Posts Tagged ‘Matthew 7’

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All That Glitters: The context of the Golden Rule…

July 27, 2012

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“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

There are some verses in scripture that seem to transcend the bounds of the body of Christ. Matthew 7:12 is one of these texts that could most likely be quoted by anyone the street regardless of their religious affiliation. Known as the “Golden Rule” it serves to guide discussions from the playground to the boardroom; but what does this verse, which claims to be the sum of Biblical teaching, really mean in its context?

Charles Quarles, in his book The Sermon on the Mount: Restoring Christ’s Message to the Modern Church gives some invaluable insight into the power of this text within its context.

“Strong evidence suggests that the “therefore” [in verse 12] looks both to and beyond the immediate preceding verses. The mention of “the law and the prophets” in both 7:11 and 5:17 intentionally form an inclusio that brackets this major section of the sermon. Consequently 7:12 summarizes and concludes Jesus’ interpretation and application of the law (5:17-48), His instruction related to deeds of righteousness (6:1-18), and His instruction for life in this world including both one’s relationship to possessions (6:19-34) and to people (7:1-6), as well as 7:7-11

[“This principle is known to many as the ‘Golden Rule’ a name for the principle that dates to at least as early as the end of the middle ages. Contrary to popular opinion, this name was not inspired by the preciousness of this important moral principle. This name relates to accounts claiming that the Emperor Alexander Severus had Matt 7:12 inscribed in gold on the wall of his throne room.”]

“Jesus described this principle as “the law and the prophets.” The point is that verse 12 is the summation of the essence of the character God required of His people in the OT. THis statement is similar to Matt 22:34-40 in which Jesus answered the question, ‘Which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus pointed to Deut 6:5 and Lev. 19:18, which called for love for God and love for others respectively. Jesus then concluded, “all the law and the prophets depend on these two commands.”(Matt 22:40)”

The Christian life is not easy, and we as Christians are not called to do easy things. The admonition to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a mission that embodies the whole of the Bible’s teaching on the way we should live. And this mission is surrounded by verses that testify to its difficulty. Verses 7:11 teach the necessity of our persistent reliance on God for the good things necessary to accomplish what He has called us to. Absent His aid, and absent His good gifts we are incapable of fulfilling Matthew 7:12. This is the beauty of the life that God has called us to, in that He has not called us to a life that He will not equip us to carry out. John Broadus noted, “the real novelty of Christian ethics lies in the fact that Christianity offers not only instruction in moral duty, but spiritual help in acting accordingly.” “Jesus not only commanded His disciples [and by extension us] to live in accord with the Golden Rule; He also empowered them to do so through the new exodus, the new creation, and the new covenant.” Verses 13-14 testify to the difficulty of the Golden Rule in that so few actually carry it out. It is much easier to ignore others and live an inconsistent life, pointing out specks in others despite the logs in your own life, but God has called His disciples to the narrow road, a “way that is hard” but leads to life. Few choose His road, few find it. And as we look around we can see ample evidence that few have chosen the narrow Golden road of obedience, most are comfortable on the freeway of selfish desires that leads to destruction

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Judging Others: Hey You’ve Got Something in Your Eye…

July 21, 2012

Why do you see 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,’ when there is the log 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 ESV)

 

Fundamentally the log in our own eye should be replaced with the cross. We take that beam of sin, and relate it to the beams of the cross. When the cross is before us, and in our eyes all sin is given its proper perspective. When I say see the cross I mean come to Jesus, for the only way the plank is removed is if He removes it because of His great mercy and through His grace. At the foot of the cross of Christ, the single beam in our eye is replaced by two intersecting at God’s judgment and forgiveness.

 

John MacArthur has a helpful word on how we experience this forgiveness and mercy, and how the beam is removed:

 

“How do you remove the plank? How do you do that? I believe it’s a matter of confession of sin. Don’t you? I think first you have to look and see that it’s there. Verse 3, “consider not the plank in your own eye?” And the word “consider” there means to perceive in a meditative, prolonged way. It is used, for example, in Luke 12:27. “Consider the lilies.” In James 1:23, “as we behold our face in a glass.” It is a constant look, a look of understanding, a look of comprehension. And so he’s saying, “Take a good look. Don’t you see you’ve got a spiritual problem yourself? Don’t you see you’ve got an ungodly self-righteousness that makes you judgmental and critical of other people? Consider that.” Having considered it, you go to verse 5. “Cast it out.” And how do you do that? By confessing it to the Lord. I Corinthians 11:21, “If we judge ourselves, we won’t be judged.” Right? God’s not going to have to chasten the sin of self-righteousness if we deal with it. And so I bring my life fully to the judgment of God, and I ask Him to cleanse, to purify, to remove it.”

 

“And once I’ve done that, I can move on to verse 5, and “then shalt thou see clearly to cast the moat out of thy brother’s eye.” Listen, we’ve got to get the thing out of our brother’s eye, don’t we? We can’t let him go on in sin. That’s to hate him, Leviticus 19:17 says. We’ve got to get it out. But we’ve got to deal with, first, ourselves. Listen to how David put it. Psalm 51. “Create in me, oh, Lord, a,” what? “Clean heart.” Did you hear that? “Create in me, oh, Lord, a clean heart.” Now listen. “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted to thee.” But there’s no way to teach a transgressor the right way, and there’s no way to convert a sinner to God, until I have in my own life a clean heart.”[1]

 

So confession removes the plank, and compassion is the result once the plank is removed. We confess our sins at the cross of Christ, His compassion overwhelms our sin, heals our sight, and we in-turn act in compassion towards others; sparing judgement and proclaiming grace.


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The People’s Court: Judging Others vs. Matthew 7…

July 20, 2012

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see 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,’ when there is the log 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 7:1-5 ESV)

No one can read the Sermon on the Mount without being prompted to question.  When we come to Matthew chapter 7, the questions inevitably abound; is Jesus saying we can never judge?  Can we ever judge others?

Yes, there are times in which it is permissible, even mandated that we judge or pass judgment on others. One can think of the process of Church discipline in Matthew 18, or the commendation that if a brother sins we are to rebuke him, and if he then repents we are to forgive. (Luke 17:3)  Also later in this chapter, Jesus’ clearly instructs the listener to discern (judge) false prophets and false disciples by their behavior. (7:15-23)   But this passage is not talking about mere judging righteously (Proverbs 31:9); this passage is dealing with hypocrisy and hypocritical judgment.  Jesus first addressed this theme earlier in the sermon, in Matthew 6:2, 5 and 16.  The grammatical construction of the negation “do not Judge” uses the negative “me” which “calls the hearers to cease an action already in progress.”[1]  This allows us to assume that Jesus was addressing a behavior already present within His disciples, “Jesus had observed a judgmental attitude among His disciples and He now urged [them] to abandon that outlook.”[2]

The notion here in this passage is to admonish against the judgmental self-righteousness that fails to reflect the experienced mercy of God.  We judge not, lest we be judged much like we show mercy, so that mercy will be shown to us.(Matthew 5:7)  Jesus is addressing the prevalent mindset of one who would pass judgement on others all the while oblivious to his own sin, perhaps the same sin he is condemning.  There is a consistent scriptural teaching regarding this tragic abuse and denial of mercy: i.e. Romans 2:3 “do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgement of God?”  Christians who have truly experienced God’s forgiveness and mercy are loath to focus on the transgressions of others, as they are rightly so overwhelmed by the weight of their own sin overcome at the cross.  “The story is intended to restrict hypocritical correction of others rather than to restrict all helpful correction.  Jesus calls for His followers to avoid prejudice, prejudgement, and stereotyping.”[3]

Another major question that arises out of this passage is what is the difference between confronting a brother in sin and wrongly judging others?

There are two important aspects of this teaching that we must emphasize:

First. It is important to remember, that in order to observe we need to be able to see in the first place.  This is integral to Jesus’ teaching in this passage, that we deal with our own spiritual blindness before we move on to addressing the need of others.  If you have a log or beam in your own eye you are blind, you can not see your own troubles let alone address the needs of others.  You would not want a blind optometrist performing eye surgery on you; likewise one blinded by their own sin is incapable and ill-suited to address sin in the life of others.  But praise be to God that we serve a Lord who gives sight to the blind and removes our afflictions.  Wh must first address our own sin with God before we move on to others.

Second.  In this passage, Jesus is addressing the hypocritical practice of judging others out of turn.  The observation in view in regards to observing a brother’s sin is completely different.  In this case, one who is well and sighted (having dealt with their own sin first) is tasked with shepherding the flock of God, or keeping another accountable.  When one claims to know Christ, but acts wholly inconsistent with that knowledge those with in the body are tasked with the responsibility of addressing that sin.  They observe and address the sin both for the brother’s soul and for the reputation of the body of believers as a whole.  The intent is not merely to point out flaws or to call someone out, judging them irrationally; the purpose of this observation and confrontation is to lead the brother to repentance and restoration.  If the brother repents, then he/she is to be forgiven and accepted with no malice back into the fold. (Mt 18, Gal 6:1, Col 3:12-15)

 

 


[1] Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the basics, 724.

[2] Quarles, Charles. Sermon on the Mount, 284.

[3] Dockery and Garland, Seeking the Kingdom, 104.