October 10, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Friday after Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 119:145-160, 2 Kings 1:1-17, 1 Tim. 2:1-10
Evening – Psalm 119:161-176, Job 39:19, Mt. 18:15

Commentary, Matthew 18:15-35

The Church is much more than a group of people.  It is the Body of Christ, and every member of it is a member of Christ and a member of one another.  Our relationship to, and dependence upon each other is much closer and deeper than that of the members of our own physical bodies.  For just as our bodies are one, organic being, we who are in Christ are no longer just individuals, we are one, organic, spiritual body, animated by the Spirit and living with and under the direction of Christ, our head.  A drop of water may exist in isolation, but pour it into a lake and it is no longer a drop.  Its nature and identity has been transformed.  It is no longer Drop, it is Lake.  Likewise, the Christian is no longer Individual, he is Body.  Understanding this spiritual and organic unity of the Church is critical to understanding the words of Christ in Matthew 18, and, indeed, all of Scripture.  As with the first 14 verses of this chapter, verses15-35 are about Christ’s people functioning together as the Body of Christ.  It is about us having one identity, one Spirit, one Mind, and functioning together as one.  We could put it this way; the Church is the body of the Redeemed, therefore the Redeemed must act as the Body.  There is no Biblical warrant for independent churches or independent believers.  All are part of the one Body.

With that in mind we turn to Christ’s teaching on dealing with a member who trespasses against the Body.  The Greek word for “trespass” is very graphic.  It means to “sin into you” and it shows we are not talking here about small and silly things.  We are talking about things that cause real harm.  We are talking about gross immorality, mean and ill intentioned actions and remarks, and serious doctrinal error with no intention of correction or repentance.  Such a member must be lovingly dealt with for his good, and the good of the Body.

The first step in this is to personally meet with the person, honestly sharing your own concerns, and openly listening to his.  You may find out you were mistaken. You may even find yourself needing to ask forgiveness.  If no agreement is reached, and the matter still appears to be worthy of further action, you return to the person, with one or two neutral member of the Body, re-state your concern, and re-hear his.  If no agreement is reached, the matter goes to the Church.  This means you bring it to the minister for help.  If the person is found to be in error, serious error, and unrepentant, and if he continues in this condition, he is to be considered as belonging to the world instead of the Body.  The point is that those who are part of the Body will seriously view and conduct themselves as such.  Those who do not are showing that they are indeed not part of the Body, and cannot be regarded as such by the Church.

The binding, loosing, and agreement in verses 18 and 19 refer to the judgment of the Church.  They mean that the judgment of the Church, if in agreement with the facts of the case, and if in agreement with the teachings of Scripture, pronounce God’s judgment on the case.  This does not mean God simply affirms the Church’s judgment, for the pronouncements of mere men do not bind God.  It means the Church has affirmed God’s judgment as reveled in Scripture.  The Church, obeying Scripture, has bound or loosed what God has commanded to be bound or loosed.

Seventy times seven was considered an enormous number.  Seven, representing perfection, probably meant to Peter that he would have taken enough offenses from a person and was free to withhold further forgiveness.  Christ does not agree, and the seventy times seven probably refers to a never ending river of forgiveness intended to flow out of the heart of the Redeemed.  It is perfection times perfection times ten.

The parable of the unjust servant is meant to illustrate this.  The servant had been offered forgiveness, but would not forgive others.  He represents a person claiming to be a part of the Body, who wants God to forgive his sins, but does not want to forgive others for their offenses against him.  In this way he shows that he is really not part of the Body, and, unless he repents, God will deliver him to the prison of hell, where he will pay all that is due for his sin.  This meaning is made clear in verse 35, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not everyone his brother their trespasses.”

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