Matthew 18 Commentary

What is the main point of Matthew 18?

The main point of Matthew 18 is to teach the importance of humility, childlike faith, reconciliation, and forgiveness in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus uses a child as an example to emphasize humility and trust, and provides guidelines on addressing conflicts, forgiveness, and maintaining harmony within the community of believers.

The Importance of Humility and Childlike Faith, Matthew 18:1-6

Matthew 18 starts with the disciples asking Jesus who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus responds by showing them a child, and says that they must become like children to enter the kingdom of heaven. It doesn’t mean they should be gullible or naïve, but they should trust in God and know their own limitations.

The one who is humble like a child will be the greatest in the kingdom.

Jesus also teaches that if they help and guide other believers, they are serving God, but if they lead them astray, they will face harsh judgment exceedingly worse than drowning.

Childlike Trust and Sincerity

When Jesus used a child as an example, He was pointing out the importance of childlike trust and sincerity in our relationship with God.

Children possess many wonderful qualities, such as sincerity, teachability, loyalty, and unconditional love. They are naturally trusting and depend on others for their needs. Jesus calls His followers to embrace these qualities, especially when it comes to their faith in Him.

It’s important to remember that even Jesus’ closest friends struggled with understanding His Kingdom and the events that were to unfold.

Similarly, we may not always comprehend God’s plan in the midst of our daily lives, but we must strive to maintain an eternal perspective, focusing on the importance of our childlike trust in God.

But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Mark 10:14–15, ESV

Avoiding Temptation and Sin, Matthew 18:7-14

Jesus explains that temptation is a part of life in a fallen world, and although God doesn’t send temptation, it’s important to avoid it. Jesus uses strong language to encourage His followers to stay away from sin at all costs, equating the cost of sin to a life of eternal fire.

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

Matthew 18:8-9, ESV

At the same time, Jesus warns against being too judgmental towards those who fall into sin. He shares a story about a shepherd who leaves his flock to find one lost sheep, showing how much God values each person. Just like the shepherd, God wants to save every one of His children, so we should also value and support each other, encouraging and uplifting any that fall short.

So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

Matthew 18:14, ESV

Dealing with Sin Among Believers, Matthew 18:15-20

Jesus then teaches His disciples how to handle situations where someone is caught up in sin, particularly against you personally: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”

  • First, they should approach the person privately to resolve the issue.
  • If that doesn’t work, they should return with one or two witnesses to address the person’s sin.
  • If the person still refuses to repent, the issue should be brought before the church.
  • If they still don’t repent, they should be removed from the community and treated like an outsider.

Jesus also tells His disciples that when they make decisions together in His name, He will be present and among them to support their choices.

The Value of Each Person and Accountability in the Church

It’s essential to remember that every person is valuable in the eyes of God. When we approach accountability and confrontation within the church, we should consider the worth of each individual as one of God’s children.

Jesus teaches us to go to great lengths to reconcile with our brothers and sisters in Christ, emphasizing that we should approach them individually, with two or three witnesses, and even involve the church if necessary. But we must remember: this is not a confrontation, but rather, outreach. The goal is always to reach the promised land and uplift each other so that none are left behind.

Unfortunately, many Christians fail to follow this model. When we recognize that every believer is precious to Jesus, we are more likely to approach confrontation and accountability with grace, truth, and love, aiming for restoration. It’s crucial to keep in mind that, as we genuinely follow Christ’s model, we cannot be held responsible when others choose not to accept our attempts at reconciliation.

We should neither fear confrontation nor constantly seek it out, but rather, approach these situations with a heart that seeks to understand each person’s value in the eyes of Jesus.

What does Jesus mean by church in Matthew 18?

When Jesus mentions “church” in Matthew 18, He is referring to the community of believers, which includes all those who follow Him. The term is used to emphasize the importance of maintaining harmony, addressing conflicts, and practicing forgiveness within the Christian community, as well as highlighting the spiritual authority of the church in matters of discipline and reconciliation.

What is Matthew 18:18 talking about?

Matthew 18:18 talks about the authority of believers in making decisions within the church community. Jesus tells His disciples that whatever they bind or loose on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven. This verse highlights the spiritual authority granted to the church and the importance of unity among believers when making decisions.

Forgiving Others Limitlessly, Matthew 18:21-35

Peter asks Jesus about forgiveness, wondering how many times he should forgive someone who repeatedly sins against him. Jesus teaches that we should be ready to offer unlimited forgiveness, when Peter proclaims “seven times?” Jesus counters with “seventy-seven times.” This proclamation certainly isn’t to be taken literally, but rather an exclamation that we should go above and beyond to forgive others.

To emphasize this point, Jesus shares a parable about a servant who owes a king a huge amount of money – 10,000 talents, which is more than any could repay in thousands of lifetimes. The king forgives the servant’s debt, showing great mercy.

However, this servant then goes and finds another who owes him a much smaller debt and begins to choke him. When the second servant begs for time to repay, the forgiven servant refuses and has him thrown into prison.

The king learns about this and is furious. He sends the first servant to prison as well, saying he should have shown mercy to his fellow servant just as he had received mercy.

If we are to have a place in heaven, we must forgive. And if we feel transgressions have been made, it is not our place to judge regardless.

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”

Matthew 18:35, ESV

The Connection Between Forgiveness and Our Relationship with God

Jesus warns that God will treat us the same way if we don’t forgive others from our hearts. This means that if we don’t show forgiveness to others, we need to pause and reflect on whether we have a true relationship with Christ.

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

John 14:15, ESV

We may not earn salvation through good deeds, but the way we live and treat others reflects our relationship with God.

What does Matthew 18 say about forgiveness?

Matthew 18 says that forgiveness should be limitless. In verses 21-22, Jesus tells Peter to forgive someone who sins against him not just seven times, but seventy-seven times, emphasizing the importance of having a forgiving heart and imitating God’s mercy and grace towards us.

Key Takeaways on Matthew 18 Commentary

  • Matthew 18 emphasizes childlike humility, faith, and dependence on God as traits to emulate in the kingdom of heaven.
  • Jesus teaches we should avoid temptation at all costs and not cause others to stumble, or face dire consequences.
  • Believers must gently confront those who sin against them, not judge them harshly, aiming to restore and regain the lost.
  • When addressing issues in the church, Jesus promises spiritual authority to make binding decisions unified in His name.
  • Forgiveness should be limitless, just as God shows endless mercy. We must forgive to receive God’s forgiveness in return.
  • The parables illustrate God’s care for every individual and the hypocrisy of an unforgiving heart after receiving grace.
  • Matthew 18 provides guidance on maintaining humility, unity, and purity within the Christian community through godly correction.

Concluding Matthew 18 Commentary

Matthew 18 teaches us about the importance of humility, childlike faith, avoiding temptation, and offering forgiveness to others.

By understanding these lessons, we can grow in our relationship with God and become better followers of Christ. As we embrace the lessons of Matthew 18, remember to be humble, trust in God, support fellow believers, and always be ready to forgive others just as God has forgiven us.


What is the main message of Matthew 18?

The main message is the importance of childlike faith, avoiding sin, correcting wrongdoers with grace, offering limitless forgiveness, and humbly serving God and others.

What does Matthew 18 say about being humble?

It teaches that having childlike humility and dependence on God is a virtue. Humbling yourself and trusting God is key in the kingdom of heaven.

How should believers deal with sin according to Matthew 18?

They should gently confront it, call for repentance, involve witnesses if needed, and bring it before the church. The goal is always restoration not judgment.

What authority does Matthew 18 say believers have?

Jesus gives authority to bind and loose, meaning to forbid and permit. He promises to back believers’ unified decisions on moral matters.

What is the main lesson of the unforgiving servant parable?

After receiving immense mercy from the king, the servant’s lack of mercy shows hypocrisy. We must forgive others as God forgave us.

Why does Jesus use a child as an example in Matthew 18?

He highlights the positive traits of children – humility, trust, and dependence on others. These qualities reflect a proper heart before God.

What do the metaphors of cutting off hand/foot and plucking out an eye mean?

They graphically illustrate the importance of radically removing sources of temptation and sin from one’s life, even if it’s difficult and painful.

How many times should we forgive according to Matthew 18?

The teaching shows forgiveness should be limitless, just as God repeatedly forgives us. Specific numbers illustrate never keeping count.

What is binding and loosing in Matthew 18:18?

It refers to the authority to “bind” or forbid certain practices, and “loose” or permit certain practices based on biblical principles.

Why is Matthew 18 important for the Christian life?

It provides guidance on maintaining godly attitudes and practices within the church, highlighting humility, purity, restoration, and forgiveness.

Read Matthew 18, ESV

Who Is the Greatest?

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Temptations to Sin

“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.

If Your Brother Sins Against You

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”