The Sermon on the Mount (contd.)

Matthew 7

In this study we hope to conclude the Sermon on the Mount which occupies Matthew chapters 5,6 and 7.  The first charge that the Master gives us in Matthew 7:1 reminds us that one day we have to stand before his Judgement seat:

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again”.

Judge is the Greek krino which means to distinguish, i.e. decide and by implication to try, condemn, punish.  It seems to me that it is this latter sense that Jesus is using here and therefore the Master must be speaking of condemning, as we see from Luke 6:37:

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven”.

In this quotation Jesus is using another word.  The word condemn is katadikazo which means to adjudge against i.e. pronounce guilty.  Jesus was a pre-eminent example of this as we see from John 12:47:

“And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (see also Lk. 12:14, Jn. 8:15-16 & 5:30).

The words of the Master are borne out by the Apostle Paul in 1: Corinthians 4:4:

“For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord”.

The absurdity of the mote and the beam in Christ’s next words emphasises his first words concerning judgement.  Where we condemn others, we have a beam in our own eyes (can we imagine it?) and there is only a mote (a speck of dust) in our brother’s eye.  Jesus is surely teaching us to look at ourselves, to judge ourselves first as we see from 1 Corinthians 11:31:

“For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged”.

The Apostle’s words in Romans 14:13 are very relevant in this respect:

“Let us not therefore judge one another anymore: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way”.

If we are ensuring that there is no cause of stumbling to our brethren and sisters in our actions, then we shall not be judging others.

Nevertheless we must still judge between right and wrong.  This is shown in 1 Corinthians 6:1-7 and in the Master’s words in John 7:23-24:

“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints?  Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?  Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?  If then ye have judgements of things pertaining to this life (RSV) do you lay them before those who are least esteemed by the church (i.e. the world).  (AV) I speak to your shame.  Is it so that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?  But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers.  Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another.  Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not suffer yourselves to be defrauded?”.

“If a man on the Sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the Sabbath day?  Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement”.

Jesus is using judge here in a positive sense for they should have seen that the healing of the lame man on the Sabbath day was a good thing and that what Christ did was right.  That we should judge right things is shown in Psalm 37:30-33:

“The mouth of the righteous speaketh wisdom, and his tongue talketh of judgement.  The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.  The wicked watcheth the righteous, and seeketh to slay him.  Yahweh will not leave him in his hand, nor condemn him in his hand nor condemn him when he is judged”.

This is shown in the book of Job.  Job was judging right things, but his friends wrong things.  But they all had to learn in the end that it is what Yahweh says that is right.  So it it with us.  It is what Yahweh says in his word that is important.

The Master’s second charge is:

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine”.

A swine was an unclean animal, cloven footed, but it did not chew the cud.  Chewing the cud represents meditating upon the word of God.  A swine does not appreciate good things.  The prodigal son ate the husks that swine eat, a symbol of human degradation, so we should not cast (ballo-to throw) the truth, which is a pearl of great price to those who will not appreciate it.  Hence the words in Proverbs 23:9:

“Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words”.

Perhaps there is a link between the next charge of Jesus and the first one.  Rather than judging one another, Jesus teaches us to seek our heavenly Father.  Let us read Matthew 7:7-11:

“Ask, and it shall be given you; knock, and it shall be opened unto you; for everyone that asketh receiveth: and he that seeketh findeth: and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

What are the good things that our Father will give us?  The parallel verse in Luke 11:13 reads:

“If ye then being evil know how to give good things unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him”.

Let us remember that primarily the Master was preparing the Apostles for the great work that they had to do.  The Holy Spirit was necessary for that work because the New Testament was not was not in existence then.  From our point of view what we need from our heavenly Father is help in understanding the Spirit word.  Let us turn to James 1:2-8:

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.  But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.  But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.  For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.  For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord.  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways”.

Wisdom does not come miraculously through the Holy Spirit, but through the trial of our faith.  Job learned wisdom in this way.  Let us turn to 1 John 5:14:

“And this is the confidence we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us.  And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petition that we desired of him”

and 3:22:

“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight”.

Contrast this with James 4:3:

“Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it on your lusts”.

We need to give some thought to Matthew 7:12:

“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets”.

The parallel verse is Luke 6:31which amplifies these words:

“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise”.

These words require self examination.  We have to think what we would like others to do to us.  Invariably we like people to do good things to us, but, where they might upset us, we are not willing to do good things to them.  Hence Jesus’s words in Luke 6:32-36:

“For if ye love them which love you , what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.  . . . But love ye your enemies, and do good and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest; for he is kind to the unthankful and to the evil”.

That as Jesus said, “is the law and the prophets”.  We see from Romans 13:9-10:

“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill. . . and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  Love worketh no ill to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”.

It is not easy to carry out these words of the Master.  Hence Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:13-14:

“Enter ye in at the strait gate; for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat;  Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it”.

This is referring to “the way of the tree of life”.  It is not easy; “few there be that find it”.  Luke again amplifies this in 13:24:

“Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able”.

Strive means to struggle (to compete for a prize) fig. (to contend with an adversary).  The way requires discipline, training and self sacrifice.  Let us apply these principles to the truth, which is far more important than education, for the end of this training is eternal life.  An example of narrowness and discipline is shown in Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego.  They refused to follow the crowd and bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image because they had disciplined themselves with Daniel from the beginning to follow Yahweh and trust in him.

Perhaps there is a link between this and the Master’s words in Matthew 7:22-23:

“Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied  in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?  And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.

Our way of life is more than religious formalism, we need to agonise to enter the kingdom.  We need to go the very opposite to our natural inclinations, i.e. to love our enemies as we saw from verse 12.

Jesus’s next charge in verses 15-20 is linked with the strait gate:

“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Ye shall know them by their fruits.  Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?  Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.  A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.  Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.  Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them”.

The way of life is narrow.  False prophets speak with deception concerning the narrow way.  They begin to reason in subtle ways saying there are good people to found in the churches of Christendom.  That we should co-operate with them in doing our good works, that we should simplify our Statement of Faith to make it more acceptable to the churches.  They, “come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”.  False prophets crept into the ecclesia in the days of the Apostles and it is inevitable that they are in the body in our days.  They might be very kind and pleasant people, but if they are destroying the truth and thereby leading their brethren and sisters astray, they are in Jesus’s opinion “ravening wolves”.  The Master says “by their fruits ye shall know them”.  They are either a good tree or a corrupt tree.  There is no middle course.

The next charge links with the one we have just considered.  The false prophets say, “Lord, Lord”.  Those described are very active; “have we not prophesied in thy name?  And in thy name cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works?”, yet Jesus says to them, “depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.  Why the Master replied in this way is found in the words, “I never knew you”.  The word knew, denotes a personal and true relationship between the person knowing and the object known, i.e. to be influenced by ones knowledge of the object, to suffer oneself to be determined thereby.  Bullinger renders these words, “I have never had a true and personal connection with you”.  Hence the importance of knowing our heavenly Father, which can only come through reading the word, prayer, and applying the word in our daily lives.  Let us turn to John 17:3:

“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”.

We can be very active therefore as Martha was, But Mary chose to sit at the Master’s feet and listen to his words.  Brother Thomas emphasised the importance of this when he said that God’s purpose is “God manifestation, not human salvation”.

The next charge is found in verses 24-27, in the Master’s parable of the house built on rock and the house built on sand.  It is amplified in Luke 6:48.  What is meant by house?  It can apply to the ecclesia (Tim. 3:15), to a family (a bishop should rule well his own house, [Tim. 3:2]) and it can apply to individuals as we see from Exodus 1:21, “And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses”.  This is defined in Psalm 113:9:

“He maketh the barren woman to keep house, and to be a joyful mother of children”.

This means that they should marry and have a family, because they feared God and did not slay the Hebrew children.  This parable surely shows that in the ecclesia, the house of God, and in our own family and in our individual lives, they should be based on the word of God.  Therefore we read in Ephesians 2:19-22:

“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together growth into an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit”.

The gospel records embody the words of Peter in Matthew 16:16:

“Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”

As we see from John 20:31:

“But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name”.

Moreover the gospel records are based on the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures.  These writings are the rock on which we need to build our lives. Unless our lives and the ecclesia are based on the truth in the word of God and on the teachings of the Master we have been considering, both the ecclesia shall fall and we shall fall.

Carlo Barberesi