Jean’s Gospel: Law and Gospel

You may also like...

178 Responses

  1. Michael says:

    “When we come to the church, we must enter in accordance with God’s liking, having no malice in the soul, nor praying to our detriment when we say ‘Forgive us as we forgive those who trespass against us.’ For this statement is terrible, and he who says it is exclaiming to God something like this: ‘I remitted; Master, you remit. I loosened; you loosen. I forgave; you forgive. If I retained, you retain. If I did not forgive my neighbor, then do not annul my sins. With the measure I used to measure, let me be measured as well.’ ”

    (St. John Chrysostom, The Fathers of the Church: On Repentance and Almsgiving, pg. 128)

  2. Jean says:

    Excellent quote Michael. I sometimes think of forgiveness as the mortar which binds the living stones of the living temple, with Christ being the cornerstone.

  3. Michael says:

    This is a very difficult passage…but it’s also very clear. 🙂

  4. Randy says:

    The problem, Michael, when I go to church I go as one who is both saint and sinner. I carry my dark baggage. My sin is like barnacles yet to be scraped off my soul. And for some reason, often the sinner overwhelms the saint.

  5. Michael says:


    That is the lot of us all.
    That’s why we’re so intense here about church being a place where you confess your sins and hear the Gospel for absolution every week.

    A rocking worship band and evangelical pandering won’t cleanse ones soul.

    I know I’m preaching to the choir…

  6. Xenia says:

    A rocking worship band and evangelical pandering won’t cleanse ones soul.<<<<

    Precisely why I turned to Orthodoxy.

  7. Jean says:

    In a Lutheran church service, the very first thing we do is deal with our sins. Here is a model Confession and Absolution prayer liturgy, which a church might adopt to cleanse the conscience and prepare a congregation for worship:

    Almighty God, our maker and redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto You that we are by nature sinful and unclean and that we have sinned against You by thought, word, and deed. Wherefore we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    O most merciful God, who has given Your only-begotten Son to die for us, have mercy upon us and for His sake grant us remission of all our sins; and by Your Holy Spirit increase in us true knowledge of You and of Your will and true obedience to Your Word, to the end that by Your grace we may come to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

    Almighty God, our heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us and has given His only son to die for us and for His sake forgives us all our sins. To those who believe on His name He gives power to become the children of God and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes and is baptized shall be saved. Grant this, Lord unto us all.


  8. Steve Wright says:


    Given the parable details, would you then argue the man who did not forgive also “lost” (for lack of a better word) his salvation?

    What I mean is the man WAS forgiven the great debt. He then did not forgive others in turn.

    The king THEN confronts him and reverses his earlier decision (in the parable).

    I am interested in your thoughts.

  9. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean – vain repetitions!!!!

    Oh wait, that is how I was taught to respond in my evangelical day… now I cross myself and kneel.

  10. Babylon's Dread says:

    Once again there is so much good here …

    other traditions emphasize other readings of these texts…

    I am trying to avoid either/or readings as well as both/add …

    I am blessed to see the greatness of the gift of forgiveness and the vastness of the mercy of God. And I like my rock band … It actually is helpful to the soul but I take that point well enough too.

  11. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Forget what was said in the parable part – what do you do with the direct statement of Jesus to his hearers?

    “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

  12. Jean says:

    There are two layers to your question. I don’t want to sound mealy mouthed, but I need to be very careful.

    God forgave the first servants sins. The servant received and, according the parable, accepted the pardon. He didn’t argue or insist on paying it back; he “went out.” God was reconciled to him. Jesus is talking to His disciples and in particular is responding to Peter’s question about forgiveness. I interpret this as a servant who is in the kingdom of heaven.

    The first servant did not extend forgiveness and lost his pardon from God. The end of the parable is consistent with the principle of Matt 6:14-15 and John and James. The first servant lost his pardon because he departed the faith. The refusal to pardon the fellow servant was a sign that he no longer believed the Gospel.

  13. Josh the Baptist says:

    So salvation is dependent upon the recipients future actions?

  14. Jean says:

    “So salvation is dependent upon the recipients future actions?”

    See the 2nd to last paragraph of the article. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone.

  15. Josh the Baptist says:

    But if the saved person doesn’t choose to forgive someone else, you said he becomes unsaved, right?

  16. Jean says:

    This is what I wrote:

    “Conversely, if we are not willing to forgive sins committed against us, then our faith is dead. In that case, our sins against God will not be forgiven.”

  17. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, can you give us the Baptist version of interpreting these words of Jesus?

    “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Jesus could have just completed the parable, dropped the mic and walked of the stage. But he punctuated the parable. What do you think?

    Good to see you back – it seems like you were off for a while.

  18. Steve Wright says:

    My question was prompted by Jean’s commentary

    “The master’s servant was pardoned and entered the kingdom of heaven by faith.”

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    “But if the saved person doesn’t choose to forgive someone else, you said he becomes unsaved, right?”

    I think the proper way to address it is that the servant gave up the faith and because he had no faith he was unable or unwilling to forgive.

  20. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jean and MLD – I only ask the questions to clarify the belief in my mind. Jean, it does seem that your 16 is saying the same as my 15. And MLD seems to be agreeing.

    Of course, I disagree. I would find that to be a terrifying system, hoping that I had forgiven everyone completely and quickly enough so as to not be ushered out of the kingdom.

    But it doesn’t affect you that way, so good on you. We’ll disagree on this, too. Keep loving the Lord.

  21. Jean says:


    If the first servant’s debt was forgiven, i.e., his particular sins were forgiven, and his sentence was completely pardoned, then what else is that than salvation?

  22. Michael says:

    The Reformed take on the passage …

    1. The experience of forgiveness. The king represents God the Father (see v. 35). The hugeness of the debt incurred by the first slave, and the impossibility of its ever being repaid, point to the enormity of the sin that God forgives. “The impossibility of paying God that debt achieves fine irony in the absurdity of the command to sell the first slave, his wife, his children, and all his possessions…. The impossibility of paying God one’s debt of sin achieves even greater irony in the absurdity of the first slave’s promise to pay all” (Gundry, 374). The king’s cancellation of the debt points to the forgiveness of sins by God’s mighty grace. Just as here the first slave is identified as a “debtor” (opheiletIs), so disciples are to pray, “Forgive us our debts” (opheilImata). Jesus’ identification of his followers as debtors who deserve punishment, who cannot possibly avoid it through actions of their own, and who must therefore depend utterly upon God’s grace, is a most important truth, given the emphasis in Mt upon the necessity of disciples’ radical obedience to the law. The two go together, but the order is vital: the disciple does not obey the law to earn God’s forgiveness; rather he or she obeys the law in grateful acknowledgment of and response to God’s forgiveness. This brings us to the next point.

    2. The effects of forgiveness. The burden of the parable is not disciples’ experience of God’s forgiveness, but the effects of that experience in their relationships with other believers (the subject of Peter’s original question, v. 21). Thus Jesus concludes: “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart” (v. 35). Precisely because they have all been forgiven incalculable debts, mutual forgiveness among members of the church (none of whose debts to each other could compare with those which God has cancelled) is to be expected. Failure to forgive a brother, demonstrates that one has never really understood the divine forgiveness.

    3. The threat of judgment. As the judgment threatening the offending brother is real and final (vv. 14-20), the offended brother too is threatened with judgment – one equally real and final (the “dreadfully ironic impossibility” of v. 34b points to the Last Judgment; thus Gundry, 374) – unless he “forgives his brother from his heart” (i.e. genuinely and not just apparently). Failure to do so exposes him as one who has never really received God’s forgiveness.

    Knox Chamblin

  23. Josh the Baptist says:

    MLD – 2 weeks ago, I had a medical emergency that ended me up in the hospital for a few days. All seems OK now. 1 week ago, my dad had a nine hour surgery. He is doing supernaturally well. Already home, 4 days early.

    Mon-Wed of this week I took the teens of my church on that most dreaded of all evangelical institutions – The Youth Retreat. It was glorious. I am more content in the Lord than I have ever been.

  24. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh, I think you read this pericope is too narrow of a sense. Jesus has been discussing forgiveness for several verses before he comes to this passage. The point Jesus is making is the restoration of fallen brothers and how he uses us to make that happen. (all of that 7 times stuff added to the 70 x 7 stuff – the lost sheep – when your brother sins against you etc) – precede this parable

    A Christian by the words of Jesus is a forgiver. Satan wants us to think that we have a right to not forgive – if only Jesus knew what this guy did to me!”

    Don’t you pray in the Lord’s prayer to be forgiven in the same manner you forgive?

  25. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – sounds like a rough and tough time. Happy that you handled it well.

  26. London says:

    I can think of two specific times in my life when the church rock band did cleanse or soothe my soul.
    The first was just after 9/11 when I was newly moved to a big city where I knew absolutely no one. Some how I found a church that had Sunday PM music services with a “rock band”.
    It was the one place that felt “safe” after the emotional trauma of that event.
    The second was at a recovery based church service here in town that I attended after another emotionally traumatizing event in my life.
    Times when the loudness of the music was able to reach into my soul and touch a place mere words could not access.

    Everyone is different.

  27. Josh the Baptist says:

    Seeing as I lead the church rock band, and have done so for the past 15 years or so…yes, I have found great spiritual benefit in it too.

  28. Babylon's Dread says:

    I agree with London and Michael about rock bands and cleansed souls even if they said different things. I can do that.

    Post Dread

  29. Steve Wright says:

    Parable literally means “to throw alongside” – I think a modern slang would be “tossing something out there” – the purpose being to invoke a reaction.

    One of the challenges in making fine, detailed, theological points from the DETAILS of a parable is that one has to deal with all the details…for example

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

    So is Jesus teaching a 2nd form of forgiveness, a purgatory-like place of suffering to purge our (sin) debt in the case of unforgiveness amongst each other? I doubt any in this audience would think so. Certainly not Jean (or MLD).

    My point is not that the details of the Bible (or the words of Jesus) are not all important, or that we can pick and choose what we want to pay attention to, but rather there is a hermeneutic principle involved when interpreting parables by their very nature. Jesus did NOT originate parables as a teaching method.

    Fee has written, “Interpreting a parable in some ways destroys what the parable is. It is like interpreting a joke. The immediacy of the parable is what makes it so effective in provoking people. Explaining the points of comparison of a parable is like explaining a joke. The impact is lost.”

    Fee also differentiates between an allegory and a parable as a communication device, saying (and I paraphrase here) when we seek to interpret too finely a parable, we are in effect creating an allegory – and that is not the same thing (and are understood differently).

  30. Papias says:

    Happy Birthday Dreadly. 29 again?? 🙂

  31. Em ... again says:

    i have a tendency to just recite, to ask for forgiveness because i am a sinner and i sin, stopping there rationalizes away my acts with one blanket confession…

    reading part way down the comments there comes to mind an aspect of forgiveness that we cannot overlook…
    while i believe that repentance and confession are two separate contritions, if i ask for forgiveness from God, using common sense, if it is possible to make things right or even just face to face ask forgiveness of my fellow mortal is a necessary component of asking forgiveness from God
    IMHO the tax collector embodies what is entailed in my contrition – Luke 19:8
    dunno, tho, do i?

  32. Papias says:

    Forgiveness is a subject that never can be preached too much on.

    “The proof that you and I are forgiven is that we forgive others. If we think that our sins are forgiven by God and we refuse to forgive somebody else, we are making a mistake; we have never been forgiven. The man who knows he has been forgiven, only in and through the shed blood of Christ, is a man who must forgive others. He cannot help himself. If we really know Christ as our Saviour our hearts are broken and cannot be hard, and we cannot refuse forgiveness. If you are refusing forgiveness to anybody I suggest that you have never been forgiven … I say to the glory of God and in utter humility, that whenever I see myself before God and realise something of what my blessed Lord has done for me, I am ready to forgive anybody anything. I cannot withhold it; I do not even want to withhold it.” D. Martyn Lloyd -Jones

  33. Em ... again says:

    IMV – the forgiven subject is a picture of the work done on the cross by the Son of God – forgiveness …
    now it is incumbent upon us to reproduce forgiveness, if we don’t go out from His presence and forgive, do we understand what God has offered? did we really accept forgiveness? … much more theology there than i’m qualified to unpack

  34. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, I agree with everything you said or asked and the principles laid out by Fee, but… what do you do with that last statement which is not a part of the parable.

    The kingdom of heaven is like —- you and I are having coffee in Lake Forest (like the good old days) and I say to you “Steve, I have always been confused by the statement Jesus made ““So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

    What are you going to tell me? What is he going to do to me if I do not forgive from my heart? (however that is even interpreted) Does anyone face any consequence?

    Also, I have in my notes when I taught this passage that all of this was to solicit a positive response.

  35. Josh the Baptist says:

    It seems that the parable (and the following statement) are saying God’s people, in recognizing how much they have been forgiven, should also be willing to forgive others. Forgiveness should be a character trait for all Christians.

    I don’t think it is talking about salvation necessarily, and certainly not about some revoke of the salvation gift that was already given.

  36. Michael says:

    I don’t think it wise to parse this passage…it is too blunt, too clear. I preach as as it is and don’t try to explain it .

  37. Steve Wright says:

    Luke 17 is a parallel passage on this subject, and I believe the Lord is clear there that forgiveness is not something we “feel” (as the quote from Lloyd Jones implies), but an act of obedience. The Lord commands us to forgive…so we must choose to do so.

    It is very much like praying for your enemies and blessing those who curse you. You don’t “feel” like praying for your enemies, but you do because Jesus commanded you to do so. If you love Jesus, you seek to keep His commands. (That’s where the connection to salvation and being forgiven ourselves comes in)

    There are many things that Christians might feel like doing (or not doing) since we still have our sin nature, but obeying Christ’s commands is what we are supposed to do. Ask the recovering addict (of whatever sin) how often they FEEL like going out again, but they must choose to obey and not do so.

    We don’t subjectively evaluate our salvation (see Jones quote) by how we feel about obeying Jesus in a given situation or command. That is dangerous ground indeed.

    The supernatural thing is that as we keep His commands, and choose to do what we are commanded to do, then the Lord by the power of His Spirit molds (over time) our feelings to match our obedience. The addict for example will find those feelings come less often and with lesser intensity and at some point they disappear.

    We find that if we choose to forgive even when every emotion within us resists….at some point those sinful emotions will disappear and be replaced with God’s (i.e. the fruit of the Spirit).

    Anyway, that is my testimony and from my years of ministry, a shared testimony with many other believers, some of whom have had to forgive things more horrific than I have had to.

  38. Xenia says:

    Every week when I go to confession, my priest asks me if I’ve forgiven everyone.

  39. Josh the Baptist says:

    Isn’t this article just Jean parsing this passage?

  40. Michael says:

    By parsing, I mean taking it in any way but the most literal sense. This is one of those passages that hits you hard without apology or parsing… 🙂

  41. Josh the Baptist says:

    It does not clearly say to me that God revokes your salvation if you don’t forgive others after being saved.

  42. Em ... again says:

    amen to Pastor Steve’s #37 – it is about obedience not about our ‘feeling’ – grace does not preclude obedience… we can carry our freedom from legalism to a place it does not belong… the license v liberty thing, perhaps?

  43. Michael says:

    Then what does it say? Seems to me that when He says unless you forgive you won’t be forgiven that we are dealing with something extremely serious. I can’t explain it…I don’t obey it well either and that troubles me.

  44. Xenia says:

    I don’t think you can explain this away. The best thing to do is to forgive everyone and if it turns out that you took this passage too literally, no harm will be done.

  45. Josh the Baptist says:

    Check my #35. I think that is what it means. And I think it is clear. I do think I need to forgive more clearly, but I don’t think my eternal destiny is in jeopardy.

  46. Michael says:

    The passage goes beyond saying that we should be willing. There is a clear threat here. What is the nature of that threat?

  47. Xenia says:

    I have noticed over the years that “Bible-believing churches” tend to explain away the hard passages while those churches that practice “vain traditions of men” take them literally.

  48. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    If we look at the parable, it is clear that the master pardons and revokes – those are the words. Then Jesus follows up and says that the same will happen to you.

    I take it for what it says and try to figure out how I as a Christian am to live within that. I would never think of explaining away by saying – that is not salvation.

    But Jean was correct in one of his comments – the reason the servant didn’t forgive was that he had given up the faith (note it was not taken from him) and as a non CVhristian refused to forgive.

    I will need to pull out my J Vernon McGee commentary tonight at home to see how he explains it (or explains it away.)

  49. Steve Wright says:

    The kingdom of heaven may be compared to…..

    This parable produces a significant response. That’s the purpose of a parable. It is noteworthy (as already mentioned), that the Lord spoke this in response to a discussion that seems to imply that surely there are limits of forgiveness.

    The parable tells us that forgiveness is not optional to the follower of Christ, no matter who or what (or how often) and anything we might have to forgive another (and sometimes that can be quite a horrific thing), is nothing in comparison to what God has forgiven us.

    Now…we move on from there….I do not seek to explain every jot and tittle of the parable for to do so is to confuse the purpose of the parable.

  50. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    To show how folks just gloss over the hard passages – just listen when they say “oh, I don’t like the OT because God is so mean – I like the Jesus of the NT because he is all about love.”

    Which part of cut off your hand or poke out your eye do they not understand?

  51. Michael says:

    I can’t move on when Jesus makes a clear threat. I have to try to understand the nature and reality of what was threatened and why. I could be wrong but it seems that the threat or warning is every bit the point of the parable as the broader lesson.

  52. Michael says:

    It’s a difficult passage, especially for those of us who believe in the perseverance of the saints . It still has to be preached as it reads in my opinion. It’s also a difficult passage for those of us with no desire to forgive certain people…

  53. Xenia says:

    In my 40+ years as an evangelical (Baptist, CC) I can’t remember ever hearing that we needed to take this warning with the seriousness it requires. It was always preached as “good advice from Jesus.”

  54. Steve Wright says:

    Remember where we are in the course of the ministry of Jesus when these words are said. He is telling people they must forgive. This is going to offend a lot of people. Just like a whole bunch of other things He has been saying (and doing) offends people. His ministry was one of offense and the ultimate offense is coming when He will be executed in the most disgraceful way possible. Christians worship as Lord an executed criminal, found guilty by Jew and Gentile alike. Imagine how radical that is. But I digress…

    To repeat, Forgiveness is not optional to the child of God. – If that offends someone, then go find another religion and another god….or you can listen to Jesus.

    His parable explains why forgiveness is not optional, and why God is perfectly just in demanding forgiveness to those who want His forgiveness.

    To refuse to crawl into the weeds of all the details of a PARABLE is not ignoring the hard stuff… is quite significant that, while we are again told to forgive in the New Testament epistles, there is no salvation warnings, no discussions, anything close to the way some want to stretch out the details of this parable here.

    We are commanded to forgive all people. Not just some. We are commanded many things in Scripture. If we love Jesus (because He first loved us), then we will keep His commands. And when we sin (don’t keep His commands), we will confess and repent.

  55. Steve Wright says:

    I really am surprised that interpreting Scripture with Scripture is seemingly on trial here. Or for that matter, taking the very clear, direct teachings of Scripture on salvation by grace and challenging them with a detail of a parable, which itself was part of a much larger discussion within a specific aspect of Christ’s earthly ministry.

    We do realize that at this point in Christ’s ministry, nobody understands He is going to die and rise again, nor do they understand the purpose of that death to forgive us a debt which we could not forgive by our own works.

    We read this parable from the point of view “post-cross/resurrection”….we should seek to interpret it as the original audience would hear it and not try to make it a new chapter in the book of Romans.

  56. Josh the Baptist says:

    If the clear threat is that our salvation will be revoked, we are all destined for Hell. Sorry, none of us are that good.

    My guess is that taken in context with the rest of Scripture, we can understand a fuller meaning here.

  57. Jean says:

    The article has been critiqued for “parsing” (whatever that meant) and “crawl[ing] into the weeds.” But these criticisms have been leveled against the main point of the parable. I am astonished at some of the comments here from traditions that confess a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture.

    Despite my column intending to be Gospel-focused, much of the time people go straight to the Law for a debate. Has anyone noticed the Gospel in this parable? The magnitude of our unholiness in the eyes of a holy God? The magnitude of His grace towards us for the sake of the enormous ransom paid by Jesus who suffered and died on a cross for our sins?

    Some people want to make this all about obedience. But this is about death and resurrection. About dying to the Law, and it’s accounting, and being raised to new life in the Spirit, where the accounting books have been abolished. Abolished!

    “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.” Jesus loved us by dying to forgive us. Our faith in Him works through or love, which often involves forgiveness, of others.

  58. Josh the Baptist says:

    I can only hope for the grace and mercy of God. If salvation is dependent on my ability to forgive with all my heart, I have no hope. I will forgive as much as I can, because I am a Christian and that is what we do. But my sinful heart holds on to trespasses and even sometimes justifies it as righteous. I have no confidence that I will be able to overcome that before I die.

    I am fully confident, however, that Jesus death and resurrection is plenty to pay for all my shortcomings.

  59. Xenia says:

    If every week someone (like a priest) asks you if you’ve forgiven everyone, that gives you the opportunity to survey all your relationships to see who might need forgiving. I made a trip to North Carolina last summer to forgive someone. I always said in my heart “I forgive this person” but it wasn’t until we reunited in person that I felt I really meant it. Do I think I would go to hell if I hadn’t made that trip? No… I had forgiven the best I could long-distance. But I am very glad I went.

  60. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think Jean and I have always been in line about the importance of properly distinguishing between the law and the gospel. The confusion some have is how could Jesus be speaking in a condemning way when he is the gospel man?

    Well Jesus is also the Law Man – like the new sheriff in town – proclaiming the law to those who need to hear the law? And if you cannot distinguish between the 2 your response is always “well it can’t mean what it says, because elsewhere it says this and this” – – with no distinction to different circumstances, different audiences, an answer to a different question.

    Why would a Christian need to hear the law. I need to hear the law because my old man (not my dad) can hear only the law and is deaf to the gospel. My new man can hear only gospel and is deaf to the law.

  61. Josh the Baptist says:

    Well, I am with you Xenia. And Jean and MLD DO think you would have gone to Hell had you died without making that trip.

  62. Xenia says:

    DO think you would have gone to Hell had you died without making that trip.<<<

    As I said, no.

  63. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    there may be something about being in a denomination that has a doctrine of confession and absolution that allows this kind of parable to be understood in the plain sense that is meant – with no qualifying categories.

    I need to look into that.

  64. Josh the Baptist says:

    I agree Xenia. I was pointing out that Jean and MLD are saying otherwise.

  65. Josh the Baptist says:

    MLD @ 63 – I am sure there was just such a denomination when Jesus spoke this.

    Thank God for Martin Luther, because people couldn’t understand what Jesus said for 1500 years before him.

  66. Jean says:

    I (and I would bet MLD) read your #59, and as I’m confident you understand us, I agree with what your said.

  67. Josh the Baptist says:

    So refusing to forgive won’t get you sent to Hell?!?!

    Could you please just plainly state what you are saying?

  68. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh I don’t think it is a one and you’re done thing. I think it is a matter of a heart change towards forgiveness – and that is what the passage says – forgiving from your heart.

    This is the whole story in the parable – this guy was incapable of forgiving once he got to that point and did not have the capacity to change when asked to do so.

    So how would you teach this to your class, and that’s what it comes down to – no harm no foul?

  69. Jean says:

    Here is Jesus, this time not speaking in a parable:

    “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

  70. Josh the Baptist says:

    See # 35 for my take.

    If we are really taking the parable literally though, this is one and done. But it’s cool, your #68 softened it enough so that we can all have some nope that we forgave in our hearts…at least enough to still be saved.

  71. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    as far as who understood what – I am sure the disciple knew exactly what Jesus said / meant and they probably froze in their sandals.

    But as I said, the parable was to solicit a positive response – forgiveness is necessary and only later did folks start to question it – did Jesus really mean…?

  72. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jean – I am asking your interpretation of that quote. Do you take that as saying that after one is saved, that he may have his salvation revoked if he doesn’t adequately forgive?

    Why is it hard to get a straight answer?

  73. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Josh – Jesus’ statement is not part of the parable. it is not as Steve describe, a throw away statement. This part is as serious as a heart attack.

    But we have probably hashed this out more than we need to.

    Again, to me, it is a failure to distinguish law (which is deadly) and gospel (which is promise)

  74. Jean says:


    I have been straight this entire thread, beginning with the article. It is only you and Steve, so far, who can’t accept Christ’s teaching. I added Matt 6, because it’s just as clear, but not in the form of a parable.

    What is not clear?

  75. Josh the Baptist says:

    Alright, I’m out.

    I can’t force you to trust that God loves you regardless of your shortcomings, but that’s what I have to do for myself. My shortcomings are too great. My ability to forgive others is too small. I can only hope that Jesus has paid for all of it, so that’s what I’m going to do. You guys do whatever works for you, I guess.

  76. Jean says:


    I want to thank you for participating. I would like to leave you with one additional thought.

    When Jesus speaks to us in His Law, the fact is that none of us can keep it. That is why we need a Savior. His Law is, as my article illustrates, designed to show us what He expects of us and how we fall miserably short.

    When we realize that we do not love God as we should nor obey Him, then we are ready to hear and be forgiven in His Gospel. He forgives us each and every time we ask.

    That is the Christian life: It is a life of repentance. In this crucible, sanctification occurs.

  77. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Wow, Jesus sure wasted my time with that parable.

  78. Josh the Baptist says:

    You wasted my time with that comment.

  79. Steve Wright says:

    It is fundamental to exegesis to ask first and foremost about the original audience hearing the words. Yes, there is an application for the ages (or else it would not be in the Bible) – but Jesus spoke these words BEFORE the cross, and before anyone hearing these words had a clue about what was coming. Much like He answered a question once “What did Moses command you”, much like He told a healed leper to show himself to the priest. Much like He answered a question on divorce differently than Paul, but exactly as needed for the time given the rabbinical debate at hand.

    This is not breaking new hermeneutical ground you know…

    We can’t help but read the parable from our perspective, post-cross. Now, when I read the New Testament epistles, I am with that audience, on this side of the cross, the empty tomb, and the giving and indwelling of the Holy Spirit within me.

    When I read Jesus’ words to the people who are following this rabbi from Nazareth, many of whom will turn from Him, then I need to at least take that into perspective in understanding a parable.

    I certainly don’t toss out all the words found in Galatians, Romans, Ephesians, and rewrite my entire doctrine on soteriology because of this parable. Not just because of the setting but because it is a PARABLE (see Fee once more).

    However, that does NOT mean the parable is meaningless to us – as I believe I have made clear its meaning. We are to forgive everyone. It is right for God to demand this of us, since He forgave us so much.

    Lots of things we are commanded to do. We will do them to various degrees of success, and we should confess our failings and repent accordingly. Thankfully, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, and by grace ye are saved, through faith

  80. Xenia says:

    I am not saying I was “saved” because I traveled all the way across the continent to reconcile with a certain person, but that verse gnawed at my soul until I determined to make the trip.

  81. Steve Wright says:

    Now, doctrines and Bible studies are meaningless apart from application in our lives.

    I can’t imagine, as a pastor, telling people who confide they are struggling to forgive someone that their salvation is in jeopardy or that maybe it is already gone. That should not even come up in the discussion. The cruelty of violent abuse, abandonment etc. that people have had to face in their lives, even as small children, is unimaginable, and many reading here have been victims of the worst abuse, as is true for many in our pews.

    Is it really the practice of anyone here to talk to such people and tell them their souls are in danger of damnation. That Jesus said if they don’t forgive their abuser they are going to not be forgiven so they better get with the program. No, I imagine in practice all here speak to people along the doctrine that Josh and I have been saying today.

    We can use this parable to explain to anyone that the Lord does expect them to forgive, and why (in case they think they have an exception), and we can encourage them to do so out of an act of obedience to their Lord, not because they feel like it or because the person deserves it. We can also explain that forgiveness is not the same as reconciliation nor does it mean that earthly sins do not have consequences.

    Experience shows though that the people who do come and talk this way know they need to forgive, because they are born again, indwelt by the Spirit (something not true of anyone hearing Jesus’ words when He said them) – and I can walk with them as we pray together a blessing, a forgiveness, before the Lord. And if we need to do the same tomorrow, we will…and the next day…and the next.

  82. Em ... again says:

    jumping in to comment without reading the whole thread again…
    can we forgive and not still be angry? i think we can… to forgive, for me, means that i don’t seek retribution and i try to pray for the soul of the offender… can i do so while i am still be angry? i think so, but if the offender comes to me and asks to be forgiven, then it takes on a whole new perspective – in that circumstance forgiveness means reconciliation…
    i still – i am reading on down the thread – see the King as God in Christ reconciling the world through His forgiveness of our sinful state… and the debtor as the one dismissing what God has done for him, manifested in his own lack of grace and compassion – God help us all, maybe i’ll see differently by the end of today’s thread – dunno, tho

  83. Em ... again says:

    sigh… make that, “can we forgive and still be angry…”

  84. Jean says:

    I am learning new aspects of different traditions through these discussions. Apparently, Jesus and Paul proclaimed different gospels. Even though the evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, wrote their Gospel’s post-Easter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, apparently there is some hermeneutic that would reduce the four Gospels to the category of history and not on the same level as the epistles. Paul vs. Jesus? No thank you!

  85. Jean says:

    My #84 is in response to #81.

  86. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Steve, so what was the purpose of Jesus’ tagline at the end – it sounds like a definite punctuation to a point to me.

    I know you don’t want to get into the weeds, but what do you think Jesus meant with that comment.

    Most of the ch 18 conversations are to the disciples and answering their questions – what were they to think?.

    But I do understand that you have many things broken down into many dispensations that do not rollover to each other. I am always amazed at mid Acts dispensationalists … many similar thoughts as you on non eschatological issues.

  87. Xenia says:

    Not only that, Jean, but the words of Jesus would only be valid for the short period of time – three years- from when He began preaching until His Passion. All the great sayings of Jesus, only good for a few years.

  88. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Oh, I was typing while Jean was posting his #84 – this is great as I just posted about the mid Acts dispensationalists. This is their position – everything before Paul is relegated to a different dispensation and only from Paul on is for the Church.

    I think we both read Steve’s comment correctly. 😉

  89. Jean says:

    Good point Xenia. I need some of that fresh Santa Cruz air. 🙂

  90. Xenia says:

    MLD, have you ever gotten into a conversation with a mid-Acts Dispensationalist? It’s like they belong to a completely different religion…. Much more strident and bizarre than plan old rapture-ready dispies, who I have a sneaking fondness for……(Probably nostalgia.)

  91. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I had a lady that I did some work for about 10 years ago who introduced me to the thought – I had never heard of it before. When I corresponded with some of her friends I realized they were, well to keep a good spin on it – different.

    If I remember right, and I could be wrong, they tossed Jesus and the disciples into the OT.

  92. CostcoCal says:

    So Jesus commanded us to “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” How is that working out for y’all? Lol

  93. Jean says:

    “So Jesus commanded us to “Be perfect as your Father is perfect.” How is that working out for y’all?”

    It works for the poor in spirit, “for [ours] is the kingdom of heaven.”

  94. CostcoCal says:

    Ah. Okay. So if I am “poor in spirit” then the result is going to be that I will be “perfect” at some point. Thanks! 🙂

  95. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    It’s not working well at all – but we don’t deny that he commanded it.

    But where is the lovey dovey Jesus in that command?

  96. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    So Cal – you teach a lot – what do you tell you congregation Jesus meant when he said

    ““So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Surely you have said something. I used to have Don Stewart’s class notes from the Bible college – but I don’t now. I wonder what he said.

  97. CostcoCal says:

    The “lovey dovey” Jesus is not found in the Law.

    The “lovey dovey” Jesus is actually the Jesus by Whom is Grace and Truth.

    The Gospel words and teaching are perfect and unparalleled.

    They were also preached before the Resurrection.

    Apply them (as best you can). However, you cannot be saved by them.

    No because they are at fault. But because they are perfect. And we are not.

  98. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    This is for all who think Jesus is all gospel and would never confront a believer with the law.

    The Jesus is my buddy theme song

  99. Jean says:


    The Law shows us what we owe God. Ex., “be perfect”. How else could we stand in the presence of a holy God?

    The Gospel shows us Christ. He has taken our unholiness and has given us His holiness. This is the blessed exchange. Now we can enter into the presence of God, clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

    Blessed are the poor in spirit, who thirst after righteousness, as beggars.

  100. CostcoCal says:

    Per your #96. There is my answer, long lost friend.

  101. CostcoCal says:

    We cannot keep the Law. Jesus’ teaching brought the Law to the point of no hope of keeping it. Hence, the tax collectors and prostitutes loved His teaching because it put them on the same level as the Pharisees and Scribes. Jesus’ words are perfect. He commands us to be perfect. We are not. Hence, we need salvation apart from following His commandments. That is my conclusion. May God have mercy on my soul. And may we all grow in our ability to follow after and keep the blessed and holy commandments of the Lord Jesus.

  102. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I almost swallowed my tongue and a co worker has rushed off to get the defibrillator.

    Are you actually saying that Jesus’ words of promise found in the gospel are rendered null and void for salvation because they were spoken before the resurrection?

    Is this “play a joke on MLD day?”

    “Apply them (as best you can).” – I can’t apply them – they are applied to me. And people ask why we don’t commune with others? Because others have a different gospel.

  103. CostcoCal says:

    How else might we “be perfect as your Father is perfect”.

    How are you doing there? Same with the above parable that Jesus spoke of.

    And…how are you doing there? Oh, not so good.

    Well, MLD, I have Good News for you!

  104. CostcoCal says:

    My Gospel: Jesus Christ was crucified, was buried, and rose again.

    …1 Cor 15:1-11.

    So that we might believe and receive the righteousness of God.

    …Rom 1:16.


  105. CostcoCal says:

    …Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else.

  106. Jean says:

    “We are not. Hence, we need salvation apart from following His commandments”


    I agree with this statement. But we are not going to get there by dividing Jesus from Paul. We get there by distinguishing Law and Gospel.

  107. Jean says:

    What I regret about what CC and Steve offer is a Jesus who is not full of grace.

  108. CostcoCal says:

    Here is where I will upset you, Jean.

    Jesus preached the Law.

    The Gospel is that He fulfilled it.

    What say you?

  109. CostcoCal says:

    Not full of Grace!! Lol. I preach scandalous grace. You so misrepresent what I both believe and just stated, dear Steve, it is time for me to go bye-bye. Lol

  110. CostcoCal says:

    Dear Jean, I meant. Freudian slip? 🙂

  111. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    My how things have changed in my 10 yr away from CC as here I have listen to 2 CC pastors today expound it not mid Acts dispensation – very close to it.


  112. CostcoCal says:

    Just because I am a Costco Cal doesn’t make me a CC!

  113. Jean says:


    In your #97 you wrote:

    They were also preached before the Resurrection.

    This is where our disagreement lies. Jesus preached salvation by grace before and after the resurrection. He didn’t change and neither did the Gospel.

  114. CostcoCal says:

    And “yikes” to you for not knowing that what Jesus preached was before the Law was fulfilled. Pray over what you are espousing, MLD, and repent.

  115. CostcoCal says:

    We do disagree, Jean. I’m tempted to make a joke but the stakes are too high right now.

  116. CostcoCal says:

    Okay, before I further sully my reputation (if there is anything there to sully) I will withdraw from this conversation for the day. And may the best man win! 🙂 Grace and Peace.

  117. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Costco – there is no win – Jesus already won.

    I think it is funny – I know John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus – I have just never heard Jesus described as the forerunner of Paul.

  118. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Costco – btw I am happy to see your health has return to join the good fight — or whatever we call it here 😉

  119. Steve Wright says:

    What I regret about what CC and Steve offer is a Jesus who is not full of grace.
    I’m living in bizarro land. I’m refuting the idea that God daily holds over your head the threat to damn you for not offering perfect forgiveness because I declare the grace of God and any sins of unforgiveness we might find to still be holding on that day have been paid for at the cross along with all other sins, and somehow I am the one who has a Jesus who is not full of grace??

    This from the guys who argue for Christians to possibly be lost….for their faith to die.

    Nowhere ever, ever did I teach a Jesus who offered a salvation that was not based on grace alone through faith alone. Like Costco Cal wrote, that is doctrinal libel.

    I’m teaching through the gospel of Matthew right now. Every message (entering chapter 10 so far) is online and can be listened to – I challenge anyone for example to go through the Sermon on the Mount teachings – all 9 weeks, verse by verse, and find a Jesus who is not full of grace. That’s about five hours of teaching so I’m not about to try and summarize it in a couple pithy sentences here…

    But even then, you can’t just jump into the Sermon on the Mount without the fuller structure of the gospel…and you sure can’t jump into a random parable without context.

    Context, Scripture with Scripture, understanding literary devices (like parables)….these are all hermeneutics 101

  120. Jean says:

    “Context, Scripture with Scripture, understanding literary devices (like parables)….these are all hermeneutics 101”

    I didn’t write the article to start, fight or win a battle, but to distinguish Law and Gospel in the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. We’ve heard a Reformed comments from Michael, EO comments from Xenia and Lutheran comments from MLD and myself. But somehow, they don’t rise to the level of Steve’s hermeneutics 101. I will let this sit and marinate for the readers.

  121. Steve, if we are counting I too am teaching through Matthew and am ahead of you – I have taught through Ch 21 in a mere 18months and have been repeating that teaching here. To that i say so what?

    You may teach 100% correctly in your church studies, but you have done a very poor job representing your position here today on the blog. Has anyone before ever accused you of being a mid Acts dispensationalist or has that just come from your comments today? What you wrote today is a very poorly held position. So don’t accuse us of libeling you.

  122. “and you sure can’t jump into a random parable without context.”

    I set the context straight back in my comment #24 –
    “… I think you read this pericope is too narrow of a sense. Jesus has been discussing forgiveness for several verses before he comes to this passage. The point Jesus is making is the restoration of fallen brothers and how he uses us to make that happen. (all of that 7 times stuff added to the 70 x 7 stuff – the lost sheep – when your brother sins against you etc) – precede this parable

    A Christian by the words of Jesus is a forgiver. Satan wants us to think that we have a right to not forgive – “if only Jesus knew what this guy did to me!”

    Don’t you pray in the Lord’s prayer to be forgiven in the same manner you forgive?”

    So I know my context.

  123. One other thing – neither Jean nor I have lobbied for anyone ‘losing’ their salvation. We have made it very clear that this guy has left the faith (which you find as impossible) and through that act of his own has walked out of the kingdom.

    How did Paul say we should treat this immoral guy? – like an unbeliever – and for what purpose as I said in the post above – to eventually win back a brother.

    But here is the deal – we who know that people can ignore their faith, leave the church, not participate in the sacraments and fellowship of the body, these who let their faith dry up and wither away – these are the people who need to hear the law preached to them — something you said above you would not do. Someone in the body who denies that they need to forgive anyone because they have already “closed the deal with Jesus” – will get the law back at them by me. I don’t know about you.

    Warning verses are for believers who need to be warned – in your world there are none that fit that role.

  124. CostcoCal says:

    As of today, my conclusion is:

    If I either must earn or I can lose my salvation, I am toast. Burnt toast.

    Disagree to your own peril.

  125. Xenia says:

    Well, we may have the luxury of finding the context (and thereby, our theology) 2000 years after Jesus spoke, but what did the people who were sitting there in the grass hearing His words take them to mean? They took His words at face value.

  126. CostcoCal says:

    Yes, they did, Xenia. Then Paul comes and does not contradict but he further explains what Jesus both meant and accomplished. Hence, one reason why Paul never quoted Jesus directly from the Gospel accounts.

  127. Xenia says:

    A person may have trouble forgiving someone but if they are in Christ, they will eventually come around. You can’t bathe your mind in the words of Christ, pray without ceasing, and partake of the sacraments without these things having a profound effect on how you view other people. You will come around and you will forgive.

  128. CostcoCal says:

    Indeed. If one has saving and genuine faith in Christ, that one will become more like him. Even if it seems to be a long, slow process.

  129. Xenia says:

    I think MLD’s # 123 sums it up very well. What more is there to say?

    But I am sure more will be said. 🙂

  130. Jean says:

    “As of today, my conclusion is:
    If I either must earn or I can lose my salvation, I am toast. Burnt toast.”


    Who said a Christian can lose his salvation? But, are you proposing that there are unbelievers in heaven? There are warnings throughout the NT letters.

  131. CostcoCal says:

    The Bible states that unbelievers are not in Heaven. We must preach that fact.

    I do hope that is something we misunderstand because we see through a glass dimly.

    But God knows. And He is more fair and just than I even realize.

    It’d be interesting to be surprised in Heaven. But that is what it’d have to be, a surprise.

  132. CC,
    “If I either must earn or I can lose my salvation, I am toast. Burnt toast.”

    no one said you had to do anything but be a Christian – a Christian forgives

  133. CostcoCal says:


    If for some reason, I have not forgiven someone and I go to hell, I am toast. And you won’t like that I say this, but so are you! 🙂

  134. Xenia says:

    Then forgive them and don’t be toast.

  135. I did go look at J Vernon McGee – he had such a cute commentary on this – he called it “a principle of forgiveness”

    He would not, as most like him wouldn’t, approach it as an actual command by Jesus to forgive. It was more like something Jesus put in our suggestion box. 😉

  136. CostcoCal says:

    …if I have to “do” anything, including “be” a Christian in order to be eternally saved, I am toast. Rather, I am saved because of what He has done. It is Finished, MLD!

  137. CostcoCal says:

    I’ll get in trouble over this one but…

    I believe that because “It is Finished” that all the profound teachings of Jesus belong in a suggestion box. Only, it is a suggestion box that the genuine believer is going to take Him up on with no exceptions!

  138. CC – OK, you come from the universalist school – all, not just Christians are saved. Not my understanding of the scriptures –

  139. CostcoCal says:

    Yes. Only Christians are saved.

    At least, that is what the Bible declares.

  140. CostcoCal says:

    I love the Bible. Don’t you, MLD?

  141. “Only, it is a suggestion box that the genuine believer is going to take Him up on with no exceptions!”

    But you said you didn’t need to be a believer (unless you are making a distinction between believer and Christian)

  142. CostcoCal says:

    I am not sure where I said that one does not have to be a believer.

    One certainly does.

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” and “He who believes has life and he who does not believe does not have life but the wrath of God remains upon him” John 3.

  143. I love the Bible. Don’t you, MLD?

    That’s kind of a loaded question – the immediate answer is yes.

    The thoughtful answer is I love Jesus.

  144. Jean says:

    “I believe that because “It is Finished” that all the profound teachings of Jesus belong in a suggestion box.”

    So, if these are just suggestions, then what did Jesus die on the cross for? If these are just suggestions, then not obeying them would not be sins. What then did Jesus die for?

  145. #136
    “…if I have to “do” anything, including “be” a Christian in order to be eternally saved,”

  146. CostcoCal says:

    Really?! I love Jesus, too. That is so cool.

  147. CostcoCal says:

    By the word “be” I specifically meant an action I take or a deed I do. Anything other than faith and faith alone in order to be saved.

  148. CC – I love you 🙂

    Do you remember 10 yrs ago how we used to battle here on the blog while emailing each other or talking on the phone? 😉

  149. yet, and perhaps you have given up this trait – you ask people to make a decision for Christ – to accept Christ.

    I love the old Campus Crusade booklet where there is a gap between us and God, and then Jesus through the cross has closed that gap and you see the cross lying across the gulf as a bridge and all we need to do is walk across that bridge to the salvation Jesus offers.

  150. Wow! That’s a lot of comments. So are MLD/Jean and Costco/Josh/Steve just talking past each other or is there a true point of disagreement here?

    In a nutshell, what is the point that MLD/Jean are holding to? Are they being misunderstood?

  151. I ask because I’m too dense to figure things out from 149 comments. I need a reset. ?

  152. Jean says:

    Pineapple Head,

    I encourage you to re-read the article. I know we sometimes skim the article to get to the comments, but I can’t summarize the article any better than I wrote it. To say something in around 1,200 words already requires summarization.

    But, what I would like to add is that (1) Jesus’ words in the 4 Gospels are for us today; they are evangelical writings for us today. I would never have previously thought this needed to be said. But through the comments, I now know I need to emphasize that point. (2) I didn’t select this parable to throw Law at people; but to illustrate how the kingdom of heaven is brought to us through the preaching of Law and Gospel.

    Please comment further if you have any questions about the parable or the article.

  153. nathan priddis says:

    @ Steve and Michael. This has always been among the hardest portions for me to decide on. I did skim because of the number of comments, but am thinking over your responses.

    Here is my starting point. Parable = Parallel. It is completely literal, but offset from the truth to conceal the truth from the masses. Not because we (believers) have deeper understanding, but because the masses don’t care and won’t bother even considering the parable.

    You are responsible for what you know, and so the unbelieving masses are protected from a worse punishment. To whom much is given, much is required, and conversely, the opposite.


  154. Gave it a full read. My sense is that the last sentence of the second-to-last paragraph is causing the angst. I would have copied it, but my iPad felt otherwise.

  155. If all my sins (including my future sins) have been covered at the cross, how could my sin of unforgveness render my faith dead?

  156. Jean says:

    Pineapple Head,

    You may be referring to this:

    “Conversely, if we are not willing to forgive sins committed against us, then our faith is dead. In that case, our sins against God will not be forgiven.”

    I wrote that in connection with this:

    “So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.” (Matt 18:35)

    That is the Law. It is very sobering. What else could I do, but be faithful to the text? But, Jesus teaches us that by faith we will do just this: forgive our brothers. Let us hold Christ to his word.

  157. so salvation is believe, receive and forgive my brother?

    Not trying to be obtuse, just trying to do the science work of theology.

  158. nathan priddis says:

    Jean. Let’s start by nailing down definitions.

    Mat. 18:34- Who / what are the Tormentors? (KJV) Is it something in this life, such as a disease? Or is it something in the next, such as the holy angels who torment souls of the dead?

    I think this word is only used once. (930 in Strongs)

  159. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I have asked each evangelical the same question. The last statement of Jesus at the end Of the parable, but it is outside the parable – what is his message, what is his Father in heaven going to do to them. No one wants to give as simple answer.

  160. Jean says:


    Here is what R. T. France says:

    “The forgiveness which was freely granted is now withdrawn, not because the slave is any more likely to be able to pay the debt, but because he has proved himself unworthy of his master’s mercy. And this time it is worse: in place of being sold, he is to be tortured. The squeamishness of the RSV, which turned the “torturers” (KJV “Tormentors”) into “jailers” (and so made his punishment no worse than what he had inflicted on his fellow slave), was misplaced; his destiny is not detention but painful punishment.”

    The footnotes indicate this is talking about eternal punishment.

  161. nathan priddis says:


    I have to say, yes it’s angels tormenting him in the after life. His salvation was pulled.

    I don’t know about the worthy part though. I think his actions are those of a heretic. He divides the body and turns into an enemy after being forgiven.

    He wanted to be forgiven a debt. Every human wants to be debt free. Cain did, but he is a byword, and description in Jude for enemies who go in his way.

    The servant in this parable is like the wicked servant who said his Lord delayed his coming and began to beat his fellow servants.

    Your thoughts on the heretic angle?

  162. CostcoCal says:

    If my (or your) salvation is dependant on our forgiveness of others (or any other act or work)….we’re gonna burn forever! That’s the bottom line.

  163. Jean says:


    My quick reaction is why would Jesus bring a heretic angle into a parable specifically addressed to Peter and the disciples? I think this parable fits within the larger discussion of forgiveness.

  164. The biggest difference is a category difference. Evangelicals have no category to place preaching the gospel to the believer. Oh, the gospel is spoken of – yes you get to one of those great gospel passages and it is expounded and exegeted — but it is never preached to the believer as if they need to hear it and that it is to them.

    No, what the evangelical audience gets is 100% sanctification sermons – how to live that better life – or as Costco Cal said, how to look at the suggestions Jesus has put in our suggestion box to help us live better Christian lives.

    Jean and I (and believe it or not have never met and we have not even spoken on the phone) sit every week through a law & gospel sermon where first law is preached to use to show our sin, and to convince us that we cannot keep it and then we get the gospel promises of what Jesus won for us on the cross – the message of grace and God’s forgiveness preached “for you.” – and then we receive all that Jesus won for us 2,000 yrs ago and 9,000 miles away as Jesus comes to us personally as I here my name and for you at the distribution of the body and blood of Jesus.

    So, when we read a law passage we recognize it as law, to me and do not need to excuse it away because of non effect.

    So to answer Piney’s earlier question “So are MLD/Jean and Costco/Josh/Steve just talking past each other or is there a true point of disagreement here?” The answer is simple – there are grand canyon sized differences. For the moment we do not even need to decide who is right or wrong, but to know there are great differences.

  165. In my preaching I always mesh gospel with sanctification. It’s the only way sanctification works. Saved and sanctified by the Gospel!

  166. Mr Jesperson says:

    Today’s thread has gone just about where I expected it, based on past experience. Though the Lutherans went somewhere a little different than I expected. Bottom line question: what happens when somebody fails to forgive perfectly but dies? Is there grace to cover that? How about that stray church member who appears godly in most ways, but has one or two people that they stubbornly refuse to forgive? These are good questions. I do not want to fall into the pride that proclaims that I have the correct answers and everyone else is wrong. I wish to be more humble and respectful than that.
    I can only speak as far as my personal experience is concerned. I got saved at 5 but had no consciousnesses of this passage until after I decided to become a disciple or follower of Christ at 16. When I first read it, I did not think that my salvation was in jeopardy. Indeed, I do not ever remember a time where I did not have a “assurance of my salvation.” To be honest, that perspective in general has never been something that I personally struggled with. What struck me was the verse that Jesus spoke about us “being turned over to the torturers until the debt was paid in full.” I had things in my life that were torturing me. I got that if I forgave, that God would give the order and remove those things from my life. So I was plenty motivated to forgive everyone. I gave myself to do that and have made that a practice in my life from that time until now. Was I not saved before this because I was too immature to comprehend what this meant before this? I have never thought so. In fact this kind of thought never occurred to me until I came here and saw for myself the predictable arguing over theological interpretations. This is my view. I am not going to argue with those who disagree with it. That is pointless.
    Can a pastor who lies to himself about forgiveness be saved? My pastor many years ago was in a terrible car wreck. The result was some hardware was installed in his neck and back. This, according to him, has proven to be a blessing in disguise. How? My pastor interacts with many people each week. A certain small percent are simply annoying jerks. Before the accident, the pastor states that he would lie to himself, telling himself that he was forgiving these people when he was actually just suppressing the anger. After the accident, he noticed that his back acted like a barometer for hanging on to unforgiveness. The stress went straight to his back. It would physically torture him until he prayed and actually let go of these offenses. So was my pastor not saved until after the accident? From his testimony, that sounds ridiculous. God healed his mind that he had lost to drugs when he got saved.
    My only other observation I will make, is that the more I listen to these theological arguments here, the more I like NT Wright. He has a way of defining salvation and justification that make a lot more sense to me then these standard arguments. He states that they are not the same and describes them in terms that do not lead to a confusing paradox that places grace and following Jesus commands at odds with each other. But again, that is my view. I am not stating it to shove it down anyone’s throat or declare any who believes differently a heretic. This is all I am going to say about this for now.

  167. Steve Wright says:

    This is the same old argument in a different wrapper. I have asked many times on the topic of infant baptism if there is a terrible accident on the way to the church and the baby is killed, would God damn that baby. If you answer, yes, then we can part ways right now – I don’t know that God.

    However, nobody here says, yes, yet. At worst we hear a “probably not”…because to fully affirm salvation is to admit that the infant baptism then does nothing towards salvation and the “wait until you understand the gospel to be baptized” evangelicals might be right (and our babies are all the same as the infant baptized babies)

    Xenia, MLD, Jean all believe a Christian can be born again, and then be damned. They have different ways of saying why and how I guess, but there is obviously going to be differences in interpretation when your theology allows for the dead faith position versus those of us who think when we are born again we are sealed until the day of redemption and secure..because nothing we could do (or not do like not forgive) could nullify the finished work of the cross on our behalf. That’s the root of this discussion. And there are definitely two different branches of theology involved.

    Assuming slanderous things about the other and tossing the heretic word around is not helpful. Nor is deliberate misrepresentation of the other position (and I have tried very hard in this post not to do so)

    Now, Xenia shared a story of conviction by the Spirit, and after some time she acted on that conviction in obedience to the Lord. It is a beautiful story and one we all probably could admit to in different circumstances, namely God puts something on our hearts and eventually we get around to obeying Him…unless some of you are capable of 100% instant obedience, in which case I tip my cap to you.

    However, if Xenia had died on the way to meet the person she forgave…or if death came calling a week earlier before she started on her trip, or even if death came before she made up her mind to go on the trip….I believe she would not be damned for unforgiveness. And I did not see a plethora of comments arguing she would have been, even though that is the conclusion some of you are seeking to draw from the parable. If that is not the conclusion, then what on earth are you arguing in favor of?

    Now, I have said the same thing about this parable many times making it clear I am not ignoring Jesus’ words whether at the end of the parable or the details within…however, there is a hermeneutic involved here and I stand on the shoulders of more than a few giants who agree with how you interpret a parable, and more than a few who recognize that applying Scripture declared before the cross to people who had no idea what was coming is different than applying it after the cross, resurrection, and giving of the Spirit to the Church. Unless you think Jesus could have cared less if He communicated to His audience at the time, and that He was just going “on the record” for later when these things would be written down. I don’t hold to that and as an exegete recognize step one is the original audience…whether a bunch of Jews in Galilee trying to figure all this out before the cross, or whether a local church in Corinth planted by Paul, or one in Rome Paul had never visited. That is always step one for me…then I can preach an application to myself and my congregation.

    Put another way, the teaching of our Lord in preparation of His Church (I will build my Church…future tense) is by necessity complimentary (not identical but not contradictory either) with the teachings to the Church by the apostles.

    The divorce teachings are a perfect example. Jesus gave His reply, based on the Jewish law debate and the arguments of Hillel and Shammai. Paul did not contradict Jesus, nor did he teach something Jesus did not approve….The two teachings on divorce compliment each other, and both are needed given the time and place they were first uttered.

    Jesus is making a profound, essential point about the necessity of forgiveness for the follower of Christ. Non-optional. To not do so is to sin. If you want to follow this itinerant rabbi, you will align yourself accordingly or go back to your fishing nets and other pursuits. We get to read it on the victory side of the cross and tomb.

    The question today is if that sin of unforgiveness is under the blood too, forgiven, like the other sins we might commit as believers, or if that sin will damn you. I see in the totality of Scripture that would argue for the former of the two.

  168. Mr J, your comment about NT Wright is very true and is our point exactly.
    “I like NT Wright. He has a way of defining salvation and justification that make a lot more sense to me then these standard arguments. He states that they are not the same and describes them in terms that do not lead to a confusing paradox that places grace and following Jesus commands at odds with each other.”

    1.) Justification and Salvation are not the same thing.
    2.) The proper distinction between Law and Gospel does exactly what Wright states – it shows us that the law and the gospel are not at odds with each other but are indeed used for 2 different purposes … both for good.

    It is the evangelical that cannot see the difference between justification and salvation and that this whole debate today is caused by the evangelical refusal to not see law and gospel as opposing each other – there fore the law command / or threat at the end of Matt 18 cannot be possible because it opposes the gospel striking the law verse null and void.

    Good job. 🙂

  169. Steve – your 2 opening paragraphs deny original sin. Another lapse on your part.

    But I need to go to bed.

  170. Jean says:

    Good morning everyone,

    This thread may have run its course. Whether it has or hasn’t, I would like to take stock of the discussion.

    Many people heard the holiness and uncompromising nature of God’s Law: “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?” All of God’s Law, whether preached by Jesus himself or one of the apostles is equally holy and uncompromising.

    We hear the Law and immediately recognize in ourselves that, as someone said, “I’m toast.” I don’t keep the Law. Sometimes I don’t even want to keep the Law. If this is how you’ve felt reading the article or participating in the thread, then the Holy Spirit has done exactly what He does when using the Law: He convicts the world of sin.

    But, we don’t stay or live in the Law. That would bring despair. To the contrary; we admit our sinfulness and turn to Christ’s Gospel, where he says: “And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.” Jesus is merciful and abounding in grace and forgiveness.

    The answer isn’t to try to explain away God’s Law. The answer is to add your amen to your conviction (i.e., confess your sin) and receive forgiveness. Christ died for your sins. To blunt the Law is to blunt grace and Christ’s sacrifice on the cross This we never should do..

    We are saved by grace through faith. Included in faith is our amen to God’s Law as revealed in Scripture, the books written about events that took place before and after Easter. God’s Law is perfect and holy; we are not. That is why feel like toast when it is preached to us. But God’s Gospel is unconditional grace and mercy for the troubled conscience, which God grants every one of us because of Christ’s suffering and death on the cross for us. Believe the Gospel!

    Jesus is not a scorekeeper or accountant. Trust in Him alone.

  171. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jean, I agree with most of your #170.

    The funny thing is, we were discussing the minutiae of a singular detail of one of Jesus’s parables. We came to different interpretations. Couldn’t that be the end of it?

    Or is it truly that I “Can’t accept Christ’s teachings”, “think Jesus and Paul preached different Gospels”, “deny original sin”, “explain away God’s Law”, “Don’t preach the gospel to believers”, …I could go on.

    Isn’t it just possible that we disagree on the interpretaion of a couple of lines of this one parable?

  172. I was finally able to get into my notes from Matt 18 when I taught my class and we will see here, well not for a long time.

    35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
    • This is a very serious statement – not to be played with, not to be nuanced
    • Why so serious? Because it is not the gospel.
    • It is living like Christ had not died for that person’s debt.
    • This is a salvation where we absent Jesus from the kingdom – and we sit on the throne.
    • This is what it means to mature as a baptized believer in God – to forgive, to follow that petition of the Lord’s Prayer.
    • Let it go – Let it be – Be unchained.

  173. “Isn’t it just possible that we disagree on the interpretaion of a couple of lines of this one parable?”

    No, because the verse was just a launching pad for each of us to reveal the theology that drives our interpretation and how that impacts our thought and the faith.

    I make no bones that I think that dispensationalism is a dangerous take on scriptures. Dispensationalism is not just an end times formula – in fact end times is but a small part. What dispensationalism does is box God off from his church. (the church gets 1 of 6 portions of God’s revelation) We saw this back when we were going through Hebrews when our resident dispensationalist (who thinks most who call themselves dispensationalists do not properly understand it) said that the New Covenant was not for the Church but was indeed for Israel and that the Church would get a residual benefit that would rub off if they treated Israel kindly.

    Yesterday we saw that the words of Jesus were not for the Church but were relegated to a pre resurrection people and were delivered in a manner that could be understood by those who had no idea of what was to come. Since it is pre resurrection, this would apply to the Sermon on the Mount – we the Church may get a benefit from the Sermon, but we are actually reading someone elses mail.

    Again, it is the lens, the categories that shape our differences.
    The differences between reading scripture from a dispensational view and reading the scriptures from a law and gospel view.

    Can I get an amen?? 😉

  174. Jean says:


    “We came to different interpretations. Couldn’t that be the end of it?”

    I think what I need to get better at is explaining what I mean in a manner respectful to others who disagree. But, the purpose of these articles is to bring the Gospel to readers. If different interpretations arise in the comments, they should be evaluated so readers can see and understand the differences.

    Many people here have changed their interpretations, even traditions, as a result of seeing different interpretations placed in front of them. I personally, as a result of this blog, was delivered out of Wesleyan theology as a result of debates that occurred here around 3 years ago and I spent about a year in the penalty box licking my wounds.

    So, I think we can celebrate what we share in common, be respectful of differences, but put forth boldly and with integrity Scripture as we understand it, hopefully always with ears and eyes that are ready to listen to and read what the Lord may be saying through the mouth or keyboard of someone else.

  175. Josh the Baptist says:

    Thanks Jean, for the kind, thoughtful response. I agree that the debates are helpful and that we should all attempt to disagree better.

  176. nathan priddis says:

    Thanks Jean. I think it is good to face difficult portions of the Scriptures and this is a hard one.

  177. Mr Jesperson says:

    Jean, thanks for mentioning your history. I think this is an important part of the story. There is a reason why we have come to believe what each of us do. Many here are pastors or elders/deacons or something of that sort. Most have been believers for many decades. There is a story behind what we currently believe. My beliefs are not set in stone. They keep changing over time because I choose to remain teachable. I have started to wonder if certain individuals are drawn to a particular group, like the Lutherans because of long standing personal issues. For instance, I have never had any problems with the assurance of salvation, but I know some people who are guilt oriented people who do struggle. Could some of these gravitate towards Lutheranism because of it?

  178. Em ... again says:

    i don’t think anyone has a clear picture of the law and gospel than the evangelical fundamental Believer … salvation and justification are not juxtaposed – the latter is necessary for the former … then begins sanctification …
    it is impossible to have a discussion of this process skipping over the fact of and the process of the new birth … opposing theologians have worried this one into the ground – each sitting firm in their positions, so a discussion such as this thread has attempted just isn’t possible

    i am so thankful that we don’t have to understand the process to partake of the bread

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: