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The Fourfold Gospel

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Chapter 19
 
 
 
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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 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.

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 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-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 or reduce the personal responsibility of him who tempts to or causes to sin.

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 here resumes his warning against that pride which exalts itself and despises the 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 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.

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 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 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 intrinsic value, yet this even balance of value is somewhat modified by the sentiments 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 is so replete with goodness that the misbehavior of the sheep prompts him to feel pity and compassion, rather than cherish resentment and revenge.

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 tender emotions which make it extremely dangerous for those who hinder his reformation 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--not from a desire to humiliate him. The offended is to seek the offender, and the offender is likewise to seek the offended (Matthew 15:23,24), 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 be needed.

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 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.

  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 that such 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 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.

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 18:19,20

  1. That if two of you shall agree on earth, etc. These two verses illustrate the sublime power of the church which has just 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.

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 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.

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 is no numerical limitation. To keep track of 490 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.

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 debtor hopeless enough. If it was a gold talent, it would be nearly twenty times as much.

    {NOTE.--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 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 of ten thousand talents would be around $72 million 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 oz. in 1990) would be nearly 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 lord compassionately 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 been demanding his debt, but, that debt being forgiven, such harsh conduct was 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 permitted such a punishment, and it was practiced in this country until after the beginning 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 wicked that 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 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.

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 refusing to forgive our fellow-man is with him an unforgivable sin. No doctrine of 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 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.

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 to the parable is introduced by the words, "So likewise shall". God will so 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 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 (2 Peter 2:20-22).


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 18". "The Fourfold Gospel". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/tfg/view.cgi?book=mt&chapter=018>. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.  

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