Friday, April 07, 2017

Least in the kingdom of God

Luke 7:28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. (See also Matthew 11:11)

Question. Who are the least in the kingdom of God and why are they greater than John?

Most answers make this about the Old Testament/Covenant versus the New Testament/Covenant – and are usually some variation on that theme. For example, John was under the Old Covenant, John was never part of the New Testament Church, and so forth.

A better interpretation is that this scripture does not refer to the worth of believers – all of which are to make themselves the “least” to be great (Cf. Luke 9:48). Perhaps “least” does not refer to the least in size, worth, influence or rank, but rather least in age. The word μικρότερος/μικρός is what is translated “least” in this verse. According to Strong’s Concordance, for example, μικρός means small or little in all of the following categories:

  1. of size: hence of stature, of length
  2. of space
  3. of age: less by birth, younger
  4. of time: short, brief, a little while, how little!
  5. of quantity: i.e. number, amount
  6. of rank or influence
If it means smaller or least in age (i.e., younger, born later/came later) it could very well be referring to Jesus himself, who is younger than John and came after him (Compare John 1:15, John 1:27, John 1:30), and without any doubt the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. This is an appealing interpretation which gives glory to Jesus and avoids setting up “worth” or “ranks” of God’s people (which in other places is discouraged; cf. Matthew 20:25-26). On the other hand, it is hard to show it is used like this elsewhere in the New Testament – although “James the less” in Mark 15:40 is a possibility.

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