Truth Taught- We are called to align ourselves with God’s purpose in caring for His people.
Last time we learned what God desires from us concerning our living godly lives to encourage others to live godly as well. We saw together that our sin does not only affect our relationship with God but it can also affect others as well. When we sin we encourage others to sin and the flip side is that when we obey God we encourage others to be obedient.
We saw this play out in the OT as King Jeroboam by his sin caused Israel to sin. Then we looked at the immediate context in which Jesus was speaking to His disciples who were arguing about greatness and thus bringing others into their sinful argument.
We also saw how Jesus referred to all of His followers as little ones. His point was that we too should be concerned about whether our actions will have a negative effect on someone who is seeking to be obedient to Christ. How does our speech, our actions, and even our attitudes affect those around us?
Matthew 18:7 (ESV)
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!
We have responsibilities as God’s people towards others He loves. We are called to love those whom God loves.
Now keep in mind that the passage is not talking about physical children. It is not talking about infants and little children physically. It is talking about the childlike believer, the one who knows Jesus Christ, who has come as a child, who is the child of God; and the little child is simply an analogy to define the nature of one who follows God, who loves the Lord Jesus Christ. So, it’s talking about Christians under the analogy of little children.
Little ones matter greatly to God. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to shed His blood at the cross of Calvary to redeem these little ones of whom we are included in Christ. Because these Little ones have great value to the Father, we too should esteem greatly the Little ones Jesus died for.
Our worth as Little ones is found in the blood of Christ that saved us. Our worth is in Christ and nothing else. Our worth is not found in anything else. If your worth is found in yourself or in some skill you possess, you are worthless.
We have worth because it took the shed blood of Jesus Christ with is of infinite value to redeem us. When we were lost and going headlong into eternal destruction God sent His only Son to rescue us.
In today’s text let’s see together the great value God places on just one least of these little ones…
We’ll also see how vulnerable God’s people are and how we too must practice care over them. It’s not just the Pastor who has the responsibility over the care of our people here but all of us. Collectively, we have the responsibility for one another.
What can you do to care for others here? You see, it’s not optional. If you are here today and see yourself as part of this church you have the responsibility to care for God’s people here.
Another note on the text today is to guard against wrong interpretation. This is not an evangelistic text. Jesus is not teaching about the Shepherd leaving the 99 to go out and seek to save the lost sheep. The lamb is not lost in the sense of being unsaved, no it’s lost in the sense of lost its way and needs help. Jesus refers to the lamb as one of His little ones. The Little ones are His people…
Matthew 18:5–6 (ESV)
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 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 around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
We must take great care with the Father’s little ones.
Matthew 18:10–14 (ESV)
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
1. Do Not Despise the “Little Ones”
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.
We saw the importance of receiving or welcoming the Father’s Little ones…
Matthew 18:5 (ESV)
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me,
Here Jesus uses the word despise which is literally the opposite of welcoming. To welcome is to value someone and to listen to them, hearing them and what they have to say. To welcome is to value their input and to fellowship with them because they are important to you.
To despise is the very opposite. They are not important to you, you don’t value their input, what they have to say is irrelevant, they begin to speak and you cut them off because you don’t really care what they have to say. That’s what despise means here.
God chooses the despised of the world to shame the proud.
1 Corinthians 1:26–29 (ESV)
26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
There aren’t many wise, and there aren’t many mighty, and there aren’t many noble. Instead of the wise, verse 27 says, you get the foolish. And instead of the mighty, you get the weak. And in verse 28, instead of the of the noble, you get the base, or the common folks. You don’t come into God’s kingdom by your intellect. You don’t come into God’s kingdom by your power and influence. You don’t come into God’s kingdom by your birth or your birthright. Those people just seem somehow to be so disinterested. They seem to lack the kind of humility and desperation of a little child that is necessary for anyone to enter the kingdom. God has chosen the humble.
When Jesus came to preach in Luke 4, He got up, and He took the text, Isaiah 61, and He said that He had come and been anointed to preach the gospel to the poor, to the poor. It’s hard for rich people to get into the kingdom of heaven; it’s easier for camels to go through the eye of needles. It’s mostly the poor.
Don’t forget, Jesus is teaching this because the Disciples were arguing about who is the greatest. Jesus tells them that great people, rich people, people of astounding intellect rarely even get into the Kingdom of God.
2. The Reason Jesus Gives: Their Angels Always See the Face of God
For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.
We must again be reminded we are not speaking of little children and guardian angels we are talking about those who are believers. This is true for all us who are Christians. Our angels always have access to God and represent us to God.
We must welcome all believers because they have privileged access to God.
Hebrews 1:14 (ESV)
14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?
Imagine that these Little ones has access to God the Father and are even represented by angels, God has assigned angels to them to care and watch over them and they have God’s love, attention, and care. He welcomes them but you do not.
Do you see the problem if this is the case? God the Father welcomes them and you don’t.
These Little ones may be despised on earth. They may not be cared for at all. They may need your help and care. No one will give them the time of day and yet the Father deeply loves them. They are His even though the world does not care for them at all.
It’s so important here that the Church steps in and embraces them and cares for them. When we do, we are aligning ourselves with the purposes of God.
3. What Care for the Little Ones Looks Like
12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
Here in our Lord’s parable the straying sheep is one of His Little ones who has gone astray. One of the Little ones who believe in Him is wandering outside of the sheep fold. This lamb is in danger of thieves and wolves. What does the Good Shepherd do? What should we do? We must go and search for the wandering Little one with the goal of bringing it back into the fold.
John’s Gospel has highlighted the fact that Jesus is the Good Shepherd…
John 10:11–15 (ESV)
11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.
The sheep belong to Him and as the Good Shepherd He will go out and bring the wayward lamb back. Every lamb in the fold is very important to the Shepherd. He owns the sheep.
The Shepherd secures the folk on the hill and then goes looking for the one.
Beloved, when we notice a believer wandering off, we must act with care and love to help bring them back into the fold.
This is the biblical view of salvation. What is this text teaching? Jesus teaches us what proper care for His Little ones looks like. This parable is not teaching as some have thought, eternal security, evangelism, or that a person can lose their salvation. It’s teaching that we must have the same heart for the Church that God has. We must go and seek to bring back the wandering lamb.
What does that look like for us? This is for everyone not just the Elders…
When someone misses a couple of Sundays do call them to check on them? Do you get involved in the lives of our folks here? Do you pray weekly for those who are struggling and have prayer needs?
We learned last week that these things are not just commands but they are the test whether your salvation is genuine or not.
Do you love the ones God loves? Do you align yourself with God’s purposes?
Next Lord’s Day, we will see together more practical ways we are to love others.
13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.
Here the rejoicing occurs by the recovery of the wandering lamb. It is not teaching that this particular lamb is more valuable than the others but by the fact that it is now added back into the fold.
Now what do we see about the love of the shepherd here? First, it is an individual love: one sheep gone out of a hundred; yet the shepherd wouldn’t rest till he brought it home. And that’s the Shepherd Father’s love. It is an infinite love. He sees not flocks, but individual sheep; and everyone has a special, intimate relationship with Him.
John 10:14 (ESV)
14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
Because God deeply loves all of His people we must actively show love to them as well. We are the sheep and He is the Shepherd.
We are given a wonderful picture of the Father here. He seeks us. As the Shepherd he goes out after us to bring us back.
God is out there seeking – I love this. It pursues. It doesn’t say, “Well, I’m here. When you get ready to come back, let Me know.” No. It’s not a sheep crawling back, and flopping over on its back, and putting its feet up in the air, and saying, “Please take me back,” and some kind of reluctant forgiveness is offered. No. A seeking care, a forgiving care.
4. God’s Will for His Wandering Little Ones
14 So it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
The key to understanding this final verse is found in the word perish. What does it mean here?
The word “perish,” apollumi. Sometimes in the Bible it means “to die and go to hell.” Sometimes in the Bible it can mean “to be scarred or marred.” Sometimes it can be “to be ruined,” “to enter into a disaster.”
Here it does not refer to losing salvation and being sent to hell. There are too many places in the Bible that clearly teach God’s people are secure and will never lose their salvation.
Apollumi here means to be marred.
1 Corinthians 8:11–12 (ESV)
11 And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. 12 Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.
Romans 14:15–19 (ESV)
15 For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. 16 So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. 18 Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. 19 So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Here it is the same, believers who are ruined in their spiritual life – not in the final perishing in hell sense, but it ruins their spiritual progress, it ruins their spiritual power, it destroys their usefulness to God. And that’s what its use is here. We could say, “It’s not the will of your Father who’s in heaven that one of these little ones should be spiritual marred, spiritually wounded, spiritually ruined.” So, God cares, Christ cares, and the angels care; and because of this, beloved, take heed that you care and do not despise one of these little ones.
So, go out of your way, make the effort, take the time to seek out those believers who may be struggling. Go to them and help. In this way, you are aligning yourself with God’s will.
This week, how can you be an encouragement to someone else?