"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. "Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' "And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.' (Matthew 7:21-23 NASB)
First, we must recognize that this text is spoken by Christ in the context of being aware of false prophets, and moreover that false prophets will be known by their fruit. At the same time it is also critical to realize that in some sense all people who make a profession of faith and make a statement about God, or a statement ‘from God’ are indeed prophets. This blog is prophetic in that it proclaims scripture and then seeks to explain it, and what God had intended the scripture to mean. Moreover, the professing Christian who has a conversation about Christ is having a ‘prophetic’ conversation. To profess... is to be prophetic. Unfortunately we view ‘prophecy’ to be telling the future, or having some special unique revelation from God, but that is not typically, if ever, the case at all. To be prophetic is to speak the word of the Lord as it is revealed in scripture. Even Christ and the apostles continually quoted from scripture, not expressing some new divine revelation, but expounding the God who has been revealed in His Word. So what is the point of all this? Everyone who makes a profession of faith in Christ is in some sense a prophet, and this text Matthew 7:21-23 is to viewed in light of that fact. We make a grave mistake if we view this text only in light of false prophets such as Jim Jones, and David Koresh.
Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord’... realize that repetition here is a way of emphasis. In the Hebrew culture to emphasize a point you repeated words. To say someone is extremely Holy, you would say ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ to emphasize that someone has made an earnest profession that Jesus is Lord, they would say to Him, ‘Lord, Lord’. The reality of this text is that not everyone who makes an earnest profession of faith in Jesus Christ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is incredibly important, especially in our western culture where we want to have things easy and quick. We live in a culture where salvation has been reduced to ‘I prayed the prayer’ and I ‘confessed with my mouth Jesus is Lord’ and I am sure ‘that I believe in my heart God raised Him from the dead’ therefore I am a Christian. Jesus pours a big bucket of cold water on that notion in this text. He says that not everyone who makes that profession will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but He who actually lives out the profession by ‘doing the will of the Father’ will enter. At the same time we ought to be very careful to not over shoot this and make it into a works based salvation, or that we must perform the will of God by our strength in order to validate our profession and not be a false prophet. In fact, this verse goes a long way to speak against that notion as well... ‘did we not prophesy... cast out demons... do miracles...?’ The false prophet will argue with Christ on the Day of Judgment based on his or her own workings, not upon the merit of Christ.
“He who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter...” What is the will of the Father? “That we know the Him the one true God.” See John 17. We can do many things without knowing Him with any degree of intimacy, those ‘many things’ give us no standing with Him, as evidenced by this passage. Jesus labels those whom He will declare that ‘He never knew’, He calls them ‘You who practice lawlessness’. In other words Jesus tells those who have lived as though God never gave a law are commanded to depart from Him. So often we are quick to blast the Pharisees for legalism, but we venture to the other extreme. The opposite of legalism is lawlessness. In the case of legalism we see man implementing rules and regulations that go beyond the will of God and ultimately removing freedom which God intended people to have. On the other end you have lawlessness which essentially is to treat God as though He allows all things and has never spoken a law or given a regulation that must be followed. The problem in our day is not the problem of the Pharisee but the problem of Lawlessness. Moreover, because we are so accustomed to lawlessness as the norm, anytime someone mentions law, or speaks dogma concerning right or wrong action, they are immediately and falsely labeled pharisaical.
So what is the application? Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith, or if you are a false prophet. Do you only say ‘Lord, Lord’ and do nice things, or are you about the Father’s will which is to know Him intimately? Do you profess faith, and yet live as though God never gave a law? Will you hear the words... depart from me? It is too important of a question to dismiss.
"You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. "So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:16-20 NASB)
Recognizing the false prophet and casting judgment upon a false prophet are two different things. We are commanded by Christ to beware of false prophets, and at the same time we are commanded not to judge in Matthew 7:1. Again one of the primary issues that handcuffs believers is that we have come to a point where we do not make any distinction between discernment and judgment, and they are two very different things. We must be very careful. First we must recognize the propensity in our own flesh to be a false prophet and to realize that before our redemption the vast majority of us were false prophets. When that is recognized it becomes much easier to discern a false prophet without standing in judgment over them, because you know you too were a false prophet apart from God’s saving work. One might think ‘I was never a false prophet’ however most people prior to conversion have some belief about God and are typically willing to share that belief. People, believers or not, often make statements about God, they make prophetic proclamations all the time. Even saying ‘God is love’ is a prophetic proclamation. Moreover, the false prophet is known by their fruit, not by their prophetic statements, in other words a false prophet can speak the truth and yet still be false. Confusing? It should not be. The point is that nearly everyone has something to say about God, beware of those who do not bear the good fruit of a truly converted soul.
So why ought we be on guard for the false prophet? Go back to Matthew 7:15, the answer is pretty obvious there. How can we be on our guard? Watch the fruit, if your fundamentalist buddy is always angry, never broken or contrite, impatient, rarely repentant, not exhibiting the genuine fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5, you can know him by his fruit. At the same time, and this may get me in trouble, the more liberal Christian who holds to some doctrines you know to be false but continually exhibits the fruit of the spirit, genuine compassion, concern for Christ’s glory, and loving their neighbor, well there is a good chance that though you may have some theological difference, that person is a genuine brother or sister in Christ. We will know them by their fruit.
This idea of fruit being the evidence of salvation was the topic back in an earlier post as well. Recall John the Baptist reminding us that the axe is at the root of the tree and the outcome of that tree is determined by the fruit it produces. Do not run too far with this, or you will end up believing in a works based salvation, but at the same time do not write off the importance of works, because they give the evidence of genuine conversion.
"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 NASB)
Immediately after warning of a narrow gate, and a narrow way Jesus introduces this idea of false prophets. This is critical and He will continue on this topic for the remainder of this concluding section of the Sermon on the Mount. In the previous text Jesus speaks of entering in the narrow gate, going on the narrow way, and makes it utterly clear that few people will find their way through that gate and onto that way. It would be easy at this point to believe the narrow gate/way to be a pretty safe place to be. Clearly if it is so difficult to find few others would be present to dissuade you from entering, and once you are in it would seem that even fewer would be present to detract you from that narrow way. It is not this simple though. The remainder of the sermon on the mount shows us with clarity that many people abound who are not on the narrow path, but have access to those who are, and moreover seek to destroy the true sheep on the path.
Jesus says “beware of false prophets...” This is elementary, but the simple fact that Jesus gives the warning should place every believer on guard. Unfortunately in Christendom today to even be on your guard against false prophets is to be considered a judgmental fundamentalist. The idea that prevails today is that we should welcome all... then empower all... even give a degree of authority to all to vote on matters that concern the sheep... and before any discernment has happened wolves have creeped in dressed as sheep and have the authority to rend the flock into pieces. Again, be careful not to run away with this, Matthew 7:1-5 is clear, and we are not to stand in judgment of people, nonetheless it is Christ who says ‘beware’.
The other thing to recognize is that they will come in sheep’s clothing as deceivers. This is not an obvious wolf coming in with a little white fur taped to his head. With a little makeup, some plastic, and a number of computer enhancements I could look like a world class body builder. In fact, with the proper deceptions I could look more world class than an actual body builder. A wolf dressed in a beautiful sheep outfit could be far more attractive and ‘sheepish’ than a real sheep that has been out to pasture in a real field with real mud and grime. The point is that deception is real, and while this is not a call to be paranoid, it is a call to not simply give the benefit of the doubt. Those who may appear to be the most Godly may merely have veneer of godliness, while at the same time those whose have been stuck in the mire and mud of sin the pasture of the world may still be the very true sheep though sometimes unrecognizable.
Finally recognize the nature of the false prophet “...inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The goal of the false prophet is self seeking, and it is self seeking at the cost of the sheep. Again realize that this is deception, if it were easy to tell who was seeking their own gain at your expense, well, you would never be fooled. If deception were easy to avoid, you never would waste money on a worthless product, you would never buy into a lie, and you would never have been used in any way, but the reality is that we fall into deception frequently and ought to ‘beware’ especially when it comes to those whom we enter into the bonds of Christian brotherhood with.
The next few passages will give insight into how to discern the false prophet as well as some solemn warnings that even include the very possibility of you or I being a false prophet.
"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. "For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 NASB)
This passage begins the closing statements of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus beginning in this passage makes sure that His hearers and us are not left believing that this is some amazing teaching that we should simply marvel at, and apply to our lives wherever possible. Jesus makes it clear that this is ‘life and death’ teaching. He takes it beyond the simple ‘you will have a great life’ or ‘you can go on without worry’ or ‘you need to be more loving’ type teaching and He instead puts a razor sharp edge on the whole sermon saying ‘broad is the way that leads to destruction’ and ‘many will enter through it.’
In preaching today the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount are taught, precepts for a Godly life are given, and people are encouraged to go out and live it. However, the failure of most preaching comes when we fail to mandate action and response as Christ has begun to do in this text. ‘Enter through the narrow gate’, traditional Christianity, and the whole of scripture make it clear that Jesus is the narrow gate, and the name by which all men must be saved. In fundamental Christianity this is established and well excepted, however this idea of the ‘narrow way’ is often neglected. Upon entering the narrow gate you find yourself on a narrow path... how do you recognize the narrow path? Well read the Matthew 5-7 and you will see the description of the narrow path laid out clearly. Now, the narrow gate is the start point of the narrow path, if indeed you are on the broad path, one that runs entirely counter to Matthew 5-7 know assuredly you are on the wrong path because you have yet to enter through the right gate. The path we walk is determined by the gate we entered. The desire and growing ability to live out the Sermon on the Mount are the evidences of an actual entrance through the narrow gate.
It is so important to see the words of Christ here, He has said these teachings are life and death teachings. Wide... destruction, narrow... life. Now following this text we will find a number of warnings, and also some words of protection for the believers, as far as discerning false prophets and not being deceived. While we go through these it is important to recall Matthew 7:1-2 in order that we do not take the follow texts as a license to judge, at the same time, we cannot neglect that few find narrow gate and way.
"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 7:12 NASB)
Again Jesus is teaching in the context of judgment and discernment. You find in Matthew 7:1-2 that we will be judged by the very standard we set. In Matthew 7:3-5 we are given some perspective as to how much sin we have in our own life in comparison to the sin we perceive in someone else's life. In Matthew 7:6 we are warned that just because we have sin and we are in no position to judge we ought to still proceed with caution, not giving what is holy to dogs, or casting pearls to swine. Then in Matthew 7:7-11 we are admonished to ask, seek, and knock to determine the will of God, and to receive wisdom from Him in discernment in this context of judging and discerning. Moreover in that text we are shown the faithfulness of God in that He will give to us what is good, if we ask (recall this whole text is in the context of judging others and discernment.)
That brings us to Matthew 7:12, and right there in the verse is a 'therefore' which links this passage to the previous passages and tells us that this is not a standalone verse. Recall the first 11 verses of this chapter are dealing with judging others and discernment, Jesus teaches us not to judge and also to discern then gives us verses 7-11 to instruct us to seek Him to know the difference. There is a dependence upon God that the believer must have in exercising biblical discernment, it does not come out of the mind or heart of the believer. If we neglect 'ask, seek, knock' and go with our heart or gut feeling we will fail. How can you know if you are following your heart, or the Lord? The answer is right here in Matthew 7:12.
In light of Christ's liberal offer for wisdom and discernment, and your inability to rightly judge, treat others the same way you want to be treated. It is crystal clear, in fact this verse in a way is nearly identical to Matthew 7:1-2. Matthew 7:12 seems to be a closing statement on this thought which is introduced in Matthew 7:1-2. I would assert that when teaching on judgment Matthew 7:1-12 should be taken as a whole. Of course the golden rule 'treat others as you want to be treated' is a very simple concept, and yet Christ Himself says 'for this is the Law and the Prophets', in other words this simple verse sums up the commands of the OT.
I would say this in closing. Unjust judgment of others leads to mistreatment of others. Again the call to discernment, church discipline, and caution is real and biblical, at the same time, if you come to a place where your actions fail the simple test of Matthew 7:12 you discernment has been wrong.
"Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. "Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? "Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? "If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11 NASB)
Again I marvel at the logical flow of Christ's teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. The first 6 verses of the 7th chapter addressed judging others, and then you get hit with the passage above. Realize that what follows this passage is 'The Golden Rule' in Matthew 7:12, which seems to continue on the theme of not judging and how to act with regard to other people. But sandwiched between 6 verses about judgment, and the golden rule sits this passage about seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Discernment is a very difficult thing for even the most discerning of believers. We know that the nature of a man is to sin, so to trust one's own judgment is not wise. Jesus commands in Matthew 7:1-5 not to judge, and warns that we will be judged by our own standard. Moreover in 7:3-5 He makes it clear that we are in no place to judge the specks in another's eyes considering the logs in our own eyes. Now He tempers all of this in 7:6 but saying not to forgo all discernment and just cast pearls to swine and give what is holy to dogs. This idea that we cannot judge and at the same time we must discern leaves our heads spinning. Jesus knows the difficulty here so he comes in with verses 7-11. "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you..." Here is an important question: "Ask for what?" In light of the context it appears to be wisdom and discernment, the answer to the question on how to discern or judge is to ask, seek, and knock not relying on your own strength, wisdom, or insight. This passage is not about food and sustenance it is about wisdom and discernment. If we seek God for wisdom, will He give us foolishness? Of course not! Would you give your child a stone if they needed bread? How much more will your father give what is good to those who ask Him!
Again it is so important to see where the passage falls when it comes to understanding its meaning.
The majority of preaching we hear today is topical by nature. For instance we hear messages about evangelism, courage, prayer, heaven, hell, healing, and so on. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but at the same time it causes us to negate, or a least give less importance to scriptures that do not deal with topics which we are not interested. Moreover we as teachers or preachers end up with a tendency towards taking a topic, asserting our own ideas then using a computer program to find all the scriptures that promote our idea. This way of preparing sermons and lessons is dishonest and is merely teaching our own ideas and looking for the scriptures to sanctify our own thoughts. Of course the issue is context, you can use scriptures out of context to do whatever you want, and can manipulate people who truly desire to be Godly by quoting scripture. This is the danger of topical preaching and teaching. Now there is benefit to topical teaching and preaching, if the preacher/teacher has been intellectually honest has taken the topic and taught it in light of the whole book. Sometimes topics need to be dealt with.
Why do I post this? This Gospel series of which I just posted my 51st post has been eye opening to me. I have read countless verses that I have used to make topical points with and come to the realization that I did not have a very good handle on those verses within their context (and I am only 7 chapters into this project.) Now by taking an expository approach to this blog my eyes have been opened to things I did not see before. Moreover, it forces me as a blogger, and it also would force a preacher or teacher, to deal with passages that I typically would avoid.
I have never read a 'Christian' blog that was expository, they are always topical, typically rants about this and that with a smattering of scripture to support the author's views. That is how I blogged for 4 years, and still do from time to time. Unfortunately that is why the blogosphere is smattered with so many ideas, concepts, and thoughts that are contradictory yet all claim the same bible as their source. Again, I have long been a contributor to this problem. This is why this blog is and will continue to be mainly expository in its posts, and Lord willing, will continue for many years going through many books of the bible.
If you read this, and have been someone who has thought about blogging, or has a blog but never knows what to write, I would suggest taking the expository approach. Yes, you have to lay down your own ideas and agenda, but you will always have a topic. It has been hard for me to deviate from ranting and raving about everything that annoys me (you will see I still do it now and then) at the same time I have found far greater joy and learning in the blogging process by forgoing my own topical desires and just writing about Matthews Gospel in order.
Take heart, thou blogger with no good topics, there is still a place for you in the blogosphere, and it is a place that few people currently dwell, in the land of exposition.
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces. (Matthew 7:6 NASB)
This is an important passage in light of Matthew 7:1-5. It would serve you well to read the previous couple posts, or at least those verses before continuing on. Matthew 7:6 is Jesus putting the brakes on what could be a runaway truck full of 'anything goes' disciples. Matthew 7:1-5 is a fearful warning against judging others, telling us we will be judged by our standard, and that we have to much sin of our own to be worried about dealing with someone else's sinfulness. Now Jesus knows the human heart, and He knows full well that we would take these passages not too judge and run with them beyond where we should. We would take an anything goes attitude and ask questions like... How can we refuse membership to so and so? Or how can we say this lifestyle is wrong? Or how can we say that these people teach false doctrine? How can we stand against this practice? And so on. Jesus does not stop at verse 5 however, in fact it is a though He foresaw our thoughts and said, "Hold up, you certainly are not to judge, at the same time don't get carried away and give what is holy to dogs, and cast your pearls to swine." This verse is a great qualifier to the previous 5, and given its proximity to those verses it is reasonable to believe that Jesus meant these verses as a qualifier.
So what is the application? You are not to be standing in judgment of others unless you are exercising true humility knowing the extreme depths of your own depravity, even then you do it with tremendous caution. At the same time you do not go so far as to pour out your pearls (valued wisdom) and that which is holy (things set apart for the Lord) to just anyone. Jesus knows that we would have the tendency to do that, but if we do, not only will our holy things and pearls be rejected but we will also be hurt in the process. Again, this is a fine line that we must walk with the upmost care. We can easily get caught in the 'so and so, is not worthy and I am not going to cast my pearls to that swine' and forget the fact that we are not worthy either. At the same time, in our realization of our unworthiness we could just go out and cast precious gifts from the Lord out to everyone, even though they were not gifts meant for everyone. If you have a great insight into deeper things your job is not necessarily to share it with everyone, if you do you will find that people will first reject the insight you had, then turn and reject you for having that insight. Be in prayer and use caution, that is all.
I must confess I am having great difficulty putting into words what I am trying to say tonight. I will leave it here for now, and maybe revise this later.
"Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5 NASB)
Recognize that Christ's teachings in the first five verses of Matthew 7 concern themselves primarily with self examination. The primary purpose of this verse is to call the believer to examine themselves. The vast difference between a speck and a log should not be overlooked. When you look at another person and you can see their sin you must realize that sin you see, not matter how heinous it is remains yet a speck in comparison to your own sin. If you examine yourself you will find sin more grievous in yourself than any sin you have ever seen in someone else. If you disagree with this you need to spend some time praying that the Lord would reveal to you your own sinfulness. Now, when you see a speck in someone else's eye, know that they too have far more sin than that speck which you see, nonetheless you are not qualified to deal with that speck considering the vast amount of sin that plagues you. Does this make sense? It is true that everyone has logs, and that the speck you see is nearly the tip of that log, but before dealing with the speck, deal with your log.
There is a loophole in this verse, and too many people jump through it too quickly. "...then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye" this little section in a sense gives license to deal with your brothers sin, however to earn that license an immense amount of self examination and confession must occur. If indeed you begin to deal with your own log of sin, you will realize it is 10000 times the size of the speck of sin which you seek to remove from your brother's eye. The question is, at what point can you see clearly enough to deal with your brother's sin? The answer is, only when you have seen the enormity of your own sin and come to the realization that the speck you seek to deal with is virtually nothing in light of your own depravity. At that point, and only at that point, you can exercise true humility in dealing with the sin of another. Again, realize the thrust of this teaching is not so much to get your eyes clear enough so you can rightly judge... that is a small part of it, the thrust of this teaching is to examine yourself and see the enormity of your own sin.