HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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BIBLE STUDY on the Gospel of Matthew
Gospel of Matthew
The next few chapters do not seem to further advance the movement in Matthew, but they do fill out many of the dark spaces which have arisen because of the sudden deviation in the Kingdom of Heaven due to the rejection of the King. Matthew 13, in the Mystery Parables Discourse has given us the overall outline of the Kingdom of Heaven in this age, but there are still questions to be answered. These chapters are helpful in answering some of them.
The marvelous and spectacular manner in which He obtained money for the temple tribute in chapter 17, exhibited both His divine power and His foreknowledge; and the discourse which fills the eighteenth chapter is saturated with wisdom suited to His exalted character. There are some tremendous lessons in this chapter: ambition, humility, compassion and care for the erring ones, dealing with offenders and the duty of forgiveness. These had not been taught before, and the beauty of His wisdom has never been proven to have a defect in them or can anyone suggest an improvement on them. Matthew accomplishes a common-sense purpose of this section, placing these Godly lessons on record for the guidance of Christ’s disciples in all ages. This is an amazing portion of Scripture, and only eternity will be able to reveal the amount of good which will have been added to the Church from this particular discourse of the Great Teacher.
We also learn from this chapter that we must be converted, born again, if we want to go to Heaven.
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
A Little Child Becomes A Lesson (Matthew 18:1-10)
Matthew 18:1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? (KJV)
At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus . . . when the receivers of the tribute money had spoken to Peter about his master's paying it, and Jesus and Peter had talked about it, by whose orders he had caught a fish out of the sea, and from it a piece of money, which he had paid for them both . . . just at this time, the other eleven apostles came to the house where Christ and Peter were, with a question.
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? . . . the form in which Matthew quotes the question of the apostles, leaves it uncertain as to whether they meant which person, or what character, would be greatest in the Kingdom. But referring to the same question made in Luke 22:24, we learn that they meant which person. But the ever wise Jesus, takes the question in the other sense, and tells them which character would be greatest. Really, what they wanted to know was, WHO would be advanced to the post highest in that Kingdom next to the Messiah? It seems they had no doubt that it would fall on one of them, to have the most honorable position, and the place of the greatest trust, they wanted to know who it would be. Question of WHO would be the greatest? (Mat.20:20-24; Mk.9:34; 10:37-41; Lk.22:24).
Matthew 18:2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, (KJV)
And Jesus called a little child unto him . . . possibly one that was in the house, and was big enough to come to Him when He called Him. There is some controversy over who this child was. It really does NOT matter who he was. This little one simply was the object of one of the Lord Jesus’ awesome teachings.
And set him in the midst of them . . . that everyone might see that he that was just a child, the most humble, and the least in his own eyes.
Matthew 18:3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
And said, Verily I say unto you . . . “Listen to Me” he says, for what I am about to say is an important Truth.
Except ye be converted . . . and turn away from that disgusting notion of a temporal Kingdom, and of enjoying great grandeur and fame in this world; and from all your vain views of honor, wealth, and riches. See: Matthew 13:15. Except ye be converted . . . except ye be turned . . . the expression refers, not to turning from sin in general, but to turning from the particular sin of personal ambition which had really exposed itself in their question. The Lord placed the little child in their midst, and was to be their model, because of its well known freedom from this passion. The Lord tells it straight! The most humble shall be the greatest because they will live the most unselfishly and be the most like Jesus.
And become as little children . . . some versions read: "as this child" . . . meaning that a humble child has a modest opinion of itself, and is NOT envious of one another, thinks nothing about primacy, pre-eminence and ambitious views of one being greater than another. “Converted” sometimes refers to that great change called the new birth, born again, or regeneration (Ps.51:13; Acts 3:19, Jh.1:12-13; 3:3-8), but not always. Here it is a general word, meaning any change. The word regeneration means a particular change . . . the passing from death to life. The phrase here, "except ye be converted," does not imply that they were not Christians before, or had not been born again. Here it means that their opinions and feelings about the Kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed, believed wrongly, that Jesus was to be a temporal Prince, and that He would reign as other earthly kings did. They also supposed that He would have His great officers of state, as other kings had. And they were ambitiously inquiring just WHO would hold the highest offices, Jesus told them they were wrong in their views and expectations. NO such things would take place. They must turn from these ideas, they must be turned, changed or converted, or they could have NO part in His Kingdom that would one day come. Their ideas did NOT fit at all into the nature of His True Kingdom. And become as little children . . . most children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride and arrogance. Their character is humble and teachable. By requiring His apostles to be like them, He did not intend to express any opinion about the moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they should become like them, humble and teachable, laying aside their ambitious views and pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station, a very lowly one . . . Mark 9:35 And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. (KJV) . . . Meaning that, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least, and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us, is humility. And it is NOT degrading to think of ourselves as we are. But my friend, pride, or an attempt to be thought of as more important than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.
Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven . . . the hearts of young children are free from greed. The apostles (and us today) must truly be without worldly ambition, and without the lust of power, as little children are, who act among themselves as if all were equal.
Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (KJV)
Whosoever therefore shall humble himself . . . any disciple of Christ must behave in a meek, humble manner, not trying to have dominion over others, or treating other Christians in a haughty and snobbish manner, with scorn and contempt. A TRUE Christian will condescend to those of the lowest state, speaking with people freely and familiarly, treating all alike..
As this little child . . . or any other child of the like age. There is no reason to think that there was anything unusual in this child, which was not in others. It is common for children not to envy one another, or to set one above another, or be foolishly delighted with the distinctions of birth and fortune. That comes later when they get a little older.
The same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven . . . these words are NOT limited to the Twelve. Although the Apostle Paul was not one of the twelve, the following should be seriously considered: 1 Tim. 1:15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (KJV) . . . Paul thought himself to be the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints, and unworthy to be called an apostle; yet he had the largest measures of grace, the greatest gifts and abilities; and was honored with the greatest usefulness and success in the preaching of the Gospel to the conversion of sinners, and planting of churches. Paul was a meek and humble man, yet a man who had to fight sin every step of the way. See: Rom.7:14-25.
Matthew 18:5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. (KJV)
And whoso shall receive one such little child . . . this is to be understood, not literally but symbolically . . . meaning not such a one in age, but one "that is as this child" in modesty and humility . . . one that is free from pride, ambition and envy. Christ's logic is, that whoever receives His apostles, that are meek and lowly, into their houses, or into their hearts and affections; that receives their ministry and message, embraces the Gospel preached by them with readiness and cheerfulness, with faith and love,
In my name . . . because of Him and His Holy Name, and because they are His apostles, believe in Him, preach His Gospel, and are sent by Him, and represent Him.
Receiveth me . . . anyone that receives the apostles, receives Him as well. It would be the same as if they received Jesus, just as if He were Personally present, and Personally received. All the favors shown to His apostles, would be as if they had been done to Him in Person. And all who receive Christ’s Gospel, receives Him, for He is the Sum and Substance of that Gospel! The Lord said this to encourage modesty and humility, in the apostles, and to all those who followed them as disciples of Christ, meaning us today!
Matthew 18:6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. (KJV)
But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me . . . “little ones” 1 John 2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. (KJV) . . . Not in age, but are little and low in their own eyes, and detestable in the eyes of the world. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones . . . whosoever shall cause one of the least of these little ones who believe in Christ to stumble, or to go into the spirit of the world, or give way to sin; such a one shall meet with the most extreme punishment. May all those who take part in the wiles of the devil, in tempting others to sin, clearly hear this declaration of our Lord, and tremble. And the cults and false teachers abound! BEWARE!!!
It were better for him, that a mill stone be hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea . . . a millstone, an ass's millstone, because in ancient times, before the invention of wind mills and water mills, the huge stones were sometimes turned by slaves, but most often by asses or mules. Supposedly, in some places in Ireland, Scotland and the Zetland Isles, these still exist. Drowned in the depth of the sea . . . it is believed that in Syria and Greece, this mode of punishing criminals was practiced; especially in cases of parricide (killing parents or close relatives); and when a person was devoted to destruction of the public safety. When a person was drowned, they hung a weight, a huge stone around his neck. The word translated "depth" is at times used for the Sea itself (Isa.51:10), and signifies the middle, or deeper part, and answers to the Hebrew phrase, "the heart of the sea" (Ex.15:8). Some think that this was a sort of punishment in use among the Jews, that is here referred to. The four capital punishments inflicted by them were stoning, burning, slaying with the sword, and strangling. They surely had other sorts of punishment, which they borrowed from other nations; and so they might do this too, learned either from the Romans, or Greeks, or their neighbours the Syrians.
Matthew 18:7 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! (KJV)
Woe unto the world because of offences! . . . I think this could mean temptations to sin; and may also mean all the contempt and reproach cast upon the doctrines, ordinances, and people of Christ, and all those afflictions, distresses, and persecutions exercised on them intentionally, to cause them to stumble and fall. They tempted them to deny the Truth, drop their profession of Christ, tempted them to deny Him, and abandon the service to Christ. These things are extremely displeasing to God. He does not want His people discouraged, and He does not want them to listen to false doctrines of false teachers. He shall sooner or later, justify His own cause, avenge His own elect, and render tribulation to them that trouble them.
For it must needs be that offences come . . . considering the relentless hatred of the devil, and his determined and unfaltering temptations, and too, the great malice of the men of the world, their dislike and hostility to the Gospel of Christ and all who try to serve Him; the coming of offenses is unavoidable. Such is the wickedness of men and their stubbornness, that they will NOT come unto Christ that they may have life, but desperately continue deceiving and being deceived. In such a state of things, offenses, stumbling-blocks, persecutions, never ending temptations, etc., are unavoidable. "It must needs be that offences come," not because it is the will of God that they should come, but because the depravity of men makes them inevitable. For this reason Jesus adds,
But woe to that man by whom the offence cometh . . . a tragedy indeed, He who gives the offense, and he who receives it, are both exposed to ruin. There shall always be offenses in this world, but each of us should make sure that he is not the cause of them.
Matthew 18:8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: 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. (KJV)
Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot . . . the same words are repeated here, as on occasion of offenses, as are spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat.5:29-30). Impure looks and desires, and wicked lusts give offense to Christ's disciples trying, by any means whatever, to cause them to stumble and fall. These should NO more to be indulged in. The pain of eternal damnation should seriously be considered. (Mat.12:46; Mk.3:29; 2 Thes.1:9; Jude 1:11-25; Rev.20:15).
Matthew 18:9 And if thine eye offend thee, 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 hell fire. (KJV)
And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee . . . the Lord Jesus clearly states that we are NOT to despise one of the little ones. When one of them dies, his spirit goes immediately to be with God (2 Cor.5:6,8). Jesus gives a very stern warning to those who would offend one of His little ones: "Do NOT offend them; do NOT despise them. Lead them TO Jesus, NOT away from Him!”
It is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire . . . there really are some people who believe there is NO Hell. Many of these same people most likely believe there is a Heaven, and that they will go there. HOW can there be a Heaven and NO Hell? I honestly believe that there are many more Scriptures on Hell than there is about Heaven. Look it up some time! Hell is described all through the Bible. It states that it is a horrible place. We have 6 web sites, and each site has more things to say about Hell than it does Heaven. WHY? Because the Bible does not give near as much information about Heaven as it does Hell. The most about Heaven can be found in Revelation 21 & 22. The Lord uses the strongest language possible in warning us about offenses against children. Verses 8 & 9 speaks of everlasting fire and Hell fire. These two terms are unquestionably used as equivalents here. Being cast into Hell fire, or everlasting fire, is here made the alternative of entering into life. The life referred to cannot be physical life or spiritual life, because the apostles had already entered into both of these. It has to be eternal life, and the alternative, being cast into Hell fire, must mean, being sent to eternal punishment. It would be FAR better to undergo ALL conceivable self-denial and suffering in this life, rather than to be cast into that fire.
Matthew 18:10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. (KJV)
Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones . . . to despise is not to hate, but to regard with contempt and disrespect. This expression shows that the "little ones" in question have angels which are in some sense is theirs. All the angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation" (Heb.1:14).
For I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven . . . these little ones are effected by a special care for particular individuals . . . "their angels," . . . so it seems that each born again Christians has and angel OR angels who are especially charged with ministering to them individually. The fact stated of these angels is that "they do always behold the face of the Father in heaven", a fact which shows the effectiveness of their guardianship, seeing that in addition to their own superior power, they have access to the helping power of God. The fact that these weak little ones have such angels to watch over them, makes it exceedingly absurd that we should despise them. Do always behold the face of my Father, etc. This is taken from the practice of earthly courts. To be admitted to the presence of a king; to be permitted to see him personally; to have free access at all times, was deemed a mark of peculiar favor, and was esteemed a security for his protection. The Saviour says that we should not despise the difficult to understand Christians, for they are ministered to by the highest and noblest of beings; beings who are always enjoying the favor and friendship of God.
Matthew 18:11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. (KJV)
For the Son of man is come to seek that which was lost . . . yet another, stronger reason why these little ones should not be despised . . . because Christ, who is the Son of Man, came into this world to save these persons; who were lost in Adam, and had destroyed themselves by their transgressions. IF God has so great a regard for these little ones, as to send His Son to obtain eternal salvation for them, when they were in a miserable and perishing condition; and Christ had so much love for them, as to come into this world, and endure the sorrows, sufferings, and death itself for them, who were not only little, but SO lost in sin. He came SO willingly, to obtain righteousness (1 Cor.1:30), and life for them (Jn.3:15-16), and save them with an everlasting salvation (Isa.45:17; Gal 3:26-29); then they certainly should be, far above the contempt of all mortals; and the utmost care should be taken NOT to despise, grieve, offend, and injure them in ANY way, shape or form (1 Cor.8:11,13; 10:33; Rom.14:15,20-21; 15:1).
Parable Of The Lost Sheep (Matthew 18:11-14)
Now our Lord moves into the wonderful parable of the lost sheep.
Matthew 18:12 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? (KJV)
How think ye . . . what do you think? What is your opinion of this matter? Christ here appeals to His apostles, makes them judge themselves in this matter, and illustrates it by a familiar instance of a man's seeking and finding his lost sheep, and rejoicing at it.
If a man have an hundred sheep . . . meaning the owner, because a hired man would not be as concerned if one was lost.
And one of them be gone astray . . . to show still farther the reason why we should not despise the little ones, He introduced a parable showing the great joy that is felt when something lost has been found. Man rejoices over the recovery of one of his flock that had wandered, more than over all the rest that remained. So too, God rejoices that man is restored, seeks his salvation, and wills that not one that has been found should perish. Therefore if God loves and preserves the redeemed, then surely man should not despise them. (Lk.15:4-10). We ALL are like sheep, that are very prone to go astray (Ps.119:176; Isa.53:6).
Doth he not leave the ninety and nine . . . which have not gone astray, but stayed in the place where they were supposed to stay.
And goeth into the mountains . . . referring to the mountains of Israel, where there were pastures for sheep (Eze.34:13-14), and where sheep are very apt to wander, and go from mountain to mountain (Jer.50:6), and therefore these were proper places to go to search for them, and bring them in.
Doth he not leave the ninety and nine in the mountains . . . just as a good shepherd is concerned enough about one lost sheep to go search the hills for it, so too, God is concerned about every human being He has created. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (KJV) . . . If you come in contact with “little ones” (young or old physically) in your neighborhood who need Christ, tell them about Jesus and what He can do for them. Imitate Jesus by your example, your words, and your acts of kindness.
And seeketh that which is gone astray . . . no man that has a flock of sheep, that when one strays, he does not go looking for it. This parable may also be considered, as an illustration of the Son of Man's Coming into this world, to seek, and to save His lost sheep, mentioned in the preceding verse; even the lost sheep of the house of Israel, the little ones that believed in Him, who were despised by the Jews.
Matthew 18:13 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. (KJV)
And if so be that he find it . . . this is a casual and uncertain thing with the shepherd, but NOT so with Christ, who absolutely finds all those that He goes after.
Verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep . . . at the finding of it, whose loss greatly affected him,
Than of the ninety and nine which went not astray . . . who did not seem to go astray, were outwardly righteous before men, and in their own opinion, being the same with the ninety and nine just persons who needed no repentance (Lk.15:7). This same parable is in Luke 15, and there Luke says more about it.
Matthew 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish. (KJV)
Even so it is not the will of your father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones, should perish . . . He will take care of the little ones (fathers, young men, little children, 1 Jn.2:13). This parable illustrates and enforces the lesson in hand. As it is not the will of the shepherd that one stray sheep should perish, even so it is not the will of God that one of His children shall perish. 2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (KJV)
I believe that the Bible teaches that once a person is TRULY saved, they are saved forever. I think that these two verses back me up on this. Every child of God has the Holy Spirit abiding within them (Rom.8:9), and God will NEVER give the His Spirit to anyone who is not sincere in their repentance. God looks on the heart and KNOWS if a person is sincere or not. http://www.hisservants.org/once_saved,_always_saved_h_s.htm
When A Brother Sins Against You
Christian Conduct In The Church (Matthew 18:15-20)
Matthew 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. (KJV)
Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee . . . this verse is speaking of sin committed by a believer. This rule respects sins committed by one brother against another, either in word or deed, or something private. In the previous part of the discourse, Jesus had warned the disciples against giving offense, or in any way mistreat a brother. Now He tells them what to do when a brother sins against them.
Go and tell him his fault between thee, and him alone . . . the character of the rebuke is indicated by the object of it, which is to gain the brother. Some say he is supposed to have committed that sin which is described in verse 6, as being worse than to have a millstone about the neck, and to be cast into the sea; and he is therefore lost to duty and to friendship. The object of the rebuke is to win him back both. The responsibility is upon the one who has been hurt, to approach his brother who has offended him and not vice versa. Seek an explanation of his conduct; and if he has done wrong, administer a friendly and brotherly rebuke. This is required to be done alone.
If he shall hear thee . . . if he takes your reproof kindly, acknowledge his offense, accept his sorrow for it, and desire it might be overlooked, and reconciliation made:
Thou hast gained thy brother . . . and recovered him from the error of his ways, restored him to his duty, and secured his friendship, nor should any mention be made of this afterwards, either to him, or any other, or to the church.
Matthew 18:16 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. (KJV)
But if he will not hear thee . . . if he will either deny the fact, excuse it, defend it, or is stubborn and hopeless, shows no signs of repentance, but is angry, gives hard words, and ill language:
Then take with thee one or two more . . . the one or two more are to be taken mainly for the same purpose with which you at first went alone.
That in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established . . . the purpose of gaining the brother, but also, in case of a failure, the one or two may serve as witnesses of all that happened between the parties. There are some people who like to bury trouble and cover it up. This is NOT the way the Lord tells us to handle it. lf there is a problem between two believers, it should be worked out in an amiable, peaceful, and quiet manner.
Matthew 18:17 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. (KJV)
And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church . . . if the one or two, in union with the offended person that shall hear the case, and if he takes no notice of what they say to him, but remains stiff and unrepentant, 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 . . . the advice they would give unto him, the rebuke they should think proper for him, or the warning they should pass upon him, their company is to be avoided, and intimate friendship with them to be avoided.
Matthew 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. (KJV)
Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven . . . these words were spoken to the apostles. Jesus had used the same words to Peter (Mat.16:19). He used them here to mean that they all had the same power; that in ordering the affairs of the church He did not intend to give Peter any supremacy, or any exclusive right to regulate it. Any determinations they make, in agreement to these directions for their conduct to an offending brother, will be accounted just, and ratified by the Lord.
Matthew 18:19 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. (KJV)
Again, I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask . . . this is connected with the previous verses. The connection is this: The stubborn man is to be excluded from the church (verse 17). The care of the church, the power of admitting or excluding members, organizing and establishing the church, is committed to the apostles (Verse 18). Yet there is no need of the whole to give validity to the transaction, because when two of them agree, or have the same mind, feelings, and opinion, about the arrangement of affairs in the church, or about things needed for its welfare, and shall ask of God, it shall be done for them (Acts 15:1-29).
It shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven . . . the promise made here is limited, like all other promises of this kind, by the well understood condition that the thing for which we ask shall be in accordance with the will of God Mat.7:7-8).
Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (KJV)
For where two or three are gathered together in my name . . . this seems to be said in opposition to a Jewish idea, that a number less than ten, is not a congregation; whereas, although the number is but a few that are met together to pray to God; or to hear His Word, attend services to praise and worship Him, calling upon His Name, and seeking the glory of it:
There am I in the midst of them . . . He would be there, ruling in their hearts, directing their counsels, assisting them in all they were concerned with, confirming what they do, and blessing all they are engaged in. The Jews, although they say there is no congregation less than ten, yet do say that the divine Presence may be with a lesser number, even as small an one as here mentioned. This statement confirms the Promise that the prayers of any two of them would be answered, and at the same time it gives us the comforting assurance of the Saviour's Presence whenever we meet in His Name.
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Jesus' New Stipulation For Forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35)
Matthew 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? (KJV)
Then came Peter unto him . . . having heard and observed the rules Christ gave concerning offences and brotherly reproofs, Peter drew near to Christ, to ask this question:
And said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? . . . he knows it is his duty to forgive him when he repents. He wants to know how many times he must forgive him.
Till seven times? . . . Peter thought he was being generous when he said this because two or three times was all you had to forgive according to the rabbis. Simon Peter was willing to forgive seven times. But Peter's generosity was skimpy in comparison to what Jesus will say. Peter saw clearly that the rules just given would require on our part a large amount or forbearance and forgiveness, and he naturally inquired how many times he should forgive a brother who would sin against him. He seems to have thought that seven times would be often enough. It is highly probable, though by no means certain, that this number had been suggested by some of the Jewish teachers of tradition.
Matthew 18:22 Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (KJV)
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seventy times seven, but until seventy times seven . . . it seems as if He is saying: “I do not think setting a certain fixed number will do. How many times has My Father forgiven you? Do you want God to forgive you just seven times?” I don’t know about you, but being forgiven by God seven times . . . I used that up that long ago. The Lord’s meaning is, that we should NOT keep count. If God kept count on us, we would be in BIG trouble! I surely would. We should be forgiving every day of our lives; forgiving those that sin against us, as often as they truly repent and acknowledge their fault . . . and I must add this: even when they are not repentant, we must pray for them. Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (KJV) . . . There is to be NO numerical limit of the forgiveness enjoined. Seventy times seven (490 times), would finally be depleted, and with some of us, very quickly! We MUST forgive our repentant brother, just as God forgives us, and that means completely!
Matthew 18:23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. (KJV)
Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king . . . this refers to the church, or to the way in which God will deal with His people. The parable of the sower (Mat.13:3), is related to this, to show the duty of forgiving others. It is not necessary to suppose that it was a true narrative, but only that it illustrated the Truth which Christ was teaching.
Would take account of his servants . . . to take account (Rom.14:12), means to consider, to settle up the affairs. Servants here probably means, petty princes, or more likely, collectors of the revenue or taxes. Among the ancients, kings often farmed out, or sold for a certain sum, the taxes of a particular province. Thus, when Judea was subject to Egypt, or Rome, the kings frequently sold to the high priest the taxes to be raised from Judea, on condition of a much smaller sum being paid to them. This secured to them a certain sum, but it gave the probability to much oppression in the collection of the taxes.
Which would take account of his servants . . . not all mankind, although these are all in a sense His servants, and accountable to Him; nor just ministers of the Gospel, who must give an account to God of their time and talents and souls committed to them; but ALL that profess to be “Christians”, those who are professors of religion, that are either truly or supposedly the subjects and servants of God. Sometimes it is the will and pleasure of God, to "take account of": NOT their persons, NOT their number, BUT their conduct and behavior. This shall be more fully done at the Judgment, BUT, at times is taken in this life. There are times God when calls and brings, professors of religion to an account. We never know when He might do this, but when He takes account, He considers how they have spent their time, how made use of their talents and gifts, and how they have behaved in their families and in the world, and the church. He deals forcefully and thoroughly with men's consciences, awakening and convincing them of their sins, of omission and commission, which seems to be intended here.
Matthew 18:24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. (KJV)
And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him . . . to open the book of remembrance (Mal.3:16), and to bring to account by awakening by strong conviction, the one was brought unto him, through the force of an awakened conscience, by guilt and terror. Books opened: (Ps. 69:28; Dan.7:10; 12:1-2; Mal.3:16; Lk.10:20; 2 Cor.5:10; Phil.4:3; Rev.3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 21:27)
Which owed him ten thousand talents . . . a talent was a sum of money, or weight of silver or gold, amounting to three thousand shekels. This amount proves that he was not a domestic, but some high ranking prince. The sum is used to show that the debt was enormously large, maybe about 15 million dollars. I think this reveals that our sins are SO great that they cannot be estimated or numbered.
Matthew 18:25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. (KJV)
But forasmuch as he had not to pay . . . every sinner is bankrupt! Sinful man nothing to offer by way of work; nor has he any righteousness on his own. Man has absolutely NOTHING to offer as payment for our sin. A debt of sin can never be paid by a debt of obedience. Sin being committed against an eternal God, brings on an eternal debt, which CANNOT be paid off by a finite mortal. Christ, and Christ ALONE, was able to pay this monstrous debt, and He did it for His people! Every debtor is liable to be cast, and shall be cast into the prison of Hell, there to stay till the uttermost farthing of the ten thousand talents is paid, which will be all eternity. This reminds me of so many today who go SO deep in debt, just to keep up with the Joneses! Just as the saying: They have a "beer pocketbook" but buy champaign. These people are so proud and arrogant, buying a million dollar home they cannot afford, instead of a modest home they could afford, going SO deep in debt some of them never come out! Pride goeth before a fall! (Pro.16:18).
His Lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had . . . the law of Moses tolerated the selling of men for debt (Ex.22:3; Lev.25:39,47; 2 Ki.4:1). It seems from verse 30, that in the Saviour's time imprisonment was also used, and imprisonment for insolvency has been continued among the most nations until just recently. It is only within the present century that it has been abolished in the various States of our own Union.
And payment to be made . . . as for sin, punishment will never be finished in the prison of Hell.
Matthew 18:26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. (KJV)
The servant therefore fell down . . . at his feet, probably on his face to the ground; not being able to stand before him, or look him in the face, and much less to answer the demands of his law and justice. He owned the debt, and his present inability to pay,
And worshipped him, saying, Lord have patience with me . . . give me some time, spare me a little longer, send me not to prison, and I will pay thee all . . . a very weak and foolish promise, but what is usual for men in such circumstances to make. When men, under guilt and dreadful uneasiness of coming wrath and ruin, frequently promise, that if their lives are but spared, what they will do for God. They so foolishly and ignorantly imagine, that by their humiliation and tears, their prayers and other good things they do in their lives, shall be able to make compensation to God for all the iniquities of which they have been guilty, which shows how badly informed they are on the nature of sin, which is committed against the eternal, Holy and pure God.
Matthew 18:27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. (KJV)
Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion . . . showed pity to him, and extended mercy to him; NOT because He was moved by any actions or words of his, as his prostrating himself before him, and his worshipping him, nor by his cries and appeals nor by his promises, which were NOT at all to be depended on, BUT by His own goodness and will; for NOT anything that this man said or did, but by the pure mercy, and free grace of God, is to be ascribed what is after related.
And loosed him, and forgave him the debt . . . from obligation to punishment, and from a spirit of bondage, through the guilt of sin, the whole debt of ten thousand talents. When Almighty God forgives sin, He forgives all sin, original and actual, secret and open, sins of omission and commission, of heart, mouth and life, of thought, word and deed, past, present, and those to come! He forgives freely, according to His abundant mercy, and the bountiful riches of His grace; without any regard to any merits, motives and conditions in the sinner; BUT my friend . . . NOT without respect to the satisfaction of Christ, which in no way detracts from the grace and mercy of God, since this is owing to His gracious Provision. It was grace in God that provided, sent, and parted with His Son to be the propitiatory Sacrifice for sin, and accepted with satisfaction when made, in the place of sinners. To be sure, it was impossible for the poor man to pay such a debt, but the promise pointed to a right purpose and a strong will, and pleased the compassion of the king to such a degree that he forgave him the entire debt.
Matthew 18:28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. (KJV)
But the same servant went out . . . from his Lord's palace and presence, immediately, after he had gotten his pardon and liberty.
And found one of his fellow servants . . . a fellow servant, not only one of the same nature and species; but of the same profession of religion, and in the service of the same kind and generous master:
Which owed an hundred pence . . . the coin mentioned here is the Roman denarius, which was equal to fifteen cents of our money. The fellow servant's debt, was only about $15.00. fifteen dollars. What a contrast! 15 million dollars compared to $15.00.
All sins committed against men, against fellow creatures, or fellow Christians; are small, when compared with those which are committed against a pure and Holy God. And he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest . . . he laid hold on him in a violent manner, and treated him with great cruelty: he took him by the collar, and shook him, and gripped him so hard around the neck, that he almost choked him. This man insisted on payment of the whole debt; which expresses the severity used by some professors of religion to their fellow Christians; who, having offended them, in so small a matter, will not put up with the offense, nor forgive the injury, without having the most ample satisfaction, and avenging themselves upon them to the uttermost
Matthew 18:29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. (KJV)
And his fellow servant fell down at his feet . . . in the most humble and submissive manner, just as he himself had done a little before at the feet of his Lord:
And besought him, saying, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all . . . using the very same words, in which he had expressed himself to his Lord, which had succeeded.
Matthew 18:30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. (KJV)
And he would not . . . have patience with him, give him time to pay, and hold back severity at present, as he requested.
But went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt . . . had him before a proper officer, proved his debt, and sent him to jail, there to stay there until the whole debt was paid, which is great ignorance and stupidity . . . for how can a man in prison pay his debt? This sets forth the rigorous proceedings of some church members against their brethren, that have displeased them; who immediately bring the matter before the church, and will not be easy unless some censure is laid upon them, or they are cast out, until full satisfaction is given them, where so often, a useful member of a church is lost.
Matthew 18:31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. (KJV)
So when his fellow servants saw what was done . . . the brutal and ill treatment, their fellow servant met with; being the fellow servants of both of the creditor and the debtor.
They were very sorry . . . they were greatly troubled at the cruelty of the one, and the unhappiness and grief of the other; being more tenderhearted, and of a more forgiving spirit than he:
And came and told unto their Lord all that was done . . . to their fellow servant, by one that had just received such favors from him. This may express the concern of some members of churches at such conduct. Unmerciful treatment of the unfortunate always excites compassion. The servants were not only sorry for their wretched comrade, but they carried the case to their lord. It is always proper to carry the wrongs of fellow beings which we cannot rectify to our Heavenly Father.
Matthew 18:32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: (KJV)
Then his Lord, after that he had called him . . . ordered him to be called, and brought before him,
Said unto him, O thou wicked servant . . . some versions read: "thou servant of Belial". He certainly was a cruel and hard hearted man to his fellow servant, and ungrateful creature to his lord. His lord had brought nothing but goodness and mercy on the evil servant, but he did NOT share any goodness whatsoever on his fellow servant.
I forgave thee all that debt . . . all that vast debt of ten thousand talents, and that done so freely . . . WHY?
Because thou desiredst me . . . not to forgive the debt, but to have patience, and give time . . . but instead his lord forgave the whole sum, every farthing of it! That favor so recently bestowed on him seems to have added an aggravation of his wickedness.
Matthew 18:33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? (KJV)
Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant . . . it is only reasonable, what should have been expected of him, who had received such mercy, should show mercy in return. The least he could have done would have been to have followed such an example, and have had mercy to him.
Even as, I had pity on thee . . . the instance of pity and compassion not only should have set him an example, worthy to imitate, but also, laid him under an obligation to have acted such a part. How soon the man was dealing with his fellow-servant, was forgetful of the king's kindness to him under similar circumstances. He is now reminded of his horrible ingratitude, and of his obligation to do as he should have.
Matthew 18:34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. (KJV)
And his Lord was wroth . . . very angry, greatly infuriated, and rightly provoked at such inhuman treatment.
And delivered him to the tormentors . . . or jail keepers, for he is to be cast into prison, and there endure all the severities of law and justice. Delivered him to the tormentors. The word tormentors, here means keepers of the prison. Torments were inflicted on criminals, NOT on debtors. They were inflicted by stretching the limbs, or pinching the flesh, taking out the eyes, or taking off the skin while alive, etc. It is not likely that anything of this kind is intended, but only that the servant was punished by imprisonment till the debt should be paid. Not only continued captivity is here meant, but the tortures to be endured in it.
Till he should pay all that was due unto him . . . which being such a vast sum, and he being just a servant, could never be done. So . . . since this man was fully and freely pardoned before, why is it that now, that full payment of the debt is insisted on? Isaiah 59:12-14 For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them; 13 In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood. 14 And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter. (KJV) . . . It is a FACT, it is certain, that sin, once pardoned by God, is never punished it again (Ps.103:12; Mic.7:18-19; Heb.8:12; 10:17). He forgives all trespasses, even though they are many, and frees the whole debt, no matter how large; which act of His grace will never be revoked. BUT . . . we must be sincere about our repentance. God KNOWS our hearts! His pardoning us when we are truly sincere, it is one of His gifts which are without repentance (Rom.11:29); it proceeds upon, and comes through a absolute and complete satisfaction for sin made by His own Son, and therefore it would be unjust to punish for it. By this act, sin is covered out of sight; it is blotted out, and entirely done away with, and that means for ever. . . . We should pay close attention to the context in which this Passage occurs . . . for it begines in verse 15. Matthew 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. (KJV) . . . The eventual outcome of an unrepentant offender, here, is excomunication from the church, not forgiveness. Luke 17:3 Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. (KJV) . . . Rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him! In this parable, the Lord Jesus compares forgiveness to releasing one from financial debt. So too, an offense against another is a debt that should be paid. Once admitted, and forgiveness is asked, it should be given freely.
Matthew 18:35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. (KJV)
So likewise shall my heavenly Father . . . the goodness and indulgence of God towards us is the pattern we should follow in all our dealings with others. If we use sinful man for our example in life, we err, because our pattern is a bad one; and our lives will not be better than the example we imitate. We are wise if we follow Christ; and be merciful as His Father who is in Heaven is merciful. Do you have a child, a parent, a friend, or a brother in Christ who has offended you? Does he/she humbly ask forgiveness? Do you have a debtor, or a tenant, who is deep in debt, and asks for a little longer time to pay? Is there someone, somewhere that you have not forgiven? IF we expect God to be just and merciful to us, we too must be just and merciful to our brethren!
He will Do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses . . . "their trespasses" is omitted in some versions. Imprisonment for debt, in such a case as that supposed above, can answer no other end than being satisfied with the malice, revenge or inhumanity of the creditor. It would be better by far to sell all that he has, and, with his being free, let him find work, and begin the world afresh. Using severity in exacting temporal debts, by treating without mercy those who are unable to satisfy those debts, is NOT to be allowed to a Christian, who is bound to imitate his God and Father? The unbridled and extravagant appetites of men sometimes require a severity beyond the law to suppress them. We learn lessons of humanity from what is before us, let us also learn lessons of compassion, forgiveness and patience from the Lord Jesus! “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mat.5:7). “As ye mete to others it shall be measured to you” (Mat.7:2). “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Mat.6:12). “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” (Gal.6:7). IF we are hard hearted and unforgiving to our fellow men, we can never expect our heavenly Father to overlook our sins. We all should consider: It really is a fact, that we, by our own mind towards others, determine what the mind of God shall be towards us.
This parable of the servant, who was forgiven but refused to forgive another, illustrates the principle of forgiveness. This is a new principle presented in this Passage, but it is not quite the foundation of forgiveness for believers which is set forth in: Ephes. 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you. (KJV)
Because God has forgiven us, we are to forgive each other. If God forgave our sins in the same way we forgive others, NONE of us would be forgiven. But after we become children of God, because we have been forgiven, we MUST forgive. This is the standard of Christian conduct.
We live entirely on mercy and forgiveness, so WHY are we so backward to forgive the offenses of our brethren? This parable shows just how much aggravation God has from His family on Earth, and how unpleasant and troublesome His servants are. Consider three things in the parable: #1. The Lord's wonderful mercy. The debt of our sin is so great, that we are NOT able to pay it. What does every sin deserve in God's eyes? The wages of sin is death (Rom.6:23). It is absolute foolishness of many who are under strong convictions of their sins, to imagine they can make satisfaction to God for the wrong they have done Him. Only our belief and acceptance of Jesus can ever make satisfaction to God for the wrong we have done! #2. The servant's unreasonable brutality toward his fellow servant, in spite of his lord's compassion toward him. We should NEVER make light of wronging our neighbor, for that is also a sin against God; but we should NOT exaggerate our neighbor’s wronging us, NOR have malicious thoughts about him. All our complaints, both of the wickedness of the wicked, and the afflictions of the afflicted, should be brought to God, and left there with Him. #3. The master reproved his servant's cruelty. The enormity of sin magnifies the riches of God’s pardoning mercy; and the comfort of His pardoning mercy, does much to convict our hearts to forgive our brethren. We are not to think that God actually forgives men, and then afterwards reconsiders those same sins to then condemn them. IF He has truly forgiven you, He will NEVER reconsider those sins again. The last part of the parable shows the false conclusions that many come to, as to their sins being pardoned, although their actual conduct shows that they never were forgiven to start with. All our actions and words come from our heart, and the heart is what God looks at. We CANNOT fool Almighty God! A person is either sincere about repentance, or they are NOT! God knows the difference because He can SEE your heart! A person is either saved and completely forgiven because they believe and accept what Jesus did for us, or they are a hypocrite and are still deep in sin with no forgiveness. We do not rightly forgive our offending brother, if we do not sincerely forgive from the heart. But, even this is not enough, for we must seek the good even of those who offend and hurt us. Those who persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren, although they say and pretend they are Christians (hypocrites), shall be justly condemned. The humbled and pardoned sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy of God, through the payment of the death of Christ. We all must seek more and more of the renewing grace of God, for it alone teaches us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from Him. We do NOT want God to forgive us as we forgive others.
Besides accomplishing the logical purpose of Matthew 18, our author has placed these divine lessons on record to guide disciples in all ages. Eternity alone will be able to reveal the amount of good which will have accrued to the Church from this single discourse of the Great Teacher. If you are a child of God, one day you will sit at Jesus' Feet in Heaven and listen to His marvelous teachings! What a joy that will be!
It is our true interest, as well as duty, to forgive those that offend us (Mat.18:34). God will take vengeance, if we do not, and in due time we shall suffer if we do not forgive others.
Those claiming to be Christ's disciples (Christians) are often great at harbouring malice. As a punishment, God withdraws the light of His Countenance, and they walk in darkness. They cannot enjoy life; their conscience convicts them; and they are miserable. No man ever did, or ever can, enjoy Christianity, who did not from his heart forgive his brother his trespasses.
One reason why Christians walk in darkness is, that there is some duty they are neglecting. They think they have been hurt, and maybe they may have been. They think they are in the right, and maybe they are, but all jumbled up with a consciousness of all this, is an unforgiving spirit; and they cannot enjoy life until they get it right!
Forgiveness of our brethren must NOT be in word alone! It MUST be, HAS to be, sincere and from the heart (Mat.18:35). Don't try to fool God, it cannot be done!
Gospel of Matthew
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