Jesus 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, he 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 round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!Matthew 18:3-7 RSV
Benjamin Franklin, the great Restoration preacher, found in this text one of a triad on the subject of conversion.
The expression “TURN” or “TURN AGAIN” is translated “be converted” in the KJV.
The other two texts are Acts 3:19 and Acts 28:27.
The three texts represent instruction directed to three different classes of persons, depending upon their spiritual development.
- Believers who needed to repent (Matthew 18:3)
- Unbelievers (Acts 28:27)
- Believers whose repentance was anticipated (Acts 3:19)
From these three texts it is clear that Biblical conversion has three phases – faith, repentance, and something additional (baptism) – these separate phases being accomplished by obedience to the gospel and involving three distinct changes in the individual.
Franklin taught that the three changes are:
- A change of mind.
- A change of will.
- A change of state or status.
Thus, faith was appointed to change the mind, repentance to change the will, and baptism to change the status.
Significantly, these also sustain a certain relation to time, past, present, and future.
In the case here, need for repentance by the believing apostles sprang from their sin of worldly pride and ambition, as attested by their striving for position and preeminence in the approaching kingdom.
The particular qualities of little children commended by Jesus are humility, freedom from prejudice, teachableness, lovableness, trustfulness, faith, freedom from anxiety, and innocence.
The warning in this passage applies specifically to one who causes the loss of a human soul.
Such a sinner shall suffer a fate worse than death.
“THE GREAT MILLSTONE” in this place means literally “A Millstone Turned By An Ass,” and contrasts with the smaller millstones turned by hand (see the margin of the English Revised Version (1885)
Why is the fate of such an offender worse than death by drowning? Because eternal death will be his reward.
God desires the love of his children; and true love requires that there be freedom of the will and opportunity to make a choice.
The opportunity for temptation does not reduce the guilt of sinners, nor does the necessity for temptation mitigate the guilt of those through whom temptation comes.
The expression “MUST NEEDS BE” speaks of a heavenly compulsion upon all things.
The great issues of time and eternity proceed from God, and no appeal (or escape) from his total authority is possible.
That Heavenly compulsion was laid even upon Christ while he was in the form of man.
- He MUST be about the Father’s business (Luke 2:49)
- MUST preach the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43)
- MUST put new wine in new flasks (Mark 2:22)
- MUST work the works of God (John 9:4)
- MUST suffer death (Mark 8:31)
- MUST reign until all enemies are put under foot (1 Corinthians 15:25)
There MUST Be Evil Things As Well
- There MUST be heresies (1 Corinthians 11:19)
- MUST be wars (Mark 13:7)
- MUST be tribulations (Acts 14:21,22)
- MUST be offenses (above)
- MUST be separation from the visible presence of Christ (Acts 3:21)
- Satan MUST be loosed for a little season (Revelation 20:3)
The Sovereign MUST of Almighty God Overshadows the Bible.
- The Scriptures MUST be fulfilled (Luke 22:37)
- The Bible MUST be preached (Mark 13:10)
- The apostles found this heavenly MUST written against them also (Acts 1:21,22)
- Elders MUST be blameless (1 Timothy 3:8)
- Preachers MUST forbear striving (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
- All worshipers MUST worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24)
- All who desire salvation MUST believe (Hebrews 11:6)
- MUST be saved in the name of Christ (Acts 4:12)
- MUST repent (Luke 13:3)
- MUST be baptized (John 3:7).
In death, there is an exception.
- Not all MUST die (1 Corinthians 15:51)
- But all MUST put on immortality
- All MUST stand before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10)
This is quite different from the old proverb about nothing’s being certain except death and taxes, death being one of the few things not certain!
And he took a child, and put him in the midst of them; and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”Mark 9:36-37 RSV
This was an acted parable teaching the same lesson which the Lord stated verbally in the scripture above: Matthew 18:4-6.
True greatness is not a matter of position and power but in the child-like qualities of innocence, trustfulness, humility, lack of prejudice, lovableness, faith and teachableness.
Receiving a little child in Jesus’ name includes the unselfish care and support given for little children and also the quality of receiving an humble believer on the basis of his simple trust in the Lord, and without regard to any lack of earthly preeminence on his part.