Matthew 7: Contrasts of the Kingdom
Tom Wilson, Levin, New Zealand
THE FINAL CHAPTER OF THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT is one of contrasts. By these
the standards of the King and His kingdom are emphasized and contrasted
with the shortcomings of the Pharisees and scribes. His righteousness is
contrasted with their hypocrisy.
Passing Judgment, 7. 1-6
The first verse of chapter 7 is cryptic and needs some explanation. Those
who were judgmental in their attitudes were in turn to come under the
judgment of God because they were exercising a prerogative that belonged
to God, Rom. 14. 10-13; Jas. 4. 11-12.
Those who frown on others are often guilty of the very things of which
they disapprove. Our Lord illustrated this by speaking of those who seek to
remove a speck of sawdust from the eye of others while they are unaware
of the plank - would we say 'splinter'? - in their own eye.
The Lord was not saying that judgments should never be made. He was
condemning the censorious attitude of the Pharisees. Any pronouncement
we make should be in a spirit of prayerful humility, after examining our
own motives and thoughtfully arriving at what the particular situation
Furthermore judgements made known to the unready or unreceptive are
futile, like throwing sacred things to dogs or giving pearls to pigs (both
despised animals among the Jews).
CaIl to Prayer, 7. 7-11
Christ then referred back to what He had said about prayer, 6. 5-15, by
encouraging them to pray ('ask') sincerely ('seek') in faith ('knock'). The
thought was of persistence, conveyed by the use of the present continuous
tense, 'keep on asking. , . seeking ... knocking' . One was to be motivated
by the assurance that the Father in heaven delights to give what is good to
those who ask Him.
We see here that God is not reluctant to bless those who call upon Him
but He does require a pure motive and persistent faith. He will not indulge
us as spoiled children but He can be relied on to bless in response to what
we ask of Him. After all even we with our sinful natures give gifts to our
children; how much more will our heavenly Father give 'good gifts' to
those who ask in prayer!
The Golden Rule, 7. 12
The principles of the Sermon are summarized in the maxim: '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'. Only the righteous can maintain
such a standard, in this way giving evidence of the new birth, Others may
approve the philosophy of righteousness but they will fail to maintain the
standard, cf. 5. 20.
This rule is not selective; it applies to 'all things'. It ought not to be
motivated by self-interest saying, 'If I do this, I can expect others to do
likewise'. The Lord said concerning this rule, 'This is (Gk. 'estin,' fulfils,
sums up) the law and the prophets', viz., the standards of the kingdom.
Contrasts, 7. 13-27
In conclusion the Lord gave a series of contrasts to emphasize the salient
points of His Sermon. Each contained a directive, or implied directive, and
a warning setting out the way to, or the way of the kingdom.
Two Ways, vv. 13-14. The imagery used was two gates, two ways and two
destinations. The wide gate opened on to a broad road leading to
destruction; the small gate, to a narrow way and life eternal. The broad
way symbolized the self-righteousness of the Pharisees (and their like of
every generation) who would never see the kingdom of God. The narrow
way was Himself and His imputed righteousness to be made available
through the cross, John 14.6.
Two Trees, vv. 15-20. Christ then focused on teachers, true and false, no
doubt with the scribes particularly in mind. A number of metaphors were
used but mainly trees and the fruit they bore. False prophets claimed to
speak the truth but they were in fact wolves in sheep's clothing. His
message was simply, 'Prove your teachers by the way they live as well as
by what they say'. False teaching was an expression of unrighteousness. In
condemning the One they were professedly looking for, they, as well as
their' teaching, stood condemned.
Two Groups, vv. 21-23. Our Lord then taught that there were only two
groups among all those who aspired to enter the kingdom of heaven, the
true who did the will of His Father in heaven and the false who failed to do
so. They were not judged by their message ('prophesied'), power ('cast out
devils') or signs ('wonderful works'). The touchstone was allegiance to the
Father and obedience to His will. (Notice this early implicit affirmation of
His deity.) Notwithstanding their claims, false professors stood condemned
as those who 'work iniquity' ('practise lawlessness').
Two Foundations, vv. 24-27. Finally another comprehensive picture was
developed. Those who heard His words were building on the rock which
would never be undermined. 'That Rock was Christ,' 1 Cor. 10.4, cf. Matt.
16.18. Those who heard hut did not acton His words were building in vain
on a foundation of sand. They would never stand the test of divine judgment.
This is a picture of religious profession. All who have failed to build on the
Rock will crumble before Him in that Day.
While He was speaking the crowds had gathered. They were amazed at
His teaching and His authority. He was so unlike the scribes in this respect,
7.28,29. Christ had asserted His lordship, the One who had fulfilled the
Law and the Prophets. He had presented to them the standards of His
kingdom and what was required of His subjects. These would be fulfilled
in their entirety in the kingdom to come.
But these teachings are significant and appropriate to our day as well. In
a measure they should be fulfilled in us who have come to know the Lord
Jesus Christ as 'the way, the truth, and the life.' In Him, we are walking the
narrow way; we are building on the Rock.
Christ went on to prove His deity and demonstrate His authority, then
lay down His life as the sin-offering for all. He will reign over Jew and
Gentile in His kingdom to come; He reigns now in His church. He must
continue to reign until all enemies have been put under His feet, 1 Cor. 15.