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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Matthew 7

 

 

Verse 1-2

Matthew 7:1-2. Judge not — Our Lord now proceeds to warn us against the chief hinderances of holiness. And how wisely does he begin with judging! Wherein all young converts are so apt to spend that zeal which is given them for better purposes. He must be understood as forbidding all rash and unfavourable judgments, whether of the characters of others in general, or of their actions in particular, glancing, probably, in these as also in some other expressions in this chapter, on the character of the Pharisees, who were very culpable on this head, as appears from divers passages in the gospels, such as Luke 18:9-14; Luke 16:14-15; John 7:47-49, (compare also Isaiah 65:5,) and their unjust censures of Christ. Our Lord’s words imply, Judge not those about you in a rigorous and severe manner; nor pass unnecessary or uncharitable censures upon them, as many of your countrymen are in the habit of doing: nay, judge not any man, without full, clear, and certain knowledge of the blameableness of his conduct, nor without absolute necessity, and a spirit of tender love. That ye be not judged — Yourselves with the like severity. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged — Of God and man. “If you judge charitably, making proper allowances for the frailties of your brethren, and are ready to pity and pardon their faults, God and man will deal with you in the same kind manner; but if you always put the worst construction on every thing that it will bear, and are not touched with the feeling of your brother’s infirmities, and show no mercy in the opinions you form of his character and actions, no mercy will be shown to you from any quarter; God will treat you as you deserve, in the just judgment he shall pass upon your actions, and the world will be sure to retaliate the injury.” — Macknight. And with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again — Awful words! So we may, as it were, choose for ourselves, whether God shall be severe or merciful to us. God and man will favour the candid and benevolent: but they must expect judgment without mercy, who have showed no mercy.


Verses 3-5

Matthew 7:3-5. And why beholdest thou the mote, &c. — In particular, why do you open your eyes to any fault of your brother, while you yourself are guilty of a much greater? — The word καρφος, here rendered mote, according to Hesychius, may signify a little splinter of wood. This, and the beam, its opposite, were proverbially used by the Jews to denote, the one, small infirmities, the other, gross, palpable faults. And how wilt thou say, &c. — With what face can you undertake to reprove others for smaller faults, while you are guilty of much greater yourself, and are neither sensible of them, nor have the integrity to amend them? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam, &c. — It is mere hypocrisy to pretend zeal for the amendment of others, while we have none for our own. Correct, therefore, the errors of thy judgment, and the enormities of thy life. And then — When that which obstructed thy sight is removed, thou shalt see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye — And mayest attempt it with more decency, and a greater probability of success. We may lay it down as a fixed and certain truth that the more we advance in genuine piety and virtue ourselves, we shall be the better able to form a correct judgment of the conduct of others, and the better qualified, both in point of skill and authority, to reprove and reform any thing that we may see amiss in their dispositions or behaviour. Our judgment of their character and actions will be the more charitable, and for that reason so much the more just: our rebukes will be the more mild, prudent, and winning; and our authority to press a reformation upon them so much the more weighty. “How happy would the world be, if all who teach the Christian religion would conscientiously observe the precept given them here by their Master.”


Verse 6

Matthew 7:6. Give not, &c. — Even when the beam is cast out of thine own eye. Give not that which is holy unto dogs — That is, talk not of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin; neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul, to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches. Talk not of high degrees of holiness, for instance, to the former; nor of your own experience to the latter. But our Lord does in no wise forbid us to reprove, as occasion is, both the one and the other. There is a transposition in the latter clauses of this verse, where, of the two things proposed, the latter is first treated of. The sense is, Give not — to dogs — lest, turning, they rend you. Cast not — to swine, lest they trample them under their feet.


Verses 7-11

Matthew 7:7-11. Ask, &c. — The exhortation contained in these verses may be considered as connected with the caution given in those immediately preceding, and then the sense of it will be, If you be at a loss to know who are and who are not proper subjects of reproof or admonition; or to whom you may with propriety speak of the higher truths of Christianity, even of those of experimental religion, and therefore want wisdom to guide you in these difficulties, ask, and it shall be given you, &c. Or the passage may refer to the whole preceding discourse, and Christ might intend thereby to prevent his disciples from being discouraged by the holiness of the doctrine, and the strictness of the precepts he had been inculcating, and therefore thus directs them to apply to God for supernatural aid; and assures them, if they did so with fervency, importunity, and perseverance, they should not apply in vain. But, independent of their connection with what precedes or follows in this most admirable sermon, these verses contain a most important direction and encouraging exhortation to the people of God to seek help of him in all difficulties whatsoever, and all those aids of his Spirit, and other blessings necessary to their salvation. Seek, and ye shall find — Add to your asking your own diligent endeavours in the use of all other appointed means; and knock — Persevere importunately in that diligence, and your efforts shall not be in vain. What you ask shall be given you, provided you ask what is agreeable to God’s will: the spiritual blessings which you seek, in this way, you shall find: and the door of mercy and salvation, at which you knock, shall certainly be opened to you. For every one that thus asketh, receiveth, &c. — Such is the goodness and faithfulness of God to his children.

Our Lord next, to give his followers greater assurance of obtaining from God the blessings which they should ask and seek aright, illustrates the divine goodness by reminding them of the imperfect goodness and bounty of men to their offspring. What man is there of you, or, among you; τις εστιν εξ υμων ανθρωπος. The words are very emphatical, and give great strength to our Lord’s argument. As if he had said, I appeal to yourselves, is there a man among you, in all this numerous assembly, who, if his son ask bread of him, will give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, &c. — Can you imagine any father could be so unnatural as to deny necessary supplies to his hungry child; and instead thereof give him what would be useless or hurtful, would starve or poison him? Consider, “if the wickedest wretches among yourselves, the most peevish, weak, and ill-natured of you all, will readily give good gifts to their children when they cry for them, how much rather will the great God, infinite in goodness, bestow blessings on his children who endeavour to resemble him in his perfections, and for that end ask his grace and other spiritual and heavenly blessings?” If ye then, being evil — If you, imperfect and evil as you are, and some of you tenacious, froward, and unkind, yet know, being taught by natural affection, to give good gifts to your children — If you find your hearts disposed and ready to communicate the best of what you have for their relief and sustenance, how much more will your almighty and most beneficent Father in heaven, who has a perfect knowledge of all your wants, and can with perfect ease supply them, and who himself has wrought in your hearts these benevolent dispositions, be ready to exceed you in so expressing his kindness, as freely to give all needful good things to them that by fervent prayer ask them of him.


Verse 12

Matthew 7:12. Therefore all things, &c. — As if he had said, But it is only on this condition that he will give, and continue to give them, viz., that ye follow the example of his equity and benevolence, that you imitate the God of love; that, being “animated by his goodness, you study to express your gratitude for it by your integrity and kindness to your fellow-creatures, treating them, in every instance, as you would think it reasonable to be treated by them, if you were in their circumstances and they in yours: for this is, in effect, a summary and abstract of all the human and social virtues recommended in the moral precepts of the law and the prophets, and it was one of the greatest ends of both to bring men to this equitable and amiable temper. I say, one of the greatest, that this may be reconciled with our Lord’s declaring the love of God to be the first and great commandment, Matthew 22:38. And, indeed, it is a most absurd and fatal error to imagine, that the regulation of social life is the only end of religion.” — Doddridge. Thus far proceeds the doctrinal part of this sermon. In the next verse begins the exhortation to practise it.


Verse 13

Matthew 7:13. Enter ye in at the strait gate — The gate of true conversion, of self-denial, mortification, and universal holiness; the gate in at which few, comparatively speaking, are inclined to enter. “How strait,” says Erasmus, in his paraphrase on the place, “is the gate, how narrow the way that leadeth to life! In the way, nothing is to be found that flatters the flesh, but many things opposite to it, poverty, fasting, watching, injuries, chastity, sobriety. And as for the gate, it receives none that are swollen with the glory of this life; none that are elated and lengthened out with pride; none that are distended with luxury; it does not admit those that are laden with the fardels of riches, nor those that drag along with them the other implements of the world. None can pass through it but naked men, who are stripped of all worldly lusts, and who, having, as it were, put off their bodies, are emaciated into spirits, which is the reason that it is sought after by so few.” For wide is the gate — The gate of impenitence and unbelief, of carnal affections and fleshly lusts. This gate is obvious to all, and there is no need to seek it: men come to it of course; and broad, ευρυχωρος, spacious, is the way — Of vanity and sin, of evil dispositions, words, and actions; and many there be which go in thereat — Many, yea, the greater part of mankind, evidently appear to enter in at that gate, and to walk in that way. Because strait is the gate — Here our Lord assigns the reason why so many enter in at the wide gate, and walk in the broad way: it is because the other gate is strait, and the way narrow, therefore they do not love either the one or the other; they prefer a wider gate, and a broader way; a gate which is entered without difficulty, and a way in which men may walk without either self-denial or taking up the cross, and in which they find abundance of company.


Verse 15-16

Matthew 7:15-16. Beware of false prophets — Who in their preaching describe a broad way to heaven: it is their prophesying, their teaching the broad way, rather than walking in it themselves, that is here chiefly spoken of. All those are false prophets who teach any other way than that which our Lord hath here marked out. Who come to you in sheep’s clothing — With a form of godliness and fair professions of love; but inwardly they are ravening wolves — Not feeding but destroying souls; feeding themselves by the destruction of the flock. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing,” says Doddridge, is “grown into a proverb for a wicked man that makes a great profession of religion, yet cannot dissemble so well as not to be discovered by attentive observation; which was just the character of the Pharisees in our Saviour’s days.” Ye shall know them by their fruits — “A short, plain, easy rule,” says Mr. Wesley, “whereby to know true from false prophets: and one that may be applied by people of the meanest capacity, who are not accustomed to deep reasoning. True prophets convert sinners to God; or at least confirm and strengthen those that are converted. False prophets do not. They also are false prophets who, though they may declare the very truth, and that clearly and fully, yet do not adorn, but bring a reproach upon it by their unholy conduct; and therefore are not sent of God by his Spirit, but come in their own name to declare God’s word: hence, which is their grand mark, they do not turn men from the power of Satan unto God. Do men gather grapes of thorns, &c. — Can it be expected by you, in a common way, that you should reap spiritual advantage, or should obtain religious improvement, from the teaching of wicked men, or of men whom God has not called to that work?


Verses 17-20

Matthew 7:17-20. Even so — As grapes are not reaped from thorns, or figs from thistles, but the fruit will always be agreeable in its nature and kind to the tree that produces it; so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit — Scriptural doctrine, declared by holy men called of God to the work of the ministry, will certainly be more or less instrumental in turning men from the evil of their ways; and every minister of Christ, or even private Christian, who is renewed in the spirit of his mind, and made a tree of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, will bring forth the fruits of righteousness, to the praise and glory of God. For, in this respect, the fruits that men produce will certainly be answerable to the actual state and disposition of their hearts. Nor can it indeed be otherwise in the nature of things. For a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit — To do so would be to act contrary to its nature. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit — To bring which forth there is no aptitude or tendency in its vicious nature. Every tree that — After a fair and competent time of trial; bringeth not forth good fruit — But either produces none, or none but what is pernicious or useless; is hewn down — How fair and flourishing soever it may seem to be; and cast into the fire — To its utter destruction. Such will be the end of hypocritical professors, and all ungodly men, especially ungodly ministers: they shall assuredly be overtaken by the righteous judgment of God.


Verse 21

Matthew 7:21. Not every one, &c. — The Lord Jesus, having declared the whole counsel of God, with regard to the way of salvation, and observed the chief hinderances of those who desire to walk therein, now closes the whole with these and the following weighty words; thereby, as it were, setting his seal to his prophecy, and impressing his whole authority on what he had delivered, that it might stand firm to all generations: that saith, Lord, Lord — That is, that makes a mere profession of my religion, that gives me the title of Lord and Master, or claims an interest in me as his Lord; that calls upon me and pretends to learn of me as a Teacher, to rely on me as a Saviour, to obey me as a Lawgiver, be subject to me as a King and Governor; shall enter into the kingdom of heaven — Shall be acknowledged as a true member of the church militant, or be admitted into the church triumphant. Some that say unto Christ, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, being his true disciples; but every one that does so shall not: None, indeed, shall, as Christ here declares, but such as endeavour to fulfil the whole will of God in faith and holiness, viz., that will which is described in this sermon. They that make it their care to understand the doctrine here declared, to experience the graces here delineated, to perform the duties here enjoined, to shun the hinderances here guarded against, and to embrace the helps here recommended, — they that thus comply with this holy, acceptable, and perfect will of God, shall be acknowledged loyal subjects of Christ’s kingdom here, and shall undoubtedly be admitted to reign with him hereafter.


Verse 22-23

Matthew 7:22-23. Many will say to me in that day — Many, both preachers and hearers, both ministers and people, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? — Have we not declared the mysteries of thy kingdom; preached excellent sermons; written edifying books; explained and enforced the doctrines of thy word, even the prophecies thereof, and shown their fulfilment: nay, have we not ourselves foretold future events, and in thy name have cast out devils — From those possessed by them, and done many wonderful works — Even miracles of mercy as well as of judgment? Then will I profess unto them, I never knew you — Though I called you to be my servants, and you professed yourselves such, I never knew you to be such, nor approved of you. So that even the working of the greatest miracles, and the uttering the most undoubted prophecies, is not a sufficient proof that a man possesses saving faith, nor will any thing of that kind avail to prove that we are now accepted of God, or are in the way to meet with acceptance of him at the day of final accounts, without the faith productive of true and universal holiness. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity — For none can enter heaven but those that are saved from their sins on earth. If we die in our sins, where Jesus is we cannot come.


Verses 24-27

Matthew 7:24-27. Therefore, whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, &c. — In these words our Lord attests, in the most solemn manner, the certain truth and infinite importance of all he had delivered in the foregoing sermon, and applies it to the consciences of his hearers. Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them — Whosoever he be that hears, considers, understands, believes, and obeys the doctrine which I have now taught you; I will liken him unto a wise man which built his house upon a rock — Whatever his former conduct may have been, being now brought to repentance and amendment of life, and becoming a new creature, he lays a solid foundation for present comfort and everlasting security and joy. Observe well, reader, although other foundation for confidence toward God, and a hope of eternal life, can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ, 1 Corinthians 3:11; yet we pretend in vain to build on him, if we do not obey his doctrine, and make it the rule of our whole conduct. Therefore there is no inconsistency between the doctrine here advanced by our Lord, and that of the apostle in the passage just quoted; nor between the same apostle’s declaring, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Circumcision is nothing, &c., but the keeping of the commandments of God; and his asserting to the Galatians, chap. Matthew 5:6, That nothing availeth but faith which worketh by love. For the faith he speaks of is always followed by obedience to the commandments of God, of which it is the root and principle. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and beat upon that house — These words of our Lord imply that every man’s religion, with the confidence and hope which he builds thereon, must, sooner or later, be severely tried; and it fell not, for it was founded on a rock — Thus the religion of the true, practical Christian, with all his present comforts and future hopes, remains firm and unshaken, how severely and violently soever it may be assaulted. And every one that heareth these sayings, and doeth them not — Who is a mere hearer of the word, and not a doer of it, how constantly soever he may attend to hear it, and whatever zeal he may profess for the doctrine he hears; shall be likened unto a foolish man, &c. — A man possessed of neither foresight nor consideration; who built his house upon the sand — Without taking any care to find or lay a firm foundation for it, as if he were sure that no wintry storm or tempest would ever assail it. And the rain descended, &c. and beat upon that house, and it fell — For the foundation being bad, neither the height of the structure, nor its wide dimensions, could be any security to it: and great was the fall of it — Even as great as the building had been. “A lively emblem,” says Doddridge, “of the ruin which will another day overwhelm the unhappy man who trusts to an outward profession and form of godliness, when he does not sincerely and practically regard it.”


Verse 28-29

Matthew 7:28-29. And the people were astonished at his doctrine — Struck with wonder, having never heard such doctrine before, nor any doctrine on religious subjects, delivered with such solemnity and sweetness, or with such force and energy. Christ’s words, it appears, made a wonderful impression on their minds. For he taught them as one having authority — With a dignity and majesty peculiar to himself, as the great lawgiver, and with the demonstration and power of the Spirit; and not as the scribes — Their established teachers, “whose lectures, for the most part, were absolutely trifling; being drawn from tradition, or from the comments of other doctors, which these ignorant and corrupt teachers substituted in the place of Scripture, reason, and truth.” — Macknight.

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 7:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-7.html. 1857.

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Monday, January 27th, 2020
the Third Week after Epiphany
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