The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Matthew 7

Mat 7:1

JUDGE: "Krinete" = to criticize, discern, divide, as a judge.

JUDGED: "Katadichazete" = to speak against, formally, as in a courtroom.

"You are the man!" (2Sa 12:7).

Should we "judge"? Cp sw 1Co 5:3; Luk 12:57; Joh 7:1.

Vv 1,2: The context is the "parable" of the mote and the beam (vv 3-5). The saying is found in the rabbinical writings, and is an example of the caustic Jewish humor. It is not difficult to make the transition here from the case of individuals to that of ecclesias or "fellowship" groups. "With what measure we mete and with what judgment we judge, we shall ourselves individually and communally be assessed" (CMPA, Xd 109:12). Who belongs to a "perfect" (or even "near-perfect") group? Are there not always problems nearer to home to occupy the industrious brother, without the necessity of seeking to remove a "mote" from an ecclesial "eye" half-way round the world? We should never judge those in other "fellowships" more severely than we would wish to be judged in the weakest link of our own "fellowship". And if such judgment would make us wince, then perhaps we should re-evaluate our situation!

"The wonderful thing about the Speaker [of Mat 7:1,2] is that he himself is so clear-eyed! There is neither beam nor mote there! He can judge without 'hypocrisy'. And he will. 'The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son' (Joh 5:22). Whosoever therefore usurps this function is guilty of 'contempt of court', 'the court above'! Hence an apostle says to his brethren in the midst of their carnal jealousies and strifes: 'With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you... but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes...' (1Co 4:3-5)... Do not behave as though you sought your brother's damnation rather than his salvation. 'He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends' (Pro 17:9). Do not do it; God hates it!" (CCW, Xd 61:266).

It must not be supposed that Mat 7 prohibits all ecclesial "judging". Obviously, there are times when ecclesias (through their arranging brothers, or by other means) are called upon to "judge". But in such cases it must be the clear pronouncement of Holy Scripture which provides the basis, and not a whim or passing fancy or even a tradition, well-intended though it be! And judgment must be approached very carefully and humbly, according to the spirit as well as the letter of Mat 18. Some good rules to observe in such cases:
  1. Do not impute to your brethren evil motives (Jam 4:11).
  2. Do not condemn your "weak brother" for what you may consider to be his "imperfect" service (Rom 14:1-13).
  3. Do not withhold forgiveness when the Bible teaches that God can offer it (Jam 2:13). Under no circumstances has our Father laid upon us the burden of being stricter than He has expressly said Himself to be!
  4. Do not anticipate Christ's judgment (1Co 4:5). Our brother is above all else "another man's servant" (Rom 14:4), not our own!
In all the above the emphasis is upon this: We must only with extreme care and reluctance undertake to pass any judgment. We must do so only when absolutely necessary, and not just to satisfy some whim or to elevate ourselves by casting others down. And we must never assume our own infallibility; the Holy Spirit power of "judging" (such as that employed by the apostle Peter upon Ananias and Sapphira) has long since ceased from among the ecclesias.

"It is certainly true that no man ought to speak of a brother's faults behind his back until he have spoken to himself alone, and afterwards with others. But even then, you must be quite sure that the fault is of a kind that would warrant you in withdrawing if he do not submit. If there is any doubt on this head, be silent, and leave the Lord to judge at his coming. We generally find men unwilling to leave things to the Lord. They act as though they had no faith in the Lord's coming, and as if Paul had never written: 'Judge nothing before the time, till the Lord come who will make manifest the counsels of the heart' (1Co 4:5) -- that is, the secret motives which no man can know, and which require to be known before a correct estimate of his action is possible... It would be wrong for us to judge in personal cases. It is possible to say what ought and what ought not to be done, as a matter of duty for all men; but when it comes to a question whether these are or are not done by particular men, we enter a forbidden field. We must not judge; we must not condemn. We must leave the Lord to do that at his coming. We can, of course, withdraw from a brother who walks disobediently and defends it; but even this we must not do till we have seen him a few times and given him every opportunity of justifying himself. If men were more busy judging THEMSELVES, which they are COMMANDED to do, they would not have so much propensity for judging others, which they are forbidden to do" (RR, Xd 35:388,389).

"The scriptural command is, over and over: 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' With our puny little limited minds, it is impossible for us to judge fairly, even if we should have all the facts. And we never have ALL the facts... We must never judge motives, or seek occasions of fault-finding, or believe and peddle hurtful rumors, or talk behind peoples' backs, or speak of sins -- either real or supposed -- TO ANYONE EXCEPT THE PERSON INVOLVED. In doing such, we condemn ourselves. The stern penalties of the law of Christ are very fearful against any of these fleshly abominations: 'As ye judge, so shall ye be judged' " (GVG, Ber 61:81).

"It is always wisdom to judge with mercy and kindness and compassion and fellow-feeling, wherever we must judge at all. When we indulge in the flesh-satisfying practice of judging and criticizing others, we are not only directly disobedient to this command -- we are also manifesting that we do not have the mind and spirit of Christ, and therefore are none of his" (GVG, Ber 57:51).

"However damning the evidence may be against our brother, if we pause and look into our own hearts, we shall go quietly away and leave him with his Lord. There are times when it becomes necessary to take action, but that action must not be taken because we have condemned our brother. It will be taken in the painful consciousness of our own unworthiness, and with a love which will plead intercession before the Throne of Grace. We shall wait with eagerness for the first signs of penitence so that we can joyfully restore the erring one to the fellowship of the saints" (MP 235).

"We know that all judgment has been committed to the Son of God and that we are warned not to judge each other. We can all remember the instruction so easily when men try to measure our faults with the unfairness which is nearly always characteristic of human judges. Yet how difficult it is to refrain from judging others. There is a difference of opinion, and human mentality shows at its worst. Instantly there is a tendency to judge motives, to exaggerate faults and to utter condemnations in a manner as if the Lord had never spoken. Some judge the faults or the supposed faults of weaker brethren. Others are busy judging the judges. It is difficult to steer a proper course, but we all are quite well acquainted with the guiding principles. Our difficulties would nearly vanish if we consulted principles more" (PrPr).

"Don't find fault with the man who limps
Or stumbles along life's road,
Unless you have worn the shoes he wears,
Or struggled beneath his load.

"There may be tacks in his shoes that hurt,
Though hidden away from your view;
The burden he bears, if placed on your back,
Might cause you to stumble too.

"Don't be too hard on the man who errs,
Or pelt him with wood or stone,
Unless you are sure -- yea, double sure --
That you have no fault of your own."

Mat 7:2

For some reason, it is easier to jump to negative conclusions about people than it is to assume the best about them. When we do this, we ascribe to them bad intentions and evil purposes that may not be true. We also reveal something about ourselves, for the faults we see in others are actually a reflection of our own.

In his little book "Illustrations of Bible Truth", HA Ironside pointed out the folly of judging others. He related an incident in the life of a man called Bishop Potter. He was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners. When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share the cabin with him. After going to see the accommodations, he came up to the purser's desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship's safe. He explained that ordinarily he never availed himself of that privilege, but he had been to his cabin and had met the man who was to occupy the other berth. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person.

The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, "It's all right, bishop, I'll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has been up here and left his for the same reason!"

Mat 7:3

"A hallmark of the unworthy leader: his penchant for wholesale self-righteous censure of others" (WGos 229).

Mat 7:5

"Those things that one cannot improve in himself or in others, he ought to endure patiently, until God arranges things otherwise. Nevertheless when you have such impediments, you ought to pray that God would help you, and that you may bear them kindly.

"Endeavor to be patient in bearing with the defects of others, whatever they are; for you also have many failings which must be borne by others. If you cannot make yourself be as you would like to be, how can you expect to have another person be to your liking in every way? We desire to have others perfect, and yet we do not correct our own faults. We would allow others to be severely corrected, and will not be corrected ourselves. We will have others kept under by strict laws, but in no case do we want to be restrained. And so it appears that we seldom weigh our neighbor in the same balance with ourselves" (Thomas a' Kempis).

Mat 7:6

But there is one sense in which you SHOULD judge. Cp vv 16-20: you do have a right to judge possible converts by their "fruits".

DOGS: Gentiles in Mat 15:26; Phi 3:2; Psa 22:16,20; Exo 22:31. But in 2Pe 2:21,22, dogs represents those who have already been called to the Truth.

WHAT IS SACRED: A man throwing to these fierce, uncontrollable animals the sacrifice which should have been offered up to God or shared with one's brethren in a meal of holy fellowship before the LORD (WGos 223).

PEARLS: Small pearl-like grains of manna (Num 11:7).

PIGS: Brute beasts who have no inclination toward precious things, but enjoy "mud and mire". Do not drag people into the Truth, but "draw" them -- making sure they understand and appreciate the difficulties.

THEY MAY TRAMPLE THEM UNDER THEIR FEET: "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" (Heb 10:29).

AND TURN AGAIN AND TEAR YOU TO PIECES: Dogs may be eager to devour anything and everything, but they lack discrimination, and may vomit up what they have gulped down. And then they may turn and rend others.

"The Lord is warning against giving valuable, spiritual things to those who will not appreciate them. There are two reasons why this should not be done: (1) The spiritual things will be treated with contempt. (The pearls will be trampled underfoot.) (2) The givers of spiritual things will suffer. (They will be 'torn to pieces'.) How do we act on this instruction?

"Many regard these words as advice to preach selectively. Some people, they say, are obviously unsuitable. We should not waste our time, and bring the Truth into disrepute, by preaching to them. It would be casting our pearls before swine. We may be sure that, whatever the Lord meant, he did not mean this. Who are we to decide who is worthy, and who is not worthy to receive the Word of God? Can we trust our own judgment? Can the Lord Jesus trust our judgment? Would we have preached to the woman at the well? Would we have deemed Matthew and Zacchaeus to be suitable candidates? The Lord chose these people, but we should probably have written them off before starting.

"We must be careful that we do not presume to pre-select men for God according to our own prejudices, and then invite God to make a final selection from our 'short list'. We all tend to make our own decisions concerning people's suitability. It is significant that the section of the Sermon on the Mount immediately before the passage under discussion, begins with the words, 'Judge not, that ye be not judged.' The Scriptures abound with instances of unlikely people being chosen to fulfil great purposes for God. By choosing unlikely people. God demonstrates that the power and the wisdom are His, and that the glory must go to Him too. By this means He also helps us to see how unreliable our judgment is. It has been remarked that we ought not to call people swine until we hear them grunt. We must preach to everybody, and God will give the increase.

"Back then to the question: What did the Lord Jesus mean when he told us not to cast our pearls before swine? Some sort of judging -- or, at least, some sort of judiciousness -- would seem to be called for if the instruction is to mean anything at all.

"A clue is provided by Peter: 'It is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire' (2Pe 2:22). Dogs and swine! The Lord warned us against giving valuable spiritual things to dogs and swine. Can Peter help us to identify these creatures? He is speaking about wicked backsliders. The whole of the chapter concerns these people. They are spoken of as having 'forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor' (v 15). Again he says, 'For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them' (vv 20, 21). And so the apostle says that it has happened unto them according to the true proverb...

"The pearls of Mat 7 are therefore to be equated with 'the right way', 'the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ', 'the way of righteousness', and 'the holy commandment' of 2Pe 2. And dogs and swine are the backsliders described in this chapter. It should be noted that the false brethren are not just brethren who have fallen through weakness. They are 'false teachers', men who speak 'great swelling words of vanity' and 'allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them that live in error.'

"Although they are 'the servants of corruption', they promise liberty. They turn and rend the community to which they have belonged. These are the people against whom the Lord is warning us.

"But still the question remains: How are we to act on the Lord's instruction? The answer is suggested by the words already quoted, 'It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.' Peter is saying, in effect, that it would have been better if such people had never come into the Truth.

"It is submitted therefore that casting pearls before swine is bringing unworthy people into the Truth. Do I hear someone protesting that I am being unreasonable? If we must preach to all, how can we be blamed if unworthy people come into the Truth as a result of our preaching? It is a question of pressure. Whereas it is right to preach to everyone, it is wrong to exert such pressure upon people as will cause them to make a covenant without counting the cost. By exerting too much pressure, or pressure of the wrong kind, we can induce people to be baptised who otherwise would not have done so.

"The result of this is bound to be disastrous. These people do not appreciate how high the calling is. They act unworthily, and set a bad example for others. It is a well-known fact that people are more readily impressed by bad examples than by good. Some of these false brethren are natural leaders. Others will be influenced by their subversive teaching. Many will follow their pernicious ways and the way of Truth will be evil spoken of. Inevitably there will be decline and apostasy.

"Christ himself shows us how to make disciples. He said, 'Follow me', and he insisted that his disciples did follow him. He was only willing to have men who accepted his standards. It is instructive to observe his treatment of two contrasting types (Mat 8:19-22). The first said, 'Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.' Instead of patting him on the back and saying, as we should have done, 'That's the spirit we want', he cautioned the man. Did he really know what he was letting himself in for?

"The second man was of the opposite type. He explained to Jesus that he would be free to follow him when his father was dead and buried. This earned a sharp rebuke, 'Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.' We may wince at the severity of the Lord's words and yet miss the point. It is our bounden duty to stress the fact that the standards are very high. Christ wants dedicated people and nobody else. Is our half-hearted discipleship evidence of the fact that we have not heeded the Lord's instructions and have made the way too easy?" (PW).

Mat 7:7

Memory aid: the three phrases of this verse begin, successively, with A... S... and K -- which also happens to be the first word of the verse.

Continuous verbs: "Keep on asking... keep on seeking... keep on knocking": cp Luk 18:1-8; 11:5-8. "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him" (Jam 1:5).

Mat 7:11

IF YOU, THEN, THOUGH YOU ARE EVIL...: The same argument in Luk 18:6,7. Cp Mat 15:19.

Mat 7:12

// Luk 6:31.

Mat 7:13

Vv 13,14: At the approach to Jerusalem, a narrow road leads up into the city, while a broad road leads down to the valley of Hinnom -- or "Gehenna" (MP 40,41).

V 13: Concl: The struggle, test, and security of the King's servants.

It is possible to be "in THE WAY" or "the Truth" and yet to walk in the broad way to destruction! Christ here is speaking to the Jews who were "in the Truth" in his day!

Mat 7:14

SMALL: Gr "stenos" = narrow.

NARROW: Gr "thlibo" = squeezing, constricted. Cognate with "thlipsis" -- a fairly common word for "tribulation" or "persecution".

THE ROAD: Or "the way" = Christ: Joh 14:6. "The way" = the walk that leads to the Kingdom: Act 8:226,31,36,39; 9:8; 18:25,26; 19:9,23; 22:4.

THAT LEADS TO LIFE: Poss, that leads to spiritual life, a rebirth and renewal -- with the process (as above) sounding very similar to childbirth. Travelling through a narrow and constricted "gate" into a new "life" is -- symbolically -- the "birth" out of this present world into the new "world", the Kingdom: see Rom 8:22; Joh 16:21; Act 2:24 (interesting phrase: "birth-pangs of death"); Col 1:15,18; Isa 66:5,7,8,10,14; Mat 24:8 ("sorrows" = "birth pains"); 1Th 5:3.

"True joy is the consciousness of sincerely and purely doing one's utter best and giving one's total effort to drawing near to God; to being like Him; to doggedly fighting the flesh in all its wide range of defiling ramifications -- from the slightest impatience to the deepest licentiousness; and to a life of fulltime service to God, the Truth, and the Brotherhood. This, and this alone, is the 'peace of God that passeth all understanding.' Short of this, there is no peace, no satisfaction, no happiness, no sense of perfect, Divine, transcendent rest. All else is sham and delusion and deception -- vanity, vexation, a bitter, meaningless striving for wind. This and this alone is life: the one narrow little doorway out of the dark, empty present into the brilliant warmth and sunshine of the illimitable glories of eternity. How few find it!" (GVG).

Mat 7:16

Cp 1Ch 4:8n.

Mat 7:17

Vv 17-20: "You can judge a teacher by the followers he produces." What are "fruits"? (1) type of disciples produced; (2) works in general; or (3) attitude toward Christ.

GOOD FRUIT... BAD FRUIT: Gal 5:22,23; cp Mat 12:33.

Mat 7:18

By definition, a good tree is one that bears good fruit; and vice versa. Its total reason for being is to produce fruit. A tree may be wonderfully beautiful, with luscious leaves, and fine shade -- but if it produces no fruit, it is -- by definition -- a BAD tree! Another tree may be stunted and twisted, and not pleasant to look upon at all -- but if it produces good fruit, it is -- by definition -- a GOOD tree!

Mat 7:19


Mat 7:20

Cp parable of tares: sown by the enemy: Mat 13:24-30,36-43.

Mat 7:21

LORD, LORD: Repeating a person's name is a Hebrew expression of intimacy. When God speaks to Abraham at Mount Moriah, as he is about to plunge the knife into the breast of Isaac, He says, "Abraham, Abraham" (Gen 22:11). Or when God encourages Jacob in his old age to take the trip to Egypt, He says, "Jacob, Jacob" (Gen 46:2). Cp the call of Moses from the burning bush: "Moses, Moses" (Exo 3:4) or the call of Samuel in the night, "Samuel, Samuel" (1Sa 3:10). Or consider David's cry of agony, "Absalom, Absalom" (2Sa 18:33), and Jesus' cry of desolation on the cross, "My God, my God" (Mat 27:46). When Jesus confronted Martha (Luk 10:41), when he warned Peter (Luk 22:31), and when he wept over Jerusalem (Mat 23:37) -- in each case we find the word repeated for intimacy's sake.

Some pretend to have a deep relationship with Christ, but this claim is not borne out in their lives. There are many who say, "Lord, Lord", while in fact they live in contempt for Christ's commandments. "If you love me, you will obey what I command," said Jesus (Joh 14:15).

See Lesson, Brethren of Christ do the will of Father.

Mat 7:23

...Because their works were done in the wrong spirit: 1Co 13:1-3.

NEVER: "This grim word declares the ghastly truth that many a life deemed to have been lit up by a blaze of heavenly light has in fact never emerged from the smoky pall of Gehenna" (WGos 230).

Mat 7:24

THEREFORE EVERYONE WHO HEARS THESE WORDS OF MINE...: The language of a LAW-GIVER! All the force of Moses' "10 words". "One who had authority" (v 29).

BUILT... ON THE ROCK: See Eph 2:20. "Success is simply a matter of pleasing God: happiness is simply a matter of God manifesting His pleasure in our hearts. All else is illusion and delusion: all else is vanity, and -- finally -- sorrow and death. Life can be all deep, quiet, trustful pleasure, even in its pain. Life can be all empty tragedy and failure, even with its glitter and 'success.' Don't build anything on anything but solid rock. If there is no eternal foundation beneath it, then the better we build and the harder we labor, the greater the ultimate loss and remorse. God is the Rock: the only Rock. Build everything you do on Him. It will then stand firm to all eternity" (GVG).

"The 'house' we are building is the temple of God. It must be built with a strong foundation to withstand winds and storms of trials, persecution and judgment. But it must also be a place of holiness, righteousness, and truth; for God will dwell in no other" (EW Banta).

Mat 7:25

THE ROCK: Eph 2:20.

Mat 7:26

A FOOLISH MAN WHO BUILT HIS HOUSE ON SAND: Parable of the Jews, who relied on their natural descent from Abraham: "I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as... the sand on the seashore" (Gen 22:17).

Mat 7:27

// Pro 12:7; 14:11.

Mat 7:28

WHEN JESUS HAD FINISHED...: Cp Deu 31:24: Repeated five times in Matthew: Mat 7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1. Cp five "books" of Moses.

Mat 7:29

AND NOT AS THEIR TEACHERS OF THE LAW: The Pharisees, etc, got their interpretations of the LM from the majority vote of a tribunal or council. By ct, Christ's authority was that of the JUDGE himself: vv 21-23; Mat 28:18; Jos 5:27.

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