11 February 2014

BSF 2013-2014: Matthew 18

Matthew 18 teaches us how to live in God’s family. God uses this chapter to teach us that greatness in His eyes includes humility, selflessness and forgiveness.

The chapter begins with the disciples arguing about who will be the greatest in God’s kingdom. The disciples aren’t very different from us. They are focused on themselves and don’t understand God’s words or God’s plan very well. But our idea of greatness contradicts God’s idea of greatness. God calls a person great if he humbly serves others because this quality is most like Jesus. Humility is being willing to serve others, especially those who are weak and helpless.

Jesus used children to teach the disciples how to be great. Children cannot depend on themselves; they trust others to provide for them. Children are very teachable.

Jesus also warns that we shouldn’t cause these little ones to stumble. Besides children, the phrase little ones also refers to people who are seeking God and the ignored in our society.

Next Jesus explains the restoration process within the church family. When someone strays away from God, we must grieve for him and seek to restore him to God and to the church. Repentance always is the goal.

The first step is to have a private conversation with the person. If there is no repentance, bring one or two others with you to have another conversation. If there is no repentance, bring the issue to the church. Finally, if there still is no repentance, treat the person like an unbeliever. This doesn’t necessarily mean to banish him but pursue him as a lost person in need of a Savior.

There are two potentially confusing phrases in this section – to bind and to loose. To bind means to declare that the sinful person is bound to his sin and its consequences. He should be cut off from church fellowship until he repents. To loose means to declare that the repentant sinner is forgiven, restored and loosed from sin.

This leads Peter to ask about forgiveness. In Jesus’ day, religious leader said the people had to forgive someone three times. Peter more than doubled that and suggested seven times. Jesus said we should forgive someone 77 times. He was teaching that forgiveness is a lifestyle, a cornerstone of the Christian faith.

Jesus then teaches this principle with a parable. A king wanted to settle debts with his servants. One servant owed millions of dollars to the king and certainly could not repay it. The king had compassion on the servant and forgave the entire amount. Immediately after receiving such mercy, this same servant wanted to collect a much smaller debt from a fellow servant. He had this servant thrown in prison. The king rebuked the first servant and threw him in prison. The king told the servant he should have had mercy on his fellow servant the way the king showed mercy to him.

In this parable, Jesus is the king. We all have a debt too great to pay – the payment for our sins. But Jesus pardons us and forgives our debt because He paid it by dying on the cross for us. Therefore we also must show compassion and forgiveness to others to wrong us. Unlimited forgiveness should be a trait of all believers.

In this chapter, God teaches us that anyone who demonstrates humility, selflessness and forgiveness is great in His eyes.

Things to Think About
  • What motivates me to serve God – my glory or His glory?
  • How am I welcoming God’s little ones in my life?
  • All Christians are called to serve others, putting others before ourselves.
  • Am I willing to bring wanderers back to God using the biblical method?
  • Am I willing to confront another person’s sin with the goal of repentance and restoration?
  • Do I understand what my sin cost Jesus? Do I understand the extent of forgiveness God has shown to me?