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Notes for Trinity 22 – Matthew 18:23-35

by pastorjuhl ~ October 13th, 2008

Pius Parsch, “The Church’s Year of Grace”

We are all of us, in fact, that negligent servant, that insolvent debtor, whose master might, in all justice, sell him with all he has, and hand him over to the torturers. The debt contracted with God by the sins we have committed is of such a nature as to deserve endless tortures; it supposes an eternal hell, in which the guilty one will ever be paying, yet never cancelling his debt. Infinite praise, then, and thanks to the divine Creditor, who, being moved to pity by the entreaties of the unhappy man who asks for time and he will pay all, grants him far beyond what he prays for, by immediately forgiving him the debt (Vol. 11, p. 449).

St. John Chrysostom

It is a greater thing to forgive our neighbor the trespasses he has committed against us, than to remit him a sum of money; for by forgiving him his sins, we imitate God.

The work of a son of God is this: to pardon his enemies, to pray for them that crucify him, to shed his blood for them that hate him. Would you know the conduct of one who is worthy to be a son of God? He takes his enemies, and his ingrates, and his robbers, and his insulters, and his traitors, and makes them his brethren and sharers of all his wealth.

Blessed Martin Luther’s House Postil

It’s a simple thing to mouth the expression “forgiveness of sins” just as it is a simple thing to repeat the basic truths of Christian doctrine. Ah, yes, if all we had to do was to mouth the words! The problem is that when it comes to putting that expression into practice, we don’t know the first thing about it! You see, it is such a tremendous truth, a truth that I am to believe wholeheartedly, that all my sins are forgiven, and that by faith I am righteous before God. Oh, what a marvelously astounding righteousness this is! How totally different this is in contrast to the righteousness of this world as proclaimed by all its lawyers, intellectual giants, and philosophers! For they all reach the same conclusion, namely, that righteousness must be an inner, inherent characteristic of the human heart and soul. But this Gospel lesson teaches us that Christian righteousness is not a universal characteristic of the human heart which all share. No, Christ is teaching us that we become righteous and are freed from sins through the forgiveness of sins!

When we hear that we have been promised forgiveness of sins, we really cannot grasp that, and take this position: I have committed this and that sin; to pay for them I will do thus and so, fact X number of days, say X number of prayers, fund X number of poorhouses, and pay for all my sins. It’s because human nature is proud and always wants to be in control, pulling its own water bucket from the well, wants to have the honor of laying the first stone, of being Number One. That’s why this is a majestic message of divine wisdom: We must believe that our righteousness, salvation, and comfort lie outside of ourselves, namely, that we are righteous before God, acceptable to Him, holy and wise, even though there is nothing within us but sin, injustice, and stupidity.

Human nature is defenseless against a bad habit; it cannot avoid an awareness of sins and yet cannot believe in pure grace and the forgiveness of sins. If you have developed this skill, of not seeing what you do see, and of not feeling what you do feel, then let me tell you about something nobler and more majestic. But I warn you, it will take you a long time to develop this artistic skill! For this business of faith in the forgiveness of sins is just as if someone were aiming a loaded gun at your face and was ready to pull the trigger, and yet you are to believe and to say, “Not to worry!”

+Bishop Bo Giertz, “To Live with Christ”

It’s mercy itself that man has separated himself from. God has, in His boundless mercy, made forgiveness possible by paying all our debts and giving His only Son. That inexhaustible forgiveness exists with Him. With Him, we can partake of it without limits. However, it exists only with Him. If we possess Him, we have forgiveness. Forgiveness without Jesus doesn’t exist. If we live with Jesus, we can’t take our fellow servant by the neck and make him pay for what he’s done. Loving Jesus means forgiving. Not wanting to forgive means not loving Jesus, not being with Him, and not possessing His forgiveness. It’s either Jesus and forgiveness, or neither of them (p. 707-708).

+Bishop N.J. Laache, “Book of Family Prayer”

Sometimes you hear preaching that says that whoever wants to receive grace must have completely turned away from self-righteousness and not think about paying any of his guilt himself. If that were true, then it would be all but impossible for any sinner to enter the state of grace. But Jesus does not present such a comfortless doctrine. The Spirit in the believers counts everything as worthlessness compared to Christ, but self-righteousness is still there and always hinders the confidence of faith. For it is not humility, but self-righteousness that makes our faith weak. When the sinner does not want to recognize his guilt, then that is his self-righteousness, that excludes him from grace, for then one does not ask for mercy. But when you recognize your debt and humble yourself before God’s righteous judgment, then God forgives you everything, even if you still want to pay it yourself. Isn’t this clearly written in our Gospel? And doesn’t David teach the same? “I acknowledged my sin to You … and You forgave the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:5). Likewise John says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins” (1 John 1:9). But the Holy Spirit also teaches us the same, and makes it ever clearer that forgiveness of sins is pure grace so that we leave behind the “forbearance”and “longsuffering” of the Old Testament and enter into the perfect “forgiveness” of the New Testament that has its living, conquering root in the righteousness of Christ. Listen now, dear soul, to what Jesus wants to tell you here: all your sins are annhiliated, when you honestly acknowledge your debt, no matter how far you still may fall short in understanding justification (p. 651-652).

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