Matthew 18

Greatest in the kingdom

1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
2 Then he called a little child over to sit among the disciples,
3 and said, “I assure you that if you don't turn your lives around and become like this little child, you will definitely not enter the kingdom of heaven.
4 Those who humble themselves like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

Falling into sin

6 “As for whoever causes these little ones who believe in me to trip and fall into sin, it would be better for them to have a huge stone hung around their necks and be drowned in the bottom of the lake.
7 How terrible it is for the world because of the things that cause people to trip and fall into sin! Such things have to happen, but how terrible it is for the person who causes those things to happen!
8 If your hand or your foot causes you to fall into sin, chop it off and throw it away. It's better to enter into life crippled or lame than to be thrown into the eternal fire with two hands or two feet.
9 If your eye causes you to fall into sin, tear it out and throw it away. It's better to enter into life with one eye than to be cast into a burning hell with two eyes.

Parable of the lost sheep

10 “Be careful that you don't look down on one of these little ones. I say to you that their angels in heaven are always looking into the face of my Father who is in heaven.
12 What do you think? If someone had one hundred sheep and one of them wandered off, wouldn't he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go in search for the one that wandered off?
13 If he finds it, I assure you that he is happier about having that one sheep than about the ninety-nine who didn't wander off.
14 In the same way, my Father who is in heaven doesn't want to lose one of these little ones.

Sinning brother or sister

15 " If your brother or sister sins against you, go and correct them when you are alone together. If they listen to you, then you've won over your brother or sister.
16 But if they won't listen, take with you one or two others so that every word may be established by the mouth of two or three witnesses.
17 But if they still won't pay attention, report it to the church. If they won't pay attention even to the church, treat them as you would a Gentile and tax collector.
18 I assure you that whatever you fasten on earth will be fastened in heaven. And whatever you loosen on earth will be loosened in heaven.
19 Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you.
20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I'm there with them."

Parable of the unforgiving servant

21 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?"
22 Jesus said, “Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.
23 Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.
24 When he began to settle accounts, they brought to him a servant who owed him ten thousand bags of gold.
25 Because the servant didn't have enough to pay it back, the master ordered that he should be sold, along with his wife and children and everything he had, and that the proceeds should be used as payment.
26 But the servant fell down, kneeled before him, and said, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I'll pay you back.'
27 The master had compassion on that servant, released him, and forgave the loan.
28 “When that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him one hundred coins. He grabbed him around the throat and said, ‘Pay me back what you owe me.'
29 “Then his fellow servant fell down and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I'll pay you back.'
30 But he refused. Instead, he threw him into prison until he paid back his debt.
31 “When his fellow servants saw what happened, they were deeply offended. They came and told their master all that happened.
32 His master called the first servant and said, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you appealed to me.
33 Shouldn't you also have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?'
34 His master was furious and handed him over to the guard responsible for punishing prisoners, until he had paid the whole debt.
35 " My heavenly Father will also do the same to you if you don't forgive your brother or sister from your heart."

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Matthew 18 Commentary

Chapter 18

The importance of humility. (1-6) Caution against offences. (7-14) The removal of offences. (15-20) Conduct towards brethren, The parable of the unmerciful servant. (21-35)

Verses 1-6 Christ spoke many words of his sufferings, but only one of his glory; yet the disciples fasten upon that, and overlook the others. Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. Our Lord set a little child before them, solemnly assuring them, that unless they were converted and made like little children, they could not enter his kingdom. Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents. It is true that they soon begin to show other dispositions, and other ideas are taught them at an early age; but these are marks of childhood, and render them proper emblems of the lowly minds of true Christians. Surely we need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all. Let us daily study this subject, and examine our own spirits.

Verses 7-14 Considering the cunning and malice of Satan, and the weakness and depravity of men's hearts, it is not possible but that there should be offences. God permits them for wise and holy ends, that those who are sincere, and those who are not, may be made known. Being told before, that there will be seducers, tempters, persecutors, and bad examples, let us stand on our guard. We must, as far as lawfully we may, part with what we cannot keep without being entangled by it in sin. The outward occasions of sin must be avoided. If we live after the flesh, we must die. If we, through the Spirit, mortify the deeds of the body, we shall live. Christ came into the world to save souls, and he will reckon severely with those who hinder the progress of others who are setting their faces heavenward. And shall any of us refuse attention to those whom the Son of God came to seek and to save? A father takes care of all his children, but is particularly tender of the little ones.

Verses 15-20 If a professed Christian is wronged by another, he ought not to complain of it to others, as is often done merely upon report, but to go to the offender privately, state the matter kindly, and show him his conduct. This would generally have all the desired effect with a true Christian, and the parties would be reconciled. The principles of these rules may be practised every where, and under all circumstances, though they are too much neglected by all. But how few try the method which Christ has expressly enjoined to all his disciples! In all our proceedings we should seek direction in prayer; we cannot too highly prize the promises of God. Wherever and whenever we meet in the name of Christ, we should consider him as present in the midst of us.

Verses 21-35 Though we live wholly on mercy and forgiveness, we are backward to forgive the offences of our brethren. This parable shows how much provocation God has from his family on earth, and how untoward his servants are. There are three things in the parable: 1. The master's wonderful clemency. The debt of sin is so great, that we are not able to pay it. See here what every sin deserves; this is the wages of sin, to be sold as a slave. It is the folly of many who are under strong convictions of their sins, to fancy they can make God satisfaction for the wrong they have done him. 2. The servant's unreasonable severity toward his fellow-servant, notwithstanding his lord's clemency toward him. Not that we may make light of wronging our neighbour, for that is also a sin against God; but we should not aggravate our neighbour's wronging us, nor study revenge. Let our complaints, both of the wickedness of the wicked, and of the afflictions of the afflicted, be brought to God, and left with him. 3. The master reproved his servant's cruelty. The greatness of sin magnifies the riches of pardoning mercy; and the comfortable sense of pardoning mercy, does much to dispose our hearts to forgive our brethren. We are not to suppose that God actually forgives men, and afterwards reckons their guilt to them to condemn them; but this latter part of the parable shows the false conclusions many draw as to their sins being pardoned, though their after-conduct shows that they never entered into the spirit, or experienced the sanctifying grace of the gospel. We do not forgive our offending brother aright, if we do not forgive from the heart. Yet this is not enough; we must seek the welfare even of those who offend us. How justly will those be condemned, who, though they bear the Christian name, persist in unmerciful treatment of their brethren! The humbled sinner relies only on free, abounding mercy, through the ransom of the death of Christ. Let us seek more and more for the renewing grace of God, to teach us to forgive others as we hope for forgiveness from him.

Footnotes 5

  • [a]. 18:11 is omitted in most critical editions of the Gk New Testament For the Human One has come to save the lost.
  • [b]. Deut 19:15
  • [c]. Or seventy times seven
  • [d]. Or ten thousand talanta, an amount equal to the wages for sixty million days
  • [e]. Or one hundred denaria, an amount equal to the wages for one hundred days

Matthew 18 Commentaries