Matthew 18 Questions and Answers
1. Read Matthew 18:1-11. What question did the disciples ask Jesus? What was His answer?
- The disciples asked Jesus, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?"
- Jesus' answer was, "Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.
- What did the disciples need to change? Instead of thinking of being the greatest, they needed to humble themselves like the little child Jesus had called to Himself. They needed to change their idea of what the kingdom of heaven was like. As long as we consider our own self as the most important thing in the world, we cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven.
- Jesus is saying that in a child we see the characteristics which should characterize a person that is in the kingdom of heaven. Eg. Has a spirit of wonder, can forgive and forget, there is a beautiful innocence in children. But more importantly, they are humble (and that's how we should treat those around us), they are dependent on those who love and care for them and trust them to meet their needs (we should be that dependent on the Lord and trust Him to meet all our needs, too). Unfortunately, there are also children who are very demanding and self-centered.
2. Do you think you have the qualities necessary for being considered great in the kingdom of heaven?
- Am I humble, do I trust God unconditionally, do I depend on God, think of God as greater than me?
3. What should we do to little children? Why? Give an example of how we can do that?
- We should welcome a little child in Jesus' name. (for Jesus' sake)
- If we do, it is really welcoming Jesus
- To welcome a child can mean to embrace the one who belongs to Jesus Christ, to welcome them as a guest, to give the child the care, protection with kindness and love and teaching which he requires to make him into a person that lives well and gets to know God better. Then you are doing that to Jesus Christ.
- How you treat a person is how you are treating Christ. (Matthew 25:40)
4. What should we not do to little children? Why?
- Should not cause a little one who believes in Jesus to sin. It would be better if that person were to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
- Jews take the view that one of the most unforgiveable of all sins is to teach another to sin, for then that person may teach someone else to sin and so sin continues to grow and multiply. It is a terrible thing to destroy someone's innocence and trust.
- Drowning for a Jew terrified him. Drowning was sometimes a Roman punishment but never Jewish. To the Jew it was the symbol of utter destruction.
- Jesus was saying that you'd be better off dead than alive if you cause a Christian to sin.
- In every child there are infinite possibilities for good or ill. It is the responsibility of the parent, church, and teacher to see that his possibilities for good are realized. To cause such a child to stumble or to bring a child into a situation where they could meet such a stumbling block is sin.
- Causing one to sin, or literally to "stumble," meant causing the person to fall from the way of Christ and be damned (as in1 Cor 8:9)
- We should not look down on these little ones, because their collective holy angels in heaven are always looking into the face of God. They are the holy angels who have access to His throne. They behold His face, and those angels have as their special assignment the care of God's little ones. It does not say that each child has a guardian angel. Vs 11
- Whatever we do to these little ones, we are in fact doing to Jesus.
5. Do you think Jesus is just talking about little children here, or could it also mean or be applied to others?
- Some commentaries say this could be referring to those that are young in the faith - those who could be easily misled or those who innocently trust religious leaders because they are not yet well grounded in their faith.
- These we should also welcome for Jesus' sake, give them the spiritual care and protection they need with kindness and love, teaching them the truths of God's Word so they will become well grounded and strong followers of Jesus.
- We definitely should not teach these ones to stumble in their walk with God because of our lifestyle. We need to set good examples for them.
6. What are some things that could cause a person to sin?
- Bring the person into an environment where there are temptations to sin
- Have the person watch you while you sin and encourage them to do the same
- Teach a person to sin overtly or by example. Eg. Steal, tell a lie, etc. (Tell your kids to say you are not at home when a phone call comes in)
- Allowing our children to watch things on TV that are not pleasing to the Lord
- Asking an employee to do something illegal or unethical.
- A man seducing a young girl to give up her innocence
- You can cause a little one to sin by favoring one child over another, so the other one becomes envious and jealous.
- You can do it by pushing them to achieve levels that are impossible for them; and they have absolutely no sense of accomplishment, no sense of affirmation and satisfaction; and so they get resentful and bitter toward those who push them without ever encouraging or praising them.
- You can do it by neglect. You can do it by bitter, angry words that cut others down and may cause them to feel angry and bitter toward you.
- You can do it by physical, emotional or verbal punishment that's abusive; not only in a parent-child relationship, but in a husband-wife relationship.
- In any relationship, you can drive a person to sinning by your lack of sensitivity, by your lack of care, your lack of concern.
- You can cause Christians to sin directly by being a seducer or indirectly by being an exasperator.
- Failing to lead God's people to righteousness can cause little ones to sin because they do not know better.
- What sorrow awaits a person who tempts or causes others to sin. Eg. Eve to Adam
7. If you sense that you have caused a little one to sin, how do you make it right?
- You need to ask for forgiveness and help that person to understand what is right according to the Bible.
8. If someone has caused you to sin, what can you do to become free?
- Make sure you have forgiven all those who have caused you to sin. If you don't you will become bitter and God can't forgive you. Matthew 6:14-15
9. What is Jesus' solution to how to deal with a lifestyle of sin and causing others to sin?
- Judaism abhorred self-mutilation (Dalman 1929:227), so this is an especially stark image of the cost one must be willing to pay to avoid spiritual death.
- It would be better to enter heaven with limbs missing than to have all your body parts and go into hell.
- In Matthew 5:29, 30 Whatever it takes for you to deal drastically with your sin, do it. It's better than entering into hell. He's not literally telling them to chop off all their limbs, but He is saying, "Take drastic measures with sin...or you'll go to hell."
- Here Jesus is saying, deal drastically with your own sin...put a watch over your eyes. Guard your hands and your feet, where they go and what they do. Be careful what you see. Take drastic measures, because you'll never be able to keep from causing someone else to sin unless you are not sinning yourself. We wouldn't want to be assisting Satan to help another believer or anyone else to sin.
10. Read Matthew 18:12-14. What do we see about the love of the shepherd here?
- He loves us individually. One sheep gone out of a hundred, yet the shepherd wouldn't rest till he brought it home; and that's the Shepherd Father's love. It is an infinite love. He sees not flocks, but individual sheep; and everyone has a special, intimate relationship with Him.
- He is patient and caring. The sheep may be foolish, but the shepherd still brings them back.
- The shepherd immediately goes out to look for the lost sheep. He is concerned that danger does not destroy the tender sheep. The longer they are exposed to danger, the greater the pain that could be experienced.
- The shepherd's love pursues. He forgives and restores, bringing the sheep back into the fold. There are no beatings or punishments.
- It is a rejoicing love. There's no contempt or grudge. He rejoices more over the one that came back than the one that stayed.
- He lovingly protects us. God is not willing for any of His little ones to be lost (should be spiritually marred, spiritually wounded or spiritually ruined.)
- God cares. Christ cares, and the angels care. Because of this, we need to follow this example of care and be careful that we do not despise or look down on one of these little ones/new in the faith.
11. How have you experienced the love of the shepherd?
12. Read Matthew 18:15-17. What are the steps Jesus laid out for settling disputes between Christians?
- If a fellow Christian wrongs us, we are to go to that person privately face to face and point out their fault and try to resolve their differences. If they listen and confess the wrong, you have won them back.
- If the person will not listen, take 2 or 3 others along with you (a wise, kind, gracious person) so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses and who also can serve as encouragers to solve the problem and to help the process of reconciliation.
- If the person will still not listen, tell it to the church who will try to settle the disagreement. This is instead of going to court. It is in the atmosphere of Christian love, prayer and fellowship that personal relationships can be made right. If the person won't even listen to the church, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector. Then the person is showing that they are not interested in having fellowship in the church and remove themselves from the church. The church is a body of believers created by Jesus to promote fellowship, forgiveness, witnessing and worship.
- William Barclay suggests that what Jesus was really saying was that when you have done all this, when you have given the person every chance, and when he remains stubborn and obstinate, and you may think that he is no better than a tax collector or a godless Gentile, you may be right. However, Jesus found that the tax collectors and Gentiles were not hopeless, that they too had a heart to be touched. Eg. Matthew and Zacchaeus who became Jesus' best friends. Even if the stubborn sinner is like a tax-collector or a Gentile, you may still win him, like Jesus did. This is in fact not a command to abandon or shun the person or to say that some people are hopeless. It is a challenge to win the person with the love which can touch even the hardest heart. No one is hopeless.
13. Have you ever experienced or heard of these steps being practiced for settling disputes between two fellow believers?
14. Read Matthew 18:18-20. What do we learn about prayer from these verses?
- The word "you" in these verses is in the plural which indicates they were written to the church. It shows that there is tremendous power in agreeing prayer. If 2 people on earth agree about anything they ask for concerning the person you are disciplining, it will be done for them by our Father in heaven. We often do pray in groups for the salvation of someone or for the physical or spiritual welfare of someone, but sometimes our prayers are not answered. What we can learn from this is that our prayers should never be selfish, just praying for our own needs and desires - here we are talking about agreeing with another person about what is happening in a church discipline situation and the way you agree to pray, God will do it. God will answer unselfish prayer but not necessarily in our way but in the way God knows to be best. Often we pray for escape from trials, hardship, disappointment or a difficult situation. God's answer is not an offer of escape but of victory.
- Where 2 or 3 are gathered together to pray in Jesus' name, (the name represents a person's authority and character) He is with them. God is just as present in a small congregation or prayer meeting or at a home where a family is praying together as in a large meeting. Jesus is wherever faithful hearts meet, however few they may be.
- What does it mean to bind and loose? The authority that was given to Peter to bind and loose (to define what is permitted and what is forbidden) in Matthew 16:18-19 is now given to the church (not another individual).
- It doesn't mean that the church can forgive, cancel or pardon sins and so determine a person's eternity. It may mean that the relationships which we establish with our fellow man last not only while on earth but into eternity - therefore we must get them on the right path.
- John MacArthur: When a person repents, we can say their sins have been loosed from them. If they will not repent even though they have gone through Biblical church discipline then we can say that their sins are bound to them.
- This is a spiritual binding to recognize that a person needs still to repent and not an eternal binding or damnation to hell which we do not have the authority to do because God will make that judgment.
15. Have you ever experienced a time when you prayed with someone else or a group of people that a sinning person in the church will repent so their sins will be loosed from them or bound them in their sin because they refused to repent?
16. Read Matthew 18:21-35. How many times did Peter think was enough to forgive a person? Why do you think Peter used that number?
- Peter thought 7 times was being very generous. The Rabbis said you needed to forgive 3 times but the 4th time you couldn't. That was based on Amos where it talks about God condemning & forgiving the different nations for their 3 transgressions but not for 4.
- Peter must have thought he was very generous in doubling the amount and even adding 1 more time. I wonder if he thought he would be commended for his generous spirit.
17. What did Jesus say about how many times we should forgive a person?
- 77 times. I wonder if Jesus gave that kind of a high number because there would be no way of keeping track or to get so in the habit of forgiving you only want what is best for the other person.
- Jesus certainly has forgiven me more than 77 times and He is my example.
18. Do we need to forgive a person if they haven't asked for forgiveness yet?
- Look at the Lord's prayer where it says that we are asking God to forgive us as we forgive others. If we have to wait until they ask for forgiveness before we can forgive, then we are in jeopardy of God not being able to forgive us. Also, right after the Lord's Prayer Matthew 6:14-15 it says "For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins." I don't get the impression that there are any conditions to you being able to forgive others. It sounds like we personally need to take the initiative whether they know you have forgiven them or not. Just like Jesus forgave all of us and some accept that gift of forgiveness and some don't and He did the act of forgiving before we asked for forgiveness.
19. What is the kingdom of heaven like in these verses?
- A king settling accounts and having mercy on one who could in no way pay his enormous debt (millions of dollars). But if after cancelling that debt that couldn't be paid, He discovers that that person refused to forgive someone for a very small debt (a few dollars) that was owed to him, the King would reverse the mercy and act on justice and have the person punished severely and thrown into prison until they could repay the whole debt (which was impossible so it would go on forever).
20. What lesson can we learn from this parable?
- Jesus forgave us all our sins that we couldn't pay for, so He expects us to forgive those who have sinned against us. The amount others sin against us is so miniscule compared to how much we have sinned against the Lord.
21. Are there any people that you need to forgive but haven't yet? What happens if we don't? (Matthew 6:15)
- You won't be forgiven by God.
- We will be called wicked
- We would be scolded for not showing mercy when we have been shown mercy.
- We will experience punishment until we can pay your debt, which a person never can so it would be an eternal punishment.