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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Matthew 18

 

 

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Verses 1-9

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

For the exposition, see the notes at Mark 9:33-50.


Verse 10

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 face of my Father which is in heaven.

Take heed that ye despise ('stumble') not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. A difficult verse; but perhaps the following may be more than an illustration: Among men, those who nurse and rear the royal children, however humble in themselves, are allowed free entrance with their charge, and a degree of familiarity which even the higher state-ministers dare not assume. Probably our Lord means that, in virtue of their charge over His disciples (Hebrews 1:13; John 1:51), the angels have errands to the throne, a welcome there, and a dear familiarity in dealing with "His Father which is in heaven," which on their own matters they could not assume (See the notes at John 5:1-47, Remark 1, at the close of that section.)


Verse 11

For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.

For the Son of man is come to save that which was (or 'is') - lost. A golden saying, once and again repeated in different forms. Here the connection seems to be, 'Since the whole object and errand of the Son of Man into the world is to save the lost, take heed lest, by causing 'offences, ye lose the saved.' That this is the idea intended we may gather from Matthew 18:14.


Verse 12-13

How think ye? if a man have an 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?

How think ye? If a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray ... This is another of those pregnant sayings which our Lord uttered more than once. See on the delightful parable of the lost sheep in Luke 15:4-7. Only the object there is to show what the good Shepherd will do, when even one of His sheep is lost, to find it; here the object is to show, when found, how reluctant He is to lose it.


Verse 14

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

Accordingly, it is added, "Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish." How, then, can He but visit for those "offences" which endanger the souls of these little ones!


Verse 15

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 hast gained thy brother.

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 hast gained thy brother.


Verse 16

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.

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. (Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15.)


Verse 17

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 an heathen man and a publican.

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 an heathen man and a publican. Probably our Lord has reference still to the late dispute, Who should be the greatest? After the rebuke-so gentle and captivating, yet so dignified and divine-under which they would doubtless be smarting, perhaps each would be saying, It was not I that began it, it was not I that threw out unworthy and irritating insinuations against my brethren. Be it so, says our Lord; but as such things will often arise, I will direct you how to proceed. First, Neither harbour a grudge against your offending brother, nor break forth upon him in presence of the unbelieving, but take him aside, show him his fault, and if he own and make reparation for it, you have done more service to him than even justice to yourself. Next, If this fail, take two or three to witness how just your complaint is, and how brotherly your spirit in dealing with him. Again, If this fail, bring him before the church or congregation to which both belong. Lastly, If even this fail, regard him as no longer a brother Christian, but as one "without" - as the Jews did Gentiles and Publicans.


Verse 18

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.

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. Here, what had been granted but a short time before to Peter only (see the note at Matthew 16:16) is plainly extended to all the Twelve; so that whatever it means, it means nothing special to Peter, far less to his pretended successors at Rome. It has to do with admission to and rejection from the membership of the Church. But see the note at John 20:23.


Verse 19

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.

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.


Verse 20

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

For where two or three are gathered together in, [or 'unto' - eis (G1519)] my name, there am I in the midst of them. On this passage-so full of sublime encouragement to Christian union in action and in prayer-observe, first, the connection in which it stands. Our Lord had been speaking of church-meetings, before which the obstinate perversity of a brother was, in the last resort, to be brought, and whose decision was to be final-such honour does the Lord of the Church put upon its lawful assemblies. But not these assemblies only does He deign to countenance and honour. For even two uniting to bring any matter before Him shall find that they are not alone, for My Father is with them, says Jesus.

Next, observe the premium here put upon union in prayer. As this cannot exist with fewer than two, so by letting it down so low as that number, He gives the utmost conceivable encouragement to union in this exercise. But what kind of union? Not an agreement merely to pray in concert, but to pray for some definite thing. "As touching anything which they shall ask," says our Lord-anything they shall agree to ask in concert. At the same time, it is plain He had certain things at that moment in His eye, as most fitting and needful subjects for such concerted prayer. The Twelve had been "falling out by the way" about the miserable question of precedence in their Master's kingdom, and this, as it stirred their corruptions, had given rise-or at least was in danger of giving rise-to "offences" perilous to their souls. The Lord Himself had been directing them how to deal with one another about such matters. "But now shows He unto them a more excellent way." Let them bring all such matters-yea, and everything whatsoever by which either their own loving relationship to each other, or the good of His kingdom at large, might be affected-to their Father in heaven; and if they be but agreed in petitioning Him about that thing, it shall be done for them of His Father which is in heaven.

But further, it is not merely union in prayer for the same thing-for that might be with very jarring ideas of the thing to be desired-but it is to symphonious prayer [as the word signifies - sumfooneesoosin (Greek #4856)], to prayer by kindred spirits, members of one family, servants of one Lord, constrained by the same love, fighting under one banner, cheered by assurances of the same victory; a living and loving union, whose voice in the divine ear is as the sound of many waters. Accordingly, what they ask "on earth" is done for them, says Jesus, "of my Father which is in heaven." Not for nothing does He say, "of MY FATHER" - not "YOUR FATHER" as is evident from what follows: "For where two or three are gathered together unto my name" - the "My" is emphatic [ eis (Greek #1519) to (Greek #3588) emon (Greek #1700) onoma (Greek #3686)] "there am I in the midst of them" As His name would prove a spell to draw together many clusters of His dear disciples, so if there should be but two or three, that will attract Himself down into the midst of them; and related as He is to both the parties, the petitioners and the Petitioned-to the one on earth by the tie of His assumed flesh, and to the other in heaven by the tie of His eternal Spirit-their symphonious prayers on earth would thrill upwards through Him to heaven, be carried by Him into the holiest of all, and so reach the Throne. Thus will He be the living Conductor of the prayer upward and the answer downward.


Verse 21

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? In the recent dispute, Peter had probably been an object of special envy, and his forwardness in continually answering for all the rest would likely be cast up to him-and if so, probably by Judas-notwithstanding his Master's commendations. And as such insinuations were perhaps made once and again, he wished to know how often and how long he was to stand it.

Till seven times? This being the sacred and complete number, perhaps his meaning was, Is there to be a limit at which the needful forbearance will be full?


Verse 22

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven - that is, so long as it shall be needed and sought: you are never to come to the point of refusing forgiveness sincerely asked. (See the notes at Luke 17:3-4.)


Verse 23

Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.

Therefore - `with reference to this matter,' is the kingdom of heaven likened unto certain king, which would take account of his servants - or, would scrutinize the accounts of his revenue-collectors.


Verse 24

And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.

And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. If Attic talents are here meant, 10,000 of them would amount to more than one million and a half pound sterling; if Jewish talents, to a much larger sum.


Verse 25

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.

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. (See 2 Kings 4:1; Nehemiah 5:8; Leviticus 25:39.)


Verse 26

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him - or did humble obeisance to him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.} This was just an acknowledgment of the justice of the claim made against him, and a piteous imploration of mercy.


Verse 27

Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Then the Lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.

Payment being hopeless, the Master is, first, moved with companion; next, liberates his debtor from prison; and then cancels the debt freely.


Verse 28

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.

But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants. Mark the difference here. The first case is that of master and servant; in this case, both are on a footing of equality. (See Matthew 18:33, below.)

Which owed him an hundred pence. If Jewish money is intended, this debt was to the other less than one to a million.

And he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat , [ krateesas (Greek #2902) auton (Greek #846) epnige (Greek #4155)] - 'he seized and throttled him,'

Saying, Pay me that thou owest. Mark the mercilessness even of the tone.


Verse 29

And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.

And his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. The same attitude, and the same words which drew compassion from his master are here employed toward himself by his fellow-servant.


Verse 30

And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.

And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, until he should pay the debt.


Verse 31

So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.

So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Jesus here vividly conveys the intolerable injustice and impudence which even the servants saw in this act, on the part of one so recently laid under the heaviest obligations to their common master.


Verse 32

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me:

Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because then desiredst me:


Verse 33

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?

Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow-servant, even as I had pity on thee? Before bringing down his vengeance upon him, he calmly points out to him how shamefully unreasonable and heartless his conduct was; which would give the punishment inflicted on him a double sting.


Verse 34

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.

And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors , [ basanistais (Greek #930)] - more than jailers; denoting the severity of the treatment which he thought such a case demanded.

Till he should pay all that was due unto him.


Verse 35

So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

So likewise, [ Houtoos (G3779) kai (G2532), in this spirit, or on this principle], shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

Remarks:

(1) When we think how Jesus here speaks of God's "little ones" - how dear, He tells us, even one of them is to His Father, and what perdition to them lies in the bosom of those "offences" which are apt to spring up among them-how incredible would it appear, if we aid not see it with our eyes, that Christians should think so little of falling out on the merest trifles, and insist so rancorously on their own point in every argument! See the notes at Mark 9:33-50, and Remark 1 there; and compare Romans 14:13-17, where our Lord's teaching on this subject seems to have been in the apostle's eye. Ours rather he the Good Shepherd's jealous care to recover His sheep when lost, and keep them when found!

(2) How delightful is the truth-here and elsewhere taught in Scripture-that God's dear children are committed by Him, during their sojourn here, to the guardianship of angels! Whatever may be the meaning of the remarkable expression, "their angels" - whether it be designed to teach us that each child of God is under the special care of one particular angel, a doctrine in which, notwithstanding Romish abuses, we can see nothing unscriptural, or whether it mean no more, than simply 'the angelic guardians of believers'-the information communicated here only, that they do always behold the face of Christ's Father in heaven, is surely designed to teach us how dear to God and how high in His favour each of them is, when even their guardians have uninterrupted and familiar access to their Father on their account. Children of God, brighten up, when ye hear this. But O, have a care how ye think and speak and act, under such high guardianship!

(3) How much unlovely feeling among Christians would disappear under the treatment here enjoined! Many misunderstandings melt away under a quiet brotherly expostulation with the offending party: failing this, the affectionate and faithful dealings of two or three more-still in private-might be expected to have more weight: and if even an appeal, in the last resort, to the body of Christians to which both belonged, should fail to bring an offending party to reason, the matter would but require to end there, and Christian fellowship with the refractory member henceforth to cease.

(4) The opening and shutting of the doors of Christian fellowship-in other words, church discipline-is an ordinance of the church's Living Head, whose sanction is pledged to the faithful exercise of it, in accordance with His word.

(5) What sublime encouragement to concerted prayer among Christians, for definite objects, have we in this section. And should not Christians prove their Lord now herewith, if He will not open them the windows of heaven, and pour them out a blessing that there shall not be room, enough to receive it?

(6) When we read our Lord's injunctions here to stretch our forbearance with brethren to the utmost, can we but blush to think how little it is done, especially in the light of that other saying of His - "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you"? (John 15:14). Let us hear the apostle. "Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful" (Colossians 3:12-15).

(7) Let the grand evangelical principle on which turns the beautiful parable of the Unmerciful Debtor be written as in letters of gold and hung up before every Christian eye-that God's forgiveness of our vast debts to Him precedes our forgiveness of the petty debts we owe to one another; that this is that which begets in us the forgiving disposition; and that it furnishes us with the grand model of forgiving mercy which we have to copy.

(8) When our Lord represents the king in the parable as cancelling the free pardon of the relentless debtor, and again shutting him up in prison until he should pay all that he owed; and when He then says, "So shall My heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses" - we must not understand Him to teach that such literal reversals of pardon do actually take place in God's treatment of His pardoned children-for that, we take it, is but the dress of the parable-but simply, that on this principle God will deal, in the matter of forgiveness, with unforgiving men; and so, we have here just a repetition-in the form of a parable-of the truth expressed in Matthew 6:15, and elsewhere, that "if we forgive not men their trespasses, neither will our heavenly Father forgive our trespasses."

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 18:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-18.html. 1871-8.

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