One man's view of theology, sports, politics, and whatever else in life that happens to interest me. A little bit about me.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TOMS: Matthew 7

For an introduction to this series, click here.

Dec. 11, 2006

This chapter completes the Sermon on the Mount. Remember that the theme of this entire sermon is the fact that outward righteousness is not good enough to obtain favor with God. This chapter jumps from topic to topic, more so than the first two chapters. Of course the chapter divisions are not part of the original text, but they are there for our convenience.
The chapter opens with Jesus talking about comparisons. We humans tend to overlook our own faults, but we are quick to point them out in others. This is the passage where Jesus says, "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?" (7:3)

Next Jesus talks about how God the Father gives us good things. Then we get into the longest section, about true and false conversion. Jesus begins by talking about the narrow and the broad gates: "For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few." (7:13-14) Next Jesus tells us that the way to tell if someone is converted is by their fruit. Every person who is truly born again will live a changed life. Yes we still sin, yes some will seem to turn away, but God will not allow one of His children to stray forever.

At the end, Jesus combines the theme of true and false religion with the overall theme of man's inability to earn salvation. There are some who seem outwardly to be followers of Jesus, but they really are not. Jesus says there will be many who will tell Him at the judgment that they did all kinds of wonderful things for God, but these "good" things are not what is required. Faith is required. Then Jesus tells the story of the houses built on the rock and on the sand. True religion and true faith will act upon what we read from Scripture and hear taught.

Ironically, the crowd's reaction indicates they they were like the foolish man: only interested in hearing the Word, not actually obeying it. Notice how Matthew describes their reaction: 
"And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (7:28-29, ESV) 

No repentance. No great move of people to believe in Christ. These people just heard the best sermon ever delivered, and their reaction was, "Well, that was interesting. He certainly has a unique style." They were blind to their need. They were so full of their self-righteousness that they didn't really consider the message Jesus was teaching them. All they were interested in was comparing Jesus' teaching to others they liked.

(This last paragraph is my addition today. I had another paragraph here, but in the eight years between then and now I have modified my view.)

There is a lot of conjecture about to what extent the Sermon on the Mount, the gospel of Matthew and all of Jesus' recorded teaching apply to Christians in the post-Apostolic age. My opinion is this: unless it is obvious that Jesus was speaking to Jews under the Law, whether the disciples or to a large crowd, we should assume Jesus is speaking to us today. I know people who try to relegate everything Jesus said to another era. I have every confidence that they are true brethren in the Lord, but in my opinion they are mistaken. There are some of Jesus' difficult sayings that Christians down through the ages have struggled to understand and live out. It is awfully presumptuous on our part to read through the struggles of some of those great people of faith and assume that they were foolish and we have it figured out because we can just assign what Jesus said to a different era. Our modern Western mindset likes to have a logical explanation for everything, but God can shatter those explanations. He certainly has in my life. He is still teaching me to embrace the mysteries I find rather than try to fit them into a theological grid. It's just my experience, your mileage may vary.

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