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Bible Commentaries

Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Matthew 18

Verse 1

18:1 The apostles believed that the kingdom of heaven that Jesus had been announcing was to be a restoration of the old Jewish government with perhaps some additional features suited to the times. They maintained this idea even after the resurrection (Act 1:6). With such a system in mind it was natural for them to ask the question of this verse, for in earthly governments there are men of superiority in rank.

Verse 2

18:2 Little child is from PAIDION and according to Thayer it means a young child somewhat advanced in age beyond infancy; and old enough to have developed some traits of character. Jesus used this child for an illustration of the kind of temperament that would be of the greatest esteem in the kingdom of heaven.

Verse 3

18:3 Be converted has reference to the general rule that was to apply after the kingdom of heaven was set up, and not especially to these apostles. They had been baptized by John upon repentance and had been converted from their past course of life. But even they were in need of a change of mind on the subject of true greatness, otherwise they would not be fit to become members of the kingdom when the time came. But the verses on this matter state the subject as it was to apply to all people in their attitude towards Jesus and his fol-lowers. Become as little children refers to the humility that must accompany any professed belief in Christ and desire for his kingdom.

Verse 4

18:4 The comparison is made directly in this verse. Literal children were not to become members of the kingdom, for they do not need it, but men and women must become as these children on the matter of humbleness.

Verse 5

18:5 Such little child means the same as the little children of verse 3. To receive such a person means to be friendly with him or show hospitality because of his humble character. This is to be done in the name of Christ or because he is a humble disciple of his and is trying to mold his life after his teaching.

Verse 6

18:6 To offend means to cause to stumble or go wrong, which indicates it has reference to those old enough to be responsible for their conduct and also liable to temptation. Such a person is called a little one figuratively because he has complied with verse 3. Physical death by drowning would be a mild fate in comparison with that awaiting one who has caused a humble disciple of Christ to stumble and fall.

Verse 7

18:7 Offences means causes of stumbling or occasions in which a person meets with temptation. Needs be is from ANAGKE and the simple definition of Thayer is, "necessity," and he explains his definition to mean, "imposed either by the external condition of things, or by the law of duty, regard to one's advantage, custom, argument." In a world as large as this with its multiplied hundreds of activities and other circumstances, it would be unreasonable to expect it ever to be free from these temptations. However, that does not justify any man who is responsible for some specific case of offence.

Verse 8

:8-9 Since each man is responsible for his own conduct, he should overcome the cause of stumbling whatever it may be in his particular case. The lesson taught by the discarding of the hand and eye is explained at chapter 5:29, 30. Everlasting is from AIONIOS which Thayer defines, "without end, never to cease, everlasting." Hell is from GEHENNA and is explained at chapter Mat 5:30.

Verse 10

8:10 To despise means to belittle or treat with disrespect, espe cially to do so because of the humble position in life that the person has. These little ones are the same as are described in verse 3. Their angels means the guardian angels that God employs in His care for his children. In Act 12:15 mention is made of "his angel" when the disciples at a prayer meeting were told that Peter was at the gate. Thayer defines the original word, "angel, messenger of God," and he comments on the word as follows: "Guardian angels of individuals are mentioned in Mat 18:10; Act 12:15." We have other evidence that God uses his angels in the care and watchfulness necessary for the welfare of righteous people (Psa 91:11; Heb 1:13; Act 27:23). We do not know how or when these angels work, for that is entirely in God's part of the divine providence. It is enough for us to have the assurance that such holy creatures are serving God in our behalf.

Verse 11

8:11 The American Standard Version and some other translations omit this verse on the ground that it is not in the early Greek manuscripts. But the same thought is contained in Mat 9:13, so we lose nothing either way we consider the passage.

Verse 12

8:12 I believe this verse indicates the preceding one is genuine, for it is directly in the same line of thought. If Jesus came to save that which is lost it would be like a shepherd who would leave the sheep that were safely in the fold and go in search of the one that had gone astray.

Verse 13

8:13 We should observe that it is rejoicing and not merely love that the shepherd manifests over the sheep when it is found. He still esteems the 99 as highly as ever, but there is not the occasion for joyous demonstrations over them that there is for the one just recovered.

Verse 14

8:14 This verse goes back to all of the others that speak of the little ones. We are sure they mean the humble disciples and not literally the small boys and girls for they are not in any danger, not being responsible for their conduct.

Verse 15

8:15 When Jesus was on earth he taught many things that could apply only while he lived, and others that were to become a part of the permanent law of his kingdom. The passage starting with this verse is one of the latter, for it includes mention of the church (verse 17) and that would have to be after he had gone back to his Father. Furthermore, there is nothing in the teaching of the apostles that disagrees with this passage, hence we are bound to conclude it is a law of the Lord today. The first thing a brother should do if another does him wrong, is to tell him to his face in the absence of any other person, and without having said a word to anyone else. It may be that the brother does not realize what he has done and will gladly adjust the difficulty. In such an event the trouble will be settled and it should never be made known to another one.

Verse 16

8:16 If the conversation fails to bring a reconciliation it will be evident that a more public knowledge of the affair will have to come. As a protection against any misunderstanding, the next meeting should have one or two witnesses that all things that are said may be proved in case further dealing becomes necessary.

Verse 17

8:17 These witnesses are to be intercessors also, for this verse speaks of the possibility that the offender will not hear them. This denotes that it will be proper for them to have something to say in this second meeting as well as being witnesses in case further controversy is necessary. If this meeting is a failure, the matter will have to become a public affair and the offended party should take his case to the church. The church has the right to hear the complaint and the report of the witnesses, and if it concludes the accused is guilty he should be required to make proper amends. If he refuses to do so he should be excluded which is equivalent to placing him in the same class as the heathen (people of the world) in that he will be put into the realm of Satan (1Co 5:5).

Verse 18

8:18 This verse is explained at Mat 16:19.

Verse 19

8:19 One important function of the church is shown in verse 17 and that was still in the mind of Jesus when he spoke the words of this verse. The apostles are given special attention because they were in the church first (1Co 12:28). But some things can be done without the presence of an apostle; the assurance of this verse comes under that class. We know that an apostle could perform his special function without the presence of another (Act 19:6), yet this verse requires at least that two shall be present, hence this passage applies to disciples generally. The reason that two of the disciples is mentioned is that is the minimum of them that can compose a unit of the church referred to in verse 17. Agree is from SUM-PHONEO which Thayer defines, "To be in accord, to harmonize, i. e., to agree together." It should be understood that they must agree in the things that are right, which were to be taught in other portions of the law of Christ. In other words, the Lord wishes his church to be united in its activities and perform as a whole while in the doing of things pertaining to the spiritual welfare of all. (See 1Co 5:4 and 2Co 2:6.)

Verse 20

8:20 For is from GAB which Thayer defines, "Truly therefore, verily as the case stands," which indicates that the conclusion of this verse is based upon the truth stated in the preceding one. In is from EIS and the passage means for them to gather into the name of Christ. But the name of Christ is confined to his church since all authority and glory must be given him through that body (Eph 3:21). Jesus will always be present in spirit when any group of two or more disciples is assembled according to verse 19 and 2Co 2:10.

Verse 21

8:21 Seven is a prime number and in figurative language means completeness. The question of Peter was equivalent to asking if he should go to the limit in forgiving.

Verse 22

8:22 If seven means completeness then it would not be possible to go any further in the extension of mercy. We therefore understand the statement of Jesus here to have been spoken figuratively for the sake of emphasis.

Verse 23

8:23 See the comments at chapter 13:3 on the scope and subject matter of the parables. No one of them was intended to cover everything pertaining to the scheme of human redemption. Some of them were suggested by a special circumstance, and then Jesus spoke a parable to compare the incident or conversation that called for it. The subject of selfishness toward those who have done us wrong, while forgetting our own sins, was suggested by the question that Peter asked of Jesus. The sins of one brother against another are illustrated by a commercial relationship, evidently because that would make the point easier to see. Yes, this parable was spoken to make the subject easier to understand, but Jesus was talking to his disciples and not to the multitude.

Verse 24

8:24 With the material subject as an illustration we would realize that ten thousand talents ( $2,000,000) would constitute a great obligation.

Verse 25

8:25 According to ancient laws a debtor and his family could be sold into slavery by his creditor to recover the debt; this master threatened to use that law.

Verse 26

8:26 The servant worshiped his lord by falling down and humbly asking for mercy. See the long note at chapter 2:2 for the various meanings of that word.

Verse 27

8:27 It was compassion and not financial justice that caused this lord to forgive the debt. He did not deny the existence and justice of the debt his servant owed him, but was willing to forget about it because it was so great.

Verse 28

8:28 Gratitude should have prompted this man to show kindness to all others with whom he would have any dealings. Instead, he found a man who owed him a hundred pence ($1,600) and demanded payment, at the same time handling him brutally.

Verse 29

8:29 This servant prostrated himself and made the same plea that the creditor had made to his lord, assuring him of making payment as soon as possible.

Verse 30

8:30 Another ancient law permitted a debtor to be put into prison if he failed to make payment. While there he would be induced in some way to make arrangements to pay his debt.

Verse 31

8:31 The ungrateful servant may have thought he would not be exposed to his kind master, but fellow-servants were aware of his conduct and reported it to him. Likewise man often thinks he can elude the eyes of the Lord but all things are known to Him.

Verse 32

8:32 The only reason the lord of this servant forgave his debt was that he desired it, not that it was a favor he had earned. In like manner we are taught that our Master is pleased for us to ask Him for the favor we seek (chapter 7:7-11).

Verse 33

8:33. A simple request brought the remission of a vast obligation In favor of this servant. That fact should have induced him to grant this comparatively small favor that was so earnestly requested by his fellow-servant.

Verse 34

8:34 Tormentors is from BASANISTES and this is the only place where the word is used in the Greek New Testament. Thayer defines it, "One who elicits [obtains] the truth by the use of the rack, an inquisitor, torturor." It is used here to mean an officer who uses strong pressure to force the debtor into the acknowledgment of his debt and to take some action necessary to meet it.

Verse 35

8:35 If unworthy man will not forgive his fellow being, he need not expect the Father to forgive him, but instead to deliver him into a place of endless punishment where he will be "tormented" (Mat 25:46).
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 18". Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/matthew-18.html. 1952.