The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
18 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children,you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me. 6 But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.
The disciples have this same argument several times, and it really is quite sad. They are stirring up envy, rivalry, bitterness, ambition, pride, self-seeking - pretty much mutually encouraging each other to sin.
And Jesus first reminds them of how they even get into the Kingdom in the first place. The obvious point of the fact that we need to get in, means that we were born out of it.
MacArthur has a beautiful summation of Matthew's explanation of how to do exactly that. He notes that it is no accident God has put the book of Matthew at the beginning of the New Testament as that is where most non-Christians or seeking people would start reading the Bible, and Matthew lays it out pretty clearly. I love how MacArthur takes us through each step, but here's just a summary...
How does someone enter the Kingdom? Repentance, turning from their sin and desiring to have a change, realizing their unworthy of such a change and such an entrance into a Kingdom, being left with meekness and humility and out of that a willingness to submit obediently to Christ's Lordship no matter what it cost. And then to outwardly confess Jesus as Lord and be willing to state that He's your Lord before men....you're sacrificing everything, you're selling everything to buy the pearl, you're selling everything to take the treasure out of the field....The people who enter the Kingdom press their way in it. They go through that narrow gate and they walk that narrow way and there's a price but they are persistent in their confident faith that there's sufficiency in Jesus Christ. They can't be distracted. They pursue it. Like the guy who keeps knocking and knocking and the Lord responds.
So Matthew has laid it out for us very clearly. If you would just sit down and read that, you would see that in order to enter the Kingdom there must be repentance. There must be a sense of unworthiness. There must be humility. There must be a willingness to submit obediently to the Lordship of Christ and confession and self‑sacrifice and a persistent pursuing faith. And may I suggest to you that that's Matthew's formula or as close as he's going to get to one for salvation. All the elements are there. And let me also say, none of those are produced in the flesh. They are all the work of the Spirit of God. But they are nonetheless the elements, the constituent parts that occur in the soul that is brought to the Kingdom...And now as you come to chapter 18, in a most beautiful way, the Lord captures the essence of all of those. He distills the truth in this one statement. "Except you be converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven." And what's He talking about? Simple childlike humble trust.
There's no salvation without repentance and conversion.
Conversion and repentance are really two sides of the same coin. Repentance is being sorry for sin and wanting to turn‑‑that's the emotion. And conversion is the will that does it. So entering the Kingdom begins with a repentant heart and a will that turns to God.
MacArthur maintains that though salvation is instant, it's also a process. First there's election, then there's instruction in the Word, then conviction which leads to repentance and conversion. And the only way to do that is to become like a little child - humble, meek, trusting, content to be fed, loved and totally dependant.
And Jesus lays it right out there when they ask about who's the greatest. He says that the humblest is the greatest and the fact that they're arguing about who's the greatest immediately disqualifies them.
And then He gives them a warning. Which should comes as no surprise to any of us who are parents. I mean, just think of it. The quickest way to get on a parent's bad side is to mistreat their children in any way - whether it's taking them down a wrong path, encouraging wrong beliefs, or simply being mean. There's no quicker way to bring on the wrath of a parent than messing with their children. And the reverse is also true - there's no quicker way to get to the heart of a parent than by caring for their children and looking out for their best interests.
And it is the same way with God and His children.
And when the children of God mutually encourage each other to sin, God is greatly displeased. In fact, it says right here, that we'd be better off dead. It's that serious.
Most Christians have at least some concern for their own holiness. But how many of us are concerned for the holiness of our fellow sisters and brothers in Christ? We must not only not do evil in our own lives, but we must also not cause each other to sin.
When you hurt someone's child, you're hurting them. It's the same with God and His children. How we treat God's children is how we treat Jesus Christ. It's that simple.
We should not entice people to sin, we should not provoke them indirectly to sin, we should not tempt them to sin by setting a poor example or abusing Christian liberty, and we should not tempt them to sin by failing to lead them into holiness or failing to strengthen them in their faith,
Wow, talk about convicting.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Matthew 18:7-14