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18. Parables

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. 5 And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. 6 But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

7 Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! 8 Wherefore if thy hand or thy foot offend thee, cut them off, and cast them from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life halt or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet to be cast into everlasting fire. 9 And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire. 10 Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven. 11 For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. 12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? 13 And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. 14 Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.

15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. 18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

21Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

23 Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. 24 And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 27 Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. 28 But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. 29 And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. 30 And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. 32 Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: 33 Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? 34 And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. 35 So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.

18. What things soever you shall bind. He now repeats the same words which he had formerly used, (Matthew 16:19,) but in a different sense; for there he intended to maintain their authority in doctrine, but here he appoints discipline, which is an appendage to doctrine. There Christ declared that the preaching of the Gospel would not be without effect, but that the odor of it would either be life-giving or deadly, (2 Corinthians 2:15,16:) here he affirms that, though wicked men ridicule the judgment of the Church, it will not be ineffectual. We must attend to this distinction, that there our Lord’s discourse relates to the preached word, but here to public censures and discipline. Let the reader go to that passage for the import of the metaphor, binding and loosing. 561561     See page 293 of this volume.

The substance of it is this: Whoever, after committing a crime, humbly confesses his fault, and entreats the Church to forgive him, is absolved not only by men, but by God himself; and, on the other hand, whoever treats with ridicule the reproofs and threatenings of the Church, if he is condemned by her, the decision which men have given will be ratified in heaven. If it be objected, that in this way God is made a sort of petty judge, who concurs in the sentence of mortal men, the reply is at hand. For when Christ maintains the authority of his Church, he does not diminish his own power or that of his Father, but, on the contrary, supports the majesty of his word. As in the former case (Matthew 16:19) he did not intend to confirm indiscriminately every kind of doctrine, but only that which had proceeded out of his mouth, so neither does he say in this place that every kind of decision will be approved and ratified, but only that in which he presides, and that too not only by his Spirit, but by his word. Hence it follows, that men do no injury to the authority of God, when they pronounce nothing but what comes from his mouth, and only endeavor faithfully to execute what he has commanded. For, though Christ alone is the Judge of the world, yet he chooses to have ministers to proclaim his word. 562562     “Il vent toutesfois cependant que les ministres soyent ambassadeurs pour porter et publier sa parole;” — “yet he wishes that ministers should be ambassadors to carry and publish his word.” Besides, he wishes that his own decision should be pronounced by the Church; and thus he takes nothing from his own authority by employing the ministry of men, but it is Himself alone that looses and binds

But here a question arises. Since the Church endures many hypocrites, and likewise absolves (or looses) many whose professions of repentance are hypocritical, does it follow that such persons will be absolved (or loosed) in heaven? I reply, the discourse is addressed to those only who are truly and sincerely reconciled to the Church. For Christ, wishing to administer comfort to trembling consciences, and to relieve them from fear, declares that any who may have offended are freed from guilt in the sight of God, provided that they be reconciled to the Church For he has appointed this as the pledge of heavenly grace, which has no reference to hypocrites, who pervert the proper use of reconciliation, but awakens in the godly no ordinary confidence, when they hear that their sins are blotted out before God and angels, as soon as they have obtained forgiveness from the Church

In the other clause, Christ’s meaning is not at all ambiguous; for, since obstinate and haughty men are strongly inclined to despise the decision of the Church on this pretense, that they refuse to be subject to men — as wicked profligates often make bold appeals to the heavenly tribunal 563563     “Comme souventesfois on verra de meschans garnemens sans crainte de Dieu, qui diront tout haut et hardiment qu’ils appellent au jugement celeste;” — “as we shall often see wicked profligates without the fear of God, who will quite loudly and boldly say that they appeal to the heavenly tribunal.” — Christ, in order to subdue this obstinacy by terror, threatens that the condemnation, which is now despised by them, will be ratified in heaven. He encourages his followers, at the same time, to maintain proper severity, and not to yield to the wicked obstinacy of those who reject or shake off discipline. 564564     “Qui reietteront la discipline, et n’y voudront ployer le col;” — “who will reject discipline, and will refuse to bend the neck to it.”

Hence, too, we may see how absurdly the Papists torture this passage to cloak every species of tyranny. That the right of excommunication is granted to the Church is certain, and is acknowledged by every person of sound judgment; but does it follow that any individual, even though not called by the Church, but elected 565565     “Mais estant cree et ordonne;” — “but being created and appointed.” by a mitered and disguised beast, shall at his own caprice throw out the useless squibs of excommunications? 566566     “Et les face peter pour faire peur a qui bon luy semble;” — “and make them crack to frighten whomsoever he pleases.” On the contrary, it is evident that the lawful government of the Church is committed to elders, and not only to the ministers of the word, but to those also who, taken from among the people, have been added to them for the superintendence of morals. And yet, not satisfied with this impudence, they endeavor even to prove from this passage that we must bear all the burdens which they shall impose. I do not mention that the power which has been granted to the Church is basely seized and carried off by those outrageous enemies of the Church; and I only mention that, since Christ speaks only about correcting offenders, those who by their laws ensnare souls are chargeable with not less folly than wickedness in abusing this passage. Of the same stamp is their defense of their auricular confession on this pretense; for if Christ intended that those who by their own fault had been brought even to a public sentence should be reconciled to the Church, he does not therefore lay an obligations 567567     “Il ne s’ensuit pas pourtant qu’il ait impose loy.” on every individual to pour his sins into the ear of the priest. But their fooleries are so ridiculous, that it is unnecessary to spend any longer time in refuting them.


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