Matthew 18

1 Other similar verses show that this was a selfish question. They were not thinking about Moses or Elijah. They wanted to be the greatest themselves.
2 The disciples, like most people, misunderstand their position and purpose in the Kingdom of God. Our position is not about rank, and our purpose is not about attaining power over others. Jesus uses a child to illustrate the kind of people He wants us to be. Children are dependent on their parents, and we are dependent on God. Children are under the authority of their parents, and we are to be submissive to God. A child (ideally) obeys and helps his parents, and we are to obey and serve God and His people.
3 If we fail to recognize our need for God and take steps to follow Him, then we will never enter His kingdom. No one can enter God's kingdom with pride or arrogance. We must enter by admitting that we can not do it on our own and asking that our Father help us in.
4 The "greatest" person, then, is the most humble. It pleases God when He sees people selflessly giving themselves to Him and to others. God is not pleased by people who want their own desires satisfied at the expense of others.
5 Since Jesus lives in the "body" of the Church, then to accept a child-like believer is the same as accepting Jesus. We see in several places that to do good or bad to a believer is the same as doing so to Jesus.
6 Christians are the ambassadors and dwelling places for God, but since we are still human, we can be enticed to make bad decisions. The Christian can escape such punishment because of the forgiveness of God, but the ungodly man who causes a Christian to sin commits a grievous crime in God's eyes. One who would tempt a Christian to do sin risks signing his own death warrant.
7 The world will eventually be destroyed because of God's judgement against sin. The misery, however, will be felt intensely by those individuals who continue in sin and never seek forgiveness.
8 Jesus here expresses the severity of sin. Of course, He is not proposing that hands, feet, or eyes can cause sin (sin originates in the mind), nor should people maim themselves. Instead, if there is a place or activity that encourages one to sin, he should cut himself off from that.
10 We must respect all Christians (i.e., child-like believers), even if we do not always agree with them or we have personality differences. Of course, this also means that disrespect based on various prejudices is also unacceptable.

This is one verse that speaks of a personal "angel" for each believer.

12 This illustration would be familiar to the disciples of those days. Sheep tend to eat with their eyes focused on the ground. It is common, then, for them to wander away from the rest of the herd. The shepherd must go after the one sheep with the hope that the rest of the heard will stay together and that they will not be attacked by wild animals or bandits.
13 The shepherd is distressed that the sheep was lost, but when he finds the lost sheep, he is overjoyed. One might think that the other sheep would be "jealous" of the shepherd's joy, but sheep should also share the shepherd joy. This parable seems to illustrate how God feels if a Christian strays and comes back, but it could also illustrate God's joy when any sinner repents.
14 God does not want to lose any child-like believer.
15 It is best to work out differences privately if possible. This way each party can make sure there were no misunderstandings. If a wrong was done, then the offender can make it right without being humiliated in front of many people. If done correctly, no one else need know that there was a problem.
16 There may be cases where the offender does not take the matter seriously. In this case, the offended may recruit a few others to help convince the offender that a sin was committed and repentance is needed.
17 In this example, the entire local church agrees that a grievous sin was committed, but the offender refuses to repent. In such a case, it is appropriate for the offender to be excommunicated. The reputation of the church need not be soiled by the stubborn sin of its members. This kind of action should rarely have to take place among true Christians, but it is an available option if no resolution can be reached. Once the offender is excommunicated, no further action should be pursued to allow either for repentance or for God's judgement (Deu 32:35).

Notice that at no time is this case brought before secular judges. Unless some kind of capital crime was involved, Christians should be able to work out these matters among themselves (1 Cor 5:11-6:7).

This is not done much in the church today, and the result is compromised faith rather than strong convictions.

We know that Gentiles and tax collectors were not treated with much respect by the Jews. However, in other places we are told to reach out to those who are lost. After all, one of Jesus' disciples was a tax collector. The point is that the offender is officially dismissed from the church body, but efforts should still be made to win him back to God.

18 If the church accepts a member, they should already know that the person is a believer. If the person proves not to be a believer then he is cast out of the church symbolically the same way he will be thrown out of heaven if he chooses not to repent.

The church is Jesus' body, and individually we are to have the mind of Christ. Therefore, the decisions Christians make on earth have eternal significance because we are acting as ambassadors for God (2 Cor 5:20).

19 The context of this verse concerns questions of judgement within church membership, but it commonly used in reference to other areas. This is probably legitimate, but it is not intended to be a "blank check." The fact that our requests are to be made in Jesus' name rules out those requests based on greed or other sinful attitudes. Legitimate requests would include forgiveness from sins, direction in ministry, and the power to work within a ministry.
20 When two or more Christians gather, they function as the body of Jesus. He will indeed be there to guide, comfort, and empower them.
21 Though there is no limit placed on forgiveness in the Old Testament, the rabbis of Jesus' time often taught that it was proper to forgive an offence no more than three times. Peter thought he was being extra generous by offering to forgive people seven times.
22 Jesus exposes such legalistic limitations for what they are. When Jesus suggests that we should forgive 490 times (or 77 times in some translations), He does not mean that we should keep a list. He is trying to show the absurdity of "forgiving" someone a certain number of times. Such list keeping reveals a begrudging spirit, not a forgiving one.

This is the kind of forgiving attitude that God shows us. Christians are not perfect, and most of us commit some sins every day. When we confess these sins, God forgives us. Part of repentance is making an effort not to repeat sins, but we continue to do some sins out of either habit or carelessness. Even still, God forgives us. This does not diminish the seriousness of sin, but it does show how much greater God is than our sins.

Therefore, as "imitators" of God, we should strive to be forgiving to others as God is forgiving to us.

23 The following parable is an illustration of why Christians should forgive others as God has forgiven us.
24 One talent of gold is equivalent to 34 kg (75 lb. or 1094 oz. troy). Depending on how this is figured, it would be the equivalent of 10,000 days of wages for the average worker. Ten thousand talents is an enormous quantity. The idea here is to convey a debt that can not possibly be paid by a single man.
25 Selling the family of a debtor (or even the debtor himself) was common for those who could not pay their debts. Within the Jewish community, there were limitations to this practice as is described in the Old Testament. Gentile kings would not be limited by these rules.

Although the money received from the sale would not make a dent in the debt owed; in this case, it would serve as a punishment.

26 The servant did what anyone would do when faced with such consequences. He pleads for mercy. The man adds the empty promise of repaying the debt, but we know that would not be possible.
27 The generosity and mercy shown by the king here is unquestionable.
28 The unscrupulous servant does not follow his master's example. He goes out and attacks a fellow servant who owes the relatively minor equivalent of 100 days wages. Perhaps the first servant had in mind the idea of repaying the debt to the king as he had promised, although the king forgave him.
30 Despite pleas for mercy, the first servant threw the second in prison. The irony, of course, is that in prison the second servant would not have been able to work to pay back the money he owed. If the first servant really wanted the money, this would not be the way to get it.
31 Witnesses had seen both sides of this case. They felt that it was an injustice, so they brought it to the king's attention to have him settle the matter.
32 The king was outraged. The first servant's actions made a mockery of the king's kindness and generosity.
33 A good king sets a good example. Because of his prominent leadership position, the king expects his followers to live up to the standards he sets.
34 As mentioned before, a man in prison would not be able to pay off a debt, so a man in the torture chamber would find it even more difficult.
35 The lesson is clear. Sin places an enormous spiritual "debt" on each person. God forgives that debt through Jesus if we ask Him to. Since He has forgiven the enormous amount of sin we have, we should be able to forgive the relatively minor sins other Christians commit against us. We should make every effort to be reconciled with other believers.