When reading what Jesus says, many times it seems his topics are unrelated, so the natural tendency is to grab onto parts that we think we understand while missing the point of his discourse which runs like a thread tying together all the seemingly unrelated topics. The discourse in Matthew 18 is one such example.
But before getting to Matthew 18 a foundation to his discourse begins in Matthew 16. Having traveled to the north of Israel to Caesarea Philippi due west of Tyre in Syria. They stood in front of 3 pagan temples, one specifically was called the Gates of Hades, where the Greeks believed was the entrance to the underworld, where they performed immoral acts of worship. With this background, Jesus asks his disciples who people (and them) thought he was. Peter replied,
Mat 16:16 ...“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Mat 16:17 Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
We see here that Peter received a realization directly from God.
Mat 16:18 I also tell you that you are Peter [petros in Greek meaning “a piece of rock’], and on this rock [petra in Greek meaning “a mass of rock such as a cliff”] I will build my assembly [ekklesia in Greek, not “church” but an assembly of government leaders] , and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Despite the claim of Catholicism, the rock that Christ builds his assembly upon is the direct revelation from God that believers, like Peter, have particularly after the new birth is given.
The Greek word ekklesia, translated as “church” in most translations, literally means “called out” and is understood to mean an assembly gathered in answer to that call. What has been forgotten about the term is that such assemblies were usually assemblies of government. The ancient Greek culture was a pure democracy with each citizen having a vote in any matter. When a matter needed to be settled, they were all called together to discuss and vote on that matter.
The Gates of Hades in the background of this discussion is a symbol of the governments of the world. What Jesus told Peter and his disciples is that he was establishing his government on Earth as representatives of his government in heaven, whose strength against the powers of darkness would be the direct communication of God to his children in their hearts. Jesus goes on to say:
Mat 16:19 I will give to you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven; and whatever you release on earth will have been released in heaven.”
Jesus is saying that the ability to prevail against the powers of darkness governing on behalf of Satan on Earth will be the specific things the Lord tells his disciples on how to win the battles, hence are the keys to victory. We have not been given authority that is willy nilly. In other words, whatever is forbidden in Heaven we can forbid (bind or stop) on Earth. Likewise, whatever is permitted in Heaven we can release (loose or permit) on Earth.
This context of the body of Christ, called “ambassadors” by Paul (2 Cor 5:20), as government servants of Heaven on Earth is what is in mind of the disciples when we open chapter 18.
Mat 18:1 In that hour the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”
The disciples are still thinking in terms of a worldly kingdoms. They are thinking they will be lords of creation like the pagan kings of this Earth. Jesus corrects them.
Mat 18:2 Jesus called a little child to himself, and set him in the middle of them,
Mat 18:3 and said, “Most certainly I tell you, unless you turn, and become as little children, you will in no way enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Mat 18:4 Whoever therefore humbles himself as this little child, the same is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.
The obvious answer, which is the main answer, is that all of us have to be like little children, with simple faith and innocence, to humbly enter the Kingdom of Heaven. And, clearly, we are to continue as such, if we are to be greatly used by the King.
Since the child is sitting on his lap, Jesus makes a point about actual children, not adults being child like, in how much God cares for them.
The abuse of children is as old as mankind. The valley of Hinnom is a deep and narrow ravine, with steep, rocky sides, to the south and west of Jerusalem, separating Mount Zion to the north from the "hill of evil counsel," and the sloping rocky plateau of the "plain of Rephaim" to the south. During the Old Testament days many Israelis worshipped Moloch whose worship required the sacrifice of their children. Their garbage was burned in the valley of Hinnom, so a constant fire raged in that valley. They throw their infants alive into that fire as part of the Moloch worship.
In Satanic Ritual Abuse, children are sexually abused and sacrificed today. News of these abominations are becoming more widely known. Even without the SRA, the rampant pedophilia around the world, within the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations are being exposed even as you read this post.
In this discussion with his disciples about greatness, Jesus gives a grave warning to any who harm innocent children.
Mat 18:5 Whoever receives one such little child in my name receives me,
Mat 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble [skandalizō], it would be better for him that a huge millstone should be hung around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depths of the sea.
Mat 18:7 “Woe to the world because of occasions of stumbling! For it must be that the occasions come, but woe to that person through whom the occasion comes!
The Greek word translated as stumble, or offend, is skandalizo, from where we get our English word, “scandal”. It literally means to entrap or ensnare. It could easily refer to kidnapping, as for the purpose of human trafficking. If this meaning is intended, his admonition takes on a darker meaning.
Mat 18:8 If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life maimed or crippled, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire.
Mat 18:9 If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into the Gehenna of fire.
Could the case be made that since the context of his discourse is harming children, and pedophilia being a serious harm, that cutting things off could also mean it would be better to castrate yourself than ending up in the Lake of Fire?
Mat 18:10 See that you don’t despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
Mat 18:11 For the Son of Man came to save that which was lost.
Verse 11 is more commonly understood to mean that Jesus has come to save lost souls. And this truly is the case. But our context still refers to children. It is not like Jesus is changing topics. He came to save the children, as well as adults, and especially the lost innocence that was defiled in the previous verses.
Mat 18:12 “What do you think? If a man has one hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray?
Mat 18:13 If he finds it, most certainly I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray.
Mat 18:14 Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
The parable of the lost sheep is a common evangelism verse, but notice he concludes the parable referring to little children again. Yes, those of child like faith, but he still has a child on his lap and he is speaking about children.
If the thread of his point is forgotten, it seems like he suddenly changes topics, but he is not. Saving the lost, as well as the little children, is a matter of reconciliation.
Mat 18:15 “If your brother sins against you, go, show him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained back your brother.
No description is given of what kind of sin a brother has done is given. But if we stay on topic of the child, the sin might be a father confronting a brother who has molested his daughter, as a possibility.
Mat 18:16 But if he doesn’t listen, take one or two more with you, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
Mat 18:17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the assembly. If he refuses to hear the assembly [ekklesia] also, let him be to you as a Gentile or a tax collector.
Jesus outlines his protocols of reconciliation. Speak privately with the offender first, then without repentance and reconciliation, bring two or three witnesses to encourage repentance and reconciliation. But if the offender refuses to repent, then the matter is brought before the body of Christ as the government [ekkelesia] of God on Earth. If still unrepentant, the offender is to be regarded as a pagan, not a follower of Christ.
Mat 18:18 Most certainly I tell you, whatever things you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever things you release on earth will have been released in heaven.
In verse 18 we see the authority of the ekklesia exercised. Forbidding (binding) the offender to participate in the group also means, he gets cut off from the grace of God.
Paul dealt this same way with the Corinthian assembly.
1Co 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles, that one has his father’s wife.
This was his direction.
1Co_5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
In other words the offender was forbidden (binding) from being in the group, which meant he was also forbidden from Heaven which is why he was delivered unto Satan. God’s protection was lifted off him and Satan had free reign in his life.
Mat 18:19 Again, assuredly I tell you, that if two of you will agree on earth concerning anything that they will ask, it will be done for them by my Father who is in heaven.
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there I am in the middle of them.”
Again, when the point of the discourse is forgotten, verses are commonly used in ways not specifically intended by Christ. That does not mean such use is wrong, just that it was not the primary point. In these two verses of 19 and 20 we often hear that in 19 it is a power of agreement, and in 20 a gathering (as for home congregations) only need to be two or three. That is not the context. The context is still dealing with unrepentance resulting in excommunication. The goal is reconciliation, but we are speaking of failed reconciliation in this context.
So two agreeing in verse 19 is the authority of the ekklesia being exercised in forbidding fellowship with the unrepentant. And verse 20 means that in that small ekklesia exercising their authority Christ is backing up their authority. Please remember, too, that in the beginning when the two brothers are privately discussing, Christ is there, too, trying to help the repentance and reconciliation. Likewise when the offended comes back with 2 or 3 witnesses.
Even with pedophilia, Christ wants repentance followed with reconciliation. Remember the Corinthian scandal [skandalizo] of the believer who slept with his father’s wife? He was excommunicated and later repented. Paul had to remind Corinth that the heart of God is reconciliation, and that the brother should be brought back into fellowship.
2Co 2:6 This punishment which was inflicted by the many is sufficient for such a one;
2Co 2:7 so that on the contrary you should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his excessive sorrow.
2Co 2:8 Therefore I beg you to confirm your love toward him.
Peter understood the Lord’s heart, so he asks how often should we forgive?
Mat 18:21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Until seven times?”
Mat 18:22 Jesus said to him, “I don’t tell you until seven times, but, until seventy times seven.
Jesus then tells the story of the debtor who was forgiven, but did not forgive others himself.
We don’t know when the child came off the Lord’s lap. For all we know the child had remained there the entire time. In light of the news today, re-reading Matthew 18 put a whole new perspective on me. Woe unto those who have abused the little children. God have mercy on them, and grant them repentance for forgiveness.
I posted this on a general Christian forum before posting here. Do not think that your house church is a totally safe haven. My wife and I were a part of house church that was mostly just 2 families: one dad was Wycliff Bible translator and the other dad was a realtor. They were good friends and both families had 5-6 children. After a few months I made the comment that I never sensed the Holy Spirit in their gathering and friction developed between me and the Wycliff father. Since it was their fellowship and we were guests, we bowed out and departed.
Three years later, the father who was a realtor contacted me out of the blue to apologize to me. He said I was right. The Wycliff dad had a 16 year old daughter and the she confessed to her mother that her dad and been sexually molesting her. The second father wanted me to talk to the Wycliff dad. I did not want to know any details, and when we met I only encouraged him to hold onto his repentance and the Lord would heal the wounds in his family over time.
Too many believers are unwilling to confront others. I trust that in your gatherings, you can do so.