Obligations of Grace

by Jeffrey W. Hamilton

Text: Matthew 18:21-35

 

I.         Every person is important!

            A.        “Well, of course!” You might be thinking. “I’m glad someone sees my worth.”

            B.        But Jesus told a parable - Matthew 18:12-14

                        1.         When one person gets himself into trouble, it is God’s will that he be rescued, if possible.

                        2.         And that will mean that more effort is expended on the sinner than on the righteous

            C.        This parable is then followed by instructions on how to settle a dispute between brethren - Matthew 18:15

                        1.         Again, the emphasis is not on how to get rid of someone, but how to rescue a person with the minimum impact on the church as possible.

            D.        This discussion led Peter to ask a follow-up question - Matthew 18:21

                        1.         Some people are just hard to get along with.

                        2.         Some people seem to always getting back into the mud of sin.

                        3.         Just when you think a matter is settled, it comes back up again.

            E.        So just how long must you keep forgiving someone who has wrong you?

                        1.         I suspect Peter thought he was being generous by suggesting seven times

                        2.         The Jewish traditions, recorded in the Talmud suggested that three times was sufficient

            F.        Jesus responded that seven times was not enough - Matthew 18:22

                        1.         Jesus is not suggesting the 490 times is the magical upper limit

                        2.         Rather his point is that there should be no upper limit on how often we forgive a brother.

                        3.         Think about the wrongs we’ve committed against God.

                                    a.         Would we want God to say, “After the thousandth sin, you no longer can be forgiven?”

                                    b.         If we don’t want that for ourselves, then how can we treat a brother the same way?

II.        Grace Illustrated - Matthew 18:23-27

            A.        The king represents God

            B.        The debt is the result of the sins a man commits

                        1.         The debt owed is a staggering sum

                        2.         One talent of silver would take a common laborer 16.5 years to earn.

                                    a.         If it is a talent of gold, then multiply this by 80

                        3.         This debt would take 164,384 years to pay off as a common laborer!

                                    a.         To give you an idea of the impossibility of the amount, the imperial taxes of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria were 600 talents while Galilee and Perea were 200 talents [Josephus, Antiquities, XI.4].

                        4.         When it comes to what an individual owes God for his sins, the amount is so high that it is impossible for a person to pay off the debt

            C.        Everything the man owned, including his family and himself, were ordered to be sold to recover a portion of the debt.

            D.        The man fell before the king and begged for a chance to repay his debt.

            E.        The king, moved with compassion, didn’t give him more time, he dismissed the entire debt.

                        1.         Consider the wealth of a king who could dismiss such a debt just because he wanted to do so!

                        2.         But that is the nature of our God. The entire universe is His.

                        3.         God dismissed our debt because of the sacrifice of His Son - Ephesians 2:1-7

III.       Disrespect Illustrated - Matthew 18:28-34

            A.        The man was owed a 100 day’s wages by a fellow servant

                        1.         It isn’t an insignificant sum. It would take over 3 months to earn enough money to pay off that debt, even if everything the man earned when to the debt

                        2.         But compared to what the servant owed the king, it was a paltry amount

            B.        Such is the obligation we owe our fellow men when we sin against them

                        1.         It isn’t that our sins are insignificant, but they are trivial compared to what we owe God

                        2.         Now, go back to Matthew 18:15 and ask why disagreements between brethren can’t be settled.

                        3.         Go back to Matthew 18:21 and ask why we can’t forgive repeatedly

            C.        The fellow servant begs for more time to repay the debt

            D.        But instead of mercy, the servant sends the man into debtor’s prison

                        1.         There a person is held until family or friends can come up with the amount to release the man

            E.        Other servants of the king, grieved at the treatment of this man, went to the king concerning the matter

                        1.         Recall Matthew 18:19-20 about 2 or 3 agreeing on anything

            F.        The king is enraged by the lack of mercy. If the king could show greater mercy, why can’t the servant also show mercy when owed so much less?

            G.        The man was delivered to be tortured until the original debt was paid, which, of course, would never happen because of the amount owed.

IV.      Why was the king mad?

            A.        The king’s grace created an obligation on the servant to behave in a similar manner

            B.        His lack of compassion was a slap at the King’s grace

            C.        Jesus ties it to you and I - Matthew 18:35

            D.        It makes Paul’s point not a suggestion, but an obligation - I Corinthians 11:1

            E.        Forgiveness is required

                        1.         Matthew 6:12, 14-15 - Our forgiveness is dependent on our forgiving others

                        2.         It isn’t a new concept - Proverbs 21:13

                        3.         We must show mercy - James 2:13

V.        This then is the answer to those who claim that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone

            A.        Jesus’ point about the unmerciful servant shows that God’s grace creates an obligation on those being forgiven

            B.        It doesn’t mean that our obedience pays for our sins - it never can

            C.        But God does expect us to change, otherwise we lose His grace

            D.        Paul points out that we each received grace - Ephesians 4:7

            E.        And that means we must change - Ephesians 4:17-24

                        1.         Not that we are paying off our sins

                        2.         Our behavior is showing respect to the God who so generously saved us

            F.        The same point is found in Romans 3:23-26

                        1.         Grace covers our sins, but not that we continue in sin - Romans 5:20-6:2

                        2.         We cannot sin - Romans 6:14-15

                        3.         The result is that we are now slaves of righteousness - Romans 6:16-18

            G.        Are you acknowledging the obligation you have because of God’s grace or are you treating His gift as if it was nothing?

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