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Bible Commentaries
Matthew 18

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-35

Matthew 18:1 . Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? The comparative μειζων greater, is put here for the superlative. By the kingdom of heaven, they meant the worldly glory of the church in the present life, as when they asked, “Lord wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”

Acts 1:6. Our Saviour’s having promised the keys to Peter, though the power of remission was afterwards equally given to all, as in Matthew 18:18, might have suggested some idea of superiority.

This contest, to be the greatest, is the first law of carnal nature. The beasts in the field settle that point first with the strength of their horns. It developes itself in the splendour of opulence, and the intrigues of a court: hence arise many of the contests and factions of life. A heathen has a tart remark here. Nec Cæsar ferre priorem, Pompeiusve parem potuit.

Nor Cæsar could to a superior look, Nor patriot Pompey could an equal brook.

Matthew 18:2 . Jesus called a little child unto him, which had no schemes of aggrandisement, wealth and power; which bore no malice against another for former faults. When children are hurt or grieved in play, they are all friends again next hour. They love without jealousy, suspicion, or fear; they have no distrust of providence, or of parental affection; they live joyful in all the happiness of early years. What models for grey-headed sinners!

Matthew 18:3 . Except ye be converted, and become as little children. Conversion is not merely a deliverance from the guilt and power of sin; it is the entrance of Christ and of glory into the soul. It is a substitution of the reign of grace for the reign of sin. Every vice flowing in evil streams from the heart, is superseded by the love of the opposite virtue. Pride is superseded by humility, self-love by the love of God and all mankind, envy and jealousy by divine contentment, and all fretfulness of temper by the peace of God that passeth understanding.

In the Gothic gospels of Ulphilas, our Saviour is often called HÆLEND, the Healer. And could any case have been selected more pertinent than that of a little child, to make ministers blush for ambition? Could any remedy have been devised more effectual than that of being least of all? Shall the sons of the church be bold and forward, and ask our vote and interest, like the children of this world? Moses made excuses. Saul hid himself. David called himself the least in his father’s house. But now we offer ourselves for the honours of the sanctuary. Assuredly this adduction of a little child was an emanation of him, who is “the wisdom and the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:24. The way to preferment in the Redeemer’s kingdom is to be least of all. He draws from the treasures of his providence the men best qualified to do his pleasure in the church. Let young men do all the good they can, and leave the issues with the Lord.

Matthew 18:6 . Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me. Σκανδαλιση , shall scandalize. Matthew 11:6. It signifies to discard, to persecute, or rather to drive the faithful from the truth. Let all men consider this; the saints have angels to guard them, and to avenge their wrongs. A man had better have a dog’s burial in the water than draw good men into sin.

Matthew 18:8 . If thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off. Good men must never trifle with sin: to dally and parley with unholy propensities is to carry on a treasonable correspondence with rebels. Satan reigns on his own ground. Samson, mighty Samson, fell by feasting with the Philistines, and dallying with Delilah. Awed by the fire of Gehenna, we must take the knife of excision, and amputate the offending member; we must withdraw it from the objects of desire.

Matthew 18:10 . Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones. Either for their poverty, or for not submitting implicitly to your pleasure, or for some past defect in their religious profession; for they are not despised by your heavenly Father. He dwells in their hearts, he guards them by holy angels, who can avenge their wrongs. They bear the image of God, and are heirs of glory, how much soever they may be despised on earth.

Matthew 18:12 . If a man have a hundred sheep. There is a just and natural connection between a parent’s care over a little child, and a shepherd’s solicitude for a strayed sheep. It was when the pharisees reproached the Lord for preaching to publicans, that he superadded the parable of the ten pieces of money, and of the prodigal son. See on Luke 15:0.

Matthew 18:15 . If thy brother shall trespass against thee. This is a fair and laudable procedure against offenders: and from the threefold gradation of reproof here prescribed, we learn that no sin is to be allowed in the church, or in its members, for the temple of God is holy. All dirt must be carefully swept from the sacred mansion, and washed from our hands. Hence, if my brother shall injure me in character, or defraud me in property, or even if I shall see him commit any wickedness, I must call him aside, faithfully expose to him his sin, and require the proper fruits of repentance. And though he be richer and greater than myself, I have nothing to fear, for we have one Father, even God, and we are all brethren. If he hear me, and comply, I have gained his soul back to God: and what more can I wish? There is then no Achan in the camp, no secret sin to make the Lord withhold prosperity from the church. I must then honourably conceal his sin till death. If, on the contrary, I tell not my friend of his fault, and in fact tell every one till he is exposed to public infamy, before perhaps any one has the honesty to warn his soul, then he will hate me as a base and most detestable wretch; yea, and by unnecessarily exposing him, I shall damp the work of God, and perhaps cause many who are weak in faith to stumble at his sin, and fall away from the Lord. Let the consequences be what they may, I must not suffer sin to remain upon my brother; for that is hating him, and apparently wishing him the greatest evil. Leviticus 19:17. Still I must not expose him to the public, but take a confidential friend or more with me; and if he do not make restitution, or abandon his secret sin, I must then expose him only to his christian brethren.

Matthew 18:17 . Tell it to the church, as described in Matthew 16:18, and that not by whispering it in the ears of private individuals, but by communicating it to the bishop or pastor, for they had a bishop in every city or town. Chrysostom. Then he who obstinately offends will be put to the test, either to renounce his sin, or be debarred from eating the sacramental bread. This was the law of the ancient synagogue; and the christian church must not be below them in purity of morals, and salutary discipline. The refractory were accounted unclean, and classed with gentiles and with publicans.

This procedure does not apply however to every class of offenders, to public acts of drunkenness, fraud, or fornication; in all those cases where men’s sins are revealed, the church must suspend or expel the offender from communion. But what must a man do, supposing he should know of any acts of uncleanness, or any like deadly sin committed in the church? This is a very serious, but not a doubtful case. I would not cause Belial to rejoice, and the weak to stumble. I would seek the glory of God, and the health of the sinner. I would require a total separation of the parties, and a temporary abstinence from communion: and if the man held any sacred office in the church, I would require his silence for a time, till the tears of repentance and the blood of atonement had removed the guilt. If fornication be suffered to show her front in the sanctuary of God, all the calamities of Eli’s priesthood will again be repeated on the church.

Matthew 18:18 . Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. By the doctrine of humility that went before, our Saviour evidently foresaw the tyranny of the man of sin, the man of Rome, taking heaven and earth into his own hands. The keys were given to Peter by name, merely because his name stood first, and because his confession was the voice of the other disciples. Here the power of binding and loosing is equally given to all; and it is defined to be the power of expulsion of irreclaimable members of the church, and the power of remission by receiving penitents back into its fellowship. Such likewise are the sentiments of St. Paul in regard of the Corinthian, who had been expelled for about the space of a year: “To whom ye forgive any thing, I forgive also. Receive such a one, and comfort him, lest he be swallowed up of overmuch sorrow.” 2 Corinthians 2:5-10. It was, as Du Pin states, determined in the Lateran council, held in the year 1215, “that every one should confess to his own proper priest at least once a year, on pain of damnation.” And if those pardons are only ecclesiastical, what need of them for men not expelled? Is not the salvation of a man greatly endangered, who trusts to a priestly mediation, instead of trusting to Christ alone?

When Luther heard the fryer preach,

And found he made a dreadful breach

In morals, never made before,

To bring the hire of a w e,

To build St. Peter’s church at Rome,

And promise grace for years to come:

To sell indulgences for crime,

Before the culprit yet had time

To gratify his foul desire

In sins, which set his soul on fire;

He raised to heaven his strong protest,

That God did ne’er such power invest

In popes, indulgences to sell,

Which sent the buyer’s soul to hell;

Nor yet in councils wise and sure,

Nor in apostles ever pure.

Matthew 18:19 . If two of you shall agree as touching any thing that they shall ask. The jews had a notion that ten men must agree in asking a special favour of God. But our Saviour who sent out his disciples two and two in every direction, restricts the number to two or more. One man might be selfish in his prayers, but his friend, free from the clouds of passion, would ask in the Spirit, and according to the scriptures. Then soon or late it shall be done unto them, even as they have asked. Mutual counsel augments the faith of prayer.

Matthew 18:21 . How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him; till seven times? If remission had been limited to seven times, what had become of Peter? Rather, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways, and his thoughts of mercy and love above our thoughts. Isaiah 55:8.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/matthew-18.html. 1835.
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