“Emmanuel’s Greatest” – Matthew 18:1-6

January 24th, 2016

Matthew 18:1-6

“Emmanuel’s Greatest”

Auxiliary Text: John 3:1-21

Call to Worship from: Psalm 116


Service Orientation:  Jesus not only accepts and promotes toddler-like believers who are one in Him, but, He ruthlessly protects them as well.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.”  — Luke 9:48


Background Information:

  • Matthew 18 is a most important chapter for Christian ethics, because it deals with those qualities which should characterize the personal relationships of the Christian. (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 201)
  • One of Jesus’ primary goals in chapter 18 is to revise their understanding of “greatness” to the way God thinks about it. (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 612)
  • This chapter is a single discourse or sermon by our Lord on the specific theme of the childlikeness of the believer, speaking directly to the reality that we are spiritual children with all the weaknesses that childhood implies. It is also essential to see that the chapter teaches the church, as a group of spiritually unperfected children, how to get along with each other.  It is no exaggeration to say that this is the single greatest discourse our Lord ever gave on life among the redeemed people in His church.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 94)
  • The prediction of his death had made them sad and perplexed; but as if they had received from it unmingled delight, as if they had tasted of the nectar which the poets feign, they immediately enter into a dispute about the highest rank. How was it possible that their distress of mind vanished in a moment, but because the minds of men are so devoted to ambition, that, forgetful of their present state of warfare, they continually rush forward, under the delusive influence of a false imagination, to obtain a triumph?  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 331)
  • (v. 1) The opening phrase “at that time” ties this event to the previous teaching (17:24-27). The disciples wondered about this coming kingdom of which Jesus would be the king.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 351)
  • (v. 1) “Who is the top disciple?” The question has become more urgent as Jesus has made it clearer that he is to die; in that case, who is to take the lead when he is gone?  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 675)
  • (v. 1) Although He omnisciently knew what had happened, Jesus asked, “What were you discussing on the way?” They were so ashamed of their attitude and conversation that “they kept silent” (Mk 9:33-34).  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 94)
  • (v. 2) He did not even scold his disciples for their callousness, their insensibility with respect to his approaching agony, the non-lasting character of their grief, their quickness in turning the mind away from him to themselves, their selfishness.  All this he passed by, and addressed himself directly to their question.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 687)
  • (v. 2) The Aramaic language has the same word for “child” and “servant.”  Thus, when Jesus took a little child into his arms, he made the explanation of greatness even more distinct–to be great, one must serve.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 352)
  • (v. 2) Paidion identifies a very young child, sometimes even an infant. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 95)
  • (v. 3) It is clear that when Jesus spoke of “these little ones,” He was not talking about children in general. Instead, He was speaking of those who have been converted and become like children, that is, new or young believers.  We know this because He said “little ones who believe in Me.”  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 534)
  • (v. 3) What is so surprising or shocking about that is that children were the lowest of the low in the ancient world. That might be hard for us to imagine since children today have TV shows and movies and video games and amusement parks and toys and cell phones and even restaurants designed for their pleasure and in their honor.  That is the world we live in, but that was not the world in which Jesus lived.  Some scholars are convinced that this is the first and only time in ancient Jewish literature (perhaps all ancient literature) where a child is used as a positive example.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 501)
  • (v. 4) Jesus’ teaching in Mt 5:19 established that there would be distinctions in the kingdom of heaven (“least” and “great”). (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 173)
  • (v. 6) To hang a millstone about a man’s neck, and drown him in the sea, was the punishment then reckoned the most appalling, and which was inflicted on the most atrocious malefactors. When our Lord alludes to this punishment, we are enabled to perceive how dear and precious those persons are in the sight of God, who are mean and despised in the eyes of the world.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 336)
  • They were still laboring under the false impression that the Lord was about to set up the Messianic kingdom. They were quite sure that the establishment of the kingdom would mean great power and glory for them.  The plain warning of the Lord that He was soon to be crucified, that millennial hopes for Israel were not indefinitely postponed, had fallen on deaf ears.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 363-4)


The questions to be answered are . . .  What does Jesus say is the way to enter and become great in the Kingdom of God?  What does He mean by asking us to become like little children?


Answer:  Jesus tells us the only way to enter the Kingdom of God is by our changing and becoming like toddlers.  That means we become humble, dependent and trusting.


The Word for the Day is . . . Humble



I-  To even enter, let alone to become great in the Kingdom of God, one must change and become humble like a toddler.  (Mt 18:1-4; see also: Ps 131:1-3; Mk 9:34-37; Jn 3:1-21; Acts 3:19-26; 1 Cor 14:20; 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Pt 1:23; 2:2)


As long as they were pursuing rank and status in heaven, they were heading in the wrong direction.  Before they could even qualify for entrance into the kingdom, they would have to change completely their way of thinking.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 173)


The disciples had been asking about greatness in the kingdom they believed Jesus would establish.  They assumed that greatness was all they had to worry about.  They assumed they would be in the kingdom.  But instead of answering them only on that level, Jesus explains that unless they possessed a nature that was entirely different from what they were betraying by their question, they would not even enter the kingdom.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 377)


The only way into the kingdom is by means of a new birth.  Those who are born again take their place among God’s people as little children.  There is no sophistication, no struggle for caste, no self-seeking ambition, no pride in a little child.  A small child is a lesson in simplicity, a model member of the church.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 364)


Jesus said:  “Unless you turn.”  He was warning them that they were going in completely the wrong direction, away from the kingdom of heaven and not towards it.  In life, it is all a question of what people are aiming at; if they are aiming at the fulfillment of personal ambition, the acquisition of personal power, the enjoyment of personal prestige and exaltation of self, they are aiming at precisely the opposite of the kingdom of heaven; for to be a citizen of the kingdom means the complete forgetting of self, the obliteration of self, the spending of self in a life which aims at service and not at power.  As long as people consider themselves to be the most important thing in the world, they have turned their backs on the kingdom; if they want ever to reach the kingdom, they must turn round and face in the opposite direction.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 203-4)


We all need an entire change of nature:  of ourselves we have neither faith, fear, nor love towards God.  We “must be born again” (Jn 3:7).  Of ourselves we are utterly unfit for dwelling in God’s presence.  Heaven would be no heaven to us if we were not “converted.”  It is true of all ranks, classes and orders of mankind:  all are born in sin and are children of wrath, and all, without exception, need to be born again and made new creatures.  A new heart must be given to us, and a new spirit put within us; old things must pass away, and all things must become new.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 158)


What did Jesus want them to change?  In this instance, it was their attitude toward greatness.  The disciples had become so preoccupied with the organization of Jesus’ earthly kingdom that they had lost sight of its divine purpose.  Instead of seeking a place of service, they were seeking positions of advantage.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 352)


What he meant was this:  “You have been arguing about the question who will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven, as if you were sure of already being in it and of being destined for its future manifestation in glory.  But if you continue in your present state of mind and heart, each of you being eager to be higher than his fellows and to lord it over them, you will be excluded; you will then most certainly not even enter it.”  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 687)


Let them learn that the only way to ascend is to descend.  Do they wish to become great?  Then let them become little!  Do they wish to rise?  Then let them sink!  Do they wish to rule?  Then let them serve!  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 688-9)


To teach unruly, disobedient, restless little children can be a wearing job.  To satisfy the physical needs of children, to wash their clothes and tend their cuts and soothe their bruises and cook their meals may often seem a very unromantic task; the cooker and the sink and the first-aid kit have not much glamor; but there is no one in all this world who helps Jesus Christ more than the teacher of the little child and the harassed, hard-pressed parent in the home.  All who take on these tasks will find a glory in the grey, and discover wonder in the ordinary, if in the child they sometimes glimpse none other than Jesus himself.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 207)


It is important to notice that He does not say “Except ye become as little children” but Except ye be converted and become as little children.  (R.V.G. Tasker, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, 175)


In the last few chapters Matthew has been mentioning Peter far more often than any of the other disciples (14:28, 29; 15:15; 16:16-18, 22, 23; 17:4, 24-27).  It was Peter who had walked on the water.  It was Peter who had asked Jesus to explain his saying regarding ceremonial versus real defilement.  It was to Peter that Jesus had addressed the words, “You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my church.”  On the Mount of Transfiguration it was again Peter who was the most vocal of the three accompanying disciples.  The tax-collectors, wishing to know whether or not Jesus customarily paid the temple tax, had singled out Peter, evidently thinking that he, rather than anyone else, would have the answer.  And it was Peter who by the Lord was ordered to catch the fish with the coin in its mouth.  In fact, while Matthew mentions Peter only a few times in the earlier part of his Gospel, and in the final section only in chapter 26 (mainly in the story of Peter’s denial), in chapters 14-19 his name (Peter, Simon, Simon Peter) occurs at least a dozen times.  Matthew, moreover, reported what was actually happening.  It is not surprising, therefore, that the question would arise in the minds of the other disciples, “Could it be that in Christ’s kingdom Peter is, or is going to be, after Jesus himself the most important person?” . . .

There were the following facts to offset the idea of Peter’s superior importance: a. he had been sharply rebuked by Jesus (16:23); b. not only Peter but also James and John had been with Jesus on “the Holy Mount” (17:1); and c. Peter’s suggestion that three shelters be built on that mount had not even received an answer (17:4, 5), as the sons of Zebedee knew very well.  So, perhaps Peter was not the greatest after all.  But if not Peter, who then?  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 684-5)



A-  Toddlers are humble.  (Mt 8:5-13; 11:11; 19:30; 20:20-28; 23:11-12; Lk 18:14; 22:22-30; Jn 13:2-15; Phil 2:1-11; Jam 4:6-10; 1 Pt 5:5-6)


Yet Jesus celebrates the humility that comes from the child’s weakness, defenselessness, and vulnerability.  The child can really do nothing for himself or herself and will die if left alone.  It is this kind of humility that Jesus uses as a visual aid to contrast the world’s form of greatness to the greatness of the kingdom of heaven.  Like the values established in the Beatitudes (5:3-10), this is an explicit pronouncement of grace to those who seemingly are unworthy of the kingdom, but it is also a pronouncement of condemnation on those who think themselves to be worthy but are not.  Those who wish to enter the kingdom must turn away from their own power and self-seeking, and in childlike humility call on God’s mercy to allow them to enter the kingdom of heaven.  The child becomes a metaphor to Jesus of the values of discipleship.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 613)


Childlike humility that comes from vulnerability is a primary characteristic of discipleship to Jesus because it enables his disciples to receive God’s mercy consistently instead of priding themselves on human accomplishments.  This reverses typical human notions of how to achieve greatness and how to grow in greatness.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 614)


In the ancient world, children were valued primarily for the benefit that they brought to the family by enhancing the workforce, adding to the defensive power, and guaranteeing the future glory of the house.  But they had no rights or significance apart from their future value to the family and were powerless in society.  The humility of a child consists of the inability to advance his or her own cause apart from the help and resources of a parent.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 612-3)


This response is similar to the way Jesus answered people who asked him why God allowed some apparently innocent people to be killed by Herod’s soldiers or others to be killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them.  Jesus said they were asking the wrong question.  They should not ask why others had suffered but why they themselves had not, since they were sinners.  The question should have been, “Why am I not in hell at this moment?”  (Lk 13:1-5).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 377)


What we all want is a conversion from pride to humility, from high thoughts about ourselves to lowly thoughts about ourselves, from self-conceit to self-abasement, from the mind of the Pharisee to the mind of the tax collector.  A conversion of this kind we must experience if we hope to be saved.  These are the conversions that are wrought by the Holy Spirit.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 159)


  1. A. Carson says, “The child is a model, in this context, not of innocence, faith, or purity, but of humility and unconcern for social status. Jesus assumed that people are not naturally like that; they must change to become like little children.” (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 377)


The general meaning is, that those who desire to obtain greatness by rising above their brethren, will be so far from gaining their object that they do not even deserve to occupy the lowest corner.  He reasons from contraries, because it is humility alone that exalts us.  As we are more powerfully affected by appearances presented to the eyes, he holds up to them a little child as an emblem of humility.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 332)


That man is truly humble who neither claims any personal merit in the sight of God, nor proudly despises brethren, or aims at being thought superior to them, but reckons it enough that he is one of the members of Christ, and desires nothing more than that the Head alone should be exalted.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 333)


How is mutual friendship usually maintained among the children of the world but by every man complying with the wishes of another?  The more desirous a man is to obtain renown, the more insolently does he grasp at power, that he may be raised to a lofty station, and that others may be ridiculed or despised; but Christ enjoins that the more a man abases himself, the more highly shall he be honored.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 334)


Personal ambition, personal prestige, personal publicity and personal profit are motives which can find no place in the lives of Christians.  Christians are people who forget self in their devotion to Jesus Christ and in their service to other people.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 201)


If the disciples’ question about being “great” was prompted by a desire to exercise authority over others, they have started at the wrong end.  Their “grown-up” sense of social position puts them out of sympathy with God’s value-scale.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 677)


In this highly competitive world, it is very easy to pay most attention to the person who is belligerent and aggressive and self-assertive and full of self-confidence.  It is easy to pay most attention to the person who, in the worldly sense of the term, has made a success of life.  Jesus may well be saying that the most important people are not the thrusters and those who have climbed to the top of the tree by pushing everyone else out of the way, but the quiet, humble, ordinary people, who have the heart of a child.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 207)


In 18:4 Jesus tells us that the motive behind his disciples’ question was pride, for he begins that verse, “Whoever humbles himself . . .”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 500)


The humblest Christians are the best Christians, and most like to Christ, and highest in his favor; are best disposed for the communications of divine grace, and fittest to serve God in this world, and enjoy him in another.  They are great, for God overlooks heaven and earth, to look on such; and certainly those are to be most respected and honored in the church that are most humble and self-denying; for, though they least seek it, they best deserve it.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 253)


There is no indication of sympathy, consolation, or grief concerning what their Lord was about to endure on their behalf and on the behalf of all the world.  And on the night before He died, while He was eating the Last Supper with them, they were still arguing about their own greatness (Lk 22:24).  Their insensitivity and selfishness is thus demonstrated as all the more sinful because it occurred at times when Jesus was speaking of His own suffering and death.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 95)


The child is held up as an ideal, not of innocence, purity, or faith, but of humility and unconcern for social status.  Jesus advocates humility of mind (v. 4), not childishness of thought (cf. 10:16).  With such humility comes childlike trust (cf. TDNT, 8:16-17).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 397)


B-  Toddlers are dependent. (Mt 5:3-8; Eph 2:8; Rom 3:9-4:25; 1 Cor 1:30-31; 2 Cor 5:21)


To children, a state of dependence is perfectly natural.  They never think that they can face life by themselves.  They are perfectly content to be utterly dependent on those who love them and care for them.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 205)


As children depend on their parents, so people who come to God must be willing to wholly depend on him.  The kind of people whom Jesus described as “blessed” in the first four beatitudes (5:3-6) picture the complete dependence upon God that is needed in order to come to faith.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 352)


The Greek term behind “poor in spirit” refers to a beggar who has absolutely no resources of his own.  Because the repentant and bankrupt person is deeply aware of his sin, he mourns over it (Mt 5:4); because he has no righteousness of his own, he hungers and thirsts for God’s righteousness (v. 6); and because he cannot himself cleanse his sin, he longs for the purity of heart (v. 8) that only God can provide.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 97)


C-  Toddlers are trusting. (Prv 3:5-6; Mt 8:5-13; Jn 3:16-18; Rom 2:21-31; 4:3-24; 10:8-17; Gal 2:16-20; 3:5-26; Phil 3:9; Jam 2:14-26;  Heb 11; 1 Pt 1:3-9; 1 Jn 5:1-13)


A young child does not yet think he knows more than his parents.  Rather, he thinks his mother and father know everything.  If a mother tells her two-year-old that X, Y, or Z is true, the child believes it.  That child has what is called in technical language a fides implicitum, an implicit faith.  He trusts his mother implicitly.  Whatever she says must be true.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 530)


Children are instinctively dependent, and just as instinctively they trust their parents that their needs will be met.  When we are children, we cannot buy our own food or our own clothes, or maintain our own home; yet we never doubt that we will be clothed and fed, and that there will be shelter and warmth and comfort waiting for us when we come home.  When we are children, we set out on a journey with no means of paying the fare, and with no idea of how to get to our journey’s end, and yet it never enters our heads to doubt that our parents will bring us safely there.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 205)



II-  BEWARE:  Jesus warns us to never mess with toddler-mentality believers in Jesus who are one with Him.    (Mt 18:5-6; see also: Gn 12:3; 1 Kgs 16:31; 2 Kgs 3:3; 17:22; Zech 2:8; Mt 10:40-42; 19:14; 25:31-46; Mk 9:37, 41-42; Lk 9:46-48; 17:1-2; Acts 9:3-5; Rom 14:1-23; 1 Cor 8:1-13; Gal 5:13; Eph 5:21; Jam 1:13; 1 Pt 2:16; Rv 2:14, 20)


The “little ones” are so important to Jesus that to cause spiritual damage to even one of them is a more than capital offense.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 682)


Let teachers in our schools and colleges who deliberately set out to corrupt the minds and beliefs of the young with humanistic and hurtful philosophies beware.  Let those who exploit little children for the sake of lust and personal gain beware.  Let all those who abuse children beware.  Jesus, the kindest and most tender of men, said of such a one that “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (18:6).  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 364)


If you have ever mocked a Christian, tempted a Christian, or discouraged a Christian from serving Christ, you should tremble before these categorical statements by the Lord.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 378)


Even when a person himself is not sinning, it is possible for him to lead others into sin.  By carelessly flaunting one’s liberty in Christ by participating in an activity that is not itself a sin and is perfectly appropriate for a strong Christian, it is possible to cause weaker brothers and sisters to stumble.  If they follow the mature believer’s example while still being convicted in their own immature consciences that the practice is wrong, they are led into sin.  Although the practice itself may not be sinful, it becomes sinful for the weaker Christian because it is done against what he believes to be right, and therefore against his conscience.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 107)


What Jesus is saying in vv. 1-6 is . . . that, instead of striving to become greatest in the kingdom of heaven (v. 1) [and] in the process of attempting this hurting others instead of guarding them (v. 6), the disciples should rather learn to forget about themselves and to focus their loving attention upon Christ’s little ones, upon the lambs of the flock and upon all those who in their humble trustfulness. . . resemble those lambs.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 379)


Mere hospitality is not in view but hospitality given because of the “little ones” link with Jesus; and it is probably presupposed that hospitality motivated in this way would be shown only if the benefactor were already well disposed toward Jesus, or at least moving in that direction.  The antithetic alternative, causing the “little ones” to stumble, does not mean that the “little ones” are led into apostasy.  Rather, they are not welcomed but are rejected, ignored.  This causes them to stumble in their discipleship.  It may lead to serious sin; but, as in 10:40-42 and 25:31-46, the really grave aspect of the rejection is that it signifies rejection of Jesus.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 398)


The Jews took the view that the most unforgivable of all sins is to teach another to sin; and for this reason–our own sins can be forgiven, for in a sense they are limited in their consequences; but if we teach another to sin, that person in turn may teach still another, and a train of sin is set in motion with no foreseeable end.

There is nothing in this world more terrible than to destroy someone’s innocence.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 208)


To lead a person into sin is one means of causing them to “stumble,” but their life and development as disciples may equally be damaged by discouragement or unfair criticism, by a lack of pastoral care, or by the failure to forgive which will be highlighted in vv. 21-35.  The “despising” of the little ones in v. 10 is the attitude which promotes such damaging behavior toward them.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 682)


This was a new approach in a society where children were usually treated as second-class citizens.  Jesus equated the attitude of welcoming children with a willingness to receive him.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 353)


Remember that Jesus has just equated all of His followers with children, sons and daughters of His heavenly Father (vv. 3-4).  He did this by using an actual child to illustrate a spiritual reality.  Therefore, whenever we see “child” or “little one” in the rest of this passage, the reference is not to physical children of God the Father.  Child refers to Christian in Matthew 18.  Therefore, when Jesus says in verse 5, “And whoever welcomes one child like this in My name welcomes Me,” He’s not equating Himself with children.  He’s equating Himself with Christians (with children of the Father), as in, “When you receive a Christian (a child of the Father), you are receiving Me.”  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 238)


Every man who thinks too highly of himself, or desires to be preferred to others, must necessarily treat his brethren with disdain.  To cure this disease, Christ threatens a dreadful punishment, if any man in his pride shall throw down those who are oppressed with poverty, or who in heart are already humbled.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 335)



Worship Point:  Worship the greatest of all who became servant of all.


Gospel Application:  Realize your desperate need to depend upon the work and righteousness of Jesus to save you.  Trust in Him as a result of recognizing His great love in light of your great need.  (Mt 5:3-8; 9:11-12; Mk 2:16-17; Lk 5:30-32; Rom 3:9-31)


Do we want to know whether we are really converted?  Do we want to know the test by which we must try ourselves?  The surest mark of true conversion is humility.  If we have really received the Holy Spirit, we will show it by a meek and childlike spirit.  Like children, we shall think humbly about our own strength and wisdom, and be very dependent on our Father in heaven.  Like children, we shall not seek great things in this world; but having food and clothing and a Father’s love, we shall be content.  Truly this is a heart-searching test!  It exposes the unsoundness of many a so-called conversion.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 159)


The fact that a person must enter the kingdom assumes he is born outside of it under the rule of Satan and that he is not naturally a heavenly citizen under the rule of God.  The purpose of the gospel is to show men how they may enter the kingdom and become its citizens, moving from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Col 1:13).  It is God’s desire to have men come into His kingdom, and He does not wish “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pt 3:9).  The purpose of Christ’s ministry and the ministries of John the Baptist and the apostles was to call people to the kingdom.  That is still the supreme task of the church.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 96)


Spiritual Challenge:  Meditate upon what Jesus has to say about becoming humble, dependent and trusting like a toddler.  How can you become great?


Some of these have attached themselves to him according to their own agendas–most noticeably Judas, but also others who did not truly believe in Jesus’ identity and mission (cf. Jn 6:60-66).  Those who would follow Jesus must understand his form of discipleship.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 613)







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