Sermon on the Mount, Part 3 – Matthew 7
Read the Passage: Matthew 7
Judging Others (7:1–6)
Probably one of the most quoted and misapplied verses in the Bible is Matt. 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It seems that some people understand this verse to be teaching that we are never to make moral evaluations of others. Of course, this is a ludicrous idea, as even the idea that we are not to make moral evaluations is a moral evaluation. Moreover, Jesus specifically exhorted his listeners, “Judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). It seems, then, that in this passage Christ is saying: (1) to not judge legalistically—that is, with a misunderstanding of the moral law; (2) to not judge hypocritically—that is, overlooking the fact that we all continually sin and are in need of God’s grace; and (3) to not judge self-righteously—that is, making moral evaluations of others with the goal of belittling them and elevating oneself.
In Matt. 7:6 Jesus gives a teaching that is difficult to understand as he says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.” Essentially, what Christ is teaching here is that His followers ought not to give what is valuable to those who do not value it. Contextually, Jesus is warning His hearers about teaching or debating Scripture with the Pharisees, who rejected truth. Later, Jesus would exhort his disciples in regard to the religious leaders, saying, “Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch” (Matt. 15:14). Note, as well, that Jesus did not frequently perform miracles before unrepentant pagans, for the purpose of miracles was to communicate His nature and plan, not to spark debate (cf. Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:5–6).
Asking God (7:7–12)
In Matt. 7:7–12 Jesus teaches that His follower should present their petitions to God. This teaching dovetails with Christ’s earlier teaching in the so-called Lord’s Prayer (cf. Matt. 6:11–13), as well as His teachings regarding God’s knowledge of man’s material needs and His great care for mankind (cf. Matt. 6:30–32). It seems the reason why Jesus gives this teaching at this point is in distinction to his teaching in Matt. 7:6. In other words, Christ is teaching His followers they ought not to trust in religious leaders or look to those in power for their needs to be met, but rather they ought to present their requests to and trust in God. In Matt. 7:9–11 Jesus gives a logical basis for presenting one’s trust in God by appealing to the actions of human fathers in regard to their children.
Two Choices (7:13–29)
In Matt. 7:13–29 Jesus highlights two opposing reactions to the gospel that result in an individual being able to conform to the standards He has explained in the Sermon on the Mount. In this passage, Christ speaks of two gates, two ways, two destinations, two groups of people, two kinds of fruit, two groups at the judgment, two kinds of builders, and two types of foundations. Jesus is unambiguous about the choice provoked by the gospel (cf. Matt. 10:34–39). In Matt. 7:13–14 Jesus teaches that most will not accept the gospel, for it is the difficult path. In Matt. 7:15–20 Christ warns His followers about the dangers of false teachers. Indeed, false teachers will resemble true teachers, wearing the clothing of prophets. This makes false teaching difficult to spot; yet, the lasting results of any doctrine is a sure-fire way identify truth from error.
In Matt. 7:21–23 Jesus gives another sobering teaching, as He notes, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” Most would assume that a person who calls Jesus “Lord,” prophesies, casts out demons, and does other mighty works is a believer. Yet, Christ’s teaches otherwise. We must not confuse religious activities and otherwise altruistic activities with doing the will of God. Jesus’ point in this passage seems to be the same as in Matt. 7:15–20; namely, only a pattern of spiritual fruit is proof of salvation.
- In light of Jesus’ repeated teachings about and exhortations to morally evaluate others, how are we to understand Matt. 7:1?
- How can we discern the difference between when it’s appropriate to share truth with unbelievers and when it’s better to not cast our pearls before swine?
- Many times it seems that our prayers to God go unheard or unanswered. Why is this the case (cf. Jas. 4:1–3)?
- Do most people who claim to be Christians bear spiritual fruit? How does Christ’s teaching in Matt. 7:15–20 fit with the idea of backsliding or carnal Christians?
- What are some examples of the type of long-term spiritual fruit that would be evidence of salvation?