– “The One Who Assures Your Salvation”
& 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
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
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
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
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
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
18:14 Thus it is not an option before your father in the heavens
that a one of these little ones might destroy himself.
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…”
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
γαρ ‘ο υιος του
το απολωλος ]
- This verse is not in
the more modern translations of the Bible because of its omission in two very-
ancient Greek manuscripts which were discovered in the 1800’s.
- There is no doubt,
however that Jesus made this statement, for it is in all the manuscripts
of Luke 19:10 after the account of Jesus visiting Zaccheus’ house.
- I’m inclined to
think that this is one of the sayings that Jesus uttered on more than one
occasion, and so Luke remembered Jesus saying it about Zaccheus, and Matthew
remembered that He said it here.
- Our first verse
starts with the word “for,” so we must keep it connected to the verses before
it. Why do the angels of these little ones have such a high position
before the face of God? “It is in pursuance of Christ’s design to save
them… Observe the graduation of the argument: The angels of God are
their servants, the Son of God is their Savior, and, to complete
their honor, God [the Father] is their friend!” ~Matthew Henry
- What does “lost” mean?
English word “lost” can mean “temporarily misplaced,” as in “not visible
or usable right now,” or it can mean “irrecoverably destroyed” as in “All
we look at the way this Greek word is used throughout the book of Matthew,
we see that we need to interpret “lost” with the latter meaning:”
- (assassinate) Matt. 2:13
…Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him. Matt. 12:14 But
the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, as to how they might destroy
- (tear out and throw away) Matt. 5:29
"If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from
you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your
body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
- (drown) Matt. 8:25 And
they came to Him and woke
Him, saying, "Save us,
Lord; we are perishing!"
- (burst and be ruined) Matt. 9:17
…the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined…
- (destroy in hell) Matt. 10:28 "Do
not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but
rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in
hell. Matt. 18:14 "So
it is not the will of your
Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
- (execute capital punishment upon) Matt.
21:41 …He will bring those wretches to a
- (slaughter and burn with an army) Matt.
22:7 "But the king was enraged, and he sent his
armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire.
- (put to death by sword) Matt. 26:52 Then
Jesus *said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all
those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.
Matt. 27:20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded
the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death.
- It is all these
“little ones” who
were justly deserving of death and hell due to their own sin and
rebellion against God that Jesus came to save.
- So how did Jesus
plan to save the lost?
- He knew that
the humans He had created had disobeyed God and were rebels to God’s
kingdom. He also knew that the just punishment due to all humans was physical
death followed by eternity in hell, so it is this sense in which we all
- Jesus “came” by
taking on flesh and living on earth as the only man who never in any way participated
in mankind’s rebellion against God.
- And Jesus “saved”
by accepting the guilt of our sin and dying physically on the cross while
also suffering hell in order to fulfill justice for our sin. The Aorist
tense of the Greek verb for “save” seems to point to this special act in
- Then Jesus rose
from the dead and ascended into heaven to make sure that we would be
- Now, all who
wish to be saved – to be freed from the guilt of their sin and to walk in
a right relationship with God – need only to believe that Jesus did this
and to renounce their life of rebellion against God by living as
followers of Jesus henceforth.
- There is another
reason why Jesus told His disciples that He came to save the lost, and
that was to set an example
for His disciples to follow. Rather than being preoccupied with how
important and honored they would be in God’s kingdom, they instead needed
to become preoccupied with the salvation of the lost.
- Lostness is a
spiritual condition which must not be ignored. It is heartstoppingly
terrifying to think of the sentence of death and hell pronounced by God’s
justice over men and women and children! (See “Lost!” by Robertson McQuilken.)
- What is our
response to that lostness? Disdain?
- “Ugh – look at all
those tattoos. Stay away from her!”
- “Oh, Look at those
bloodthirsty Muslims with their turbans and machine-guns – they’re
better off dead!”
- “Hey, that kid is
so stupid, it’s not worth trying to talk to him!”
- These, of course
are all opposite of Jesus’ attitude and the attitude He was trying to
instill in His apostles. Instead Jesus teaches us here in Matthew 18 to
“receive” these people, don’t “offend/scandalize” them, but instead seek
for their salvation!
- “Oh God, she looks like she might be lost, please cause her to
know your love!”
- “Lord, send
forth laborers into your Middle-Eastern harvest fields before more lost
souls pass into a Christless eternity!”
- “Could I
share with you some good news about Jesus, the son of God?”
- “Our pride is
inexcusable, even were the weak labouring under faults which could
make them worthy of contempt; for they are not to be assessed
according to their own virtues, but according to the grace of Christ.
And whoever does not conform to the pattern of that grace is altogether
too critical and proud.” ~John Calvin
- “…nothing is
so hostile to love as pride.” ~John Chrysostom
- “If Christ put such a value on them, let us not
undervalue them. If He denied Himself so much for their salvation, surely
we should deny ourselves for their edification and consolation.” ~Matthew
- Let us enter
into the same mission of Jesus as He saves lost souls between now and His
- Now, Jesus
illustrates this point with the parable of the lost sheep.
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!
‘υμιν δοκει; εαν γενηται
τινι ανθρωπω ‘εκατον
προβατα και πλανηθη
‘εν εξ αυτων ουχι
- Jesus asks,
“What do you think? Will he leave the others to find the one that wandered
off?” Of course he will. The Greek grammar even indicates that this will
be so (Ouk + indicative).
- This is what
shepherds do. They take care of their sheep. They don’t shrug and say, “Oh
well, too bad for that one. More lion food!” No, their sheep are precious
to them. Each sheep is a big investment; they don’t want to lose even one.
They will go to great lengths to recover that sheep. They will searchNAS,ESV/look
forNIV/seekKJV out that lost sheep.
- The KJV interprets
the participle “going” as going into the mountains to find the lost sheep,
whereas all the modern versions take the participle to mean going away
from the 99 sheep which are located on the mountains. I think the latter
works more naturally with the word order of the sentence in Greek, but I
see how it could be interpreted either way, since, in the Greek text, the
word for “going” is right inbetween the word for “mountains” and the word
for “seek.” Thankfully, knowing the location of the 99 sheep
is not a make-or-break issue in our eternal salvation.
- What does the
Bible have to say about what causes a person to “wander/go astray /planaw”?
knowing the scriptures
2:4…they rejected the law of the LORD And have not kept His statutes;
Their lies also have led them astray... (NASB)
- Matt. 22:29 “You
are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of
ALWAYS GO ASTRAY IN THEIR HEART, AND THEY DID NOT KNOW MY WAYS';
3:5 Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people
- Matt. 24:4-5 “See to it that no one misleads
you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will mislead
many... 11 Many false
prophets will arise and will mislead many… 24 For
false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs
and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.” (NASB)
3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being
in popular sins of the world
- 1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good
3:7 Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who
practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; (NASB)
immorality and idolatry are especially mentioned
- Hosea 4:12 …For a
spirit of harlotry has led them
astray, And they have played the harlot, departing from their God. (NASB)
6:9…Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor
adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals will inherit the kingdom…
2:15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed
the way of Balaam…
- People ignorant of the
Bible are led astray by deceivers and trapped in sin.
- It is in this lost
state that we all once were, before Jesus saved us.
- This is what Jesus
does; He “seeks” and “saves” lost souls like ours:
- Heb. 5:2 He can
deal gently with the ignorant and misguided [straying]… (NASB)
- 1Peter 2:25 For you
were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd
and Guardian of your souls. (NASB)
- Gently restoring
wayward souls to the trust of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is also something
that we can do to follow the example which Jesus set for us.
- James 5:16 Confess
your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be
healed… 19 My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and
one turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the
error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude
of sins. (NASB)
you see what a vital role we can play in each others’ lives by
shepherding one another toward the truth of God’s word?
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!
εαν γενηται ‘ευρειν
αυτο αμην λεγω ‘υμιν
‘οτι χαιρει επ’
αυτω μαλλον η
- There is a
difference between the application of this parable in Matthew and the
application of the parable of the lost sheep in Luke:
- In Luke,
Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees and telling them to rejoice
over sinners getting saved,
- but in Matthew,
Jesus is speaking to His disciples and telling them to rescue
believers who have associated with Christ and the church, but due to
pride or some other stumbling block are wandering astray.
- The verb in this
“if” clause is Subjunctive in Greek, indicating that the shepherd might
or might not find the sheep.
- It would be a
mistake to apply this to God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful,
and to conclude that He tries to save sheep but sometimes fails.
- It does
apply to us, however, because we don’t know who ultimately will be
saved and who will not, so we might spend time and effort trying to
recover a wanderer from the church, all to no avail.
- When this happens,
we should not allow ourselves to live under a burden of guilt; instead,
we should rest in God’s sovereignty, recognizing that there will be some
who, as 1 John 2:19 puts it, “went out from us but were never really of
- But the focus of
this parable is on the joy of recovering the lost sheep.
- It parallels the
parables in Luke 15 of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin, and the Prodigal
Son, all of which end with a party when the lost one has been
- Jesus said in Luke
15:7, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner
who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no
- This rejoicing,
happens in heaven with God and the angels when a lost person is
converted. According to Christianity
Today’s website for preachers, PreachingToday.com, there’s
about one new convert to Christianity every second – a total of 79,000
Heaven must be a continuous party!
- Now, this should not
be misunderstood as saying that any one sheep is more valuable or more worthy
of celebration than another. This is speaking of the feelings of the
shepherd and of God and the angels at a certain point of victory in time.
Each of the other 99 brought that same joy to God when they entered into His
kingdom, so none of us are any more special to God than anybody else in
- But the point is
that the disciples – and we ourselves – can enter into that joy over the
restoration of the wanderer. It is only right and good for the 99 to join
in celebrating when one more is brought into a right relationship with
God. The parallel story of the Prodigal Son reminds us that anyone who,
like the older brother in the parable, is not happy over the
restoration of the prodigal, has an attitude problem and is not right with
18:14 Thus it is not an option before your father in the
heavens that a one of these little ones might destroy himself.
comparative “Thus/In the same wayNIV/even soKJV”
that opens this verse indicates that the way God’s will works out in the
saving of these little ones is analogous to the way a shepherd will put
forth every effort to keep from losing one of his sheep.
- “God is
graciously concerned not only for His flock in general, but for every lamb
or sheep that belongs to it… for He ‘calls His own sheep by name.’
(John 10:3)” ~Matthew Henry
- The word “Perish/ be
- is the same
word at the end of v.11 – those “lost/ perishing/ bound for destruction.”
- The Middle voice
spelling here suggests that a person destroys himself by his (or
her) rebellion against God,
- but the Subjunctive
mood of this Greek verb indicates that it is not going to actually happen
– it is just a hypothetical situation which God would never entertain.
- The way the Greek
text reads for “it is not the will of [the] Father” is unusual. It
literally reads, “there is not a will before [the] Father,” as
though the will was not inside His mind but rather in front
of His face.
- For this
reason, it makes sense to me to translate the word “will” as “option.” Maybe
it’s an option that one of these little ones could destroy himself or
herself by wandering from the truth and getting trapped in sin, but it is
not an option that God in His sovereign control of history will ever
allow to happen, because His will was set in eternity past to save that
- Notice what is front
and center “before” God in heaven: Of the dozen times in the Bible that
the Greek preposition found here “emprosthen/in
front of” occurs with God the Father as the object, every one of them is
speaking of the salvation of a person or the worship of a
saved person. Your
salvation and your worship is what God thinks about and finds worthy of
His attention! That’s something!
- “But wait,” you
might say, “I know people who were Christians and then later renounced
Christ and went to their deathbed hating God. How can it be true that
losing salvation is not an option? Doesn’t this just mean that God’s ideal
is that He’d like everybody in the world to be saved, but that He doesn’t
impose that will on everyone so some don’t get saved because they chose to
reject God?” The answer could easily
take another hour-long sermon! But briefly, here are several objections:
- If God does not
impose His will, then He is not God. He would then have no sovereignty
or control over humans. That is not consistent with the Sovereign Lord
presented to us in the Bible. In John 10:25-29, Jesus explained His
sovereignty in salvation by saying, “You did not believe because you are
not of my sheep… I give eternal life to [my sheep] and they will never
perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (NASB)
- The scriptures do
not present heaven as the default destination of everyone or say
that it would take some special act of rebellion to end up in hell
instead. Rather, it says that we are all born in sin and that our default
destination is hell, so it would take a special act of righteousness
to land us in heaven, a righteousness that all but Christ fall short of
- God tells us that
perdition is something that He predestines some people for – it is
actually His choice for some people, not merely their
choice. In 1 Peter 2:8, it says that those who don’t have faith were “appointed/ετεθησαν”
to stumble in disobedience, and Romans 9:22 says that God made “vessels
of wrath prepared for destruction… to display the riches of His
- Additionally, we
must note that the ones who will not perish are spoken of in a limited
fashion. It is “these little ones,” not all little ones. Which
little ones? I would contend that it’s the little ones that were running
around underfoot in the disciple’s house. The ones whose parents loved
Jesus and wanted to learn all they could from Him. The chldren who were
listening to Jesus and trusting that what He said was true. The ones
whose parents brought them later to be blessed by Jesus. Perhaps you can
see my Presbyterian heritage showing through here, but basically, if it
is NOT an option for THESE little ones to perish, then it IS an option
for some OTHERS to perish.
- Finally, it
is not the verbal confession of faith that saves you,
rather, it is God regenerating a person’s heart, bringing them to
express faith and repentance for the rest of their life that makes a true
Christian. So just because you saw someone walk the aisle doesn’t mean
that they will be in heaven. Jesus says later in Matthew 7:22-23 that
there will be people who spoke His name and did miracles, but whom He “never
knew,” so they will go to the lake of fire. No matter how convincing a person
was in expressing faith at one point in their lives, if they permanently
stop expressing that faith, then they never had saving faith in the first
place. If they are His sheep, then He will fetch them back and establish
them in saving faith, and, what a day of rejoicing that will be!
- For more depth on
this discussion, I encourage you to read the Canons
of Dort and look up the scriptures quoted there.
What does the parable of the Lost Sheep and the doctrine of
the Perseverance of the Saints do for us?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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)
- 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,
- 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.