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Simple honesty will understand these first five verses without difficulty. The word "judge" is used in various different ways in Scripture. Believers are told to "judge" what Paul says (1 Corinthians 10:15), that is, to discern for themselves what is right. The assembly is told to "judge them that are within" (1 Corinthians 5:12), which involves administering righteously and maintaining proper order in the church. In certain cases therefore we are responsible to judge. But here the Lord speaks of a censorious attitude of hard criticism of others. In this we would take the place of a judge, which is only God's right. If we treat others this way, we can expect the some treatment, for they can certainly find plenty to criticize in us too.
The most critical are in fact commonly more deserving of criticism then are their victims. They will see the trifling mote in another's eye, while ignoring a huge "beam" in their own eye. Let me at least honestly judge and turn from the serious evil in my own life, before rebuking a trivial thing in another. In fact, rather than judging, if one is overtaken in a fault, "ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted" (Col 6:1). Such work requires previous self-judgment, without which we are bound to be guilty of hypocrisy.
On the other hand, we must be careful also of our words in speaking to the ungodly, for they are no more to be pandered to than they are to be judged. Dogs and swine are unclean animals, typical of unclean men (though they may have at one time professed Christianity--2 Pet 3:22). The precious truths of Scripture applying to Christians (holy things and pearls) will be both misunderstood and treated with contempt by ungodly men. Christians have too frequently attempted to import Christian principles into the world's religion and the world's government. These do not mix, for Christianity is heavenly, not earthly. Men of the world need simply the elementary gospel of the grace of God. This will require first the facing of the guilt of their own sins and their need of mercy. If this is absent, it is senseless to try to persuade them of the preciousness of the great blessings found in Christ Jesus that are the portion of believers. We shall suffer for such indiscretion, as well as the truth suffering.
If in verse 6 the ungodly are seen to be in no state to receive the things of God, for they do not ask; we, on the other hand, are encouraged to ask and receive. This dependent, concerned state of soul is that which the Father delights to answer. Each of these stages becomes more insistent, "ask," "seek" and "knock"' Such reality of exercise is precious to God, and there is no doubt of a favourable answer: "it shall be given," "ye shall find," "it shall be opened. Let us remember however that it is the "holy things" and "pearls" that are to be our prime desire.
Verse 8 insists that everyone who asks receives, etc. This is manifestly seen in the prospering of souls who are in earnest. The Lord does not say or infer that we shall get everything that our fleshly nature desires. James 4:3 effectively reproves that suggestion. Still, earthly fathers are concerned for their children's needs, usually. If a child asks bread, will he be given a stone? or if a fish, will he be given a serpent? No father is likely to be so callous as this. The stone is useless, but the serpent is dangerous. On the other hand, if a child asked for a serpent, what father would give it to him? Why would we ever think of asking for what is useless or harmful?
Though our own very nature is contaminated by sin, yet we know enough to give good things to our children. How much more should we expect our Father, who loves us perfectly and who knows perfectly what is good for us, to give good things to those who ask Him.
How fitting it is, since the Father gives good things to those who ask Him, that this should have practical effect in our own lives. So verse 12 Indicates that, if we appreciate our Father's character, we shall show such kindness to others. How good to remember that we should act toward others in the way we desire them to act toward us. It will require serious exercise to watch that we are thoroughly fair in this matter, for we are too easily taken off guard by others acting wrongly toward us. This is no excuse for our doing the same. T he Lord was telling them nothing new, for the law and prophets spoke similarly yet only faith would respond to it.
This leads on now to the Lord's showing the path of such faith to be narrow or confined, not appreciated by the majority. Many choose the wide gate and the broad way because man in the flesh seeks his own advantage and is not concerned with treating others as he desires to be treated. but it leads to destruction following the crowd is popular, but full of danger.
The strait gate is constricted by narrow limits, and not attractive to the flesh. The entire way is narrow too, but it leads to life, in which there is no limiting confinement. In the world the way may seem irksome, but faith can bear this in view of what is infinitely better, even in spite of the added trial of being accused of personal narrowness and bigotry. If only few find it, still it is God's way.
However, this must be guarded too, for there is a narrowness that is false and evil, a specious counterfeit of what is true. False prophets have abounded throughout history, and because of the wonder of the pure reality of truth revealed in the person of Christ, they have increased in number, for they, see opportunity of greater personal advantage in counterfeiting Christianity. They come in sheep's clothing, pretending to be believers, in some measure acting like it, but inwardly wolves, intent on doing harm.
But the believer may discern them by their fruits. They bear the character of thorns and thistles, harmful rather then productive, not ministering food for the need of souls. No child of God should be deceived by them. They tickle men's ears, usually appealing to the pride of intellect, but ignorant of the truth that reaches consciences and hearts. Grapes and figs are healthy foods, but not available from thorns or thistles.
Too frequently they influence people by some apparently good points they appear to have, but actually, being a corrupt tree, they cannot bring forth any good fruit. Counterfeit money may be a very good imitation of what is genuine, but it is totally false. When it is found to be false, then it is nonsense to spend any time in evaluating its good points. If good is used in the interests of falsehood, then the good becomes particularly bad.
A good tree (a genuine believer) produces good fruit. Its quality may differ in different cases, but the fruit from the tree is not corrupt. As to the corrupt tree, it will be cut down and consigned to the fire of eternal torment, for it bears no good fruit whatever.
Many of these profess even a knowledge of the Lordship of Christ: their lips are able to form the words, "Lord, Lord," but they shall not in reality enter the kingdom of heaven: this is only for those who do the will of the Father, which can be true of none but the redeemed.
They say they have prophesied in His name. If it is true that by the power of His name they have cast out demons (as Judas was given authority to do), this is not proof that their hearts are right before God. The doing of wonderful works cannot substitute for the reality of faith in the Son of God.
To many who claim to have done wonderful works in the Lord's name, the answer of the Lord will be most solemn, "I never knew you." At no time had they ever been believers, for there is no possibility of one being born a new and yet afterwards lost. In answer to their claim of wonderful works, they are called "workers of iniquity."
The Lord sums up all of this instruction now with the simile of two houses, one built on the rock, the other on sand. These sayings of His are of more emphatic importance than those of law; therefore disobedience to them brings a more severe judgment then did disobedience to the law (Cf. Hebrews 2:2-58.2.3). As the wise men's house, built on a rock, withstands the floods and storms, so the believer, obedient to the words of the Lord Jesus, who is Himself "the rock of ages," will be preserved from destruction by means of the rain from above, the floods from beneath and the winds from around. For every professor of the name of Christ will be put to the proof by all these things. The genuine believer, resting on Christ Himself, will withstand every such adversity.
On the other hand, one building on sand is one who, after hearing the words of the Lord Jesus, fails to take them to heart in such a way as to obey them. He is still considered to be building, but merely on sand, the shifting uncertainty of men's thoughts, with no solid basis of fact. This will be swept away in judgment, the fall of the house being great in proportion to the greatness of the pride and effort put into its building. How well it is for men to wisely consider the basis on which they are building now, for this will have eternal results of most vital character.
This early ministry of the Lord Jesus astonished the people, for it contrasted with the teaching of the scribes, who had no vital conviction as to the truth of their own teaching. They could not speak as from God, while all that He spoke had in it the living power and authority of God. For He had not merely pressed the law's claims upon men, but had declared the inner spirit and significance of the law as striking at the inner motives of man's hearts. What words of power indeed to lay our hearts bare before God!
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Matthew 7". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent