The final installment of our three part study covers Matthew 7, the conclusion of the Lord’s “Sermon on the Mount.”
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye (Matt. 7:1-5).
This passage is about whether we as individual believers have the right to inspect the life of another believer using standards we our selves don’t meet to render a judgment about him or her.
We may not commit the same sins as another person but that does not make us any less a sinner and we need to constantly remind ourselves of that fact.
There’s no question that certain behavior is not appropriate for Christians, but until we have our own sins under control, judging someone else for theirs just makes us hypocrites. The old saying, “It’s a case of the pot calling the kettle black” comes to mind.
“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces (Matt. 7:6).
Here I think the Lord changed His focus to unbelievers to advise us against using Scripture to rebuke them for their behavior as well. He said the likely result is that we’ll just arouse their anger and could provoke a confrontation we can’t win.
Don’t misunderstand Him here. He wasn’t calling unbelievers dogs and pigs. He was using an analogy. The dogs and pigs symbolize a different type from us. Sacred things and pearls symbolize His Word, holy and valuable. But just as sacred things and pearls are not prized by animals, neither is His word prized by unbelievers.
The unbelievers we want to rebuke intuitively know that what they are doing is wrong because the requirements of God’s law are written on their hearts (Romans 2:14-15). But they know that we are sinners too, and when we act as if our sins don’t matter while theirs do, our hypocrisy just makes things worse. Paul said the behavior of unbelievers is really none of our business. The Church should be focused on maintaining proper standards of behavior within the fellowship (1 Cor. 5:9-13).
Ask, Seek, Knock
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him (Matt. 7:7-11).
Here is the Lord’s clear denial of the false teaching that man cannot seek salvation on his own, but must be chosen by God. To those who say this passage does not refer to salvation I offer Luke’s version where the last sentence reads;
If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him(Luke 11:13).
If we who are earthly parents can be motivated out of love to bless our children with gifts even when they don’t deserve it, how much more will our Father in Heaven love us enough to grant the gift of salvation to all who ask in faith even though we don’t deserve it.
So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 7:12).
Jesus said Matt. 7:12, also known as the Golden Rule, summarizes the Scriptures. When we treat others the way we want to be treated by them, we express the love of the Lord to a dark and dying world.
The Narrow And Wide Gates
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Matt. 7:13-14).
Many people mistakenly believe that this is an admonition for Christians to be very careful about how we live our life, that drifting back into sin could put us on the wide road and lead to our destruction.
In the first installment we saw that it’s impossible for man to live up to God’s standards so there isn’t any way to live a life “narrow” enough for Him. That’s why I think there’s a sign over the narrow gate that says, “by faith alone, trusting fully in the Lord’s completed work on our behalf.” That’s the narrow way, the only way we can possibly attain eternal life.
Certainly it’s appropriate for Christians to live in a manner pleasing to God as a way of expressing our gratitude for the free gift of salvation. But if we believe we’re helping God save us by behaving a certain way we’re on the wrong road, because sin is not just a type of behavior. Sin is a built in flaw in our system that controls way we think and feel and makes it impossible for us to meet God’s requirements for righteousness no matter how hard we try.
The Lord’s last words from the cross have been translated, “It is finished”. The Greek word John used to record them also means “Paid in Full.” Jesus wasn’t saying that His ordeal had come to an end, although it had. He was saying that because of His ordeal the debt created by our sins had been paid in full.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them (Matt. 7:15-20).
The context here is false prophets and the harm they cause. He was saying that just as bad trees cannot produce good fruit, false prophets can not produce true believers. And like bad trees will be cut down and burned, false prophets will also face the fires of judgment.
Had Jesus been talking about judging other believers by what we perceive to be the fruitfulness of their life, He would have been contradicting what He said at the beginning of the chapter, so we know these verses are not for general application. They refer specifically to false prophets.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matt. 7:21-23)
People who inject human works into the salvation equation miss two critical points in this passage too. First, they say that even though we call Him “Lord” we won’t enter the kingdom unless we do his will. By that they mean even if we’ve asked the Lord to save us, unless we stop sinning we could still go to hell. But is that what the Bible says?
In John 6: 29 Jesus said the work God requires of us is to believe in the one He sent, and in John 6:40 He said His father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life. Belief in the Son is the will of His Father who is in Heaven.
Second, they don’t realize that Jesus was not making a general statement here. Remember, He was talking about false prophets. Some of them will claim to have done great things in His name, but He will send them away, saying that He never knew them.
Notice He didn’t say He knew them once but no longer does, as if they originally had a relationship with Him but lost it. He said He never knew them because they’ve never had a relationship with Him. He was saying they have failed to do His father’s will concerning the one thing God requires of us. They won’t have looked to the Son and believed in His name.
The Wise And Foolish Builders
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matt. 7:24-27)
At the beginning of this series, I said the Lord’s talk about perfection was intended to demonstrate the impossibility of mankind entering the Kingdom on the strength of his or her own efforts. I believe that segment of the Sermon on the Mount ended at the end of Matt. 5 with the statement, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
In contrast, Matt. 6-7 contain several teachings meant to instruct us on living the Christian life. Nothing about them is impossible for us to do. Applying these teachings allows us to build our faith on a firm foundation like the man who builds his house on bedrock. When trials and persecution come, our faith will be sufficient to see us through.
When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law (Matt. 7:28-29).
I think it’s safe to say we are amazed by His teaching as well.