Mat_18:1. At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
The question we have sometimes heard asked in other forms, “Which is the highest office; which form of service shall have the greatest honour?” As if we were courtiers and were to take our positions according to precedent.
Mat_18:2. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them.
They all wondered what he was going to do. The little child was no doubt pleased to find itself in such happy company.
Mat_18:3. And said, Verily I say unto you,
“And said Verily I say unto you” — to you, men or women, who think no small things of yourselves, and are wanting to know which is greatest, implying that you, each one, think yourself pretty good as it is.
Mat_18:3. Except ye converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Someone said to me this morning, “This is a growing day.” “Ah!” I said, “I hope we shall all grow spiritually.” “Which way?” said he; “smaller or larger?” Let it be smaller, brethren that will be the surest way of growth certainly. If we can become much less today, we shall be growing. We have grown up, as we call it, let us grow down today, and become as little children, or else we shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Mat_18:4. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The lower down, the higher up. In a certain sense the way to heaven is downward in our own esteem certainly. “He must increase; I must decrease.” And when that straight-backed letter “I,” which often becomes so prominent, vanishes altogether, till there is not an iota of it left, then we shall become like our Lord.
Mat_18:5. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
The humblest and the least in the family of divine love, if received brings with that reception the same blessing as the reception of Christ.
Mat_18:6. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me,
It does not mean put him out of temper by his taking his silly offence but shall cause him to sin, shall make him stumble, shall scandalize him —whosoever shall do that.
Mat_18:6. It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
If you have the revised version, you will see in the margin that it is an ass millstone — not a common millstone, which women used to turn, but a bigger stone, which was turned by an ass, in a mill which thus was of a larger kind altogether. The very heaviest conceivable doom were better than to be a stumbling block in the way of the very least of God’s people. Yet I have known some say “Well, the thing is lawful, and if a weak brother does not like it, I cannot help it, he should not be weak.” No, my dear brother, but that is not the way Christ would have you talk. You must consider the weakness of your brother; all things may be lawful to you, but all things are not expedient, and if meat make your brother to offend, eat no meat while the world standeth. Remember, we must, after all, measure the pace which the flock can travel by the weakest in the flock, or else we shall have to leave behind us many of the sheep of Christ. The pace at which a company must go, must depend upon how fast the weak and the sick can travel — is it not so? — unless we are willing to part company with them, which I trust we are not willing to do. So let us take care that we cause not even the weakest to stumble by anything that we can do without harm to ourselves, but which would bring harm to them. Then I am not sure if it would harm the weakest, whether it would not harm us also, because we are not as strong as we think we are; and, perhaps, if we took a better measure, we might put ourselves among the weakest, too.
Mat_18:7-8. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee:
Get rid of that which is most useful to you, most necessary to you, rather than be led astray by it, and made to sin — for
Mat_18:8. 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.
Remember that is the word of Jesus — “everlasting fire” — not the word of some of those coarse, cruel theologians that you hear a great deal about now-a-days, but the word of Jesus Christ, the Master himself. You cannot be more tender than he; to pretend to be so, with only prove us to be very foolish.
Mat_18:9. And if thine eye offend thee,
So needful to thy pleasure, and to thy knowledge, and to thy guidance yet if it make thee sin,
Mat_18:9. 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 hellfire.
Better to be but a maimed believer than to be an accomplished unbeliever; better to be an uncultured saint than a cultured modern thinker; better that thou lose an eye, or lose a hand, than lose thy faith in God and his word, and so lose thy soul and be cast into hell fire.
Mat_18:10. Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones;
So apt to do so, when a man appears to have no perfect knowledge, no large pretensions, we are so apt to think, “Oh! he is a nobody.”
Mat_18:10. For I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.
There is an angel to watch over each child of God; the heirs of heaven have those holy spirits to keep watch and ward over them. These sacred intelligences, who watch over the people of God, do at the same time behold God’s face. They do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word, and beholding his face all the while. And if these little ones are thus honourably attended by the angels of God, never despise them. They may be dressed in fustian, they may wear the very poorest of print, but they are attended like princes; therefore, treat them as such.
Mat_18:11. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.
Another reason why you must not despise them. “How think ye?” Put on your considering cap, and think a minute.
Mat_18:12-14. 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? 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. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.
Nor shall they. Christ has come on purpose that He may send them out, and find them out he will; and having an hundred, whom his Father gave him, he will not be satisfied with ninety-and-nine, but the whole hundred shall be there. Now, as if to show us that we are not to despise the very least in the family, nor even the most erring, he brings it personally home to us.
Mat_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.
Do not say, “You must come to me.” Go to him; he has trespassed against you, it is a personal affair; go and seek him out. It is useless to expect the person who does the injury to try and make peace. It is the injured one who always has to forgive, though he has nothing to be forgiven, it always comes to that, and it is the injured one who should, if he be of the mind of Christ, be the one to commence the reconciliation.
Mat_18:16-17. 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. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Quit his company he has despised the last tribunal. Now you must leave him. Be not angry with him. Freely forgive him, but quit him.
Mat_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.
Where the church acts rightly, it has the solemn sanction of God; this lesser tribunal on earth shall have its decrease sanctioned by the great tribunal above. Hence it becomes a very serious matter, this binding and loosing which Christ has given to his Church.
Mat_18:19-20. 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. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
It is not a large church, therefore, that is girded with the wonderful power of prayer, but even two or three. Christ will not have us despise one, he will not have us despise two or three. Who hath despised the day of small things? On the contrary, measure by quality, rather than by quantity, and even if the quality fail measure by love, rather than by some rule of justice that you have set up.
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?
He thought he had opened his mouth very wide when he said that.
Mat_18:22. Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Unto seventy times seven.
I do not wonder that we read in another place that the disciples said, “Lord, increase our faith.” For it needs much faith to have so much patience, and to continue still to forgive.