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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 7

Verse 1

2 . Supreme reverence for our heavenly Father as judge.

In that kingdom which we are thus invited to seek first (Matthew 6:32) and enter, (Matthew 7:13,) we must never sit as judge, knowing that all our decisions will be rejudged, (Matthew 7:1-6.)

(1.) Usurp not God’s place as Judges , vv1-6.

1. Judge not This command not to judge does not forbid us to estimate the characters of others, in order to regulate our own conduct. We are required so to estimate in Matthew 7:6; Matthew 7:16, and a rule how to estimate is given. To judge is to estimate a man with a temper or in a mode in which we should think it unjust to be estimated ourselves. It is by this test that our Lord declares that all our estimates of others will be judged. We must make, then, precisely the application of the Golden Rule to the act and temper of our estimating the character of others. That ye be not judged That is, by God, not by others. If God judge us for judging, we shall be condemned, as the next clause shows.

Verses 1-27

III. CHRISTIAN PIETY DISTINGUISHED FROM GENTILISM, Matthew 6:19 to Matthew 7:27.

Fallen Judaism is the impure service of the true God; Gentilism is the true service of a false god. That god is the world-god Mammon. Gentilism has lost its divine parent; it has become orphaned of our Father who is in heaven. In his place it has substituted the Mammon service and the earthly goods. After all these things do the Gentiles seek. Matthew 6:32.

It is perfectly plain that with Matthew 6:18 our Lord closes his treatment of fallen Judaism. Thereafter he takes a wider scope over the world, and treats, throughout the remainder of the chapter, upon the world-wide substitution of the earthly good for the heavenly good, (Matthew 6:19-23,) of the rivalry of Mammon before the heavenly Father, (Matthew 6:24,) and the dominion of Care in the place of the kingdom or dominion of God over us. (Matthew 6:25-30.) He calls us back beneath the paternity of God, promising that if we will make him our sole Supreme, all earthly goods shall be subordinately added.

Verse 2

2. Ye shall be judged We must take care that our judgments will stand this test, and all is right. With what measure ye mete Our Lord here states the divine penalty for this unholy judging. It is the divine retribution symbolically stated in the terms of the law of retaliation, like for like. The unjust judge shall be paid off in unjust judgment. To the froward God will prove himself froward. Psalms 18:26. The sentiment literally is, The wicked estimator shall be judged according to his evil action.

Verse 3

3. Mote… beam… eye The mote is a small splinter, and the beam is a whole rafter. The eye is the man’s judging or opining faculty. The mote and the beam are the interferences to our seeing or judging things purely and fairly. Thy brother’ s eye… thy own Thou perceivest on thy own selfish judgment-seat that thy brother has very absurd opinions; he sees things very strangely; it is because of that little splinter in his eye; take it out. Alas! there is no splinter there. What thou seest is only the image of a whole timber in thine own eye reflected into his. That timber is made by some moral mistake, some selfish passion of thine own. Perhaps when thou hast pitched the lumber out of thy own optics, thou wilt find the splinter gone from his.

Verse 6

6. Dogs… swine Our Lord in these last verses has cautioned us how we hastily judge a good man, a brother. He now teaches us how to estimate the reverse character, or any character. The dog and the swine are symbols of depraved men, the ferocious and the sensual.

The dogs of the East, especially the street dogs, who have no owners, and exist in great hordes as a nuisance, are an abomination often mentioned in Scripture. The swine, ceremonially unclean by the Mosaic law, and physically filthy and disgusting to all view, properly comes in with the dog to represent conjointly the ferocious and the sensual.

Now we must discern these characters. We must not intrust a holy thing to a dog. Apostles and bishops must not commit the office of the ministry to a wicked man. No sacred deposit, or responsibility, or even principle (symbolized by pearls) must be imparted to an unfit man. No doctrines or religious experiences must be brought before an incapable sensualist. In fine, in imparting the official trusts and the truths of the Gospel, we must discern men’s moral qualities, and deal with them accordingly.

In the latter part of the verse, the phrase, lest they trample them under their feet, refers to the swine. It describes the gross disregard which sensual men have for the most perfect gems of truth. Turn again and rend you, refers to the dogs. It alludes to the bitter irritation with which fierce natures treat the offers of truth to which they are opposed. Give the dog a pearl, and he will bite and tear you.

In regard to pearls, see note on Matthew 13:45.

Verse 7

(2.) Confide in God as a more than earthly father, 7-12.

In coming into the kingdom ye must entertain faith in God’s paternity, (Matthew 7:7-12;) ye must pass through the strait gate of life, (Matthew 7:13-14;) ye must elude false guides, (Matthew 7:15-20;) ye must show something more than mere profession, (Matthew 7:21-23;) for by these my words you stand or fall, (Matthew 7:24-29.)

7. Ask, and it shall be given you Under the threefold symbol of asking, seeking, and knocking, all the expressions of our desire are included, rising in the force of climax. Our bounteous heavenly Father has a corresponding response for each. For the asking he has gifts; for the seeking, discovery, for the knocking, admissions.

Verse 8

8. Asketh receiveth Coming into the kingdom of God, and under his paternity, we have the child’s right of petition. Gifts, even the highest gift, his own Holy Spirit, and much more all lower gifts suitable for us, will he grant. And the only limitation of our asking is that we confine ourselves to the proper relation of the child; and the only limitation of the gift, and so of the promise, is that God will give only what is suitable to his character as Father to grant. The child cannot expect to command favours out of his proper sphere, or at the improper time. Of these the parent is the wise judge. So the child of the heavenly Father must not interpret this promise licentiously, as if God would obey his orders at the moment he chooses. The promise only affirms that, unlike the Gentile, he enjoys the privileges of accepted prayer, and receives the returns that the infinite Father sees best.

Seeketh findeth To seek is a stronger act than to ask. Not everything is obtained by the means and at the moment of uttered supplication. What we are to seek first, we are told in Matthew 5:33. It is the kingdom of God and his righteousness, in opposition to all those things which the Gentiles seek, Matthew 5:32. And in that kingdom, revelations of wisdom and goodness, of experience and attainment, are granted to him who earnestly employs his day and strength in seeking. Knock… opened And this completes the climax. Knock, and the strait gate (Matthew 7:14) and the narrow way shall be opened unto you. And if we continue to knock through life, the heavenly kingdom above will open its everlasting doors. Those, indeed, there will be who will begin to stand without and to knock at the door, (Luke 13:25,) and the voice of the Lord will pierce through the door still closed, saying, Depart. There are Gentiles in heathendom that know not the heavenly Father, and Gentiles in Christendom that know not the Son.

Verse 9

9. Man… son An argument from less to greater. How much more beneficent than human father is God to all the sons of God!

Verses 9-10

9, 10. Bread… fish The ordinary food of the fishermen of Galilee was bread and fish. Bread and stone, fish and serpent, are in couples, obviously rounded on a degree of resemblance.

Verse 11

11. Being evil Evil of course, because human. What is man that he should be clean? Even in those tender relations and feelings that are supposed to be the best part of our nature, alas! we are still evil.

Verse 12

12. Therefore Inasmuch as you expect to be well treated by your heavenly Parent, as your children are well treated by you, generalize this rule of reciprocity. Benefit not only your children, as you would be parentally benefited; but treat all as you would be treated.

That is, whatsoever, as a fair and righteous man, ye would have from others, that do to others. What you feel would be right for you in their place, that concede ye to them in their own place. Make their case your own, and think what you could then fairly demand. Law and the prophets Our Saviour does not claim this to be a new, but an old rule. It is a condensation of the principles of the Old Testament. It is a divine ratification of the law written upon the human heart. It has been repeatedly expressed by various moralists in different ages with more or less completeness. It is, indeed, the central axiom of right, the divine concentration of human morality, the test of social justice, the truly GOLDEN RULE.

Verse 13

(3.) Enter the strait gate, avoiding false guides, Matthew 7:13-20.

13. Enter… strait gate… wide the gate Strait and narrow here are the exact opposites of wide and broad. Like a close portal, from which a narrow path leads to a magnificent palace, is the Gospel way to everlasting life. Like a broad, open archway, through which a magnificent thoroughfare, well trodden and popular, leads to the precipice of destruction, is the way of sin.

Verse 14

14. Few there be that find it They do not look for it. They see the crowd rushing through the broad gate; they desire nothing better than so liberal a route, and they would not press through the narrow way if before their eyes.

Verse 15

15. False prophets Who would, like false guides, lead you from the strait gate.

Sheep’s clothing Symbol of a professional and merely external holiness. Wolves Symbol of doctrinaries, who destroy the souls of men by error and vice.

Verse 16

16. Know them It is all important for us to know them, and hence a plain test is given. Their fruits Their own actions and the moral tendency of their doctrines.

Verses 17-18

17, 18. Good tree… good fruit… corrupt tree… evil fruit As the corruption of the tree lies back of the evil fruit, so the corruption of the man’s nature lies back of his evil doings. Corruption, depravity, then, lies not, as some teach, merely in the actions, but in the nature back of the actions. Bad actions usually grow out of a bad nature.

Verse 19

19. Hewn down See note on Matthew 3:10.

Verse 21

(4.) Mere profession no assurance in judgment, Matthew 7:21-23.

21. Not every one Our Lord takes a farther step toward the time of final discrimination.

Verse 22

22. Say to me in that day What day but the final judgment? Lord, Lord The officious service of the lips. No high profession, no baptismal ordinance, no Church membership, no ministerial garb, no pulpit popularity, not oven revivals under our labours, are sure tests of our acceptance at the final judgment.

Prophesied As the whole Gospel is a real prophecy, foretelling the vast futures of the human race death, judgment, and eternity, so every preacher is a prophet. Here, then, are preachers who plead their ministry in vain in that day. Cast out devils Their ministry had converted men’s souls, casting out Satan from their hearts. How sad a case is his who saves others while himself he fails to save! Wonderful works Great revivals of religion! Surely these ought to save the man! Not if his own heart was false. He may have preached truth enough to save his own soul, and God blessed many who obeyed the truth from his false lips; but he obeyed not the truth he preached. He showed the way to heaven, hut went not himself. Among the mighty works he wrought, his own salvation was not one.

Verse 23

23. I never knew you They belong not to the apostate class; but are either self-deceivers, or juggling deluders of others, of whom Simon Magus was father. Depart from me You belong to the dark side of the universe. Work iniquity Though professors of righteousness, they were workers of iniquity. According to the test given in 15-20, their fruits condemned them.

Verses 24-26

(5.) We stand only by obedience to Christ’s words, Matthew 7:24-27.

Our Lord now arrives at the final consummation to which the whole discourse has tended. So the judgment is the final consummation of all the world’s history. 26. Heareth… doeth not It is not the mere hearing, nor believing, but the doing these sayings which places our house upon the rock. Faith cometh, indeed, by hearing; but faith must be justified by works.

Verse 27

27. Our Lord gives a vivid contrast in the pictures of the rock-founded and sand-founded house, drawn from the natural scenes of Palestine. It is the foundation that is the main thing. The house built upon the rock could not be undermined; but the light structure erected upon the beach, when the windy storms poured down and swelled the floods around it, soon found its base gliding from under it. Great was the fall ”The fishermen of Bengal,” says Mr. Ward, in his View of the Hindoos, “build their huts in the dry season on the bed of sand from which the river has retired. When the rains set in, which they do often very suddenly, accompanied with violent northwest winds, the water pours down in torrents from the mountains. In one night multitudes of these huts are frequently swept away, and the place where they stood is the next morning undiscoverable.”

Verse 28

28. Jesus… ended… people… astonished Truly might they wonder at one who claimed that he was their final judge.

Verse 29

29. Having authority Not relying on rabbis, or elders, or prophets, or even upon Moses; but as one greater than they all. The authority, original and unappealable, resided in his own Divine person.

The Sermon on the Mount contains a summary of all the great moral principles and cardinal doctrines of the Gospel, except the atonement. His own divinity, as the superior of Moses and the final judge of men, is fully asserted; man’s fallen and evil nature, the needs of the Holy Spirit to salvation, the duty and success of prayer for its bestowment, are affirmed; faith in Christ as the only rock of safety, the necessity of renouncing self and the world, and giving ourselves by faith to God, whereby we may be regenerated into sons of God, are plentifully explained; holiness of heart, Christian perfection, purity, are described and required in explicit terms; probation, the final judgment, and everlasting retribution, are depicted in the clearest colours; and though the CROSS is not fully presented, yet that spirit of faith is powerfully inculcated, by which the cross, in the fulness of time, would be embraced with full purpose of heart.

The wonderful reports in regard to Jesus had drawn the multitudes from various parts to hear him. (Matthew 4:25.) As Jesus arose and walked down the mountain toward Capernaum “great multitudes followed him.” (Matthew 8:1.) How much, in regard to the Messiah, they understood, is not clear; but it cannot be doubted that many a heart was beginning to open with receptive faith for his religion. Alas! how may counter influences blast the fairest hopes!

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 7". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/matthew-7.html. 1874-1909.