Lesson Three – Forgiveness Stimulates Love

Forgiveness Stimulates Love

Lesson Aim:  To show how to provoke love where no love is evident.

Scriptures:  Luke 7:36-50; Matt. 18:21-35.

Historical analysis for reading the parable in Luke 7:41-43.

Place:   In the towns of Galilee, Luke 7:1, 11, 37.

Occasion:  One of the Pharisees, named Simon, invited Jesus to have dinner with him and his Pharisee friends.  The occasion for this parable arose when the town’s “bad girl” appeared on the scene.  She was in an emotional state of mind openly expressing her faith and love for Jesus and her remorse for her past sins.  Although this type of personal emotion would embarrass most people, Jesus used the opportunity to show His acceptance of the girl and to teach Simon and his friends a lesson.  Jesus accepted the girl in a manner unacceptable to self righteous people. He openly forgave her sins, Luke 7:37, 38.

Time:  Probably deep into the early part of Jesus’ Galilean ministry because Luke tells us how Jesus had become both a popular and controversial figure all over Israel, Luke 7:16, 17, 29, 30.

Audience:  Simon, his Pharisee friends and the woman from the town.

Aim:  To establish the connection between love and forgiveness.

Hook:  Please note this parable is what has been called a true parable.  It has a story with a plot, in this case, a very short story.  The other types of parables, or teaching aids, may be more like metaphors, similitudes or epigrams.   Jesus’ reason for using a real parable gave Him the opportunity to drive His lesson home by casting His audience in the plot.  Once He got them caught up in the story He would ask them a question about the issue at hand.  Before they realized it the person who needed the lesson would give the correct answer in the context of Jesus’ story.  Then they would quickly realize, along with the other listeners, they were the characters in the story.  They publicly condemned themselves.  This may sound like unfair tactics but the situations, as did the one in our text, called for Jesus to make use of His own advice.  He told His disciples to be as “shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Matt. 10:16.

In this situation Simon had invited Jesus to dinner; however, he had not given Him the common courtesies a host would offer his guest.  Simon had offered Jesus no water to wash His feet, no kiss and no oil for His hair.  The Pharisees were determined to prove Jesus was a false prophet, a decision they had made before He arrived.  Jesus understood they wanted to play games with Him and He was ready but it was not out of meanness or on their terms.  He was there to help them know answers and solutions for problems they did not know they had and for some they did not want to be reminded.  So while the Pharisees were salving themselves with pseudo-proof from the scene with the woman, Jesus gave His parable.

There were three significant reference points in the story in this parable.  God is represented by the money lender and the forgiver of debts.  The “bad girl” is one debtor and Simon is the other.  No one could miss Jesus’ point; however, He wanted Simon to say it, so He ask him the “hook” question, “Which one of them will love Him more?”  Simon reluctantly gave the correct answer.  His fake dinner invitation was exposed and at the same time he had stated a principle of God’s kingdom.  Forgiveness stimulates love and we can add a multiplier – the more forgiveness the more love.

Jesus turned from Simon and applied that “multiplier principle.”  Jesus gave the woman reason to love Him more when He said, “Your sins have been forgiven.” And then, “Your faith has saved you go in peace.”  Luke 7:48, 50.  Please note Jesus did not “hook” the woman and, as we will understand from our historical analysis of the other parable in the text, Jesus only used the hook method on those who approached Him under false pretense.

Historical analysis for reading the parable in Matthew 18:23-35.

Place:  Capernaum, Matt. 17:24.

Occasion:  Jesus had been teaching prophetically about the church and how it would maintain its purity in relation to fellowship and how the members who sinned against another member could maintain fellowship.  The principle of love and forgiveness would be used (Matt. 18:15-20).  Peter understood what Jesus was saying about the “loop” concept of forgiveness and love, but he wondered if seven times around would not be generous enough.  His question elicited this parable.

Time:   Matthew said, “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee, and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.”  Matt. 19:1.  Evidently this parable was taught in the last year of Jesus’ ministry.

Audience:  The disciples of Jesus, especially the Twelve, Matt 18:1.  Peter was there, Matt 18:21.

Aim:  To establish the principle that love and forgiveness is a timeless sanctification loop.  It does not stop as long as there is a need for mercy – then compassion will be required.  The aim is to maintain the fellowship of a family in the church.  When I am the one being wronged, I will forgive because I love my brother.  If I did wrong; that is, if I cannot pay I will beg for forgiveness and my brethren in the church will forgive me.

Hook:  The hook in this case will come on Judgment Day.  If I do not abide by the principles set forth by Jesus in this parable it will be an eternal hook.


And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.  Col. 3:14

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.  Rom. 13:10

But now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.  I Cor. 13:13

Love in the foregoing Scriptures was translated from the Greek word agape. It is the strongest quality of human character.  It was the love Jesus manifested when He subjected Himself to death on the cross.  All people on the accountability level are the ungodly sinners and enemies of God who had a part in crucifying Jesus.  He had the strength of character and willingness to die for them and us (Rom. 5:6-10).  The cross revealed to the world that God is love (I John 4:16).

One of the characteristics of love (agape) is that it does not demand a response.  There are no “respecter of person” issues in its response to its recipients.  This love is strictly an inner quality of a person.  It fully illustrates the great axiom, “It does not matter what people do to me or against me, but what matters most is how I respond.”  I must live with the responses I make to situations.  “Walking away” from an attack from my enemy after I manifest this kind of love will be a blessing for my soul.  Before Christians will have this level of strength, we will need to develop faith in Jesus’ life principle, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts 20:35.

The strength of mankind’s love, apart from God’s grace, will love friends but not enemies.  “I love you, if you love me.”  I need a response.  This is called brotherly love (philadelphia, II Pet. 1:7).  Let us listen to a dialogue between the resurrected Christ and Peter. Read John 21:15-17.  It took place during a fish breakfast on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias.   Jesus asked, “Peter do you love (agape) Me.”  Peter responded with, “You know I love (phileo) you.”  This dialogue was repeated a second time, but when Jesus repeated His question the third time He used the word “phileo” and Peter responded with his usual word for love (phileo).  Apparently, Peter did not want to commit to the stronger term.  Our English word “love” is usually translated from one of these two Greek words; however, their meaning and application is a world apart.  Perhaps, “agape” does not have “plausibility” for the world.  Who on earth would think of loving his or her enemy?

The kind of love generally manifested in the world culture by human behavior is a selfish type.  It may turn to hate very quickly if the lover believes their “anticipated response” is not forth coming.  This is the nature of love (phileo).  It demands a response.  The world desperately needs God’s quality of love.  It would solve so many of the otherwise unsolvable problems.  Many nations are deadlocked in peace conferences because they do not want to manifest love (agape).  Peace between disagreeable parties requires love by at least one party where agreement is not forthcoming.  The Apostle Paul was probably illustrating this point when he said to the Galatians, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you.”  Gal. 4:19.


Let us suppose the truth about God was totally suppressed for several generations; that is, God’s influence and love (agape) and love (phileo) was completely hidden from the world societies.  It is possible.  See Rom. 1:18-32 and Eph. 4:17-19.  In the absence of God it would be possible for the world to finally degrade to a “zero point” of even brotherly love (phileo).  Remember, mankind’s quality of love cannot flow where no positive response is forthcoming.  This could have been the situation at the time of the flood except for Noah and his family (Gen. 6:5).

Suppose the world did come to a point where no one had the ability to love unless they were loved first; that is, no person had the quality of love to love first.  We would indeed have a stalemate.  In this situation all love would be removed from the face of the earth.  This condition does not exist today because God’s kingdom is here; however, to some degree, a loveless condition may exist in certain countries.  We can be certain it has happened to many individuals in all countries.  We thank the Lord for new born babies because both love and hate are learned emotions.

Nevertheless, let us continue to “suppose” in order to make a very important point.  The question we want to contemplate is how could mankind be stimulated to love under this condition?  Adult people, under the above condition, could not induce love.  The only hope would be through their children.  In some places today it appears the children are the only bright spots; however, there is another even brighter.  God and the forces of heaven have been, and are now, able to stimulate the flow of love where no response “in kind” is hitherto forthcoming.

The two parables in our Scripture text show how God is able to stimulate love where no love is evident.  In the parable from Luke Chapter Seven, Jesus showed how the forces of heaven stimulate a faithful and repentant person to love.  The Greek word for “will love” in this parable is agapasei.

And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Simon, I have something to say to you.’  And he replied, ‘Say it, Teacher.’  ‘A certain moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denari, and the other fifty.  When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.  Which of them therefore will love him more?’   Luke 7:40-42

Simon gave the right answer when he said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”  This woman loved Jesus because she trusted Him.  He forgave her sins and that meant they had peace in their relationship.  When peace is in a relationship with our fellowman, or with our God, it means the door is open for other good things; however, peace must first be established.  If I am not willing to forgive your trespass we cannot have the quality of peace required for a meaningful long term life covenant.  God continually forgives faithful Christians of our sins of ignorance and character weakness based on the doctrine of justification by faith; therefore, Christians have peace with God and we hope to share in His glory (Rom. 4:25-5:2).  Because we have peace with God we can “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.”  See Phil. 2:12; Rom. 5:3-5.

Jesus stated a law of life when He said, “He who is forgiven little, loves little.”  Or it can be said, “Christians love a lot because we have been, and still are being, forgiven of our sins.”  It requires the strength of love (agape) to forgive.  Forgiveness then stimulates love.  Man, without God’s help, does not have the quality of love to start this cycle.  The Godhead always will have the ability to induce love in a person who desires to be a Christian.  God has always been willing to forgive repentant believers (I Tim. 2:3, 4).

Mankind alone does not have the strength to love or even have faith.  The gospel is God’s power to produce faith (Rom. 1:16, 17; 10:17; Heb. 4:2).  When people are moved to action by this “gospel produced faith,” God will forgive us of our sins (Acts 3:19).  This will stimulate love in a Christian (I John 4:7-12).  We can see how all power is with God (I John 4:16-21).

It should be noted that Simon should have shown as much love for Jesus as the woman.  It was not that he was any less a sinner.  The problem was his unwillingness to acknowledge his sins.  We will not be forgiven for willful sins of which we will not acknowledge and repent.  Any person can find enough sin in his or her life that needs forgiveness in order to stimulate a lot of love.  Like the woman, we can love much.  The parable in Luke shows us how love can be made to flow in the heart of a Christian.  This will bring a higher quality of love in the world than we had in the hypothetical “zero love” situation.  We will have love flowing, first from God to man, then from man to God and finally from man to man.  Forgiveness on God’s part was what it took to stimulate love where no love was evident.

Now let us understand how to make love flow from man to man.  This lesson is taught in the parable of the two debtors in Matthew 18:21-35.  Here we find a king who had a slave who owed him a very large debt.  He prostrated himself before his master and he was forgiven all.  Up to this point, this parable could have paralleled the real life story of Jesus and the woman who washed His feet with her tears.  It shows how love flows from God to man and man to God.  But now we can go one step farther with our lesson.  The slave who had been forgiven a very large sum came upon a fellow slave who owed him a small debt.  When the small debtor could not pay, he would not forgive him; furthermore, he had him thrown in prison.  The point is that the king expected his slave to forgive.  The forgiven slave did not; however, he had the power and motive to do so.

Christians who have been the recipients of God’s love have the power to love and to forgive others.  Some do not, but God expects us to do so now that we have been forgiven.  God does not expect us to do that which we do not have the power to do; therefore, we conclude that Christians are able to love, regardless of the response (I Pet. 3:14-18).  We are expected to love and motivate people to love others by forgiving them of their errors.  This will require more than brotherly love.  It will require the strength of love that Jesus had in order to give us the forgiveness of our sins.  We understand we are working on “the next level up” when we approach the level of life where people forgive.  It is a world apart from love (phileo).  Jesus has “raised the bar” for Christians.

We can see how God can stimulate love in those who have faith by forgiving us of our sins.  Christians, will in turn, love God but we will also be able to love and forgive other people.  This will cause love to flow in the world from Christians to people in the world.  Forgiveness motivates love but it takes love to forgive.  Mankind cannot start the cycle but God can and will where faith motivates repentance.  This is what keeps God’s quality of love alive in the world.

Let us review the cycles of love as presented in this lesson.  We will start with the point of zero love in the world.  Because of God’s quality of love (agape), He is able to induce a cycle of love in the world.  He does this by forgiving a faithful repentant person.  This makes peace between God and this man or woman.  This person will now love God.  Thus far we have love in the heart of a Christian in this world because he or she has peace with God and peace within him or her “self.”  This Christian has the ability to forgive their debtors.  The forgiven debtor now has peace.  This person may also be able to love and forgive if God’s forgiveness is sought and so it goes.  It all starts with God, Who is Love.  The result is peace and love where no love existed.

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  I John 4:10, 11

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does God’s love prove itself to be of a higher quality than what we usually witness in the behavior of people?
  2. Why does the world need a stronger love?
  3. Why are people not able to stimulate the quality of love we need without God’s love?
  4. How could the world come to a hypothetical “zero point” of love?
  5. Why does love exist above the zero point in the world today?
  6. How could love be stimulated in the world when it was at zero point?
  7. What quality must a person possess in order to forgive?
  8. Why was Simon not able to love much?
  9. Show how all power belongs to God to motivate faith and love in mankind.
  10. How does the parable in our lesson text in Matthew allow us to go further with our lesson in motivating love than the one in Luke?

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