This week I thought we could review Matthew chapter 18 and reflect on how it pertains to the Church today.
The Pergammos era of the Church lived by the sword, so when God was dealing with them He brought a sword against them. Little wonder that our era of brotherly love deals with betrayal by our brothers.
Throughout scripture, Christ had people present him with problems, and he had the ability to perceive their underlying issues. The Church is now facing multiple issues all at the same time, similar to the many situations in which Christ found himself. Christ was able to call the sinners to repentance and rebuke the adversary while setting an example for his disciples on how they were to care for the Church and the world.
Matthew 18 is a chapter that encompasses many of the trials that the Church currently faces and Christ instructs us how we are to deal with them.
There are always some that desire to be the greatest among us. Christ was faced with that in dealing with his disciples. What was his response? He gave us the example of little children.
Matthew 18:1-3 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who
is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" And calling to him a child,
he put him in the midst of them, and said, "Truly, I say to you, unless
you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
(RSV unless otherwise indicated)
It is a privilege to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Some attack the CCG Bible Study papers as being too difficult and needing to be simplified. Perhaps we should be thankful that their thoroughness and academic level is such that the truth cannot be refuted. If a high standard is set, we can all strive to achieve the high standard. If a low standard is set, then our development is stunted. We should not hesitate to direct those with difficulties in understanding these papers to the “summary” papers or the children’s lessons if they are in need of a “simpler” paper. What did Christ have to say in the very next verse?
Matthew 18:4 “Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in
the kingdom of heaven.”
We must be humble in all aspects of our life – including our study of God’s word and how we teach the nation. Please review the children’s paper Preparing the Temple of God (No. CB35) in your sanctification preparations for an understanding of how our children are taught the mysteries of God.
This year, at the end of the 7-year cycle, the accusers of the brethren attempt to number our members including our children. They do this in order to give themselves comfort in battling us. They forget the law instructs them not to number for strength because it is God that fights for us. This assault with the inclusion of our children will not go unnoticed by God Almighty.
Matthew 18:5-9 "Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me;
but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would
be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be
drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For
it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation
comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw
it away; it is better for you to enter life maimed or lame than with two hands
or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to
sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with
one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.
It is our responsibility to not allow the numbering of Israel, including our children, and we should pursue those that do.
Our children do not have direct protection through the receipt of the Holy Spirit, because they have not yet been baptized. However, they have hands laid on them and are blessed per the example of Christ. We should take great comfort in knowing that the children of the elect are sanctified through their parents and have mighty angels associated with them that stand before God.
Matthew 18:10 "See that you do not despise one of these little ones; for
I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father who
is in heaven.
Next, Christ gives instruction concerning those who have gone astray by sinning against God
Matthew 18:12-14 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
Then he gives us instruction that seems almost contradictory on how we are to treat those who misbehave and sin against us.
Matthew 18:15-18 "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his
fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your
brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that
every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he
refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen
even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly,
I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever
you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
So how is it that we are instructed to both seek lost sheep and shun unrepentant brothers? We patiently work with and use many attempts at clarifying and correcting a brother that has sinned against us. But, once someone has received a strong delusion and ejects themselves from the congregation, we are to shun them. However, this does not mean that we do not continue to pray for them and specifically pray that Christ will lead them back to the flock.
Through all this, why do we take counsel and act slowly? Because there is great power in our prayers and actions.
Matthew 18:19-20 “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything
they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or
three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Next, Christ reminds us to be easily entreated regarding those who need a few more attempts to get things correct. However, we know from many other scriptures that without the fruit of repentance forgiveness cannot be granted.
Matthew 18:21-27 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. Therefore, the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, 'Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.' And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.”
What about those who are not repentant? What are we to understand from the example Christ gave regarding those who are willfully disobedient and maliciously mistreat their brothers? These are the accusers of the bretheren.
Matthew 18:28-35 “But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat he said, 'Pay what you owe.' So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, 'Have patience with me, and I will pay you.' He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt.” When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?' And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart."
The accusers of the brethren were damaged by the WCG system and they in turn seek to “save” others, but in doing so actually damage others. Recently, they have used this WCG harm to self-justify their assault, even calling for the death of our leaders in the Church. How are we to deal with this willful and malicious sin?
After we have exhausted all attempts at reason, they are to us as heathens. Even the law of God makes provision for judicial authority. To simply forgive those who have not born the fruit of repentance is lawlessness. We care enough about our accusers to see that they are corrected. We will extend mercy upon seeing the fruit of repentance. Our fellow Churches of God should join us in this activity.
If we care about our enemies and those that hate us, we pray for them.
The end of this seven-year cycle has been difficult. The attacks on the Church continue to grow in number. However, we must remember Christ’s instructions from Matthew 18 that deal with so many aspects of the trials that we now face as the body of Christ.
May God grant peace to our adversaries and bless them,
© Copyright 2006 Russell Hilburn, All Rights Reserved