Matthew 18

#Mt 18:1| LXXIII. FALSE AMBITION VERSUS CHILDLIKENESS. (Capernaum, Autumn, A.D. 29.) #Mt 18:1-14 Mr 9:33-50 Lu 9:46-50| Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Not comprehending our Lord's answer (#Mr 9:34|) and wishing to have him definitely point out the honored person, they now come asking this question. Had Jesus wished to teach the primacy of Peter, no better opportunity could have been found. (TFG 430-431) #Mt 18:4| Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus told them plainly that they must turn from their sin of personal ambition or they could not be his disciples--part of his kingdom--and he pointed them to a little child as the model in this particular, because the humble spirit in which the child looks up to its parents stood out in sharp contrast with their self-seeking, self-exalting ambition. See TFG "#Mr 9:37|". (TFG 431) #Mt 18:6| But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, etc. See TFG "#Mr 9:42|". #Mt 18:7| Woe unto the world because of occasions of stumbling! The depravity of man makes sin inevitable, but nevertheless it does not remove or reduce the personal responsibility of him who tempts to or causes to sin. (TFG 432-433) #Mt 18:8| And if thy hand or thy foot causeth thee to stumble, etc. See TFG "#Mr 9:43|". #Mt 18:9| If thine eye causeth thee to stumble, etc. See TFG "#Mr 9:43|". #Mt 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 heaven. Jesus here resumes his warning against that pride which exalts itself and despises the humble. Disclosing the fact that the ministration of angels is not only general but special, certain angels being entrusted with the care of certain individuals, and all of them supplementing their own wisdom and power by direct access to the presence of God. (TFG 434) #Mt 18:12| How think ye? if any man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and go unto the mountains, and seek that which is goeth astray? Those who have led highly moral lives have a tendency to despise those who have been defiled by gross sin. This truth is abundantly illustrated by the conduct of the Pharisees, but that such little ones should not be despised Jesus speaks this warning parable. See notes at #Lu 15:3-7|. Though the sheep in the fold and the one that is lost have, as individuals, the same intrinsic value, yet this even balance of value is somewhat modified by the sentiments and emotions incident to loss and recovery. (TFG 434) #Mt 18:13| And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth over it more than over the ninety and nine which have not gone astray. Moreover, the anxiety and trouble caused by the sheep's wandering do not depreciate but rather enhance the value of that sheep, because the heart of the Shepherd is so replete with goodness that the misbehavior of the sheep prompts him to feel pity and compassion, rather than to cherish resentment and revenge. (TFG 434) #Mt 18:14| 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 tender emotions which make it extremely dangerous for those who hinder his reformation and imperil his soul by despising him. (TFG 435) #Mt 18:15| LXXIV. SIN AND FORGIVENESS BETWEEN BRETHREN. (Autumn, A.D. 29.) #Mt 18:15-35| And if thy brother sin against thee, go, show him his fault between thee and him alone: if he hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Having warned against giving offense, Jesus now shows how to act when offense is received. The fault is to be pointed out to the offender, but for the purpose of gaining him--not from a desire to humiliate him. The offended is to seek the offender, and the offender is likewise to seek the offended (#Mt 15:23,24|), and neither is to wait for the other. (TFG 435-436) #Mt 18:16| 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 be needed. #Mt 18:17| And if he refuse to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he refuse to hear the church also, let him be unto thee as the gentile and the publican. As the Saviour was giving preparatory instruction, he was compelled to thus speak of the church by anticipation before it actually existed. The word church means "assembly," and the apostles knew that there would be some form of assembly in the kingdom about to be set up. When Matthew wrote his Gospel, churches were already in existence. One who will not hear the church is to be regarded as an outsider. This implies that such a one is to be excluded from the church. (TFG 436) #Mt 18:18| What things soever ye shall bind . . . and what things soever ye shall loose. The binding and loosing here mentioned is limited by the context or the subject of which Jesus now treats. Binding represents exclusion from membership; loosing, the restoration to fellowship in cases of repentance. The church's act in thus binding or loosing will be recognized in heaven if performed according to apostolic precept or precedent. Hence it is a most august and fearful prerogative. (TFG 436) #Mt 18:19,20| That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. These two verses illustrate the sublime power of the church which has just been suggested by its right of excommunication. A small church of two or three can prevail with God in prayer (in matters not wholly at variance with his will) and can be honored by the very presence of the Christ. (TFG 436-437) #Mt 18:21| Until seven times? Peter, seeing that the language of Jesus called for large forbearance, asked the Lord to fix the bounds. If we accept the Talmud as probably representing the ideals of forgiveness which pertained among the Jews of that age, we find that Peter was striving to be liberal, for the Talmud limits forgiveness to three times. (TFG 437) #Mt 18:22| 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 is no numerical limitation. To keep track of four hundred ninety offenses one would have to open a set of books with his neighbor, which would be ridiculous. Forgiveness, prayer, and charity know no arithmetic. Peter's question brings to mind the forgiveness of God and calls forth the following parable. (TFG 437) #Mt 18:24| Ten thousand talents. Assuming that the silver talent is meant ($1,600), the debt was $16,000,000, which would render the debtor hopeless enough. If it was a gold talent, it would be nearly twenty times as much {**} {**} Since the Hebrew talent is a unit of weight, it is not too difficult a matter to determine current values. Given that the talent was about ninety-three pounds, twelve ounces avoirdupois, and the 1990 value of silver was $4.80 per oz., the talent would be worth some $7,200. Thus the debt of ten thousand talents would be around $72,000,000 today! To make matters even worse for the debtor, if, as McGarvey suggests, it were the gold talent, the debt (with gold valued at $384.90 per ounce in 1990) would be nearly eighty times as great.--Ed. (TFG 437) #Mt 18:25| His lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children. The law of Moses allowed such a sale (#Le 25:39-47 2Ki 4:1|). (TFG 437) #Mt 18:27| 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 lord compassionately forbore to sell him and forgave him the whole debt. (TFG 437) #Mt 18:28| A hundred shillings. The denarius or shilling was worth about seventeen cents. The debt was, therefore, about $100. 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 been demanding his debt, but, that debt being forgiven, such harsh conduct was inexcusable. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:29| So his fellow-servant fell down and besought him, etc. Compare this conduct with that depicted in #Mt 18:26|. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:30| 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 permitted such a punishment, and it was practiced in this country until after the beginning of the last century. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:31| They were exceeding sorry. They were sorry for the sin of the one and the suffering of the other. Human nature rarely grows so wicked that it fails to resent sin in others. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:32| Thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt. God's forgiveness places us under obligation to be forgiving. The lord does not call the servant wicked because he had contracted a debt which he could not pay, but because of the merciless, unforgiving spirit which he had manifested toward his fellow-servant. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:33| Shouldest thou not also have had mercy on thy fellow-servant? Thus God freely forgives sin against himself, but the sin of refusing to forgive our fellow-man is with him an unforgivable sin. No doctrine of the Bible is more plainly taught than this. (TFG 438) #Mt 18:34| 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 the present day torture is used to compel debtors to confess the possession of property which they suspected of hiding. Thus the man had escaped being sold into slavery only to receive sentence of death by torture. (TFG 438-439) #Mt 18:35| So shall also my heavenly Father do unto you, if ye forgive not every one his brother from your hearts. Jesus reminds us that God is a Father unto him whom we have refused to forgive. The key to the parable is introduced by the words, "So shall also." God will so deliver to the tormentors the unforgiving. Incidentally the parable draws comparisons between the forgiving spirit of God and the revengeful spirit of man, and the magnitude of our debt to him and the insignificance of our debts to each other. The retraction of forgiveness is merely a part of the parabolic drapery, but it is nevertheless true that those who are delivered from sin come to a worse state than ever if they return to it (#2Pe 2:20-22|). (TFG 439)
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