^A Matt. XVIII.15-35.
^a 15 And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. [Having warned against giving offense, Jesus now shows how to act when offense is received. The fault is to be pointed out to the offender, but for the purpose of gaining him -- not from a desire to humiliate him. The offended is to seek the offender, and the offender is likewise to seek the offended (Matt. xv.23, 24), and neither is to wait for the other.] 16 But if he hear thee not, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established. [Reconciliation is still to be sought, but witnesses are now to be called in preparatory to the next step, which is the hearing before the church, wherein their testimony will be needed.] 17 And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the gentile and the publican. [As the Saviour was giving preparatory instruction, he was compelled to thus speak of the church by anticipation before it actually existed. The word "church" means assembly, and the apostles knew that there would be some form of assembly in the kingdom about to be set up. When Matthew wrote his Gospel, churches were already in existence. One who will not hear the church is to be regarded as an outsider. This implies that such a one is to be excluded from the church.] 18 Verily I say unto you, What things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. [The binding and loosing here mentioned is limited by the context or the subject of which Jesus now treats. Binding represents exclusion from membership; loosing, the restoration to fellowship in cases of repentance. The church's act in thus binding or loosing will be recognized in heaven if performed according to apostolic precept or precedent. Hence it is a most august and fearful prerogative.] 19 Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. [These two verses illustrate the sublime power of the church which has just been suggested by its right of excommunication. A small church of two or three can prevail with God in prayer (in matters not wholly at variance with his will) and can be honored by the very presence of the Christ.] 21 Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times? [Peter, seeing that the language of Jesus called for large forbearance, asked the Lord to fix the bounds. If we accept the Talmud as probably representing the ideals of forgiveness which pertained among the Jews of that age, we find that Peter was striving to be liberal, for the Talmud limits forgiveness to three times.] 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. [Jesus here plays upon the words so as to show that there is no numerical limitation. To keep track of four hundred ninety offenses one would have to open a set of books with his neighbor, which would be ridiculous. Forgiveness, prayer, and charity know no arithmetic. Peter's question brings to mind the forgiveness of God and calls forth the following parable.] 23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, who would make a reckoning with his servants.24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents. [Assuming that the silver talent is meant ([USD]1,600), the debt was [USD]16,000,000, which would render the debtor hopeless enough. If it was a gold talent, it would be nearly twenty times as much.25 But forasmuch as he had not wherewith to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. [The law of Moses allowed such a sale -- Lev. xxv.39-47; II. Kings iv.1.] 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.27 And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt. [Seeing the man's apparent willingness to pay, and knowing the hopelessness of his offer to do so, the lord compassionately forbore to sell him and forgave him the whole debt.] 28 But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him an hundred shillings [The denarius or shilling was worth about seventeen cents. The debt was, therefore, about [USD]100]: and he laid hold on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. [This frenzy to collect might have been somewhat pardonable had the lord still been demanding his debt, but, that debt being forgiven, such harsh conduct was inexcusable.] 29 So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee. [Compare this conduct with that depicted in verse 26 above.] 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. [Prison life was far worse than slavery. The Roman law permitted such a punishment, and it was practiced in this country until after the beginning of the last century.] 31 So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. [They were sorry for the sin of the one and the suffering of the other. Human nature rarely grows so wicked that it fails to resent sin in others.] 32 Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou besoughtest me: 33 shouldest thou not also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee? [God's forgiveness places us under obligation to be forgiving. The lord does not call the servant wicked because he had contracted a debt which he could not pay, but because of the merciless, unforgiving spirit which he had manifested toward his fellow-servant. Thus God freely forgives sin against himself, but the sin of refusing to forgive our fellow-man is with him an unforgivable sin. No doctrine of the Bible is more plainly taught than this.] 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due. [The picture is to be interpreted by the usages of the East, where even at the present day torture is used to compel debtors to confess the possession of property which they suspected of hiding. Thus the man had escaped being sold into slavery only to receive sentence of death by torture.] 35 So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts. [Jesus reminds us that God is a Father unto him whom we have refused to forgive. The key to the parable is introduced by the words, "So shall also." God will so deliver to the tormentors the unforgiving. Incidentally the parable draws comparisons between the forgiving spirit of God and the revengeful spirit of man, and the magnitude of our debt to him and the insignificance of our debts to each other. The retraction of forgiveness is merely a part of the parabolic drapery, but it is nevertheless true that those who are delivered from sin come to a worse state than ever if they return to it -- II. Pet. ii.20-22.]