MATTHEW 18:1-10  


MATTHEW 18:1-10

Here, Jesus uses a little child as a teaching aid concerning the type of humility required to believe in Him unto salvation.

It is a humility that expresses total dependence on the one who has promised deliverance from the penalty of sin to those who will believe in Jesus.

Matt. 18:1, At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"


Always concerned about being "top dog" in the group and indeed, in heaven, the disciples want a "formula" for guaranteeing success.

Not just interested in "getting" into heaven, but actually being the greatest, they again lose their focus on humility and the spiritual equality that exists for all who embrace Jesus as the Messiah.


Matt. 18:2, And He called a child to Himself and set him before them,


The teaching aid: Placed now conspicuously in their presence; an image of both innocence and vulnerability, the child becomes the perfect picture of true humility. A humility that is totally dependent on others for his sustenance, his safety, his learning and his affection - indeed, his very life.


Matt. 18:3, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.


But Jesus addresses the disciples and the crowd of bystanders, always gathered to glean some gem of truth from the Master's lips. And never disappointed, although many times, with crushed "toes," they once again hear that which is the key to spiritual reality and a life of peace and joy here on earth.


1. Unless you are converted: strepho in the Greek, indicates a turning around or a change of direction. The real issue in such a change is what is being thought. It is the MIND that must be re-directed in order to lay hold of spiritual reality. This is usually represented by the word, "repent" (metanoeo) which means specifically, to change the mind, but here the same idea is communicated, especially as it is tied in with the verb at verse 4, "humbles."


2. And become like children: The key here is the adverb, "like." The similarity that Jesus is requiring here is not in size or stature or even "physical" dependence. But He is focusing on the mental attitude of the child who understands his total dependence on parents for all that constitutes his life on earth. It is thus, clearly, a humility issue that places no substantial value in "self" but places the value in the one or ones who sustain his life.


3. You shall not enter the kingdom of heaven: Here Jesus points to the real issue of human existence. Not so much, who is GREATEST in the kingdom, but who is even IN the kingdom in the first place. It is thus, a salvation issue that Jesus presents before them, and the humility attitude of total dependence on the Father's provision and the Son's fulfillment of the plan of redemption. Just as Jesus said at John 14:6,

"I am the way, the truth and the life;
no one comes to the Father except through Me."


Matt. 18:4, "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.


The conclusion then, focuses clearly on humility; an attitude "similar" to that of the child's total dependence, but instead of a dependence on others for physical resources, it is dependence on God for spiritual resources.

Jesus then puts the idea of "greatest" in its right perspective.
All "enter" on the same terms and all exist IN heaven in the same light.
There is no inequality in heaven, but perfect equality through the spiritual relationship which is acquired through total trust in Christ.

"The first will be last and the last will be first," Jesus said (Mat. 20:16).

And Paul writes that,

"there is neither Jew nor Greek, bond nor free, male nor female, but you are all ONE In Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28).

So, even though there will be differences from the standpoint of rewards (1 Cor. 3:10-15), all believers will equally benefit from - "He shall wipe every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be death; there shall no longer be mourning, crying or pain," (Rev. 21:4).


Matt. 18:5, "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me;

Now the focus changes from being a participant in the kingdom to association or rejection of a participant.

1. If someone "receives," that is accepts and helps:

This "someone" would himself be a believer in the Messiah, for he does this "in my name."

2. one SUCH child: This does not refer to a "physical" child, but to the one who has humbled himself "like" a child and has therefore entered into a spiritual relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Ie, a believer.

3. Receives Me: Jesus is saying that since the believer is identified and in relationship with the Savior in Whom he trusted, any activity expressed toward that believer is directed toward Jesus as well.

Thus, the same holds true of someone who oppresses and persecutes a believer, Matt. 18:6,

1. but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me:

The language here, clearly indicates that Jesus is talking about someone who has trusted in Christ and not the child who is standing in front of them.

2. Cause to stumble: skandalidzo is a word which is used for either physical or spiritual disruption in one's life. It can refer to "physical" persecution or to "spiritual" oppression. In either case, the offending party will come under judgment from God. The result would be so painful and destructive to his life that it would be better were he simply "dead" in the first place. Ie, the hyperbolic image of -

"better for him that a heavy millstone be hung around his neck,
and that he be drowned in the depth of the sea."

In other words, a sure and certain physical death in order to avoid the serious judgment administered by God. Now keep this in a "physical" context and stick with the image that Jesus presents for us. It is only within that context that his words make sense.

For it is certainly NOT "better" for an unbeliever to die as an unbeliever rather than stay alive, regardless of the intensity of physical pain and discomfort that may come his way.

As long as there is hope, there is life, even for an oppressive unbeliever. But Jesus does not have the "spiritual" side of it in view. He is simply communicating a very real "image" that everyone would identify with. Ie, that if you mess with a child of God, God is going to mess with you and you would be better off dead than to have His hands get a hold of you.

This fact also reflects the principle found in the "protection clause" of the Abrahamic Covenant, given by God way back in Gen. 12:3,

"And I will bless those who bless you,
and the one who disdains you, I will curse."


Matt. 18:7, "Woe to the world because of {its} stumbling blocks! For it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come; but woe to that man through whom the stumbling block comes!

This should be quite simple to understand. Persecution and oppression ARE going to happen to the believer.

"For all those who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus
will be persecuted," (2 Tim. 3:12).


But oh the woe that comes upon the specific offender. That person is not "forced" to offend. The offense will come because of the nature of the world system in which the believer resides.

John 15:18-21,

"If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before you.
"If you were of the world, the world would love its own;
but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

"Remember the word that I said to you,
'A slave is not greater than his master.'
If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you;
if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

"But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake,
because they do not know the One who sent Me."


But any particular individual must choose for himself how he will relate to those in the world who have trusted in Christ as savior.

In verses 8 and 9, the focus is now on some activity in the life of the unbeliever which is actually hindering him from coming to a "humility" dependence on the gospel of Jesus Christ. The unbeliever needs to "let go" of whatever it is that is hindering him from seeing the truth of humility and trust in Christ.

For this reason, we see the two choices that Jesus gives the unbeliever.

1. Remove the obstacle or hindrance which is keeping you from trusting in Christ and embrace the humility that enters one into the kingdom of God.

2. Or continue in your rejection and end up in the lake of fire.


Matt. 18:8, "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the eternal fire.

Matt. 18:9, "And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than having two eyes, to be cast into the fiery hell.

Jesus is using extreme hyperbole here. His intent is NOT to have people cutting off hands and feet and eyes.

But whatever is hindering you from responding in faith to the gospel message, it needs to be removed from your life. This "removal" will not in itself, guarantee one's salvation, for it only removes an obstacle to faith. The person in view must still CHOOSE to trust in Christ as his savior in order to escape the eternal fire of separation from God.

Matt. 18:10, "See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven continually behold the face of My Father who is in heaven.


Now, finally, we return to our subject of angelic protection for believers.

1. See to it that you: This is addressed to the unbeliever; the same one mentioned in the previous verses as having obstacles to his personal acceptance of Christ as savior. However, in principle, the warning applies as well to any believers who may find themselves in persecution type activity of other believers.

2. Do not despise: kataphroneo means to think against someone and thus comes to mean great antagonism. It corresponds with the word in verse 6, "cause to stumble." This then, refers to persecution type activity which threatens the physical well-being of the believer in Christ. The warning exhorts not to do it because the believer has guardian angels who will be dispatched by God to protect that believer and/or "deal" with the one who is persecuting.

3. One of these little ones: Once again, this is not referring to a "physical" child, but to one of "these, who believe in Me."

4. For I say to you that THEIR angels in heaven:

Notice that these are designated as "their" angels. This indicates the fact that each believer has assigned to him a guardian angel who will serve him through protection from oppressors when God allows it.

5. Are always seeing the face of My Father: This simply means that the angels are accountable to The Father and function at His beck and call in rendering this service to the believer. The point is, that they are always "ready" to be dispatched to "handle" someone who "despises" a born again child of God.

We must keep in mind that the believer sometimes gets out of fellowship with the Father. In such situations, he may even come under various degrees of "physical" divine discipline (1 Cor. 11:30). It should only be logical to recognize that the guardian angel will not be employed to "resist" God's physical discipline which is administered to the erring believer.

Other than that, it matters not whether the believer is in or out of fellowship for the guardian angel to do his job because it always depends on the sovereign directing of God anyway. Sometimes, even though the believer is out of fellowship, God may dispatch the guardian angel for specific protection in the dangerous environment of this earth.

Another important factor is to realize that the guardian angel has nothing to do with the believer's fight against temptation.

Temptation always attacks the mind and the battle is in the mind. It is always the responsibility of each individual believer to utilize God's grace resources for resisting temptation through knowledge and application of Bible truth.

Psalm 119:11,

"Your word I have stockpiled in my heart
so that I might not sin against You."

It is truly comforting to know that no matter what we encounter in this life, we each have a personal guardian angel devoted to our physical protection as God in His perfect love and wisdom determines what is truly best for us.

See Doctrinal Archives: Guardian Angels

Verse 11

This ends the specific context for our subject here at Matthew 18.

For the record, verse 11 is a late addition to the text probably by some over zealous scribe who thought it an appropriate preface to the parable of the lost sheep. There is nothing in the context which would suggest that it is simply a copy error. But our oldest and best manuscripts do not include this sentence as the marginal note in most NASB translations will indicate, and is the reason the NASB includes the verse in brackets.

The phrase is located at Luke 19:10 but not in reference to either the parable of the lost sheep or the discourse on humility.

Questions and comments are always welcome

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İRon Wallace, Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it,
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