THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART TWELVE – GRACE, GRACE, AND MORE GRACE!
So, for several months now, we have been covering what Jesus called “The Mysteries of the Kingdom,” which are the parables that Jesus taught concerning the kingdom of God. We have spent most of our time looking at the parables Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 13. But I have found that there are a few more kingdom parables that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew that were meant to further illustrate the way things operate in God’s kingdom.
So, last week, we looked at one of them in Matthew chapter 18 commonly known as the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant, and we learned some super important things: For one, we learned from this parable that God’s kingdom operates on forgiveness. Yes, we see this subject referred to time and time again throughout the New Testament. Forgiveness is what the Lord has freely given us and what He expects us to freely give to others. And the reason why forgiveness is such a big part of His heart is because love is paramount to Him—and forgiveness is what love does. So, we learned that just as we are commanded to love one another as He has loved us, we are also called to forgive one another as He has forgiven us. And this is what Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant teaches us: It shows us how great our sin debt was that the Lord forgave us of, and how the Lord then expects us to forgive our fellow servants who would ever owe us a much less significant debt.
So, we then looked at a few of the variables of unforgiveness such as how to do it: We saw how the King in this parable forgave His servant—by being moved with compassion. And we learned that this compassion is something we can learn to put on, which will help us forgive others with the love of the Lord. Likewise, we found that we can also put on forgiveness like compassion and choose to forgive others.
But we made the point that this is not always easy to do. I’ve talked to people who have been so hurt that while they honestly want to obey the Lord, do not know how to release that person because the offense was so great. So, we saw that, in some of our greatest exhortations to forgive others, the forgiving is being done while in prayer. Therefore, there is apparently a connection between the process of forgiveness and our own personal prayer lives. We saw that this is why Jesus combined Mark 11:25 with Mark 11:23-24: After teaching us the principles of faith of speaking to our mountains and letting our faith-filled words frame our world, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
So, it is no surprise then that so many people have a hard time releasing people in their hearts. Why? Because they are not doing it God’s way; they are doing it their own way—trying their best to forgive but failing to truly release that person in their hearts. Yes, when we do it God’s way—which is taking it before the Lord when we stand praying, and confessing before Him our willingness to release them for the hurt they caused us, and sincerely praying for them. This is where God’s supernatural ability to forgive gets activated in our life! It is where we are truly able to release them and the anointing to forgive is released in our lives! Hallelujah!
Now this week, I want us to move on to Matthew chapter 20 where we have another one of Jesus’ parables which describe His kingdom—the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.
THE PARABLE OF THE WORKERS IN THE VINEYARD
Now this parable is only given to us in the Gospel of Matthew, and it was given in response to Peter’s question towards the end of chapter 19. So, let’s go back to the previous chapter and look at the context of this parable …
Beginning in Matthew 19:16, we have the story of the rich young ruler—which is where a rich young man came to Jesus wanting to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life. So, Jesus told him that he needed to keep the commandments. Then this young man asked Him, “Which ones?” So, Jesus gave him a few examples of the righteous requirement of the law to which the young man said that he had kept all of them from his youth and asked, “What do I still lack?” So, Jesus told him that if he wanted to be perfect, he could go sell all he had, and give it to the poor, and then he would have treasure in heaven. But then we are told in verse 22 that he went away sorrowful because he had great possessions (and I might add that great possessions had him).
You see, Jesus was not trying to get this man to take an oath of poverty and subtract from him. No, how many of you know that the Book of Proverbs said that he who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord and the Lord will repay what He has given them (See Proverbs 19:17). So, according to this promise, what would have happened to this rich young ruler if he would have sold all he had and given it to the poor? The Lord would have repaid him! So, Jesus was not trying to just get something through this guy; He was trying to get something to him. Well, someone might ask, “So why didn’t Jesus remind him of this promise in Proverbs?” I believe the answer to that is obvious because Jesus was getting at his heart and didn’t want him doing this because of how it might benefit him.
So, then Jesus began to share with His disciples how hard it was is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven—for it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Now this is something you see as a reoccurring theme in the New Testament—that the rich seemed to be condemned while the poor are lauded. But this is not because God has something against people who have wealth, and those who have lack in this life are the only ones God accepts. No, whether someone has money or not is not the issue. Like in the example of the rich young ruler, the problem is whether or not the possessions have the person. And generally speaking, those who have wealth have a difficult time not letting their possessions be their priority.
Now these sayings by Jesus evidently floored His disciples because notice how they responded in verse 25— “When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, ‘Who then can be saved?’”
I have wondered before, why were they astonished by this? A lot of people in the church today certainly aren’t astonished by this saying, I’m sure. And why? Because we have been taught by religion that poverty is holy, etc. So, while we might not be astonished by Jesus’ sayings here today, the disciples were then. So why? I believe it was because they were not taught this under the Old Covenant.
You see, there were plenty of examples they had of godly people who were rich. They had Abraham who was said to be “very rich” yet was also considered the Father of Faith. They had King David who was also very wealthy and was called a man after God’s own heart. And of course, we have King Solomon, who was extremely wealthy and was also very wise. In fact, they had promises under the law that if they would obey His commandments and heed His voice, that he would bless and prosper them. So, from these examples alone, it shows us that wealth in and of itself is not what makes it hard for someone to enter the kingdom of heaven, because some of the godliest examples we have in the Old Testament were rich.
So, this is why I believe Jesus’ disciples were so astonished at what Jesus said to them—it was because prosperity was considered a blessing from God, not something that would condemn a person. However, Jesus reassures them and us in verse 26 by saying that “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”—meaning even though it might be hard and difficult for some people to inherit eternal life, nothing is too hard and difficult for God. Yes, with Him, all things are possible! Praise God for that!
So, this is what led to Peter’s question that I referred to earlier that led to this parable we will be covering today: So, let’s pick up in verse 27, which reads— “Then Peter answered and said to Him, ‘See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?’”
What was happening here? Well, Peter saw that Jesus had told the rich young ruler that he was to sell all he had and come follow him. So, what do you suppose those rascally disciples would be thinking? “We’ve done this, Lord! So, what’s in it for us?”
This is when Jesus began to tell them about the great reward for laying our lives down for him, from receiving thrones in the kingdom of heaven to receiving a hundredfold in this life (Mark’s account is sure to add that these blessings will be reaped in this life, not necessarily in the next one).
But notice verse 30—because I see this statement by the Lord as being the one that the following parable is built upon. Jesus said, “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
So, who are the “first” Jesus is describing here? Well, based on the context, it obviously would be Jesus’ disciples because they were the ones He called first. So, I see Jesus as preparing them for something in His eternal kingdom—that they shouldn’t think that because they were the first who left all and followed him that they would be more privileged than others who would do the same after them.
So, this is what led up to Jesus giving them this Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard—which is essentially a parable describing how there are those who leave all to follow and serve Him at different times. Let’s look at it …
Matthew 20:1 starts out by saying, “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard.
Now the “landowner” here is obviously the Lord—which should be an easy way to see Him because He is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills (See Psalm 50:10). Yes, God is the Creator of this earth, and therefore the owner of all that is within it. Amen.
So, based on the context, this going out “early in the morning” is primarily a reference to when Jesus came on the scene, when His ministry as the Sun of Righteousness arose with healing in His wings. That’s right—Jesus’ manifestation here on the earth was similar to the sun rising early in the morning. Therefore, these laborers that were hired early in the morning are an obvious reference to Jesus’ disciples, those whom He invited to follow Him early in His ministry.
So, in verse 2 when Jesus said that this landowner “agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day,” what we are seeing here is that there was an agreement made. There wasn’t (as we are about to see) a trust factor between the laborers and the landowner for him to pay them appropriately. No, they essentially had a contract—which reminds me of how the Old Covenant was drawn up. It was essentially a contract saying, “we do this; God does that.” And while the law was good in its own rite as it was certainly better to be a laborer in His vineyard than to not be, it was not God’s best. The New Covenant of Grace that you and I are a part of is God’s best, a “better covenant established upon better promises” (See Hebrews 8:6).
But the fact is God will obviously deal with us on a contract basis if we desire to do so. Yes, He’s okay with that even though it might not be His best. What is in our best interest, however, is to trust and believe Him and to not base our relationship with Him on what we do or don’t do. Faith always gets the grace; works don’t. It’s that simple.
So, the first round of laborers had this agreement with the Master for a denarius a day, but beginning in verse 3, we are told— “And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.’ So they went. (See verses 3-4)
The third hour of the day was 9 AM. So, we are talking just a couple of hours after those who started the day as His laborers were hired. And notice how he told them to go work in His vineyard and “whatever is right I will give you.” The word “right” here is a word that was primarily translated “righteous.” What a beautiful picture here of how righteousness is put towards our account. Whatever is righteous, He will give us! Praise God!
Then in verse 5 we are told— “Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise.” This is at noon and then at 3 PM. So, it’s getting later and later in the day, isn’t it? But notice verses 6-7— “And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, ‘Because no one hired us.’ He said to them, ‘You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.’” So, the eleventh hour is 5 PM! Now that’s extremely late in the day, isn’t it?
Then, beginning in verse 8, we are told what happened when the workday had ended— “So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, ‘Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.’ And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius. And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, saying, ‘These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.’ But he answered one of them and said, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.”
So, the “evening” coming primarily represents when our time working on this earth has ended—thus, the end of this age and the time for rewards to be delved out. But what is interesting to me about this part of the parable is how the owner of the vineyard told his steward to first pay the laborers who were hired last. You would think that the ones who worked the longest and hardest should get paid first, but this is just not how things work in the kingdom of God. The Lord doesn’t necessarily do things the way we think they should be done, and do you know why? It is because most of us are works-minded, thinking more along the lines of—What do they deserve? No, the Lord operates more on a grace system. That’s why you will see blessings, giftings, etc. being given to those who definitely seem to deserve it the least. Thus, bringing to pass the saying that last will be first and the first last. So be it.
Now let me say that even though the example is of the hiring of laborers and paying them for their work, this parable is in no way meant to illustrate to us that our salvation is on a works basis. In fact, salvation is not even what this parable is referring to because based on Peter’s question earlier that provoked this parable, we are talking about the rewards for serving Him—which are most certainly based on the work we do in His vineyard. You will see in this parable that grace plays an integral role in the kingdom of God, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that God saves us according to our service of Him. Salvation does not work that way, but certain rewards & blessings do. But guess what? Even the rewards for our service have an element of grace to them—which is a big point in this parable.
But the main point of this parable is the response we see in those who were hired first and worked the entire day for the agreed denarius: When they saw how those who were hired at the various times after them were paid, they assumed that the landowner would be paying them more. Well, he didn’t, but rather paid them what they agreed upon, which greatly upset them. But should they have been upset? No because they got exactly what they agreed upon. Whether or not the master wanted to give those who hired later in the day the same was his prerogative.
I wonder if this same thing has ever happened to us—that we have expected the Lord to do something for us or someone we love because of what we or they have done or because of what we or they have not done. “This shouldn’t be happening to them because they are a good person” we say. But we need to understand that it doesn’t work that way. To have that mentality that they don’t deserve to have something bad happen to them because they are a good person indicates that we believe our works have something to do with our experiences. While both our good and poor choices can certainly have their ramifications, to think that one does not deserve to go through what they are going through is the wrong mentality. The truth is—if we were going to base everything on what we deserve, then we all deserve hell and every other kind of suffering. Why? Because we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is truly none good, no, not one.
BECAUSE OF GRACE
But the fact is—this parable reveals to us the grace of God. It shows us the nature of His grace and that there are varying layers of grace. And that is one of the most important aspects of God’s kingdom that we need to understand—how everything in God’s kingdom is grace-based.
We don’t get what we deserve; we get what Jesus deserved. He who knew no sin was made to be sin that we might be made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus (See Second Corinthians 5:21). We didn’t deserve to be justified; we deserved to be condemned to death because we all had sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But even though our own righteousness was as filthy rags, the Lord clothed us in His robe of righteousness—all because of grace.
But this grace was not just limited to our spiritual needs. The Lord also has given unto us all things that pertain to this life as well as godliness. Yes, we are blessed by His grace! We are healed by His grace! We have soul restoration by His grace! And the list goes on.
So, if it is all by His grace, then it’s all going to be experienced by our faith—for faith is the only way to apprehend His grace. It won’t be by our long hours of serving the Lord in His vineyard (i.e., because we’ve been a Christian a long time and have been doing a bunch of good works for Him). His grace comes because we respond to His call and serve Him without an agreement. Amen.
Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches us this principle: These verses say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Notice what is mentioned first in these verses—the grace! Paul said, “For by grace.” You could translate this phrase— “because of grace.”
You see, as important as faith is (and we will get to this in a moment), grace is the most important—for if there was no grace provided, there would be nothing for us to have faith in. And just as it was in our salvation, grace came in the person of Jesus over 2,000 years ago. Jesus came, went to the Cross, became our sin, died in that state, and then was raised from the dead. All of this had to take place in order for us to be born again today. So, the grace for salvation had to be provided first. It is all “because of grace.”
So, grace had to come. The provision had to be made. The promise had to have substance. Now, comes the “through faith” part. Some that move over into error concerning the grace of God begin to believe that it is all completely by grace and then begin to believe that since salvation was provided for all men on the Cross, everyone must be saved.
Well, this discounts this phrase “through faith,” doesn’t it? You see, everything in the kingdom of God must be received. It is not forced on us. It doesn’t happen just because God made a way for it to happen. No, God has made the provision, but that provision of grace must come through a channel or an avenue, and that way is “through faith.”
But again, this is not just how it works for our salvation from sin; it works this way in every area of our life.
In Colossians 2:6, the apostle Paul said something very interesting: “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” What this verse is saying is that the same way you received Christ Jesus, that is the same way you are supposed to walk in Him.
So, let me ask you a question: How did you receive Him? It was by grace through faith, right? Most Christians have no problem embracing the truth that we are saved solely by God’s grace and by simply putting our faith in Him. But what most fail to understand is that this is exactly how we are supposed to receive everything from the Lord even after our salvation. This is exactly what the apostle Paul was saying in Colossians 2:6—that everything in the Christian life is to be received the same way, by grace through faith. Saints, we will never cease to receive from the Lord this way. If we fail to embrace this truth, we will live a frustrated Christian life. It then should be of no surprise why so many believers experience the joy of the Lord when they are first saved and then, as time passes, they lose their joy and even become more miserable than they were before they became Christians.
Notice then how this process of salvation is explained in the rest of verse 8 into verse 9: “and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Now we understand how this applies to our salvation—that no amount of good deeds one does can qualify them to be saved. Our salvation is completely a gift of God—meaning we can’t earn it or work to obtain it, and God’s reasoning behind this is that no one would be able to boast and say, “Hey, I did all of this and look what I’ve earned.” No, we understand that salvation is a free gift, cannot be earned and no one will be able to boast saying they earned it somehow.
So now, let’s look at the meaning of that one word “saved” in this verse. It means more than just the saving of our spiritual condition. It describes safety, deliverance, provision, healing, etc. So, for example, we could translate this phrase: “For by grace you have been HEALED!” “...and that HEALING is not of yourselves.” “...not of works (getting into all the things we try and do to get and stay healed and healthy) “...it is the gift of God” (Do you know when something is no longer a gift? When you have to pay for it!)
So, we see that healing is all “because of grace”—meaning, it has been provided for us all because of the grace of God. This is the first thing we need to get our hearts established in—the grace of God has provided healing and wholeness. And we also need to understand that although this healing is received through faith, it is not obtained nor walked in “of ourselves”—meaning, we do not need to see our healing as having anything to do with us. The reason I say this is because of the subtleties of our flesh to believe that we are healed because of our “great faith,” our dietary habits, our exercise routines or our own righteousness etc. No, no, no, you must always remain sober to the fact that receiving and walking in divine health and healing “is not of yourselves.”
The reason this is so important to understand is because it is easy for our heart to be deceived and begin to believe that our own works of diets, exercise, applying spiritual principles and even our “believing” is what obtained the healing. And if that is how we believe, we are in danger of taking our eyes off of the object of our faith—the Grace of God Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. And this is not a good place to be.
Then, it is imperative that we know that it is all “because of grace” that we have been and can be “saved” in any area of life. Grace is first, then faith comes next.
So, we have seen today that grace is a big part of the kingdom of God. It’s how we are were saved initially and how we experience His salvation every day subsequently. It doesn’t matter if we have been a Christians for 50 years or 50 days, it will always be the same—by grace and through faith.
And once we settle this in our hearts and begin trusting the Lord to do what is “right” in our lives by serving Him out of love and not trying to earn something from Him, then we can see grace, grace, and more grace in our lives!
There is more grace to be had, church! Let God be gracious to you today! Amen!
THE MYSTERIES OF THE KINGDOM
PART ELEVEN – THE FORGIVEN SERVANT & THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
Most recently, we have been covering the kingdom parables that Jesus taught in His sermon by the sea. But I have found that there are a few more kingdom parables that Jesus taught in the Gospel of Matthew that were meant to further illustrate the way things operate in God’s kingdom. So, I want us to begin looking at them this week—for in doing so, we can further learn the ways of the kingdom of God. Amen?
So, let’s begin by turning over to Matthew chapter 18, where we have a parable that reveals to us a critical part of the method of operation in God’s kingdom—forgiveness.
Church, forgiveness is one of the most important practices in God’s kingdom. We see it referred to time and time again throughout the New Testament. Forgiveness is what the Lord has freely given us and what He expects us to freely give to others. And the reason why forgiveness is such a big part of His heart is because love is paramount to Him—and forgiveness is what love does.
A CALL TO LOVE
How many of you know that love is the greatest of all commandments? In fact, Jesus told us that it is the new commandment—that we love one another as He has loved us (See John 13:34). Therefore, love is the life of the kingdom. It is God—His way of operating here on the earth and thus the principle that His kingdom operates on.
Now this is not a “new commandment” in the sense that love was a foreign concept to those who were once under the Old Covenant. They had the commandment to love their neighbor as themselves emphasized throughout the law and the prophets. In fact, Jesus referred to these commandments of loving God and loving their neighbor as being the things that all of the law and prophets hung on (See Matthew 22:37-40).
So, this New Testament commandment to love one another was not new in that the subject of love was a new concept to them, but it was new in that it gave us a new standard of love. Today, we are not to love one another as we love ourselves; now, we are to love one another as Christ has loved us.
Now I will say that loving your neighbor as yourself is a very practical way to love others because it offers us a simple change of perspective which can help us to love our neighbor. But the focus in this verse is not simply loving our neighbor, but rather loving one another—that is, loving the brethren, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and our church family. And we have a lot more Scriptures in the New Testament that refer to loving our fellow church members than we do loving the world. Why is that? It is because you evidently are going to have a lot more of a temptation to not walk in love with the brethren. Let me explain …
You know, sometimes it is harder to love your brothers and sisters in Christ. The reason is because we expect more out of them. Therefore, there is a greater opportunity for offense with our brothers and sisters in the church because we place greater expectations on them than we do the world and the ungodly.
As a general rule, we don’t expect the world to love us and treat us a certain way—certainly not to the degree that we expect the church to. Therefore, when our brothers and sisters don’t do right, the temptation to be offended is much greater. This is why we are exhorted time and time again throughout the epistles (the letters written to us, Christ’s church) to love one another and the specific ways to do so. The reason is because the opportunities not to do so will be abundant.
You know, many in the church have this misconception that until the body of Christ eliminates all the disunity, strife, unforgiveness etc., that we will not see the power of God manifest. I’m here to tell you, that is simply not true.
How do I know this, you ask? Well, just look at the early church. They walked in a realm of the kingdom of God that we hope to as well. But were they so perfect? Were they that glorious bride without spot or wrinkle? Absolutely not! No, the apostle Paul had to exhort these churches to stop lying and stealing. He told some of them that certainly had the supernatural operating in and through them that they were divided, full of strife and spiritually immature. So, no, these churches were not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they were just like us in many ways.
But my point is this—the fact that we are told so many times to love one another in the letters to the church is proof that we are going to have ample opportunity to put these commandments and exhortations into practice. Amen?
And as First Thessalonians 4:9-10 makes the point of, God, who is Love, is primarily going to deal with you to love one another. He is not going to vary from His Word. So, if His Word is emphasizing loving the brethren (and it does in case you haven’t picked up on that yet), then the Lord is going to emphasize that with you in your personal walk with Him. So, He is not going to spend more time talking to you about what a basket case they are; He is going to spend more time teaching you how to love them in spite of the basket case they are. Amen!
So, there are going to be problems in Christ’s church. You know why? Because you’re here! Because I’m here! And with us comes problems. My first pastor used to tell us that if you find the perfect church, don’t join it or it won’t be perfect anymore.
But this is why it is so important for you and I to embrace this new commandment of the New Covenant: Because if both you and I, who are imperfect, will both pursue this love for one another, then we will avoid most of satan’s devices meant to steal, kill and destroy. Sure, there are going to be issues that will come up between us. But if we will commit to making the love walk our highest priority, we will walk in the unity that we are called to walk in and the unity His kingdom is meant to function in.
Church, love is the way and life of the kingdom of God. This is why we are commanded to walk in it with another. And the point we are going to make today is because we are commanded to love one another, then we are also commanded to forgive one another. In fact, just as we are called to love one another as Christ has loved us, we are called to forgive one another as Christ has forgiven us. Amen.
So, let’s go over to Matthew chapter 18 and see what Jesus had to say about this subject of forgiving one another since it is such an integral part of loving one another …
THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
In Matthew chapter 18, we have a parable about the kingdom given to us by Jesus. He began in Matthew 18:23, “Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.”
Now as we like to say here, when you see the word “Therefore” you need to find out what it is “There for.” In other words, the things that occurred in the verses prior to this one are why Jesus was telling this parable. Therefore, it’s important to understand the context.
Now if you look back at the beginning of chapter 18, you see where Jesus’ disciples came to Him wanting to know who the greatest is in the kingdom of heaven. So, Jesus used the humility of children to illustrate to them what greatness looks like in heaven. Then, after Jesus talks about receiving children in His name, He moves into warnings of not offending one of them.
In verse 7, Jesus makes it clear that offenses are going to come, while warning us not to let them come through us. But I think the latter point is something we need to realize—that we are always going to have opportunities to be offended. You see, it seems to me that one of the things that opens us up to offense the most is the fact that these offenses take us by surprise. In other words, many people live their lives not expecting them. So, when someone does something hurtful or betrays them, they are devastated. Now I’m not saying we should go around looking for people to do the wrong thing to us, just that we need to be cognizant that there is a devil out there and he is always going to be trying to get to us, and this will be through good, well-meaning people. Living our lives in this sober and vigilant manner is a vital way to not being devoured by the offenses the enemy throws our way (See First Peter 5:8).
Then Jesus goes on to show how the Lord even desires to restore these offenders by describing them as lost sheep and giving us step by step instructions of how to bring them back into the fold.
So, in giving His disciples this tall order of forgiveness and restoration, it provokes a question in Peter: Peter asked, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” (Matthew 18:21)
You see, Peter said this in response to this apparent call by the Lord to forgiving our brothers—to which the Lord responded by saying in verse 22— “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times! That’s a lot of times the Lord told us to forgive our brother when they offend us, isn’t it? But it was not like Jesus was giving us a specific number of times to forgive our brother—for I would venture to say that we have not needed to forgive one person 490 times unless we are married of course😊. No, Jesus was just using a play on words to describe unlimited forgiveness. Amen.
So, this is what led up to Jesus giving His disciples His Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Now let’s look at the parable in detail so that we can learn more about this kingdom principle of forgiveness …
THE PARABLE OF THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT
You see, in this parable, Jesus likens God to the King of a particular kingdom—which is certainly an appropriate analogy considering we are talking about the kingdom of God.
So, we are told that this king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. Now we are not necessarily talking about the end time judgment here. The reason I say this is because we know in this parable that the servant went out and held a fellow servant’s debt against him. Therefore, this “settling of accounts” is something that is done while we are still here on the earth, not when our time here is done. Amen?
So, Jesus describes the King as wanting to settle accounts with his servants. And this is something we need to understand: that the Lord desires for all men to “settle up” and get their sin debt taken of care here on the earth by calling on the name of the Lord, becoming a saved, born-again Christian, and having our sins forgiven and cleansed.
Then we are told that one servant in particular was brought to this king who owed him “ten thousand talents”: Now depending on what resource you use, ten thousand talents can have a wide range of meaning in today’s economy. You see, depending on whether the talents are of gold, silver, or some other precious metal, ten thousand of them could have been worth anywhere from two hundred million dollars to twelve billion dollars! But regardless of if we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars or tens of billions of dollars, the point is clear—this was a tremendously steep debt and one that I would venture to say that we all would be unable to pay just like Jesus said in verse 25 when He said, “but as he was not able to pay.”
To me, the way this is worded shows us that there was no way that he could have paid it. It is a statement that basically says, “And, of course, he was not able to pay back that kind of debt.” Likewise, we could not ever have done enough works to deserve the forgiveness we needed. Yes, our debt towards Him was so large that it was impossible to deserve the mercy He showed us. Amen, and thank you, Jesus!
So, we are then told that when the servant was brought before his king that judgments were made that both he, his wife, children and his possessions all be sold until his debt was paid. Church, this is something that we need to understand about our sin debt. The poor choices we make and the things we tolerate in our lives that are wrong can affect those we love. I know a lot of people make all kinds of bad choices with their life and think the only ones its effecting is them, but that’s not true. Our sin can affect the ones we love.
For example, I can remember all the terribly poor choices I made with my life and, guess what, they hurt those who loved me. I wonder how many people who have made the ultimate worst decision of taking their own life have affected those they left behind, leaving them wondering what they did to drive them to that point, etc.
I’m reminded of the life of David and how although he was shown mercy for his sin with Bathsheba, it still affected his household. In fact, the Lord told him that the sword would never depart from his house—which was obviously manifested in his sons leading Judah and Israel down the wrong path more times than not.
Church, our choices absolutely affect those around us—and that is something we need to consider before making them. Amen or oh me?
So, this servant’s response would be like any of ours if we were in the situation—he threw himself down before the king and begged for patience and mercy until he could pay back the debt.
Now an important thing to point out from verse 26 is the attitude of the servant as he pleaded for mercy. He wanted mercy so that he could pay back the debt. No, He was not asking the king to cancel it, just to give him a chance to pay it back. To men, this shows a truly repentant heart because he wanted to do what he could to make it right. You see, if you are truly sorry for what you have done you will have a heart to make it right and not just expect someone to give you a clean slate. Now, of course, we know we cannot make our sin debt to God right no matter how hard we try but the principle still holds true. Our repentant heart will be to serve Him for the massive dept He forgave us of.
Of course, we know that the king was moved with compassion, released the servant, and totally forgave him of this multi-million even billion-dollar debt—which shows us the heart of our God: When we are truly repentant and cry out for mercy from Him, His compassion wells up. He just has such a heart to show mercy and forgive, and why? Because He loves us with all His heart!
Did you know this is why He desires for us to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength? It’s because He first loved us with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. He is love, church, and His heart is moved with compassion for us! Never forget that!
The story then progresses to that same servant who was forgiven of this astronomical debt going out and finding a fellow servant who owed him a hundred denarii—which, like the ten thousand talents, can have a range of equivalent. I’ve heard that it can describe anywhere from $20 to $2000. But again, the point is not what is the exact amount of the money in today’s economy; rather, it is what is the difference between 100 denarii versus ten thousand talents. And I don’t have to tell you that there is a big difference between $20 and two hundred million and between $2000 and twelve billion.
So, when he found that fellow servant, Jesus tells us that he grabbed him by the throat and said, “Pay me what you owe me!” Notice what the other servant’s response was in verse 29 … It was exactly the same response that the original servant gave to the master— “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” But this time, the outcome was different: The servant who was forgiven of the huge debt threw his fellow servant into prison till he could pay back the little debt that he owed.
But there is another important point here: How was this servant going to be able to pay back the debt while he was imprisoned? That is exactly what we do when we do not forgive people. When we choose to confine people to the debt we feel they owe us, it does nothing to recompensate us. Instead of showing them mercy and restoring them into your good graces, we ostracize them to where they do not have the opportunity to make up for their mistakes against us. If we would just give them grace, then that kind of unconditional love might end up bringing conviction to them and they would be more apt to pay us back. Not to mention, releasing them of that debt in our hearts sets into motion things that restores the things they might have robbed us of. Amen.
Nonetheless, when this got back to the king, he was extremely angry. He called that servant to return to him and said some powerful things: He said, “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?” (Verses 32-33)
THE HINDRANCE TO WALKING IN FORGIVENESS
You see, the main issue of this parable is compassion and pity. These virtues really describe being touched with the feelings of another—that is, being able to sympathize or empathize with them. But how do we do that? By staying mindful of the great sin debt that God canceled on our behalf. If we would keep this fresh on our minds, then when our brother sins against us we can just refer back to all that God has forgiven us of and be able to have compassion on them.
You see, this is the main point of the parable: We ought to forgive our brothers and sisters in Christ because God has forgiven us of infinitely more than they could have ever done to us. In other words, in light of how much mercy God has given us, forgiving the brethren of the sins that they commit against us should be no problem whatsoever.
Let me share with you what the Lord shared with me several years ago …
Back in the first few years of my Christian walk I was spending some time with the Lord and was specifically thanking the Lord for making me the righteousness of God in Christ. I was praising Him for putting me in right standing with Him not by anything good that I had done but simply by His awesome grace. As the words— “Thank you Lord for freely putting me in right standing with You”—came out of my mouth, I heard the Lord say to me, “Freely you have received, freely give!” What I knew Him to be saying was, “Just as you have freely received right-standing with Me, you freely give right-standing with you to other people.” In other words, when people are hurtful, hateful, and just plain ugly towards me I should grant them good standing with me even though they might not deserve it. Why? Because what someone does to me in the natural cannot hold a candle to what I have done to God in the spiritual.
You see, it was my sin and your sin that put Jesus on that cross! He would not have had to die in my place if I would have not sinned against Him. And no one has ever done anything as wicked to me as killing my own son. Therefore, if God can extend me grace for all that I have done against Him, then I most certainly can extend grace to someone who has done much less than that to me. Amen?
You see, this is the main reason why a believer has such a hard time forgiving someone else for an offense. It is because they are totally focused on the sin committed against them and are absolutely not considering the sin God has forgiven them of. If we would just take the time to consider all that God has forgiven us of when someone has hurt us, we would be more able to show mercy to the ones who have hurt us. Amen.
HOW TO FORGIVE
But, you see, this isn’t all there is to it. Even though we might totally be cognizant of all we have been forgiven of and know that we have no right to hold anything anyone else does to us against them, we still need to know how to handle the hurts and truly forgive them from our hearts.
So, a good question then is—How do we forgive? Let’s wrap up this teaching today by answering that question …
Well, how did the Lord forgive this servant in this parable? We saw that He was moved with compassion for him. That means His heart was moved for them. He wasn’t totally focused on the debt they owed, but rather how this judgment was affecting them—which is a big part of this forgiveness thing.
Church, we need to be able to see beyond the offense and have compassion on the person who offended us. In other words, understand why they might have done the thing they did.
You see, anytime a person is ugly towards us it for this very reason: because they are currently, at that moment, not knowing how loved they are by God. Yes, hurting people hurt people! God did not create us to be mean-spirited, angry, and hateful. So, when we are, it is because we are operating outside of our God-created value. Therefore, when someone else is hurting us know this—that is not who God created them to be, and all they are doing is hurting themselves, and they are doing it because they are already hurting themselves. This will help us to be more compassionate towards them and to more readily forgive them.
But, you see, so many people think that you either have compassion or you don’t. They don’t realize it’s something you can choose to put on. The apostle Paul taught us this in Colossians chapter 3 …
In Colossians 3:12, he said, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering …”
So, Paul told us—the church—to “put on” on these specific virtues. He didn’t pray to the Lord to give them to you or wait until you grow up spiritually and they just become a part of you. No, he simply said, “put” them on. This literally describes someone “clothing or dressing” themselves with something. In other words, it is as if the following virtues and fruit that Paul is about to give us are like pieces of spiritual clothing that the Lord has put in our closet (i.e., spirit), and it is our responsibility to cloth ourselves with them.
Now I want you to notice the first one he tells us to put on— “tender mercies.” This phrase comes from two different Greek words— the words spalgchnon & oiktirmos. The word spalgchnon is the word translated “bowels, intestines, and other inward parts of the body.” The original King James version actually translates this word as “bowels” and the reason is because in the First Century, they located the deeper emotions in the intestinal area—saying that this was the seat of both the tenderest compassion and the strongest anger. Today, we might say that the seat of those strongest emotions is in our heart. But the other word Paul used (i.e., oiktirmos) shows that he is only talking about the good affections of our heart such as compassion, mercy & sympathy. Thus, a good translation of this phrase would be— “tenderhearted sympathy” or “heartfelt compassion.”
So, to me, an interesting point here is Paul is telling us to put on this compassionate heart. One might tend to believe that you either have these tender emotions or you don’t. For example, some people believe you possess sympathy & empathy when you have actually experienced what the other person is experiencing. And while that certainly can be the case, we are wrong to think that is the only way one develops compassion. According to Paul, it is apparently a choice to become more compassionate & sympathetic.
Now here is the key to doing this: Begin to put yourself in other people’s shoes by imagining what it would be like to go through what they are going through. Consider and imagine it! No, not because you want it to happen to you too, but because you are strategically wanting to be touched with the feelings of their infirmities. Sounds like a godly aspiration to me!
Then guess what Paul moves into exhorting us to put on. He goes on to say in verse 13, “bearing with another and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.’
So, apparently putting on forgiveness is the same too. It’s not something we wait for God to clothe us with. No, we choose to put it on like we choose all other godly virtues.
Now I looked these words “forgiving and forgave” up and noticed something very significant about forgiveness: The word “forgive” comes from the Greek word “charis” which is commonly translated “grace.” Now the word “grace” means to give something freely, with no strings attached. If you are giving someone “grace,” you are giving them something they don’t necessarily deserve nor have they done anything to earn it. Therefore, a common definition for “forgiveness” when considering the word “grace” is to freely forgive.
Now why do I make this point? It is because oftentimes the mentality that people have which causes them to have a harder time forgiving people is that the person that offended them doesn’t deserve to be forgiven—maybe they haven’t even been repentant and asked for forgiveness.
Now I would venture to say that most of us, if the person that hurt us came to us and said something to the effect of— “You know, I was wrong. I am so sorry. Please forgive me” that we would forgive them. But what makes forgiveness a little more difficult is when the person who hurt us doesn’t show any signs of being repentant and no remorse for what they did—which is, unfortunately, what happens most of the time.
But that is when this true meaning of forgiveness becomes so important—because now I know I am called to forgive freely whether I feel they deserve it or not. I am “for-giving”—that is, I am giving them grace in advance of them deserving it or asking for it.
Then Paul goes on to say in the rest of verse 13 that “if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
You realize that if everything you and I did to sin against the Lord and everything we did to put Jesus on that Cross could be weighed, there would not a be enough scales on the planet that could measure the greatness of that sin? We have truly been forgiven much! And you also realize that with the vast majority of these sins that Christ forgave us of, we are unaware of them and have not confessed them to Him? Absolutely!
I know there are people in the church out there who believe that we have to specifically confess our sins in order to be forgiven of them, but that is not what First John 1:9 was teaching. You realize if that were true, then we are all in trouble because there is no way that we can specifically confess every single sin we’ve ever committed?
So, it is apparent that Christ has freely forgiven us of things we never sought forgiveness for—and aren’t you glad for that?
Well, when Paul said, “even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” the words “even as” literally mean “to the degree that.” So, we are told to forgive one another to the degree that Christ has forgiven us.
So, this tells me that if Jesus forgave me of this magnitude of sin that I committed that put Him on the Cross, then I am expected to forgive others to the same degree. This is why Paul said at the end of Colossians 3:13, “so you also must do.”—which is the whole point of Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.
So, this is the first step to forgiveness—understanding that we are expected to forgive, that it is a command, and it is our duty to do so.
But I understand and the Lord understands that this is not easy to do. It is not always something that we can just choose, in ourselves, to do. I’ve had people who have been hurt that, while they honestly want to obey the Lord, do not know how to forgive because the offense was so great.
Well, as Jesus’ disciples obviously understood, we will need faith to forgive sometimes. It might be too much for us to handle—releasing someone from the pain that they caused us. This is when our faith in God becomes key.
The Lord recently showed me that one of the ways that we forgive by faith is through our prayer life. What do I mean by that?
Have you ever noticed that in some of our greatest exhortations to forgive others that the forgiving is being done while in prayer? Therefore, there is apparently a connection between the process of forgiveness and our own personal prayer lives.
This is why Jesus combined Mark 11:25with Mark 11:23-24: After teaching us the principles of faith of speaking to our mountains and letting our faith-filled words frame our world, Jesus said, “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
You see, these principles of faith don’t just work on the healing of our bodies, finances, etc. They also work in the healing of our hearts. That’s why Jesus answered His disciple’s plea for help in forgiving our brothers with speaking to the mulberry tree (See Luke 17:5-6). Why? It’s because that’s how it works.
How many people when they want to see a tree uprooted or mountain removed in their life, ask the Lord to do it? That’s what the disciples did here. They asked the Lord to increase their faith. But Jesus essentially replied, you don’t need more faith; you just need to use the faith you have.
You see, well-meaning believers who love the Lord and want to love & forgive others will ask Him to “help” them in this respect just like the disciples did here when they said, “Lord, increase our faith!” We might say, “Lord, increase my love” or “Help me to forgive them.” That’s not the right prayer. The right thing to do is when you stand praying, use your faith and love to remove the offense and bitterness from the roots!
One way we do this is by doing what the Lord taught us to do in response to the pains and offenses others might have caused. He said, in Luke 6:27-28to love them. How? By doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, and by praying for those who spitefully use us.
You see, it is no surprise then that so many people have a hard time releasing people in their hearts. Why? Because they are not doing it God’s way; they are doing it their own way—trying their best to forgive but failing to truly release that person in their hearts.
When we do it God’s way—which is taking it before the Lord when we stand praying, and confessing before Him our willingness to release them for the hurt they caused us and sincerely praying for them—it becomes much more doable.
This is where God’s supernatural ability to forgive gets activated in our life! It is where we are truly able to release them and the anointing to forgive is released in our lives! Hallelujah!
It is just a matter of perspective, church. Are we going to magnify the sins people commit against us, or rather, are we going to choose to consider all that we have been forgiven of by God? Freely we have received, so freely we ought to give! Amen and amen.