To Be Like Yeshua Means – To Understand Who Is the Greatest in The Kingdom
In Matthew 18, Yeshua rebuked His disciples for their pride and desire for worldly greatness, and He taught them the three essentials for unity and harmony among God’s people, i.e. humility, honesty and forgiveness. We have already looked at the issue of humility and honesty. In this post and the following, we will be looking at the third of Yeshua’s essentials for unity and harmony – forgiveness.
When we start living in an atmosphere of humility and honesty, we must take some risks and expect some dangers. Unless humility and honesty result in forgiveness, relationships cannot be mended and strengthened. Kefa recognized the risks involved and asked Yeshua how He should handle them in the future. But, Kefa made some serious mistakes. To begin with, he lacked humility himself. He was sure his brother would sin against him, but not he against his brother! Kefa’s second mistake was in asking for limits and measures. Where there is love, there can be no limits or dimensions (see Ephesians 3:17-19)
“Then Kefa came up and said to him, ‘Rabbi, how often can my brother sin against me and I have to forgive him? As many as seven times?’ ‘No, not seven times,’ answered Yeshua, ‘but seventy times seven!’” ~ Matthew 18:21-22
Kefa thought he was showing great faith and love when he offered to forgive at least seven times. After all, the rabbis taught that three times was sufficient. Our Lord’s reply, “No … seventy times seven.” That’s 490 times and that must have startled Kefa. Who could keep count for that many offenses? But that was exactly the point Yeshua was making: Love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor. 13:5, NIV). By the time we have forgiven a Believer that many times, we developed a habit of forgiving.
However, Yeshua was not advising careless or shallow forgiveness. Messianic love is not blind (see Philippians 1:9-10). The forgiveness Yeshua requires is on the basis of the instructions He gave in Matthew 18:15-20. If a Believer is guilty of a repeated sin, no doubt he would find strength and power to conquer that sin through the encouragement of his loving and forgiving brethren.
If we condemn a Believer, we bring out the worst in him. But if we create an atmosphere of love and forgiveness, we can help God bring out the best in him. The parable of the unforgiving servant illustrates the power of forgiveness. It is important to note that this parable is not about salvation, for salvation is wholly of grace and is unconditionally given. To make God’s forgiveness a temporary thing is to violate the very truth of Scripture (see Romans 5:8; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-7). This teaching deals with forgiveness between Believers, not between lost sinners and God. The emphasis in this chapter is on a Believer forgiving Believer (Matthew 18:15, 21). The main character in this teaching went through three stages in his experience of forgiveness.
Kefa brought to Yeshua a question commonly asked in rabbinic debates. The common answer was that it was considered sufficient to forgive three times, but on the fourth time, there should be no forgiveness. Kefa may have chosen the number seven not only to indicate generosity and charity, but also because the number seven is commonly used in the Bible to communicate completeness.
Yeshua’s answer did not mean his followers ought to keep count up to seventy times seven; rather, this statement means not to keep track of numbers at all. There ought to be no limit to a Believer’s willingness to forgive another Believer (within the confines of the steps set out above in helping to restore straying Believers as we learned in my last post). All Believers ought to willingly forgive, for all Believers have already been forgiven far beyond their comprehension, as the following parable shows.
Yeshua puts no limits on forgiveness, not even the generous boundaries that Kefa implies. No one can ever say, “I’ve forgiven enough; now it’s time to hold a grudge.” If you refuse to work toward forgiveness, you develop handicapped emotions. You’ll stunt your growth with grudges, no matter how important they seem to you.
Please enjoy this video of Forgiveness by Matthew West. It certainly tells it like it is.
In my next post, we will wrap-up Yeshua’s teaching on forgiveness from Matthew 18.