Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 10 / Ordinary 15
Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries
Matthew 7

Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & RomansWatson's Expositions

Search for…
Enter query below:
Additional Authors

Introduction

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

1 Christ endeth his sermon on the mount, reproveth rash judgment,

6 forbiddeth to cast holy things to dogs,

7 exhorteth to prayer,

13 to enter in at the strait gate,

15 to beware of false prophets,

21 not to be hearers, but doers of the word:

24 like houses builded on a rock,

26 and not on the sand.

Verse 1

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Judge not, that ye be not judged. — This is not to be understood of forensic judgment; nor of those unfavourable opinions which from the clear evidence of their conduct; we may, without any breach of charity, coolly, and with regret, form of wicked and perverse persons; but of rash; censorious, and malignant judging, which interprets every thing in the most severe manner, and leaves unregarded every palliating or exculpatory consideration. The punishment of this vice is, that we provoke a similar treatment of ourselves from others; and this indeed is an aggravation of the evil, for the harmony and confidence of society are thereby impaired, and the evil passions are continually fanned into a flame. The words look also to the retributive judgments of God; for from him as well as from men, with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, a thought which, were it always present with us, would make us more careful to avoid evil surmisings and severe sentences. Nor ought we to forget how little, at the best, we know of the secret workings of men’s hearts, and of the circumstances in which they are placed. It is wisely said by a Jewish rabbi, “Do not judge thy neighbour until thou comest into his place.”

And with what, measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. — Probably a proverbial sentence. Hence the later Jews say, “Measure against measure.”

Verse 3

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

The mote that is in thy brother’s eye. — The word καρφος signifies any small dry thing, as chaff, a twig, &c., and has not inaptly been rendered splinter, in opposition to the beam, δοκος , that is in thine own eye. The expression is strongly hyperbolical, which consideration makes all conjectural interpretations unnecessary. Campbell, without any sufficient ground, renders δοκος a thorn, because it is impossible to conceive of a beam in the eye. But the antithesis is also thereby lost; the intention being to reprove that disposition which is keen to discover small faults in others, and to look over those in ourselves which are as much greater as a beam is larger than a splinter. Either this was a proverb at that time among the Jews, or they have borrowed it from the New Testament; for it occasionally occurs in their writings, and precisely in the sense of our Lord. So in the Talmud: “In the generation that judged the judges, one said to another, ‘Cast out the mote out of thine eye:’ to whom it was replied ‘Cast out the beam from thine eye.’” Doddridge’s conjecture, that these terms may be used for disorders in the eyes has nothing to support it.

Heathen moralists and poets have sentiments similar to that of the text; as —

Qui alterum incuset probri, eum ipsum se intueri oportet.

PLAUTUS.

“Let him who censures first inspect himself.”

But much more comprehensive are the Divine words of the Teacher sent from God: “First cast the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou SEE CLEARLY to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.” Freedom from vice is necessary to true spiritual discernment: it is not enough that we should see clearly that the mote IS IN the eye of our brother; we must SEE CLEARLY how to cast it out, and that without injury, without offence, and in tenderness and charity. And who can perform so great an office but he that walks with God, and learns of him? Heathen wisdom did not rise to this.

Verse 6

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither, &c. — Dogs were by the law unclean animals. Even “the price of a dog” was not to be brought into the house of the Lord for a vow. Things profane and unclean, and flesh torn by such beasts as were forbidden to man to eat, were given to the dogs; but no part of the sacrifices, or holy oblations, not even their fragments. Swine are here mentioned not so much with reference to their being by the law unclean animals, as because of their grovelling nature. Both these appear also to have been proverbial expressions among the Jews; the wisdom of which, as in the case of all proverbs, lies, however, in the application; and as a true proverb embodies some useful general truth, which, by a wrong use, may. be as injurious an error, so the right application gives to it all its value; and he that teaches this teaches true wisdom. Our Lord might have uttered new proverbs but to show the use of such as were common, and often much misapplied; of which we have several examples in his discourses, quite as important, and in some respects more so. It was not only teaching truth, but counteracting error. These words are not to be understood as a caution against the free and universal publication of the Gospel. This is enjoined to be preached to “every creature;” consequently, to many who are truly represented, as to their character, by “dogs” and “swine;” and must often be done, although the swine may trample under foot the “goodly pearls,” and “the dogs turn and rend” the zealous teacher. In this publicity of its doctrines the contrast between paganism and Christianity is strongly marked.

The wise men among the heathen had an esoteric doctrine which they kept from the common people, who were haughtily styled the profane, and were not allowed to partake their mysteries; and a similar contempt of the mass of mankind was exhibited by the Pharisees and Sadducees, who, in imitation of heathen priests and sages, had also their “hidden wisdom,” which they taught only to select disciples. It was one of the enigmatical sayings of Pythagoras, that you are “not to carry the pictures of the gods in a ring;” that is, you are not to expose the sacred and venerable principles of religion to every vulgar eye. But Christ sufficiently guards against such an interpretation of his words, both by his practice, — for he “preached the Gospel of the kingdom in all the synagogues,” consequently to all ranks of people, — and also by his having in the same discourse made it the duty of his disciples to “let their light shine before men.” To all, therefore, the great doctrines of his religion were to be declared generally, and to every sincere inquirer its deepest and most spiritual sense was to be opened without exception. But as to the unclean and brutal, to scoffers and blasphemers, to men of perverse minds, who lie in wait to ridicule or blaspheme truth, and to turn into contempt those who hold and teach it, or to expose them to persecution, a wise discrimination and a cautious prudence are recommended. They were so to teach Christ’s doctrine, that the holy name of God might not be blasphemed, nor were they needlessly to run into danger. And so now, before the high spiritualities and “the deep things of God,” as they are hidden under the general doctrines of Christianity, are fully opened, the Christian teacher must know whom he is addressing; or just in proportion as any thing is sacred, it may be trampled contemptuously or blasphemously under foot There is a manifest difference between St. Paul’s sermon to the Athenians, on Mars’ Hill, and his epistles to the Greek Churches; a circumstance which may illustrate our Lord’s meaning. And as a preacher must consider the character of his congregation, so the conversation of Christians on religious subjects, in order to be “good to the use of edifying,” must have respect to TIMES, CIRCUMSTANCES, and CHARACTERS.

Some would transpose this verse, and read, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs, lest they turn and rend you; and cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet.” But the construction of the text is resolvable into what is called επανοδος , a going back, and is very frequent in the poetical parts of the Old Testament, and occasionally seen in the prose of the New. Thus we have in Matthew 12:22, “The blind and the dumb both spake and saw;” rather, than, “The blind and the dumb both saw and spake.” And an English poet furnishes an example in few words: “The soldier’s, courtier’s, scholar’s, eye, tongue, sword;” where eye, tongue, sword, must be referred back to the scholar, courtier, and soldier, as the sense directs. So here, “Lest they trample them, under their feet,” refers to the swine; and, “Lest they turn and rend” or tear “you,” must be connected with the dogs in the first member of the sentence; but the turning and rending may be attributed to the swine, as well as the trampling under foot. Wild swine, at least, are ferocious, and turning well expresses their mode of attack.

Verse 7

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Ask, and it shall be given you, &c. — We have here a short but most important discourse on prayer; not philosophically argued, not entering into the reasons of the duty, or the advantage, but authoritative and persuasive, and founded upon those affecting views of the love and condescension of God which give so great a charm to the words of Christ in this Divine sermon. Ask, seek, knock, all expressive of the same act. This is our duty; God requires this as an acknowledgment of our dependence, and as the expression of our faith; but ask with entire and unlimited confidence, for EVERY ONE that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, &c. — There is no respect of persons with God. Ask, as painfully sensible of your wants; seek with diligence, as those who would recover some great thing lost; and knock at the door of the appointed refuge, that you may obtain admission, and be safe from all danger. Words of inimitable simplicity, but of weightiest import! They forcibly describe the nature of true prayer, asking until the supply is given; seeking until the good sought for is found; knocking with persevering earnestness until admission is granted. Here is no resting in means as the END, which is the essence of formality, and one of the most fatal and general religious delusions; but a persevering use of prayer, till prayer be answered. A firm ground for the most assured confidence is here also laid; and whoever rightly understands these words knows the way to God, to salvation, to heaven.

And here let it be remembered that the teacher is the promiser; and he who promises is the Being who “cannot lie,” and who is able to give “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” Nor is there any thing exclusive in the promise: it is the word of mercy and eternal truth to all, without respect of persons. “Even the poor man’s prayer,” says one, “pierceth the clouds; and weak and contemptible as he seems, he can draw down the host of heaven, and arm the Almighty in his defence, so long as he can but utter his wants, or turn the thoughts of his heart to God.” But, since it is so manifestly the main intent of this discourse to turn the desires of men wholly into the channel of spiritual things, these ABSOLUTE promises must be understood chiefly as intended to give us full assurance of the success of our prayers for spiritual blessings. These can never be denied; and they are bestowed according to the proportion of our faith. As to external good, also, whatever is really beneficial for those who put a filial confidence in God’s mercy shall be infallibly bestowed, and nothing withheld but for some reason which respects our real interests upon the whole. This is the clear doctrine of Scripture; and, when fully received, it becomes the source, not only of content, but of thankfulness, in every lot. For as to blessings of a temporal kind, we cannot tell what, in all its bearings and issues, is good for us; and we are therefore to ask them with submission. Still “all our requests are to be made known unto God;” and the reward of prayer, even as to matters which affect us in relation to the present life, is a frequent and sometimes a signal interposition of God.

Verse 9

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Or what man is there of you, &c. — ‘Η τις εστιν . The particle η answers here to the Latin an: η τις . “Is there any of you?” Ανθρωπος , man, is emphatic; but not as some take it, that the stress is laid upon the excellence of human nature in respect of its natural affections; but emphatic in the way of contrast with God. The sense is, “Is there any of yon, although a man.” and therefore subject to selfishness and morosity, answering to the 11th verse, “If ye then, being evil,” &c. Still, evil as you are, it would be a rare thing to find any one among even the worst who would deny the requests of his children for things necessary to their sustenance and comfort.

Verse 10

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

If he ask a fish, will, &c. — Bread and fish are mentioned because they were the common food of the people in that part of Galilee, bordering on the lake. By a fish Bishop Pearce understands an eel, to which the serpent would bear some resemblance; but these are proverbial expressions, not to be interpreted too strictly.

Verse 11

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

If ye then, being evil, &c. — The argument is, “If ye, being EVIL, know how to give,” 1.e., are accustomed to give, “good gifts unto your children; how much more shall your heavenly Father;” who is essentially and infinitely GOOD, and subject to no evil passions whatever, “give good things to them that ask him!” (See Luke 11:13.)

Verse 12

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would, &c. — These words, which form a distinct subject, are not connected with what precedes. The ουν , therefore, may be considered as an expletive, or it marks a transition. Sometimes, indeed; it indicates a return to a subject which has been for some time suspended by a digression. Hence it may be taken as a continuation of verses 1 and 2; a general rule, growing out of the injunction of the particular caution against rash and uncharitable judging. This rule has justly been called a golden rule, and something resembling it is found in several Greek and Roman, and also in Jewish writers. Christ did not teach a new morality; but explained more perfectly that which, in its principles and particulars, was from the beginning, and placed it on its true foundation, from which it had been so generally removed. This very rule must necessarily have been as ancient as the first revelations of God to man; being necessarily included in the precept, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” and is, in fact, the foundation of all social morals. With the religion of the patriarchs it passed with other great principles into the different ancient nations; but soon became commingled with a variety of false and selfish maxims, which destroyed its efficacy. For it is to be remarked that, though we may occasionally find this and other just or benevolent sentiments in the writings of heathen sages, yet, being broken off from their connection with the Divine revelations which originated them, they were regarded merely as the opinions of men, and, wanting the authority of God, their original author, they had not the force of LAW.

But Christ, by taking this great rule into his own moral code, has restored the authority; and it now stands as a part of the law of his religion, enforced by his enactment, and guarded, like all other Divine laws, by the sanctions of life or death. This makes one of the grand distinctions between the sayings of wise men among the Gentiles, and those of our Lord and his apostles, in the few instances in which they most agree. But there is another. Such sentiments were the sounder parts of a generally corrupt and false system, noble relics of a better age; just as we still see the broken, but beautiful sculpture of the Greeks and Romans sometimes built up into the mud walls of those barbarian nations which subverted their empire. These moral maxims, however, were either useless, or their influence was greatly counteracted by the lax and vicious notions and prejudices which were held along with them, and which took hold of corrupt human nature much more deeply than the little truth which remained in the heathen world. Such rules of obvious equity for instance, were, among them, generally limited to certain classes of men. A Greek philosopher, when asked how a man should conduct himself to his friends, answered in words approaching those of our Lord, “As he wishes they should conduct themselves to him;” but he would not have applied this rule to his enemies. A Roman would say to the same effect as the text, Quod tibi fieri vis, fac alteri; but he would not include his slaves within the rule. And though among the Jews, Maimonides has been quoted as furnishing a similar maxim, partially imitated, no doubt, from the New Testament, “All things whatsoever ye would that others should do unto you, do you the same to your brethren in the law, and in the commandment;” the bigotry of the Jew puts in the emphatic limitation, TO YOUR BRETHREN, meaning those of his own nation.

It is not, therefore, considered simply in itself, that this precept of our Lord is to be admired, but as it is a part of a moral system throughout perfectly pure and benevolent, comprising truth without countenancing error, and making its rules universal in their application to all mankind. Perhaps it was with some reference to the full and ample meaning which it derived from the principles and spirit which run through the whole discourse in which it stands, that it was commended to the convictions of Alexander Severus, although a heathen; for in preference to similar sentences, found among the writers of his own nation, with which he must have been acquainted, he caused this saying of Christ to be written on the walls of his palace, and would sometimes order it to be pronounced aloud by a public officer. The rule, however, is to be soberly interpreted. “Whatsoever ye WOULD that men should do to you,” signifies not a blind and wayward will or desire on our part, but one which is reasonable in itself, and consistent with the principles of religion. The maxim, also, must have respect to circumstances; and signifies what in like relations and conditions we would have done to ourselves; but even then not what another might lawfully do to us or for us, but what we should have a right to expect him to do, on the ground of duty and obligation, whether arising from equity or Christian charity. When this precept is said to be the law and the prophets, we are to understand the phrase in the same way as when St, Paul says, “LOVE is the fulfilling of the law;” that is, as charity leads necessarily to the discharge of all the duties we owe to our neighbour, so this great rule of equity “is the law and prophets,” by leading to the practice of all that charity and justice which both require of us in our conduct toward our fellow creatures.

Verses 13-14

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Enter ye in at the strait gate, &c, — These words commence the hortatory conclusion of our Lord’s sermon, in which he enforces the vigorous application of the whole soul to the great duties which he had so clearly taught, and so strikingly illustrated. The metaphor he here employs is that of a low and strait gate, at the entrance of a narrow path, such paths as led to strongly fortified citadels, in which all who fly from danger might find “life” and safety in times of military invasion. But one access was usually allowed to such places, and that not only narrow, but often precipitous and rocky, that so it might be the more easily defended. The opposite to this is the wide and lofty gate, and the broad way leading to undefended cities, where the careless inhabitants could easily be surprised by an invading enemy, and be suddenly destroyed. Palestine had places answering to each description. By these, allusions we are taught that all are in danger; that there is but one way to life and safety, and that narrow and difficult, requiring care to find, and vigour to pursue; that there is also a broad, smooth, and inviting path, easy to discover, and recommended, too, by the choice of the greater number; and that the result of preferring temporary ease and convenience will be in the end certain destruction. The metaphor of the strait gate, and the narrow path, has reference to the previous doctrines which our Lord had delivered. The principles unfolded, and the duties enjoined in them, indicated the only way to eternal life. Yet they are difficult to our corrupt nature to practise, and require a constant course of self-denial and vigorous exertion. The entrance itself is said to be strait. In some cases the gates leading to the hill forts and citadels would admit little more than only the person himself, — he could take in with him no load of goods, no cumbrous apparatus for luxury and might be thankful to save himself and leave all the rest behind.

If this be the allusion, the remunerations of worldly interest and honour, of self and pride, which the very entrance into the Christian life requires, may be figuratively represented. But this strait gate once entered, we have still a narrow pathway before us, and a toilsome ascent; for those commentators greatly err who take the straitness to be the difficulties to the entrance merely, and tell us that these being surmounted, and good habits formed the rest of the way will be smooth and delightful. The pleasures of piety are indeed a reality; the ways of wisdom are ways of pleasantness; but the joys of religion lessen not its difficulties: they only animate us to surmount them: and no such habits are or can be formed as shall render our nature prone to hard and self-denying services; so that we shall daily have to practise the same lessons of self-denial, of vigilance, of resistance to evil. We must be always toiling up the steep in vigorous effort, until we reach the place of safety, when only we can be said to enter into “life.” Hence it is that the way itself, evidently meaning the whole way, is said to be narrow. Difficulties and dangers will beset us through our whole course, requiring constant effort on our part to resist the temptation to strike out into by-paths, or to climb the mounds on either side, in order to gain a broader and easier path. The followers of Pythagoras justly said that there are various ways of sinning, and that evil is indefinite; but that good consists in one precise and determined point; so that the one most be easy, the other difficult; just as it is easier to miss a mark than to hit it.

To this notion Origen seems to allude when he says, in reference to our Lord’s words in this place, “Good is one; but moral turpitude is various: truth is one; but the contrary, falsehoods, are many: genuine righteousness is one; but there are many forms of hypocrisy.” Both the gate and the way are strait and narrow; but, on the other hand, nothing is easier or more gratifying to our fallen nature than in neglect all these precepts of Christ; to make a show of religion rather than practise it; to hate our enemies rather than love them; to keep our alms rather than distribute them; to seek the things of this life “first,” rather than “the kingdom of God first;” and to judge severely rather than charitably. — The ease with which vice is practised, and the struggles which virtue requires, are subjects of common remark among heathen moralists: how much more would they have complained had they carried their notions of virtue to the extent of these precepts of Christ! There is, however, here nothing to discourage: to strive to enter in is ours; but we shall never be left to strive in our own strength if we remember the words of our Divine Teacher,” Ask, and ye shall receive; seek, and ye shall find.” And whatever self-denial and struggles may be called for, even these destroy not, but increase the joys of piety. — Narrow, obstructed, and precipitous as the way may be, it is yet “a way of pleasantness, and a path of peace;” for this very reason, that it is the sure way to life; and that every step brings us nearer to that city of God into which no enemy can enter, and where the security of our immortal interests shall be confirmed for ever.

The οτι , because, in verse 14, Bengelius, Whitby; and others render but which continues the reason for the exhortation: “Enter ye in at the strait gate,” that is, strive to enter in, Luke 13:24. The reading, τι στενη , how narrow is the gate! rests, however; upon weighty evidence of MSS. and versions; yet exclamations are very unusual in our Lord’s style.

And few there be that find it. — “And if,” says an ancient father, “there are but few that find it, how much smaller still the number of those who pursue it to the end! some falling off in the beginning, others in the middle of their course, and others when just upon the point of finishing it.” But let no one consider the narrowness of the way as any thing but a proof of Divine wisdom and mercy. License could be no favour: for restraint falls upon what is injurious to ourselves, and hurtful to society. But this is its benevolent rule, for the religion of Christ is not ascetic. Monkish austerity only nurtures the vices of the mind, while it seems to castigate those of the flesh. The mortification prescribed in the New Testament is the direct mortification of sin; and this must be universal, whether of the flesh or of the spirit. Every thing is left to us unprohibited by which human felicity can be connected with glorifying God.

Verse 15

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Beware of false prophets, &c. — The word prophet is here to be taken in the sense of a public religions teacher, a sense in which the term prophet is frequently used. The scribes and Pharisees seem intended in the first instance; but the caution lies equally strong against all false teachers, and teachers of falsehood, both of whom are to he rejected by Christians, who violate this very rule of our Lord whenever they encourage their ministry. Προσεχετε , rendered beware, when followed by απο , signifies “to guard against,” so as to avoid, and is not to be considered as a mere caution, but a strong prohibition against giving them the least countenance.

In sheep’s clothing. — Some suppose a reference here to the long robes made of fine wool worn by those of the Pharisees and scribes who professed the greatest sanctity, and the deepest skill in the law, or to the μηλωτη , the hairy mantle of the prophets; but what follows, inwardly they are ravening wolves, shows that the expression is proverbial, and describes a designing religious hypocrite. The cruel nature and the devouring rapacity of the wolf rendered that beast of prey a fit emblem of the Jewish doctors, whom our Lord so severely reproves for devouring widows’ houses under a pretence of sanctity, and for an unbounded avarice, and whose rage against him and his disciples could only be satisfied with blood. The emblem is equally descriptive of the corrupt priesthood of all fallen Churches, when not restrained by the civil authorities. Avarice is their sin deception the means by which they gratify it, and to their hatred and rage must every faithful man be exposed who brings their doctrines and characters into the reproving light of truth.

Verse 16

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

But their fruits. — Some take fruits to mean their doctrines, others, their works. Both may be understood. Bad men sometimes, indeed, teach good doctrines, but not the class of men here referred to. Error is the instrument by which they delude in order that they may devour. Still the conduct, comprehending the spirit and temper, is the most certain rule of judgment. “Try a man,” says Demophilus, “rather by his works than by his speeches; for many can talk well that live ill.”

Grapes of thorns, &c. — Grapes and figs were among the valuable produce of Palestine. Thorn, ακανθα , is the general name for all prickly shrubs, from ακη , a point. Some of these, appear to have home a kind of useless noxious berry; for the Jews speak of “thorn grapes,” in opposition to the grapes of the vine. the word τριβολος , thistle, is, in Hebrews 6:8, rendered brier. Like ακανθα , it is a general term for prickly, useless, or noxious plants or shrubs. How apposite are these metaphors to express the characters of these false teachers, and to show that not only is nothing profitable to man, either in doctrine or example, to be expected from them, but that they are mischievous and noxious! This is strengthened by what follows.

Verses 17-18

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit, &c. — As is the tree so is its fruit, and the tree must be good before the fruit can be good; a plain declaration that as GOOD TEACHERS must first be GOOD MEN, so no one can fulfill the office of a minister of Christ in his Church, or ought to be appointed to that office who has not given previous evidence of the renewal of his own heart by the power of the Holy Ghost. Nor, in case of his having fallen from this grace, ought he to be continued in his office; for a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit. Δενδρον σαπρον properly signifies a tree which is decayed and rotten, but is here evidently used for trees which are bad IN KIND, bringing forth noxious fruit, in opposition to good trees, those which bear salutary and refreshing fruits.

Verse 19

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Every tree that bringeth not forth, &c. — This verse being repeated from Matthew 3:10, some critics have determined it to be an interpolation from the margin, under the pretence that it interrupts the sense; a sufficiently poor reason for rejecting it, and quite unfounded. For as to the argument that it interrupts the sense, it appears on the contrary most appositely to close this branch of the discourse, by warning the false teachers themselves of their final doom, and destroying, by that sentence, all sympathy between them and the people they might lead astray. It is as though he had said, Can you be instructed in the way to heaven by those who are themselves in the road to hell? Will you commit your souls to the care of those who have no care for their own? The infallible test of the false prophets is also repeated, — Wherefore, απαγε , CERTAINLY, if in no other way, yet by their fruits ye shall know, επιγνωσεσθε , clearly discern and distinguish them; for the compound verb has a heightened sense. It is the duty of all Christians, with candour and fidelity, to bring all to this test who profess to be their teachers “in faith and verity;” and the role will not deceive them.

Verse 21

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Not every one that saith unto me. — Here the same subject is continued; and lest Christ should be thought by any to confine his caution against false teachers and guides to the Jewish doctors, he shows that his words looked forward to those also who should appear in the Christian Church, those who should call him LORD. That he speaks prospectively, appears also from the reference to those miraculous gifts which were to be bestowed upon the first preachers of the Gospel. The duty of rejecting false teachers is mightily enforced; for if a man be “a worker of iniquity,” he is not to be received as a Christian minister, although he may be able to prophesy, in the proper sense, that is, foretell things to come; and cast out devils, and do many wonderful works. But if so, the lower gifts of learning and eloquence in a minister are never to be thought a substitute for true piety, and in themselves give no claim to the office. The awful words are also applicable to the case of all unholy professors of Christ’s holy religion, though not ministers.

Verse 22

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, &c. — As before they called Christ LORD, in the language of heartless profession, now they shall say to him, LORD! LORD! in the imploring language of convicted culprits, urging vain and hopeless pleas for admission into his kingdom. In that day, evidently meaning the day of judgment, THAT DAY, emphatically the last day, the day which closes the course of time, and fixes the states of men in eternity; so that here Christ declares himself to be the future judge of the world, and, by implication, he asserts his Divinity, for who can judge the world but the Being who knows the secrets of all hearts?

Prophesied in thy name. — Both teaching, in the common sense of the term, and fore-telling things to come, or, as prophesying also means, the power of speaking in lofty strains of eloquence under special impulses. That all these may be included in prophesying in the name of Christ is probable, because our Lord is speaking of the supernatural gifts with which his disciples would be endowed. This gift was not in every case confined to good men. Balaam had the gift of prophecy; and the prophetic spirit fell also, for the time, on Saul and Caiaphas.

Cast out devils. — Judas had this power given to him as one of the twelve apostles, and that of healing diseases miraculously. (See Matthew 10:1.) And Origen testifies that devils were sometimes cast out by wicked men using the name of Christ; all which was permitted, not to accredit the character of the persons, but the truth of the doctrine of Christ. “An awful consideration,” says one, “that a man should be able to cast out devils, and at last be himself cast to the devil.”

Verse 23

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

And then will I profess unto them, &c. — Ομολογεω has the sense of declaring openly and publicly. Christ will declare their sentence before the assembled world at the day of final judgment.

I never knew you. — To know signifies here to acknowledge, to approve. Examples of this sense of γιγνωσκω are not only found in the LXX. and in the New Testament, but in classic Greek authors. I never acknowledged and approved you as ministers; ye had not my sanction in that character; nor shall you have the reward of faithful ministers: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. But though the words were primarily spoken of false prophets, or public teachers, they also foretell the doom of false disciples. There is some difficulty in conceiving how miraculous gifts should be possessed by those whom our Lord calls “workers of iniquity.” If it be urged that such persons might have fallen from a grace they once possessed, we are met by the strong negative, “I never, ουδεποτε , knew you.” Perhaps this is a mysterious circumstance which we must wholly resolve into the sovereignty of Him who, as to those gifts, says the Apostle Paul, “divideth to every man severally as HE WILLS.” Still it does not follow that they were bestowed at first on men entirely devoid of true religious feeling. This no doubt prompted them to join the Churches of Christ; and they gave such evidence of it as warranted the reception of them by its members; but as miraculous gifts were imparted sometimes to great numbers at once, the communication of them could not be regulated by some particular degree of religious attainment in the recipient, for then we must suppose the same degree in all. When Peter preached to the company in the house of Cornelius, the Holy Ghost fell upon all present, and yet they were not all equal in knowledge, or in the strength of religious principle.

Gifts were very general in the Church at Corinth; yet many of them were “carnal;” says St. Paul; not wholly carnal, indeed, but comparatively so, for he addresses them all as acknowledged members of the Church. And if the gifts of the Spirit had been wholly confined to mature Christians, or even to entirely sound and decided ones, a visible distinction of character would have been made somewhat inconsistent with the lesson taught in the parable of the wheat and the tares, which indicates that no infallible test, universally applicable, is placed in the Church in the present world, by which perfectly to ascertain the good from the evil. Perhaps the character of Judas will assist us on this difficult subject. That he was an inquirer after truth, and not wholly a hypocrite, from the first, appears to have been the fact; but it was equally clear that he was strongly avaricious by natural disposition, which evil quality not being at any time fully and entirely mortified and renounced by him, though suppressed in the first stage of his disciple-ship, it at length prevailed against those better feelings and convictions by which, it is reasonable to conclude, he was once influenced, so that he became first a secret, then an open, “worker of iniquity.” Of him Christ NEVER fully APPROVED, because the latent evils of his heart had never been fully mortified, so that they prevailed speedily against him; and having no “depth of earth,” the good seed sown there, and which, indeed at one time began to spring up, quickly “withered.” In such an imperfect state, as to the power of religion in the heart, the “carnal” members of the Corinthian Church were and such might be the general character of those of whom our Lord here speaks. They were not, when they received these supernatural gifts, openly wicked, and wholly dead to religion, but superficial and halting in their best state of mind, although under that degree of religious influence which, if improved, would have led to full salvation. They could never, therefore, be fully approved by Christ, though admitted as disciples; and they finally became workers of iniquity, though endowed with miraculous gifts, which never appear to have been among the appointed means of grace, and were never regarded more or less as infallible, evidences of it.

Verses 24-27

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Therefore, whosoever heareth, &c. — The conclusion of this discourse tends solemnly to impress the whole upon our attention. The result, as to our eternal interests, depends upon our HEARING these sayings of Christ, and DOING them; so that they are presented to us in the very form of Christian LAW, with the sanctions of life and death annexed; another proof that our Lord here speaks, not as a mere man, but as the lawgiver himself. For what mere man, though acting under a Divine commission, could use such language in such a connection? — These sayings of mine, referring to no higher authority than his own, and promising eternal safety, and threatening final ruin, as his hearers might be obedient to HIS sayings, or otherwise. On the fine comparison which follows, it will be remarked that the wise man is both a hearer and a doer of Christ’s sayings; the foolish man a hearer only, which implies, it is true, approval and profession of discipleship, but nothing more. The wisdom of the former consists in choosing a rock for the foundation of his house; prudently foreseeing that not only would storms arise, but that the coming rains would produce those “floods,” οι ποταμοι , land floods, or torrents, by which its strength would be put to severe tests, and that it could only resist the assaults of the elements by virtue of an immovable foundation. The folly of the latter is marked by his want of regard to the trials and dangers of the stormy season, and his trusting his whole building upon the sand or earth, which is apparently firm in summer, but liable, after that season, to be swept away by the tempestuous rains of those climates; the χειμαρροι ποταμοι , as Homer expresses it, the winter torrents, w hich either swell the streams, or themselves form temporary rivers by their own copiousness. It is by these references to the climate of Palestine, the violence of its winter winds, the impetuous rush of its, sudden rains, and the power of the torrents thus formed, that the force of the comparison is made manifest. By these three words, rain, winds, and floods, the severity of our great trials in the hour of death, and at the day of judgment, is strongly pointed out. Rain and hail fall with violence upon the roof and upper parts; winds try the sides of the house; floods and rushings of water the foundation. And then, should it fall, great will be the fall of it. “It made a great show;” says one, “while it stood, and it made as great a noise when it fell; the fall being the more notorious by how much the former profession was the more specious.”

Verse 28

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

Were astonished at his doctrine. — These doctrines came indeed to them with so powerful an evidence of their truth and reasonableness, that they appear to have commanded universal assent among the people who heard them; but they were so distant from common opinion and practice, so different from what they had been accustomed to hear from their own teachers, so clear and full, so practical and hallowed, so solemn and weighty, so searching and convincing, that it is no wonder that they were astonished, εξεπλησσοντο , struck with astonishment at his doctrine. And, familiar as we are with this Divine discourse, it can never be seriously read and pondered over without reviving the same feeling. “These are indeed the TRUE WORDS of God.”

Verse 29

Watson - Exposition of the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark

As one having authority, and not as the scribes. — He taught them, not as a mere expounder of the law, which the scribes professed to be, nor merely in a more perfect manner, though this did not escape them; but there was something beyond this, which most strongly arrested their attention. This was the authority with which he spoke, for he spoke not as an interpreter of the law only, but as the legislator himself; giving his interpretations the same authority as the original precept, and adding others as of equal obligation and consequence. A frequent mode of speaking by the scribes, when they were teaching, was, The wise men say; Our rabbins have determined. Those of the school of Hillel referred to him as their authority; those who followed that of Shammai appealed to him. This practice of referring to human authority, seeing that every thing almost was explained by traditions, or the transmitted sentiments of the ancients, was probably used by the scribes of our Lord’s time; and, if so, his usual formula, But I say unto you, is rendered the more remarkable and striking: he puts aside all human authority, and asserts his own.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 7". "Watson's Exposition on Matthew, Mark, Luke & Romans". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rwc/matthew-7.html.
 
adsfree-icon
Ads FreeProfile