Matthew 18

18:1  In that hour came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven1?
    FALSE AMBITION VERSUS CHILDLIKENESS. (Capernaum, Autumn, A.D. 29.) Matthew 18:1-14 ; Mark 9:33-50 ; Luke 9:46-50

  1. Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Not comprehending our Lord's answer ( Mark 9:34 ), and wishing to have him definitelypoint out the honored person, they now come asking this question. HadJesus wished to teach the primacy of Peter, no better opportunity couldhave been found.

18:4  Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child1, the same is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

  1. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, etc. Jesus told them plainly that they must turn from their sin of personalambition or they could not be his disciples--part of his kingdom--andhe pointed them to a little child as the model in this particular,because the humble spirit in which the child looks up to its parentsstood out in sharp contrast with their self-exalting ambition.See Mark 9:37.

18:6  But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble1, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and [that] he should be sunk in the depth of the sea.

  1. But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, etc. See Mark 9:42.

18:7  Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling1! for it must needs be that the occasions come; but woe to that man through whom the occasion cometh!

  1. Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling! The depravity of man makes sin inevitable, but nevertheless it does not remove orreduce the personal responsibility of him who tempts to or causes tosin.

18:8  And if thy hand or thy foot causeth thee to stumble1, cut it off, and cast it from thee: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed or halt, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire.

  1. And if thy hand or thy foot causeth thee to stumble, etc. See Mark 9:43.

18:9  And if thine eye causeth thee to stumble1, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is good for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire.

  1. If thine eye causeth thee to stumble, etc. See Mark 9:43.

18:10  See 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 who is in heaven1.

    See that ye despise not one of these little ones|. Jesus hereresumes his warning against that pride which exalts itself and despisesthe humble.

  1. That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven. Disclosing the fact that the ministration of angelsis not only general but special, certain angels being entrusted withthe care of certain individuals, and all of them supplementing theirown wisdom and power by direct access to the presence of God.

18:12  How think ye1? if any man have a hundred sheep2, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go unto the mountains, and seek that which goeth astray?

  1. How think ye? Those who have led highly moral lives have a tendency to despise those who have been defiled by gross sin. This truth isabundantly illustrated by the conduct of the Pharisees, but that suchlittle ones should not be despised Jesus speaks this warning parable.See notes at Luke 15:3-7 .

  2. If any man have a hundred sheep, etc. Though the sheep in the fold and the one that is lost have, as individuals, the same intrinsicvalue, yet this even balance of value is somewhat modified by thesentiments and emotions incident to loss and recovery.

18:13  And if so be that he find it1, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray.

  1. And if so be that he find it, etc. Moreover, the anxiety and trouble caused by the sheep's wandering do not "depriciate" but rather"enhance" the value of that sheep, because the heart of the Shepherd isso replete with goodness that the misbehavior of the sheep prompts himto feel pity and compassion, rather than cherish resentment andrevenge.

18:14  Even so it is not the will of your Father1 who is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

  1. Even so it is not the will of your Father, etc. Sin does not add to a man's intrinsic value in God's sight--nay, it detracts from it;but it excites in the heart of God pity, compassion, and other tenderemotions which make it extremely dangerous for those who hinder hisreformation and imperil his soul by despising him.

18:15  And if thy brother sin against thee1, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone2: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

    SIN AND FORGIVENESS BETWEEN BRETHREN. (Autumn, A.D. 29.) Matthew 18:15-36

  1. And if thy brother sin against thee Having warned against giving offense, Jesus now shows how to act when offense is received.

  2. Go, show him his fault between thee and him alone. The fault is to be pointed out to the offender, but for the purpose of gaining him--notfrom a desire to humiliate him. The offended is to seek the offender,and the offender is likewise to seek the offended ( Matthew 15:23 Matthew 15:24 ),and neither is to wait for the other.

18:16  But if he hear [thee] not1, take with thee one or two more, that at the mouth of two witnesses or three every word may be established.

  1. But if he hear [thee] not. Reconciliation is still to be sought, but witnesses are now to be called in preparatory to the next step,which is the hearing before the church, wherein their testimony will beneeded.

18:17  And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church1: and if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican2.

  1. Tell it unto the church. As the Savior was giving preparatory instruction, he was compelled to thus speak of the church byanticipation before it actually existed. The word "church" meansassembly, and the apostles knew that there would be some form ofassembly in the kingdom about to be set up. When Matthew wrote hisGospel, churches were already in existence.

  2. Let him be unto thee as the Gentile and the publican. One who will not hear the church is to be regarded as an outsider. This implies thatsuch a one is to be excluded from the church.

18:18  Verily I say unto you, what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

  1. What things soever ye shall bind . . . and what things soever ye shall loose. The binding and loosing here mentioned is limited bythe context or the subject of which Jesus now treats. Bindingrepresents exclusion from membership; loosing, the restoration tofellowship in cases of repentance. The church's act in thus binding orloosing will be recognized in heaven if performed according toapostolic precept or precedent. Hence it is a most august and fearfulprerogative.

18:19  Again I say unto you, that if two of you shall agree on earth1 as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father who is in heaven.

    Matthew 18:19 Matthew 18:20

  1. That if two of you shall agree on earth, etc. These two verses illustrate the sublime power of the church which has just beensuggested by its right of excommunication. A small church of two orthree can prevail with God in prayer (in matters not wholly at variancewith his will) and can be honored by the very presence of the Christ.

18:21  Then came Peter and said to him, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? until seven times1?

  1. Until seven times? Peter, seeing that the language of Jesus called for large forbearance, asked the Lord to fix the bounds. If we acceptthe Talmud as probably representing the ideals of forgiveness whichpertained among the Jews of that age, we find that Peter was strivingto be liberal, for the Talmud limits forgiveness to three times.

18:22  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven1.

  1. I say not unto thee, Until seven times; but, Until seventy times seven. Jesus here plays upon the words so as to show that there isno numerical limitation. To keep track of 490 offenses one would haveto open a set of books with his neighbor, which would be ridiculous.Forgiveness, prayer, and charity know no arithmetic. Peter's questionbrings to mind the forgiveness of God and calls forth the followingparable.

18:24  And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, that owed him ten thousand talents1.

  1. Ten thousand talents. Assuming that the silver talent is meant ($1,600), the debt was $16,000,000, which would render the debtorhopeless enough. If it was a gold talent, it would be nearly twentytimes as much.

    {NOTE.--Since the Hebrew talent is a unit of weight, it is not toodifficult a matter to determine current values. Given that the talentwas about 93 lbs., 12 oz. avoirdupois, and the 1990 value of silver was$4.80 per oz., the talent would be worth some $7,200. Thus the debt often thousand talents would be around $72 million today! To make matterseven worse for the debtor, if, as McGarvey suggests, it were the goldtalent, the debt (with gold valued at $384.90 per oz. in 1990) would benearly eighty times as great.--E.S.}

18:25  But forasmuch as he had not [wherewith] to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children1, and all that he had, and payment to be made.

  1. His lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children. The law of Moses allowed such a sale ( Leviticus 25:39-47 ; 2 Kings 4:1 ).

18:27  And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.

  1. And the lord of that servant, being moved with compassion . . . and forgave him the debt. Seeing the man's apparent willingness to pay,and knowing the hopelessness of his offer to do so, the lordcompassionately forbore to sell him and forgave him the whole debt.

18:28  But that servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, who owed him a hundred shillings1: and he laid hold on him, and took [him] by the throat2, saying, Pay what thou owest.

  1. A hundred shillings. The denarius or shilling was worth about seventeen cents. The debt was, therefore, about $100.

  2. And he laid hold on him, and took [him] by the throat. This frenzy to collect might have been somewhat pardonable had the lord still beendemanding his debt, but, that debt being forgiven, such harsh conductwas inexcusable.

18:29  So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him1, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee.

  1. So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, etc. Compare this conduct with that depicted in Matthew 18:26 .

18:30  And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due1.

  1. But went and cast him into prison, till he should pay that which was due. Prison life was far worse than slavery. The Roman law permittedsuch a punishment, and it was practiced in this country until after thebeginning of the last century.

18:31  So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were exceeding sorry1, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

  1. They were exceeding sorry. They were sorry for the sin of the one and the suffering of the other. Human nature rarely grows so wickedthat it fails to resent sin in others.

18:32  Then his lord called him unto him, and saith to him, Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt1, because thou besoughtest me:

  1. Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt. God's forgiveness places us under obligation to be forgiving. The lord does not call theservant wicked because he had contracted a debt which he could not pay,but because of the merciless, unforgiving spirit which he hadmanifested toward his fellow-servant.

18:33  shouldest not thou also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant, even as I had mercy on thee?

  1. Shouldest thou not also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant? Thus God freely forgives sin against himself, but the sin of refusingto forgive our fellow-man is with him an unforgivable sin. No doctrineof the Bible is more plainly taught than this.

18:34  And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors1, till he should pay all that was due.

  1. His lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors. The picture is to be interpreted by the usages of the East, where even at thepresent day torture is used to compel debtors to confess the possessionof property which they suspected of hiding. Thus the man had escapedbeing sold into slavery only to receive sentence of death by torture.

18:35  So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you1, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts2.

  1. So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you. Jesus reminds us that God is a Father unto him whom we have refused to forgive. The key tothe parable is introduced by the words, "So likewise shall". God willso deliver to the tormentors the unforgiving.

  2. If ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts. Incidentally the parable draws comparisons between the forgiving spiritof God and the revengeful spirit of man, and the magnitude of our debtto him and the insignificance of our debts to each other. Theretraction of forgiveness is merely a part of the parabolic drapery,but it is nevertheless true that those who are delivered from sin cometo a worse state than ever if they return to it ( 2 Peter 2:20-22 ).