Jack Carroll – "Matthew 18" - Milltown, 1930

Matthew 18.  If you read over this chapter once every week between now and next Convention, and purpose in your heart that you will practice in your life what this chapter teaches, you will be blest by God, your future will be more pleasing to Him, you will be more of a blessing to your brothers and sisters, and a blessing in the world.

This chapter deals with two things mainly.  The first part deals with entering the kingdom of heaven, and the latter part (right to the last word) has to do with being great in the kingdom of heaven. I do not think it is at all wrong for a child of God, saint or servant, to have an ambition to be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. This is a Godly ambition and one that all of us should possess. There ought to be a deep true purpose in our hearts, "I want to have the marks of true greatness in my life, as God's Child."  Greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is very different from greatness in the kingdoms of this world.  It was difficult in the days of Jesus, during His ministry, to get into the minds and hearts of his own disciples a true conception of His Kingdom.  They were so leavened with the leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees, the interpretation of the Scriptures that they gave, that it caused them to have in their minds an entirely wrong conception of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus was hated, persecuted and crucified because He dared to contradict the interpretation of the Scriptures which was given by the recognized preachers and teachers in Palestine.  It is a very serious offence to openly contradict a preacher.  All preachers are sensitive about their preaching.  I am beginning to understand a little better why the lowly, peasant, carpenter preacher, born in Bethlehem, and brought up in Nazareth, was hated by the great theologians of that day.  These men were very proud of their interpretations of the Old Testament Scriptures, but that interpretation was given to them, not by the God of Heaven, but by the God of this world.  Any anointing that they had received to enable them to interpret the Scriptures came from Satan and not from God. Jesus contradicted their teaching; He made clear by His life and ministry that the Kingdom He came to establish was an inward and spiritual Kingdom.  In every act of His life, and every word that He spoke, He made clear that the outward and material Kingdom that they were hoping for, and in which they expected to fill the high places, was a kingdom that had no Scriptural foundation and was not the purpose of God to establish.  The root reason for the crucifixion of Jesus was that He came to establish not a kingdom according to the popular conception, but according to the mind, purpose, and plan of His Father in Heaven--an inward and spiritual Kingdom--the rule and reign of God over His own people.

The Gospel of Matthew has been called the "Gospel of the Kingdom."  The expression "Kingdom of Heaven" occurs thirty-two times in this Gospel; also the expressions "The Kingdom of God, "My Father's Kingdom," and "The Kingdom of the Father."  The theme of Matthew's Gospel is the King and His Kingdom.  The first chapter gives the story of the genealogy and birth of the King.  The second chapter tells of those that came with the question, "Where is He that is born King of the Jew?"  They had followed the star, and when they were nearing the great city of Jerusalem, they began to reason, "If this King has been born we must go to the great city, and we will find Him in some great palace." How disturbed Herod, the world king, was when the question was raised, "Where is he that is born King of the Jews?"  But those wise men turned their backs on King Herod and went down to Bethlehem, and there they found God's King, the One who had been born in a stable and cradled in a manger.  They presented unto Him gifts.  I have been amazed at the simplicity of the faith of these wise men.  They did not stumble because of the lowly circumstances in which the King was born, but they worshipped Him and henceforth acknowledged and proclaimed Him as their Prophet, Priest, and King.

In chapter three, we are told of the forerunner of the King.  In those days whenever a king traveled from one country to another, he was preceded by a herald.  The pomp and glory of the herald suggested to the minds of the people the power and greatness of the king who was coming to visit them.  God sent His forerunner to prepare the way for His King.  There is nothing great or grand about him--nothing to suggest that there was going to be a great outward kingdom established, and that the Jewish nation would be lifted up and exalted above other nations.  John the Baptist could have been a priest, but he renounced the priesthood.  As a layman, unordained and unrecognized, he was taught of God and sent by Him to prepare the way for his King.

The next chapter tells the story of the temptations that Satan presented to the King.  Satan sought to induce him to establish an outward and material Kingdom, but definitely and deliberately the Son of God rejected Satan's proposal.  The latter part gives us the story of the calling of His first ambassadors--calling them from the fishing boats to be followers of Him.

Chapters 5, 6 and 7 give us the Sermon on the Mount--the law of the Kingdom.  In chapter 10 we read of the first twelve ambassadors being sent forth.  Chapter 13 tells us in seven parables  what "the Kingdom of Heaven is like."  This should grip our minds and influence our lives.  Chapter 16 tells us about Peter's confession of Jesus as King and the wonderful revelation God gave to him.

Chapter 18 deals with just two things:  (1)  How to enter the Kingdom; (2)  How to become great in the Kingdom.  There is the greatness of those who fill high places in the kingdoms of this world, and then there is the greatness of those who are desirous of filling the place in the Kingdom of Heaven that God desires them to fill.  Chapter 20--The mother of Zebedee's children was an ambitious mother, and anxious that her boys should fill high places in the Kingdom.  The leaven of the Scribes and Pharisees was still in her mind. 

Every true mother is ambitious for her children.  James and John were glad that their mother was putting in a word for them, because they were human; but when the other ten heard that she was trying to put one over on them they were mad.  Some of God's children get mad.  Here ten of the best men in the world were filled with indignation.  They all wanted to enjoy the right hand place. Envy is the strongest of all human passions and the easiest to arouse.  Any one of us can be stirred to be envious of our brethren. "Love is strong as death, envy is cruel as the grave."  Cain killed his brother Abel because he was envious of him.  Joseph was sold as a slave and later put in prison because his brethren envied him, etc.

We can understand how those men felt when they saw the mother of Zebedee's children seeking to get the high places for her children in the Kingdom.  Jesus called them unto Him and said, "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant, etc."  In the Kingdom of God there is no room for rulers, or men and women who desire to reign over their fellows.  The truly great in the Kingdom of Heaven are among their brethren, not those that rule but those that serve. Jesus said to His disciples once, "I am among you as One that serveth."  He, the Master,the King Himself, amongst His own disciples was one who served.  John 13 speaks of those same disciples going into that upper room that last night, and sitting down to supper with, their feet unwashed.  It was customary in those days, when a company traveled together, at the close of-day for the youngest or least to wash the feet of the others.  On this occasion none of them were willing.  Jesus sat down also, giving them plenty of time to profit by His teaching, but not one of them got the victory, so He arose and He took the basin and washed the dirty feet of His own disciples.  He, the Master, manifested His greatness by taking the place of a slave, and being amongst His brethren as one that serveth.  The great man or woman in a little church, or among workers, is not always the elder, but the one who manifests toward all the Spirit of the Master, and lives to serve.

What is the pathway to true greatness in the Kingdom of God? I used to think it was all given in the first part of this chapter, but it takes all of it to make clear to us what true greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven really is.  Some of us might be foolish enough to think that greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven depends upon the years we have been in the testimony, but that is not so.  Neither does greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven depend upon our great preaching, because great preaching is a very empty thing.  It does not depend upon our seeming success as saints or servants.  It is one thing to appear great, and another thing to be really great. Greatness, even in the world, is a costly thing.  Greatness in the Kingdom of heaven is a very costly thing.  Perhaps we would like to have the appearance of greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven, and yet in our hearts would be unwilling to pay the price.

True greatness here is associated with three things:  (1)  The man or woman that serves best in the church is, in the Kingdom, the great man or woman.  The men and women who desire to rule are not great, but small, only pygmies in the Kingdom of Heaven.  They fill a very small place in God's eyes.  It is not the place our brethren gives us that counts, but the place our God gives us--the place that we have bought.

(2) True greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven is associated with our treatment and attitude toward our brethren when they are right, but especially when they are wrong.  It does not take very much of this greatness to treat our brothers and sisters right when they are right, but it does take a good deal of true greatness to treat them right when they are wrong.  Jesus tells us that there are three ways in which we may treat our brethren.  We may "receive" them, we may "offend" them, or we may "despise them.  In verses 10 to 14, He had in His mind "little ones" that go astray like lost sheep.  Most of us know that some of His true "little ones" go astray.  They may be overcome by world, flesh, or devil.  They may falter and fall, but Jesus associates true greatness in the Kingdom of Heaven with how we treat the "little ones" when they fall.  The tendency with most of us is to push our brother or sister a little deeper down rather than to lift them up.  It takes a truly great man or woman in the Kingdom of Heaven to manifest toward their weak, slipping, falling brother or sister, the Spirit of the Good Shepherd, who left the ninety-nine in the wilderness and went after that one that was lost. "It is not the Father's good pleasure that one of His little ones should perish."  There has been a great deal of unnecessary suffering among us because of the lack of true greatness in this respect.  The longer we live, the more compassionate we ought to be, and the more understanding and anxious to meet the need of the weakest, as well as the strongest, and to do our best to feed the lambs and sheep of God's flock.

(3) "If thy brother trespass against thee," what are you going to do about it?  How many of us have failed here because of ignoring the way of Jesus in helping your brother to get right and be restored to fellowship and usefulness in God's Kingdom.  When tempted to repeat anything about a brother or sister that might be injurious to them, the first question we should ask is, "Is it true?"  When satisfied that it is true, the next question should be, "Is it needful to repeat it?"  And the next, "Would it be hurtful or injurious to my brother or sister to repeat it?"

I am more satisfied than ever with the wisdom of God revealed in the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus, and I see here in Matthew 18 a manifestation of that wisdom which, if carried out in the Name and Spirit of Jesus, the aggrieved brother or sister will be won, and the case ends there.  Go to your brother in the Name and in the Spirit of Jesus, not to add to his condemnation, but with a desire and purpose to help toward his restoration.  Between you and him alone, talk it over; and "if he will hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother."  Oh, how wicked some of us have been.  Instead of following this advice and counsel we have gone to somebody else or written some letter, needlessly advertising our brother's failure, and in so doing injured our brother, sinning against God. Jesus was the friend of publicans and sinners.  Even though that man or woman may, by his or her own attitude and hardness of heart, cut themselves off from fellowship, you must still manifest toward them the Spirit of Christ, and have a deep anxiety that your brother or sister may yet be restored.  What you do thus is recognized by God.

When Peter heard this he got all worked up and said, "Lord, how often should a man forgive his brother?  Seven times?"  I don't know who Peter had been quarreling with when he asked that question. The Pharisees taught that a man should be forgiven three times. Peter had gone further and had done so seven times, and he expected Jesus to pat him on the back, but instead Jesus said, "Peter, not seven times, but seventy times seven," which means times without end.  Then Peter, or some of the others, said, "Lord, increase our faith."

In order to emphasize the need of forgiveness, Jesus said that there was a great king who took account of his servants.. One owed him $10,000,000, but he admitted his debt and said, "Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all."  The lord of that servant was moved with compassion and forgave him that debt.  I am glad for the compassion of the lord and his amazing forgiveness.  This man went out and demanded of one of his fellow servants to pay him a small debt he owed him.  He would not have patience or compassion on him, but had him arrested and cast into prison.

When the other servants heard about it, they were very sorry and went and told their lord.  The lord called that unforgiving servant and said, "I forgave you ten million dollars, why did you not forgive that fellow-servant who only owed you one hundred dollars?"  Then his Lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, "0 thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all thy debt because thou desirest me:  shouldst not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee?"  And the lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all unto him.  So likewise shall My Heavenly Father do unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses. How many of you will admit in your hearts, "It is true--I am in the hands of the tormentors.  I am not enjoying the fellowship of God or His people.  I am nursing a spirit of unforgiveness toward some brother or sister.Don't be like that, don't remain there. Remember the ten million dollars that you owed, remember the mercy, compassion and forgiveness of your Lord, and let that memory soften and break your heart and move you to forgive from your heart every man his trespasses.  Honor the King who has forgiven and set you free, and forgive from your heart your brother and sister.  True greatness in the Kingdom of God then, depends upon three things:  (1)Lowly service; (2) Treating your brother and sister right, but especially when they are wrong; (3) Forgiving from your heart every man and woman their trespasses.

Read Matthew 18 once a week until next Convention, practice what it teaches, and you will be truly great in the Kingdom of Heaven.