Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SEVENTY TIMES SEVEN”

Matthew 18.22

 

Though few would argue the point, despite the fact that most professing Christians do not participate in their church’s evangelistic efforts, there is a primary reason Jesus does not take someone to heaven the moment that sinner comes to saving faith in Christ. It is so he can spend the rest of his life bearing fruit, working to reach others with the precious gospel message that Jesus saves. However, one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome when seeking to bring the lost to church, working to persuade the lost to come back to church, and even counseling the lost for conversion should they become alarmed about their soul’s plight, is the spiritual blindness that clouds every aspect of their thinking.

Isaiah 55.7-9 speaks to the problem. As I read, pay particular attention to the last phrase in Isaiah 55.7:

 

7      Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

8      For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.

9      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

God does abundantly pardon, though His thoughts and His ways are not our thoughts or our ways. His ways and His thoughts are so much higher, so that though God will abundantly pardon, sinners do not believe He will abundantly pardon. Have you ever thought of it this way? It is because God’s thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways, but are so much higher, that He will abundantly pardon.

This is a difficult concept for sinful men to grasp. Forgiveness is so foreign to the sinners that they typically cannot grasp that God really does abundantly pardon sins. First Corinthians 2.14 also speaks to the problem: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

Since the lost rarely listen attentively when the Word of God is preached, and usually do not understand what they hear when they do listen attentively, it is especially important for God’s people to conduct ourselves in such a way that the very nature of God in His dealings with sinners is demonstrated by our conduct. Second Corinthians 3.2, therefore, should be seen as providing an important insight to reach the lost with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. In that verse Paul writes, “Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”

Do you desire that the lost come to believe that God actually will abundantly forgive sins? If you want the lost, who usually do not listen to sermons, and typically do not understand when they do listen, to understand that God abundantly forgives sins, and then you, the letter that is read of all men, must show the lost that God forgives sins. How are you to show the lost folks around you that God in Christ abundantly forgives sins, as Isaiah 55.7 says He will?

Three points to ponder will give you much needed insight:

 

First, THERE IS THE PROCEDURE WE ARE TO EXHIBIT BEFORE OUR FELLOW MAN

 

Turn in your Bible to Matthew 18.15, and read along with me through verse 20:

 

15     Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

16     But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.

17     And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

18     Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

19     Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing 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.

 

You will notice that there are two aspects of this procedure by which a sinning brother is reconciled to the one he has trespassed against, or sinned against:

First, there are specific steps that are to be taken. It is clear that you must first approach the offending brother yourself. Next, if that initial approach proves unsuccessful, you approach him again, with one or two witnesses. If that proves unsuccessful, you bring the entire matter before the church, where it will finally be settled one way or the other.

Then, in verses 18-20, the Lord Jesus Christ declares by what authority these steps leading to the offending brother’s forgiveness are taken. So great is this authority that is granted by the Lord Jesus Christ that it is authority that is recognized in heaven by God the Father, and it is supported by the Lord Jesus Christ whenever the steps to bring about forgiveness are properly taken.

Think about it, my friend. So important is this matter of forgiveness to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ that explicit instructions have been provided to tell each of us just what to do, and the institution of the church congregation has been authorized to support the church member’s efforts, to properly bring about the forgiveness of the brother who has done you wrong.

It is not only a matter of reconciling a brother who has trespassed. Neither is it only a matter of restoring harmonious relationships within a congregation. It is also about modeling forgiveness to onlookers who are not Christians, so they can actually see God’s people showing the kind of forgiveness in action that God speaks of in His Word and preachers extol in their sermons.

 

Next, THERE IS THE PAST BROUGHT TO PEOPLE’S MINDS

 

Never, ever, ignore the importance of not only who is speaking when words are spoken in a passage in God’s Word, but also who the audience to whom the words are addressed happens to be:

 

21     Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

22     Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

 

These are Jewish men who are being spoken to, with Jewish women no doubt within earshot. Therefore, when Simon Peter presumed to express his magnanimity by offering to forgive an offender seven times, the Lord Jesus Christ responded in a most surprising way by saying, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”

It is a mistake related to paying no attention to the composition of our Lord’s audience to think that seventy times seven was just another way of telling Peter to forgive a whole bunch of times. Those as familiar with scripture as our Lord’s disciples were would immediately recognize seventy times seven as references to two passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.

The first is Genesis 4.23-24, and the words of a wicked man named Lamech. Listen to the words uttered by this first bigamist in the Bible, who was also a man of arrogance and homicidal vengeance:

 

23     And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

24     If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

 

The second is Daniel 9.24: “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.”

In both passages, reference is made to seventy times seven, understanding that seventy weeks in Daniel means seventy sevens, weeks of years rather than weeks of days. Genesis 4.24 ties seventy times seven to great sinning, while Daniel 9.24 ties seventy times seven to finishing the transgression and making an end of sins. In other words, the Genesis passage has to do with committing a great sin, while the Daniel passage is a prophetic utterance concerning the atonement Jesus Christ would make as the ground for forgiving sins. Do you think, then, that our Lord’s Jewish audience did not immediately grasp that His comments were dealing with something much larger than just one guy who felt offended seeking an apology from the brother who did him wrong? Of course, they did.

Whatever the Lord was doing, His comment about forgiving seventy times seven times immediately reached out and pulled into their consideration not only the great wickedness that characterized sinful men prior to Noah’s flood, but also the cosmic solution to sin that the prophet Daniel referred to. People, leave this auditorium tonight with this if you leave here with nothing else: In great measure, the steps you take to bring about the forgiveness of someone who sins against you will be useful to the Holy Spirit of God to bring understanding to the lost that God really and truly does abundantly pardon sins. The lost around you will believe it when they see it acted out in your day to day lives.

On the other hand, if you are so petty and thin-skinned that you hold grudges, that you cling to grievances and slights you feel you have suffered, and you refuse forgiveness to those who trespass against you, then you are the gunk in the drain that backs up the sink and hinders the lost from grasping the profound and supernatural truth that God does abundantly pardon sins.

 

WE CONCLUDE WITH OUR LORD’S PARABLE

 

23     Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

24     And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

25     But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

26     The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

27     Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

28     But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

29     And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

30     And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

31     So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

32     Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

33     Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

34     And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

35     So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

 

We will not take the time, this evening, to examine this parable in great detail. Suffice it to say that the certain king is the Lord Jesus Christ, and the servant who was forgiven is you. We are debtors to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who was moved with great compassion to save you and to save me.

Why do you think our great Lord had compassion on us to forgive us our debt, except so we in turn could have compassion on others and forgive them as we have been forgiven? If you, therefore, do not forgive others as you have been forgiven, you will be delivered to the tormentors, because you are not truly forgiven your sins. If you were truly forgiven all your sins, you would forgive the trespasses against you committed by others.

Do you not recognize in this parable one of the very significant indicators of a truly saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? The genuine Christian has been forgiven so that he might forgive. In addition, if the Christian who is forgiven does not forgive, it is because he is not truly forgiven.

 

My text for this message is Matthew 18.22: “Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” To be sure, seventy times seven refers to forgiving a whole bunch of times. However, it means so much more than that. It is not just that the child of God is supposed to forgive sins committed against him repeatedly. It is also that the Christian’s willingness to forgive, and the Christian’s determination to forgive, reflects powerfully on the very nature of our God to forgive sins committed against Him.

Lost people simply do not hear you, for the most part, when you tell them that God forgives sins, when you say that God abundantly pardons sins. Their entire life’s experiences have persuaded them that forgiveness is not possible, that people hold grudges that people remember trespasses, and folks want to use things you have done in the past as advantage against you in the future.

Therefore, when you tell someone, or when I preach to someone, that God grants forgiveness to those who come to Christ, what they hear is wwyovbejnaroled. How, then, will the lost come to know that there is forgiveness in this universe? When they see Christians forgiving.

That is why the Savior gave us a detailed procedure for bringing offending brothers to repentance so they will seek forgiveness, that is why the phrase was used that caused Jewish listeners to hearken back to those two passages in the past, and that is why the parable was taught to warn Christians of the dire consequences of not forgiving others. Therefore, you are not only petty and childish when you hold grudges and cling to offenses. You are also seriously impeding the lost around you grasping the reality that there is such a thing as real forgiveness, and that if God’s people actually forgive, then maybe God forgives, as well.

Is there someone you need to forgive? You surely have unsaved friends, family members, and love ones around you. They certainly know a forgiving spirit when they are around one. Therefore, if you have not done what is necessary to bring about the forgiveness of someone who has sinned against you, I would suggest you take action straightway.

I am not suggesting the Bible teaches that serious sins should just be forgiven, pretending the serious offense was never committed. Serious sins should not be forgiven apart from repentance on the part of the offending party. I am suggesting that you take steps to create the situation that will lead to you being able to forgive someone who has sinned against you. If I may, I recommend that the first step you take be toward my office, so I can coach you to seek the reconciliation the other person needs, and the forgiveness you need to grant.



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org