Till seven times? - Though seven was a number of perfection among the Hebrews, and often meant much more than the units in it imply, yet it is evident that Peter uses it here in its plain literal sense, as our Lord's words sufficiently testify. It was a maxim among the Jews never to forgive more than thrice: Peter enlarges this charity more than one half; and our Lord makes even his enlargement septuple, see Matthew 18:22. Revenge is natural to man, i.e. man is naturally a vindictive being, and, in consequence, nothing is more difficult to him than forgiveness of injuries.
Then came Peter - The mention of the duty Matthew 18:15 of seeing a brother when he had offended us, implying that it was a duty to forgive him, led Peter to ask how often this was to be done.
Forgive him - To forgive is to treat as though the offence was not committed - to declare that we will not harbor malice or treat unkindly, but that the matter shall be buried and forgotten.
If the Lord should deal with the human family as men deal with one another, we should have been consumed; but He is long-suffering, of tender pity, forgiving our transgressions and sins. When we seek Him with the whole heart, He will be found of us.... UL 43.2
Christ is our sin-bearer, one who constantly pardons iniquity and sin. Mercy, forbearance, long-suffering, is the glory of His character. When Moses prayed to the Lord, saying, “Show me Thy glory,” He said, “I will cause all My goodness to pass before thee.” The question that Peter asked of Christ was suggested to him by the lessons that Christ had previously given in regard to church discipline. UL 43.3
The Jewish precepts enjoined upon men the duty of forgiving five offenses, and Peter thought that in suggesting seven times he had reached the limit of human patience. But Jesus would have him understand that those who have the divine mind, and were imbued with the divine spirit, would exercise forgiveness without limit. The plan and ground of salvation, which is love, is the principle which must be carried out by [the] human family. Should Christ limit His mercy, compassion, and forgiveness by a certain number of sins, how few men would be saved! UL 43.4
But the mercy of Christ in forgiving the iniquities of men teaches us that there must be free forgiveness of wrongs and sins that are committed against us by our fellow men. Christ gave this lesson to His disciples to correct the evils that were being taught and practiced in the precepts and examples of those who were interpreting the Scriptures at that time. UL 43.5
The principle upon which Christ acted in seeking the recovery of the human family through the plan of salvation was the very same principle that must actuate His followers in their dealings one with another when brought into church capacity. The lesson was also to impress upon our minds the fact that we cannot reach heaven by our own merits, but only through the wonderful mercy and forbearance of God which is exercised toward us who can in no way render an equivalent. UL 43.6
Man can be saved only through the wonderful forbearance of God in the forgiveness of his many sins and transgressions. But those who are blessed by the mercy of God should exercise the same spirit of forbearance and forgiveness toward those who constitute the Lord's family.—Letter 30, January 29, 1895, to “Brother Hardy.” UL 43.7Read in context »
Peter had come to Christ with the question, “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” The rabbis limited the exercise of forgiveness to three offenses. Peter, carrying out, as he supposed, the teaching of Christ, thought to extend it to seven, the number signifying perfection. But Christ taught that we are never to become weary of forgiving. Not “Until seven times,” He said, “but, Until seventy times seven.” COL 243.1
Then He showed the true ground upon which forgiveness is to be granted and the danger of cherishing an unforgiving spirit. In a parable He told of a king's dealing with the officers who administered the affairs of his government. Some of these officers were in receipt of vast sums of money belonging to the state. As the king investigated their administration of this trust, there was brought before him one man whose account showed a debt to his lord for the immense sum of ten thousand talents. He had nothing to pay, and according to the custom, the king ordered him to be sold, with all that he had, that payment might be made. But the terrified man fell at his feet and besought him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. COL 243.2Read in context »
In dealing with erring church members, God's people are carefully to follow the instruction given by the Saviour in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. 7T 260.1
Human beings are Christ's property, purchased by Him at an infinite price, bound to Him by the love that He and His Father have manifested for them. How careful, then, we should be in our dealing with one another! Men have no right to surmise evil in regard to their fellow men. Church members have no right to follow their own impulses and inclinations in dealing with fellow members who have erred. They should not even express their prejudices regarding the erring, for thus they place in other minds the leaven of evil. Reports unfavorable to a brother or sister in the church are communicated from one to another of the church members. Mistakes are made and injustice is done because of an unwillingness on the part of someone to follow the directions given by the Lord Jesus. 7T 260.2
“If thy brother shall trespass against thee,” Christ declared, “go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone.” Matthew 18:15. Do not tell others of the wrong. One person is told, then another, and still another; and continually the report grows, and the evil increases, till the whole church is made to suffer. Settle the matter “between thee and him alone.” This is God's plan. “Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor hath put thee to shame. Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another.” Proverbs 25:8, 9. Do not suffer sin upon your brother; but do not expose him, and thus increase the difficulty, making the reproof seem like a revenge. Correct him in the way outlined in the word of God. 7T 260.3Read in context »