Jesus is the heaven-born king of the world. He came to establish his kingdom, which Matthew defines as the active reign of Christ in the hearts of men and women. This active reign of Christ creates a people — those who have submitted to the will of God in Christ. This people has a community life. In chapter 18, Matthew gives us five aspects of this community life.
The disciples ask Jesus, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” His response is, “Whoever humbles him like [a] child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” His point is simple. Children are humble. They are reliant on their parents. They are quick to trust other children. They are young and seemingly insignificant according to the measures of the world. Members of God’s kingdom are to emulate children in their trust of their king and willingness to accept and befriend others.
Question of Application: Do you have a child’s faith before the Lord Jesus Christ and his people? Are you open to trust and accept other people as Christ accepted you?
Moral Purity (18:7-9)
The kingdom of God is to be characterized by moral purity. It is the king’s standard. His people are to reflect his moral character. Thus, Jesus told his disciples to cut off the parts of the body that lead them into temptation. He’s not speaking of actual self-mutilation here. He’s using hyperbole to emphasize the importance self-discipline and the radical removal of sin from our lives. When sin is not dealt with, the judgment upon it is great.
Question of Application: Are you prepared to drastically deal with the sin in your life and get rid of it?
A shepherd leaves 99 sheep in order to find the 1 that has wandered away. Jesus used this analogy to illustrate the importance of every one of the sheep that he has been called to shepherd. He pursues his sheep and gently brings them back to the fold. We are to do the same with those who have wandered away from the church. That’s grace at work.
Question of Application: Who should you go get and bring back to the congregation of God?
Honest Conflict Resolution (18:15-20)
Being sinned against and hurt is a reality of life. It happens to those within the kingdom just as it does to those standing on the outside. Jesus prescribes a simple process for dealing with those who have hurt you or against whom you hold something. It takes honesty and commitment to resolve conflict properly.
Question of Application: Are you prepared to honestly resolved the conflicts you have with others? When you resolve conflict do you follow the biblically prescribed method?
How much are we suppose to forgive others? Seven times? No. Seventy times seven times. In other words, we are to forgive others without limit. Jesus asked, “How are you to be forgiven by God, if you are unwilling to forgive others?” God’s kingdom is a kingdom of forgiveness. Those who have been forgiven much are to forgive much.
Question of Application: Are you willing to forgive others without limit? Do you hold something against someone in your past or present that has caused you not to forgive them? If so, what do you plan to do about it?