Matthew 18 has been a difficult passage for interpreters. So, I give my few thoughts on this chapter.
The Lord Jesus is speaking to Jews. These Jews are disciples. Matthew 18:1a NIV At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked…
He is teaching them some of the principles, worldview, and lifestyle of the Kingdom of Heaven, which is the same as the King of God. Compare Matthew 4:17 with Mark 1:15, etc. This is a kingdom where God rules. Eventually, Jesus will reign in Jerusalem and the universe will be the Kingdom of God. (You might want to read What is the Kingdom of Heaven?) (I don’t know anything about Bruce Colbert, so be aware).
The first principle the Lord Jesus teaches (verses 1-7) is who is the greatest in the Kingdom of God? Jesus gives no names but a principle. A principle is a law, doctrine, or assumption on which action or behavior is based (Source). Humans tend to ask who is the greatest. Jesus makes it clear that it is not what makes humans great on earth but what God considers great. Some things that make one great in the Kingdom of Heaven:
Poor in Spirit, meekness, hunger, and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, suffer for righteousness’s sake in Matthew 5:3-12
Doing and teaching God’s rules and righteousness in Matthew 5:19-20
Doing the will of God in Matthew 7:21
Humility, trust, and faith in Matthew 18:1, 3-4
Not being a hypocrite in Matthew 23:13 also see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:21
The highest priority in our life is God’s kingdom and His righteousness in Matthew 6:33
Not trusting in money but faith in God in Mark 10:23-25
Being faithful and steadfast in faith towards God in Luke 9:62
Being born again, the new birth, by God because of faith and trust in Him in John 3:3-5
Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit in Romans 14:17
Jesus teaches further that if a person does something to a child causing them to not believe the Gospel, that person will receive a severe penalty. It would be better to have a millstone hung around their neck and thrown into the sea to drown. An example might be someone claiming to be a Christian, be it a pastor, a youth pastor, a church worker, Sunday School teacher or whatever. This person of respect molests that child, which causes them to reject Christ when they are older. Even though that pastor, etc. might think of themselves as being great, even though that pastor, etc. is acclaimed by the congregation, that person is spiritually dead and an evangelist for satan causing someone to NOT believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The next section (verses 8-10) deals with obstacles to believe the gospel. I have read of more than one person who had gifted hands, say a musician or surgeon, who would not believe the gospel. When they had some tragedy and lost a hand, they experienced financial and emotional stress. This brought a situation where their heart was softened to listen to the gospel.
Next in verses 11-14, Jesus teaches His desire, longing, and effort to seek those who are lost. All humans are lost and perishing because of sin except the sinless Jesus. He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29) and the Passover Lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7) who paid the penalty for our sins, suffered for our sins, and taking the punishment for our breaking God’s laws.
In verses 15-20, the Lord Jesus deals with the topic of a sinning believer. The word church indicates that Jesus does not speak of our present-day church, for it didn’t exist until Pentecost. So, it must refer to a group of believers. Jesus is addressing His disciples. He is teaching a principle of the Kingdom of Heaven, so it can be applied to the church today. The church today is believers, not an organization.
Note the word brother which refers to one of common belief, not necessarily common family. Also note the word witness. This is someone who has firsthand knowledge of some offense. The issue is hopefully dealt with when the offended person tells the offender of their sin. If they repent (ask forgiveness, and never do it again), then all is well. This repenting person is living as a Christian. If that person does not repent, then bring other witnesses. If the offender repents, all is well. If he/she does not repent still, then bring it before the group. If he/she repents, all is well. If not, then that person must be treated as if they are not a non-Christian. They may be a Christian, but they are acting and living like a non-Christian, so must be treated as such. The non-repenting person is not to be treated with abuse but with the attitude of wanting them to confess their sin and repent. Compare 1 Corinthians chapter 5.
A word of caution. Abusing church leaders like to isolate the one who has been abused from any witnesses of support. These false teachers and their supporters then abuse the abused. This has happened many times. Always have someone with you preferably a lawyer. A child who has been molested must never have to experience this situation. Refer the molestation to law enforcement.
Some things to remember about this passage.
B1 There are false witnesses. Matthew 26:59-61 NLT Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him to death. 60 But even though they found many who agreed to give false witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward 61 who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days.
B2 There are evil counseling methods where the abused/molested most face the accused alone or in front of “church leaders.” Avoid this at all costs. Always have a witness with you. Don’t be intimidated.
Verses 21-35 are about forgiveness and the one who can forgive. God is the only one who can forgive sin. There is no such thing as forgive and forget. The abused/molested have scars and are unable to forget. Such talk is the counsel of at best ignorant but more likely abusers themselves.
When we ask God to forgive our sins, He does, IF we are repent. Words are cheap. A person’s life speaks louder than words. For an example read about King Manasseh in 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33. As God has forgiven us, we forgive others. Forgiveness means to not seek revenge. Reporting a crime is not revenge. Only God forgives sins. Sins leave scars on us and on those who were wronged. The devil does much harm by reminding us of our past sins. Compare the Apostle Paul as in Acts 22:4, 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13, and Philippians 3:6. Some interpret Paul’s thorn in the flesh to be satan’s reminding Paul of this.
God’s forgiveness can be revoked as in Matthew 18:32-35 NLT Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 35 “That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.
The Lord Jesus teaches the principles, and many times gives an illustration of that truth as we read in Matthew 18:21-35.
B1 What does it mean to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven?
B2 How does one achieve that greatness?
B3 Why does God value character traits and attitudes instead of power, authority, prestige, and financial greatness?
B4 Why do people who are molested or abused often reject the Gospel?
B5 What should a person do who is molested or abused? Report it to law enforcement. It is a crime, and you’ll be doing your part to stop this evil person.
B6 Explain forgiveness of sins.
Proverbs 18:12 NLT Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor.
Romans 8:13-14 AFV Because if you are living according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.
2 Peter 3:9 NRSV The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.
Proverbs 21:2 GNB You may think that everything you do is right, but remember that the LORD judges your motives.
Psalms 25:8 GNB Because the LORD is righteous and good, he teaches sinners the path they should follow.
A Few Thoughts About Matthew 18
Posted by Choco at 09:50 on 27 Oct 20
Labels: Christian character traits, God the evangelist, Forgiveness, Church discipline