Sunday, April 13, 2008
In Matthew 16 the Lord is teaching His disciples the contrast between the doctrine of the Pharisees and the doctrine of Christ.
The Doctrine of the Pharisees (Matthew 16:5-12, 13:33)
And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread. Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread? Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
When we read this we tend to get lost in the spiritual meaning of five loaves and seven loaves, and five thousand men and four thousand men, and twelve baskets and seven baskets. But we need to realize that the Lord gave His disciples already a parable; the parable of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And now the Lord is giving them an explanation of this parable. We should not make the explanation of this parable more complex than the parable itself.
So, what is the explanation that the Lord Jesus gave?
He said that the leaven represented the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. And as a contrast He told them that the nature of the doctrine of Christ is shown by the miraculous multiplication of the bread and the fishes.
What did the Lord Jesus mean by that?
First of all, leaven by itself does not do anything. But leaven hidden in dough is doing the work of fermenting the dough. It is like a works gospel that is hidden in the midst of people who desire to worship Christ as the pure Bread of life. And we have seen in Matthew 13:33 that leaven in three measures of meal represents a prophecy that works gospels will infiltrate the church and will eventually change the Gospel of grace into damning works gospels.
That is why the Lord Jesus warns us, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”.
And notice that the Lord is warning us for both the legalistic gospel of the Pharisees as well as for the liberal gospel of the Sadducees, for both of them preach a gospel of works: the requirement of continually sacrificing, every day, or else you cannot be saved.
On the other hand, the Good News of the Gospel of Christ is that this Bread of life was broken once, sufficient for the saving of many, and this must not be repeated for His sacrifice was perfect and complete.
And this message of the broken Bread of life must be given freely to many for the healing and nourishment for their souls. And Christ will make sure that there will always be an endless supply of messengers who will bring this message of salvation into all the world. And thus, when people are in a church where Christ is crucified over and over again, every time the Eucharist is served, they are in a church which has been overrun by the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. They are in a church that brings condemnation. In addition, Jews are looking for visible signs. And notice that the Lord calls them a wicked and adulterous generation in verse 4, for we must we must live by faith rather than trust in external signs or experiences. But what then is:
The Doctrine of Christ (Matthew 16:13-17, Colossians 1:26-27)
In the remainder of this chapter the Lord Jesus teaches us the basic principles of the doctrine of the true Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through Christ alone. Here in this chapter the Lord teaches us:
1) Who is Jesus Christ;
2) The free gift of salvation;
3) Christ will build His church;
4) The gates of Hell shall not prevail;
5) The keys of the kingdom;
6) Christ makes us His ambassadors;
7) Christ must be crucified for our sins;
8) How then shall we live?
This is the sequence in which we find these subject matters in this chapter, and this will be how we shall discuss it. We read here in Matthew 16:13-17,
When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
Who is Jesus Christ?
Through the mouth of Peter we learn that He is “the Christ, the anointed one, the Son of the living God”.
What does this mean “the Son of the living God”?
It means that Jesus Christ is fully man, whom God incarnated in the womb of His mother Mary, and who was united with God the Son, the second Person of the Triune God.
And so, the one person Jesus Christ is both fully man and fully God, with both a human nature and a divine nature at the same time, for God the Son is fully God.
It was necessary for Him to be fully man, for only then could He make atonement for the sins of man. It was necessary for Him to be fully God, for only then could He bear the enormous payment for our sins, the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.
But as a mortal man He would have been consumed in the process.
When the Lord Jesus answered Peter saying, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” we must understand that this blessed state of Peter was not reserved for Peter only, but for all the New Testament saints who will have the complete revelation of God in their hands. This mystery of Christ, and Him crucified, and Him building the church for which He suffered and died, is a revelation that was not only made clear to Peter, but to all the saints. We read in:
Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:
“The riches of the glory of this mystery” has now been revealed and is preached among the Gentiles.
And what are these riches?
They are the riches of “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, and the hope of glory refers to the glory we shall receive when we are with Him in the New Heaven & New Earth.
All the saints shall be able to read and understand this. This understanding is not reserved for one person, who will then claim that all of us are ignorant, and let him alone tell us what the meaning of the Scriptures are.
This is a lie!
This is what the Roman church has said for centuries, and that is why they deprived me of reading the Word of God. I did not even see a Bible until I was 40 years old.
And today, when one man claims that Christ will come again in October 21 of 2011, but this revelation is reserved only for a few who can see it, then I can confidently say, This is a lie!
This mystery must be understood by all the saints, not just one person. Anyone who follows a one man gospel is following a false gospel.
Let us return to Matthew 16:17.
God’s Free Gift of Grace (Matthew 16:17, Ephesians 1:4, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 9:16, Philippians 2:13)
And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
It is as plain as day that Peter could not have figured this out by himself. The Lord Jesus called Peter blessed, because he had become born again.
Peter had become a vessel fit for receiving the wisdom of God unto salvation. In fact, Peter had been chosen by God to become born from above, and the Bible teaches us in Ephesians 1:4 that God has chosen him for this destiny before the foundation of the world.
In this statement of the Lord Jesus we recognize that Peter has been unconditionally elected unto salvation before God made the first speck of dust. But Peter was not the only one who received this privilege. God said to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:3, “The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee”.
In Ephesians 1:4 God says to all the saints that we have been chosen, or elected, unto salvation from before the foundation of the world. It is not by our own free will that we have come to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This faith did not come out of our own intelligent mind, but it was a gift from God. Throughout the Bible there are hundreds of verses which confirm that God bestows His salvation on the humble, who will give Him all the honor and the glory, and God passes by all those who are stuck up in pride, claiming that they have made a decision for Jesus. We read,
So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
In other words, only by the mercy of God can anyone of us receive the salvation that we so dearly need. And like in the case of Peter, this gift of salvation is given to us freely by grace. And the term “by grace” implies that it must be a free gift, for the word “grace” means “unmerited favor”.
This entire chapter of Romans 9 is a goldmine of doctrines referring to God’s salvation by grace alone. We find this also in Philippians 2:13, where we read about God’s irresistible grace working in those whom He wants to save,
For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
God works in us so that we will carry out those things that will lead to the purpose God has in mind. Let us now return to the Gospel of Matthew, where we read about Christ building His church. We read in
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this Rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
We should keep in mind that the English KJ translation is not the infallible Word of God, but the original Hebrew and Greek texts are. And the Greek text says in Matthew 16:18, “Thou art Petros, and upon this The Petra I will build my church”. Peter is not the Rock that the Lord was pointing to.
Upon This The Petra (Matthew 16:18, John 1:42, Acts 2:47, Ephesians 2:19-20, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 5:25)
Paraphrased the Lord Jesus is saying to Peter, “Thou art Petros, you are a stone. You have made this wonderful confession which indicates that My heavenly Father has chosen you and loves you. You are rock-solid in this faith as an unchangeable stone, because My heavenly Father has revealed the truth to you”.
We know that is the truth, for God explained this to us in John 1:42, where we read, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone”. Cephas is the Aramaic name, Petros is the Greek name, and Peter is the English name, all referring to the same person, all meaning the same thing: a stone. But in Matthew 16:18 the Lord Jesus used two different words: Petros and Petra, and we must be aware of what God wrote.
Moreover the Lord said actually “The Petra”, indicating that He was referring to only one Petra.
What is the meaning of Petra?
We obtain a perfect understanding of the difference between Petros and Petra when we remember the city of Petra, the capital city of the Nabataeans, in the land of the Moabites, which still exists, and which is an entire city carved out of the rocks and into the rocks. When we mention the name Petra, we think of the incredibly high rocks surrounding this city of Petra. And so we see the enormous difference between Petros and Petra. It is the difference between a pebble and a massive mountain made of one Rock.
When the Lord Jesus said, “Upon this The Petra I will build my church” He was not pointing to Peter, but He was pointing to Himself. Christ is the Rock on which the church is built.
And what is the church?
The concept of the church is shown in the Bible as a local church, which took the place of the local Jewish synagogue. However, the church was established by God, whereas the synagogue was not. God says in Acts 2:47, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved”.
God is in charge of making a church grow or not grow. The purpose of the church is to provide fellowship among the saints, for we need fellowship, and we need to obey the Lord’s command to love one another. And so, we read in Ephesians 2:19-20,
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
You see, Christ’s church is not a group of strangers, but fellow saints, and is called the household of God. And this assembly of the saints is built upon the teachings of the apostles and prophets, with the Lord Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone of the spiritual foundation of the church. Therefore Christ will never give up His place of authority over the church.
But we must also realize that the church is an earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God. Therefore we realize that the church is not perfect. There are unsaved people in the congregation, in the midst of the saints. And therefore we need to establish some rules of conduct, so that the unsaved part of the congregation will not overtake us.
Even though a major part of the congregation may be unsaved, as long as there is a nucleus of saved people in the church, Christ still calls it His church. For example, from the seven churches of Revelation 2 and 3 there are five that are corrupt. But as long as Christ still calls them His church there is still hope. And even though there are unsaved people in the church, the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over that local church, and He has a task for everyone in that congregation.
We all are appointed to be His servants, for Christ is the head of the body, the church. We read in Colossians 1:18, “And he is the head of the body, the church”.
But when we read in the Bible about the Bride of Christ, or about the church of the Firstborn, or about a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, then we must understand that God speaks only of the nucleus of saved people in the church.
However the majority of verses in the Bible referring to the church imply an imperfect church. The Lord Jesus Christ came to purchase His Bride, the nucleus of true believers. But in addition He purchased the organism that is called the church, lock, stock and barrel. For we read in Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”.
And so, Christ’s faithfulness to His church is not a temporary thing, nor will Christ divorce His church for any arbitrary reason, such as when the calendar says so. This then is the church that is built upon Christ as the Rock, the solid Petra.
"The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail Against It" (Matthew 16:18, Acts 20:28-31, Galatians 1:8-9)
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
What does this mean that “the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”?
Does it mean that once a church is established it cannot die?
This cannot be the true meaning, for we have seen in history many churches that have come up and died. Their empty shells testify of the fact that they were once alive. But since Christ has suffered and died for His saints, and since He has purchased the churches where His saints are congregating, and since Christ is not a liar, we must understand that if a church still has a nucleus of true believers, the assault of Satan and his human helpers will not be able to destroy that church, for that is Christ’s church.
Christ will not divorce Himself from a church. However, the people in a church could take the action of divorcing themselves from Christ. The Lord shows us in this example how that might come to pass. The apostle Paul was returning to Jerusalem from his third missionary journey, and he passed by the city of Ephesus. Then he sent for the elders of the church of Ephesus to come to him, and he warned them in:
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.
The mandate to the Ephesian elders: “feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood”.
The Holy Ghost has made you overseers of the flock of Christ; the flock consisting of sheep and goats. Nevertheless, feed the flock. Do not let strange doctrines in. We dare not ignore this mandate, for Christ has purchased this flock with His own blood. But then he looked the Ephesian elders straight in the eye and said, “Out of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them, and you will be like greedy wolves, not sparing the flock”.
And who shall they be able to deceive?
The elect cannot be deceived, but those who are still unsaved shall be swayed by doctrines that are pleasing to their ears, and they will believe that they are serving Christ when in fact they are serving Satan.
And thus destruction of the church comes from within. Christ will defend His church. But when from the inside the church is changed to a congregation of Baal, then Christ will pull His saints out of that church, and then it is no longer a church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, it is a dreadful sin if someone plots to destroy the church. It is a dreadful sin to claim that all the churches on this side and on the other side of the world are dead because his calendar says so.
It is entirely another gospel than the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, who purchased the church with His own blood. But Christ will avenge His church against all the wolves that are out there. Through the pen of the apostle Paul the Lord gives this warning in Galatians 1:8-9,
But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
And so, it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, who will not let such a crime pass by unpunished. We are hereby reminded of all the kings of Judah who became fools in their old age; every single one of them. Let us now return to the Gospel of Matthew.
What are the Keys of the Kingdom? (Matthew 16:19, 1 Corinthians 1:18-21, 2:2, Romans 10:17)
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
What are the keys of the kingdom of heaven?
Who will make a decision whether someone may enter or may not enter the kingdom of heaven?
Well, if Christ is the author and finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:2, and if we read in John 1:13 that no one can come into heaven on the coattails of another person, and if we read in John 6:44 that no one can come to the Lord Jesus unless the Father draws him to Jesus, then we must conclude that only Christ can really have the keys of the kingdom of heaven.
And Christ cannot give those keys out of His hand, for then all those Bible verses become lies. And so, we realize that Christ is giving us work to do to accomplish His goals and His purposes. We are not really given those keys of the kingdom of heaven, but we are only instruments in His hand.
And in what ways are we accomplishing the goals of Christ?
In what way are we leading someone unto the path of salvation?
Obviously it is through the preaching of the Gospel, for only through the hearing of the true Gospel will God the Holy Spirit incline a person’s ear to listen to the preaching of this Gospel. And this is indeed what we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18-21,
1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise, where is the scribe, where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.
What is the foolishness of preaching?
In the eyes of the world our preaching is foolishness.
Since they believe that there is no truth at all in those things that we preach, then how can anything good come from it?
But God uses this foolishness of preaching to bring the true Gospel to those of His elect whom He wants to convert in their soul.
God says in Romans 10:17, “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”. Thus when Christ told Peter that He will give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, we understand that Christ also tells us that He gives us the keys of the kingdom of heaven; not later but now. We must be willing to bring the Gospel to all who have not heard and who are willing to listen.
And what part of the Gospel should we bring them?
1 Corinthians 2:2
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
When we bring the Gospel of Christ we must let all things be focused on Christ crucified. This is the nucleus of what we bring. And God the Holy Spirit shall give us the words to speak. Let us now return to Matthew 16:19, and let us consider what the meaning is of:
The Power to Bind and Loose (Matthew 16:19)
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
Actually we must again refer to the literal Greek text, which reads a little differently. The Greek says,
And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall, having been bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall, having been loosed in heaven.
In other words, the prior action was an act of God in heaven, who has ruled if a person would have his sins forgiven or if a person should remain unsaved. We are used only as instruments of God. We must keep in mind that the Lord does not release any authority of salvation to fallible mankind.
Man does not have the ability to forgive sins. The loosing refers to loosing someone from his bondage to sin and Satan, and to forgive this person his or her sins. We know that in a certain denomination the priests have the audacity to forgive sins. But that is all a lie and an abomination, for no man has the power to forgive sins.
God in His wisdom ruled that through the foolishness of preaching the Word of God the doors of the kingdom of heaven are opening or closing. By the foolishness of preaching the Gospel out of the mouths of sinful men, preaching to other sinners in the pews who in the main are on the way to Heaven, but preaching to them as if they are on the way to Hell, it pleases God to save some of those sinners from the mighty enslavement of Satan, and to set them free from a world that is called “the Bottomless Pit”. A world that is eager and ready to swallow them up again into enslavement to Satan.
But God says, “You are safe and secure here because I have already taken you out of this Bottomless Pit. I have used the foolishness of preaching to knock some sense in you.”
We make a decision with whom we want to share the Gospel, but God makes the decision whether this person would become saved. For if Christ did not pay on the cross for this person’s sins in AD 33, then this would not be a person in whom the Holy Spirit would work a work of faith.
Christ Must Be Crucified (Matthew 16:21-23, Galatians 3:13)
From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee. But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.
What was going on?
Why did the Lord Jesus call Peter Satan?
Well, He did not call Peter Satan. The Lord just finished telling Peter that he was blessed, because the Father in heaven revealed unto him that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. We must harmonize verse 23 with verse 17. Peter was not suddenly Satan, but the words that Peter spoke out of love for his Master’s physical well-being, were also the words that the Lord Jesus heard from the mouth of Satan.
This was another temptation from Satan, to convince the Lord Jesus that it was not worth going to the cross to atone for the sins of these ungrateful human beings who were so rotten to the core. But Christ loves us and was determined to finish His task of paying for our sins. And thus He turned to Satan and said, “Get thee behind me Satan; you are a hindrance to me”. You see, the essence of the Gospel is that Christ must be crucified on a wooden cross, for we read in Galatians 3:13,
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
It was for this reason that God waited for Christ’s coming until the Romans had invaded the land, and the Roman form of execution would become the law of the land. Christ had to become accursed in our place. The man Christ Jesus had to take up our sins, and suffer in our place, because He as the Lamb of God had taken it upon Himself to suffer in our place the accursedness of our sins. And He was able to endure our penalty, because the power of God was in Him. Only when our sins were paid by Christ can we become saved, for only if our sins are paid in full can we be adopted as the Bride of Christ, and as sons of God. And that is why Christ must be crucified. Let us now continue with verse 24.
How Then Shall We Live? (Matthew 16:24-27, 28:19-20)
Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to His works.
Now, this is a very uncomfortable statement the Lord Jesus made in verse 24.
Is this optional?
No, this is not an option.
Everyone who has become saved must be willing to follow Christ in His footsteps. The Christians in the first century AD saw it most clearly, for they were persecuted and cast into prison, and thrown to the lions. This was the literal fulfillment of Christ’s command to deny ourselves, and take up our cross, and follow Him.
How easy do we have it now?
In this bloodless society of today there is not a chance that we would be cast to the lions.
And so, what would be the application for us today?
The answer is found in the next two verses. Whosoever shall work hard to save his earthly life, or to give his earthly life some more comfort, or who works hard to be rich in material goods, shall loose his soul, for he had no time for the nourishment of his soul. But whosoever shall give his earthly life in service to the Lord shall be rewarded richly in his soul, provided we are serving the true Lord of heaven and earth, the God of the Bible.
For if, with the help of God the Holy Spirit, we dedicate ourselves to the nourishment of our soul, if we dedicate ourselves to the welfare of our fellow saints, if we dedicate ourselves to studying the Word of God it means we have been regenerated, and God blesses his saints with spiritual blessings here on earth, which means we shall find a full and satisfying life here on earth, and eternal life later.
And what is the first and foremost important thing that we can do?
Listen to what the Lord Jesus commands us in Matthew 28:19-20,
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
And before we close, let us carefully note what the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 16:27, “And then He shall reward every man according to His works”.
Is this supporting the doctrine of special rewards given for good works done in this life?
This is not a reward to every man according to man’s works, but according to Christ’s work. This is His work. It is only through Christ’s work that we can look forward to the wonderful gift of grace that is called eternal life with Christ in the New Heaven & New Earth.
By Alfred Chompff
Friday, April 11, 2008
The subject matter at hand is that of “Forgiveness”; which is God forgiving man, and man forgiving his fellow man. Of course the most important aspect of all this business of forgiving is whether forgiveness has taken place vertically, and a lesser important aspect is that of forgiving horizontally. And thus, what we want to know is in the title of this article: What is “The Evidence of Having Been Forgiven?”
What is the evidence that God has indeed forgiven all my sins?
And of course you can guess where I am heading for the answer to this question. Somehow I have to relate this to the faith that God has given me. Let us look at the background for this intriguing question
Peter’s Question (Matthew 18:21-22, Revelation 13:8)
Peter came to the Lord with a question that concerned him personally. We read in Matthew 18:21,
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
This question of Peter was prompted by Jesus’ teaching in verses 15-17 that within the church a man must do all that is in his power to save his brother who trespasses against him. And I am stressing “within the church”, for that is what these words refer to.
When we read, “my brother”, we understand that this refers to a brother or a sister in Christ. If we would be living 200 years ago then I could possibly count alot of members of Christian churches (not Roman Catholic or arminian churches, but Christian churches) my brothers and sisters in Christ.
But today we live in a time of great apostacy. And so, when any stranger tells me that he is a Christian, I run from him, for the majority of people today who call themselves Christian are bearing the name of the Lord in vain. When I remember what God is warning us for in Revelation 13:8, then I must be aware that the majority of the churches today have been deceived by Antichrist.
And so, the only brothers or sisters in Christ we have today are those in our own local church, for here are people who listen to and believe the true Gospel. In addition there are some outside our local church whom I personally know, and they too are my brothers and sisters in Christ. These are the brothers referred to in this passage and in the parable following. This chapter deals primarily with relationships between “brothers in Christ”; it is not concerned with “our neighbor”.
The question of “Who is my neighbor?” comes up in another chapter, but not here. We must listen carefully to the words that are used, so that we will learn to focus, rather than have our mind scattered all over the Bible. Peter asked this question because he thought he was very generous in forgiving his brother in Christ seven times. But the answer the Lord Jesus gave was, “No, not 7 times but 70 X 7 times, which is 490 times”. This means that we must not be like the legalists who are counting until the number of times my brother has sinned against me has reached 490, and then they stop forgiving. “The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life”.
The spirit of Jesus’ answer was, “Keep forgiving, for long before you reach 490 you will lose count”. There is no limit to the number of times we forgive our brother in Christ. Therefore, the basis of this rule that Jesus gave is that we must love one another, for without love our faith is vain, and we are still in an unregenerate state.
Now this forms the background for the parable that follows.
First the Lord Jesus answered Peter’s question directly, which is unusual if we consider the answers of Jesus throughout the New Testament. But then the Lord gave the reasons for His answer in the form of a parable. This is not a historical event, but is truly a parable with a focus on forgiveness, and so we should not try to squeeze a works gospel out of the details of this parable. Remember what the Lord said in Matthew 13; a parable is understood only by the saints, for to the unregenerate mind parables are confusing. So, let us read now about:
The Mercy of God (Matthew 18:23-27, 1 Samuel 2:8, Isaiah 55:9, Matthew 9:36, 14:14)
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain King, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
The Lord Jesus starts out this parable with the word “Therefore”, or “For this reason”. And so, we see that this parable must refer to the rule of forgiveness that the Lord stated in the previous verse. When the Lord stated “The kingdom of heaven is like”, He indicated thereby that these are truly events that take place in the church, which is the earthly manifestation of the kingdom of heaven. All members of a church have been sanctified, which does not mean saved but set apart for service to God.
All people in a church have been given in loan a wealth of spiritual and physical things. To us is committed the calling of using all these things to God’s glory and in His service. These things over which we are placed are never ours, but they belong to God, who is the King in this parable. We are given the responsibility to use them for the King’s benefit. This is a daily debt we owe to God, and in this we fall short every day, which is sin. And thus we steal from God by not using the resources that He has entrusted to us.
And so we can see that we easily can accumulate an enormous debt. The Lord Jesus stated this debt as 10,000 talents, which actually has the value of 10,000 years of wages, for a talent was the wage of a laborer for one year. The Lord could just as well have stated that this debt was 100 million talents, for if we would attempt to pay the debt that we owe to God we would have to spend more than 100 million years in Hell; in fact it would require an eternity in Hell to pay our debt in full. And thus we understand that this debt is so great that it is absolutely unpayable.
Moreover, even if we would repent and dedicate our life from this moment forward we still have to pay our past debt, and we cannot even pay our current bills for we find it impossible to love God with all our heart and soul and mind every minute and every second of the day. And thus we daily increase our debt to God, for daily we fall short of giving Him all the honor and the glory.
This then is our condition before God bestows His mercy on us. And thus we see here in this passage how infinite the mercy of God is when He shows His forgiveness.
Do you know the definition of mercy?
Mercy is God withholding what we do deserve. We deserve an infinity in Hell. When God has mercy on us He withholds from us this penalty of Hell. And that is a great blessing in itself, for if we do not have to go to Hell, then we can look forward to a life hereafter of no suffering at all. That is wonderful but this is not the whole story.
Mercy takes us out of the Bottomless Pit and lifts us up to ground zero. But God also pours His grace upon those on whom He delights to show mercy.
Do we all remember the definition of grace?
Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve.
What do we not deserve?
We do not deserve to go to heaven and be in God’s presence forever. But God takes us up out of the Bottomless Pit by bestowing mercy on us, and then He also bestows His grace upon us; which means He lifts us up from the Bottomless Pit to ground zero (that is mercy), and He takes us from ground zero and lifts us up higher than the angels and makes us sons of God. That is grace, and that is how great the mercy and grace of God is for those whom He loves. That is why God says in 1 Samuel 2:8,
1 Samuel 2:8
He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne (singular) of glory: for the pillars of the earth are the LORD’S, and he hath set the world upon them.
We are those poor, for we have nothing to offer to God, for all our works are tainted with sin. We are those beggars, for we are begging God for His mercy, for we do not want to go to Hell. But it is God who has softened our hearts, and it is God who has put these prayers for mercy within us, for it is God who delights in mercy so that He has from before the foundation of the world ordained that we should ask for mercy; and it is God who sent the Lord Jesus Christ into the world to save us from our sins and from the consequences of our sins, and it is God who through Christ has bestowed His mercy and grace upon us, so that through Christ’s purchase of us He has made us accepted by the Father as the Bride of Christ and as sons of God.
Can we now get some appreciation of the infinite mercy and grace that God has for those He has chosen to be His people?
Truly as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and His thoughts higher than our thoughts.
His mercy is incomprehensible. Let us now turn our eyes to Matthew 18:27. You remember that I said we have been given in loan a wealth of spiritual and physical things which we are obligated to use in the service of God. The last word of Matthew 18:27 is a Greek word that is not used anywhere else in the Bible, but that word says actually “loan”, not debt. The nature of a loan is that we have to pay it back not immediately, but much later. This servant accumulated a loan which he had to repay later when his body has died, and when he has stood before Christ as the Judge and has been found guilty of still having to pay his loan.
The Lord very carefully chose His words in this parable. Nowhere in this parable is the Lord using a word that would absolutely imply salvation. When we read in Matthew 18:27 the three words “moved with compassion”, it does not necessarily mean that the Lord saved that servant. These three words in English are actually one word in the Greek, which is also used in Matthew 9:36, and in Matthew 14:14, where we find that the Lord Jesus was moved with compassion for the multitudes. Certainly Jesus did not save everyone in the multitude, but it means that He had pity on the multitude, for they were as sheep having no shepherd.
Within this context of mercy and grace, we would like to know: On whom does God bestow His mercy?
God’s Mercy and Grace on Jacob (Numbers 23:19-21, Galatians 6:16, Luke 1:33, John 1:13, Matthew 1:21)
We are now going to look at Numbers 23:19. This is the story of the wicked soothsayer Balaam who was asked by the king of Moab to curse the nation of Israel. But God spoke to Balaam at night and told him that God would put His words in Balaam’s mouth, for God did not want the nation of Israel to be cursed by anyone. And so, when Balak took Balaam to the top of a high mountain where he could see the entire multitude of Israel, and Balak asked him to pronounce a curse on Israel, out of Balaam’s mouth came wonderful blessings on Israel. We read in Numbers 23:19,
God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent: hath He said, and shall He not do it? or hath He spoken, and shall He not make it good?
Numbers 23:20 Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and He hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.
Numbers 23:21 He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath He seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.
What are we to understand when we read, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob”?
Many of us have been taught in previous churches that when we read about “Jacob” in the Bible it must always refer to the physical descendants of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham.
But is this really so?
We know for sure that only a remnant from the nation of the Jews will be saved, just like only a remnant of the Gentiles will be saved, for this is the teaching of Romans 11 and of Galatians 4.
And those who will be saved will have all their sins forgiven, past, present, and future sins, and they will be in the sight of God as righteous as Christ Himself, even while they still live on this earth. When God says, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob” it means that the group of people whom God calls “Jacob” are either a part of or represent all the elect whom God intends to save, for those in whom God does not see iniquity are absolutely those whose sins have been forgiven, and who have been saved.
The doctrine of the 1000 year reign of Christ with the Jews evangelizing the world is a serious error on the part of those of the premillennial persuasion. Here in Numbers 23:21 the saved people called Jacob are the same saved people who are called Israel in the same verse, which is not referring to the nation of Israel, but to the Israel of God according to Galatians 6:16. And so, the fact that God calls the elect Jacob as well as Israel is a totally new concept for many of us. And we wonder if this is substantiated in the New Testament.
In Luke 1:33 the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a virgin named Mary, to tell her that God has bestowed on her the honor of becoming the mother of Jesus, the promised Messiah, the Son of God. And then the Angel Gabriel adds, “And the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David”. And then follow the words of Luke 1:33:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Christ shall reign over a people that are called “the house of Jacob”. If this means only the physical descendants of Jacob, then Christ is not ruling over us, for most of us are not physical descendants of Jacob. But that is not possible, for Christ rules over all those who have put their trust in Him. Therefore, in Luke 1:33 the name Jacob refers to Christ and all those who are in Christ; not a portion only who are physical descendants of Jacob. We must always keep in mind that God says in John 1:13, “Not of blood” indicating that no one can claim a special relationship to God for being a descendant of one of His favorite people of the past.
This rule also may not be violated. We can look at Luke 1:33 with similar eyes as we look at Matthew 1:21, where the Angel said to Joseph, “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins”.
Who are we to understand “His people” are?
If His people refers to only the Jews, then Jesus did not save me from my sins, for I am not a physical descendant of Jacob. Therefore, just like we must understand that “His people” in Matthew 1:21 refers to all the elect, so we must understand that “the house of Jacob” in Luke 1:33 refers to all the elect.
Let us now return to the parable in Matthew 18:23-27, where we see God’s infinite mercy on display. We must always keep in mind that God does not grant His mercy by just some hand waving. And for this we are infinitely grateful; for if God could forgive sins by just some hand waving, then He also could retract from this obligation by just some hand waving. But this is not the God whom we are serving. Our God is infinitely righteous. And:
God’s Righteousness Must Be Satisfied (Isaiah 53:10-12, Acts 3:18)
For the most part, Isaiah 40 through Isaiah 66 contains doctrines that are immediately applicable to the New Testasment time.
In Isaiah 53 God gives us various pictures of the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. God’s righteousness must be satisfied for every sin that He forgives to mortal man. The penalty for each sin must be paid in full. We are not able to pay such a great penalty, for it would take us an infinite time in Hell to pay for even one sin. But Christ is able to pay such a great penalty without being consumed in the process, for the man Christ Jesus has been united with God the Son, the second Person of the Triune God.
He must be a man, for only as a man can He substitute for another man. He must be God also, for only if He has the strength of God can He endure the penalty for sins, which require the equivalent of an eternity in Hell. And thus, when Christ paid the penalty for our sins He suffered this payment in His humanity, in His human body and soul, but especially in His soul, for man’s sins are registered in his soul, but He endured this payment with the strength of God.
And since He was united with God the Son into one Person, it was not possible that He would fail in His attempt to satisfy the righteousness of God for the payment for our sins. God entirely orchestrated this event of Christ’s atoning work for us on the cross, for God says in Acts 3:18, “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled”.
And so, we read here in just one of the prophets how much Christ had to suffer for our sins.
Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, for God delights in mercy, and only if Christ would pay for people’s sins is God able to exercise His mercy. And therefore, it is the pleasure of the Lord that shall prosper in Christ’s hand. We have a hard time understanding that it was the pleasure of the Lord when Christ’s hands were pierced by cruel nails. We have even less understanding when God says that He shall make the soul of Christ an offering for sin. It means that Christ in His soul endured the wrath of God equivalent to the penalty that we must endure if we would have to pay for our own sins. Only then can we say that the righteousness of God is satisfied. And we actually can see that when Christ on the cross with a loud voice cried out, “It Is Finished!”
What was finished?
He was still hanging on the cross. He still suffered greatly in His body. But the suffering in His soul had ended.
He finished suffering in His soul, and now the suffering in His body is a mere pittance compared to what He had to endure in His soul. And herein we can see the great suffering of Christ in His soul. This is also evident from Isaiah 53:11 where God speaks of the travail of Christ in His soul.
However, when we read in verse 10, “He shall see His seed”, and again in verse 11, “He shall see of the travail of his soul”, we understand that this refers to the promise of His resurrection from the dead. It is the promise that He shall not fail and be successful in all His suffering, for God is with Him to strengthen Him in all that He had to endure. It is a surprise to me that some people have a hard time accepting that Christ had to endure the equivalent of an eternity in Hell.
When we think of the substitution that God promised in Genesis 3:15, and when we also think of the righteousness of God that must be satisfied, how could Christ accomplish a substitutionary payment if it was not a payment that was equivalent to our payment in Hell?
And so, we realize how great the sacrifice of Christ was when He atoned for our sins. This is what God had to do in order to forgive.
The Ungrateful Servant (Matthew 18:28-30)
Let us now return to the parable of Matthew 18:28. We read: the Lord was moved with compassion for that servant, because he was unable to pay back such a great loan. And the Lord released him from the obligation to pay back this loan. Now, notice that this is a parable about forgiveness, a mere money accounting business. It is not a parable about salvation, for the Greek words that are used do not imply salvation. This explains the course of events in the remainder of this parable. We read in Matthew 18:28,
But that (same) servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Notice in verse 28, the word “same” is not in the original. The Greek text says simply, “that servant”.
And so, if someone tries to introduce another gospel here, we could reply that in the first part of this parable the servant is representing everyone of mankind, for everyone of us comes before Christ the Judge with a debt that is so great; it is unpayable.
In the second part of the parable we are introduced to a very ungrateful servant who demands that his fellow servant pay him back a small debt, and he has to pay it immediately. The Lord indicates that this debt is equivalent to 100 pennies, or 100 denary, for it represented a laborer’s wage for 100 days of work. It is a debt which easily could be repaid maybe in a year or two years. But it is certainly no reason for throwing the man in jail for such a relatively small debt. Again we should stress that this is not a parable about salvation, but about money, although we can also extend the application to salvation, but then we should screen out those things that strictly speaking are about money.
The Lord Jesus told us this story to show us the lopsided accounts we have vertically and horizontally. Vertically we owe God a great deal. What we owe to God is equivalent to an eternity in Hell. Horizontally, the hurts we receive from our fellow man are by comparison a mere pittance. If we cannot see that, it is because we have no appreciation for the enormous payment that Christ has to make for each one of us whom He wants to save.
And if we have no appreciation for the payment Christ had to make, then we have no appreciation for God’s great salvation that He designed and worked through the Lord Jesus Christ, and that means that we are still in our sins.
For if God has not opened our mind to the beauty of His magnificent salvation program, and if He has not opened our mind to our wretchedness of being slaves of sin and Satan, and if He has not opened our mind to our great need of being saved from our slippery slide into Hell, then we simply have not been saved. And thus the unsaved people of the world, which have no comparison with their vertical debt to God, will be very unforgiving toward their fellow man. But with us who are saved this ought not to be so. Let us read on in this story.
Man’s Ingratitude Must Be Rewarded (Matthew 18:31-34, Proverbs 9:10, Hebrews 2:1-3)
So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their Lord all that was done.
Then his Lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his Lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Now we can see that the Lord is shifting this parable toward salvation issues. This fact is reflected in verse 34 where the Lord delivered him to the tormentors, which is a direct reference to Hell.
When people are judged on the Last Day and are cast into Hell, who is waiting them there?
O Yes, it is Satan and all his demons who are there already, for they do not need an arraignment and a process of justice. The tormentors are Satan and his demons, who hate mankind for they will blame mankind for their suffering. God will delegate the torments in Hell to Satan and his demons.
It is then understandable that God says in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”.
When we have a fear of Hell, it is the beginning of the wisdom that eventually leads to salvation, for the fear of Hell leads us to the fear of God, for it is only God who can cast us into Hell. Here in Matthew 18:6-9 God warns us for this condemnation. And God warns us that if we do not have great respect for His plan of salvation we will be condemned. God says in Hebrews 2:1-3,
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
O Yes. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation”?
For if we are so unforgiving toward our brothers in Christ, then we show by our conduct that we have no appreciation for what Christ has done to save us from our sins. And if we neglect to appreciate the cross of Christ, if we spurn the love of God for mankind, if we count the blood of Christ an unholy thing, then we have trampled under foot the Son of God and we must face the fact that we have no faith, and no fear of Hell.
The Evidence of Forgiveness (Matthew 18:35, James 2:26, 1 Corinthians 13:2-3)
What is the evidence that God has forgiven all our sins?
What is the evidence that God has saved us?
Of course, the first evidence is that we have received faith so that we believe the Gospel that Christ has suffered and died for us.
But don’t we read in James 2:26 that faith without works is dead, for it is not a faith that is given by God?
Remember the focus of this parable:
How often shall I forgive my brother in Christ?
The answer is:
You must forgive him indefinitely, without limitations, for this is what we are called to do based on our appreciation for how much Christ has done for us and how little the offense is by my brother in Christ. The Lord Jesus said in Matthew 18:35,
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Do we love our brethren in Christ?
If that is so, why then do we act as if we do not love them?
Christ commands us to love our brethren in Christ. If we do not love them we are violating His commands and we show by our actions that our salvation is in question. I did not invent this. God says in 1 Corinthians 13:2-3,
1 Corinthians 13:2
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
1 Corinthians 13:3
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
Does this not mean that we, in our love for our brethren in Christ, must forgive our brother what he might have done to us without knowing that he has hurt us?
And so, what is the evidence that we have been forgiven?
The evidence is that we want to do all those things that are pleasing in God’s sight, and that includes forgiving our brothers in Christ.
Why Is It So Difficult For Us to Forgive? (Matthew 18:15-17, Ephesians 4:32, Romans 14:4, Matthew 6:14-15)
We are not sure what to do about it. We do not know where to begin. But the Lord tells us here in:
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
And so, because we have an issue with brethren in the church, we get help from the church. And notice the last words of verse 17, “let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican”. And thus from these words we can see that we are dealing with outsiders differently than we are dealing with our brethren in Christ. The Bible speaks in many places about this same thing, that we must be in a loving relationship with our brethren in Christ, especially in our local church, for the saints need this loving fellowship.
For example we read in Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you”.
And thus the main point of the parable is clear. If we experience the forgiveness of God for the sins that we commit against Him, we will surely forgive our fellow saints also. When we experience the wonder that God has forgiven us, then this can only fill us with awe and thanksgiving.
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed. And His mercy is completely undeserved. God does not need to forgive us. He is not under obligation to forgive us our sins. He could just as well have chosen someone else in our place, someone who is more forgiving than we are. Let us consider these things and be grateful that He did not pass us by when He paid the penalty for our sins.
And when we are inclined to pass judgment on someone who is our brother in Christ, let us remember that God said in Romans 14:4, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand”.
And when it comes to forgiving others outside the church, let us remember that the Lord also wants us to have peace in the world, and not be eaten up by grudges against others. God says in Matthew 6:14-15,
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
This command we have from Him who made us for His glory. Let us then do all things to His glory, and let us forgive our fellow man from the heart. What goes on in our heart is what counts. Not theatrics of the world, not waiting till the other party repents, but forgive them from the heart, and drop it.
By Alfred Chompff
In this article we will take a good look at Matthew 15.
We see almost in every chapter of Matthew that God does not favor the Jews any more as a favorite nation, but God is now reaching out to all the world with a Gospel of grace alone. And here in chapter 15 we shall see the second and the third withdrawal of the Lord Jesus away from the land of the Jews. Let us now read Matthew 15, beginning at verse 1.
And the first question that comes up is this:
Who Are Our Enemies? (Matthew 15:1-9, Mark 7:1-13)
Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death. But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
What do we see here?
The leaders of the Jews had come all the way from Jerusalem to Jesus; walking a distance of about 80 miles.
What was their purpose?
They wanted to attack Christ and His disciples. We see in this chapter the enmity of the leaders of the Jews against the Lord Jesus Christ, whereas a Gentile woman shows her faith and trust in Christ. What a contrast!
And who arranged this confrontation by enemies and friends?
Did the Devil do that?
God did that. The sovereign Lord gave the leaders of the Jews the desire to meet Jesus, for the Lord wanted to give His disciples a special training in recognizing who are their enemies, and who are their friends.
And what do we read here?
First the Lord is here accusing the scribes and Pharisees of transgressing the commandment of God by overriding it with one of their traditions.
Why did the Lord focus on this particular sin of not honoring our father or our mother?
He did this to show that the evidence of our love for God is our love for our father and mother. It is a dreadful thing if we do not have the proper respect for our father or mother, for then we have not accepted God’s authority in choosing these parents for us. Secondly, the Lord focuses on the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, for they have invented a rule that served them well, but that violated the commandment of God, and thus they have made the Word of God a thing that can be disputed.
This was how sin came into the world, by Satan whispering into the ears of the woman, “Yea, hath God said?” And as soon as we begin to debate with Satan, we have already lost the battle, for Satan is much smarter than we are. The Pharisees established a law that seemed so holy, apparently for the service of God, but it served only their own selfish desires. Let us now continue to read Matthew chapter 15. And the next question we are faced with is this:
Who Are the Plants that Shall Be Rooted Up? (Matthew 15:10-20, 13:37-39, Mark 7:14-23, Psalm 58:3, Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-12, Ephesians 2:1-3)
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.
Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.
This was a hilarious situation: The scribes and Pharisees were privately attacking the disciples, for they were afraid to attack Jesus openly. But Jesus turned around and called the multitude. It was as if He was saying, “Hear ye! Hear ye!” And then Jesus proceeded to openly make fun of the religious rulers by telling the multitude a parable about the ridiculous tradition of their religious rulers.
The Lord Jesus was purposely offending them. And then the Lord used this occasion to state a few important doctrines. First, the Lord restated the sovereignty of God in choosing whom He will save; like He did so in the second parable of Matthew 13. As you remember in Parable of the Wheat and the Tares the Lord declared in Matthew 13:37-39 that the wheat was sown by Christ, and the tares were sown by the Devil. God will only save the wheat. The tares are burnt in Hell. And this teaching is clearly what the Lord Jesus had in mind when He said in Matthew 15:13, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up”.
Now, this is a doctrine which may also rattle your cage. I cannot help it. I did not say this; the Lord Jesus Christ said this. We must simply believe everything He has said, for He is the Word of God, and believing it is the faith God has given to all those He intended to save.
Secondly, the Lord indicated that things you eat do not defile a person. You may eat rattlesnakes or termites if you want. You may eat with dirty hands if you want, and thereby risk that you ingest a parasite. This may be stupid, but it does not make you defiled in the sight of Almighty God. What does make you stink in the nose of God is what comes out of your heart. For out of the heart come “evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, and blasphemies”. And some of us may say in our heart, “But I do not do those horrible things”. Let me assure you that in God’s opinion we were doing those horrible things, for God says in Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies”.
And God says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
And God says in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one”.
And God says in Ephesians 2:1-3, “And you who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others”.
You see, the Bible says that everyone, as soon as we are born, we produce evil, and from there it only gets worse every day. This world does not produce good people and bad people. All people start out their life as bad people. Therefore, when God brings us the message of salvation, He brings us the Gospel, which means “the Good News”.
A plan of salvation that does not start with the sinfulness of man is a false gospel. Preachers of such a gospel are the plants that shall be rooted up, and be cast into Hell. Let us now continue with the main theme of this sermon. The next question is:
Who Are Our Friends? (Matthew 15:21-28, 10:5-6, 14:13, Mark 7:24-30)
Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
We see here the second withdrawal of the Lord Jesus, away from the land of the Jews. But His fame has spread far beyond the land of the Jews, Judea and Galilee. Jesus went to the land of the Phoenicians. This is why the woman in the Gospel of Mark is called a Syrophenician woman, for the neighboring region was called Syria. And in this woman we see what the friends of Jesus look like.
Now verse 24 confronts us with a puzzling question:
What business did Jesus have in the land of the Gentiles if He came specifically for the house of Israel?
We have seen this problem before in Matthew 10:5-6 where Christ says, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”.
Did the disciples know who the lost sheep of the house of Israel were?
They assumed that Jesus meant the Jews. But the words “lost sheep” means that they will be found.
But only a small, fraction of the Jews came to believe, and thus how could the disciples know which people are going to believe, for they are the lost sheep of the house of Israel?
As a matter of fact, this was the second time that Jesus withdrew from the land of the Jews and He went to the land of the Gentiles. The first time was in Matthew 14:13, where Jesus “departed thence by ship into a desert place apart”, where He healed all those who were sick, both Jews and Gentiles. From there He went to the land of Gennesaret, which was also a Gentile country, and where He healed all those who were diseased, both Jews and Gentiles.
And now He was in the land of the Phoenicians, and there He healed only one person, which was the daughter of the woman who besieged Him, and then He left that country.
And so, what business did Jesus have in the land of the Phoenicians?
He came specifically to meet the Syrophenician woman and to heal her daughter. And so, we sense that in God’s terminology there is a great deal more hidden in the words “the house of Israel”. We must remember that we are now entering into the secrets of New Testament terminology.
And so, continuing on the words of Matthew 15:24, let us ask ourselves another question:
Who Is the New Testament House of Israel? (Matthew 15:24, 2:15, 2 Peter 1:21, Hebrews 8:8-10, Acts 2:36)
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
So far, we know already five meanings of the name “Israel”.
First, Jacob was named Israel when He wrestled with God at the Jabbok River.
Secondly, all the descendants of Jacob when they came out of Egypt were called Israel.
Thirdly, when the kingdom of Solomon was split the northern kingdom was called Israel.
Fourthly, When the northern kingdom was destroyed by the Assyrians a remnant fled into Judah, and for about 100 years the southern kingdom was called Judah as well as Israel.
Fifthly, when the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity in 458 BC the nation was called Israel. But now, in the New Testament, we have to add two more meanings to the name Israel.
Sixthly, we have seen from Matthew 2:15 that the Lord Jesus is also called Israel. Seventhly, since God teaches us in the New Testament that all those whom He came to save were “in Christ” from before the foundation of the world, we must conclude that all those who are “in Christ” are also called Israel.
And thus, when we read in the Bible about “the house of Israel”, we must let the context define which of the seven meanings is in view. And since the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, we must go back into the Old Testament and reinterpret all those places where we see types and figures of the New Testament Israel. We will not do that now, but I would like us to be familiar with a number of verses in the New Testament where God is redefining the concepts of “New Testament Israel”, and “New Testament Jews”, and “His people”, and “Mount Sion”, and “New Jerusalem”.
First of all, we must solidly come to grips with the fact the Bible is the Word of God.
God speaks in 2 Peter 1:21 about the Bible being the inerrant Word of God. The purpose of the Bible is not to make people more sociable toward one another. The purpose of religion is not to make this earth a more hospitable place. The purpose of knowing Jesus is not so that we may love one another. But the purpose of the Bible is to know God, so that we may know what Christ has done to let us have peace with God, so that we may escape the condemnation of Hell that is upon the whole human race, for “God is angry with the wicked every day” (Psalm 7:11). Let us hear now what first step God has done to allow us to make peace with Him, from 2 Peter 1:21,
2 Peter 1:21
For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
In other words, God says here that the entire Old Testament, or more properly speaking, the entire Bible which is called “the prophecy”, did not come out of the minds of men, but holy men of God spoke and wrote the words that God the Holy Spirit inspired them to write. All the words of the Bible, as written in the original Greek and Hebrew, are words from God. And thus we may not call God a liar by claiming that two passages contradict each other. If we do find those apparent contradictions, the fault is not with God but with us; with our interpretation of these verses. This is very important; your salvation depends on it.
What has God done for His people when the Old Testament turned into the New Testament , when Christ died on the cross?
Who are now His people?
When we read Hebrews 8:8-10 we understand that in moving from the Old Testament to the New Testament God made a change in His definition of who are the people of His covenant. We read in Hebrews 8:8-10,
For finding fault with them (referring to Old Testament Israel), he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:
In other words, God is done with Old Testament Israel, and now He has a new covenant with New Testament Israel, which consists of all those for whom Christ died, which is a remnant from the Gentiles as well as from the Jews. And God specified here what the nature is of these New Testament Israelites. God says: “I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people”.
In other words, God will do the drawing, and God will change their hearts, and they shall be the people of God. God is totally sovereign in all His actions. Now we can also understand the words at the end of the first sermon of Peter when he concluded in Acts 2:36, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ”.
Let all the house of Israel know this that God has made that same Jesus Lord. But who came to believe that Jesus is Lord?
Only those who became saved believed this. The majority of the nation of Israel remained in unbelief. And yet God says, “Let all the house of Israel know this”. And so, here again the expression “all the house of Israel” refers to all those whom God intended to save. These new concepts trigger a load of questions. For example, we can now ask the question:
How Does God View His People in the New Testament? (Romans 2:25,28-29, 10:1-2, 9:6, Galatians 6:16, Romans 11:26-27, Galatians 4:25, Matthew 8:12, John 1:13, Matthew 15:24, 1:21)
In Romans 2 God introduces us to the pride of the nation of Israel, who were proud that they were children of Abraham. They believed that they without fail would enter into God’s presence, because they were His favorite people. In other words, they were saved from birth; they did not need a Savior. But God says to them:
For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision.
In other words, “You believe that as long as you adhere to the Law, and are circumcised, you are in the covenant that God made with Abraham. Forget it! In the next five minutes you will be a breaker of the Law, and then your circumcision is made uncircumcision. Then you are no longer a Jew in My sight, but are like an uncircumcised Gentile”. And then God defines who in His sight are truly Jews:
For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
In other words, God’s New Testament definition of who are Jews in His sight is a matter of the heart, and not a matter of literal descendancy from Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. You must be circumcised in the heart, and this is something only God can do for you.
In Romans 10, God again lays down the principle that His definition of New Testament Israel is different from that of Old Testament Israel. The greater part of the nation of Israel remains in unbelief; therefore they are not saved.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge.
Now harmonize this with Romans 9 where we read, “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel”.
In other words, they who belong to the nation of Israel do not all belong to the Israel of God, whom God mentions in Galatians 6:16.
Let us now look at a puzzling verse in Romans 11.
Many people read in here that God will save the entire nation of Israel so that they will serve Him in the future millennium. But that is not at all what the New Testament is teaching us. In the previous verse God speaks about a time when “the fulness of the Gentiles be come in”. But this is at the end of time when God is finished bringing in all those whom He intended to save. We read in:
And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
God says here: in this manner shall all the Israel of God be saved, which is the Israel consisting of the remnant both from the Jews as well as from the Gentiles. For, verse 27 says, they who are in the covenant are they whose sins Christ has paid on Calvary. In Romans 11:26 God is not at all speaking of the nation of Israel. In fact, God states unambiguously that the nation that prides itself in being the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are in the eyes of God no longer children of Abraham.
In Galatians 4, God speaks here about the historical event that Abraham fathered a child with his concubine Hagar. Then God says that He used this situation to show a picture of two covenants that are in force at the present time. The covenant of grace, which is God’s covenant with saved people, is represented by Sarah. On the other hand, those who are in the grip of the Devil are in another covenant, which is represented by Hagar. We read in:
For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
“Jerusalem which now is” refers to present day national Israel. The irony is that national Israel believes that they are descendants of Sarah. But God says here that they are descendants of Hagar, for they do not believe in Christ but in the Law of Moses which was given on Mount Sinai in Arabia. And here God states their condition, when He says, “Jerusalem which now is, is in bondage with her children”.
To be in bondage means to be in bondage to sin and Satan. They are in a covenant, but it is not a covenant that saves; rather they are in a covenant that leads them to Hell. Even stronger are the words of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 8:12, where He says, “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth”.
In other words, those who think that they are in the kingdom of God, because they put their trust in being descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, shall be cast out into outer darkness, which is a reference to Hell. And so we have seen that the New Testament is abundantly clear that no one goes to heaven on the coattails of their father or their forefather. And this so beautifully agrees with the statement in the Gospel of John 1:13 where God says, “not of blood”.
No one is saved because of their blood descendancy. And so, when the Lord Jesus says in Matthew 15:24, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, He spoke of the fact that “He came to save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), which means He came to atone for the sins of only those who are His people, and no one else.
We will now turn to Matthew 15, where the Lord Jesus called the woman a dog. We want to know:
Who Are Dogs? (Matthew 15:26-27, 7:6, Mark 7:27-28, Philippians 3:2-3, Psalm 22:16)
Why did Jesus call her a dog?
And who are called dogs in the Bible?
When we search the Old Testament we do not find anywhere that the Gentiles are referred to as dogs. This was a tradition that was ingrained into the lives of the nation of Israel, so that they would not intermingle with the Canaanites or with any other heathen nation.
But why did Jesus use this tradition?
He did it for a purpose, but in the end of the story we see that He completely abandoned that concept.
When we search the Bible for the spiritual meaning of dogs, we find some interesting associations. In the Bible certain people are represented as dogs. And the dogs in the Bible are ferocious animals which bite and devour human flesh. We read in Matthew 7:6,
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Here we see one aspect of the dogs in the Bible. These are the same people who are called swine.
And what is that which is holy?
It is the Gospel of salvation.
And what do the pearls represent?
Like-wise they represent the Gospel unto salvation. But in order to evaluate whether someone is in the category of dogs or swine, we need to make a judgment. It means that the first verse in this chapter is not an absolute command. And so, we need to know how we can recognize these dogs.
In the Bible the sect of the Pharisees has shown themselves to be fierce enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Their disciples hunted the apostle Paul relentlessly and they preached among the new Christian converts that if they would not obey the Law of Moses they could not be saved. And so, they tried to persuade the new Christians of Galatia that they must be circumcised.
Here in Philippians 3:2-3 the apostle Paul warned the church for these Judaizers.
Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision. For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
“Beware of the concision”, which means “beware of the mutilation”. They try to convert you back into the works gospel of the nation of the Jews by obeying the ceremonial law. They are trying to make Jewish proselytes out of believing Gentiles. But the apostle warns them, and he warns us, “We are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit”.
We are the real Jews in the eyes of God, and not these Judaizers whose eyes and ears are closed to the true Gospel. And so, through the pen of the apostle Paul God calls these Judaizers “dogs”.
We now move on to Psalm 22.
Although this is a psalm of David, we know that king David was a prophet, which means that God gave him additional insight into the sufferings of Christ on the cross. We have here a Messianic Psalm, which means that this is one of the prayers of Jesus. From Psalm 22:1 we know that this was a prayer of Jesus when He was on the cross. And then we read in Psalm 22:16,
For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.
Who did compass the Lord Jesus when He hung on the cross?
It was the priests and Pharisees who came to ridicule Him while He hung there in shame and agony. And God calls them dogs. These are the people we should remember to apply in Matthew 7:6. We should not give them the Gospel. We should not welcome them to our church, for their intent is to tear our church apart. Let us turn again to Matthew 15:26-28, where we see that the Lord Jesus called this woman a dog. But now we know that she did not fall into the category of the sect of the Pharisees. The Lord used this terminology to humble her, for this is God’s methodology in getting anyone saved. He first humbles us.
Who Does the Woman Represent? (Matthew 15:26-28, Ephesians 2:8, Mark 7:29-30)
But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
This woman does not have a name. This is a big clue that she represents anyone who becomes saved. This woman represents anyone of us. She was a heathen Gentile, and so were we before we became saved. She besieges the Lord on behalf of her daughter, and so did we besiege the Lord on behalf of someone we love, and we wanted that person to be healed, but especially to be spiritually healed. This woman did not ask for physical healing of her daughter. She asked for the Devil to be cast out of her daughter. If someone is unsaved, that person is essentially possessed by Satan. It takes the power of God to free such a person from the power of the Devil. And so she besieges the Lord Jesus, recognizing that He alone can do it. Look how she addresses Him in verse 22, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David”. The title “Son of David” shows that she believed that He was the promised Messiah.
But then the Lord Jesus said, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs”. But listen how she takes this humiliation. Paraphrased she says, “True Lord, but I am one of your dogs. Let me just have the crumbs that the children spill from the Master’s table”.
You see, this is the response of someone whom the Lord has regenerated. Most people would turn away in anger. But she persists in besieging the Lord on behalf of her daughter. And from this we can see that the Lord has already saved her. He has already softened her heart. She has come broken before the Lord, for He was her last resort. There was simply no other option. And this is how God saves people most of the time. He sends disaster into our life, which gives us the impression as if our life has come to an end. And then we give up our pride, and our belief that we can determine our own future. We stop trusting in our own capabilities, and we are willing to listen to what He tells us from the Bible.
Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
Now the key is that we start listening to the Bible, the Word of God. Christ is the Word of God. He alone is the one who can help us in our need. For only when we turn to the Bible are we addressing the true God of the universe. Only then shall we be heard. For if we pray to another god, we are only inviting Satan to accommodate us, and we do not want to return to him again. And so, we will not be stuck up in pride claiming that we have conjured up some faith.
The Bible says in Ephesians 2:8 that true faith is a gift from God. And so, we will be eternally grateful to God for giving us faith, and for giving us salvation by grace through that faith.
By Alfred Chompff