Forgiveness from the Heart
August 6th, 1967 @ 7:30 PM
IF YE FROM YOUR HEARTS FORGIVE EVERYONE HIS BROTHER
Dr W. A. Criswell
8-6-67 7:30 p.m.
If you will turn in your Bible to the first gospel, the Gospel of Matthew chapter 18, we shall read from verse 21 to the end of the chapter. And if on the radio WRR you are sharing this service with us in the First Baptist Church in Dallas, turn in your Bible and read it out loud with us. The Word of God was written to be read aloud. It is only in this modern day that Bibles were so multiplied that people had them, but in the olden day, the Scripture was read aloud before the people, as Ezra did in the days of the rebuilding of Jerusalem, as the preachers did when they chained the Bible to the pulpit. It was a public service to open God’s word. People did not have books, but the Bible was read aloud, and when we read it aloud, we are doing the intent of God. There is a melody, there is a euphony, there is a rhythm, there is the symphony in the very language of God’s Word, and you will find that in every language under the sun, if it is translated into Hottentot, if it’s translated into Afghan, if it’s translated into Chinese, there is a certain majesty and flow in the Word of God that is incomparable in any other literature of the world. So when we read the Bible out loud, we are reading it as God intended. Now, Matthew 18 beginning at verse 21, all of us reading together:
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.
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 a payment to be made.
The servant therefore fell down, and worshiped 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.
But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, who owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
And the fellow servant 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.
So when his fellow servants 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 compassion on thy fellow servant, 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.
So likewise shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
On Sunday night, I am preaching through the life of Christ. I have been for several years now. I shall continue for several years ahead. It is so slowly done that we hardly have the feeling of movement through the life of our Lord, but, as the incidents come, I am preaching on them, and this one tonight concerns forgiveness from the heart, If Ye From Your Hearts Forgive Everyone His Brother.
Now, in the eighteenth chapter of the first gospel, there is a two-fold presentation of how we are to do when are sinned against, when we are offended. One is in the circle and circumference of the church. There are things that arise among people in the church that hurt and disturb the whole body of our Lord. I don’t meet that so intimately and so poignantly in a large church like this. Some of our families could go out here and literally go to war against one another, and most of us would not be cognizant of it all. I have had leaders of this church go to trial, condemned, be sent to prison, and nobody – it seems to me – in this church know anything about it.
That is the strangest thing, that was one of my first introductions to the Baptist church here in Dallas. When I came here and had been here just a few years, one of the elected leaders in this church was sent to the penitentiary, and I’ve never heard it referred to this present day. That’s the advantage of being in a big church, you can go to jail and nobody will know anything about it. Well, that’s what happened here. But I want you to know when I was pastor of a little church, if somebody didn’t like somebody else’s hat, it was a major crisis, all of the women took part in the argument, and there is no such thing that involves a church as when women begin at one another. Ah, my, it’s an interesting hour; it’s especially for the pastor.
Now, we don’t have that very much in a big church, and that’s one of the advantages of being a member of and being the pastor of a very large congregation. But when we do have it, when we do have it – and I pray we never do – but when we do, we are to settle it, and if these who are in the wrong will not do right, while he is to be unto us as a heathen and as a publican. Now you would say, “Well, that’s means we’re to hate them with an implacable hatred!” No, for if you had the spirit of the Bible at all in your soul, you would pray for those outside of the pale, and grace, and goodness of God. This is just a way that God gave us in this Book to settle when problems arise in the church.
There has never been any trouble in the First Baptist Church in Dallas in the memory of man. Isn’t that an incomparable benediction from heaven? I have been here twenty-three years. There has never been any trouble in this dear church in twenty-three years. Dr. Truett was pastor of this church forty-seven years, and so far as I have been able to learn from men of God who were here with him in those days, there was never trouble in this church in the long ministry of Dr. Truett. That means for seventy years, for seventy years, there has never been any trouble in this church. I think it is nothing other than one of the multitudinous graces of God whereby He has enriched our lives in this precious, and dear, and loved congregation.
Now, when I come to the second part of our Lord as He talks about forgiveness, that is personal. Oh my, oh dear me, oh Lord, how I need a double portion of Thy grace and of Thy Spirit! Loving people you just don’t love, trying to be nice to people you don’t want to be nice to, you want to bite their heads off, you want to say things, and yet we’ve got to be Christian. Well, that’s what He’s talking about now. These things arise, and oh, you get so angry, and oh, you get so frustrated, and oh, you get so offended. Well, what do you do? All right, this is what you do. “Now, Peter came to him, and said Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Now, the background of that question is this: in the Jewish tradition, in the Talmudic laws, and in the all the ways that they were taught, why, it was said this, “You are to forgive your brother three times, but if he sins against you a fourth time, you’re to look upon him with bitter, and unforgiving, and implacable hatred, hostility.” Now, that’s what has been taught.
So when Simon Peter came to the Lord about this question, “Lord, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?” Now, the old Talmudic traditional law said three times, so Simon Peter was going to be very magnanimous and very gracious. “Shall I forgive him seven times, seven times he does me wrong, and shall I forgive him the seventh time?” Then the Lord said unto him, “I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” He takes the two perfect numbers of ten and seven, multiplies them together, that would be seventy, and then he multiplies that together by another seven, and that would make four hundred ninety, four hundred ninety times! Of course, he doesn’t mean four hundred ninety exact times, we’re not to arithmetically cutting off cheese, we are looking at what the Lord meant when He said, “Not seven times, but seventy time seven.” Innumerable times, there’s no limit, no limit. For to the Lord, the spirit of forgiveness is not numbers, but it is spirit, it is heart, it is response, it is the inside of us, it is how we feel, it is how we are.
You have a wonderful illustration of that in the seventh chapter of Book of Luke, the third gospel. The Lord was in Simon the Pharisee’s house for dinner, and in those days when you had a dinner, everybody could come and look at you and watch you. Wouldn’t that be interesting? I tell you, they could comment on what you had, or what you didn’t have, or how fine it was over at the Jones’s house, how very sparse it is over here at the Smith’s. Everybody could come into a banquet and watch the people eat. And as you know, they ate leaning on their left arms, and they ate with their right hand, leaning on their left arms, and as they reclined at the table, why there feet were out this way. So the Lord was eating dinner at the house of Simon the Pharisee, leaning on His left arm, eating with His right, and His feet were out from the table. And while they were eating there and all the villagers, and all of the other Pharisees, and the scribes, and everybody came why, in walked a sinful woman. She had an alabaster box full of ointment, and she bathed his feet with her tears, and she dried his feet with the hair of her head, and she anointed him with that ointment.
Now, while all that was going on, why, Simon the Pharisee, who was the host in the home, he was looking at it, and he said within himself, “This man is no prophet. He’s no prophet. He’s not what He purports to be, because if He were, He would know what kind of a woman that is who is touching Him.” And the Lord knew what Simon was thinking on the inside of his heart, so He said, “Simon, I have some what to say unto thee.” He said, “This woman – when I came into your house, you gave Me no water to wash My feet, and you gave Me no kiss as I entered in welcome. And you were otherwise very reserved, and very aloof, and very proper – but this woman, this woman laden with sins, this woman since I have come and sit down has not ceased to bath My feet with her tears, and to kiss My feet, and to anoint Me with oil, and her sins which are many are forgiven her.” And He said to the woman, “Daughter, arise, go thy way. Thy faith, and love, and commitment have made thee whole.” [from Luke 7:36-50]
Now, what Simon was interested in was condemnation, and what Jesus was interested in was salvation. And I think of that ten thousand times when I think of the church of our Lord. Ah, how easy it is to give yourself to the business of criticism, and condemnation, and judgment. There is plenty of that, and an abundance of that, in this world.
What we need to do is to give ourselves to reclamation, and to redemption, and to salvation. We are not in the condemning business; we are in the soul-saving business. If we can help, call on us. If we can do something to lift up, we want to be there, but we don’t want to go around with supercilious, hyper-piousity, looking down our noses at all other people. I have a hard time sometimes trying to remember that I want to be that way. I don’t live in a worldly atmosphere, and I don’t share in ten thousand things that are compromising and out in the world. Consequently, I have a tendency to look on myself as better than other people, and I have a tendency to think of myself as being exalted above these sinners who live out here in the world, but any part of that feeling that is in me is Pharisaical, it is ungodly, it is un-Christ like, and it is not pleasing to our Lord. My spirit always is to be one of helpfulness. If I can help, God bless me in it. I’m not to be given to cynicism, and sardonic, supercilious, hyper-criticism, but I am to be given to helpfulness, and prayerfulness, and encouragement.
So that was our Lord always. You read His life and see if He was not ever like that. He’d condemn a Pharisee, and He’d condemn a self-righteous soul, but I never find that He is condemning people who are struggling in sin. And you don’t have to worry about the condemnation of sin anyways. Sin bears within its own judgment. You young people, you think, “Oh my, don’t these Hollywood stars shine, and don’t they live in the very height of splendor, and joy, and happiness, having everything?” Well, I am not out there in that life I know, but I tell you this, if I were looking for somebody that was going to take their lives with barbiturates, I believe I would pick out a Hollywood star, and if I were going to pick out a girl who was miserable and unhappy because of the passing of years that were taking away her beauty, I’d pick out a movie queen. Don’t you think that sin, and compromise, and worldliness does not carry with it a tragic condemnation. You don’t need to add to it. You don’t need to add to it. The wages of sin is darkness, and despair, and death, but our part and our assignment is to help. Need somebody to pray? We ought to be somebody who could pray. Need somebody to encourage, somebody to lift up, somebody to help? That’s our business, that’s our assignment.
Well, we must hasten because our Lord illustrated what He was saying here with a wonderful story. He says that the kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, and one of the servants owed him. Now, I want you to look at this. That servant owed him ten thousand talents. A talent was the largest unit of weight in the ancient world, and money was not as our money today. A dollar – you know – used to be silver, now it is zinc and aluminum. For us a dollar was a dollar, but now all that’s gone. Now, we’ve got stuff; we’ve got junk. The paper money that we have is not backed by anything today. Well, in that day the largest unit of weight and of money was the talent, and the talent was all that one man could carry. So, when this man owed ten thousand talents, it’s just astronomical. May I illustrate that? All, at this time when the Lord spoke that, all of the revenue – all of the taxes of Judea, Samaria, Galilee, Perea, and Idumea the whole country over there, all of it amounted to eight hundred talents a year.
Another illustration: in the thirty-sixth chapter of 2 Chronicles, Amaziah the king of Judah, bought one hundred thousand mercenary soldiers – and he paid for them one hundred talents of silver, one hundred talents.
Let’s take another illustration. All of the gold, all of it in the first house of worship, the tabernacle, was less than thirty talents. Now, this man owed ten thousand talents. The very similitude of the story would have been far more natural to us had he said, the man owed him a hundred talents. That would have been an astronomical sum, but ten thousand talents?
Now, the Lord had a reason for saying that, and of course, as you remember this story, this servant who owed ten thousand talents came to the king and said, “I don’t know what I shall do! I don’t know what I shall do, I cannot pay.” Then the king said, “Then I’ll sell you on the auction block, and your wife, and your children.” And the man who got down on his knees before the king and said, “Oh king, remember me and be merciful to me!” And the king had mercy on him, and in his compassion forgave him all of the debt, ten thousand talents. If you had ten thousand men, and every one of them laden with all of the money they can carry, that’s how much he forgave him.
All right, then the story continues, and that same servant of the king, who owed ten thousand talents himself, had a servant that owed him a hundred pence. Now the Greek there is denarii, a denarius was a little coin, and today we would call it a quarter. So that’s if it were silver, if it were brass, it’d be a penny – but let’s say it was silver – a denarius of silver, a little coin about like a quarter, and he owed a hundred of them. Wouldn’t that be twenty-five dollars? A hundred quarters would be twenty-five dollars. This man owed twenty-five dollars. So he came to him and he said, “Pay me what you owe me!” And the man said, “I don’t have any money at all. But you give me opportunity, you give me opportunity, and I’ll pay you that hundred pennies, I’ll pay you that hundred denarii.” And this man wouldn’t allow it. And he seized him, and he said, “You pay me everything that you have, everything that you owe me – twenty-five dollars – or I’m going to put you in prison until you pay it.”
Well, what an astonishing thing! This man who had owed ten thousand talents is now putting in prison a fellow servant who owes him less than twenty-five dollars. Can you imagine such a thing? That’s the story, that’s what Jesus is illustrating. This man who just a moment before was pleading with his voice for compassion now is using that same voice to dodge, and be harsh, and critical, unforgiving, and the very hands that he extended to the king asking for clemency and for time, those same hands now choke this other servant to death. And when the fellow servant saw it, they went to the king and told him, and the king said, “I can’t conceive of such a thing as that, unthinkable thing as that.” And he called that servant and said, “You wicked, wicked servant. I forgave you ten thousand talents. If it were gold, I forgave you a hundred million dollars, and this man owes you less than twenty-five dollars, and yet you seize him, and choke him, and put him in prison.”
Now the Lord says, “That’s you.” God has forgiven us an infinitude of debts. Everyday we sin against Him, everyday, everyday. There’s no day that passes that we do not come short of the glory of our Lord – sins of commission, sins of omission, everyday. And there are times in our lives – in all of our lives – that God especially must forgive us, and we owe our hope for heaven in the forgiveness and the mercy of Jesus. Now He says if God forgives us so much, how and what should be our attitude to that fellow over here or that somebody over there that slights us, or offends us, or does us wrong? Ah, we also are to reflect the Spirit of our Lord, and we are to forgive always, always.
Then, there are three things – and I must hasten with them – that he concludes here. First, when we don’t forgive, when we don’t forgive, we sin against ourselves. We hurt ourselves. We curse ourselves. When we carry with us bitterness, it eats, it corrodes like a cancer in the soul. Get rid of it. “Lord, wash it out of me.” Hate and remembrance of offense and wrong will drag you down. It’s like a dog at your heels. Ask God to help you overcome it. Get rid of it, get it out of your system, take it to God. “Lord, remove it.” Second, it carries a judgment from heaven with us. “And his lord was wroth and delivered him to the tormentors.” It carries a judgment from heaven. God is not pleased with us, and God cannot bless us if we have any of that spirit of hatred, or bitterness, or remembrance of hostility. God must help us arise over it. “Get it out of us, Lord. Wash us from it.” And third, and third, aw, it shuts us out from our Lord. “So likewise shall my heavenly Father, if you do not forgive from your heart everyone that trespasses against you.”
I want to show that to you. All of us are familiar of the parable of the prodigal son. That’s the most famous story in the world, and there are two boys in that parable, and the younger boy was a reprobate. He was a rounder, and he spent his inheritance, he spent his inheritance with harlots, and in riotous living. That’s just about as low down and vile as anybody can be. He was a prodigal boy, down, and down, and down, and down. And of course – as all prodigality leads to – he spent everything that he had, and he was in want. Didn’t I tell you, you didn’t need to worry about the condemnation part of it? Sin, compromise, and worldliness carry with it their own condemnation. You don’t need to worry. You don’t need to go around. Oh, there’s a judgment in it, and it fell upon that boy! And he finally – and to a Jew, could you imagine the depths of the indignity – oh, and he was a feeder of swine. He was feeding the hogs, and was so hungry, that he wanted to eat what the hogs were eating, slop and filth. And aw, that’s as low down as a boy could get.
Well, he had an older brother, and the older brother never transgressed his father’s commandment. When time came to plow, he was out there plowing. When time came to get up, he was up in the morning. And when time came to be nice, he was nice. And when time came to be at the table, he was there. He was an obedient boy, all the way through and all of his life.
Now, that boy out there in the hog pen, came to himself. Now, they don’t all come to themselves, but a lot of them do. That boy came to himself, and he said to himself, “Here I am in the hog pen, and I’m a child of one of the finest fathers and one of the dearest homes in the earth, and here I am starving and in a hog pen. You know what I’m going to do?” that boy said, “I’m going to stand up. I’m going back home, and I’m going to look my father in the face, and I’m going to say, ‘I’m a prodigal, and I’ve wasted my substance, and my inheritance, and my opportunities, but I can see it, and I’ve done wrong. And I don’t want to come back as a son; I want to come back as a hired hand. Just so, Dad, you will let me come back, and I can be here.'” Well, when you see that and when you read that, you can’t help but love that prodigal lad. There was something fine in him. There was something great in him, there was something noble about him. You just feel that way.
Now this other boy, when he heard that his brother had come back, and how his father had received him, why he was mad, and hurt, and offended, and humiliated, and he wouldn’t even go in to welcome his brother back home again, but stayed outside, puffed up, proud, angry. So his father went out to him and said, “Son, you’re ever with me, and all that I have is thine.” Goodness carries with it its own reward, you don’t need to expatiate on it, it just does. “Son, you’ve been an obedient boy, and you’ve worked hard, and you’ve been upright and honest, and all that I have is yours, son, all of it. You deserve it. But son, but my boy, you ought not to be this way about your brother. For this, my boy, my younger boy, was dead, and he’s alive again. He was lost and he’s found. Son, you ought to be glad. You ought to be happy. You ought to forgive.”
That’s God. And when you read the story of those two boys, you kind of feel close to that prodigal, don’t you? But you kind of feel far off before that elder son. Aw, none of that, where people feel pushed away, better than I. No, we’re just kind of all alike – sinners, some of us outside the grace of God, some of us saved by the grace of God, that’s all. And but for the grace of God, we’d all be undone, lost. That’s the goodness of God to us – says the Lord – when God hath forgiven us our ten thousand talents of debt. And that’s how the goodness of God ought to shine in us when we forgive the hundred pennies that somebody might owe us.
Oh, bless me, Lord, as I learn Thy ways and look up to Thee. And bless our dear church. Let it give itself to love, and forgiveness, and prayer, and supplication, seeking God’s help and God’s wisdom; all bitterness, and rancor, and hostility, and remembrance, and grievance taken away from us; Lord, that we might live in the fullness of the goodness of God.
Now we must sing our song of appeal, and while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, one somebody you, to come down this aisle, give the pastor your hand. “Preacher, tonight, I’ve given my heart to the Lord, and here I come. Pastor, I want to put my life in this dear church, and here I come.” As God shall open the door, shall lead in the way, make it tonight. There’s a great host of you in this balcony, there is time and to spare for you to come. On either side there is a stairway at the front and the back, come and stand by me. On this lower floor, into the aisle and down here to the front. “Here I am, pastor. I make it tonight.” Do it for Jesus, for God, for all it shall mean in the richness of His glory in you. Come tonight. Do it tonight, while we stand, and while we sing.
IF YE FROM YOUR HEARTS FORGIVE EVERYONE HIS BROTHER
Dr W. A. Criswell
I. Personal spirit, attitude
A. Number of times we are to forgive
B. Parable, 10,000 talents
II. Blessed are the merciful
III. When we are harsh, demanding, unmerciful, critical
A. We curse ourselves
B. We shut ourselves out from God
C. We face the judgment