Matthew 18:1-14 Part 3

On the seven previous occasions in which we have addressed these fourteen verses, at least one issue has become very, very clear; and it is that God supremely values His newborn babes – His rebirthed ones!  And there should be no doubt in any of our minds as to the reason; and it certainly isn’t because of anything we’ve done!  (God Himself said, in His Own Word, that He is no respecter of persons.)

We are held in such high esteem because God has graciously humbled us in the humiliation of His Own Son and caused us to be incorporated into His body!  It is His Eternally Begotten Son Who has so pleased Him; and we who are reborn into Him participate, with Him, in the richness of the love of God.

So we are His handiwork; recreations in Christ.  And woe to the man who entraps one of God’s “little ones”.  And since we are joint-heirs with Christ to the eternal love of God, should anyone receive one of us for the Name (power and authority) of Christ – then Christ Himself is received!  And that relationship is so intimately complete, that Scripture describes it in terms of our having “died” to our former origins in Adam, and “made alive” in the new, perfect humanity of Christ.

And in it all, we are recipients of the gracious work of God on our behalf – the natural reaction being wonder, humility and thanksgiving at having received such completely undeserved favor.  But God loves His Own work.  Whatever He does is right and good and holy.  And man is not to be so presumptuous as to think lightly of anything God has done.

And in order to emphasize that point, Jesus, in the last three verses (twelve through fourteen), provides us with the most beautiful analogy of God’s purposeful love toward us.  And it is very important that we understand that that’s what the analogy is for!  We’ve said these things before; but if an attempt is made to analyze all the “pieces” of the analogy, as if it were a Theological puzzle, then we do violence to the purpose of Jesus’ words.

For example, the analogy says that the ninety-nine sheep who did not stray away from the flock were left up on the mountain while the shepherd went and searched for the one that was wandering.  If we attempted to determine the “meaning’ of the ninety-nine left on the mountain, we would be entering into vain disputes and a Theological quagmire.  And we would lose sight of the real purpose, which is God’s jealous ownership and love for each one of His newborns!

Another example would be to determine the reason why the one sheep strayed away.  But that’s not the purpose of the analogy either!  Jesus leaves the reason completely void of emphasis in order that His disciples’ minds would be focused upon God’s work and the value of each one whom He holds in high esteem.  The “subject matter” which prompted this analogy is Jesus’ warning to His disciples not to “despise” even one of His newborns!  (Don’t diminish their value.)

And this is such a serious offense that Jesus emphasizes it with comments concerning the constant vigilance of God’s angels, and with this analogy concerning God’s eternal love and concern for each and every one of them.  In other words, don’t despise one of these who belong to Him, because He sees whatever maltreatment they might receive; and He jealously guards each of them!

And since that is the case, there is an implied threat involved.  Do you see that?  “See to it….”  “Don’t you dare… despise even one of these little ones, because God watches over them and loves and protects each of them.”

So that makes this term “despise”, verse ten, an important issue, doesn’t it?  Not only do “entrapments” of reborn babes merit annihilation in the depths of the sea, but threats are also implied with regard to “despising” them!  “Receiving” one of them for the Name of Christ actually includes receiving Christ.  “Despising” one runs afoul of the love and esteem of God the Father!  One who has humiliated himself before God and cuts off the sin of the old man – for the sake of Christ and His humiliation – had better not be the subject of entrapment; and he had better not be despised!  (The translation is:  “to think down on”, or “to diminish the value of”.)

And the reason is that he is God’s work; and God is his Father and his judge.  Entrapping a “little one” is an attempt to snatch him away from the Father by causing him to revert to his old, rebellious, accursed nature.  And since God the Son suffered and died for him, it, ultimately, is an attempt to make the body of Christ unclean – and ruin God’s plan for the salvation of His people!  Everyone must agree that that’s very serious.  And that’s why such graphic “woes” are presented by Jesus against those through whom the entrapments come.

But this morning we want to learn as much as possible about this warning against “despising” a newborn babe in Christ.  What is it?  What are some examples of it from Scripture?  And what about some further explanation as to why it’s so important?

Last Lord’s day we learned that the literal Greek word means “to think down on”.  It doesn’t mean to treat with contempt; it doesn’t mean to invalidate, or annul, or abrogate – it has to do with undervaluing, or discounting, or underestimating the significance of someone.  And remember, the topic of our passage this morning is the value that God places on His work of salvation on behalf of His newborn “little ones” – those rebirthed into Christ.

Now, the translators of the Older Testament into Greek have used this word very wisely on a number of occasions; and I want to examine a few of those first.

Its initial use occurs in the historical setting of Isaac and his two sons – Jacob and Esau.  Isaac, the son of Abraham, was about to pass on the Covenantal blessings of God to his eldest son Esau, who had already sold his birthright to his brother for some food (Genesis twenty-seven).  But their mother, knowing that the blessing was supposed to be given to Jacob, devised a scheme whereby Jacob would be blessed instead of Esau.

But the Scripture says (verse twelve) that Jacob was afraid that he would be perceived as one who was “underestimating the value” of his father, and his covenant blessing, if he participated in the scheme!  Jacob did not want to discount the significance of his father in any way!  One of the primary issues of this passage is the contrast between the two brothers and how they viewed their father and his blessing.  And for that reason this event is brought up time and again in later Revelation – for God loved Jacob and hated Esau!  The Covenant of God – the work of God for the salvation of His people in Christ – was given to Abraham, who was to be the father (by promise) of the nations.  And that Covenant was strengthened to Isaac, and then again to Jacob.

But the fact that Jacob feared underestimating the value of his father and his blessing is of striking significance – especially in a time like ours when children “think down on” their parents!  They are underestimating their significance!

God has given fathers and mothers (especially believing ones) places of authority and honor with respect to children.  But children underestimate their value.  That’s exactly what Solomon meant when he wrote, in Proverbs twenty-three, twenty-two, “Don’t despise your mother when she is old.”  The translators correctly used our Greek word here – “to think down on”.

Children “discount” their parents’ value!  They “underestimate” their significance!  And their “significance” is that God has placed them in a position of honor and authority with respect to children.  But children, for the most part, see their parents with respect to themselves rather then with respect to God!

The “self”, in sinful children, which is to be mortified in the “newborn babe”, is the very center of the whole universe!  And everything is judged from the standpoint of self!  The self-deceived, self-deluded, self-willed, self-esteemed, self-seeking, self-interested, self-existing child has an amphitheater from which he judges the world – including his parents.  And that child is the only one on the stage, as far as he’s concerned!  And the derivative of his own performance on that stage is the undervaluing of his parents’ significance!

When a self-interested child is the center of his own theatre, then those around him, consequentially, are discounted in value!  And what follows that is expected, isn’t it?  As self-centeredness matures and a child grows in his own self-esteem and self-worth, he becomes indifferent toward his parents (of little value) – and, in some cases and in some respects, they actually become embarrassing and contemptible!  And there you have arrogance, defiance, rebellion, disobedience and dishonor.  But that’s another sermon….

The point here being – that God (and His value) ought to be center stage.  In a newborn babe, the “self” is put down; a child who belongs to Christ sees his parents from God’s perspective rather than from the perspective of his old, self-willed nature!  Self-esteem is replaced with God’s-esteem.  God said that parents (especially believing ones) are to be honored!  And that’s the reason why their significance is not to be underestimated!  That’s the reason why they’re not to be devalued or discounted!  So, children, honor your parents!

Jesus says in our text here – “See to it you don’t despise – underestimate the significance – of even one of these little ones.”  Their value arises, and derives, from the value that I, Myself, place on them.  I Am their Father and their Judge.  I have esteemed them; and I have bought them with a heavy price.  And I have said what their value is.  So don’t you dare discount them!  You may not devalue them, for you have no right to judge their value!  As children, such as Jacob, have no right to diminish the “God-established” significance of their parents, so believers have no right to underestimate the significance of another babe in Christ!

Now let’s just touch on one or two other appearances of this word in the Older Testament before we look at a couple of important ones in the New.  For instance, in Hosea six, verse seven we see this as an inadequate English translation:  “Israel dealt treacherously with God,” for example by transgressing the Covenant.  What Hosea actually said was that Israel discounted the significance of God’s Covenant – much like Adam did!  That’s very similar to Proverbs nineteen, sixteen which, when translated correctly, says, “he that keeps the Commandment keeps his own soul; but he that discounts the significance of his ways shall die!”

In other words a man will assume that God’s Covenant isn’t exactly what He says it is, and assume that God’s Commandments aren’t really all that important; and he assumes that God isn’t actually What He says He is; therefore his thoughts and words and actions aren’t all that significant where God is concerned!

But Solomon says that “he who discounts the significance of his ways shall die!”  A man who is so self-consumed that he doesn’t regard his behavior before God as consequential, will die!

There are a few other instances in the Older Testament of value to us, but, for the sake of time, let’s examine two or three in the New.

In First Corinthians chapter eleven, which is Paul’s great reprimand of the Church with regard to the Lord’s Table, he accuses them of “despising” Christ’s Church by the way they come to the table.  Some bring great quantities of things, and they eat too much and drink too much; others don’t bring anything because they don’t have anything; some “clan” together because of what they have or who they are; many are inclined to be contentious; and they’re not all “like-minded” with regard to the faith!

And these things, according to Paul, were scandalous!  The poor of those who were newborn babes were being shamed and disgraced and disillusioned by it all.  And Paul tells the Corinthians that they are underestimating the significance of Christ’s Church by the way they are celebrating the Lord’s Table!

Now there are two more appearances of this word in Paul’s first letter to Timothy.  Timothy was the pastor at the Church in Ephesus, and he was a relatively young man – presumably in his mid-thirties.  Paul writes to him, verse twelve of chapter four,


“Let no man despise your youth; but be an example to the believers, in word, in lifestyle, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.”


Now, here’s what Paul is really saying to this young man:  “Timothy, you are a very young man:  to avoid anyone diminishing your value as a minister in Christ’s Church, be an example to them in everything you do – in you lifestyle, your speech, your love and your faith – (Paul says) and especially in your study and your preaching.”  These are good words for every minister, and for all the rest of us who are interested in making disciples in Christ’s Kingdom!

The second appearance of this word is in chapter six of this same letter to Timothy.  Here’s what he says in verses one and two:


“Let all who are under the yoke of slavery regard their masters as worthy of all honor, so that the Name of God and the teaching may not be blasphemed.  Those who have believing masters must not discount that on the ground that they are brothers: rather they must serve all the better since those who benefit by their service are believers and beloved.”


Now, here’s what that means.  Every newborn babe in Christ who serves a master must esteem that master worthy of all honor, because of the Name of God!  Sound familiar?  All authority is given by God; therefore, because of Him, that authority is to be honored.  Then Paul jams the Sword a little deeper by saying that, just because you have a believer for a master is no reason for you to “discount” that and take advantage of him to serve him less!  The fact that he is a believer and is beloved of God is all the more reason that he should benefit from your service!

It is often the case (and I’m sure it’s been your experience as well as it’s been mine) that contentions and splits and even law-suits occur when we diminish the significance of our own brothers in Christ, and take advantage of them because they’re believers!  But Paul squashes that notion – they are beloved of God, he says.  Therefore you must regard them the same way!  See to it, Jesus says, that you don’t discount one of these “little ones” whom God holds in high esteem, and whom God has redeemed with His blood!

Now, very quickly, one more.  In his second letter to the Christian refugees in dispersion, the apostle Peter is warning them about false prophets and teachers.  And one of their characteristics by which they can be spotted is by their libertarian depreciation of governmental authority!  The angels, who are always beholding the countenance of God in heavens, and who are greater in power and might than you are, says Peter, “bring not railing accusations against them before the Lord.”  “But these are brute beasts,” Peter says, who “speak evil of things they don’t understand!”  They don’t understand that we don’t diminish the significance of governmental authority.  Why?  Because God has established that authority; we must not discount the work of God!

Well, there are others which would help us to understand our text, but I think that may be enough.  Newborn babes – those rebirthed into Christ – are the handiwork of God; we are especially beloved as recreations in Christ.  And woe to the person who entices us from Christ – by his authority, or by his flowery language, or by persecution, or by causing us suffering; and we, too, must see to it that we never discount, or underestimate, the value of even one of these “little ones” whom God esteems so highly.

As verse fourteen says, it is not our Father’s will that one of His newborn babes should be lost.  We were all lost, and He sought us all out – each one of us – and paid the highest price for each one, and He put the Good Shepherd in charge of the whole flock; and none of us have any right to discount the value of another.

Each one reborn in Christ belongs to God and receives His value and significance from God because God paid for him with the blood of His Own Son – a high price indeed!

Therefore it is insufferable arrogance to presume that you have the right to diminish their significance – to “think down on them” – to despise them.

Each of us who “receives” one of these (giving them the value that God gives them) receives Christ Himself because of the value that God places on His Own Son, and on all those reborn in Him.

So do not entrap one of these; and do not devalue one of these.  They don’t belong to you.

If you entrap one of these into sin, you’ve committed a felony against God.  And if you “think down” on one of these, you’ve usurped the Authority of God their Father.