Revelations from the Word

(Back to Index)


The greatest in the Kingdom of God

by Jean-Louis Coraboeuf

"At hat moment the disciples came to Jesus, and said, Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Jesus having called a small child [paidion], placed him in the midst of them, and said, Truly I say to you, if you do not convert and if you do not become like little children [paidion], you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. That is why, whoever humbles himself like this little child will be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:1-4).

In replying to the disciples' question, Jesus revealed a characteristic of the Kingdom of God. The Greek word pais designates a child under a tutor or the servant of a king or of a minister (1). The paidion is a young pais. From this root the following words are derived:

  • paideutes meaning educator, instructor, tutor, "We had for educator our fathers according to the flesh" (Hebrew 12:9),

  • paideuo meaning to correct, instruct, train, "What is the son whom the father does not correct?"(Hebrew 12:7),

  • paidéia meaning correction, education, training, "My son, do not despise the correction (chastisement) of the Lord" (Hebrew 12:5).

  • paidagogos meaning pedagogue, tutor, guardian, "For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ " (1 Corinthians 4:15).

Education takes place in two ways:

  • from the outside, by way of educators and tutors in a father – son relationship: "I have written to you because you have known the Father" (1 John 2:13),

  • From the inside, by the grace of God: "It teaches us [paîdeuo] to renounce ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live in the present age according to wisdom, righteousness and godliness" (Titus 2:11-12).

The Scriptures are the basis of the education (2 Timothy 3:16), "Blessed is the man whom you educate [yassar], O Lord, and whom you instruct by your Torah" (Psalm 94:12). The Hebrew verb yassar means to correct, instruct, discipline; it is the equivalent of the Greek verb paideuo. The Kingdom of God therefore is one of permanent education for we always need to be taught and corrected, like children are by their parents (Ephesians 6:4).

Jesus said, "I reprove and correct [paideuo] all those whom I love" (Revelation 3:19). To accept correction is to consider oneself as a son of God and to refuse it is to behave like an illegitimate child (Hebrew 12:6-9). Correction seems, at first, to be a subject of sadness, but later it produces the peaceable fruit of the righteousness of the Kingdom (Hebrew 12:11). In His goodness the Lord corrects us so that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:32). The greatest in the Kingdom is therefore the one who accepts being abased, even if he be an earthly king, to receive the whole education of the King of kings.