Thursday, February 27, 2014

The Kingdom of God by Jeff Johnson Is Now Avaliable

The wait is finally over! Jeff Johnson's new book, The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Covenant & Biblical Theology, is now available for order. Here is the description of the book at the website:
Is there a central plot to the Bible? And if so, why is the Bible divided into two different testaments? Moreover, how do these two testaments relate to each other? No doubt, it can be overwhelming to traverse the various covenants of the Bible. And it can be difficult to understand the unity and diversity of the Old and New Testaments. The Kingdom of God: A Baptist Expression of Biblical & Covenant Theology explains why the maze of the Old and New Testaments cannot be properly navigated or understood without a knowledge of the dual (law and gospel) nature of the Abrahamic Covenant. For the law of the Old Covenant and the grace of the New Covenant flow out of the Abrahamic Covenant and are wonderfully reunited in the gospel of Jesus Christ. In other words, out of the earlier dichotomy comes the later unity of the gospel message.
Here is what some scholars are saying about the book:
“Jeff Johnson has given us a lot to chew on. This treatment of the covenants gives a tightly argued discussion of the relation between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace…Johnson gives a cover-to-cover, Genesis-to-Revelation dramatic presentation of the story of the outworking of the covenant of grace through the conflict of the two seeds. It is gripping and compelling while it illustrates the doctrinal argument with power. He tells the story that is the ontological rubric behind all good stories. Giving serious attention to Johnson’s tenacious engagement with the biblical theme of The Kingdom of God will expand one’s personal knowledge of Scripture, extend one’s confidence in the wisdom and certainty of divine providence, and exact transparent and pure praise to God for his invincible grace.” -Tom Nettles, Professor of Historical Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Of the many books that exist on covenant theology, rare are those that are accessible to neophytes while at the same time instructing the well-read student on the subject. This one does both. If Jeff Johnson’s first book, The Fatal Flaw, explained what Baptist covenant theology is not, The Kingdom of God explains what it is. In my view, the most important contribution of this work is to bring us the history of salvation through all the biblical covenants in a Reformed Baptist perspective. The deeper treatment that Johnson gives to the Abrahamic Covenant in this work is one of the clearest statements I have read. After you finish reading it, you will have a clearer view of the big picture of the kingdom of God.” -Pascal Denault, Author of The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology
“The Kingdom of God by Jeffrey Johnson is a work I commend to be read both by Baptists and Paedobaptists. He explains the biblical covenants in relationship to the kingdom of God through the whole Bible…I recommend the reading of The Kingdom of God as a welcomed addition to Baptist covenantal theology. I think you will be blessed to read his presentation of the Lord Jesus Christ as fulfilling the Covenant of Works for us that God grace may justly fall upon sinners.” -Fred Malone, Author of The Baptism of Disciples Alone
I am sure many of you, like me, have been anxiously awaiting this book. You may order a copy for a very good price at Free Grace Press here.

Other titles by Jeff Johnson include:

The Fatal Flaw of the Theology Behind Infant Baptism (The single best book on the subject I have ever read)

The Church: Why Bother? (On the nature, purpose, and functions of the local church)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-32 Teaching Outline)

The Parable of the Two Sons is actually one of three parables in Matthew 21-22 that are addressed directly to the Jewish leaders who refused to believe in Jesus. We will examine the others – the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers and the Parable of the Wedding Feast – over the next two weeks.

Introduction: As we have seen in our previous study of a number of Jesus' parables, it is crucial to understand the context in which each individual parable is told as well as any explanation Jesus may give. Well, today's parable is no different, and this is why – once again – I will discuss the parable under three headings: 1) the context of the parable, 2) the communication of the parable, and 3) the explanation of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable (vss. 23-27)

We find the context of the parable in verses 23-27.
NKJ  Matthew 21:23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”
These leaders were trying to create a dilemma for Jesus. On the one hand, if He claimed that His authority came from God, then they would no doubt try to accuse Him of blasphemy, an accusation they had already considered before. For example:
NKJ  Matthew 9:1-7 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. 2 Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise and walk'? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” -- then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 7 And he arose and departed to his house.
On the other hand, if Jesus said that He got his authority from men, He would not only deny that He was a true prophet, but He would also bring the charge that He really had no authority at all. For they were considered the religious authorities in Israel, and they had clearly not authorized His teaching or actions! Jesus taught as one having authority, but they resisted His authority and were trying to undermine it.

But, as we shall now see, Jesus turns the tables on them:
NKJ  Matthew 21:24-26 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John -- where was it from? From heaven or from men?' And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, 'From heaven,' He will say to us, 'Why then did you not believe [πιστεύω] him?' 26 But if we say, 'From men,' we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.”
Do you see how Jesus put them in the same kind of trap into which they tried to put Him? Remember that John had born witness to Jesus that He was the Messiah. So, if they believed John was a prophet from God, then they would have to believe in Jesus too. Since they didn't believe John, however, they really wanted to say that he wasn't a true prophet. But this put them in a different bind, because the people believed he was a true prophet. Thus, Jesus was challenging them to take a clear stand before the people on this matter, which they didn't want to do, and this leads to their answer:
NKJ  Matthew 21:27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.” And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Jesus had said He would tell them by what authority He did the things that He did, but only if they first answered His question about John the Baptist. Since they didn't want to give Him a straight answer to His question, He followed through on what He said and gave them no answer to their question.

Yet He doesn't simply drop the matter. Instead, He tells a short parable and continues to question them in order to highlight the real issue, namely their unbelief.

II. The Communication of the Parable (vss. 28-31a)

We find Jesus' communication of the parable beginning in verse 28 and extending through the first part of verse 31.
NKJ Matthew 21:28-31a  “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, 'Son, go, work today in my vineyard.' 29 He answered and said, 'I will not,' but afterward he regretted it [μεταμέλομαι] and went. 30 Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, 'I go, sir,' but he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.”
The key word here is the word translated regretted in the NKJV. It is the Greek verb metamélomai, which can have one of two senses:
1) It can mean “to have regrets about [something], in the sense that one wishes it could be undone, be very sorry, regret ....
2) It can mean “to change one’s mind about [something], without focus on regret, change one’s mind, have second thoughts” (BAGD3 #4851, BibleWorks).
Either way the basic idea is one of repentance, as we shall see more fully below. This is why I prefer the first translation, regret, which is followed by the NKJV and the NASB.

At any rate, the point Jesus is seeking to make is pretty hard to miss, even for these spiritually obtuse Jewish leaders. The first son initially refused to obey but then regretted his decision and obeyed, while the second son at first appeared to obey but never actually followed through. The issue is genuine obedience that follows a change of heart verses pretended obedience. Thus, without further ado, we may proceed to Jesus' explanation.

III. The Explanation of the Parable (vss. 31b-32)

The explanation of the parable is found beginning in the second part of verse 31 and extending through verse 32.
NKJ Matthew 21:31b-32 Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe [πιστεύω] him; but tax collectors and harlots believed [πιστεύω] him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent [μεταμέλομαι] and believe [πιστεύω] him.
There are at least three points that need to be considered here.

First, when Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that “the tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom before you,” it is somewhat difficult to understand what this means. At first glance He seems to be saying that these Jewish leaders who haven't believed will indeed enter the kingdom, but only after the the tax collectors and harlots who have believed. But this makes no sense at all in the context, and it also denies the teaching of Jesus and His Apostles elsewhere, which makes it clear that those who do not believe cannot enter the kingdom. This is one reason that D.A. Carson and a number of other noted scholars think that the Greek verb in the last part of verse 31 should not be translated as go before, but rather as go instead of.

But if Jesus should be taken as saying that these sinners will enter the kingdom before the Jewish leaders, I still do not think it necessary to understand His teaching here as saying that these Jewish leaders will indeed enter the kingdom themselves. In this case I think it best to follow Charles Spurgeon here and see Jesus as still holding out hope for these men if they will yet repent and believe. For example, in his sermon on this text, entitled “A Sermon to Open Neglecters and Nominal Followers of Religion,” Spurgeon says:
Oh! beware of saying as some of you do, “I go, sir,” while you go not. I sometimes see sick people who quite alarm and distress me. I say to them, “My dear friend, you are dying; have you a hope?” There is no answer. “Do you know your lost state?” “Yes, sir.” “Christ died for sinners.” “Yes, sir.” “Faith gives us of his grace.” “Yes, sir.” They say, “Yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir; yes, sir.” I sometimes wish before God they would contradict me, for if they would but have honesty enough to say, “I do not believe a word of it,” I should know how to deal with them. Stubborn oaks are leveled by the gale, but those who bend like the willow before every wind, what wind shall break them? O dear brethren, beware of being gospel hardened; or, what is the same thing, softened but for a season. Beware of being a promising hearer of the word, and nothing more!
I do not mean to close my discourse by speaking to you in this apparently harsh way, which, harsh as it seems, is full of love to your soul. I have a good word for you too. I trust that you, in this Agricultural Hall, will have a change wrought in you by the Holy Ghost, for although these many years you have made false professions before God; there is yet room in his gospel feast for you. Did you notice the text? “The publicans and sinners enter into the kingdom of heaven before you.” Then it is clear you may come after them, because it could not be said they entered before you, if you did not come after them. If the Lord shall break your heart, you will be willing to take the Lord Jesus for your all in all in just the same way as a drunkard must, though you have not been a drunkard. You will be willing to rest in the merit of Jesus just as a harlot must, though you have never been such. There is room for you, young people, yet, though you have broken your vows, and quenched your convictions. Ay, and you gray-headed people may be brought yet, though you have lived so long in the outward means, but have never given up your hearts to Jesus. Oh, come! This twenty-fourth day of March, may the Lord bring you in this very place, may the Lord lead you to say silently, “By the grace of God I will not be an open pretender any longer; I will give myself up to those dear hands that bled for me, and that dear heart that was pierced for me, and I will this day submit to Jesus' way.”
Perhaps there are some here even this morning who fit Spurgeon's description, who know they have been saying all the right things, but who also know that that they haven't truly believed. If so, I implore you not to put off trusting in Christ any longer. It is time to get real with God!

Second, Jesus gives the reason they would be excluded from the kingdom, namely that they had not obeyed God's message through John because they had refused to believe. In this they had been worse than the very tax collectors and harlots that they despised so much! Jesus later points out this very same issue:
NKJ  Matthew 23:1-5a Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, 2 Saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. 3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. 4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5 But all their works they do to be seen by men.”
Klyne Snodgrass has some helpful application of the parable at this point:
The primary feature of this text is clear. God requires productive and obedient living from his people. Claims and concerns for appearance are not enough. Churches often push for membership and professions of faith but allow (or even foster) a separation between believing and doing. How did people ever get the idea that obedience to the will of God is optional? Many parables, and especially this one, push for integrity of life before God. Talk and external appearance are cheap; what counts is actually doing the will of the father from the heart. Any separation of believing and doing is a distortion of the gospel message and is directly confronted by this parable. A person cannot believe apart from obedience. (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 275)
Third, Jesus also presses home the reason He had previously asked the Jewish leaders about their opinion of John. In the process, he reminds them that they have really already had two opportunities to relent and believe, although they had taken advantage of neither of them.

They had been like the second son in the parable, when they should have been like the first. Even though they had not responded rightly to John's message in the beginning, they should have regretted it and believed afterward.

In this regard, Jesus is really just reinforcing the very teaching of John the Baptist himself – the teaching they had previously refused to accept. Recall John's earlier encounter with the Jewish leaders:
NKJ Matthew 3:5-10 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins. 7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
Although earlier Matthew had referred to the Jewish leaders in terms of their religious positions – as Pharisees and Sadducees – in the passage before us this morning he identifies them instead by their religious titles or status – as the chief priests and elders of the people. But they were essentially the same groups and thus they are challenged for having committed the same sin, namely that they had professed to be true followers of God and thus workers in His vineyard (in the language of the parable), but they were all talk and no action! They said they would obey God, but when challenged both by John and by Jesus to do so, they refused!

And if this weren't bad enough, they had not only the witness of John the Baptist and Jesus, but – as Jesus Himself points out – they had the witness of the radically changed lives of many tax collectors and harlots to demonstrate to them the reality and power of the kingdom message that they had been preaching. But they still did not repent and believe! Jesus said that they should have, and this parable challenges them to do so once again.

Conclusion: I would like to close by posing a few questions that we can each ask ourselves. For example, you might want to ask yourself, “Do I profess to believe in Jesus, although I know I have not really repented of my sin?” Or, perhaps you could ask yourself, “Do I claim to have repented of my sin, yet do not follow the Lord in obedience?” If you have not genuinely repented and obeyed the Gospel, then I pray by God's grace that you too may regret this and trust in Him today.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Giving Uncle Sam His Due

Would it not be nice if it really were a sin to pay taxes? I get discouraged, very discouraged, when I think that a third of my paycheck goes to Uncle Sam. Nevertheless, the Bible says something along the lines as, “render to Uncle Sam what is Uncle Sam’s.” So paying taxes, sadly, is not a sin but a divine mandate. Yet, when the Lord tells us, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's” (Matt. 22:21), we are not only given instructions on paying taxes, but more importantly, we are given a helpful key in understanding our relationship with the culture and secular governments.

The relationship that we, as believers, have with culture has been and will continue to be debated until heaven and earth are united with the world filled with only righteousness. Until then, the debate will continue. For instance, Richard Niebuhr (in his book, Christ and Culture) suggests that there are four overarching answers to this question: 1. Christ against culture, 2. Christ of culture, 3. Christ above culture, and 4. Christ and culture in paradox. What is the relationship between the secular and the sacred? That is, what is the relationship between the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God? Using broad brushstrokes, I agree with Niebuhr that there seems to be four different answers that are given by four different types of Christians.

Those Against Culture

First, we have the strict legalistic and fundamentalist type. These professing Christians tend to believe that there is no link between that which is holy and that which is unholy. The secular and sacred, if you would, have little to nothing in common, for what does light have to do with darkness? This group is prone to isolate themselves in a bunker and create all kinds additional regulations (don’t taste, don’t touch, etc.) to help safeguard themselves from contact with the world. Rejection of the culture and boycotting things made in China is the safest way to remain holy in an unholy world. For them the culture and governments of the world are like a sinking ship that is beyond repair. Why spend time and energy polishing the brass railings (e.g., seeking to improve the culture), when we know that the ship is ultimately doomed to sink into the eternal abyss?

Those For Culture

Second, there is the more liberal and “emergent” group who believes that the ultimate goal of the church is to redeem the culture. For them, the kingdom of God is culture restoration. Thus, they are more concerned about social justice, being culturally relevant, and going “green” than they are about preaching the gospel to a fallen world. With this in mind, it is just as important, if not more important, to be culturally sensitive (getting inked, attending a few political rallies, and planting a few trees) than it is to articulate a clear gospel. This is because they believe that mankind is basically good; with a little religious assistance, man can reach his full potential. Thus, as this group becomes more concerned about political justice and handing out hot bowls of soup, they inadvertently merge the sacred into the secular. Unlike the “legalistic Fundamentalists” who reject the culture, this group tends to reject the “sacred.” In the end, the ship is not sinking, for it is only in need of some minor repairs and a little refurbishing.

Those With Culture

Third, we have the optimistic postmillennialists, who, due to their covenantal and eschatological beliefs, tend to minimize any secular and sacred distinctions. For this group, everything in the world (e.g., the sciences, the arts, governments, etc.) is to be holy unto the Lord. They are quick to quote Calvin and Kuyper who said in various ways that “every square inch of creation belongs to God.” The goal of the church, therefore, is to reclaim every square inch of this world for the glory of God. Through progressively spreading Christian values, the culture and governments will slowly be Christianized. Thus, preaching the gospel to sinners and culture renewal are both essential parts of the great commission. In other words, witnessing and voting are both sacred duties. In the end, that which is secular is to disappear with only the sacred remaining as the kingdoms of this world merge into the kingdom of God. In this case, the ship will remain afloat until it is sailing for the glory of God as Christ returns as its captain.

Those Within Culture

Fourth, we have those, like myself, who think that the secular and sacred realms will remain separated until the Second Coming of Christ. And, therefore, until heaven and earth is made one, we are to render unto Caesar the things that belong to Caesar and render unto God the things that belong to God.

The distinction between the secular and sacred kingdoms is not based merely upon the single proof text of Matthew 22:21, but rather it is built upon the holistic understanding of Scripture known as Two Kingdom Theology. For the Bible speaks of history as being divided into two ages: this present, evil age and the age to come. The present, evil age is the time-frame where sin and evil reigns upon the earth. The age to come is the time-frame where righteousness will reign upon the earth. The Old Testament saints longed for the age to come when the Messiah would reign and put an end to sin. However, rather than only one appearing, we have learned from the light of the New Testament that Christ’s coming takes place in two stages. As His First Appearing, the age to come and the kingdom of God was inaugurated. For where the King is present, then righteousness, the kingdom of God, and the age to come are also present. In His life, death and resurrection Christ defeated sin, death, and the Devil and introduced the glory of the age to come to the sons of men. But even though the age to come has been introduced, this present, evil age continues and will do so until the Second Coming of Christ. In that, the two time-frames of this present, evil age and the age to come overlap each other. This is because at His First Appearing, the kingdom of God was inaugurated with Christ conquering the power of sin, death, and the Devil, but the full end of sin, death, and the Devil will not occur until the consummation of the kingdom of God at Christ’s Second Appearing. Therefore, although we are children of the kingdom now, we must wait until the Second Coming until we receive our glorified bodies and inhabit a new earth where only righteousness dwells.

Currently, Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom that is invisible to those outside of faith. It is a spiritual kingdom that consists of spiritual warfare and spiritual weaponry. Though we currently are seated in the heavenly places with Christ Jesus, we yet remain upon the earth as ambassadors of Christ. Therefore, we belong to two different ages and two different kingdoms at the same time. We are citizens of heaven and we are residents of this world. Because of this, we have different responsibilities to each of these two kingdoms. Yes, we are to seek first the kingdom of God, but we should also not neglect our responsibilities as residents of the world. As believers, we should desire for our Christian values to have the greatest impact possible upon this present, evil age. We should take time to vote and pay our taxes. As musicians, welders, bakers, doctors and the like, we should practice our art and go about our jobs for the glory of God and for the good of our neighbors. In other words, although the ship is sinking, we still are called to do as much good as we can until the Lord comes back with a new and better ship.

It is with this theological backdrop – of Two Kingdom Theology – that I seek to answer these following questions.

1. What is the Christian's responsibility to secular governmental powers?

Two Kingdom theology is helpful in distinguishing the different responsibilities that the church and the individual believer have to the culture and secular governments. For the most part, the church (as a body) is the visible manifestation of the kingdom of God. Therefore, secular governments have no jurisdiction or right to interfere with the life, business, and affairs of the church. Secular governments and the church operate in two different spheres or jurisdictions. The church, likewise, should resist the temptation of becoming politically involved and giving the bulk of her attention and resources to social and political concerns. Saving the world and redeeming the culture is not the mission the church.

As individual Christians, on the other hand, we are responsible not only to be an evangelistic light to the world, but also for helping the poor and making a difference in society. This is because we are citizens of heaven and residents of this world. We operate within two different jurisdictions or spheres. And as residents of this world, we have an obligation to the cultural needs around us. Though the church should ovoid political activism, this does not mean that we do not have the right to promote a political party or cause. Moreover, we should take our rights and responsibilities to our culture and government seriously. We should vote, pay our taxes, submit to and honor our leaders, and even be willing, if necessary, to join the armed forces to protect the freedoms of our land.

2. Is there ever justification for civil disobedience?

Although we live in both kingdoms, we are not to give both kingdoms equal allegiance. Our eternal citizenship is in heaven, while our residency in this world is only temporary. When visiting a foreign country we are obligated to obey the laws of that land, but this does not mean that we are no longer American citizens and under her sovereignty. In the same way, we should submit to the laws of our earthly governments as long as those laws do not hinder us from submitting to the laws of God.

Moreover, though God has delegated His authority to different subordinate powers on earth, He has not given absolute power to any. Absolute power belongs to God alone. This means that when any subordinate authority ceases to submit to its authority, it ceases to have its own authority. That is, seeing that all authority is derived from God’s authority, no authority has the authority to go against God’s authority. Thus, it is only wise that our first allegiance be given to the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We should never fear man more than we fear God. Yes, we must obey all authorities that God has placed over us, but only with a clear conscious that is fully submitted to the rule of God. As Luther said, when pressured to disobey God, “it is neither right nor safe to go against conscious.”

3. What is the responsibility when rendering to Caesar (secular government) conflicts with rendering to God?

A lot of civil disobedience stems from selfishness: ‘We don’t like to pay taxes,’ ‘we don’t like to be suppressed,’ and ‘we don’t like our leaders.’ However, Nero was a tyrant, and Paul never promoted civil disobedience or disturbance for any such political or social injustice. There are times when we must disobey the laws of the land, but only when those laws are contrary to the glory of God. When God’s glory is at stake, then we must follow the example of Daniel who openly disobeyed his king to follow God. Daniel was not motivated by self-interest, but motivated by a love for God. He was willing to disobey the king not to gain more civil and personal freedom, but rather he was willing to lose what civil liberties that he had for the sake of following God. In the end, we too must follow God no matter what it may cost us – even if it will cost us our lives. But if we disobey and suffer, let it be for righteousness sake.

4. Is the Christian required to give honor to government leaders with proven dishonorable characters? Do we separate the official function from personal character?

Yes and yes is the answer to both of these questions. To confirm this all we must do is look at who was the leader of the Roman Empire when Paul penned the thirteenth chapter of the book of Romans. No matter how awful and despicable Nero was, Paul instructed believers to submit and honor their King. This teaches us that there is a difference between an office of authority and the person holding that office. For instance, a police officer has authority not because of his ontological makeup (for he may be weaker and smaller than us), but because of his position as a law enforcer. In the same way, even if we do not approve of the character of our leaders, we are still to honor and obey them for the sake of their position. To do otherwise is to dishonor God – the One who has placed our leaders in authority.

In summary, let us seek to be good citizens of heaven and good visiting residents of this world. Although we are just passing through as sojourners, we still have commitments and responsibilities to maintain. Therefore, let us render to Uncle Sam the things that belong to Uncle Sam and render to God the things that belong to God.

Published in The Sovereign Grace Messenger: A Publication of the Sovereign Grace Baptist Fellowship, Issue 37, Winter 2014, p 18-20.

For a couple of related articles see also:
The American Revolution: Was it Biblical?
A Memorial Day Reflection on Christian Patriotism

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Continued Search for Mount Sinai

The Biblical Archaeology Society recently published an article entitled Searching for Biblical Mt. Sinai: The case for Har Karkom in the Negev and the case for Saudi Arabia. Here are the opening paragraphs of the article, which simply summarizes the discussion of a longer article in Biblical Archaeology Review (but which you have to be a paying member to read):
Where is Mt. Sinai? At a recent colloquium in Israel, an international group of scholars debated the question. At the center of the debate was Har Karkom, a mountain ridge in the Negev Desert that archaeologist Emmanuel Anati believes to be the Biblical Mt. Sinai. Or could Mt. Sinai be in Saudia Arabia, where Moses was thought to have fled after escaping Egypt? In “Where Is Mount Sinai? The Case for Har Karkom and the Case for Saudia Arabia” in the March/April 2014 issue of BAR, Hershel Shanks examines these candidates.
Biblical Mt. Sinai has never been identified archaeologically with any scholarly consensus, though several sites have been considered. According to Shanks, none of the scholars who attended the colloquium in Israel discussed the traditional location of Mt. Sinai—the mountain called Jebel Musa looming over St. Catherine’s Monastery in the southern Sinai. Jebel Musa’s identification as Mt. Sinai developed in the early Byzantine period with the spread of monasticism into the Sinai desert.
The main point to take away is that scholars are not seriously considering the traditional site as the right one at all. Shanks himself "proposes that we reexamine ... the 'Midianite Hypothesis.' According to this theory, Mt. Sinai was not in the Sinai Peninsula, but in Midian in northwest Saudi Arabia." At any rate, I thought the blog's readers might be interested in a current trend among Biblical archaeologists concerning the matter.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16 Teaching Outline)

Scripture Reading: It is important to read all of Matthew 19:16-20:16 in order to get the whole context in our minds. This will be important to our understanding of Jesus' teaching in the parable.

Introduction: As I was studying this parable in preparation for teaching this passage, I came across this surprising assessment by Klyne Snodgrass in his Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus:
For some, this is a marvelous parable about the grace of God. Hultgren placed it in his section on parables revealing God's extraordinary forgiveness and grace. Jülicher said it presents the gospel in a nutshell, Montefiore thought it one of the greatest parables of all, and Fuchs and Jüngel considered it the climax of Matthew. I think all this is hyperbole and consider this one of the three most difficult parables (along with the Unjust Steward and Matthew's account of the Banquet) (p. 362)
Needless to say, such a perspective by such an able Bible expositor left me feeling even more than my usual amount of fear and trembling at handling the Word of God. But the more I studied and thought about the parable, the more I began to think that some have made it harder than it really is and that the context really does help us to see clearly at least the basic points Jesus is trying to make.

So, that is where I will begin today, as I examine this parable under three headings: 1) The context of the parable, 2) the communication of the parable, and 3) the application of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable

As with any parable, so with the the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, the context is crucial for understanding the things Jesus is trying to teach. And understanding the context will require us to go back at least as far as 19:16 in order to get the proper background.

Read 19:16-22 – The rich young man refused to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, which means that he was not keeping all the commandments as he had claimed. In particular, he was not keeping God's command that “you shall have no other gods before Me” (Exod. 20:3). His wealth was an idol that kept him from following the One he had just recognized as “good,” and thus worthy of following.

Read 19:23-26 – Jesus warns them of the difficulty of a rich man entering the kingdom of God. It is, in fact, impossible for the man who trusts in himself and his own ability to keep the law, which was the problem the rich young man had. However, Jesus assures them that God is able to do what is impossible for a man. But this means the man has to trust God rather than himself or his own wealth and power. This the rich young man refused to do, which was evident in his refusal to give up his wealth.

Read 19:27-30 – The question asked by Peter leads to an answer from Jesus that extends all the way through 20:16, an answer which includes the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard. But before getting to the parable itself, it is good to pause and get a grip on what is going on in this exchange between Peter and our Lord Jesus.

First, Peter's question (vs. 27) is not about salvation. It is about the rewards to be expected by those who have – unlike the rich young man – given up all to follow Jesus.

Second, Jesus' response does two things:
1) It gives the assurance that there will be rewards for Peter and the rest of His true disciples, as well anyone else who has sacrificed in order to follow Him (vss. 28-29).
2) It also gives a kind of warning that God will not distribute these rewards in a way that they might expect: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (vs. 30).
With these things in mind we are ready to begin examining more closely the parable itself.

II. The Communication of the Parable

The parable may be broken up into four scenes, and we will briefly consider each of them.

Scene #1: The Workers Are Hired  (vss. 1-7)
NKJ  Matthew 20:1-7 For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. 2 Now when he had agreed with the laborers for a denarius a day, he sent them into his vineyard. 3 And he went out about the third hour and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, 4 and said to them,“You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you.” So they went. 5 Again he went out about the sixth and the ninth hour, and did likewise. 6 And about the eleventh hour he went out and found others standing idle, and said to them, “Why have you been standing here idle all day?” 7 They said to him, “Because no one hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and whatever is right you will receive.”
There are a couple features of the parable to take special note of at this point.

First, notice the difference in the times that the workers were hired. In those days, there was essentially a twelve hour work day, from morning till evening, and this is assumed in the story.
“early in the morning” (vs. 1) – This would have been at dawn, which would be about 6:00 AM.
“the third hour” (vs. 3) – This would be about 9:00 AM.
“the sixth and the ninth hour” (vs. 5) – This would be about noon and 3:00 PM respectively.
“the eleventh hour” (vs. 6) – This would be about 5:00 PM, when there would have been no more than one hour of the workday left.
Second, notice the difference in the description of the wages offered.
1) The first workers who were hired had agreed with the landowner “for a denarius a day” (vs. 2). This was the common wage for a day laborer in first century Palestine.
2) The workers hired later in the day were simply promised by the landowner that he would give them “whatever is right,” and they accepted this arrangement (vs. 4, 7).
In both cases, that of the agreed amount of a denarius and that of the agreed amount that is considered right by the landowner, the workers accepted the landowner's offer.

Scene #2: The Workers Are Payed  (vss. 8-10)
NKJ  Matthew 20:8-10 So when evening had come, the owner of the vineyard said to his steward, “Call the laborers and give them their wages, beginning with the last to the first.” 9 And when those came who were hired about the eleventh hour, they each received a denarius. 10 But when the first came, they supposed that they would receive more; and they likewise received each a denarius.
There are three things that need to be pointed out here.

First, notice that the order in which the workers are paid is reversed from the order in which they were hired. They are paid beginning with the last to the first (vs. 8). This reflects Jesus' earlier statement that “many who are first will be last, and the last first” (19:30). Thus Jesus is clearly identifying the theme He wants to emphasize.

Second, notice that the workers are all paid the same wage – a denarius – even those who were hired at the eleventh hour (vs. 9). This represents mercy and generosity on the part of the landowner, who wanted to make sure that everyone had enough to live on that day, even if they hadn't been able to work the whole day. It would be hard to imagine that those hired so late in the day wouldn't have been quite surprised at such generosity!

Third, notice that the workers who were hired first – having seen the others receive their pay – supposed that they would receive more (vs. 10).

Klyne Snodgrass is helpful when he observes that:
Key in interpreting the parable is v. 10: those hired first thought they would receive more. The parable breaks any chain of logic connecting reward, work, and human perceptions of what is right. God's judging is not regulated by human perceptions of justice, and lurking behind that statement is a whole theology of mercy. (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 377)
This leads us to the next scene.

Scene #3: The Workers Complain  (vss. 11-12)
NKJ  Matthew 20:11-12 And when they had received it, they complained against the landowner, 12 saying, “These last men have worked only one hour, and you made them equal to us who have borne the burden and the heat of the day.”
Those hired earlier are actually accusing the landowner of having been unfair because in their minds he had treated those who were hired later as though they had worked all day when, in fact, they had worked but one hour. These men are much like little children who think that fairness means treating everyone the same way. But this isn't true, and it definitely precludes treating some – who may be in a more desperate situation – with true generosity.

As Klyne Snodgrass again aptly states it, “We worry about justice, but too often we dress up as justice what is in reality jealousy, or we use justice as a weapon to limit generosity” (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 378).

That these complaining workers are guilty of these very sins is clear in the final scene.

Scene #4: The Workers Are Corrected  (vss. 13-15)
NKJ  Matthew 20:13-15 But he answered one of them and said, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? 14 Take what is yours and go your way. I wish to give to this last man the same as to you. 15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good [ἀγαθός]?”
The landowner replies to the complaining workers in three ways.

First, he reminds them that he has indeed treated them justly, since he has given them exactly what he agreed to give them (vs. 13). He had not cheated them in the least, and thus he had done them no wrong.

Second, the landowner points out that he has the right to do with his own money whatever he wishes (vs. 15a). So, not only has he done no wrong in paying the earliest workers what they themselves had agreed to, but he has also done no wrong in paying the latest workers more than they had earned. He is allowed to be as generous as he wants to be with his own money!

Third, the landowner confronts the complaining workers about their true motivation, pointing out that it isn't really a desire for justice that motivates them but rather their own envy of those who had worked less than they had (vs. 15b). When he asks the question – which is translated quite literally in the New King James Version –  “Or is your eye evil because I am good?”, the reference to an evil eye is a clear Old Testament metaphor for envy or greed. For example:
NKJ  Deuteronomy 15:9 Beware lest there be a wicked thought in your heart, saying, “The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand,” and your eye be evil against your poor brother and you give him nothing, and he cry out to the LORD against you, and it become sin among you.
NKJ  Proverbs 28:22 A man with an evil eye hastens after riches, and does not consider that poverty will come upon him.
But Jesus also highlights something else, and it is about the landowner. He has the landowner referring to himself as good [ἀγαθός], and this description recalls the exchange between Jesus and the rich young man in 19:16-17:
NKJ  Matthew 19:16-17a Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good [ἀγαθός] Teacher, what good [ἀγαθός] thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good [ἀγαθός]? No one is good [ἀγαθός] but One, that is, God.”
Thus, just in case some of us may have missed it, Jesus identifies the landowner in the story as standing for God. This means that He is referring to the way in which God Himself will distribute rewards to those who trust in Him as Lord and Savior.

As D.A. Carson puts it, “These rhetorical questions (vv. 13b-15) show that God’s great gifts, simply because they are God’s, are distributed, not because they are earned, but because he is gracious” (EBC, Vol. 8, p. 428).

And this leads to the final point.

III. The Application of the Parable  (vs. 16)

We have already considered various legitimate applications of the parable as we have examined its communication in the context of Jesus' teaching of the disciples, but now I want to focus on the most important applications that Jesus had in mind. These are indicated in verse 16:
NKJ  Matthew 20:16 So the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.
There are essentially two points of application highlighted by Jesus here in the form of two proverbial statements.

First, the statement that “the last will be first, and the first last” recalls 19:30 and forms an inclusion, indicating that the parable is a unit of teaching that belongs with the preceding context. With this statement Jesus drives home the point that God does not distribute His rewards in the way that we might expect.

Second, the statement that “many are called, but few chosen” is not included in a number of modern translations because it is not found in a handful of old manuscripts. But I think it is also left out because it is hard for so many to figure out how it fits the context, which plainly has Jesus answering Peter's question in 19:27 about the rewards believers may expect from the Lord. Thus, a reference to many being called, but few being chosen just doesn't seem to fit, since it apparently speaks of some who are not believers at all.

But, once again, I think that a close examination of the context may relieve the difficulty. Recall that what led to Peter's question in the first place was Jesus' reflection on the situation of the rich young man. And remember that Jesus' reference to the landowner as good [ἀγαθός] shows that he still had the conversation with this young man in mind as well. This leads me to the conclusion that, whereas all those who will receive rewards – be they first or last – are chosen, it is only the chosen who will receive such rewards. But there are many– such as the rich young man – who are not chosen, and they can expect no rewards at all.

Conclusion: What about you? I presume all of you are here today because you have heard some kind of Gospel call. But are you one of the chosen? Or are you like the rich young man, trusting in your own ability to be pleasing enough to God for Him to save you, which can never happen?! Or is there an idol in your life that you refuse to give up in order to truly follow Christ? If so, I pray that by God's grace you will reject the idolatry that we are all so prone to, and that you will trust in Christ alone to save you.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

A Clash of Worldviews – Ken Ham Debates Bill Nye

Last night my wife and I sat riveted to my laptop computer screen as we watched the debate between Bill Nye (“The Science Guy,” Emmy Award-winning science educator and CEO of the Planetary Society) and Ken Ham (co-founder of Answers in Genesis and founder of the Creation Museum). It was a respectful and helpful debate, although not helpful in advancing any of the issues so much as in demonstrating just how blinded by their own presuppositions modern Evolutionists really are. The contrast in this regard was stark, with Ken Ham acknowledging up front the nature of his presuppositions and the way those presuppositions affected his interpretation of scientific evidence, but with Bill Nye being completely unaware of his own presuppositions and how they affect his interpretation of scientific evidence. And no matter how often Ken tried to point out this issue, rightly asserting a distinction between observational science and historical science, Bill just couldn't seem to grasp the point. I was consistently reminded of the old saying, “There are none so blind as those who refuse to see.”

For a very good assessment of the debate, with which I agree, I would check out Al Mohler's review entitled Bill Nye’s Reasonable Man—The Central Worldview Clash of the Ham-Nye Debate. Dr. Mohler, himself a Young Earth Creationist, hits the nail on the head when he writes:
This is where the debate was most important. Both men were asked if any evidence could ever force them to change their basic understanding. Both men said no. Neither was willing to allow for any dispositive evidence to change their minds. Both operate in basically closed intellectual systems. The main problem is that Ken Ham knows this to be the case, but Bill Nye apparently does not. Ham was consistently bold in citing his confidence in God, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and in the full authority and divine inspiration of the Bible. He never pulled a punch or hid behind an argument. Nye seems to believe that he is genuinely open to any and all new information, but it is clear that his ultimate intellectual authority is the prevailing scientific consensus. More than once he asserted a virtually unblemished confidence in the ability of modern science to correct itself. He steadfastly refused to admit that any intellectual presuppositions color his own judgment.
But the single most defining moments in the debate came as Bill Nye repeatedly cited the “reasonable man” argument in his presentation and responses. He cited Adolphe Quetelet’s famed l’homme moyen—“a reasonable man”—as the measure of his intellectual authority. Writing in 1835, Quetelet, a French intellectual, made his “reasonable man” famous. The “reasonable man” is a man of intellect and education and knowledge who can judge evidence and arguments and function as an intellectual authority on his own two feet. The “reasonable man” is a truly modern man. Very quickly, jurists seized on the “reasonable man” to define the law and lawyers used him to make arguments before juries. A “reasonable man” would interpret the evidence and make a reasoned judgment, free from intellectual pressure.
Bill Nye is definitely still a believer in the myth of neutrality, and nothing or no one was going to challenge that myth.

If you are interested in hearing more from Ken Ham about how the debate went, tonight you can watch Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom discuss the debate at 8:00 PM (ET).

Update 12 February 2013

Here is the video discussion with Ken Ham and Georgia Purdom:

Update 13 February 2013

Here is a post-debate interview by Piers Morgan of Ken Ham and Bill Nye. Sadly, he focuses the whole discussion on "global warming."

Gary DeMar also weighs in with an article entitled Where the Bill Nye v. Ken Ham Debate Went Off Track.

As always, we welcome input from the blog's readers.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35 Teaching Outline)

Introduction: Vernon Grounds tells the following story of forgiveness:
If somebody killed your child, could you ever forgive him? By God's grace the raging desire for revenge might eventually die down within our hearts, but most of us would probably prefer never to see that person again nor to help him in any way.
Yet that was not the reaction of Walter Everett, a Methodist pastor in Hartford, Connecticut. When Michael Carlucci was convicted of manslaughter for shooting Everett's son, the bereaved father set an example that challenges all of us who claim Christ as Savior.
Walter said he forgave Michael because people “won't be able to understand why Jesus came and what Jesus is all about unless we forgive.” Was that mere rhetoric? Not in the least! Michael became a believer while in jail, and when he was released and wanted to be married, Walter performed the ceremony. (“Because We're Forgiven,” Our Daily Bread, July 17, 1996)
Now, we may not always see our willingness to forgive someone lead to his salvation, but we should all certainly obey Paul's command that we “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). In fact, that is the essential point of the parable before us today. In our examination of this parable, we will look at 1) the context of the parable, 2) the communication of the parable, and 3) the explanation of the parable.

I. The Context of the Parable (vss. 21-22)

The occasion for the telling of this parable was a question Peter asked Jesus after he had taught about the importance of church discipline in the preceding passage (vss. 15-20). Remember that Jesus gave that teaching in the context of seeking to restore – and thus to forgive – a straying brother. This leads to Peter's question:
NKJ  Matthew 18:21 Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”
D.A. Carson offers help in understanding Peter's question:
In rabbinic discussion the consensus was that a brother might be forgiven a repeated sin three times; on the fourth, there is no forgiveness. Peter, thinking himself big-hearted, volunteers “seven times” in answer to his own question—a larger figure often used, among other things, as a “round number” (cf. Lev 26:21; Deut 28:25; Ps 79:12; Prov 24:16; Luke 17:4). (EBC, Vol. 8, p.405) 
Peter knew by this time that Jesus would expect a righteousness from His disciples that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20), but he hadn't yet understood by just how much, as Jesus' answer will show.
NKJ  Matthew 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven [ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά].”
Jesus is apparently alluding to the statement of Lamech in Genesis:
NKJ  Genesis 4:24 If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, then Lamech seventy-sevenfold [LXX = ἑβδομηκοντάκις ἑπτά].
The LXX translates the Hebrew reference to seventy plus seven with a Greek phrase that may also mean seventy times seven. Thus the ESV and NIV translate the phrase as “seventy-seven” – preserving the allusion to Genesis 4:24 in the English text – whereas the NKJV and NASB adopt “seventy times seven” as the preferred translation. But whichever translation one adopts, the point that should not be missed is that it is this precise phrase that is used by Jesus here in Matthew 18. Thus, He is indicating that we should be as zealous in forgiving others as the infamous Lamech was in seeking vengeance.

Jesus is certainly not indicating that we should keep a strict count and forgive a brother only up to 490 times! Rather He is choosing a much bigger symbolic number than Peter has chosen in order to show how limitless our willingness to forgive should be. That this understanding is correct becomes even more apparent in the following parable.

II. The Communication of the Parable (vss. 23-34)

The parable has three scenes, and we will briefly consider each of them.

Scene #1: The Forgiving King (vs. 23-27)
NKJ  Matthew 18:23-25 23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made.
The ESV Study Bible notes are helpful in understanding the amount of the debt involved here:
In OT times, a talent was a unit of weight equaling about 75 pounds (34 kg). In NT times, it was a unit of monetary reckoning (though not an actual coin), valued at about 6,000 drachmas, the equivalent of about 20 years' wages for a laborer. (A common laborer earned about one denarius per day.) In approximate modern equivalents, if a laborer earns $15 per hour, at 2,000 hours per year he would earn $30,000 per year, and a talent would equal $600,000 (USD). Hence, “ten thousand talents” hyperbolically represents an incalculable debt—in today's terms, about $6 billion. (BibleWorks)
Here the main emphasis is on both the greatness of the debt owed and the inability of the man to pay it. Thus the king announces that he will exercise his legal right to obtain whatever payment he can by selling all that the man had and then selling the man himself, along with his family, into slavery.

The man is clearly in a desperate situation, which leads him to the actions described in the next verse.
NKJ  Matthew 18:26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, “Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.”
Here the servant forgets that he will never be able to repay the debt and asks only for patience that he may have more time to repay it. But his master, the king, knows he can never repay, as the next verse shows.
NKJ  Matthew 18:27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
Notice that the master does more for the servant than he asks. The servant has asked for more time to come up with the money, but the master completely forgives the debt. We are told he does this out of compassion for the man and his plight, which is just another way of saying that he showed mercy or grace toward the man, since he gives the man what he does not deserve.

But what will this man's response to the master's forgiveness of the debt be? Will he be transformed by it in any way? Will he share his good fortune with others? Sadly, the answer to each of these questions is, “No,” as the next scene demonstrates.

Scene #2: The Unforgiving Servant (vs. 28-30)
NKJ  Matthew 18:28-30 But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, “Pay me what you owe!” 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.” 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt.
There a few things worth noting here.

First, notice that the man's fellow servant asked for patience in the same manner that the man had himself asked for patience. He also fell down at his feet and begged him for patience using the same words that he himself had used before. One would think that these actions would have reminded the man of his own earlier predicament, but it apparently had no affect upon him at all, which leads to the next observation.

Second, observe that the man does not show any compassion or mercy toward his fellow servant. In fact, not only does he not show mercy to the man, he doesn't even show the patience he had himself asked for from his master. Instead he demands payment right away and demonstrates his ruthlessness by laying his hands on the man, grabbing him by the throat, and then throwing him into debtor's prison.

Third, notice the difference between the debt that the man had owed the king and the debt owed to the man by his fellow servant. The man had owed ten thousand talents, whereas his fellow servant only owes him a hundred denarii. Thus the servant was forgiven far more than he was asked to forgive, which illustrates well the position of every believer who is asked to forgive another.

The ESV Study Bible notes are again helpful in understanding the amount of the debt involved here:
This was still a large amount (equivalent to about 20 weeks of common labor, or about $12,000 in today's terms), but compared to the debt that the wicked servant himself owed ($6 billion), it was a relatively small amount. The servant's unwillingness to forgive even this amount, though having been forgiven his own insurmountable debt, reveals the servant's true wicked character (v. 32) and that he has not in fact been transformed by the forgiveness that his master has extended to him. (BibleWorks)
This description pretty much hits the nail right on the head and leads us to the next scene in this parable.

Scene #3: The Response of the King to the Unforgiving Servant (vs. 31-34)
NKJ  Matthew 18:31-34 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, “You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?” 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
Again there are several points that must be considered here.

First, observe that the king points out what the man's actions have clearly demonstrated, that he was a “wicked man.” For it is indeed a wicked man who shows no patience or compassion toward another, especially when he himself has been shown such overwhelming compassion!

Second, notice that the king is angry with the man because he had learned nothing from the forgiveness that had been offered to him. The king expected the man to have been changed by the experience and to have demonstrated this change in his relationship to others. But the man showed instead that he had no true comprehension of the mercy that had been extended to him.

Third, notice that, since the man refused to treat others with the grace with which he had been treated, the king decides to treat the man with the strict justice he had demanded of his fellow servant. In other words, since it was justice the man cared most about, it was justice he would receive! He himself would be cast into debtor's prison, which is indicated here by the assertion that he “delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.” But he could never repay the debt, so the situation in view here is far more severe than the earlier one in which the man would have been sold into slavery!

But what lesson(s) should we take away from this parable? Jesus will leave us in no doubt, as we will see in our final point.

III. The Explanation of the Parable (vs. 35)

We find the explanation of the parable in verse 35.
NKJ  Matthew 18:35 So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses.
There are at least two lessons Jesus would have us take away from this parable:

First, those who are unforgiving of others can expect the same from God. For such a person is wicked and has shown that he has not been changed by an encounter with God's grace.

Jesus is not saying that we somehow earn God's forgiveness by being forgiving of others! The point of the parable is the opposite, namely that the debt we owe is one we can never pay. But those of us who have truly understood this and have experienced the forgiveness of God will have been changed by it. And this change will be seen in our relationships with other people. Where this change is not evident, then a true experience of forgiveness is also not evident. Such an understanding of the parable makes sense and fits the context of the rest of Scripture nicely.

Second, notice that Jesus expects us to forgive others “from the heart.” This is the issue. We each need to have a forgiving heart, which is the result of a genuine experience of God's grace.

Klyne Snodgrass puts the point very well when he writes:
God's mercy must not be treated cavalierly. Mercy is not effectively received unless it is shown, for God's mercy transforms. If God's mercy does not take root in the heart, it is not experienced. Forgiveness not shown is forgiveness not known. (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 72)
Also, if we remember the occasion for telling this parable – Peter's question about how often we must forgive a brother – we can see another application: Whenever we find ourselves asking when we can quit forgiving others, we see a symptom of a much larger problem. We are either forgetting or failing to appreciate just how much we ourselves have been forgiven by God, and this is a grave sin indeed!

Conclusion: I would like to conclude this teaching with another quote from Klyne Snodgrass:
The instruction of this kingdom parable – as elsewhere in Scripture – is “Do unto others as God has done to you.” The ethic is responsive and reflexive – responding to God's prior action and reflecting God's character.  (Stories With Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus, p. 72)