|Matthew 18 (NKJV™)|
|1||At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"|
|2||Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,|
|3||and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.|
|4||"Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.|
|5||"Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.|
|6||"But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea.|
|7||"Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!|
|8||"If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire.|
|9||"And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.|
|10||"Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.|
|11||"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.|
|12||"What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying?|
|13||"And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.|
|14||"Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.|
|15||"Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.|
|16||"But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.'|
|17||"And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.|
|18||"Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.|
|19||"Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.|
|20||"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."|
|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."|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
How should sin be dealt with? As we examine Matthew 18, we learn not only to deal radically with sin in our own lives, but also the steps toward reconciliation with a sinning brother.
From its opening genealogy through its careful record of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled, Matthew's gospel forms a bridge between the Old Testament and the New Testament. In this in-depth study by Pastor Skip Heitzig we'll consider Jesus' ancestry, birth, public ministry, death, and resurrection, and we'll gain a clearer understanding of Jesus as both Messiah and King.
Visit expoundabq.org for more information on this series.
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Topic: Christian living
Keywords: childlike, child, forgiveness, reconciliation, forgive, restoration, restore
Would you turn in your bibles tonight to Matthews Gospel, Chapter 18. If you're unfamiliar to what we're doing and I doubt any of you are, most of you are. You're hardcore. (Laughter) You know that we take chunks of the bible, we go through it and we want to go line by line, verse by verse, precept upon precept, find out what God says and by his grace, do it. Before we begin tonight in prayer, tomorrow has been deemed The National Day of Prayer. (Applause) That means that everyone who clapped will show up. (Laughter)
Tomorrow the church will be opened. The prayer room especially will be stacked with pastors from eight in the morning until five. We invite you to come if you are in the area and we're going to praying for different items on the agenda hour-by-hour, dividing up sort of the major things to pray about that are important in our culture, in our country for the body of Christ, for the Kingdom of God praying for them. Every hour, we'll have a time of worship. Every hour we'll a pastor leading in prayer. We welcome you to come in and participate and join in that.
If you can't come but you want to participate, it's going to be streamed live all day long. So you go to computer, you can logon and we have a growing cyber community we discovered here at the fellowship of people who come in at different times, different places around the country. But if you're in town and you have the opportunity to logon and pray with us via cyberspace.
On next Wednesday night, it's going to a little bit different. It's our first meeting outdoors. So next Wednesday night, we're not going to meet inside, we're going to meet outside under the stars to have communion. We're going to take that together. So, I'm just wondering the people that are outside right now, well we're going to be joining them. I hope that they won't like go inside because we're outside. (Laughter) That'll be a switch. They may just not like us, I don't know but we're all going to be outside and a good friend of ours in the fellowship is good to be doing special music for that, Dennis Agajanian will be here so, bring a friend. (Applause) The big cowboy will be here.
Matthew, Chapter 18. Shall we pray? Father, we've come tonight, bible in hand. Many of us having read the chapters in advance, asking you what they mean to us personally before we learn as a group what Jesus meant to say locally at that time, to those who were listening, the disciples and others and then apply these things to our own lives. We pray, Father, that we will not grow weary in welldoing. We will not grow weary of hearing your voice and your word but it would be to us like living water, living springs of water.
As it says in the Old Testament, your words were found and I did eat them and they were to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart. For some of us have been at this for many, many years, we know lots of truths, lots of stuff, especially when it comes to Matthew, the New Testament. But surprise us Lord tonight and speak of fresh word to us, in Jesus name, Amen. (Amen)
I was Dr. Paul Tournier who was a medical doctor from Switzerland and also a pastoral counselor. And this physician- turned-counselor said something very interesting. He said, "I believe that nine out of ten people who go to a psychiatrist don't need to go. What they need," he said, "is to find someone who will genuinely love them with God's love and they will be cured." That, from a scientist and a professional counselor who spent years with people at that level. It's very insightful. And I open up tonight with that quote because we're going to be dealing now with interpersonal relationships in the culture of the Kingdom of God. Matthew 18 is the fourth of five discourses spoken by Jesus recorded by Matthew and the theme of this one is forgiveness and child likeness.
Or maybe I would put childlikeness first and forgiveness second. It's developing within us the capacity to understand God's love for us so that we can responsibly and I underscore responsibly, share God's love with people. Forgiveness, Christlikeness, getting along. Verse one of Chapter 18, "At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, "Who then is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Let me just remind you that the disciples were still thinking politically. Their thoughts thus their words were formed by their worldview based upon how they grew up that the Kingdom of God isn't something a long way off that is preceded by the death of the messiah. But that the messiah once he comes, is going to set up the kingdom immediately. That's why they didn't either get it or they didn't like it whenever Jesus spoke of his own death. It didn't register on the radar scale. It's just like "What, what, what?" Over their heads or the look puzzled or they argued about it. It still didn't register.
They're still thinking that you, the messiah, Jesus, you're here now, I don't know what all these little episodes you talk about death are all about but you must be setting up your kingdom and if so, what is the pecking order? Now, why this dispute? Keep in mind, Jesus has been up on a high mountain and was transfigured with Moses and Elijah before whom? Peter, James, and John. Three of them not all of them. So it could be that the ones left out started talking either behind those three back or maybe getting into a confrontation with them so that it comes up who is the greatest? Maybe these three guys are being treated with special favors that the rest of us aren't getting.
Now this dispute doesn't seem to go away. Later on, the mother, Mrs. Zebedee, the mother of James and John will come to Jesus and ask for a special favor. Lord, I just have one little special request. I want my two boys, one to sit at your right hand, one to sit at you left hand in the kingdom. When the other disciples found that out, they were angered. The dispute didn't end there, in the upper room before Jesus went to be crucified, they were still bickering and arguing at the table. So here they are bringing up the question, "Who's the greatest in the kingdom?" and Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them and said, assuredly, if you have the old King Jimmy version it's, "Verily, verily," from the words "Amen, amen. I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
The word for little child, it's aptly translated as the Greek word "Paidion." Paidion, it means a very, very young child like a toddler. I love watching children. I especially love hearing or watching children when it comes to spiritual things. My little grandson is learning how to pray before meals and when Nate and Jennae will lead them in prayer, he wants to stop during the meal and pray a few more times, he just likes that idea. And because it's prayer, they're not going to say no. So he's developed a level of control of the meal because the kid wants to pray. And as the child grows and as that little child as we even discussed and you saw in the introductory remarks at UNM, there's something winsome about a child for a number of reasons. A child is simple, not complex. There's no subtext with a child. There's no like, "I'm saying something but I'm saying something but couching how I feel because I want to see how you respond to that."
So there's none of that. It's just very simple. Also, one of the interesting marks of a child is, they are helpless. They have no resources of their own. They're not thinking about what's going to happen next week, next month and next year. They're not worried about things. They're helpless, having no resources of their own and consequently they are dependent. There's mom and dad, that's all I need to know. They don't have to explain to me the balance in the checkbook. They don't have to explain anything to me, they're there, I'm okay.
There's a total dependency. So what Jesus is saying is, first of all, to get into the Kingdom of God, you have to be as dependent as a helpless innocent little child who would depend on the good graces of his or her parents. You must depend on the good graces of your Father in heaven. That little child became an example of what it was like to become a child of God and so those two are correlated in this passage.
I've always found it interesting whenever I've traveled to do evangelism or speak in different places. There were times when I have spoken to young children or brought a band to sing at a school and just the response of young children to truth because the barriers aren't up. They haven't learned to erect them yet. Child evangelism can be wonderfully rewarding just because of those traits. And so he said, again, Verse 3, "I say to you, unless you are converted and become as a little child, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in my name, receives me." That it is, one who is like the little child that Jesus uses as an example, a spiritual child of God. Whoever receives a believer, a fellow believer who has been converted and comes humbly and dependent like a little child receives me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believes in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he was drowned in the depths of the sea.
I remember raising my son, Nate, and whatever I had somebody who loved my son, I love that person. I love that person because they loved and treated my son well. If somebody didn't love my son, I didn't much care for them. You understand that as parents, so does God. God seems to feel the same way that if you treat his children well you're honoring him. If you don't treat God's children well -- but in fact caused them to sin, the word sin is the Greek word "scandalitso", scandalize, which means to cause to fall, to be offended, to entrap, to entice or to influence to sin, that's what the word means. So if you're a person that would do that to one of my children, you actually offend them or cause them to be shaken in their faith or lose faith. It would be better to take a millstone and hang it around your neck. I mean this sounds really Mafioso here. (Laughter) In fact, did you know that the Roman government used to as a form of capital punishment, take a millstone and throw people into the sea that they wanted to kill, horrible death. It's like saying, "We're going to case you in cement and throw you overboard." (Laughter)
Now, the word for millstone and there were several kinds of millstones, there were little millstones that you would grind, hand stones. But the word here means a donkey's upper millstone and the idea is, there were these huge stones that would rotate on bases in a circle. They were tied to donkeys who would pull the crossbeam attached to the stone and they would drag that and that stone would be rotating and be crushing a huge nut or pieces of grain. So something that weighed hundreds of pounds.
It's a very, very star kind of a statement and it would be better that had been drowned in the sea. Just think for a moment what this truth conveys and think of other truths that go so well with it. For instance, in the Book of Zechariah, God speaks about how people treat the Jewish people, the nation of Israel. God says, "Whoever touches you, touches the apple of my eye." Have you ever had somebody try to poke you in the eye? Ever got something in your eye and how sensitive you are? Somebody touches your cornea -- it's hard for me to touch my own.
I had a doctor fit me with contact lenses years ago and he taught me how to put them in and I couldn't do it and he says, "Gee whiz Skip, I've ever seen anyone as sensitive with their eyes as you. You're the worst patient I've had." Well there's a worst patient than me and that's God. God is basically saying, "You mess with my kids, it's like trying to poke me in the eye. You touch the apple of my eye." And there was a guy who found that out, his name was Saul of Tarsus. He was after those who believed in Jesus who were up in Damascus. And as he was going up to persecute them, Jesus stopped him and said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" Remember that? He said, "Who are you Lord?" "I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting." Interesting, that Jesus would so identify himself with his people that if you mess with his people, you're making Jesus your enemy.
So all of those truths come to bear when we read these passages of scripture. Can you think in your mind the people in the bible some examples of a person or persons who caused other people to stumble to sin, to fall to be influenced to sin? Or the first one that comes to mind, it would be Eve who enticed her husband Adam to do that. Another when it comes to mind would be Aaron who consented and took the gold from the children of Israel and constructed a golden calf with which to worship falsely and a third would be King Jeraboam of the 10 northern tribes who enticed that entire nation of Israel to fall into idolatry wholesale. And so this is what Jesus thinks about all of that. "Woe to the world because of offenses, for offenses must come but woe to that man by whom the offense has come. If your hand or your foot caused you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you for it is better for you to enter into life with one eye." A Cyclops, "Than having two eyes to be cast into hellfire. Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones for I say to you that in heaven, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to seek or have come to save that which is lost."
Now hearing what Jesus just said, you might as well cut of your hand or your foot or your eye. We read that or we hear that and we go, "That's really, really gross." Well, that's the intended effect that Jesus wanted you to have. He wanted you -- in hearing that, go, "Oh, that's so gross." But say, "Yes that is grouse." But you know what's even more gross? Sin in your life, allowing sin to be there and to grow unchecked should gross you out. You ought to have the same response to that as to taking an appendage off of your body, the same kind of reaction in doing that.
Now, the right hand and the right eye and the right foot in Judaism in the ancient writings, always depicted one's best. If you're left-handed, please forgive them (Laughter) for being prejudiced against you but the right hand, since most people are right-handed, it is seen as the arm of strength and the dominant eye and the strong leg or foot, the right, it's your best. The idea is, do your best to spend your best energy for the right things not the wrong things. And the things that are going and growing in terms of sin in your life unchecked, it's time to check them. It's time to deal radically with them. How many of you deal radically when it comes to sin in your own life? Oh, I'll just say a quick little prayer and hopefully, "if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us all unrighteousness." I remember that one, I always keep that around, I need that one. (Laughter) So we just 1 John 1 it and we move on. Take heed to these words, "What do you think?" Verse 12, "If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go to the mountains to seek one that is stray? And if you should find it, assuredly I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the 99 that did not go astray. Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish."
How did Paul the apostle deal with problems in his own life? First of all you think, Paul the Apostle, he probably didn't even have any problems in his own life. He did and he was very open about dealing with those problems. In fact, allow me to read to you a passage in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 6. Oh you know what? I'm looking at the time. No, I'll do it. (Laughter) 1 Corinthians 9 Verse 24, "Do you not know that those who run in the race all run but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore, thus: not with uncertainty. Thus: I fight not as one who beats the air," shadowboxing, "but I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Paul saw his body as a vessel, as a temple with certain proclivities toward activity that wasn't wholesome. So it was his constant commitment because of the constant battle that he need to wrestle it, bring it under its submission, that if there was a fight to be fought, it was his own impulses because he wanted to have the freedom from certain activities so that he might have the freedom in preaching and then teaching God's truth. So I bring it under subjection. I deal radically with problems and issues in my own life.
What did Joseph do when a woman tried to seduce him? He ran. I wonder if some of us, if Mrs. Potiphar were to grab you young man, if she was a beautiful, dazzling young woman. You might say, "I don't want to be so impolite that I just run away. I want to be a good witness. So, maybe I can share with her some truths." Maybe you could but why risk it? It could be your undoing. Joseph thought, "I don't know if I'm strong enough to face this battle by being here. The best way I know to face this battle is by not being here." So he ran out of the house. She grabbed hold of his robe and he flew out naked he didn't care. (Laughter) Rather face a little embarrassment from those who said, "Check Joseph out. I don't know what's going on." And have to deal with that and have to deal with the fallout of sin that would be committed.
So the bible says, "Flee youthful lust." And can I add something to that? When you flee youthful lust, don't leave a forwarding address. (Laughter) Some people want to flee the devil but it's like they hand them the card and say, "Here's my phone number. I'm there after five." Flee, leave and make it your practice. That means certain television shows, don't even go there, don't even grab the binger, don't get on the computer, stay away from magazines when you walk into the store. You check yourself on that. You bring your body under subjection, under discipline. "Losing anything," Jesus said, "Any part of your life is better than losing Gods work in your life and especially regarding eternal things."
Now, go back to Verse 10, "Take heed or listen up or watch yourself that you do not despise one of these little ones for I say that I in heaven, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven." I hope you know that you are served by God's angels. The writer of Hebrews says, "Angels are ministering spirits sent to serve or minister to those of us who are heirs of salvation." It could mean that you have your own personal angel. I don't know if that's necessarily the case, the whole, "I have my own little guardian angel." Some of you probably have a whole bunch of angels. (Laughter) I think there's times where I need a lot not just one and then like "Send like half the army on this one." But the point that Jesus is making is that, if children of God are served by God's angels, then how dare they be attacked by God's people? "For the Son of Man," the principle, "The Son of Man has come to save, to restore, to heal that which was lost."
Now he changes the analogy somewhat to those who were listening for -- many were shepherds at that time, shepherding was a big business, many made their livelihood from it and he says, "If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the 99 and go to the mountains to seek one that is stray?" Now this is fascinating. If you had a sheep business or any business and you lost just one, that's 1%, anybody who does business expects a margin of loss. You cut your losses and you move on. So if you're in business and 1% gets away, you go, "Okay, that's just the cost of doing business. I'll learn better. I'll try to tighten my margins but we all lose a little bit." So, you cut your losses and you go on.
In those days however, if you were shepherd, things were different. Typically you didn't own sheep, it was just your job to watch somebody else's flock. If one sheep goes away, one sheep runs away, you have to pay for it or if it has been eaten by another animal you have to bring back a piece of the head or the foot or the fleas to prove that it has been eaten or attacked by another animal. You have to prove it. If you can't prove it, you got to pay for it. So that's the idea. We're not talking about business owners here, we're talking about blue-collar workers and they would do things very, very differently. So you go and you seek after the one sheep.
Being a shepherd was hard work for a simple reason. How do I put this? Sheep were known for not having high mental acumen, (Laughter) how's that? (Laughter) In other words, they were just plain stupid. (Laughter) Sheep would wander, they would like have perpetual ADD looking, wandering, looking, running, so shepherds had to keep a tight look on them. That's why Isaiah the prophet and other prophets, other writers described as the sheep saying, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray. We have all gone our own way." You and I are compared to sheep and it think it's a very apt comparison.
At least I'll speak for myself, I won't speak for you. I know you're much smarter than I am. But as for me, that fits me. I'm prone to wander, as the hymn writer said, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to the leave the God I love." But the emphasis here that Jesus is making in this parable isn't the stupidity of the sheep but the emphasis is on the restoring by the shepherd and the value that the shepherd places upon the sheep. The recovery of the sheep is the emphasis here. Now I want you to think of how valuable you are to God. For some of you that is very difficult. I speak to lots of believers who have a difficult time believing God loves them. All they know that God loves everybody but they're sort of the exception. They don't really live in that awareness and confidence that they are highly valued by God, "Who am I? I'm lost in the crowd. Nobody cares about me. Oh I tried to pray every now and then but I realize God is so big and so busy running the universe. He's got bigger business."
Listen, you are his business and he is concerned that one single sheep might be lost. So next time you are prone to say, "Nobody loves me or God doesn't care about me or I'm really nothing." You think back to this. In fact, let me just put it to you this way, "How dare you depreciate what God values?" If God happens to say that smelly, dumb sheep I love so intensely I'm willing to go after it. Then, you have no right to enter into the feelings of the shepherd by saying, "He does not value me. I am not important."
You have no right to deprecate God's property and you're God's property. He died for you. He cares for you. "Even so", Verse 14, "Even so, it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish." Back to that little prophecy of Isaiah that we've been talking about, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray," that's Isaiah 53. Isaiah not only talks about how we like these animals, are prone to wander but he gives the solution for the wandering. The solution for the sheep going astray, "All we, like sheep, have gone astray but the Lord has laid upon him the iniquity of us all. He was bruised. He was scarred for our iniquities except for the chastisement of our peace were upon him." So he gives the solution and the solution is that the shepherd came down to earth to become a sheep to win all the little sheepies back to the shepherd in heaven because it is not the will of your Father in heaven that any one of these little ones should perish.
Moreover, Verse 15, "If your brother sins against you." Okay, let's stop right here. We've been talking about childlikeness and forgiveness and restoration. What if you're the one who's offended? What if you were the one who's attacked? "If your brother," Verse 15, "Sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. If he will not hear you, take with you one or more that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly I say to you whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven."
Okay. You've been offended by some other believer. What you do? According to these verses there is a process to follow. Now, listen carefully please, because I've discovered most Christians do not follow the plain process as outlined in Matthew 18 regarding a sinning brother or a sister. They go, "Oh, forget it. I just sort of forgiven my heart. I won't even deal with it." Or they harbor bitterness or they gossip to everyone about what happened and they don't deal with it the right way.
So what do you do? Here's process. Number one, you go privately to the person who's offended you nowhere else. The closest way to get to God in this case is to go to your brother. So you go to the brother or the sister and you tell them how they have offended you, caused you to the fall, stumbled you, hurt you. You tell that person privately. When you go privately, the purpose isn't to vent, isn't to make him squirm, hurt, "You've hurt me let me --." It's not to win the argument, it's to win the brother, to win the sister, to bring reconciliation that needs to be heard. So you go privately first. Now, if they go, "You're right. I'm sorry. I did blow it. I did say that. I did do that. Please forgive me." It's over, reconciliation has now been achieved.
If however, the person is recalcitrant, obstinate, "No, I don't care what you'll say." Then you are bound by scripture to take step number two which is after going privately to get some help. That's step number two, get some help. Get one or two mature believers that you can share and get their counsel from then all of you go and approach that person as a group, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, everything can be established. That's Verse 16, "If he will not hear, take with you one or two more that by the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word should be established."
Now, you don't have to turn there but I want to share with you how this has come about. This was part of the ancient synagogue. The disciples were raised in the synagogue, so discipline within the group was understood by people in Judaism, much better unfortunately than within the modern church. They knew that if somebody was sinning in a group, the group would be able involved and the text out of Deuteronomy says this, "One witness." This is Deuteronomy 19 Verse 15, "One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any inequity or any sin that he commits. By the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established. If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing then both men and in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priest and the judges who served in those days."
Notice both in the Old Testament and according to Jesus in the New Testament, if there are issues between brothers and sisters, they are to be handled in the courtroom of the Assembly of God's people, not the law courts. 1 Corinthians 6, "Explicitly forbids brothers or sisters, Christians to take other Christians to court but to furnish witnesses responsibly before the Lord and before the eldership of that assembly." It happened in the Old Testament, happened in the synagogue in the New Testament and according to Jesus it ought to happen in the assembly of the Christian church. So you've taken step one, no good results, no admission, no confession, no reconciliation.
You then take in step number two, you bring with you witnesses. They've examined the evidence. They approach that sinning brother or sister, Verse 17 of Matthew 18, "And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen or a tax collector." Now, you've taken step one, you've gotten privately. You've taken step two, you've gotten some help. You take step number three and that is you seek the help of the church, the assembly. And in some cases if it's a large church like this one and by the way we follow this Matthew 18 principle and we've had to on several occasions and I'll explain why in just a moment.
I guess the first and only reason they need is because Jesus said so but there are other reasons. But when it comes to taking step one and set two, the third step for us is to tell the leadership that represents the whole because if we were to bring it up in the church meeting we would have to bring up Wednesday night Saturday night, first, second, and third service Sunday morning and because there are visitors and not everybody's a part of it and it just gets out of control.
So, we tell it to the church leaders or those who represent the church for the purpose of restoring the brother or sister. You say, "Really? You actually do that and you think Christians really should do that?" Well, I'm glad you asked. In 1 Corinthians Chapter 5, why don't you turn there? I've figured you got your bibles. We might as well study them together. I'm having you turn to 1 Corinthians 5, why? Because, you're about to read an actual case study of the early church administering church discipline when step one and step two weren't successful.
Now, it's gotten to the years of Paul the Apostle. 1 Corinthians 5, "It is actually reported," Verse 1, 1 Corinthians 5, "It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles -- that a man has his father's wife, there was a incestual relationship within the local Corinthian church and the Corinthian Christians, wanting to be so gracious and excepting and tolerant went their eye on it and let it go." Now listen to what Paul says, "And you are puffed up and if not rather more they were proud that they were so modern and tolerant. They should've mourned that he who has done this deed might be taken away from you," that is excommunicated from the fellowship "For I, indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit have already judged as though I were present -- him who has so done this deed.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together along with my spirit with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ deliver such one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." That is you deliver him to the realm of the world that Satan's domain, the prince and the power of the heir or of the world. You are delivering him out to the world. You are expunging him from the church fellowship. So that in hopes he will come to his senses and go, "I have sinned, I'm no longer in fellowship and a longer with God's people. I need to get right with God. So I need to go back into the door and repent to God's people." And he says, "Your glorying is not good, did you know -- not know that a little leaven, leaven is the whole lump, therefore, purge out the old leaven that you may be a new lumps since you are truly unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and in truth."
Okay. Until this is achieved, until confession and repentance is achieved, you treat that brother or sister courteously, but firmly. You treat them as Jesus said, "As a tax collector and a heathen, an unbeliever." You treat them like they're an unbeliever because that's how they have chosen to act. They have chosen to act as an unbeliever. They're not seeking reconciliation. They're not repenting. So, you have no fellowship with them. I love you. I still believe you're a genuine follower of Christ, therefore, I expect to see soon in your life some real repentance. Until then, we have no contact, we have no fellowship. We're not going to sit down and eat lunch and enjoy that intimacy any longer.
The steps had been taken and we treat you now like a heathen and a tax collector. Now, we have done this before and we've actually put people out of the church who have and in turned, come back and in tears, sought repentance and we have the same kind of formal reinstitution to the leadership and those who were wrong etcetera. It's to do two things, restore and to let people see the seriousness of sin in the camp. Now, I say all that and I'm looking at faces who were going, "Huh?" Or "Really?" Or "I believe it," because frankly, you don't find this often practiced in many churches that's unfortunate because it is as plain as the nose on your face when it comes to reading the New Testament.
So you take the steps. Now, look how Jesus closes this out and we can't divorce the text from the context, Verse 18, "Assuredly I say to you, whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in heaven, whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in heaven." Literally, it should be, because of the Greek tense, "Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven. Whatever you loose on earth shall -- have been loosed in heaven." This is linked to the previous verses of dealing with sin in the assembly. Any church that is submitted truly to the Word of God, God says, "I give that group my authority. So that if they make binding, the expulsion of an unrepentant believer, that's good in the bank of heaven. I agree and I stand behind that decision. And if somebody looses that person so they can come back in the fellowship, I stand behind that as well."
Now that does not give leadership the authority to be the Gospel gestapo or for believers to be the salvation police and they're just to look around. It's the idea when we are all as a body, submitted to the Word of God, God, honors that in heaven. And I think a church that does not honor that, God, does not honor. Again, it's the purpose of reconciliation and restoration. It's that principle back in Verse 14 that God doesn't want any of these little ones to perish.
Now Verse 19, all part of the same context, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask it will be done for them by my father in heaven." It's important that Jesus shared that because one might hear this and go, "Well, how big does that assembly have to be before this could take place?" According to the Jews, you had to have ten adult males before you could have a constituted synagogue. Jesus said, "All you need is two or three," two or more. "Submitted to the authority of my truth and I will honor that in heaven. For were two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them."
Okay. Now, I want to ask a logical question, I don't know if it's bouncing around any of your brains but perhaps you're asking the question, "Why bother going through step one, step two and step three?" Skip, wouldn't it be better if when somebody's sins against you, just blow it off and just say "I just forgive them and move on?" No, it wouldn't. And let me explain why. The administration of forgiveness has to be done in stages, not forgiveness. Listen, the administration of forgiveness must be done in stages. First of all, somebody sins against you, you immediately forgive them in your heart, Ephesians 4:32, "Be kind one to another tender hearted forgiving one another even as God for Christ has sake is forgiven you." You immediately forgive. Why? So that bitterness doesn't arise in her heart and fester and fester. You to say, "Lord, I choose right now in the name of Jesus because he is forgiven me so much to forgive that brothers who sinned against me." That's step one, you deal with that in her heart.
Number two, you don't tell the brother, "You're forgiven." You have a responsibility to approach and to confront. See, that's why we don't do it, we just say, "I'll just say, I forgive you," and blow it off because you want to be responsible to actually go and put yourself on the line and confront the person and say, "You sinned against me. You're causing me to stumble," but you must. And when they hear that and they say, "Oh, I am so sorry, I apologize. Forgive me." Then step three, you tell them, "You are forgiven." and it becomes a public declaration.
Those are the stages of the administration of forgiveness. They've confessed. They've asked for your forgiveness and you declare unto them or you tell them they're forgiven.
Now, Verse 21, then Peter -- don't you love reading verses that say, "Then Peter?" (Laughter) Because you know something cool is coming up. Then Peter came to him and said, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?"
"Up to seven times". See, Jesus has been dealing with the subject of forgiveness and reconciliation so Peter actually wonders, "Well, like how often do I have to do this? How many times will this go on before I can just call it quits?" Now Peter is being generous because the rabbi said three times, he's doubling what the rabbi said and adding one for good measure. Seven times kind of going like this -- (Laughter) He feels so magnanimous.
Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you up to seven times but up to 70 times seven." I know some of you are counting, well that's 490. Because honestly, if somebody is going to blow it against you that many times you're going to lose count. And by the way, "Love doesn't keep a record of wrongs" 1 Corinthians 13 and that's the idea. It's not like you count 490 and "Okay. Dude that was 491, your lights are out now. I'm all over you like a spider monkey, like white on rice, you're down man." (Laughter) No, the idea is that you keep going Peter, it's infinite, it's as many times as they sin against you and they ask for your forgiveness, you're lenient to them. You give them a second chance and a 490th chance is extended. And now he tells the story to make it stick.
"Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king who wants to settle accounts with his servants and when he begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him 10,000 talents." Now, I want to give you a little perspective, 10,000 talents would be millions of dollars in today's economy, millions of dollars. The entire revenue, the entire annual revenue of the entire region of Galilee was 300 talents a year. This is 10,000 talents. This guy owes a debt he will never be able to pay in his lifetime, you understand the corollary right? We're all sinners before God, all about servants are sinners. We owe a debt we can never pay.
Martin Luther used to say, "We are all beggars before God" and that's the point. Verse 25, "But he was not able to pay as his master commanded that he be sold with his wife and children and all that he had in the payment be made. The servant therefore, fell down before him saying, 'Master, have patients with me and I will pay you all.'" We'll this guy has a pretty high estimation of himself, thinking he able to do what is impossible. He's going to payoff millions and millions of dollars when has nothing to pay with. The master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him and forgave him the debt but that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a 100 deneri(ph), a few hundred dollars. And he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying "Pay me what you owe." And so his fellow servant fell down at his feet in begged him saying, "Have patience with me and I will repay all and he would not but he went and threw him into prison until he should pay the debt."
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. Then the master after he had called him and said to him, "You wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. Should you not also have had compassion in your fellow servant just as I had pity on you?" And his master was angry and delivered into the torturers until he should pay all that was due him. And so my Heavenly Father will also do to you if each of you from his heart does not forgive his brother his trespasses. If a Christian wrongs you, there's a process. You go through that process. If they confess and repent, you'll extend reconciliation and forgiveness. If not you treat them as an unbeliever but if in the process at any point, you personally refuse forgiveness, you are the ultimate hypocrite because you have been forgiven the ultimate debt that you could never pay.
The application is simple, God is the king. All of his servants are debtors. They owe a debt which they can never pay. He paid the debt that he didn't know, that's a story of salvation. So since we are forgiven people for us to refuse forgiveness, would be the height of hypocrisy. We can't be bitter toward anyone. We can't be a loving toward anyone. Because if we are, what makes us any different than an unbeliever? Are we redeemed? Then we ought to reflect that redemption and be as generous because we have had and extended to us and extend that love toward others. Well, believe it or not it was my intention to do two chapters tonight. (Laughter) I'm so ready to do Chapter 19.
We need two hours on Wednesday and not one. But it will have to wait and it's a lot interesting as we go and continue with the discourse. Jesus, talks about interpersonal relationship. Again, this time prompted by a question of the Jewish leadership about marriage and divorce and you may actually be very surprised what Jesus has to say about it which I could get into it tonight. We'll have to wait until next time when we're in Matthew. Next week, we'll be outside under the stars within Dennis Agajanian, having communion, make it a special night.
In the meantime, this week since you're going to take the elements that speak up your forgiveness and mine, it'll be great if you found somebody that has offended you or you have offended them and make it right with that brother. Maybe there's part of this process that is undone with some particular issue and you say, "Well I've done on step one, I never did step two and three." Do step two and three. Get other Christians involved and get the church involved and if the church is responsible, they will get involved at the responsible level and then you'll have the backing of that church behind you in dealing with sinning brothers and sisters and it's beautiful how it works. We trust that God, we'll work through their process and so often it has been rewarding, not always but often.Let's pray together. Father, we have learned a lot in these simple moments that we have spent in Matthew 18. The truths are simple, they are far from simplistic but they are simple. They're straightforward. They're unambiguous. They're unmistakable. You're highest as restoration and redemption, reconciliation. You desire to heal and to patch, to save the sheep that is lost, the one that is gone astray. I pray that we would be part of that process ourselves. In Jesus name, Amen.