Matthew 7 - The Sermon on the Mount (Continued)
A. Judgment and discernment.
1. (1-2) The summary statement on judging others.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
a. Judge not, that you be not judged: This is the Bible verse that seems to be most popular in our present day. But most the people who quote this verse don't understand what Jesus said. They seem to think Jesus commanded a universal acceptance of any lifestyle or teaching.
i. If we see what Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-16, He commands us to know people by the fruit of their life, and some sort of assessment is necessary for that.
ii. The Christian is called to unconditionally love. But the Christian is not called to unconditional approval. We really can love people who do things that should not be approved of.
b. Instead, Jesus is speaking against being judgmental, that is, judging motives and the inner man, which only God can know. We can judge the fruit of a man, but we can rarely judge their motives with accuracy.
c. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: In addition, Jesus does not prohibit judgment of others. He only requires that our judgment be completely fair, and that we only judge others by a standard we would also like to be judged by.
i. Most of our judgment in regard to others is wrong, not because we judge according to a standard, but because we are hypocritical in the application of that standard - we ignore the standard in our own life. We judge others by one standard, and ourselves by another standard - being far more generous to ourselves than others.
d. With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you: According to the teaching of some rabbis in Jesus' time, God had two measures that He used to judge people. One was a measure of justice and the other was a measure of mercy. Which measure do you want God to use with you? Then you should use that same measure with others.
2. (3-5) An illustration of Jesus' principle regarding judging.
"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
a. Why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? The figures of a speck and a plank are real figures used humorously. Jesus shows how we are generally far more tolerant to our own sin than we are to the sin of others.
b. Look, a plank is in your own eye: Our hypocrisy in these matters is always more evident to others than to ourselves. We may find a way to ignore the plank in our own eye, but others notice it immediately.
i. A good example of this kind of hypocrisy was David's reaction to Nathan's story about a man who unjustly stole and killed another man's lamb. David quickly condemned the man, but was blind to his greater sin (2 Samuel 12).
c. First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye: Jesus doesn't say that it is wrong for us to help our brother with the speck in his eye. It is a good thing to help your brother with his speck, but not before dealing with the plank in your own eye.
3. (6) Balancing love with discernment.
"Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces."
a. Do not give what is holy to the dogs: Dogs and swine in this context are those who are hostile to the gospel. Our love for others must not blind us to their hardened rejection of the gospel.
b. Nor cast your pearls before swine: Our pearls of the precious gospel may only confuse unbelievers, who are blinded to the truth by the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4) and may only expose the gospel to their ridicule.
i. Of course, Jesus did not say this to discourage us from sharing the gospel. He says this to call us to discernment, and to encourage us to look for prepared hearts.
B. More instructions for prayer.
1. (7-8) Jesus invites us to keep on asking, seeking and knocking.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."
a. Ask . . . seek . . . knock: We see a progressive intensity, going from ask to seek to knock. Jesus tells us to have intensity and passion in prayer.
b. Ask and it will be given to you: God promises an answer to the one who diligently seeks Him. Many of our dispassionate prayers are not answered for good reason, because it is almost as if we ask God to care about something we care little or nothing about.
i. God values persistence and passion in prayer because they show that we share His heart. It shows that we care about the things He cares about.
2. (9-11) Jesus illustrates the giving nature of God.
"Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!"
a. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Jesus makes it clear that God doesn't have to be persuaded or appeased in prayer. He wants to give us not just bread, but even more than what we ask for.
i. Thankfully, the times we ask for something as bad as a serpent without knowing, like a loving parent God often mercifully spares us the just penalty of our ignorance.
b. If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven: It is blasphemous to deny God's answer to the seeking heart. We imply that God is worse than even an evil man is.
C. Conclusion of the sermon: make a choice.
1. (12) A summation of Jesus' ethical teaching regarding our treatment of others: the golden rule.
"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
a. Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them: The negative way of stating this command was known long before Jesus. It had long been said, "you should not do to your neighbor what you would not want him to do to you." But it is a large leap for Jesus to put it in the positive, to say that we should do unto others what we want them to do unto us.
i. In so doing, Jesus makes the command much broader. It is the difference between not breaking traffic laws and doing something positive like helping a stranded motorist.
ii. This especially applies to Christian fellowship. If we would experience love and have people reach out to us, we must love and reach out to others.
b. For this is the Law and the Prophets: Jesus shows that this simple principle - the golden rule - summarizes all the Law and the Prophets say about how we should treat others. If we would simply treat others the way we would want to be treated, we would naturally obey all the law says about our relationships with others.
2. (13-14) Choosing one of two ways and one of two destinations.
"Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
a. Enter by the narrow gate: Jesus here commits the awful modern "sin" of "narrow mindedness." To Jesus, there is no doubt that there is a right road and a wrong road. If Christians are accused of being "narrow minded" they should be following Jesus' example of telling the hard truth, but telling it in love.
b. Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life: The true gate is both narrow and difficult. If your road has a gate that is easy and well traveled, you do well to watch out.
3. (15-20) False prophets will comes disguised; how can we tell them?
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them."
a. Beware of false prophets: There are many who would try to guide us along the broad path that leads to destruction; how can we guard ourselves against them?
b. Who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves: It is in the nature of these false prophets to deceive and deny their true character. Often they deceive even themselves, believing themselves to be sheep when in fact they are ravenous wolves.
c. You will know them by their fruits: We guard ourselves against false prophets by taking heed to their fruits. This means paying attention to many aspects of their life and ministry.
i. We should pay attention to the manner of living a teacher shows. Do they show righteousness, humility and faithfulness in the way they live?
ii. We should pay attention to the content of their teaching. Is it true fruit from God's Word, or is it man-centered, appealing to ears that want to be tickled?
iii. We should pay attention to the effect of their teaching. Are people growing in Jesus or merely being entertained, and eventually falling away?
d. Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit: This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are. Eventually - though it may take a time for the harvest to come - the good or bad fruit is evident, revealing what sort of "tree" we are.
4. (21-23) Jesus challenges every disciple to take heed to his own salvation.
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'"
a. Not everyone who says to Me, "Lord, Lord," shall enter the kingdom of heaven: The people who Jesus speaks of here make a proper verbal confession, calling Jesus Lord. This is vital, but never enough by itself.
b. Who says to Me . . . will say to Me in that day: It is staggering that Jesus freely claims He will be the one people must stand before on that final day of judgment, and He is the one who is rightly called Lord.
c. The people Jesus speaks of here have impressive spiritual accomplishments. They have prophesied, cast out demons, and have done many wonders. These are wonderful things, but they mean nothing without true fellowship.
i. Jesus does not seem to doubt their claims of doing the miraculous. He doesn't say, "You didn't really prophesy or cast out demons or do miracles." This leads us to understand that sometimes miracles are granted through pretended believers, reminding us that in the final analysis, miracles prove nothing.
ii. Significantly, they even did these things in the name of Jesus. Yet, they never really had a relationship of love and fellowship with Jesus.
d. I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! In the end, there is one basis of salvation. It isn't mere verbal confession, not "spiritual works," but knowing Jesus and being known by Him.
i. In addition, these are not people who lost their salvation. Instead, they never truly had it (I never knew you).
5. (24-27) An outward conformity to Jesus' teaching here is not enough; Jesus demands that we be doers of the word, not merely hearers.
"Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
a. I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: In Jesus' illustration of the two houses, each house looked the same from the outside. The real foundation of our life is usually hidden, and is only proven in the storm.
b. And the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on the house: A storm (rain, floods, wind) was the ultimate in power to generations that didn't have nuclear weapons. Jesus warns us that the foundations of our lives will be shaken at some time or another, both now (in trials) and in the ultimate judgment before God.
i. It is better that we test our foundation now than at our judgment before God.
c. Everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them: Merely hearing God's word isn't enough to provide a secure foundation. It is necessary that we are also doers of His word. If we are not, we commit the sin that will surely find us out, the sin of doing nothing (Numbers 32:23) - and great will be our fall.
6. (28-29) The effect of Jesus' sermon on those who heard Him.
And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
a. For He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes: His audience could not but notice that Jesus taught with an authority lacking in the other teachers in His day, who would often only quote other Rabbis for their "authority." Jesus spoke with inherent authority, and the authority of God's revealed word.
b. The people were astonished at His teachings: Whenever God's word is presented as it truly is, with its inherent power, it will astonish people, and set itself apart from the mere opinions of man.
i. When we really understand Jesus in this Sermon on the Mount, we should be astonished also. If we aren't, then we probably haven't really heard or understood what Jesus has said.