Debt & Forgiveness

[This article was written by Robert A. Sochor.]

In Matthew 18:23-35, Jesus taught the parable of the unmerciful servant. For every generation it is relevant and helps us understand the need for forgiveness: forgiveness granted to the king’s servant as well as the forgiveness and mercy that were denied to the servant’s debtor. The king of verse 23 who ruled over all in the parable was displeased (wroth, verse 34) with his servant and actually ended his forbearance by requiring payment. The concluding lesson of the parable is found in verse 35 — that we as forgiven sinners should forgive those who trespass against us.

I have not done the parable justice by summarizing it so briefly. But there is one point of the parable that stands out, and that is the servant’s debt to the king. In verse 24 the servant had run up a debt of 10,000 talents. There are varying explanations of how much debt this actually was. One margin note stated that one talent was about 15 years’ wage for a common laborer. Multiplying this out would show this debt was quite unpayable. Other estimates I have heard run into the millions, even the billions, of dollars. I have always wondered, how did he run up such a debt? How did he ever expect to repay it? And what was he thinking?

But then I remember this is just a parable. A parable is a story to illustrate a greater spiritual truth. The man in the parable really does not exist. He is only in the story to represent someone else. And that someone is us. We are the ones who ran up a completely unpayable debt. We are the ones not thinking of how we would ever pay back the debt that we had run up. If we consider the man in the parable foolish, then we would have to say that also about ourselves. There is not one of us who could point to this man and say, “I’d never do that.” We have all sinned (Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22). We have incurred that overwhelming debt we could never repay. And the debt we owe because of our sin is staggering. Romans 6:23 says the “wages” (the just compensation) for our sins is death. In the Old Testament, Ezekiel states the consequences more bluntly: “The soul that sins, it shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). Sin carries a terrible consequence.

In the parable the foolish debt-ridden servant was fortunate to be in debt to this particular king for he was merciful. There is nothing about the servant which should recommend forgiving the debt. He was not particularly good; in fact, there is nothing good said about this servant in all of the parable. He had done nothing to merit this forgiveness.

After being forgiven, there was no change in the servant. Such forgiveness “reasonably” should have produced (or have been followed by) a change in character and conduct in his life. It did not. In the case of ourselves, when forgiven we should have a change of character and conduct. The New Testament calls this “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) or being “transformed” (Romans 12:2). The God who granted such great forgiveness has every reasonable expectation that this change would be present in those He has forgiven.

There is a practicality to this and probably all parables. If we miss it, it is to our shame.

Redemption & Forgiveness; Sin & Judgment

[This article was written by Robert A. Sochor.]

In Ephesians 1:3-10, salvation is described using very noble words and ideas, especially verse 7 which contains much information concerning the New Testament plan and need of salvation. Redemption through His blood presents the idea to buy back that which would otherwise be lost. It is central to the gospel — one might say it is the gospel. The purpose of the gospel is not to make the world better but to redeem some out of the world. Titus 2:14 shows we are redeemed by Christ to be a special, pure people zealous for good works. Christians are to consider redemption as most precious because of the great price paid for it (1 Peter 1:18,19). The spiritual blessings we have in high places (Ephesians 1:3) we have because of the blood of Christ (Revelation 5:9,10).

Forgiveness of sins is also mentioned in Ephesians 1:7. Forgiveness is defined as giving up resentment against or the desire to punish — to stop being angry with — also, to cancel or remit a debt (Webster). This idea is also central to the New Testament. It must be very special to the Christian (1 John 2:12). It must be central to gospel preaching (Acts 13:38) and based upon the work of Jesus and the terms of the gospel. The idea of pardon also helps describe forgiveness. We might think of a convicted prisoner who has no right by his or her own merit to be free again but is granted a pardon or forgiveness of the crime by one in authority, thus regaining freedom. Christians have forgiveness of sins through blood and by grace which make it quite important in light of Romans 6:23. In the affairs of men, forgiveness of crime or wrongdoing may or may not come with conditions. In the area of eternal salvation, forgiveness has very well defined conditions required in the gospel.

Ephesians 1 uses very eloquent terms to describe what God has done for our salvation. But there are some very common ideas today that undermine the teaching of this chapter and much of the New Testament. If we believe there is no such thing as sin or fail to see our works as transgressions before God, then we will never appreciate passages like Ephesians 1 which speak of redemption and forgiveness of sins. If sin does not exist or is really not so bad, then redemption (or the blood of Christ) has little meaning to us. If sin does not result in eternal loss (Romans 6:23), then why did Jesus die? It would have little or no significance to us. We cheapen the ideas of redemption and forgiveness by dismissing the idea of sin, and passages such as Ephesians 1 could be removed from the Bible and not be missed. It has been said that true understanding of sin and its consequences is the only way to fully understand and appreciate the grace of God, our salvation, and the price that was paid for it.

The same thing could be said for denying the idea of Judgment Day or that anyone could be lost eternally at that time. Some believe God will save all at the last day. The Bible is clear that there will be a day of judgment (Romans 14:10) and that some will be eternally lost that day (Matthew 25:46). If this is not true, then why would we ever need the blood of Christ? We would need redeeming from what and for what?

Our salvation is great and precious. Having a good Bible understanding of sin and eternal loss will help us understand what Christians have been blessed with in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3-10).

Jesus Christ: Prince of Peace

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

There are many terms and titles used to describe Jesus throughout the Bible. A few are found in the passage above. Isaiah, in prophesying of the birth of the Messiah, spoke of Jesus’ wisdom, power, deity, and eternality. But notice the last name – “Prince of Peace.” Jesus is the one who would bring peace. After His birth, the heavenly host proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).
Continue Reading