A Current Bible Study
Matthew Chapter 18
"No Right to OFFEND & FIGHT"

        Beloved, it is not necessary to go into a bar room to find a brawl. You don't have to wander very far or even leave the Church at all. I know this is the case, not so much because of what I've seen or heard, or even what's been done to me. But, sadly, I know about this because it's in me to do it. And because of what I've done in the past and continue, mistakenly, to do to others. In our current passage, the Disciples are revealing their weakness in this area:

Verse 1-"At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"

        This is human nature. This is striving, one against another. It's about as worldly as you can live. It comes naturally to me, and, I imagine, to you too, beloved. But it's not the way of Jesus. And it's not God's will. Jesus has to almost "baby-sit" the Disciples. They are so far off from what His Kingdom is all about.

Verses 2-3-"And Jesus called a little child unto Him and set him in the midst of them, 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."

         Why doesn't Christ just answer them plainly? Instead He uses what we might call a simile. That's a comparison to help someone understand something they know little about by referring to something they CAN easily recognize. For instance, if you were not a trained musician and I wanted you to get a basic understanding of what a "scale" is in music, I might start out by saying it's LIKE a staircase, where each step goes higher. Or, better yet, I might take you to a staircase and try to show the concept there. That's what Jesus is trying to do here. He's not using symbols to make things more dark. He's using similes to REVEAL the truth. If I were Him, I would have just rolled my eyes and walked away from them. But not our Lord. He's going to teach them (and us), in a way we CAN understand, what it means to be a true believer:

Verses 4-6-"Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little one in my name receiveth me. 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."

         Who are these children in question, really? What age are they? Actually, they represent, I believe, the little children in ANY of us at ANY age. For ALL are children before God. They are the spiritually naive. The weak and vulnerable among us and in us.

Verses 7-9-"Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses 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: 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. 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."

        Look how important it is to Christ that we do not lead these "children" astray or strive against them! He had spoken this strongly earlier at the Sermon on the Mount when teaching that our sexuality is not excuse enough to exploit and use others (see Matt. 5:27-30). By the way, He NEVER taught total sexual repression. That is the biggest whopper of a lie that the Devil has ever come up with. And far too many in the Church are trying to follow a totally repressed lifestyle today with explosive and disastrous results being reported commonly in the secular press. You see, it's not that sexuality is wrong, it's just not meant to be our PRIMARY concern. I'm getting a little bit into another message, beloved, so let's move on:

Verses 10-11-"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. For the Son of man is come to save that which is lost."

        Did you hear Him? These children include the "Lost" and the "Unconverted." These are potential believers. And they have angels on duty before the Almighty. They are not to be trifled with! And, in addition, after your conversion, you get Christ as your personal advocate before God's throne (see I John 2:1). There is much to celebrate here, but I want to emphasize that Christ says we have NO RIGHT to offend the lost:
Verses 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."
        You send yourself to Hell. That's how you get there. How much clearer can His intentions toward you be? It's NOT God's will for you, beloved!

Verse 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."

        I believe that Jesus is making a distinction here between "Brother" and "Child." The Apostle John picked up on this years later, in my opinion. Read about it in I John, chapter 2.
Verse 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."
        This is, to prevent abuse of a believer, a limited recourse to be exercised among "mature" believers who are having a dispute.
Verse 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 a heathen man and a publican."
        We ALL make mistakes, beloved. But if we are causing strife, we've got to repent, at least when people go to these lengths to help us see it. You can't lose your salvation over this. But the question eventually becomes (and pardon my slang)..."If it can't waddle like a duck, or quack like a duck, maybe it ain't a duck at all!" That's what the Lord is saying. The way we treat and regard others is not incidental to the Faith, it actually defines the Faith. The Lord's brother, James, had an awful lot to say about that point (see the Book of James).
Verses 18-20-"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. 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."
      The Lord knew just how holy and righteous, and binding, a gathering of true believers would be. Through the presence of the Holy Spirit Which is in Heaven AND indwelling believers at the same time (just stop and think about that beloved!) and the promised presence of Jesus, 2 or 3 or more believers can bring heaven down into this sorry world. Unfortunately Satan is also keenly aware of this, and has found strife to be a wonderfully effective preventative and antedote for this condition. That's why the Lord gave us Matthew, chapter 18. But we've got to listen.

        It is SHOCKING and difficult to accept a loss of our rights. If you are struggling with this, you're not alone- just listen to poor Peter:

Verse 21-"Then came Peter to him and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?"
I can't criticize Peter, really, for often I've tried to bargain this out with the Lord. "How 'bout zero times, Lord?" Well, here is the Lord's answer to Peter and to me:
Verse 22-"Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven."
     Next Christ offers a long simile to drive that point home:
Verses 23-34-"Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 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. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 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. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after he had called him, said unto him, O wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him over to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him."

        Once you call yourself a believer, many will watch you carefully to see how you treat your friends and enemies. They want to know if you're passing on what you say you have received in the way of love and forgiveness. Some are unfair to believers, assuming that they are now doormats with little or no rights at all. That's not in Christ's view for us either. We can still question other's actions and exercise honest discernment. BUT, hatred and striving in or out of the Church is a horrible sin for believers. The last verse of this challenging chapter indicates just how horrible:

Verse 35-"So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
        This is not a simile. This is hard reality. He's referring to Hell, itself. Christ would not have said it and explained it all so thoroughly if He didn't mean it. We must think on these things, beloved. Every day. 

May Jesus Christ richly bless you - JKD 12/30/06
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