Matthew 18:21-35

21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.

24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.

25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.

26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

28 “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!’

29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’

30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.

31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done.

32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me.

33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’

34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.

35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.”

Peter returned to the question of forgiveness and asked the Lord in Matthew 18:21, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” The old Jewish teaching was that three times was enough, based on Amos 1:3 and 2:6. Pete was attempting to be generous in doubling the usual limit of forgiveness. — Walvoord, page 238.

ten thousand talents (v.24) — a huge amount, equal to millions of dollars in today’s money

forgave (v.27) = cancelled

a hundred denarii (v.28) — a small amount, equal to $10-$20 in today’s money

Peter had to recognize that he was totally incapable of paying the debt that he owed to God. Peter, then, was represented by the man with the insurmountable indebtedness. But God had freely forgiven Peter all of his indebtedness. Peter, then, was obligated to forgive others who may have wronged him but whose wrong was a mere pittance in comparison with the wrong he had done to God and for which he had received forgiveness. — Pentecost, page 270

The commentaries either say that this parable is referring to Christians who, if they don’t forgive, will not lose their salvation but will be punished; or, that the servant who didn’t forgive was never really saved in the first place. Both these explanations show the problems that crop up when we try to apply portions of Scripture to ourselves that aren’t intended to be applied to us. The Lord was talking about the kingdom. He says so clearly in verse 23. During the kingdom, a person who doesn’t forgive will not be forgiven. Period. This is a carryover from the law, as the Lord explained in His Sermon on the Mount: “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” 

If this seems impossible to live up to, that is the whole point. The law was given to show that all men are sinners. So how can anybody live up to this, even in the kingdom? But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33).

The parable was not intended to be applied to us today. Yes, we should forgive, but as a response to what Christ has already done for us. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). 

Under law, a person forgives others and then is forgiven by God. Under grace, we are forgiven in Christ and our response should be to forgive others. This makes it no less important, and in fact, if we live by grace, it makes it much easier to do.

This entry was posted in Matthew. Bookmark the permalink.