The issue of forgiveness is one that few people want to be reminded of. This is, of course, unless they have been offended by someone else. When someone offends us, we expect them to come to us quickly and admit their mistake, seeking our forgiveness. When It is we who are the offender, very few of us will seek to apologize or admit that we are at fault. Jesus was very specific on this matter and quite serious in the manner in which we should resolve ALL conflicts that we have with another believer. He said that if we are unwilling to forgive and forget, then He will not forgive our sins.
Matthew chapter 18, is the quintessential guide on how to resolve all conflicts within Jesus church. May we all read this carefully and follow everything that our Lord has instructed us to do…
18:15 “Moreover if your brother shall trespass against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone: if he shall hear you, you have gained your brother.
18:16 But if he will not hear you, then take with you one or two more, that ‘in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ (Deuteronomy 19:15)
18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it to the church: but if he neglects to hear the church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a tax collector.
18:18 Assuredly I say to you, whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
18:19 Again I say to you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as concerning any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.
18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
18:21 Then came Peter to him, and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?”
18:22 Jesus said to him, “I say to you, not seven times; but seventy-times-seven.
18:23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is likened to a certain king, who wanted to settle the account of his servants.
18:24 And when he had begun to settle with them, one was brought to him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
18:25 But forasmuch as he had no money to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, “Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
18:27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and released him, and forgave him the debt.
18:28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred denarii: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe.:
18:29 And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
18:31 So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told to their lord all that was done.
18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said to him, ‘O you wicked servant, I forgave you all that debt, because you asked me:
18:33 Should not you also have had compassion on your fellow servant, even as I had pity on you?’
18:34 And his lord was angry, and delivered him to the torturers, till he should pay all that was due him.
18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if all of you, from your hearts, do not forgive every one his brothers their trespasses.
Jesus begins this chapter with instructions for His church on how to resolve conflicts. First we are to go to the person who offended us and talk to them personally. We are not to go someone else, not even our closest friend. The reason: this matter then becomes gossip with words that are exchanged that are negative towards the one who has offended us, spoken to a third party. In this, we find our fault, according to Jesus. Christians who find themselves in the midst of conflicts are to go to each other; the one who has offended us, and seek to resolve the issue between each other, as family. If the person will not hear us, then we take another believer with us and gently, humbly, seek to resolve the issue. Again, we do not talk about this matter with anyone else. If the person will not hear us or a fellow believer, then we take it to the pastor or elders of the church as ask for their assistance. If we are not willing to abide by these rules for conflict that are set forth by Jesus, we cannot take any other means. If we spread news of our conflict amongst other believers, then we will cause division in Jesus church, something that He hates.
When the members of Jesus’ church work to promote disunity and cause divisions within the church that ultimately cause people to not attend that fellowship any longer, they place themselves under the wrath of the Lord. Because unity is the central part of the Trinity of God, He holds unequalled displeasure against those who work to cause disunity. Whether unintentionally or by malice—when the results of words or actions cause harm to the church, the Lord will act to discipline those who cause the injury.
Proverbs 6 speaks of seven things that the Lord hates; the seventh of these is an “abomination” to the Lord: “Discord among brothers.”
Proverbs 6:16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
Proverbs 6:19 (the seventh) … one who sows discord among brethren.
The Lord demands unity within the body of Jesus Christ. This is not a suggestion. When discord is spread and the members suffer and are broken over it, the Lord will not permit those who tear the body into pieces to remain innocent. We see examples of this throughout the Bible. Two important examples of those who cause disunity and the consequences of their actions are Korah, in Numbers 16, and Ananias and Sapphira, in Acts 5.
Numbers 16:8-32 Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi. 11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD.” 15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the LORD, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation. 20 And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” 22 Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?” 23 So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ” 31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods.
When Korah determined to come against the man whom God had chosen to lead His people, he came against God Himself. We should understand that those who are leaders in the church are placed there by God. If there is a problem in the Lord’s church, He will deal with those who need correction—Himself. When anyone takes the role of an adversary against a man who is sincerely seeking to serve the Lord and bless the people, they should understand that the Lord will not take it lightly when His church is hurt or destroyed by those who cause the destruction.
Ananias and Sapphira’s Missrepresentation:
Acts 5:1-10 But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira his wife, sold a possession. 2 And he kept back part of the proceeds, his wife also being aware of it, and brought a certain part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? 4 While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 Then Ananias, hearing these words, fell down and breathed his last. 6 And the young men arose and wrapped him up, carried him out, and buried him. 7 Now it was about three hours later when his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter answered her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much?” She said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Then immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. And the young men came in and found her dead, and carrying her out, buried her by her husband…
Ananias and Sapphira owned a piece of property that they sold. The proceeds from this property was theirs to do with, as they chose. They apparently gave as an offering, all but a portion of the total money they received from this sale, to the church. Their sin appears to be that of falsely representing to the leaders of the church that they had given the entire amount to the Lord, instead of telling the truth that they had kept some for themselves. It would have been completely appropriate for Ananias and Sapphira to retain part of the money from the sale of their property. They really did not have to say anything about the matter at all. They could have simply given their offering to the Lord and left it at that. Where the grievous sin occurred was in the pretense of making themselves appear worthy of greater honor than they were actually due. Their actions caused a fracture of unity in the church, and therefore became a very serious matter.
The serious nature of this error is seen in the comments of Peter who defined their actions as: inspired by satan; “Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?” Apparently, the Lord agreed with Peter; for immediately, the Lord struck—dead, both Ananias and Sapphira—in His judgement.
This verse is also important in defining for us who the Holy Spirit is. “You have not lied to men but to God…” Peter clarifies that they lied to the Holy Spirit, and He is God. From this, we understand that the Holy Spirit is not an active force but a person, as the Father and the Son are also persons of the Godhead.
God’s judgement in both of these examples allows us to see the seriousness of causing division within the body of Christ. God holds—guilty, those who cause such divisions. Both Korah and his entire household, as well as Ananias and Sapphira, perished for their error.
Disunity in the church of Corinth caused sickness and death:
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church over their serious acts of disunity that had apparently caused sickness and death amongst some of the members.
During their love feasts, when the church provided a meal for the members, the rich would often come in early and drink too much wine, eat to much food, and leave little provision remaining for the poorer members of the church who arrived later.
1 Corinthians 11:18-22 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. 20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper. 21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
After the love feasts were concluded and the members of the church took communion together, those who had caused this division and carelessly harmed the poorer members—became sick, and some even died after having taken communion. Apparently, by their total disregard for the other members of the church, as they took the elements of communion—they did so in “an unworthy manner.”
1 Corinthians 11:23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep (have died). For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.
In the simple act of communion, members of the church died because of their disregard for unity and the welfare of others in the church. By their selfishness, they harmed the entire fellowship of believers.
It is important to note that the “unworthy manner,” in which these careless members of the church conducted themselves, had nothing to do with being unworthy to receive communion. It was because they disregarded the Lord’s body—His church—that they became sick, and died.
1 Corinthians 12:27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.
James speaks of these individuals who had become sick and some had died. He speaks of their actions that had caused disunity in the church as “sin.” They could be forgiven and restored, if they would confess their sins and cease their actions that harmed the church.
James 5:9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned.
James 5:14-15 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
James 5:16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
The members of Jesus’ church are to imitate Him in their lives. We are not allowed to argue, disagree, backbite, gossip, spread rumors, and cause division. Those who do so and thereby cause harm to the church will suffer the wrath of the Lord for destroying the unity that is so vital and important to God. We may not understand the harshness of God’s judgement in killing these people who caused division, but we don’t need to understand. What is important is that we comprehend that this principle of unity amongst the church is of great importance to the Lord. For God to take such serious action, tells us how important unity within the members of Jesus’ church, is. Jesus requires the same unity in His church, that we see demonstrated in the prayer of Jesus, in John Chapter 17, between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
As God is one, Jesus will make His church one also. No one who works to make Jesus’ church; fractured or broken can be a part of His church. I have seen the results of what happens when people from the church cause divisions and disunity and it has broken my heart.
The basis for the Trinity is that God is one in mind, will, purpose, and work. They never disagree or suffer differences in their will. This is what makes these three; One God. This same principle is the power behind Jesus’ church. In these last days, we see the opposite occurring in many Christian churches all over the world. If Jesus’ church could come together in one mind and one purpose and stop the gossiping and disunity from within the church, there is nothing that would be impossible for us. As the Lord’s church, we could drastically affect and change this world, and see millions more come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant
Forgiveness is one of the most important principles of Jesus’ kingdom. In fact, it is so important that Jesus stated that the Father will not forgive you unless you forgive those who have sinned against you.
Matthew 6:14-15 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Forgiveness is accomplished by letting a matter go and by moving on, past the hurt and all of the other emotions we feel. Forgiveness is; treating the offending person as if nothing had ever happened. Many people have stated that “they can forgive, but they cannot forget.” This is actually a very selfish way of looking at forgiveness. You must forget the matter, or you will never be able to move out of the bitterness and anger you feel for the one who hurt you. Of course, you will always remember what has happened; but you must not remember so as to repeat your former anger, the desire for revenge, or determine that you really do not want to see this person ever again. We must forgive, and we must forget the wrong that was done to us and allow this person back into our life and treat them as if nothing has ever happened.
In the parable of the unforgiving servant, a man owes a debt of about 10-12 million dollars, which is so large, that it is impossible that he could ever repay what is required. He requests not only forgiveness but that the debt be forgotten. His request is granted, and he is set free. A short time later, this forgiven man, finds another who owes him about 17 dollars, a small amount. This debtor asks that he might be forgiven as the man who owed a great amount was also forgiven. The one forgiven much will not forgive and forget the small debt of the man who asks his forgiveness.
Jesus said that this man will not be forgiven the large and impossible debt that he owed. Each one of us owes a debt to God for our sins that is so large—we can never pay what is required. Others who sin against us owe us a much smaller debt.
The language is clear: Either we forgive and forget the offenses that others have committed against us, or Jesus will not forgive us for the offenses we have committed against God.
The preceding is from the new book: “One Gospel, the four gospels combined into one incredible story,” coming to Amazon, December, 2017