Matthew 18:15-20 Covenantal Church Discipline.

Matthew 18:15-20 Covenantal Church Discipline.

Jesus laid down a procedure for dealing with cases where a believer might be guilty of sinning against another believer. The first thing to do is to try and resolve the matter one on one in private (v. 15). This highlights the importance placed upon reconciliation with a fellow believer, and not bringing in anyone else unless they refuse to acknowledge their wrong. This was also the preferred approach, according to the law, rather than harbouring hate toward the offender, or worse yet acting on that hate and taking vengeance into one’s own hands (Lev. 19:17). Anyone turning a sinner from their way in this way “will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Js. 5:20).

A failure to acknowledge their sin after this initial meeting, then necessitates treating the matter in a more judicial fashion by taking one or two witnesses to have their obstinacy confirmed if they still refuse to acknowledge their wrong (v. 16). The law also gave the accused an opportunity to explain themselves (Dt. 1:16-17; Jn. 7:51). Whether a prominent individual in the covenant community or not, the same rule applied (Cf. I Tim. 5:19). The calling of witnesses also hearkens back to the law (Nu. 35:30; Dt. 17:6; 19:15). Again, this rule was put in place to place vengeance in God’s court by the rule of law. It was a prohibition against vigilantism.

The final judicial and covenantal confirmation came in a declaration before the whole church, with the hope still being that the confirmed offender might repent (v. 17 Cf. II Th. 3:6, 14). Note well that Jesus refers to the covenant assembly, still before the formation of Christian churches, as the ‘church’. If they did not repent, then the church was to excommunicate the offender. This power to bind and loose was here given by Christ to his people (v. 18 Cf. Jn. 20:22-23). Two or three persons in agreement was all that was required (v. 19 Cf. I Cor. 1:10). These verses have become the measure of what constitutes an assembly, congregation, or church (v. 20 Cf. Acts 20:7).

Matthew 18:6-14 Little Ones Are Saved.

Matthew 18:6-14 Little Ones Are Saved.

“Little ones” is a literal translation in the NKJV of ‘mikron’, and causing to sin or stumble is ‘skandalise’ from which we get scandalous (v. 6 Cf. Mk. 9:42ff.). Sadly, in our present pagan culture the word scandalous is nearly synonymous with ‘cool’. Note also that these little ones are those who believe in Jesus. These are not generic little ones, so to speak. As long as we live in a fallen world “offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (v. 7) Judas comes to mind (Cf. 26:24; 27:3-10). Jesus uses hyperbole when he suggests that it is better to cut off a hand or foot, or to pluck out an eye, then to be cast into eternal hell fire (vv. 8-9). The point being that it is better to suffer physical loss than the loss of one’s soul and body in hell where the fire of judgment is not quenched.

It is equally important that individuals or the church not ‘despise’ (or “look down on”) these little ones (v. 10). He has angels assigned to each of his elect ones, those who believe in him. The fact that these angels continually see the face of the Father undergirds the immediacy and severity of that which they witness (Cf. Heb. 1:14). One might think that they are alone with one of these little ones, or that one can reject them, but this is far from the case. These little ones are as lost as any adult, and there are some of these little ones who are predestined to believe. The Son of Man came to save these as well (v. 11). The desire of the Father to save these lost little ones is likened unto a shepherd who will leave 99 of 100 sheep in order to seek the one that is lost (vv. 12-14 Cf. Lk. 15:4-7; I Tim. 2:4).

Matthew 18:1-5 “Who then is the greatest?”

Matthew 18:1-5 “Who then is the greatest?”

“Who then is the greatest?” The word ‘then’ connects one to what immediately preceded. Jesus had made the argument with Peter that they should not be required to pay the temple tax because they were ministers of the gospel. Instead of paying this tax, they should have been supported by it. So in effect the disciples regarded, as many others did and still do, the ministers in the temple of God as being the greatest. Therefore if they as ministers were not the greatest then who was? It gave Jesus the opportunity to emphasize that greatness in the kingdom of heaven was to be found in those who had the humility of a child, who naturally recognize their need. The greatest are not those who think they deserve God’s favour, like the apostate religious leadership, but rather those who know their need for mercy and help. It presented one among several occasions when Jesus would emphasize that the kingdom of heaven is made up of the converted, those who have this humble dependence on God alone for life eternal (Cf. 19:14; Mk. 9:33-37; Lk. 9:46-48; 22:24-27). As Luke points out, these include infants (18:15-17).

Matthew 17:24-27 Paying The Tabernacle/Temple Tax.

Matthew 17:24-27 Paying The Tabernacle/Temple Tax.

The tabernacle/temple tax, (“Lit. double drachma” NGSB 1534, or half shekel – Wikipedia), was prescribed in Exodus 30:13 (Cf. 38:26). The passage is not about paying taxes to the civil authority. Furthermore, it was a flat tax to pay for one’s atonement, because when it comes to atonement all persons are of equal need, and 20 was considered the age of majority (vv. 14-15). It was for the services of the tabernacle/temple (v. 16). “Those who received the temple tax came to Peter” (v. 24a). Apparently they regarded Peter as being in some sort of lead role. In his typical fashion, Peter did not ask Jesus first, but rather immediately answered in the affirmative (vv. 24b-25a). The word translated “stranger” might be a bit misleading, unless one keeps in mind that Jesus was simply referring to a poll tax of “the kings of the earth.”

All Israelites paid the temple tax, except for the kohanim or priests, since they were the recipients. Jesus was making the point that he and his disciples were legitimate priests, and not “strangers” to the true ministry of the tabernacle/temple (vv. 25b-26). However, in this time of transition, so as not to give offense, Peter was instructed to retrieve some money from a fish, his former livelihood, and to pay this “tax” to cover for the both of them (v. 27 Cf. Rom. 13:7). It was and is also the case that atonement is only to be found with the living God of holy scripture, including for those among the Gentiles, who would indeed come to help build this temple (Cf. Is. 60:10-17). One might justly argue that this is something that should be paid to the church by its members still today

Matthew 17:22-23 Suffering, Death, And Jesus’ Resurrection Predicted.

Matthew 17:22-23 Suffering, Death, And Jesus’ Resurrection Predicted.

At 16:21-23 Jesus also foretold of his coming suffering, death, and resurrection, and on that occasion Peter had to be rebuked for expressing the desire of Satan that he not fulfill the Father’s will in this regard. Here there is no such opposition, but only sadness. Sadness should be one’s response, when we realize that it is because of our sin that Jesus bore his cross for us. It is not a sadness simply of the death of a great teacher, and one’s friend. Included in this news was the resurrection, so there would come new life. The sadness is what necessitated such a death, and the betrayal that was part of it. The fact that this is the second time among three predictions (Cf. 20:17-19), is the bearing of witness that Paul also referred to, as confirmation of the truth of that which was spoken (II Cor. 13:1).

Matthew 17:14-21 Faith Looking for Mercy.

Matthew 17:14-21 Faith Looking for Mercy.

When Jesus, with Peter, James, and John join the multitude, a man comes kneeling before Jesus seeking mercy in the healing of his son. The disciples left behind did not have the faith of the man who was desperate for help (vv. 14-16). Faith often is only present when the situation is desperate. The demon was allowed to remain, because those who might have helped the boy did not have the same commitment as the boy’s father (vv. 17-18). Jesus made it clear – the difference was the disciples unbelief (vv. 19-20a). There are some mountains that will not move without a higher level of commitment, including “by fasting and prayer” (vv. 20b-21). Mountains in the bible often refer to powers, and Satan is a powerful kingdom that one’s faith must be committed to removing. Furthermore, the right attitude of faith is in seeking mercy, not what we think we deserve.

Matthew 17:1-13 The Transfiguration.

Matthew 17:1-13 The Transfiguration.

“After six days” may be an indication that this discourse and the preceding one occurred on the Sabbath (v. 1 Cf. Mk. 9:2-8), and he led Peter, James, and John His brother “up on a high mountain by themselves.” These three held a special place among the twelve, who themselves held a special place among his disciples. They had just been told that one day in the future Jesus would “come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (16:27). Then they were also told that there were some standing before him who would see his ascension, the Son of Man’s coming to the Father when the prophecies of Daniel 7 and 9 would find fulfillment. Now they are about to witness a coming of Moses and Elijah to the Son, and a dawning of that same glory that would await him at his ascension and will be present at the final judgment.

“He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (v. 2). Such was the glory, the same glory that Moses himself witnessed at the giving of the law, which he represented (Ex. 19:3ff.), with Elijah representing the prophets, he also witnessing the LORD’s presence and hearing his voice (I Kgs. 19:11ff.). Here these men are in conversation with Jesus (v. 3). We learn from Luke that they were discussing Jesus’ death, in the midst of the glory (9:31ff.). Peter wanted to make three tabernacles for them (v. 4), but as Luke notes, they were there for one reason, and then they would leave. In coming they were bearing witness to Jesus as the Christ, and the reality that he must suffer death before he began his messianic reign. To this the Father also bore witness. “This is My beloved Son , in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” (v. 5)!

“Hear Him!” The Father made clear that to hear Jesus was to hear him. For this reason the three apostles rightly “fell on their faces and were greatly afraid” (v. 6). They had just witnessed that this was the same God who had appeared to Moses and Elijah and that Jesus not only stood in fulfillment of the law and the prophetic words through them, but that Jesus was in fact the same God who had appeared to those men then, and who had spoke to them now. However, with Jesus there is his gentle touch and assuring words – “Arise, and do not be afraid” (v. 7), and “when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (v. 8), an event not unlike what Daniel experienced (8:18). However, Jesus wanted them to keep this revelation to themselves, not until after his death, but after his resurrection (v. 9). It would only be after his resurrection that they would then be in a position to look ahead to his ascension.

Peter reiterated the words here spoken by the Father when he later wrote about the trustworthiness of the prophetic word, and the confirmation of its fulfillment in Jesus, describing the location as “the holy mountain” (II Pet. 1:16ff.). These words from the Father also hearken back to the beginning of Jesus ministry at his baptism (Cf. Mt. 3:17), which Mark noted at the end of his beginning section on prophetic fulfillment in Jesus (1:1ff), who is believed to have written his gospel as Peter’s assistant, as it were (v. 11). Matthew also recorded these words spoken even earlier in the predictive prophecy of Isaiah, drawing the connection to the Servant spoken of there (12:18ff; Is. 42:1-4). From Moses we also have the prediction of the prophet who would come after him, a clear reference to the Messiah whom must be heard, who would come speaking in the Father’s name (Dt. 18:15ff.).

Peter drew this same connection in his sermon at Solomon’s portico, as recorded by Luke at Acts 3:22-23, which he connects with the fulfillment of the promises of the Abrahamic covenant wherein is included the promise that the nations would be blessed through him (Acts 3:24), which links Luke’s second volume of Jesus’ person and work, with his first (24:25). On the other hand, the appearance of Elijah led the three apostles to ask Jesus why the scribes indicated that Elijah must come first (v. 10 Cf. Mk. 9:11). Most will understand that Jesus’ answer was an affirmation that in reality John the Baptist did come to fulfill this role (vv. 11-12 Cf. 11:14; 16:14; Lk. 1:17), however there is something more to note about this specific prediction. Malachi said that Elijah would come before the “the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (4:5), which did not specifically occur at Jesus first coming.

“The great and dreadful day” would come when the Son of Man ascended upon his throne to reign as the messianic Prophet-Priest-King, with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD! This is the event referred to by Daniel, when the Son of Man would come to the ancient of Days and begin his reign at his right hand (7-9). This is also why when Jesus read from Isaiah at the inauguration of his ministry he stopped short of this judgment (Is. 61:2b), leaving it also as the next prophetic fulfillment in line with what would follow his physical earthly work (Lk. 4:18-19ff.; Is. 61:1-2a). The apostles came to understand that John came in “the spirit and power of Elijah” (Lk. 1:17), but it would take the ascension, the sending of the spirit, and the fulfillment of Jesus’ predictions of Matthew 24-25, for them to understand the literal fulfillment of this prediction from Malachi (Cf. 4:6).

Matthew 16:24-28 Two Comings And A Bearing Of Crosses.

Matthew 16:24-28 Two Comings And A Bearing Of Crosses.

Jesus knew what taking up his cross would entail. He also knew what it would mean for some of those standing before him, and martyrs down through the centuries (v. 24 Cf. II Tim. 3:12; I Pet. 2:21). Some would follow him to the point of death for their faith. It would be a mistake to view any challenge in life as a cross to bear. The context makes it clear – there is a challenge to save one’s life if one will refuse to bear witness to Jesus as the Christ. Nevertheless, those who lose their lives for Jesus, are assured that eternal life is theirs (v. 25 Cf. Jn. 12:25). Even if one could receive all that life has to offer, it can’t compare to the loss of one’s soul (v. 26 Cf. Lk. 12:20-21). All this points to the surety of a final judgement, when Jesus as “the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works” (v. 27).

However, in the immediate future Jesus as the Son of Man will come in His Kingdom (v. 28). The title ‘Son of Man’ is a clear reference to Daniel, in particular 7:9ff., where the Son of Man begins his reign as he approaches the Ancient of days and the throne in heaven, which would take place at Jesus’ ascension. This is also the time when Daniel 9:24ff. will also be fulfilled. It would be a huge mistake to believe that these verses refer to the same event. There is no mention of the Father or the angels here, showing that v. 28 refers to something that is different than v. 27, that some standing before him would “see” this event. In point of fact, the ascension would be proof of the truth of the judgement to come. With the anointing of the Most Holy, there would be, among other things “an end of sins” and a sealing up of “vision and prophecy” (Dan. 9:24).

Matthew 16:21-23 His Reign Must Follow His Death And Resurrection.

Matthew 16:21-23 His Reign Must Follow His Death And Resurrection.

Matthew records that “from that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem” (v. 21a). One does not imagine that Jesus showed them on a map, as it were, nor that he gave some kind of visual display of what was about to take place there. Clearly he was showing them from the scriptures that the upcoming events had to take place. This also explains why he earlier wanted them to remain quiet about who he was, because they clearly did not understand what had to take place before he began to reign as the Messiah, and Son of the living God, that they through Peter had declared him to be (Cf. vv. 13-20; Lk. 9:18-22). This understanding of what he was now showing them is borne out by later record (Cf. Lk. 18:31-33; 24:46).

In Luke’s record the emphasis is on the actions of the Gentiles, but here in Matthew it is that of the apostate Jewish leadership. Clearly both parties were guilty, but each writer had their own particular purpose and emphasis. However, together they, along with the other New Testament writers, bear witness to him being killed and rising on the third day (v. 21b). Peter, the one who bore true testimony to who Jesus was, by the sovereign revelation of the Father, was equally adamant that he should not allow this death to take place. However, now Peter’s words were inspired by Satan and not the Father (vv. 22-23a). At this point Peter was only mindful of the things of men, and not of God, a reign that would bypass the cross and the resurrection (v. 23b).

Matthew 16:13-20 A True Confession Is Revealed.

Matthew 16:13-20 A True Confession Is Revealed.

From apostate heretics who refused to confess Jesus as the Christ, son of the living God, Matthew moves us on to the confession of one who knew the Lord, because he was first known by him. The Pharisees and Sadducees in rejecting Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One, showed that they worshipped an idol of their own imaginations. Then as now, Jesus continues to ask people who they think he is, and some are willing to say that he is or was a prophet. He certainly was a prophet, but more than a prophet. Peter knew that he was both God and man in the person of the Anointed One, but Jesus made clear to him, and continues to make clear, that this knowledge only comes by revelation from the Father – it is not a confession one can make in one’s own strength or insight.

True Christianity is revealed, not man-made. It was on this understanding of who he was and how this came to be known, that he would build his church. Though this building enterprise does not come by flesh and blood, it is through a redeemed humanity empowered by the ascended Son. The apostles, with this apostolic confession, held the keys to how this people of God would be built into the true house of God. Part of the tools at their disposal would be the binding of those apostate heretics Jesus just disputed with, and all those like them. The church stands or falls based on the true confession of people to whom the Lord has revealed his truth. However, the time for the fullness of this revelation would come later – when he would ascend to his throne to begin his reign.