Lesson 70: Dealing with Sin in the Kingdom
Matt. 18:6-35, Mark 9:42-50
A Blending of The Four Gospel Records. This is lesson # 70. Welcome again! In our last lesson we were considering Jesus' instruction to the apostles at Capernaum, First we discussed Jesus' conversation and instruction to Peter concerning the tribute money. Then Jesus called the twelve together in a house and asked them what it was that they disputed about on the way, i.e. during their travels back to Capernaum from the region of Caesarea Philippi. They were hesitant at first to answer; but, Jesus knew their heart and their false ambitions, for they had disputed over who would be the greatest in the kingdom. This helps us to see their concept and views at that stage with respect to the coming kingdom. You will recall that Jesus took up a little child as a visual aid and told them, "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all", i.e in the kingdom. And then during that session, the apostle John spoke up and told Jesus about a case, undoubtedly on that trip just concluded, someplace along the way; "Master, we saw one casting out devils IN THY NAME, and he followeth not us; and we forbade him..." This exposed John’s jealousies with reference to official prerogative in such matters. There is a great lesson here for us, when we consider this in light of the discussion on who is the greatest in the kingdom. They were not to be brotherhood regulators. And, thus, the citizens of Christ kingdom are not to be brotherhood regulators. If the blind lead the blind and both fall into the ditch, they must suffer the consequences. You see, even the apostles could not on their own; establish official prerogative.
Now, Jesus had told the apostles in Matt. 16:19 that they were to do the loosing and binding of the new rules and regulations for Christ's kingdom, or church. But, we must realize here, those new rules and regulations to be bound and loosed concerning Christ's kingdom, were NOT simply indiscriminate legislation thought up and voted upon by the apostles. Those new rules and regulations cane from Jesus Christ himself, i.e. God's Son. The kingdom or church was built upon Jesus as the Christ, that was Peter's confession in Matt. 16:16, and that declaration was the rock foundation of the kingdom, Jesus said. Notice, that Jesus said, "I WILL GIVE UNTO THEE [i.e. the apostles] the keys of the kingdom", i.e. the rules and regulations and authority for entry into the kingdom and continuance as citizens in that kingdom (or church) would be shaped and given to the apostles by Christ Jesus, himself. It was NOT to be their legislation. AND thus, obviously, NO HIERARCHY in the church at a later time would develop and enforce such official prerogative.
We were forced to adjourn our last lesson some where in the middle of Jesus' discussion with the apostles on that occasion. So, we would like to pickup our discussion today in the middle of that session. We have exhausted Luke on the subject; so, let's begin our reading in Mark. V.42-50 at the end of Mark's 9th chapter. Please get your eyes on that. Let's read, beginning in Mark 9:42. Remember, this is Jesus speaking to the twelve. "And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a mill stone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltiness, wherewith will he season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another."
Matthew's report of the discussion on that occasion is more extensive than that of Mark. Let's read at this time the part of Matthew's account that parallels what we have just read in Mark's account. Matthew 18:6-9. Please turn to that. Beginning in Matthew 18:6, are you ready? Let's read. "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it was better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh! Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it form thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire."
A brief review of Mark 9:40-41 will remind us that Jesus had immediately before this, discussed the reward of good deeds done in Jesus' name; i.e. what men might consider TRIVIAL GOOD DEEDS. Jesus used the example of a cup of water given in HIS NAME, you will remember. Jesus said, "verily I say unto you, he shall not lose his reward." Now, in our reading today, Jesus turned the coin over, so-to-speak, and discussed what one might consider trivial EVIL deeds. Thus, you can see from the things said here that there is no such thing as a trivial evil deed and there is no such things as a trivial good deeds. A good deed (so small as a cup of cold water) receives its reward; an evil deed regardless of how small will receive its punishment. When Jesus said, "Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me..." he was talking about a disciple, any disciple, regardless of how small, how humble or how insignificant they may seem. Thus, there is no greatest in the kingdom of heaven. To offend them, i.e. to cause one to stumble spiritually speaking will be punished severely. The millstone that Jesus makes reference to is evidently one turned by a donkey and used to grind grain for making bread. In other words, such punishment would be fatal. This underscores how sever Jesus considers causing a disciple, any disciple, to stumble. It doesn't take a degree in theology to see that "hell" and "everlasting fire" and "where the worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" are all interchangeable terms for eternal punishment. The tiro figures depict (#1) hell as a place of decay where the process is never completed. AND (#2) hell is depicted a place where the burning never consumes completely. Those are Jesus' metaphors for hell. Need I say any more? The cutting off of the hand, or the foot, or the plucking out of the eye shows us to what extent we should deny ourselves in an effort not to offend one of Christ's little ones.
Let's read some more in Matthew. V10-14. Five more verses, are you ready? That's ch. 18, Jesus still talking to the apostles. Let's read. "Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the fact of my Father which is in heaven. For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it/ verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." Obviously, this is a continuation of the same thought of the intrinsic value of a soul. The souls of men are depicted as sheep. This is a parable of Jesus. It shows that God has compassion upon his people and does not want any to be lost. For a sheep to be lost is another way of describing lost souls by being separated from God by sin. (Isa. 59:1-2). One should not draw the conclusion that sin improves the intrinsic value of a soul; but, rather when one is lost, it raises the sentiments and compassion of our heavenly Father. All souls are equal in value in sight of God; but, this emphasizes that we should put our priorities where the difficulty is. There is a tendency on the part of those who strive for high morals to despise those that are weak and fall short. This shows that we are to have compassion rather than to show contempt in such cases. I call your attention to the statement about their angels always beholding the face of the heavenly Father. But, I'll make not attempt to explain it.
Let's read some more, v. 15-20. We're still in Matt. ch. 18. Let's read beginning in Matt. 18:15. Ready? "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more,that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them."
Alright the parable of the lost sheep and the warnings in Matt. 18:6-14 had to do with us offending others. Then, in the verses we just read; Jesus turns his attention to defining how we should respond when others offend us, i.e. sin against us. When some one has offended us, we are obligated to point out his fault to him and him alone. The purpose in doing so is to gain the brother and encourage him to make amends. Both, have equal responsibility to seek reconciliation, really. Neither is to wait for the other. If one will not be reconciled, then the other is to seek the help of the church. This obviously would include a hearing before the church in some form or another. It's interesting that the word church is used here, you see, in the future sense. Because the church or kingdom had not been established as we've pointed out over and over. Did you notice in Mark's account, back in v.47, Jesus said, "it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire?" Please note that, that statement has to do with entering the kingdom. But, here in v. 17, Jesus said, "if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and as publican" i.e. one who refuses to be reconciled in this process let him be counted as an outsider. If the process is carried out as described according to Christ's instruction; and that person insists on not being reconciled then the Lord is saying that he will respect that decision in the day of the Judgment. Now, obviously, as I said, all must be done as proscribed and every effort must be made to save the brother. But, if he simply refuses to be reconciled according to the rules Jesus hereby gives; then that person will be lost as a result. So, in that sense, the church has a part in binding and loosing in that sense. A very sobering thought. Now, please understand; this has nothing to do with popes, a college of cardinals, or a so-called bishop over some geographical diocese. It has to do (very simply) with obeying Christ' word; which we find today in the Bible. Notice the two or three mentioned in v.19. You see, even if the congregation of Christ's disciples be as small as two or three; these things apply. And even the smallest of congregation can carry.out these things and seek the Lord in touching such matters. God the father will grant such. The reason given is in v.20, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." So, the size of the congregation of disciples in any given place has nothing to do with God's dealing with them. He's there. So, God respects a congregation of two or three -or- two or three thousand; it makes no difference. And again this was said before even the first congregation was ever formed.
Let's read some more. Peter had a question. We're going to read v.21-35, i.e. the rest of the chapter. Beginning in Matt. 18:21, let's read "Then came Peter to him and said, Lord, how oft shall ||y brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him a hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me thou owest. And his fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, 0 thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desirest me: shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormenters, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses."
Peter could see by the things that Jesus had just said that in the kingdom great tolerance and forbearance were going to be required. So, Peter sought that the Lord would set bounds. According to some, the traditions of the Jews, had said that a man must forgive his brother three times. So, apparently Peter thought he was being very liberal when he said seven times. But Jesus shows there is no limitations. The seventy times seven; is undoubtedly a figurative way of showing that no bounds were being set. Notice in v.23, "the kingdom of heaven is likened unto..." i.e. this is the way it will be in the kingdom or church. Then in metaphorical language and a great parable, Jesus gave to Peter and the other apostles the principle, v.23-24. Then the application is in v.35, "so likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother." A great parable; but, I leave it with you. Have a good day!