Matthew 18:1-14 Part 1

Due to the level of difficulty of the subject matter last Lord’s Day – in response to severe affliction – before we come to verses ten through fourteen this morning I want to revisit the inevitable entrapments-to-sin-and-apostasy and the response to them by the newborn babe in Christ.  This passage is the very center of the Gospel of God; and it is of utmost importance to us.  This is the sixth occasion to hear God’s Word from these first nine verses, but we will also begin to address these last four verses this morning.

But let me say this first:  Although the preaching of every evangelist ought to be examined in the light of God’s Word, there must be no autonomous rebellion, in the hearts of God’s people, toward the way God deals with our sin and provides His salvation!  You and I must remember that we are not free; and we have no rights over ourselves – nor to a private opinion.  We are creatures; and we mustn’t dare to be insolent.

A free gift of eternal love and salvation originates in the free and sovereign counsel of God’s will.  I am very jealous for your submission to Him – perhaps confrontationally and aggressively jealous on occasion.  If inordinately so sometimes, then I apologize.  But there can be nothing more haughty and defiant than for a creature to “self-defend” against the sovereignty of his Creator.  As the apostle Paul said, we have no right to say, “Why did you make me this way?”

The sin of our father Adam, and our sin in him – which is the reason for God’s curse on us all – was autonomy.  Adam and his wife didn’t like the way God dealt with them.  And we all were cursed and died to God.  And we are all born with that same nature – one which desires autonomy apart from the sovereign will of our Creator!  But the newborn babe in Christ humiliates that old, Adamic “self” and eagerly submits himself to the Goodness and mercy of God.  The old “self-defense” against God’s Sovereignty is “mortified” and abased in the humiliation of Christ!

Let it be said again, and clearly understood, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suffered beyond the capabilities of our imagination.  He “emptied Himself” of His glory in order to be humiliated for us.  He was shamed and degraded by government and Church, separated out as unworthy of regard, denounced and cursed, of ill-repute, forsaken by family and friends, beaten, spat-upon, denuded and murdered.  The persecution – from all the world – was savage and brutal.

The Scriptures say that all these trials and sufferings, these “entrapments” to sin and apostasy which were inflicted upon Him by Satan and by men, were blows from the hand of God!  The prophet Isaiah said,


“Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:  yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”


“Yet it pleased Yahveh to bruise Him; He hath put Him to grief….”


“He shall see the travail of His soul and be satisfied….”


And now, having understood that our Lord suffered at the hand of His Father, we must also see that there is an intimate union between Christ and His people.  Speaking of this subject, the apostle Paul, in Romans six, says,


“Don’t you know that as many of us as are baptized into Jesus Christ are baptized into His death?  Therefore we are co-buried in Him by baptism into death:  that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.  For if we have been co-planted in the likeness of His death, we shall be also of His resurrection….”


And that union is so intimate that Paul can say this, in Romans eight and verse seventeen:


“…and if children, also heirs; heirs of God on one hand, and co-heirs of Christ on the other, since we suffer with Him in order that also we may be glorified with Him….”


So, in union with Christ, His people actually share and participate in His suffering and persecution!  And we do so in order that we share in His glory!

Now, the apostle Peter, writing to the suffering, persecuted Christian refugees from Israel (before the Roman siege), First Peter four, verse twelve and following continues to comfort these people in the same way!  This is what he says:


“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the severe testing which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you:  but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are participants in Christ’s sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy….”


And then he says the same thing to them that Jesus had said before, in the beatitudes:


“If you be reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed!  For the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you….” 


“Yet if one suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf….  Wherefore let them that suffer-according-to-the-will-of-God commit the keeping of their souls in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”


So the Scriptures say that there is a union between Christ and His people.  And that, in that union, as Christ suffered at the hand of God, we, too, are participants in His suffering according to the will of God!  And we are to be thankful and rejoice that we are participants in that suffering with Him, acknowledging, “as unto a faithful Creator” from whence the sufferings come!

Now, last Lord’s Day I brought up the fore-sufferings of David as a fore-runner of the Christ.  Psalm thirty-eight is a penetrating look into the extreme distress and humiliation of this man as he was rejected, denounced and persecuted by friends, family and nation – all of which was a fore-shadowing of the suffering of Christ.  His mental, emotional and physical distress are laid out in the open before God, and we can read it and empathize with him.

But the point is, that David pours out his misery to God, Who, as He was to strike His Own Son later, here has stricken David!  The persecution and humiliation of David, by the entrapments of the world, came from the hand of God!

Now, if Psalm thirty-eight could possibly be confusing to any of you with regard to this issue, let me just read a couple of sentences by one of the greatest theologians in history:


“…and certainly, the man who estimates his affliction only by the feeling of pain which it produces, and views it in no other light, differs nothing from the beasts of the field.  As every chastisement of God should remind us of His judgment, the true wisdom of the saints, as the prophet declares, Isaiah nine, thirteen, is, ‘to look to the hand of Him who smites.’”  The theologian also, then, says:  “… the saints often speak of their own weakness, when they are severely oppressed with affliction.  David very properly describes the malady under which he labored, by the terms, the arrows and the hand, i.e. the chastisement of God.  Had he not been persuaded that it was God who thus afflicted him, he could never have been brought to seek from Him deliverance from his affliction!”


Now, this is certainly from a greater theologian than I am; and it is most assuredly greater than a quick scan of Psalm thirty-eight for a proof text!  It is from Calvin’s commentary on Psalm thirty-eight.

But here is the very center of this matter.  The one who is suffering due to the entrapments of the world, in union with Christ and thereby suffering in and for Christ, is to loathe and confess his own sin, and acknowledge the source of his suffering – Who is God our Father.  For only there is comfort and solace and protection!  The only balm, the only salve, the only palliative that we have in our affliction is to humiliate ourselves before the One Who has afflicted us!

So our aggressive stance toward the severe snares and traps to our faith, which are inevitable to Jesus in verse seven, is to flee to the Source of our affliction for confession and mercy!  Otherwise there is no comfort and mercy; otherwise we are no better than the beasts of the field who simply “brood” over their own pain; otherwise we imagine that our distresses arise from blind chance or fortune; otherwise we are in rebellion against the good pleasure of God.

Now let’s finish a review of the first nine verses so that we can proceed.  After their trip back from the place where Jesus was “transformed” on the high mountain, apparently the disciples, yet without understanding of Biblical eschatology, had been jealously contending about who was to be “greatest” in the coming kingdom of David’s great son.  And their question to Jesus concerning this issue is full of political envy and self-regard.

But Jesus answers them by summoning a baby to Himself; and He set it in the midst of them and said:


“Unless you be changed and become as the babes, in no way shall you enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens.  Therefore whoever shall humble (humiliate) himself as this babe, this is the greater in the Kingdom of the Heavens.”


Jesus answers them with their own political language.  This is greater in the Kingdom – you must be changed and become as the babes.

In other words you must be “newborn”.  You cannot continue to exist as offspring of your father Adam – you must be changed; re-born!  And the old self in Adam must be humiliated.  And each one who is born anew, like the babes, is born anew in Christ – the second Adam!  And that union is such that a new humanity has been created.  A new creation in Christ is in such union with Him that if one receives a newborn for His Name, he is receiving Christ!  (verse five).  (And therefore one who springs a trap on a newborn is the cause of suffering which is shared by Christ and His people.)

And then, in verses six through nine, as He has done several times before, Jesus elaborates on entrapments.  This word is normally rendered “offenses” in the translations; but it is a completely different word.  This word means the traps and snares and enticements of the world order which, if not Biblically dealt with, can ensnare us in sin and compromise and unbelief and apostasy.

In verse six Jesus states the seriousness of the culpability, the atrocity of causing a new-born babe in Christ to be perverted back to his old Adam nature.  It would be better, He says, rather than to entice one of these into sin, to be thrown into the depth of the sea bound around the neck to a millstone of an ass!

Then in verse seven He pronounces woe against the world because of these entrapments.  They are inevitable, but woe to the man through whom they come!  It is inevitable that newborn babes be enticed and seduced and denounced and humiliated and persecuted and severely tried by fire; but woe to the man through whom that entrapment comes! – because there is a union between them and Christ; and they are sharing His affliction and He is sharing theirs!

But the new-born creation in Christ will deal aggressively, with hatred, toward his old humanity; so much so, verses eight and nine, that he will humiliate and mortify the “self” for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.  Therefore Paul can say, in Romans eight,


“…Brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live under the flesh.  For if you live under the flesh, you shall die; but if you, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, you shall live.”


You see, Christ is the New Humanity – the second Adam, in Whom men are re-born and made new creations.  And the old humanity of the first Adam must be denied and humiliated.

This is what Paul meant, in Romans seven, when he said,


“I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am….”


There is, already, constant conflict between the new-born life in Christ and the old Adamic nature!  And those who entrap a new-born babe – by persecution, by reproach, by enticement, by flowery speech and vain philosophies, or by any other means – suffer the wrath of God, according to Jesus in verse six.

We, also, then spent goodly amounts of time in those former five sermons with regard to our aggressive posture toward the “self” and toward the entrapments of the world order.  And that, of course, led us to an examination of severe affliction and our only Source of Comfort.

Now, as far as verses nine through fourteen are concerned, we have very little time to do much with it – except for a brief introduction.  And first let me say – I think I’ve mentioned this once before – that a faithful rendering of this passage omits verse eleven.  The earliest and best manuscripts don’t include it, so it was a later addition to the text.  It can be safely assumed that no faithful scribe of the Scriptures would have deliberately inserted his own words into God’s Word.  That’s a given.  But mistakes were made.  For example:  suppose a translator or a copier was studying the text and decided to make a note for himself in the margin.  It could be a comment, or it could be another portion of Scripture which he was reminded of while reading or copying.  And then the next copier comes along and sees that note, and he assumes that it is a part of the text.  And that’s one way in which we have received textual variations.

The text has also been degraded by mistranslations, too.  Especially those translations which depended on later manuscripts.  And, too, men have brought their own presuppositions to the text.  And their translations of words, phrases and idioms have been guided by those presuppositions.  But that’s another issue.

Whatever the reason here, verse eleven should not have been included in the Authorized Version – the first reason being that it’s not in the earlier and more reliable manuscripts; the second being that, although the statement is true, it doesn’t fit appropriately into the context.

The second point of introduction has to do with the structure if these verses.  Jesus moves from the issues which we’ve covered today to a warning to His disciples not to “despise” one of these who have been reborn into Him.  The word “despise” will require a good deal of examination and searching by us, so we can’t do that now.  But it is a natural progression from the entrapments of the world order.

After a statement of God’s watch-care over each one of His New Creations (verse ten), the remainder is an analogy concerning His preservation of the entire number of His newborn babes.

When we offer up thanksgiving to God for this new sign and seal of His covenant, we do so in the Name of Jesus Christ.  That’s a term we hear often, isn’t it?  In verse five of the text, we receive newborn babes in His Name, or for His Name.  When we pray, we do so in the Name of Jesus.  In the beatitudes those are blessed who suffer for His Name’s sake.

An article I just read has to do with the separate entities of the old Soviet Union “renaming” all of the towns and places after their old names before communism.  To rename them indicates the removal of communist authority and the replacing of the old.  And this is an innate knowledge of God which motivates men to do that (Romans one).

God’s Word says for us to pray in Christ’s Name.  We even name ourselves after His Name – Christians.  And the Name indicates authority!  Although Adam demonstrated his God-given authority by naming the animals, and his own wife, we do not pray “in Adam’s name”!  We have a new authority.  And He is Jesus Christ.  The old Adam no longer has authority over us, because we are now in union with Christ – in union with Him in His life, in His suffering, in His death, in His burial, in His resurrection and in His ascension to glory.