Bible Study, February 15, 2009
Starting Point: Matthew 18:18
Vs 18 – This verse follows in the context of what Jesus has said about how the church is to deal with sin and offenses among the brothers. Notice: Everything in this passage is about mercy and forgiveness, not hatred or animosity. Many have interpreted this verse to be about spiritual warfare, but when viewed in context it is clear that Jesus isn’t talking about demons or spirits: He is talking about how we interact with human beings. Speaking in judicial or disciplinary terms He is saying, “Whatever decision you make on earth will be affirmed in heaven.”
– This is the second time Jesus uttered these words (the first was to Peter in 16:9), and this time He extends the authority to all of His disciples. Heavenly authority was given to the apostles because they were the ones who were to chosen to grapple with doctrines, conflicts, false teachings, issues surrounding how a Christian (Jewish or not) should live — in effect, what people were “bound to” or what they were “loosed from.”
– Q: Do we have to figure things like that out today? In what ways?
– Deuteronomy 17:1-7. In the OT, the victims or witnesses of wrongdoing were the ones who took the first action to punish sin. The purpose of two or three witnesses in the NT is not to throw a stone, but to extend the truth and mercy of God so that healing and repentance may come.
Vs 19-20 – While on the subject of authority, Jesus also relates it to prayer and fellowship in the community of believers.
– Re: vs 19 – Is Jesus saying you have to pray with someone else to receive what you ask? Re: vs 20 – Is He saying that He’s not with us when we’re alone?
– A: No. He is talking about a community (two being required for Christian fellowship) making decisions about relationships.
– Mt. 6:6. “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”
– Q: Will the Father always answer a prayer if two Christians ask for the same thing?
– No. James 4:3. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
In this business of restoring relationships, in praying the will of the Father, and in fellowship with one another, you have the blessing, approval, authority, and very certain presence of Jesus. And our motive in these things is as a servant, coming alongside to help someone who is going astray.
Vs 21 – After Jesus had spoken to His disciples about prayer (in the SOTM), He said this: Mt 6:14, 15. For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
– Peter has listened carefully to Jesus’ words about seeking reconciliation with those who have injured us. Jewish tradition said a person should forgive a penitent who confessed his wrongdoing, but only three times. Peter is perhaps thinking he’s being overly generous, but he wants to know where the bounds of forgiveness lie.
Vs 22 – 490 times? Jesus uses a Jewish colloquialism that means “forever.” He’s not giving a specific number; rather, He is saying that where there is sincere repentance, there must be sincere forgiveness.
– Ephesians 4:32. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.
– Colossians 3:12, 13. So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
– “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do…”
– Our ability to forgive others is directly related to our understanding of how much the Lord has forgiven us. When people say they need to “find themselves,” the truth is that they need to find themselves in relation to Jesus Christ, to how they have hurt Him, and how He has loved them. That revelation is what brings compassion and the grace to forgive others of the petty things they have done to us.
Vs 23 – For the purpose of the parable, Jesus isn’t referring to any Jewish king, but to the Gentile rulers (like Pharoah and the kings of Babylon and Persia) who had high-ranking servants in positions of high responsibility. (Joseph and Daniel are biblical examples.) In the story, the “king” represents the Lord, and the slaves represent those who are “in the kingdom,” believers who have been entrusted with resources. Perhaps, like Joseph, they were entrusted with gaining resources, but have now come up short. Either way, Jesus invokes the image of debt, something owed.
Vs 24 – “…brought to him…” That is, he didn’t come of his own volition. He’s been avoiding this encounter, this reckoning. (Have you ever done that?)
– “ten thousand talents.” A talent was a measurement in weight, not a coin. If Jesus was referring to the standard Greek silver talent, He meant a sum which to us might be around 12 million dollars. In Jesus’ day, one talent represented an average worker’s pay for over 16 years of labor. It was clear to the disciples that the sum of this debt was far beyond repayment.
Vs 25-27 – The slave begs for patience, and promises to repay “everything,” even though the debt is much more than he could ever hope to pay back. (A modern picture might be the people of Abundant Life Church promising to pay off the State of Delaware’s 600 million dollar budget shortfall.)
– Q: Does this slave deserve forgiveness? A: No. He didn’t even ask for it.
– “…the lord of that slave felt compassion…” This is no ordinary heathen king, but is a picture of undeserved grace, of forgiveness that cannot be merited or earned. His compassion is so great that it moves him to do much more than the servant asked: he forgives the debt. The NT accounts remark over and over again that Jesus “felt compassion” for the multitudes.
– “…and loosed him…” (KJV) Binding and loosing in action.
Vs 28-31 – “A hundred denarii…” A denarii was equivalent to a day’s wage. This fellow slave owes an extremely small debt in comparison to his accuser.
– “He was unwilling.” Key word. Debtor’s prison, as such, was an idea that was contrary to the Torah. A person in debtor’s prison could not work or earn money, so it rendered him unable to repay a debt himself. It put the pressure to repay the debt on the debtor’s family.
– The man’s act of violence is directly after his own great forgiveness. The burden he bore regarding his own debt was just lifted, and he went right out and grabbed his brother by the throat. He was frightened before his lord, but he was not changed in his heart.
– “his fellow slaves saw what had happened…” Two or three witnesses were present, and they were “deeply grieved.” They have a compassionate heart, like their lord.
Vs 32-35 – “…and his lord, moved with anger…” Now the time of judgment comes because the slave did not share his lord’s heart.
– “the torturers…” When we refuse to forgive, says Jesus, we are handed over the tormentors. What do you think this means? Imprisoned, isolated, bitter, etc.
Q: Why was the lord angry? A: Because the servant did not share his heart and was a poor reflection of him.
Q: What if someone asks forgiveness of me, then goes out and keeps doing the same thing?
A: – Luke 17:3, 4. “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him. And if he sins against you seven times a day, and returns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.”
Q: Do we put limits on forgiveness? How? Why? A: Because we see ourselves in an overly-positive light; we don’t appreciate how much God has forgiven us. Because we fear “what man can do” to us (Ps 118:6. The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me?).
Through the story, Jesus teaches that forgiveness means a debt is wiped clean or made bankrupt, forgotten. Forgiveness means freedom and joy for both the offender and the one who was wronged. Forgiving one another is being like our Lord and sharing his compassionate heart and mercy. Because He has forgiven us so much, we must forgive each other.
Ask the Lord to show you if there is anyone you are holding a grudge against, or whom you are keeping at a distance. Is there anyone whom you have been unwilling to forgive and have relationship with?
Vs 1-3 – The question the Pharisees asked was more or less the acceptable viewpoint of the day. They lived in a patriarchal society where women were disdained and easily discarded. Hillel, one prominent Rabbi, taught that it was acceptable for a man to divorce his wife for almost any reason, even if she just burned her husband’s bread, or if he found a more attractive woman. Josephus divorced a wife because he didn’t like her manners. (So chewing with your mouth open became grounds for divorce. “I’m divorcing her, man. She keeps leaving the toilet seat down.”)
– Q: Where is the “test” in this question? A: To make Jesus contradict the teaching of Moses.
Vs 4 – “Have you not read?” What’re you, stupid? Jesus quotes Moses, drawing attention to Who created them, to Who sanctified marriage and made it holy, safe, and satisfying for BOTH the man and the woman. To do whatever we please is to deny God’s intention in creation, and His lordship over us.
Vs 5-6 – “cleave” Gr. pros-kol-lah’-o; to glue, to adhere, to stick to.
– “one flesh” In other words, they become a stronger unit together than they were when they were apart, inseparably bonded.
– From the start, God’s intention for man and woman was enduring monogamy. (Anywhere polygamy exists in the OT, problems and massive dysfunction arose for everyone. In the NT, any leader in the church had to be the “husband of one wife.”)
Deuteronomy 24:1-5. When a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house [remember this is what Joseph intended to do with Mary when he found out she was with child], and she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, and if the latter husband turns against her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance. When a man takes a new wife, he shall not go out with the army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken.
Q: What happened to a woman who was sent out from her husband? A: She was destitute and unwanted, and she became dependent on the community for survival.
Rather than granting permission to divorce for any reason, the Torah set restrictions on what was permissible. Jesus said this was because of their spiritual immaturity and lack of God’s heart.
Jeremiah 6:16. Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you shall find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”
Malachi 2:13-16. “This is another thing you do: you cover the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping and with groaning, because He no longer regards the offering or accepts it with favor from your hand. Yet you say, ‘For what reason?’ Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant. Take heed then to your spirit, and let no one deal treacherously against the wife of your youth. For I hate divorce,” says the LORD, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the LORD of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.”
Q: What is the world’s view of marriage? How is that viewpoint different than God’s?
Q: Why is divorce so prevalent in our society (and the church)?
Q: Why do you think God hates divorce? A: Because the effects of divorce permeate the larger family and the community. Divorce has a long and destructive ripple through people’s lives.
Q: What is the primary purpose of marriage? A: To serve and glorify God.
Q: What is necessary to make marriage work? A: Adherence to God’s Word in a broad sense. Support from other believers, prayer, commitment. What else?
Q: Do we have customs or practices that are allowed, but aren’t necessarily good?
Throughout the Scripture, the Lord admonishes men to love their wives. He sticks up for them.
1 Peter 3:7. You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.