Matthew 18:35

ESV So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
NIV This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.'
NASB My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.'
CSB So also my heavenly Father will do to you unless every one of you forgives his brother or sister from your heart."
NLT That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.'
KJV So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

What does Matthew 18:35 mean?

Jesus told the story in this passage (Matthew 18:23–34) in response to Peter's noble-sounding question: Should I forgive my brother for sinning against me seven times? Judaism required forgiveness of the same person for the same offense at least three times. Seven was twice that plus one. Peter was suggesting taking it to the extra mile when it comes to forgiving others (Matthew 18:21–22).

This parable was used to show how limited Peter's idea of forgiving each other really is. How much should a man, forgiven by the king for thousands of lifetimes worth of debt, be willing to forgive from others? The man in the story refused to forgive a debt of 100 days' wages, causing every listener to agree with the king that the man was wicked. Perhaps they even cheered when the man was thrown in debtors' prison.

Now, though, Jesus drives the point of the story home. His Father in heaven, God, will also imprison every person who does not forgive his brother from the heart. God expects those whom He forgives to forgive everyone who sins against them up to the amount they themselves have been forgiven. Since every sin we commit is committed against God, those who are forgiven by Him are forgiven for every sin, every wrong and wicked choice, we ever do over the course of our lifetimes. Nobody will ever sin against us anywhere near to the amount we have sinned against God.

How are we forgiven? Only through faith in Jesus and by God's grace (Ephesians 2:8–9). The one who told this story is about to die on the cross to pay the price for the sins of all who believe in Him (John 3:16–18; Colossians 2:14). Now He tells us that God will not forgive those unwilling to forgive as they have been forgiven. This is not because forgiveness is a pre-condition of salvation (Titus 3:5), but because forgiveness is a symptom of those who have been truly saved.

God's grace for us is absolute and our only hope of spending eternity with Him. We cannot earn His forgiveness by forgiving others. Instead, we should understand that the God who saves us begins to change our hearts and make us new in the image of Christ (Romans 12:1–2). The ability to forgive those who hurt us is evidence that the Spirit of God in us through faith in Christ is alive and active and at work in us.

Those who absolutely refuse to forgive may be showing that they are not willing to receive God's forgiveness for their much larger debt of sin. This does not apply to those who want to forgive yet are grappling with it. Even if we're not perfect, we can demonstrate willingness to obey. We can live consistently with an understanding that God has forgiven us for far more than we will ever need to forgive in others.
What is the Gospel?
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