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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 6

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-34

CHAPTER 19

VAINGLORY

Matthew 6. “Take heed that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them; but if not, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven; and when you may do alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets; truly, I say unto you, They exhaust their reward;” i.e., as they will receive no reward in eternity, they get it all here; simply the praise of men, and so they exhaust it. It was customary for the benefactors of the poor to sound a trumpet, to call up the beggars to receive their contributions; but the Omniscient Searcher of the heart knew that notoriety and the praise of men were the incentives. “But thou, doing alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth; and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall give unto thee.” An advocate always stood on the right hand of the judge. The right hand symbolizes the spiritual and the left hand the temporal side of life, which are frequently antagonistical either to other. Giving alms with an eye single to the glory of God is quite an available test of true spirituality. “And when you may pray, you shall not be as the hypocrites; because they love to pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the street, in order that they may appear unto the people. Truly, I say unto you, They exhaust their reward;” i.e., they receive the praise and commendation of the people, which is all they will ever get, as they have no reward in heaven. Consequently they completely exhaust their reward in this world. “And when you may pray, enter into your closet, and having closed your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father, seeing in secret, will reward you.” Secret prayer is one of the surest indices of true piety. Our Savior used to go away alone, and pray all night. The reason why I always lodge alone in my peregrinations is, that I may have ample time for secret prayer. “But praying, use not vain repetitions, as the heathens do; for they think they shall he heard in their much speaking.” Mohammedan and heathen priests will spend whole days in their temples, repeating their prayers over and over. The same is largely true with the Greek and Latin priests and all of the Oriental Churches. These prolix and repetitious prayers and ceremonies, along with Church machinery of all sorts, are vain attempts to substitute for the Holy Ghost. When services are truly spiritual, they are never encumbered with these vain repetitions. In this way Sunday-schools, prayermeetings, and all sorts of social meetings, as well as the Sunday services, are literally killed out, till they become a dead routine, without edification or inspiration. If you will guard this one point, the interest will never flag. Thunder without lightning never does any execution. Whether you pray, testify, sing, exhort, or preach, it must be done with life and energy, and in the Spirit, or the effect will be negative rather than positive, becoming a dead weight on the machinery. If the prayer or testimony had occupied but two minutes instead of ten, using all the lightning and simply omitting the superfluous thunder, execution would follow every time. There is a volume of truth in this one short sentence, spoken by our Savior, “Use not vain repetitions,” neither literal nor substantial. “Therefore be not like unto them, for your Father knows of what things you have need before you ask Him.” Then why should we ask Him? He extends this peculiar courtesy to our free agency, which He has given us, that He has made the petition the antecedent of the blessing, our asking being a simple act of our free volition. Such is His respect for our free agency, that He will not save us against our will.

THE DISCIPLES’ PRAYER

Our Savior, in signal mercy, has left all of His disciples without excuse, giving us the very form and phraseology with which He would have us pray. If every Church member would lead in prayer, promptly, responsive to the opportunity, the whole Church would always be full of life and availability, and never backsliding; but always move forward, like an army with banners, conquering and to conquer. Not one can possibly frame an excuse for not praying orally when called on, as all can commit to memory this brief form left us by our Savior. In that case, you would soon find the Spirit leading you out, and putting in your mouth more words and phrases than you find in this form, which is simply given as a basis on which to build your superstructure. People starve their own souls, and dry the Church into a crackling, because they will not lead in prayer. They ought to be down at the altar seeking the grace of God, as the difficulty is not intellectual, but spiritual. Our Savior taught His disciples to pray. How dare a preacher in charge of a congregation, thus occupying the place of the Great Pastor, as His subordinate, neglect his inalienable duty to teach his people to pray? As this is the only panoply with which they can successfully fight the devil and come off conqueror in the end, terrible will be the responsibility of that delinquent pastor, when his members meet him at the judgment-bar, unprepared for the terrible ordeal. It is the inexcusable duty of every pastor to teach all of his members to pray orally as well as secretly. If they rebel against this privilege, he should then preach to them the thunder and lightning of Sinai till they see hell open and the devil after them, get convicted, so they can neither eat nor sleep, tumble down at the altar, and stay till they get truly converted. Then he will have no trouble to teach them how to pray. “Therefore after this manner pray ye: Our Father, who art in the heavens, hallowed by Thy name.” This would preclude all irreverent and frivolous mention of His adorable Name, which is only to be uttered in most profound veneration for His majesty and realization of His eternal and absolute sovereignty. “Thy kingdom come.” The kingdom of God is the magnitudinous conception of the universe, predicted by the old prophets, proclaimed by John the Baptist, preached by the Savior and His apostles as a present gracious reality, whose doors redeeming mercy has thrown wide open to the brokenhearted fugitive from Satan's miserable slavery. Church and kingdom are counterparts of the same grand reality, the former meaning the called out and the latter the Divine government. When we hear the call of the Holy Ghost and come out of this wicked world, leaving it, with all its iniquities, debaucheries, sins, and crimes, then we are members of the gospel Church, and proper subjects for the Divine administration, which is the kingdom of God. While Church is subjective, kingdom is objective, each one constituting a hemisphere of that grand globe — i.e., the redemptive scheme — from beginning to end. As this prayer is given to the disciples, who are already citizens of the gracious kingdom, therefore this coming kingdom must in some way differ from the kingdom of grace, of which every real saint is a member. Our Savior said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” He did not say that it would never be of this world in the sense that it will take it in. Then what do we mean by the kingdom coming? We simply mean that the kingdom of God, of which we, through His redeeming grace, are members, and which embraces and rules over all the celestial worlds, is also coming to this world, to conquer k and add it to the Celestial Empire; so our glorious King will actually reign from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same; yea,

“He shall have dominion o'er river, sea, and shore, Far as the eagle's pinion or dove's light wing can soar.”

While very few preachers are preaching the “coming kingdom,” I am glad they are all praying for it, as they all use this prayer, delegated to us by Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. “Thy will be done as in heaven even upon the earth.” Here you have a beautiful revelation, setting forth the gospel standard of Christian experience and life; i.e., we are to do our Heavenly Father’s will like the angels and redeemed spirits do it in heaven. None but those who in this world are living the life of heaven will go to heaven when they die, as death has no power to change the character, but only the state. Our immortal spirits live right through physical death, and subsequently without undergoing any moral change, as death does not affect us spiritually in any way, but only physically. Hence, you see clearly and indubitably that entire sanctification is the New Testament standard of Christian discipleship. As in heaven no sin is committed in thought, word, or deed, but all delightfully do the will of the Father, so it must be on earth with all the candidates for heaven. “Give us this day our daily bread.” As the soul is infinitely superior and more important than the body in every respect, this is not to be construed as simply involving physical sustenance, but infinitely and pre-eminently spiritual pabulum. “Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.” The true Greek has aphekamen, “have already forgiven,” the perfect tense, and not the present as E.V. Now it is certain, if you do not ask forgiveness, you will never get it. While that is strictly true, be sure you do not forget that asking God to forgive you will never amount to anything unless you have already forgiven everybody who has transgressed against you, or is in any way indebted to you. This is the great secret of the power everywhere lost by Churches and individuals. They have not forgiven everybody, consequently their prayers are solemn mockery in the sight of God. They are under condemnation and on their way to endless ruin. “But they have not asked me to forgive them.” That has nothing to do with your justification before God. If you do not forgive them, asked or unasked, you had better never have been born, as you are certain never to get a petition up to the Mercyseat. “Should holy people, who have been pardoned and sanctified, and are now so kept by the grace of God as to live holy lives, committing no sin in thought, word, or deed, offer this prayer to God?” Most assuredly.

Sins are of three kinds — actual, original, and unknown. In the old dispensation, sins of ignorance needed a sacrifice. The most holy people are liable to sins of ignorance — i.e., mistakes and blunders — all of which need the atonement. While sanctifying grace, with its extraordinary illuminations, is a wonderful fortification against these infirmities — i.e., unknown transgressions of the perfect law — yet we will never be free from sins of ignorance this mortal puts on immortality, and glorification sweeps away all of our infirmities, enabling us to enter heaven in the enjoyment of the angelic perfection, which precludes all infirmities, as the unfallen angels never had any. “Lead us not into temptation.” This is an Orientalism for “Suffer us not to go into temptation,” as Eliezer said to Bethuel and Laban, “Send me away,” when he simply meant, “Let me go.” In this petition we have a full recognition of the Divine leadership, which God administers, through His Word, Spirit, and providence; to which, if we are true, we will never encounter temptation greater than we can bear; the temptation itself, in that case, proving a blessing, as we gain strength by the conflict and courage by the victory. “But deliver us from the evil one,” i.e., the devil. The E.V. here, “Deliver us from evil,” is entirely too weak, using the abstract instead of the concrete, which we have in tou ponerou, the words of our Savior, which literally mean the “evil one “ i.e., Satan himself. So we have here the wonderful consolation assured by the infallible promise of our Omnipotent Savior to answer the prayer He has given us; i.e., deliver us, not only from all evil, but from Satan himself, thus enabling us actually to get rid of the devil. O what a glorious privilege, and how few realize it! The pulpits are so utterly befogged that they preach us a standard so low as to never let the people even think of getting rid of the devil, their glorious felicity in the triumphs of their Omnipotent Savior. This is the conclusion of the prayer, the doxology in E.V. not appearing in the original, hut evidently being an interpolation.

“For if you forgive the people their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you forgive not the people, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” The plan of salvation, fundamentally and ultimately, contemplates our assimilation to God. A true repentance, which is the foundation of all hopeful salvation, so smashes up the stony heart as to superinduce a gushing, spontaneous forgiveness, reaching out indiscriminately to everybody and everything. Without this genuine, radical repentance, the most eloquent prayers will never avail. Hence, before we approach a Throne of Grace, we must literally clear up everything. O, how adroitly Satan, at this point, locks the wheels of Zion, till the train gets stockstill, then strategically reversing the motion, starts them down the Black Valley Railroad, and they land in hell, looking out for heaven!

“But when you fast, be not like the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, in order that they may appear unto the people fasting. Truly, I say unto you, They exhaust their reward.” The poor hypocrites get no reward in the world to come, but the retribution of a lost soul. Hence the commendation of the people, the social privileges and favors in this world, are all they get. Fasting is a means of grace, helpful to spiritually, and here so recognized by the Savior. Away with the modern dogma which would depreciate or do away with fasting as a means of grace! All truly spiritual people have so tested and proved the blessing of fasting as to be ready witnesses when that Bible doctrine is assailed. The Orientals make great demonstration, fasting and mourning for the dead, with their apparel unchanged, hair uncombed, all ablutions for cleanliness and comfort being neglected. “But thou, fasting, anoint thy head, and wash thy face, in order that thou may not appear unto the people fasting, but to thy Father who is in secret, and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” Who is a hypocrite? The word simply means an actor on the theatrical stage, who performs a part in which he represents another person, entirely different from himself. Hence all the people who simply act out — i.e., play religion — are hypocrites. It is very deplorable to hear a man stand in the pulpit and unblushingly preach that religion is simply something to be done, instead of a Divine reality to be received into the heart, giving us a new nature, and so utterly transforming and revolutionizing us, as in every case, to superinduce a radical change of life and deportment, not assumed, but spontaneously, lovingly, and joyfully verified in the regenerated and sanctified life. No wonder Churches get filled up with hypocrites, when the preacher boldly proclaims to them salvation by their own good works, which he calls obedience, thus actually preaching to them downright hypocrisy. The Church was full of hypocrites in our Savior's time, as we plainly see from His ministry; i.e., people who are depending on works to save them, and at the same time strangers to the experimental reality.

HEAVENLY TREASURE

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Nothing but immortal souls and glorified bodies can go to heaven. Therefore, all the time and money we expend on transitory things are lost in eternity. True wisdom would concentrate all the powers and resources of mind, spirit, body, and estate in the salvation of souls.

“Man wants but little here, Nor wants that little long.”

We will get through this world some way. Therefore our only opportunity to lay up a reward for the future is to invest it in human souls, and take them to heaven. “The light of the body is the eye. If thine eye may be pure, the whole body shall be lighted; but if thine eye may be evil, the whole body shall be dark. And if the light which is in thee is darkness, how great is the darkness!” The eye is the most important of the five physical senses, and when pure — i.e., free from disease — it illuminates the whole body; while the body of a blind man is enveloped in rayless night. The soul has the five senses like the body — i.e., sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch — of which sight is the most important. A dead man does not see, though he has eyes. All sinners are dead, and wrapped in the black night of perdition, though they have eyes. In regeneration, the light comes to the eye of the soul, hut not clear and cloudless till sanctified wholly.

GOD & MAMMON

“No one is able to serve two masters; for he will hate the one and love the other, or he will cleave to the one and despise the other. You are not able to serve God and mammon.” Here is the salient issue on which turns the weal or woe of every human being. Since Satan captured the world in the fall, it is antagonistical to God. Comparatively few succeed in so appropriating redeeming grace and sanctifying power as to rise superior to all the charms and emoluments of this fallen world and take God for their portion. With God, they not only have this world so far as it is possible for it to be a blessing to them, but multitudes of bright, heavenly worlds, infinitely more valuable and enjoyable than this. But Satan manages to keep before the eye a constant panorama of this world, shown up in an utterly false light, with greatest possible carnal allurements, while he maneuvers cunningly to keep a black veil before the eye, obstructing every attempt to look away and catch the light of the bright, celestial spheres, which shine with a glory so ineffable as to throw this poor, fallen world into total eclipse if we could only once apprehend even a glimpse of the unutterable splendor and beauty!

WARNING AGAINST SOLICITUDE

“Therefore, I say unto you, Be not solicitous for your soul, what you may eat, nor your body, as to what you may be clothed; is not the soul more than food, and the body more than raiment?” The Greek psyche, “soul,” here occurring, includes animal life — i.e., the life of the body-for whose perpetuation food is needed. “Look toward the fowls of the firmament, because they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your Heavenly Father feedeth them; are ye not much more valuable than they?” The conclusion from this statement of our Savior is, that we should trust God to feed us like He feeds the birds, who neither sow, nor reap, nor gather into barns. It does not follow that we shall not sow, reap, and store the fruits of the earth; but it does follow that we are to be perfectly free from solicitude, resigned to the good providence of God, who never forgets any of us. The E.V. here, “Take no thought,” is misleading, as we can not do our work without giving it reasonable attention. But the word of our Savior simply means that we should be perfectly free from all of that worrying solicitude which fills the mind with anxious cares, and distracting fears, and foreboding anticipations of coming calamities, especially poverty and starvation, developing a state of solicitude and anxiety, which is incompatible with that perfect spiritual repose we must all have in Jesus, in order to be sanctified wholly, and utilize our full resources of soul, mind, and body for the salvation of the world and the glorification of God, who wants us to be free and happy as the birds of paradise. “Which one of you, being solicitous, is able to add one moment to his existence?” The “cubit to the stature,” as in E.V., adding eighteen to twenty-two inches to your height, would make you monstrous, and be undesirable. Hence no one is solicitous for that, while all are prone to solicitude for life prolonged. “And why are you solicitous concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin. But I say unto you, That Solomon, in all his glory, was not arrayed as one of these.” In that day, when they had no factories, clothing was scarce and costly as we can hardly now conceive. Hence it ranked along with gold and silver and other valuables, the poorer classes, and among them God's prophets

— e.g., Elijah, Elisha, and John the Baptist, the greatest of prophets wearing the rough, shaggy mantle woven out of camels' hair. Now, how beautiful the illustration of Jesus, calling attention to the lilies growing in the valleys, and challenging comparison with the royal robes of King Solomon, the greatest and most celebrated monarch of the world, at the same time giving His verdict in favor of these beautiful and lovely lilies! “And if God so clothes the verdure of the field, living today and tomorrow cast into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O ye of little faith?” As we look round we see forests blooming, gardens smiling, and fields wrapped in the radiant splendors of nature's ineffable beauty, now let us remember that no factory on earth can equal these beauties. Yet as we are infinitely more valuable than the flowers that bloom, and the green grass that wraps the fields with its carpet of verdure, beautified with floral splendor, let us remember that God wants to adorn us with robes of beauty which outshine all of these; i.e., with the blood-washed mantles of entire sanctification, shining with the beauty of holiness, the admiration of angels unfallen and saints redeemed. “Then be not solicitous, saying, What must we eat? or What shall we drink? or With what shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the heathen seek; for your Heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” When we are solicitous about the necessaries of life, we are like the heathens who know not God. The children of the loving Heavenly Father ought to have such confidence in His parental affection and care as to live utterly free from all solicitude. O how the Church of the present age needs the appropriation and utilization of this wonderful truth! What a shame to be living like the heathens, who look directly to the necessaries of life instead of looking to God, resting in Him, receiving in Him all things needful for this life and that which is to come, and daily realizing that in Him we live, and move, and have our being!

“But seek ye first the kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Do you not see here you have a check on heaven's bank for everything you need in this world, if you will only seek the kingdom and the righteousness of God, which is true holiness? You enter the kingdom in regeneration; in sanctification you receive the righteousness of God. O what a sun-burst of glory on the suffering and troubled millions of earth! Instead of seeking after all these temporal blessings — food, raiment, home, education, books, friends, social position, and earthly achievements — seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and He will add to you all these other things, so far as in His omniscient wisdom He sees that they will be a blessing to you. What an awful blunder is made by the multitude, running after transitory things and neglecting God! Here you see the first thing that we are to seek, when launched into mortal existence, is the kingdom and righteousness of God, with the positive assurance that these temporal blessings shall also be added. “Therefore be not solicitous in reference to tomorrow; for tomorrow will be solicitous for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil of the same.” Will we never cease from this awful, pernicious habit of borrowing trouble from the future? The most of trouble I ever had, I never had.

I borrowed it from the future, and it never came. O what a trick of the enemy, to wear us out with solicitude about coming troubles which never do come! Praise the Lord, I have long ago quit borrowing trouble from the future. Will you not quit too? Our Savior is a powerful preacher on entire sanctification, which is the only possible remedy for this worrying solicitude, thus giving us perfect rest in Jesus; so, like a tired infant reposing in its mother's arms, we rest each fleeting moment, leaving time and eternity with Him who loves us so dearly that He is certain to manage everything for our good and His glory.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Matthew 6:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/matthew-6.html.

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Sunday, December 8th, 2019
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