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Matthew Lesson #099
October 25, 2015
“Our Father, we’re thankful for Your Word. We’re thankful for the power of Your Word. We’re thankful for the ministry that Jeff and Doug had down in Brazil and Natal and the impact that the teaching of Your Word had on many of the people there, and their response to it. We pray that You might expand this opportunity, expand this ministry, and that more and more would come to understand the importance of getting into Your Word, especially through a verse-by-verse study where they get to know Your Word.
We thank You for our opportunity to study Your Word this morning, and we pray that You would challenge us through Your Word by God the Holy Spirit. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
We’re getting into a new section here in Matthew 18. Just as a reminder of where we’ve been going, back in Matthew 17 we began with Jesus taking Peter, James, and John, His inner circle, up to the Mount of Transfiguration. There they had a foretaste, they had a preview of coming attractions of the Kingdom.
Then when they came down from the mountain and reconnected with the disciples, they were back to reality, the cosmic system, dealing with this young boy that had been brought by his father to Jesus because he was having these seizures as a result of demon possession.
The disciples had been trying to cast the demon out, but they were not trusting in the Lord as they should be. They forgot the key element that He had told them about when He sent them out before, and that was to trust in Him. So their failure to have faith is rebuked by the Lord Jesus Christ, and then He cast out that demon.
Then we saw just a quick statement here. We’re seeing more and more of these statements where Jesus is preparing them for His death.
Remember, this whole section starting at the end of Matthew 16 refocuses on the last part of Christ’s ministry on earth: His crucifixion, His death, burial, and resurrection.
Jesus is preparing His disciples now for what’s coming, but they still don’t get it. And they don’t get it even when it happens.
So He gives them that second warning in Matthew 17:22–23.
Then these last two weeks we’ve studied the relationship of this episode of the question related to the temple tax, Jesus’ payment of the temple tax, demonstrating that He was indeed functioning as a good citizen. He didn’t have to, but He paid that temple tax so no charge could be brought against Him in this kind of a minor, irrelevant issue.
Then last time we looked at the role of believers in terms of involvement in the nation as a good citizen. Let me just remind you that we do have this city election coming up. Those of you who live in the City of Houston, I encourage you that one of the things that you should vote against is this Prop 1.
It’s often misrepresented. There are a lot of good things, maybe within that law, but it includes language related to how a person views their own sexual identity, and their sexual identity that’s extremely vague and nebulous.
It is not that those against that proposition don’t want people in different legitimate groups to have their legal rights, equal rights respected. It is a bad law because it is nebulous because the language is vague. Because of the vague language, it could be interpreted any number of ways, and it should be voided simply because it is a bad law.
It is written to promote the homosexual agenda of our homosexual mayor, and she views this (and has publicly said she views this), as the focal point of her whole time as mayor.
As Bible-believing Christians, because we believe that a nation can only survive on a solid moral, ethical framework, we need to reject this.
This language related to gender and gender identity, this is the only bill, law of this nature, that’s been put out. There are a number of cities that have these kinds of laws, but we’re the first to put in this kind of language related to gender identity. It will set a precedent for the rest of the nation.
That’s why the vast majority of money that’s been spent on the pro side of this thing has come from outside the city and outside the state, and we don’t want non-Houstonians and non-Texans shaping the policies of our city. So we need to be involved.
Now we shift a little bit when we get into Matthew 18, but it flows out of what we’ve just seen. This emphasis is where Jesus has taken these three men (and He’s given them a privileged position), to go up with Him on the mountain to see the foretaste of the Kingdom. They see Elijah, and they see Moses.
I’m sure when they got back, there was some interesting discussion with the other disciples. From what comes up in this next chapter, it probably generated a little jealousy, a little competitive spirit. This is seen from the very first question that comes up. The emphasis in the teaching of our Lord throughout this whole chapter flows from this initial question.
I’m glad Doug pointed out one of the things that I drill into everyone here—the importance of context. Context, context, context. Don’t just jump into passages and pull verses out of context.
There’s a verse actually in this chapter that is one of the most egregiously abused verses in the New Testament.
There are probably five or six that come really close, but when Jesus is talking about dealing with a sinful brother in verses 15 through 20, and again, this is going to come out of this whole context of this question of who’s going to be the greatest in the Kingdom, in verse 20, Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
You will find that quoted by almost every evangelical Christian in some sort of a prayer verse—that if we just get two or three together, that somehow gives us a certain power that God’s going to listen to us and God’s going to respond to that prayer. But that’s not what that verse is saying.
The context is a context of dealing with a personal problem where you have one person in a congregation who’s causing trouble with another one. They go through a process of trying to correct the problem.
First one person goes to him in private, then a second person goes to him in private, and he’s unwilling, he’s stubborn, he’s not going to change.
Now two or three are taken together to serve as witnesses to the fact that he’s a recalcitrant individual, and he’s not going to respond to any encouragement to do the right thing.
What God is saying is when two or three are together, I’m there in judgment. That doesn’t have anything to do with prayer! We have to pay attention to the context.
The broader context of this whole section is dealing with this question the disciples ask, “Who’s the greatest in the kingdom?” That covers everything down through verse 35.
Everything here is related to that, and the backdrop for that is humility. Jesus is teaching that the emphasis isn’t who’s the greatest. The emphasis is on developing the Christian virtue of humility.
So this morning, knowing that we would be a little short on time, I just wanted to focus on this as a background doctrine and instruction for the believer for understanding this passage. Let’s just look at the first four verses quickly.
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying ‘who’s the greatest in the kingdom?’ ”
See, they’ve been talking amongst themselves, and now, “OK, is it going to be Peter, James, John? Is it going to be one of them? Well, what about the rest of us? Don’t we have a say in this? Haven’t WE been following the Lord? Haven’t WE cast out demons? Have WE been obedient? Who’s the greatest in the kingdom?”
So Jesus then gives them a little object lesson by taking a child, to use the child as an example of the kind of faith that He’s been talking about.
Now He says an interesting thing in verse 3, He says, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children”—I’m going to talk a lot more about this and deal with these verses verse-by-verse in two weeks after I come back, but let me tell you, when He says, “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I don’t know how many of you read that as a salvation verse—getting into Heaven, justification, but that’s not a salvation verse. Jesus isn’t talking about that.
How do you know? What’s the word? What did I talk about earlier? Context, context, context. To whom is Jesus speaking?
He’s speaking to His disciples. Are His disciples regenerate, justified individuals at this point? Yes, they are! This is five or six months, no more than five or six months before the crucifixion. So He’s not telling them when He says, “unless you are converted,” He’s talking to His disciples. They’re already justified.
The word there that is used in the Greek for “conversion” is the word that is normally used to translate the Old Testament word shuv, which was the word to turn back to God, to turn to God in the Old Testament.
He’s talking about a post-salvation turning back to walking with the Lord. He’s not talking about conversion in the sense of converting from being an unbeliever to a believer, but turning from being a disobedient believer.
They’re all being disobedient right now because they’re operating on arrogance and pride. They’re more concerned about this competitive nature within them, “Who’s going to be the greatest?” And He’s basically saying, “You need to turn from being arrogant and self-absorbed and become like little children.”
This is an issue in their spiritual growth. This isn’t an issue related to becoming a believer.
So when He says, “enter the kingdom of heaven,” as we’ve seen earlier, this is sometimes used as Jesus used it with Nicodemus, talking about getting justified or regenerate, moving from being unsaved to being saved, from unjustified to being justified.
But we’ve also seen other passages—we’ll get into this next time—in Matthew where entering the kingdom isn’t just getting saved, it is entering into the fullness of the blessings and the responsibilities and privileges of the coming kingdom.
It’s a challenge to living their Christian life in light of eternity. And He’s saying if you don’t change and turn back to walking in obedience, walking in terms of humility, you’re not going to enter into the fullness of your potential in the kingdom of Heaven.
In order to recognize, to grow spiritually so that you have a future role and responsibility in the coming Kingdom, you need to learn to live your life on the basis of humility. That’s the focal point here.
So we’re going to look at humility this morning.
Now just by way of introduction, this word that we’re looking at here TAPEINOO is the verb, TAPEINOPHROSUNE is the noun for being humble. This is one of the very first word studies I ever did.
When I was just a young guy, before I went to seminary, I got one of those great jobs coming out of college. I had a teaching degree, and I graduated August 18th, and I think most school systems started on like the 21st, which was the next Monday.
So I graduated on the Friday, and I was sending out my resume, and school was already starting, and I was going around all the different school districts, and everybody was filled up.
And I got called from Channelview with a job offer, and the job offer was they were starting an in-school suspension program, and they needed somebody to run the in-school suspension class.
That was the only job available, so I went down to Channelview, which is like the armpit of Texas, and dealt with a Junior/Senior High situation where I ran the in-school suspension class.
It pretty quickly dawned on me that my job was basically to teach authority orientation to mostly junior high kids. If there’s ever a thankless task in this life, that comes pretty close.
At the end of that first year, I was so ready to quit and never see anybody under the age of 21, but the Lord said, “Yea, you’ve still got a lot of things to learn, so …”
At the end of the summer I still didn’t have another job. I went back to teaching there a second year. By then, I was focused on getting into seminary, and I was beginning to really develop and learn Bible study methods on my own, and I was just beginning to learn something about word studies.
Now one of the things I learned about this particular word is that humility wasn’t a valued characteristic or virtue in the pagan world at the time of Christ. It’s value only comes into western civilization as a result of the influence of Christianity.
What was valued in Greek culture was someone who asserted their rights. When I read that, I went, “Just like a bunch of snotty-nosed junior high kids” because every time you said anything, they’d say, “I’m not going to do that! I have my rights!”
And my reply was, “No, you’re in the in-school suspension class. You have no rights, and you won’t have rights again until you get out of here, and your job here is to learn to obey me.” I don’t know how many times I said that.
But this was great. This is what humility is.
Humility is often one of the most misunderstood concepts in the Bible because we think of humility as somehow giving up what we want to do or just being sort of a doormat that people are going to run over—that we just somehow disappear into the woodwork. That is pretty much how the ancient Greeks viewed it as well.
But in the New Testament, we get a fresh understanding of just exactly what humility is.
1. Now this is the verb form of the word that we have up here, TAPEINOO, which basically is translated “to humble”, or it’s translated as humility.
In its literal meaning it refers to something that was low or lying low, something that was brought low. And it came to mean, and it was applied to someone who was of low degree—a homeless person, somebody living under the bridge, somebody who was on welfare and food stamps.
They just couldn’t do anything to help themselves or wouldn’t do anything to help themselves. It referred to somebody who was weak, somebody insignificant and somebody poor—not the kind of person that you’re going to elevate or want to emulate in a culture.
So a humble person was just the lowest dregs of society.
But that word came to be used metaphorically of someone who did not overly think too much of themselves, who didn’t think highly of themselves, who wasn’t conceited, who wasn’t boasting, who wasn’t full of themselves.
So it came to refer as somebody who was humble, somebody who didn’t think too much about themselves. Somebody who wasn’t conceited. Somebody who wasn’t boasting.
2. So in the Scripture we see that humility—and the second point—that humility is in contrast to pride, arrogance, self-absorption.
We’re all born controlled by a sin nature, and your sin nature and my sin nature starts controlling us from the moment we take our first breath, and the focus is “it’s all about me.” You think it’s all about you? Buddy, it’s all about me!
That’s the source of all conflicts because we all think it’s all about us.
But what Scripture says is it’s not about us at all. It’s all about God. It’s all about serving God, glorifying God, serving the Lord Jesus Christ.
So the contrast that we see in the Scripture is arrogance, and that humility is the opposite of this self-absorbed me-focus of our sin nature.
Humility is the direct opposite of arrogance, so humility isn’t this idea of being weak or being a nobody. It is really a very strong term. In fact, Moses is called the most humble man in the Old Testament.
Here’s a man who spent 40 years leading 2.5 to 3 million stiff-necked Jews through the wilderness with all the different attacks against his authority, all the different attacks against God, all the rebellion that went on. Moses is called the meekest man, the most humble man in the Bible.
3. Now why does God call him that? Because the focal point of humility isn’t on some sort of self-indignation or running down yourself or some low self-image. It has to do with understanding—as our third point states—understanding who we are and being properly oriented to God’s authority.
True humility is submission to God’s authority, and the person who is truly humble is a person who understands the authorities in their life: Parents, husbands, fathers, teachers, your officers in the military, superiors in the military, the people who are over you at work. Submission to authority is what humility is. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
4. Under point #4 the New Testament picture of humility is given for us in Philippians 2:5–11.
One of the great things we see in Scripture is we have these abstract terms. Terms like humility. Terms like self-control. Terms like virtue.
There’s always someone in the Bible that is a picture of that—that if we look at their life, we see a flesh and blood illustration for us, so we can understand what humility is, and this is what we find in Philippians 2:5–11.
Let’s just turn over there for just a minute, and I want to point a couple of things in relationship to the context of Philippians 2.
In Philippians 2:3, Paul tells the Philippians, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit”—that’s arrogance—“but in lowliness of mind”—that’s humility.
The context here is talking about developing humility as a mental attitude, and it goes on to describe that. He says, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”That means to be focused on others, not just focused on self.
He expands on that in verse 4. He says, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests,” so notice he doesn’t say forget your own interest. He says don’t just look out for your own interests, that’s legitimate, but look out for the interests of others.
Then he starts this section that we’re going to get into (verse 8) in verse 5. He said, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”In other words, this is a mental attitude.
What he’s developing for us is an understanding of the mental attitude of humility. This is what this Scripture is emphasizing.
So we read in verse 8 that Jesus was found “in appearance as a man.” So this is talking about the incarnation when He entered into the human race. He takes on true humanity and a human body.
Then it says, “He humbled Himself.” How did He humble Himself? This gives us the biblical definition of humility. “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient.” He becomes obedient to the point of death, even the death on the Cross.
So when we look at the context, we’re to develop this same mentality; a mentality of orienting to God’s authority, obeying Him.
Wwhat this describes about Jesus is though He was in the form of God, though He was totally equal to God and has every right as the Creator to have all of the adoration and obedience from the human race, He doesn’t make an issue out of that.
Instead He, though He was “in the form of God,” it says, He “didn’t consider it robbery to be equal with God.” That means He didn’t think it was something to be held on to; something to be grasped after, something to be asserted.
“But He made Himself of no reputation taking on the form of a bondservant,” all of this in obedience to the Father, “and came in the likeness of men.”
So “He humbled Himself,” and that’s our verb TAPEINOO, meaning to see yourself in proper relation to reality and to be placed under authority.
How did He humble Himself?“By becoming obedient.” The Greek word there, GINOMAI, the verb there means to become something new.
So it’s not that He wasn’t obedient before, but in His humanity, He is becoming obedient to the Father in order to accomplish the plan of salvation.
What’s the result of that? By being humble, by obeying God and focusing on God’s plan and God’s priority, God gave Him the glory.
So the human viewpoint is, “I’m going to get glory by going out and asserting myself. I’m going to get glory by asserting my rights. I’m going to get glory to make sure that nobody takes advantage of me, nobody walks on me, nobody treats me poorly. I’m going to assert my rights.”
What Scripture says is let God take care of that. Our focus is to serve the Lord and to be obedient to Him. The result is, as with Christ, is that He’s glorified for eternity.
When we try to assert our rights individually in time, we may get glory for a day or two or a week or maybe more, but when we are walking in obedience to the Lord, then that exaltation comes at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and it lasts for all of eternity.
So that Jesus, though He could have asserted His deity and not gone to the Cross, submits to the Father, goes to the Cross, and as a result of that, in verse 10, God is going to “exalt Him and give Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth.”
“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
So what we see here in this fourth point is that the picture of humility is Christ’s submission to the authority of God to go to the Cross.
5. The fifth thing that we see is that the Lord also demonstrated this humility in His desire to serve. Humility is related to our ability to properly serve the Lord.
In Mark 10:45 we read, “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served,”that is to assert His own rights, “but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Again, the picture of humility is related to the ability to serve God. So if we are called as believers to serve God, we have to develop humility in order to serve God.
6. A sixth point we see coming out of this is that rather than emphasizing His sovereign authority or His own personal rights or His own personal privileges, the second Person of the Trinity de-emphasized power, His prestige, and His person and became a creature in order to serve us by dying on the Cross for us.
This is an example we see throughout history for people who are missionaries. Many people have gone into professional Christian work. Many have been individuals who had great talents and skills in the business world and could have had the riches of this world. But like Moses according to Hebrews 11, rejected the riches and the wealth and the prestige and the power of the world in favor of serving the Lord and being identified with God’s people. That is humility.
7. Now under point 7 we see that there are three categories of humility that the Bible mentions:
The first is a false humility, and this is typical of a lot of people. It’s mentioned in Colossians 2:18–23.
It’s not obedience to God. It’s this self-denial that somehow I’m going to put myself down. But what you’re really trying to do is make yourself look good by making yourself look humble. That’s a false humility.
The humility that’s emphasized in passages like Colossians 3:12, that we’re to put on humility; 1 Peter 5:5, that we are to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God; Ephesians 4:2—these are a result of the role of God the Holy Spirit producing humility, genuine humility in our lives.
The third category is enforced humility, and this is what comes when we’re, for believer or unbeliever, put in a position such as going in the military, you’re in a classroom, you’re under some sort of authority, and they’re enforcing that obedience upon you.
The only humility that really counts in terms of your spiritual life is that second category. That humility is important because it’s foundational to grace orientation. You can’t grow in grace if you’re not humble, if you’re not willing to obey the Lord and learning to trust Him, and learning that His grace is sufficient.
So grace orientation means that all that we are and all that we have is from God—that we can handle anything because God’s grace is going to sustain us in the difficulty. This is what happened to the Apostle Paul.
8. The classic illustration of this comes in 2 Corinthians 12. This is the episode where Paul has been given a vision, so much like Peter, James, and John who have the vision of the Kingdom, who think very highly of themselves because “look at the privileges that the Lord has given us.”
Paul also had the privilege of being taken into Heaven, seeing what Heaven was like, having a lot of additional revelation given to him, and he could boast about it. And this is what he talks about in 2 Corinthians 12:6.
He says, “For though I might desire to boast,” that would be arrogance, “I will not be a fool.” Being arrogant, not being humble is foolish. He says, “for I will speak the truth.”
Then he goes on in verse 7. He says, “lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations,” that is all this insight that he was given, “a thorn in the flesh was given to me.”
There has been a lot of talk about what that thorn in the flesh was, but the next phrase defines it. It’s an ANGELOS, an angel, a messenger of Satan. He was personally assaulted by a demon who is stirring up trouble around him.
You read on through the passage, what he’s talking about here is the constant rejection, persecution that came his way. Here he knows so much, and God has revealed so much to him, and yet people reject it. People were hostile to him. People sought to put him in prison. They rejected his message, and he knew he had the truth.
So he’s given this angel or messenger of Satan to buffet him, and he says that three times he pleaded with the Lord to remove this, and here is the point, verse 9, “And the Lord said to him, ‘My grace is sufficient for you.’ ”
Sometimes the Lord brings testing, adversity, difficulty, limitations into our life because it teaches us to rely upon Him and not on our own efforts and our own ability.
Relying on self leads to arrogance, but relying exclusively on the Lord, which is humility, leads to grace orientation and ultimately to maturity.
So Christ said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”
This is Paul’s response in verse 10, “Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses.” That’s what the thorn in the flesh produced.
Infirmity, reproach, needs, persecutions, distresses—because he said that all of this was “for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
So humility is the foundation to understanding grace and being grace oriented.
9. Humility is also foundational to learning. You can’t learn anything in life without humility. You have to submit to the authority of your teacher, your instructor, your boss. When they come in to correct you, to straighten things out, you have to understand that they have your best in mind. And so humility is foundational to learning.
In Ephesians 4:1–2, Paul says, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” How’s that worthy walk defined? “with all lowliness”—there’s our word for humility—“with all humility and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.”
Humility is foundational to being able to love one another.
10. And that leads to the last point, Point #10: Humility is foundational to forgiveness and reconciliation. If we are going to understand how to forgive one another, we have to develop humility and dependence in the Lord.
Colossians 3:12, 13, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and believer, put on”—like you put on a garment. This is done through the power of the Holy Spirit—“put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.”
Foundational to that is humility.
Now in closing I just want to look at one passage very briefly, 1 Peter 5:5–7.
This is where Peter closes out. This is the Peter who is learning the lesson of humility back in Matthew 18. So many things that Peter learns in Matthew 17 and 18 come out in his first and second epistles.
He says, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility.” Once again we see humility is tied with submission to authority.
Then he warns, quoting from the Old Testament, “God resists the proud.” God resists the arrogant, “but He gives grace to the humble.” Humility is related to grace orientation.
“Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and He will exalt you in due time,” 1 Peter 5:6.
How do we humble ourselves? “by casting all of our cares upon Him, because He cares for us.”
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed.
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to study Your Word this morning and to be reminded that as part of your grace, we need to develop humility, that this is ultimately done through the power of God the Holy Spirit. Humility is grounded upon being oriented to Your authority, submitting to Your authority, doing what You say to do the way You say to do it. And that means that we need to make Your Word of God very much a part of our lives so that we can understand what Your will is.
Father, we know that there may be some listening today that may be unsure of their eternal salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny. This is your opportunity to make that sure and certain. The way that you can have eternal life is by trusting in Jesus Christ alone. It’s not by works of righteousness which we’ve done, the Scripture says, but it’s according to God’s mercy. We trust in Him. It’s not by works. It’s by grace. We just accept the free gift simply by trusting in Him. Paul said, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
So the instant you trust in Christ as Savior, that moment in time you are regenerated, you are justified, you have eternal life that can never ever be taken from you.
Now Father, we pray that You’d challenge each of us in recognizing the importance of humility, the role that that plays in the Christian life as central to being grace oriented and central to loving one another.
And we pray this is Christ’s name. Amen.”