Matthew 18:1-35 Comments by Stephen Ricker
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The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
Comments for Study 23

Matthew 18:1-35
Memory Verse: 4

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I. A Truly Great Man in God's Kingdom (1-9)

>1. What was the first question the disciples asked Jesus?

* "At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, 'Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?'" (1)

* "At that time" -Jesus and his disciples had left Mt. Hermon where Jesus had been transfigured before James, Peter, and John. The other disciples were at the foot of the mountain and could not drive out a demon from a boy and were arguing with teachers of the law. Peter had previously confessed that Jesus is the Christ. Matthew 17:24-27 states when the left the mountain they went to Capernaum.

* "the disciples" -Jesus is not talking to the crowd. Only to those who followed him.

* "I tell you the truth..." -Jesus really emphasized this.

* "kingdom of heaven" -Jesus is the Majestic Prophet Priest King. His kingdom is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God should be no small topic for those who belong to it. The phrase the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Heaven is repeated almost three hundred times in both Old and New Testaments. It is referred to 1,845 times in the Old Testament. Many of Jesus parables concern the Kingdom of God. Jesus stated that he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God from town to town. (Luke 4:43, 8:1, 9:11) Jesus sent out his disciples to preach about the Kingdom of God. (Luke 9:1) Jesus often told people, “The Kingdom of God is near you,” or at least something similar to it. (Matthew 12:28, Mark 1:15, Mark 12:34, Luke 10:9, 11, 20) When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, the second subject (after honoring God our Father) he told them to pray for was The Kingdom of God. “Thy kingdom come,” he taught his disciples to pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

* J. Dwight Pentecost in this book Things to Come distinguishes between four Biblical uses of the term Kingdom of Heaven; God's universal kingdom, a spiritual kingdom, the millennial Davidic kingdom, and the mystery form of the kingdom (in Matthew 13). He wrote,
   “ a) The spiritual kingdom, which is closely related with God's universal kingdom, is composed of the elect of all the ages, who have experienced a new birth by the power of the Holy Spirit. This kingdom cannot be entered apart from such a new birth. [He continues with a long list of support verses.]
    b) The millennial kingdom is declared to be a literal, earthy kingdom over which Christ rules from David's throne in fulfillment of the Davidic covenant.
    c) The mystery form of the kingdom (in Matthew 13) brings us a concept entirely distinct from the preceding two. That God was going to establish a kingdom on the earth was no mystery. [He continues with the history of man's continual rejection of God's sovereignty.] The mystery was the fact that when the One in whom this program was to be realized was publicly presented He would be rejected and an age would fall between His rejection and the fulfillment of God's purpose of sovereignty at His second advent. The mystery form of the kingdom, then, has reference to the age between two advents of Christ. The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven describe the conditions that prevail on the earth in that interim while the king is absent. These mysteries thus relate this present age to the eternal purpose of God in regard to His kingdom this mystery form of the kingdom is composed of saved and unsaved alike (wheat and tares, good and bad fish).”

* The above two points were taken from the manuscript The Believer's Future - Hope that Inspires.

>What does the question reveal about them?

* They secretly wanted to have a great seat in Jesus' kingdom in heaven.

* The disciples believed that Jesus was going to rule in a newly established and glorified earthly kingdom of Israel. Their thinking was on political greatness.

* The disciples thought highly of themselves. They felt they deserved not only a place in heaven but a high place.

* The disciples were also ambitious for human power and glory.

* They did not mean who was greatest in character so that they might know what graces and duties to excel in.

* Men often like to dream of things that will never be.

* Jesus had just told them that they must carry their cross, and now they are wanting to know about greatness.

* Luke 22:24 shows that they even asked this at the Last Supper.

>2. How did Jesus answer?

* "He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: 'I tell you the truth; unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" (2-3)

* Jesus didn't answer them directly. Instead he got to the heart of their problem. He told them how to enter the kingdom of heaven. He said they couldn't even enter the kingdom of heaven unless they become like little children.

* "child" -Child is "paidion" in Greek referring to an infant, one year old. At such an age they have little concept of greatness and political power and position is a non-concept to them. This does not say that they are not selfish and defiant. That is the sinful nature that we are born with. What is being said is that infants do not have political ambitions.

* An infant is pleased to be with his or her parent.

* This probably humbled and confused the disciples do to their way of thinking.

* Jesus taught the disciples by a practical illustration.

* We can learn something from everybody, even children.

* It is good for children to be in Jesus' and his disciples presents at times.

>What does it mean to be like a little child?

* To be humble.

* This is not foolish (1 Corinthians 14:20; Ephesians 5:4) nor fickle (Ephesians 4:14), nor playful (9:16).

* He also said that if one does not humble himself he, "'will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'" This is very strong words.

* Jesus was requiring them to change their minds, their ways of thinking, both of themselves and the kingdom of heaven.

>What does it mean to humble oneself? (3-4; cf. Nu. 12:3)

* "'And he said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'" (3-4)

* Humility is to not think to highly of ourselves. Rather, it is thinking we don't deserve anything and a clear understanding of our state before God.

* To not defend ourselves by using our possession or because of the blessings that God gave us.

* "Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth." (Numbers 12:3)

* When people challenged Moses' authority he did not defend himself. For example when his siblings Aaron and Miriam challenged his authority because his wife was Cushite he fell on his face and prayed to God. (Num. 12:1-3)

>How did Jesus demonstrate humility? (cf. John 1:14; Phil. 2:5-11)

* "The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14)

* "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil 2:5-11)

* Make oneself nothing. Jesus didn't brag about his greatness. He didn't proclaim his authority over everyone, not even to those who opposed him.

* Jesus was selfless. He did not look for his own needs, but the needs of others.

* Honor and exalt God is the sign of humility.

* Seek God's glory and God will exalt us.

>3. What does Jesus say about helping the helpless? (5)

* "'And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.'" (5)

* "welcomes a little child" -This implies a pure and loving heart.

* "like this" -This is a spiritual truth. "Like this" implies the person doesn't need to be an infant or a toddler.

* Welcoming them must be in Jesus' name for us to be welcoming him.

* What we do to others for Jesus' name is doing it for him.

* Welcoming little children can be in many ways, but all practical ways.

* Welcoming the least in Jesus' kingdom will be accepted.

>Why is this a mark of one who is great in the kingdom of heaven?

* Because welcoming humble people is the mark of a humble heart. If someone thinks he is great he will not accept or help others he think is less then them. Instead he will either ignore them or expect them to help them.

* The disciples were not seeing each other as greater than them. They were not humble. They at least saw themselves as equal. They did not accept each other as Jesus wanted and instructed them to.

* The apostles eventually learned this. However, the problem continued. 3 John 1:9-10 states, "I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church."

>4. On the other hand, who deserves severe punishment?

* "'But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.'" (6)

* We can influence others to sin by bad actions, bad advise, bad words, or bad examples.

* By not positively accepting Jesus little ones (little sheep in John 21) we can cause them to fall into sin.

* See how this chapter is all related.

* We should not try to manipulate people. Some have said or implied that obeying them is the same as obeying God. This is the lie of Satan. We should not lord authority over anyone. Jesus taught this very clearly. A proud leader will take all for themselves thinking they have some kind of skill or ability that the Holy Spirit does not give to others as well. Each person has a gift and there are different gifts. Yet this does not mean that someone has a gift that no one else has.

>How and why does Jesus emphasize the seriousness of having a bad influence on others, especially on God's children?

* How? By saying, "'But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.'"(6)

* "a large stone" -This was a form of execution practiced in Jesus' day.

* Hell is worse than dying in the depths of the sea.

* Why did Jesus put it this way? Because the point is the precious nature of Jesus' beloved children.

* Causing a little one to sin is like poking God in the eye. Zechariah 2:9b states, "...for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye-- I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me."

>5. How serious is sin?

* "'Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come! 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 maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away, It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.'" (7-9)

* "Woe" -Deep distress, grief, and misery. Misfortune and calamity awaits.

* "things must come" -Jesus said that those not in the family of God, not true believers, will cause some of God's people to sin. This will happen. The study of Acts and the letters shows that this did indeed happen. It is still happening today. There are people who are considered good leaders when in fact they are not of God.

* Things that cause people to sin must come. We all are tempted, but not beyond what we can handle. God gives us strength to overcome all temptation.

* We should never be the cause and if we are we shouldn't take it likely.

* We should not use this to judge a person other than ourselves.

>To what extent should God's people fight sin?

* "'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 maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.'" (8-9)

* Jesus said this before in 5:29-30.

* One should consider it the worst thing possible to do, even fatal.

* We must part with whatever is dear to us if it causes us to sin.

* Those things which are meant for good may cause us to sin.

* "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desired." (Galatians 5:24)

* We need to seriously deal with our sin and our tendency to error in the eyes of God. We need to be full of the Spirit and live before God. All are given the Spirit, and the Spirit is more powerful than he who is in the world. Yet, if we do not submit to the Spirit, but submit to our sinful nature, the Spirit is not to be blamed. We are. We need to take Jesus' words, "Stop sinner."

* Three things:
    1) hands
    2) eyes
    3) lips (words)

>Why is sin such a serious matter?

* Because sin leads to eternity in hell.

* It displeases God and drives us away from him.

* God is holy and anyone who comes to him must be holy. 1 John 1:5-7 states, "This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin."

* Thank God for Jesus who rescues me.

II. Seventy-Sevens Times (10-35)

>6. Read verses 10-35. Can you find any common themes or ideas in these three stories?

* Love for my brother and Jesus' little ones.

* These are difficult aspects of the Christian life, applying love
    1) find them in the name Christ, helping them to grow and stay with the flock of Jesus (10-14)
    2) discipline and comfort them in love wanting and praying for them to repent (15-20)
    3) forgive them (21-35)

* Spiritual maturity and the filling of the Holy Spirit makes this possible.

>Is there any connection with verses 1-9?

* Yes. If I love my brother I will not led them into sin. Nor will I think highly of myself. Instead I will think more of them and humbly serve them. Love moves a person to serve others in humility.

>7. Why should we not look down on weak or helpless people?

* "There angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.'" (10)

* "always sees" -God knows how we see them, think of them, and treat them at all times.

* A lack of love for another is a sin.

* Jesus loves them, accepted them, and respects them. We should do the same, love them as they are in hope that they will grow to be a strong and mature child of God.

* Sometimes they are not responsible for their condition.

* God has put the stronger in charge of the care of the weaker and helpless.

* We should never forget where God found us when he called us. At one time we were subject to sin, apart from God, and in need of God and other's help. God came to us and rescued us from sin, freeing us from bondage to our sinful natures and promising us a home in his paradise. He cleaned us up with the blood of his Son, Jesus. Therefore, we should not look down on another.

* David and Saul each sinned against God and against man. God reminded them of where they were at when he called them. When Saul sinned God told him, "Although you were once small in your own eyes, did you not become the head of the tribes of Israel? The Lord anointed you king over Israel. And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.' Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord?" (1 Samuel 15:17-19) When David sinned God told him, "This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites." (2 Samuel 12:7b-9)

>What story did Jesus tell to teach God's concern for his lost ones?

* "'What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off. And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.'" (12-14)

* Three applications:
    1) The lost sheep is the state of sinful man. The ninety-nine could be angles that did not fall. Jesus left heaven to save men. God and all heaven with him expresses great joy when one person is saved. God never will his people to be lost.
    2) A believer is offended or stumbles over a stumbling block and falls away from grace. Yet God still loves that one and looks after him or her. In the end they are returned with great joy.
    3) The lost tribes of Israel and the gentiles. When Judah (some of Benjamin and Levites too) sinned they repented and returned to the Lord, though only a few did. The other tribes did not repent. Also, the gentiles have been away from God. Now the gospel has gone out to the gentiles, and among them are the lost tribes of Israel. God is reaching out his arm of salvation to them. Ephesians 2:11-13 states, "Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ."

* They wondered away because of temptation and a lack of a strong desire to resist it.

>What can we learn here about God's shepherd heart? (John 3:16)

* "'For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.'" (John 3:16)

* "'I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.'" (John 10:29-30)

* God loves and cares not only for the church as a whole but each person is cared for and looked after. Jesus calls each sheep by name. (John 10:3)

* It is not God's will that any should perish but it is God's will that men be saved.

* It is God's delight to save men.

* In verse 14 Jesus called God the disciples Father as well as in verse 19 his Father.

* We need to have God's heart and learn from his wisdom on how to bring back and even when. Not every time is right. Only God's timing is right. We need to pray, be in the word of God, and filled with the Spirit of God.

>8. If someone sins against us, what kind of effort must we make to solve the enmity problem?

* "'If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the tow of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church, and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.'" (15-17)

* "sins against you" -This is only if the brother in Christ sins against me. It does not apply to if I see him sinning against God or another person.

* "go and show them his fault" -People don't like to have their faults exposes; so this must be handled in love and with prayer. Their heart must be softened by God.

* "just between the two of you" -Don't make a public seen and don't tell others all about it.

* "show him" -We shouldn't argue our case. The primary objective is love and reconciliation, not proving ourselves right.

* "won the brother over" -We need to look out for the other, not for ourself.

* "sins" -The meeting is needed where the fault (sin) is great and made plain. Sometimes if the issue is small we could be at fault or the one in the wrong.

* Proverbs 11:30 states, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise."

* James 5:19-20 states, "My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins."

* Having a loving and trusting relationship with others in normal times will help resolution when a problem arises.

* We need to do our best to stay pure at all times. It could hinder our actions to resolve issues later. David couldn't deal with his son, Absalom's sin because David himself had committed a similar sin.

>What are some of the natural things to do?

* To ignore the problem and hope it goes away.

* To hold a grudge.

* To complain to others about that person.

* To strick out against them and to get even.

* To wait until they come to us.

* To publically criticize.

* To go to the leader of the congregation and complain about them.

* These reactions when we are sinned against are because of hurt feelings and the selfish need for either gradifacation and personal healing.

>Why should we not hold a grudge or complain to others?

* It causes division in the church.

* Holding a grudge or complaining in not in love.

* God will hold us accountable on at the Bema seat.

* Because there are all kinds of people in a congregation, including those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus yet, we can always find people who wrong or hurt us. The spiritual mature act as Jesus did, who came to us when we were in sin.

* Holding a grudge and/or complaining will never solve the problem, and only make it worse.

>9. What promise does Jesus give only to people who forgive each other and who have one heart and mind?

* "'I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.'" (15-20)

* When the congregation of Jesus works together in love it is a result of God's grace, the teaching of the gospel and the word of God, prayer, and spiritual discipline.

* Church discipline should be done properly.

>10. In this chapter, what is the second question Peter asks?

* "Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, 'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?'" (21)

* Peter's question is very relevant. How does discipline and forgiveness work together.

* Even though we are forgiven we can still sin against our brother and our brother can sin against us. We need to constantly forgive them and help them in love when they acknowledge and repent.

* Peter is being generous because the Pharisees said three times.

>What is Jesus' surprising answer?

* "Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.'" (22)

* Seven is considered the number of completeness.

>What does this mean practically?

* Unlimited forgiveness from the heart. If they accept, confess and repent then discipline is not needed. If they repeat then we need to help them from repeating it, even if it means discipline.

>11. What is the story Jesus tells Peter about forgiveness?

* Matthew 18:23-35 "Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 "The servant fell on his knees before him. 'Be patient with me,' he begged, 'and I will pay back everything.' 27 The servant's master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. 28 "But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. 'Pay back what you owe me!' he demanded. 29 "His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30 "But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 "Then the master called the servant in. 'You wicked servant,' he said, 'I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn't you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?' 34 In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35 "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart."

* "ten thousand talents" -Is equal to about a million US dollars.

* "one hundred denarii" -A few US dollars.

>What can we learn here about how and why we forgive others?

* We can forgive and should when we remember what God did for us.

* We cannot give ourselves the credit for forgiving when we remember what Jesus did for us.

* When we sin there are always consequences for our sins. For example, David was mentioned earlier in this study. He suffered the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband.

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