Andrew was a young man of 26 years old. He was very responsible and sociable as well. Since he was 9 years old, Andrew had been working to help and sustain his poor family. And for most of his life he had worked in the fields. But although he was a hard worker, he never had a steady job.
Andrew was tired of the same old routine and instability in his life. Now being married, he longed for something better but wasn't sure what that would be; until one day that changed the course of his life. Andrew visited a publishing house. Upon seeing the work that went on in there, he was deeply impressed. Andrew instantly fell in love with that place-the big machinery, the technology, seeing the printed pages roll off the presses.
Since that day, he unequivocally knew what he wanted to do: He wanted to be a press operator. Andrew went to a trade school. He was very studious and a quick learner. He kept his eye open for any opportunity to work at the presses while he was in school.
Two and a half years later, a newspaper company that was growing and had a fantastic future had an opening: They were looking for a press operator, and they were even willing to train a responsible person for that position.
Andrew applied and got the job. He couldn't have been happier. The career that he dreamed of a couple of years before now became a reality. Andrew worked hard. He was very responsible, and he learned all the different areas of printing. In reality, Andrew was one of the best workers in the entire company. They even gave him a promotion.
Not only was Andrew happy with his job and the money, but there was a side benefit as well: He got along very well with his co-workers. Andrew was in paradise. It was at this company that Andrew met Michael. Michael was an employee there before Andrew, and quickly they became friends. Michael was apparently a trustworthy person. He was a good listener and never criticized or cracked jokes about other employees.
One day, while on their lunch break, Andrew confided something about his past to Michael that he had never confided to anyone before. "I used to suffer from manic depression. One day, at the job I had back then, I even threatened to commit suicide, and the police had to come and control the situation. I even interrupted the services in my church one morning." He was in a psychiatric hospital for three months.
That same night at home, Andrew's wife didn't think it was such a good idea to share his past so openly with Michael. The following Friday, Andrew's boss called him into his office. It turned out that the boss was informed about Andrew's past. He explained to Andrew how disappointed he was that Andrew had not been honest in his application. He further went on to say that although he was a good worker, the company had too bright of a future to risk any "incidents." Andrew was fired.
The career that he had dreamed of, a promising future, all went down the drain. Instead of being a dream come true, Andrew was now experiencing a nightmare; a nightmare of depression and treason. Andrew was devastated. He opened up to a friend. There was no doubt in his mind that it was Michael that had informed his boss about his past.
If you were Andrew, what would your feelings be towards Michael? Anger? Rage? Sadness? Disappointment? Without a doubt, this was one horrible experience for Andrew that he would never forget. What a betrayal!
Let me share another story with you:
Two days before Christmas in 1982, at 10:40 p.m. Elizabeth Morris got the telephone call that all parents fear. "Mrs. Morris, this is the hospital," said the voice, "your son has been in an accident."
As it turned out, another young man who had been driving drunk had crossed the highway's center line and smashed head-on into her son Ted's car. The drunk driver was only slightly injured, but before the night was over, eighteen-year-old Ted Morris was dead.
Elizabeth and her husband, Frank, were devastated. Ted was their only child, a well-behaved son with a bright future, and suddenly he was gone. The Morrises' anger escalated when the twenty-four-year-old man who killed Ted was given probation for his crime. Elizabeth said that the hatred within her was like a wildfire sweeping down a dry canyon, consuming every part of her. Lee Strobel, God's Outrageous Claims, p.13.
How would you counsel these people? What would you say to Andrew? How would you counsel Elizabeth Morris, who is a believer? Would you tell her she needed to forgive this young man who killed her son, or would you just back off and leave her alone? What do you think Jesus would expect from Andrew and Elizabeth? I believe the answer to that question is found in our text for this morning. This is what Christ expects from all His children:
Colossians 3:13 (NASB) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
If you remember our study from last week in Colossians 3:12, Paul begins to tell believers what to put on. In this section in Colossians, Paul is using the analogy of clothing. We saw last week that we are to, "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Now in verse 12 he says we are also to put on forbearance and forgiveness.
The words "bearing with" is from the Greek word anechomai, which means: "to hold oneself up against, to put up with; bear with, endure." Bearing with one another means: "to endure, to hold out in spite of persecution, threats, injury, indifference, or complaints and not retaliate."
"Forgiving each other" - The Greek charizomai, literally means: "to be gracious" and the text uses a reflexive pronoun, so it literally reads, "forgiving yourselves." Vincent's Word Studies says, "Lit., one another--yourselves. The latter pronoun emphasizes the fact that they are all members of Christ's body--everyone, members one of another--so that, in forgiving each other they forgive themselves." The church as a whole is to be a gracious, mutually forgiving fellowship. By including the phrase "just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you," Paul makes Christ the model of forgiveness. Because He has forgiven us, so also must we forgive others.
Are you aware that forgiveness is not an option, or a suggestion that God makes to us depending on how we feel? As children of God, we are under a mandate to forgive all those who wrong us.
What do you think is the normative passage on forgiveness? Where would you go to get the clearest picture on how the Lord views forgiveness and unforgiveness? I think it's the parable that the Lord gave us in:
Matthew 18:23 (NASB) "For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a certain king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.
This parable deals with the importance of us forgiving one another. It presents a very clear and powerful truth. The only question is whether we will choose to obey its application.
In this parable, Jesus is telling us how He wants the citizens in His kingdom to live. It could be said that the "kingdom of heaven" is illustrated by the following situation: Barns puts it this way, "God will deal with the members of His church as a certain king did with his servants." This parable is for us, now, we are living in the kingdom of God.
The King, in this parable, represents God the Father. The servant is a picture of unsaved man. The king is settling his accounts. The servant is called before the king to give an account, to settle up financially. This would be an annual accounting. This pictures God calling into account unsaved man. This is not a final accounting, or the story would end here. This is picturing the conviction of sin as God calls the elect to Himself.
Matthew 18:24 (NASB) "And when he had begun to settle them, there was brought to him one who owed him ten thousand talents.
This man had been embezzling the king's money. The 10,000 talents that he owed is an incredible debt. Barclay says, "The total revenue of the province, which contained Judea and Samaria, was only 600 talents. The total revenue of even a wealthy province like Galilee was only 300 talents." Ten thousand talents would be the equivalent of 190,000 years work. This pictures the bankrupt sinner before God with nothing to pay. He has offended an infinitely Holy God. He is absolutely incapable of helping himself and is totally dependant upon God's grace:
Matthew 18:25 (NASB) "But since he did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.
The selling into slavery of insolvent debtors was nothing unusual in those days. Top price for a slave brought about one talent, and one tenth of that amount was a more common price. The practice of being sold for debt was sanctioned by the Old Testament (Lev. 25:39).
The point of the parable is that the amount of this debt is unpayable, picturing eternal judgement. The unbeliever's sins are never paid for in the Lake of Fire, or it would end at some point. The Lake of Fire is everlasting, showing the debt is never paid. The duration and punishment should help show us how terrible sin is, it creates an unpayable debt.
Matthew 18:26 (NASB) "The slave therefore falling down, prostrated himself before him, saying, 'Have patience with me, and I will repay you everything.'
Notice that he didn't deny the debt. He falls down before God; an attitude of humility. He knew what he was facing, and he was devastated. He was in the very attitude where God wants men to be when He shows them their sin. This man is pleading for mercy. He is convicted of his sin, though he probably doesn't understand the depth of his sin. No matter how much patience God has, we could never repay the debt.
Matthew 18:27 (NASB) "And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.
It was out of sheer compassion that the master granted this servant far more than he had asked for; completely canceling the loan. That is salvation; free and total forgiveness:
Romans 3:24 (NKJV) being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
Before we come to Christ for forgiveness, we must come to a realization of our sinfulness and our helplessness. People who don't see their sin, don't see their need for a savior.
Matthew 18:28 (NASB) "But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe.'
It seems that he forgot very quickly just what had happened to him. This was no accident, he was looking for this guy. The Greek word for "fellow servant" is sundoulon, which means: "another man who has been forgiven, another believer". This man had been fully forgiven, yet he would not forgive others. If he wasn't a Christian, we wouldn't expect him to forgive.
Notice the comparison: 10,000 talents, which equals about 190,000 years work, and 100 pence, which equals about 3 months work. The 100 pence debt could have been carried in one pocket. The 10,000 talent debt would take an army to carry it of about 8,600 carriers, each carrying a sack of 60-80 pounds in weight, and they would form a line about five miles long. The contrast is staggering. Do you often forget what God has done for you?
This man grabs his brother around the throat and begins to choke him. Roman law allowed this. You might say, "This can't be a Christian." Really, do you think that Christians don't have problems forgiving each other? Have you ever read 1 Corinthians 6:1-8? The Christians at Corinth were dragging each other into court, trying to get justice. Have you ever done this to another believer, verbally or mentally? How many times have you wanted to do this to a Christian who hurt or wronged you? Be truthful. We are a lot like the man in this parable; we want justice from those who have wronged us, but we want mercy from those we have wronged.
This man says, "Pay me what you owe." He wasn't even sure how much the man owed him, he only knew that he owed him something:
Matthew 18:29 (NASB) "So his fellow slave fell down and began to entreat him, saying, 'Have patience with me and I will repay you.'
Does that sound familiar? The difference is that this guy could have paid him what he owed him. Compared to our debt against God, our sins against each other are minute. Our debt to God is unpayable. Our debts to each other are easily payable.
Matthew 18:30 (NASB) "He was unwilling however, but went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed.
He would not forgive his fellow servant. Because of the smallness of the debt, he was not legally permitted to sell his fellow servant into slavery. He went the legal limit and threw him into jail.
At times, we act just like this man in the parable and cast others into prison. Not literally of course, but we cast them into the prison of rejection, we isolate them through gossip. We want full payment. Aren't you glad that God didn't demand full payment from you? We couldn't pay Him, but our brothers could pay us.
Matthew 18:31 (NASB) "So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.
I think that this pictures other believers going to God in prayer about the situation. In light of the context (Matthew 18:15-17), let's assume that they have gone to this sinning brother and confronted him with his sin. Believers, I think that a very important aspect in our practical sanctification, our holiness, is us holding each other accountable. If I see you being unforgiving toward another believer, I am to bring it to your attention. And you are to do the same for me. I know what the Bible says, but often I am not aware that my actions are sinful until another believer brings that to my attention. If we truly love each other, we will help each other to walk in holiness.
Matthew 18:32 (NASB) "Then summoning him, his lord said^ to him, 'You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you entreated me.
Could this man, who God refers to as a "wicked servant," be a Christian? Yes! He says this man has had his debt forgiven, that could only be a believer. "I forgave you all that debt," verifies that the transaction of forgiveness was actually made and was effective.
Matthew 18:33 (NASB) 'Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, even as I had mercy on you?'
This is exactly what Paul teaches in our text:
Colossians 3:13 (NASB) bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.
God tells this servant that he should have had compassion and pity on his fellow servant, just as God did toward him.
Matthew 18:34 (NASB) "And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him.
What punishment did this guy receive? Some read this, apply the analogy to us, and conclude that if we don't forgive, it proves we were never believers; thus never forgiven to begin with. It looks like the guy goes to hell for his failure to forgive. Other's think this symbolizes true believers, who once were forgiven, but because they were unmerciful, lose their salvation. I don't agree with either conclusion. This guy did pay a high price for his failure to forgive, but it wasn't hell or a loss of salvation.
The king represents God. When God forgives, He forgives completely. Our sins are all accounted as paid for:
Psalms 103:12 (NKJV) As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as we are completely forgiven, the servant's debt to his master was completely wiped out. It was legally canceled, never to be held against the man again.
Some would say that our forgiveness maintains our salvation; our status as forgiven people. This can't be true with relation to grace:
Ephesians 2:8-9 (NASB) For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast.
If our forgiveness maintains our status with God, then it's not grace that saves us. It is works. This runs contrary to salvation by faith alone.
Notice what he says, "until he should repay all that was owed him." He is not speaking here of the original debt, that was unpayable. He was to pay what was due for his sin of unforgiveness. Until he forgave, he would be turned over to the torturers. He was not sold as a slave but given over to the jailers to be tortured until he paid what he owed. The man was disciplined by the king. In the same way, when we fail to forgive, we'd better expect torturous discipline.
What does he mean by, "handed him over to the torturers?" I believe that he is referring to the physical and mental pain that God brings upon his disobedient sinning children. You really can't afford not to be forgiving because of the high cost of unforgiveness. There are physical consequences to not forgiving others.
The Institute of Human Virology, a first-of-its-kind center with epidemiologists, basic researchers and physicians working side-by-side under one roof to hasten the progress of scientific discovery, has kicked off a two-year study looking at the effects psychological and spiritual attitudes may have on the immune systems of patients with HIV - and the preventive role they may play in the transmission of the virus that causes AIDS. Two hundred HIV-positive patients will be enrolled in the HIV study, which is designed to better assess the relationship between psychological and spiritual attitudes -- specifically forgiveness -- and HIV health outcomes. The Institute of Human Virology's clinical team will oversee the medical components of the study. The HIV study also will examine the possible impact of forgiveness on patients' emotional well-being, the care of their own health and the health of others, and engagement in treatment and adherence to medical regimens. "It is hypothesized that being able to forgive and forget, to let go of angry thoughts and feelings, may promote the body's natural ability to return hyper-aroused physiological systems back to more normal levels of homeostasis," Dr. Temoshok explains. "This state of homeostasis is critical in maintaining an even keel, slowing the progression of AIDS and in maintaining a higher quality of life."
"Emotional coping and adaptation appear consistently in the literature as key among non-medical factors predictive of health outcomes," says Dr. Temoshok. "We must evaluate the contribution that factors such as forgiveness may have on health -- both across the board and for those already afflicted with serious and chronic life-threatening conditions." (http://www.ihv.org/news/psychological.html)
Physically, there is a high cost for unforgiveness, but there is a higher cost spiritually:
Matthew 6:14-15 (NASB) "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.
What are these verses teaching? Are we saved by forgiving others? Will we lose our salvation if we don't forgive others? No. I think that what is in view here is not judicial forgiveness, but relational forgiveness. Judicial forgiveness views God as a judge. God looks down and says, "You're guilty, you have sinned, and you must be punished." But all who have trusted in Jesus Christ have their sin debt paid in full by His work. God says, "I declare you forgiven, by virtue of your faith in Jesus Christ." By that judicial act of forgiveness, all of your sins, past, present, and future, are completely forgiven. You are justified forever.
I think that what is being referred to in this passage is relational forgiveness. Although our sins are forgiven, we don't stop sinning. When we sin and will not repent of that sin, it affects our relationship with God. We don't stop being His child, but we lose an intimacy, our communion is broken. We restore our communion through confession of our sins:
1 John 1:9 (NASB) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Our relationship is hindered by sin, and unforgiveness is sin!
We are to forgive them by not holding it against them. We are to hold no bitterness or grudges against a person, no matter how they may have wronged us or how deeply we were hurt.
Matthew 18:35 (NASB) "So shall My heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart."
Here Jesus applies the principles of the parable to us: My father will do this same thing to you if you don't forgive each other. This parable teaches us that we should be willing to forgive any and all offenses, because we have been forgiven so much. It also teaches that if we don't forgive, we will not be forgiven. We won't lose our salvation, judicially we are forgiven forever. But relationally, we will be separated from fellowship and put under chastening until we are willing to forgive.
If that's how you want to spend your days on earth, a tormented believer, it's your choice. There is a better option - forgiveness!
How do we flesh this out? We know we need to forgive, but how do we do it? It's easy to talk about forgiveness but not so easy to do. What would you do if you were in Andrew's or Elizabeth's shoes? Let me show you how to flesh out forgiveness. Notice what Paul says in:
Philippians 4:13 (NASB) I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
Do you think that the "all things" would include being able to forgive someone who really wronged you? I do! His power, His all-sufficient power, is available for the demands of life, which would include forgiveness.
What does Paul mean when he says, "I can do all things through Christ"? He means that because he is in communion with Christ, the power of Christ is available to him for every need. Paul cannot do "all things" simply because he is a Christian. He can do all things because he is living in a dependant relationship with Christ. He is abiding in Christ.
Philippians 4:13 gives us the positive, and John 15:5 gives us the negative:
John 15:5 (NASB) "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.
With me (living in dependence on me), you can do all things, but without me, you can do nothing. Philippians 4:13 cannot be claimed by every Christian. It is only for those believers who are abiding in Christ. When we walk in fellowship with God, we have His power available to help us deal with life. Out of fellowship, we have no power.
Paul says, "I can do ALL THINGS." What are the "all things?" This doesn't mean that he can leap tall buildings at a single bound or run faster than a speeding bullet. It doesn't mean that you can pass an exam that you haven't studied for, or fly an airplane even though you have had no instructions. Verse 13 must be taken in the context of verses 10-13. What he is saying is, "I have the power of Christ to sustain me in life's difficult circumstances." A literal translation would read like this: "I am strong for all things in the One who constantly infuses strength into me."
The phrase "I can do" is from the Greek word ischuo, it means: "to be strong, to have power." Paul is saying, "I am strong enough to go through anything, because the Lord Jesus Christ makes His power available to me as I trust in Him." Trusting in Christ gives us inner power to deal with any and every situation in life. When we come to the bottom of our human resources, we find an unlimited power in Christ.
Have you ever seen a Christian in a very difficult situation and asked, "How can they deal with the situation that they are in?" They can deal with it because the power of Christ is available to those who abide in Him; those who walk in dependence on Him. No matter what circumstance you are facing, you have the power to handle it if you are abiding in Christ. And if your situation is more than you can bear, it is because you are not trusting in His strength.
The words, "I can do," (ischuo), are translated: "overpowered" in Acts 1:19; "prevailed" in Acts 19:20; "effective" in James 5:16. It is a word of strength and power.
Paul says he can do "all things." "All things" in the Greek is in the first emphatic position: "All things I have the power to endure." Paul endured beatings with rods and whips, stoning, shipwreck, persecution, and prison. Paul, in effect, says, "I can endure all of that on the outside, because I am strengthened by Christ on the inside."
If you can't find the ability to forgive someone, you must not be depending on Christ! The secret of power in the Christian life is to walk with Christ.
Elizabeth Morris began replaying the videotape of that night like a horror movie, over and over again. She ached for revenge. Sometimes she would fantasize about driving down the street and encountering Tommy Pigage, the man who killed her son. She would imagine hitting him with her car, pinning him up against a tree, and watching him suffer in agony as she slowly crushed him to death.
She spent a lot of her spare time actually tracking Tommy to see if she could catch him violating the terms of his probation, so he would be sent to prison. Over time, her bitterness and negative attitude began to drive a wedge between her and her husband. It began to chase away her friends. It drained away her ability to laugh and enjoy life.
Elizabeth described it as a cancer that was eating away at her from the inside. She desperately wanted help, but it was some time before she discovered the only cure. Elizabeth came to the realization that her heavenly Father also had lost his only Son. And yet, when Jesus was suffering on the cross - before he died as payment for Elizabeth's own sin - he looked at the merciless soldiers who were in charge of torturing Him and said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing."
That's when Elizabeth knew it was time for her - as an act of her will - to offer forgiveness to the man who killed her only son. So that's what she did. And over time, as her attitude began to change, not only was she rescued from her caustic bitterness, but she and her husband were actually able to build a relationship with their son's killer. In fact, it was their friendship that influenced Tommy Pigage to begin following Jesus and turn his life around.
As unbelievable as it sounds, Elizabeth's husband, a part-time preacher, ended up baptizing Tommy. And as Tommy emerged from beneath the water, symbolizing the renewal of his life through Christ, they hugged and sobbed. Later he presided at Tommy's wedding. Today the Morrises ride to church every Sunday with Tommy and his wife, and together they worship the God of forgiveness. Lee Strobel, God's Outrageous Claims, pp. 13-14
How were the Morrises able to do all that? What they did is not natural; it's supernatural. And believers, Christianity is supernatural. We have the ability to live like this if we walk in fellowship with Christ. Our forgiveness of others who have grievously wronged us puts our forgiving God on display. Our failure to forgive makes a mockery of Christianity and hands us over to the torturers. We are to forgive "just as the Lord forgave you".
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