Matthew 18:22

Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 18:22

“Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:22

Jesus here is laying out a principle which is important for us to follow.  Before our focus verse, Jesus had just been teaching about the sins of a brother, regarding what to do in the event a brother does sin.  Jesus replies by saying, “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Matthew 18:15-17.  He was laying out the idea that we should do what we can to restore a brother if possible so that they will remain a follower.

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”  Matthew 18:21. Peter here is making this a more personal issue.  He is not asking about if a brother sins, but if a brother should sin against him.  Peter was using the tradition of the Jews regarding forgiveness.  The Jews taught that a man was to forgive another three times, but not the fourth.  Peter here is extending the number to seven, basically saying should forgiveness be exercised to this extent.

However, Jesus throws him a curve in our focus verse.  He doesn’t say seven, or even an extravagant number such as fourteen or even twenty-one times.  He says we are to forgive our brother seventy times seven, which calculates to four hundred and ninety times.  This goes well beyond the tradition of the Jews.  What Jesus is basically saying is that no matter how many times he sins against us and asks for forgiveness, we are to forgive him.

Now it is the duty of someone who sins against us to ask for forgiveness.  “Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.” Luke 17:3. However, we have a duty if our brother repents and asks us for forgiveness, and that is to forgive.  As many times as he sins against us and asks forgiveness.  And why is this?  Because this is what Christ does with us.  No matter what we do and however many times, He will forgive us.  “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:8-9.  There are no limits noted here, therefore we should have no limits if we are to be like Christ.

This can be a very difficult thing to do.  If someone does the same thing over and over again to us and then repents and asks for forgiveness, we are obligated to forgive.  If they do this, there is obviously an issue with that person, and in that, we leave it in God’s hands.  But we must forgive them.  I believe we should pray and ask God to change them so that they do not persist, and we should admonish them so that they are aware of what they are doing.  But we cannot withhold forgiveness.

I want to encourage us if we are in that place where repeated sins are done against us, we should heartily pray for them and work with them where they allow us to.  This is a loving act, to repeatedly forgive the same thing from the same person.  But as stated above, this is what God does for us.  Therefore, we are to go and do likewise.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

Matthew 18:21

Verse of the Day Devotion Matthew 18:21 

“Then Peter came and said to Him,  Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” – Matthew 18:21

Jesus had just finished a teaching on what must be done if our brother sins against us.  He starts out with telling His disciples what to do if this happens. “And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.” Matthew 18:15-17. It is important that if a brother sins against us, we are to go to him alone and reprove him, letting him know what he has done. And if he does not listen to you, bring two or three believers with you, ones this man listens to with the hope he will then listen to you. However, if he does not, then bring it to the church so they can speak with him.  When it gets this far, and he does not listen, then he is to be treated like a non-believer and tax collector.  Both these expressions stand for people outside the people of God, people who have sinned and not repented, and that is the position of the sinning brother. He has made his choice, and the brother sinned against must respect his decision. It is usually said that the passage speaks of excommunication from the church, but that is not what the text says; to you is very personal. Whatever be the case vis-à-vis the church, to the brother against whom he has sinned he is as an outsider.  

Now, after this teaching Peter asks Jesus a question as seen in our focus verse. “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Matthew 18:21b.  Peter, wishing to appear especially forgiving and benevolent, asked Jesus if forgiveness was to be offered seven times.  The Jewish rabbis at the time taught that forgiving someone more than three times was unnecessary. This idea is found in the book of Amos, “Thus says the LORD, For three transgressions of Damascus and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because they threshed Gilead with implements of sharp iron.” Amos 1:3. Now this verse was pointing at Damascus, but we see the same basic verse pointing to other nations: verse 6 for Gaza, verse 9 regarding Tyre and verse 13 regarding Ammon.  The idea was that after three times they would not be forgiven. This then became a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more then three times.  However, Jesus responds in a surprising, and I am sure a shocking way to Peter’s question. “Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:22.  Jesus replaces seven times with seventy times seven, or 490 times. 

Now, this is not an arithmetic issue that after 490 offense, forgiveness was not necessary. It is a way of saying that for Jesus’ followers forgiveness is to be unlimited. For them forgiveness is a way of life. Bearing in mind what they have been forgiven, they cannot withhold forgiveness from any who sin against them. “For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” Matthew 6:14-15. By saying we are to forgive those who sin against us seventy times seven, Jesus was not limiting forgiveness to 490 times, a number that is, for all practical purposes, beyond counting. Christians with forgiving hearts not only do not limit the number of times they forgive; they continue to forgive with as much grace the thousandth time as they do the first time. Christians alone are capable of this type of forgiving spirit because the Spirit of God lives within us, and it is He who provides the ability to offer forgiveness over and over, just as God forgives us over and over.

This is such an important thought. No matter what anyone does to us, and as many times as they do it, it in incumbent upon us to forgive each and every time. “Therefore, if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-29. This is the love God has for us, and He expects us to exhibit this love to our fellow man. “And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father who is in heaven forgive your transgressions.” Mark 11:25-26.

And lastly, this love should be for everyone, including our enemies. “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR, and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you. in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries. 

Revelation 3:1

Verse of the Day Devotion:  Revelation 3:1 

“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” – Revelation 3:1 

Over seven days, I will be looking at what John wrote, by the inspiration of God, to the seven major churches in Asia Minor.  In these seven letters, God gives a message that is specific to each and speaks of issues that could fit the Churches throughout history.  It is important to look at these and examine our church and ultimately ourselves to see where we stand regarding these. 

Next, Jesus writes to the fifth Church in this list, the Church of Sardis.  Sardis was located about forty miles southeast the Thyatira and around fifty miles east of Smyrna.  It had been the capital of the kingdom of Lydia in the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.  Following the conquests of Alexander the Great, the city came under Hellenistic rule and was the capital of the Seleucid kingdom in the third century BCE. After 133 BCE Sardis became part of Roman Asia, where it was a judicial center. Because they were part of the area ruled by the Seleucids, they have a Greek bent in their religious lives which focused on Greek gods including Artemis of Sardis and Zeus Polieus, the guardian of civic welfare. Sardis had a cult of the goddess Roma, a female deity who personified the Roman state before the end of the second century BCE.

Note the first part of our focus verse.  “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars, says this:” Revelation 3:1a. Only Jesus has the seven spirits (or “seven-fold Spirit,” meaning the complete or perfect Spirit of God), and only Jesus holds the seven stars, i.e., the seven angels (or pastors) of the seven churches. “As for the mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” Revelation 1:20.  He then says, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” Revelation 3:1b.  This church had a good reputation; however, they did not live up to that reputation.  The church appeared to be full of people, but the majority of those coming probably were not Christians but were simply going through the motions.  As Jesus had said when discussing this issue, “He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat and went away.” Matthew 13:24-25. 

He then tells the Church, “Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. If therefore you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come upon you.” Revelation 3:2. Jesus then calls for them to repent of their sin. The idea of wake up is they need to start paying attention to what is going on there and stop pretending to be Christians but make it real; to turn from the sins and live as God desires. They needed to stop looking carelessly about what their real situation was before God. And if they do not repent, then things will not go well for them. “Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason, you be ready too; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” Matthew 24:42-44.

After this He adds.  “But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white; for they are worthy.” Revelation 3:4. The idea of soiled garments are clothes that were defiled, physically unclean and ritually unsuitable to be worn in God’s presence. “The LORD also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow and let them wash their garments:” and then “So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people, and they washed their garments.” Exodus 19:10, 14. The promised reward accords with the character of those to be rewarded: keeping their garments undefiled and white through the blood of the Lamb now, they shall walk with Him in white hereafter.  

Then in closing His message to the Church in Sardis He writes this.  “He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels.” Revelation 3:5. Here He reiterates the idea of walking in garments of white, denoting being clean before God.  But then He adds two additional blessings.  First, they will not have their names removed from the Lambs book of life.  This is interesting wording.  This denotes the idea of condemnation, but in a way that people could understand. Our names are written in the Lambs Book of Life from the foundations of the world.  “And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” Revelation 13:8. God knew who would accept His Son from the foundations of the earth. Jesus, through John uses this idea to urge the Church of Sardis to remain faithful and true, using a method or idea they would understand. And not only will their name remain in the Book of Life, but Jesus also acknowledges their name before the Father and His angels.  Acknowledging someone means affirming a relationship with that person in a way that shows loyalty and favor. Since Jesus has a place of honor before the Father and the angels, those he acknowledges share in the honor that belongs to Him. And this refers to someone who does not shy away from acknowledging Christ.  “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 10:32-33. 

Therefore, never shy away from declaring Jesus in this world, and acknowledging your relationship with Him.  He loves you more than you can know, and is worthy of all the honor we can give Him.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.