Overseer of God’s Remnant Assembly Akintayo Emmanuel Explores Who is the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven
One of the most profound, penetrating, and for some people perplexing and provocative passages in the New Testament — and perhaps, the entirety of the Holy Bible — is expressed in Matthew 18:1–5, which proclaims:
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.”
Indeed, despite the intervening two millennia, it is easy to imagine the shock and surprise that the disciples felt at this wholly unexpected answer. Surely, they anticipated that Jesus would describe a person of vast power and utter brilliance. Yet instead, Jesus called forth a child and — as He so often did — completely changed the paradigm to impart a deep, abiding truth. Akintayo Emmanuel, the Overseer of God’s Remnant Assembly, headquartered in Columbia, Maryland, explores who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
God’s Remnant Assembly on Virtues
What we have in Matthew 18:1–5 is Jesus rebuking — albeit gently and with deep love — His disciples for continuing to cling to a terrestrial, earthly concept of the Kingdom of Heaven, says Akintayo Emmanuel. Instead, what He wants them to grasp and embrace is that the Kingdom of God is within and is rooted in the virtues that children naturally demonstrate because they have not been corrupted or confused. They are still in touch with their Father in Heaven, and shine His light through their thoughts, words, feelings, and deeds. According to Akintayo Emmanuel of God’s Remnant Assembly, these virtues are innocence, humility, and love.
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: Innocence
A core theme that is central to Jesus’s Ministry is the fundamental need for true followers of God to shed and shun hypocrisy, deceit and duplicity, and reclaim the pure, unsullied innocence that accompanied them into this world — and is still within their grasp, should they choose to embrace it.
Akintayo Emmanuel notes that it is imperative to understand that in Matthew 18:1–5 and throughout the New Testament, Jesus is not urging true followers to be childish, which is characterized by selfishness. Instead, he is exhorting them to be childlike, which is characterized by selflessness. When we return to innocence within, we move aside so that God can direct our hearts and command our lives.
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: Humility
Another key tenet in Jesus’s Ministry — and which He demonstrated with awe-inspiring, unwavering commitment and consistency — is humility. Again, this is a characteristic and quality that children naturally express, but that adults often find enormously difficult.
In Matthew 18:1–5, Jesus tells the disciplines to take a `lowly position’ like a child, or else they will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven, says God’s Remnant Assembly. The word ‘never’ here is perhaps the hardest for some people to accept, because it is so final and absolute. Jesus is not saying that humility is helpful or beneficial. He is saying that it is utterly required, and the absence of it will bar one from entering and experiencing the Kingdom of Heaven.
The Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven: Love
Children are naturally guileless and inclusive, and joyfully accept those around them with an open mind and open heart. Unfortunately, this typically changes during adulthood, as people become obstinate and exclusionary — which is the anthesis of Jesus’ life and teaching.
Akintayo Emmanuel says, “When studying and reflecting on the Greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven, some people only focus on Matthew 18:1–4, which leaves out the all-important fifth verse that proclaims: ‘And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.’ What this verse reveals, is that when we act with sincere love instead of out of fear or greed, we help build the Kingdom of Heaven here and now for all to take refuge and worship.”