Theme: Offenses and Forgiveness
In this week’s lesson we see a man forgiven, but unforgiving
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You Wicked servant,’ he said. ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ “In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
“‘This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart,”
How do we understand Jesus’ words following this parable? What we need to recognize is that Jesus is not giving the whole of the gospel message in one story. What he says is true enough, that there is an unbreakable connection between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of other people. This is intended to snap us out of any lethargy we may have and confront us with the life-changing power of the gospel. But it does not mean that we are saved by forgiving others or that salvation, once acquired, can be lost. Jesus is only saying that, whatever else is involved (and a great deal more is involved), forgiveness must be part of what it means to be a Christian.
Here is the explanation. Although we are justified by faith apart from works, being justified is not the only thing that happens to us in salvation. In fact, it is not even the first thing. Justification is by faith, so faith at least comes before it. And since, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, we cannot “see” or “enter” the kingdom of God unless we are born again, regeneration or the new birth must come before entering or believing (John 3 :3-5). This means that no one believes on Christ and is justified who has not already been given a new nature. This new nature is the nature of Jesus himself or, as we could also say, it is God’s own forgiving nature. Thus although the new nature does not manifest itself entirely at once, if we are justified, that nature will increasingly and inevitably express itself in our forgiving others, just as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. We will be able to pray, as Jesus instructed us to pray, “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).
The Lutherans say: “We are justified by faith alone, but not by a faith which is alone.” Faith comes first, but our new nature will express itself after that in what we do. The conclusion is: if we do not forgive others, we are not forgiven. We are not justified people. We are not God’s children.
The parable of the forgiven but unforgiving debtor makes three points. First, there is a judgment coming. Jesus did not pass over that teaching. He spoke of forgiveness, but he also spoke of what happened to the wretched man in his story. He was cast into prison until he should pay back all he owed. That judgment hangs over everyone who has not experienced God’s forgiveness through faith in Christ. Second, there is forgiveness. God does forgive. God sent Jesus to make forgiveness possible. Third, the only sure proof of a person’s having received God’s forgiveness through true faith in Jesus is a transformed heart and changed life.
How do we get that down into the practical areas of our lives, so that we actually begin to treat others as we have been treated? It is by standing before the holy God and seeing ourselves as the vile sinners we are-vile and yet forgiven through the death of God’s Son. That awareness should humble us so that we simply have no other option but to forgive others and do it from the heart.
What is the connection between forgiving and salvation?
Explain the new nature. How are we to demonstrate this nature?
What can be concluded if we do not forgive others?
List the three points the parable makes.