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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Matthew 7

 

 

Introduction

Matthew 5-7. The Sermon on the Mount.—This is the first of five blocks in which Mt. collects the greater part of the words of Jesus. He places it here in view of Mark 1:21. Attempts to locate the mountain or the exact time are useless in view of the fact that the sermon is a collection of material, not a discourse spoken in one place at one time.


Verses 1-5

Matthew 7:1-5. Against Judging (Luke 6:37 f., Luke 6:41 f.)·—Mt. here returns (from Matthew 5:48) to the Sermon as it stood in Q. The subjects of the kingdom are warned against a censorious habit of mind; judging involves judgment, ultimate and Divine, or (as Mt. interprets it) present and human. Note how Lk. in the parallel to Matthew 7:2 goes on to enjoin a kindly bearing towards others. Matthew 7:3-5 illustrates the warning of Matthew 7:1.—mote: a piece of dry wood or straw, a chip or splinter. Cf. the Rabbinic proverb, "He who accuses another of a fault has it himself," and Romans 2:1. The censorious man is a hypocrite (Matthew 7:5), because his unkind criticism disguises itself as a kindly act.


Verse 6

Matthew 7:6. Dogs and Swine.—Lk. omits, as a reflection on Gentile readers. To the Jew, Gentiles were dogs, and careless Jews perhaps swine. The saying looks like a modification of the command not to judge; the disciple must exercise some discrimination (? in teaching).—that which is holy is a strange parallel to pearls; it may be a mistaken rendering of the Aramaic word for ear-rings. Didaché, ix., quotes the saying in forbidding the admission of the unbaptized to the Eucharist. Note the inverted parallelism; it is the swine that trample, the dogs that turn and bite.


Verses 7-11

Matthew 7:7-11. The Value of Prayer.—An interpolation with no relation to the context. It is more suitably placed in Luke 11:9-13. The emphasis is on asking, seeking, knocking; no conditions or limitations are mentioned, but we must perforce understand "Not as I will, but as Thou wilt." Seek and knock are pictorial illustrations of ask. Fish was, next to bread, the commonest article of diet round the Sea of Galilee; stones on the shore and perhaps water-snakes suggested themselves as substitutes. Lk. adds an egg and a scorpion. Evil is not simply stingy (Matthew 6:23*); compared with God even loving parents are evil.—good things is more original than Lk.'s "Holy Spirit"; it includes material as well as spiritual blessings.


Verse 12

Matthew 7:12. The Golden Rule (Luke 6:31).—In negative forms the thought is widely found both in Jewish and pagan sources. This loftier positive form we owe to Jesus. It is the quintessence of the "fulfilment" referred to in Matthew 5:17 and taught in the Sermon. Mt. uses it to round off the teaching, the remainder of the chapter being an epilogue.


Verses 13-27

Matthew 7:13-27. Epilogue.—Warnings and exhortations close the new Law, like the old (Exodus 23:20 ff.).

Matthew 7:13 f. The Two Gates and the Two Ways (Luke 13:24).—The picture is based on Jeremiah 21:8, and is frequent in Jewish and Christian writings. The way that leads to life (the word has eschatological force) involves difficulties and tribulation (cf. Acts 14:22).

Matthew 7:15-23. Fruit the Test of Profession.—Lk. (Luke 6:43-46; Luke 13:26 f.) speaks of unreality in personal religion; Mt. adapts the sayings into condemnations of false teachers, who profess to guide men to the way of fife, while really seeking their own advantage. For the proper sequence of thought read Matthew 7:19 (cf. Matthew 3:10) after Matthew 7:20.—A corrupt tree: the papyri show that the word corrupt does not here mean "rotten," but "unfit for food" (cf. Matthew 13:48, of fish). Evil as such cannot produce good (cf. Matthew 12:33 ff.). As a complement to this teaching we have instances where Jesus saw the possibilities of good in bad people.

Matthew 7:22 f. The character of the false teachers will be revealed in "that (last) day," a common eschatological expression. "Attempts to exorcise by the name of Jesus were both successful (Mark 9:38) and unsuccessful (Acts 19:13-16); unworthy Christians ‘preached Christ' (Philippians 1:17), and miracles of healing were probably wrought by the use of His name as a magical formula" (M'Neile).

Matthew 7:24-27. The Two Foundations (Luke 6:47-49).—The conclusion of the whole sermon. Note the greatness of the claim involved in these words of mine. For the rock as a metaphor for a state of safety cf. Psalms 27:5; there is no connexion with Matthew 16:18. The differences between Mt. and Lk. point to the free use of the parable by preachers in the early Church.


Verse 28

Matthew 7:28 f. An Editorial Note (cf. Matthew 11:1, Matthew 13:53, Matthew 19:1, Matthew 26:1).—Mt. uses this transition formula after each of his five chief groups of Christ's sayings. The multitudes were not present during the Sermon (Matthew 5:1), but Mt. here returns to the Marcan narrative (Mark 1:22).

"The teaching brought together by Mt. in the Sermon on the Mount provides for all the spiritual needs of men, covering the whole domain of the inner life. It regulates conduct for all time by asserting principles of universal application. It fixes the highest standards, and at the same time supplies the strongest motives for endeavouring to reach them. Love your enemies,—that ye may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven. Ye shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

"If it be objected that an attempt to reconstruct society on lines such as these is chimerical and as a matter of fact has never been realised, the answer is that the character which Christ sets before men and which He Himself exhibited is one which with us can have only its beginnings in the present world. He lived and would have men live, for the eternal and the infinite. The Kingdom of Heaven within us must ever be an ideal which is above our present efforts, pointing us to another state where it will have its perfect work. Meanwhile it is not inoperative or destitute of results. If the world has not yet been transfigured by the teaching of our Lord, no other teaching has done so much to make its crooked ways straight and its rough places plain. If the religion of Jesus Christ has not yet produced a perfect saint, it has planted in the lives of tens of thousands a principle which makes for perfection and will attain it, as our faith assures us, in the day when His Kingdom is fully realised."—Swete, Studies in the Teaching of Our Lord, p. 185f. Cf. Rufus Jones, The Inner Life.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Matthew 7:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/matthew-7.html. 1919.

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Wednesday, February 19th, 2020
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