A Free Online Commentary of the Bible.
To view commentary for each chapter, click desired chapter number.
The Least shall be Greatest
18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus saying, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
At the same time that Jesus had been telling his disciples that he would be betrayed and killed the disciples came to ask him a question. Mark tell us that the disciples had been arguing about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven (Mark 9:33). So they came to Jesus to ask him who would be.
18:2-3 He called a child, had him stand among them, and said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn around and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven!
To their amazement he called a little child to come to him and stood him in the midst of them; telling them solemnly that unless they were prepared to change and become like young children (having the simplicity and humility of a child, thinking themselves of no importance) they would never even enter the kingdom of heaven (Rom. 12:3:16; Gal. 6:3).
18:4 Whoever then humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
It is those who humble themselves like a child who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
18:5 And whoever welcomes a child like this in my name welcomes me.
Whoever accepts and receives a child in the Lord's Name and for his sake is reckoned as having received Jesus Christ and also his Father who sent him into the world to save sinners (John 13:20).
18:6 "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a huge millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the open sea.
Having made clear that it is those who are considered least who are the greatest, Jesus gives a warning to anyone who should cause the least of his disciples to fall into sin. Such a person would be better off being thrown into the deepest sea with a huge millstone tied around their neck.
18:7 Woe to the world because of stumbling blocks! It is necessary that stumbling blocks come, but woe to the person through whom they come.
Great sorrow is in the world because of the offenses of sin and the temptation to sin. Temptations are inevitable but pity the person who does the tempting!
18:8 If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire.
We must point out here that Jesus is not advocating that a hand or foot should be cut off or an eye plucked out literally. The disciples must have clearly understood this, for they neither practised nor preached mutilation.
So what did Jesus mean? To "offend" in the KJV or sin (above) does not mean to upset or annoy but to be a stumbling block and to cause someone else to sin.
"Cut it off" means to mortify or account as dead, unable to perform a deed. In Romans 6:6 Paul puts it this way "our old self was nailed to the cross with him (Christ) in order that our body which is the instrument of sin, might be made ineffective, and inactive for evil, that we may no longer be the slaves of sin." (Amp. N.T.) How are we able to do this when there are so many temptations that we find very hard to resist? Paul gives us the answer to this "walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh" (Gal. 5:16). So we do not cut off parts of our body but when we are tempted to use them to sin we are to consider them as unable to do such things because they crucified with Christ.
Although it may appear that by taking such action we lose out in life, we in fact gain for we are able to live the life that Christ has given us in abundant measure: "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21).
"Hell" here is Gehenna. There is only one alternative to eternal life and that is the second death where those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Saviour shall go by their own choice; choosing to live a life of sin rather than the life of Christ.
The words "eternal torment" clarify that the second death will not mean annihilation, for the penalty of sin will go on forever (Rev. 14:11).
"If your hand". With the hand we take, hold onto, and do things; Jesus is talking about the times when we are tempted to steal, hold on to things we should not, or do things that we should not. "If your foot". With our feet we go places. If we are tempted to go to places that we should not (Psalm 1:1) then we must take action to stop going to these places.
18:9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into fiery hell.
"If your eye". Jesus said "the light of the body is the eye" (Matt. 6:22) with the eye we see and obtain understanding. What we see enters our minds and our hearts more readily than by any other means. If we are tempted to read or look at things that are unwholesome then we must turn away from them (1 John 2:16). It is better to go throughout life without these things than to be thrown into hell.
18:10 "See that you do not disdain one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
Referring again to those "little ones", that is, babes in Christ who have a simple faith, Jesus says that they are not be looked down on, disdained or lightly esteemed. In heaven their angels always have access to the presence of God (Heb. 1:14).
Lost and Found
18:11 For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
The sole purpose in Jesus Christ coming from heaven to earth and taking upon himself a body of flesh was to come and save those who are lost in sin.
18:12 What do you think? If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for the one that went astray?
If a farmer owns a hundred sheep but one of them wanders off, what will he do? Will he turn his back on it and leave it to pay the penalty for its folly? No, he leaves the ninety nine on the hills and goes looking for the one that is lost.
18:13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice more over it than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray.
His efforts are rewarded for he finds his lost sheep and he brings it back home, rejoicing more over it that the others who had not gone astray.
18:14 In the same way, your Father in heaven is not willing that one of these little ones be lost.
Just as the farmer with his sheep so God deals with all who have gone astray (Isaiah 53:6). He is not willing that any should perish but that all should repent and be saved (2 Peter 3:9). He has a love and concern for every individual person and does everything that is possible to bring sinners to Himself (John 3:16).
Putting Things Right
18:15 "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.
If a brother or sister in the Lord wrongs you or offends you then do not let neglect to do anything about it; for this may cause bitterness to grow in your heart. Do not spread it abroad but go to your brother or sister on your own and put the matter right. If he or she puts it right with you then you have won that person back.
18:16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established.
If however he or she refuses to listen then take one or two other Christians with you and try again. This is in accordance with the word of God for by the testimony of two or three witnesses shall a matter be proved (Deut. 19:15).
18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector.
If he or she still refuses to listen then the matter must be brought before the church. If they will not heed the church then they are to be treated like pagans, unbelieving sinners.
18:18 "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
Jesus here repeats what he had said in Matthew 16:19 that all who are Christ's can bind things on earth and it shall happen because they have been bound in heaven and whatever is loosed on earth will be loosed in heaven. In other words, what we ask in prayer from God who is in heaven shall be accomplished through our prayers upon earth.
18:19 Again, I tell you the truth, if two of you on earth agree about whatever you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.
He further adds that if two of his followers agree together to ask something of the Father in heaven then it will be done on earth.
18:20 For where two or three are assembled in my name, I am there among them."
Jesus gave this certain promise that wherever two or three come together in his name he would be there with them.
Living Word Magazine
Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, UK. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
Tom Wright's latest modern classic is out now!
A masterly exposition of Paul's thought by one of his leading contemporary interpreters.
Books from Bible Studies Online
Gospel Tracts for Sale
This Bible study is taken from Faithbuilders: The Gospel of Matthew