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Lesson 26
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Lesson 26

I.       Observation

A.     Outline

Being Like and Caring for the Little Ones (18:1-14)

Becoming as Little Children (1-4)

Not Offending the Little Ones (5-9)

Not Despising the Little Ones (10-14)

A Brother Who Has Sinned (18:15-20)

Forgiving Our Brothers (18:21-35)

B.     Key Words/Phrases

Greatest, kingdom of heaven, little children, humble, in My name, sin, offenses, brother, agree, seventy times seven.

II.    General Analysis

1. Humility (4); Love for those who seem insignificant (5,6,10); Restoring those who sin (15); Forgiveness toward the offender (22,35). Taken as a whole, the Lord’s discourse removes all notions of greatness in the worldly sense. Being great in God’s kingdom requires humbling ourselves and denying any sense of pride over others (20:26,27).

2. 5, 6, 10-14.

3. The little ones in this passage refer to our brothers in Christ. We receive them, care for them, respect them, and forgive them for the sake of Christ because they are also members of Christ’ body (5) and are cared for by the heavenly Father (10,14). When we show our love and concern to them, we do so directly on Christ (25:40).

III. Segment Analysis

1. They were comparing among themselves and wanted to be the greatest of all Jesus’ followers. They wanted to have power and be served like the rulers of the world (cf Mk 9:33,34; Mt 20:25-28). But such earthly desire has no place in God’s kingdom, whose citizens serve one another rather than rule over others.

2. Their humility (4), simplicity (11:25), and innocence (1Cor 14:20).

3. Humility. Just as it takes humility to become like little children and acknowledge our inadequacies, it also takes humble self-denial to receive someone who seems insignificant.

4a. When we cause a brother to stumble, we are doing the very thing that God is not pleased with (14) and we sin against Christ (1Cor 8:11,12). See also General Analysis, Question 3.

4b. Such offenses must come because the world is evil and is under the control of the evil one (“world” refers also to its evil desires; see 1Jn 2:15-17; 5:19). But it is a person’s choice that makes him a stumbling block and instrument of evil. So he would be responsible for the offense.

5. Since the sin of causing someone to stumble is so serious that it is punishable by everlasting fire, we must do everything it takes to avoid being a stumbling block. If we know that we have certain desires or weaknesses in us that would lead us to sin, we must deny ourselves of such desires and eradicate them, even if doing so causes much pain.

6a. Our brothers who have strayed and become lost spiritually.

6b. He takes care of the weak and does not give up. He cherishes every soul and would do everything to restore it from perishing. He rejoices when a lost one returns to Him.

7. Since our heavenly Father cherishes every soul, we should also do the same and do our best to restore the brother who has sinned.

8a. Verses 15-17.

8b. Restoring our brother with gentleness, patience, and love (cf. Gal 6:1; Jas 5:19,20).

9. From the context, we understand the word “you” as in “sins against you” to refer to the collective body of believers. Some manuscripts reads “if your brother sins, go…” So this paragraph does not speak of personal offense, but the offense that sin brings to the community of believers.

10a. We should point out their fault, not to disgrace them or set ourselves above them, but to restore them with love. We resort to exclusion only if all other means fail.

10b. The church has the authority to forgive as well as retain sins. Here the Lord Jesus acknowledges the decisions of the church (19). See also Lesson 24, Question 10.

11. The gathering of people who call on the Lord and acknowledge His authority—namely, the believers of Christ (cf. Acts 2:21; Rom 10:13; 1Cor 1:2).

13. We should always forgive, and not even keep count of how many times we have done so.

14a. He was too focused on his own petty loss and had forgotten the great mercy he had received. His attitude goes to show that he did not truly appreciate his master’s forgiveness.

14b. We need to forgive unconditionally because our Father has forgiven us unconditionally and our forgiveness can never be compared to the forgiveness we have received. If we think about how much we have been indebted to God and how merciful He has been to us, we will no longer dwell on our brother’s offenses. We also need to remember that Christ also loved him and laid down His life for him. Then out of our love for the Lord, we will forgive our brother for the sake of Christ (cf. 5; Col 3:12-14).

15a. Failure to forgive is a mockery on God’s forgiveness. Not having compassion on our brothers, whom God loves, means not loving God.

15b. What God looks for is a heart of compassion (33). Without a heart of forgiveness, we would still harbor hatred, which easily turns into bitter words and actions (cf. 12:34,35). Only if we forgive from the heart can we truly forgive. Such forgiveness is a sign of humility, which marks the citizens of God’s kingdom.

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