Matthew 18:1-35 - Outline of Matthew (Book Notes menu page)
18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying,
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you,
Except ye be converted, and become as little children,
ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child,
the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me,
it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck,
and [that] he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
at the same time...- When? (see also Mark 9:30-50; Luk 9:43-50)
Around the time that...
  • He presented Himself as the Rock upon which He is building His church (Mat 16:16-18).
  • He was transfigured before them in a preview of His glory in His future Kingdom (Mat 17:1-8).
  • He had cast out a demon which the disciples were unable to displace (Mat 17:14-21).
  • He reminded them of His approaching crucifixion (17:22,23),
  • He exercised His dominion over creation to pay a tax, with a coin from a fish's mouth,
    though the rulers had rejected His dominion as Israel's King (Mat 17:24-27).
These events, separately and together, demonstrated that "the greatest in the Kingdom" is Jesus.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom?-
The disciples were concerned with their position in the kingdom.
Jesus tells them their concern should be entrance into the kingdom. v.3
When Jesus spoke of His approaching death, they were 'sorry' and 'afraid to ask' what that meant (Mark 9:31,32)... They set aside what was of primary importance, in their pursuit of self -importance.
Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter...-
  • converted {GK=strepho, to turn about}.-
    Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven requires a complete reversal of our natural state, of sinful corruption and prideful self-exaltation. Conversion involves a radical change, a new beginning, which is like starting over again as a little child. Mat 5:20; 13:15; Psa 51:1-10
  • become as little children.- Two aspects are in view...
whosoever shall receive one such... (v.5)- cp. Mat 10:40-42; 25:40; Joh 13:20
whosoever shall offend {ie., cause to stumble} one of these... who believe in me... (v.6)-
It is evident that the 'children' in view here are the children of God, by new birth, through faith in Christ.
     However, application can also be made to the right treatment of all human children (cp. Mat 19:13-15). The Lord will hold all, who abuse or mislead children, accountable.
18:7 Woe unto the world because of offences! {GK=skandalon, stumbling blocks}
for it must needs be that offences come;
but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!
{v.6; Luk 17:1,2}
18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee,
{offend, GK=skandalizo, cause you (or another) to stumble}
cut them off, and cast [them] from thee:
it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed,
rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire.
18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast [it] from thee:
it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye,
rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.
18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you,
That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
cut it off...- The same radical surgery, prescribed (in the Sermon on the Mount) to deal with personal sin,
is here prescribed against causing others to fall into sin, or to falter from following the Lord. (See the Notes at Mat 5:27-30.) cp. Rom 14:13-15; 1Cor 8:13
their angels... behold...-
If this verse teaches that every human child has a guardian angel, it is the only passage which does so. It is unwise to build a doctrine on an isolated passage.
     Because 'children,' in the context of this passage, refers primarily to the 'children of God' (v.6), it is better to understand 'their angels' as referring to...
  1. Angels who minister to the ''heirs of salvation.'' cp. Psa 91:9-11; Heb 1:14
  2. The spirits of God's children who currently enjoy spiritual access into His presence.
    Note that the word 'angel' is used of a believer's spiritual essence in Acts 12:15.
    Believers are already spiritually present ''in heavenly places in Christ.'' Eph 1:3; 2:6; Heb 10:19-22; 12:22,23
       Having received the spirit of sonship (Rom 8:14-17; 1Joh 3:1-3), can any child of God covet something 'greater' in the Kingdom (v.1) than the access before His Throne, which He has granted to all of His children?
The interests of His precious children are well represented before the Father.
God will deal severely with anyone who stumbles His child. v.6-9; Luk 18:7,8; Psa 17:13-15
18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. {1Tim 1:15}
18:12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray,
doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains,
and seeketh that which is gone astray?
{Isa 53:6; Luk 19:10; Joh 10:11}
18:13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you,
he rejoiceth more of that [sheep],
than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
{Isa 53:11}
18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven,
that one of these little ones should perish.
The parable of the Lost Sheep. cp. Luk 15:3-7
At the heart of God's purposes are His children...
  • who, though 'little' {insignificant, despised} in the eyes of the world
    (and perhaps of some brothers), are precious in His sight.
  • who, if not for His costly intervention, would have perished in sin. Joh 3:16,17; 1Tim 1:15; 2Pet 3:9
  • who, in spite of the world's offences against them, He will preserve. Joh 10:27-30; 1Pet 1:5
Thus, whoever would stumble a child of God (v.10) is at cross-purposes with God, "for the Son came to save..." (v.11) and "even so {ie., likewise}" the Father wills to preserve His "little ones" (v.14). (See also: Jer 50:6; Eze 34:11-16)
18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee,
go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone:
if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.
18:16 But if he will not hear [thee, then] take with thee one or two more,
that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
{Deu 19:15}
18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell [it] unto the church
but if he neglect to hear the church
{GK=ekklesia, assembly of called out ones},
let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
18:18 Verily I say unto you,
Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven:
and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
if thy brother trespass {GK=hamartano, misses the mark, errs, does wrong} against thee...-
  • ''Thy brother,'' in the context, is a fellow child of God. cp. 1Joh 4:20,21; 5:1
  • The ''trespass'' (wrong} may be an open scandal which corrupts the whole body and causes others to stumble into sin (eg., 1Cor 5:1,2), or it may be a minor irritation which breaks the joy of fellowship between two believers (eg., Php 4:1-4).
Our Lord prescribed three steps for conflict resolution and discipline within the Church:
  1. go to him alone (v.15) - "Tell him his fault." -
    This phrase is from one word {GK=elegcho, reprove, rebuke (him for this wrong)}.
    ie., Confess and deal with the problem, one on one, believer to believer (Jam 5:16)
    and ''be of the same mind in the Lord'' (Php 4:2), ie., the same mind described in Php 2:5-8.
  2. go to him with one or two other brothers (v.16) -
    Rehearse the issues before them.
    Ask them to witness and weigh the claims of both parties.
    Seek, and submit to, their counsel. (eg., Php 4:3)
  3. go to the assembled believers (v.17a) - Let the congregation decide the matter.
    This is the highest court of appeal for matters between believers. cp. 1Cor 5:3-5; 6:1-6
    Caution: Who among us is prepared to ''judge angels''? Are we any more prepared to judge the content of a brother's heart? To render just judgment, the assembled believers must earnestly seek the mind of Christ, the guidance of the written Word, and the leading of the Spirit in true holiness, discernment and impartiality.
if he neglect to hear the church...(v.17b) - If the counsel of the assembled believers is disregarded,
the offending individual may be disassociated from the fellowship as a means of discipline.
''Let him be as a 'heathen man {GK=ethnikos, gentile}' (ie., one who does not belong among God's people)...
''and a 'publican' {a typically corrupt tax collector}'' who would naturally be avoided, except when legally unavoidable. cp. 1Cor 5:9-13; 2The 3:6,14,15
whatever ye shall bind on earth... (v.18)-
In other passages, the ability to 'bind and loose' relates to forgiveness of sin. However, believers have been given neither the authority to condemn sinners nor to forgive sin, but rather, we have been given the privilege and responsibility to declare the Gospel. Sinners, who respond by turning in faith to Christ, are set free from sin and condemnation (Notes at Mat 16:19; cp. Joh 20:22,23; Also see Joh 3:18,36).
     Likewise, in the context of church discipline, the church is responsible to faithfully apply God's Word to the case of a sinning brother. Depending on his response, he will be bound or loosed from the consequences of his error.
     The Lord prescribed these steps to lead, if possible, to reconciliation, by encouraging the erring brother to seek repentance and forgiveness. The Shepherd's desire is to bring the erring sheep back into the fold, for the Father does not want to lose even one of His children (v.11-14). cp. 2Cor 2:6-11; Gal 6:1
18:19 Again I say unto you,
That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask,
it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.
if two of you agree...- This is not a formula for forcing God to answer our self-centered prayers.
  • To agree ''in my name'' is to be centered on the person and purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ (v.20),
    and therefore, to pray in harmony with the will of God. cp. Joh 15:7,16; 1Joh 3:22,23; 5:14-16
  • To agree in prayer (in the context of this passage, regarding the resolution of conflict between believers)
    is to earnestly beseech the Shepherd to pursue the straying one, until fellowship is restored, with all of God's sheep safely in the fold. Jam 5:16-20
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?
18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times:
but, Until seventy times seven.
Jesus' answer implies that we should forgive without keeping count, without limit.
     cp. Mat 6:14,15; Mark 11:25; Luk 17:3,4; Eph 4:31,32; Col 3:13
We are to forgive others in the same manner that God has forgiven us.
Jesus powerfully illustrated this with the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (v.23-35)...
18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king,
which would take account of
{ie., make settlement with} his servants.
18:24 And when he had begun to reckon,
one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
ten thousand talents - ie., a debt far beyond his ability to pay in a lifetime.
The basic meaning of the word 'talent' is 'weight.' It can be applied to anything weighable. However, a talent of silver or gold was recognized as a specific weight approximating 100 pounds (eg., the golden lampstand in the Tabernacle was made 'of a talent of pure gold' Ex 25:39). In today's valuation, depending on whether the ten thousand talents were of silver or of gold, this debt would be equivalent to millions or billions of dollars.
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.
18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying,
Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
18:27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion,
and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
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.
an hundred pence {GK=denarii, a small silver coin} -
One denarius was a laborer's daily wage (see Mat 20:2).
This was not an insignificant debt. Its repayment would be difficult, but not impossible, for a common laborer. In our day, it might compare to a debt of $10,000, for a minimum wage earner.
18:29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying,
Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
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.
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:
18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant,
even as I had pity on thee?
18:34 And his lord was wroth,
and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
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.
{cp. Jam 2:13}
Should you not also have compassion on your fellowservant...?
When the principle of forgiveness by grace (v.27) is rejected (v.28-30), sin must be dealt with under the principle of the Law (v.32-34).
Just as, no man can pay the debt that he owes to God, but is entirely dependent upon forgiveness by grace (Rom 3:19-26; 6:23; Eph 2:8,9), no man can afford to reject this principle in dealing with other believers (1Cor 6:6-11; Mat 6:14,15; Eph 4:31,32).

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