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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

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Verses 1-14

78. Lessons in humility (Matthew 17:22-23; Matthew 18:1-14; Mark 9:30-50; Luke 9:44-50)

Despite Jesus’ statement to his disciples that he was heading towards humiliating suffering and death (Matthew 17:22-23; Mark 9:30-32; Luke 9:44-45), they were arguing among themselves about who would have the important places in his kingdom. Jesus rebuked them, explaining that the way to spiritual greatness is through choosing the lowest place and serving others. To enter the kingdom of God, people must humbly accept that they have no more status than a child. Receiving Christ is not concerned with prestige as in the case of those who receive an earthly king. It is as humble an act as receiving a small child (Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:33-37; Luke 9:46-48).

If people want to be disciples of Jesus, they should not despise those who appear weak and insignificant. Indeed, they should take severe action against themselves to remove from their lives anything that might cause them to follow their own desires instead of submitting to Jesus. Wrong desires prevent people from receiving Jesus and lead only to hell (Matthew 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-48). God will test and cleanse the disciples, but if they want to be useful for him in leading people to Jesus, they must cease their quarrelling and make sure that they themselves are pure in heart (Mark 9:49-50).

Jesus’ disciples should have a loving concern for the weak, the helpless and the lost. They should not want any to miss out on his salvation (Matthew 18:10-14). They must love others, and not act like those who tried to stop a man from casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he did not belong to Jesus’ apostolic group. The man feared God, and God used him to deliver people from the power of evil. He was not an enemy of Jesus, and the apostles were not to despise him or hinder him in his work. If people do acts of kindness to others, and do them with the right motives, God will reward them no matter how insignificant those acts may appear to be (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50).

Verses 15-35

79. Lessons in forgiveness (Matthew 18:15-35)

Disciples of Jesus should be willing to forgive fellow believers who sin against them, but they should also be concerned that offenders realize their sin and turn from it. In each case the believer should go to the offender privately and point out the wrongdoing, so that the person might be spiritually helped. If this fails, two or three others should be called in, firstly to make sure that the offender is in fact guilty and secondly to appeal for reconciliation. If this also fails, the entire community of believers should appeal to the offender. Should there still be no change, believers should treat the offender as if no longer part of their fellowship; though they should also desire the person’s repentance and restoration (Matthew 18:15-18).

God has given his people the responsibility to deal with such cases, and they must find out God’s will and do it. If they are to be confident that their actions carry God’s authority, they will not act in haste or out of personal prejudice. They have Jesus’ assurance that as they talk and pray about the matter, he will be with them, silently giving his guidance and help (Matthew 18:19-20).

Peter asked how many times Jesus’ followers should forgive before taking the severe action that Jesus had just outlined. Jesus’ reply shows that the severe action was not intended to be an alternative to forgiveness. Believers do not take action against offenders out of spite, but out of a concern for the offenders’ spiritual good. Regardless of how many times offenders do them wrong, believers must still forgive them (Matthew 18:21-22).

To illustrate the point, Jesus told a story. A king forgave a servant a huge debt, but the servant then refused to forgive a fellow servant a small debt (Matthew 18:23-30). When the king heard of his servant’s behaviour, he withdrew his forgiveness (Matthew 18:31-34). The lesson is that God will not forgive people if they do not forgive others (Matthew 18:35; cf. 6:12).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 18". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bbc/matthew-18.html. 2005.
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