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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 7:13

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Commandments;   Death;   Gates;   Hell;   Highways;   Religion;   Strait Gate;   Way;   Wicked (People);   Thompson Chain Reference - Error;   Evil;   Pathway of Sin;   Sin;   Sin-Saviour;   Transgression;   Way;   The Topic Concordance - Destruction;   Direction;   Life;   Ways;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Death, Eternal;   Gates;   Highways;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Strait;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Hell;   Way;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Christ, Christology;   Destroy, Destruction;   Jesus Christ;   King, Christ as;   Life;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Hutchinsonians;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jesus Christ;   Parable;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Judge (Office);   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Perdition;   Sermon on the Mount;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Death;   Mss;   Text of the New Testament;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Destruction (2);   Doctrines;   Fear ;   Gate (2);   Hindrance;   Ideas (Leading);   Individuality;   Leading;   Numbers (2);   Old Testament (Ii. Christ as Student and Interpreter of).;   Pilgrim (2);   Proverbs ;   Providence;   Salvation;   Sanctify, Sanctification;   Sermon on the Mount;   Way;   Worldliness (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Gate;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Broad;   Ate;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Broad;   Damn;   Go;   Jesus Christ (Part 2 of 2);   Sermon on the Mount, the;   Straight;   Strait;   Way;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Abraham, Testament of;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for January 15;   Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for November 27;   Every Day Light - Devotion for December 17;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Matthew 7:13. Enter ye in at the strait gate — Our Saviour seems to allude here to the distinction between the public and private ways mentioned by the Jewish lawyers. The public roads were allowed to be sixteen cubits broad, the private ways only four. The words in the original are very emphatic: Enter in (to the kingdom of heaven) through THIS strait gate, δια της στενης πυλης, i.e. of doing to every one as you would he should do unto you; for this alone seems to be the strait gate which our Lord alludes to.

For wide is the gateAnd very broad, ευρυχωρος, from ευρυς, broad, and χωρος, a place, a spacious roomy place, that leadeth forward, απαγουσα, into THAT destruction, εις την απωλειαν, meaning eternal misery; intimating, that it is much more congenial, to the revengeful, covetous heart of fallen man, to take every advantage of another, and to enrich himself at his expense, rather than to walk according to the rule laid down before, by our blessed Lord, and that acting contrary to it is the way to everlasting misery. With those who say it means repentance, and forsaking sin, I can have no controversy. That is certainly a gate, and a strait one too, through which every sinner must turn to God, in order to find salvation. But the doing to every one as we would they should do unto us, is a gate extremely strait, and very difficult, to every unregenerate mind.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-7.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary

45. The two ways (Matthew 7:13-29; Luke 6:43-49)

There are two ways of life. One is the easy way of pleasing self, which most choose and which leads to destruction. The other is the narrow way of denying self for Jesus’ sake, which leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14).

One reason why many do not follow the narrow way is that they are deceived by those who teach their own views on how people can find meaning in life. Their teaching at first sounds reasonable, but in the end it proves to be destructive. The teachers appear to be as harmless as sheep, but actually they are as dangerous as wolves. A bad tree produces bad fruit, and wrong teaching produces wrong behaviour (Matthew 7:15-20).

Another reason why people do not follow the narrow way is that they deceive themselves. They think that because they attach themselves to Jesus’ followers they will enter Jesus’ kingdom. They may even preach in Jesus’ name, but if they have never had a personal experience of God through faith and repentance, they too will go to the place of destruction (Matthew 7:21-23). If people hear Jesus’ teaching but do not act upon it, they are deceiving themselves and heading for disaster. They are like a person who builds a house that looks solid but has no foundation, and so is destroyed when the storm of testing comes (Matthew 7:24-27).

The difference between Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of the scribes was obvious to all. The scribes referred to respected teachers of the past for their authority, but Jesus spoke on his own authority. The scribes could only repeat the regulations of Judaism, but Jesus interpreted the law with an authority that came from God (Matthew 7:28-29).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/matthew-7.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.

The relative number of the saved and the lost is plain from this. They shall be as the few to the many. This eternally recurring contrast between the numbers of the saved and the lost with reference to each succeeding generation should not be discouraging. Wheat does not grow grain all the way to the ground but only in the ear. Although salvation is obtainable and available for all who truly desire it, the plain fact is that the majority in all generations will despise it. And, of wheat, it will be remembered that Christ himself used this grain as a figure of the saved and lost in Matthew 3:12. The relative number of redeemed souls in any generation is not the scale by which God's success may be measured. God will keep on saving men until the "fullness" of his purpose is achieved (Romans 11:25).

The term "narrow" is meaningful. Truth can be no other way than narrow, as attested in any field of knowledge whatsoever. A radio band width may be moved almost imperceptibly to tune out a dance orchestra in New York City and tune in a political rally in Southern California. Changing a chemical formula by the narrowest degree possible can profoundly alter a compound. The relation of the diameter to the circumference of a circle is so "narrow" that man's mathematical vocabulary is not precise enough to define it, so it is approximated at 1 to 3.14159. The velocity required to place a satellite in orbit is precisely 17,500 miles per hour. Why should it seem strange, then, that entering eternal life should be any other way than by the "narrow gate"? The narrowness consists of the restrictions, disciplines, and requirements throughout the whole area of Christian living. Such things as self-denial, forgiveness of others, monogamy, meekness, renunciation of the pursuit of wealth as the chief end of life, and countless other basic scriptural principles are opposed to the natural man whose baser instincts propel him constantly in the direction of the wide gate and the broad way. Only those who are truly spiritual, who have set their minds upon the things in heaven, shall enter and negotiate the straitened way that leads to life; and yet, "Whosoever will may come!"

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-7.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Enter ye in at the strait gate - Christ here compares the way to life to an entrance through a gate. The words “straight” and “strait” have very different meanings. The former means “not crooked;” the latter, “pent up, narrow, difficult to be entered.” This is the word used here, and it means that the way to heaven is “pent up, narrow, close,” and not obviously entered. The way to death is open, broad, and thronged. The Saviour here referred probably to ancient cities. They were surrounded with walls and entered through gates. Some of those, connected with the great avenues to the city, were broad and admitted a throng; others, for more private purposes, were narrow, and few would be seen entering them. So, says Christ, is the path to heaven. It is narrow. It is not “the great highway” that people tread. Few go there. Here and there one may be seen - traveling in solitude and singularity. The way to death, on the other hand, is broad. Multitudes are in it. It is the great highway in which people go. They fall into it easily and without effort, and go without thought. If they wish to leave that and go by a narrow gate to the city, it would require effort and thought. So, says Christ, “diligence” is needed to enter life. See Luke 13:24. None go of course. All must strive, to obtain it; and so narrow, unfrequented, and solitary is it, that few find it. This sentiment has been beautifully versified by Watts:

“Broad is the road that leads to death,

And thousands walk together there;

But wisdom shows a narrower path,

With here and there a traveler.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-7.html. 1870.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.Enter in by the strait gate As nothing is more opposed to the flesh than the doctrine of Christ, no man will ever make great proficiency in it who has not learned to confine his senses and feelings, so as to keep them within those boundaries, which our heavenly Teacher prescribes for curbing our wantonness. As men willingly flatter themselves, and live in gaiety and dissipation, Christ here reminds his disciples, that they must prepare to walk, as it were, along a narrow and thorny road But as it is difficult to restrain our desires from wicked licentiousness and disorder, he soothes this bitterness by a joyful remuneration, when he tells us, that the narrow gate, and the narrow road, lead to life Lest we should be captivated, on the other hand, by the allurements of a licentious and dissolute life, and wander as the lust of the flesh draws us, (469) he declares that they rush headlong to death, who choose to walk along the broad road, and through the wide gate, instead of keeping by the strait gate, and narrow way, which lead to life

He expressly says, that many run along the broad road: because men ruin each other by wicked examples. (470) For whence does it arise, that each of them knowingly and wilfully rushes headlong, but because, while they are ruined in the midst of a vast crowd, they do not believe that they are ruined? The small number of believers, on the other hand, renders many persons careless. It is with difficulty that we are brought to renounce the world, and to regulate ourselves and our life by the manners of a few. We think it strange that we should be forcibly separated from the vast majority, as if we were not a part of the human race. But though the doctrine of Christ confines and hems us in, reduces our life to a narrow road, separates us from the crowd, and unites us to a few companions, yet this harshness ought not to prevent us from striving to obtain life.

It is sufficiently evident from Luke’s Gospel, that the instruction, which we are now considering, was uttered by Christ at a different time from that on which he delivered the paradoxes, (471) which we have formerly examined, about a happy life, (Matthew 5:3,) and laid down to them the rule of prayer. And this is what I have repeatedly hinted, that the instructions which are related by the other Evangelists, at different times, according to the order of the history, were here collected by Matthew into one summary, that he might bring more fully under our view the manner in which Christ taught his disciples. I have therefore thought it best to introduce here the whole passage from Luke, which corresponds to this sentence. While I have been careful to inform my readers, as to the order of time which is observed by Luke, they will forgive me, I hope, for not being more exact (472) than Matthew in the arrangement of the doctrine.

(469) (“Comme facilement les appetits de la chair nous tirent en leurs filets;”) —(“as the appetites of the flesh easily draw us into their nets.”)

(470)Pource que les hommes se poussent les uns les autres au chemin de damnation par mauvais exemple;” — “because men urge each other on in the road to damnation by bad example.”

(471)Quand il a prononce ces sentences que nous avons veues par ci de-vant, monstrant tout au contraire de l’opinion commune;” — “when he pronounced those sentences which we have formerly seen, showing it to be altogether contrary to the common opinion.”

(472)Si je n’ay pas este plus scrupuleux ou curieux en conferant les passages tendans a un mesme poinct de doctrine;” — “if I have not been more careful or exact in comparing the passages relating to the same point of doctrine.”

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-7.html. 1840-57.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Matthew 7:1-29



I believe that it goes without saying that Jesus Christ was certainly the greatest teacher who ever lived and it is interesting to study his teaching habits. And He used the method of declaring a principle, amplifying it and then illustrating it. He declares a truth. It's important that we have certain principles established within our life by which we live. We need to know why we live by these principles and that's understood by having them illustrated for us. And so He follows this method consistently in the Sermon on the Mount, declaring the principle and then amplifying the principle by illustration.

So as we begin chapter seven we begin a new principle as Jesus declares now a new principle to us. And He declares,

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what ( Matthew 7:1-2 )

That's the principle just judge not that you be not judged. And then He goes on to amplify it.

For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again ( Matthew 7:2 ).

And then He illustrates it.

Why do you behold the slivers that is in your brother's eye, but you don't consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you say to your brother, Let me take the sliver out of your eye; and, behold, a beam is in your own eye? Thou hypocrite, first take the beam out of your own eye; and then you will be able to see clearly to cast or to take the sliver out of your brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither casting your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you ( Matthew 7:3-6 ).

Now, this passage has created difficulty in the minds of a lot of people because it seems like Jesus just tells you not to do one thing and then he turns right around and tells you don't cast your pearls before swine or give that which is holy to dogs. Then immediately that does entail a certain judgment of people. Who can I share the holy things with? Who can I share the pearls of God's wisdom with? And I have to make some kind of judgment because I'm not to share them with the dogs or with the swine.

Jesus is saying basically that we are not to condemn but we are to discriminate. Condemnation is something that God has reserved for himself. God is the final judge. It's not up to me to say that a brother is condemned or that a brother is damned. That's something that is in God's hands. God reserves final judgement for Himself but it is something that I'm not to enter into.

Paul the apostle, in writing to the Romans, talks about the horrible things that people in the world do. He talks how terrible the world had become. People were fierce, they were incontinent, they were blasphemers, they were adulterers; they did all of these horrible things. And having declared these terrible things that people were doing in the world, he then said, "And thou art inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judges another: for in the same time that you're judging another, you're doing the same things yourself." ( Romans 2:1 ) Inexcusable if you judge another.

Now, if I look at something that someone is doing and I say, "Oh that's terrible, oh that's wrong, oh that's evil." I am acknowledging the fact that I know that that is wrong and that is evil. But if I'm going ahead and if I'm doing the same thing, only in a little different shade of color, I am really condemning myself in that I am acknowledging that I know what is right but I am doing what is wrong. And I could really be in worse shape than the guy that's doing it. You see my judging another shows that I know better and yet if I'm doing the same thing, change the situation slightly, change the names, change the scene. And so often those things which we are so readily willing and judging someone else for by turning it slightly, I'm really guilty of doing that very same thing myself.

You remember when Nathan came to David and told him about a man in his kingdom. Oh this man was wealthy; he had everything he desired. He had servants and maids and everything he could hope for, everything he could desire, great flocks and herds. And next door to him there lived a very poor man who had only one little ewe lamb, all he had, and this man loved that one little ewe lamb. He took it to bed with him, it ate with him, it lived in the house with him; it was the only thing he had. And this wealthy man had visitors come and so he ordered his servants to go next door, and by force, take the one little ewe lamb from his neighbor and slaughter it and barbecue it for his guests. David got angry. He judged the man, he said to Nathan "that man shall surely be put to death". And Nathan said, "David, you are the man".

Change the situation just a bit now. Here's David with all of his wives, ruling as the king over Israel and next door to him was Uriah and David took Uriah's wife and had Uriah put to death. And by turning the situation slightly, by the prophet coming to David and putting it in a little different light David immediately judges the man; condemns him to death. But then as the scene is turned slightly David then sees himself; hey David you are the man. Circumstances were slightly different, but David you're it.

And this is so true with us. We are so often ready to condemn someone for doing those things that basically we're guilty of doing ourselves. If you just turn it slightly, look at it from a little different angle, that's me. It, to me, is always surprising and interesting how horrible our sins look when someone else is committing them. They don't look so bad when I do it. I always have a way of looking at myself through the rose-colored glasses and I look pretty good. And I can just, I can tell you exactly why I did it, but oh, he's terrible. And it's often our own failings that we despise most in others. We come down hardest on others.

So the Lord just says, "Judge not lest you be judged". I'm not to condemn, that isn't my place, that's God's place. "For with what judgement you judge, you shall be judged". With a standard that I am judging others, that is the standard by which I will be judged. I am setting the standard for judgment when I'm judging others. I'm setting the standard for my own judgment. When I measure out, that's the same ruler that's gonna be used for me. With whatever measure you are meting it up, that is the same measurement that will be used for you. The standards that you set are the standards that will be required. So it's best to just leave that area alone. Leave that in God's hands.

And then the Lord sort of points out how ludicrous it is for me to be seeking to correct the flaws in my brother. I said, "Did you see the sliver in his eye? Oh, look at that." The Lord says, "You, you seem to be able to see the sliver in your brother's eye but you don't notice that you've gotta a twelve by sixteen in your own, you know. You've got a beam in your own eye". Now he said, "Look, first of all take the beam out of your own eye and then you'll be able to see clearly to take the sliver out of your brother's eye".

In other words, who am I to really judge someone else for what they are doing wrong when there are so many flaws in my own life? There's so much wrong with me. Now if I am guilty of judging others then people are gonna start looking for the faults in me, and it's just human nature. If you are that kind of person that is constantly going around condemning and judging other people, then they are going to be watching you very, very closely for the flaws that are in you because they're gonna have to try and put themselves back up by pulling you down.

So, the principle: Judge not that you be not judged. Yet, the Lord has given us reason and wisdom and he doesn't expect us to just shut, set it on the shelf. And so he tells us,

Don't give that which is holy to the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and they turn again and rend you ( Matthew 7:6 ).

There are some people with which you just cannot share the things of God. You just shouldn't even try to share the things of God with them. They will not respect them. They'll just make fun of them. They will just trample them under their feet and then they'll return to tear you. Now, how am I to know then who I can share and who I should not be sharing the truths of God with unless I make some kind of a judgement?

Now Peter was there listening to the Lord and it is interesting that he picks this up in his epistle, in his second epistle of Peter, he talks about as it has happened according, he's talking about the false teachers and the wicked people and the false prophets and all. And he said, "And it is happen to them according to the true proverb, The dog has returned to his vomit; and the pig to his wallowing in the mire." ( 2 Peter 2:22 ) They've turned back to their old natures and he uses the same dog and pig kind of a concept.

There are some people that just mock and ridicule the things of the spirit. And for me to take the precious things of God, those beautiful things that God's done to my life and start relating them to him it's, it's just -- you're just taking pearls and casting them before swine. You are not to do that. Oh, but how in the world can I know? How can I walk that narrow without judging and yet not being a fool in taking the pearls and giving them to the swine? How in the world can I walk that? Well, the good Lord tells us in the next verse.

Ask, and it shall be given you ( Matthew 7:7 );

Now this word "ask" is a word Jesus uses for prayer when he's talking about our prayer. He never uses this word when he talks about his own prayer life. The word means to beg, to implore, to beseech. When He talked about his own prayer life He said I will inquire of the Father. When He talks about our prayer, He talks about our beseeching, begging God. He could inquire the Father because when He came, He came on an equal level. But when we come, we come as really beggars, in a sense, because we have nothing really to offer God but "ask and it shall be given you". James said, "You ask and you receive not because you ask amiss that you might consume it upon your own desires"( James 4:3 ).

seek, [a little bit stronger] and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you ( Matthew 7:7 ):

Now someone has pointed out that these Greek words "ask, seek and knock" are in the present perfect tense, which to be properly translated in English would be; keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, not just a once complete action but a continuing action. So the continual prayer life asking, seeking, knocking. Now if "we ask, it will be given; if we seek, we shall find; if we knock, it shall be opened".

For everyone that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be open ( Matthew 7:8 ).

And now he's gonna illustrate that a bit.

For what man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will he give him a stone? Or he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? ( Matthew 7:9-11 )

Notice again that, as in our last study, as Jesus was talking about prayer He was dealing with relationship and always in prayer. We need to consider relationship; that's vital for prayer. It is "your Father". As a child you have every right to come to your father whenever you are in need. And again, as He is speaking of prayer, He speaks of this relationship. "How much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

Now he is again pointing out that as earthly fathers, when our children come to us we recognize that they have certain basic needs. If my son comes to me and says, "Dad I'm hungry. Can I have a peanut butter sandwich?" I don't hand him a rock and say, "Chew on that kid" you know. I know that he has certain basic needs. And so when he comes and he asks for bread and peanut butter we say, "Sure. Go help yourself". And he says, "Can we have fish for dinner? Can I have a tuna sandwich?" If he asks for fish will you give him a snake? No, the thought is just reprehensible, of course not. I love my children; I respect their needs. If they ask for bread, we'll give them bread. If they ask for tuna, we'll give them tuna.

Now if I, being evil; that is on this lower level of human kind. If I, with all of my failings and with all of my flaws, would not be so cruel and inhumane to my children as to give them a stone when they're asking for bread or give them a serpent when they're asking for fish; if I would not do that, then how about my heavenly Father? If you being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more, the argument there is from the lesser to the greater. You wouldn't do that.

How much more will your heavenly Father which is in heaven give good things to those who ask him? ( Matthew 7:11 )

Now in Luke's gospel, as he records this, he declares "How much more will your Father which is in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those that ask him?"( Luke 11:13 ) It is interesting that there are some people who seek to spread the boogie-man concept of God, in regards to coming to God and seeking God for the work of his spirit within that person's life. And I've heard people say, "Now you've got to be careful as you just, you know, open up yourself because there were people who were seeking to be baptized with the Holy Spirit and they became possessed by demons". That is about the most blasphemous concept of God I have ever heard uttered and totally foreign to what Jesus said.

Now there are a lot of people that have had, as a result of these boogieman stories, become fearful of God. Well I want to be careful, you know, of how I open up to God because you know you sure don't want, you know, some kind of a horrible experience like that. You don't have to worry. You can come to God with every confidence.

And I open -- my worry is not what God might do to me if I open up to Him completely, my worry is what I will miss if I don't open up to Him completely. I have no, absolutely no fear or no qualms in just opening my life totally to God. It doesn't bother me in the least. I'm not at all worried about what God is going to do or what God is going to allow or where God is going to send me or, or what God might require of me.

But these old boogieman stories, "Oh now you be careful what you say you're not gonna do," that's just what God will make you do, you know, so that we begin to be apprehensive of the will of God. We're almost fearful of the will of God. I hate snakes and bugs and rats and if I say, "God thy will be done" then oh, oh, oh look out. You're gonna end up a missionary in deep, dark Africa, you know, trembling all night under your net as the rats are running through the thatched roof, you know. No, no, no, totally false concept of God.

Your heavenly Father loves you. And his plan for your life is so far superior to your own plan. The best thing that could ever happen to anybody would be to chuck his own plan for his life and just yield to God's plan completely. Nothing better could ever happen to you than to be right in the center of what God wants for your life. That's the kind of Father I have.

He has my best interest at His heart. And he only gets upset with me when I interfere with his accomplishing His best interest in my life. He does get upset with me because sometimes I get in the way. I think I know better. I think I know what's best for me and I sometimes get a little pushy as I'm trying to get what I have envisioned and dreamed and I think this is the very best for me. And I sometimes get pushy and then He wraps me on the knuckles, but not because He doesn't love me, it's just that I am getting in the way of his better plan for me. What God has planned for you is the greatest thing that could ever happen to you. And the wisest thing any man could ever do is just to fully submit his life into the hands of God because God loves you. And your heavenly Father is concerned with your best welfare.

Therefore ( Matthew 7:12 )

Now notice that "therefore" is never the beginning of a thought but it is a word of summary or conclusion, because like Dr. McGee declares, "Whenever you find a therefore you must ask wherefore". So here's a therefore so you must ask wherefore? So this switch is often called the golden rule, does not really stand by itself. And that's the mistake that so many people make in closing the golden rule is that they leave out the therefore and they just quote the rule "Whatever you would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them". That's not the golden rule, and to quote it that way is wrong and it leaves you totally helpless. If you don't have the therefore in it, there's no way that you're ever going to fulfill it.

Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets ( Matthew 7:12 ).

Now, this is the final verse of this section, "Judge not that ye be not judged". Remember He told you "with whatever measure you mete it's gonna be measured to you again. The measure by which you measure others is the measurement by which you're gonna be measured. The judgement by which you judge others, that's the judgement wherewith you will be judged." And so in the conclusion of that judge no, because you're setting the standard in the measurement, He concludes it by declaring, "Therefore all things whatsoever that you would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."

Now there are many people who will tell you that Christ did not declare anything new, that this was a very common saying among the great teachers and philosophers of the past. That Confucius said, "Don't do to men what you don't want done to you" Confucius say. And some of you older folks pick up on that one. When we were kids there were all kinds of "Confucius say", you know "many men smoke them Fu man Chu". Remember that one? Confucius say "he who throws mud looses ground".

Aristotle said much the same, "What you don't want done to you don't do to others". Socrates said, "Whatever is displeasing to you, then don't do that to others". So they say the basic thought has already been expressed. Wrong. You read Socrates, Aristotle and Confucius and all, and you see that they, all of them put this in a negative thing. In other words, I don't want you to kill me so I won't kill you. I don't want you to rob from me therefore I shouldn't rob you. All negative.

Jesus put it in the positive. "Whatever ye would that men should do to you do ye even so to them" ( Matthew 7:12 ) in a positive sense. In other words, following Confucius I would not hate you but following Jesus I would love you. It's not just the absence, just not a negative; it's a positive. Following Confucius I would not steal from you, but following Jesus I would give to you. Can you see the difference? One is stated in a negative sense so that you are passive in your relationship with the others. But the other is stated, Jesus states it in a positive way that causes me to initiate positive actions towards you for good, for kindness, for love, for giving. For as I would that men should do to me, I should be doing to them.

Now the "therefore"; you see, again, it would be impossible for me to fulfill this command of Jesus Christ apart from the power of God in my life. And the therefore takes you back to "Ask and you shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you; for whoever asks receives; whoever seeks, finds; and to him that knocks it shall be open". It takes you back to that. I cannot do this in myself. I don't have the capacity or power to do this in myself; therefore, I must ask God to work in my life by his Holy Spirit. I must seek that power of God's love working in me because apart from that I cannot live up to the requirements that are made of me here in the Sermon on the Mount.

Now, Jesus begins to make application to the message. He has stated the principles, amplified the principles, illustrated the principles and now, finally, there comes, as must always be within any embodiment of any sermon, that place of exhortation to action upon what you have learned. And thus, Jesus now gets into that exhortation. First of all with warnings and then with positive statements.

[Now] Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in there at: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, that leads unto life, and few there be that find it ( Matthew 7:13-14 ).

So Jesus first of all tells us "Look, it's a straight gate, it's a narrow path." It's gonna take commitment, it's gonna take consecration. And this is true of any endeavor that one might seek to succeed, and in light, you don't succeed in anything without entering into a straight gate and a narrow way. You've got to be committed; you've got to be consecrated to your cause. And so this is not just exclusive for the Christian way. This is just, this is just for success in life in any endeavor but especially in the Christian endeavor. It's a straight gate, it's a narrow way, it takes real commitment, it takes real consecration to win.

Now as we read this, "enter in at the straight gate" we are reminded of John fourteen where Jesus said, Philip had just -- or Thomas had just said, "Lord, we don't know where you're going. How can we know the way?" and Jesus answered and said, "I am the way, the truth and the life"( John 14:5-6 ). Notice He first of all talks about the straight gate, "the way". Then he says be careful of false prophets. I am the Truth, and He's talking about entering into the life, the gate that leads to life. I am the Life. "I am the way, the truth and the life."

So enter in at the straight gate. There are people who are constantly accusing me of being too narrow. Have you noticed the tremendous emphasis today upon broadness? There are people who would like to make the way so broad that, ultimately, everybody is walking in that way; ultimately every path will lead to God, ultimately everybody will be all right. And they like to make the way so broad that it includes all of mankind, just so he expresses some kind of religious fervor in his life. Because surely if you're religious, the Lord will accept you. Note Jesus said not so. It's a straight gate. It's a narrow path that leads to life. There aren't any who walk it; it's a broad gate, it's a broad path that leads to destruction and it's full of people.

If people are accusing you of being too narrow, praise the Lord; you're on the right path. It's a broad path, a popular way, that goes to destruction. "Straight is the gate, narrow is the way that leads to life, there are few who find it."

Now, in the next is a warning of false prophets,

which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves ( Matthew 7:15 ).

Now, there are many warnings in the scriptures concerning false prophets and um, again, this entails a judgement on my part. If I'm to be aware of false prophets, I have to. When I see someone or hear someone who is not right on, I have to be able to judge "Hey that man's a false prophet. I've got to be aware of him". Now, there is tremendous difficulty in this warning to beware of false prophets because they don't look like wolves. They don't have little signs hanging on them "I am a false prophet" but they are in sheep's clothing. They're disguised to look like sheep. And I've got to be aware of the false prophets.

Now how can I know a false prophet? Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life. And no man comes to the Father but by Me" ( John 14:6 ). And if any man tells you there is another way then that straight way or straight gate and narrow way, and someone tells you there is another way to life, he is a false prophet. You see the context in which the warning comes? And today there are so many people who are trying to tell you that just think good thoughts; just live a positive life and you're responding to all that God requires. No way. So we are told to be aware of the false prophets because they will come in sheep's clothing.

Now let me also say one of the dangers of the false prophets is that they do tell the truth the majority of the time. You know if a false prophet told nothing but ridiculous absurd things, there would be no danger at all. The first time he spoke, the first sentence he uttered would be so ridiculous as hey, oh that guy's off the wall. He's a false prophet. So they usually come on with truth. They have all of the markings and all of the earmarks of a true prophet and much of what they say is true.

Now much of what Herbert Armstrong says is true. Much of what the Jehovah Witnesses say is true. Much of what Joseph Smith said was true. So you cannot immediately always discern a man who is a false prophet. For he, often times, is leading people with the truth and is drawing people by the truth.

But when it comes down to the bottom line, when it comes to that basic truth that deals with your eternal salvation, is he bringing you to the straight gate with the narrow path? Is he bringing you to a reliance and a trust in Jesus Christ and Him only or is he bringing you to trust in a religious system? Is he bringing you to trust in a religious ritual? Is he bringing you to trust in a church? And if a man will seek to cause you to trust in anything other than Jesus Christ and a complete reliance upon Jesus Christ for your eternal life, that man is a false prophet. But a lot of times you've got to hear quite a bit before they get to their bottom line and they lead you through a maze of deception as they are saying a lot of things that are true. But the real issue is when they point to the path, what path are they pointing you to and leading you to for your eternal life?

A false prophet also seeks to fleece the sheep, ultimately, rather than feed the sheep. And so, as you get into the program, you'll find that they'll begin to emphasize more and more your giving to support their program. And though Herbert W. Armstrong does not ask for any offerings; send for the free booklet, send for the free magazines, once he has you hooked, then he begins to demand double tithes and triple tithes and there comes a real push to get you into financial bondage to them.

Now Peter, as he warns of false prophets, and this is an earmark of those false prophets, their emphasis upon money, ultimately they'll get around to it and they'll really begin to emphasize the money aspects. So second Peter chapter two, as he is warning about the false prophets, "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord" ( 2 Peter 2:1 )

You see there you get to the ultimate thing is the denial of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. They deny the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And notice here it comes, the bite that's always there, "And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you" ( 2 Peter 2:2 ).

They'll have you selling magazines on the street corner or from door to door or they'll have you selling flowers or peanuts in the parking lot. Ultimately they will seek to make merchandise of you, they will seek to profit off of you because down underneath that's the bottom line. They are covetous, they are after the money and they'll get you with the money gimmicks and they'll make you feel guilty and a cheapskate if, you know, don't give everything and they'll put out pots and ask you to drop your jewelry in. They seek to make merchandise of people.

So watch the emphasis that a person puts upon money because, number one, God is not broke nor is he even bent. God is not depending upon man's support for his program. God is perfectly capable of providing for his program. And God doesn't put the pressure upon people to give because God doesn't want people to give under pressure. And if someone is pressuring you to give to God, he is actually seeking to motivate you by wrong motivations because Paul said you should never give under pressure, not by constraint, not by pressure. And so watch the emphasis that they put on money, the big money drives, the big money programs.

Beware [Jesus said] of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly [they are wanting to devour you,] they are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them ( Matthew 7:15-20 ).

Now not by the fruit of what they say because much of what they say is truth and if people follow the truth, good fruit can come from the truth. But the ultimate fruit that you're to look for is the fruit in their own lives. Judge the fruit of their own lives. You will know them by their fruit.

Now, having warned us of false teachers, he also warns us of false professions for he said,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven ( Matthew 7:21 ).

Now first of all, no one will enter heaven who doesn't say "Lord, Lord". Paul said that the confession of Jesus as Lord was essential to salvation. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved"( Romans 10:9 ). It's a part of the essential for salvation; the confession of Jesus Christ is Lord. But Jesus is saying "Not everyone who says Lord, Lord, is going to enter". Though it is a requirement to entering, there will be those who are saying "Lord, Lord" who will not enter.

Jesus on another occasion said, "Why do you call me Lord and yet you don't do the things that I command you?" You see, our problem is that we've come to think of the term "Lord" as a name and so we say, "The Lord Jesus Christ" and we think of Lord as His first name, Jesus His middle name and Christ His last name; He's the Lord Jesus Christ. But in reality when I say the Lord, you should put a comma there for Lord is not his name; it's His title. The title that signifies my relationship to Him. He is my Lord, I am his slave; I am his servant, He is my Lord.

Now as my Lord, He has the right of total control of my life. When he asks me to do something it isn't mine to ask Him why. It's only mine to obey. I am His servant, He is the Lord and that's what the whole title is indicating. And that is why Jesus pointed out inconsistencies and people are calling me Lord, Lord and yet they're not doing the things I command them. That's inconsistent. And if you are calling him Lord and yet you're disobeying, you're rebelling at His commands, you're a part of that inconsistency. So not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" is gonna enter into the kingdom of heaven. He is pointing out that saying the right thing is not enough. Many people are saying the right thing.

John points out things that people are saying, the right things to say. "I have fellowship with God" what a glorious thing to say but John said "If you say I have fellowship with God and you're walking in darkness you lie, you're not keeping the truth" ( 1 John 1:6 ). I may say, "Oh, I love God" but John said, "If you say you love God and you hate your brother, you're a liar. How can you love God whom you have not seen and hate your brother who was made in God's image?"( 1 John 4:20 ) I may say, "Oh, it's so glorious to abide in Christ. I just love this life abiding in him" John said, "If you say you abide in him then you ought to be walking as he walked". "Why do you call me Lord, Lord" Jesus said "and you don't do the things I command you?"

A classic example of this is Peter there in the city of Joppa. About noontime he's on the house of Simon the tanner, there on the seashore, and he was hungry. And while in a trance he saw a vision. This sheet came down from heaven tied in the four corners and on the sheet were all manner of creeping animals and unclean type of animals. And the Lord said to Peter, "Rise Peter, kill and eat" and Peter answered, "Not so, Lord"( Acts 10:13-14 ). No, no, no Peter. You can't do that. You see that's an inconsistency of speech.

And yet how often we are guilty of that. We're guilty of arguing with Him, we're guilty of challenging him. But as the servant my place is just to obey Him if He is indeed my Lord. And I need to think of Lord not as a name but as a title. And our difficulty lies in the fact that we have, we've come to think of His name rather than His title.

Now there will come a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. People may not want to confess that, they may not want to yield to his Lordship now, they may rebel against the Lordship of Christ in their life, but there's coming a day when every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. But though they confess it, it doesn't mean they're gonna enter the kingdom of heaven because not all who say "Lord, Lord" are gonna enter the kingdom of heaven. It's more than what I say. It's more than having correct spiritual language. It's more than using spiritual terminology. Jesus said, "Not all who say Lord, Lord are going to enter the kingdom of heaven but he who does, he who is doing the will of my Father which is in heaven".

Now, it is to God's glory that we do say "Lord, Lord" and it is the will of God that we say "Lord, Lord", but it is also the will of God that we be doing those other things that God has commanded us to do. And in obedience to Jesus Christ we are actually then proving his Lordship. But if I am not obeying Him, if I'm not following his commandments then I can say "Lord, Lord" all day long and it's just taking the name of the Lord in vain, in a sense, because I'm not really submitted to his Lordship.

So he said,

Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not [preached or] prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? ( Matthew 7:22 )

Now notice that Jesus said "Not all who say Lord, Lord but he who does or do the will of the Father". But what these people who come to him saying, "Lord, Lord" actually they are telling him the things they've been doing. "Lord, Lord, haven't we been preaching in your name?" Did he tell us to preach in his name? Yes. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." "He that believeth in him baptized shall be saved." "These signs shall fall in belief." And so these people are testifying, "Lord, didn't we preach in your name? Lord, didn't we cast out devils in your name? Lord, didn't we do many wonderful works?" And so Jesus said, "He who does the will of the Father" and these people are telling the Lord what they were doing.

But even to them Jesus said, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity ( Matthew 7:23 ).

Now what Jesus is saying is that we never had real true relationship as Lord and servant. You're saying "Lord, Lord" but you weren't obedient to Me, you weren't following my commandment. You were, in a sense, doing your own thing. Yes, you were using my name to preach to others but you were preaching for your own glory, to fulfill your own needs. Yes, you were doing wonderful works but in such a way as to draw glory and attention to yourself. Remember the principle that he declared in chapter six verse one, "Take heed to yourself that you do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of men: For I say unto you, you have ye reward"( Matthew 6:1 ). "Lord, Lord, didn't we do these wonderful works?" Yes, but your motive was wrong.

Now we are told that one day we are all going to appear before the judgement seat of Christ to be judged for the things which we have done while we were in these bodies; and that our works, at that time, are gonna be judged by fire. And much of the work that we have done, supposedly for the Lord, we're gonna watch just go up in smoke like wood, hay and stubble. The works will be judged it says, what sort or what manner of works what sort of works they were, they'll be judged by the motives behind them. Why did I do it? Did I do it for my glory? Was I seeking attention for me? Was I seeking glory for my name or was I seeking glory for God's name?

Now those works that remain and abide after the test of fire we will be rewarded for. But here are people saying "Lord, Lord, we've done all these wonderful works in your name and he says, "I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." So it is important that we examine ourselves in the light of these things Jesus has been telling us. There is a straight gate and it's a narrow way, and few are there that find it. God help me. I don't want to run in vain. It would be terrible to run all your life and to find out you were on the wrong path. You spent your whole life in the wrong path.

I was talking to a Mormon one day and I asked him concerning eternal life and he said, "Oh I won't know whether or not I have that until I die". And I said, "Isn't that a little late to find out?" John said, "These things I write unto you that you believe that ye may know that you have eternal life"( 1 John 5:13 ). You don't have to wait till you die to find out. That's too late then. You better take a look at the path now, you better examine the gate you're going through. You better examine yourself.

Paul said, "Therefore, let every man examine himself"( 1 Corinthians 11:28 ). For if we would judge ourselves then we will not be judged of God. So there is a judgement that we are allowed. I'm not to judge you or condemn you but I am to judge me, but that's so difficult. It's so hard to judge myself. Who really knows himself thoroughly? Who really knows the truth about himself? We're such complex individuals that we're not even always sure of the motivation behind what we are doing.

David said, "Thou has searched me, thou hast known me. You know my downsittings and my uprisings, you understand my thoughts afar off"( Psalms 139:1-2 ). That word "afar off" means in their origins. You understand my thoughts before I think them. You know what I'm gonna think before I think it. And then David said, "You've encircled me in all of my ways" he said, "such knowledge is too great for me; I can't attain it". What knowledge? The knowledge of himself. I don't even really know myself. God you know me better than I know me. That's why he said, "Search me O God and know my heart" ( Psalms 139:23 ).

You see that's why it's important to recognize that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and it's very possible for a person to deceive himself. In fact, the person who is a hearer of the Word and not a doer is a person who is deceiving himself, self-delusion. Again Paul said, "Be not deceived" but how often we are.

And the Bible warns over and over of self-deception, and because there is this danger of self-deception it is important that I submit myself to the Spirit of God to put the light of God upon my heart; to search me O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts and see if there is a way of wickedness; and God, you lead me in the right path. Again, that full commitment to God. I don't know enough to really be able to judge or analyze myself because of my deceitful heart. I've gotta ask God to search my heart. I've gotta ask God to lead me in his path. Again, it comes right back to that complete commitment to Jesus Christ.

Therefore whosoever hears these sayings of mine, and does them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock ( Matthew 7:24 ):

In Luke's gospel it says, "The wise man dug deep and laid his foundation on the rock"( Luke 6:48 ). There are certain foundational truths that we need to have undergirding our Christian experience. It's important that you have a solid, strong foundation and there are certain foundational truths of Jesus Christ, certain principles that you've got to have undergirding your Christian experience because Satan is going to attack you.

In the seventy-third psalm the Psalmist begins by saying, "Truly God is good". That's one of the basic foundational truths that you need to have under your feet. It's important that you have that as a foundation indeed; God is good because Satan is going to attack that. There are gonna be circumstances that are gonna take place in your life that are gonna seem so terrible and so adverse you're gonna be prone to say, "I don't know how God can allow this to happen to me. And I can't understand why God would do this." And I am not always going to understand God, and Satan takes advantage of my ignorance and tries to cause me to challenge God and the goodness of God because I can't understand what God is doing because I can't see the full cycle. I can only see the present moment and what seems to be disaster to me right now.

I can look back in my life and see so many of those experiences which I thought were totally disastrous at the moment. I threw up my hands in despair and said, "Duh that's it. If that's the way God treats me I don't... " you know, just you know, you just despair. This is the end, can't go any further. I've had it. Sort of like Jeremiah and I said I'm not going to speak anymore in his name. I'm just gonna shut up and just you know close the book and quit. God's so patient in dealing with impatient servant.

When the cycle was completed and I saw the end result, I said, "Ah, isn't God wise? Isn't God good?" you know. Truly God is good. I need to know that. That is a basic foundation, it's gonna be attacked, it's gonna be assailed but I've gotta have foundation if I'm gonna stand in the storm.

The psalmist said, "Surely God is good to all that call upon His name" but for me oh, hoo, hoo, hoo. Man, I almost slipped. I was just about wiped out. When the prosperity of the wicked, woo, they're never in trouble. They never have any problems. Things always go so well for them. They have more than their hearts could desire. But here am I trying to live the right kind of a life and look at all the horrible things that have happened to me. Surely it doesn't pay to try to serve God. I washed my hands in innocency. I've cleansed my hands of it, you know, it doesn't pay to try to serve God" and just he said, "And I thought to understand these things but it was just too painful and I can't handle it. Life; can't handle it. It just, the mysteries, I just can't handle it but I've got to have the solid foundation underneath.

Notice, that Jesus said the wind is going to blow,

The rain is going to descend, the floods are going to come ( Matthew 7:25 ),

I don't care who you are wise or foolish, we will all be exposed to the elements. We will all be exposed to problems, we're all exposed to sorrows, we're all exposed to difficulty. Being a child of God does not give me some kind of an immunity from problems or from difficulties, from trials. Remember, Peter said "now beloved, don't consider it strange concerning the fiery trials which are to try you as though some strange thing has happened to you"( 1 Peter 4:12 ).

You know there are many, and as Peter said there are many exceeding rich and precious promises but there are many pretty ugly promises too. There are some promises in the Bible I just don't like at all. There is that promise, "And they that live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution"( 2 Timothy 3:12 ). Man, how I hate that promise. I'm glad they didn't put that in the little promise book I have at home. I'd hate to pick that one out in the morning.

It's important that I have a solid foundation. The wise man dug deep, laid his foundation on the rock. Paul said, "No other foundation have we than this, even Jesus Christ." Is your life built upon Him? Have you dug deep and laid your foundation in Christ? In the words of Christ? In the sayings of Christ?

Now he who has my sayings and does them is like the wise man who built his house upon a rock: And when the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; it stood because it was built on a solid foundation. But the foolish man is liken unto a man who hears the sayings of mine, and does them not ( Matthew 7:24-26 ),

Now, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I consent that it is right. My heart says, "Oh yes, that's true. I agree with that. I consent to the truth." But unless I do the truth, my hearing and consenting is not enough. There are many people who believe the truth; that is not enough. It is acting on the truth that is necessary. There are many people who believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and they may even be saying, "Lord, Lord" and they have consented to the truth but as you look at their lives they are really not doing the truth.

I read the Beatitudes and I say, "Oh yes, it would be good to have this kind of an attitude. To be a peacemaker, be merciful, hunger and thirst after righteousness. Oh yes, that's good to be meek, to be poor in spirit" and consenting to it. But if I go out and if I'm proud, if I'm haughty, if I'm not obeying, not living with those attitudes then to -- for me to consent to those attitudes I'm only saying "Yes, I know what's right" but I'm only condemning myself because I am living what is wrong.

Now it is an easy thing to again, sort of rest in my believing the truth and feel a false sense of security because after all, look at my house. I've got nice wallpaper and pretty pictures on the wall and I've gotta roof over my head and it's not leaking. Oh yes, but a storm is coming; the rain will descend and the flood will rise and the wind will beat upon the house and if I am only building upon a consent to truth rather than an obedience to truth, my house will fall in the time of storm. And so we must obey the truth, not just hear the sayings of Jesus but be doing, "be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only deceiving yourself"( James 1:22 ).

[Now] it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings ( Matthew 7:28 ),

He came to the end of this Sermon on the Mount.

the people were astonished at his doctrine ( Matthew 7:28 ):

I imagine they were. He said to them "except your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees you're not going to enter the kingdom of heaven". I imagine that was the most astonishing thing they ever heard because as far as they were concerned, no one was more righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees. These guys practiced their whole life being righteous by the law. And for Him to say unless you're more righteous than they, you're not gonna enter the kingdom, that must have been an extremely astonishing thing for them to hear.

They were astonished at His doctrine but mainly because

He taught them as one has authority, he did not teach like the scribes ( Matthew 7:29 ).

The scribes when they taught would never speak with authority. But the scribes in their teaching would always quote the Talmud, the Mishna or one of the rabbi's. And even to the present day in their teaching you'll hear them say "Now Rabbi Gamile declares that this scripture means this. And Rabbi... " They're always quoting someone else. They'll never speak with authority. They're always just quoting this is what someone else believes. This is what someone else has said about this text, but they never teach the text with real authority.

And so they were astonished at Jesus is teaching them as one that had authority. He wasn't quoting any of the rabbi's, he wasn't quoting any of the -- in fact he was, in a sense, saying "you have heard that it hath been said Rabbi Hallel said and Rabbi Gamiel said but I say unto you". So they were wrong; I'm saying it. And he was teaching them as one with authority. They never heard this kind of teaching before from the scribes and from a, the rabbi's. They didn't teach that way. No one wanted to take responsibility for anything. A lot like the government employees today.

You ever try to get a permit? Man, talk about a runaround. No one wants to take responsibility for anything. Well you got to see them over in that department. Oh we don't have that in this department, you'll have to go over and get permission over there first. No one wants to, you know, stick their neck out. Everyone's, you know, pushing you around. Well what does he say? But Jesus was willing to lay it on the line. He didn't teach them like the scribes. He wasn't quoting from the earlier teachers, the rabbi. And he's saying, "I say unto you. Verily, Verily I say unto you." And he was laying it straight on the line with authority. And, well, might he teach them as one with authority for he came with all authority. "All the power" he said "is given to me in heaven and in earth" and so he taught with that authority.

And it's interesting, when one teaches with authority, people begin to gain confidence in that person and that is why you have to, in a sense, be careful because some of the false prophets really are teaching with authority that causes people to be drawn to them. I don't know of any speaker who speaks with more authority than Herbert W. Armstrong. He speaks with real authority and people say "Oh my, you know, he speaks with authority". So speaking with authority is not enough. We must judge their fruit and we must find out if they are leading me in the straight path of reliance in Jesus Christ only or do I have to trust in keeping the Sabbath and paying my double tithes and not eating meat.

So he finished his sayings. I think that it would do well for us to go back and to reread now the Sermon on the Mount remembering that he who has his saying and does them is a wise man; he's building his house on a rock, it will surely stand in the worst storms.

Next week we'll try and get in gear and we'll take chapters and we will start moving, hopefully more rapidly, I don't know. Who cares? I expect the Lord to come before we finish the New Testament anyhow so, um, read five chapters and we'll go as far as we can uh next week as the Lord leads us.

Father, we are so grateful for the opportunity of studying your Word. Now Lord, we heard your truth. We consent to your truth. Help us now Lord as we go to live, abide and walk in your truth. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/matthew-7.html. 2014.

Contending for the Faith

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

After demonstrating in chapter 6:19-21 that man’s existence reaches beyond this mortal life, Jesus shows that all will spend eternity in one of only two possible places.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: Jesus paints a vivid picture of two walled cities with differing paths and gates leading into them. Such an illustration is fitting for His listeners since most ancient cities, including Jerusalem, have fortified walls and a single main gate for entrance.

In reality, Jesus is warning that life is a preparation ground for eternity. Thus, the contrast He makes is not whether but where we will spend eternity. Fowler says, "The emphasis is not on the entering, as opposed to remaining outside since all of humanity is regarded as entering one gate of the other. Rather the emphasis is on the choice of the right gate" (419).

As will be noted, the most unlikely gate is the one that leads to life. In order to be saved, one must enter this gate not just admire or meditate on it. Many in the world admire Jesus, think that His teachings are good, and even pay lip service to Him but never make the commitment that puts them through the gate and on the path of eternal life.

The King James Version calls this gate the "strait gate." The word used here for strait (stenos) literally means "narrow." McArthur says that it comes from a root meaning "to groan" as from being under pressure. Figuratively, it denotes a restriction or constriction (455). Thus, the way into the kingdom of heaven is exceedingly narrow, allowing for only God’s plan and Jesus’ teaching. This gate is not wide enough for self-righteousness, sinfulness, or pride.

In Luke’s gospel Jesus says, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate" (Luke 13:24). The word "strive" (agonizomai) is the same word from which we get our modern word "agony." Thus entering the kingdom is not a leisurely stroll. To enter requires an intense, concentrated, perhaps even painful dedication (see Luke 16:16; Acts 14:22). Very few are willing to make such a sacrifice.

for wide [is] the gate, and broad [is] the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: In contrast to the first gate, there is another through which the multitudes flow. This gate is "wide." It poses few restrictions and the path through it is "broad." The word our Lord uses here (eurychoros) is a compound word coming from eurys (broad) and chora (country). Ralph Earle says,

So it suggests the fact that the broad way is wide-open country, with no fences of boundaries…there are no rules or regulations to hinder one from doing just what he pleases. On the broad road one may go anywhere he wants to and live as undisciplined a life as he chooses. He need not worry about getting off the road. He can’t! (8).

Thus the picture is that of an open, unfenced countryside where throngs of people, without sacrifice or restriction, flock through the gate to hell. This picture perfectly fits the mass of humanity. Having placed themselves in control, they care little for God’s way and His law. Like wayward sheep without out a Good Shepherd they wander wherever their fleshly whims and passions dictates. Such a life will ultimately end in destruction.

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Bibliographical Information
Editor Charles Baily, "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Contending for the Faith". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ctf/matthew-7.html. 1993-2022.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The two paths 7:13-14

The Old Testament contains several references to diverging ways that force the traveler to choose between two paths (e.g., Deuteronomy 30:15; Deuteronomy 30:19; Psalms 1; Jeremiah 21:8). The AV translation "straight" is a bit misleading. That translation reflected the Latin strictum meaning narrow, and it probably contributed to the common idea of "the straight and narrow." However the Greek word stene clearly means narrow as contrasted with broad. The word "small" (Matthew 7:14, Gr. tethlimmene) relates closely to the Greek word thlipsis meaning tribulation. Thus Jesus was saying that the narrow restricting gate has connections with persecution, a major theme in Matthew’s Gospel (cf. Matthew 5:10-12; Matthew 5:44; Matthew 10:16-39; Matthew 11:11-12; Matthew 24:4-13; Acts 14:22). [Note: See also A. J. Mattill Jr., "’The Way of Tribulation,’" Journal of Biblical Literature 98 (1979):531-46.]

The narrow road leads to life, namely, life in the kingdom (cf. Matthew 7:21-22). The broad road leads to destruction, namely, death and hell (cf. Matthew 25:34; Matthew 25:46; John 17:12; Romans 9:22: Philippians 1:28; Philippians 3:19; 1 Timothy 6:9; Hebrews 10:39; 2 Peter 2:1; 2 Peter 2:3; 2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 17:11). Few will enter the kingdom compared with the many who will perish. Jesus clearly did not believe in the doctrine of universalism that is growing in popularity today, the belief that everyone will eventually end up in heaven (cf. John 14:6). Entrance through the narrow gate onto the narrow way will eventually lead a person into the kingdom. The beginning of a life of discipleship (the gate) and the process of discipleship (the way) are both restrictive and both involve persecution.

"Gate is mentioned for the benefit of those who were not true followers; way is mentioned as a definition of the life of the disciples of Jesus. This is why Matthew uses the word ’gate’ (pule) while Luke employs the word ’door’ (thura, Luke 13:24). Luke is concerned primarily with salvation. Here the King desires subjects for His kingdom, so He uses a word which implies a path is to be followed after entrance into life." [Note: Toussaint, Behold the . . ., p. 116.]

Only a few people would find the way to life (Matthew 7:14). As we noted earlier, Israel’s leaders were lethargic about seeking the Messiah (Matthew 2:7-8). Many of the Jews were evidently not seeking the kingdom either.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-7.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

4. The false alternatives 7:13-27

To clarify the essential choices that His disciples needed to make, Jesus laid out four pairs of alternatives. Their choices would prepare them to continue to get ready for the coming kingdom. Each of the four alternatives is a warning of catastrophic proportions. They all focus on future judgment and the kingdom. This section constitutes the conclusion to the Sermon on the Mount.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-7.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 7

THE ERROR OF JUDGMENT ( Matthew 7:1-5 )

7:1-5 Do not judge others, in order that you may not be judged; for with the standard of judgment with which you judge you will be judged; and with the measure you measure to others it will be measured to you. Why do you look for the speck of dust in your brother's eye, and never notice the plank that is in your own eye? or, how will you say to your brother: "Let me remove the speck of dust from your eye," and, see, there is a plank in your own eye? Hypocrite! first remove the plank from your own eye; then you will see clearly to remove the speck of dust from your brother's eye.

When Jesus spoke like this, as so often in the Sermon on the Mount, he was using words and ideas which were quite familiar to the highest thoughts of the Jews. Many a time the Rabbis warned people against judging others. "He who judges his neighbour favourably," they said, "will be judged favourably by God." They laid it down that there were six great works which brought a man credit in this world and profit in the world to come--study, visiting the sick, hospitality, devotion in prayer, the education of children in the Law, and thinking the best of other people. The Jews knew that kindliness in judgment is nothing less than a sacred duty.

One would have thought that this would have been a commandment easy to obey, for history is strewn with the record of the most amazing misjudgments. There have been so many that one would have thought it would be a warning to men not to judge at all.

It has been so in literature. In the Edinburgh Review of November, 1814, Lord Jeffrey wrote a review of Wordsworth's newly published poem The Excursion, in which he delivered the now famous, or infamous verdict: "This will never do." In a review of Keats' Endymion, The Quarterly patronizingly noted "a certain amount of talent which deserves to be put in the right way."

Again and again men and women who became famous have been dismissed as nonentities. In his autobiography Gilbert Frankau tells how in the Victorian days his mother's house was a salon where the most brilliant people met. His mother arranged for the entertainment of her guests. Once she engaged a young Australian soprano to sing. After she had sung, Gilbert Frankau's mother said, "What an appalling voice! She ought to be muzzled and allowed to sing no more!" The young singer's name was Nellie Melba.

Gilbert Frankau himself was producing a play. He sent to a theatrical agency for a young male actor to play the leading male part. The young man was interviewed and tested. After the test Gilbert Frankau telephoned to the agent. "This man", he said, "will never do. He cannot act, and he never will be able to act, and you had better tell him to look for some other profession before he starves. By the way, tell me his name again so that I can cross him off my list." The actor was Ronald Colman who was to become one of the most famous the screen has ever known.

Again and again people have been guilty of the most notorious moral misjudgments. Collie Knox tells of what happened to himself and a friend. He himself had been badly smashed up in a flying accident while serving in the Royal Flying Corps. The friend had that very day been decorated for gallantry at Buckingham Palace. They had changed from service dress into civilian clothes and were lunching together at a famous London restaurant, when a girl came up and handed to each of them a white feather--the badge of cowardice.

There is hardly anyone who has not been guilty of some grave misjudgment; there is hardly anyone who has not suffered from someone else's misjudgment. And yet the strange fact is that there is hardly any commandment of Jesus which is more consistently broken and neglected.

NO MAN CAN JUDGE ( Matthew 7:1-5 continued)

There are three great reasons why no man should judge another.

(i) We never know the whole facts or the whole person. Long ago Hillel the famous Rabbi said, "Do not judge a man until you yourself have come into his circumstances or situation." No man knows the strength of another man's temptations. The man with the placid and equable temperament knows nothing of the temptations of the man whose blood is afire and whose passions are on a hair-trigger. The man brought up in a good home and in Christian surroundings knows nothing of the temptation of the man brought up in a slum, or in a place where evil stalks abroad. The man blessed with fine parents knows nothing of the temptations of the man who has the load of a bad heredity upon his back. The fact is that if we realized what some people have to go through, so far from condemning them, we would be amazed that they have succeeded in being as good as they are.

No more do we know the whole person. In one set of circumstances a person may be unlovely and graceless; in another that same person may be a tower of strength and beauty. In one of his novels Mark Rutherford tells of a man who married for the second time. His wife had also been married before, and she had a daughter in her teens. The daughter seemed a sullen and unlovely creature, without a grain of attractiveness in her. The man could make nothing of her. Then, unexpectedly, the mother fell ill. At once the daughter was transformed. She became the perfect nurse, the embodiment of service and tireless devotion. Her sullenness was lit by a sudden radiance, and there appeared in her a person no one would ever have dreamed was there.

There is a kind of crystal called Labrador spar. At first sight it is dull and without lustre; but if it is turned round and round, and here and there, it will suddenly come into a position where the light strikes it in a certain way and it will sparkle with flashing beauty. People are like that. They may seem unlovely simply because we do not know the whole person. Everyone has something good in him or her. Our task is not to condemn, and to judge by, the superficial unloveliness, but to look for the underlying beauty. That is what we would have others do to us, and that is what we must do to them.

(ii) It is almost impossible for any man to be strictly impartial in his judgment. Again and again we are swayed by instinctive and unreasoning reactions to people.

It is told that sometimes, when the Greeks held a particularly important and difficult trial, they held it in the dark so that judge and jury would not even see the man on trial, and so would be influenced by nothing but the facts of the case.

Montaigne has a grim tale in one of his essays. There was a Persian judge who had given a biased verdict, and he had given it under the influence of bribery. When Cambysses, the king, discovered what had happened, he ordered the judge to be executed. Then he had the skin flayed from the dead body and preserved; and with the skin he covered the seat of the chair on which judges sat in judgment, that it might be a grim reminder to them never to allow prejudice to affect their verdicts.

Only a completely impartial person has a right to judge. It is not in human nature to be completely impartial. Only God can judge.

(iii) But it was Jesus who stated the supreme reason why we should not judge others. No man is good enough to judge any other man. Jesus drew a vivid picture of a man with a plank in his own eye trying to extract a speck of dust from someone else's eye. The humour of the picture would raise a laugh which would drive the lesson home.

Only the faultless has a right to look for faults in others. No man has a right to criticize another man unless he is prepared at least to try to do the thing he criticizes better. Every Saturday the football terracings are full of people who are violent critics, and who would yet make a pretty poor show if they themselves were to descend to the arena. Every association and every Church is full of people who are prepared to criticize from the body of the hall, or even from an arm-chair, but who would never even dream of taking office themselves. The world is full of people who claim the right to be extremely vocal in criticism and totally exempt from action.

No man has a right to criticize others unless he is prepared to venture himself in the same situation. No man is good enough to criticize his fellow-men.

We have quite enough to do to rectify our own lives without seeking censoriously to rectify the lives of others. We would do well to concentrate on our own faults, and to leave the faults of others to God.

THE TRUTH AND THE HEARER ( Matthew 7:6 )

7:6 Do not give that which is holy to the dogs, and do not cast your pearls before pigs, lest they trample upon them with their feet, and turn and rend you.

This is a very difficult saying of Jesus for, on the face of it, it seems to demand an exclusiveness which is the very reverse of the Christian message. It was, in fact, a saying which was used in two ways in the early Church.

(i) It was used by the Jews who believed that God's gifts and God's grace were for Jews alone. It was used by those Jews who were the enemies of Paul, and who argued that a gentile must become circumcised and accept the Law and become a Jew before he could become a Christian. It was indeed a text which could be used--misused--in the interests of Jewish exclusiveness.

(ii) The early Church used this text in a special way. The early Church was under a double threat. It was under the threat which came from outside. The early Church was an island of Christian purity in a surrounding sea of gentile immorality; and it was always supremely liable to be infected with the taint of the world. It was under the threat which came from inside. In those early days men were thinking things out, and it was inevitable that there would be those whose speculations would wander into the pathways of heresy; there were those who tried to effect a compromise between Christian and pagan thought, and to arrive at some synthesis of belief which would satisfy both. If the Christian Church was to survive, it had to defend itself alike from the threat from outside and the threat from inside, or it would have become simply another of the many religions which competed within the Roman Empire.

In particular the early Church was very careful about whom it admitted to the Lord's Table, and this text became associated with the Lord's Table. The Lord's Supper began with the announcement: "Holy things for holy people." Theodoret quotes what he says is an unwritten saying of Jesus: "My mysteries are for myself and for my people." The Apostolic Constitutions lay it down that at the beginning of the Lord's Supper the deacon shall say, "Let none of the catechumens (that is, those still under instruction), let none of the hearers (that is, those who had come to the service because they were interested in Christianity), let none of the unbelievers, let none of the heretics, stay here." There was a fencing of the Table against all but pledged Christians. The Didachi, or, to give it its full name, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, which dates back to A.D. 100 and which is the first service order book of the Christian Church, lays it down: "Let no one eat or drink of your Eucharist except those baptised into the name of the Lord; for, as regards this, the Lord has said, 'Give not that which is holy unto dogs.'" It is Tertullian's complaint that the heretics allow all kinds of people, even the heathen, into the Lord's Supper, and by so doing, "That which is holy they will cast to the dogs, and pearls (although, to be sure, they are not real ones) to swine" (De Praescriptione 41).

In all these instances this text is used as a basis of exclusiveness. It was not that the Church was not missionary-minded; the Church in the early days was consumed with the desire to win everyone; but the Church was desperately aware of the utter necessity of maintaining the purity of the faith, lest Christianity should be gradually assimilated to and ultimately swallowed up in, the surrounding sea of paganism.

It is easy to see the temporary meaning of this text; but we must try to see its permanent meaning as well.

REACHING THOSE WHO ARE UNFIT TO HEAR ( Matthew 7:6 continued)

It is just possible that this saying of Jesus has become altered accidentally in its transmission. It is a good example of the Hebrew habit of parallelism which we have already met ( Matthew 6:10). Let us set it down in its parallel clauses:

"Give not that which is holy unto the dogs;

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine."

With the exception of one word the parallelism is complete. Give is parallelled by cast; dogs by swine; but holy is not really balanced by pearls. There the parallelism breaks down. It so happens that there are two Hebrew words which are very like each other, especially when we remember that Hebrew has no written vowels. The word for holy is qadosh ( H6918) (Q-D-SH); and the Aramaic word for an ear-ring is qadasha (Q-D-SH). The consonants are exactly the same, and in primitive written Hebrew the words would look exactly the same. Still further, in the Talmud, "an ear-ring in a swine's snout" is a proverbial phrase for something which is entirely incongruous and out of place. It is by no means impossible that the original phrase ran:

"Give not an ear-ring to the dogs;

Neither cast ye your pearls before swine,"

in which case the parallelism would be perfect.

If that is the real meaning of the phrase, it would simply mean that there are certain people who are not fit, not able, to receive the message which the Church is so willing to give. It would not then be a statement of exclusiveness; it would be the statement of a practical difficulty of communication which meets the preacher in every age. It is quite true that there are certain people to whom it is impossible to impart truth. Something has to happen to them before they can be taught. There is actually a rabbinic saying, "Even as a treasure must not be shown to everyone, so with the words of the Law; one must not go deeply into them, except in the presence of suitable people."

This is in fact a universal truth. It is not to everyone that we can talk of everything. Within a group of friends we may sit and talk about our faith; we may allow our minds to question and adventure; we may talk about the things which puzzle and perplex; and we may allow our minds to go out on the roads of speculation. But if into that group there comes a person of rigid and unsympathetic orthodoxy, he might well brand us as a set of dangerous heretics; or if there entered a simple and unquestioning soul, his faith might well be shocked and shaken. A medical film might well be to one person an eye-opening, valuable, and salutary experience; while to another it might equally produce a prurient and prying obscenity. It is told that once Dr. Johnson and a group of friends were talking and jesting as only old friends can. Johnson saw an unpleasant creature approach. "Let us be silent," he said, "a fool is coming."

So, then, there are some people who cannot receive Christian truth. It may be that their minds are shut; it may be that their minds are brutalised and covered over with a film of filth; it may be that they have lived a life which has obscured their ability to see the truth; it may be that they are constitutional mockers of all things holy; it may be, as sometimes happens, that we and they have absolutely no common ground on which we can argue.

A man can only understand what he is fit to understand. It is not to everyone that we can lay bare the secrets of our hearts. There are always those to whom the preaching of Christ will be foolishness, and in whose minds the truth, when expressed in words, will meet an insuperable barrier.

What is to be done with these people? Are they to be abandoned as hopeless? Is the Christian message simply to be withdrawn from them? What Christian words cannot do, a Christian life can often do. A man may be blind and impervious to any Christian argument in words; but he can have no answer to the demonstration of a Christian life.

Cecil Northcott in A Modern Epiphany tells of a discussion in a camp of young people where representatives of many nations were living together. "One wet night the campers were discussing various ways of telling people about Christ. They turned to the girl from Africa. 'Maria,' they asked, 'what do you do in your country?' 'Oh,' said Maria, 'we don't have missions or give pamphlets away. We just send one or two Christian families to live and work in a village, and when people see what Christians are like, then they want to be Christians too.'" In the end the only all-conquering argument is the argument of a Christian life.

It is often impossible to talk to some people about Jesus Christ. Their insensitiveness, their moral blindness, their intellectual pride, their cynical mockery, the tarnishing film, make them impervious to words about Christ. But it is always possible to show men Christ; and the weakness of the Church lies not in lack of Christian arguments, but in lack of Christian lives.

THE CHARTER OF PRAYER ( Matthew 7:7-11 )

7:7-11 Keep on asking, and it will be given you; Keep on seeking, and you will find; Keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you. For everyone that asks receives; And he who seeks finds; And to him who knocks it will be opened. What man is there, who, if his son will ask him for bread, will give him a stone? Or, if he will ask for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If, then, you, who are grudging, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

Any man who prays is bound to want to know to what kind of God he is praying. He wants to know in what kind of atmosphere his prayers will be heard. Is he praying to a grudging God out of whom every gift has to be squeezed and coerced? Is he praying to a mocking God whose gifts may well be double-edged? Is he praying to a God whose heart is so kind that he is more ready to give than we are to ask?

Jesus came from a nation which loved prayer. The Jewish Rabbis said the loveliest things about prayer. "God is as near to his creatures as the ear to the mouth." "Human beings can hardly hear two people talking at once, but God, if all the world calls to him at the one time, hears their cry." "A man is annoyed by being worried by the requests of his friends, but with God, all the time a man puts his needs and requests before him, God loves him all the more." Jesus had been brought up to love prayer; and in this passage he gives us the Christian charter of prayer.

Jesus' argument is very simple. One of the Jewish Rabbis asked, "Is there a man who ever hates his son?" Jesus' argument is that no father ever refused the request of his son; and God the great Father will never refuse the requests of his children.

Jesus' examples are carefully chosen. He takes three examples, for Luke adds a third to the two Matthew gives. If a son asks bread, will his father give him a stone? If a son asks a fish, will his father give him a serpent? If a son asks an egg, will his father give him a scorpion? ( Luke 11:12). The point is that in each case the two things cited bear a close resemblance.

The little, round, limestone stones on the seashore were exactly the shape and the colour of little loaves. If a son asks bread will his father mock him by offering him a stone, which looks like bread but which is impossible to eat?

If a son asks a fish, will his father give him a serpent? Almost certainly the serpent is an eel. According to the Jewish food laws an eel could not be eaten, because an eel was an unclean fish. "Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you" ( Leviticus 11:12). That regulation ruled out the eel as an article of diet. If a son asks for a fish, will his father indeed give him a fish, but a fish which it is forbidden to eat, and which is useless to eat? Would a father mock his son's hunger like that?

If the son asks for an egg, will his father give him a scorpion? The scorpion is a dangerous little animal. In action it is rather like a small lobster, with claws with which it clutches its victim. Its sting is in its tail, and it brings its tail up over its back to strike its victim. The sting can be exceedingly painful, and sometimes even fatal. When the scorpion is at rest its claws and tail are folded in, and there is a pale kind of scorpion, which, when folded up, would look exactly like an egg. If a son asks for an egg, will his father mock him by handing him a biting scorpion?

God will never refuse our prayers; and God will never mock our prayers. The Greeks had their stories about the gods who answered men's prayers, but the answer was an answer with a barb in it, a double-edged gift. Aurora, the goddess of the dawn, fell in love with Tithonus a mortal youth, so the Greek story ran. Zeus, the king of the gods, offered her any gift that she might choose for her mortal lover. Aurora very naturally chose that Tithonus might live for ever; but she had forgotten to ask that Tithonus might remain for ever young; and so Tithonus grew older and older and older, and could never die, and the gift became a curse.

There is a lesson here; God will always answer our prayers; but he will answer them in his way, and his way will be the way of perfect wisdom and of perfect love. Often if he answered our prayers as we at the moment desired it would be the worst thing possible for us, for in our ignorance we often ask for gifts which would be our ruin. This saying of Jesus tells us, not only that God will answer, but that God will answer in wisdom and in love.

Although this is the charter of prayer, it lays certain obligations upon us. In Greek there are two kinds of imperative; there is the aorist imperative which issues one definite command. "Shut the door behind you," would be an aorist imperative. There is the present imperative which issues a command that a man should always do something or should go on doing something. "Always shut doors behind you," would be a present imperative. The imperatives here are present imperatives; therefore Jesus is saying, "Go on asking; go on seeking; go on knocking." He is telling us to persist in prayer; he is telling us never to be discouraged in prayer. Clearly therein lies the test of our sincerity. Do we really want a thing? Is a thing such that we can bring it repeatedly into the presence of God, for the biggest test of any desire is: Can I pray about it?

Jesus here lays down the twin facts that God will always answer our prayers in his way, in wisdom and in love; and that we must bring to God an undiscouraged life of prayer, which tests the rightness of the things we pray for, and which tests our own sincerity in asking for them.

THE EVEREST OF ETHICS ( Matthew 7:12 )

7:12 So, then, all the things which you wish that men should do to you, so do you too do to them; for this is the Law and the prophets.

This is probably the most universally famous thing that Jesus ever said. With this commandment the Sermon on the Mount reaches its summit. This saying of Jesus has been called "the capstone of the whole discourse." It is the topmost peak of social ethics, and the Everest of all ethical teaching.

It is possible to quote rabbinic parallels for almost everything that Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount; but there is no real parallel to this saying. This is something which had never been said before. It is new teaching, and a new view of life and of life's obligations.

It is not difficult to find many parallels to this saying in its negative form. As we have seen, there were two most famous Jewish teachers. There was Shammai who was famous for his stem and rigid austerity; there was Hillel who was famous for his sweet graciousness. The Jews had a story like this: "A heathen came to Shammai and said, 'I am prepared to be received as a proselyte on the condition that you teach me the whole Law while I am standing on one leg.' Shammai drove him away with a foot-rule which he had in his hand. He went to Hillel who received him as a proselyte. He said to him, 'What is hateful to yourself, do to no other; that is the whole Law, and the rest is commentary. Go and learn.'" There is the Golden Rule in its negative form.

In the Book of Tobit there is a passage in which the aged Tobias teaches his son all that is necessary for life. One of his maxims is: "What thou thyself hatest, to no man do" ( Tob_4:16 ).

There is a Jewish work called The Letter to Aristeas, which purports to be an account of the Jewish scholars who went to Alexandria to translate the Hebrew scriptures into Greek, and who produced the Septuagint. The Egyptian king gave them a banquet at which he asked them certain difficult questions. "What is the teaching of wisdom?" he asked. A Jewish scholar answered, "As you wish that no evil should befall you, but to be a partaker of all good things, so you should act on the same principle towards your subjects and offenders, and you should mildly admonish the noble and the good. For God draws all men unto himself by his benignity" (The Letter to Aristeas 207).

Rabbi Eliezer came nearer to Jesus' way of putting it when he said, "Let the honour of thy friend be as dear unto thee as thine own." The Psalmist again had the negative form when he said that only the man who does no evil to his neighbour can approach God ( Psalms 15:3).

It is not difficult to find this rule in Jewish teaching in its negative form; but there is no parallel to the positive form in which Jesus put it.

The same is true of the teaching of other religions. The negative form is one of the basic principles of Confucius. Tsze-Kung asked him, "Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one's life?" Confucius said, "Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others."

There are certain beautiful lines in the Buddhist Hymns of the Faith which come very near the Christian teaching:

"All men tremble at the rod, all men fear death;

Putting oneself in the place of others, kill not, nor cause to

kin.

All men tremble at the rod, unto all men life is dear;

Doing as one would be done by, kill not nor cause to kill."

With the Greeks and the Romans it is the same. Isocrates tells how King Nicocles advised his subordinate officials: "Do not do to others the things which make you angry when you experience them at the hands of other people." Epictetus condemned slavery on the principle: "What you avoid suffering yourselves, seek not to inflict upon others." The Stoics had as one of their basic maxims: "What you do not wish to be done to you, do not do to anyone else." And it is told that the Emperor Alexander Severus had that sentence engraved upon the walls of his palace that he might never forget it as a rule of life.

In its negative form this rule is in fact the basis of all ethical teaching, but no one but Jesus ever put it in its positive form. Many voices had said, "Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you," but no voice had ever said, "Do to others what you would have them do to you."

THE GOLDEN RULE OF JESUS ( Matthew 7:12 continued)

Let us see just how the positive form of the golden rule differs from the negative form; and let us see just how much more Jesus was demanding than any teacher had ever demanded before.

When this rule is put in its negative form, when we are told that we must refrain from doing to others that which we would not wish them to do to us, it is not an essentially religious rule at all. It is simply a common-sense statement without which no social intercourse at all would be possible. Sir Thomas Browne once said, "We are beholden to every man we meet that he doth not kill us." In a sense that is true, but, if we could not assume that the conduct and the behaviour of other people to us would conform to the accepted standards of civilized life, then life would be intolerable. The negative form of the golden rule is not in any sense an extra; it is something without which life could not go on at all.

Further, the negative form of the rule involves nothing more than not doing certain things; it means refraining from certain actions. It is never very difficult not to do things. That we must not do injury to other people is not a specially religious principle; it is rather a legal principle. It is the kind of principle that could well be kept by a man who has no belief and no interest in religion at all. A man might for ever refrain from doing any injury to any one else, and yet be a quite useless citizen to his fellow-men. A man could satisfy the negative form of the rule by simple inaction; if he consistently did nothing he would never break it. And a goodness which consists in doing nothing would be a contradiction of everything that Christian goodness means.

When this rule is put positively, when we are told that we must actively do to others what we would have them do to us, a new principle enters into life, and a new attitude to our fellow-men. It is one thing to say, "I must not injure people; I must not do to them what I would object to their doing to me." That, the law can compel us to do. It is quite another thing to say, "I must go out of my way to help other people and to be kind to them, as I would wish them to help and to be kind to me." That, only love can compel us to do. The attitude which says, "I must do no harm to people," is quite different from the attitude which says, "I must do my best to help people."

To take a very simple analogy--if a man has a motor car the law can compel him to drive it in such a way that he does not injure anyone else on the road, but no law can compel him to stop and to give a weary and a foot-sore traveller a lift along the road. It is quite a simple thing to refrain from hurting and injuring people; it is not so very difficult to respect their principles and their feelings; it is a far harder thing to make it the chosen and deliberate policy of life to go out of our way to be as kind to them as we would wish them to be to us.

And yet it is just that new attitude which makes life beautiful. Jane Stoddart quotes an incident from the life of W. H. Smith. "When Smith was at the War Office, his private secretary, Mr. Fleetwood Wilson, noticed that at the end of a week's work, when his chief was preparing to leave for Greenlands on a Saturday afternoon, he used to pack a despatch-box with the papers he required to take with him, and carry it himself on his journey. Mr. Wilson remarked that Mr. Smith would save himself much trouble, if he did as was the practice of other ministers--leave the papers to be put in an office 'pouch' and sent by post. Mr. Smith looked rather ashamed for a moment, and then looking up at his secretary said, 'Well, my dear Wilson, that fact is this: our postman who brings the letters from Henley, has plenty to carry. I watched him one morning coming up the approach with my heavy pouch in addition to his usual load, and I determined to save him as much as I could.'" An action like that shows a certain attitude to one's fellow-men. It is the attitude which believes that we should treat our fellow-men, not as the law allows, but as love demands.

It is perfectly possible for a man of the world to observe the negative form of the golden rule. He could without very serious difficulty so discipline his life that he would not do to others what he did not wish them to do to him; but the only man who can even begin to satisfy the positive form of the rule is the man who has the love of Christ within his heart. He will try to forgive as he would wish to be forgiven, to help as he would wish to be helped, to praise as he would wish to be praised, to understand as he would wish to be understood. He will never seek to avoid doing things; he will always look for things to do. Clearly this will make life much more complicated; clearly he will have much less time to spend on his own desires and his own activities, for time and time again he will have to stop what he is doing to help someone else. It will be a principle which will dominate his life at home, in the factory, in the bus, in the office, in the street, in the train, at his games, everywhere. He can never do it until self withers and dies within his heart. To obey this commandment a man must become a new man with a new centre to his life; and if the world was composed of people who sought to obey this rule, it would be a new world.

LIFE AT THE CROSS-ROADS ( Matthew 7:13-14 )

7:13-14 Go in through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the road which leads to ruin, and there are many who go in through it. Narrow is the gate and hard is the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

There is always a certain dramatic quality about life, for, as it has been said, "all life concentrates on man at the cross-roads." In every action of life man is confronted with a choice; and he can never evade the choice, because he can never stand still. He must always take one way or the other. Because of that, it has always been one of the supreme functions of the great men of history that they should confront men with that inevitable choice. As the end drew near, Moses spoke to the people: "See, I have set before you this day life and good, and death and evil.... Therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" ( Deuteronomy 30:15-20). When Joshua was laying down the leadership of the nation at the end of his life, he presented them with the same choice: "Choose this day whom you will serve" ( Joshua 24:15). Jeremiah heard the voice of God saying to him, "And to this people you will say, Thus says the Lord: Behold I set before you the way of life and the way of death" ( Jeremiah 21:8). John Oxenham wrote:

"To every man there openeth

A way and ways and a way;

And the high soul treads the high way,

And the low soul gropes the low;

And in between on the misty flats

The rest drift to and fro;

But to every man there openeth

A high way and a low,

And every man decideth

The way his soul shall go."

That is the choice with which Jesus is confronting men in this passage. There is a broad and an easy way, and there are many who take it; but the end of it is ruin. There is a narrow and a hard way, and there are few who take it; but the end of it is life. Cebes, the disciple of Socrates, writes in the Tabula: "Dost thou see a little door, and a way in front of the door, which is not much crowded, but the travellers are few? That is the way that leadeth to true instruction." Let us examine the difference between the two ways.

(i) It is the difference between the hard and the easy way. There is never any easy way to greatness; greatness is always the product of toil. Hesiod, the old Greek poet, writes, "Wickedness can be had in abundance easily; smooth is the road, and very nigh she dwells; but in front of virtue the gods immortal have put sweat." Epicharmus said, "The gods demand of us toil as the price of all good things." "Knave," he warns, "yearn not for the soft things, lest thou earn the hard."

Once Edmund Burke made a great speech in the House of Commons. Afterwards his brother Richard Burke was observed deep in thought. He was asked what he was thinking about, and answered, "I have been wondering how it has come about that Ned has contrived to monopolise all the talents of our family; but then again I remember that, when we were at play, he was always at work." Even when a thing is done with an appearance of ease, that ease is the product of unremitting toil. The skill of the master executant on the piano, or the champion player on the golf course did not come without sweat. There never has been any other way to greatness than the way of toil, and anything else which promises such a way is a delusion and a snare.

(ii) It is the difference between the long and the short way. Very rarely something may emerge complete and perfect in a flash, but far oftener greatness is the result of long labour and constant attention to detail. Horace in The Art of Poetry? advises Piso, when he has written something, to keep it beside him for nine years before he publishes it. He tells how a pupil used to take exercises to Quintilius, the famous critic. Quintilius would say, "Scratch it out; the work has been badly turned; send it back to the fire and the anvil." Virgil's Aneid occupied the last ten years of Virgil's life; and. as he was dying, he would have destroyed it, because he thought it so imperfect, if his friends had not stopped him. Plato's Republic begins with a simple sentence: "I went down to the Piraeus yesterday with Glaucon, the son of Ariston, that I might offer up prayer to the goddess." On Plato's own manuscript, in his own handwriting, there were no fewer than thirteen different versions of that opening sentence. The master writer had laboured at arrangement after arrangement that he might get the cadences exactly right. Thomas Gray's Elegy written in a Country Churchyard is one of the immortal poems. It was begun in the summer of 1742; it was finally privately circulated on 12th June, 1750. Its lapidary perfection had taken eight years to produce. No one ever arrived at a masterpiece by a short-cut. In this world we are constantly faced with the short way, which promises immediate results, and the long way, of which the results are in the far distance. But the lasting things never come quickly; the long way is the best way in the end.

(iii) It is the difference between the disciplined and the undisciplined way. Nothing was ever achieved without discipline; and many an athlete and many a man has been ruined because he abandoned discipline and let himself grow slack. Coleridge is the supreme tragedy of indiscipline. Never did so great a mind produce so little. He left Cambridge University to join the army; he left the army because, in spite of all his erudition, he could not rub down a horse; he returned to Oxford and left without a degree. He began a paper called The Watchman which lived for ten numbers and then died. It has been said of him: "He lost himself in visions of work to be done, that always remained to be done. Coleridge had every poetic gift but one--the gift of sustained and concentrated effort." In his head and in his mind he had all kinds of books, as he said, himself, "completed save for transcription." "I am on the eve," he says, "of sending to the press two octave volumes." But the books were never composed outside Coleridge's mind, because. he would not face the discipline of sitting down to write them out. No one ever reached any eminence, and no one having reached it ever maintained it, without discipline.

(iv) It is the difference between the thoughtful and the thoughtless way. Here we come to the heart of the matter. No one would ever take the easy, the short, the undisciplined way, if he only thought. Everything in this world has two aspects-- how it looks at the moment, and how it will look in the time to come. The easy way may look very inviting at the moment, and the hard way may look very daunting. The only way to get our values right is to see, not the beginning, but the end of the way, to see things, not in the light of time, but in the light of eternity.

THE FALSE PROPHETS ( Matthew 7:15-20 )

7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but who within are rapacious wolves. You will recognize them from their fruits. Surely men do not gather grapes from thorns, and figs from thistles? So every good tree produces fine fruit; but every rotten tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit. Every tree which does not produce fine fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then you will recognize them from their fruits.

Almost every phrase and word in this section would ring an answering bell in the minds of the Jews who heard it for the first time.

The Jews knew all about false prophets. Jeremiah, for instance, had his conflict with the prophets who said "Peace, peace, when there is no peace" ( Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11). Wolves was the very name by which false rulers and false prophets were called. In the bad days Ezekiel had said, "Her princes in the midst of her are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood and destroying lives, to get dishonest gain" ( Ezekiel 22:27). Zephaniah drew a grim picture of the state of things in Israel, when, "Her officials within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves that leave nothing till the morning. Her prophets are wanton, faithless men" ( Zephaniah 3:3). When Paul was warning the elders of Ephesus of dangers to come, as he took a last farewell of them, he said, "Fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock" ( Acts 20:29). Jesus said that he was sending out his disciples as sheep in the midst of wolves ( Matthew 10:16); and he told of the Good Shepherd who protected the flock from the wolves with his life ( John 10:12). Here indeed was a picture which everyone could recognize and understand.

He said that the false prophets were like wolves in sheep's clothing. When the shepherd watched his flocks upon the hillside, his garment was a sheepskin, worn with the skin outside and the fleece inside. But a man might wear a shepherd's dress and still not be a shepherd. The prophets had acquired a conventional dress. Elijah had a mantle ( 1 Kings 19:13; 1 Kings 19:19), and that mantle had been a hairy cloak ( 2 Kings 1:8). That sheepskin mantle had become the uniform of the prophets, just as the Greek philosophers had worn the philosopher's robe. It was by that mantle that the prophet could be distinguished from other men. But sometimes that garb was worn by those who had no right to wear it, for Zechariah in his picture of the great days to come says, "He will not put on a hairy mantle in order to deceive" ( Zechariah 13:4). There were those who wore a prophet's cloak, but who lived anything but a prophet's life.

There were false prophets in the ancient days, but there were also false prophets in New Testament times. Matthew was written about A.D. 85, and at that time prophets were still an institution in the Church. They were men with no fixed abode, men who had given up everything to wander throughout the country. bringing to the Churches a message which they believed to come direct from God.

At their best the prophets were the inspiration of the Church, for they were men who had abandoned everything to serve God and the Church of God. But the office of prophet was singularly liable to abuse. There were men who used it to gain prestige, and to impose on the generosity of local congregations, and so live a life of comfortable, and even pampered, idleness. The Didachi is the first order book of the Christian Church; it dates to about A.D. 100; and its regulations concerning these wandering prophets are very illuminating. A true prophet was to be held in the highest honour; he was to be welcomed; his word must never be disregarded, and his freedom must never be curtailed; but "He shall remain one day, and, if necessary, another day also; but if he remain three days, he is a false prophet." He must never ask for anything but bread. "If he asks for money, he is a false prophet." Prophets all claim to speak in the Spirit, but there is one acid test: "By their characters a true and a false prophet shall be known." "Every prophet that teacheth the truth, if he do not what he teacheth, is a false prophet." If a prophet, claiming to speak in the Spirit, orders a table and a meal to be set before him he is a false prophet. "Whosoever shall say in the Spirit: Give me money or any other things, ye shall not hear him; but if he tell you to give in the matter of others who have need, let no one judge him." If a wanderer comes to a congregation, and wishes to settle there, if he has a trade, "let him work and eat." If he has no trade, "consider in your wisdom how he may not live with you as a Christian in idleness.... But if he will not do this, he is a trafficker in Christ. Beware of such" (Didache chapters 11 and 12).

Past history and present events made the words of Jesus meaningful to those who heard them for the first time, and to those to whom Matthew transmitted them.

KNOWN BY THEIR FRUITS ( Matthew 7:15-20 continued)

The Jews, the Greeks and the Romans all used the idea that a tree is to be judged by its fruits. "Like root, like fruit," ran the proverb. Epictetus was later to say, "How can a vine grow not like a vine but like an olive, or, how can an olive grow not like an olive but like a vine" (Epictetus, Discourses 2: 20). Seneca declared that good cannot grow from evil any more than a fig tree can from an olive.

But there is more in this than meets the eye. "Are grapes gathered from thorns?" asked Jesus. There was a certain thorn, the buckthorn, which had little black berries which closely resembled little grapes. "Or figs from thistles?" There was a certain thistle, which had a flower, which, at least at a distance, might well be taken for a fig.

The point is real, and relevant, and salutary. There may be a superficial resemblance between the true and the false prophet. The false prophet may wear the right clothes and use the right language; but you cannot sustain life with the berries of a buckthorn or the flowers of a thistle; and the life of the soul can never be sustained with the food which a false prophet offers. The real test of any teaching is: Does it strengthen a man to bear the burdens of life, and to walk in the way wherein he ought to go?

Let us then look at the false prophets and see their characteristics. If the way is difficult and the gate is so narrow that it is hard to find, then we must be very careful to get ourselves teachers who wit help us to find it, and not teachers who will lure us away from it.

The basic fault of the false prophet is self-interest. The true shepherd cares for the flock more than he cares for his life; the wolf cares for nothing but to satisfy his own gluttony and his own greed. The false prophet is in the business of teaching, not for what he can give to others, but for what he can get to himself.

The Jews were alive to this danger. The Rabbis were the Jewish teachers, but it was a cardinal principle of Jewish Law that a Rabbi must have a trade by which he earned his living, and must on no account accept any payment for teaching. Rabbi Zadok said, "Make the knowledge of the Law neither a crown wherewith to make a show, nor a spade wherewith to dig." Hillel said, "He who uses the crown of the Law for external aims fades away." The Jews knew all about the teacher who used his teaching self-interestedly, for no other reason than to make a profit for himself. There are three ways in which a teacher can be dominated by self interest.

(i) He may teach solely for gain. It is told that there was trouble in the Church at Ecclefechan, where Thomas Carlyle's father was an elder. It was a dispute between the congregation and the minister on a matter of money and of salary. When much had been said on both sides, Carlyle's father rose and uttered one devastating sentence: "Give the hireling his wages, and let him go." No man can live on nothing, and few men can do their best work when the pressure of material things is too fiercely on them, but the great privilege of teaching is not the pay it offers, but the thrill of opening the minds of boys and girls, and young men and maidens, and men and women to the truth.

(ii) He may teach solely for prestige. A man may teach in order to help others, or he may teach to show how clever he is. Denney once said a savage thing: "No man can at one and the same time prove that he is clever and that Christ is wonderful." Prestige is the last thing that the great teachers desire. J. P. Strutliers was a saint of God. He spent all his life in the service of the little Reformed Presbyterian Church when he could have occupied any pulpit in Britain. Men loved him, and the better they knew him the more they loved him. Two men were talking of him. One man knew all that Struthers had done, but did not know Struthers personally. Remembering Struthers' saintly ministry, he said, "Struthers will have a front seat in the Kingdom of Heaven." The other had known Struthers personally and his answer was: "Struthers would be miserable in a front seat anywhere." There is a kind of teacher and preacher who uses his message as a setting for himself. The false prophet is interested in self-display; the true prophet desires self-obliteration.

(iii) He may teach solely to transmit his own ideas. The false prophet is out to disseminate his version of the truth; the true prophet is out to publish abroad God's truth. It is quite true that every man must think things out for himself; but it was said of John Brown of Haddington that, when he preached, ever and again he used to pause "as if listening for a voice." The true prophet listens to God before he speaks to men. He never forgets that he is nothing more than a voice to speak for God and a channel through which God's grace can come to men. It is a teacher's duty and a preacher's duty to bring to men, not his private idea of the truth, but the truth as it is in Jesus Christ.

THE FRUITS OF FALSENESS ( Matthew 7:15-20 continued)

This passage has much to say about the evil fruits of the false prophets. What are the false effects, the evil fruits, which a false prophet may produce?

(i) Teaching is false if it produces a religion which consists solely or mainly in the observance of externals. That is what was wrong with the Scribes and Pharisees. To them religion consisted in the observance of the ceremonial law. If a man went through the correct procedure of handwashing, if on the Sabbath he never carried anything weighing more than two figs, if he never walked on the Sabbath farther than the prescribed distance, if he was meticulous in giving tithes of everything down to the herbs of his kitchen garden, then he was a good man.

It is easy to confuse religion with religious practices. It is possible--and indeed not uncommon--to teach that religion consists in going to Church, observing the Lord's Day, fulfilling one's financial obligations to the Church, reading one's Bible. A man might do all these things and be far off from being a Christian, for Christianity is an attitude of the heart to God and to man.

(ii) Teaching is false if it produces a religion which consists in prohibitions. Any religion which is based on a series of "thou shalt not's" is a false religion. There is a type of teacher who says to a person who has set out on the Christian way: "From now on you will no longer go to the cinema; from now on you will no longer dance; from now on you will no longer smoke or use make-up; from now on you will no longer read a novel or a Sunday newspaper; from now on you will never enter a theatre."

If a man could become a Christian simply by abstaining from doing things Christianity would be a much easier religion than it is. But the whole essence of Christianity is that it does not consist in not doing things; it consists in doing things. A negative Christianity on our part can never answer the positive love of God.

(iii) Teaching is false if it produces an easy religion. There were false teachers in the days of Paul, an echo of whose teaching we can hear in Romans 6:1-23. They said to Paul: "You believe that God's grace is the biggest thing in the universe?" "Yes." "You believe that God's grace is wide enough to cover every sin?" "Yes." "Well then, if that be so, let us go on sinning to our hearts' content. God will forgive. And, after all, our sin is simply giving God's wonderful grace an opportunity to operate." A religion like that is a travesty of religion because it is an insult to the love of God.

Any teaching which takes the iron out of religion, any teaching which takes the Cross out of Christianity, any teaching which eliminates the threat from the voice of Christ, any teaching which pushes judgment into the background and makes men think lightly of sin, is false teaching.

(iv) Teaching is false if it divorces religion and life. Any teaching which removes the Christian from the life and activity of the world is false. That was the mistake the monks and the hermits made. It was their belief that to live the Christian life they must retire to a desert or to a monastery, that they must cut themselves off from the engrossing and tempting life of the world, that they could only be truly Christian by ceasing to live in the world. Jesus said, and he prayed for his disciples, "I do not pray that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil one" ( John 17:15). We have heard, for instance, of a journalist who found it hard to maintain her Christian principles in the life of a daily newspaper, and who left it to take up work on a purely religious journal.

No man can be a good soldier by running away, and the Christian is the soldier of Christ. How shall the leaven ever work if the leaven refuses to be inserted into the mass? What is witness worth unless it is witness to those who do not believe? Any teaching which encourages a man to take what John Mackay called "the balcony view of life" is wrong. The Christian is not a spectator from the balcony; he is involved in the warfare of life.

(v) Teaching is false if it produces a religion which is arrogant and separatist. Any teaching which encourages a man to withdraw into a narrow sect, and to regard the rest of the world as sinners, is false teaching. The function of religion is not to erect middle walls of partition but to tear them down. It is the dream of Jesus Christ that there shall be one flock and one shepherd ( John 10:16). Exclusiveness is not a religious quality; it is an irreligious quality. Fosdick quotes four lines of doggerel:

"We are God's chosen few,

All others will be damned;

There is no room in heaven for you;

We can't have heaven crammed."

Religion is meant to bring men closer together, not to drive men apart. Religion is meant to gather men into one family, not to split them up into hostile groups. The teaching which declares that any Church or any sect has a monopoly of the grace of God is false teaching, for Christ is not the Christ who divides, he is the Christ who unites.

ON FALSE PRETENSES ( Matthew 7:21-23 )

7:21-23 Not everyone that says to me: "Lord, Lord" will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day: "Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name did we not cast out devils, and in your name did we not do many deeds of power?" Then will I publicly announce to them: "I never knew you. Depart from me you doers of iniquity."

There is an apparently surprising feature about this passage. Jesus is quite ready to concede that many of the false prophets will do and say wonderful and impressive things.

We must remember what the ancient world was like. Miracles were common events. The frequency of miracles came from the ancient idea of illness. In the ancient world all illness was held to be the work of demons. A man was ill because a demon had succeeded in exercising some malign influence over him, or in winning a way into some part of his body. Cures were therefore wrought by exorcism. The result of all this was that a great deal of illness was what we would call psychological, as were a great many cures. If a man succeeded in convincing--or deluding--himself into a belief that a demon was in him or had him in his power, that man would undoubtedly be ill. And if someone could convince him that the hold of the demon was broken, then quite certainly that man would be cured.

The leaders of the Church never denied heathen miracles. In answer to the miracles of Christ, Celsus quoted the miracles attributed to Aesculapius and Apollo. Origen, who met his arguments, did not for a moment deny these miracles. He simply answered, "Such curative power is of itself neither good nor bad, but within the reach of godless as well as of honest people" (Origen: Against Celsus 3: 22). Even in the New Testament we read of Jewish exorcists who added the name of Jesus to their repertoire, and who banished devils by its aid ( Acts 19:13). There was many a charlatan who rendered a lip service to Jesus Christ, and who used his name to produce wonderful effects on demon-possessed people. What Jesus is saying is that if any man uses his name on false pretenses, the day of reckoning will come. His real motives will be exposed, and he will be banished from the presence of God.

There are two great permanent truths within this passage. There is only one way in which a man's sincerity can be proved, and that is by his practice. Fine words can never be a substitute for fine deeds. There is only one proof of love, and that proof is obedience. There is no point in saying that we love a person, and then doing things which break that person's heart. When we were young maybe we used sometimes to say to our mothers, "Mother, I love you." And maybe mother sometimes smiled a little wistfully and said, "I wish you would show it a little more in the way you behave." So often we confess God with our lips and deny him with our lives. It is not difficult to recite a creed, but it is difficult to live the Christian life. Faith without practice is a contradiction in terms, and love without obedience is an impossibility.

At the back of this passage is the idea of judgment. All through it there runs the certainty that the day of reckoning comes. A man may succeed for long in maintaining the pretenses and the disguises, but there comes a day when the pretenses are shown for what they are, and the disguises are stripped away. We may deceive men with our words, but we cannot deceive God. "Thou discernest my thoughts from afar," said the Psalmist ( Psalms 139:2). No man can ultimately deceive the God who sees the heart.

THE ONLY TRUE FOUNDATION ( Matthew 7:24-27 )

7:24-27 So, then, everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be likened to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. And the rain came down, and the rivers swelled, and the wind blew, and fell upon that house, and it did not fall, for it was founded upon the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be likened to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. And the rain came down, and the rivers swelled, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and its fall was great. And when Jesus had ended these words, the people were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their Scribes.

Jesus was in a double sense an expert. He was an expert in scripture. The writer of Proverbs gave him the hint for his picture: "When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established for ever" ( Proverbs 10:25). Here is the germ of the picture which Jesus drew of the two houses and the two builders. But Jesus was also an expert in life. He was the craftsman who knew all about the building of houses, and when he spoke about the foundations of a house he knew what he was talking about. This is no illustration formed by a scholar in his study; this is the illustration of a practical man.

Nor is this a far-fetched illustration; it is a story of the kind of thing which could well happen. In Palestine the builder must think ahead. There was many a gully which in summer was a pleasant sandy hollow, but was in winter a raging torrent of rushing water. A man might be looking for a house; he might find a pleasantly sheltered sandy hollow; and he might think this a very suitable place. But, if he was a short-sighted man, he might well have built his house in the dried-up bed of a river, and, when the winter came, his house would disintegrate. Even on an ordinary site it was tempting to begin building on the smoothed-over sand, and not to bother digging down to the shelf of rock below, but that way disaster lay ahead.

Only a house whose foundations are firm can withstand the storm; and only a life whose foundations are sure can stand the test. Jesus demanded two things.

(i) He demanded that men should listen. One of the great difficulties which face us today is the simple fact that men often do not know what Jesus said or what the Church teaches. In fact the matter is worse. They have often a quite mistaken notion of what Jesus said and of what the Church teaches. It is no part of the duty of an honourable man to condemn either a person, or an institution, unheard--and that today is precisely what so many do. The first step to the Christian life is simply to give Jesus Christ a chance to be heard.

(ii) He demanded that men should do. Knowledge only becomes relevant when it is translated into action. It would be perfectly possible for a man to pass an examination in Christian Ethics with the highest distinction, and yet not to be a Christian. Knowledge must become action; theory must become practice; theology must become life. There is little point in going to a doctor, unless we are prepared to do the things we hear him say to us. There is little point in going to an expert, unless we are prepared to act upon his advice. And yet there are thousands of people who listen to the teaching of Jesus Christ every Sunday, and who have a very good knowledge of what Jesus taught, and who yet make little or no deliberate attempt to put it into practice. If we are to be in any sense followers of Jesus we must hear and do.

Is there any word in which hearing and doing are summed up? There is such a word, and that word is obedience. Jesus demands our implicit obedience. To learn to obey is the most important thing in life.

Some time ago there was a report of the case of a sailor in the Royal Navy who was very severely punished for a breach of discipline. So severe was the punishment that in certain civilian quarters it was thought to be far too severe. A newspaper asked its readers to express their opinions about the severity of the punishment.

One who answered was a man who himself had served for years in the Royal Navy. In his view the punishment was not too severe. He held that discipline was absolutely essential, for the purpose of discipline was to condition a man automatically and unquestioningly to obey orders, and on such obedience a man's life might well depend. He cited a case from his own experience. He was in a launch which was towing a much heavier vessel in a rough sea. The vessel was attached to the launch by a wire hawser. Suddenly in the midst of the wind and the spray there came a single, insistent word of command from the officer in charge of the launch. "Down!" he shouted. On the spot the crew of the launch flung themselves down. Just at that moment the wire towing-hawser snapped, and the broken parts of it whipped about like a maddened steel snake. If any man had been struck by it he would have been instantly killed. But the whole crew automatically obeyed and no one was injured. If anyone had stopped to argue, or to ask why, he would have been a dead man. Obedience saved lives.

It is such obedience that Jesus demands. It is Jesus' claim that obedience to him is the only sure foundation for life; and it is his promise that the life which is founded on obedience to him is safe, no matter what storms may come.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

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Barclay, William. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/matthew-7.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Matthew 7:13

Strait gate -- Justified by grace. Romans 3:23-24, But not by grace only- Titus 2:11 and Matthew 7:13-14.

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Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/matthew-7.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Enter ye in at the strait gate,.... By the "strait gate" is meant Christ himself; who elsewhere calls himself "the door",

John 10:7 as he is into the church below, and into all the ordinances and privileges of it; as also to the Father, by whom we have access unto him, and are let into communion with him, and a participation of all the blessings of grace; yea, he is the gate of heaven, through which we have boldness to enter into the holiest of all by faith and hope now; as there will be hereafter an abundant entrance into the kingdom and glory of God, through his blood and righteousness. This is called "strait"; because faith in Christ, a profession of it, and a life and conversation agreeable to it, are attended with many afflictions, temptations, reproaches, and persecutions. "Entering" in at it is by faith, and making a profession of it: hence it follows, that faith is not the gate itself, but the grace, by which men enter in at the right door, and walk on in Christ, as they begin with him.

For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction; so that the one may be easily known from the other. There is no difficulty in finding out, or entering in at, or walking in the way of sin, which leads to eternal ruin. The gate of carnal lusts, and worldly pleasures, stands wide open,

and many there be which go in thereat; even all men in a state of nature; the way of the ungodly is "broad", smooth, easy, and every way agreeable to the flesh; it takes in a large compass of vices, and has in it abundance of company; but its end is destruction. Our Lord seems to allude to the private and public roads, whose measures are fixed by the Jewish canons; which say p, that

"a private way was four cubits broad, a way from city to city eight cubits, a public way sixteen cubits, and the way to the cities of refuge thirty two cubits.''

p T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 100. 1, 2. Vid. Maimon. & R. Sampson in Misn. Peah, c. 2. sect. 1. & Maimon in Sabbat. c. 1. sect. 1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-7.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Sermon on the Mount.


      12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.   13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:   14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

      Our Lord Jesus here presses upon us that righteousness towards men which is an essential branch of true religion, and that religion towards God which is an essential branch of universal righteousness.

      I. We must make righteousness our rule, and be ruled by it, Matthew 7:12; Matthew 7:12. Therefore, lay this down for your principle, to do as you would be done by; therefore, that you may conform to the foregoing precepts, which are particular, that you may not judge and censure others, go by this rule in general; (you would not be censured, therefore do not censure), Or that you may have the benefit of the foregoing promises. Fitly is the law of justice subjoined to the law of prayer, for unless we be honest in our conversation, God will not hear our prayers, Isaiah 1:15-17; Isaiah 58:6; Isaiah 58:9; Zechariah 7:9; Zechariah 7:13. We cannot expect to receive good things from God, if we do not fair things, and that which is honest, and lovely, and of good report among men. We must not only be devout, but honest, else our devotion is but hypocrisy. Now here we have,

      1. The rule of justice laid down; Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you even so to them. Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but what we are to do; what we are to do, not only toward God, but toward men; not only towards our fellow-disciples, those of our party and persuasion, but towards men in general, all with whom we have to do. The golden rule of equity is, to do to others as we would they should do to us. Alexander Severus, a heathen emperor, was a great admirer of this rule, had it written upon the walls of his closet, often quoted it in giving judgment, honoured Christ, and favoured Christians for the sake of it. Quod tibi, hoc alteri--do to others as you would they should do to you. Take it negatively (Quod tibi fieri non vis, ne alteri feceris), or positively, it comes all to the same. We must not do to others the evil they have done us, nor the evil which they would do to us, if it were in their power; nor may we do that which we think, if it were done to us, we could bear contentedly, but what we desire should be done to us. This is grounded upon that great commandment, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. As we must bear the same affection to our neighbour that we would have borne to ourselves, so we must do the same good offices. The meaning of this rule lies in three things. (1.) We must do that to our neighbour which we ourselves acknowledge to be fit and reasonable: the appeal is made to our own judgment, and the discovery of our judgment is referred to that which is our own will and expectation, when it is our own case. (2.) We must put other people upon the level with ourselves, and reckon we are as much obliged to them, as they to us. We are as much bound to the duty of justice as they, and they as much entitled to the benefit of it as we. (3.) We must, in our dealings with men, suppose ourselves in the same particular case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and deal accordingly. If I were making such a one's bargain, labouring under such a one's infirmity and affliction, how should I desire and expect to be treated? And this is a just supposition, because we know not how soon their case may really be ours: at least we may fear, lest God by his judgments should do to us as we have done to others, if we have not done as we would be done by.

      2. A reason given to enforce this rule; This is the law and the prophets. It is the summary of that second great commandment, which is one of the two, on which hang all the law and the prophets,Matthew 22:40; Matthew 22:40. We have not this in so many words, either in the law or the prophets, but it is the concurring language of the whole. All that is there said concerning our duty towards our neighbour (and that is no little) may be reduced to this rule. Christ has here adopted it into this law; so that both the Old Testament and the New agree in prescribing this to us, to do as we would be done by. By this rule the law of Christ is commended, but the lives of Christians are condemned by comparing them with it. Aut hoc non evangelium, authi non evangelici.--Either this is not the gospel, or these are not Christians.

      II. We must make religion our business, and be intent upon it; we must be strict and circumspect in our conversation, which is here represented to us as entering in at a strait gate, and walking on in a narrow way,Matthew 7:13; Matthew 7:14. Observe here,

      1. The account that is given of the bad way of sin, and the good way of holiness. There are but two ways, right and wrong, good and evil; the way to heaven, and the way to hell; in the one of which we are all of us walking: no middle place hereafter, no middle way now: the distinction of the children of men into saints and sinners, godly and ungodly, will swallow up all to eternity.

      Here is, (1.) An account given us of the way of sin and sinners; both what is the best, and what is the worst of it.

      [1.] That which allures multitudes into it, and keeps them in it; the gate is wide, and the way broad, and there are many travellers in that way. First, "You will have abundance of liberty in that way; the gate is wide, and stands wide open to tempt those that go right on their way. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts about you; it gives no check to your appetites, to your passions: you may walk in the way of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; that gives room enough." It is a broad way, for there is nothing to hedge in those that walk in it, but they wander endlessly; a broad way, for there are many paths in it; there is choice of sinful ways, contrary to each other, but all paths in this broad way. Secondly, "You will have abundance of company in that way: many there be that go in at this gate, and walk in this way." If we follow the multitude, it will be to do evil: if we go with the crowd, it will be the wrong way. It is natural for us to incline to go down the stream, and do as the most do; but it is too great a compliment, to be willing to be damned for company, and to go to hell with them, because they will not go to heaven with us: if many perish, we should be the more cautious.

      [2.] That which should affright us all from it is, that it leads to destruction. Death, eternal death, is at the end of it (and the way of sin tends to it),--everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord. Whether it be the high way of open profaneness, or the back way of close hypocrisy, if it be a way of sin, it will be our ruin, if we repent not.

      (2.) Here is an account given us of the way of holiness.

      [1.] What there is in it that frightens many from it; let us know the worst of it, that we may sit down and count the cost. Christ deals faithfully with us, and tells us,

      First, That the gate is strait. Conversion and regeneration are the gate, by which we enter into this way, in which we begin a life of faith and serious godliness; out of a state of sin into a state of grace we must pass, by the new birth, John 3:3; John 3:5. This is a strait gate, hard to find, and hard to get through; like a passage between two rocks, 1 Samuel 14:4. There must be a new heart, and a new spirit, and old things must pass away. The bent of the soul must be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off; what we have been doing all our days must be undone again. We must swim against the stream; much opposition must be struggled with, and broken through, from without, and from within. It is easier to set a man against all the world than against himself, and yet this must be in conversion. It is a strait gate, for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it; we must become as little children; high thoughts must be brought down; nay, we must strip, must deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man; we must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ. The gate is strait to all, but to some straiter than others; as to the rich, to some that have been long prejudiced against religion. The gate is strait; blessed be God, it is not shut up, nor locked against us, nor kept with a flaming sword, as it will be shortly, Matthew 25:10; Matthew 25:10.

      Secondly, That the way is narrow. We are not in heaven as soon as we have got through the strait gate, nor in Canaan as soon as we have got through the Red Sea; no, we must go through a wilderness, must travel a narrow way, hedged in by the divine law, which is exceedingly broad, and that makes the way narrow; self must be denied, the body kept under, corruptions mortified, that are as a right eye and a right hand; daily temptations must be resisted; duties must be done that are against our inclination. We must endure hardness, must wrestle and be in an agony, must watch in all things, and walk with care and circumspection. We must go through much tribulation. It is hodos tethlimmene--an afflicted way, a way hedged about with thorns; blessed be God, it is not hedged up. The bodies we carry about with us, and the corruptions remaining in us, make the way of our duty difficult; but, as the understanding and will grow more and more sound, it will open and enlarge, and grow more and more pleasant.

      Thirdly, The gate being so strait and the way so narrow, it is not strange that there are but few that find it, and choose it. Many pass it by, through carelessness; they will not be at the pains to find it; they are well as they are, and see no need to change their way. Others look upon it, but shun it; they like not to be so limited and restrained. Those that are going to heaven are but few, compared to those that are going to hell; a remnant, a little flock, like the grape-gleanings of the vintage; as the eight that were saved in the ark, 1 Peter 3:20. In vitia alter alterum trudimus; Quomodo ad salutem revocari potest, quum nullus retrahit, et populus impellit--In the ways of vice men urge each other onward: how shall any one be restored to the path of safety, when impelled forwards by the multitude, without any counteracting influence? Seneca, Epist. 29. This discourages many: they are loth to be singular, to be solitary; but instead of stumbling at this, say rather, If so few are going to heaven, there shall be one the more for me.

      [2.] Let us see what there is in this way, which, notwithstanding this, should invite us all to it; it leads to life, to present comfort in the favour of God, which is the life of the soul; to eternal bliss, the hope of which, at the end of our way, should reconcile us to all the difficulties and inconveniences of the road. Life and godliness are put together (2 Peter 1:3); The gate is strait and the way narrow and up-hill, but one hour in heaven will make amends for it.

      2. The great concern and duty of every one of us, in consideration of all this; Enter ye in at the strait gate. The matter is fairly stated; life and death, good and evil, are set before us; both the ways, and both the ends: now let the matter be taken entire, and considered impartially, and then choose you this day which you will walk in; nay, the matter determines itself, and will not admit of a debate. No man, in his wits, would choose to go to the gallows, because it is a smooth, pleasant way to it, nor refuse the offer of a palace and a throne, because it is a rough, dirty way to it; yet such absurdities as these are men guilty of, in the concerns of their souls. Delay not, therefore; deliberate not any longer, but enter ye in at the strait gate; knock at it by sincere and constant prayers and endeavors, and it shall be opened; nay, a wide door shall be opened, and an effectual one. It is true, we can neither go in, nor go on, without the assistance of divine grace; but it is as true, that grace is freely offered, and shall not be wanting to those that seek it, and submit to it. Conversion is hard work, but it is needful, and, blessed be God, it is not impossible if we strive, Luke 13:24.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Matthew 7:13". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/matthew-7.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

God has been pleased, in the separate accounts He has given us of our Lord Jesus, to display not only His own grace and wisdom, but the infinite excellency of His Son. It is our wisdom to seek to profit by all the light He has afforded us; and, in order to this, both to receive implicitly, as the simple Christian surely does, whatever God has written for our instruction in these different gospels, and also by comparing them, and comparing them according to the special point of view which God has communicated in each gospel, to see concentrated the varying lines of everlasting truth which there meet in Christ. Now, I shall proceed with all simplicity, the Lord helping me, first taking up the gospel before us, in order to point out, as far as I am enabled to do, the great distinguishing features, as well as the chief contents, that the Holy Ghost has here been pleased to communicate. It is well to bear in mind, that in this gospel, as in all the rest, God has in nowise undertaken to present everything, but only some chosen discourses and facts; and this is the more remarkable, inasmuch as in some cases the very same miracles, etc., are given in several, and even in all, the gospels. The gospels are short; the materials used are not numerous; but what shall we say of the depths of grace that are there disclosed? What of the immeasurable glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, which everywhere shines out in them?

The undeniable certainty that God has been pleased to confine Himself to a small portion of the circumstances of the life of Jesus, and, even so, to repeat the same discourse. miracle, or whatever other fact is brought before us, only brings out, to my mind, more distinctly the manifest design of God to give expression to the glory of the Son in each gospel according to a special point of view. Now, looking at the gospel of Matthew as a whole, and taking the most enlarged view of it before we enter into details, the question arises, what is the main idea before the Holy Ghost? It is surely the lesson of simplicity to learn this from God, and, once learnt, to apply it steadily as a help of the most manifest kind; full of interest, as well as of the weightiest instruction, in examining all the incidents as they come before us. What, then, is that which, not merely in a few facts in particular chapters, but throughout, comes before us in the gospel of Matthew? It matters not where we look, whether at the beginning, the middle, or at the end, the same evident character proclaims itself. The prefatory words introduce it. Is it not the Lord Jesus, Son of David, Son of Abraham Messiah? But, then, it is not simply the anointed of Jehovah, but One who proves Himself, and is declared of God, to be Jehovah-Messiah No such testimony appears elsewhere. I say not that there is no evidence in the other gospels to demonstrate that He is really Jehovah and Emmanuel too, but that nowhere else have we the same fulness of proof, and the same manifest design, from the very starting point of the gospel, to proclaim the Lord Jesus as being thus a divine Messiah God with us.

The practical object is equally obvious. The common notion, that the Jews are in view, is quite correct, as far as it goes. The gospel of Matthew bears internal proof that God specially provides for the instruction of His own among those that had been Jews. It was written more particularly for leading Jewish Christians into a truer understanding of the glory of the Lord Jesus. Hence, every testimony that could convince and satisfy a Jew, that could correct or enlarge his thoughts, is found most fully here; hence the precision of the quotations from the Old Testament; hence the converging of prophecy on the Messiah; hence, too, the manner in which the miracles of Christ, or the incidents of His life, are here grouped together. To Jewish difficulties all this pointed with peculiar fitness. Miracles we have elsewhere, no doubt, and prophecies occasionally; but where is there such a profusion of them as in Matthew? Where, in the mind of the Spirit of God, such a continual, conspicuous point of quoting and applying Scripture in all places and seasons to the Lord Jesus? To me, I confess, it seems impossible for a simple mind to resist the conclusion.

But this is not all to be noticed here. Not only does God deign to meet the Jew with these proofs from prophecy, miracle, life, and doctrine, but He begins with what a Jew would and must demand the question of genealogy. But even then the answer of Matthew is after a divine sort. "The book," he says, "of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham." These are the two principal landmarks to which a Jew turns:- royalty given by the grace of God in the one, and the original depository of the promise in the other.

Moreover, not only does God condescend to notice the line of fathers, but, if He turns aside for a moment now and then for aught else, what instruction, both in man's sin and need, and in His own grace, does thus spring up before us from the mere course of His genealogical tree! He names in certain cases the mother, and not the father only; but never without a divine reason. There are four women alluded to. They are not such as any of us, or perhaps any man, would beforehand have thought of introducing, and into such a genealogy, of all others. But God had His own sufficient motive; and His was one not only of wisdom, but of mercy; also, of special instruction to the Jew, as we shall see in a moment. First of all, who but God would have thought it necessary to remind us that Judas begat Phares and Zara of Thamar? I need not enlarge; these names in divine history must speak for themselves. Man would have hidden all this assuredly; he would have preferred to put forth either some flaming account of ancient and august ancestry, or to concentrate all the honour and glory in one, the lustre of whose genius eclipsed all antecedents. But God's thoughts are not our thoughts; neither are our ways His ways. Again, the allusion to such persons thus introduced is the more remarkable because others, worthy ones, are not named. There is no mention of Sarah, no hint of Rebecca, no notice whatever of so many holy and illustrious names in the female line of our Lord Jesus. But Thamar does appear thus early (v. 3); and so manifest is the reason, that one has no need to explain further. I am persuaded that the name one is sufficient intimation to any Christian heart and conscience. But how significant to the Jew! What were his thoughts of the Messiah? Would he have put forward the name of Thamar in such a connection? Never. He might not have been able to deny the fact; but as to bringing it out thus, and drawing special attention to it, the Jew was the last man to have done it. Nevertheless, the grace of God in this is exceeding good and wise.

But there is more than this. Lower down we have another. There is the name of Rachab, a Gentile, and a Gentile bringing no honourable reputation along with her. Men may seek to pare it down, but it is impossible either to cloak her shame, or to fritter away the grace of God. It is not to be well or wisely got rid of, who and what Rachab publicly was; yet is she the woman that the Holy Ghost singles out for the next place in the ancestry of Jesus.

Ruth, too, appears Ruth, of all these women most sweet and blameless, no doubt, by the working of the divine grace in her, but still a daughter of Moab, whom the Lord forbade to enter His congregation to the tenth generation for ever.

And what of Solomon himself, begotten by David, the king, of her that had been the wife of Uriah? How humiliating to those who stood on human righteousness! How thwarting to mere Jewish expectations of the Messiah! He was the Messiah, but such He was after God's heart, not man's. He was the Messiah that somehow would and could have relations with sinners, first and last; whose grace would reach and bless Gentiles a Moabite anybody. Room was left for intimations of such compass in Matthew's scheme of His ancestry. Deny it they might as to doctrine and fact now; they could not alter or efface the real features from the genealogy of the true Messiah; for in no other line but David's, through Solomon, could Messiah be. And God has deemed it meet to recount even this to us, so that we may know and enter into His own delight in His rich grace as He speaks of the ancestors of the Messiah. It is thus, then, we come down to the birth of Christ.

Nor was it less worthy of God that He should make most plain the truth of another remarkable conjuncture of predicted circumstances, seemingly beyond reconcilement, in His entrance into the world.

There were two conditions absolutely requisite for the Messiah: one was, that He should be truly born of a rather of the Virgin; the other was, that He should inherit the royal rights of the Solomon-branch of David's house, according to promise. There was a third too, we may add, that He who was the real son of His virgin-mother, the legal son of His Solomon-sprung father, should be, in the truest and highest sense, the Jehovah of Israel, Emmanuel God with us. All this is crowded into the brief account next given us in Matthew's gospel, and by Matthew alone. Accordingly, "the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." This latter truth, that is, of the Holy Ghost's action as to it, we shall find, has a still deeper and wider import assigned to it in the gospel of Luke, whose office is to show us the Man Christ Jesus. I therefore reserve any observations that this larger scope might and ought, indeed, to give rise to, till we have to consider the third gospel

But here the great thing is the relationship of Joseph to the Messiah, and hence he is the one to whom the angel appears. In the gospel of Luke it is not to Joseph, but to Mary. Are we to think that this variety of account is a mere accidental circumstance? or that if God has thus been pleased to draw out two distinct lines of truth, we are not to gather up the divine principle of each and all? It is impossible that God could do what even we should be ashamed of. If we act and speak, or forbear to do either, we ought to have a sufficient reason for one or other. And if no man of sense doubts that this should be so in our own case, has not God always had His own perfect mind in the various accounts He has given us of Christ? Both are true, but with distinct design. It is with divine wisdom that Matthew mentions the angel's visit to Joseph; with no less direction from on high does Luke relate Gabriel's visit to Mary (as before to Zacharias); and the reason is plain. In Matthew, while he not in the least degree weakens, but proves the fact that Mary was the real mother of our Lord, the point was, that He inherited the rights of Joseph.

And no wonder; for no matter how truly our Lord had been the Son of Mary, He had not thereby an indisputable legal right to the throne of David. This never could be in virtue of His descent from Mary, unless He had also inherited the title of the royal stem. As Joseph belonged to the Solomon-branch, he would have barred the right of our Lord to the throne, looking at it as a mere question now of His being the Son of David; and we are entitled so to take it. His being God, or Jehovah, was in no way of itself the ground of Davidical claim, though otherwise of infinitely deeper moment. The question was to make good, along with His eternal glory, a Messianic title that could not be set aside, a title that no Jew on his own ground could impeach. It was His grace so to stoop; it was His own all-sufficient wisdom that knew how to reconcile conditions so above man to put together. God speaks, and it is done.

Accordingly, in the gospel of Matthew, the Spirit of God fixes our attention upon these facts. Joseph was the descendant of David, the king, through Solomon: the Messiah must therefore, somehow or other, be the son of Joseph; yet had He really been the son of Joseph, all would have been lost. Thus the contradictions looked hopeless; for it seemed, that in order to be the Messiah, He must, and yet He must not, be Joseph's son. But what are difficulties to God? With Him all things are possible; and faith receives all with assurance. He was not only the son of Joseph, so that no Jew could deny it, and yet not so, but that He could be in the fullest manner the Son of Mary, the Seed of the woman, and not literally of the man. God, therefore, takes particular pains, in this Jewish gospel, to give all importance to His being strictly, in the eye of the law, the son of Joseph; and so, according to the flesh, inheriting the rights of the regal branch; yet here He takes particular care to prove that He was not, in the reality of His birth as man, Joseph's son. Before husband and wife came together, the espoused Mary was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Such was the character of the conception. Besides, He was Jehovah. This comes out in His very name. The Virgin's Son was to be called "Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." He shall not be a mere man, no matter how miraculously born; Jehovah's people, Israel, are His; He shall save His people from their sins.

This is yet more revealed to us by the prophecy of Isaiah cited next, and particularly by the application of that name found nowhere else but in Matthew: "Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us." (Verses 22, 23.)

This, then, is the introduction and the great foundation in fact. The genealogy is, no doubt, formed peculiarly according to the Jewish manner; but this very shape serves rather as a confirmation, I will not say to the Jewish mind alone, but to every honest man of intelligence. The spiritual mind, of course, has no difficulty can have none by the very fact that it is spiritual, because its confidence is in God. Now there is nothing that so summarily banishes a doubt, and silences every question of the natural man, as the simple but happy assurance that what God says must be true, and is the only right thing. No doubt God has been pleased in this genealogy to do that which men in modern times have cavilled at; but not even the darkest and most hostile Jews raised such objections in former days. Assuredly they were the persons, above all, to have exposed the character of the genealogy of the Lord Jesus, if vulnerable. But no; this was reserved for Gentiles. They have made the notable discovery that there is an omission! Now in such lists an omission is perfectly in analogy with the manner of the Old Testament. All that was demanded in such a genealogy was to give adequate landmarks so as to make the descent clear and unquestionable.

Thus, if you take Ezra, for instance, giving his own genealogy as a priest, you find that he omits not three links only in a chain, but seven. Doubtless there may have been a special reason for the omission; but whatever may be our judgment of the true solution of the difficulty, it is evident that a priest who was giving his own genealogy would not put it forward in a defective form. If in one who was of that sacerdotal succession where the proofs were rigorously required, where a defect in it would destroy his right to the exercise of spiritual functions if in such a case there might legitimately be an omission, clearly there might be the same in regard to the Lord's genealogy; and the more, as this omission was not in the part of which the Scripture speaks nothing, but in the centre of its historical records, whence the merest child could supply the missing links at once. Evidently, therefore, the omission was not careless or ignorant, but intentional. I doubt not myself that the design was thereby to intimate the solemn sentence of God on the connection with Athaliah of the wicked house of Ahab, the wife of Joram. (Compare verse 8 with2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 22:1-12; 2 Chronicles 23:1-21; 2 Chronicles 24:1-27; 2 Chronicles 25:1-28; 2 Chronicles 26:1-23.) Ahaziah vanishes, and Joash, and Amaziah, when the line once more reappears here in Uzziah. These generations God blots out along with that wicked woman.

There was literally another reason lying on the surface, that required certain names to drop out. The Spirit of God was pleased to give, in each of the three divisions of the Messiah's genealogy, fourteen generations, as from Abraham down to David, from David to the captivity, and from the captivity to Christ. Now, it is evident, that if there were in fact more links in each chain of generation than these fourteen, all above that number must be omitted. Then, as we have just seen, the omission is not haphazard, but made of special moral force. Thus, if there was a necessity because the Spirit of God limited Himself to a certain number of generations, there was also divine reason, as there always is in the word of God, for the choice of the names which had to be omitted,

However this may be, we have in this chapter, besides the genealogical line, the person of the long-expected son of David; we have Him introduced precisely, officially, and fully as the Messiah; we have His deeper glory, not merely that which He took but who He was and is. He might be styled, as indeed He was, "the son of David, the son of Abraham;" but He was, He is, He could not but be, Jehovah-Emmanuel. How all-important this was for a Jew to believe and confess, one need hardly stop to expound: it is enough to mention it by the way. Evidently Jewish unbelief, even where there was an acknowledgment of the Messiah, turned upon this, that the Jew looked upon the Messiah purely according to what He deigns to become as the great King. They saw not any deeper glory than His Messianic throne, not more than an offshoot, though no doubt one of extraordinary vigour, from the root of David. Here, at the very starting-point, the Holy Ghost points out the divine and eternal glory of Him who deigns to come as the Messiah. Surely, too, if Jehovah condescended to be Messiah, and in order to this to be born of the Virgin, there must be some most worthy aims infinitely deeper than the intention, however great, to sit upon the throne of David. Evidently, therefore, the simple perception of the glory of His person overturns all conclusions of Jewish unbelief; shows us that He whose glory was so bright must have a work commensurate with that glory; that He whose personal dignity was beyond all time and even thought, who thus stoops to enter the ranks of Israel as Son of David, must have had some ends in coming, and, above all, to die, suitable to such glory. All this, it is plain, was of the deepest possible moment for Israel to apprehend. It was precisely what the believing Israelite did learn; even as it was just the rock of offence on which unbelieving Israel fell and was dashed to pieces.

The next chapter (Matthew 2:1-23) shows us another characteristic fact in reference to this gospel; for if the aim of the first chapter was to give us proofs of the true glory and character of the Messiah, in contrast with mere Jewish limitation and unbelief about Him, the second chapter shows us what reception Messiah would find, in contrast with the wise men from the East, from Jerusalem, from the king and the people, and in the land of Israel. If His descent be sure as the royal son of David, if His glory be above all human lineage, what was the place that He found, in fact, in His land and people? Indefeasible was His title: what were the circumstances that met Him when He was found at length in Israel? The answer is, from the very first He was the rejected Messiah. He was rejected, and most emphatically, by those whose responsibility it was most of all to receive Him. It was not the ignorant; it was not those that were besotted in gross habits; it was Jerusalem it was the scribes and Pharisees. The people, too, were all moved at the very thought of Messiah's birth.

What brought out the unbelief of Israel so distressingly was this God would have a due testimony to such a Messiah; and if the Jews were unready, He would gather from the very ends of the earth some hearts to welcome Jesus Jesus-Jehovah, the Messiah of Israel. Hence it is that Gentiles are seen coming forth from the East, led by the star which had a voice for their hearts. There had ever rested traditionally among Oriental nations, though not confined to them, the general bearing of Balaam's prophecy, that a star should arise, a star connected with Jacob. I doubt not that God was pleased in His goodness to give a seal to that prophecy, after a literal sort, not to speak of its true symbolic force. In His condescending love, He would lead hearts that were prepared of Him to desire the Messiah, and come from the ends of the earth to welcome Him. And so it was. They saw the star; they set forth to seek the Messiah's kingdom. It was not that the star moved along the way; it roused them and set them going. They recognized the phenomenon as looking for the star of Jacob; they instinctively, I may say, certainly by the good hand of God, connected the two together. From their distant home they made for Jerusalem; for even the universal expectation of men at the time pointed to that city. But when they reached it, where were faithful souls awaiting the Messiah? They found active minds not a few that could tell them clearly where the Messiah was to be born: for this God made them dependent upon His word. When they came to Jerusalem, it was not any longer an outward sign to guide. They learnt the scriptures as to it. They learnt from those that cared neither for it nor for Him it concerned, but who, nevertheless, knew the letter more or less. On the road to Bethlehem, to their exceeding joy, the star re-appears, confirming what they had received, till it rested over where the young child was. And there, in the presence of the father and the mother, they, Easterns though they were, and accustomed to no small homage, proved how truly they were guided of God; for neither father nor mother received the smallest of their worship: all was reserved for Jesus all poured out at the feet of the infant Messiah. Oh, what a withering refutation of the foolish men of the West! Oh, what a lesson, even from these dark Gentiles, to self-complacent Christendom in East or West! Spite of what men might look down upon in these proud days, their hearts in their simplicity were true. It was but for Jesus they came; it was on Jesus that their worship was spent; and so, spite of the parents being there, spite of what nature would prompt them to do, in sharing, at least, something of the worship on the father and mother with the Babe, they produced their treasures and worshipped the young child alone.

This is the more remarkable, because in the gospel of Luke we have another scene, where we see that same Jesus, truly an infant of days, in the hands of an aged one with far more divine intelligence than these Eastern sages could boast. Now we know what would have been the prompting of affection and of godly desires in the presence of a babe; but the aged Simeon never pretends to bless Him. Nothing would have been more simple and natural, had not that Babe differed from all others, had He not been what He was, and had Simeon not known who He was. But he did know it. He saw in Him the salvation of God; and so, though he could rejoice in God, and bless God, though he could in another sense bless the parents, he never presumes so to bless the Babe. It was indeed the blessing that he had got from that Babe which enabled him to bless both God and His parents; but he blesses not the Babe even when he blesses the parents. It was God Himself, even the Son of the Highest that was there, and his soul bowed before God. We have here, then, the Eastems worshipping the Babe, not the parents; as in the other case we have the blessed man of God blessing the patents, but not the Babe: a most striking token of the remarkable difference which the Holy Ghost had in view when inditing these histories of the Lord Jesus.

Further, to these Easterns intimation is given of God, and they returned another way, thus defeating the design of the treacherous heart and cruel head of the Edomite king, notwithstanding the slaughter of the innocents.

Next comes a remarkable prophecy of Christ, of which we must say a word the prophecy of Hosea. Our Lord is carried outside the reach of the storm into Egypt. Such indeed was the history of His life; it was continual pain, one course of suffering and shame. There was no mere heroism in the Lord Jesus, but the very reverse. Nevertheless, it was God shrouding His Majesty; it was God in the person of man, in the Child that takes the lowliest place in the haughty world. Therefore, we find no more a cloud that covers Him, no pillar of fire that shields Him. Apparently the most exposed, He bows before the storm, retires, carried by His parents into the ancient furnace of affliction for His people. Thus even from the very first our Lord Jesus, as a babe, tastes the hate of the world what it is to be thoroughly humbled, even as a child. The prophecy, therefore, was accomplished, and in its deepest meaning. It was not merely Israel that God called out, but His Son out of Egypt. Here was the true, Israel; Jesus was the genuine stock before God. He goes through, in His own person, Israel's history. He goes into Egypt, and is called out of it.

Returning, in due time, to the land of Israel at the death of him that reigned after Herod the Great, His parents are instructed as we are told, and turn aside into the parts of Galilee. This is another important truth; for thus was to be fulfilled the word, not of one prophet, but of all "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." It was the name of man's scorn; for Nazareth was the most despised place in that despised land of Galilee. Such, in the providence of God, was the place for Jesus. This gave an accomplishment to the general voice of the prophets, who declared Him despised and rejected of men. So He was. It was true even of the place in which He lived, "that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."

We enter now upon the announcement of John the Baptist. (Matthew 3:1-17) The Spirit of God carries us over a long interval, and the voice of John is heard proclaiming, "Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Here we have an expression which must not be passed over all-important as it is for the understanding of the gospel of Matthew. John the Baptist preached the nearness of this kingdom in the wilderness of Judaea. It was clearly gathered from the Old Testament prophecy, particularly from Daniel, that. the God of heaven would set up a kingdom; and more than this, that the Son of man was the person to administer the kingdom. "And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away; and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." Such was the kingdom of heaven. It was not a mere kingdom of the earth, neither was it in heaven, but it was heaven governing the earth for ever.

It would appear that, in John the Baptist's preaching it, we have no ground for supposing that either he believed at this time, or that any other men till afterwards were led into the understanding of the form which it was to assume through Christ's rejection and going on high as now. This our Lord divulged more particularly inMatthew 13:1-58; Matthew 13:1-58. I understand, then, by this expression, what might be gathered justly from Old Testament prophecies; and that John, at this time, had no other thought but that the kingdom was about to be introduced according to expectations thus formed. They had long looked for the time when the earth should no longer be left to itself, but heaven should be the governing power; when the Son of man should control the earth; when the power of hell should be banished from the world; when the earth should be put into association with the heavens, and the heavens, of course, therefore, be changed, so as to govern the earth directly through the Son of man, who should be also King of restored Israel. This, substantially, I think, was in the mind of the Baptist.

But then he proclaims repentance; not here in view of deeper things, as in the gospel of Luke, but as a spiritual preparation for Messiah and the kingdom of heaven. That is, he calls man to confess his own ruin in view of the introduction of that kingdom. Accordingly, his own life was the witness of what he felt morally of Israel's then state. He retires into the wilderness, and applies to himself the ancient oracle of Isaiah "The voice of one crying in the wilderness." The reality was coming: as for him, he was merely one to announce the advent of the King. All Jerusalem was moved, and multitudes were baptized by him in Jordan. This gives occasion to his stern sentence upon their condition in the sight of God.

But among the crowd of those who came to him was Jesus. Strange sight! He, even He, Emmanuel, Jehovah, if He took the place of Messiah, would take that place in lowliness on the earth. For all things were out of course; and He must prove by His whole life, as we shall find by-and-by He did, what the condition of His people was. But, indeed, it is but another step of the same infinite grace, and more than that, of the same moral judgment on Israel; but along with it the added and most sweet feature His association with an in Israel who felt and owned their condition in the sight of God. It is what no saint can afford lightly to pass over; it is what, if a saint recognize not, he will understand the Scripture most imperfectly; nay, I believe he must grievously misunderstand the ways of God. But Jesus looked at those who came to the waters of Jordan, and saw their hearts touched, if ever so little, with a sense of their state before God; and His heart was truly with them. It is not now taking the people out of Israel, and bringing them into a position with Himself that we shall find by-and-by; but it is the Saviour identifying Himself with the godly-feeling remnant. Wherever there was the least action of the Holy Spirit of God in grace in the hearts of Israel, He joined Himself. John was astonished; John the Baptist himself would have refused, but, "Thus," said the Saviour, "it becometh us" including, as I apprehend, John with Himself. "Thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."

It is not here a question of law; it was too late for this ever a ruinous thing for the sinner. It was a question of another sort of righteousness. It might be the feeblest recognition of God and man; it might be but a remnant of Israelites; but, at least, they owned the truth about themselves; and Jesus was with them in owning the ruin fully, and felt it all. No need was in Himself not a particle; but it is precisely when the heart is thus perfectly free, and infinitely above ruin, that it can most of all descend and take up what is of God in the hearts of any. So Jesus ever did, and did it thus publicly, joining Himself with whatever was excellent on the earth. He was baptized in Jordan an act most inexplicable for those who then or now might hold to His glory without entering into His heart of grace. To what painful feelings it might give rise! Had He anything to confess? Without a single flaw of His own He bent down to confess what was in others; He owned in all its extent, in its reality as none did, the state of Israel, before God and man; He joined Himself with those who felt it. But at once, as the answer to any and every unholy misapprehension that could be formed, heaven is opened, and a twofold testimony is rendered to Jesus. The Father's voice pronounces the Son's relationship, and His own complacency; while the Holy Ghost anoints Him as man. Thus, in His full personality, God's answer is given to all who might otherwise have slighted either Himself or His baptism.

The Lord Jesus thence goes forth into another scene the wilderness to be tempted of the devil; and this, mark, now that He is thus publicly owned by the Father, and the Holy Ghost had descended on Him. It is indeed, I might say, when souls are thus blessed that Satan's temptations are apt to come. Grace provokes the enemy. Only in a measure, of course, can we thus speak of any other than Jesus; but of Him who was full of grace and truth, in whom, too, the fulness of the Godhead dwelt even so, of Him it was fully true. The principle, at least, applies in every case. He was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be there tried of the devil. The Holy Spirit has given the temptation to us in Matthew, according to the order in which it occurred. But here, as elsewhere, the aim is dispensational, not historical, as far as intention goes, though really so in point of fact; and I apprehend, specially with this in view, that it is only at the last temptation our Lord says, "Get thee hence, Satan." We shall see by and by why this disappears in the gospel of Luke. There is thus the lesson of wisdom and patience even before the enemy; the excellent, matchless grace of patience in trial; for what more likely to exclude it than the apprehension that it was Satan all the while? But yet our Saviour was so perfect in it, that He never uttered the word "Satan" until the last daring, shameless effort to tempt Him to render to the evil one the very worship of God Himself Not till then does our Lord say, "Get thee hence, Satan."

We shall dwell a little more upon the three temptations, if the Lord will, as to their intrinsic moral import, when we come to the consideration of Luke. I content myself now with giving what appears to me the true reason why the Spirit of God here adheres to the order of the facts. It is well, however, to remark, that the departure from such an order is precisely what indicates the consummate hand of God, and for a simple reason. To one who knew the facts in a human way, nothing would he more natural than to put them down just as they occurred. To depart from the historical order, more particularly when one had previously given them that order, is what never would be thought of, unless there were some mighty preponderant reason in the mind of him who did so. But this is no uncommon thing. There are cases where an author necessarily departs from the mere order in which the facts took place. Supposing you are describing a certain character; you put together striking traits from the whole course of his life; you do not restrain yourself to the bare dates at which they occurred. If you were only chronicling the events of a year, you keep to the order in which they happened; but whenever you rise to the higher task of bringing out moral features, you may be frequently obliged to abandon the consecutive order of events as they occurred.

It is precisely this reason that accounts for the change in Luke; who, as we shall find when we come to look at his gospel more carefully, is especially the moralist. That is to say, Luke characteristically looks upon things in their springs as well as effects. It is not his province to regard the person of Christ peculiarly, i.e., His divine glory; neither does he occupy himself with the testimony or service of Jesus here below, of which we all know Mark is the exponent. Neither is it true, that the reason why Matthew occasionally gives the order of time, is because such is always his rule. On the contrary, there is no one of the Gospel writers who departs from that order, when his subject demands it, more freely than he, as I hope to prove to the satisfaction of those open to conviction, before we close. If this be so, assuredly there must be some key to these phenomena, some reason sufficient to explain why sometimes Matthew adheres to the order of events, why he departs from it elsewhere.

I believe the real state of the facts to be this:- first of all, God has been pleased, by one of the evangelists (Mark), to give us the exact historical order of our Lord's eventful ministry. This alone would have been very insufficient to set forth Christ. Hence, besides that order, which is the most elementary, however important in its own place, other presentations of His life were due, according to various spiritual grounds, as divine wisdom saw fit, and as even we are capable of appreciating in our measure. Accordingly, I think it was owing to special considerations of this sort that Matthew was led to reserve for us the great lesson, that our Lord had passed through the entire temptation not only the forty days, but even that which crowned them at the close; and that only when an open blow was struck at the divine glory did His soul at once resent it with the words, "Get thee hence, Satan." Luke, on the contrary, inasmuch as he, for perfectly good and divinely given reason, changes the order, necessarily omits these words. Of course, I do not deny that similar words appear in your common English Bibles (in Luke 4:8); but no scholar needs to be informed that all such words are left out of the third gospel by the best authorities, followed by almost every critic of note, save the testy Matthaei, though scarce one of them seems to have understood the true reason why. Nevertheless, they are omitted by Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists; by High Church, and Low Church; by Evangelicals, Tractarians, and Rationalists. It does not matter who they are, or what their system of thought may be: all those who go upon the ground of external testimony alone are obliged to leave out the words in Luke. Besides, there is the clearest and the strongest evidence internally for the omission of these words in Luke, contrary to the prejudices of the copyists, which thus furnishes a very cogent illustration of the action of the Holy Spirit in inspiration. The ground of omitting the words lies in the fact, that the last temptation occupies the second place in Luke. If the words be retained, Satan seems to hold his ground, and renew the temptation after the Lord had told him to retire. Again, it is evident that, as the text stands in the received Greek text and our common English Bible, "Get thee behind me, Satan," is another mistake. InMatthew 4:10; Matthew 4:10, it is, rightly, "Get thee hence." Remember, I am not imputing a shade of error to the Word of God. The mistake spoken of lies only in blundering scribes, critics, or translators, who have failed in doing justice to that particular place. "Get thee hence, Satan," was the real language of the Lord to Satan, and is so given in closing the literally last temptation by Matthew.

When it was a question, at a later day, of His servant Peter, who, prompted by Satan, had fallen into human thoughts, and would have dissuaded his Master from the cross, He does say, "Get thee behind me." For certainly Christ did not want Peter to go away from Him and be lost, which would have been its effect. "Get thee [not hence, but] behind me," He says. He rebuked His follower, yea, was ashamed of him; and He desired that Peter should be ashamed of himself. "Get thee behind me, Satan," was thus appropriate language then. Satan was the source of the thought couched in Peter's words.

But when Jesus speaks to him whose last trial thoroughly betrays the adversary of God and man, i.e., the literal Satan, His answer is not merely, "Get thee behind me," but, "Get thee hence, Satan." Nor is this the only mistake, as we have seen, in the passage as given in the authorised version; for the whole clause should disappear from the account in Luke, according to the weightiest testimony. Besides, the reason is manifest. As it stands now, the passage wears this most awkward appearance, that Satan, though commanded to depart, lingers on. For in Luke we have another temptation after this; and of course, therefore, Satan must be presented as abiding, not as gone away.

The truth of the matter, then, is, that with matchless wisdom Luke was inspired of God to put the second temptation last, and the third temptation in the second place. Hence (inasmuch as these words of the third trial would be wholly incongruous in such an inversion of the historic order), they are omitted by him, but preserved by Matthew, who here held to that order. I dwell upon this, because it exemplifies, in a simple but striking manner, the finger and mind of God; as it shows us, also, how the copyists of the scriptures fell into error, through proceeding on the principle of the harmonists, whose great idea is to make all the four gospels practically one Gospel. that is, to fuse them together into one mass, and make them give out only, as it were, a single voice in the praise of Jesus. Not so; there are four distinct voices blending in the truest harmony, and surely God Himself in each one, and equally in all, but, withal, showing out fully and distinctively the excellencies of His Son. It is the disposition to blot out these differences, which has wrought such exceeding mischief, not merely in copyists, but in our own careless reading of the gospels. What we need is, to gather up all, for all is worthy; to delight ourselves in every thought that the Spirit of God has treasured up every fragrance, so to speak, that He has preserved for us of the ways of Jesus.

Turning, then, from the temptation (which we may hope to resume in another point of view, when the gospel of Luke comes before us and we shall have the different temptations on the moral side, with their changed order), I may in passing notice, that a very characteristic difference in the gospel of Matthew meets us in what follows. Our Lord enters upon His public ministry as a minister of the circumcision, and calls disciples to follow Him. It was not His first acquaintance with Simon, Andrew, and the rest, as we know from the gospel of John. They had before known Jesus, and, I apprehend, savingly. They are now called to be His companions in Israel, formed according to His heart as His servants here below; but before this we have a remarkable Scripture applied to our Lord. He changes his place of sojourn from Nazareth to Capernaum. And this is the more observable, because, in the Gospel of Luke, the first opening of His ministry is expressly at Nazareth; while the point of emphasis in Matthew is, that He leaves Nazareth, and comes and dwells in Capernaum. Of course, both are equally true; but who can say that they are the same thing? or that the Spirit of God had not His own blessed reasons for giving prominency to both facts? Nor is the reason obscure. His going to Capernaum was the accomplishment of the word of Isaiah 9:1-21, specifically mentioned for the instruction of the Jew, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, "The land of Zebulun, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles. The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up." That quarter of the land was regarded as the scene of darkness; yet was it just there that God suddenly caused light to arise. Nazareth was in lower, as Capernaum was in upper Galilee. But more than this, it was the seat, above all others in the land, frequented by Gentiles Galilee ("the circuit") of the Gentiles. Now, we shall find throughout this gospel that which may be well stated here, and will be abundantly confirmed everywhere that the object of our gospel is not merely to prove what the Messiah was, both according to the flesh and according to His own divine intrinsic nature, for Israel; but also, when rejected by Israel, what the consequences of that rejection would be for the Gentiles, and this in a double aspect whether as introducing the kingdom of heaven in a new form, or as giving occasion for Christ's building His Church. These were the two main consequences of the rejection of the Messiah by Israel.

Accordingly, as in chapter it we found Gentiles from the East coming up to own the born King of the Jews, when His people were buried in bondage and Rabbinic tradition in heartless heedlessness, too, while boasting of their privileges; so here our Lord, at the beginning of His public ministry, as recorded in Matthew, is seen taking up His abode in these despised districts of the north, the way of the sea, where especially Gentiles had long dwelt, and on which the Jews looked down as a rude and dark spot, far from the centre of religious sanctity. There, according to prophecy, light was to spring up; and how brightly was it now accomplished? Next, we have the call of the disciples, as we have seen. At the end of the chapter is a general summary of the Messiah's ministry, and of its effects, given in these words: "And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto Him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and He healed them. And there followed Him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan." This I read, in order to show that it is the purpose of the Spirit, in this part of our gospel, to gather a quantity of facts together under one head, entirely regardless of the question of time. It is evident, that what is here described in a few verses must have demanded a considerable space for its accomplishment. The Holy Ghost gives it all to us as a connected whole.

The self-same principle applies to the so-called sermon on the mount, on which I am about to say a few words. It is quite a misapprehension to suppose that Matthew 5:1-48; Matthew 6:1-34; Matthew 7:1-29 was given all in a single, unbroken discourse. For the wisest purposes, I have no doubt, the Spirit of God has arranged and conveyed it to us as one whole, without notice of the interruptions, occasions, etc.; but it is an unwarrantable conclusion for any to draw, that our Lord Jesus delivered it simply and solely as it stands in Matthew's gospel. What proves the fact is, that in the gospel of Luke we have certain portions of it clearly pertaining to this very sermon (not merely similar, or the same truth preached at other times, but this identical discourse), with the particular circumstances which drew them out. Take the prayer, for instance, that was here set before the disciples. (Matthew 6:1-34) As to this, we know from Luke 11:1-54 there was a request preferred by the disciples which led to it. As to other instruction, there were facts or questions, found in Luke, which drew out the remarks of the Lord, common to him and Matthew, if not Mark.

If it be certain that the Holy Ghost has been pleased to give us in Matthew this discourse and others as a whole, leaving out the originating circumstances found elsewhere, it is a fair and interesting inquiry why such a method of grouping with such omissions is adopted. The answer I conceive to be this, that the Spirit in Matthew loves to present Christ as the One like unto Moses, whom they were to hear. He presents Jesus not merely as a legislating prophet-king like Moses, but greater by far; for it is never forgotten that the Nazarene was the Lord God. Therefore it is that, in this discourse on the mountain, we have throughout the tone of One who was consciously God with men. If Jehovah called Moses up to the top of one mount) He who then spake the ten words sat now upon another mount, and taught His disciples the character of the kingdom of heaven, and its principles introduced as a whole, just answering to what we have seen of the facts and effects of His ministry, entirely passing by all intervals or connecting circumstances. As we had His miracles all put together, as I may say, in the gross, so with His discourses. We have thus in either case the same principle. The substantial truth is given to us without noticing the immediate occasion in particular facts, appeals, etc. What was uttered by the Lord, according to Matthew, is thus presented as a whole. The effect, therefore, is, that it is much more solemn, because unbroken, carrying its own majesty along with it. The Spirit of God imprints on it purposely this character here, as I have no doubt there was an intention that it should be so reproduced for the instruction of His own people.

The Lord, in short, was here accomplishing one of the parts of His mission according toIsaiah 53:1-12; Isaiah 53:1-12, where the work of Christ is twofold. It is not, as the authorized version has it, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;" for it is unquestionable that justification is not by His knowledge. Justification is by faith of Christ, we know; and as far as the efficacious work on which it depends is concerned, it is clearly in virtue of what Christ has suffered for sin and sins before God. But I apprehend that the real force of the passage is, "By His knowledge shall my righteous servant in struct many in righteousness." It is not "justify" in the ordinary forensic sense of the word, but rather instructing in righteousness, as the context here requires, and as the usage of the word elsewhere, as in Daniel 12:1-13, leaves open. This seems to be what is meant of our Lord here.

In the teaching on the mount He was, in fact, instructing the disciples in righteousness: hence, too, one reason why we have not a word about redemption. There is not the slightest reference to His suffering on the cross; no intimation of His blood, death, or resurrection: He is instructing though not merely in righteousness. To the heirs of the kingdom the Lord is unfolding the principles of that kingdom most blessed and rich instruction, but instruction in righteousness. No doubt there is also the declaration of the Father's name, as far as could be then; but, still, the form taken is that of "instructing in righteousness." Let me add, as to the passage of Isaiah 53:1-12, that the remainder of the verse also accords with this: not " for," but, "and He shall bear their iniquities." Such is the true force of it. The one was in His life, when He taught His own; the other was in His death, when He bore the iniquities of many.

Into the details of the discourse on the mount I cannot enter particularly now, but would just say a few words before I conclude tonight. In its preface we have a method often adopted by the Spirit of God, and not unworthy of our study. There is no child of God that cannot glean blessing from it, even through a scanty glance; but when we look into it a little more closely, the instruction deepens immensely. First of all He pronounces certain classes blessed. These blessednesses divide into two classes. The earlier character of blessedness savours particularly of righteousness, the later of mercy, which are the two great topics of the Psalms. These are both taken up here: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." In the fourth case righteousness comes in expressly, and closes that part of the subject; but it is plain enough that all these four classes consist in substance of such as the Lord pronounces blessed, because they are righteous in one form or another. The next three are founded upon mercy. Hence we read as the very first "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Of course, it would be impossible to attempt more than a sketch at this time. Here, then, occurs the number usual in all these systematic partitions of Scripture; there is the customary and complete seven of Scripture. The two supplementary blessednesses at the end rather confirm the case, though at first sight they might appear to offer an exception. But it is not so really. The exception proves the rule convincingly; for in verse 10 you have, "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake;" which answers to the first four. Then, in verses 11 and 12, you have, "Blessed are ye . . . . . for my sake;" which answers to the higher mercy of the last three. "Blessed are ye, [there is thus a change. It is made a direct personal address] when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake." Thus it is the very consummation of suffering in grace, because it is for Christ's sake.

Hence the twofold persecutions (10-12) bring in the double character we find in the epistles suffering for righteousness' sake, and suffering for Christ's sake. These are two perfectly distinct things; because, where it is a question of righteousness, it is simply a person brought to a point. If I do not stand and suffer here, my conscience will be defiled; but this is in no way suffering for Christ's sake. In short, conscience enters where righteousness is the question; but suffering for Christ's sake is not a question of plain sin, but of His grace and its claims on my heart. Desire for His truth, desire for His glory, carries me out into a certain path that exposes me to suffering. I might merely do my duty in the place in which I am put; but grace is never satisfied with the bare performance of one's duty. Fully is it admitted that there is nothing like grace to meet duty; and doing one's duty is a good thing for a Christian. But God forbid that we should be merely shut up to duty, and not be free for the flowing over of grace which carries out the heart alone, with it. In the one case, the believer stops dead short: if he did not stand, there would be sin. In the other case, there would be a lack of testimony for Christ, and grace makes one rejoice to be counted worthy of suffering for His name: but righteousness is not in question.

Such, then, are the two distinct classes or groups of blessedness. First, there are the blessednesses of righteousness, to which the persecution for righteousness' sake pertains; next, the blessednesses of mercy or grace. Christ instructs in righteousness according to prophecy, but He does not confine Himself to righteousness. This never could be consistent with the glory of the person who was there. Accordingly, therefore, while there is the doctrine of righteousness, there is the introduction of what is above it and mightier than it, with the corresponding blessedness of being persecuted for Christ's sake. All here is grace, and indicates manifest progress.

The same thing is true of what follows: "Ye are the salt of the earth" it is that which keeps pure what is pure. Salt will not communicate purity to what is impure, but it is used as the preservative power according to righteousness. But light is another thing Hence we hear, in the 14th verse, "Ye are the light of the world." Light is not that which simply preserves what is good, but is an active power, which casts its bright shining into what is obscure, and dispels the darkness from before it. Thus it is evident that in this further word of the Lord we have answers to the differences already hinted at.

Much of the deepest interest might be found in the discourse; only this is not the occasion for entering into particulars. We have, as usual, righteousness developed according to Christ, which deals with man's wickedness under the heads of violence and corruption; next come other new principles of grace infinitely deepening what had been given under law. (Matthew 5:1-48) Thus, in the former of these, a word detects, as it were, the thirst of blood, as corruption lies in a look or desire. For it is no longer a question of mere acts, but of the soul's condition. Such is the scope of the fifth chapter. As earlier (verses 17, 18) the law is fully maintained in all its authority, we have later on (verses 21-48) superior principles of grace, and deeper truths, mainly founded upon the revelation of the Father's name the Father which is in heaven. Consequently it is not merely the question between man and man, but the Evil One on one side, and God Himself on the other; and God Himself, as a Father, disclosing, and proving the selfish condition of fallen man upon the earth.

In the second of these chapters (Matthew 6:1-34) composing the discourse, two main parts appear. The first is again righteousness. "Take heed [He says] that you do not your righteousness before men." Here it is not "alms," but "righteousness," as you may see in the margin. Then the righteousness spoken of branches out into three parts: alms, which is one part of it; prayer, another part; and fasting, a part of it not to be despised. This is our righteousness, the especial point of which is, that it should be not a matter of ostentation, but before our Father who sees in secret. It is one of the salient features of Christianity. In the latter part of the chapter, we have entire confidence in our Father's goodness to us, counting upon His mercy, certain that He regards us as of infinite value, and that, therefore, we need not be careful as the Gentiles are, because our Father knows what we have need of. It is enough for us to seek the kingdom of God, and His righteousness: our Father's love cares for all the rest.

The last chapter (Matthew 7:1-29) presses on us the motives of heart in our intercourse with men and brethren, as well as with God, who, however good, loves that we should ask Him, and earnestly too, as to each need; the adequate consideration of what is due to others, and the energy that becomes ourselves; for the gate is strait, and narrow the way that leads to life; warnings against the devil and the suggestions of his agents, the false prophets, who betray themselves by their fruits; and, lastly, the all-importance of remembering that it is not a thing of knowledge, or of miraculous power even, but of doing God's will, of a heart obedient to Christ's sayings. Here, again, if I be not mistaken, righteousness and grace are found alternating; for the exhortation against a censorious spirit is grounded on the certainty of retribution from others, and paves the way for an urgent call to self-judgment, which in us precedes all genuine exercise of grace. (verses Matthew 7:1-4.) Further, the caution against a lavishing of what was holy and beautiful on the profane is followed by rich and repeated encouragements to count on our Father's grace. (verses Matthew 7:5-11.)

Here, however, I must for the present pause, though one can only and deeply regret being obliged to pass so very cursorily over the ground; but I have sought in this first lecture to give thus far as simple, and at the same time as complete, a view of this portion of Matthew as I well could. I am perfectly aware that there has not been time for comparing it much with the others; but occasions will, I trust, offer for bringing into strong contrast the different aspects of the various gospels. However, my aim is also that we should have before us our Lord, His person, His teaching, His way, in every gospel.

I pray the Lord that what has been put, however scantily, before souls may at least stir up enquiry on the part of God's children, and lead them to have perfect, absolute confidence in that word which is of His grace indeed. We may thus look for deep profit. For, although to enter upon the gospels before the soul has been founded upon the grace of God will not leave us without a blessing, yet I am persuaded that the blessing is in every respect greater, when, having been attracted by the grace of Christ, we have at the same time been established in Him with all simplicity and assurance, in virtue of the accomplished work of redemption. Then, set free and at rest in our souls, we return to learn of Him, to look upon Him, to follow Him, to hear His word, to delight ourselves in His ways. The Lord grant that thus it may be, as we pursue our path through these different gospels which our God has vouchsafed to us.

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Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Matthew 7:13". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/matthew-7.html. 1860-1890.