Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 1, 1968
NUMBER 13, PAGE 7b-8a

Excepts Of Jesus (III.)

Donald R. Givens

Matthew 18:3 "Verily I say unto you, EXCEPT ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven."

It is absolutely essential to have the characteristics of little children before one can enter the kingdom of heaven. In this verse is our third "conditional consideration" or Divine imperative. Jesus says UNLESS (or except) you turn and become "as little children" you cannot gain admittance to the kingdom.

We must notice the context of this verse: The disciples had vainly asked, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" (Matt. 18:1) Jesus answers their question with an illustration of the little child. (Had Jesus wished to teach the primacy of Peter, no better opportunity could have been found! — McGarvey) Yes, here was the time to teach that Peter was "the greatest!" But not so.

No, Jesus told them plainly that they must turn from their sin of personal ambition or they could not enter the kingdom of heaven. He pointed them to a little child as the model example in this particular. The humble spirit of the child stood out in sharp contrast to their self-seeking and self-exalting ambition.

Jesus is teaching the disciples that their feelings must be changed, turned, converted. They had supposed that the Christ would be a temporal prince or king. They expected that Christ would reign as other earthly kings did, and therefore have his great officers of state. So they were ambitiously inquiring who should hold the highest offices; i.e. "who would be greatest?" (Verse one)

Our Lord tells them that they were wrong in their views and expectations. From these ideas they must be turned or changed, or they could have no part in the kingdom of heaven. The disciples must take on the good characteristics of little children. They must lay aside their ambitious views and their pride, and be willing to occupy their proper station (which would be a very lowly one in the eyes of the world.) The spirit of humility and receptivity to teaching must be their clothing.

"In order to enter the kingdom of God, it must be received as a little child — that here there could be no question of intellectual qualifications, nor of distinction due to a great Rabbi, but only of humility, receptiveness, Meekness, and a simple application to, and trust" in, the Christ." (Alfred Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. II, p. 337)

So in Matt. 18:3 Jesus is teaching His disciples that UNLESS they turned away from their greed, selfishness, and personal ambition; they would not even enter the kingdom, much less have a place of greatness therein.

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