Matthew tells us Christ wanted to give his disciples a profound illustrated sermon. He called a little child to him and took the youngster in his arms. He then told them, “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 18:3-5, NKJV).
In these verses, Jesus lays out the kind of relationship he desires with his people. Christ was telling these men, “Look at this child. Here is my future church. This young one represents every new believer who’s going to come to me in childlike faith. You must quickly turn away from your thoughts about how to become special in my kingdom through your own works.”
Next, Jesus called for his disciples to humble themselves. He was telling them, “I’m building my church on you. If you want any part of it, you must become as humble as this little child I’m holding in my arms.” I believe he’s asking us for two things: repudiation of all self-dependency and an uncomplicated devotion. These traits will characterize us as true kingdom servants.
Christ also told his disciples very directly, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!” (Matthew 18:6-7).
Jesus was expressing his wrath toward those who teach that the cross is not sufficient to save. He was warning his own disciples not to be offended by the cross.
Likewise, Jesus is telling the church today, “Woe to any teacher or witness who puts a stumbling block before any of these baby converts. They come to me in simple faith and repentance. You will incur my wrath if you offend them by saying, ‘Jesus is not enough. If you really want to be saved, you must do more. Here are the specific doctrines and guidelines of our church…’” We must all accept the fact that Christ alone is full payment for our sins.