Support and Resources For Pastors and
Christian Ministry Professionals
Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A., Editor
Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost
II. He refused to play God--Rom 12:17-19
III. He recognized that God often turns evil into good--Gen 45:5-7; Rom 12:19-21; Acts 2:23ff.
Holman Bible Dictionary: Joseph's brothers sold him to Egypt to be rid of their brother the dreamer. God, however, used their act of hate as an opportunity to save Israel from both physical famine and spiritual extinction. The rise of Joseph to a position of authority in Egypt in fulfillment of his God-given dreams illustrates the Lord’s blessing upon His people. Joseph’s wisdom in administering the agricultural affairs of Egypt again fulfilled God’s promise that "I will bless him who blesses you." What appeared to be a series of blunders and injustices in Joseph’s early experiences proved to be God at work in unseen ways to demonstrate His sovereign, kingdom work among the nations.
John MacArthur writes: Although Joseph had been terribly wronged by his jealous brothers when they sold him into slavery, he held no grudge. Years later, when they were in the midst of a great famine and he was the only person who could help them, he was quick to offer his forgiveness, to embrace them in love, to provide the food they needed, and even to give them the lush region of Goshen to live in. When they had begged his forgiveness and fallen down before him, he "said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place?'"...
Forgiveness reflects the highest human virtue because it so clearly reflects the character of God. A person who forgives is a person who emulates godly character. Nothing so much demonstrates God’s love as His forgiveness. A person who does not forgive is therefore a person lacking in godly character and without Christlike love, no matter how orthodox his theology or how outwardly impeccable his morals appear to be.
A Christian who will not relinquish a hateful, resentful attitude toward someone who has wronged him is a person who knows neither the true glory of his redeemed humanity nor the true glory of God’s gracious divinity. An unforgiving Christian is a living contradiction of His new nature in Christ. It is central to the heart of God to forgive, and only the Christian who radiates forgiveness radiates true godliness. Considering forgiveness from another direction: Christians need to forgive because they themselves need forgiveness. They are spiritual children and, like all children, are ignorant, weak, selfish, disobedient, and regularly in need of forgiveness, both from God and from each other. Forgiving is a give-and-take issue of life.
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THE MESSAGE FOR CHILDREN
Object: a school backpack
I’m guessing that you own one of these. But this one doesn’t have books in it; it’s full of rocks. I want you to think of these rocks as SINS. When people sin against us, God tells us to forgive them before the sun goes down. If you don’t forgive them, it’s like carrying around this backpack of rocks with you wherever you go.
Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, but God made it all work out for good, not only for Joseph, but for thousands of people. When his brothers came to Egypt to buy food, they didn’t recognize Joseph, but he recognized them. He could have settled the score with them when his father died, but he refused to "play God" by getting even. He forgave them and took care of them and their families.
Whatever you do, forgive the people who sin against you. Do it before the sun goes down. It’s a lot easier to carry this backpack without the rocks. Don’t ever forget that.
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The following is drawn primarily from the article, "'Following' Matthew 18: Interpreting Matthew 18:15-20 in Its Context," written by Jeff Gibbs and Jeff Kloha and published in the January 2003 issue of Concordia Journal.
1. "Each unit in Matthew 18 contributes to a growing 'crescendo of care' that climaxes in the teaching regarding the unlimited forgiveness that Jesus' disciples will extend to one another.
2. 18:1-4 is the key to understanding the structure of chapter 18.
a. "Jesus uses a child to redefine 'greatness' in the reign (kingdom) of heaven."
b. "In the community of disciples who acknowledge that the reign of heaven has come in Jesus, the greatest, most significant member of the community is precisely the one who is in greatest need of care, nurture, and protection." (Emphasis mine)
c. Children are not 'role models' for ancients as they are for modern North Americans. It is hard to imagine a first-century thinker stating, 'All I ever needed to know I learned in kindergarten.' Rather, the ancients generally regarded children as (at the least) needy, lacking understanding, and dependent on the provision of others.
d. "'Children' in Matthew, whether the reference is to literal children or to adults who are characterized as 'children,' are helpless, in need of food, protection, healing, prayer, exorcism, and divine revelation…children are never examples of 'humble service.'"
e. "When in 18:2-3 Jesus warns His disciples that they must turn and become like children in order to receive final eschatological salvation, He is telling them that only those who acknowledge their utter need and complete inability will enter the reign of heaven on the last day."
f. "…'to humble oneself' in the New Testament more often means 'to acknowledge one’s need and lowly dependence'…"
g. "…the one who has the most needs and who requires the most care and protection is the greatest…"
h. "The 'child' of 18:1-4 is not someone who is serving others but someone who needs to be served and helped. Jesus' words in 18:5 advance this understanding of 'the child' by asserting that when a disciple receives and ministers to one such Christian 'child,' that disciple is also at the same time receiving Jesus Himself."
3. 18:6-10 is an exhortation to help such needy ones and to not cause them to fall into grave sin and unbelief.
4. 18:12-14 is another advance "in the urgency of caring for a needy fellow disciple." Now, "there is responsibility to follow after a fellow disciple who has begun to wander away from their common faith and life."
5. 18:15-20, even more specific, if a fellow disciple sins against you, it is your responsibility out of care for the disciple to go to him/her and seek reconciliation. "So urgent is this care for a needy brother that ultimately the community becomes involved."
a. 18:15-20 "is not about 'conflict resolution' per se; it is about deep concern for a brother who has been overtaken in a trespass."
b. "The primary goal is never 'to convict' the sinner or even establish the 'rights' of the brother against whom the sin occurred.”
c. This is talking about grave sin, sin for which "overlooking it is not possible because of the danger the sin poses to the one who has sinned."
d. 18:15-20 "reveals the will of Christ for His disciples and their care for one another."
6. 18:21-35--God's divine forgiveness "can, will, and must motivate Jesus' disciples always to forgive one another. This is the ultimate care for the 'little ones,' the needy in the community."
Point: Care, concern, and love for our brothers and sisters in Christ leads us to go to them when they have sinned against us, that they might not be lost.
Problem: Our pride keeps us from helping our brother or sister, as well as keeps us from granting forgiveness. Instead we seek condemnation of the one who sinned against us or we seek to exercise our "rights."
Promise: God has forgiven immeasurably more than we could possibly ever repay. Through His love we can love our brothers and sisters enough to go to them and help them.
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This page was revised on: Monday, November 13, 2006 10:43:03 AM