Evangelical Community Chapel at Liberal: a Molalla, Oregon Church

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Matthew 18

May 15th, 2011 by Vic

May 15, 2011

“Who’s the Greatest?”

Matthew 18

 

We have been walking with Jesus through the gospel of Matthew for several weeks.  We have seen Jesus’ trying to teach His disciples what the Messiah really is.  Peter declared his faith that Jesus was the Messiah, but then he was troubled about talk of a death and resurrection.  God identified Jesus as His Son to 3 of them on the mountain, but when they came down the mountain doubts returned.

 

Their worldview was interpreting current events incorrectly.  What they were taught by their parents did not explain Jesus daily activities.  Now in chapter 18 Jesus is teaching about the radical attitude of humility and forgiveness.  Why would the Messiah be talking of humility and forgiveness?  He would not need to be humble.  He was to be King.  He would not have to forgive.  He was always right.

 

We are like the disciples.  It is hard to understand qualitative ideas like love, faith, hope, forgiveness, and humility.  Love is something I am, expressed by what I do.  Faithfulness is something I am, expressed by what I do.  Humble is what I am, expressed by what I do.  Forgiving…   Merciful…

 

Objects can be described, events can be counted, but the fruit of the Spirit is not learned in the classroom.  No one has the Fruit of the Spirit unless he is living the Fruit of the Spirit.  Love unexpressed is not love.  Faith unexpressed is not faith.  Humility unexpressed is not humility.

On the Mt. of Transfiguration, Jesus selected the 3 disciples He apparently thought were best prepared to understand the nature of His kingdom.  He gave them a glimpse of the splendour of the unseen kingdom.

 

When the voice of God commanded Peter to be quiet and listen to Jesus we are reminded that we do not need more talking.  We need to bring our thoughts, desires, and ways into submission to the mind and word of Jesus.  Listening to Jesus is better than talking, building temples, and taking attendance.

 

The disciples had said that Jesus was the Messiah.  Peter, James, and John had just heard the voice of God confirm that fact.  Now how was God going to bring His invisible kingdom into the visible world through Jesus as the Messiah.  And when Jesus set up His kingdom on earth, who would do what?  They were also debating the hierarchy of the organization.

 

18:1-4  Apparently they were in Peter’s home.  Maybe this was Peter’s child that Jesus called.

 

People are a lot like cows.  They want to know who is the greatest.  I remember feeding the cows in the loafing shed; Big Bertha was always in control.  Nobody got close to her until she had eaten all she wanted.  And when she had finished eating, everyone got out of her way to let her out of the shed.  Uncle Walt also had cows then.  Sometimes we would put our cattle together in the same pasture.  The first day was occupied with everyone butting heads.  Nobody was satisfied until they knew who was the greatest.

 

Chickens are not much different.  They have a pecking order.  Are we much different?  But the kingdom of God is different.

 

Who do we compare ourselves with?  Often we compare ourselves with ourselves and feel pretty good.  Jesus says your value is not measured by status, where you live, or the toys you have.  It’s about how you live.  Are you righteous in your routines?

 

So Jesus stood the child in their midst.  The child seems comfortable with Jesus.  The child is usually not concerned about rank or position.  He is not afraid to ask questions.  The child demonstrates what a disciple should be.  The child being least of all is content with what he is and what God has made him.  The child is open, honest, exuberant, expectant, and surprisable.  But the main point that Jesus is making is humility.  The social insignificance of the child is the antithesis of the disciples’ interest in power and position.

 

To be great in God’s kingdom you must recognize the futility of social status.  You must see yourself as God sees you.  The status the world gives is a phantom status.  There is irony in the disciples’ interest in greatness so soon after Jesus spoke of his coming suffering and death.

 

Values in God’s kingdom are different than the values of our kingdom.  If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, humble yourself.  Jesus set the example.  If you want to be great, you will be a foot washer.  A great person is significant in his insignificance and great in his childlikeness.

 

18:5-6  Matthew is writing these instructions to the early church.  This child represents new Christians.  If you receive a new Christian who has believed on Jesus (6) you will be blessed (5).  To give hospitality to a new Christian is to receive Jesus himself (10:40; 18:5).  The blessing is great.

 

The poor, the helpless, the powerless, those without influence and without money, are the ones Jesus identifies with.  You are in trouble with Jesus Himself if you offend one of these.  In fact it is better that you lose your life than offend a child of God (6).

 

If you cause another Christian to stumble you better make it right or you will suffer God’s judgment (5-6).  In fact the Father/Shepherd loves each sheep very much.  The one who goes astray receives extra love (12-14).  Woe to the one who causes the sheep to go astray.  The penalty is great.  It is a matter of grave importance.

 

18:7-10  Now how do you cause a Christian or church member to sin and lose their faith?  By your example.  If your hand causes you to be a bad example then cut it off.  It is more important for you to live a holy life without one hand and be a good example than for you to accomplish great things (8) and cause another Christian to stumble.

 

The same with your feet.  It is eternally better for you to be holy than go many places for the Lord (8).  Jesus may have a double meaning here that sees the church as the body of Christ.  There are Christians in the church that may need to be removed.  In 18:15 Jesus teaches a process of discipline in the church to correct brothers who are causing others to stumble.

 

The same with your eyes.  If you desire the wrong things, if you are reading the wrong things, if your ambitions are wrong, you may become a stumbling block and you will lose your soul.  If you become a stumbling block you must repent or go to Hell (9).

 

Take sin seriously.  Drastic measures may need to be required to keep your children from wandering.  Get rid of the worldly influences that cause a little one to stumble.

 

If your relationship with Jesus is up to date, you will not worry about who is the greatest.  God has a plan for you.  Do you really trust God for your tomorrows?  Who are you really in God’s eyes?  Have you found that godliness with contentment is great gain?

 

To be a stumbling block is very dangerous (18:10).  The angels will tattle on you.

 

18:12-14  Verse 11 is not in your NIV, but it introduces this next parable.  It says Jesus has come to save that which is lost.  If you are a stumbling block, the church is supposed to admonish you, the angels will tattle on you to God, and Jesus will not be pleased.  He likes lambs.

 

The parable of the lost sheep reminds us of God’s love for the humble.  He is not a rancher who considers the cost of his time, the vulnerability of the other sheep, vet fees, or the reduced value at the auction.  He really cares for each one.  The love of the shepherd is demonstrated to all.

 

His love is unconditional.  He loves the careless.

His love is individual.  He has each of us on His mind.

His love is emotional.  He rejoices when He finds us.

 

18:15-20  It is inevitable in this world that Christians will sin against a brother.  How should we deal with a brother who sins against us?  What do we do when one church member sins against another?

 

Jesus gives a redemptive process.  The purpose is to restore the fellowship.  First, in loving humility go to your brother to identify your problem (Matt 18:15; Gal 6:1).  Bring the offensive matter to their attention.  Make sure your heart is right.  If he repents and asks forgiveness then restoration has occurred and you have won your brother.

 

If private confrontation does not work and he does not intend to repent or modify his behaviour, the next step is to take two or three witnesses (16).  The witnesses will verify your rebuke and appeal for repentance.  The witnesses will confirm that an offense has occurred and you really have a desire for restoration.  If the brother is still not repentant, then talk to the church.

 

The church (17) as a whole makes a plea to the offender.  If he still does not repent and change his ways, stop treating him as a brother.  Treat him as an outsider.

 

Loosing is the equivalent of forgiving (18).  The leaders of the church can be assured of God’s guidance in their decisions.  In His name we are under His rule.

 

The discipline process requires 2-3 witnesses that the offense has occurred.  The 2 or 3 coming together here is not for prayer.  If you needed 2 people in order for God to hear your prayers then the lost sheep would still be lost.

 

If the offending person repents at any point in this process, then forgive him.  Peter asked, “How many times” (21).  He expects Jesus to complement him for his generous attitude.  “If one sins and repents then goes back and does it again, how many times do I have to forgive him?”  The Jews required you to forgive the same offence just 3 times.  So Peter was being very generous when he suggested 7 times.  Jesus changed the standard of measure.  Jesus replied that forgiveness is in your heart and not contingent upon the offender’s repentance.  You need to be forgiving.  That means you don’t allow the offender back into the fellowship unless he changes his ways.  It means you must have a forgiving heart whether he repents or not.

 

Unforgiveness destroys your heart and not the one who has sinned against you.  Bitterness destroys your heart and not the stumbling block who tripped you up.  The one holding the grudge suffers the most.  My attitude does not punish you very well.  I can trust God’s punishment.  Forgiveness is required for heart health, but the one who sinned against you will have to live with the consequences of his attitude and actions.

 

Forgiveness will always be required where humans exist together.  Forgiveness in the church must exist without limit.  Either you have a forgiving heart or you are not Christlike.  People who bug you are hard to forgive.  Jesus modelled that forgiveness on the cross.

 

18:21-35  Jesus answered Peter’s question by saying numbers cannot correct forgiveness.  He illustrates the need for a forgiving heart by telling the story of an unmerciful servant.

 

Those in the kingdom of God serve a great king who has forgiven far more than ever could be paid.  Justice would require our death.  His mercy triumphs over justice.  The extravagant character of the King’s forgiveness is huge (21-22).

 

A deliberate hyperbole points to a debt so great it was incalculable (24-25).  It was in the billions of dollars.  Usually a person was sent to jail and his family and friends would have to raise the funds of his debt.

 

A time is coming when all accounts will be settled (23).  Your account with God can be settled by faith in Jesus Christ.

 

This King was moved with compassion (27).  This word compassion is always used of Jesus in Matthew.  In response to the plea, the King responds with an unimaginable grace.

 

The other servant owed 1/600,000th as much as the first servant.  That would be like comparing a pocket full of coins to 5 semi trucks full of coins.  The fellow servant’s plea was the same at the first servant’s.  But the first servant did not get it because of his wicked heart.

 

“Should not you also have shown mercy to your fellow servant, as I have shown you mercy?” (32-33)  It is the merciful who are promised blessing and who also receive mercy (5:7).  Does this mean that God will revoke His mercy on you if you fail to show mercy?  That is what the Lord ’s Prayer says.  Unforgiveness is a sin against God.

 

As one treats others, so also will one be treated (34).

 

The heavenly Father forgives the humble but punishes the one without love and forgiveness.  The obvious teaching is that those who are forgiven must forgive.  The enormity of the debt that was forgiven the first servant points to God’s forgiveness of our sin.  When compared with the petty sins against us, we should be quick to forgive.  Jesus paid a debt we could never pay.

 

Conduct in the church is to be patterned after the mercy and grace of God’s free forgiveness of sins.  As God forgives those who have repented of their sin, so are we to freely forgive those who sin against us and repent.  The church must treat its members as God treats them.  Jesus paid the debt that we had no hope or possibility of paying.

 

The level of forgiveness required of us is huge.  Ephesians 4:31-32

Bitterness can be removed if we throw the cross in our heart.  Exodus 15:23-25

Keep your eyes on Jesus as you would a Light in a dark place.  2 Peter 1:19

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