Jesus’ Signs of Having a Saving Faith in Him

If you are participating in The Crossing’s Bible Reading Plan, then sometime today you’ve read or will read Matthew 18. This is one of those chapters where we see Jesus warning those who want to be his disciples about what it really means to have a saving faith in him (to be his disciple).

  • So in vs. 1-4, we see that it means that we’ll see humility as a FAR greater glory than seeking self-glory, self-exultation or self-greatness.
  • In vs. 5-9, we see that it means that we’ll see God in such a way and sin in such a way where we’ll more and more take sin very seriously and not flippantly (and take more seriously how our own actions, words, and attitudes might cause others to sin as well).
  • In vs. 10-14, we see how valuable every single one of Christ’s “sheep” are to him, and that just one going astray is worth doing all possible to seek out and bring back. And those who follow Christ will develop the same kind of heart.
  • In vs. 15-20, we see how important repentance is, and that a stubborn unrepentence when confronted with a certain sin means that a professing “believer” may not be a believer after all (and should not be treated as a believer by the church until there is repentance).

And then we come to the last part—a parable about how a person with a saving faith in who Christ is and what he’s done and will do—one who has been forgiven their sins against such a holy Creator—will also be a person of forgiveness and mercy and grace to others. Can’t have one without the other. Impossible, according to Jesus.

Here’s how Jesus says it…

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’ But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.”

I like the note in the ESV Study Bible on v. 27; “The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.”

The forgiveness of such a massive debt (equivalent to $6 billion; see note on v. 24) is a dramatic illustration of (1) the massive debt that people owe, because of their sins, to the holy, righteous God; (2) their complete inability ever to pay such a debt (“For the wages of sin is death . . . ,” Rom. 6:23a); (3) God’s great mercy and patience (Matt. 18:26, 29) in withholding his immediate righteous judgment that all people deserve for their sins; and (4) God’s gracious provision of Christ’s death and resurrection to pay the debt for sins and to break the power of sin (“but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 6:23b).

But doesn’t that seem to contradict what Jesus then says at the end of the parable regarding how the unforgiving debtor was then made to pay off his debt after all? “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive a brother or sister from your heart.” So is Jesus teaching that the basis for our forgiveness from God is our forgiving other people? If we do that, God will forgive us? Not at all. Like so many of Jesus’ teachings, he sounds like he’s saying, “If you do this, then God will do this for you.” He does this to get attention and to make an absolute statement about the reverse; “If God has indeed done this for you, then you will also do this.”

I like how the note in the ESV Study Bible says it…

The two central points of the parable are: first, that the gift of salvation is immeasurably great (“how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation?” Heb. 2:3); and, second, that unless a person is comparably merciful to others, (a) God’s mercy has not had a saving effect upon him (Matt. 18:32–33), and (b) he will be liable to pay the consequences himself (vv. 34–35). … A transformed heart must result in a changed life that offers the same mercy and forgiveness as has been received from God (cf. Isa. 40:2). Someone who does not grant forgiveness to others shows that his own heart has not experienced God’s forgiveness.

Question: Is there anybody in your life you’re refusing to forgive right now because you’ve failed to grasp the fact that God has indeed forgiven you of so much worseso much more? Or do you think you deserve God’s forgiveness, but this person doesn’t deserve yours? No one deserves forgiveness. That’s the point of mercy and grace, …and forgiveness. And those who have been forgiven much forgive much. Those who know they’ve been shown great mercy are merciful. Those who know they stand under God’s grace are quick to give that grace to others. And what Jesus is saying is that the reverse is also true: those who do not forgive much and are not merciful and gracious to others are simply demonstrating that they themselves have not received God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace.

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