Summary: Jesus uses a child to point to His spiritual kids and the importance of not causing them to stumble. To avoid stumbling we are to guard others and discipline ourselves.
Matthew: King and Kingdom
FCC – March 4, 2012
Text: Matthew 18: 6-10
Introduction: Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 18. This chapter is one of four major sermons of Jesus in Matthew. Matthew 18 has been called by many the “Discipleship Discourse.” In other words, this chapter deals with how believers grow in Christ and relate to one another in the Body of Christ. Discipleship is often seen as an individual exercise lived out only in rigorous private disciplines. That may indeed be a part of becoming a disciple, but individual faith must grow in relationship to other believers.
Remember last week we were in the first five verses in chapter 18 and asked the question, “Who’s the Greatest?” On the heels of Jesus declaring that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer; He must die and rise again; the disciples argued about greatness in the Kingdom. They wanted to know who among them would be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus shocked His listeners by giving an object lesson on greatness with a small child. He picked a child out of the crowd to talk about greatness. Normally adults ignored children and followed the example of other adults. Jesus taught His disciples to follow the example of a child.
We learned that “Greatness in the Kingdom” requires:
• Conversion - I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
• Humility - Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
• Hospitality - And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.
John Walvoord writes, “Jesus, in effect, was saying that they were asking the wrong question. They should have been asking, How can I best serve the king? Rather than, How can I best serve myself? The child in the arms of Jesus was a graphic illustration of loving trust, immediate obedience in coming to the arms of Christ, and in seeking only the position of being loved. True greatness involved taking an attitude of unpretentious humility instead of seeking a position of power. These were great lessons for the disciples to learn.”
That brings us to verse 6 and a very difficult and important passage. Jesus points to a child to remind how we are to relate to one another as believers. Look at verse 6: If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble…We often pull the verses we are about to read out of context and say that if any one harms a child they should be drowned in the deepest sea. I’m not saying that’s not true…I’m just saying that Jesus is using a child to make a broader application. Look closer again at verse 6: If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble. So Jesus is concerned about any believer stumbling and uses difficult language to get our attention. Let’s get started.
To avoid stumbling we must…
1. Guard others (v. 6-7) “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. 7 Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come!
Jesus is concerned that certain persons and/or things of this world could cause some believers to stumble. McArthur writes: “Jesus is speaking of moral and spiritual stumbling, that is, of sinning. The verb (‘to stumble’) literally means ‘to cause to fall,’ and the Lord is therefore speaking of enticing, trapping, or influencing a believer in any way that leads him to sin. A person who is responsible for causing a Christian to sin commits an offense against Christ Himself as well as against the Christian. In the most vivid and sobering language indicating the seriousness of such an act against one of God’s children, Jesus declared that a person who does such a thing would be better off dying a terrible death.”
“Everyone believer is a child of God and, like all children, needs protection, care, and understanding. It is an enormous crime to harm even one of them by leading them to sin. To ruin the character of a saint or to retard his spiritual growth is heinous in God’s sight…”
The positive concern here is that we take seriously the task to guard and protect others from stumbling. What are some ways that we can cause believers to stumble? This list is not exhaustive, but we can cause believers to stumble by:
1) Tempting them to sin – This is the most obvious way to cause another to stumble. This is Eve offering the apple to Adam. When you invite or entice a believer to sin, you are in effect double sinning. You are sinning by participating in the sinful activity and then you sin double by inviting another to participate with you. It could go like this…a husband tells his wife that they could cheat on their income taxes and she goes along with it. They both sin…the husband double sins. Or two singles are dating and one says to the other, if you love me you would sleep with me. You double sin by committing sin and getting the other person to sin. We can also cause others to stumble by…