Matthew 18, Masterclass In Forgiveness

This is my sermon on Matthew 18 from August 23rd, 2020. I was in person at Westminster this week. If the trend continues downward, we’ll stay that way!

Matthew 18:1-6

Some people read this as Jesus’ caution against making children sin, but that’s not what He says. He says that to enter the kingdom of heaven you have to believe like a child believes, and then no one should make someone who believes with a such simple faith sin. The people with simple and full faith are the greatest in the kingdom, and WOE to those who lead them astray!

Matthew 18:7-9

This whole section is Jesus’ commentary on temptations and how they come at us. What Jesus says here is in right in line with Romans 15. We should bear with people that are weaker in their faith and not tempt them to sin with our own liberties. 

So Jesus says these extreme things about how to deal with sin: chop your hand off, gouge out your eye! Yet none of the disciples were maimed like this. 

Again, Jesus is speaking in parables, but that doesn’t mean we’re off the hook! Avoid giving into temptation with all of your might! 

Understand that temptation is not sin.

Understand that you can actually control yourself!

Paul talks about this: 

1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

And look at the context. Look how he continues: 

1Cor. 10:14 ¶ Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.

1Cor. 10:15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.

1Cor. 10:16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ?

1Cor. 10:17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.

Resist sin and temptation because we are part of the body of Christ. I need your spiritual maturity and you need mine. You need my prayers interceding for you on Tuesday afternoon instead of me spending time giving into gossip, slander, greed, and lust.

Paul actually connects us resisting sin and the way out to our community with one another: 

1Cor. 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Of course, the other way of escape that God has provided is the forgiviness of all of your sins forever by Jesus’ death on the cross. Your sins ARE forgiven is the message of the Apostles. Not all of your sins WILL BE forgiven, or WHAT YOU’VE COMMITTED SO FAR. 

Your sins are gone. All of them ever. That is the ultimate escape. You don’t have them any more.  

Matthew 18:10 and Angels

Some people have developed a whole theology around this one sentence. Jesus didn’t teach any more on it. He may have just been going along with a lot of the beliefs of the day. 

There is something real about angels and their connection to us, but the Bible doesn’t ever say we should trust them, pray to them, glorify them, hope in them, thank them, or any of that. There is one god. 

Angels didn’t get their wings until the 4th century when the worship of Nike, the goddess of victory, got mixed in with Christianity. Pictures of angels up until then looked just like men until they got Nike’s wings. 

Matthew 18:12-14 and God’s True Response to Us Falling Into Temptation

Remember, the context of what Jesus has been saying is simple faith and temptation!

Matt. 18:12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray?

Matt. 18:13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.

Matt. 18:14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

As much as we want to shun and tsk tsk tsk on the person that falls into temptation, God wants to leave everything else behind to be with that person! He would even leave His seat in heaven to come and live for 33 some odd years to save me! 

A Masterclass in Forgiveness

All of this has been leading up to this great session on forgiveness. If we see how simply we can believe in Christ, and if we see God’s character leaves everything to flee sin and run after the person that has fallen in sin, we can more easily forgive others. 

Matt. 18:15 ¶ “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Matt. 18:16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses.

Matt. 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

This way of dealing with sin is so genius. It honors everyone involved. It makes sure that the offense is really a sin and not just the accuser’s preference. And it makes expectations for the Christian body clear: Look bro, we’re not going to tolerate you living for your flesh in greed or lust or hatred. That’s not the way of Jesus!

Matt. 18:18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Matt. 18:19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

Matt. 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

So you think you get this clear teaching about how to kick people out of church for doing wrong, etc. and then Peter helps us bring it back out of following a bunch of rules. 

Matthew 18:21-35 Parable About Forgiveness

So we know that Jesus died for our sins, that is, forgave our debt. But do we believe that in our actions? If Jesus forgave me completely by His grace, why should I try to get any of my identity from accusing you? 

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