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.”
The disciples were constantly concerned about be recognized, known for what they did. God resists pride and looks for humility. This is an essential ingredient (as another is stated in Jn.3:5) to become a citizen, adopted in God’s family. Jesus used Children whom are dependent on their parents to show how we are to depend on our Father, God. This is very opposite of self reliance and self esteem. We leave our own ambitions behind and follow Jesus on the narrow road to fulfill his will for our lives (Mt.7:14). There is a wonder and innocence of a child learning from his Father. We call upon his name, we pray this is how we are children dependent on God.
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.”
Again Jesus uses a child as an example showing that we are to act to each other as equals not as less than us but make ourselves servants, we become great in the kingdom; the very opposite way the world views how things operate.
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” Matthew 11:11) consider that John was the greatest of prophets and yet those who become as children and humble themselves will be greater than John. Being a servant is directly linked to being a child, willing to do what the master says “But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-13).
Mark 10:13-15 “Then they brought young 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.”
Jesus made the point by this illustration that no one should be excluded, even the young. Furthermore we must receive the kingdom from him as children, this is not an option. Again explaining how we come to him to be part of the kingdom of God by abandoning our self. A child is teachable, willing to learn and receive care, free from prejudices.
To become as little children means that one is not self reliant, but God reliant. As a child is trusting his parents to love, care and provide for him his daily needs. We are to cast our care s upon him as He has promised to respond to us.
What it does not mean is to be immature, childish in behavior, or become a child in intelligence and judgment, not knowing what is the difference between good or evil. But to be able to exercise right judgment in matters pertaining to our faith. and we exercise this judgment everyday.
Jesus taught of bearing fruit was part of maturity by “those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred” (Mark 4:20). However the world and an enemy are against us and wants the word to fall on barren soil to “bring no fruit to maturity” (Luke 8:14).
Paul sums up his speaking on love as being mature:
1 Cor. 13:11-13 “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
In the conclusion of speaking in tongues Paul states, ‘Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (1 Cor. 14:20)
No man knows all things correctly on earth. Paul understood his childishness by his keeping the law, now he grew in grace. He explains in Gal 3:24-25 “Therefore the law was our tutor (school master) to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”
He knew his place in continually learning and understanding his relationship under the new covenant that is enacted by grace not by law.
So Paul was able to write about his own sanctification:
Phil 3:12-17 “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you. Nevertheless, to the degree that we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind. Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.”
Christ is our ultimate example; the apostles become the pattern for all Christians to imitate as the primitive church unfolded, and we can read of them today as our examples of becoming mature.