WE MUST RECEIVE THE KINGDOM OF GOD AS A LITTLE CHILD
“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." Luke 18:17
“Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will by no means enter it…” The Lord has given us a powerful truth. There are many varying views about what the Lord means in this verse. Let us take a deeper look and search it out. First let us take a look at the preceding verses in Luke and then see where other verses in the Gospels might help us understand more.
Luke 18:15-17 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it."
Mark 10:13-16 Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, "Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them.
The verses in Mark 10, seem to be about the same instance that the Lord was teaching. But what else did the Lord have to say about little children and the kingdom? The following verses are also in Luke and Mark but do not seem to be in the same context.
Luke 9:46-48 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great."
Mark 9:33-37 Then He came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, "What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?" But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all." Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, "Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me."
Interestingly, the only verses I found in Matthew pertaining to our main text are the following where all the points in the above verses are found.
Matthew 18:1-5 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.”
Here in Matthew, the disciples had asked Jesus directly about who would be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Our core text is also found here in the Lord saying "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” And the Lord said next, therefore, which means connection of two trains of thought. “Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” So we must humble ourselves and be converted, becoming like a little child in so doing, which makes someone the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And the Lord took it all one step further saying, “Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” And we can tell from Mark 9:37 that when Jesus said “receives Me,” it is really means receiving the Father when Jesus is received.
As we can see from what has been written, Jesus undoubtedly addressed this teaching many times. It reminds me of how my grandfather used the truths he learned in life to help us younger ones as he also taught my siblings and cousins too. But we did not all receive from Grandfather at the same time or even necessarily in the same types of instances. Scripture can be like this. Sometimes we read about a teaching Jesus gave from one person and how they received it and then in another instance from another. Sometimes they were not even from the same occasion. But what matters is the truth that we are supposed to learn from it.
A most powerful truth about true conversion is found here: “unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Let us consider what John recorded in that famous conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus.
John 3:3-8 Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Nicodemus said to Him, "How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Jesus answered, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Conversion is the same for anyone of any age, we must each humble ourselves with repentance and be born-again like a little child. This is the starting point for all believers in becoming like a little child and grow and mature in Christ.
How many “believe” according to whatever message they heard by a man or woman and never continue growing in Christ and His Word? Or receive a false Gospel, perhaps without any repentance, and think they are now Christians? Unless we are each converted by believing upon Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, delivering us from the bondage of sin and the eternal punishment that we all deserve, and truly grow and mature in His Word by the revelation and guidance of the Holy Spirit, then we are in grave danger.
Jesus has given us a teaching popularly called the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. There is only one kind of seed that is sown and it is the Gospel. The four types of soil represent four different kinds of heart conditions that receive the Gospel. Three out of the four types fail. Only one type actually grows to be able to produce and this in turns means it has the ability to reproduce.
There are many in the church world that just want to see people converted. But for someone to be converted and then not discipled, puts the fresh convert in grave danger. Conversion is just the beginning. We must start as a child and grow in God’s Word and ways.
Let’s look at the first type of heart that receives the true Gospel.
Luke 8:12 “Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” (Matthew 13:19, Mark 4:15)
The Gospel actually makes it to their hearts. But they do not have the reasoning for it to develop in them. And the devil takes the word out of their hearts.
Luke 8:13 “But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away.” (Matthew 13:20-21, Mark 4:16-17)
This Gospel gets in a bit further in these, but they do not have enough root to make it and “fall away.” Maybe it is just that it happens this way, or maybe, if they grew in the Word and developed enough root, that they would keep believing and not fall away in the time of temptation.
Luke 8:14 “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” (Matthew 13:22, Mark 4:18-19)
Once again, there is failure. This time the seed makes it further, there is even some growth, but it is eventually choked out. Obviously this one has more root, but not enough to withstand the enemy. This could be a simple case that they would never grow more, but it is for certain that they do not have the Word of God strongly in operation in their hearts and lives. They fail because the strength of the weeds is greater than their strength.
Could these make it if they would grow in the Word and in the Spirit? Is it in them to do so? The Word of God is alive and life-changing. These are choked out by the weeds of the cares, riches and pleasures of life. Some of these weeds are just distractions, but some are serious pitfall sins. Like addictions and sexual relations outside of the Lord’s perimeters… knowing the truth will set someone free. But if they have no appetite or discipline for the Word of God to learn it, receive it and apply it, in time the weeds will destroy them.
Luke 8:15 “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” (Matthew 13:23, Mark 4:20)
It is safe to say that these mature in Christ. They even bear fruit with patience. The Gospel is received and these grow in His Word and by yielding to the direction of the Lord. Their good and noble hearts not only hear the Word, but they work to keep it. Only by growing in Christ can one make it to heaven. We all have ups and downs. The growth even comes from making it through the downs. But we must keep growing as long as we have breath!
In summation, we must be spiritually converted in the sense that we repent and receive the Gospel as a child and it must grow in us and become effective in our lives. This happens through receiving and staying submissive to the Holy Spirit and in the learning and application of God’s Word. Without it, we will be one of the first three types of failures. The fourth type if it continues, will inherit the kingdom of God. The others let the enemy steal any hope of having the crown of salvation because they were not willing to do what it takes.
“But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.” Luke 8:15
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