"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" Jesus And The Children (18:1-14)
INTRODUCTION 1. One of the more touching and endearing scenes during the life of Jesus was when He used a little child to teach His disciples some lessons - Mt 18:1-14 2. For all who would be true disciples of Jesus, there are valuable lessons to be gleaned from this passage [The first thing we are taught is...] I. THE NECESSITY OF CONVERSION (1-4) A. WITHOUT CONVERSION, THERE IS NO SALVATION... 1. "Unless you are converted", Jesus said a. "You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven" b. Without conversion, we cannot have our sins blotted out- cf. Ac 3:19 c. And we will not enjoy "times of refreshing from the Lord"- cf. Ac 3:19 2. Note that the process of conversion is passive: "be converted" a. I.e., it is something you must allow to be done to you b. It begins when we in faith submit to "the working of God" 1) That is, in baptism - cf. Col 2:12 2) Wherein by God's mercy we experience "regeneration", "renewal" - Tit 3:5 c. It continues as we live the Christian life 1) God continues His working in us - cf. Php 1:6; 2:12-13 2) He will do so until the coming of Christ - 1Th 5:23-24 -- Have you, indeed are you, submitting to the working of God in your life so as to be truly converted? B. A CONVERSION INVOLVING CHILDLIKE HUMILITY... 1. This was the concern of Jesus in Mt 18:4 a. For His disciples had asked who would be greatest in the kingdom b. Jesus used a child to illustrate the sort of humility one must have 2. Paul later used Jesus as an example of humility - Php 2:3-5 -- Those who submit to the working of God in their lives will produce this kind of humility necessary for salvation - cf. Col 3:12-13 [The next thing we learn from this passage is...] II. THE SIN OF STUMBLING BLOCKS (5-7) A. WHO ARE THE "CHILDREN"? 1. Some think Jesus used an infant to make his point about humility, and is now discussing His adult disciples 2. But the Greek word for "child" (paidion) can refer to one as old as twelve years - cf. Mk 5:39-42 -- I understand Jesus to be discussing children old enough to believe, old enough to sin - Mt 18:6 B. THE TERRIBLENESS OF CAUSING CHILDREN TO SIN... 1. It would be better to be killed by drowning - Mt 18:6 2. "Woe to that man..." - Mt 18:7 3. Why so terrible? Because it is a sin against Christ Himself! a. Note Mt 18:5 and consider its opposite b. Paul learned this lesson on the road to Damascus - Ac 9:4-5 c. He taught this truth to brethren in Corinth - 1Co 8:9-13 C. HOW ONE CAN PUT STUMBLING BLOCKS IN A CHILD'S WAY... 1. By doing anything to keep them from serving Christ freely 2. Directly, by persecuting, ridiculing, opposing, or dissuading them from serving the Lord 3. Indirectly, by living a life inconsistent with what we claim to be! -- Are we putting stumbling blocks before our children, even unwittingly? [The next thing we can glean from these verses is...] III. THE REALITY OF FUTURE PUNISHMENT (8-9) A. SOME DENY PUNISHMENT AFTER DEATH, BUT NOT JESUS... 1. E.g., Seventh-Day Adventists and Members of the Watchtower Society (JWs) 2. Yet Jesus, more than any other, taught the reality of an eternal, suffering place of torment! a. The word "Gehenna" is used twelve times in Scripture, all but once by Jesus! b. Elsewhere He mentions "everlasting fire" and "everlasting punishment" - Mt 25:41,46 c. And so did His disciples - He 10:26-29; Re 21:8 3. Consider the implication of Mt 18:6 and He 10:28-29... a. What could be worse than drowning in the sea or dying without mercy? b. Acc. to those who deny punishment after death...nothing! -- Dare we "water down" what Jesus and the Bible teaches about the destiny of the wicked? B. WE SHOULD THEREFORE TAKE SIN SERIOUSLY... 1. So much so, that we remove whatever is close and dear to us if it causes us to sin! 2. Jesus is using hyperbole, of course, for what good would it be to pluck out only one eye? -- Sin is like cancer; sometimes "radical surgery" is the only solution! [Finally, we are taught in this passage about...] IV. THE PRECIOUSNESS OF GOD'S CHILDREN (10-14) A. THEIR ANGELS ALWAYS BEHOLD GOD'S FACE... 1. What this may involve, one can only speculate a. Many think this refers to "guardian angels" - cf. Ps 91: 9-12 b. We do know that angels are "ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation" - He 1:14 2. Our text speaks of their presence before God - Mt 18:10 a. Which some take to refer to their readiness to carry out the Father's wishes (Matthew Henry, Adam Clarke) b. At the very least we know there is joy in their presence when sinners repent - Lk 15:10 c. Will they not be dismayed when one of God's children sin, or is made to stumble by others? -- Their close proximity to God in heaven suggest the honor God has toward those children who believe! B. THE SON OF MAN CAME TO SAVE THEM... 1. Jesus came to die for them, too! - Mt 18:11 2. Jesus illustrated His concern for them with the parable of the lost sheep - Mt 18:12-13 -- If Jesus was willing to give His life for them, dare we despise or neglect them? C. THE FATHER DOESN'T WANT TO LOSE EVEN ONE... 1. It is not His will - Mt 18:14 2. Notice: He does not want to lose "one" of these little ones! -- If both the Father and Son think so highly of these little ones, should not we? CONCLUSION 1. The words of Jesus should motivate us to take children seriously... a. For parents: how important to bring your child up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord! b. For teachers: How serious and noble is your task of teaching our children! c. For all of us: We are examples and role models, whether good or bad...and God will hold us accountable for the effect we have on them! 2. And for those who would enter the kingdom... a. Heed the necessity of being converted! b. Let the example of child-like trust and humility be a guide as to how we should serve God and one another! Have you humbled yourself in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ?