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The Sermon on the Mount

Outline IX

The Law of Retaliation

 

Matt. 5:38-42—“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And who­soever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that ask- eth thee, and from him that would bor­row of thee turn not away.”

Previous outlines emphasized that Christ as the Chief Prophet and Teacher does not at all oppose the law of God, but lie opposes the corrupt interpretation attached to it by the scribes and Pharisees. The interpretation of the latter could plead antiquity, for it was an explanation handed down from generation to generation. But age is not necessarily a guarantee of validity, tradition does not vouchsafe truth; not all that is old is good. Sin is almost as old as the world, but none the less evil. So, too, it was with the traditionary interpretation of the law— it was a corruption, not an interpretation, of the law.

In the vss. 38-12 Christ gives another ex­ample of corrupt interpretation, and warns a­gainst it. In this instance, it is the jus talionis, the law of retaliation, that is dealt with.

I.  The Law of Retaliation and its Interpretation.—“An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”, vs. 38.

A.  Its True Meaning in the Old Testament: The law of retaliation in its full form reads.

“life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe” (Ex. 21:23­25). See also Lev. 24:17-22 and Deut. 19:21.

It should be noticed: a. That in none of the above-mentioned texts, considered in the light of the connection, is the meaning: “Go ahead and avenge your­selves for wrongs done unto you”, b. The very opposite is the case. The texts speak of what the duly ordained magistrates and judges must do. The people were not to avenge themselves. The punishment of a wrong was not in their own jurisdiction but belonged in the hands of God’s ministers of justice, c. The “eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” stated the principle according to which the judges were to mete out justice. This principle must not be literally understood, but ac­cording to the spirit, namely, that the punishment be according to the crime. Such punishment is : not revenge, but the satisfaction of justice. The authorities, as God’s ministers of justice, must judge righteously.

B.  The Corrupt Interpretation of the Scribes and Pharisees:

Whereas the Old Testament taught the public administration of justice in the law of retaliation, the traditionary view had corrupted it and used the law in order to justify personal retribution and revenge. This interpretation defeated the very purpose unto which the law was given. Where­as the law of retaliation put the punishment of crime in the hands of the law courts, outside the sphere of personal revenge, the scribes and Pharisees used it as a rule for personal revenge. And this was done, even though the Old Testament itself strictly forbids personal revenge, and that in no uncertain terms. Lev. 19:18, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” See also Prov. 24:29 and Prov. 20=22. How wicked, in view of the clear teaching of the Old Testament, to corrupt the law to allow per­sonal revenge!

C.  Present Day Confusion:

A recent commentator correctly points out that this confusion between private and public administration of justice also exists in our own day, be it in the other direction. Today Quakers and Mennonites, Modernists and Post-Millenialists, use the teaching of Jesus in the vss. 38-42 to attack the public. ministration of justice. What Jesus asserts of our personal at­titude, they apply to the magistrates. The same fundamental error the scribes and Pharisees made, they make. For example, in regard to the government’s duty to punish (not merely rehabili­tate) the criminal.

We must clearly distinguish the personal duty toward injury and the government’s duty. No man has the right to avenge himself, no man has the right to punish. This right belongs to God alone. God does not give that right to individuals: He does not allow them to avenge themselves. See Rom. 12:19, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” Vengeance as the satisfaction of justice belongs to the Lord alone. However, God does give the ministration of justice into the hands of the officers of law. Through them God punishes the criminal. These magistrates have no right to administer justice of themselves, but their authority is delegated to them by God. Therefore, they are responsible to God, and are called upon in God’s name to use the sword power to protect the good and punish the evil, Rom. 13. It is an error to deny the ordained magistrates the right to punish crimes as God’s servants as much as it was erroneous of the scribes and Pharisees to apply the rule of retaliation intended for the magistrates as a personal rule allowing the individual to take revenge.

 

II.  What Our Attitude Must be To­ward Personal Injuries, vss. 39-42:

A.  “That ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also”.

1.  This does not mean that a Christian may never participate in war. “Resist not evil” has been understood by Quakers to mean that Chris­tians may never participate in war. Many others have used the text as an argument War against participation in war. We remark: a. That war in itself is not necessarily sinful. If it were, then God Himself commanded Israel to sin when He time and again led them to war against the enemy, b. That Rom. 13 gives the State the sword power, which it is commanded to use against the evil doers. There are criminal nations as well as criminal indi­viduals, and the former as well as the latter must be punished, c. That the New Testament repeat­edly speaks of God-fearing men that were soldiers in the employ of Rome (the centurion of Caper­naum, Cornelius the centurion, etc.), but nowhere does it say that service in the army is in itself incompatible with the service of God. In brief, although we also condemn all unjust wars, we certainly cannot take the stand that all war is wrong, always wrong. Besides, as we intimated above, the text does not speak of the duty of governments, but of the duty of the private indi­vidual. God has given no individual the right to take the law in his own hands and punish evil with evil, to retaliate for the wrong done him.

2.  The entire verse must be understood in its spirit, not in the letter. Literally understood, it would even mean that evil might not be resisted by preaching, instruction and example! Besides, one might literally turn the other cheek and still not keep the spirit of the law. Neither did Christ literally turn the other cheek, John 18:22. The sense of the passage is: Don’t resist evil with evil, don’t give “tit for tat”, don’t treat as you are treated. On the contrary: Reward evil with good. Rom. 12:20, 21. Rather suffer wrong twice than do it once.

B.  “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also”, vs. 40:

The text presupposes that the other man begins the law-suit. Certainly a Christian should not bring a fellow-Christian into court, I Cor.6: If the Christian is threatened with a law-suit it is better to be defrauded than in a spirit of revenge and rancor to fight the case out. It is better to suffer evil than to fight evil with evil and to become guilty of hatred and sin yourself.

The word translated coat refers to the tunic, the undergarment worn next to the body; while the word cloak refers to the toga or over-garment. The second was considered more valuable and more indispensable and then the first. According to Ex. 22:26, 27 and Deut. 24:12, 13, if the cloak of a poor man were taken as a pledge it was to be returned before nightfall, since it was used by the poor as their covering while asleep.

C.  “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,” vs. 41:

The Greek word for “compel to go” literally means “to force into transport service” and has to do with the postal service of that day.

The Persian arrangements, dating from Darius’ time and still adhered to in Jesus’ day, allowed the postal messengers to requisition men, cattle or carriages, for carrying on their journey from station to station. Suddenly to have one’s services requisitioned for this purpose was surely unpleasant, the more whereas it meant employ for the Roman government. The sense of the verse is: Rather than resentfully and with vengeance in your heart going the required mile, it is better of your own accord to go another mile. Again the idea is: Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.

D.  “Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away,” vs. 42:

If a brother in distress asks for aid, don’t turn a deaf ear to his plea just because he has wronged you. Don’t use the opportunity to “get even” with him. Don’t retaliate previous wrongs. On the contrary, do him good. Crush your wicked desire to revenge yourself.

 

Questions: Does the Old Testament teach personal re­venge? If not, what does it teach? How is our present day guilty of confusing one’s personal duty toward evil with that of the government? Should the public adminis­tration of justice have as its guiding principle the rehabilitation of the criminal or the satisfaction of justice? If the latter, does this exclude seeking the former? Is war always wrong? May Christians ever appeal to the law courts in case of a dispute? Is the ‘passive resist­ance’ of Mahatma Gandhi in India a carrying out of the principle established by Jesus? Does vs. 42 mean that a Christian must lend to every brother always?

 

Outline X

The Law of Love

 

Matt. 5:43-48—“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thy 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; That ye may be the child­ren of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

There is undoubtedly a close relation between the material presented in the previous lesson and the material of this. The two sections belong to­gether and are so intimately re­lated that Luke 6 intertwines them completely. As far as the thought is concerned we might say that while the previous section teaches love in its passive form of endurance, the present section teaches love in its active form.

 

I.  The Traditional Interpretation of the Pharisees, vs. 43.

In two respects the Pharisaic interpreta­tion is in flagrant conflict with the law of God. First of all, because it added something to God’s law. The words “and hate thy enemy” occur nowhere in the Old Testament. It may be true that ‘‘neighbor” in the Old Testament had reference to the Israelitish nation, but God never taught hatred of one’s enemy. Add to that ‘‘neighbor’’ in the Old Testa- Pharisees meant personal enemies, those that ‘hated them. By the addition “and hate thy enemy” the Pharisees taught that it was perfect­ly permissible before God to hate one’s personal enemies. Secondly, the Pharisaic rendition of the law was also a corruption because it omitted something. An omission is frequently as serious as an addition, e.g. the omission of the anti­thesis in most “gospel” hymns is a serious matter; the omission of the atonement by the blood of the cross from the Modernist preacher’s sermon is a serious omission. So, too, the Pharisees’ omission of the words “as thyself”. Lev. 19:18 teaches “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”, c.f. Gal. 5:14. The emphasis clearly falls upon how we must love, not upon whom we must love. The traditional view omitted the how and then laid emphasis upon the whom. Consequently, they went about asking, Who is my neighbor? Lk. 10.

By the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10), the Savior definitely taught that it is our solemn duty to play the part of neighbor, to prove ourself neighbor, to everyone we come into contact with, irrespective of who he is. By the addition “and hate thy enemy” the Pharisees made the law of God of none effect, and destroyed its very purpose. This corruption of the law was not a mere matter of simple ignorance, but a wicked attempt to adapt the law of God to man instead of vice-versa. Although the law of love is more clearly taught in the New Testament than in the Old—something, by the way, which is equally true of every other Scriptural truth—the Old Testament certainly also taught love, also of one’s enemies. See Lev. 19:34: Ps. 4:5: Prov. 24:17; 25:21ff., etc.

 

II.  Christ’s Interpretation of The Law of Love:

A.  As Such—“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” vs. 44.

Notice: 1. That Christ speaks of “your ene­mies”. Apparently the emphasis falls upon per­sonal enemies, enemies that hate us, those we are naturally inclined to hate in return. 2. That Christ teaches us to love them. Love is the bond of perfection operative in the sphere of holiness between those mutually holy. Of course, in this case the love is one-sided. Christ does not mean that we should as­sociate and fraternize with those that walk in wickedness. Neither does he mean that we should merely be friendly, etc. He demands love, true love. This love must needs reprimand the wicked man for his sin, in the spirit of love, and call him to repentance. 3. That the love demanded must be a complete love: in disposition (love), in word (bless), in act (do good), in intercession (pray for).

B.  Why the Citizens of the Kingdom must Love the Enemies, vss. 45-48:

  1.  “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust”.

a.  The children of God, and such the citizens of the kingdom of heaven are, must reveal the image of their Father. That image requires that they also love their enemies. God loves His enemies. If such were not the case none would be saved, for by nature all are enemies of Him. God loved His people while they were yet enemies of him, Rom. 5:8. God loved His enemies in Christ, and therefore the elect are saved. As image-bearers of the Father our love must be like His, and not be limited merely to those that love us.

b.  “For he maketh his sun. . . .” Common Grace argues from this that God is gracious to all and blesses all. This is in conflict with all of Scripture, Prov. 3:33, Ps. 7:11, etc. Neither does the text say that God loves all men; No, the latter is a conclusion, a conclusion which is everywhere contradicted by Scripture. It is true that rain and sunshine happen to fall upon all, but this is not the point of the text. The point of the text is that rain and sunshine do not come only upon the righteous, but also upon others. So, too, our love must not be limited to our friends. For further study see by Rev. H. Hoeksema, The History of the Protestant Re­formed Churches, pp. 317 ff.; God’s Goodness Al­ways Particular, pp. 184 ff.

2.  “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?”, vss. 46, 47.

The citizens of the kingdom must be, posi­tively speaking, like their father in heaven; nega­tively, unlike sinners. If they love only those that love them, if they greet only those that greet them, they do not differ from publicans. Publicans were the tax-gatherer; they were gener­ally abhorred for their cruelty and avarice, and especially because they were in the employ of Rome. They were classified with the public women, etc.; hence Scripture speaks of “publicans and sinners” in one breath. Vs. 46 emphasizes also that unless they differ from publi­cans and Pharisees, there is no reward. See vs. 12 for “reward”.

  1. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” vs. 48.

The Greek word for “perfect” means: com­plete in every part. As their Father is perfect, so the citizens of the kingdom must be perfect. This does not imply that moral perfection, ab­solute sinlessness, can be attained in this life; it does imply that the Christian must strive after it. See Phil. 3:12-14; I Pet. 1:15, 16. Whether this vs. must be construed as a fitting conclusion to the entire contents of chap. 5, or merely as a conclusion to the portion treated in this outline, is debatable. However, it seems more natural to connect up the exhortation with the subject matter of the present outline, in which case the meaning is: Be perfect in love to thy neighbor.

 

Questions: Why is it false to assert that the Old Testament teaches hate and the New Testament love? How did the Pharisees corrupt the law of love? Can you harmonize Ps. 139:21, 22 with Matt. 5:44? How should our love to our enemies reveal itself? Does the fact that God rains upon righteous and unrighteous both, prove a favorable attitude on the part of God toward the reprobate? Who were the publicans? Should a Chris­tian strive after absolute sinlessness? Can it be attained in the present life?

 

Outline XI

Alms Giving

 

Matt. 6:l-4—“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the syna­gogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”

 

While Matt. 5:17-48 speaks of the righteous­ness of the kingdom as in harmony with the law properly interpreted, Matt. 6 does not speak of the interpretation of the law, but of its practice. In the former chapter the Savior condemned the corrupt lawinterpretation of the scribes and Phari­sees; in this chapter the Savior condemns and warns against their corrupt practices. The sixth chapter emphasizes that the service of God must be: a. From the heart, and not to be seen of men (vss. 1-18); b. With an undivided heart, in wholehearted devotion (vss. 19-34).

The first eighteen verses set forth the true observance of righteousness over against the false in connection with: Almsgiving (vss. 1-4), Prayer (vss. 5-15), Fasting (vss. 16-18). The Pharisees made much of these three religious acts; Christ exposes their corruption and exhorts the believers to practice a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees.

 

I.  The Exhortation, vss. 1, 2:

A.  “Take heed that ye do not your alms be­fore men, to be seen of men. . . .”

1.  Instead of the word “alms” found in the King James Version of the Bible, the Revised reads “righteousness”. If the latter be the true rendition, then vs. 1 is a general introduction to all the first eighteen verses. The fundamental meaning of the section remains unaltered in either case.

2.  Jesus condemns almsgiving to be seen of men. The point is not so much that others behold our giving, as that it may not be our motive and aim to be seen of men. If almsgiving might not be before men (in front of men), then it would be wrong to take up an offering for the poor in public. The sin condemned is the desire and pur­pose to be seen of men.

3.  Almsgiving that has as its purpose the praise of men receives no reward of tire Father. The statement is negative, because such givers usually imagine that God ought to be beholden to them for their gifts. The text there­fore says that God does not reward them. Posi­tively expressed, God rejects such sacrifices; they are an abomination to Him.

4.  “Take heed that ye do not”. The danger of unrighteous almsgiving is not imaginary, but very real. For every one of us. We must continually be on our guard. Our carnal heart is no better than that of the scribe and Pharisee. Our carnal nature loves to be seen of men. Hence, be on your guard.

B.  “Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypo­crites do. . . .”

1.  By the “hypocrites” Christ means “the scribes and Pharisees”. See Matt. 23:13-34. A hypocrite is a pretender, an actor, he plays the part of another. He pretends love to God and the poor, but he intends the praise of men. He acts as though he means to give, while his real intention is to receive.

2.  Whether the scribes and Pharisees liter­ally sounded a trumpet in the synagogue and in the streets before they gave their alms, or whether this must be understood figuratively, is not certain. Some say that the Pharisees actually called the poor together; as swine are called to the trough when the farmer feeds them. How­ever, it is certain that the Pharisees took care that their giving was advertised and noised abroad, that men might praise them.

3.  Jesus says, “Verily I say unto you, They have their reward”. There is a terrible reality expressed in the words, “They have their reward.” They sought the praise of men, they received it; hence, they have been paid in full. No heavenly reward awaits them. On the contrary, they re­ceive punishment for their wickedness.

 

II.  The Positive Injunction, vss. 3, 4:

A.  “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: that thine alms may be in secret”.

  1.   Christ does not discourage almsgiving.

Almsgiving, charity, benevolence, is a Christian duty. A Christian not only must, but will give alms.

See Acts 6; II Cor. 8, 9, etc.

2.  The expression “let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth” is figurative. It means: Christian giving should .be done: not ostentatiously, to be seen of men, but from the principle of love to God and gratitude.

B.  “And thy Father. . . . shall reward thee openly”: 1. God rewards righteous almsgiving. However, the reward is not of merit, but of grace.

1.  God will reward “openly”. The secret things shall be made manifest, by the God who seeth in secret. The reward given you will be an evident one.

2.  This reward does not consist in an in­crease of earthly goods, as some say (“give much and you will receive much”). But it consists in the blessing of God, in growth in grace, in this life: in the life to come an eternal reivard. QUESTIONS: What is meant by almsgiving? Is all giv­ing almsgiving? In what way are we all exposed to the danger of hypocritical almsgiving? What is a hypocrite? Does this passage militate against signing one’s name to a pledge? Does it militate against giving per envelope? Is it true that abundant giving is a sure way to abundant receiving?

 

OUTLINE XII

Prayer

 

MATT. 6:5-15—And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they’ think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be ye not there­fore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­…………….. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, vour heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father for­give your trespasses.

I.  HOW THE CITIZENS OF THE KINGDOM ARE TO PRAY: vss. 5-8.

A.  Not as the Hypocrites Do:

1.  How the Hypocrites Pray:

By the “hypocrites” Christ refers to the scribes and Pharisees. As previously stated, a hypocrite is a pretender. He acts pious but is not. To men be appears very righteous, but God who knoweth the heart sees him in his true character. The Pharisees liked (the word love used here really means like; it is another word in the original than that used in 5:44 meaning love), they took pleasure in, praying on the street corners. By street corners are meant public squares. Naturally their only pur­pose was: to be seen of men. See Matt. 23:14, 25-28: Lk. 18:9-14.

2.  How the Citizens of the Kingdom are to Pray:

a.  They are to pray in seclusion. The word “closet” means any inner chamber away from the sight of men. Although the con­trast appears merely to be between praying in private and in public, the real contrast is between ostentatious pray­er and prayer from the heart. Hence, this verse does not condemn every public prayer, e.g., congregational prayers on the Lord’s Day. However, in public prayers (in which one leads the rest in prayer) the motive must be: not to be seen of men, but love of God.

b.  Prayer is answered. God always hears the prayer of faith. If requests are not granted, it is because to grant them would be harmful. When the Christian from the heart adds “if it be Thy will”, then he desires only what God knows is good for him. Thus understood, every prayer is answered.

B.  Not as the Heathen Do: vss. 7, 8.

1.  How the Heathen Pray: The heathen make long prayers, and use “vain repetitions”. This is to be understood, since they conceive of prayer as a means to placate their gods. Their gods must be won over. Hence their prayers are accompanied by self-inflicted punishments and various self-castigations. Cf. I Kings 18:25-29. The Mohammedans make much use of “vain repetitions”. Also the Catholics. The lat­ter do this undoubtedly because they have assimi­lated this heathenism into their doctrine, and be­cause they too look upon prayer as a meritorious work.

2.  How the Children of God are to Pray: They are not to use vain repetition and much speaking. And this because, “your Father know- eth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him”. They are to remember that they pray, not to a god who must be placated, but to “your Father”. God wishes to be asked, but He does not need to be told or won over. A child asks mother for bread, not because mother does not know its needs, but because it is assured that mother will hear and grant at once what it needs.

 

II.  THE LORD’S PRAYER: vss. 9-13.

A.  General Observations:

1.  The “therefore” points to a conclusion drawn from the preceding verse. Yet, how strange. After “your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him”, one would expect: “Therefore ye need not pray at all”. But Christ does not draw this conclusion. The Christian must pray, and will pray. As the needle of the compass always turns north, as the sunflower turns toward the sun, so the Christian will draw nigh to God.

2.  The Lord’s prayer was not intended as a ritual prayer, but as a model and pattern. Christ did not say: Pray “with these words”: but, Pray “after this man­ner”. Christians are to study the principles of prayer therein laid down, and con­form themselves thereto.

3.  This prayer was also uttered by Christ on another occasion. Then in a slightly different form. Lk. 11:1-4. Notice that on this other occasion the prayer was given in answer to the disciples’ request. “Lord, teach us to pray”.

4.  The Lord’s Prayer is characterized by comprehensive brevity. That it is brief is self­evident. But note also its com­prehensiveness ; everything is included.

5.  The Prayer consists of three parts: a. An Address—“Our Father which art in Heaven”, b. Six Petitions. The first three petitions re­late directly to God—thy Name, thy Kingdom, thy Will. The second three relate to our immediate needs—our daily bread, mor trespasses, our de­liverance from evil. c. A Doxology, or Word of Praise—“For thine is the Kingdom. . . .”

B.  The Component Parts of the Prayer:

(We refer you to the explanation of the ileid. Catechism, for study of each of the parts of the prayer. Space forbids us to elaborate on each of these parts in our outlines, especially since we wish to cover the entire Sermon during the re­mainder of this season. It seemed best to us to so arrange the material that we can briefly out­line the entire Sermon in the five issues of the Beacon Lights. Societies that continue through the summer might well spend some weeks on this Prayer and make use of the explanation of the Catechism. See Lord’s Day 45-52. We suggest that such societies come back to this Prayer dur­ing the summer months.)

 

III.  THE NECESSITY OF FORGIVING OUR DEBTORS: vss. 14, 15.

A.  A Strange Fact:

In these verses Christ comes back to the thought expressed in one of the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, “Forgive us our debts, as we for­ give our debtors”. The question therefore quite naturally arises, Why did Christ come back on this and re-iterate the necessity of forgiving the bro­ther? Several reasons might be suggested: First, because the scribes and Phari­sees so evidently trampled this rule under foot— there was need to emphasize it. Secondly, be­cause it is human nature to seek forgiveness, without wishing to give it. The disciples need the warning, ever anew. Thirdly, because it is a gross error to separate the love of God from the love of the neighbour. Fourthly, because the true child of God is hereby earmarked that as he has been forgiven, so he will by God’s grace forgive the brother.

B.  Meaning: Scripture does not teach that our forgiveness of the brother is the ground of God’s forgiveness—only Christ’s sacrifice is the ground. Neither does Scripture mean to teach that our forgiveness is first, and thereupon God’s follows—God’s forgiveness is logically and in point of time always first. But Scripture does mean that the child of God who seeks forgive­ness of God, experiences in his heart that God’s grace moves him to forgive. 1 John. 3:14, 17. As then he experiences God’s grace inclining him to forgive, so, too, the Giver of that grace surely forgives. Besides, if we do not love the brother whom we have seen, how can we love God whom we have not seen? I John. 4 :19, 20. If we are un­willing to forgive, then neither are we earnest in our search after forgiveness. Sin has not be­come sin for us; we have not repented.

 

QUESTIONS: Why must a Christian pray? If all things happen according to God’s counsel, is not prayer super­fluous? Why does God refuse some requests? What objections, if any, do you have to the custom of prayer meetings? What should be first in our prayers: God or our own needs? Why is it impossible to receive for­giveness of God, if we refuse to forgive the brother?

 

(P.S. — Although there are five Sundays in the month of March, we have prepared only four outlines for the month. Because of the late appearance of the first issue of the BEACON LIGHTS, all the Societies are at least one week behind schedule. By omitting one outline the Societies will have opportunity to “catch up”).