishment.

If Christ has suffered for someone and has paid the debt for him, that person's sins are forgiven, and that, too, forever, and they can never again be imputed to him. Therefore also another explanation of the parable shall have to be sought, and it will not be possible simply to transfer the parable in all its parts to the spiritual reality of the Kingdom of heaven. And then the explanation is certainly not to be sought in a change on God's part, so that He at one time forgives someone's sins, only to impute them to him again later; but the explanation is to be sought in the subjective experience of the forgiveness of sins. He who is altogether unable to forgive his brother his trespasses has also never felt the need of the forgiveness of his own sins, much less tasted the great blessedness of that forgiveness. But also in the relative sense of the word it is true that the child of God cannot taste and experience the forgiveness of his sins, that the Holy Spirit does not cause him to experience that grace in his heart, that the prayer for forgiveness dies on his lips and the heavens remain closed for him, as long as he does not forgive his brother his trespasses.

He who never can forgive does not only not taste the forgiving grace of God, but such a person's sins are also not blotted out, and his debt is also not remitted in the objective sense of the word. But he whose sins are indeed blotted out in the blood of Christ also does not always taste the forgiving grace of God, namely, not when he does not forgive the brother. In that sense it is true that our heavenly Father does not forgive us our trespasses unless we also forgive one another from the heart. And therefore, for the forgiveness of our sins it is precisely requisite that we can pray from the heart: "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors their debts”.



More to come! (DV)

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