The Meaning of Matthew 16:26 Explained

Matthew 16:26

KJV: For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

YLT: for what is a man profited if he may gain the whole world, but of his life suffer loss? or what shall a man give as an exchange for his life?

Darby: For what does a man profit, if he should gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

ASV: For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?

What does Matthew 16:26 Mean?

Study Notes

world
kosmos = world-system. John 7:7 .
Kosmos, Summary: In the sense of the present world-system, the ethically bad sense of the word, refers to the "order," "arrangement," under which Satan has organized the world of unbelieving mankind upon his cosmic principle of force, greed, selfishness, ambition, and pleasure. Matthew 4:8 ; Matthew 4:9 ; John 12:31 ; John 14:30 ; John 18:36 ; Ephesians 2:2 ; Ephesians 6:12 ; 1 John 2:15-17 . This world- system is imposing and powerful with armies and fleets; is often outwardly religious, scientific, cultured, and elegant; but, seething with national and commercial rivalries and ambitions, is upheld in any real crisis only by armed force, and is dominated by Satanic principles.

Context Summary

Matthew 16:21-28 - Bear The Cross For Jesus
The gospel has two parts: Jesus is the Christ; and the Christ must suffer, if He shall enter His glory. Our Lord made sure of the first, before He held to the second. There had been veiled hints of His death before, as in John 2:19; Matthew 9:15; Matthew 12:40; but henceforth it was taught without a veil. The Cross had always cast its shadow over our Lord's path. He did not die as the martyr on whom death comes unexpectedly, but He stepped from the throne and became incarnate that He might die. Notice that solemn must, Matthew 16:21.
How soon Peter fell from his high estate! Beware! The voice that bids us spare ourselves is Satan's. Self-pleasing ends in destruction. Self-denial and self-sacrifice are the divine path to life. Let us be more eager to lose ourselves than to find ourselves; more set on the cross than on the glory; more eager to promote the well-being of others than our own. We do not choose or make our cross; Christ gives each a little bit of His true Cross to bear as He pleases. [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 16

1  The Pharisees require a sign
5  Jesus warns his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees
13  The people's opinion of Jesus,
16  and Peter's confession of him
21  Jesus foretells his death;
23  reproves Peter for dissuading him from it;
24  and admonishes those who will follow him, to bear the cross

Greek Commentary for Matthew 16:26

Gain [κερδησηι]
Both aorist subjunctives (one active, the other passive) and so punctiliar action, condition of third class, undetermined, but with prospect of determination. Just a supposed case. The verb for “forfeit” occurs in the sense of being fined or mulcted of money. So the papyri and inscriptions. [source]
Exchange [ανταλλαγμα]
As an exchange, accusative in apposition with τι — ti The soul has no market price, though the devil thinks so. “A man must give, surrender, his life, and nothing less to God; no ανταλλαγμα — antallagma is possible” (McNeile). This word ανταλλαγμα — antallagma occurs twice in the Wisdom of Sirach: “There is no exchange for a faithful friend” (6:15); “There is no exchange for a well-instructed soul” 26:14}). [source]
Gain - lose [κερδήσῃ - ζημιωθῇ]
Note that both words are in the past (aorist) tense: “if he may have gained or lost. The Lord looks back to the details of each life as the factors of the final sum of gain or loss. For lose, Rev. givesforfeit. The verb in the active voice means to cause loss or damage. Often in the classics, of fining or mulcting in a sum of money. Compare 2 Corinthians 7:9. [source]
Soul [ψυχὴν]
Rev., life, with soul in margin. This will be specially considered in the discussion of the psychological terms in the Epistles. [source]
In exchange [ἀντάλλαγμα]
Lit., as an exchange. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 16:26

Matthew 6:25 Be not anxious for your life [μη μεριμνατε τηι πσυχηι μων]
This is as good a translation as the Authorized Version was poor; “Take no thought for your life.” The old English word “thought” meant anxiety or worry as Shakespeare says:“The native hue of resolution Is sicklied o‘er with the pale cast of thought.”Vincent quotes Bacon (Henry VII): “Harris, an alderman of London, was put in trouble and died with thought and anguish.” But words change with time and now this passage is actually quoted (Lightfoot) “as an objection to the moral teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, on the ground that it encouraged, nay, commanded, a reckless neglect of the future.” We have narrowed the word to mere planning without any notion of anxiety which is in the Greek word. The verb μεριμναω — merimnaō is from μερισ μεριζω — meris class="normal greek">παγωμεν πιωμεν περιβαλωμετα — merizō because care or anxiety distracts and divides. It occurs in Christ‘s rebuke to Martha for her excessive solicitude about something to eat (Luke 10:41). The notion of proper care and forethought appears in 1 Corinthians 7:32; 1 Corinthians 12:25; Philemon 2:20. It is here the present imperative with the negative, a command not to have the habit of petulant worry about food and clothing, a source of anxiety to many housewives, a word for women especially as the command not to worship mammon may be called a word for men. The command can mean that they must stop such worry if already indulging in it. In Matthew 6:31 Jesus repeats the prohibition with the ingressive aorist subjunctive: “Do not become anxious,” “Do not grow anxious.” Here the direct question with the deliberative subjunctive occurs with each verb (περιβαλωμετα — phagōmen class="normal greek">ενδυσηστε — piōmen class="normal greek">τηι πσυχηι — peribalōmetha). This deliberative subjunctive of the direct question is retained in the indirect question employed in Matthew 6:25. A different verb for clothing occurs, both in the indirect middle (πσυχηι — peribalōmetha fling round ourselves in Matthew 6:31, σωμα — endusēsthe put on yourselves in Matthew 6:25).For your life (Πσυχη — tēi psuchēi). “Here καρδια — psuchēi stands for the life principle common to man and beast, which is embodied in the διανοια — sōma the former needs food, the latter clothing” (McNeile). πνευμα — Psuchē in the Synoptic Gospels occurs in three senses (McNeile): either the life principle in the body as here and which man may kill (Mark 3:4) or the seat of the thoughts and emotions on a par with πσυχη — kardia and dianoia (Matthew 22:37) and pneuma (Luke 1:46; cf. John 12:27; John 13:21) or something higher that makes up the real self (Matthew 10:28; Matthew 16:26). In Matthew 16:25 (Luke 9:25) psuchē appears in two senses paradoxical use, saving life and losing it. -DIVIDER-
-DIVIDER-
[source]

Mark 8:36 Gain - lose []
See on Matthew 16:26. [source]
Mark 8:32 Spake the saying openly [παρρησιαι τον λογον ελαλει]
He held back nothing, told it all (παν — pān all, ρησια — rēsia from ειπον — eipon say), without reserve, to all of them. Imperfect tense ελαλει — elalei shows that Jesus did it repeatedly. Mark alone gives this item. Mark does not give the great eulogy of Peter in Matthew 16:17, Matthew 16:19 after his confession (Mark 8:29; Matthew 16:16; Luke 9:20), but he does tell the stinging rebuke given Peter by Jesus on this occasion. See discussion on Matthew 16:21, Matthew 16:26. [source]
Mark 8:35 And the gospel‘s sake [και του ευαγγελιου]
In Mark alone. See note on Matthew 16:25. for this paradox. Two senses of “life” and “save.” For the last “save” See note on Matthew 16:26 for “gain,” “profit,” and “exchange.” [source]
Luke 9:25 Cast away [ζημιωθείς]
Another business term. The word means to fine, amerce, mulct; to punish by exacting forfeit. Hence Rev., correctly,forfeit his own self. See on win your souls, Luke 21:19. Also on Matthew 16:26. [source]
Acts 27:10 Damage [ζημίας]
Better, as Rev., loss. Hurt and damage (A. V.) is tautological. See on the kindred verb, notes on lose, Matthew 16:26, and east away, Luke 9:25. [source]
Acts 27:21 Stood forth [στατεις]
As in Acts 1:15; Acts 2:14; Acts 17:22. Pictorial word (Page) that sets forth the vividness and solemnity of the scene (Knowling). Ye should have hearkened unto me (εδει μεν πειταρχησαντας μοι — edei men peitharchēsantas moi). Literally, “It was necessary for you hearkening unto me not to set sail (μη αναγεσται — mē anagesthai).” It was not the “I told you so” of a small nature, “but a reference to the wisdom of his former counsel in order to induce acceptance of his present advice” (Furneaux). The first aorist active participle is in the accusative of general reference with the present infinitive αναγεσται — anagesthai And have gotten this injury and loss This Ionic form κερδησαι — kerdēsai (from κερδαω — kerdaō) rather than κερδηναι — kerdēnai or κερδαναι — kerdēnai is common in late Greek (Robertson, Grammar, p. 349). The Revised Version thus carries over the negative μη — mē to this first aorist active infinitive κερδησαι — kerdēsai from κερδαω — kerdaō (cf. Matthew 16:26). But Page follows Thayer in urging that this is not exact, that Paul means that by taking his advice they ought to have escaped this injury and loss. “A person is said in Greek ‹to gain a loss‘ when, being in danger of incurring it, he by his conduct saves himself from doing so.” This is probably Paul‘s idea here. [source]
Acts 27:21 And have gotten this injury and loss [κερδησαι τε την υβριν ταυτην και την ζημιαν]
This Ionic form κερδησαι — kerdēsai (from κερδαω — kerdaō) rather than κερδηναι — kerdēnai or κερδαναι — kerdēnai is common in late Greek (Robertson, Grammar, p. 349). The Revised Version thus carries over the negative μη — mē to this first aorist active infinitive κερδησαι — kerdēsai from κερδαω — kerdaō (cf. Matthew 16:26). But Page follows Thayer in urging that this is not exact, that Paul means that by taking his advice they ought to have escaped this injury and loss. “A person is said in Greek ‹to gain a loss‘ when, being in danger of incurring it, he by his conduct saves himself from doing so.” This is probably Paul‘s idea here. [source]
1 Corinthians 3:15 Shall suffer loss [ζημιωθήσεται]
He shall be mulcted, not punished. See on Matthew 16:26; see on Luke 9:25. [source]
1 Corinthians 3:15 He shall suffer loss [ζημιωτησεται]
First future passive indicative of ζημιω — zēmiō old verb from ζημια — zēmia (damage, loss), to suffer loss. In Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36; Luke 9:25 the loss is stated to be the man‘s soul But he himself shall be saved (αυτος δε σωτησεται — autos de sōthēsetai). Eternal salvation, but not by purgatory. His work is burned up completely and hopelessly, but he himself escapes destruction because he is really a saved man a real believer in Christ. Yet so as through fire Clearly Paul means with his work burned down (1 Corinthians 3:15). It is the tragedy of a fruitless life, of a minister who built so poorly on the true foundation that his work went up in smoke. His sermons were empty froth or windy words without edifying or building power. They left no mark in the lives of the hearers. It is the picture of a wasted life. The one who enters heaven by grace, as we all do who are saved, yet who brings no sheaves with him. There is no garnered grain the result of his labours in the harvest field. There are no souls in heaven as the result of his toil for Christ, no enrichment of character, no growth in grace. [source]
2 Corinthians 7:9 Ye might receive damage [ζημιωθῆτε]
Rev., might suffer loss. See on Matthew 16:26; see on Luke 9:25. This somewhat obscure sentence means that the salutary moral results of the apostle's letter compensated for the sorrow which it caused. The epistle which won them to repentance was no damage to them. [source]
2 Corinthians 7:9 Unto repentance [εις μετανοιαν]
Note the sharp difference here between “sorrow” In God‘s way. “God‘s way as opposed to man‘s way and the devil‘s way” (Plummer). It was not mere sorrow, but a change in their attitude that counted. That ye might suffer loss by us in nothing Purpose clause with ινα — hina and first aorist passive subjunctive of ζημιοω — zēmioō old verb to suffer damage. See Matthew 16:26. This was God‘s intention and so he overruled their sorrow to good. [source]
2 Corinthians 7:9 That ye might suffer loss by us in nothing [ινα εν μηδενι ζημιωτητε εχ υμων]
Purpose clause with ινα — hina and first aorist passive subjunctive of ζημιοω — zēmioō old verb to suffer damage. See Matthew 16:26. This was God‘s intention and so he overruled their sorrow to good. [source]
Philippians 3:8 I have suffered the loss [ἐζημιώθην]
Rev., better, I suffered; when I embraced Christianity. Lit., was mulcted. See on Matthew 16:26, and see on cast away, Luke 9:25. [source]
James 4:13 And spend a year there [και ποιησομεν εκει ενιαυτον]
Another future (active of ποιεω — poieō). “We will do a year there.”And trade (και εμπορευσομετα — kai emporeusometha). Future middle of εμπορευομαι — emporeuomai (εν πορευομαι — enεμπορος — poreuomai to go in), old verb from και κερδησομεν — emporos (a merchant or trader, a drummer, one going in and getting the trade, Matthew 13:45), a vivid picture of the Jewish merchants of the time.And get gain Future (Ionic form) active of κερδος — kerdainō old verb from kerdos (gain, Philemon 1:21), as in Matthew 16:26. [source]
James 4:13 And get gain [κερδαινω]
Future (Ionic form) active of κερδος — kerdainō old verb from kerdos (gain, Philemon 1:21), as in Matthew 16:26. [source]
James 4:13 Today or tomorrow [σημερον η αυριον]
Correct text (Aleph B), not και — kai (and).Into this city (εις τηνδε την πολιν — eis tēnde tēn polin). Old demonstrative οδε — hode rare in N.T. (Luke 10:39) save in neuter plural ταδε — tade (these things Acts 21:11). One would point out the city on the map (Mayor) as he made the proposal (we will go, πορευσομετα — poreusometha).And spend a year there Another future (active of ποιεω — poieō). “We will do a year there.”And trade (και εμπορευσομετα — kai emporeusometha). Future middle of εμπορευομαι — emporeuomai (εν πορευομαι — enεμπορος — poreuomai to go in), old verb from και κερδησομεν — emporos (a merchant or trader, a drummer, one going in and getting the trade, Matthew 13:45), a vivid picture of the Jewish merchants of the time.And get gain Future (Ionic form) active of κερδος — kerdainō old verb from kerdos (gain, Philemon 1:21), as in Matthew 16:26. [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 16:26 mean?

What for will it profit a man if the world whole he gains - but the soul of him loses Or will give [as] an exchange for the soul
τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ δώσει ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς

ὠφεληθήσεται  will  it  profit 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ὠφελέω  
Sense: to assist, to be useful or advantageous, to profit.
ἄνθρωπος  a  man 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἄνθρωπος  
Sense: a human being, whether male or female.
κόσμον  world 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: κόσμος  
Sense: an apt and harmonious arrangement or constitution, order, government.
ὅλον  whole 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Masculine Singular
Root: ὅλος  
Sense: all, whole, completely.
κερδήσῃ  he  gains 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ἐπικερδαίνω 
Sense: to gain, acquire, to get gain.
τὴν  - 
Parse: Article, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ψυχὴν  the  soul 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Singular
Root: ψυχή  
Sense: breath.
αὐτοῦ  of  him 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive Masculine 3rd Person Singular
Root: αὐτός  
Sense: himself, herself, themselves, itself.
ζημιωθῇ  loses 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: ζημιόω  
Sense: to affect with damage, do damage to.
δώσει  will  give 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 3rd Person Singular
Root: διδῶ 
Sense: to give.
ἀντάλλαγμα  [as]  an  exchange  for 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Neuter Singular
Root: ἀντάλλαγμα  
Sense: that which is given in place of another thing by way of exchange.
ψυχῆς  soul 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: ψυχή  
Sense: breath.