Matthew 18:11-14 – “The One Who Assures Your Salvation”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ The Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 13 Jan 2013


18:1 During that time, the disciples approached Jesus saying,
“So which [of us] is greater in the kingdom of the heavens?”

18:2 Then Jesus summoned a child and stood it in the midst of them, 18:3 and He said,
“Really, I’m telling y’all, unless your [direction] happens to be turned
  and y’all become like the children,
        you shall never enter into the kingdom of the heavens.

18:4 Therefore, whichever one [of you] will humble himself like this child,
it is this man who is the greater one in the kingdom of the heavens,

18:5 and whoever shall receive this child on the basis of my name is receiving me myself!

18:6 But whoever shall scandalize one of these little ones who believe in me,
       it bears together for him that a donkey-millstone might be hanged about his neck
       and that he might be drowned in the deep part of the lake.
18:7 Woe to the world from its scandals, for it is a necessity for the scandals to come.
Woe moreover to that man through whom the scandal comes.”

18:8 But if your hand or your foot scandalizes you, cut it off and throw it away from you.

It is better for you to enter into The Life crippled or maimed
than to be thrown into the eternal fire while having two hands or two feet!

18:9 And if your eye scandalizes you, snatch it and throw it away from you;

it is better for you to enter into The Life one-eyed

than to be cast into the Hell of fire while having two eyes.


18:10 Keep seeing to it that y’all don’t start despising one of these little ones, for I’m telling you that their angels in heaven are always seeing the face of my Father in heaven.

18:11 For the Son of Man came to save what has been set apart for destruction.

18:12 How does this sound to y’all? If there happened to belong to some man 100 sheep, and one of them happened to be caused to wander away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills? Once he has gone, he is seeking the one that has been caused to wander!

18:13 And if he happened to find it? Wow, I tell you, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 ones which had not been caused to wander!

18:14 Thus it is not an option before your father in the heavens that a one of these little ones might destroy himself.

Introduction: Last Canon of Dort

In the year of our Lord 1618, a church council was called in the Dutch city of Dortrecht, to help the churches which had broken off from Roman Catholicism to develop a common statement of faith. Representatives were sent from Great Britain, the Protestant areas of Germany (Palatinate-SW, Hessia, Wetteraw, Bremen, Emden-NW), and of the Netherlands (Gelderland and Zutphen-East Central, South Holland, North Holland, Utrecht-central, Friesland and Gronigen-North, and Drent), Switzerland (and Geneva), Denmark (Zealand), Romania (Transylvania), Norway (Omland) and France.


One of the many issues they discussed was the conflict between Armenianism and Calvinism, which disagree, among other things, on the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, also known as “Once Saved Always Saved.” Concerning the particular conflict over the Perseverance of the Saints, this church council, after a year or more of deliberation, concluded the following:


“By reason of the remains of indwelling sin, and the temptations of sin and of the world, those who are converted could not persevere in a state of grace, if left to their own strength. But God is faithful, who having conferred grace, mercifully confirms and powerfully preserves them therein, even to the end…. God who is rich in mercy, according to His unchangeable purpose of election, does not wholly withdraw the Holy Spirit from His own people, even in their melancholy falls; nor suffer them to proceed so far as to lose the grace of adoption and forfeit the state of justification, or to commit the sin unto death; nor does He permit them to be totally deserted and to plunge themselves into everlasting destruction. For, in the first place, in these falls He preserves in them the incorruptible seed of regeneration from perishing or being totally lost; and again, by His Word and Spirit, He certainly and effectually renews them to repentance, to a sincere and godly sorrow for their sins, that they may seek and obtain remission in the blood of the Mediator, that they may again experience the favour of a reconciled God, through faith adore His mercies, and henceforward more diligently work out their own salvation with fear and trembling… Of this reservation of the elect to salvation, and of their perseverance in the faith, true believers for themselves may and do obtain assurance… [and, far from “producing licentiousness or disregard to piety” it rather] serves as an incentive to the serious and constant practice of gratitude and good works…”[1]


This statement from the Canons of Dordt is a fitting summary of the teaching of Matthew 18:11-14, but let us look at what Matthew actually says:


18:11 For the Son of Man came to save what has been set apart for destruction.

[ηλθεν γαρ ‘ο υιος του ανθρωπου σωσαι το απολωλος ][2]


18:12 How does this sound to y’all? If there happened to belong to some man 100 sheep, and one of them happened to be caused to wander away, will he not leave the 99 on the hills? Once he has gone, he is seeking the one that has been caused to wander!

τί ‘υμιν δοκει; εαν γενηται τινι ανθρωπω ‘εκατον προβατα και πλανηθη ‘εν εξ αυτων ουχι αφεις[7] τα ενενηκοντα εννεα [8]επι τα ορη πορευθεις ζητει το πλανωμενον[9]


18:13 And if he happened to find it? Wow, I tell y’all, he rejoices over it more than over the 99 ones which had not been caused to wander!

και εαν γενηται ‘ευρειν αυτο αμην λεγω ‘υμιν ‘οτι χαιρει επ’ αυτω μαλλον η επι τοις ενενηκοντα εννεα τοις μη πεπλανημενοις


18:14 Thus it is not an option before your father in the heavens that a one of these little ones might destroy himself.

‘ουτως ουκ εστιν θελημα εμπροσθεν του πατρος ‘υμων[15] του εν ουρανοις ‘ινα αποληται ‘εις[16] των μικρων τουτων


What does the parable of the Lost Sheep and the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints do for us?

  1. It gives you freedom from the fear of losing your relationship with God. What a comfort that “nothing can separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom. 8:39). You don’t have to worry that God might stop loving you. That will never happen. Hallelujah!
  2. There is hope if you have wandered astray. Every one of us has had our moments of realizing we have really blown it. Will God take you back? You bet He will! In the depth of your foolishness, call out to Jesus with all your heart, and your good shepherd will certainly rescue you.
  3. There is joy for Christians – Joy that you thrilled His heart to be able to save you, and that you can join in the thrill of sharing that salvation with others. (Isa. 62:5)
  4. We must apply vigilance in watching out for the children and adults in this church to protect them from wandering. John Chrysostom, the “golden-tongued” preacher from the 3rd Century spoke eloquently to this point: “Let us also then not be satisfied with our own salvation only, since else we destroy even this. For in a war… the soldier who is looking to only how he may save himself by flight, destroys the rest also with himself; much as on the other hand… he who stands in arms in defense of the others, with the others preserves himself also… so let us set ourselves in array in the engagement… looking to salvation in behalf of all, and cheering them that stand, and raising up them that are down. For indeed many of our brethren lie fallen in this conflict, having wounds…[20]
  5. Take comfort in knowing that our Good Shepherd is in total control of everything, so He is both able to take good care of you and willing – in fact it is His delight – to take good care of you.

[1] Canons, Heading V, articles 3-13, as published in The Doctrinal Standards of the Reformed Church in America, published by The Board of Education, N.Y., no date printed, but I would guess c. 1950.

[2] This is the reading of the Byzantine and Textus Receptus editions, following the Majority of manuscripts (incl. D, W, and added as inserts in to L and Θ, and it is also found in the majority of Old Latin and Syriac versions and the Vulgate. This verse is not found in the Critical editions of the GNT, following its omission in the Sinaiticus and Vaticanus and those families of minuscules (1 and 13) which tend to vary from the majority. Chrysostom includes it.

[3] Consider also Thayer’s Definition of ἀπόλλυμι: “to destroy, put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to, ruin, render useless, kill, declare that one must be put to death, metaphorically to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell, to perish, to be lost, ruined, destroyed…”

[4] The Greek word here for “what was lost” is Neuter in gender, perhaps referring to the Neuter word “child” from vs. 2-5, which is carried on through the phrase “little ones” in vs. 6 & 10, which is also a Neuter spelling. Matthew Henry commented, “…lost in their own eyes (Isa. 66:3), at a loss within themselves. Or rather the children of men.”

[5] The Perfect tense of the Greek participle for “lost” points to the occasion of our sins and rebellion in the past which destined us for death and eternal damnation in logical order until Jesus saved us.

[6] “See what a wall He has set around them, and what earnest care He takes of them that are contemptible and perishing, at once threatening incurable ills to them that make them fall, and promising great blessings to them that wait upon them, and take care of them, and bringing an example from Himself again and from the Father? Him let us also imitate, refusing none of the tasks that seem lowly and troublesome for our brethren’s sake; but though we have to do service, though he be small, though he be mean for whom this is done, though the work be laborious, though we must pass over mountains and precipices, let all things be held endurable for the salvation of our brother. For a soul is an object of such earnest care to God, that ‘He spared not His own Son’….” ~John Chrysostom

[7] This aorist participle is the reading of the Byz. and T.R. editions, following the Majority of manuscripts (including א, W, and f1), but the Critical editions follow B, L, Θ, and f13 in making this a future indicative (αφησει) – a difference of only one Greek letter’s position in the word. In order to make this work, the latter editions and manuscripts have to add “kai/and” in front of the next verb. Curiously, the Critical edition sides with the majority against opting for the Future indicative over the participle in the exact same situation which occurs at the end of this verse with the word zetei!

[8] B, Theta, and f13 insert “probata/sheep” here. Why the Critical editions follow the majority instead is a mystery to me, except that it makes for a more terse reading.

[9] The two occurances of planaw in this verse are passive in voice. Since planaw occurs in the active voice in other parts of the Bible, I tried to make a distinction in my translation here between active wandering and passively being caused to wander. I don’t think it is worth making a big deal of, and what I did certainly is more cumbersome semantically, so I have no criticism for the translators who used a more active rendering.

[10] Matthew Henry suggested that the 99 could be the angels vis a vis wandering mankind. Jesus did indeed leave heaven to save mankind, but the application for us is to make excursions from the comfort of Christian fellowship to rescue wanderers rather than just pursuing higher status among the faithful.

[11] Baalam was the guy who sent Moabite prostitutes into the camp of Israel to subvert the Jews. (Num. 25:1-3; 31:16)

[12]“Satan’s methods feature deceit and lies… [and] often use bondage to trip us up...” ~Jim Logan, Reclaiming Surrendered Ground, p.165

[13] I believe that our salvation was put in place before we were created, so, in a sense, it could be said that there never was an actual space of time in which God’s elect were really lost, but here I am trying to parallel the way Jesus is framing things, which I believe is in terms of the logical progression of our forensic case, in which our sin is considered before our redemption is applied.


[15] Although the Critical and traditional editions of the GNT agree, there are several Greek manuscripts which read the variant “mou/my” (B, N, Γ, Θ, and f13). The ESV picks up on the latter. Our shared relationship with the Father, however, does not make this variant theologically significant.

[16] Critical editions read en, following manuscripts א, Β, D, L, and N, but since it is a close synonym, it is not a significant variant.

[17] Another way I’ve heard the conundrum of the intersection of God’s will and Man’s will explained is in William Hendricksen’s commentary at this point: “One must distinguish between God’s secret (decretive) and his revealed will. Mysteries remain, to be sure. But it not the very fact that God foresaw the obstinate rejection (on the part of many) of his intense and yearning love a factor in explaining, in whatever small degree, the decree of reprobation? See. Isa. 5:1-7. On reprobation itself see Luke 22:22…”

[18] See especially Matt. 10:32-33, 11:25-26, 1 Thess. 1:2-4, 3:13, and Acts 10:4.

[19] I do not say this glibly. Just this month I heard from the parents of two different friends of mine from High School. They were among my best friends; we went to church together, and they seemed like Christians to me, but both have decisively rejected Christianity, so all I can do is grieve and pray that God will give them saving faith, and encourage them to trust Jesus as I have the opportunity to do so.

[20] Chrysostom ends his homily with a practical application of marrying your children off young so that they are not tempted to fornication and experience the spiritual and relational ruin of that sin.