Needful Exhortations and Warnings
“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 7:1-29)
In this chapter, our Lord Jesus concludes his Sermon on the Mount. Throughout this sermon (Matthew 5-7), our Savior draws a clear, unmistakable distinction between true and false religion, between outward ceremonialism and inward godliness, between religious hypocrisy and true spirituality. In chapter 5 he showed us the character of his people and the necessity of holiness. In chapter 6 he showed us the character of true worship and the necessity of faith. Here in chapter 7 he brings his sermon home to all who heard him (and to all who read his words today) by making general, but pointed, exhortations and warnings, that we all need to be reminded of continually. May God the Holy Spirit, who has preserved these exhortations and warnings for us upon the pages of Holy Scripture, graciously apply them to our hearts.
This chapter opens with a gracious exhortation to kindness (vv. 1-5).
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
I do not know of any text in all the Bible that has been more twisted, abused, and misapplied by men than Matthew 7:1. Those who despise absolute values, absolute standards of right and wrong, absolute doctrinal truths and dogmatism, even if they cannot quote any other text in the Bible, recite these words to condemn as divisive bigots all who press upon them the doctrinal and spiritual demands of Holy Scripture. With sweet sounding piety and complete seriousness they will look you right in the eye and say, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
Our Lord does not here teach us that we ought never to exercise judgment about anything. Indeed, we are taught of God to “prove all things” (1 Thess. 5:21). He is not here telling us that we must never condemn as evil the opinions, behavior, and doctrines of men. If the Sermon on the Mount teaches anything, it teaches us the necessity of spiritual discernment (vv. 15-16). We are to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). We are to mark those who cause division. We are to be a people of decided values and dogmatic doctrine.
In these verses our Lord is condemning a censorious, fault-finding spirit. As J. C. Ryle wrote, “A readiness to blame others for trifling offences or matters of indifference, a habit of passing rash, hasty judgments, a disposition to magnify the errors and infirmities of our neighbors, and make the worst of them, this is what our Lord forbids.”
That “faith which worketh by love” teaches us not to be rash, critical, nit-pickers, but to be patient, longsuffering, forbearing, and forgiving of one another (1 Cor. 13:4-7). We must never put ourselves in the place of God, sitting in judgment over our brethren, acting as though we have the ability, or the right to condemn (v. 1). That is God’s prerogative alone. This principle applies to our attitude regarding all people; but it is particularly applicable to our attitude toward other believers (Rom. 14:4). Any time we set ourselves up as judges over others, we set ourselves up to be judged (v. 2). We have work enough to do in taking care of our own souls (vv. 3-5).
Because we cannot look into another person’s heart, we do not have the ability to judge the motives of others. Far too many are quick to condemn another believer’s conduct and to tell a brother or sister what they should or should not do, not with the authority of God’s Word, but merely by the measure of their own opinions. We would be wise to recognize that none of us have the ability to discern what God the Holy Spirit would have another to do, unless we can point to a specific passage of Scripture that gives specific instructions regarding the matter at hand. We have no right to even form an opinion relating to the conduct of a brother or sister in Christ, apart from the Word of God. Rather, let us pray that God the Holy Spirit will supply both ourselves and our brothers and sisters in Christ with wisdom and grace to do his will in all things; and leave it to him to do so. In all our judgments of others let us be kind, gentle, and lenient (v. 12). If we must err in our judgment concerning others, let us err on the side of lenience, not on the side of severity.
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you” (v. 6). — Here is a word of wisdom concerning the way we are to deal with those who oppose our God and Savior and the gospel of his grace.
Dogs and swine are terms used in the Scriptures to refer to unclean things and to refer to wicked, reprobate men. Just after telling us not to be rash in judgment, our Lord tells us that in preaching and witnessing to men, we must make a judgment, deciding when to work with men in patience and when to dust off our feet as a witness against them (Matt. 10:14; Acts 18:6; Titus 3:10-11). “Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee” (Pro. 9:8). We must never be reluctant to confess Christ before men; but there are some, like Nabal, to whom none can speak concerning the things of God (1 Sam. 25:17). If you speak to someone about the things of God, and they obviously do not want to hear what God has revealed, leave them alone.
In verses 7-11 our Savior gives us a blessed promise of grace (vv. 7-11).
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if 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?”
Here our Lord encourages us to pray. There is nothing so plain and simple as prayer. Here our Lord assures us of God’s readiness to hear and answer the prayers of his children (Heb. 4:16). Using the illustration of an earthly father, our blessed Redeemer assures us that our heavenly Father is predisposed to bless his children. Is a fallen, sinful man naturally predisposed to give good things to his children, simply because they are his children? If so, how earnest the great Father of mercies must be to give his Holy Spirit to his children. Our heavenly Father, who, though unasked, has already given the greatest of all blessings in giving us his darling Son, will not withhold any good thing from us (John 14:16-17; Rom. 8:32).
In verse 12 our Master lays down that which has been, in my opinion, very properly called “the golden rule.” — “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.”
These words summarize all that our Lord has said in this Sermon on the Mount. By this golden rule, let us mold our behavior toward all. Let this be the measure of our judgment and reproof, our charity and severity, and of our thoughts and conduct with regard to all men. This is the essence of all that is taught in the Word of God concerning our treatment of others, both of believers and unbelievers. May God give us grace to live by this blessed rule. There is nothing that would make us more useful to others.
Next, our Lord Jesus calls sinners to enter in at the strait gate (vv. 13-14).
“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: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.”
The strait gate is Christ himself. He is the Door of life and salvation (John 10:7-9). By him alone we have access to and acceptance with the Father. The strait gate is exactly as wide as Christ, and exactly as narrow. The wide gate is as broad as anything and everything added to Christ (Gal. 5:2, 4). Most people are on the broad way to destruction. Therefore, our Lord graciously urges us to strive to enter in at the strait gate. — “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
Having just urged us to trust him alone for righteousness and redemption, in verses 15-20 the Lord Jesus Christ warns us to “beware of false prophets.”
“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth 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.”
“Beware of false prophets!” — Few words have ever been spoken that are so universally needed and so universally ignored. Nothing in this world is more sinister, nothing more dangerous, and nothing more universally accepted than the false religion promoted by false prophets.
False prophets come in sheep’s clothing, professing to be sheep. But they are ravening wolves, whose only object is the destruction of the sheep. They creep into the church, as Jude puts it, “unawares,” undetected. But they can always be detected and known by their fruits. Their fruits do not refer to their outward conduct and behavior; but to the doctrines they teach in opposition to the gospel. All false prophets and all false religion teach a mixture of works with grace. They deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ, by denying the efficacy of his redemption, righteousness, and grace. They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness, asserting that the teaching of the gospel (salvation by grace alone, without works) opens the floodgates to immorality (Jude 1:4). Augustus Toplady wrote…
“Every religion except one puts upon you doing something in order to recommend yourself to God. It is only the religion of Christ (which runs counter to all the rest by affirming that we are saved and called with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the Father’s own purpose and grace) which was not sold out to us on certain conditions to be fulfilled by ourselves, but was given us in Christ before the world began. It was long ago remarked by a good man that, ‘It is the business of all false religion to patch up a righteousness in which the sinner is to stand before God. But it is the business of the glorious gospel to bring near to us, by the hand of the Holy Spirit, a righteousness ready wrought, a robe of perfection ready made, wherein God’s people, to all the purposes of justification and happiness, stand perfect and without fault before the throne.’”
Here is a warning against presumption (vv. 21-22).
“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. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”
Grace that does not make a person obedient to God is not the grace of the gospel. Faith that does not make a man faithful is not the faith of God’s elect. Salvation that does not transform sinners into the image of the Savior is not Bible salvation. Salvation is more than a religious profession, an emotional experience, and the performance of religious duties. Salvation is doing the will of God, believing on, trusting the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:29). Salvation is the voluntary surrender of our lives to Christ the Lord (Luke 14:26-33).
Preaching or prophesying in the name of Christ, and even performing miracles in his name, are not evidences of grace and salvation. If there is no union with Christ here, there can be no communion with Christ in eternity. The Lord Jesus does not say that few, but many will be found in the day of judgment who lived and died in religion without Christ. What a solemn fact this is to consider! Let us “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” that we may be found among the blessed few who have Christ, “the hope of glory,” formed in them.
True and False Faith
“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it” (vv. 24-27).
Here our Lord Jesus draws a clear distinction between true and false faith. Christ is the Rock upon which we must be built. He is the precious Corner Stone the Lord has laid in Zion. Those who believe on him shall never perish, but have everlasting life. Those who build on the sand of their own works shall be buried in the everlasting ruins of their own confusion in hell.
Faith in Christ is compared to the building of a house of refuge (v. 24). Sooner or later, our house will be tested by earthly trials, spiritual trials, rains of trouble, floods of sorrow, and winds of adversity (v. 25). If your house is built on Christ the Rock, it will endure the trial and stand the tests of time. If your house is built on the sand, anything other than Christ, sooner or later the rains and floods and winds will bring it crumbling down around you.
“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (vv. 28-29).
Throughout his Sermon on the Mount, our Savior exemplified the way gospel preachers are to preach. He taught “as one having authority.” He did not propose questions for debate. He declared truth. He did not offer an opinion to consider. He taught doctrine to be believed. He did not defend a religious system. He taught a righteous salvation. He did not mutter with uncertainty about speculative theories. He taught matters of absolute certainty “as one having authority”.
As we read Matthew 5-7 and hear the Lord Jesus Christ teaching the gospel, showing us the way of holiness and perfection before God, let us rejoice to know that he has fulfilled all for us as our blessed Surety and Substitute. He is all our Salvation. He is “all in all” to his redeemed. Let us, by faith, build upon him who alone is the Foundation laid by God and the whole Superstructure, both of the law and the prophets. In that great day, when the Lord God shakes the whole earth in judgment, let us be found in him and built upon him as upon a rock, as that Rock against which the gates of hell shall never prevail! Robert Hawker concluded his comments on the Sermon on the Mount with a prayer that is worthy of repetition…
“Precious, blessed Lord Jesus! A stone of stumbling and rock of offence; yet to me be thou more precious than the mountains of spices. In thy person, work and offices; in thy character and relations, in thy complete righteousness and salvation; be thou my Lord, my hope, and everlasting portion. Lord grant that I may never build on the sandy performance of any thing of my own, or mix up with thy complete work the hay and the stubble of any legal righteousness, which can stand no wind of the day of God’s wrath; but be thou the all in all, of all grace here, and of glory for ever.”