Conversatio Divina

Part 1 of 1

Handout: Jesus’ Good News of God’s Kingdom

Dallas Willard

A handout for the course

Jesus' Good News of God's Kingdom

01.  Lesson One: Kingdom Blessedness in Relation to Jewish Law

  1. The Messenger, Jesus: –Who he was. John 1:1-18, 14:6-7, Col. 1:15-17 & 2:9
    Jesus is the incarnation of the order present in the entire universe. He is the way, the truth, and the life. Wherever there is a way, wherever there is truth, wherever there is life, the eternal son is present, lighting every man that cometh into the world. This, now is the one who is found teaching in the synagogues of Galilee (Matt 4:23)
  2. How the incarnate King presents his kingdom in Galilee—
    (A kingdom is a realm of persons involving relations of power, loyalty, and care.)
    1. Jesus presents the Kingdom by his power in healing (Matt 12:28)
    2. Jesus presents the Kingdom by his teachings, particularity,

The “Sermon on the Mount”

THEME OF THE SERMON—Two ways to Blessedness (Joy plus rightness):

i. The kingdom way, God’s gift
ii. The Fleshly way, Man’s attainment

  1. The accessibility of Kingdom Blessedness Matt 5:3-16
    “Blessed are the sat upon, spat upon, ratted on”
    (Simon and Garfunkel)
    Jesus takes those ordinarily thought not blessed or blessable and calls them blessed. The 1st beatitude is so contrary to man’s thinking that English translators of the Bible cannot bring themselves in so many cases to translate it. The verse (5:3) says Makarioi hoi ptokoi to pneumati hoti auton ostin he basileia ton ouranwn. The phrase “hoi ptokoi to pneumati” just means: “the poverty stricken in spiritual things.” It refers to the simple minded, the untalented, the religiously unsophisticated. In the Luke version (6:20) this beatitude reads: “Blessed are the poor . . .” On a review of the various translations of Matt 5:3, the King James, American Standard Version, Revised Standard version, and the Jerusalem Bible do translate this verse. Berkeley, Goodspeed, New English Bible, Phillips, Good News for Modern Man, The New World Transl., Amplified Bible, Living Bible, all interpolate consciousness of poverty, which draws the sting from the teaching. (Thanks to Steve Graces for this comparison of translations.)
  2. Now this radical inversion of Blessedness in God’s order is put into relation to the Jewish Law-system of blessedness (5:17f)
    1. How the law is to be fulfilled and pass away—By completion of its spirit, so that regulation of externals dissipates.
    2. What was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? It consisted in control over externals, often involving manipulative control of other people. That is, it was human power and attainment.


For next week: Study Matt 5 and 19 and Mark 10 and Eph 6:15-33
Memorize I John 4:7-8


Theme of the Sermon: A contrast of the two ways of life, the fleshly way, which is man’s attainment, and the ‘kingdom way’, which is God’s gift. The two ways are the same as that contrasted in Paul’s writings as the way or mind of flesh and the mind of the spirit (see Romans 8 and Galatians). From beginning to end of the sermon, Jesus [shows] the ‘impressive’ types of righteousness for the fraud that they are. This culminates in 7:22-23.

Method of the sermon: Jesus teaches by paradox, illustration, simile and metaphor. Here nor elsewhere does he teach systematically or exhaustively:–that is, he does not give us a system of doctrine or moral rules, but aims to communicate a certain spirit to us, with concrete cases and striking sayings to fix that spirit or outlook in us.

  1. Initial statements about who is and can be divinely well-off or blessed, having both rightness and full joy—
    1. That those who are wretched by human standards can have bliss (3-12)
    2. The goodness available to the common person makes him the salt of the earth, the light of the world (5:13-15)
    3. But not because of human attainment, but by God’s gift (16)
  2. Man’s way and God’s way contrasted by how the child of the kingdom will act and be in principal life situations (5:17-7:12)
    1. General statement that the child of the kingdom must complete and go beyond pharisaical righteousness (5:17-20)
    2. Contrast of the two ways in three types of situations where the aggressiveness of the male is usually displayed (5:21-37)
      1. Toward other men (21-26 compare I Cor 6:1-8)
      2. Toward women (27-32)
      3. Toward God (33-37)
    3. Contrast of the two ways in response to the actions and the status of others (38-48)
      1. Response to specific harmful actions (38-42)
      2. Response in attitude toward those classified as against us (43-48)
    4. Contrast of the two ways in manner of performing religious acts
      1. Doing ‘alms’ or good deeds (6:1-4)
      2. Praying (5-15)
      3. Fasting (16-18)
    5. Contrast of the two ways in how they make provision for the physical needs and wants of this life (6:19-34)
      1. The posture prohibited to the child of the kingdom (19-24)
      2. Kingdom thoughtlessness (25-34, but compare Phil 4:6-7 & 11-13)
    6. Contrast of the two ways in how they ‘manage’ other people (7:1-12)
      1. Not by condemning them (1-5)
      2. Not by forcing ‘what they need’ down their throats (6)
      3. But by prayer we ‘handle them through God’ (7-12)
  3. Final warnings—(Matt 7:13-27)
    1. The two ways contrasted in terms of case and accessibility (13-14)
    2. Leaders in the two ways contrasted—Leaders in man’s way will use you for their purposes (15-20)
    3. Warnings about ‘big deal’ righteousness, and how it will not gain admittance to the kingdom, or stand up in the last day (21-23)
    4. Which way gives the firm foundation for a life which can stand the storms (24-27)


For July 9: Study the above outline, with related scriptures
Memorize Matt 6:31-34


“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of (on the behalf of) the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). (Cf. I Cor. 10:31)

“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Gal. 5:14).


The basis for getting married which conforms with the way of Christ is regard for the well-being of oneself and others, and especially regard for the advancement of the kingdom of God in this world. This, of course, takes into account such matters as sexual gratification (I Cor. 7) and romantic love, both of which are God’s creations and limited goods. (Limited because you cannot make a whole life of them.) But neither sex nor romance is to serve as the basis of marriage among the disciples. Either may serve as one – and perhaps a final – consideration in the decision to marry or not (see e.g. I Cor. 7:9), but neither is to be regarded as the reason why x and y get and stay married.

The New Testament regards romantic love as such a negligible factor in marriage that it does not even mention it. Disciples can no longer neglect this form of love, because in our world of today it is running among, destroying the lives of millions by its insubordination to agape. Disciples must, above all, be convinced, and must convince their children, that you cannot build a marriage upon either sexual attraction or romantic love alone, and that the goodness which is in these is available only within properly agapized homes and communities. The basis of the Christly marriage and family is mutual subordination to the good of the others out of a respect for Christ (Eph. 5:21).


The basis for divorce among disciples is precisely the same as the basis for marriage. Where it is the case that the persons involved in a marriage would be substantially better off if the marriage were dissolved, the law of love dictates that a divorce should occur. If indeed the divorce is realized as a consequent of the law of love, and through the working of God’s kingdom power, the evil which is present in most divorces will not be present—and, indeed very few divorces will occur. But the disciple will make sure of his or her obedience to the law of love in any divorce by making God his lawyer and judge through prayer, not through force and self-will. It is in this way that he or she will prevent the liberty from the law’s letter, which comes with submission to the principle of agape (Gal. 5:1), from becoming “an occasion to the flesh” (Gal. 5:13).

The above view of the basis for divorce seems to run contrary to the directives given by Jesus and by Paul in their respective cultural-historical settings. But this is not so. Neither Jesus nor Paul ever discussed what we today call divorce. Jesus taught that man should not put away women. He condemned a unilateral action of rejection of women by men which, in the world of his time, did great damage to women—as he put it, force them into adultery. He—nor Paul—dealt with divorce or separation by mutual consent, or in cases where provision is made by a division of property or alimony or otherwise. He did not deal with this because it did not exist. Now this is not a theory or interpretation, but a fact about his teaching on man/woman relationships. In I Cor. 7 Paul also deals only with one person putting away or leaving another, where one mate is a disciple and the other is not, or where a disciple thinks that he could better serve the Lord if unmarried (like Paul). To repeat, there is no prohibition of divorce as we now know it, except in-so-far as a divorce still turns out—as it often does—to be the cruel “putting away” which Jesus condemned. To repeat, the reason there is no prohibition is simply that there is no mention of it, for the simple reason that there was no such thing as our divorce procedures, allowing a bad situation to be improved by the dissolution of a family unit.

We should stress, however, that most divorces which occur are avoidable and lamentable, both in the hurtful manner in which they occur, and in the fact that the persons involved are really no better off after they occur. On the other hand, the brother or sister who is in a bad marriage can rightly pray—and should pray—that God will step into the marriage and either make it a good marriage or dissolve it (1) by mutual consent and provision, (2) by the unbelieving or offending mate leaving (I Cor. 7:15), in which case Paul does not forbid remarriage (See also I Tim. 5:14, where the immediate application is to young widows), (3) or by other circumstances.

Brothers or sisters who wish to stay in a bad and pain-full marriage as a devotion to God, or out of desire to save their mates, may do so with God’s blessing. But it is not an act of faith to stay in a bad marriage from fear of the unknown world into which one would be thrown if the marriage dissolved. That is fear and mistrust of God’s provision.

In the context of divorce, the role of romantic love must once again be mentioned. Difficulties concerning this type of feeling, or its absence, form a hard core of suffering within and without the church in ‘western’ society. For example, men and women are troubled by a lack of romance with their mates, or by its presence with someone to whom they are not married. They tend to feel guilty [often very guilty] where there appears such a mismatch of feelings. Again, some think that romantic feeling between two persons legitimizes sexual relations between them; that “It’s okay since we love each other.” Conversely, persons married without romance will complain of “feeling dirty” because they (have to) have sex—possibly even otherwise good sex—with their mate, but do not have a romantic attachment to them. These are only some of the many complaints that come from persons, both Christian and not. Most disastrous for our whole social order, and especially for children, who tend to perpetuate the error, is the practice of divorcing and re-marrying merely on the basis of a shift in romantic attachments. “I must divorce Jim because I have fallen in love with Bill,” or “I am going to marry Jill because we have fallen in love”— These express utter delusions, which not only are insufficient to base a marriage upon, but which destroy the strength of other good bases, such as a mutual liking and commitment, with a desire for family, common vocation or avocation, or elemental types of stability and help. Not only does this delusion about romantic love afflict marriage, but the jealousy and possessiveness which it breeds makes the lives of single persons miserable, as they attempt to relate to members of the opposite sex. It is this type of ‘love’ that leads ‘lovers’ to kill each other—with tongue or gun. It is anything but a blessing unless enveloped in agape.


For July 16: Study Matt 6, 7, 25:14-46
Memorize Matt 7:21-25

* Many worthwhile things about divorce are said in C.S. Lovett’s The Divorce Problem

04.  Fifth Lesson: Prayer in the Life of Children of the Kingdom

  1. What Kingdom Prayer is: It is expression, through conscious act of thought or speech, to that person who is at the controls of the universe of an attitude of love, worship or praise, or of a request for what is in the interest of the Kingdom (the cause of Christ) but is beyond our power.
  2. Christ’s example in prayer Luke 6:12, Luke 11:1, Mark 1:35, Matt 14:23
  3. The example of Christ’s early disciples—Acts 6:4, 9:11, Phil 1:4 and 1:9-11, Col 1:3
  4. What did Jesus teach about prayer—
    1. About the heart of the Father Luke 11:5-13, John 16:23-27
    2. About the attitude of the person praying
      1. Trust in God Matt 21:21-22
      2. Union with the brothers and sisters Matt 18:19-20
      3. Submission to the will and name of Jesus John 14:8-14 and I John 5:13-15
    3. About the content of Kingdom Praying Matt 6:9-13
  1. Two main assumptions of Kingdom praying as taught and practiced by Jesus—
    1. That in praying we inform God of our attitudes and desires
      God IS able to know everything, and nothing that he wills to know is hidden from him. But he respects the human beings whom he has created, and does not force his way into their minds:–any more than any human being will try to forcibly [forceably] intrude into the mind of one he loves. We and God seek [seeks] a free response. In prayer we freely open our selves to God, who chooses not to know the contents of our souls except insofar as we invite him in.
    2. That God has not already settled how things are to be:–
      That our wants expressed in prayer may even change what he has planned. (cf Isaiah 38:1-5)
  2. The unimportance of feelings to prayer.


For Next week: Study Matt 8-10
Memorize Matt 9:36-38

05.  Sixth Lesson: The Realism of Life in Perfect Love

Mt. 5:38-48, 25:31-46, I John 4:18

Introduction: We may note three general views of what ‘salvation’ is:

  1. Something in your life—e.g. you have christian parents, are baptized, or make a ‘decision’—trips the lever in some heavenly mechanism or computer, and your name is added to a list at the ‘pearly’ gates. You then will be admitted when your number comes up. The general tenor of your life is unchanged.
  2. You got the above, plus certain more or less ecstatic experiences—e.g. you now and then witness, get ‘high on Jesus’, sing and shout—all of which, again, leaves the general tenor of your life firmly fixed in harshness, despair, and inward or outward rebellion against God.
  3. Your life is taken over in every aspect by the spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (II Tim 1:7) The home, work, play, all is permeated by “Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Meekness, Self-control” (Gla 5:22-23)

It must be stressed that #3 is Jesus’ view of ‘Salvation:–Eternal life is (John 17:33) entered into now, here, with death being but a minor transition from God here to God beyond. In this regard, he is faithful to the Jewish religion which is almost completely “this-worldly” in its view of salvation (Ps 27:13-14, 30:9,12, 142:45) The American philosopher and psychologist [Wm James] thus rightly hold, on the basis of extensive study, that right religious conversion “produces those four fruits: 1. A sense of a higher and friendly power. 2. Charity and brotherly love. 3. A paradise of inward tranquility. 4. Purity of life.” And, E. Stanley Jones adds, “a new sense of value of ourselves. An inner, royal dignity comes into the human breast. The human heart had found itself and its way to live. Inferiority complexes, which are at the back of so much mere half-living, are cured more radically by conversion than by anything else.” (p. 191 of his Is the Kingdom of God Realism)

The Content of this now, divine life in man is love. But what is that and how are we to receive it into the junctures of our day to day living? LISTEN THEN TO JESUS WORDS—

Luke 14: 12-14                Matt 25:34-45

Luke 6: 27-38                  Matt 5:38-48

How those things may be wrongly done

  1. From wrong Motives—To prove something about yourself, to get gratitude, to ‘transform’ the recipient
  2. Destructively, to
    The recipient
    The giver

The acts of love are to be limited by the good of giver and receiver,

What are the things which you can give in love to those around? Remember: your love and regard is more valuable than almost anything else you have. Can you give that safely? Without fear as you trust God. Some people will show more affection to a stray dog than they will to their own children, because they fear the involvement with the child. If the dog gets too close, they can just kick him away.


Next Week: Study Matt 6 and Luke 11:1-13
Memorize: [???]

06.  Lesson Seven: Jesus exercises kingdom power, and delegates it to others in order to meet the vast human need

“But when the multitudes saw it,
they marveled, and glorified God,
which had given such power unto men.” (Matt 9:8)

  1. Cases in which the power of God’s kingdom was brought by Jesus directly to bear upon dire human need—
    1. A leper (Matt 8:1-4)
    2. A “servant . . . sick of the palsy” (8:5-13)
    3. Peter’s Mother-in-law (8:14-15)
    4. A multitude of sick and possessed (8:16-17)
    5. A great tempest in the sea (8:23-27)
    6. Two possessed with devils (8:28-9:1)
    7. A man sick of the palsy (9:2-7)
    8. A ruler’s daughter (9:18 & 23-26)
    9. A woman with an issue of blood (9:20-22)
    10. Two blind men (9:27-31)
    11. A dumb man possessed with a devil (9:32-34)
  2. Some typical responses to this personal ministry of kingdom power by Jesus, during his period of greatest popularity
    1. Two types of ‘almost’ disciples (8:18-22)
    2. Matthew’s response (9:9)
    3. The response of the “publicans and sinners” (9:10-11, but see Mark 2:15 and Matt 21:31)
    4. Pharisees’ response (Matt 9:11-13)
    5. John’s Disciples (9:14-17)
  3. This phase of Jesus’ public ministry comes to completion, as the work becomes too large for him to personally handle—
    1. The vision of the great need (9:35-38)
    2. The solution: Jesus’ first commission to his Apostles (Matt 10)
      and shortly afterwards to “other seventy also” (Luke 10:1)

      1. The commissioned (Matt 10:1-4)
      2. The equipping (10:1)
      3. The task assigned (10:5-8)
      4. Detailed instructions concerning provisions and behavior for this particular mission (10:9-42)
        [See Luke 22:35-38 where Jesus explicitly revokes many of his orders in Matt 10, and gives advice for the long-range battle in an hostile environment. It is especially important to realize that Matt 10:9-14 are not counsels obligatory on all disciples at all times.]
  4. The effectiveness of this delegated ministry, and Jesus’ Jubilation over it. Luke 10:17-24 Jesus was ecstatic with joy, jumping for joy, in the spirit (ēgalliasato tō pneumatic—cf. the “oil of gladness (elaion agalliaseōs) of Heb 1:19: the oil of anointing on feast days of high celebration). In the success of his appointees (Luke 10:17) he discovered that delegated power accomplished the goals of God’s kingdom without him being present in the flesh, and thus became certain of the triumph of the Kingdom after his own death.


For next week: Study Matt 11-15:20
Memorize Matt 15:8-9

07.  Lesson Eight: Sources of opposition to the word and power of the Kingdom of God

  1. Jesus assesses the effects of his ministry thus far, in response to John Baptist’s question, “Are you really the Messiah?” (Mt 11)
    1. John’s question—11:1-3
    2. Jesus’ answer—vss 4-6
    3. Jesus’ comment to the multitude on the world’s response to the ministries of the two great ‘Kingdom openers’—vss 7-19, cf Lk 16
    4. Jesus upbraids specific locals which saw most of his ministry-20
    5. Jesus is thankful that he has had such a limited favorable response—vss. 25-27. His was because he saw in it that his work was the father at work, and not a work of the merely human.
    6. Jesus renews his invitation to the laboring and the laden and the weary, who are rightly hopeless of human help.—11:28-30
  2. A first main source of opposition: The world (or organized religious flesh) opposes Jesus and his Kingdom. See esp. Matt ch 12 and 15:1-10
    1. Two main points of opposition—
      Sabbath keeping (Matt 12)
      Washing of Hands (Matt 15)
    2. The heart of the controversy: Whether religion is of the Flesh, or of the Spirit; of merely human abilities and powers, or of something beyond.
    3. The energy of the flesh’s resistance lies in the dark and powerful association of feelings of revulsion and hatred for what the world system, religious and otherwise, has trained the individual to think of as wrong or bad. These feelings blind otherwise sensible individuals in the face of some deviation from what they feel to be ‘okay’. Compare handwashing, sabbath-keeping and racial discrimination within ‘christian’ churches.
  3. A second main source of opposition: The ‘adversary’ (satan)—see Matt 13:19 and 13:24-43
    1. A way in which the adversary opposes the Kingdom word in the individual (Matt 13:19) By DISTRACTION.
    2. A way in which the adversary opposes the Kingdom word in the groups of those who respond to it (Matt 13:24-43) By IMPERSONATION
      [Comment: The ridiculous conceit of an all regenerate church membership.] cf. I Cor 11:19 and Acts 20:29-30
  4. A third main source of opposition: The condition of the human heart—see Matt 13:1-23 and 13:53-58
    1. The heart’s condition and its effect displayed in the parable of the sower—
      1. The effect of distraction (13:19)
      2. The effect of shallow understanding (13:20-21)
      3. The effect of doublemindedness (13:22)
    2. The effects of a prejudiced heart upon faith in the Kingdom (13:53-58) Jesus not ‘BIG’ enough for those who lived in his home town. The kingdom could not come to them through him.


For next week: Study Matt ch 16, Luke ch 14
Memorize John 12:24-26

08.  Lesson Ten: Children and the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt. 18 & 19)

  1. God’s special care and provision for children
    1. In the life of Jesus (Matt 1:13 & Mark 10:13-16
    2. In Jesus’ warning not to offend, or scandalize, or cause children to fall (Matt 18:5-6)
    3. In the provision of angels for children (Matt 18:10-11), God indicates his high regard for these little ones.
  2. How little children show forth the character of citizens of the kingdom (see Matt 18:3-4)
    [Comment: Note that we are not to be wholly children, but to be like children in some but not in all ways. Paul, thus, says: “Brethren, be not children in understanding; howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men.” (I Cor. 14:20) A non-exhaustive list of some ways in which we are to be like children is the following:]

    1. Defenseless and hence vulnerable, except for God’s care. See Matt 10:16
    2. Harmless—Matt 10:16 and 12:18-21
    3. Without reputation—I Cor 1:21-28 and Isa 53:1-3
    4. No pretentious aims—Eph 4:1-3, Phil. 2:3
    5. Can’t hold a grudge: “I’ll never play with you again,” lasts about 10 minutes—Eph 4:26
    6. Trustful—I Cor 13:7
    7. Non-judgmental about persons: Will associate with anyone (Luke 14:12-14 and also verse 21 & John 3:17)
    8. Guileless: can’t pull a trick without co-operation-II Cor 4:1-2
    9. Zealous to learn-Acts 17:10-12, I Tim 4:16, Josh 1:8, Ps. 1:2
    10. Loves to serve—Matt 20:20-28
  3. Basic types of ‘offences’ or causes for stumbling (skandalōn) against children—Again, what follows does not pretend to be a complete list, but only an indication of some ways of treating children which strongly tend to turn them into lost and broken souls:
    1. When the adults around them to not have and communicate a sense of firm, purposeful existence. This gives the child a deep sense that life is drift, and that one is really helpless in the face of circumstances.
    2. When adults do not accept and express the fact that they are limited and often make mistakes.
    3. When adults are unable to express and receive expressions of love and caring. It is not enough that parents have a love for their children. That alone will leave the child emotionally stranded, failing to learn how to give and receive affection.
    4. When the adults fail to share the child’s enthusiasms
    5. When adults willingly do not understand the child through inattention to him or through categorizing him and explaining his superficial behavior by their ‘theories’
    6. When adults insult and degrade the child by word and deed, fixing in the child the self-image of worthlessness & evil.
    7. When adults believe that a child who fights them hates them and responds by expressing hatred, disgust, injury, outrage etc. etc. to the child.


NEXT WEEK: Justice in the Kingdom of Heaven: Study Matt 20 & 21, and Memorize Matt 21:31-32

FOLLOWING WEEK—Forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven: Matt 18:15-35

09.  Lesson Eleven: Aspects of Justice in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matt 20 & 21)

“That be far from thee to do after
this manner, to slay the righteous with
the wicked: and that the righteous should
be as the wicked, that be far from thee:
Shall not the Judge of all the earth
do right?” (Genesis 18:25)

  1. The Parable of the Hours (Matt 20:1-16)—Justice in the Kingdom of heaven is larger than the human views and rules of ‘fairness’, and offends against them. This parable teaches (a) that the generosity of the King is partly based on need and not on desert only, and (b) how this very generosity provokes an injurious response from those who would hold their advantage over the good of others by the means of formal requirements of ‘fairness’—in this case the requirement that unequal work should receive unequal pay. Instead of rejoicing that those who came to the field last had a day wage to take home to hungry children, the early workers used ‘justice’ to gripe for more money than they had initially agreed to be a just wage.
  2. The Parable of the two disobedient Sons (Matt 21:28-32)—Justice and the judgment in God’s Kingdom will not be guided by superficial human rightness or unrightness. This parable teaches that many who seem “eager to please” are in truth only eager to use God, while those who are and seem quite rebellious toward God and His kingdom are inwardly prepared to enter the kingdom when God calls them. Applied to familiar circumstances, many church-members in full religious regalia fall into the category of those eager to please (to use) God, while many who never darken the doorway of a “steeple-house”, as Fox called it, are prepared to, and actually do, follow God in profound obedience. It is easier for those who have not the trappings of religiousity—Jesus spoke of “the publicans and harlots” (Matt 21:31)—to enter God’s Kingdom than for those who have them. This is a parable about the comparative ease with which two major classes of people enter the kingdom. (cf the story of the prodigal son and his “righteously” disobedient brother in Luke 15:11-32) In particular, the fact that one has not don (or has done) certain types of actions—often regarded as horrible by men—may mean very little as to his ultimate relation to God. This is not to say that the actions of harlots, publicans and prodigal sons are good actions, of course.
  3. The Parable of the Vineyard (Matt 21:33-44)—Those who persist in abusing God’s provisions are eventually crushed, though God’s Justice tarries long because of his great patience (cf Eccles 8:11-13) Persistence in rebellion against the way of agape brings a paycheck with the amount ‘death’ written on it (Rom 6:23). This is true of nations, cultures, institutions or individuals. This parable (a) shows that there is liberal provision with responsible freedom in God’s Kingdom, (b) teaches that God is not hasty in calling people whom he has blessed to an account, but (c) insists that destruction surely awaits those who disregard the aims and policies of the King and just must have their own way. This is not to maintain that a law of ‘karma’ holds on those who do wrong, for where there is repentance there is forgiveness.


Next Week: Study Matt 18:15-35 and Memorize Eph. 4:32

10.  Lesson Twelve: How Forgiveness Functions between the Members of God’s Community (Study Matt 18:15-35)

“For if ye forgive men their trespasses,
your heavenly Father will also forgive
you: But if ye forgive not man their
trespasses, neither will your Father
forgive your trespasses.” (Matt 6:14-15)

  1. Before looking at the scripture passage, be sure of the following facts
    1. The kingdom of God is above all a life together with other human beings, with and in God the Divine Center.
    2. Human beings are such that life together always involves us hurting one another to some degree. It is completely natural and normal that we should do things which hurt others.
    3. It is also natural and normal that we should be hurt. There is nothing obscene or shameful about being hurt. Some adults (so-called) spend their life playing the child game of not ‘owning up’ so that they can be a ‘big’ boy or girl.
    4. Spiritual persons also, and perhaps especially, are hurt and hurtable. The ‘great stone face’ or ‘stiff upper lip’ is not the mark of spirituality, but of a desire to manipulate others by projecting an illusory image of strength, rather than allowing them to live with you as you really are.
  2. The teaching of Matt 18:15-35 is the following:
    1. Hurts are to be dealt with by the parties involved, which always includes, not just the hurt and the hurter, but also the community of brothers and sisters. (vss 15-17) The offense may, it appears, be of a more or less personal nature (cf Lev. 19:17) but the initiative here is placed with the one offended. This contrasts with Matt 5:23-24, where the initiative is given to the offender. The offended always knows of the offence, while the offender may not.
    2. The ‘bonds’ of the offence are to be released by bringing it to the light, and by prayer to the father, and by the one who is “in the midst”. The dissipation of an offence is not something done by human energy, but by coming to the light and waiting upon God’s action in the lives involved. The forgiving act itself is a committal which will require God’s power for fulfillment.
    3. Those who do not forgive are not forgiven—no matter are [sic] ‘correct’ they are doctrinally or otherwise. This is because forgiveness, like love (agape), is not an act or series of acts which may be dispensed at the will of the agent involved, but is a spirit in which one lives, and without which one cannot receive Forgiveness is a transaction between two persons, and cannot be poured out upon those unwilling or unable to receive it. Those whose spirits are such that they cannot or will not forgive also cannot or will not receive forgiveness.
  3. What forgiveness is: An act of forgiveness occurs as an explicit exchange between two persons, who acknowledge that one has offended the other, who agree as to exactly what the offence was, and who was responsible for what, and who understand that the offender can be hurt back by the offended. Now the act itself has the nature of a promise: A promise on the part of the one offended not to take vengeance by any form of conscious action upon the offender. FORGIVENESS IS NOT: (i) Saying ‘it didn’t matter’. If it didn’t, there was nothing to be forgiven. (ii) Ceasing to hurt. The hurt may linger long. (iii) Forgetting that a wrong was done. No one can forget at will. Forgetting is not an action which one does. (iv) Pretending that the relationship is exactly like what it was before the injury was imparted. It is not, and forgiveness will not make it so.
  4. Remember that situation where forgiveness is called for are guilt situations, and as such are psychological and spiritual dynamite. Discernment, patience, trust and reliance on God are required in order to avoid manipulation, lying, self-delusion. This offends against the divine light. Remember: It is “if we walk in the light, as he is in the light” that “we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:7) The kingdom or community of God is a kingdom of light and openness and honesty. There is not such community without forgiveness.