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In the previous chapter we have the Lord’s teaching about bringing His disciples into a relationship with the Father in heaven. He wants the Father to fill all of their thinking, whether it be for giving, prayer, fasting, or their relationship to possessions and all the necessities of life. In this chapter the Lord teaches His disciples about the relationship to their brothers and even to wicked people.
This chapter is about the reign of God in the life of the disciple. The ‘government of God’ means that a person is responsible for what he does and that God always connects consequences for him and often for others to his actions or words.
If the Lord says here “do not judge”, it has nothing to do with what is evident, but with what is hidden. It concerns the warning to guard against the spirit of criticism in ourselves, the tendency to suggest evil motives in others in what is not evident. That is not to say that the Lord means to weaken the necessary judgment of evil. If there is public evil in the church, the church must judge it (1Cor 5:12-13).
If we presume a judgment where it is not allowed (1Cor 4:5), we will have to deal with the government of God. God will then judge and measure us according to the standards we have set for others. Then we will experience how much we have defrauded others.
This wrong spirit of judgment is also reflected in the extent of the evil we think we perceive in others, while we are blind to our own much greater wrongs. We make a big fuss about that little speck in our brother’s eye, that speck is enlarged, while the log in our own eye is trivialized. We worry when someone doesn’t see a minor matter of the truth, while we don’t realize that we ourselves disregard large parts of the truth.
If there is sincere care for each other, we will want to help another person to get rid of a speck out of his eye. That’s why we are members of the same body. But it has to be done in the right way. These are hypocritical judgments, judgment without self-judgment, doing wrong with a particular evil and then still condemning another for that very same evil.
Mt 7:6 seems to deal with a completely different subject than the previous verses. Yet there is a connection. In Mt 7:1-5, the Lord warns that we should not judge the motives of the heart of our fellow disciples. They are hidden from us. Mt 7:6 is about judging people who present themselves as Christians, but whose mouths and deeds show that they are trampling the precious things of the Lord Jesus under their feet. Of that, He says strongly that we have to judge that.
“Dogs” and “swine” refers to people in Christianity for whom the preciousness of God’s truth has no meaning and value whatsoever. We have to pass a sharp judgment on such people. We must not give them anything of what God has intended only for His people and what is precious to them. Not only will they trample that precious thing into the mud, but they will also drag and tear to pieces us who gave it (cf. 2Pet 2:22).
“Dogs” and “swine” do not refer to sinners in general, and “what is holy” and “pearls” do not refer to the gospel. Bringing the gospel is not pearls before swine. The gospel is meant especially for all sinners, even the most ‘swinish’ of them.
Ask, Seek, Knock
The Lord gives great encouragement to put into practice all the teaching He has given. Once we have heard the teaching, we feel powerless to follow it. But here the Lord gives the tools: ask, seek, knock. He invites us to make unlimited and continuous use of it. If we really do, we can be sure to be heard. He assures us with the word “for” (Mt 7:8) that He will respond.
‘Ask’ is the expression of a desire. ‘Seek’ indicates that the desire is not within reach, but that we have to make an effort to get what we want. With ‘knock’ the emphasis is on the one asking being insistent with God and also that a door must be opened, which can be applied to the taking away of an obstacle.
The limit to the giving of God is determined by our faith. God is a willing and abundant Giver. His fullness is inexhaustible. His ability to give is unlimited. He says: “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it” (Psa 81:10c). Yet God does not give everything we ask. He only gives what is good. If we ask the Father something, He will not give us something worthless like a stone or dangerous like a snake. His standard is not inferior to that of an earthly father.
Mt 7:12 is a summary of Mt 7:1-11 and, in fact, of the whole Old Testament in so far as it speaks of relations with fellow men. Whatever someone else does, my concern is to do him what I want him to do to me. Then I act as a child of my heavenly Father.
It does not say: ‘What you don’t want someone does to you, don’t do it to someone else’. That is a negative approach to the other. The Lord presents it positively. This is how it fits in well with what precedes. If the Father gives so generously to us, we will also give generously to others. We can therefore also see these words of the Lord as a summary of Christendom in its expression to our fellow human beings.
Two Gates, Two Ways
Here the Lord speaks over the heads of the disciples to the crowds. He offers them the choice between the narrow and the wide gate, between entering life or being lost. The gate is narrow because someone can only enter through it if he does not want to bring anything of himself. The gate is not too narrow for someone who humbles himself before God and becomes small.
The gate is too narrow for someone who thinks he can enter through it on the basis of his own good works. Those works make someone big. People with works of their own righteousness enter through the wide gate. Many choose this easy gate and the equally easy way to live a pleasant life. The end of that road, however, is destruction.
The narrow gate is only discovered and entered by a few. This does not mean that God’s grace is narrow. God’s grace is rich and free and available to everyone. But few want to appeal to grace. Only those who see that they cannot be before God and confess their sins to Him enter. They choose the way of life. That is a narrow way. The crowd is not to be found there, but that way leads to eternal life with God.
Recognize False Confessors
The Lord warns of false prophets. False prophets make the narrow gate wide and the narrow road wide. They present themselves as disciples, but in reality bring destruction. They want to tear the true disciples to pieces. The distinction between the real and the false prophet can be seen in the fruit. The fruit does not consist solely of gross wickedness. False prophets do not always come up with obvious evil teachings. The effect of the teachings, which are their fruits, shows what kind of prophets we are dealing with. It is about what a doctrine works out in the life of the disciple. The touchstone of a doctrine is whether it makes a disciple a more faithful follower of the Lord or whether it separates him from the Lord.
It’s like with a tree. The health of the tree can be seen in the fruit it produces. It is impossible to be deceived in this. It is also clear what happens to a tree that does not produce good fruit. You don’t leave it as it is, imagine you accidentally eat from it. This can be harmful and even fatal. That is why such a tree must be cut down and thrown into the fire.
The same goes for people who bring teaching that lead God’s people away from God. God’s people are called to produce good fruit for Him. By giving in to the false prophets no good fruit is produced. They must therefore be judged strictly. Let us therefore pay attention to the fruit of a certain doctrine, because that’s how we recognize the kind of prophets we’re dealing with!
The Judgment of False Confessors
It’s not about what someone says, but what he does. Someone can explicitly confess that Jesus is “Lord” and even mention the word “Lord” twice. But if he does not accomplish God’s will in subjection to the Scriptures, the Lord will reject him. He calls such people “you who practice lawlessness”, they are people who do not recognize any authority, and certainly not that of God.
False confessors acknowledge the authority of the Lord with their mouths, but in practice they do not act accordingly. Judas is a terrible example of such people. He undoubtedly spoke and did impressive things in the Name of the Lord, but there was no inner attachment to Him. He never repented and therefore had no new life.
The Lord looks forward here through the ages to the last judgment. He will openly say of all those who confessed Him only with their lips that He never knew them. Of course He knew them perfectly. That’s how He arrives at this perfectly righteous condemnation. The fact that He never knew them means that there has never been a relationship between Him and them recognized by Him because they have not repented. Their own appreciation of their service will give way to His condemnation of it.
In these verses, the Lord Jesus makes the difference clear between someone who is wise and someone who is foolish. These are the final words of the sermon on the mount. Of course, these concluding and summarizing words do not only apply to what He said in the sermon on the mount. They apply to the whole Word of God.
Who is wise and who is foolish? A wise man is one who hears the words of the Lord Jesus and does them. A foolish man is one who hears the words of the Lord Jesus and does not do them. The difference is not in hearing and not hearing. Both the wise and the fool hear the Word of God. The big difference is doing or not doing. The Lord illustrates this difference with the example of building a house. The difference is not in the houses. Both will have been built with sound materials. The big difference is the foundation on which the house is built.
In the parable, the Lord shows that a test will show whether someone is wise or foolish. The test will show whether someone hears and does and is therefore a wise man, or whether someone hears and does not do and is therefore a fool. The test is performed in different ways.
There is the “rain”. In this we can see a sudden trial, like in the life of Job. One rain has only just finished its devastating work, and the next rain falls down in all its intensity upon Job’s house of life (Job 1:13-19). Yet the house of his life remains standing. This is because he does not give up his trust in God (Job 2:10).
There may also be “floods”. That speaks of continuing and increasing pressure. David knew this, for example in the long time he was hunted by Saul who wanted to kill him. Sometimes it became so heavy that he would almost give up courage (Psa 69:1-3; 15). But he did not give up his trust in God either (Psa 69:30-36).
And then “the winds”. We can think of all kinds of “wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14). Timothy is warned of “deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1Tim 4:1) who do their utmost to enter into the lives of men to erode and destroy their faith. This happens frequently in Christianity. Paul tells Timothy that the Word is trustworthy and that he must place his hope in the living God (1Tim 4:9-10).
All these elements go against someone’s house of life and will clearly show on what foundation it is built: on the rock or on the sand. No one who claims to hear escapes the test.
The Lord Jesus uses the word “slammed” for the test (Mt 7:25). Here we hear how much the enemy, with the effort of all his strength, is doing his utmost to make this house fall. What is the result? It doesn’t fall!
The fool has also heard the words of the Lord (Mt 7:27). Only, he does not do them. He doesn’t build on the rock, but on something else. Whatever it may be, it is sand and therefore offers no strength at all. That makes the man foolish. The test brings this to light. The house does not just fall, its fall is even “great”.
What is the house of our life built on? Are we wise or foolish? No one will say of himself that he is foolish. But the test comes and the proof of what we are will be provided unambiguously. It’s about believing what God says, accepting what God says, and doing what God says. We cannot manage it with less. We observe that a lot is being built on the wrong foundation. Many listen to God’s Word, but do what they think is best with it. That is building on sand, where the fall is inevitable and great.
The Crowds Are Amazed
Although the Lord has taught His disciples, the crowds also have listened. What they hear amazes them. That is no wonder, because it is a voice from a different sphere than that of earth. The Teacher lives the Word out as an example. That gives Him authority. He is what He says. In Him the teaching is illustrated. He is the perfect Teacher Who teaches His disciples, that is, followers who honor Him, their Teacher, and want to be as He is. They not only listen to Him, but also imitate Him.
The authority with which He proclaims these things amazes the crowds. They notice the difference between the way He teaches and the way their scribes do so. Their scribes are the people who say and do not do (Mt 23:4b). He speaks with authority, without saying why He does so. He commands, without declaring His right to it. He teaches in a way that is completely different from the way others do it. While He honors and fulfils the Holy Scriptures, He does not quote a former source of authority to underline what He says. He teaches in a completely unique way from which it becomes clear that He is what He says (Jn 8:25).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Matthew 7". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26