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Matthew 18:6

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.
Adam Clarke
Bible Commentary

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones - But, on the contrary, whosoever shall cause one of the least of those who believe in me to be stumbled - to go into the spirit of the world, or give way to sin - such a one shall meet with the most exemplary punishment.

Let those who act the part of the devil, in tempting others to sin, hear this declaration of our Lord, and tremble.

A millstone - Μυλος ονικος, an ass's millstone, because in ancient times, before the invention of wind and water mills, the stones were turned sometimes by slaves, but commonly by asses or mules. The most ancient kind of mills among the inhabitants of the northern nations, was the quern, or hand-mill. In some places in Ireland, Scotland, and the Zetland Isles, these still exist.

Drowned in the depth of the sea - It is supposed that in Syria, as well as in Greece, this mode of punishing criminals was practised; especially in cases of parricide; and when a person was devoted to destruction for the public safety, as in cases of plague, famine, etc. That this was the custom in Greece, we learn from the Scholiast on the Equites of Aristophanes, Οταν γαρ κατεποντουν τινας, βαρος απο των τραχηλων εκρεμων . When a person was drowned, they hung a weight, (υπερβολον λιθον, Suidas), a vast stone about his neck. See the ancient Scholia upon the Equites, lin. 1360, and Suidas, in υπερβολον λιθον . We find also that it was a positive institute of the ancient Hindoo law. "If a woman," says the precept, "causes any person to take poison, sets fire to any person's house, or murders a man, then the magistrate, having bound a stone to her neck, shall drown her." Halhead's Code of Gentoo Laws, 4th. edition, page 306.

Ellen G. White
The Desire of Ages, 327

Those who are called to suffer for Christ's sake, who have to endure misapprehension and distrust, even in their own home, may find comfort in the thought that Jesus has endured the same. He is moved with compassion for them. He bids them find companionship in Him, and relief where He found it, in communion with the Father. DA 327.1

Those who accept Christ as their personal Saviour are not left as orphans, to bear the trials of life alone. He receives them as members of the heavenly family; He bids them call His Father their Father. They are His “little ones,” dear to the heart of God, bound to Him by the most tender and abiding ties. He has toward them an exceeding tenderness, as far surpassing what our father or mother has felt toward us in our helplessness as the divine is above the human. DA 327.2

Of Christ's relation to His people, there is a beautiful illustration in the laws given to Israel. When through poverty a Hebrew had been forced to part with his patrimony, and to sell himself as a bondservant, the duty of redeeming him and his inheritance fell to the one who was nearest of kin. See Leviticus 25:25, 47-49; Ruth 2:20. So the work of redeeming us and our inheritance, lost through sin, fell upon Him who is “near of kin” unto us. It was to redeem us that He became our kinsman. Closer than father, mother, brother, friend, or lover is the Lord our Saviour. “Fear not,” He says, “for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine.” “Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Isaiah 43:1, 4. DA 327.3

Christ loves the heavenly beings that surround His throne; but what shall account for the great love wherewith He has loved us? We cannot understand it, but we can know it true in our own experience. And if we do hold the relation of kinship to Him, with what tenderness should we regard those who are brethren and sisters of our Lord! Should we not be quick to recognize the claims of our divine relationship? Adopted into the family of God, should we not honor our Father and our kindred? DA 327.4

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Ellen G. White
Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 266

Let Christ's methods be followed in dealing with those who make mistakes. Unwise actions, the manifestation of undue severity on the part of the teacher, may thrust a student upon Satan's battleground. Prodigals have been kept out of the kingdom of God by the un-Christlikeness of those who claimed to be Christians. “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me,” Christ said, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:6. It were better not to live than to exist day by day devoid of that love which Christ has enjoined upon His children. CT 266.1

A Christlike nature is not selfish, unsympathetic, cold. It enters into the feelings of those who are tempted and helps the one who has fallen to make the trial a stepping-stone to higher things. The Christian teacher will pray for and with an erring student, but he will not get angry with him. He will not speak sharply to the wrongdoer, thus discouraging a soul who is struggling with the powers of darkness. He will let his heart ascend to God for help, and angels will come to his side to help him in lifting up the standard against the enemy; thus instead of cutting off the erring one from help, he will be enabled to gain a soul for Christ. CT 266.2

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 7, 119

The young women should be under the care of a wise, judicious matron, a woman who is thoroughly converted, who will carefully guard the workers, especially the younger ones. 7T 119.1

The workers are to feel that they have a home. They are God's helping hand, and they are to be treated as carefully and tenderly as Christ declared that the little child whom He set in the midst of His disciples was to be treated. “Whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in Me,” He said, “it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” “Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of My Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 18:6, 10. The care that should be given to these employees is one of the reasons in favor of having in a large city several small restaurants instead of one large one. But this is not the only reason why it will be best to establish several small restaurants in different parts of our large cities. The smaller restaurants will recommend the principles of health reform just as well as the larger establishment and will be much more easily managed. We are not commissioned to feed the world, but we are instructed to educate the people. In the smaller restaurants there will not be so much work to do, and the helpers will have more time to devote to the study of the word, more time to learn how to do their work well, and more time to answer the inquiries of the patrons who are desirous of learning about the principles of health reform. 7T 119.2

If we fulfill the purpose of God in this work, the righteousness of Christ will go before us, and the glory of the Lord will be our rearward. But if there is no ingathering of souls, if the helpers themselves are not spiritually benefited, if they are not glorifying God in word and deed, why should we open and maintain such establishments? If we cannot conduct our restaurants to God's glory, if we cannot exert through them a strong religious influence, it would be better for us to close them up and use the talents of our youth in other lines of work. But our restaurants can be so conducted that they will be the means of saving souls. Let us seek the Lord earnestly for humility of heart, that He may teach us how to walk in the light of His counsel, how to understand His word, how to accept it, and how to put it into practice. 7T 120.1

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Ellen G. White
Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, 420

God has blessed His people who have moved forward following His opening providence. He has brought out a people from every class upon the great platform of truth. Infidels have been convinced that God was with His people and have humbled their hearts to obey the truth. The work of God moves steadily on. Yet notwithstanding all the evidences that God has been leading the body, there are, and will continue to be, those who profess the Sabbath, who will move independent of the body, and believe and act as they choose. Their views are confused. Their scattered state is a standing testimony that God is not with them. By the world the Sabbath and their errors are placed upon a level and thrown away together. God is angry with those who pursue a course to make the world hate them. If a Christian is hated because of his good works and for following Christ, he will have a reward; but if he is hated because he does not take a course to be loved, hated because of his uncultivated manners and because he makes the truth a matter of quarrel with his neighbors, and takes a course to make the Sabbath as annoying as possible to them, he is a stumbling block to sinners, a reproach to the sacred truth, and unless he repents it were better for him that a millstone were hung about his neck and he were cast into the sea. 1T 420.1

No occasion should be given to unbelievers to reproach our faith. We are considered odd and singular, and should not take a course to lead unbelievers to think us more so than our faith requires us to be. 1T 420.2

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Ellen G. White
Fundamentals of Christian Education, 280

If a man will not exercise his arm, it becomes weak and deficient in muscular strength. Unless the Christian exercises his spiritual powers, he acquires no strength of character, no moral vigor. Love is a very precious plant and must be cultivated if it flourishes. The precious plant of love is to be treated tenderly (practiced), and it will become strong and vigorous and rich in fruit-bearing, giving expression to the whole character. A Christlike nature is not selfish, not unkind, and will not hurt the souls of those who are struggling with Satan's temptations. It will enter into the feelings of those who are tempted that the trials and temptations shall be so managed as to bring out the gold and consume the dross. This is the practice which God appoints to all. In this, Christ's school, all may learn their lessons daily, both teachers and pupils, to be patient, humble, generous, noble. You will all have to seek God most earnestly in prayer mingled with living faith, and the molding hand of God will bring out His own image in your character. Temptations will come, but not overcome. But through grace found in opening the heart to the knock and voice of Jesus, Christian character and experience are growing more and more beautiful and heavenly. Let us bear in mind that we are dealing with souls that Christ has purchased with infinite cost to Himself. O tell the erring, God loves you, God died for you. Weep over them, pray with them. Shed tears over them, but do not get angry with them. They are Christ's purchased possession. Let every one seek a character that will express love in all his actions. “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 depths of the sea.” It were better not to live than to exist day by day devoid of that love which Christ has revealed in His character, and has enjoined upon His children. Said Christ, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We live in a hard, unfeeling, uncharitable world. Satan and his confederacy are plying every art to seduce the souls for whom Christ has given His precious life. Every one who loves God in sincerity and truth, will love the souls for whom Christ has died. If we wish to do good to souls, our success with these souls will be in proportion to their belief in our belief in, and appreciation of, them. Respect shown to the struggling human soul is the sure means through Christ Jesus of the restoration of the self-respect the man has lost. Our advancing ideas of what he may become is a help we cannot ourselves fully appreciate. We have need of the rich grace of God every hour, then we will have a rich, practical experience, for God is love. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God. Give love to them that need it most. The most unfortunate, those who have the most disagreeable temperaments need our love, our tenderness, our compassion. Those who try our patience need most love. We pass through the world only once; any good thing we can do, we should do most earnestly, untiringly, with the same spirit as is stated of Christ in His work. He will not fail nor be discouraged. The rough, stubborn, sullen dispositions are the ones who need help the most. How can they be helped? Only by that love practiced in dealing with them which Christ revealed to fallen man. Treat them, you may, as they deserve. What if Christ had treated us thus? He, the undeserving, was treated as we deserve. Still we are treated by Christ with grace and love as we did not deserve, but as He deserved. Treat some characters, as you think they richly deserve, and you will cut off from them the last thread of hope, spoil your influence and ruin the soul. Will it pay? No, I say no, a hundred times no. Bind these souls who need all the help it is possible for you to give them close to a loving, sympathizing, pitying heart, overflowing with Christlike love, and you will save a soul from death and hide a multitude of sins. Had we not better try the love process? FE 280.1

Be careful what you do in the line of suspending students. This is a solemn business. It should be a very grave fault which requires this discipline. Then there should be a careful consideration of all the circumstances connected with the case. Students sent from home a short distance or a long distance, thousands and thousands of miles, are away from and deprived of the advantages of home, and if expelled are refused the privileges of school. All their expenses have to be met by some one who has had hope and confidence in these subjects that their money would not be invested in vain. The student enters into, or falls into, temptation, and he is to be disciplined for his wrong. He feels keenly that his record is marred, and he disappoints those who have trusted him to develop a character under the influence of his training in his scholastic life, which will pay all that has been invested in his behalf. But he is suspended for his foolish course of action. What will he do? Courage is at the lowest ebb, courage and even manliness are not cherished. He is on expense, and precious time is lost. Who is tender and kind, and feels the burden of these souls? What wonder that Satan takes advantage of the circumstances. They are thrust on Satan's battle ground and the very worst feelings of the human heart are called into exercise and strengthened and become confirmed. I put the case as it has been presented to me. I wish all could view this as it has in all its bearings been shown me. I think there would be radical changes made in many rules and methods of dealing with human minds. There would be more physicians to heal human souls, who understand how to deal with human minds. There would be far more forgiveness and sympathy and love practiced, and far less discouraging, tearing down influences exercised. Supposing that Christ should deal with all His sons and daughters who learn of Him, as the human agent, as teachers, deal with those under their charge; that when the law of the Lord, His rules, His injunctions have been disregarded by us, the guilty are expelled or suspended, turning the erring away from His saving, uplifting, educating influences, leaving him to pick and choose his own way and course of action without His divine assistance, what would become of our souls? His constant forgiving love is binding up our soul's interest with Himself. O the mightiness of the love of Jesus overwhelms me as I consider it. The yoke of Christ is easy and His burden is light. When we enter more entirely into the love of Jesus by practice, we shall see far different results in our own advancement as Christians, and in the molding of the character of those brought in relationship with us. The most difficult business for individuals is the giving up that which one thinks is his right. Love seeketh not her own. Heaven-born love strikes deeper than the surface. Love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Fortified with the grace of Christ love doth not behave itself unseemly. He that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God. God is love. We all need love, gentleness, tenderness, compassion, and forbearance. Expel from the soul every vestige of selfishness or human dignity. FE 282.1

When all hope was excluded from Adam and Eve in consequence of transgression and sin, when justice demanded the death of the sinner, Christ gave Himself to be a sacrifice for the sin of the world. The world was under condemnation. Christ became substitute and surety for man. He would give His life for the world, which is represented as the one lost sheep that had strayed from the fold, whose guilt as well as helplessness was charged against them and stood in the way, hindering their return. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins.” “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Every son and daughter of God, if they have an abiding Saviour will act out Christ. Every soul that has not an abiding Saviour will reveal the same in unchristlikeness in character. Love is not cherished and put in exercise. “Lift Him up, the risen Saviour,” in our words, in our conversation, in our dealing with the erring. FE 283.1

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