Matthew 18

Matthew 18:3

and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

To enter the kingdom of heaven is to enter new life and vice versa. See entry for Matthew 18:8.

Matthew 18:8

“If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire.

(a) Cut it off; see entry for Matt. 5:30.

(b) Enter life. Two kinds of life are described in the Bible; the psuche– or soul life we inherited from Adam and the everlasting zoe– or spirit life that comes from God (John 5:26). It’s the second kind of life that is described here. See entry for New Life.

(c) Eternal fire; see entry for “fire is not quenched” in Mark 9:44.

Matthew 18:9

“If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell.

(a) Pluck it out; see entry for Matt. 5:30.

(b) Enter life; see previous verse.

(c) Fiery hell; see entry for Matt. 5:22.

Matthew 18:19

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.

(a) My Father; see entry for Matthew 5:16.

(b) It shall be done. The God Jesus revealed is a listening and responsive Father (Matt. 6:8, 7:11, Luke 11:13, John 15:16, 16:23, 26). He hears your prayers and knows your needs even before you ask him (Matt 6:8).

Matthew 18:21

Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?”

(a) My brother. The context is a Christian brother or sister sinning against you (see Matt. 18:15). In Luke 17:3 repentance is given as a condition for forgiveness. But here in Matthew, we are exhorted to forgive the sinning brother or sister unconditionally (see next verse).

(b) Forgive. To forgive means to send away or dismiss. It is a deliberate letting go or dismissal of a debt, offence, or sin. See entry for Forgiveness.

(c) Up to seven times? Peter is well-meaning, but his seemingly generous offer smacks of self-righteousness.

To be self-righteous is to place confidence in one’s goodness or moral performance. “I can forgive anything.” It’s seeking rules to be measured by. “I can do it seven times!” It’s justifying oneself by making comparisons with others. “The rabbis say we should forgive three times, but I can do more!”

Self-righteousness is taking pride in your ability to keep the rules. It’s saying, as the Israelites did at the foot of Mt. Sinai, “Just tell us what to do and we’ll do it” (Ex. 19:8).

It is the nature of the flesh to be self-righteous, to judge ourselves as good and decent, especially in comparison with others. (“What was Peter thinking? I would never say such a dumb thing.”) But Peter was no better or worse than any of us. He just had the misfortune of getting his self-righteous rants recorded in the Bible. “Even if all others reject you, Lord, I never will” (Matt. 26:33). But God bless Peter for his brash mouth because he got Jesus talking, and what Jesus said next is good news for self-righteous promise-breakers like Peter, the Israelites, and the rest of us.

Matthew 18:22

Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

Up to seventy times seven. “Seven times!” Jesus snorts. “Try seventy times seven.” In other words, be extravagant with your forgiveness. Forgive as Christ forgave you – without hesitation, reservation, or qualification (Col. 3:13).

Prior to the cross, Jesus preached conditional forgiveness to people living under the old covenant. “If you forgive, God will forgive” (Matt. 6:14, Mark 11:25). However, as the messenger of the new covenant, he also demonstrated and proclaimed unconditional forgiveness (Matt. 9:2, 18:27, Luke 7:42, 47, 11:4, 23:34).

Matthew 18:27

“And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.

(a) Forgave him the debt. Jesus told this story to show us that God freely forgives us on account of grace and without any regard for our behavior (Eph. 1:7). Jesus died for us while we were sinners, and he forgave us while we were sinners (Col. 2:13). Before you repented, confessed, or did anything, the Lamb of God carried away all your sins – past, present, and future. See entry for Luke 23:34.

(b) Forgave. The God Jesus revealed is a merciful, gracious and forgiving Father (Matt. 6:14, Luke 6:36, 7:47, 15:22, 23:34, John 1:14). See entry for Forgiveness.

Matthew 18:33

‘Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’

Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Mercy is how grace appears to the needy.

Just as we are saved by grace (Eph. 2:5), we are saved by mercy (Tit. 3:5). Just as we are forgiven by grace (Eph. 1:7), we are forgiven by mercy (Matt. 18:33, Luke 1:77-78, Heb. 8:12). See entry for Mercy.

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