Caring For Each Other Matthew 18:5-14

Caring for each other                     1/8/2023            Matthew 18:5-14


If I ask you what’s in Matthew 18, what would you say?

  • You might say
    • I don’t really know
    • Or it’s about Jesus being with us in prayer
    • A lot of people who know their Bibles and for whatever reason have become interested in church discipline would say it’s where Jesus teaches about discipline, correction, forgiveness, and excommunication
      • Vv.15-20—the “if your brother sins against you passage…”
      • “Matthew 18-ing” a wayward sinner receives a lot of attention
      • That’s an example of one passage taking over an entire chunk of scripture and causing us to misinterpret it to some degree
  • Because if you look at Matthew 18
    • You see the call to humility
    • Then the care Jesus’ people should show each other
    • And forgiveness that is sought after and commanded to be given
  • It’s all about Jesus’ kingdom being a united family of sinners who have been made holy
    • Which reveals our true humility—so we should practice it
    • And demonstrates that as Jesus cared for us, we should truly care for the faithful ones around us
    • All of this requires forgiveness! 
    • And a structure to support these features, too

Today—Jesus’ family is called to Care for Each Other—we’re all “little ones who believe”  1.  Getting Ready; 2.  Caring for Each Other; 3.  Living with Each Other

  1. Getting Ready:  Narrow and Broad Meanings  (preliminary principles—how to understand something, it’s important in this passage because we typically read it with just one of these meanings—either narrowly or broadly.  It’s often the case that both meanings are valid.)
    1. Narrow is easy to understand
      1. Thou shalt not murder—don’t murder
    1. Compare this narrow meaning to the Sermon on the Mount
      1. Jesus’s use of the commandments is broad there
        1. anger=murder;
        1. lust=adultery
    1. Not that Jesus would condone killing—just the opposite is the point
    1. In this passage we can also see broad and narrow understandings
      1. Narrow— ESV “causes to sin”, KJV “offend”
        1. skandalizw
        1. The specific meaning of this Greek word is where we get our word “scandalize”
        1. Often when someone falls into scandal they fall away from whatever group/institution they are a part of
        1. Currently Hollywood’s woke mob uses this for conservative leaning—or just rational leaning in terms of gender and sex—actors, producers, etc.
        1. There’s no shortage in church history of scandals that caused influential leaders to leave—Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, for instance
        1. So the idea of “causes to sin”, narrowly understood, isn’t just a momentary sin, but an ongoing sinful belief or lifestyle that excludes a person from Jesus’ Kingdom.
          1. It’s to cause someone to apostatize—to fall away from the church for a time, or for eternity
            1. The elect will never fall away permanently
            1. Jesus isn’t addressing God’s decree of eternal election here
            1. He’s addressing the responsibility of believers to continue believing and following—to be members of the church
          1. To support this we only have to look to 17:27  27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for me and for yourself.” 
            1. In 17:27, Offense—scandalize, Jesus doesn’t want something like the temple tax to keep a person from following him
      1. This means that there is an inherent responsibility among church members—we can actually affect another person’s faith, and vice versa
      1. Broad meaning—like Jesus’ teaching on anger being the sin of murder, his focus isn’t only on causing apostasy, there’s also the broader meaning of sin in general
        1. The big idea:  any sin, when it is allowed to grow can lead to greater sin and eventually to disbelief and falling away
        1. In verses 7-9, Jesus says Personal sin should be dealt with drastically—don’t mess around with it, whatever you have to do to kill your sinful flesh, do it.  If your hand, your foot, or your eye causes you to sin, cut it off…
    1. Jesus is teaching about his Church/Kingdom and is preparing his church by teaching about the universal danger we face—sin
      1. In this case Jesus is particularly focused on how we can hurt each other through our sin and he, of course, rather wants us to care for each other
  2. Caring for Each Other
    1. We’re called to care for each other’s souls—“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”
      1. Compare that with verses 8 and 9 where body parts are discarded into the hell of eternal fire and you get the idea
      1. Anyone who causes another person in the kingdom to sin is liable to judgement
    1. Jesus answers Cain’s question, “am I my brother’s keeper?” with a resounding YES!!
      1. You are responsible to help your brother in his faith
    1. How can you help each other:  careful doctrine for you and them; careful words; gentle words and gentle living
      1. Careful doctrine—know and teach the truths of what scripture teaches, especially about sin versus righteous living
        1. The Ten Commandments
        1. Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength
        1. Loving others as yourself
        1. The Ten begins with honoring God above everything else and ends with “thou shalt not covet”—both are impossible to see…true obedience comes from the heart
        1. That’s careful doctrine—heart obedience, heart belief
      1. Careful words—what you say is so important.  Speak truth and speak it gently, with love, another way you might say that is:  make sure when you’re talking with someone that what you say is meant to build them up in Jesus
        1. Come alongside and encourage each other with the truth of Jesus’ love and work for them.
          1. “cheer up, your so much worse than you think you are!” (Jack Miller)
          1. Point them to the cross and Jesus’ supreme worth
          1. Point them to heaven and the Father who sent the son
          1. Point them to the Spirit who equips and bears witness to their souls
        1. Sometimes we need encouragement to improve, too:
          1. We could all use more people in our lives to hold us accountable for who we are and who we’re called to be—but holding someone accountable means that you’re willing to stick it out and pick up the pieces with that person if you have to crush their ego.
            1.  Hearing what you’ve done wrong, or that you have a deep-seated character flaw can be devastating.
            1. If you’ve been called to be the surgeon removing the sin of someone’s heart, understand that you are also called to be the balm of the gospel in mending that wound.
      1. Gentle words and gentle living—it’s the heart of pastoring one another
        1. Jesus demonstrates this desire to be gentle in the body in the parable about the lost sheep
          1. Search for whoever is wandering and bring them back
            1. Gentleness starts with concern for sheep that isn’t sticking close to the flock
            1. And the sheep is brought back to much rejoicing—not consternation
          1. Be the kind of shepherd that the sheep wants to return to
            1. If your hands are dirty and filthy with grime and you have two choices that work just as well to choose from—won’t you pick the one that soothes rather than irritates?
    1. Since You are your brothers’ keeper, make sure you’re not causing them to sin, or keeping them away from the fellowship
  3. Living with Each Other: Truth, Sin, Causing Sin, Repentance, and Restoration
    1. This passage is all about keeping others from falling away through our sin, but that doesn’t mean we compromise truth to keep people from falling away because of Jesus
      1. God’s truth is sometimes the stumbling stone—the scandal of the gospel
      1. Approach to worship—Psalm 118:  this is what Jerusalem sang on Palm Sunday! 
        1. As they sang v.26 “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD!” They didn’t realize that they were the builders from v. 22 who rejected God’s cornerstone.
        1. Isaiah 8:14-15 “the Lord will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel”
        1. The truth is easy and simple, but it is also hard and keeps people from trusting
          1. Easy and simple—all of us are sinners and we all need to be saved by someone else
            1. The gospel isn’t self-help
              1. The gospel is God’s help in the person of Jesus
            1. All you have to do is believe this and trust in Jesus
            1. It doesn’t get any easier than that
          1. But the gospel is also hard and it keeps people away—because all of us are sinners and in our sin we don’t want to admit fault or guilt or the inability to fix what we’ve messed up
            1. To see yourself as a the helpless, unloved, baby of Ezekiel 16 isn’t something any of us want to do
            1. And as for your birth, on the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to cleanse you, nor rubbed with salt, nor wrapped in swaddling cloths. No eye pitied you, to do any of these things to you out of compassion for you, but you were cast out on the open field, for you were abhorred, on the day that you were born.
            1. We want to think of ourselves as lovable, valuable, and worthy—but as sinners we don’t look for those things from God, just the world.  And the world hates its people.
      1. The gospel answer is Cling to the truth—Christ alone is your salvation
        1. I am a sinner saved by grace through Christ Jesus!
        1. Even though the world casts us out like an unwanted baby—God loves us, not because we’re loveable, but because God is love
        1. Ezekiel 16:6  “But when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I made you flourish like a plant of the field.
    1. Sin—sin is everywhere! 
      1. Nowhere more powerful than inside you
      1. Putting your sinful flesh to death is a daily assignment.
        1. How do you put your sinful flesh to death?
        1. First, you can’t do it alone—“without me you can do nothing”  Jesus—abide in me and I will abide in you
          1. Abide in your savior, build a constant relationship with him in prayer and meditation.
        1. Second, you can’t put your sinful flesh to death on your own.  Are you a believer? Yes? Then you don’t have to put sin to death by yourself—let other believers help you! Pray with others, share your struggles and your concerns.  We need each other—Jesus saved us all for each others’ sake.
        1. Third, the ability to kill your sinful flesh isn’t something you find, it’s something you’re given.  God gives grace to kill your sinful flesh, he gives this grace through his specially ordained ways of communicating grace to you.  The Reformed faith calls those the ordinary means of grace—this is why worship is so important:
          1. God’s Word is a means of grace—especially in the preached word
          1. Prayer is a means of grace—especially prayer in the congregation of Jesus’ people
            1. Joel Beeke, “If faithful church membership means anything, it means devotion to prayer and to gathering for prayer.” (40, Faithful Church Member)
          1. Sacraments—signs and seals of the covenant for you and they give you all the blessings of Christ
    1. Keeping others from sin—If we put our flesh to death daily, we won’t be leading other believers into sin or away from Christ!
      1. Holiness isn’t harshness
      1. In our pursuit for holiness, remember—the voice of a shepherd calling sheep back is gentle and loving
      1. We should always be gentle with each other, concerned to help and nurture in the best way our brother can receive it
    1. Our chief way forward is repentance
      1. Luther’s first thesis:  when our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said repent, he meant that the entire life of believers should be one of repentance.
      1. You will never totally kill off your sinful flesh, no matter how much of it you do kill.
      1. This means perfection isn’t your goal—repentance is your goal
        1. Sinclair Ferguson, “repentance is a vital part of lifelong restoration of godliness.” (41, The Grace of Repentance)
        1. If repentance becomes your goal, as you shepherd others you will be more gentle, more caring, more forgiving and be a greater aid in restoring the faith of your weaker brother.
        1. Because you’ll call them to repentance more often than you’ll call them to perfection.
        1. This is the gospel for all of us—Jesus came for sinners wallowing in their blood and unlovable, let us learn to care for each other in the way He does.  Amen.