The10CommandmentsMy Ten Commandments When Sinned Against

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 15 from Dr. Hyle’s excellent book, How to Treat Different Types of Church members)

I refuse to allow the existence of my happiness to depend upon the actions of others. I will allow the degree of my happiness to depend on the actions of others. I will not allow myself to be unhappy or to lose my joy because of the behavior of someone else. I will allow myself to have joy and happiness only because of conditions within my ability to determine. If my joy is dependent upon your treatment of me, I can have joy only when you decide for me to have joy. If my joy is dependent upon my treatment of you, then I may have that joy any time I choose. If my joy is dependent upon my relationship with God, then I may have joy when I choose to do so. If my joy is dependent upon my service for others, then I may have that joy any time I choose to serve others. So the presence of my joy must not be dependent upon the actions of others and their behavior toward me. However, the degree of that joy may be so determined. In other words, I will not let you make me happy, but I will let you make me happier.

Even in church life the carnal sometimes prevails over the spiritual, and Christians sin against each other. The purpose of this chapter is to give instruction to the one who is sinned against. For years I have had what I call, “My Ten Commandments When Sinned Against.” These are ten things that I do when I find that someone has sinned against me.

Before entering the discussion of these ten commandments, we must make it clear that there is no selfish purpose or motive involved in these actions and reactions. The one supreme motive is TO RESTORE THE ONE WHO HAS SINNED AGAINST ME. I must look upon him as I would look upon any Christian who has committed any other sin. I must be grieved because it has strained his relationship with God. I must not allow my grief to exist because I have been wounded or offended. The truth is, if I love the Word of God and the God of the Word as I should, there is no way that I can be offended. Psalm 119:165, “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.”

As we enter into these ten commandments, we will always keep before us that our purpose is to restore the offender. If you have sinned against me, I want you to have the joy that has been taken from you because of your offense. My purpose is to help you and, by God’s grace, to help you be restored!

COMMANDMENT 1
I will have forgiveness in readiness before you sin against me. Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” I will always keep a reservoir of forgiveness so that it can be used immediately when sinned against. I will not allow myself the indulgence of the time that often transpires between being sinned against and offering forgiveness. That forgiveness will always be available and in abundant readiness immediately when the sin against me has been committed.

COMMANDMENT 2
I will not impute your sin to you. Ephesians 4:32, “And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Notice here that I am to forgive those who offend me just exactly as God forgives those who offend Him. God not only forgives our sins, but He also justifies us. In other words, God keeps in readiness “justified forgiveness,” which means that God does not charge us with the sin. He does not record it against us. When a Christian is saved, he is justified by the faith which is placed in Christ. Romans 5:1, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” If, therefore, I forgive you as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me, I must not only forgive you, but I must not charge you with the offense. In my mind, you never sinned against me. I call that “justified forgiveness.” Not only do I forgive you for what you’ve done, but I do not record what you have done. I do not think of you as one forgiven, but I think of you as one who has not sinned at all.

COMMANDMENT 3
I will grieve for you, but not for what you have done to me. I will not grieve because I have an enemy; I will grieve because you are an enemy I will not grieve because I have been sinned against; I will grieve because you have sinned. I want you to have a good relationship with Christ. I want you to have peace. I want you to have fullness of joy, and you can have none of these when being offensive, so my grief is not for the wounded but for the wounder. My grief is not for the criticized but for the critic. My grief is not for myself, though I certainly want your love. My grief is for you because I want the best for you, and you cannot have the best when you have sinned against another.

COMMANDMENT 4
I will do all that I can to help you remedy your situation. I will not retaliate. I will not be critical of you. I will not even share with others what you have done against me. My entire course of action will be that of seeking your restoration. I want you restored to fellowship with Christ. I want your joy restored, your peace restored and your happiness restored, so nothing that I do in the following commandments will be done to try to hurt you but to help you. I will not want for your hurt unless God chooses that method to bring you back to Himself. I will want the best for you and will do all that I can for that best to come your way.

COMMANDMENT 5
I will ask God to let me suffer for you. I Corinthians 6:6-8, “But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.” Not only will my forgiveness be justified forgiveness, but it will be vicarious forgiveness. I will ask God to punish me instead of you if that can best serve to bring about your restoration. I must not forget that the entire purpose of these commandments is for you to be restored, and I must do all I can to bring that restoration about. Isn’t that the way that Jesus cared for our sins? He bore the suffering for us vicariously Do not forget that I am to forgive as God forgives, so if God took upon Himself the suffering for our sins, even so I must take upon myself the suffering for your sins if God will but let me do so. I have forgiven you. I have offered you with that forgiveness a justified forgiveness, and now I offer to you a vicarious forgiveness.

Certainly by now I want you to be restored. However, if you are not yet restored, I must continue to do what I can to help you find the peace you once had and the joy you once knew in Christ. If at any time while I am obeying these ten commandments, you are restored, then the use of the balance of the commandments will not be necessary. However, if having had forgiveness in readiness for you, having offered you justified forgiveness, having grieved for you, having decided to do all that I can to remedy your situation and having offered you a vicarious forgiveness with a willingness to suffer your penalty, I find that you are not yet restored, I must proceed to the next commandment.

COMMANDMENT 6
I will turn you over to God for justice. Romans 12:17-20, “Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not forget that this justice that I seek for you from God is for your restoration.

Far too often I have heard this passage explained in a way to describe the Christian as one who wants his offender to be hurt and that God is certainly a better executor of this hurt than we can be. So it is taught that if you really want to hurt somebody, let God do it, and even blessing those that curse us is supposedly done in an effort to heap coals of fire upon his head. What a tragic teaching! How sad it is for us to teach God’s people to be good to somebody because it will make them feel bad, to love somebody because it will make them hurt. God teaches no such thing! We must never forget that the purpose for all of this is for restoration. We are not trying to see to it that someone gets punished for his sin unless that punishment will help to restore him.

We simply treat him with love. If he hates us, we love him. If he despises us, we pray for him. If he does ill to us, we do good to him and turn him over to the Lord for justice, hoping that that justice will lead him to restoration. We would rather that he not suffer at all, but if God chooses to use the tool of suffering to bring him back to joy, peace and restoration, we will be happy for that, but we will never be happy because he suffers. We are pleased only if that suffering leads to restoration. All of this must be remedial.

The word “vengeance” here has to do with justice, and the justice has to do with chastening, and the chastening we hope and trust will lead to repentance, and repentance will lead to a restoration of fellowship with God, and a restoration of that fellowship will lead the offender to regain his joy and peace.

Why should we want to use the same tactics he used? Why should we borrow Satan’s weapons to punish those who have punished us? Do not forget! The purpose of these ten commandments is restoration. If forgiving immediately brings it about, Commandment I is all that is necessary. If that fails, we will offer justified forgiveness and let our offender know that we are not charging the sin to him at all. Then we will attempt restoration by grieving for him and then doing all we can to remedy his situation, and then by asking God to let us suffer for him, and when all of those commandments have failed, we then turn him over to the Lord so God may use justice upon him in order that that justice may lead him back to his original fellowship and relationship with his God. If our brother is still not restored, we go to the next commandment.

COMMANDMENT 7
I will turn you over to the Lord for chastening. Hebrews 12:10-12, “For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but He for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” In other words, I will ask God to chasten you, but I must remember through it all that I am not wanting you to be hurt. I am wanting you to be restored, and if asking God to chasten you leads to this restoration, I will be pleased to do so. I will not enjoy your suffering or your pain any more than a loving parent enjoys the suffering of the child he is spanking, but I will wish for it if it will lead to your restoration. Of course, the word “chastening” implies training or educating. God does not punish His children for sin. His measures of inflicting pain upon us are not vindictive. They are punitive and corrective and done in love. The loving parent has in mind training his child, improving his child, educating his child, and in doing this, oftentimes must use the inflicting of pain. Never forget, the purpose is remedial!

I would much prefer that my forgiveness in itself would bring you to restoration. I would love for my justifying you as if you had never sinned against me to accomplish this. I would hope that a long time before we get to Commandment 7, you have been restored to fellowship with your God and have received once again the sweet peace and joy that comes with that fellowship, and only for your restoration to that place will I want you to be chastened.

As has been implied, God does not punish Christians; He chastens them. Now it may look the same way and it may, as a fact, be the same action. God may do exactly the same thing to a saved man that He does to an unsaved man, but to the unsaved it is punishment; to the saved man it is chastening. He chastens those whom He loves. To the one who is not His child, He may inflict punishment for sin, and though He may use that same act upon the Christian, it will not be punishment; it will be chastening. It will be done for training, for educating and for restoring His child to Himself

Certainly we trust that by now the one who has sinned against us has been restored, but if not, there is another commandment.

COMMANDMENT 8
I will turn you over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. I Corinthians 5:1-5, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed. In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” Notice especially the first part of verse 5, “to deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” but don’t stop there. Notice the rest of the verse, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” It is folly for us to think that we are to say, “I tried to hurt him, and God tried to hurt him; now Devil, you hurt him.” This is contrary to the whole spirit of the Bible. It is contrary to the attitude of God toward His children. God is not talking here about a judgmental deliverance of the sinner to the executioner. God is simply saying He will exhaust every measure in order to restore the offender to Himself.

Another error that is taught concerning this subject is that this means we are to turn someone over to the Devil and say, “Devil, kill him!” That is not taught here. Notice that the destruction is of the flesh, the destruction of the carnality, the destruction of the methods that caused him to sin. God oftentimes will let the Devil use his weapons on us, but even then the purpose is for our restoration. I do not come with a vindictive spirit in a hateful manner and almost with delight saying to the Devil, “You can have him. Kill him.”

Turn to I Timothy 1:19-20, “Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck. Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” Now notice especially verse 20 where the Apostle says, “whom I have delivered unto Satan, THAT THEY MAY LEARN not to blaspheme.” What is the purpose of turning one over to Satan? THAT HE MAY LEARN. This is the same as the chastening in Commandment 7. Even in this action we are seeking restoration. This one, like all the commandments above, is for the good of the offender that he might be led to know once again the peace and joy he knew before he sinned against me. Even in turning him over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, I am still interested in corrective measures, or as John Calvin said concerning this truth, “for medicinal purposes.” This is just another medicine that I will use in an effort for your spirit to be healed.

COMMANDMENT 9
I will bless you, do good to you, pray for you and love you. Matthew 5:43, 44, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Romans 12:20, 21, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” I will not combat hatred with hatred, but I will combat hatred with love. I will not combat cursing with cursing, but I will combat cursing with blessing. I will not combat spite with spite, but I will combat spite with prayer, hoping still that the weapons of love, blessing, prayer and kindness will lead to your restoration because I love you. I loved you before you sinned against me. I love you more now because you need me more. You need my love more, my blessings more, my prayer more.

COMMANDMENT 10
I will not socialize with you. I Corinthians 5:9-11, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.” II Thessalonians 3:14, “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.”

Perhaps you are saying, “Now you are showing some hatred at last. You finally came to a commandment that is vindictive!” No, quite to the contrary. Even this commandment is remedial and medicinal as a last resort. I will not socialize with you, hoping that you will miss my fellowship. Of course, I am commanded in the Scriptures above not to socialize with you, but even this is an effort for you to be restored. I trust that you will miss my fellowship and that my withdrawal from socializing with you will lead to your restoration.

This does not mean that I will not be nice to you. I will speak to you, I will help you, I will bless you, I will pray for you, I will be kind to you, I will be gracious to you, I will feed you if you are hungry, I will clothe you if you are cold. I will do anything I can for you, but I will not socialize with you because I am commanded not to do so and because again I am using a tool that I trust and pray unto God will restore you to fellowship with God and to your relationship with Him that brought you peace and joy, and as a blessed by-product, restore you to myself.

In conclusion, if you are my enemy and if you have sinned against me, I love you and I want you restored. The commandments that I have listed above are simply different medicines in the apothecary that I trust will heal your wounded spirit and bring you back to your God and to me, your friend. Perhaps these medicines taste progressively worse, and I certainly trust that before the more drastic ones are needed, you will be restored. I do not want you to suffer. I do not want you to hurt, but far above that, I want you restored to your God and to your joy. If therefore, a little suffering and a little pain will be remedial and medicinal, I will want it for you, not so you can hurt, but so the joy of fellowship you once knew can be yours, because you see, my dear enemy, I love you!

Forgiveness and Restoration

Scripture Reading: Matt. 18:21-35, 15-20; Luke 17:3-5

“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 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. But the 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. 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. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.” (Matthew 18:21-35)

“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. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  (Matthew 18:15-20)

“Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him. And the apostles said unto the Lord, Increase our faith.”  (Luke 17:3-5)

What should we do if a brother offends us? We all have to deal with this question. What should we do when it is not we who have offended others but others who have offended us? When we examine the above three portions of the Lord’s Word, we find that we should not only forgive a brother who has offended us but we should also restore him. Let us first consider the matter of forgiveness.

I. FORGIVING ONE’S BROTHER

A. Being Required to Forgive

Matthew 18:21-22 says, “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.”

Luke 17:3-4 says, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him.”

The verses in Matthew say that we should forgive a brother seventy times seven times, not just seven times. The verses in Luke say that we have to forgive a brother who sins against us seven times a day, repents, and turns to us seven times. Whether or not his repentance is genuine, we must forgive him as long as he repents. Whether or not he is genuine is not our responsibility. We have to forgive him.

Seven times is not too much, but seven times within one day is not that infrequent. Suppose the same person does the same thing to you seven times a day, and suppose he says that he has sinned against you seven times a day. Would you still believe that his confession is genuine? I am afraid that you would think that he was only confessing with his lips. This is why Luke 17:5 says, “The apostles said to the Lord, Increase our faith.” They felt that this was a problem to them. It was unthinkable to them that a brother could offend someone seven times in a day and then turn around to repent seven times. They could not believe it, and they said, “Lord, increase our faith.” But God’s children should forgive even if they are called upon to do so seven times a day. When a brother sins against you, you should not hold it against him.

B. God’s Measure

The Lord continues with a parable in Matthew 18:23-27: “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 slave owed ten thousand talents, which was a very large amount of money. He had no ability to repay because “he did not have the means to repay.” We can never repay all that we owe God. It is far more than what men owe us. Once a child of God arrives at a proper evaluation of his debt to God, he will generously forgive what his brother owes him. When we forget the immensity of the grace we have received from God, we become merciless toward others. We need to see how much we owe God before we can see how little others owe us.

The slave did not have the means to repay, and the master ordered him “to be sold, as well as his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.” Actually, even if he sold all that he had, he still could not have repaid everything. “Then the slave fell down and worshipped him, saying, Be patient with me and I will repay you all.”

It is difficult for man to understand clearly what grace is and what the gospel is. Man often thinks that he may not be able to repay today, but that he will be able to repay someday. He may not make it today, but he will make it someday. In these verses, however, we see a slave who, even if he were to sell all that he had, would not have had enough to repay. He said, “Be patient with me and I will repay you all.” His intention was good. He was not trying to avoid his debt. He was only asking the Lord for more time. He intended to repay all. Such a thought can only come from those who have no knowledge of grace.

“And the master of that slave was moved with compassion and released him and forgave him the loan.” This is the gospel. The gospel is not God working for you according to your idea. You may say, “Lord, be patient with me, and I will repay You all,” but the Lord does not respond by saying, “Pay what you have and repay the rest later.” The Lord forgave all of your debt. Man’s prayers and requests do not even come close to the grace of the Lord. Our Lord works for us and answers our prayer according to what He has. The master of the slave released him and forgave the debt. This is God’s grace; this is His measure. Anyone who asks for grace will receive grace from God, even though his knowledge of grace is very limited. We should be clear about this principle: The Lord loves to bestow grace on men. As long as we have a little desire for grace, the Lord will pour it out on us. He is afraid that we will not ask. As soon as a man hopes a little and opens his mouth to say, “Lord, be gracious to me,” the Lord pours out His grace to him. Moreover, this grace from the Lord is given to His own satisfaction. We may think that one dollar is enough, but He will give ten million dollars, not just one dollar. He acts for His own satisfaction. His acts are compatible with Himself. We would settle for one dollar, but God cannot give anyone such a small sum. Either He does not give at all, or He gives according to His own measure.

We need to realize that salvation is accomplished in man according to God’s measure. Salvation is not carried out according to man’s thought. It is accomplished in man according to God’s thought and plan.

The criminal on the cross pleaded with the Lord, saying, “Remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” The Lord heard his prayer, yet He did not answer him according to his prayer. Instead He said, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42-43). Salvation is God saving man according to His own will, not according to the sinner’s will. Salvation is not according to the thoughts of a sinner’s limited mentality about God’s work for him. Rather, salvation is God’s work upon sinners according to His own thought. The Lord did not wait until He came into His kingdom to remember the criminal. He promised the criminal that he would be with Him in Paradise that very day.

The tax collector prayed in the temple and beat his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me, the sinner!” At the most, he was asking God to be merciful to him. But God did not answer him according to his prayer. The Lord Jesus said, “This man went down to his house justified rather than that the other” (Luke 18:9-14). In other words, that sinner went back justified. This was much more than what was in the mind of the sinner. The sinner had no thought of justification; he asked only for pity. But God said that he was justified. This means that God did not consider him a sinner but a justified person. Not only were his sins forgiven; he was justified by God. This shows us that God does not accomplish His salvation according to man’s thought but according to His own thought.

The same thing is seen in the return of the prodigal son (15:11-32). When he was a long way off from home and before he met his father, he was prepared to go back home to serve as a servant. But when he reached his home, his father did not ask him to be a servant. Instead, he asked his slaves to bring out the best robe and to put it on him. He put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet and slaughtered the fattened calf. They ate and were merry because the son who was dead had come to life again; he was lost but had been found. From these verses we see again that God does not accomplish His salvation according to a sinner’s thought but according to His own thought.

Mark 2 speaks of four men who took a paralytic to the Lord Jesus. When they were unable to bring him to the Lord because of the crowd, they removed the roof where the Lord was and lowered the bed on which the paralytic was lying, hoping that the Lord Jesus would heal the paralytic and make him rise and walk. But the Lord Jesus said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” (v. 5). The Lord Jesus not only healed him but also forgave him of his sins. This also tells us that God works to His own satisfaction. All we have to do is go to God and ask. It does not matter whether we have asked enough. God always works to His own satisfaction, not to the sinner’s satisfaction. Therefore, we should not consider salvation from our point of view but from God’s point of view.

C. God’s Expectation

God expects to see one thing from us: Whoever wants to receive grace must first learn to dispense grace. Whoever receives grace must first learn to share grace. If a man receives grace, God expects him to share this grace with others.

Matthew 18:28-29 says,  “But the 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.”

Here the Lord shows us that we owe Him ten thousand talents, while others only owe us only a hundred pence (pennies). When we say to the Lord, “Be patient with me and I will repay you all,” He not only releases us but also forgives our debt. Our fellow slave, our brother, owes us a hundred pennies at the most. When he says, “Be patient with me and I will repay you,” he has our same hope and request. How can we not be patient with him? But the slave “And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.” (v. 30).

The Lord spoke such a parable to expose the unreasonableness of those who do not forgive others. If you do not forgive your brother, you are the very slave spoken of in these verses. When we read this parable, we are indignant at this slave. The master had forgiven his debt of ten thousand talents, but he would not forgive his fellow slave’s debt of a hundred pennies. He put his fellow slave into prison and kept him there until the latter would pay what he owed. He acted according to his standard of “righteousness”! A believer should treat himself according to righteousness but should treat others according to grace. Your brother may owe you something, and the Lord knows clearly that your brother owes you something. But He also clearly shows us that if a believer does not forgive his brother, he is not dealing with others according to grace. Such a one is short of grace in God’s eyes.

Verses 31-33 say,”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?”The Lord expects us to do to others as He has done to us. He has not made demands on us according to righteousness. In the same way He expects us to not make demands on others according to righteousness. The Lord has forgiven our debts according to mercy, and He expects us to forgive others’ debts according to mercy as well. With what measure the Lord measures to us, He expects us to measure the same measure to others. The Lord dispenses grace to us according to a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. He expects us to do the same thing to others according to a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over. The Lord expects us to do to our brother as He has done to us.

The ugliest thing in the eyes of God is for a forgiven person to refuse to forgive others. Nothing is uglier than refusing to forgive when one has been forgiven or refusing to be merciful when one has obtained mercy. A person should not receive grace for himself on the one hand and refuse to share grace with others on the other hand. A person must realize before the Lord that he should treat others the same way that the Lord has treated him. It is very ugly for a man to receive grace while refusing to share grace. Being forgiven yet refusing to forgive others is a most uncomely sight. God condemns a debt-ridden person’s attempt to demand payment from another debt-ridden person. He has no pleasure in those who remember others’ shortcomings when they themselves have come short.

The master asked the slave, “Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”  God wants us to have mercy on others as He has had mercy on us. We need to learn to have mercy on others and to forgive them. A man who has experienced grace and who is forgiven by God should learn to forgive others’ debts. He should learn to forgive others, to have mercy on them, and to be gracious to them. We need to lift up our eyes and say to the Lord, “Lord, You have forgiven my debt of ten thousand talents. I am willing to forgive those who have offended me today. I am also willing to forgive those who will offend me in the future. You have forgiven me of my great sins. I also will learn to be like You in a small way by forgiving others.”

D. God’s Discipline

Verse 34 continues,  “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” This is a man who has come under God’s discipline. God delivers him to the torturers until he should repay all that he owes.

Verse 35 says,  “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”  This is a serious matter. We hope that no one would fall into God’s hand. We must forgive our brother from the heart, as God has forgiven us from His heart. We hope all the brothers and sisters will learn to forgive all offenses. Do not try to remember the sins of your brother. We should not ask our brother to repay us. God’s children should be like God in this matter. Since God treats us generously, He expects us to treat our brothers generously as well.

II. RESTORING THE BROTHER

It is not sufficient for us to just forgive our brother. This only takes care of the negative side. We still need to restore him. This is the charge in Matthew 18:15-20.

A. Telling the Person

Matthew 18:15 says,  “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.”  Offenses occur all the time among God’s children. If a brother offends you, what should you do? The Lord says, “Go, reprove him between you and him alone.” If a brother offends you, the first thing you should do is not to tell others. Do not tell the brothers and sisters or the elders of the church about it or make it the subject of your conversation. This is not the Lord’s charge. If a brother offends you, the first thing you should do is go to him and tell him.

A problem often arises when a brother offends another brother and then the offended brother goes around publicizing it. He continually talks about it until the whole church knows about it. However, the brother who supposedly offended him remains unaware of the offense. Such tale-telling is typical of the conduct of a weak person; only a weak one would be so timid as to not talk directly with the offending brother. He would only dare to speak about the matter behind his back; he would dare not speak about it face-to-face. It is an unclean thing for anyone to speak of matters behind others’ backs and to spread gossip. We do have to deal with our brother’s fault, but the Lord does not want us to tell others first. The first one who needs to be told is the person who is directly involved, not others. If we learn this basic lesson well, the church will be spared many problems.

How do we tell others? Should we write a letter to them? The Lord did not tell us to do this. The Lord did not say that we should deal with it in writing, but rather by going to our brother and speaking to him face-to-face. However, just as it is wrong to speak about a matter behind someone’s back, it is equally wrong to speak about it in front of many people. The matter should be communicated “between you and him alone.” Many children of God fail in this matter. They publicize things before many people. But the Lord charges us to speak only when the involved parties are together. In other words, individual sins should be dealt with by the individuals alone; no third party should be involved at all.

We need to learn this lesson before God. We should never say anything behind the back of the brother who has offended us, and we should not speak to him in front of many people. We must point out his fault only when we are alone together. We do not have to talk about other things or bring up other problems; we simply need to point out the fault. This requires grace from God. It is one lesson God’s children must learn.

Some brothers and sisters may think that this is too troublesome. While this is, in fact, quite troublesome, you cannot be afraid of trouble if you want to walk according to God’s Word. If you feel that your brother’s offense against you is too small to be bothered with, you may feel no need to speak to him. If this is the case, there is also no need to tell others about it. If you feel that a matter is insignificant, simple, trivial, and unworthy of bringing to his attention, you should not tell others about it either. You should not think that he does not need to be informed but that others do need to be informed. If you want to speak of it, speak to him alone. If there is no need to speak of it, simply keep silent. It is wrong for others to know about something when the offending brother is ignorant of it.

B. The Reason for Telling

The second half of verse 15 says, “if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.”   This is the reason for telling. The reason for telling your brother is not to receive any compensation. There is only one reason for telling: “If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”

Therefore, the issue is not how much loss you have sustained. If your brother has offended you, and the matter is not cleared up, he will not be able to get through to God; there will be obstacles in his fellowship and prayer. This is why you have to admonish him. It is not a matter of venting your hurt feelings, but a matter of your responsibility. It is a very small matter if it is simply a matter of hurt feelings. If it is just a matter of hurt feelings, if the issue does not pose a problem to you, and if you think you can get over it, you do not need to speak to your brother or anyone else. No one knows better than you do how serious the matter is to you. The responsibility of making the decision to go or not to go rests with you. Such responsibility rests with the party who is clearest about the matter. There are many things that can be let go of, but there are also many things that must be dealt with. If some offenses will indeed stumble your brother, you must point out his fault to him while he and you are alone together. Anything that should be dealt with must be dealt with carefully. You may let the matter go easily, but the other party may not be able to get through like you. He has committed an offense before God, and God has not yet forgiven him. If a brother has committed a mistake that will jeopardize his relationship with God, this is not a small matter, and you should go and clearly tell him about it. You must find an opportunity while he and you are alone together and say, “Brother, it was not right for you to offend me in such a way. Your offense will ruin your future before God. You will create obstacles and bring loss to yourself before God.” If he listens to you, “You have gained your brother.” In this way you restore your brother.

Today many of God’s children do not obey the teaching of this portion of the Word. Some people always speak of others’ wrongdoings, continually publicizing them. Some do not tell others, yet they never forgive and always harbor grudges in their hearts. Some forgive but do not try to restore. But this is not what the Lord wants us to do. It is wrong to speak of others’ faults; it is wrong to keep silent yet be unforgiving in the heart; and it is equally wrong to forgive but not to exhort.

The Lord did not say that it is good enough for us to forgive the brother who has offended us. The Lord also showed us that the offended one has the responsibility to restore the offending one. Since it is not a small thing to offend someone, we have the responsibility to tell the one who has offended us for his sake. We must think of some way to restore our brother and gain him back. When we speak to him, we must be proper in our attitude and pure in our intention. Our purpose is to restore our brother. If our intention is to gain him, we will know how to point out his fault. If our intention is not to restore him, it will only worsen the relationship. The purpose of exhortation is not to ask for recompense or to justify our own feelings; it is for the purpose of restoring our brother.

C. The Proper Attitude in Telling Others

If our intention is pure, we will know how to do this step by step. First, we must have the right spirit. Next, the words we speak, the way we speak them, including our attitude, countenance, voice, and tone, must all be right. Our purpose is to gain him, not just to inform him of his fault.

If we are simply trying to rebuke him, our rebuking may be right, and the strong words we use may be justified, but our attitude, tone, and countenance may never achieve the goal of gaining him.

It is easy for us to say good things about a brother; it is easy to praise a person. It is also very easy to lose our temper with a person. We only need to let go of our emotions and we will lose our temper. But pointing out a person’s fault and, at the same time, restoring and gaining him is something that can be done only by those who are full of grace. One must forget about himself completely before he can be humble, meek, free from pride, and willing to help those who are at fault. In the first place one must be right himself.

You should realize that the Lord allows a brother to offend you because He has shown favor to you and has chosen you. He has put a great responsibility upon you. You are His chosen vessel, and God is using you to restore your brother.

If a brother offends you in a small matter and you forgive him, the matter is settled; there is no need to do anything further. But if a brother offends you to such an extent that it becomes an issue, you cannot close your eyes and say that there is no problem. The problem is there, and you cannot ignore it. If the problem is not solved, it becomes a burden to the church. The church is often weakened because of these burdens. The life of the Body is drained through these burdens, and the work of the ministers is wasted through these burdens. Before God we need to learn to deal with every problem when it arises. If a person offends us, we should not close our eyes and try to ignore it. We must deal with it properly. However, our spirit, attitude, word, countenance, and tone must all be proper. This is the only way to gain our brother.

D. Telling Others

Verse 16 says, “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.”  If you go to him by yourself and speak to him with a proper motive, a good attitude, and gentle words, and he still does not hear you, then go and tell others about it. However, you must tell someone else only after he has rejected your words. You must not tell others loosely.

If a problem arises between two of God’s children and if both of them go to the Lord and deal with it, everything will be solved easily. But suppose one is not careful with his words and the problem spreads to the ear of a third person. The problem will be compounded, and it will be hard to solve. If there is no contamination of a wound, the healing process is relatively simple. If dirt gets into a wound, not only does the level of pain increase, but the dirt makes it harder for the wound to heal. Unnecessarily spreading a problem to a third person is like adding dirt to a wound. Any problems between the brothers and sisters should be dealt with directly by the involved persons. The only time we should tell another person or persons is when one party will not receive the admonition. The purpose of telling others is not to multiply the gossip but to invite others to exhort, help, and fellowship together.

The “one or two more” here should be experienced persons in the Lord; they should be those who are weighty in their spiritual measure. You should present the case before them and ask for their opinions. They should check whether the fault lies with the offending one. The mature ones should pray and consider the matter before the Lord and then arbitrate according to their spiritual discernment. If they feel that the fault lies with the offending brother, they should go to that brother and say, “You are wrong in this matter. By doing this you have cut yourself off from the Lord. You must repent and confess.”

“That by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.” The “one or two more” must not have a loose tongue. Do not invite talkative persons to such a meeting. Talkative ones can never convince people; instead, invite those who are trustworthy, honest, spiritual, and experienced before the Lord. In this way every word will be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses.

E. Finally Telling the Church

Verse 17 says, “If he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church.” If we cannot deal with the problem by ourselves, we should bring one or two with us to deal with it. If the other person still refuses to hear them, we have to tell it to the church. Telling the church does not mean that we publicize the matter when the whole church is gathered together. It means telling the responsible elders in the church. If the conscience of the church also feels that this brother is wrong, he must be wrong. If the offending brother is one who walks before God, he should lay aside his own view and accept the witness of two or three. If he does not accept the witness of two or three, he should at least accept the verdict of the church. The unanimous view and judgment of the church reflect the heart of the Lord. The brother should realize that it is wrong to ignore the church. He should be meek and not trust in his own feelings or his own judgment. Rather, he should accept the feeling of the church.

What if he still refuses to hear? Verse 17 continues,   “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. (Matthew 18:17)This is a serious word. In other words, if he refuses to hear the church, all the brothers and sisters in the church should no longer communicate with him. Since he does not want to face his problem, the church should consider him as a Gentile and a tax collector and should have no fellowship with him. Though he is not excommunicated, all the brothers should consider him as a Gentile and tax collector, and no one should pay any attention to him. If he speaks, no one should listen. If he comes to break bread, everyone should ignore him. If he prays, no one should say “amen.” If he wants to come, he can come. If he wants to go, he can go. But everyone should consider him as an outsider. If God’s children will hold such an attitude in one accord, it will be easy to restore a brother. The purpose for dealing with him in this way is still to restore him.

Verse 18, which says,   “Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven,”  is related to the previous verses. The Lord in heaven acknowledges what the church does on earth. If the church considers a person who refuses to hear the church as being wrong, the church will look upon him as a Gentile and a tax collector, and our Lord in heaven will acknowledge the same thing.

Verses 19 and 20 are also based on the preceding portion,  “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”   Why does the previous verse say “that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established”? Here we see that the principle of two or three is the principle of the church. If two or three act upon a matter in one accord, and if these two or three deliberate something before God in one accord, God will acknowledge the decision. Matthew 18:18-20 is spoken in the context of our dealing with the brothers. When a matter is brought up to two or three people and then to the whole church, the Father in heaven will acknowledge such a decision.

Here we want to mention something in passing. How does the church make important decisions? Acts 15 shows us that when brothers come together, everyone can speak and debate. Even those who are for the law can stand up and speak their mind, even though their opinion is altogether wrong. In other words, all the brothers have equal opportunity to speak. But not all the brothers can arbitrate matters. All the brothers can express how they feel before the Lord. After the elders have listened to all of them, they should speak their feelings before God and make a final judgment on the matter. The responsible brothers may have the same feeling before the Lord. This feeling is the feeling of the church; it is also the conscience of the church. After they have spoken, everyone should submit and go along with them in one accord. This is the way of the church. The church does not muzzle people’s mouths or forbid anyone to speak. But no one should speak carelessly. When the time comes for a decision, the elders should speak under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and all the brothers and sisters should listen to the elders. If the Holy Spirit’s authority is present in the church, such matters can be resolved easily. If the Holy Spirit has no authority in the church and there are many opinions of the flesh, the church will not be able to arbitrate anything at all. We must learn to submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit and to listen to the church.

May God be gracious to us.  May we be like our Master who is so full of grace. If a brother offends us, we should forgive him from the heart. Moreover, we should bear the responsibility of restoring him according to the Lord’s Word. May the Lord lead us to live such a life in the church.

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Written originally by Watchman Nee in China during the Chinese revolution and died in a prison camp but these lessons have been the foundation of my life for 38 years.  David Williams – site Admin.

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