The Principles of Reconciliation (03): The Kingdom and the Power
The Principles of Reconciliation (03): Kingdom and the Power
Matthew 18:18–35 - “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven . . .Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” . . . 18:32 “Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 18:33 ‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’ 18:34 “And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. 18:35 “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”
1) The Power of Reconciliation is Realized by the Church in Kingdom Power. We often use this passage (“binding and loosing”) to refer only to the excommunication results of Church discipline. But the context makes clear the goal and purpose of reconciliation. Even with those that cannot “listen to the church” (v 17), they are simply to be treated as a Gentile or Tax Collector. But how did Jesus treat Gentiles and Tax Collectors after all? He surely cannot be saying, treat them the way unbelieving Pharisees treat them. The “binding” and “loosing” here is the power of absolution or excommunication. But this is not a vindictive power of judgment. The kingdom of heaven’s (v 23) power is present for the purpose of reconciliation, yet there are those who simply will not “hear” forgiveness and peace. It is the Church’s power collectively. This power may be administered through the officers of the Church, but it is the power of the kingdom resident (not in the Elders or Session), but in the Church.
2) The Kingdom Power of Reconciliation Rests in Rejoicing in Our Forgiveness. The last parable of the chapter makes the goal of forgiveness unto reconciliation abundantly clear, as well as the horrible consequences of failing to forgive. To Peter’s question of how often is too often for forgiveness, Jesus answers that there should be no limit to the quantity of our willingness to forgive. The illustration makes this point comically. A “slave” owes “myriad” (beyond count) talents. The amount of money is farcical in size. Josephus said that 600 talents in taxes were collected from all of Judea, Idumea, and Samaria in 4 BC. This “slave” owes billions and billions of dollars in our inflated paper currency which his Lord freely forgives. But then, another “slave” owed this forgiven debtor “a hundred denarii” which is 100 days wages, about three to four months pay. But the “forgiven” man “seized him” and “choked” him. Despite the same response of the two debtors, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.” After receiving forgiveness if we do not forgive we can expect our Lord to be “moved with anger” and hand us “over to the torturers until he should repay all...” “My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart” (v 35).
Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D., is the pastor of All Saints Church in Lancaster, PA. He became a committed follower of Jesus Christ at age 20, discipled in the context of a University Navigator Ministry. As a result of personal discipleship he went on to study at Columbia Biblical Seminary (M.A., Columbia, SC, 1990), as well as a Ph.D. in education and philosophy... read more