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THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
JUDGING AND PROVING
Matthew 7:1-11 – The Nazarene’s Commentary on Neighbor Love Continued
You: The following teachings of the Nazarene have a direct bearing on his ongoing commentary on neighbor love.
Condemn not: It ought to be clear that a judgmental attitude highly influences neighbor love. One of the most difficult characteristics
to overcome for the Friend of the Nazarene with the Transformed Mind is ceasing to be critical of others. Much of this disease is inherited (Romans 5:12). Note how Adam blames his wife and God! (Genesis 3:12) This prideful attitude stems in part from that distortion of being created in the image of God and, therefore, a sense of being the center of the universe. So, our opinions are always exactly correct. This is really self-righteousness, or the attitude of always being in the right, and having the need to express this opinion.
Not condemned: The real danger is not the criticism of others, but that condemnation from on High and with such a Finality.
MT7:2For you will be judgedwith that ‘judgment’ by which you are judging!340
Judging: This word group “judge” is highly significant in the Bible and occurs over 340 times. There is a Judge, and an Associate Judge, and Book of Judgment, and a Judgment Day, and a Judgment. A study of this word group in a concordance is a must to learn one of the ‘primary doctrines of the Christ.’ (Hebrews 6:1) A basic rule of the Nazarene is that our judgment will be based on our own standards of judgment demonstrated in how we judge others.
See Matthew 18:35 and Galatians 6:1: standards. Two excellent Bible chapters on this subject of judgment are Romans chapters 2 and 14.
Various renderings: GDSP: judged by the standard you judge by; WMS: for exactly as you criticize others you will be criticized; BER: and with that yardstick you measure you will be measured.
The Friend of the Nazarene must struggle hard to remove this judgmental disposition from any dark chambers of the mind and then true liberation comes in the realization that it is not only unnecessary but also God cares little for your opinion of others. On Judgment Day you will not receive a call from ‘the Judge of all the earth’ (Genesis 18:25) asking your opinion on someone.
MT7:3Why look at the straw-speck341in your brother’s eye when you do not consider the rafter in your own eye?
Why look at the straw-speck: See Luke 6:42 and 1 Corinthians 4:5: self-examine. Various renderings: WMS: why do you keep watching
the tiny speck in your brother’s eye; MOF: and fail to see the plank. How critical we are of the tiniest matters when it involves others but how generously forgiving of our own failings. The absurdum or hyperbole of the Nazarene is actually humorous
and we wonder at the facial expressions, tonal emphasis, and gestures when the Nazarene relates this metaphor.
MT7:4Or, how will you say to your brother:342‘Permit me to exorcise343the straw-speck in your eye?’
Brother: Luke makes the word “brother” part of the address. Various renderings are: RSV: log; BAS: grain of dust; MOF:
by what right; GDSP: just let me get that speck out of your eye. The use of “brother” makes it a religious setting. Religion, by its nature, in an atmosphere of righteousness, spawns a judgmental attitude. No religion is immune from this disease
but James 1:26 warns that any ‘formal worshipper’ who fails to guard the judgmental tongue is practicing religion in vain.
Exorcise: The Greek is EKBALLO and is used elsewhere for “cast out” or “exorcise” demons. We have chosen “exorcise” because there seems some sarcasm in the Nazarene’s words.
MT7:5Hypocrite,344 first exorcise that rafter out
of your own eye and then see clearly enough to exorcise the straw-speck in your brother’s eye!
Hypocrite: See Luke 6:42.
Various renderings: PHI: you fraud.
g) Giving and neighbor love
|| Luke 11:9-13
MT7:6“You should not give345
the ‘Holy’ to the ‘dogs.’ Nor throw your ‘pearls’ before ‘swine.’346So they never trample them underfoot and they turn and attack you.347
Give: Obviously “giving” is an important element in neighbor love.
Throw your ‘pearls’ before ‘swine’: The Nazarene’s sarcasm may continue here, for in the area of personal judgment one’s own “pearls”
are also very “holy” (particularly if one belongs to a self-righteous religion) and so Jesus encourages keeping one’s mouth shut and one’s opinions (no matter how “holy” and pearl-like) to one’s self. Note Proverbs
9:7 and 15:12: reproof.
Various renderings are: BAS: or put your jewels before pigs; NEB: do not feed pearls to pigs. The Nazarene may stress the futility of wasting religious “pearls” on those considered “pigs” from a spiritual (Jewish) standpoint. The whole matter seems contextual with what went before and is an exaggerated absurdum to a highly judgmental and self-righteous people.
They turn and attack you: Very often the reaction of people, or your neighbors, to your religious “pearls” is to attack or belittle your strongly held views. So, it is a waste of your time and ultimately damages your neighbor, causing them to behave in an abnormal manner.
MT7:7Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and doors will open.348
Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and doors will open: This takes a good degree of humility for one does not
feel everything resides within one’s self. Note Luke 11:9-13. Various renderings are: MOF: ask and the gift will be yours; TCNT: your prayer shall be granted. All of this is very positive and the Nazarene assures positive results. Compare James 1:5.
MT7:8For, everyone: The asking receive. The seeking find.The knocking have doors opened.349
The asking receive. The seeking find. The knocking have doors opened: See Luke 18:1-8 on persistence. Various renderings: GDSP: for
it is always the one who asks who receives. The person who refuses to ask, search, or knock on doors will find opportunity a rare bird indeed. The initial action produces those opportunities which would lie dormant unless otherwise aroused.
MT7:9Or, who is the person among you, when a child asks for bread, gives it a stone?350
Asks for bread, gives it a stone: See Jeremiah 29:12: prayer. Another hyperbole or absurdum from the Nazarene. Cannot we expect
God to be at least as gracious as humans?
MT7:10Or, [when the child] asks for a fish, will give it a serpent?351
Serpent: Luke uses the phrase ‘scorpion for an egg.’ The idea is ridiculous but the Nazarene builds confidence
that the Father would do no less than respond in kindness and goodness.
MT7:11So, you, though wicked know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more
your heavenly Fathergives good352 to those asking?353
Father gives good: See James 1:17 and the perfect Giver. The Father is a “giver,” not only to His children, but even to the unrighteous, wicked, and unthankful (Matthew 5:45; Luke 6:35). The Father gave mankind ‘the Gift beyond description.’ (2 Corinthians 9:15)
To those asking: Luke adds, ‘The Heavenly Father will give Holy Spirit to those asking Him.’ (Luke 11:13) The Nazarene assures, ‘Anything you ask the Father in my name He will give it to you.’ (John 16:23)
Matthew 7:12 – Summary on the Torah’s Fulfillment
MT7:12“So, everything you want others to do to you, you also do to them.354For this is the Torah and the Prophets.355
Everything you want others to do to you, you also do to them: The Golden Rule. This simple statement is among the most well known principles of ideal conduct. Though many famous philosophers
and religious founders have phrased something similar, it has always been in the negative. The Nazarene puts it in the positive. So, one may keep the negative rule by living in a cave, but not the Nazarene Rule (Compare Luke 6:31 and Romans 13:10). Various
renderings are: GDSP: therefore you must always treat other people as you would like to have them treat you; BECK: do for others everything you want them to do for you; PHI: this is the essence of all true religion.
The Nazarene Saint who has emptied himself of Self will always respond positively to others, seeking their highest good. ‘Love never behaves badly. It always seeks the best interests of others.’ (Romans 13:10 and Philippians 2:4, 7) Ghandi
argued with his British occupiers: “When all nations live by the Sermon on the Mount we will have not only solved our problems but those of the whole world.”
We have no difficulty knowing what hurts us. It is a simple matter of refraining from doing to others what hurts us, and going a quantum leap beyond this, and doing those things for others that you would want done for you. Note the context to follow the Golden
Rule deals in part with money matters.
The Torah and the Prophets: The conclusion to the Nazarene’s
subject raised in Matthew 5:17. There is a popular tradition of the great Jewish Rabbi Hillel who was asked to stand on one leg and summarize the Torah. His answer: “What is hateful to thee, do not to another.” Philo the Jew of Alexandria, a contemporary
of Paul, gave a similar answer: “What you hate to suffer, do not do to anyone else.” However, the Nazarene goes beyond these negative viewpoints with a positive one, called the Golden Rule. Many religions have a negative expression of this, including
the Greek philosophers, as well as Buddha and Confucius. Paul summarizes it: ‘The law is summarized in love of neighbor. Love is the fulfillment of the Law.’ (Romans 13:9, 10) This single verse (Matthew 7:12) serves as the perfect conclusion
to the subject introduced in Matthew 5:17, the Law’s fulfillment. Will this Way be easy? The Nazarene proceeds to explain.
Matthew 7:13-23 – The True Disciple
by the Narrow Gate.357For the way to destruction is broad and roomy358and many are those entering by it.359
Narrow Gate: A gate may lead into a city or a home (Jeremiah 37:13; Acts 12:13, 14). The entrance to the Household of Faith is narrow and restrictive. The gate is the first element to enter such a Household. We might view these teachings of the Nazarene in his Mountain Teachings as part and parcel of this “gate” with its belief system and restrictive requirements, even demands, on that person who would desire ‘to follow the Lamb no matter where he goes.’ (Revelation 14:5) Though possessed of lofty requirements it is really the ideal of the New Person with the Transformed Mind (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:13, 15, 23, 24). The Nazarene is only asking that you be a decent and well-mannered human being. Even when an agnostic evolutionist is asked about the ideal person, a description of Christ (or that person of Jesus’ sermon) is forthcoming. Note Luke 13:24 and the effort needed to get through the ‘narrow door.’ In Luke the ‘narrow door’ is in response to a question whether only a few are being saved. To this Jesus’ exhorts, ‘Strain every nerve’ (GDSP); or, ‘agonize the agony,’ if the literal Greek is favored. The “gate” seems to be that of the “sheepfold” and not a subject about the salvation of all humanity (John chapter 10).
The way to destruction is broad and roomy: “Destruction” is often associated with Sheol or the grave in the Hebrew Bible (Job 26:6; 28:22; Proverbs 15:11; 27:20). It is that place all persons will enter with the possibility of escaping at the end of the 1,000 years (Revelation 2:13-15; Job 14:12-15). Those who enter the gate of the sheepfold or household of faith accept the ‘heavenly calling’ (Hebrews 3:1) and are transformed from death to life (John 5:24; 1 John 3:1).
The way to Destruction is “broad and spacious” because it allows for a wide diversity of convictions and beliefs. The Narrow Gate must include the contents of the Nazarene’s Mountain Teachings contained in Matthew chapters 5-7.
Many are those entering by it: Paul teaches that “all” descendants of Adam go into Death and that “all” will be
resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). However, some find “real life” during their lifetimes (1 Timothy 6:19). They are among the “few” in contrast to the billions who lose that opportunity described by Revelation 20:4, 6.
MT7:14For, narrow the Gate and cramped the Way leading to Life360and few are those finding it.361
Narrow the Gate and cramped the Way leading to Life: Various renderings: KJ: straight is the gate; KNX: how small is the gate; GDSP: the road is hard. The Mountain Teachings demonstrate the narrowness and rigidity
of the Nazarene’s requirements for entrance into the Realm of Profession.
Few are those finding it:
Perhaps “find” applies to the ultimate attainment of the Kingdom of the Father. Note that Daniel 12:2, with reference to the resurrection of the Saints, “many” are mentioned. Whereas, Paul says “all” with reference to all
Adam’s children (1 Corinthians 15:20-23). The final tally of the Church will be “few” compared to the totality of those raised at the end of the 1,000 years (Revelation 20:5, 13-15).
MT7:15You, be alert for false prophets362who come to you dressed as sheep363but inside are rapacious wolves.364
False prophets: Not only is The Way narrow and cramped but there are deceitful individuals who make the journey even more difficult.
The Nazarene describes these as “false prophets.” He uses this designation 4 times in the Gospels (Matthew 7:15; 24:11, 24; Luke 6:26). Peter uses it once (2 Peter 2:1) and John once (1 John 4:1). False prophets disguise themselves, which would
indicate some motive (Luke 6:43, 44). Various renderings are: PHI: false religious teachers; GDSP: disguised as sheep; PHI: greedy wolves.
The most often used context in the Nazarene’s teachings where he uses the designation “false prophets” are those who predict ‘the appointed time is near’ (Luke 21:8); or claim, ‘The Christ is here!’ (Mark 13:21) (Or, ‘I am the Anointed.’ Matthew 24:4)
These “false prophets” must also be among those who the Nazarene describes later as ones who say, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not speak before others, exorcise demons, do dynamic works, all in your name?’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
The subject of “false prophets” was one that Moses, a proto-type of Messiah, also took up at Deuteronomy 13:1-10 and 18:20-22, with two identifying characteristics: a) lead others to false gods; and, b) foretell events which do not occur.
Dressed as sheep: Paul echoes this when he says that some false brothers from among the Corinthian elders appear as ‘angels of
light’ or ‘messengers of righteousness.’ (2 Corinthians 11:3, 14,15) Jude calls them ‘rocks hidden below water.’ (Jude verse 12) The Nazarene foretold their success when he said, ‘For pseudo-anointed
and false prophets will rise and give great signs and portents to mislead, if possible, the Elect.’ (Matthew 24:24)
Rapacious wolves: Paul uses a similar description when he warns a gathering of elders, ‘After my departure, oppressive wolves, not sparing the flock, will rise among you, speaking twisted things.’ (Acts 20:29) Elsewhere he describes such “false brothers” as ‘pseudo-apostles, deceitful workers who appear as angels of light and servants of righteousness.’ (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
MT7:16By their fruitage you will know them!365No one ever gathers grapes from thorns366or figs from thistles!
By their fruitage you will know them: Signs are certainly not a way to recognize true prophets. False prophets are identifiable by:
a) an oppressive nature which places burdens on the flock; b) false prophecies about appointed times which prove untrue; c) claim of Christ’s authority as an elitist priesthood or singular channel; d) claims of “signs” as proof of Christ’s
The Nazarene later uses the word “lawless” which would mean breaking the commandments of Christ. This word “lawless” crops up at Matthew 13:41; 24:12. It ought to be clear that one of the major areas of concern when considering “false
prophets” is whether what they have foretold comes true or not.
No one ever gathers grapes from thorns:
Various renderings: NEB: can grapes be picked from briars.
MT7:17Thus, every good tree bears good fruitage,367but rotten trees, wicked fruitage.
Every good tree bears good fruitage: See Luke 6:43. Various renderings: a good tree always yields good fruit; WMS: sickly tree…
MT7:18No good tree bears wicked fruitage,368nor a rotten tree good fruitage.
No good tree bears wicked fruitage: This infers that a good tree always produces nothing but good fruit. If a tree would produce
even one rotten fruit then it would at least call into question its “claims.” Various renderings: TCNT: by the fruit of their lives you will know such men.
tree not bearing good fruitage is cut down and thrown into the Fire.MT7:20And, so, from their fruitage you will know them.MT7:21Not everyone saying to me, ‘Master, Master!’369will enter the Heavenly Realm but the one doing the will370of my heavenly Father.
Master, Master: They are clearly Christians who recognize that “Jesus is Lord!” This address of the King is seen of the
goats in Matthew 25:44.
The one doing the will: It is not enough to confess, ‘Jesus is Lord.’
(Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3) The Nazarene will not accept such a double confession if the life and works are lawless and contradictory to the profession. Not words, but doing the will are vital (James 1:22) and this “doing” involves refraining
from slander and caring for the needy (James 1:26-27).
MT7:22Many will say to me in The Day:371‘Master, Master, did we not prophesy in your name?372And, in your name cast out demons?373And, in your name did many dynamic works?’374
The Day: This likely refers to the parousia-Judgment upon the Return of the Lord (Matthew 12:36; 16:27; 24:46-51; 25:1-46;
1 Corinthians 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28; 4:17; Revelation 11:18). The word “day” is used often with regard to the Return of Christ in his foretold Parousia (1 Corinthians 1:8; 5:5; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; Philippians
1:6, 10; 2 Peter 3:7, 12; Revelation 6:17). The evidence seems to suggest that both the righteous and unrighteous will have opportunity to express themselves, whether outspokenly or in shame (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29; 2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28).
Did we not prophesy in your name: Unfortunately it was false prophecy (Luke 21:8). Various renderings: TCNT: was it not in your name that
we taught; PHI: didn’t we preach in your name; TCNT: we did miracles. The word “prophet” literally means “to speak before” others and not necessarily foretell events by inspiration. Men who claim to be “the Anointed,”
and speak by Christ’s authority, and point to a multitude of “works,” and preach “Christ is here!” and, “The Appointed Time is near!” may need to reexamine themselves before their Lord actually arrives.
Cast out demons: Many are the evangelists and prophetic preachers who point to their exorcisms as signs authorized by Christ. Many of these
point to Mark 16:17, ‘And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues.’ (KJV; this is a highly questionable text which is omitted in many translations because it does
not occur in older reliable mss). However, a comparison of modern texts all will agree this portion was not among the original words of the Nazarene. Paul states that such signs ‘will cease,’ and are, ‘childish.’ (1 Corinthians
13:9, 11) Paul further identifies ‘the Man of iniquity’… with inworking dynamic works of Satan’s lying signs and portents. (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) The Nazarene himself warns that such “signs” are misleading and
will be part of the claims of the pseudo-Anointed and false prophets (Matthew 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22).
works: This is DYNAMEIS in Greek and is usually translated “powerful works” or “miracles.” The term could include any “works” requiring a dynamic effort: international publishing, electronic and satellite communication,
great real estate holdings, enormous growth, etc.
MT7:23And then I shall confess to them: “I never knew you!375Get away from me,376those working unlawfully!”377
I never knew you: That is, the Nazarene never had a real relationship with these claimants despite their loud protestations to the contrary. The Nazarene Saint need not give a defense before the Judgment of Christ for his works of love and charity will be known by his Lord (Revelation 2:2, 9, 13, 19; 3:1, 8, 9, 15).
Various renderings: TCNT: then I shall say to their faces; RHM: never have I acknowledged you; KNX: you were never friends of mine.
Get away from me: A fearsome thing to hear! (Matthew 25:45, 46) Various renderings: TCNT: go from my presence; NEB: get out of my sight that traffic in wrong-doing; PHI: you have worked on the side of evil; BECK: you who are so busy doing wrong.
Working unlawfully: There is no accusation that these had buried their talents but all the work and energy they expended were unlawful.
They were “workers of lawlessness” but their work is misguided, or unlawful, and not what the Nazarene ordered. In Matthew it is “lawlessness” and in Luke it is “unrighteousness.” Compare Psalm 6:8 and Philippians 1:15 for
two kinds of workers. To be a Friend of the Nazarene one must keep the 60 “commandments” found in the Gospels.
Matthew 7:24-27 – Conclusion
|| Luke 6:47-49
MT7:24“So, everyone who hears these words of mine378and does them,379 will be like380 a smart person381who built a house upon a solid Rock.382
Everyone who hears these words of mine: This would apply in the fullest sense to those right there in the audience who did “hear”
these words from the teaching Nazarene. However, others were to “hear” by means of those disciples inspired by the Spirit-Helper who produced the Christian Bible, called the New Testament (John 16:12-14; 17:20).
Does them: The “doer” of James’ epistle (James 1:22; 4:17). There is then that effort to learn the teachings of the Nazarene and then
that “agony” to do them (Luke 13:24). With such a warning ringing in our hears what else can we do but make it our aim to study carefully these words of the Nazarene, and then one day at a time, to apply them with great vigor. Various renderings:
KNX: commandments of mine; PHI: puts them into practice (Luke 6:47, 48; James 1:15).
Will be like: The introduction
to this sermon began with those pronouncements of favor and blessing and now the Nazarene concludes with a strong parable or illustration. There are only two categories: a) one who knows these words and does them; and, b) one who knows, but does not do them
(This may infer a third: those who did not know them. Compare Luke 12:48).
Smart person: The Greek is PHRONIMO
and is generally translated sensible, prudent, discreet, practically wise, prudent. The Greek also refers to “a male person” with its ANDRI but we have chosen “person.” The modern contemporary usage of “smart” carries the
idea well. Various renderings: BER: thoughtful man; NEB: he is like a man who had the sense to build his house on rock.
A house upon a solid Rock: The teachings of the Nazarene are a solid, rock-hard basis for developing and directing one’s life, particularly if everlasting life and the Kingdom are in mind. Compare Luke 6:47-49. In Luke the builder “dug and went down deep.” Luke does not mention “sand” but ground without foundation. Note how Paul stresses “foundation” at 1 Corinthians 3:10 and Colossians 1:23.
MT7:25And the rain came down and the rivers flooded and the winds blew383and it did not fall.For it was founded on that solid Rock.
The rain came down and the rivers flooded and the winds blew: Each of these – rain, flood and wind – may carry a metaphorical
meaning but essentially they describe those daily “hardships” the Nazarene assured would afflict (Matthew 6:34).
MT7:26And, everyone hearing these words of mine and not doing them will be like a stupid person384 who built a house on sand.
Stupid person: The Greek is MORO (moron) something like Matthew 5:22 where the man is an apostate. This is serious. See Matthew 23:3
and Luke 6:49 on non-performance.
MT7:27And the rain came down and the rivers flood and the winds blew and struck that house!385And it fell!386And the fall was great!”387
Struck that house: Naturally, either “house” would be safe and secure without those environmental disasters. But, life is not like that, particularly Christian life with its narrow gate.
And it fell: A spiritual collapse by a non-performer. Centering on the Nazarene’s summary of the Torah itself, the Golden Rule, this
“moron” is one who knows what is right when it comes to neighbors but refuses or fails to act positively with neighbor love. Why? A single reason: egotism. The “moron,” by the Nazarene’s perception, is a selfish person, whose first reaction is always… Self. The Friend of the Nazarene strives to reach KENOSIS like Christ: “empty self” (Philippians 2:5-7) and so the cultivated inclination is to put the interests of others first (Philippians 2:3,4).
The fall was great: It is not just a simple matter of restoring or rebuilding the house. It is much worse. Such words ought to move every Friend of the Nazarene to become thoroughly familiar with these words, perhaps reading them every month as a practice; and, then, by prayer and deep thought, work daily to apply these superior principles.
Matthew 7:28-29 – The Crowd’s Reaction
MT7:28 Now, when the Jesus finished these words, it took place that the crowds were astounded at his teaching.
MT7:29 For Jesus was teaching them as one possessed of authority and not as their Copyists.