Matthew 18:21-35 Part 2

From the beginning it has been apparent that Jesus Christ had come to destroy the old and institute a New Heavens and a New Earth.  Man in his cursed depravity would not obey; and a new beginning – a new origin – would be given to them by grace.

So He died in our flesh in order that sin and death might be defeated for us, and that we might have a new Genesis.  In Him is the fullness of the Word revealed by God, which the old people of God would not believe.  In Him is the adoption of a new people to replace the old.  In Him is a new Kingdom and a new obedience – a new righteousness.  In Him is a new Adam to replace the first one.

In Him is a new “twelve” – the apostles – to replace the old tribes of Israel.  In Him is the new (and better) Moses; and the new (and better) Jonah; and the new (and better) David; and the new (and better) Elijah!  The old people would be crushed due to their disobedience of God’s Covenant promises; and an all-new humanity would be brought to be, foreshadowed and prophesied in all the older Scripture.

The new Israel would have His righteousness imputed to them, and because of that they would be holy unto God.  They would take on the nature of their new Adam; and, by His grace, they would suffer the humiliation of the old and be raised to new life and obedience in Him.

Jesus said to His disciples, “You must be changed and become as the babes….”  The disciples would enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens as the firstfruits – the first adopted children of the covenant; and then those that come after them.

And although different – every one – they would all have the same Savior.  And although differing in talents and gifts and personality, they would all have the same nature – that of their Savior.  “Whoever receives one such babe for My Name, receives Me,” said Jesus (verse five) – indicating the identification of each newborn babe with the source of its new humanity.

And although dismissed and humiliated by a culture and society that does not care, (just like Jesus was) the adopted newborn counts “loss” his richest gain and “pours contempt on all his pride,” because he has gained Christ and His Kingdom.  The scorn and disdain and censure of the world and its entrapments is but momentary and passing hurt in comparison to the joy of putting on the person and nature of Christ.  The “entrapments” of the world are inevitable.  Our Lord Jesus became the “scourge of the earth” for the benefit of each one of God’s beloved, adopted sons.

“When we were yet dead in sin, Christ died for us….”  When we were yet in the loins of our father Adam; when we were accursed by God and at enmity with Him; when we were “at one” with the world order, Christ loved us and died for us.  He reconciled us to the Father.  When we could care less, He satisfied our Father’s desire to judge us!

It is unconditional love; unconditional grace; unconditional forgiveness!  It’s not based on anything we are, or anything God foresaw in us, or anything we accomplish – it is unconditional.  We did nothing to help Him; we did nothing to merit it; we did not ask for it; we did not repent in order to receive it!  Our having been forgiven our sins is because of Christ and nothing else!

You see, if any part of our salvation is accomplished by our effort, then it is no longer grace.  If we decided that our nature was evil and that we needed to have a new origin, and we chose to be changed, then grace is no longer grace; and it is no longer unconditional.  If we freely chose to have the nature of Christ, and, in so doing, it was given to us, then it is no longer unconditional!  If God sees in us the desire to submit to His Son and His Kingdom, and He thereby gives it to us, then it is not unconditional.

Now.  Having been unconditionally changed; having been moved from death unto life – by grace; having been given a new Genesis – unconditionally, “how shall we then live?” asked Francis Schaeffer.  In other words, what is our new nature to be like?  We in the Reformed Faith know, better than most, the nature of our old depravity; but what about after we’re cleansed of our sin and unconditionally forgiven?  How are we supposed to be – once we are newborn babes in Christ?

Well, if we were “in Adam” before, and had his nature, whose nature are we to have if we’re now “in Christ”?  Isn’t it natural to assume that if we had the rebellious, cursed nature of Adam before, that we now, having been rebirthed into Christ, have the nature of Christ?  Good!  That’s what the Scriptures say!

And in addition to that long list of characteristics of a Christian that I gave you last Lord’s Day, what was it that I added to the list?  Was that the nature of Christ?  What was added to the list was unconditional forgiveness.  And that’s the subject of this passage of Scripture.

Those who are unconditionally forgiven by Christ unconditionally forgive those others who are unconditionally forgiven by Christ!  If God unconditionally forgives, then who are we to put conditions on forgiveness of our brothers?  Are we better than He?  Who are our brothers except those who God has predestined for His unconditional love?  If it is the nature of Christ to forgive without conditions, and if we are to have His nature, then is it not arrogant hypocrisy, on our part, to withhold forgiveness from a brother until our “conditions” are met?

And, further, since Christ forgave our brother without conditions, doesn’t it reduce his significance as a brother if we record terms and conditions by which we will forgive him for personal offense?

And, since we’re being inquisitive here, let me ask one further question (the ultimate one which the allegory in the text addresses).  And that is, what is the nature of one who forgives only with conditions?  The text says, “the Kingdom of the Heavens is like this…” – forgiveness and compassion without conditions!  This is the Kingdom.  And the Lord of the House has set the tone for the “household”.  This is the way the “house” is!  And if one isn’t forgiving and compassionate without conditions, then one isn’t in the house!  He isn’t a part of the household!  That’s what the allegory addresses.  That’s how Jesus addresses Peter.

So the reality of the allegory is that Jesus Christ the King has set the tone of the Kingdom; and this is the way the Kingdom is.  He has forgiven the massive debt against Adamic humanity.  We couldn’t pay the debt; and He forgave us without terms and conditions!  And those who continue to require terms and conditions in order to receive that forgiveness, are not in the Kingdom!

Now, that’s the reality of this whole situation, you see.  One doesn’t begin with a given set of circumstances.  The “beginning point” is the nature of the Kingdom – unconditional forgiveness.  The “temperament” of the Kingdom, the proclivity of the Kingdom, the predisposition of the Kingdom – the “tone” of the Kingdom, because of the nature and work of the King – is unconditional forgiveness.  This is the way the “Lord” of the house is!  So that’s the way His house is!  A servant who isn’t “that way” – doesn’t belong to the house!

Before we go through the allegory, let’s look at some other passages of Scripture.  For example, Colossians chapter three, verses twelve through thirteen.  Here’s what the apostle Paul says to the Church:


“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility of mind, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”


In this passage, Paul doesn’t just tell the Colossian Christians to act-in-a-particular-fashion; he tells them to do so as “the elect of God”.  The very foundation of our behavior toward one another is the unconditional election and forgiveness of God.  Therefore our behavior is to be adorned with tender mercies – bearing with one another and forgiving one another!

Paul says to the Corinthian Church, in First Corinthians chapter four, verse seven:


“Who makes you different from another?  And what do you have that you didn’t receive?  Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?”


Paul says that everything we are we received as a gift – without merit!  We didn’t earn anything!  So how are we different from another brother?

Chapter five of Paul’s letter to the Ephesian Church is that great passage having to do with life in Christ.  And in it Paul proclaims the “putting off” of the old man, and the “putting on” of the new.  At the end, he says this:


“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice; and be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God on account of Christ hath forgiven you.”


As you can see, forgiveness among the brothers is based on God’s forgiveness of us – on account of what Christ did!  The conditions were met by Jesus Christ.  So it is for us to unconditionally forgive a brother – for the same reason!  The reason being, that Christ already met the conditions!

Now, it is always the case that we begin to ask the questions about the details of forgiveness; such as, “Doesn’t our brother have to ask forgiveness first?”  Or, “Doesn’t he have to repent before we forgive him?”  “Doesn’t he have to see that he’s been wrong, and admit it?”

And what about this, “My brother has sinned against me, so he needs to be confronted about it.  His heart isn’t right, so it will be good for him for me to tell him about it.”  (I wonder whose heart is not right when I hear that.)

But at the very root of those questions is one who takes personal offense, and has his mind on himself, and who takes offense at the things that are said and done around him or to him, or about him.  His mind isn’t in the Kingdom, and he’s sensitive about himself.  So he has to build this “conditional” wall around himself.  “If he does this, then everything will be okay.”  “My heart is right, and I’ll forgive him, if he’ll just say ‘I’m sorry.’”  And we go on about the business of being Christians, all built around “conditional forgiveness”!

But if our Lord’s payment of our debt had been built around the condition of our admission of guilt, then He never would have obeyed His Father; He never would have paid the debt, and we all would still be liable for our massive debt of sin against God; for none of us would have ever admitted guilt!

But God has unconditionally forgiven us because Jesus met all the conditions for us.  And, now, our nature must be “unconditional forgiveness” for our brother, because Christ met all the Father’s conditions for him, too!

One of the most beautiful, and most specific, passages having to do with this is in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church, chapter six.  Recognizing that there is still sin in every believer’s life that has to be dealt with and mortified, Paul addresses the subject of two brothers in Corinth actually going before an unrighteous judge to settle matters between them!  He says that the adopted sons of God are the judges of the whole world; and they go to court before an unbelieving judge in order to straighten out problems between two sons of God?!!!  Take it to the least among you, he says, instead of an unbeliever.  Take the problem to the most immature believer in the Church instead of a pagan!!  If you must sin against one another, don’t take it to a pagan judge!

But he says at the end of the passage that that’s not even the real issue!  The issue isn’t “who’s going to judge between two self-concerned brothers”; the point is, that they’re going to law at all!  Here’s what he says:


“Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because you have lawsuits among yourselves.  Why not rather be wronged?  Why not rather be deprived?  But you do wrong and deprive!  And this to your brothers!”


The “ground” of the brotherhood is payment of the debt by Christ and unconditional forgiveness by the Father.  And, yet, the brothers then turn around and go to law with each other!  Self-concern, self-esteem and arrogance!  The full debt is remitted to them, and they go and sue each other!  And Paul’s final question is concerning forgiveness – “Wouldn’t you rather be wronged?  Wouldn’t you rather be deprived?”  Christ paid your debt!  Receive the wrong!  Receive the deprivation based on the fact that your Lord was humiliated and suffered wrong for you in order to remit your debt.  So forgive your brother for his sin against you!

The fundamental issue here does not revolve around questions concerning whether a brother is truly a brother; or whether a brother has repented; or whether a debt is too big or the wrong too wrong!  You may not justify self-concerned, arrogant, aggressive behavior toward your brother by questioning the true state of his soul!  When Christ died for His Father’s people, He did not question the state of their souls – He secured the remittance of their debt!  For that reason, and that reason only (it is sufficient), Paul says,


“Put on, therefore, bowels of mercies, kindness, humility of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man has a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do you.”


Your brother’s debt is not the issue; your brother’s repentance is not the issue; the state of your brother’s soul isn’t the issue; whether justice is done with respect to your brother is not the issue; the issue is your position, your heart, with respect to the Kingdom – with respect to the body of Christ.  For there is unconditional forgiveness.  When you can’t forgive your brother in Christ unconditionally, then what does that say about your place in the body of Christ?!

When the apostles came to Jesus with envy and jealousy in their hearts toward Peter, Jesus said, “you must be changed…” to even enter the Kingdom.  You must be born anew, and you must not diminish the significance of even one of your brothers.

Then Peter comes to Jesus later and pretends that he has even more forgiveness in his heart toward the other apostles than the Pharisees require.  Even seven times!

But Jesus responds to him in the same way He addressed the others.  The nature of the Kingdom is unconditional forgiveness, He said.  The life of a brother in Christ is characterized by humility and meekness and kindness and forgiveness.  And the “ground” and pattern for that is the One Who paid your debt.

“The Kingdom”, He said here in the allegory, is likened to one who balances the household accounts.  And if all the debts are paid for one, he is a member of the household.  But if the debts aren’t paid – if the books don’t balance, then that one cannot be a member of the household!

The tone of the house is set by the lord of the house.  And if the lord of the house remits debt unconditionally, then the household members remit debt unconditionally.  And should they not do that, then they aren’t members of the household!  Therefore they are held, irrevocably, to the payment of the whole debt!  Those whose debt is paid are members.

The alien seed that were sowed in the Garden of God weren’t household members, and they were held to the debt; they were bound in 70 AD and thrown into the furnace until the debt was paid in full!

But, Peter, Jesus says (in essence), your brothers’ sins of envy against you are not only to be forgiven seven times; but the Kingdom standard is unconditional forgiveness.  Your heart is to be in union with the One Who will forgive you – without condition.  How many times your eleven brothers may wrong you personally, Peter, is not the issue!  It will never even come close, in comparison, to the debt you owe.  The shame and deprivation and sin heaped upon the Lamb of God is your debt that must be paid.  And be it paid, Peter, it will be without any terms and conditions.  So be kind to your brothers, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God, because of Christ, has forgiven you.  If your debt is paid, then this must be your nature.

And if this isn’t your nature, then you have no place in the Kingdom.  And all your debt will be required of you.