It Is All About Salvation
IT IS ALL ABOUT SALVATION
Here in Matthew 17: 24…all the way through chapter 18, Jesus is in the process of training His disciples and He gives them instructions in about 6 different aspects of what a disciple should be or do.
- And instead of going through each of these different sets of instruction verse by verse what I am going to do is just summarize them and give you the major lesson that we need to learn from each one.
So, let’s begin with the issue of TRIBUTE MONEY found starting in verse 24.
Jesus is back in Capernaum…and the tax that Peter is asked about here is not a Roman tax like that mentioned in Mark 12 and Matthew 22.
- This was a tribute tax which every Jew over the age of 20 was obliged to pay.
- This tax was used to pay for necessary items for the daily service in the temple.
- It was commanded by God in Ex. 30:12-14.
- And to pay it was a mark of subjection to God.
- And when asked if Jesus paid this tax, Peter said, “Yes.”
Then when Peter goes into the house Jesus asks Peter a question: What do you think Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers? (This word “strangers” here does not refer to foreigners. It refers to those outside of the family. The kings didn’t collect taxes from their family but from the subjects of the kingdom.)
- Therefore, in verse 26 Jesus replies, “Consequently the sons are exempt.”
- His point is, since God is the king, and the temple is God’s house, and Jesus is God’s Son, then He is not under obligation to pay the tax…He is exempt.
- This is another way of Jesus declaring Himself to be the Son of God.
But now, look at the lesson in verse 27: However, so that we do not offend them…or cause them to stumble…go to the sea, and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, open its mouth, get the shekel…and pay the tax for you and Me.”
- Jesus didn’t have to pay this tax…but others wouldn’t understand that…and so to keep others from being offended (thinking He had no reverence for God or the temple)…to eliminate the possibility that His not paying this tax would keep people from coming to Him…He paid it.
- And it was the same for Peter…if Jesus didn’t pay this tax would that affect Peter’s influence in trying to bring people to Jesus?
And the lesson to us is: As disciples of Christ, as Sons of God, we must not allow our rights to be a stumbling block or cause of offense to others…and we need to be especially careful about being a hindrance to people coming to Christ.
- I have the right to sit where I want to…but I will forgo that right if it offends someone and damages my influence for Christ.
- I have the right to eat any kind of meat I want to…but if eating meat is going to cause someone to stumble and turn away from God…I will forgo that right. (I Cor. 10:25-28)
- I have the right to voice my political opinion and post it on Facebook or Instagram…or put a political sign in my yard but I will forgo that right if it will cause me to be an obstacle to anyone seeking to come to Christ.
- Our first thought must be, “How are my actions going to affect my being an influence for Christ and bringing others to Him and if those actions are going to keep them from coming to Christ or ruin my influence for Christ I will give up my right to do what I have a right to do?”
- “All things may be lawful but not all things are expedient.” (I Cor. 10:23)
Let’s go to chapter 18:1-6. Look at vs. 1: At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
- During Jesus’ day, the Jewish religious leaders wanted to be seen as the “greatest in the kingdom of God.”
- Preferential treatment for the religious leaders was the norm of the day. It was a system that the disciples had grown up in.
- The disciples were looking for “greatness” so that others would marvel at how “great” they were.
- And the way that greatness was measured was by what they had done: “I sat at the place of honor; I invited the governor to my house; I fasted for 24 hours and it was so difficult; Did everyone notice how much money I gave to the poor this morning? Did you notice my prayer this morning and how lengthy it was?”
Look at Jesus’ response in vs. 2: And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, 3 and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.
- Jesus says here, “You have been arguing about the question of “who will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” as if you are sure of already being in it. But if you continue in your present selfish state of mind and heart, you will then most certainly not even enter into it.
And when Jesus speaks of “becoming like children”, He could be talking about qualities such as simplicity, frankness, obedience, unpretentiousness, eagerness, innocent, and so on.
- But look at what Jesus says in verse 4: “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
- The disciples want to be the greatest based on what they had done.
- Jesus wants people who will empty themselves and rely on God…to totally trust on God for everything.
- It is the same message that Jesus has taught us over and over again: Become like this child who is fully trusting in Christ and not in self.
- Let people learn that the only way to ascend is to descend. If you want to be great, let them become little. If you want to rule, then become a servant. The way up is to humble yourself and exalt God.
- No one will enter the kingdom of heaven arrogantly boasting of his own merits…you will only enter by humbly trusting in the mercy and grace of God.
Now in verse 6-7 Jesus warns those who try and cause the humble child of God to “stumble or to commit sin…to fall away…to renounce their faith in Christ”…by placing enticements, traps, and allurements to do wrong before them, that it would be preferable for them to be sunk into the depths of the sea.
- This shows that it is a fearful sin to cause even the least of God’s children to stumble.
In verse 7 Jesus says that “it is inevitable that stumbling blocks come.”
- In this verse condemnation is pronounced on the world because not only are so many guilty of sin themselves, but they also encourage others to sin.
- When those temptations come along, in verses 8-9 Jesus tells us to take drastic action if necessary in getting rid of that which tempts you to fall into sin.
- Nothing no matter how precious it may seem to us at the moment…nothing no matter how pleasurable it may seem at the moment…nothing no matter how exciting, and satisfying, and desirable it may seem to be at the moment…should be allowed to doom us to an eternal hell.
- Sin must not be tampered with…it is best to stay completely away from it.
These two verses; 8-9 also give us a glimpse of just how bad hell is…you would be better off blind, handicapped, and lame in this world than to go to hell. Hell is no joking matter.
- And these two verses also teach us that the present life is not our only life.
Verses 12-14 may be the theme of the whole chapter.
What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying? 13 “And if it turns out that he finds it, truly I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine which have not gone astray. 14 “Thus it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.
- In these three verses Jesus expresses the value of the human soul.
- It is what Jesus came to do…the salvation of a soul is worth rejoicing over…the rescue of a soul that has gone astray is a matter of great rejoicing…God’s desire is that all should be saved.
- We should never be indifferent to, uncaring about any soul that is lost.
- It would be easy to say, “Well, they are the ones who wandered off…it is their own fault and they know how to come home.”
- Their souls are so valuable to God that every effort should be made to bring them home.
Now, verses 15-19: “If your brother sins…just ignore it…turn a blind eye to it…don’t have anything to do with him.”
- That may be what we sometimes do but that is not what Jesus says.
- This passage is about making every effort to redeem a brother.
- The primary purpose of these instructions is redemption and not punishment.
“And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. 16 “But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed. 17 “And 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-gatherer.
- These verses are talking about making every effort to bring a brother to repentance…even the discipline is intended to get him to repent.
- But if the brother refuses to listen then fellowship with him is to be broken.
- And the significance of that is it sends a message to the brother that if horizontal fellowship has been broken here on earth, then so too has the vertical fellowship with heaven been broken…he is no longer in fellowship with God.
- IF we continue to fellowship him that signifies that God still has fellowship with him.
- The entirety of this action is for the purpose of redemption.
And then we come to verses 21-35. It only takes a glance to see what these 15 verses is about: FORGIVENESS. Forgiving a brother who sins against you.
- Not just 7 times (in the minds of the Pharisees forgiving someone 7 times was a large amount of charity…most of the Rabbis thought that 3 times was sufficient).
- But the disciples of Christ are to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees…so Christ instructs us to forgive 7 x 70…a number that actually denotes an unlimited number of times.
- The duty of forgiveness has no limit except for the want of repentance in the offender.
- As often as the offender sincerely asks for forgiveness and repents, we must sincerely forgive.
- We must give people time to grow in Christ…and if we wrote them off the first two or three times they sinned…they may well be eternally lost.
- We must be patient, give them time to grow, and forgive them when they sin.
- And verse 35 tells us that God takes our willingness to forgive very seriously.
So, from chapter 17:24 all the way to the end of chapter 18 Jesus gives us about 6 different teachings or requirements on what a disciple of Christ is to be.
- A disciple is willing to give up his own rights to keep from being a stumbling block to others who need Christ. The most important thing is their coming to Christ and not my rights.
- If we want to be great in the kingdom of heaven then totally trust in God and His mercy and grace rather than on your own works and accomplishments. The way to greatness in the kingdom of heaven is to humble yourself and exalt God.
- Take heed in causing even the least of the children of God to stumble
- When temptation comes, and it will, do whatever is necessary to not fall into sin.
- Hell is not joking matter…and this present life is not our only life.
- The human soul is of so much value that God went to extra lengths to save it…we to should never be indifferent or uncaring about a soul that is lost.
- If a brother is caught in sin we must make every effort to bring that brother to repentance.
- All discipline should be carried out with the purpose of redemption at heart.
- And we must forgive a brother who sins against us just as we have been forgiven. We forgive so that the offending brother might grow in Christ.
Those are some of the primary lessons from these 39 verses. But if you step back and look at these verses as a whole, their theme is SALVATION.
- Doing what it takes to save…to bring others to salvation whether it is giving up your rights, humbling yourself and totally trusting in God for your salvation, doing whatever you must to keep from causing others from stumbling, Doing what it takes to keep from falling away, Searching for the lost and bringing them home, Disciplining a brother to bring him back into fellowship with God, and forgiving totally, completely, and endlessly.
- It is all about Christ and the salvation that is in Him…may we never underestimate the value of a soul.
© Sunset Ridge Church of Christ 2023