Therefore if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life lame or maimed than having two hands or two feet to be thrown into eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than having two eyes to be thrown into the fire of hell.Matthew 18:8–9 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
If you’ve read the post prior to this, we discussed Jesus speaking on the reality of Hell. As my Bible reading plan this year is chronological, the reading today is Matthew 18. By the verses cited, there is harmonization there. Like yesterday, our discussion will end in a similar manner.
The context surrounding this is a discussion on who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus pulls a child before the disciples as an example.
and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself like this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever receives one such little child in My name receives Me.Matthew 18:3–5 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This tends to be self-explanatory. Considering that Jesus told Nicodemus he must be born again, this is the humility that is required to enter the kingdom. Without Jesus we are hopeless. We must come as dependent upon someone else for our very lives. In this case, we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven without becoming like the little child that believes what he is told.
The last sentence takes the emphasis off of receiving human children to that of receiving the child-like new believer. That idea becomes clearer as we move on.
“But whoever misleads one of these little ones who believe in Me, it would be better for him to have a millstone hung about his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of temptations! For it must be that temptations come, but woe to that man by whom the temptation comes!Matthew 18:6–7 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
It’s not misleading children that’s offensive. It’s misleading the believing children. What Jesus is doing is drawing attention to our own behavior as it relates to others. In this case, it’s the younglings in the faith.
He then sets into that discussion that opened this post that talks about avoiding the reality of perdition. The discomforts of removing things that cause offense… Controlling ourselves… sometimes requires drastic and painful measures. These measures can affect us for a lifetime. But what is a physical lifetime next to eternity?
Jesus will continue the discussion in a parable. In that, the idea of temperance toward these little ones becomes leaving the many to find the one lost sheep. A good shepherd will leave the entire flock to seek such. When he finds that one, he will rejoice over that one.
In parable form, Jesus is teaching us of the tender mercies of the Good Shepherd our heavenly Father. A good teacher adds clarity and expands the idea. Jesus is not yet done with the lesson. He will now instruct us on how to treat each other.
“Now if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, then take with you one or two others, that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every word may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.Matthew 18:15–17 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Sometimes the knee-jerk goal of this is eventually to justify one’s exiling of another. This isn’t about disagreement in general. It’s about sin. That sin could include disagreement. The goal is to bring harmony.
Most times these matters are hardly ever addressed congregationally for fear of offending. They get as far as a group of leaders who unilaterally decide the outcome. perhaps matters like this are too burdensome for large conversations of 1,000 or more believers. (At least that’s my take.)
Back to the text.
The goal there is reconciliation. It didn’t mean that either party in a dispute is without pain. Not that that pain wouldn’t linger, but that fellowship is restored. Pain will still exist on both sides. Just as the previous post concludes.
I would draw attention to the other idea of the testimony of two or three witnesses. This was previously referenced, too. These ideas tend toward harmony.
Remember the discussion yesterday that everyone will be salted by fire. That is, those that are remanded to perdition will be preserved in the fire of judgment.
Also, remember that every sacrifice is preserved with salt. Those things we do to limit ourselves are preserved because they are preservative. “If he listens, you have gained your brother.” The goal is reconciliation.
But sometimes, evil is so persistent that it must be removed. This is so with those who don’t seek remission of the sin they’ve done to others. How we treat each other ought not ever go to the point where there are heavenly ramifications.
“Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.Matthew 18:18 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is heartening back to Matthew 16:19. It shows the endowment of the church body as a whole. God gives authority to carry out His will to oppose the powers of evil. Evil must be set outside the body.
“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father who is in heaven.Matthew 18:19 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
Jesus talks about reality. In the context given, it is for the furthering of God’s kingdom. The power of having that companion that walks together in Christ brings down the blessings of heaven. No, not by command… But out of the loving-kindness of God.
For where two or three are assembled in My name, there I am in their midst.”Matthew 18:20 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
This is often used to demonstrate the importance of gathering together to pray. It might lend itself to that usage, but clearly, the context is in the midst of our own self-restraint in fellowship with other believers.
Remember, not offending little ones, finding the lost sheep, and seeking to heal the pain of offense?
This is the conclusion and why these things are important. It’s for God to show up. There preserving salt is the temperance we have together. Something that has gone by the wayside in its culture. Temperance is a thing of the past. Yet, here in the Word, it is essential to human flourishing in this world and the next.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”John 13:34–35 — Modern English Version (Thinline Edition.; Lake Mary, FL: Passio, 2014)
That is the salt that preserves.