The Responsibility of Beleivers

Matthew 18:21-35 (NIV) [21] Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" [22] Jesus answered, "I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times. [23] "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. [24] As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. [25] Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. [26] "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' [27] The servant's master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go. [28] "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. [29] "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' [30] "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. [31] When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. [32] "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. [33] Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' [34] In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. [35] "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

The above passage is one I often use when discussing OSAS with someone. I use it because I have always thought it was pretty clear cut and that it shows that we have responsibilities even after we are saved.

I don't want to quote any one person, but I want to address how many OSAS teachers interpret this passage of scripture. I know that there are many variations out there of OSAS, but the two that I will use are pretty common if you look up this passage in a commentary.

The first one is this: The parable does not concern believers. The evil servant was not a believer and Jesus is only trying to show that no one will be forgiven of their sins until they are willing to forgive others. Now they obviously go into much more detail then I am, but that is the bottom line.

I have a major disagreement to this interpretation. If a sinner has to do anything (in this case forgive others) before they can be saved that is adding works to the finished work of Christ on the cross. All a sinner has to do is confess his sins and believe in Jesus Christ and his sins will be forgiven. Now I would agree that after salvation that person will have to forgive others, but not before. If any of us had to be good enough to obtain salvation then salvation is by works at least in part. The Bible makes it very clear that salvation is by grace through faith, not of works. Also who would be a servant of the king? If God is the King then who are His servants if not believers? I think it is a stretch to try to claim this is not about believers.

The second view of this parable is; The servant was a believer, but notice that he was only turned over to the jailer for torture not for death. They claim that what Jesus is teaching is that we as believers if we don't forgive others will be tormented until we are willing to forgive others. They go on to say that the king in the parable did not reinstate the original debt but rather the debt that has to be paid is un-forgiveness, so that once the person forgives they are once again free. One well known OSAS teacher who has his own set of commentaries even states that if the parable means that the king put the servant back under the original debt that would mean that once saved, always saved is wrong and that is unthinkable.

Why can't we take the parable at face value and learn by what Jesus said? This is the danger of theology; that a person will read the Bible through the lense of their theology instead of get their theology through reading the Bible.

Should we not be warned by this parable that we who have been forgiven much, should be faithful to forgive others? Jesus stressed this again in what we call the Lord's prayer. (Luke 11:4 NIV) Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.

I admit this is tough teaching, but we can't just change the meaning of what Jesus said because we don't like it. Why do people have such a problem with the idea that a believer once saved, still has some responsibility to server and stay faithful to God?

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