MATTHEW 18:35 THE UNFORGIVING SERVANT & Eternal Security of The Believer
First the context in Matthew 18 matters and at verse 21 we read a statement just before Jesus tells the Jews the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant,
“21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22 KJV)
The parable of the Unforgiving Servant ends with verse 34-35:
“34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:34-35 KJV)
There are those ignoring the context and focus of the Gospels based on verse 35. You must admit, verse 24-25 are some harsh words from Jesus right? Does this mean if we do not forgive a person as Jesus forgave us that we will be condemned to hell then and lose Salvation? It is so important to understand that the context here matters greatly. And what is the context in Matthew 18?
First we must realize that passages in the Gospels that are before the cross are addressed directly to the Israelites; the Jewish people and Pharisees of that time who were believing that Law keeping is the way to be favored by God. There are certainly learning to be had in this parable about how believers today should be forgiving others as Christ forgave us but to make verse 34-25 about a believer who loses Salvation is just not in proper context for the Body of Christ.
Jesus is talking to EARLY DISCIPLES (early learners) of His message to the Jews. We see Jesus throughout His earthly ministry burying the people in their own self righteousness. Jesus through His ministry on Earth took the Law of Moses and RAISED it to the strictest of standards. He is showing the Jewish people and the Pharisees the extreme truth that following the Law of Moses as a means to be justified with God is impossible. By showing the extremes of the Law Jesus is preparing them for what is coming and what is coming is the New Covenant of the Grace of God through Christ which Jesus used Apostle Paul to teach to the Gentiles.
Earlier In verse 8 of the same chapter (KJV) Jesus says, “Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.”
And again in verse 9 (KJV) Jesus said, “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.”
So, are we believers today to do these things? Anyone cutting off their hand or plucking out their eye because we have sin after our moment of Salvation? I certainly hope not because Jesus is not addressing believers in Matthew 18 who have been saved by the Grace of God through Christ Jesus crucified, died and risen. We already know the truth of the Gospel and that is Salvation is not from ourselves, nor our good deeds and Law keeping. Salvation is a GIFT of God that NONE SHOULD BOAST.
Apostle Paul is the one God sent to teach the NEW COVENANT by the Grace of God and he wrote,
“8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)
In Matthew 18, Jesus is teaching these people that not only is it impossible to keep the Law of Moses for justification with God but that when you look at the extreme of the Law, it is impossible for the Law to justify us with God. In the end, the self righteousness of such a thought is extremely wrong.
This parable is not saying that once a person is saved and forgiven their sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ that their Salvation can be revoked. That would go against so many Scriptures that show we are secure in Christ from the moment of our Salvation. That would even contradict the words of Jesus Himself many times in Scripture.
The way the servant asks the King for mercy and the request to give him more time (be patient) to pay back the debt shows that this individual does not grasp the reality of the situation. He thinks he can pay back the debt of sin in self effort but we cannot repay for our sins ourselves. Only Christ accomplished this for us on the cross. And being forgiven by the King, he then thinks arrogantly and that he is better than others who are sinning and have a sin debt, as if he does not have sin still. And treats them harshly based on their debt as a sinner. Too full of PRIDE just like Satan is. The King calls this servant ‘wicked’ and that is not a term ever used for the Body of Christ, for believers in Christ’s atonement.
God forgave us with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. It was not just an easy pass. Salvation is a free gift for us to receive without self effort. But for God and Jesus it was hardly free; it was an extremely painful act in love towards us. As a redeemed person we need to have a forgiving heart towards others, even when they sin against you in a vial manner; forgive others to the extreme! Pray that God open their eyes and save them. Only God can do it!
But realize verse 34 and 35 are not directed to saved believers by the Grace of God that Apostle Paul was commissioned by Jesus to teach to us living after Christ died for the sins of the WHOLE WORLD. (1 John 2:2)
“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: And BY HIM ALL THAT BELIEVE ARE JUSTIFIED FROM ALL THINGS, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts13:38-39 KJV)