Teacher Notes

Bible Stories for Adults

The Unforgiving Servant

Matthew 18:21-35

Welcome and Announcements
    Next Week - The Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18:9-14)
    Bible Words to Remember:
      The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. Psalm 145:8

Opening Prayer

Our Forgiving Father (Luke 15)
    What does God require of His people?
      Matthew 5:48 = Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect
    What fraction of God's people can we expect to meet this requirement?
      Romans 3:23 = None, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
    What should be the attitude of those of us who fall short of the requirement?
      Luke 15:21 = Confess our sin and that we don't deserve the blessings of sonship

    How does God respond when a sinner returns to Him?
      Luke 15:20 = He runs to us with His love
      Luke 15:22 = He restores us to full sonship (robe, ring, sandals)
      Luke 15:23 = He is filled with joy and celebrates the return
    Does God really celebrate the return of one sinner?
      Luke 15:7, 10 = Yes
    How does God celebrate a sinner's return to faith?
      Ephesians 2:8-9 = He gives us the gift of salvation by grace through faith
    How is this gift in contrast to what we really deserve?
      Romans 6:23 = For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life

Our Sinning Brother (Luke 17)
    Should we ever expect Satan to stop tempting people to sin?
      Luke 17:1 = No, temptations are bound to come
    How bad is it for someone to tempt a child of God to sin?
      Luke 17:2 = better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone

    What should we do if a brother sins against us?
      Luke 17:3 = Show him his wrong (rebuke him), If he repents, forgive him
    Why did Pharisees teach that righteous people should forgive twice, three time if exceptional?
      Amos 2:6a = They understood this to say God would forgive 3 times & punish on fourth

    What if you forgive him and he does it again?
      Luke 17:4 = Continue forgiving him as he repents, even seven times a day
      Seven = Meant complete to the Jew; 3 - Spirit World, 4 - Material World, 3+4=7
    If forgiving someone three times was not enough for Jesus, how many was enough?
      Matthew 18:21-22 = 70 times 7, unlimited, completely complete, no reasonable limit

Jesus' Forgiveness (Luke 5)
    Why were the Pharisees upset when Jesus forgave people's sins?
      Luke 5:18, 20-21 = Only God can forgive sins against Him, how could Jesus say He could?
    Why had Jesus forgiven the man's sins rather than healing his paralysis?
      Luke 5:22-26 = He did both to prove that He had authority to forgive sins

    What did Jesus do with His authority to forgive sins before he ascended to heaven?
      John 20:22-23 = Gave it to His disciples
    Why should we take forgiveness of others so seriously?
      Matthew 18:18 = Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven ...

Office of the Keys (Matthew 16:19)
    Why did Martin Luther call this the Office of the Keys?
      Matthew 16:19a = I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ...

    What is the Office of the Keys? (From Luther's Small Catechism)
      It is that authority which Christ gave to His Church to forgive the sins of those who repent and to declare to those who do not repent that their sins are not forgiven.
    What does this mean?
      I believe that, when the called ministers of Christ deal with us by His divine command, especially when they exclude manifest and impenitent sinners from the Christian congregation, and, again, when they absolve those who repent of their sins and are willing to amend, this is as valid and certain, in heaven also, as if Christ, our dear Lord, dealt with us Himself.

The Unrepenting Brother (Matthew 18:15-17)
    When you are sinned against, are you to quietly accept it as your own problem?
      Matthew 18:15 = No, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you
    What is the intent of going to your brother, to confront him with his sin?
      Galatians 6:1 = No, to restore him gently (Be careful that you aren't tempted)

    What if the brother won't listen to you?
      Matthew 18:16 = Take one or two others along to have witnesses
    What is the purpose of the witnesses?
      Deuteronomy 19:15 = Need the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses to make a case
    What if he still won't listen?
      Matthew 18:17 = Take it to the church, then treat him like a pagan

    What does Jesus mean to treat him like a pagan or a tax collector?
      1 Corinthians 5:11-13 = Expel the wicked man from among you
    Is this expulsion intended as punishment for the evil?
      1 Corinthians 5:6-7 = No, but in order to keep the church pure
    What should we do if the one who has been expelled repents and turns from his sin?
      2 Corinthians 2:6-8 = Forgive him and reaffirm your love for him

Judging Others (Matthew 7)
    Should we confront our brother with every sin we see, no matter how large or small?
      Matthew 7:1-2 = The same way you judge others, you will be judged, same measure
    Does this mean that we should not judge others?
      1 Corinthians 6:2-3 = No, God has given us the responsibility to judge with discernment
    What parable did Jesus speak that best explains which sins we should bring up?
      Matthew 7:3-5 = Leave the speck in a brother's eye when there's a plank in yours

The Forgiving King (Matthew 18:23-37)
    What parable did Jesus give to show the importance of forgiving others?
      Matthew 18:23 = King settling accounts with servants
    How much money was owed by the king's servant in the parable?
      Matthew 18:24 = About $20 million, more than he could ever be able to pay back

    What was the standard way of dealing with someone who couldn't pay a debt?
      Matthew 18:25 = Sell into slavery to pay debt or put in jail until debt is paid
    Where did this practice come from? = Numerous examples in Old Testament
      Exodus 22:3b = A thief must make restitution...if he has nothing he must be sold
    How did the king show his mercy with the servant?
      Matthew 18:26-27 = He not only let him go, but also completely forgave the debt

The Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:28-34)
    How appreciative was the servant and how long did he remain so?
      Matthew 18:28 = On the way out forcefully demanded repayment of about $17
    Did the servant remember the mercy he had received when he had the chance to give it?
      Matthew 18:29-30 = No, he had the man thrown in prison
    How did the king feel about the servant's response to his mercy?
      Matthew 18:31-33 = Very upset that the servant hadn't shown the same mercy
    How was the servant then treated in response to the way he had treated the other servant?
      Matthew 18:34 = King sent him to be tortured until debt could be repaid (forever)

Our Forgiveness (Matthew 18:35)
    What is the key message of this parable for us?
      Matthew 18:35 = We should not expect or ask God to forgive us if we don't forgive others
    How do we regularly ask for this treatment?
      Matthew 6:12 = Lord's Prayer, Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
    Does God forgive us because we first forgive others, or vice versa?
      Ephesians 4:32 = God forgave us first in Christ, we copy that
    When will God withhold His forgiveness to us?
      Matthew 6:14-15 = When we refuse to forgive others
    Does this mean that whether or not God has mercy depends on our desires or efforts?
      Romans 9:14-16 = I will have mercy on whom I have mercy ... It does not depend on man

Mercy (Luke 6:36)
    What is another way to state the message of this parable?
      Luke 6:36 = Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful
    Was this a new truth introduced by Jesus?
      Micah 6:8 = What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy.
    And what can we expect by showing mercy to others?
      Matthew 5:7 = Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy
    What reasons does Paul give for us to show mercy to others?
      Colossians 3:12-14 = We are God's chosen, holy & dearly loved, Christ first forgave us

    C. S. Spurgeon:
      When you go to God, ask for mercy, not for justice. A mother went to the Emperor Napoleon to ask for mercy for her son. He had committed some breach of the French law, and the emperor replied, "Madam, this is the second time the boy has offended. Justice requires that he should die." She answered, "I did not come to ask for justice. I beg for mercy." He answered, "He does not deserve mercy." "Sire," she said, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it. I ask for mercy." When she put it that way, the emperor replied, "Well, then, I will have mercy."

Closing Prayer

Copyright © 1997 by Kurt Rosenhagen

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