Matthew 18:1-9 Part 4

Before we come to verses ten through fourteen we still have some things to do in one through nine.  I’m certain that we’ll be coming back to this passage time and again, and I want to make sure that we have a sufficient understanding of it.

The political infighting among the disciples is the occasion of our Lord’s teaching concerning the rebirth.  After all that has occurred, they still anticipated the return of Israel to international prominence (world dominion if you will) under the anointed son of David.  And since they were certain that Jesus was the Son of God and David’s great son, they were lobbying Him for favor!  Apparently there was jealousy and bickering within the group with regard to who would sit closest to the king and, therefore, have the most power in the coming world-wide kingdom.

Now, while we’re at that point let me just mention, once again, the two most prominent non-Biblical views with regard to the Kingdom – the first one being that of the disciples.  The Jews of that day, and the Jews of our day, believed – regardless of their covenantal disobedience – that God would return Israel to its former greatness under a special Messiah.  Orthodox Jews all over the world are still looking for that very wise man who will turn the eyes of the world to Israel.  One article I read indicated that many are looking at one very carefully right now who might be him!

But the Jews, by no means, are the only ones holding this view and having this anticipation at the present time.  The same understanding of the Kingdom is held by premillenialists.  According to them, Israel will again be the seat of world dominion!  And they’re looking for and praying for the Messiah to come and begin the millennium.  So it’s safe to say that apostate Judaism and premillenialism have the same eschatology!

The other non-Biblical view regards the Kingdom as a spiritual realm only.  The reign and realm of Christ is primarily in the hearts of individual men whom Christ has saved.  This understanding creates a dichotomy between the spiritual and the physical, much like Gnosticism, and it results in a separation being established between the Church and all other institutions of men – a separation which manifests itself in the extreme pluralism of our nation today.  And it negates the first petition of the model prayer of our Lord – which says:  “Thy Kingdom come.  Thy will be done on earth as it is in the heavens….”

But the Kingdom is not in the heaven; and neither is it just the Church on earth.  The Kingdom is – “the Kingdom of the Heavens”; or the Kingdom from the Heavens!  It is the reign and realm of Christ over all of creation – to the end that all His enemies are put under His feet.  And once the curse is satisfied and the creation is cleansed of sin and Satan, Christ will present it to His Father – a job well-done by the Good and Faithful Servant.  This is the only view of the Kingdom which is consistent with all the words of Scripture.

Now.  The text here in Matthew says that Jesus, in response to the question of the disciples concerning who would be the “greater” in the Kingdom, set a babe in the midst of them and said,


“Amen I say to you, unless you be changed (the disciples had to be changed) and become as the babes, in no way shall you enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.  Therefore whoever shall humble himself as this babe, this is the greater in the Kingdom of the Heavens.”


And in verses eight and nine He give some examples of the “humbling” of one’s self that is required.  And I need to speak to this issue a little bit more before we leave this text.

After being created from nothing by God, Adam rebelled against God (wanting to be an autonomous being).  Our representative head and seminal father was thus cursed by God and died.  And all his posterity have his same nature – we’re all cursed and dead!  We are seminally and representatively dead.

This is the reason that a second Adam was necessary.  God, in His great love and mercy toward us, sent Jesus to die the death for us and receive the curse for us.  And whereas we are all born in Adam, with his nature, we must be re-born in Christ – with His nature!  Man must die to his first father.  The nature of death and the curse must be terminated, and we have to have a new beginning.  Man has to start over – ceasing to be man after his original father!

You see, even though the Scriptures say that a leopard can’t changed its spots, and that all beings come into the world “after their own kind”, our kind has to cease to be!  We must have a new beginning, a new inception – another Genesis!  That’s why Paul says to the Church in Rome that all men in Adam die; but all in Christ are made alive.  Adam lost it!  Ergo, we all lost it.  But, in Christ, it is given to us again.

Now, that old nature manifests itself in many, many different ways.  It may be quiet and civilized; or it may exhibit itself in a murderous, perverted rampage.  Either way, the ultimate result is the same.  It is cursed and dead.  Every man born in Adam must suffer the curse from God.  He must either be cast into eternal perdition, or he must be reborn into Christ the second Adam – Who suffered the curse instead!  There is no other alternative.  God the Father prefers the works faithfulness of God the Son!

Now, with reference to verses eight and nine, it is so much the case that our former life in Adam has to be humiliated and mortified, that Christ here speaks in anthromorphic terms – as to its excision!  Existence in Christ is newness of life; and it must be nurtured and protected and edified at the expense of the old one!  The old man must be cut off and plucked out.  Newness of life in Christ must not be seduced, or entrapped, by the lusts of the flesh or the philosophies of the world.  Man in Adam is still all around, and in us, but we cannot allow ourselves to be entrapped.

I’m going to speak here in anthropomorphic terms – just to make the point more understandable (and I do so with fear and trembling).  Man in Adam hates the new man in Christ because he is a “new species”!  (This is an evolutionary term, but remember I’m speaking from the viewpoint of the old man.)  He’s different!  Now don’t take hold of that and run too far with it.  I realize that the one with the curse is the aberration; man in communion with God – before his rebellion – is the way he was created!  Therefore the cursed, dead man is the deviation from the norm.  He’s a perversion.

But the world order, even though it is condemned by God, looks upon “newness-of-life-in-Christ” as the aberrant and deviant life.  To the world, “life in communion with God through Christ” is a “new species” of life – the “odd ball”.  It is worthy only of a special, judgmental discrimination.  Behind all of this, of course, is the “natural man’s” hatred of Christ, because Christ brings man back into obedience and fellowship with God.  In Christ, man is no longer autonomous; so He, and all of His, are hated and treated as “abnormal”.  People living in the New Life in Christ are a threat to the autonomy of man-in-Adam!  The old man senses that; he innately knows that.  And, at every opportunity, he will execute a maneuver of some kind to protect his autonomy!  And that’s where “entrapments” come from.

From the standpoint of those who live in Christ, if one “receives” one of us, then he is receiving Christ Himself; because we are re-born in Him.  But, as Jesus says here in verse seven, the entrapments to newborns are inevitable.  The maneuvers of the world order to snare and entice us to unbelief and apostasy are “inevitable”.  Although the immediate context of this passage is the coming abomination of desolation and the tribulation in the wrath of God, it is also true of the world order in our time.  The world, although defeated in the resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus, is still protecting its autonomy.  The victorious Lord is a terrible threat to the old man-in-Adam, because he inherently knows what’s coming!  And it will continue to be that way in varying degrees, until Christ completes His conquering of the nations and saves the creation for His Father.

But, until that time, entrapments must come.  It is inevitable.  There is no possibility of walking but in the midst of entrapments.  The world is full of them.  Jesus doesn’t state the specific reason for it – although it is certainly implied.

But the apostle Paul does state the reason!  And he does so in the context of the Lord’s Table, which is the sign and seal of our new life in Christ!  Listen to him in First Corinthians chapter eleven:


“For there must also be ‘heresies’ among you, in order that they which are approved might be made manifest among you.”


Entrapments are inevitable.  It is the will of God that His reborn children are exposed to entrapments in order to separate the chaff from the wheat!  Entrapments accomplish the exposure and destruction of the wretched, while manifesting those who are His and who are kept by Him!  And I speak here with the deepest reverence of the secret purposes of God.

Our Lord was, Himself, an entrapment and a Rock of crushing to the entire, cursed, fallen world order.  He came in order to crush the head of the serpent and to put an end to the rebellion of autonomous man!  And neither Satan nor man-in-Adam wishes that to happen; thus the conflict between Christ and that which is cursed.  Jesus Christ suffered shame and reproach, and a unique degree of enmity because of His appearance and the advancement of His Kingdom.  And those of us who are re-birthed into Him (having entered into His Kingdom) must understand that the antagonism and hostility and animosity and malevolence which He faced, as a man, is something that the Church faces throughout the development of His Kingdom!

You and I can’t expect “peaceful repose” in the body of Christ!  We have a “career” of conflict!  There is no such thing as “quiet obscurity” in His Kingdom!  To be a newborn in Him means having (at least in our present year, 2007) the greater part of the world rising in hostility against us; and maybe pursuing us even unto death!  We have a perpetual enemy in Satan; and man-in-Adam will fight us to the death to retain his autonomous identity!  He will not be in submission to this King!  (his viewpoint!)

We are “reborn little ones” in Christ.  And, therefore, we live in conflict.  The Scriptures even ask the question (rhetorical, of course), “Since Christ suffered, should we not?  Are we better than our Lord?”  Paul even adds that we “fill up” His trials and temptations and suffering!  Since the union between Christ and His new-born people is so vital and intimate, there is an actual sharing of the conflict.  He suffers in us and with us; and we suffer in Him and with Him.  God the Father put His Son to grief; and we participate in it.  And all the time, while in it, we have to look to our Father in faith.  (This is an issue which will come up time and again as we come closer to the suffering and crucifixion of our Lord.  It is not a specific subject in this text – as is entrapments.)

But the enmity of the world toward Christ and His new-born babes brings conflict.  And that conflict entails entrapments to unbelief and apostasy.  It is inevitable.  And our response to these entrapments is both submissive and aggressive.  Not only do we submit to the will of God, faithfully relying on His love and mercy and protection; but we also must take on a defensive and offensive stance against them.  (entrapments)

As the apostle says, take unto yourselves the whole armor of God that you might be able to withstand…. 


“Wrap your loins with truth,” he says.  “Put on the breastplate of righteousness… shod your feet with the Gospel of Peace… take the shield of faith which quenches the fiery darts of the wicked… and the helmet of salvation….”  And then he says, “Take the sword of the Spirit.”


Our first aggressive stance must be toward ourselves and our own lusts and rebellion.  Since we are exposed to these traps and snares of persecution and separation and pain and every conceivable variety of pejorative rhetoric, our first and primary task is to abandon and destroy our own Adamic nature!  We must renounce and deny the self.  The true, penitent babe in Christ, covered by the blood of Christ and forgiven of God, so loathes his own vicious nature that he becomes his own judge; and he refuses to nurture his own self-centeredness.

Scripture says that we are annihilated and brought down to the dust in repentance.  “Cease from evil,” the prophet Isaiah says.  By intense self-hatred, we are to cut it off and pluck it out, as Jesus illustrates in anthropomorphic terms here in our text.  Not to appease God, or somehow just to avoid His wrath and judgment; but because the character of the new humanity in Christ is vexed and horrified by the old!  There is an alienation from the abominations of the old, and we turn from that – passionately yearning for cleansing and newness of life in the virtues of Christ!

As attractive as the world order is – as much as we want it – as much as we yearn and desire to sin and rebel, the little one in Christ recoils from it; it is abhorrent to us!  At the same time we’re charmed and fascinated by its excitement, we are provoked to repugnance by it, because we are new creations in Christ.  Sparing the old man in Adam – retaining that nature – risks throwing the self into eternal perdition!  If we continue to sin; if we continue to be trapped and snared; if we continue to yield ourselves to that desire to sin, then how can we call ourselves babes in Christ?  “You must be changed!”

Our second aggressive stance toward entrapments to sin and apostasy comes in our opposition to the world order.  Because entrapments are inevitable, the re-birthed, new creation in Christ has to be constant and zealous in opposing the traps and snares.  The Lord Jesus Christ (our Forerunner in conflict with the world) met that conflict in (what looks to the world like) a peculiar way.  He was shamed and disgraced and tempted and scandalized and debased – but He opposed it all with the Word of God!

And as I’ve already said, we have shared, and will share, in His debasement and humiliation.  And I tell you the truth, there is no greater temptation to compromise the faith than to be laughed at, or to be made to look foolish, or to be humiliated by family, friends – or in public.  The world is cruel and heartless in its recriminations against the “little ones” of Christ.  The hatred is real and punishing!  And we tend to become like “jello” when one person hates us and rejects us and confronts us!

But just suppose that you were the outcast of the whole community.  The Churches and the schools and courts and magistrates thought you were despicable.  And you were brought up before the city council, and the governor, and then the supreme court, and then the president!  And you were accused of being the single cause of trouble in the nation, and that you were a contemptible worm of a creature.  And all your family and friends hid themselves from you while you were laughed at and spat upon and beaten!

These kinds of entrapments are horrendous; but that’s exactly what happened to Christ Jesus.  He received those blows and that humiliation as from the Father.  Normally, our affliction is much lighter; but are we expected to do any differently than He?  The entrapments of shame and persecution and humiliation for His little ones fill up His Own; and they are inevitable.  Will you aggressively defend with the Sword of the Spirit, or will you become trapped, and fold, and compromise, and apostasize?

Well, we haven’t yet come to verses ten through fourteen; and there are still other comments and questions that need to be addressed before we get there.  So we will continue next Lord’s Day to learn how to deal with the entrapments which are sure to come in the lives of the reborn in Christ.