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Bible Commentaries

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament
Matthew 7

 

 

Verse 1

Matthew 7:1. Judge not. This refers to harsh, unkind judgment, not to the mere formation of private opinion, or to judicial sentences.

That ye be not judged, not by other men, but by God. His judgment is more strict, and it takes special account of this harsh censorious spirit. The judgment of men often corresponds.


Verses 1-12

CONNECTION and CONTENTS. The connection is not obvious; no theory can be insisted upon. Various views: (1) No connection intended. (2) Matthew 7:7 is connected with the last chapter, while Matthew 7:1-5 were addressed directly to the Pharisees (who were showing signs of dissent), Matthew 7:6 to the disciples in regard to the Pharisees. Conjectural. (3) A contrast (so Lange): Be not surcharged with worldly cares for the morrow, but rather be filled with spiritual anxiety for the day of judgment. Not obvious, since Matthew 7:2; Matthew 7:12 are closely related to each other in thought (4) Matthew 7:1-12, grouped as a whole, referring to conduct toward our fellow men. The former part may have been addressed to the opposers; but the connection of thought is not to be broken by joining Matthew 7:7 directly with the last chapter. This we prefer. The line of thought, then, is: In this evil world (Matthew 6:34) where there is so much to provoke censoriousness, do not indulge in it, since it exposes you to judgment (Matthew 7:1-2); the folly and hypocrisy of it is shown by an illustration (Matthew 7:3-5); the extreme of laxity is quite as foolish (Matthew 7:6); remember, however, God’s kind and wise dealings (Matthew 7:7-11), and act thus kindly and wisely to others (Matthew 7:12), without censoriousness on the one hand, or casting pearls before swine on the other.


Verse 2

Matthew 7:2. For with what judgment, etc. Literally, ‘in what judgment;’ the ‘measure’ according to which God’s judgment will take place, namely, our own severe judgment. The second clause repeats the same idea, making it more general.


Verse 3-4

Matthew 7:3. And, since the principle of Matthew 7:2 is correct, why beholdest thou? The verb means to observe, to voluntarily stare at; the context shows that the one addressed could not have clear vision; the question indicates that such observing was unnecessary. The singular ‘thou’ is pointed, too much so for a direct address to the Pharisees present

The mote, or splinter; the foreign substance in the eye is of the same kind in both cases.

Considerest not, ‘apprehendest not’ Stronger word than ‘beholdest.’

The beam, a hyperbolical expression for a great fault, to show the relative magnitude. No reference to one class of sins. The ‘mote’ which might be overlooked is looked for, the ‘beam’ of which one must be conscious is not considered.

Matthew 7:4. Or how wilt thou say, have the face to say. A step in folly beyond that represented in the last verse.

Let me cast out (as in Matthew 7:5); ‘permit me, I will cast out.’ The friendly language presents the censoriousness as hypocritical. True to nature! The epithet of Matthew 7:5 is not abruptly introduced.


Verses 3-5

Matthew 7:3-5. A figurative application of the principle just laid down, showing the folly of sinners being censorious, their incapacity for forming a right judgment of others, hinting at the proportionate magnitude which our own faults and those of others should hold in our estimation.


Verse 5

Matthew 7:5. Thou hypocrite. Not necessarily the Pharisees, but any who thus act. Such action is hypocrisy before God and before the conscience also.—First, before meddling with others.

And then shalt thou see clearly. ‘See’ differs from ‘behold’ (Matthew 7:3). The look must be purified before it can be used for this end; one must have got rid of great faults before he can see ‘clearly’ enough to help his brother get rid of his faults. To get clearness of vision ourselves is the great end; caution is necessary in helping the brother.


Verse 6

Matthew 7:6. If the preceding verses were addressed to the opposing Pharisees, our Lord now turns to the disciples. We prefer to explain: Harsh judgment and unwise correction of others were reproved (Matthew 7:1-5); now comes a warning against laxity of judgment, childish ignorance of men. The two extremes often meet. The latter, no less than censoriousness, is an unwise attempt at the correction of others, and will be avoided by those who ‘see clearly.’

Give not that which is holy, i.e., the sacrificial meat, the provision of the priests, unto the dogs. These, regarded as specially unclean in the East, will receive it, but such giving will be a desecration.

Neither cast ye your pearls before the swine. Still more foolish; ‘the swine’ will not receive the ‘pearls,’ which are of no value to them, as they cannot eat them. A resemblance between pearls and the natural food of swine need not be assumed; the reference is to what is most precious. ‘The dogs’ and ‘the swine’ were both unclean, the former probably represent what is ‘low, unclean, heretical; the latter what is hostile, stubborn, and savage.’ Eastern dogs are more disgusting than ours, and eastern swine more savage. The rest of the verse applies only to the savage swine.

Lest they trample them under their feet. The pollution, not the destruction, of the precious things is represented.

And turn and rend you, turning from the precious pearls, or, turning upon you. The main reason urged is the defilement of what is precious; but the other danger follows. ‘Even saving truth must be withheld from those who would surely reject it with contempt and savage hatred’ (J. A. Alexander). Lange: ‘The dogs ultimately become swine, just as that which is holy is further designated as pearls, and the iniquity of the first action passes into the madness of the second. At last the full consequences appear, when the swine turn from the gift to the giver and rend the profane sinners.’ No encouragement, however, either to ‘cowardly suppression of the truth,’ or revenge against its rejectors. The Crusaders and others drew the latter inference. Pharisaism does not ‘cast out the beam,’ but often ‘casts away the pearls.’


Verse 7

Matthew 7:7. The thoughts of judgment and unworthiness (Matthew 7:1-6), might discourage; encouragement is given by showing God’s willingness to give. The objection to connecting this verse with chap. Matthew 5:34, is that it must then refer to temporal things. At the same time it shows that the trust there spoken of is a prayerful trust

Ask, and it shall be given to you etc. ‘Ask,’ ‘seek,’ ‘knock,’ refer to prayer, forming a climax. The first implies simple petition, the second earnest desire, the third perseverance. ‘To ask, indicates the want of an object, which can only be obtained by free gift; to seek, that it has been lost; to knocks that it has been shut up hence this prayer, which is both the work of life and the evidence of life.’ Others apply ‘ask’ to prayer, ‘seek’ to our endeavors, ‘knock’ to our investigation of the Scripture; the former explanation is simpler.


Verse 8

Matthew 7:8. For every one that asketh, etc. An invariable rule; a plain promise, not for the future, but for the present, since our Lord says: receiveth, findeth, it is opened. This promise, several times repeated by our Lord, is limited only by the verses which follow; comp., however, James 4:3, ‘Ye ask and receive not; because ye ask amiss.’ God always answers the right kind of prayer, but in His own right way.


Verse 9

Matthew 7:9. Or, to view the matter in another light, comparing God’s willingness with that of a human father.

What man is there of you, more exactly, ‘who is there among you, a man,’ a mere man.

Of whom, etc. In the Greek there are two questions, one broken off: ‘Whom his son shall ask for bread (and who shall—no), he will not give him a stone. The loaves or cakes, used in the East, resembled somewhat a smooth, flat stone. A deceptive answer is meant.


Verse 10

Matthew 7:10. A serpent. A response both deceptive and hurtful. We often deem the bread a stone, and the fish a serpent, misunderstanding God’s good gifts.


Verse 11

Matthew 7:11. If ye then, being evil. An argument from the less to the greater; ‘if,’ equivalent to ‘since.’ An incidental proof of hereditary sin and general depravity. Yet some elements of good remain, such as humanity and parental affection.

Good gifts to your children. This is the rule.

How much more. The difference is infinite.

Your Father who is in heaven. He was to be thus addressed in prayer (chap. Matthew 5:9); real prayer is based on this relation.

Good things. Luke 11:13, ‘the Holy Spirit,’ which is the best of the ‘good things;’ he who receives the Holy Spirit may expect all the rest, as far as ‘good’ for him. God gives good gifts only, and what He gives is always good.

To them that ask him. Prayer is the condition which God appoints; hence trust and prayer help each other, in fact coincide.


Verse 12

Matthew 7:12. Therefore. An inference from Matthew 7:1-11, summing up the duties to others: not censoriousness, nor laxity, but giving like God’s; as He gives good things to those asking Him, even so give to others what you would have them do. The precept is the counterpart of the promise. The correspondence between our acts and God’s, a warning in Matthew 7:1, becomes a precept, after the promise of his kind dealings. An echo of chap. Matthew 5:48, the culminating precept of the discourse; hence a fitting close to this section.

Even so do ye also to them. Not, ‘do these things,’ as the order of the common version suggests; but, ‘after this manner do ye also.’ Not, do to others what we would have them do to us (this might become mere barter); but, do to them what we think they would wish to have done to them.

For this is the law and the prophets. This golden rule is equivalent to ‘thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,’ but joined with the example of God’s giving, which implies supreme gratitude to Him, it is equivalent to the whole law. Comp. chap. Matthew 5:17, which introduced the moral precepts of the discourse.—The Golden Rule, though not without parallels in heathen ethics (in a negative form), is distinctively Christian. (1) It presents God’s benevolence as the guide of duty. (2) Hence it is positive (Do all the good you can to your neighbor), not negative (as the Rabbinical sentence: ‘Do not to your neighbor what is odious to you, for this is the whole law’). (3) It is taught by One who wrought as well as taught ‘righteousness,’ who died that we might ‘even so do also.’ The powerless teacher of correct ethics makes our case the more hopeless (comp. Romans 3:19; Romans 7:7-14); but Christ is ‘the Power of God,’ as well as ‘the Wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).


Verse 13

Matthew 7:13. Enter ye in by, or through, the narrow gate. The ‘gate’ is mentioned first; the way afterwards. It is the entrance gate at the beginning of the journey of life (the way), not the gate of heaven at the close. Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ is the best commentary on all such figures. Explanations: Repentance, faith, humility, self-denial, poverty in spirit (Matthew 7:3), the righteousness of Christ; the last is probably the best sense, in contrast with the self-righteousness of the Pharisees (the wide gate).

For wide is the gate and broad the way, etc. More attractive, more easy to find, and to follow. A reason (‘for’) why we must be exhorted to enter in by the narrow gate. To follow our natural tendencies is to pursue the broad way.

Destruction. The way leads to this; in one sense it is this already. Carnal Judaism led to the destruction of Jerusalem. Carnal Christianity passes on to similar judgment.


Verses 13-29

CONNECTION AND CONTENTS. The exposition of the requirements of ‘the law and the prophets’ just given, was far beyond the low morality of the scribes and Pharisees, and men might easily be tempted by their own hearts or by others to seek the easier way. Our Lord therefore concludes by urging His hearers to avoid the broad way and seek the narrow one marked out (Matthew 7:13-14); warns them against hypocritical teachers (Matthew 7:15-20), against self-deception (Matthew 7:21-23), and closes with two similitudes respecting those who obey and disobey His precepts (Matthew 7:24-27); Matthew 7:28-29, tell the impression produced by the discourse.—Contrasts: the narrow and wide gates; the straitened and broad ways; the good and corrupt trees, with their fruit; saying and doing; active in Christ’s name, yet working iniquity; the rock and the sand; the standing the storm and falling in the storm; teaching with authority and teaching as their scribes.


Verse 14

Matthew 7:14. Straitened (lit, ‘pressed together’) is the way. Even after we pass through the gate the Christian course continues difficult, is a constant conflict and self-denial, but it leadeth unto life. Eternal life which begins in this world, but is obtained in its fulness in eternity. The way to destruction is broad ‘because’ it is used by so many.

Few are they that find the straitened way. It is not even discovered by most, much less entered upon. This not because God has made it so ‘strait,’ but because so few desire to find it.


Verse 15

Matthew 7:15. Beware of false prophets, i.e.., teachers. Not only is the way straitened, but those who might leave the ‘many’ to find it are in danger from false teachers, such as would prevent them from finding it. The warning may refer to the false teachers shortly to arise from among the Jews, but applies to all.

That come to you. ‘False prophets’ are defined as those who do thus. They come ‘to you,’ to the professed disciples of Christ; more anxious to proselyte and pervert in the Church than to convert in the world, more meddlesome than missionary in their activity.

In sheep’s clothing. No allusion to the dress of the prophets, but referring to the harmless exterior, or to the external connection with God’s flock

Inwardly, or from within, acting according to their impulses, they are ravening wolves. The old destructive malice remains. The application of this strong (but not harsh) language to persons must be governed by what follows.


Verse 16

Matthew 7:16. By their fruits ye shall know them. This order is more emphatic. This common figure is carried out in detail in Matthew 7:17-19.

Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? The fruits most highly prized in the East. From teachers we are to look for valuable fruit; but false teachers can only bear after their kind (Matthew 7:17-18), they are ‘thorns’ and ‘thistles.’ The productions of the bushes here named are said to resemble slightly the fruits spoken of in each case; the harsh spirit of the false teachers has been compared to the sharpness of the thorns, and their proselyting spirit to the adhesive quality of the thistle. The main point is, however, the impossibility of getting good fruit from ‘fruitless and forbidding plants. ‘


Verse 17

Matthew 7:17. The general law of nature is here laid down positively: As the tree, so is the fruit. The principle holds good in the moral world.

Matthew 7:18 repeats the same truth, asserting the impossibility of its being otherwise. But while Matthew 7:16 refers to kinds of plants, these verses speak of individual trees.

Every good tree, i.e., of a good nature for bearing fruit.

Good fruit, of a good kind.

The corrupt tree, literally, ‘spoiled,’ but meaning here of a bad quality; evil fruit, of a bad kind like the tree. Our Lord applies the general law to men’s actions and their moral results; these are but manifestations of a moral nature, depraved or sanctified.


Verse 19

Matthew 7:19. The figure is carried further to show the awful destiny of the false teachers.

Every tree, irrespective of its kind in this case, that bringeth not forth good fruit, is entirely barren. All is here made dependent on the fruitfulness.—Is hewn down and cast into the fire. Such trees can only be used for fuel. The same language was used by John the Baptist (Matthew 3:10) in a wider application, which holds good still.


Verse 20

Matthew 7:20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Resumption of the thought of Matthew 7:16, which has been further illustrated. ‘Fruits,’ If in this case not ‘actions,’ as usually, the actions of the false teachers were decisive as to their character, there would be little danger of their deceiving others; ‘acts seemingly virtuous are often nothing more than the sheep’s clothing in which the wolf wraps himself in order that he may deceive and devour the sheep.’ (Wordsworth.) Their influence, the moral effect of their teaching, is meant. Their acts may be included, and also the influence exerted upon the doctrinal belief of others; not their own doctrines, however, which form the tree in a certain sense. The main test in the case of teachers is their influence upon the lives of others.


Verse 21

Matthew 7:21. A natural transition from false teachers to false profession and self-deception.

Not every one. The really pious profess Christ, but not all who profess are really pious. This answers a common objection urged against public profession from the number of hypocrites.

Lord, Lord, the repetition is emphatic. This word, probably already used by the disciples, is the germ of a Christian confession, centering in the acknowledgment of personal allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ. Such acknowledgment in word (or subscription to an orthodox creed) is not enough for entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

But he that doeth, etc. Of all who thus confess, only those doing the will of God shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven. The contrast is not between hypocritical professors and holy non-professors, but between hypocrites and saints, all making the same outward profession.

My Father. The whole Gospel shows that this means a closer relation than that expressed by the phrases, ‘your Father,’ ‘our Father.’ Christ, the only begotten Son, always addresses God as ‘Father,’ or ‘my Father.’


Verse 22

Matthew 7:22. Many. The number of ‘false teachers’ is large, much more that of hypocrites.

In that day. ‘The great day of the Lord;’ whether it be one day of account for all, or the particular day for each.

Lord, Lord. The confession (Matthew 7:21) now becomes a cry for help.

Did we not prophecy, or preach. It those seeming to do much in Christ’s name are cast out, much more will others be.

By thy name, i.e., called by thy name, and prophesying by the authority of thy name.

Cast out demons; the greatest exercise of healing power.

Mighty works. The word usually means ‘miracles.’ Judged by external results hypocrites may appear successful in spiritual works; such may have shared in the miraculous power of the early Church. Their self-deception continues to the very bar of final judgment.


Verse 23

Matthew 7:23. And then, at once, will I profess unto them. They make false professions, but ‘I will tell them the plain truth.’

I never knew you. They had not fallen away, they had never been called by Christ, though called by His name, and calling on His name. Intimate knowledge of persons implies sympathy and similarity.

Depart from me (comp. chap. Matthew 25:41), ye that work Iniquity. The seeming success of a hypocrite is habitual and heightened iniquity. Important for self-examinations. Our Lord speaks of confessing Him, of works done in His name, His final verdict, all in connection with doing the will of His Father. No mere man could speak thus.


Verse 24

Matthew 7:24. Therefore. In view of all that precedes, especially the warnings just given, to which a further warning is here added.

These sayings of mine, coming from me, with a hint as to His authority. This expression does not favor the view that this discourse is a summary made by the Evangelist

Doeth them, makes them his habitual rule of action. The power to do them Christ gives us. How and why is to be learned elsewhere. To rise to the Mount of Beatitudes in our life, we must go to Mount Calvary for our life.

Shall be likened. This is the better established reading.

A wise man, a prudent man.

Who, ‘such an one as.’

Built his house upon a rock. The Greek has the article with ‘rock’ and ‘sand,’ with a generalizing meaning, i.e., rocky foundation, sandy foundation. The English idiom usually omits the definite article in such a case; but the E. V. is inconsistent, omitting the article here, and reading ‘the sand’ (Matthew 7:26). The practice was common, but the form indicates a special case, which may have been known to the hearers.


Verse 25

Matthew 7:25. A picture of the sudden violent storms so common in the East, as indeed the definite articles indicate. No distinct meaning need be assigned to rain, floods, and winds, but the rock means Christ. The definite article points to this, and the figure is thus applied so frequently in the Scriptures. How we can build upon Christ, so that our doing of His sayings rests upon union with Him, is clearly made known elsewhere.


Verse 26

Matthew 7:26. Doeth them not. Life is the test, not knowledge, or profession, which may be included here under the word ‘heareth.’

Foolish, i.e., senseless, singularly imprudent

The sand. The transitory teachings and works of man. For moral results, science itself is shifting sand compared to the Rock, Christ.


Verse 27

Matthew 7:27. The description of a storm is repeated, but the result is different; the winds smote upon that house; and it fell. Instead of adding, ‘for it had been founded on the sand,’ our Lord closes the illustration, and at the same time the discourse, which began with the word, ‘blessed,’ by saying, and great was the fall of it. He emphasizes the completeness of the ruin. Admiration of the Sermon on the Mount, without obedience of its precepts, involves destruction, inevitable and utter. In order to do ‘these sayings,’ we must follow Christ further.


Verse 28

Matthew 7:28. And it came to pass when, etc. A summary of our Lord’s sayings would not be thus referred to.

The multitudes, as in Matthew 7:1. They must have heard Him.

Were astonished. A strong word; ‘driven from their customary state of mind by something new and strange.’

Teaching, rather than ‘doctrine;’ the former includes the manner as well as the matter of His instruction, both of which awakened astonishment.


Verse 29

Matthew 7:29. For he taught them. This may refer to His habitual mode of teaching.

As having authority. ‘One’ is not only unnecessary, but incorrect Christ is not ‘one’ among others ‘having authority,’ but the only one having authority, in this highest sense, as the one coming directly from God, and Himself the personal embodiment of the Truth.

And not as their scribes. The scribes were expounders of the Old Testament. Their exposition, too, was in one sense authoritative, but they referred continually to the authority of learned Rabbins. Our Lord introduced His expositions thus: ‘Verily I say unto you.’ No Old Testament prophet assumed such authority, no mere man has a right to do so. He who uttered this matchless discourse on morals, has personal authority to tell men what is true, to declare what is right, to set up His judgment here and hereafter as the final appeal. None but the God-Man could be the teacher on the Mount of Beatitudes.

 


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Bibliography Information
Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 7:4". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-7.html. 1879-90.

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