By Jimmy R. Mickells
“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me” (Matthew 18:1-5).
There are a number of things that we can learn from this text that can benefit us as the people of God. Let me suggest a few things in hopes that each can draw closer to our Lord and be of greater services to Him.
The disciples wanted to know who was greatest in the kingdom. Jesus didn’t say that you had to be a great general like King David. Neither did He say that one had to posses the wisdom of Solomon. He does not need to build an ark, cross the Red Sea, fight the Philistines, nor rebuild Jerusalem. Yet he must humble himself and become as a little child if he is going to be a part of the kingdom. Greatness, in the eyes of God, involves service (Matthew 23:11). Those that will be a part of the kingdom, achieving greatness before the Lord, are those that will humble themselves and be the servants of others. It is not about exalting self and others serving me.
Humbling one’s self and becoming as a little child is a part of true conversion to the Lord. The word “converted” is defined as “metaphorically to turn one’s self from one’s course of conduct, i.e. to change one’s mind” (Thayer, p. 591). Vincent, in his word study, says, “The word converted has acquired a conventional religious sense which is fundamentally truthful, but the essential quality of which will be more apparent if we render literally, as Rev., except ye turn. The picture is that of turning round in a road and facing the other way” (Word Studies in the New Testament, p. 103). Instead of one looking for greatness, at least in man’s eyes, he seeks to serve and the Lord will exalt him. Are you humble enough to recognize the need you have for salvation that is offered only through the Lord? If you are meek and lowly, through faith, repentance, confession, and baptism God by His grace will save you.
These verses expose the false doctrine that one is born a sinner. One would not need to be converted and become as a little child (if the child is born a sinner); he would already be like the child (a sinner). The wise man said, “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Sin is a transgression of the law. Listen to the words of John, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4; KJ). For one to become a sinner, he must first transgress the law of God. Which law has a new born baby transgressed? A child is not guilty of sin because his father disobeyed God. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20). Every man, woman, and child suffer the consequences of the sin committed by Adam, but none bear his guilt. Let me illustrate what I mean with an alcoholic dad and his family. The family of such a man suffers because of the choice that he made to be a drinker of alcohol. They are not guilty of his sin because of his choice, but suffer because of it. The same is true with each of us; we are not sinners because of Adam’s sin, but we do suffer because of his choice. We become sinners when we violate the commands of God.
Every person that is accountable before God is a sinner and is in need of forgiveness (Romans 3:23). We need to turn from our sinful course of conduct and be obedient to the will of the Lord (Acts 3:19). May we humble ourselves, be converted and become as a little child, serving God and our fellow man the rest of our life. Want to truly be great? Then serve!