Who Is My Adversary, and Why Should I Agree With Him?

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Hi M____,

Thank you for your questions concerning Christ’s words in Matthew 5:25-26.

Here are those two verses:

Mat 5:25  Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Mat 5:26  Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Here are your questions:

I must begin by informing you of a couple of Biblical principles, which are nothing less than “keys to the kingdom of heaven”.

The first principle is that we must all acknowledge that all the sins of Adam are within our own flesh, and in that sense we are all guilty of these words of our Lord:

Luk 11:48  Truly ye bear witness that ye allow the deeds of your fathers: for they indeed killed them, and ye build their sepulchres.
Luk 11:49  Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute:
Luk 11:50  That the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation;
Luk 11:51  From the blood of Abel unto the blood of Zacharias, which perished between the altar and the temple: verily I say unto you, It shall be required of this generation.

“This generation” is not just the generation in which Christ spent His 33 years in a body of flesh and blood. Rather, “this generation” is the generation reading those words in every generation.

The second principle is that mankind shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God, as Christ Himself instructs us:

Mat 4:4  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

This principle is so important that it is repeated in Luke:

Luk 4:4  And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

We are also told there is one event to all men, and that there is no difference between what eventually happens to both the righteous and the wicked. God is working to save all, and He is doing so through the same formula for all, but “each in His own order”:

Ecc 9:2  All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath.

1Co 15:22  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.
1Co 15:23  But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

Rom 3:21  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
Rom 3:22  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [Ecc 9:2 – “one event to the righteous and to the wicked”]
Rom 3:23  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

If you are granted to see the truth of these verses, then you will find it much easier to understand that the answer to your questions will be applicable to all men of all time, “each in his own order.”

With all of this in mind, let’s look at your first question:

It will help us in answering this question to know that we are commanded never to bear false witness (Mat 19:18). Therefore we are not being told to lie against ourselves if we have done nothing with which to agree with our adversary. So these verses are instructions for how we are to conduct our lives before a world which is looking to find fault with the Christ we say we are, inasmuch as we are His body and His dwelling place (Mat 25:40, 45; Act 22:8; 1Co 3:16).

While our beast within is certainly an adversary, we are not being instructed to agree with him. Rather, we are told he must die daily:

Joh 12:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

1Co 15:31  I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

So it certainly is not the beast within with whom Christ is telling us to agree.

Neither are we ever instructed to agree with Satan or any of his doctrines. To the contrary, we are specifically told to resist him:

Jas 4:7  Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Instead of agreeing with Satan, we are instructed to try the spirits to see whether they are of God:

1Jn 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

When we determine a doctrine to be against the doctrine of Christ, rather than agree with our adversary, this is what we are commanded to do to those who are attempting to bring heresies into the body of Christ:

Tit 3:10  A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;
Tit 3:11  Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

So we can also eliminate Satan as being our adversary with whom we are to agree.

That leaves the third option you mentioned: “Is it human confrontations we face?” Yes, when we have offended a brother or a sister we must repent of being angry with our brother without a cause. That is the message and the subject of verses 23 and 24 about which you inquire. This is without a question as the connecting word ‘therefore’ demonstrates beyond any doubt.

Mat 5:21  Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
Mat 5:22  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Mat 5:23  Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Mat 5:24  Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

It does say “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause” so we are not being told to lie against ourselves when we have a reason to differ with a brother or a sister. We cannot tolerate heresies, hypocrisy, lies or fornication – physical or spiritual. However, if we have failed to acknowledge our own fault against a brother, who is not a brother in Christ, we may well end up in a physical prison.

Which brings us to your next question, “What is it this prison does?” The answer to this question is answered where Christ repeats His instructions concerning how we are to conduct ourselves when a brother sins against us. In Matthew 5 He deals with us sinning against our brother, and here in Matthew 18 He deals with how we are to conduct ourselves when a brother sins against us.

In verse 15-18 we are instructed to go to any brother who sins against us and tell him of his offense.

Mat 18:21  Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Mat 18:22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Mat 18:23  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.
Mat 18:24  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
Mat 18:25  But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
Mat 18:26  The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:27  Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
Mat 18:28  But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.
Mat 18:29  And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
Mat 18:30  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
Mat 18:31  So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
Mat 18:32  Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:
Mat 18:33  Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?
Mat 18:34  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
Mat 18:35  So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

It is in prison that we pay our debt to God and to our brother. The time spent there is supposed to be commensurate with the crimes we have committed. “Deliver him to the tormentors till he should pay all that was due him.” Prison itself is torment, and in spiritual terms we all spend our own appointed time in a ‘prison’ of our own making where we do things we do not want to do, and the torment of not being able to do the things we know we should is excruciating. Christ never liberated a single physical prisoner, except Barabbas, and yet this is what Christ came to do spiritually:

Isa 42:7  To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

So when we are in a place we do not want to be, doing things we do not want to do, spiritually we are “them that sit in darkness… of the prison.”

Notice how similar this is to what the apostle Paul tells us is our state before we are given to overcome sin in our lives:

Rom 7:17  Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Rom 7:18  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
Rom 7:19  For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Rom 7:20  Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

So our own sins are our prison house where we are slaves to our own hatreds and passions, and we are helpless of ourselves to be delivered from prison.

That is the prison into which “the Judge”, Christ, will deliver us if we do not go to our brother when we have offended him, and agree with him quickly while we are “in the way”, while we are both able to act out of our love of God, which love is taken away when we are “angry with our brother without a cause.”

“The way” is defined as Christ:

Joh 14:6  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

The message is clear to all of us. It is possible in God’s sovereign work to be taken out of the way and cast into prison if we are not granted to be reconciled with a brother against whom we are angry without a cause.

So Christ is the Judge, whose words will judge us all:

Joh 12:48  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

I think we have answered all of your questions.

1) Who is the adversary? Answer:  The word ‘therefore’ in verse 23 points us back to our brother who “has ought against us.”

2) What is it this prison does? Answer:  It torments us mentally and spiritually until our debt against our brother is paid (Mat 18:35-36).

3) Why is it we should “agree” with our adversary quickly while we are in the way with him? Answer:  You agree with him while you are in the way because Christ is that way, and you are not walking in that way if you are angry at your brother without a cause. Your brother has a claim against you, and your pride has kept you from admitting you were “angry with him without a cause”. If you remain angry without a cause, you will be taken out of “the way”, out of Christ.

4) What needs to be paid to the uttermost farthing? Answer:  Your anger with your brother without a cause. You know that you have sinned against your brother in hating him, because you know that ‘he that hates his brother is a murderer’. But your pride will not allow you to humble yourself and confess your sin against your brother. So you are in your own prison of guilt and mental torment in which you will remain until your debt against your brother is paid.

1Jn 3:15  Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.

5) I am assuming God is the Judge. Answer:  Yes, God is the Judge, but He has committed that judgment to the words of His Son (Joh 12:48).

I hope this helps you to see that you need to humble yourself before your brother whom you have in any way offended, and that you, along with all the rest of us, are given the humility to go to our offended brother and confess our sin against him and repent. Then we are “in the way”, we are “in Christ”, and we will do what Christ would do.

Your brother who is striving to be always “in the way” with my brothers,


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