Matthew 18:1-14 Part 2

The writer of Ecclesiastes said, “That which has been, it already is; and that which will be already has been.  And God seeks what is pursued.”

The prophet Samuel said, “We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.”  And the Chronicler says, “Our days on the earth are as a shadow, and there is none abiding.”

The Psalmist said, “Behold, thou hast made my days as an handbreadth; and mine age is as nothing before Thee.”  And James the apostle said, “What is your life?  It is even as vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”


So what is enduring – and of importance?

One human view of “being’ and time is that “what goes around, comes around.”  It’s a “cyclical” understanding of things.  “Whatever happens – happens.”  And “history repeats itself.”  Another says that, through his evolved mind, man will, one day, usher in a utopian existence.  (This is man-centered understanding of existence, time, and history.)

But listen to what some say is the most sublime composition ever written – the Psalm of Moses, listed as Psalm ninety:


“Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations.  Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God….  The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away….  So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom….”


So, what are the important things?  Man’s understanding of time and history?

The truth, in a decadent society, is “What works at the moment.”  What is best at the time is absolute.  And this doctrine of life is now all pervasive – even in the Church.  As an example, “timely subjects” and “tips for good living” have become the topics for pastors to preach on the Lord’s Day.  Sermons are no longer expositional and Theological, but practical and man-centered.  This radical altering of that which is “important” is destroying the Church.

Jesus Christ is now a “practical resource” – one to whom men can go to pray, and get things, and one who makes people feel good about themselves and live better lives.  The entire perspective is man-centered – it works for the moment.  Focusing on the Person and work of God is neither interesting nor practical; therefore it doesn’t work!

What  is of importance?

In one sense, the cultural war has completely shifted to what is now known as the “tolerance” factor.  It is no longer tolerable to be intolerable!  Since truth is whatever works for the moment, it is absolutely wrong to be judgmental.  And so great has been the shift, that the worst insult that one can receive is to be accused of being judgmental.  It’s counterproductive and negative!

What God forbids is judging others on purely human or personal standards; but He requires judgment in terms of His Law-Word.  But the world order hates His Law; and the Church (by its practical approach) doesn’t know anything about it.  So the world order is quickly winning the battle by using the “tolerance factor”.  The whole “Christian” community is tied up in knots because it doesn’t know how to deal with it!  It objects vociferously when something is done which affects its sensitivities; but when the world order quotes Jesus as saying, “judge not lest you be judged,” the Church simply sits in stunned silence!  It’s tongue-tied by the use of its own Book!  It can’t even object to being offended anymore without being branded as anti-social, intolerant, fundamentalistic zealots!  So the society continues, in its own pragmatic hedonism, to plummet, unopposed, into the depths of depravity!  All the while screaming “be tolerant!”  “Don’t judge!”

So the Church is “entrapped”, seemingly without putting up much of a defense; its “little ones’ in Christ are despised by the world; our society has become flagrantly lawless and corrupt (and may be near abandonment); our lives are as “shadows”, and then we are poured out like water on the ground, and our age is as “nothing” before God.

So, what is of importance?

The One Who was God – even before He formed the earth and the world and the mountains – the One Who Is, from everlasting to everlasting – considers His “little ones” of great importance!  So much so that the Son of God says that it would be better for one to be thrown into the depths of the sea with a millstone of an ass around his neck than to entrap one of these to sin and unbelief.

These “little ones” are of such importance to the Everlasting God, that when one is received – His Own Son is received!  And, therefore, if one is caused to suffer, then His Own Son is caused to suffer.

Each of these newborns is of such profound significance to Almighty God of Heaven and Earth, that Jesus Christ warns His Own disciples against despising even one of them!  And then, in our four verses this morning, Jesus provides a beautiful analogy of God’s gracious care over a single newborn who might be seduced and enticed into wandering!

And then, in the verses to follow, we will see that Jesus also sternly warns against “offending” even one of these “little ones”!  So each and every one, individually, is of such value and importance to the One Who Was, and Is, and Shall Be, that they must not be entrapped to sin against Him; they must not be despised; they must not be offended; and they must not be judged by human judgment – for they stand or fall before their own Judge, Who is our Father in the Heavens!  They are His, and He judges them by His Own standards!

Who is it then, who dares to seduce one of these away from God?  Who is it that defies God by despising one whom He loves?  Who is so reckless and insolent that he thinks it nothing to offend a newborn babe in Christ whom God so loves?  And who dares to challenge the authority of God by judging one of His little ones with human judgment?

In John chapter three, a passage which is equally as elegant and vital as the one we’re dealing with, a master of the law and a Pharisee-member of the Sanhedrin (Nicodemas) came to Jesus by night to inquire of him.  And Jesus immediately cuts through the verbiage of introductions and niceties – right to the point! 


“Amen, Amen, I say unto you, except a man be reborn he cannot see the Kingdom God.”


And this scribal doctor of law staggers under the impact of Jesus’ words.  All of his expectations with regard to Israel and Jerusalem are at abject variance to what this man Jesus was saying!

The law professor, Gamaliel, had already spoken to the Sanhedrin and told them that if this man weren’t from God then He would eventually prove that and just go away.  But Nicodemas was a “master” of the Jews in his own right; and he must have known of Ezekiel chapter thirty-six where God promises that His Spirit well remove hearts of flint and replace them with hearts of flesh.

And he also must have known of Jeremiah thirty-one where God promises to put His Holy Law in the hearts of His people.  But did he make all the connections to the floods of Old Testament prophecy when Jesus then says, “Amen, Amen, I say to you, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”?

Was this man Jesus speaking gibberish?  Was Nicodemas missing something concerning the coming of David’s great Son?  Was there going to be an organic restructuring of the bodies of the people of Israel when the Messiah came?  Or was there going to be some “addition” to human faculties?  Something new?  What does “reborn” mean?

But what Nicodemas didn’t understand; what all of Israel didn’t understand; what the disciples didn’t yet understand, was that Jesus was speaking of humanity – cursed by God and dead in Adam.  The curse had to be removed by the bloody sacrifice of the Perfect Man; and new humanity provided in a “second Adam”!  Man must have the curse removed in order to enter the Kingdom/Presence of God; and he must have a new human origin!  Therefore the rebirth is a “baptism” into Jesus Christ.  And that “baptism” is with the baptism with which Christ was baptized.  His baptism was the flood of the wrath of God on the cross.  So man must be reborn into Christ – united to Him in His life, His obedience, His suffering, His death, His burial, His resurrection, and His ascension to The Father.

And the rebirth involves the death and cutting off of the old origin and nature, and the defiant “killing” of its propensity to sin against God!  In Christ the usurpation and authority of sin ceases; the holiness and glory of God is desired; the whole character takes on the virtues of the obedient Son of God; having been washed clean in the baptismal waters of the crucifixion of Christ, the new creation thinks and acts according to its new nature – with new affections, with a new disposition, with new direction, under new authority!

In Christ the newborn is delivered from the guilt of sin, and the power of sin.  Having been removed from the origins of our depravity and put into a new humanity in Christ, we are removed from the representative, seminal, legal state of sin; and also, there is a change in our actual character!  By grace, God sanctifies us by our participation in Christ!  We no longer participate in our first father’s nature, because the newborn creation has “died to death”.  But now we are “alive” in Christ.  By the power of the Holy Spirit we now share in His life and are sanctified by participating in it!

And, therefore, the apostle Paul could say to the Roman Church (Romans chapter eight, verse one),


“There is therefore now no condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not under the flesh, but under the Spirit….”


To His disciples, Jesus said, “You must be changed to even enter the Kingdom.”  To Nicodemas, He said, “You must be reborn to see the Kingdom of the Heavens.”  The same power exerted when this universe was created must be exerted again on your behalf, He said.  You are completely helpless, dead, and dependent upon God for the resurrection from your accursed deadness.  You must be created new.  For without it you can have no fellowship with God.

This is the greater in the Kingdom – to be humiliated in the humiliation of Christ, to sustain the death of “self”, and to receive and live in the grace and love of God as a new creation in Christ.

And since we are joint-heirs with Christ to the love of God, we are jealously guarded and preserved in the Grace of God.  Woes are pronounced upon those who entrap us; and warnings are given to those who despise and offend us, as was said earlier.


For the remainder of our time this morning, I want us to consider what Jesus means when He says to His disciples, verse ten,


“See to it you don’t despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heavens are always seeing the countenance of My Father in Heavens.”


Although we may not be able to completely satisfy our curiosity with regard to the angels in heavens here, let me just say a few things about it that may help.  It should be obvious to all of you by now, even though nobody’s said anything about it yet, that Jesus omits the article before the word “heavens”, making it sound somewhat unusual.  “Angels in heavens.”  Heretofore, Jesus has always said, “My Father in the heavens.”  And, at the end of this sentence, He says, “…My Father in heavens.”

The Scriptures say some things about several different heavens:

1)    one having to do with that area of openness around us

2)    another having to do with the expanse of the universe

3)    and a third concerning the Glory-Cloud/Throne-Room of God which exists above and uncontained by the expanse of the universe! (Ezekiel one)

So it is probably the case that Jesus references the angels as locatable in all three heavens; and that they do what they do continually in the Presence of, and under the authority of, God the Father – where “My Father in the heavens” is the Name of the One Who has authority over all heavens.

But verse ten does not mean that each reborn babe in Christ has his own personal angel which watches out for him.  What it does mean is that all the angels, in all heavens, do the bidding of the Father.  And the “little ones” of Christ are so loved, and are so vitally important to God, that any maltreatment they might suffer is observed by the eyes of the cherubim of God.

So the disciples had better see to it that they not “despise” even one of them!  These newborn babes are ones who have been rebirthed into the body of God’s Son, and are all joint-heirs, with His Son, to the love and grace of God the Father.  So we are cherished and protected by our Father – in Christ and because of Christ!

The word “despise” is, I suppose, the very best English word to be used here; although it is not the least bit effective in conveying the meaning of our Lord.  The word He uses means “to think down on.”  Or “to underestimate the significance of….”

There are several words translated “to despise” in the Scriptures, but this word does not mean “to defraud” or to annul or invalidate, as one word means; and neither does it mean “to treat with contempt,” as another indicates.

The warning by Jesus to His disciples has to do, specifically, with discounting, or underestimating, the significance of one Whom God holds in high esteem!  Now there are a number of excellent examples in the Scriptures, and some good and necessary implications which we will begin to draw upon next Lord’s Day.

But on this glorious occasion of worship, let it be said, finally, that there can be no good reason for discouragement or disheartening among God’s “little ones.”  If God holds you in such “high esteem,” who can be against you?  Don’t let anyone trouble you – or any event, or any thing!  As Paul says at the end of Galatians;


“…whatever are true things, whatsoever are honorable things, whatsoever are just things, whatsoever are pure things, whatsoever are lovely things, whatsoever things are of good report; if virtue or if praise, think on these things.”


And Paul ends this Philippian letter with this:


“But my God shall fill your every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”


Things around us are truly “vexing” right now, our society being what it is: but every newborn babe in Him is beloved, and protected and preserved by the Almighty Power of the One Who has recreated us in Christ.

What is enduring and of importance?  What is absolute and always there?  Certainly not society’s pragmatic pronouncements of what is “right” for the moment!  Not the cries of “intolerance!”  Not the shortness of our “lifespan.”


·      Woe to the world because of entrapments of My “little ones”.

·      See to it you don’t despise one of these “little ones”.

·      It is not the well of The Father that one of these “little ones” should be lost.

·      See to it you don’t offend one of these “little ones”.

·      If anyone receives one of these “little ones” for My Name he is receiving Me!

What is important is the eternal and intimate love and protection of God our Father for each and every one of His newborn babes in Christ.