Pastor David B. Curtis


You Better Forgive!

Mark 11:25-26

Delivered 02/11/2007

In our study last week we saw Jesus curse the fig tree and clear the money changers from the temple. In that text Jesus portrayed in picture form, the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Instead of Messiah's coming bringing about the demise of Rome as they expected, His rejection meant the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of Roman soldiers. Jesus therefore spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem which took place in A.D. 70.

When Peter commented about the withered fig tree, Jesus gave a very surprising answer:

Mark 11:22-23 (NASB) And Jesus answered saying to them, "Have faith in God. 23 "Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going to happen, it shall be granted him.

Notice that Jesus doesn't say, "Whoever says to A mountain." He says, "THIS mountain." It is my opinion that Jesus is speaking specifically about the Temple mount! I think He is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple­the Old Covenant system that was associated with a mountain. The Temple system with the Priests and Pharisees was a huge obstacle to faith in God. Jesus was telling His disciples, trust God and He will remove this mountain for you.

Then, only in Mark's gospel, we have a couple of verses on forgiveness.

Mark 11:25-26 (NASB) "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. 26 <"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.">

In keeping with the context who is to forgive whom? The "who" is Jesus' disciples. Jesus is talking to His disciples. But who is it they are to forgive? Since this passage is dealing with judgement on Judaism and the Temple, it seems logical that it is the Jewish antagonist that they are to forgive!

Prior to Jesus cleansing the Temple He had challenged the Pharisees. Now He threatens the economic basis of the high priestly family­and at such a lucrative time as Passover! Jesus is now a marked man:

Luke 19:47 (NASB) And He was teaching daily in the temple; but the chief priests and the scribes and the leading men among the people were trying to destroy Him,

Jesus' enemies, who were not previously united, now stand together seeking His death.

They had rejected Christ, they would arrest Christ, they would manipulate the Romans to put Christ to death. They hated Him, what was His attitude towards them? He forgave them. As He hung on the cross, in excruciating pain, struggling for each breath, He forgave them of their sin:

Luke 23:34 (NASB) But Jesus was saying, "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing." And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.

The Jewish leaders sought Jesus' death, and they will seek the death of His disciples. God will deal with them. He will destroy Jerusalem, but the disciples must forgive them. Stephen is a great example of this forgiveness fleshed out. In preaching to the Jewish leaders Stephen said:

Acts 7:51 (NASB) "You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.

Stephen's honest and condemning speech caused them to kill him:

Acts 7:54-58 (NASB) Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; 56 and he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears, and they rushed upon him with one impulse. 58 And when they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him, and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As the Jews are killing him, he prays for them demonstrating his forgiveness:

Acts 7:59-60 (NASB) And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" 60 And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them!" And having said this, he fell asleep.

It seems to me that in our text in Mark Jesus is telling His disciples that the Jews who are persecuting them will be overthrown by God. God will deal with their enemies, but they must forgive them and leave vengeance to God. Paul teaches this same truth:

Romans 12:17-19 (NASB) Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord.

The word "avenge" is the Greek ekdikeo which means: "to vindicate one's rights, to punish a person." We are not to try to punish someone who has wronged us even though that is the natural response. Rejecting vengeance is not natural; we can only live like this supernaturally as we walk in dependence upon God.

Mark 11:25-26 (NASB) "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. 26 <"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.">

Do these verses sound like they are saying that we must forgive in order to be forgiven?

It sounds like Jesus is talking about experiencing the forgiveness of God by forgiving others. Many see it this way. For example Geoff Thomas writes, "If we're not forgiving people then we've no reason to believe that God has forgiven us. We are still in our guilt. We are lost men if we are not forgiving men.... Jesus brings the threat of eternal punishment to bear on His disciples in order to assist them in forgiving people."

Does that last sentence bother you at all? This is classic Lordship Salvation theology. Let me ask you something, can believers be threatened with eternal punishment? No! The saved can never be lost so how could eternal punishment be a threat to them? It can't be. Look at what Jesus says about believers:

John 6:37-40 (NASB) "All that the Father gives Me shall come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 "And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day."

So if believers cannot be threatened with eternal punishment ,then we must ask were the disciples believers?

John 6:44 (NASB) "No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.

The only people who come to Christ are those who are drawn by God.

John 6:63-65 (NASB) "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 "But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father."

Jesus says, "There are some of you who do not believe." What does that imply about the rest? They Believed! This text makes it clear that Judas was not a believer but the other 11 disciples were­God had drawn them. And because they were drawn of God they could not lose the gift of eternal life that had been given to them. So they could not be threatened with eternal punishment.

Thomas goes on to say, "The Savior says that forgiveness for our own sins, getting to heaven, not going to hell hangs upon having a forgiving spirit." How does this fit with what Paul says:

Romans 4:5 (NASB) But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness,

What is it that makes him righteous? His forgiving spirit? No, his faith!

Another writer states, "You might argue, 'This makes forgiveness to be the condition of God's pardon. I thought that we received God's pardon as a result of the work of Christ.' That is true. However, the pardon of God never comes without repentance. Indeed, repentance is the outward sign that you have been pardoned. God does not pardon us merely because we have repented. He pardons us on the basis of the cross. But that pardon does not come apart from repentance. Your repentance is the outward sign that you have been pardoned. And in the same way, your forgiveness of others is a sign of your true repentance."

So if you don't have forgiveness, then you don't have repentance, which means that you don't have faith. Which would mean that you are not going to heaven. So what you really need is faith, not to act forgiving! If forgiveness was automatic to all believers, there would be no need of all the exhortations in the Scripture to be forgiving. Faith is a gift it does not come from being a forgiving person:

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 my forgiveness is base on my being forgiving, then I have something to boast about­ I'm forgiving!

Revelation 22:17 (NASB) And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

There is no effort or works required here just a thirst­ the water is free!

In 1994 John Piper wrote, "The greatest risk we face as a church in these days is not that we may lose an organ, or that we may lose money, or that we may lose members, or that we may lose staff, or that we may lose reputation. The greatest risk is that we may lose heaven. Because one way to lose heaven is to hold fast to an unforgiving spirit and so prove that we have never been indwelt by the Spirit of Christ."

How can someone lose what they never had? What separates the saved from the damned is not their forgiving spirit, but whether they believe the gospel.

Piper goes on to say, "If we hold fast to an unforgiving spirit, we will not be forgiven by God. If we continue on in that way, then we will not go to heaven, because heaven is the dwelling place of forgiven people."

I don't care how you slice it, these men are saying that our eternal salvation is tied to our actions. Is this what Jesus is saying? Let's look at His words again:

Mark 11:25-26 (NASB) "And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. 26 <"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.">

You'll notice verse 26 is in brackets; some translations have it as a footnote--which means there was some question as to whether or not this verse was in the original documents or not.

Verse 26 in our text is also found in the Sermon on the Mount:

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.

So although there is some question about Mark 11:26, there is no question about Matthew 6:14-15. Our Lord defiantly spoke these words. There is no question as to what Jesus said,

Mark 11:26 (NASB) <"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.">

The question is what did He mean? That is what we must struggle to understand.

Didn't Paul clearly teach that believers are completely forgiven by God?

Colossians 2:13 (NASB) And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions,

The good news of the Bible is that believers' sins were paid in full by Jesus Christ. Jesus paid the debt of all our sins: past, present, and future. So if all our sins are forgiven, why do we need to forgive in order to be forgiven?

I believe that there are two types of forgiveness spoken of in the Bible­relational and judicial. 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. The gospel brings judicial forgiveness. But obedience, along with confession of sin, will bring the joy that comes from relational forgiveness. Look with me at:

John 13:3-11 (NASB) Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God, 4 rose from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself about. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 And so He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, "Lord, do You wash my feet?" 7 Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter." 8 Peter said to Him, "Never shall You wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." 9 Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head." 10 Jesus said to him, "He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you." 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, "Not all of you are clean."

Notice verse 8: "If I do not wash you, you have no part with me." The Greek word for "part" is meros, which means: "fellowship, relationship, or intimacy." With that statement, our Lord turned the physical act of washing the disciples feet into a tremendous spiritual truth. Verse 10 makes it clear that they had already been made righteous by faith. They didn't need another bath. How many times does God make a person righteous? Once! All that is necessary for me to do is keep the fullness of the relationship open by having my feet washed­which is a relational cleansing.

Mark 11:26 (NASB) <"But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.">

There is a relationship between whether we forgive and our forgiveness. Unforgiveness blocks our relationship with God. God will not forgive us if we do not forgive others. We choose not to forgive, and so we do not receive forgiveness. Sin comes between us and God. Our fellowship is broken.

To illustrate our necessity to forgive, the Lord gives us a parable on forgiveness and the consequences of not forgiving:

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.

The parable deals with the importance of us forgiving one another. It is 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. A servant was an attendant of a King. They were satraps or provincial governors whose duty it was to collect the royal taxes and to deliver these large sums to the king.

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 (NKJV) "And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him 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. 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 (Leviticus 25:39, 2 Kings 4:1).

Outside of Israel, the practice of selling those who were unable to pay their debts was common. The proceeds of their sale would go toward the paying of the debt. There were no bankruptcy laws in those days. You paid, one way or another.

The point of the parable is that the amount of this debt is unpayable, picturing our need for God to do something. We can in no way help ourselves.

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 (NASB) being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;

Before we can receive the forgiveness of God at salvation, we must see the debt of our sin. We must see it as a debt that we cannot pay. 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 slave" 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 denarii, which equals about 3 months work. The 100 denarii 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.

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:

Ephesians 4:32 (NASB) And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven 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. Others 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 (NASB) As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Jeremiah 31:34 (NASB) "And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

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 "delivered him to the torturers"? I believe that he is referring to the physical and mental pain that God brings upon his disobedient sinning children. To not be forgiving is to be disobedient - it is to sin. And to sin is to bring discipline:


The word discipline comes from the Greek piadeia, which, in turn comes from pias which means: "child" and denotes the training of a child. The word is a broad term, signifying whatever parents and teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought.

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. Is that how you want to spend your days on earth, a tormented believer? It's your choice!

If forgiveness is so important, we had better understand what it is. We have heard from Jesus that it is essential. It is not icing of the cake of Christianity. If we don't experience it and offer it to others, we will suffer the consequence in this life. So it is tremendously important to know what this is that is so essential to our spiritual welfare.

Thomas Watson, who wrote about 300 years ago, gave us a great definition of forgiveness. He is commenting on the Lord's model prayer, "Forgive us our debts as we for give our debtors," and asks, "When do we forgive others?" His answer is, "When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them" (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity, p. 581).

The one thing above all else which seems to block the flow of the life of God to an individual, to a church, or to a nation, is this unwillingness to forgive, this holding of grudges, this desire to put somebody down in order to feel good yourself, this unwillingness to set these things aside and let God heal all the hurts of life.

May God help us, then, to forgive one another. This is no option, nor is it a luxury; it is a necessity of life.

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