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Matthew 18:1

Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

At the same time - Or hour; but ωρα is frequently used to signify some particular time: however, instead of ωρα, three MSS., all the Itala but four, and Origen, read ημερα, day. Origen says both readings were extant in MSS. in his time.

Who is the greatest - Could these disciples have viewed the kingdom of Christ in any other light than that of a temporal one? Hence they wished to know whom he would make his prime minister - whom his general - whom his chief chancellor - whom supreme judge, etc., etc. Is it he who first became thy disciple, or he who is thy nearest relative, or he who has most frequently entertained thee, or he who is the oldest, merely as to years? Could this inquiry have proceeded from any but the nine disciples who had not witnessed our Lord's transfiguration? Peter, James, and John, were surely more spiritual in their views! And yet how soon did even these forget that his kingdom was not of this world! See Mark 10:35, etc.; John 18:10, etc. The disciples having lately seen the keys delivered to Peter, and found that he, with James and John, had been privileged with being present at the transfiguration, it is no wonder if a measure of jealousy and suspicion began to work in their minds. From this inquiry we may also learn, that the disciples had no notion of Peter's supremacy; nor did they understand, as the Roman Catholics will have it, that Christ had constituted him their head, either by the conversation mentioned Matthew 16:18, Matthew 16:19, or by the act mentioned in the conclusion of the preceding chapter. Had they thought that any such superiority had been designed, their present question must have been extremely impertinent. Let this be observed.

Albert Barnes
Notes on the Whole Bible
Verses 1-6

See also Mark 9:33-41; Luke 9:46-50.

Who is the greatest in the kingdom, of heaven? - By the kingdom of heaven they meant the kingdom which they supposed he was about to set up - his kingdom as the Messiah. They asked the question because they supposed, in accordance with the common expectation of the Jews, that he was about to set up a temporal kingdom of great splendor, and they wished to know who should have the principal offices, and posts of honor and profit. This was among them a frequent subject of inquiry and controversy. Mark Mark 9:34 informs us that they had had a dispute on this subject in the way. Jesus, he says, inquired of them what they had been disputing about. Luke Luke 9:47 says that Jesus perceived the thought of their heart an act implying omniscience, for none can search the heart but God, Jeremiah 17:10. The disciples, conscious that the subject of their dispute was known, requested Jesus to decide it, Matthew 18:1. They were at first silent through shame (Mark), but, perceiving that the subject of their dispute was known, they came, as Matthew states, and referred the master to him for his opinion.

Matthew 18:2, Matthew 18:3

Except ye be converted - The word “converted” means changed or turned.

The verb means to change or turn from one habit of life or set of opinions to another, James 5:19; Luke 22:32. See also Matthew 7:6; Matthew 16:23; Luke 7:9, etc., where the same word is used in the original. It sometimes refers to that great change called the new birth or regeneration Psalm 51:13; Isaiah 60:5; Acts 3:19, but not always. It is a general word, meaning any change. The word “regeneration” denotes a particular change the beginning to live a spiritual life. The phrase, “Except ye be converted,” does not imply, of necessity, that they were not Christians before, or had not been born again. It means that their opinions and feelings about the kingdom of the Messiah must be changed. They had supposed that he was to be a temporal prince. They expected he would reign as other kings did. They supposed he would have his great officers of state, as other monarchs had, and they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices. Jesus told them that they were wrong in their views and expectations. No such things would take place. From these notions they must be turned, changed or converted, or they could have no part in his kingdom. These ideas did not fit at all the nature of his kingdom.

And become as little children - Children are, to a great extent, destitute of ambition, pride, and haughtiness They are characteristically humble and teachable. By requiring his disciples to be like them, he did not intend to express any opinion about the native moral character of children, but simply that in these respects they must become like them. They must lay aside their ambitious views and their pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station - a very lowly one. Mark says Mark 9:35 that Jesus, before he placed the little child in the midst of them, told them that “if any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all and servant of all.” That is, he shall be the most distinguished Christian who is the most humble, and who is willing to be esteemed least and last of all. To esteem ourselves as God esteems us is humility, and it cannot be degrading to think of ourselves as we are; but pride, or an attempt to be thought of more importance than we are, is foolish, wicked, and degrading.

Matthew 18:4

The greatest … - That is, shall be the most eminent Christian shall have most of the true spirit of religion.

Matthew 18:5

And whoso shall receive one such little child - That is, whoso shall receive and love one with a spirit like this child one who is humble, meek, and unambitious - that is, a real Christian.

In my name - As a follower of me, or because he is attached to me.

Whoso receives one possessed of my spirit, or who loves him because he has that spirit, loves me also. The word “receive” means to approve, love, or treat with kindness; to aid in the time of need. See Matthew 25:35-40.

Mark Mark 9:38 and Luke Luke 9:49 add a conversation that took place on this occasion, which has been omitted by Matthew. John told him that they had seen one casting out devils in his name, and they forbade him, because he followed not with them. Jesus replied that he should not have been forbidden, for there was no one who could work a miracle in his name that could lightly speak evil of him. That is, though he did not attend them though he had not joined himself to their society, yet he could not really be opposed to him. Indeed, they should have remembered that the power to work a miracle must always come from the same source, that is, God; and that he who had the ability given him to work a miracle, and who did it in the name of Christ, must be a real friend to him. It is probable, from this, that the power of working miracles in the name of Christ was given to many who did not attend on his ministry.

Matthew 18:6

Whoso shall offend - That is, cause to fall, or to sin; or who should place anything in their way to hinder their piety or happiness. See notes at Matthew 5:29.

These little ones - That is, Christians manifesting the spirit of little children, 1 John 2:1, 1 John 2:12, 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:28.

It were better for him that a millstone … - Mills, anciently, were either turned by hand (see the notes at Matthew 24:41), or by beasts, chiefly by mules. These last were of the larger kind, and the original words denote that it was this kind that was intended. This was one mode of capital punishment practiced by the Greeks, Syrians, Romans, and by some other nations. The meaning is, it would be better for him to have died before he had committed the sin. To injure, or to cause to sin, the feeblest Christian, will be regarded by Christ as a most serious offence, and will be punished accordingly.

Matthew Henry
Concise Bible Commentary
Christ spoke many words of his sufferings, but only one of his glory; yet the disciples fasten upon that, and overlook the others. Many love to hear and speak of privileges and glory, who are willing to pass by the thoughts of work and trouble. Our Lord set a little child before them, solemnly assuring them, that unless they were converted and made like little children, they could not enter his kingdom. Children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents. It is true that they soon begin to show other dispositions, and other ideas are taught them at an early age; but these are marks of childhood, and render them proper emblems of the lowly minds of true Christians. Surely we need to be daily renewed in the spirit of our minds, that we may become simple and humble, as little children, and willing to be the least of all. Let us daily study this subject, and examine our own spirits.
Ellen G. White
The Voice in Speech and Song, 226

Certainty Born of Heart Conviction—Do not present the truth in a formal manner, but let the heart be vitalized by the Spirit of God, and let your words be spoken with such certainty that those who hear may know that the truth is a reality to you. Your manner may be educated, and your words may be of that character that they will voice the words of Peter: “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” With just as much assurance you may declare the message of God's truth. Those who believe sacred, eternal truth, must put their whole soul into their efforts. We must be stirred to the very heart as we behold the fulfilling of prophecy in the closing scenes of this earth's history. As our vision extends still further into the glories of eternity—the coming of Christ with power and great glory, and the scenes of the great day of judgment—we should not remain tame and unmoved. “I saw the dead,” John says, “stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”—Letter 8, 1895. VSS 226.1

Enthusiasm in Things Real and Imaginary—On a certain occasion, when Betterton, the celebrated actor, was dining with Dr. Sheldon, archbishop of Canterbury, the archbishop said to him, “Pray, Mr. Betterton, tell me why it is that you actors affect your audiences so powerfully by speaking of things imaginary.” VSS 227.1

“My lord,” replied Betterton, “with due submission to Your Grace, permit me to say that the reason is plain: It all lies in the power of enthusiasm. We on the stage speak of things imaginary as if they were real, and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.”—Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 255. VSS 227.2

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Ellen G. White
Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, 44.1

Turn Away From the Negative Side (counsel to a minister)—If you could see the result of always occupying the negative side, as you have done for years to a greater or less extent, you would have a better understanding of the words of the Saviour, recorded in the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. The disciples came to Jesus with the question, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh!” (Matthew 18:1-7). 1MCP 44.1

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Ellen G. White
Life Sketches of Ellen G. White, 86

I told them plainly that this was not required; that the humility which God looked for in His people was to be shown by a Christlike life, not by creeping on the floor. All spiritual things are to be treated with sacred dignity. Humility and meekness are in accordance with the life of Christ, but they are to be shown in a dignified way. LS 86.1

A Christian reveals true humility by showing the gentleness of Christ, by being always ready to help others, by speaking kind words and performing unselfish acts, which elevate and ennoble the most sacred message that has come to our world. LS 86.2

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Ellen G. White
Evangelism, 340-1

Teaching New Believers How to Meet Enemy—It is poor policy to leave a few here and there, unfed and uncared for, for devouring wolves, or to become targets for the enemy to open fire upon. I have been shown that there has been much of such work done among us as a people. Promising fields have been spoiled for future effort by striking in prematurely without counting the cost, and leaving the work half done. Because there has been a course of lectures given, then stop the work, rush into a new field to half do the work there, and these poor souls who have but a slight knowledge of the truth are left without proper measures being taken to confirm and establish them in the faith and educate them like well-drilled soldiers how to meet the enemy's attacks and vanquish him.—Letter 60, 1886. Ev 340.1

To Be Guided as Children—“At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoso shall receive one such little child in My name receiveth Me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Ev 340.2

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