The Will of My Father
Themes emerging from this chapter (Matthew 18)
Who is greatest.
The kingdom of heaven.
One of these little ones.
Saved and lost.
My Father in heaven.
To be saved is synonymous with being humble, avoiding and resolving offenses, being child-like, and being in covenant bonds with those following the Shepherd.
To be lost is to not be child-like, not willing to be humble, to offend and take offense, refusing to resolve them and to separate from the covenant bonds of those who are being saved
like a Gentile and the tax collector.
What are characteristics unique to Gentiles and tax-collectors that might give clues to important things in this passage?
Gentiles are not in covenant bonds with God and His chosen people.
Tax-collectors are always focusing on removing value from people around them. Tax-collectors were the ultimate offenders to a Jew.
The Jews were offended by Gentiles but they were incensed and furious about tax-collectors.
Tax-collectors who were also Jews were the most hated of all people and who could produce the most intense offenses.
My Father who is in heaven
See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. (Matthew 18:10-11)
Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 18:19)
Pray, then, in this way: 'Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven.' (Matthew 6:9-10)
The Will of God
So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
What is the will of God for us?
What does this chapter reveal to us about our relationship to God's will?
The phrase, one of these little ones, links God's will back to the same references previously seen in this chapter.
Unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble...
See that you do not despise one of these little ones...for the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.
It seems clear that Jesus sees a direct connection between offenses and perishing.
Offenses are Satan's traps to steal, kill and destroy our lives,
to bring pain, dissonance and separation, both from each other and from covenant blessings
if we do not deal with them effectively the way Jesus instructs us to do.
Offenses are heart-level problems and so must be related to heart to heart, not just intellectually.
By using the phrase little ones repeatedly, Jesus seems to be saying that it is most often the
weak and vulnerable or the immature that are most often the ones at risk of perishing through offenses.
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin (offense), you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. (Galatians 6:1 NIV)
What is the will of God?
Take a look at this list of verses and see how they might shed more light on what we are studying.
Mt 7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.
Mt 12:50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.
Mt 18:14 So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
John 4:34 Jesus said to them, "My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work."
John 6:39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
John 6:40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
2 Corinthians 7:9-10 I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us. For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Eph 5:17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Eph 6:5-6 Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.
1Thess 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;
1John 2:17 The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.
The Kingdom of Heaven
Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. (Matthew 18:23 WEB)
King – Sovereign, the foundation of power.
Wanted – desired
Take or reconcile – to make up together
Accounts – logos, the same word used by John to describe Jesus, the Word who came to be with us.
Servant – bond-servant, one who is supposed to be bonded to a master.
(1) Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
(3) You will not even enter the kingdom of heaven.
(4) He is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
(8, 9) It is better for you to enter life...
The Example of Jesus, the King of this Kingdom.
This binding is directly correlated with being in covenant relationship. All of the previous issues are tied into this concept of being in covenant relationship, seeking to restore and preserve this relationship at enormous personal cost if necessary.
See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven continually see the face of My Father who is in heaven. For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? (Matthew 18:10-12)
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
The focus of Jesus' whole life was to practice what this chapter describes, to inconvenience Himself, to leave the glories of heaven and the adoration of all the angels in order to go out looking for the little ones who have been separated from the covenant bonds they were designed to live in and thrive under.
Jesus left the presence of His Father where He could always clearly see His face with the exalted angels to become a bond-servant, one of us, Immanuel so that He might entice us back into unity with God. We are the little ones who have become offended by caricatures of God through the deceptions and lies about Him foisted on us by Satan.
Jesus comes down to our level, humbles Himself so as to identify with our condition,
seeking to gain more credibility with us.
He becomes one of the little ones Himself so we can get past our fears about Him,
so that we can begin to trust Him and respond to His overtures to us
Jesus, the logos, the Word, the very expression of God, humbled Himself to
become a bond-servant like us to show us how to live in covenant relationship with the Father in a positive, life-receiving way.
Jesus demonstrated how we can live free of selfishness so as to be free of sin and its deadly effects in our lives.
He comes alone at first, privately into the secret places in our soul individually
so as not to overwhelm or frighten or intimidate us,
seeking to inspire and restore friendship, trust and confidence in our hearts.
We are the ones who have sinned;
it is we who have incurred all the offenses that potentially stand between us and God.
Yet Jesus, the offended party, leaves heaven to come to us
seeking reconciliation and restoration of His covenant relationship with us.
Jesus comes to expose that the supposed offenses we feel against God
are rooted in completely false assumptions about Him,
based on false premises, lies circulated by His enemy
that are designed to keep us afraid of Him
and separated from the blessings of a covenant relationship.
We have been led to believe that it was God who has been holding onto the offenses
who needs to be appeased.
Yet when the truth comes into the light we discover that
it is we who have been cherishing the feelings of offense based on misapprehensions about Him.
When we refuse to listen to His coming to us privately, alone in our hearts,
He will seek out other individuals to come with Him to visit us,
to demonstrate and validate that His intentions and motives are only good.
He wants the witnesses to also see and confirm how He relates to us
so that they can testify to the truth about how He really feels about us and treats us.
If we resist being restored into covenant relationship from the appeals of even this small group, the only option left for Him is to seek to resolve the offenses we cherish against Him in public
where all will see the contrast between His humble attitude and our resistance of His love.
But always, His sole purpose is only to reestablish the covenant relationship of trust and love,
never to exploit, force, shame or intimidate us.
He seeks all of this in order to save us from being lost,
from the tragic results of living out of covenant,
not to save us from the supposed anger of His Father intended to harm us.
But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.' (Matthew 18:16 NIV)
histemi - abide, appoint, bring, continue, covenant, establish, hold up, lay, present, set (up), stand
This word established has connotations within its definition relating to abiding, being in covenant, to stand. I believe in the context here with so many other references in this chapter to being in agreement that Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven as being in covenant with each other as well as with God. When we view all of these parts of this chapter through the lens of a covenant relationship they begin to take on much greater significance.
Jesus showed us what it looks like to give covenant relationships highest priority
which is what His kingdom is all about.
Witnesses are key for a real covenant.
Witnesses are there to learn about and protect the terms of a covenant.
It is the job of witnesses to guard the provisions of the covenant from being violated by either party.
They are never to to take sides with one person against the other but are loyal to the covenant itself.
At the same time they are for both sides of a covenant seeking for harmony and love
which is the true fulfillment of the heavenly kind of covenant partnership.
In verse 10 Jesus talks about the angels that belong to 'these little ones' who always see God's face. These angels are witnesses, and the way Jesus speaks of them here makes that very plain.
But in the case of verse 16, the human witnesses are to be from those who are part of the covenant relationship themselves.
Not only do they come along seeking to strengthen and restore a broken covenant relationship,
they have vested interests in doing so, for this covenant is
the same life-receiving relationship with God that they share in.
Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth (15) about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. (10) For where two or three have gathered together (16) in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:18-20)
This is all covenant language. And in the context of this chapter it starts to become clear that
offenses are the viruses that weaken and tear apart the bonds of covenant relationship
with each other and with God.
Jesus is describing in this chapter the sickness caused by offenses
and the prescription that needs to be followed to remedy this deadly dis-ease.
Offenses are not just uncomfortable problems to be addressed if we feel like it;
offenses are deadly attitudes that destroy the bonds that make us community.
Therefore the Kingdom of Heaven is like a certain king, who wanted to reconcile accounts with his servants. (Matthew 18:23 WEB)
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
(2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
Reconciliation is the core topic of this entire chapter; of the entire Bible in fact. This chapter is an intensive training on the basics of the message God has entrusted us to practice and take to the world.
We become the two or three witnesses He brings along with Him seeking reconciliation with any who will listen.
We come to observe first-hand what His attitudes and motives are
and His disposition toward those who have sinned.
He instructs us to follow the exact same procedures
to get the best results as we relate with those who cherish offenses against us.
When we place this passage about binding and loosing
in the context of reconciliation it begins to make much more sense.
Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, that if two of you agree (v. 15) on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three (v. 16) have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst. (Matthew 18:18-20)
No wonder then that Jesus says that where two or three have gathered together in His name that He would be right there. But it is important to remember that the context for this two or three is for the purpose of reconciling, not just socializing or begging God for something we want for ourselves. It is the ministry of reconciliation that is the focus of the two or three and it is in this context where this promise of Jesus is couched. Wherever reconciliation is being sought Jesus is sure to be there.
For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven.... (Colossians 1:19-23)
The two main factors that I see in tension in this chapter is resistance and agreement.
It can be too easy to miss the vital importance of perceiving where our own heart is in relation to these attitudes, for our heart can be extremely deceitful to us. But it is a truth that we need to learn to be aware of much more often and learn to be able to check ourselves repeatedly to see where our heart is at any given time.
Is my heart feeling resistant right now to something or someone?
Do I feel a measure of tension inside of me whether it be toward something God is convicting me of or toward another person in my life?
It can be so easy to dismiss this conviction or blame this tension on someone else's attitudes toward us. And while it may well be true that the other person does have issues with us that they need to deal with, that does not get us off the hook for dealing with our own spiritual resistance.
No matter how sinful another person is in their relationship with us,
it is we ourselves who are solely accountable to God for our own attitudes toward others.
As soon as we choose the option of blaming someone else for anything
we take ourselves off the track toward true reconciliation and
begin to remove ourselves from the covenant relationship we need in our life.
I have been sensing a principle at work in my own life that
as I choose to take full responsibility for my own emotions and triggers that create tension with someone else, no matter how much at fault the other person may obviously be,
the quicker I can begin to hear more clearly what God wants to do in my own heart in my healing and restoration process.
As along as I keep faulting someone else for my tension I cannot be in a position to be healed myself. Another person's violation of covenant never gives me license to violate the covenant myself. That is contract thinking, not covenant relationship.
When Jesus spoke the seemingly harsh words about cutting off a hand, foot or eye in preference to losing our place in the kingdom, He was referring to the level of commitment we need to have to our covenant relationship in the kingdom. If we give higher priority to something as dear to us as our hand, foot or eye more than seeking to remain in covenant relationship with those whom we are in tension with, then we endanger our own souls by being infected with the spirit of resistance that will prove deadly when God's presence is fully revealed.
Jesus demonstrated this very principle when He did not resist having His own hands and feet nailed to the cross without resorting to the slightest impulse to indulge in resistance.
He saw the extreme danger of this element of resistance and showed the universe how vital it is
to let go of it, to forgive, to live in covenant relationship
rather than seek for one's selfish interests and protection.
Peter, one who was well known for resisting many times,
was blown away with Jesus' incredible demonstration of love triumphing over force and selfishness which was so opposite to everything that had governed his own life and that of everyone around him up to that point. He later wrote these very revealing words about his observation of what took place:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate;
when he suffered, he made no threats.
Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree,
so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;
by his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:23-24 NIV)
How is it that we come to live for righteousness as a result of seeing what happened to Jesus?
When we really get it, when we truly grasp what really happened at the cross,
when we begin to appreciate the kind of God who would allow people to brutalize Him
and yet not retaliate, resist or take offense no matter how cruelly we treat Him;
then we are in a position to see how trustworthy He really is;
how loving, caring, kind and safe He is because He is never going to indulge in those kinds of reactions
and it becomes much easier to respond in love to a God who never retaliates or becomes offended
than to attempt to love a God who threatens to torture us if we don't cooperate with His program.
The wounds created by the lies we have believed about Him
as well as the wounds we inflict on each other through multiple offenses, sins and selfishness
are healed as we become reconciled to the only one who can restore us to peace, love and trust,
both with Him and with each other.
This is the demonstration in Jesus' life of what it means to value the covenant relationship more than self-preservation.
And the only way we will be able to experience that kind of disposition is to allow Him to live it out from inside our own hearts.
This is not something we can work up to or create in our own minds.
It has to be the victory that comes from experiencing this same Jesus described by Peter
living inside of us, not something we can achieve by trying harder.
Our role is not to work hard to create this attitude
but rather to let this mind be in us that was also in Christ Jesus....
one of these little ones
Seven Sevens in the Bible
Then Peter came and said to Him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven. (Matthew 18:21-22)
Peter is in essence saying, “How often do I have to go through this process you just described? How much effort must I produce to stay in this covenant relationship with those around me?”
Just how valuable is this covenant to us anyway? Is this a casual take it or leave it kind of thing or is it to consume our whole lives and be more important that life itself? If we think there is a limit to how many times we forgive, then we are setting artificial boundaries beyond which we refuse to go for our little imitation kingdom. But this is not the sort of life Jesus described when He said we have to humble ourselves and become as a little child to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Our concepts of the extents of the kingdom are terribly small compared to how heaven views it.
Living in this kingdom requires
and freedom from all offenses and resistance.
This is the same condition necessary for one to live in the presence of God
and not be consumed by the intense power of His passionate love for us.
Offenses are the greatest threat to our very existence when it comes to living in God's power.
To live in the kingdom requires that we be able to live in the intense presence of God's perfect, unconditional, passionate love.
But with that comes the danger of allowing anything foreign to that power to remain in our hearts.
Far from setting any numerical limit on forgiveness,
Jesus was trying to get across here that the full extent of the curse must be reversed before it can be safe again for humans to live in the full light of God's glorious presence.
We see the outline of this curse of offenses from the earliest records of history.
So the LORD said to him, "Therefore whoever kills Cain, vengeance will be taken on him sevenfold." And the LORD appointed a sign for Cain, so that no one finding him would slay him. (Genesis 4:15)
Lamech said to his wives, "Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold." (Genesis 4:23-24)
Seventy weeks have been decreed for your people and your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sin, to make atonement for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy place. (Daniel 9:24)