Matthew 18

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Matthew 18
Let the Little Children Come unto Jesus.jpg
Christ with children by Carl Heinrich Bloch.
BookGospel of Matthew
Christian Bible partNew Testament
Order in the Christian part1

Chapter 18 of the Gospel of Matthew contains the fourth of the five Discourses of Matthew, also called the Discourse on the Church.[1] It includes the parables of the Lost Sheep and the Unforgiving Servant which also refer to the Kingdom of Heaven. The general theme of the discourse is the anticipation of a future community of followers, and the role of his apostles in leading it.[2][3]

Addressing his apostles in Matthew 18:18, Jesus states: "what things soever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and what things soever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven", see also Binding and loosing. The discourse emphasizes the importance of humility and self-sacrifice as the high virtues within the anticipated community. It teaches that in the Kingdom of God, it is childlike humility that matters, not social prominence and clout.[2][3]


"Jesus teaches about greatness" by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld, 1860

The chapter can be divided into the following subsections:


Matthew 18:32-34; 19:1-3,5-7,9-10 on the recto side of Papyrus 25 from 4th century.

The original text was written in Koine Greek. This chapter is divided into 35 verses.

Textual witnesses[edit]

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter are:

Receiving believers (18:1–11)[edit]

Among the local aspect of the church mentioned in Matthew 18:17, the first of the threefold function of a local church is the reception of believers; the others are the restoration of backsliders (18:12–14) and the reconciliation of brethren (18:15–35).[4]

Verse 3[edit]

"Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."[5]

"Be converted" is more literally translated as "be turned … so as to go in an opposite direction.[6] The phase "enter the kingdom of heaven" appears three other times in the Gospel, at Matthew 5:20, 7:21, and 23:13.[7]

Woe to the world (18:7)[edit]

In Matthew 18:7, Jesus utters "an exclamation of pity at thought of the miseries that come upon mankind through ambitious passions:" [6] woe to the world (Greek: οὐαὶ τῶ κόσμῳ, Ouai tō kosmō).

Verse 11[edit]

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.[8]

The whole verse 11, ηλθεν γαρ ο υιος του ανθρωπου σωσαι το απολωλος (For the Son of Man came to save the lost), is present in some ancient texts but not in others. It appears in the Textus Receptus and the King James Version includes it, but the New International Version omits it and the omission in NU text is noted a New King James Version footnote.[9]

Restoring backsliders (18:12–14)[edit]

The threefold function of a local church is not only to receive new believers into its midst (18:1–11), but also to restore of backsliders and to reconcile brethren (18:15–35).[10] The restoration of backsliders is illustrated by Jesus in a story of the lost sheep and the loving shepherd, which is more fully told and elaborated into a three-part story in Luke 15 concerning a lost sheep, a lost piece of silver, and a lost son.[11]

Reconciling brethren (18:15–35)[edit]

The third of the threefold function of a local church (after receiving new believers in 18:1–11 and restoring backsliders in 18:12–14) is to reconcile brethren.[12] Jesus teaches that the attempt to reconcile a brother involves three steps: the Christian Love Rules (18:15), the Common Law Rules (18:16) and the Christian Leaders Rule (18:17–20), which is followed by an exposition of forgiveness (18:21–22) accompanied by a parable about a man whose debt is forgiven but refused to forgive others and therefore is punished (18:23–35).[13]

Verses 15-17 are of particular significance to Baptists in their support of the principle of autonomy of the local church (see Baptist beliefs).

Verse 17[edit]

And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.[14]

If a sinner remains recalcitrant, even after the matter is brought to the whole community, then the person must be regarded as "outside the community" ("excommunication").[15]

Verse 18[edit]

Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.[16]

Cross reference: Matthew 16:19, John 20:23

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Preaching Matthew's Gospel by Richard A. Jensen 1998 ISBN 978-0-7880-1221-1 pages 25 and 158
  2. ^ a b Matthew by Larry Chouinard 1997 ISBN 0-89900-628-0 page 321
  3. ^ a b Behold the King: A Study of Matthew by Stanley D. Toussaint 2005 ISBN 0-8254-3845-4 pages 215-216
  4. ^ Phillips 2005, p. 363.
  5. ^ Matthew 18:3 NKJV
  6. ^ a b Nicoll, W. R., Expositor's Greek Testament on Matthew 18, accessed 1 February 2017
  7. ^ Gundry, Robert H. Matthew a Commentary on his Literary and Theological Art. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1982. p. 131
  8. ^ Matthew 18:11 NKJV
  9. ^ texts of Matthew 18:11
  10. ^ Phillips 2005, pp. 363, 366.
  11. ^ Phillips 2005, p. 364.
  12. ^ Phillips 2005, pp. 363, 368.
  13. ^ Phillips 2005, pp. 368–370.
  14. ^ Matthew 18:17 NKJV
  15. ^ Allison 2007, p. 867.
  16. ^ Matthew 18:17 MEV


External links[edit]

Preceded by
Matthew 17
Chapters of the New Testament
Gospel of Matthew
Succeeded by
Matthew 19