CHRIST’S SERMON ON THE MOUNT
[From the writings of C. F. Hogg and J. B. Watson. All Scripture quotations are taken from the R. V.]
All other writings and Scripture references foundin blue, are not in the original writing: they are my own - W. H. TINDLE.]
Many Christians think that because they have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, they will automatically qualify - [on the basis of faith and the imputed righteousness of Christ alone] - to reign with Him when He returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom. This is not true. To be in the Church ; to be justified by faith; to be born again by the Holy Spirit; to be redeemed by precious blood of Jesus: does not imply we will be "accounted worthy" to enter into the Millennial Kingdom. The regenerate believer, who has by faith accepted Christ , is automatically a member of His Church ; he is a member of the "body" of Christ : but to reign with Him in the ‘age to come’ is quite different matter: that honour will be for those who have obeyed His word. To reign with Christ in that kingdom, is a reward that a Christian may, or may not receive; it is a blessing only for those who have proven faithful.
The moral law is just as binding to the Christian today as it ever was to the Jew. The penalty for Christians not obeying the commandments of their Lord in the Sermon on the Mount (and as set forth in the Church Epistles) will mean the loss of the reward; that is, the loss of the millennial Kingdom: "For I say unto you [disciples] , that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 5: 20). Hence our Lord’s warnings and exhortations to His disciples throughout the Gospels, are also taught in the writings of His inspired Apostles.* [* Matt. 5: 20 ; 7: 21, 26, 27. ; 18; 1-10. ; Eph. 5: 5. ; Gal. 5: 21. Rev. chs. 1-3. Etc.]
The Kingdom of the Lord will be set up. God will undertake that, and He Himself will remove all other kings, and in their stead place His Son as King of kings and Lord of lords. Then the ‘faithful’ and obedient will hear Him say : "I appoint into you a kingdom, even as my Father appointed unto me, that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom ; and ye shall sit on thrones judging . . . " Again:- "Well done, good and faithful servant : thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many things : enter thou into the joy of thy lord."* [* Luke 22: 28-30 ; Matt. 25: 23. cf. Matt. 7: 21 ; 5: 20.]
The question regarding whether or not Jesus Christ will reign [in person] upon this earth in righteousness and peace for a thousand years, is not an issue worthy of discussion ; that will be a certainty at His return: "I will give thee the nations for thine inheritance. And the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession" "The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ : and he shall reign . . . "* [Psa. 2: 8 ; Rev. 11: 15.] The question every Christian should be asking is : ‘Will I be "accounted worthy to attain to that world?" ‘(‘age’ see Greek.) : * [*Luke 22: 28-30 ; Matt. 25: 19, 21 ; Luke 20: 35. cf. 1 Thess. 2: 12 ; 4: 1, 2 ; 2 Thess. 1: 4, 5 ; 2 Tim. 2: 4-7; Rev. 3: 21. Etc.] and this very important issue is not being addressed to-day in our churches. Multitudes of the Lord’s people are not made aware that crowns have to be won, and that they can be lost : "I come quickly : hold fast that which thou hast, that no one take thy crown"* [* Rev. 3: 11.]; nor are they aware that now is the time to qualify for the prize awarded by the Righteous Judge. * [* 2 Cor. 5: 10; Col. 3: 25.] At His return it will be too late for all those who have ‘flippantly ignored’ His warnings, to ‘receive the recompense of the inheritance.’
This [‘inheritance,’] is not a free gift which will be given to every believer ; it is a ‘recompense’ for good ‘WORK’ and ‘SERVICE’! - "Whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men ; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance : ye serve the Lord Christ. For he that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done : and there is no respect of persons"* [ Col. 3: 24, 25.] "THEY SAY. WHAT SAY THEY? LET THEM SAY" : LET US "CONTEND LAWFULLY" : "He is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully" * [ * 2 Tim. 2: 5.]
W. H. TINDLE
And seeing the multitudes, He went up into the mountain ; and when He had sat down, His disciples came unto Him : and He opened His mouth and taught them, saying (Matt. 5: 1, 2).
1. CHARACTER AND SCOPE
The Gospel according to Matthew bears every mark of having been written by a Jew, and, primarily, for believing Jews, to do for them what Luke did for Theophilus, presumably a Gentile convert, namely ‘that they might know the certainty concerning the words which they had been taught by word of mouth.’* [* Luke 1: 4, margin.]
Like Luke, Matthew sets down the salient facts of the Birth, the Teaching and Works, the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. With a peculiar outlook of his fellow countrymen in view he selects from the available facts, frequently connecting what he records with the Old Testament Scriptures, in which had long before been foretold the Advent of Messiah, the Christ, now identified with Jesus of Nazareth by the evident congruity between these prophecies and His experiences.
MATTHEW’S COSMOPOLITAN OUTLOOK
This does not mean, however, that Matthew has no room for the relation of contacts the Lord made with Gentiles, or that he has not a wider horizon than the merely national one. The contrary is the case. In the genealogy of the Lord, supplied to substantiate His claim to ‘the throne of His father David,’ he names a Gentile woman, the Moabitess, Ruth. Like Mark he relates the story of the Syrophoenician Woman, a Gentile out of whose daughter the Lord cast a demon. With Luke he relates the story of the Healing of the Centurion’s Servant, but he alone adds the words of the Lord that ‘many shall come from the east and the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of Heaven[Lit., ‘Kingdom of the Heavens’.] ; but the sons of the Kingdom (that is, those Jews to whom it was offered first) shall be cast forth into the outer darkness : there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth,’ * [*Matt. 1: 5 ; 8: 5-13 ; 15: 21-28.]
With Mark and Luke, Matthew gives the parable of the Wicked Husbandmen, but he alone records that the Lord added, ‘Therefore I say unto you, The Kingdom of God shall be taken away from you, and shall be given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.’ And like Luke, Matthew specifies ‘all the nations’ as the sphere in which the disciples were to proclaim the redemptive work of Christ. Such as become obedient to the faith were to be baptized, and to them were to be taught ‘all things whatsoever’ He had commanded them, from which, assuredly, the things recorded in this Gospel cannot be excepted. What is written here, albeit intended primarily for Jews, is not limited to Jews ; it is for the instruction and edification of all that name the Name of the Lord.* [* Matt. 21: 33-43 ; 28: 19, 20.]
As well as the commission to carry the Good News to all nations, given by the Lord to His disciples after His resurrection, Matthew records His instructions to them for a preaching tour contemporary with His own ministry, and which was to be confined to their own land and their own countrymen. In these instructions there is some local colouring ; in detail they would be inappropriate to a world mission, though the underlying principles remain good for that also. Much of the material of Matt. 10: 1-23 is found also in Luke and Mark. How the instructions were carried out, and with what results, is recorded in Mark 6: 12, 13, and Luke 9: 6. Moreover, at the close of His own ministry the local detail was withdrawn and the mission to Palestine merged in a mission to ‘all creation under heaven.’* [* Luke 22: 35-38 ; 24: 47 ; Col. 1: 23.]
After the necessary introduction Matthew opens his Gospel thus, ‘From that time began Jesus to preach, and to say, Repent ye ; for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,’ or, as Mark has it, ‘the Kingdom of God’ ; indeed, he describes this preaching as ‘the Gospel of God.’ It is certain that those who responded to this call of the Lord assumed that the Kingdom thus heralded was to be as other kingdoms are - based upon force - and that its distinction would be that all other kingdoms would perish before it, as Daniel had foretold.
Such a Kingdom was often the burden of the Prophets, whose word, being the Word of God, must one day be accomplished ; but the time was not yet. Only after Pentecost did the disciples realize that the Kingdom of which He spoke was not after the order of this world’s kingdoms, as He declared to Pilate, nor does it come with pomp and circumstance, as he told the Pharisees.* [* Dan. 2: 44 ; Matt. 4: 17 ; Mark 1: 14 ; John 18: 36 ; Luke 17: 20, 21.]
It was appropriate, therefore, that this Gospel should open with a Manifesto from the lips of the King Himself, expounding the relation of the new dispensation to that which preceded it, enunciating the principles that are to regulate the lives of those who constitute the Kingdom, and warning all and sundry of the danger of rejecting it, or of merely nominal adherence to it, in view of the day when He Himself must pronounce the final destiny of men.
EXAMPLE AND PRECEPT
Towards the close of His ministry the Lord spoke ‘to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying, The Scribes and Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat : all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe : but do not ye after their works ; for they say, and do not.’ It is not conceivable that the Lord should come under His own condemnation! Rather His peculiar glory is this, a glory not shared by any other teacher the world has ever known, that He was Himself the embodiment of the things He taught. In a larger than the immediate sense of the word, the Evangelists record ‘all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.’ The order is significant. He lived the Sermon for thirty years before He preached it.* [* Matt. 23: 1-3 ; Acts 1: 1.]
On one occasion when the Jews asked Him, ‘Who art Thou?’ the Lord replied, ‘Even that which I have also spoken unto you from the beginning.’ His last words to the world again identify Himself with His teaching, ‘He that rejecteth Me, and (or, even, as often elsewhere) receiveth not My sayings, . . . the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.’ * [*John 8: 25 ; 12 : 48.] The Sermon on the Mount is the Lord’s self-portraiture ; not of His physical appearance, indeed, but of His character, and hence is what we ought to be. The subjects of the Kingdom are to reflect the character of the King.
From another point of view, so complete is the dependence of the Son upon the Father that the words of the Sermon are the words, not of the Son, but of the Father. ‘The word that I spake . . . I spake not from Myself ; but the Father which sent Me, He hath given Me a commandment, what I should say (that is, the words in which the message was delivered). In His prayer He made the same distinction : ‘the words which Thou gavest Me I have given unto them . . . I have given them Thy Word.’ And ‘all things whatsoever’ He thus spake to them from His Father, they, in turn, were to teach to all, in every nation, who responded to the Gospel.* [* John 12: 48, 49 ; 17: 8, 14.]
Long afterwards Peter wrote to persons who had become obedient to the faith in distant lands : ‘Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that ye should follow His steps,’ words which may be paragraphed, ‘setting a copy line for you to follow,’ since that is the literal meaning of hupogrammatos, which appears here only in the New Testament. Those who[will] enter His [Millennial] Kingdom are to keep to the tracts He made, or, as John expresses it, ‘to walk* even as He walked.’ And like the Thessalonians, are to become ‘imitators . . . of the Lord.’ * [* 1 Pet. 2: 21 ; 1 John 2: 6 ; 1 Thess 1: 6.] This pattern, this ‘copy line.’ is most clearly discernible in the Sermon on the Mount. * [* Here the emphasis is upon our walk ; not upon our standing in grace : the kingdom therefore is not present but future; it is not spiritual but literal ; it is not eternal but millennial.]
Paul is uncompromising in his instructions to Timothy : ‘If any man teacheth a different doctrine, and consenteth not to sound (lit., healthful) words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness ; he is puffed up (‘besotted with pride,’ Ellicott) knowing nothing, but doting (lit., sick, diseased) about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife,’ and other evils.* [* 1 Tim. 6: 3, 4.] This is language of unexampled severity, affording a measure of the Apostle’s apprehension of the danger, of which there is abundant evidence in our own day, of substituting curious trivialities, profitless speculations, and easy platitudes, for ‘the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,’ and which is the true ‘stewardship of God.’ * [* Tit. 1: 1 ; 1 Tim. 1: 4, margin.]
Certain objections have been taken to the Sermon on the Mount as guidance for Christian life in this present age. Indeed, an extreme view, popular in some quarters, and said to be necessitated by certain interpretations of Scripture from the prophetic, or ‘dispensational’ point of view, would deny the applicability of the Gospel of Matthew in any part to this age and the present calling. There are, indeed, different keys with which to unlock the treasures of Scripture, and every serious student of the Book will distinguish its ‘times and seasons,’ but too often the dispensational key becomes a knife, effecting its mutilation rather than its interpretation. A dispensation is a means to an end ; God’s means may change, His end does not. That end is to make menlike Himself, that is like His Son, Whose character is here presented. To turn the key into a knife can only contribute to defeat this end, and do from within, but more effectively, what Jehioakim attempted to do from without. * [* Jer. 36: 23.]
The word for dispensation, Oikonomia, is a much abused one, and is better represented by stewardship in each of its great occurrences in the New Testament. See the margin at Eph. 3: 2 ; Col. 1: 25. It is to be regretted the Revisers did not give the same margin at Eph. 1: 10, or, better still, put ‘stewardship’ in the text throughout.
Another objection is that the Sermon is law, not grace, and the Christian is not under law. Now this latter is, of course, true, if by law is understood that which was ‘given through Moses,’ and which the Apostle had in view when he wrote to the Romans ‘ye are not under law,’ and to the Christians, ‘not being myself under law,’ words restored in the Revised Version* [* Rom. 6: 14 ; 1 Cor. 9: 20.] There is not the slightest evidence that the sayings of the Lord were in his mind on either occasion ; it is not so that he speaks of these sayings, but rather thus, ‘ye ought . . . to remember the words of the lord Jesus, how He Himself said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ * [* Acts 20: 35, and cp. 1 Tim. 6: 3, 4.] Law is rule applied to actions. The Sermon is made up of principles calling for exercise of mind and conscience if they are to be rightly used. It is not a code ; it is a description of character, a way of living. It is guidance, not legislation. It is love analyzed, love in action. As lived by the Lord it is the fulfilling of the requirements of the law indeed, but it is very much more ; it is the life that called from heaven the testimony of the Father, ‘This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.’ * [* Rom. 8: 4; Matt. 3: 17.] The high standard of the Law given through Moses falls immeasurably short of the grace and truth that came through Jesus Christ.
The same school of interpreters describes the Sermon, somewhat cryptically, as ‘Kingdom truth,’ which is intended to have the effect of eliminating it from the realm in which ‘grace reigns.’ Reference to a Kingdom suggests rule and obedience thereto ; where the King’s writ runs there is the Kingdom. It is not suggested here that Kingdom and Church are interchangeable terms ; the two are kept entirely apart in Scripture, yet since there is no neutral territory, the Church is within, not without, the Kingdom. If loyalty and obedience to divine rule are to be looked for on earth at all, surely they should be found in the individual Christian and in the churches composed of such as call Christ Lord! The King of the surrendered will looks for like-minded subjects ; it is not for us, who have been delivered out of the authority of darkness and translated into the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love, to ‘begin to make excuse.’* [* Matt. 26: 39 ; Luke 14: 18.]
The objections to which reference has been made arise, apparently, from the feeling that the Sermon makes a demand too high for everyday life. The difficulty, then, is moral, not intellectual. The sayings are hard, not to the understanding but to the will ; they do not go outside the everyday life that all must live.
In the parable of the Narrow Gate and the Straitened Way the Lord warns us against supposing that it would be an easy matter to follow Him. Indeed, He said plainly that to follow Him would involve denying self and taking up a cross daily. At bottom the question is, have we the will to obey? Do we desire fellowship with Christ more than anything else that life has to offer us?
THE PRINCIPLE OF ANTICIPATION
In the ages before Christ the experience of forgiveness and acceptance with God was known to the men who trusted Him, as witness David’s language in the Thirty Second Psalm, for example. In ‘the passing over of the sins done aforetime.’ God was, in due season, vindicated by the Cross. In like manner Pentecost vindicated the Lord in giving to the disciples the name Father whereby to think of, and in which to address, God.* [* Rom. 3: 25 ; 8: 15.]
If, then, it is urged that there are some precepts here that, in this age, it would be impossible to follow, the answer is that this is an under-statement. Not some, but all, are impossible to men in the flesh, to unregenerate men, but no word the Lord spoke ‘shall be void of power’ to those whose confidence is in Him. What the Lord said to His disciples was spoken in anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit to be with them, and to abide inthem [on condition of their obedience (Acts 5: 32.)] for ever. Not in our own wisdom, nor in our own strength, but in His, is the Christian life to be lived. This becomes more abundantly evident when we notice that there is nothing in the Sermon that is not found in another form from the Epistles ; very little indeed that is not to be found implicit or explicit in those written by the Apostle Paul while he was a prisoner in Rome. With him we may say, ‘I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me.’ * [* Phil. 4: 13]
Moreover, when the Holy Spirit came upon them these disciples formed a nucleus of the Church, yet there is no suggestion in any New Testament writing that they were ever discharged from these obligations, or that another ideal was substituted for this. On the contrary, as we have already said, all that the Sermon contains reappears in the Apostolic writings. To find the parallels would make a happy and fruitful Bible study. A number of these are given in chapter ix.[- about 160.]
A not uncommon way of evading the difficulties presented by this teaching of the Lord is to postpone it to the future. This device is reminiscent of the captions to the chapters in the Prophets which were formerly printed in the Authorized Version : all the evils therein were denounced upon the Jew, all the blessings appropriated for the church. The new school prescribes the high moral standard for the Jew in the future, and reserves all the assurance of grace and blessing for the Christian now! Yet grace is given us for this very end : ‘instructing (Paideuô : ‘training’ seems to be the meaning here) us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present age.’* [* Tit. 2: 12, margin.]
It is conceivable that the Lord ever has asked, or that He ever will ask, more of others in any age than He asks of us in this? Do moral standards ever retrogress? If we ourselves are not to make provision for the flesh, does He so indulge us? To the Christian ‘to live is Christ,’ to be an imitator of Christ. * [* Phil. 3: 21 ; 1 Cor. 11: 1.] There can be no loftier standard in any age. If we allow the present opportunity for loyal obedience to pass, we may be certain it will never be available again.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AGE
It is sometimes contended that the Sermon on the Mount is to be in force during the Millennial Reign of Christ. But the characteristic of the Millennial Age is that therein righteousness will be maintained by adequate power, whereas to-day these are in opposite camps. In this age there are two kingdoms - ‘the power of darkness’ and ‘the Kingdom of the Son of God’s love.’ In that age there will be but one, for then ‘the Kingdoms of the world’ will have become ‘the Kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ.’* [* Col. 1: 13 ; Rev. 11: 15.]
It is right, then, to ask what may be gathered from the Sermon itself as to the character of the age for which it is intended. Let us see.
Evil is dominant - for those addressed are to hunger and thirst after righteousness.
Strife is prevalent - for they are to be peacemakers.
Corruption is widespread - for they are to act as salt for the preservation of society.
Moral darkness covers the people - for they are to be the light of the world.
Mammon competes with God for the allegiance of men - for they are warned that it is not possible to serve both.
Theft, adultery and divorce are excused - for they are warned against the thoughts that breed such evils.
Ambition, jealousy and pride rule - for they are told to be poor in spirit.
Hypocrites gain a reputation for holiness, and unrighteousness triumphs - for they may expect to be persecuted for righteousness’ sake.
Wrongs are done without hope of redress - for they are to cultivate the spirit of forgiveness.
Christ is hated - for they are persecuted for His sake.
The Devil is free - for they are told to pray that they fall not under his power.
The Lord is absent - for they are fasting.
The ‘world-rulers of this darkness’ are in control; the Kingdom of God is not yet - for they are to pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come.’
They are a people with heavenly hopes - for they are to look for their ‘reward in heaven.’
The age of which the Lord spoke, and the age of His Millennial Reign, could not be set in sharper contrast, nor can we fail to recognize in it the characteristics of our own time.
Again, it has been suggested that this teaching of the Lord is intended for a time of fierce persecution, after the Rapture[See, Luke 21: 36 ; Rev. 3: 10] and before the manifestation of the Parousia - the Great Tribulation. That would mean that under sorer stress a higher standard is to be set for loyal souls - a standard too high for this easier age!
THE SERMON AND THE CHRISTIAN
We conclude, therefore, that the Sermon on the Mount is intended for the guidance of regenerate persons in an unregenerate world.* [* Matt. 19: 28 ; Tit. 3: 5.] And being the word of the Lord it tries all ‘those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern.’ So was Joseph tried as he lay in prison ; so were the disciples tried, thinning their numbers and leaving only those earnest souls whose perplexity is seen in their reply to the challenge of the Lord, ‘Would ye also go away? Simon Peter answered Him, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.’ * [* Heb. 5: 14 ; John 6: 67, 68.] Did they find the words concerning themselves spoken on the Mount less trying, less a discipline, than the words concerning Himself spoken in the Synagogue in Capernaum? At least they try us more ; we would fain turn aside their keen edge, evade their high demands, by labelling them a counsel of perfection, a fine but impracticable ideal. Those who would postpone it to a future age surely forget that moral truth outlasts dispensations because it transcends them. These sayings of Christ are not mere opinions, neither do they exaggerate God’s standards for human life. He who spoke them claimed to be the exemplar as well as the exponent of the Will of God.
‘This is the victory that hath overcome the world,’ that delivers us from measuring ourselves by its standards, and from seeking its satisfactions, ‘even our faith ;’*[* 1 John 5: 4.] for faith is a personal relationship with God which brings us out of the confusion of the world into line with His undeviating purpose. Hence faith is the principle of justification, hence it is, no less, the principle of life ; ‘as therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk in Him’ - by faith. * [* Col. 2: 6.] By faith we understand, by faith righteousness is wrought, and without faith it is impossible to please God. The measure of our obedience to the words spoken on the Mount is the measure of our faith in Him Who spake them. They are His challenge to our loyalty, His call to the heroic obedience that counts ‘all things to be loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus (our) Lord.’ And if we refuse the call, ‘what do ye more than others?’ Rather let us seek grace to be guided by its counsels and to know the resurrection power that will make it good in our lives. * [* Phil. 3: 8.] Everyone, therefore, which heareth these words of Mine and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man . . . and every one that heareth these words of Mine and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man . . . ‘ The issue could not be more plainly stated. ‘He that hath ears to hear let him hear.’
2. THE BLESSED LIFE
Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed ate the pure in heart : for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot ofmen. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under a bushel, but on the stand ; and it shineth unto all that are in the house. Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (ch. 5: vv. 3-16).
There is a marked difference in the language in which the Lord speaks of discipleship, and that which He uses to the multitudes on whom ‘He had compassion . . . because they were as sheep not having a shepherd.’ To them He speaks in winning words, yearning over them with understanding sympathy, as when He says, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,’* [*Matt. 11: 28.] or, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her own brood under her wings, and ye would not.’ *[* Luke 13: 34.] But if any man would be a disciple, [i.e., a follower.] on him is made the supreme demand ; he must forsake , and even hate, all that would hinder his following Christ. * [* Luke 14: 25, 26, 33.] It is easy to become a Christian ; to be a Christian, to live the Christian life, to follow Christ, is another matter. The guilty sinner is forgiven and accepted on the sole but sufficient ground of the death of Christ. The dead sinner is quickened into life by the sovereign act of the Holy Spirit. The terms of God’s amnesty are simple : let a man believe God’s testimony to the sufficiency of the Saviour, let him put all his confidence in that Saviour, and he is born again ; he has passed out of death into life ; he has become a Christian.
This, however, is only the beginning of the Christian life, variously described in Scripture as a seeking, a striving, a labour, a warfare, a race, an endurance. The claim Christ makes upon those who name His Name is absolute : ‘If any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’ And since His own spiritual and moral stature is high, therefore the standard He sets is high. He is Himself the embodiment of His teaching, the expression of the perfection of His Father.* [* Luke 9: 23 ; John 8: 25 ; Matt. 5: 48.]
HIS COMMANDMENTS ARE NOT GREVOUS
It must be kept clearly in mind, therefore, that the incentive to ‘keeping His commandments’ is not that by doing so we may earn[eternal] salvation, for that is a gift of God.’ Or win eternal life, for that also is a free gift of God . . . in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ * [* Eph. 2: 8 ; Rom. 6: 23.] The incentive is the desire, wrought in the Christian by the Holy Spirit, to walk even as He walked.’ To ‘walk and to please God.’ * [* 1 John 2: 6 ; 1 Thess. 4: 1.] This is the test of our love and the condition of His, even as He said, ‘he that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me : and he that loveth Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself unto him . . . if ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love ; even as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love.’ ‘For this is the love of God,’ says John, ‘that we keep His commandments.’ *[* John 14: 21 ; 15: 10 ; 1 John 5: 3.]
If not in the Sermon on the Mount, and kindred passages, were are these ‘commandments’ to be found?Assuredly not exclusively in the Discourse in the Upper Room. The Gospels must be taken as complementary one of the other. [Important in this connection are the words of Dr. H. C. G. Moule in his book Jesus and the Resurrection, p. 17, ‘I cannot help seeing . . . the many details in which St. John in his Gospel, takes for granted the main Evangelic narrative, and passingly and without anxiety, uses his readers’ knowledge of it.’ The italics are Dr. Moule’s.] It would be more than precarious to exclude from the sayings recorded in one Gospel all reference to sayings recorded in another, and impossible to justify attaching a different meaning to the identical phrase ‘all things’ in the two passages, Matt. 28: 20 and John 15: 15, ‘ye are My friends if ye do the things which I command you . . . all things that I heard from My Father I have made known unto you,’ and, ‘teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I command you.’ The words are the words of the Father, the voice is the voice of the Shepherd ; His sheep hear it and they follow Him. * [* John 10: 27.]
In order to prepare the disciples for the responsibilities that must devolve upon them in the future, if His message and His work were to be made known in the world, the Lord ‘went up into the mountain : and when He had sat down (they) came unto Him.’ And as the Law was given to the newly-born nation at Sinai by God Himself, so now the King Himself utters the Manifesto of the new Kingdom. Correspondingly with the essential characteristics of the two Kingdoms, the Law given through Moses was concerned with the regulation of conduct ; the Law given by Christ set in the forefront a new disposition, the fruit of a new power to be given to those who enter that Kingdom. Yet if the character thus presented is an ideal, it is an ideal that has already been realized in the walk and conversation of the Speaker.
The terse sentences with which the Manifesto opens, it is clear, are not addressed to the Kingdoms of this world, nor to a kingdom of this world’s order. In none of these, at the best, would such an ideal secure more than lip homage ; indeed, as He Himself forecast in the immediate sequel to the Beatitudes (vv. 11, 12) and as He told them later, the men of this world had both seen and hated both Him and His Father. Let them be assured then that the world loves ‘its own’ but hates them that in their conduct of life make manifest that they belong to Him.* [* John 15: 19, 24.]
The congratulations of the world, often expressed in terms of envy, await such as attain to ease, wealth or fame, or who secure a measure of immunity from the ills of life. Such things are of no account in the new Kingdom ; after them the Gentiles seek. Who, then, are they whom Christ congratulates? Jackson, in The Realism of Jesus, uses this word ‘congratulates,’ and says : ‘We have found no more satisfactory equivalent in English for the Greek makarios. ‘To be envied’ would be allowable, but the word has associations that make it undesirable here.’
THE POOR IN SPIRIT
V.3. The first of these are those whom He describes as ‘the poor in spirit’ ; ‘in spirit,’ for the poor in material things are not necessarily humble, nor are the rich necessarily proud. Neither are the poor in spirit poor-spirited, timorous, shrinking persons, for the warfare of the New Kingdom demands the highest form of courage, like that of the heroes of Hebrews 11 who not only ‘subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness . . . waxed mighty in war, turned to flight armies,’ but who also ‘were tortured . . . had trials of mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonments . . . they were stoned, they were sawn asunder . . . being destitute, afflicted, evil entreated.’ Poverty of spirit and the courage that endures are possible only to such as see ‘Him Who is invisible.’
Poverty of spirit is the antithesis of pride, and pride rules in the kingdoms of this world. The Greek gloried in his intellectual achievements, the Roman in the force whereby he conquered the world ; the Jew held both in contempt and glorified in his religion, ‘rested upon the Law’ and was ‘confident that he himself was a guide of the blind, a light to them that are in darkness.’ Yet God had said to Israel, ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit.’* [* Rom. 2: 17-19 ; Isa. 57: 15.] This, then, that the Lord Jesus taught was not a new doctrine ; poverty of spirit (contrition and humility) had ever been acceptable with God. But only when the Son of God ‘became flesh and dwelt among us’ was true humility, true poverty of spirit, seen in the world. ‘He emptied Himself (by) becoming obedient even unto death’ ; ‘though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.’ He not merely inculcated lowliness in others ; He Himself was ‘lowly in heart.’ * [* Phil. 2: 7, 8 ; 2 Cor. 8: 9 ; Matt. 11: 29.]
When Isaiah saw the Lord in His holy temple he cried, ‘woe is me, for I am undone . . . I am a man of unclean lips : for mine eyes have seen the King, Jehovah of Hosts.’ When Peter saw the power of the Lord displayed he cried out, ‘depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ When John saw His glory he ‘fell at His feet as one dead.’ The poor in spirit are, first of all, men to whom the vision of Christ has brought conviction of sin, and in whom, therefore, confidence in themselves has been replaced by confidence in God. Conscious of spiritual poverty, they are enriched in Christ.
The poor in spirit are to be congratulated, for they walk with Christ in fellowship with God, and in the enjoyment of His peace. They are to be congratulated on their prospects also, for with Paul they ‘reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.’ Denied ‘the kingdom of this world’ ‘theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven,’ and theirs its rewards. A servant and a child are its types ; such are they that constitute it now and that shall reign in it hereafter. Nevertheless, it is to a ‘little flock’ the[Millennial] Kingdom is given, for ‘narrow is the gate and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life,* [That is, in this context, life during the coming age on this earth ; not eternal life; the former is a reward; the latter a free gift.] [Rom. 8: 18 ; Matt. 19: 14 ; 20: 26-28 ; Luke 12: 32 ; Matt. 7: 14; (Matt. 7: 21; 18: 1-3).]
V. 4.Congratulations offered to mourners sound strange in a world where most people seem to have no higher ambition than for ‘a good time.’ The condition on which that ‘good time’ may be had is the refusal to look in the face things as they are. The mightiest single factor in human life is sin, the perverted will of man ; and death is its complement. For its inveterate sinfulness and its approaching destruction the Lord wept over Jerusalem. For the immediate victory for the enemy, death, He wept by the grave of Lazarus. But He, too, shall be comforted, for Jerusalem shall yet be called ‘The City of the Lord, The Zion of the Holy One of Israel . . . an eternal excellency,’ and ‘the last enemy.’ Death, shall be destroyed. * [* Isa. 60: 14, 15 ; 1 Cor. 15: 26.] In fellowship with Christ His people also mourn over sin and its effects, in themselves and in the world. And in that fellowship they look to share His consolation in the day in which ‘He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied,’ and when their ‘sorrow shall be turned into joy.’ * [* Isa. 53: 11 ; John 16: 20.]
THE BROKEN COLT
V. 5. All these ‘congratulations’ are incongruous when judged by the standards of this world’s kingdoms. Where, for example, is ‘meekness’ valued? The word so rendered (praos or praus, as it is variously spelled) would probably be better represented by such words as ‘mild’ or ‘gentle,’ as it is used of an animal broken to harness, a condition in which it is amenable to the will of another. It seems hardly necessary to add that the Lord is, intrinsically, what they become who are led by His Spirit. Of the four places of its occurrence in the New Testament three refer to the Lord. In one passage it is His own word, ‘I am meek . . . in heart’ ; in another it is a quotation from a prophecy, ‘Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, meek and riding upon an ass’ ; in the third the Apostle bases an exhortation upon the characteristic, ‘I . . . intreat you by the meekness of Christ.’ The other occurrence is in Peter’s instruction to wives to adorn themselves in ‘the hidden man of the heart, in the incorruptible apparel of a meek and quiet spirit.’* [* Matt. 11: 29 ; 21: 5 ; 2 Cor. 10: 1 ; 1 Pet. 3: 4.] In all these places ‘gentle’ seems more appropriate, but in any case there is no suggestion of ‘weakness’ such as the English word ordinarily carries. The ‘gentleness’ of which Christ was the perfect example, has its roots in the divine strength ; only those conscious of the availability of that strength can be gentle in heart, that is, in sincerity and truth.
The blessing pronounced upon the meek is drawn from the Greek translation of Psa. 37: 11, ‘the meek shall inherit the earth,’ with which may be compared verse 9, where the same promise is made to ‘those that wait upon the Lord,’ as it is in v. 22 to ‘such as be blessed of Him,’ and in v. 29 to ‘the righteous,’ and in v. 34 to those who ‘wait on the Lord and keep His way.’ Though the Psalm is primarily concerned with the moral condition of the individual and not with the outlook of the nation, yet in these verses it is possible that the ultimate restoration of the nation to the enjoyment of the inheritance promised of old to Abraham, and temporarily forfeited through iniquity and pride, here comes into view. And while the promised restoration will be fulfilled when God’s time is ripe, it is for us, meanwhile, to recognize the underlying principle, that none of God’s promises are obtainable by our efforts but are to be redeemed by Him out of His own resources. The Lord, to Whom the Throne belongs in virtue of His descent from David, and the Land in virtue of His descent from Abraham, refused to take them from Satan ; they must come to Him, as, indeed, they will come in the appointed time, from the Hand of His Father. Now the Meek One is rejected and ‘the meek’ are excluded from the place of authority, yet ‘He must reign,’ and ‘if we endure, we shall also reign with Him.’* [* 1 Cor. 15: 25 ; 2 Tim. 2: 12.]
THE LORD LOVETH THE RIGHTEOUS
V. 6.Hunger and thirst are dominating appetites, imperious in their demands and not to be denied where there is vigorous life. As with the human frame so with the regenerate spirit ; the new life has its characteristic and dominating appetites demanding satisfaction. The Lord does not pronounce His blessing upon the righteous, for that would encourage a spirit of self-satisfaction in the superficial soul, or discourage the sincere to the verge of despair. There is no finality in the attainment of righteousness, since for the Christian its standard is not the Law of Moses but Christ Himself, the ‘bread’ and the ‘water’ of life.
The Apostle Paul, who, ‘as touching the righteousness which is of the Law’ was ‘found blameless.’ translates these words of the Lord concerning hungering and thirsting into terms of his own experience of the desires of the new life when he writes, ‘That I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ . . . that I may know Him . . . if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.’ While the Christian looks ‘for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness,’ he has also his measure of satisfaction on the way thither, living in the enjoyment of the emancipating assurance, ‘sin shall not have dominion over you : for ye are not under law, but under grace.’ The same Spirit that works in us an ever-deepening dissatisfaction with ourselves and our attainments, reminds us of the promise of Christ, ‘he that cometh to Me shall not hunger, and he that believeth in Me shall never thirst.’* [* Phil. 3: 6-11 ; 2 Pet. 3: 13 ; Rom. 6: 14 ; John 6: 35, cp. 7: 37.]
TO LOVE MERCY
V. 7.Mercy is the negation of malice, of censoriousness, of the austere and exacting spirit. It has its roots in sympathy and generosity. It is selfishness sublimated of its evil elements, for it constrains us to do to others what we would that others should do to us. Pity may be no more than emotion, mercy is active intervention ; pity is felt, mercy is shown. The shining example of mercy is the Good Samaritan, in whom we hear the Lord Himself saying to us, ‘Go, and do thou likewise.’ * [* Matt. 7: 12 ; Luke 10: 37.]
Beware of the spurious mercy, which is merely sentimental, but which has no practical effect upon conduct, and bears no fruit in our relations with others. Beware of the luxury of an emotion, of the tear to the eye, the lump to the throat, over some story of the imagined woes of imagined people, the while the real woes of real people fail to move us to benevolent action. Herein are the truly merciful blessed, that with them God shows Himself merciful, both now, and ‘in that day.’* [* Psa. 18: 25-27 ; 2 Tim. 1: 18.]
V. 8.The lesson of purity was taught to the Jew in what we may call kindergarten fashion ; ‘carnal ordinances,’ in such things as ‘meats and drinks and divers washings,’ teaching the deeper lesson that in order to approach God we must ‘cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit’ and so ‘perfect holiness in the fear of God.’ * [* Heb. 9: 10 ; 2 Cor. 7: 1.] Purity of the heart is something far outweighing ceremonial and ecclesiastical correctness, or doctrinal soundness, however excellent these things may be in their own place. The Pharisees, ancient and modern, are punctilious in eternal things, cleansing ‘the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full from extortion and excess . . . like unto whited sepulchres, which outwardly appear beautiful, but inwardly are full . . . of all uncleanness.’ The feet of Judas had been washed, but in his heart remained the purpose to betray his Lord. * [*Matt. 23: 25-28 ; John 13: 10.] Far different is ‘the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.’ * [* Heb. 12: 14.]
The heart of the sinner is purified by the word of the Lord received in faith.* [* John 15: 3 ; Acts 15: 9.] In that word the Christian sees Christ, and receives the assurance that having seen Him he has seen the Father. And although in his present state he sees ‘in a mirror, darkly,’ yet he has the further assurance that in due time he shall see ‘face to face.’ * [* John 14: 9 ; 1 Cor. 13: 12.] Thus he is strengthened to endure ‘as seeing Him Who is invisible’ to mortal eyes, for faith is awareness, consciousness, of God. * [* Heb. 11: 27 ; 1 Pet. 2: 19, margin.]
SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT
V. 9. God is ‘the God of peace,’ that is, of wholeness, completeness, harmony. Into a world of peace whereof had been broken through self-will and disobedience, God sent His Son to make peace, that is, to provide a righteous basis for peace, ‘through the Blood of His Cross.’ He that has the Spirit of the Son in his heart will become an imitator of his Father in this respect also.* [* Col. 1: 20 ; Eph. 5: 1.] Mention of the price in which the Son made peace will suggest to the children that they, too, will have a price to pay if, in fellowship with Him, they would make and maintain peace among brethren. Satan is still the author of division and of confusion, as God is of peace and amity ; hence the stern, uncompromising language of Proverbs 6: 12-19, concerning him that makes or encourages strife, ‘A worthless person, a man of iniquity ; he walketh with a froward mouth . . . he soweth discord . . . which the Lord hateth . . . And he that soweth discord is an abomination unto Him.’ The Christian, therefore, is to let the peace of Christ arbitrate in his heart ; in every contention to allow that peace, at whatever cost to himself to have the last word. * [* Col. 3: 15.]
THE IDEAL REALIZED
Vv. 10, 11.Such is the character of the King ; that which was realized in Him, and in which He found His own blessedness, becomes the ideal which those that enter His Kingdom will assuredly be ambitious to attain. [ i.e., ‘to gain by effort,’ as the word ‘attain’ is defined.] * [* 2 Cor. 5: 9.] What, then, will be their experience who live by the laws of the Kingdom, who follow the steps of its King in a world still antagonistic to Him? In former ages the world has never been worthy of such, as the writer of Hebrews testifies (11: 35-40) and they shall have their compensation when the King comes to His own. Those to whom He spoke, therefore, were not to expect that their loyalty would meet with a different reception in an unchanged world. They, too, would be reproached, persecuted, maligned, but let them see that, like Moses, it is for ‘the reproach of the Christ’ they suffer, as, long afterwards, Peter wrote, ‘if ye are reproached for the Name of Christ, blessed are ye . . . for let none of you suffer . . . as an evil-doer . . . but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed ; but let him glorify God in this name.’ * [* Heb. 11: 26 ; 1 Pet. 4: 14-16.] Let it rather be a cause of rejoicing since the rewards of the Kingdom await them ‘in heaven’ ; a heavenly people will find an abundant recompense for earth’s afflictions in ‘the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward.’ * [* Rom. 8: 18.]
WHO ARE CHRISTIANS?
‘The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch’ ; it is still true that only those who are learners in the school of Christ, only those who bear the yoke with Him, are entitled to that ‘honourable name’ or to the reward of discipleship hereafter.* [* Acts 11: 26 ; Matt. 11: 29 ; Jas. 2: 7.]
Here a distinction must be made lest we deceive ourselves. Not for our convictions’ sake, for they may be mistaken, nor for conscience sake, for that may be unenlightened (with a good conscience’ Saul, of Tarsus persecuted the saints) and certainly not for our crotchets, are we to suffer if we would receive the compensations of which the Lord spoke. The suffering must be for His sake, and not in any cause for our own.
The fires of persecution burn out the dross of mere profession, its storms winnow out the chaff and leave the grain ; but where the new life is, persecution will not deter from the pursuit of that ‘sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord.’ It is not enough to admire the faith and sufferings of those who have preceded us in the way[of obedience] ; we must ‘intimate their faith’ and like them, ‘suffer hardship with the Gospel according to the power of God.’ * [* Heb. 12: 14 ; 13: 7 ; 2 Tim. 1: 8.] The Lord never promised an easy passage to those who enter His Kingdom. The determining question is not, Is it easy? But, Is it worth while? In His parables He urged upon His hearers to count the cost before they undertook to follow Him (see Luke 14: 25-35 for examples). In His teaching, words such as these often fell from His lips : ‘If the world hated you, ye know that it hath hated Me before it hated you . . . If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . . all these things will they do unto you for My Name’s sake.’ Nevertheless, the Christian should so live as to secure a ‘good testimony from them that are without’; *[* John 15: 18-21 ; 1 Tim. 3: 7.] he may earn the world’s respect, but while he remains faithful to the Lord, popularity he can neither seek nor earn.
Vv. 13-16.The relation to the Christians to the world is now set forth under the figures of salt, light, and a city, three things that are conspicuous, each in its own way. Salt and sunshine differ in method but both are health-givers. Salt permeates the mass and is felt though not seen, whereas light is felt because it is seen. The hill-crest city is a landmark by which the traveller may direct his steps. Their usefulness lies not in conformity to environment, but in contrast with it. Colourless Christians do not help their neighbours, but rather stumble them. The non-practising Christian is a contradiction - savourless salt, an unlit lamp, useless alike to God and man. To suppose that by conforming to the world we may the better influence it is to forget that salt is biting, distinctive, and this is the evidence of its virtue. Because of its saltness it is antiseptic, purifying, deterring corruption, keeping life wholesome in its neighbourhood. If the salt have lost its characteristic quality it is ‘henceforth good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.’ Such also is the man who professes the name of Christ yet is not ‘an ensample . . . in manner of life.’ * [* 1 Tim. 4: 12.]
There is another danger against which provision is made. The Christian is to speak of ‘the Gospel (which is) the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth,’ that men may trace his changed life to its true source. He will not take to himself credit for his good works. The language of his heart as of his lips will be, ‘Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy Name give glory, for Thy mercy and for Thy truth’s sake.’ With becoming reverence he bears testimony to the quickening, delivering, sustaining, guiding,[restoring], and empowering of God. The ideal Christian witness is not in word only, nor is it in works only ; it is a happy combination of both. Nevertheless words are easier than works ; it is easier to talk than to live. Hence the Apostle’s emphasis upon the latter, an emphasis that deepens toward the end of his ministry, as may be seen in the large space he devotes to exhortations to Timothy and Titus to teach others, and themselves to exemplify, the place of ‘good works’ in the life of the Christian ; as , for example, this : ‘Faithful is the saying, and concerning these things I will that thou affirm confidently to the end, that they which have believed God may be careful to maintain good works.’ * [* Rom. 1: 16 ; Psa. 115: 1 ; Titus 3: 8.] The Greek word translated ‘good’ in Matt. 5: 16 and Tit. 3: 8, is kalos beautiful, admirable. It is used of the Good Shepherd in John 10: 11. It suggests manifested goodness, goodness that can be seen.
3. FULFILLING THE LAW
Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets ; I came not to destroy but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men also, shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.
Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill ; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment : but I say unto you, that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment ; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council ; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire. If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art with him in the way, lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.
Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery : but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble, pluck it out, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.
And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body go into hell. It was said also, whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing ofdivorcement : but I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress : and whosoever shall marry when she is put away committeth adultery (ch. 5. Vv. 17-32).
The King now proceeds to define His relation to the Law. His hearers would naturally be eager to know this, and some were evidently apprehensive for the ancient sanctities, and feared lest this Teacher should abrogate the code given from Sinai and substitute for it new and revolutionary doctrines. He bids them dismiss such thoughts. ‘Think not.’ He says, ‘that I came to destroy (kataluo, to bring to nought, to dissolve utterly. Wycliffe translates ‘undo’) the Law or the Prophets. I came not to destroy but to fulfil’ (pleroô - complete, accomplish.* [* Cp. Rom. 13: 8.]
The Divine Revelation entrusted of old to the Jewish people, and particularly the Moral Law, is here in view. This latter is permanent, for God’s standards are not variable. It reflects His nature and expresses His will for man’s conduct. It is, therefore, outside His dispensational dealings. The essential moral rightness of the commands which compose it give it abidingness. The fundamental thing in the Decalogue, which the regenerate recognize, is the call to live in accordance with the will of God. Thus the Apostle in urging the fifth Commandment upon Christians says, ‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’ The moral constitution of man enables him instantly to recognize the rightness of what is enjoined ; and rightness and righteousness are closest kin and are terms expressing what is acceptable in the sight of God.
Now the Lord declares Himself to be the Fulfiller of this Law. In what sense? First, in His teaching He fulfilled it by opening out its true meaning, expounding its spiritual nature and revealing the standard of righteousness demanded by it. Second, in His life He fulfilled it by honouring it in all His ways, obeying it perfectly, so that in thought, word and deed His compliance with it was entirely without flaw. And third, in His death He fulfilled it by discharging our liabilities under it, atoning for our innumerable infractions of it, so delivering us from its curse and condemnation.
Probably in the present passage, the first of these meanings of ‘fulfilling’ the Law is before the Lord’s mind. The subjects of His realm will not be freed from obedience to the moral law. To disparage it will bring its own penalty : to obey it, will insure its fitting reward. The status of the subjects of the Kingdom will depend upon the measure in which they honour its laws. Nor will their response to these laws be a mere external, formal, ritual one. Such was the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, a thing of scruples, punctilious veneration for ceremonial, and outward religious acts of supposed merit. In the Kingdom a ‘righteousness’ of a higher kind will obtain, one that springs up within the soul of a regenerated nature.
Our Lord’s three ‘excepts’ concerning entrance to the[Millennial] Kingdom should be pondered.
1.[Spiritual] Life Essential. ‘Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.’ *[* John 3: 5.]
2. Faith[and humility - see context.] Essential. ‘Except ye [disciples] turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven.’ * [Matt. 18: 3.]
3. Right Conduct Essential. ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.’* [* Matt. 5: 20.]
The Epistles bear full witness to these complementary sides of the truth. In them, from one viewpoint, Christianity is the spontaneous outworking of the energies of a new life, implanted in the believer by the gracious and sovereign act of God. From another standpoint, Christianity is a righteousness (involving a standard of acceptance) from God, received through faith grounded in the redemptive work of Christ. Again, it is a fulfilling of law, an habitual responding to the will of God, not in order to obtain eternal life, or to gain acceptance with God, but rather as proof that eternal life has been laid hold of already, and as evidence that the soul stands in the full sense of Divine acceptance. Thus the law under which the believer lives is a law of liberty, the sum of those directing and controlling principles to which the renewed nature of the sons of the Kingdom joyfully responds.
[The text of Matt. 5: 20, should therefore be understood as a warning addressed to disciples of Christ, lest they should fail to ‘enter into the Kingdom of Heaven’. The thought that the imputed righteousness of Christ is here in view is nonsensical: the comparison is drawn between the disciples’ righteousness, and the righteousness of others who are not disciples]
Vv. 21-26.The old obedience to the Sixth Commandment looked upon itself with complacence if it forbore to strike the fatal blow. The Lord carries obedience into a deeper region, that of intent and disposition. He shows that anger holds the potentiality of murder ; that it descends from hasty heat to studied contempt, and hence to frozen hatred, if it be given place in the heart. These three stages of its dreadful progress bring correspondingly increased liability to him who allows them. This increase is illustrated in our Lord’s graphic language referring to amenableness to the judgment, to the council, and to the hell (Greek, ‘Gehenna.’) of fire, by which His hearers understood the local court (which existed in every town), the Supreme Court (the Sanhedrim) which tried major causes, and the Gehenna of Fire - the capital punishing by stoning and burning in the Valley of Hinnom, the fate of the accused. If these be the figures, what shall the realities be which they illustrate? Anger retained, therefore, is a peril to the soul, for it moves towards hatred, and ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer,’ * [* 1 John 3: 15.] If I can go on hating my brother I am certainly amenable to the awful judgment of the hell of fire, for ‘no murderer hath eternal [Greek, aionios - can be translated ‘age-lasting’ or ‘life for the age’: as it demands in this context.] life abiding in him.’ Compare Matt. 11: 24 ; Luke 12: 47-48.
Therefore the obedience of the true sons of the Kingdom will be such as casts out anger quickly. ‘Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.’* [* Eph. 4: 26.] However righteous anger may be in its beginning, we are so prone to permit it to degenerate into scorn and detestation that no time must be lost in exorcising it. Nothing is to be permitted to delay the rectification of any known cause of anger. So important is this duty that not even the lofty occupation of worship may interpose to delay the action necessary to banish anger from the heart for a brother to whom cause may have been given for it. If, at the very moment when I bring my gift to the altar, the recollection flashes across the mind of an open cause of anger against me in a brother, worship itself must be interrupted in favour of the errand of reconciliation. ‘Leave there thy gift . . . first be reconciled to thy brother.’ In this striking way our Lord urges the tremendous importance of such a speedy observance to the command as recognizes the value of my brother’s soul.
In passing, it is well to notice how in the discourse our Lord recognizes the comparative values of spiritual duties. In cases of angry rupture of loving relations between brethren - first be reconciled to thy brother.*[* Matt. 5: 24.] In reference to life’s aim, first seek the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness. * [* Matt. 6: 33.] In the matter of criticising others, first cast out the beam that is in thine own eye. *[* Matt. 7: 5.] Our natural tendency is to do the second thing first and then find that we have failed to do it effectually because we have avoided the needful but humbling first thing.
The difficult verses 25 and 26 are used in quite a different context by Luke. Here their connection is such that they appear (again in the vivid illustrative way characteristic of the whole Sermon) to stress the necessity of acceptance without delay the soon-passing opportunity for the settlement of open issues between those who have become ‘adversaries’ (i.e., litigants each seeking to establish his own right). My brother and I, who have differed and are in angry dispute, are likened to parties on the way to the Judge’s court. The possibility of amicable settlement will pass out of my hands once that threshold is crossed, and the Judge will deal with impartial righteousness when the case passes under his jurisdiction. Not only is my offended brother my adversary in the sense that there is an open issue between him and me, but because in offending him I have also offended against the Law of God, that Law too is become my adversary and accuser.
And if I continue to ignore my brother’s wound, and, proudly disdainful of his hurt, seek no reconciliation, may it not be that I, who act so unbrotherly, am not his brother after all? If I have truly known the repentance that seeks and receives from God the great forgiveness and reconciliation, I will be ready to seek in true humility and repentance to be reconciled to my brother also. And If I shew no desire to seek this reconciliation, is it not an alarming symptom that I have never really known the Father, but am moving toward that bar where he shall have judgment without mercy who hath shown no mercy? Therefore, the true -[wise, thoughtful, considerate, fearful of the consequences of inactivity]- disciple will seek reconciliation quickly, here and now, before he stands before His bar, of Whose judgment it is written, ‘He that doeth wrong shall receive again for the wrong that he hath done, and there is no respect of persons.’ *[* Col. 3: 5 margin ; compare Eph. 6: 8.]
‘If we discerned ourselves,’ says the Apostle in another connection, ‘we should not be judged.’*[* 1 Cor. 11: 31.]
This section treats of the law concerning chastity. Again the deep difference between the old formal obedience and the new spiritual compliance is shewn. It is not in the overt act that the law is first broken ; it is broken already when the social sin is contemplated in the inner realm of thought and intent. The obedience of the sons of the Kingdom is to be that of a renewed nature to which the demands of this command are not so much its task as its delight.
At the same time, an earnest severity is to be opposed to every propensity, however dear or lawful in itself, found to constitute a temptation to carnality. The right eye and the right hand are here used as symbols of these powers, inclinations and desires of our nature, which, lawful in their controlled use, constitute to many a snare and stumbling block, opening the door to evil indulgence in fleshly appetites.
CUT IT OFF!
These the sons of the Kingdom must, if needs be, renounce with stern resolution. ‘A maimed life is better than a foul one.’ If, for instance, my love of art, my appreciation of pleasant things, my aesthetic tastes, lead me into associations and situations where my moral purity is constantly threatened, I am deliberately to deprive myself of their gratification in order to ‘enter into life,’*signifies, i.e., the present enjoyment of the new life, qualitatively considered, itself the evidence and earnest to the soul of ultimate entry into the realm of the life of the blessed . [ It also has a future significance relative to live in the coming age.]
The other way, the way of indulged passions, leads ever in the direction of death ; every step of it tends towards apostasy and the callousness of the reprobate. The logical end of that course, the Lord points out, is the Gehenna of fire, the abode of the accursed who have become inseparably identified with their sin.
The Lord’s words concerning divorce are in perfect harmony with the foregoing. The sanctity and inviolability of the marriage union, the sin of sundering it for any cause (save only that one which is itself its actual physical breach - unlawful sexual indulgence) is solemnly insisted on. Much has been written on the meaning of the Lord’s command here and in its companion passage in Matthew 19, and sharply divided views are held by men equally devout. In the view of the writers the exception twice named (‘except for fornication’) is to be understood in the wide sense of unchastity, as the word adultery in the seventh Commandment itself is, necessarily, to be understood in the same wide and inclusive sense. The Romanist view that it refers to pre-nuptial sin discovered after marriage is not only a precarious surmise, but would require us to believe that such a sin is more heinous than post-nuptial sin of the same character, a contention not to be maintained without the strongest positive evidence in its favour. Such evidence is wholly lacking. Those who so interpret must clearly shew why adultery after marriage may not invalidate the union, if it be contended that fornication prior thereto may do so. In both cases the effect is that the vessel has not been reserved wholly for the partner.
The lesson the disciples should lay to heart from these solemn words of our Lord is the need to walk apart from the sexual licence of the present age. Never were the sexes so free to intermingle, never were the ancient safeguards of moral purity so scorned and ridiculed by writers and publicists. We are to take our standards, not from the sensational Press, the Stage, the Film Screen, the Modern Novel, the Eugenist, the Phychologist, nor from materialists in whom is neither fear of God nor regard of human proprieties on this vital question. The believer’s obligation is to be loyal to his Lord, and His word must set the standard for all the true sons of the Kingdom over which He rules. No sin works more deadly ill to my neighbour than the sin of impurity, and ‘love worketh no ill to his neighbour,’* [* Rom. 10: 13.] therefore the subject of Christ’s rule will put far from him all imaginations, thoughts and speech which tend in that direction.
The standard raised in the Epistles is identical with that here set forth by our Lord. ‘This is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye abstain from fornication ; that each one of you know how to possess himself of his own vessel in sanctification and honour, not in the passion of lust, even as the Gentiles which know not God ; that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in the matter : because the Lord is an avenger of all these things, as also we forewarned you and testified. For God called us not for uncleanness, but in sanctification.’* [* 1 Thess. 4: 3-7.]
4. WORD AND DEED
Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform to the Lord thine oaths : But I say unto you, Swear not at all ; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God ; nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of his feet ; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, for thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your speech be yea, yea ; nay, nay : and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.
Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth : But I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil : but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.
Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy : But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you ; that ye may be sons of your Father which is in heaven : for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles the same? Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (ch. 5. Vv. 33-48).
The speech of those who are the subjects of the Kingdom is now brought under notice. The law of Moses laid it upon the Jews to discharge faithfully all their spoken pledges, and undertakings solemnly entered into before God. The purpose of such an enactment was to hold men to truthfulness and absolute transparency in their dealings ; to make, as we say, their word their bond. But, alas, the sophistries of the natural religious mind so dealt with the plain command that oaths had become rather agencies for deception and duplicity than guarantees of fidelity. For it was commonly held that only oaths which directly invoked the name of God were binding, whereas other oaths, as when a man swore by Jerusalem, by heaven, or by his head, need not be ‘performed unto the Lord’ - i.e. were not binding. Thus the process of making and extending a cheapened and profane form of exaggerated speech had gone on till the oath was without weight or value, and was often (as in our common meaning of the word ‘swear’) but an unthinking and course use of solemn terms and asseverations which had no purpose except, perchance, that of deceiving the hearer as to the speaker’s true intentions. In business dealings, in common intercourse, and even in legal testimony, this process if debasing the spoken word had gone on until, in our Lord’s day, a market held in the precincts of the Temple itself was ‘a den of thieves,’ religious teachers were a class of whom it was truly said, ‘they say and do not,’ and the purchase of false witnesses was part of the daily life of Jerusalem. See Mark 14: 55-59.
THE SPOKEN WORD
Vv. 34-37.This base use of solemn terms of speech is alien to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness ; the subjects of the Kingdom will refrain from it entirely. Their simple word, without any oath, is to suffice, being altogether veracious and dependable. If they find it necessary to emphasize a statement, a repeated affirmation or denial is the utmost permissable. (Compare the Lord’s own oft-used phrase ‘verily verily.’) ‘Let your speech be Yea, Yea ; Nay, Nay ; and whatsoever is more than these is of the evil one.’
It is to be noticed that of the illustrations of common oaths here given by the Lord Jesus, none is in the form of ‘the oath of testimony,’ the formal legal path required in a Court of Justice. On the contrary, each is an example of casuistical avoidance of direct use of the Divine Name, a subterfuge whose intent was to leave the swearer free to hold that the oath need not be ‘performed unto the Lord’ as His Name had not been invoked. The hollowness of this unworthy reservation is exposed point by point by the Preacher. He shows that an oath ‘by heaven’ really implicated the Name, for heaven is God’s Throne ; ‘by Jerusalem’ also, for it is His Metropolis : and that to swear ‘by my head’ is but profanity, because my physical being and its conditions are so little in my own power and so completely in His. Compare Matt. 23: 16-22.
All such unwarranted emphasis but degrades the levels of common truthfulness and debases the coinage of human intercourse. By those, therefore, who are the self-confessed subjects of the Kingdom of the Heavens, it is to be avoided, and instead, in love to God and men, they are to speak that all may find in their lips the law of kindness and truth.
THE LEGAL OATH
All through the present Church-age Christians have differed somewhat in interpreting this word of their Lord, in regard to the permissibility or otherwise of the solemn legal oath of testimony. Most have held that the examples here given by the Lord condition the injunction ‘Swear not at all’ that precedes them, and that the intention of the passage is fulfilled by avoiding all oaths in the common dealings and converse of our daily life. Others, having in mind not this passage alone, but also the kindred Scripture in James 5: 12, regard even the legal oath of testimony as forbidden to the Lord’s disciple. Their view is that James 5: 12 goes further than Matthew 5: 34 when he says, ‘nor by any other oath,’ and they interpret his words as embracing every kind of oath.
The Christians called Friends (or Quakers) and others have suffered in past days for conscience towards God on this question, but happily it is now the right of every British subject to declare or affirm in lieu of taking the oath in a court of law if his conscience forbids him to swear (Section 1, Oaths Act, 1888).
The view of the present writers is that compliance with the requirements of the Courts of Justice in regard to the oath of testimony is not in question, that the words ‘at all’ (verse 34) are limited by the succeeding context, and that similarly the words of James 5: 12, ‘any other oath,’ are limited to all oaths of the kind indicated by the illustrations given in the context.
That the solemn invocation of God to witness the truth of a formal declaration on a special occasion is not hereby prohibited is shown by such passages as Matt. 26: 63, 64, in which our Lord broke the previous silence in response to the adjuratioin of Caiaphas ; and 2 Cor. 11: 31 ; Gal. 1: 20 ; Romans 9: 1, in which Paul confirms his testimony to those to whom he writes. See also 1 Thess. 5: 27 ; 2 Cor. 1: 23.
SPEAK EVERY MAN TRUTH
The central spiritual lesson of the paragraph is that in the subjects of the Kingdom the need for external guarantees of truthfulness is to disappear. The idle oath is a great evil, for it transgresses two of the commandments. In so far as it lightly invokes the divine Name it is a breach of the Third Commandment, and in so far as it misleads the hearer by its false emphasis, it is a breach of the Ninth Commandment. Disciples are to bear such a character that lying is an abomination to them and their love of truth unassailable. How far from this ideal is common practice! Lord Morley says, ‘In a long public lift I have known only four men whose love of truth was complete.’ The tendency to colour our statements, to exaggerate, to suppress that which is not in our favour, unduly to emphasise that which is, to boast of ourselves, to belittle others - these are some of the common habits of speech which approach the border-line of lying.
Let us learn the needful lesson of the 3rd. chapter of James (v. 2) that he who has his tongue under control is a mature man. ‘For in many things we all stumble. If any stumbleth not in word, the same is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body also.’ And this, ‘above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath : but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay ; that ye fall not under judgment.’* [* James 5: 12.]
‘Lie not to one another ; seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings.’* [* Col. 3: 9.] ‘Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbour ; for we are members one of another.’ *[* Eph. 4: 25.]
V. 38.The Law of Retaliation (Lex Talionis) lies at the foundation of all the world’s jurisprudence. Its fundamental principle that he who does wrong shall receive for the wrong he has done operates whenever a judge pronounces sentence on a convicted law-breaker. Without such a law, fallen man being morally what he is, the social structure of the world could not hold together. If wrong-doing and right-doing received the same reward neither life, liberty nor property would be safe for so much as an hour. The visiting of punishment proportioned to the wrong is also of the very nature of justice ; and the Old Testament revelation of it is graphically expressed in the saying here mentioned by the King : ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ (v. 38, from Lev. 24: 19, 20), an extension in application of the primeval law stated in the words, ‘Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed.’ * [* Gen. 9: 6.]
Is this law, then, abolished by the saying of the Law-giver? Nay, verily, rather it reserves its administration, for the sake of the well-being of the community, to the magistrate or judge alone (who is God’s minister attending on this very thing, Rom. 13: 4 to 6), and thereby removes from the hand of the individual who may have suffered wrong any right to take this law into his own hand and wreak private vengeance. The personal desire for revenge of wrong received is not to be entertained for a moment by the subjects of the Kingdom. On the contrary, they are to be known by their unresenting patience under wrong, and are to pursue a line of conduct which aims at winning the wrong-doer from his evil ways.
In early times, when methods of justice were rude and primitive, the ‘avenger of blood’ was recognized as having right under this primeval law to act as summary judge, though even then there were set safeguards and ameliorations to prevent, in Israel at any rate, the bloody vendettas that often raged by reason of the lust for revenge.
But in that ordered condition of society in which public justice is administered by the constituted powers, the administration of this law is reserved to them. All authority to apply this law is vested in God, and only those ordained by Him may wield it as His delegates and servants. For this reason judges are sometimes called ‘gods’ in the Old Testament Scriptures, e.g. Psa. 82: 6.
Meanwhile, this more excellent way of combatting evil is to mark the subjects of God’s Kingdom.
THE OTHER CHEEK
V. 39.It is the task of the preacher to arrest and hold attention and to provoke enquiry ; therefore the imagery employed, that of turning the other cheek, of giving the cloke, of going the second mile, is vivid and arresting. But a bald literalness will inevitably misinterpret the lesson here. All the wrongs described are personal. Insult, injustice, and oppressive demands visited on the individual disciple are indicated by the three examples chosen by the Lord. Literally to offer the other cheek might even be done provocatively ; the spirit of non-resistance of personal wrongs is the real grace here inculcated.
The action of the Lord Jesus Himself when smitten on the cheek in the presence of Caiaphas* [* John 18: 22, 23.] is an indication that the literal is not the true interpretation here. His conduct was always morally perfect, always the ideal exemplification of His own teaching. He did not in such circumstances actually invite a second blow. Instead, He calmly took occasion, even while the flesh still tingled from the blow received, to instruct the insulter. Without thought of reprisal, but with desire that right and truth should prevail, He quietly said, ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil : but if well, why smitest thou Me?’ * [* John 18: 23.]
In our own country until recent times the standard of ‘gentleman’s honour’ demanded that personal insult should straightway be avenged in blood, and duelling and hatreds were the black harvest it produced. In many lands that standard still prevails. It is the standard the natural heart approves. Christ’s standard, on the contrary, is meek acceptance of personal insult, accompanied by humble but firm witness to the truth.
V. 40.What is the be the disciple’s attitude when a wrong actionable in the civil courts is sustained? Is personal wrong still to be borne without attempt to demand and secure redress? The answer is clearly given in Scripture so far as wrongs between those who are Christians are concerned. ‘Dare any of you, having a matter against his neighbour, go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? . . . Is it so that there cannot be found among you one wise man, who shall be able to decide between his brethren? . . . Why not rather take wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? * [* 1 Cor. 6: 1, 5, 7.]
The passage shows that it is a ‘daring’ wrong to take an issue between brethren to the world’s law-courts. That if a settlement is insisted on it should be the arbitration of a brother or brothers mutually chosen to render the service : but that the highest way is for the wronged one silently and unresentingly to suffer.
If this is the ideal when the wrong is suffered from a brother, it is difficult to believe that any different course is ideal when the wrong-doer is an unsaved person.
THE COAT AND THE CLOKE
The saying which follows, concerning the taking away of the coat, shows that the disciple is to pursue the same line of conduct when enduring injustice. The coat is the under-garment, whilst the cloak is the more valuable upper garment. Of this latter it was contrary to the Law to dispossess the owner.* [* Exodus 22: 26.] The oppressor is seeking at law to obtain the disciple’s less valuable raiment. In such a situation the disciple is to forbear fighting for his rights, is to yield up what is being demanded, and, should the oppressor persist, let him take the more valuable and essential garment, which he could not have obtained by any legal suit.
The illustration is strong to the point of paradox in order that the central lesson may be unmistakably clear - that the disciple wins by losing. Christ here challenges us to be believers ; to believe that He is right here as everywhere else, in face of all that considerations of worldly prudence may argue to the contrary. It is simply an application to one of life’s real situations of that most characteristic and oft-repeated principle of Christ’s teaching, ‘Whosoever would save his life shall lose it ; and whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, and the Gospel’s shall save it.’* [* Mark 8: 35.]
THE SECOND MILE
V. 41.The compulsion to go one mile refers to corvee or forced service, a practice of the military powers then and at many times since, of ‘commandeering’ the goods of labour of any civilian, as they might deem expedient. The practice seems to have had its origin in Persia in connection with the carrying of the posts. During Gospel times the Roman Occupation in Palestine often impressed Jewish travellers, compelling them to carry military loads for specified distances. Simon the Cyrenian was compelled in this fashion to bear Christ’s cross. *[* Matt. 27: 32 ; Mark 15: 21 ; the only other occurrences of the word in N. Testament.]
Our Lord selects this unpopular institution to illustrate the attitude which subjects of the kingdom are to take up when sudden and irksome demands are made upon their time and services.Although in an organized State personal service is usually compounded for by payment of taxes, the right of the ruling powers to enforce such service remains, and the duty of the Christian is clearly defined in Romans 13: 1-7. In such circumstances the disciple of the Lord will, without rebellion, without even reluctance, render what is demanded and then be prepared to render as much more voluntarily. During the first ‘mile’ the compeller may be his master ; during the second ‘mile’ he follows, not the compulsion of an external command, but the impulse from within : he is master of the situation, for he is conferring a boon.
The Christian life is one of going beyond, of giving not because of demand, but because of the delight love finds in giving. Abraham’s servant, commissioned to find a suited bride of Isaac, recognized her in Rebecca because she answered the test of character he had chosen : she not only responded to his request for a drink from the well, but went beyond it voluntarily, offering also to give water to his camels. Paul rejoiced in his confidence that Philemon his friend would act in the same spirit, not merely according to the Apostle’s request to receive back the returning runaway, Onesimus, but much more ; ‘thou wilt do even beyond what I say.’* [* Philemon 21.]
So the sudden laying upon him of unsought burdens is to find the Lord’s follower recognizing new opportunities to display the spirit of his Master, the spirit that delights to serve the unthankful, ‘for love’s sake.’* [* Philemon 9.]
V 42. ‘Give to him that asketh thee’ is to be understood in the same light. Literally to do this to every mendicant and lazy good-for-nothing would do them harm. To show a spirit of willingness to do good, to be approachable to those in want, to be sympathetic to those in difficulties, and to be ‘ready unto every good work’ without thought of present requital, is surely the grace that is here urged on the disciple.
Augustine’s comment is worth quoting, ‘Give to every man : but not everything.’ If you send a lazy beggar away with a lecture upon idleness you have sent him not empty away. When that suitor cried to Him from the crowd, ‘Master, bid my brother divide the inheritance with me,’ and the Lord made answer, ‘Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?’ - might it not appear that He forgot His own precept, refusing even this easily-granted request which was made to Him? But it was not so ; He gave the man, not indeed what he asked, but something far better, a medicine for the hurt of his soul in that warning word, ‘Take heed and keep yourselves from all covetousness,’* [* Luke 12: 13, 15.]
The best comment possible on this section of the Sermon is the parallel teaching found in the New Testament Epistles, for there are found the inspired interpretations of the first disciples of the King.
Thus in Romans 12: 19 to 21.
‘Avenge not yourselves, beloved’: but then, is there no such thing as justice in the world? Yes, indeed, ‘for it is written, Vengeance belongeth unto Me ; I will recompense, saith the Lord.’ Justice is to be left in the hand of God ; it is His prerogative and it is sacrilegious presumption for any save those whom He has ordained* [* Romans 13: 1] to take it into their own hands. What, then, is the disciple of the Lord to do when he smarts under personal injustice? ‘If thine enemy hunger, feed him ; if he thirst, give him to drink.’ But is not this extraordinary line of conduct likely to encourage him in further wrong-doing? No - ‘for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head,’ causing his mind to burn with shame and perhaps also his conscience with contrition. Be assured that this is the way to win, and ‘be not overcome of evil’ as in the case when thou yieldest to the temptation to seek revenge, ‘but overcome evil with good’ - thine enemy’s evil with thine own good. ‘Thus the iron law of legal justice is transmuted by this magic of love into a golden rule of sacrifice.’
Peter’s comment is in similar strain. ‘Be tender-hearted, humble-minded : not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling ; but contrariwise blessing ; for hereunto were ye called, that ye should inherit a blessing.’* [*1 Pet. 3: 8,9.]
This part of the sermon deals then, with the question of private vengeance ; it does not prescribe what action is necessary when the wrong is one of which the community or state must take cognizance, or one which also involves other persons.
For such offences the ‘powers that be’ have been set in their place and judgment is to be left to them. For us, who are the King’s subjects, there stands this lofty teaching backed home with matchless power and beauty by His example Who took not only the buffeting of us sinners upon the cheek, but took up the whole burden of our innumerable sins, and overcame our obduracy by the drawing power of His bitter, self-chosen Cross.
Vv. 43-44.The fifth illustration gathers to a point of positiveness the disciple’s attitude to the Law and shews the true character of the obedience which he is called upon to render. That obedience is comprehended by the word, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’
The question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ had been discussed ad nauseam by the Rabbis, and had been defined in a hard, exclusive and national spirit so that it was well-nigh regarded as a synonym for ‘Jew.’ all who did not come within the limits of this definition being regarded as ‘enemies.’ So the saying that heads this section had become current, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy.’ The former portion of this dictum is from Lev. 19: 18, but the latter portion is called by Bengel ‘a Rabbinical gloss of the very worst kind.’ And such indeed it is, for the Law did not, and does not, enjoin that a man shall hate his enemy. On the contrary, it prescribes kindly and considerate action toward those who might be legitimately accounted enemies in view of their hostile conduct or attitude.
Exodus 23, verses 4 and 5, speak thus, ‘If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.’
When this favourite Rabbinical question, ‘Who is my neighbour?’ was propounded to the Lord Jesus by the lawyer, the answer was given in the memorable parable of the Good Samaritan. The clear teaching conveyed by the story of the robbed traveller is that the fulfilling of the Law concerning loving our neighbour necessitates ungrudging benevolence towards the man who, beset with need, fall across our path, howsoever unworthy or hostile he may be, or howsoever linked, nationally or socially, with traditional foes. The love that fulfils the law treats the enemy as a neioghbour : it goes out spontaneously, rejoicing in the opportunity to do good and dispense blessing. A Samaritan, hated outsider though he was, so acting toward a Jew who in normal circumstances would have spat upon him, was acting a neighbour’s part and fulfilling the law. The Lord’s command to the lawyer and to us is, ‘Go and do thou likewise.’* [* Luke 10: 25-37.]
It is not antipathies whose cases lie in kindred or incompatible natures. Natural love (phileo) flows out to those persons in whom we discern (or imagine) such qualities as draw it fourth. It depends upon worthiness in its objects. Divine love (agapao) is self-sufficient, its cause is in itself. It pours itself forth spontaneously in blessing upon its objects, altogether apart from any consideration of worth, desert or lovableness in them.
Vv. 45-47. Such was the love of God that flowed out through Christ in unsought blessing to unworthy men. The love of God has ever this character ; its benevolence is not conditioned by the attitude of those to whom it flows. ‘Your Father which is in heaven . . . maketh His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.’* [* Matt. 5: 45.] To love our own kind is an instinct of human nature which has survived the Fall. Even the worst and lowest of mankind show love of this sort. There is nothing meritorious or praiseworthy in it ; certainly nothing distinctively Christian. The Lord points out that more than this is looked for from the subjects of the Kingdom of heaven. At the beginning of this section of the Sermon He stated the imperative need of a righteousness exceeding that of the Scribes and Pharisees ; now He urges that love of a quality which exceeds that shown by publicans and Gentiles is required of His disciples. He challenges us with this searching question, ‘What do ye more than others?’ The standards of the Kingdom are higher that those of the world ; more is, therefore, expected of its subjects ; and thank God, more is possible because of the gracious supplies that are ever available to those who are His.
There are three manners of returns which men may make one to another. There is the principle of returning good for good and evil for evil which is the world’s principle. ‘Do not even publicans the same?’ This is the rule of the natural man. Beneath this there is the returning of evil for good, which is devilish ; while above it there is the returning of good for evil, which is divine, which is God’s principle of action ; and it is to this the children of God are summoned here’ (Augustine).
V. 48. He in whose life this divine principle is in practical operation thereby shows himself a son of his Heavenly Father, inasmuch as the ways of the Father are visibly reproduced in him. And this high standard is ever to be the ideal to which the disciple must press. ‘Ye therefore shall be perfect, even as your Father which in heaven is perfect.’
Thus the King sets up the moral standards of the Kingdom, and in this five-fold way sets forth the new order of conduct which is to be expressed by its subjects. A high standard? Yes, an impossible standard for unaided and unregenerate flesh : but the subjects of the Kingdom are new-born men, a new nature is theirs, created by God ‘in righteousness and holiness of truth.’* [* Eph. 4: 24.] They have at their disposal the energies of the divine Indweller and along with the lofty demand comes the adequate spiritual supply, bringing these otherwise ‘hard sayings’ within the range of practical possibility. The measure in which they are exemplified may not be but partial (and indeed must be in view of the hindrance of the flesh), yet it should be a measure which grows in strength and beauty as the days pass, to God’s praise and to Christ’s honour.
‘Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children ; and walk in love, even as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for an odour of a sweet smell.’* [* Eph. 5: 1-2.]
5 TRUE PIETY
Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen by them : else ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they nay have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth : That thine alms may be in secret : and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites : for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter intothine inner chamber, and having shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee. And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do : for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not therefore like unto them : for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him. After this manner therefore pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance : for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face ; That thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father, which seeth in secret : and thy Father, which seeth in secret shall recompense thee (ch. 6. vv. 1-18.).
The moral pillars of human life having been set up, the King proceeds to unfold the essential qualities of true religion.
The first verse states in general terms the subject now to be taken up ; namely, the need that all our religious acts shall be simple in motive. The phrase ‘your righteousness’ has the force of your religious exercises, those activities which are the fruit of your desire to win the approval of God.
Those who give themselves to a life of devotion to God are subject to two temptations. They may, on the one hand, tend to defy public opinion and become contemptuous to others ; or, on the other, they may court men’s approval until that desire becomes the real motive of all their religious acts.
When it becomes a habit to act in the consciousness that we are being observed by others, pious deeds and exercises lose their simplicity and become mere posturings. The King here urges the subjects of His Kingdom to beware of ‘hot-house piety cultivated for exhibition purposes,’ for true goodness never dwells upon itself.
A simple and close paraphrase of the first verse would be : Be careful not to practise your piety with an eye to the effect you produce : otherwise all worth is taken out of your good works in the sight of your Heavenly Father.
Vv. 2-4.The Lord takes up almsgiving first, because an important aspect of our life is that lived toward our fellow-men. Those acts of doing good to men of which almsgiving is representative are essential to the life that is pleasing to God.
The ‘righteousness’ of the devotees of the old Covenant in our Lord’s day had become stiff and legal, and their good deeds were carefully put on show in order to gain public approval. A reputation for piety was the object of them : they were done in order to win a favourable verdict of men. They succeeded in this, and there the matter ended. ‘Verily they have received (apechô) their reward.’ The Papyri show that this word was the technical term for an official receipt : so that the Lord said in effect : charitable deeds done in order to win a reputation among men will most likely succeed in so doing. But that will be their only reward : the account is closed, for they have received payment in full : there is nothing to carry forward for the approval of the Father in heaven.
The picturesque description of the Pharisaic almsgiver sounding a trumpet before him should probably be taken metaphorically. The Sermon has several such startling and original metaphorical passages. Instances are the plucking out of the right eye and the cutting off of the right hand,* [* Matt. 5: 29, 30.] the beam, or plank, in the critic’s eye, * [* Matt. 7: 3.] and the parent offering his hungry child a stone, a serpent, or a scorpion for food. *[* Matt. 7: 9, 10.]
The statement, then, of verse 2 is the Teacher’s vivid and forceful way of presenting to the minds of his hearers an image which will help to fix indelibly the lesson against ostentation in benevolent deeds.
The modern equivalent of the Pharisee’s trumpet is the subscription list, which serves the same purpose, that of broadcasting the fact that I have made a charitable donation. The fact that my name does not appear on such a list is no cause for self-satisfaction, however, if the reason lies in the fact that I give nothing! Some who are critical of subscription lists also dislike collection plates, preferring collection-bags because they enable stingy giving to be done in secret.
Another figure, also arrestingly original and apt, is that which speaks of hiding from the left hand the acts of the right. How it emphasizes the unconscious simplicity of true kindness! As though to say : do not let so much as a warm heart-flush of self-congratulation announce to yourself ‘I have just done a kind act!’
The love of one’s neighbour - the set heart-purpose to do him good at every opportunity - is to be to the subject of the Kingdom as natural as breathing, and as devoid of self-consciousness. This ‘righteousness,’ acting without a thought of gaining man’s favourable verdict (even my own) is assured of gaining the reward of Him who ‘seeth in secret.’
Vv. 5-15.The next section enforces a similar lesson with reference to prayer. Prayer is taken up as a representative activity of our life Godward. Again the Teacher, in a swiftly-drawn word-picture, shows the sham of praying with an eye to gain a religious reputation with men. The figure of the ‘religious’ standing at the street corner - so as to be sure of a large publicity - and praying interminably, repeating phrases whose very repetition has emptied them of all meaning and reality, is one that instantly fixes upon the mind both the faturity and impertinence of ostentation in those exercises in which the individual is supposed to be dealing directly with God alone. Such prayer is no prayer ; it goes not to God, but to men, to whom in truth it is addressed. There it terminates.
In addition to these ‘hypocritical’ prayers, the Lord’s followers are warned against ‘heathen’ prayers. These are marked by ‘vain repetitions’ and ‘much speaking.’ The original words thus translated (battalogeô, polulogia) suggest the babble of water over stones, or of the wheels of a cart over cobbles - and by their very sounds convey the idea of meaningless noise. Dr. Findlay piquantly suggests that the colloquial Scottish term ‘blether’ exactly hits off the thought!
In contrast to those prayers of much show and sound the prayer-life of the subject of the Kingdom is to be ‘insecret’ as to its place, and simple, spiritual, direct, definite, humble and sincere in the form of its petitions. The real place of prayer is ‘thine inner chamber’ (verse 6). Into which the soul must needs retire truly to pray. Four material walls are not essential to this chamber ; the disciple may enter into it and pray even when the busy noise and clutter of a workday world are in his ears and its sights before his eyes. He may enter into his own heart and within that hidden sanctuary hold blessed converse with the Father. Happy is it that he has this quiet cloister ever at hand, so that even on the city pavement and in the thronging mart the disciple may retire thither and find it a meeting place with God.
The manner of true prayer, then, is secret heart to heart converse with the Father.
The matter of true prayer is next dwelt upon. The contrast between this and the ‘vain repetition’ and ‘much speaking’ of the heathen and the hypocrites is as striking as that between parading prayers at secret corners and the hidden fellowship of the ‘inner chamber.’ The Teacher, instead of dwelling upon the forms of real prayer or specifying its spiritual characteristics, proceeds to give a model prayer, to serve as a pattern for the children of the Kingdom in their petitions to their Heavenly Father.
THE MODEL PRAYER
V. 9.This, known as the ‘Lord’s Prayer.’ Is marvellous in its brevity, simplicity, spirituality and comprehensiveness. It contains, as recorded by Matthew (R.V.) fifty-five words, can be repeated in less than half a minute, contains petitions which range from the common bread-and-butter needs of our breakfast tables to the ultimate achievement of the age-long purposes of God ; puts God’s glory first, our needs second, does not rule out material matters as too trifling to pray about, yet insists on the supremacy of the spiritual, and emphasizes the basic condition of the disciples’ enjoyment of the Father’s forgiveness. The simple intimate, filial mode of address ‘Our Father’ is strangely unlike many of the grandiloquent phrases with which men approach God. It quietly brings the disciple into the enjoyment of a child’s freedom of access, putting into his lips the Name Christ came to reveal, near, intimate, dear, the plural pronoun ‘Our’ at the same time linking him in bonds of spiritual kinship with all who call on the Father.
With perfect balance this model prayer upholds the claim for holy reverence in approaching the Father - ‘hallowed be Thy Name.’ What is this if it be not a prayer for holiness? Satan’s refusal to hallow the Name brought disaster into the universe. Man’s refusal to hallow the Name continues the dread effects so introduced. Our Lord Jesus Christ, however, by His hallowing of the Name has laid the foundation of the restored universe. Those who own the authority of Christ will therefore desire to follow Him here also.
All that is proud, earth-bound or selfish is failure to hallow His Name. To ‘name the Name’ is to be under solemn obligation to sanctify it by separateness from all evil.
THE COMING OF THE KINGDOM
V. 10.‘Thy Kingdom Come.’ The heart of the praying disciple longs for the rule of God among men. The day is known to the Father ; unknown to us. Yet our hearts are to cry in deep spirit-begotten desire for the arrival of the Kingdom in all its power and universality of sway. The verb is in the aorist tense - a point in the expanse of time - teaching that the Kingdom will arrive in the glory and power which are its signs, with cataclysmic suddenness. Not by gradual permeation of the Christianizing influences of the truths of the Faith, till all nations yield allegiance to Christ ; but swift as the lightning flashes from the east even to the west, at the coming of the Son of Man, will His foes be broken, His throne established, the Kingdom of this world made the Kingdom of God and His Christ, and righteousness cover the earth as the waters cover the sea. Toward this sublime end of God’s ways with men the longings of those who are even now the Sons of the Kingdom (at present in ‘mystery.’ not yet in manifestation) will ever earnestly run. Nothing is dearer to them that the thought of the victory of God throughout the wide earth, and their prayers are but desire become articulate that the Father’s will, the utmost beneficent wisdom, may be as truly carried out in the sphere of human affairs on the earth, as it is now in that of the angelic intelligences in the heavens. The very highest blessedness of the creature, angelic or human, is to answer to that will in the delightsome obedience that springs from the harmony of inmost desire.
OUR DAILY BREAD
V. 11.The prayer now contracts to the routine needs of our daily life, for true prayer does not dwell alone upon the cosmic purposes of the God of the infinite majesty, wisdom and power : but, knowing that the same God cares for the minutiae of the life of each person, is bold to ask for those simple material needs which each day brings.
‘Give us this day our indispensable bread.’ If the significance of this much-discussed word Epiousios (found only here and in Luke 11: 3), is ‘belonging to the morrow’ (Lightfoot) the petition asks for ‘food sufficing from one day to the next.’ It does not go beyond asking for absolute necessities for the immediate future. Bread - the staff of life, fit symbol of all our recurring personal needs, and standing for every supply, material or mental, essential to our work in the world. Such supplies come to us from Him. We are so made that we cannot continue in effectiveness apart from hourly replenshments of common blessings. The disciple will keep alive in his mind this truth, for such recollection will maintain him in thankful and humble frame.
THE SPIRIT OF FORGIVENESS
V. 12.From the material and mental, the prayer rises to the spiritual. Our need of divine forgiveness is also ever-present. The sense of it is necessary to free us for the unhindered prosecution of our appointed tasks. A conscience unburdened with any load, a sunny sky overhead, the sweet sense of the Father’s pardoning mercy - apart from these happy known by the heart, the disciple is without the blessedness of which the Lord spoke at the beginning of the Sermon, and cannot manifest the character the Beatitudes describe.
‘Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.’ The forgiveness sought, be it remembered, is a Father’s forgiveness. The remission of penal consequences is not here in view, but the sense of the Father’s approval and the glad consciousness of fellowship with Him. The flow of His love into the soul, unstemmed by the sense of our own sinfulness, is possible only to him whose heart is full of spontaneous readiness to pardon a fellow-man who may have wronged him. It cannot be experienced by one who refuses such forgiveness. The implacable spirit of forgiveness is a barrier to the enjoyment of the Father’s approval, with its gift to the soul of radiant peace. Proof that I am in possession of the Father’s forgiveness is that I am forgiving in my attitude to those who wrong me. It is right that I should challenge myself about the former if I find that I am not displaying the latter. Note that the Lord returns to emphasize this point alone in the model prayed, ‘For if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses’ (v. 15).
The ground of all forgiveness is the atoning work of Christ. Faith in Him is the means whereby I grasp it. A forgiving spirit toward others is the evidence of it. An unforgiving spirit is evidence that I am not in the enjoyment (it may be, not even in the possession) of it.
V. 13.‘And bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’ All trial is temptation, inasmuch as it puts us to the proof.. All pressure of circumstances, all opportunity of self-indulgence, all occasion for self-adulation, challenge the reality of our love to God and our confidence in Him. Temptation is the common lot of men, and from it the disciple of the Lord is not immune. He is bidden ‘count it all joy . . . when ye fall into manifold trials’, * [* James 1: 2, margin.] looking steadfastly to the gracious purpose that allows it, the growth of the quiet grace of endurance in his character. In the hottest furnace he is to remember that there is nothing in his trial that has not happened before to any other, ‘there hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear : but God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation make also a way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it.'’*[* 1 Cor. 10: 13.] He who has come victoriously through fiery trials is counted blessed. ‘Blessed is the man that endureth temptation : for when he hath been approved, he shall receive the chown of life, which the Lord promised them that love Him.’ * [* James 1: 12.] [ Here we see the crown of life is not eternal life - the gift of God. It must therefore be life during the coming age : it is live in the Millennial Kingdom for the victorious overcomer.]
Nevertheless, we are to pray, ‘bring us not into temptation.’ The spirit of self-distrust is to mark the disciple ; he is not to trust himself wantonly in the way of trial, or to challenge it to visit him by exhibiting a self-sufficient spirit. Not only is trial used by God to strengthen our faith in Him ; it may be used by Satan to induce us to sin. God permits us to be tried or tempted in order that character may become perfected, but temptation in the sense of inducement to sin is never presented to us by God. If it becomes so, the cause is in our own evil desires.* [* James 1: 13, 14.] The spark that falls on water lights no fire.
Satan, adept in the tortuous ways of the human heart, well knows how to present trial in such a way as to induce us to doubt or forget God, and so fall into sin. The disciple, conscious of his own weakness and of the adversary’s cunning, will therefore pray when trial and testing are his lot, ‘deliver us from the Evil One.’
Thus, dependent, humble, and without pride of creature strength to withstand the onset of temptation, the disciple is to move forward unfearing, leaning the while on the care of his Father. If temptation is permitted, if evil assaults the soul, then, in this dependent attitude lies his true security and hope of deliverance.
‘Deliver us from the Evil One,’ or from the evil, may be understood to mean from the evil inclination or bias that is within us all. The doctrine of ‘the evil inclination’ was familiar among the Jewish teachers in our Lord’s days. It was in agreement with the Bible doctrine of inherited tendency to sin. If this be present in the words, ‘deliver us from evil,’ the prayer would then include the wise entreaty that occasion to sin and inclination to sin should not be permitted to synchronise.
Thus the model prayer ends. It has been affirmed that it is a compendium of all true prayer ; that no spirit-indited petition can arise to the Father from a human suppliant that is not to be ranged alongside one or other of these seven brief phrases. God’s Name, Kingdom and Will ; our needs, physical, mental, moral and spiritual, are all comprehended in this marvellous model. ‘After this manner therefore pray ye.’
Vv. 16-18.The Teacher next turns to the subject of fasting ; a side of religious practice representative of the self-ward side of life, with particular regard to the grace of self-control. Whilst Scripture contains no direct command to fast it is clear that the Lord’s teaching here does not disprove it. There are New Testament examples which indicate that voluntary abstinence from things lawful may be desirable at special seasons when the believer may be in critical need of ascertaining the will of God concerning some matter affecting his pathway. Every believer knows that such seasons occur, when to miss the present purpose of God is to incur grave spiritual loss. It was while certain gifted ministers of the Church at Antioch ‘ministered to the Lord and fasted’ *[* Acts 13: 2.] that the Holy Spirit’s call to two of their number, Barnabas and Saul, was unmistakably heard. How important a moment that was in the history of Gospel expansion! How necessary that there should be a clear sense of God’s will then concerning the part to be played in missionary endeavour! The call was evidently as clear to them all as the two most directly concerned ; a necessary conviction if fellowship in the Gospel between the missionaries and the Assembly from which they went was to be full-hearted from the very beginning. Fasting at such a time probably sharpened their spiritual susceptibilities. Voluntary abstention from those things which minister to bodily needs quickened the senses of the soul and helped them to receive the impress of the Spirit’s gentle guiding pressure.
Paul, later, in a catalogue of the experiences undergone by him in his Gospel labours, mentions ‘fasting’ in the same context with ‘hunger and thirst.’* [2 Cor. 11: 27.] Clearly, he intends to convey that whilst at times his abstinence from food and drink were enforced by the hard logic of want, at others his abstinence was undertaken voluntarily ; again, probably, in order to increase spiritual fitness in view of some pressing requirement of the moment. It is true that some * [* Matt. 17: 21 ; Mark 9: 29 ; 1 Cor. 7: 5.] of the passages where ‘prayer and fasting’ are linked together have been emended by the Revisers by the omission of the words ‘and fasting,’ they have considered these words to be late glosses, probably of the period that marked the rise of monasticism. Whether these omissions are warranted or not, it remains true that fasting (1) is not forbidden or discountenanced by the Lord’s teaching ; (2) has apostolic example in its favour ; and (3) has a certain spiritual value if undertaken in a right spirit, both as an aid in the growth of the character-completing grace of self-control, and as a means of spiritual fitness at critical times in life’s experience.
THE SHINING FACE
Here, however, the same danger threatens as with almsgiving and praying - the temptation to fast in order ‘to be seen of men.’ The Teacher draws another picture, this time to the fasting devotee who announces his fast to everybody by has wan visage and disconsolate mien. A fast which is to receive its reward of the Father must be as truly ‘unto Him’ as must prayer, and must be as sedulously hidden from the gaze of men. The Teacher insists that all necessary steps are to be taken to avoid the announcement to men of the fact that you are fasting - ‘anoint thy head and wash thy face that thou be not seen of men to fast’ ; refrain from advertising your fast : look your best when you feel your worst. If you are sad yourself (for fasting is also connected in Scripture with seasons of grief and mourning,* [* Matt. 9: 15.]) you have no right to make other people sad also.
Bear your burdens with a quiet joyfulness. Christianity is a glad thing. Cloud and sorrow are not its normal states. Christian tears are April tears - cheerfulness will break through like sunshine after spring showers if he who is suffering grief of deprivation of any kind by walking humbly with God.
By how much would the world be better if the disciples of the Lord had captured the spirit of these verses! What an example of fortitude and conquering gladness they might have given to a sombre world. How they might have shown that whilst discipleship to Christ does not remove one from the experience of sorrow, it puts within a well-spring the joy that lightens sorrow, strengthens the heart in straitened days, and proves that ‘doing without’ for the Lord’s sake has its own peculiar and intimate blessedness.
6. THE LIFE OF FAITH
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth where moth and rust doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal : But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal : For where thy treasure is, there will thy heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye : if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness! No man can serve two masters : for he will hate the one, and love the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature (age, margin)? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not neither do they spin : Yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek ; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek first His Kingdom, and His righteousness ; and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow : for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof (ch. 6. vv. 19 -34).
Having thus described the true expression of the religious spirit and contrasted it with its counterfeit, the Lord proceeds to show that faith in God changes a man’s whole outlook upon life ; henceforth not earth but heaven is the sphere of his ambitions. James, whose Epistle has so many features in common with the Sermon, says that ‘pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.’* [* James 1: 27.] Here ‘religion’ represents the Greek word threskeia which seems to mean very much what ‘righteousness’ means in Matt. 6: 1. It denotes not the inward spirit of devotion to God, but the outward expression of that spirit in the service of others and in purity of life. Compare Isaiah’s contrast between true and false fasting (58: 3-10) which suggests a possible connection between v. 18 and v. 19 of Matt. 6.
Men of the world pursue money, comfort, position, fame, power. It is true that ‘moth and rust’ do not attack such things, and that houses built of stone or brick cannot be ‘dug through’ ; Westerners, however, need experience no difficulty in recognizing their modern analogies. Slumps, bankruptcies, depressions, make similar havoc of modern treasures. He but repeats an old warning ; His people who refuse His counsel are like men who earn wages to put them into a bag with holes.* [* Haggai 1: 6.]
In so saying the Lord does not encourage idleness or improvidence ; the saving clause is ‘for yourselves.’ If a father is to give his son a fish, or a loaf, or other good gift, he must needs work for money to get it. If a man is to succour those in need he must be an earner himself. This implication is developed by the Apostle in the warning that ‘if any provideth not for his own, and specially his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever,’ and in his declaration that it is the duty of parents to lay up for their children. Knowledge of the precepts of the Lord is not enough, however ; heavenly wisdom is needed for the application of these precepts to daily life.* [* 1 Tim. 5: 8 ; 2 Cor. 12: 14.]
A chapter of the Koran is devoted to saying that when a man dies men ask how much he has left behind him, whereas the angels inquire how much he has sent before him.
It is related to Dean Swift that when he was asked to preach in the interests of a certain charity, and at the same time was reminded that his sermons were usually prolix, he took for his text Proverbs 19: 17 : ‘He that hath pity on the poor lendeth unto the Lord, and his good deed He will repay him again,’ The sermon lost nothing of its effectiveness by complying with the condition of brevity. It ran : ‘If you like the security, down with the dust.’ The Christian has not far to look for an investment, as safe and profitable, for whatever the Lord may have committed to his stewardship. Concerning ‘the man that dealeth graciously,’ it is written, ‘He hath scattered abroad, he hath given to the poor, his righteousness abideth for ever.’* [* 2 Cor. 9: 9, from Psa. 112 : 9. Which see.]
Concerning the responsibility of the Christian to acknowledge in material things the help received by him in spiritual things, the Apostle writes, ‘Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto (koinôneô share with) him that teacheth in all good things,’ expressing the thought of Matt. 6: 19-20 from a different point of view. He continues, ‘he that soweth unto his own flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption ; but he that soweth unto the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap eternal*[aionios, demands to be translated here as ‘age-lasting’, not ‘eternal.’ Those who translate ‘eternal life’ are teaching salvation by works! We do not reap everlasting life, but we can reap a reward in the kingdom.] life.’ To sow to the flesh is to lay up treasure on earth ; the harvest will be gathered here, transient and disappointing. To sow to the spirit is to lay up treasure in heaven ; the harvest cannot miscarry there, nor will it disappoint the faithful sower. * [* Gal. 6: 6-9.]
THE HEAVENLY MIND
V. 21.Heart here corresponds with mind in Col. 3: 2 ; it means aim, ambition, purpose. The Christian is learning to prefer eternity to time, heaven to earth, while he uses his opportunities to secure, by faithful stewardship here, the reward of having committed to him larger service, in the eternity to which he in truth belongs. * [* Matt. 25: 21.]
[In Matt. 25. Eternal matters are not an issue ; if they were, then eternal life must be won by our works. The authors have lost sight of this fact : all the servants are saved souls; and ‘the outer darkness’ is not another description for the eternal state of the lost in the ‘lake of fire’.]
A dreamy , unpractical life is not to be mistaken for heavenly-mindedness, nor is the selfishness that, masquerading as spirituality, leaves others to bear the burden and the toil of the workaday world. These lie poles apart. On the night on which He was betrayed, the mind of the Lord was occupied with the great things of eternity ; His coming from God ; His going to God ; the imminent fulfilment of His mission in the Cross ; nevertheless, He saw the waiting service and washed the disciples’ feet. True heavenly-mindedness will quicken our perceptions of the need of others, and make us prompt to serve.
In these words the Lord condemns the desire to be rich (whereof the Apostle Paul has some stern things to say), warning the Christian man in uncompromising language of the particular dangers he actually courts, when he sets his mind on what the world has to offer. The convert to Christianity in any country in the world stands to gain in material things, inasmuch as he cuts out all the expenses, direct and indirect (and they are many and heavy, contributing largely to the state of chronic poverty in countries given to any form of idolatry) involved in the maintenance of his religion, whereas in Christianity he is under no obligation save that which he voluntarily undertakes out of devotion to Christ. Vices, too, are expensive and so, also, are amusements and the ostentation made necessary by the reciprocal obligations of social life ; from all these the Christian is delivered. Thus from an unexpected direction temptation awaits the man who has become a Christian ; he may devote what he saves by his new habits of frugality, to ends purely selfish, though not necessarily grossly evil. Hence the Lord and the Apostles speak so much and so plainly about the dangers attendant on the pursuit of wealth. Not money, but the love of it, is a root of every kind of evil.* [* 1 Tim. 6: 9, 10 ; see also 17-19.]
THE PARABLE OF THE EYE
V. 22.There is an ‘inward man’ a ‘hidden man of the heart’ to which the Lord here refers. *[* Eph. 3: 6 ; 1 Pet. 3: 4.] Like the body it is also an eye that looks out upon life ; its quality, or character, determines the walk of the believer. [The lamp (luchnos) is not the light but the organ that admits the light. A diseased eye diminishes or excludes the light. The light, phôs, is Christ.] When selfishness, like a film, clouds the eye he ‘reels in vision and stumbles in judgment.’ * [* Isa. 28: 7, margin.] If the eye of the inward man is single, if he has but one dominating purpose in life, whether that be expressed as in the context as ‘seeking first God’s Kingdom.’ or, as the Apostle expresses it in 2 Cor. 5: 9, as making it a point of honour to be well-pleasing to the Lord, then life becomes simple. It is when the Christian has a diversity of ends to serve, of ambitions to realize, and these often mutually inconsistent, that life is thrown into confusion and becomes a burden and a disappointment. There is no hearts-ease in the attempt to make the best of both worlds.
It is not possible to serve God and Mammon, for covetousness as the Apostle warns us, is idolatry. The emphasis is upon the conjunction : God you may serve, Gold you may serve, but you cannot serve God and Gold. The[christian] man who chooses Mammon, the man with the ‘evil’ or (marking the antithesis with ‘single’) the ‘double’ eye, who thinks he can make the Lord a liar in this, has elected not to follow Christ but to deny Him, and has shut himself out from the Kingdom of God. * [* Eph. 5: 5, 6.]
The word translated ‘single’ (haplous) however, has another meaning diving an equally good sense, one closely allied to that just presented and with an important bearing on the Christian life. Using the same word James (1: 5) speaks of God giving wisdom ‘liberally’ to such as seek it from Him, and Paul exhorts the Romans (12: 8) and the Corinthians* [* 2 Cor. 8: 2 ; 9: 11, 13.] to be liberal in their giving. In keeping with this meaning of haplous, the word poneros, here rendered ‘evil,’ in Matt. 7: 11 ; 20: 15, evidently bears the sense of selfish, grudging. In which case the idea will be that Prov. 22: 9 : ‘He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed ; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.’
Vv. 23, 24.How, then, can the light be darkness? The reference may be to conscience, to which men often appeal in justification of deeds in themselves plainly evil. The Apostle Paul in his unregenerate days persecuted the saints with a good conscience, supposing that he did God service, even as the Lord foretold would be the case when He said to the disciples that the time would come when ‘whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God.’ * [* John 16: 2.]
Conscience is not in itself a guide ; it is not a standard whereby we may form a judgment ; it is rather the judge that condemns us when we desert the standard by which we profess to regulate our lives, and approves when we act in accordance therewith. If the standard is wrong, the course conscience dictates will be a wrong course. Therefore, conscience must be put to school in the Scriptures in order that Christ Himself may be the standard by which we are vindicated or condemned. ‘How great is the darkness’ suggests that the keener the conscious, the more sensitive men are to its dictates, the greater will be the disaster where its standards are defective.
V. 25. Nevertheless poverty also has its dangers, and to these the Lord now turns. If the rich are not to lay up treasure for themselves on earth, the poor are not to allow the joy to be eaten out of life by anxious care. For anxious care may be as detrimental to spiritual life as is the love of money. It is to be noted, however, that whereas our Father would have us care-free He would not have us without forethought ; the birds of which the Lord went on to speak build nests in anticipation of the young shortly to appear, and Agur commends the ant for laying up food against the winter, and to the ant our Father sends us to school.* [* Prov. 6: 6-8 ; 30, 25.]
THE BALANCED LIFE
When the Lord said to the Jews, ‘Work not for the meat that perisheth, but for the meat which abideth into eternal life,’ He did not thus emphasize the superiority of the claims of the spirit over those of the body. Provision for temporal needs is not to absorb the energies of the Christian ; none the less he is to work with quietness and to eat his own bread, lest he should ‘eat bread for naught at any man’s hand.’* [* Gen. 3: 17-19.] Such ‘disorderly’ behaviour is not countenanced by the Lord, for ‘If any will not work, neither let him eat.’ * [* 2 Thess. 3: 7-11.]
It is clear that the Lord did not spend in idleness the thirty silent years in Nazareth. He was known as ‘the carpenter’s son,’ He was Himself a ‘carpenter,’* [* Matt. 13: 55 ; Mark 6: 3.] He knew by experience the exigencies of a working man’s home, and saw daily the difficulties that beset the mother of a large family with a limited income ; and necessarily so if He was to be ‘in all points tempted (that is, tried, or tested) like as we are.’ And thus be able to enter into the trials of the poorest of His people. * [* Heb. 4: 15.]
The Lord Himself did not regard His being ‘on an equality with God’ as a ‘prize,’ ‘a thing to be grasped at,’ nor did He regard poverty as a handicap to be feared and avoided at whatever cost. On the contrary, ‘He emptied Himself’ by ‘taking the form of a servant,’ and ‘though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might become rich,’* [* Phil. 2: 6, 7 ; 2 Cor. 8: 9.]
Thus in the Christian life an equilibrium is to be attained and to be preserved. Sincere dependence upon our Father for temporal and for spiritual supplies must go hand in hand with that diligence through which the ‘daily bread’ normally comes. The will of God in the matter is as clearly expressed to His people in the old economy as in the new ; the wise man and the Apostle are of a mind ; it is the mind of Christ. ‘Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings ; he shall not stand before obscure men,’ is the assurance to the one, and to the other the exhortation is addressed, ‘whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus . . . work from the soul, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.’* [* Prov. 22: 29 ; Col. 3: 17, 23, margin.]
The warnings against the dangers lying on either hand are a further call to maintain the equilibrium of the Christian life ; the will to do is to be reflected in our petitions as it was in that of Agur, ‘Give me neither poverty nor riches ; feed me with the food that is needful for me : lest I be full and deny Thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and use profanely the Name of my God.’ ‘The care of the age and the deceitfulness of riches’ are equally the enemies of spiritual life ; they ‘choke the word,’ so, that many that received it and promised a harvest of godliness thereto, ‘become unfruitful’ and are known as Christians[disciples] no more.* [* Prov. 30: 8, 9 ; Matt. 13 : 22.]
Vv. 26-34.Because of what they are, and notwithstanding what they have become, God loves men. Made in His image, after His likeness, capable of fellowship with Him, and with possibilities for good beyond our present powers to imagine, man using his rich endowment in his Creator’s despite, fell from his high estate into spiritual death and moral confusion wherein he is dominated by such motives as greed, rear, and credulity. Yet man’s disobedience and rebellion did not provide the love of God with a larger opportunity for its manifestation. God so loved the world, so desired the fellowship of the race He had created for this very purpose, that He gave His Son for the redemption of men, and His Spirit to impart to them a new life, that, in Christ, they might become a new creation, nearer to Himself, with more magnificent possibilities of holiness, fellowship and service, than were theirs before they fell. This is the grace of God ; His love is actively engaged on behalf of those who had forfeited every claim upon Him. Surely an ‘unspeakable gift’! Hence it is seen that men are of more value to God than any other order of His creation.
In their fallen state men had lost sight of the individual, his rights, his possibilities. The crowd was everything ; nation, army, class, and other mass objectives swamped the individual man. On the other hand, the truth about God and His love having been lost, He was conceived as ‘an austere man,’ swift to wrath and reluctant in mercy : or, considering the heavens, it was argued that man, and the planet he inhabits, are too insignificant for the notice of the Creator. Job felt that it would be unreasonable to expect God, with a Universe on His hands, to attend to the affairs of any one mortal, for however detrimental the working of the eternal laws might be to the individual, he is nothing in comparison with the whole.
The Lord Jesus brought into the world a new conception of God ; the good news that God takes account of the individual, even to the counting of the hairs of his head ; His love for men and His care for them are not general merely, they are particular too. Hence His rebuke of the anxious mind, absorbed in temporal things and forgetful that ‘man’s chief end,’ rather, indeed, the sole object of his being, is to glorify God that he may enjoy Him, and be enjoyed by Him, for forever.
God asks but one thing of man, as but there is but one thing a man can either give or deny Him - confidence in Himself, His love, His wisdom, His power. This is the purpose of His revelation of Himself in Christ, that knowing Him men might learn to trust Him. This is the sum of Scripture ; this is the precept of Christ and His example. The evidence of trust in the obedience which is produced not by fear but by love. The Christian is concerned only to please his Father, leaving all consequences with Him. ‘O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?’ Henry Drummond’s ‘recipie for misery’ was ‘to be a half-hearted Christian.’ ‘Above all things,’ he said, ‘do not touch Christianity unless you are willing to seek the Kingdom first. I promise you a miserable existence if you seek it second.’
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye ; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your perils before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you ; For every one that asketh receiveth ; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone ; or if he shall ask for a fish will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him? All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them : for this is the law and the prophets (ch. 7. Vv. 1-12).
Having thus enunciated and illustrated the principle of faith in God as the abiding condition of the life that is life indeed, and having urged upon His hearers to keep steadily before them the unfailing care of our Father, Whose equal eye views all without partiality, overlooking none, forgetting none, Whose gifts are perfect and His ways of giving good,*[* James 1: 17.] the Lord went on to point out the danger involved in the temptation to cover our own failure to respond to the call for faith by judging the failure of others.
It will sober our minds and secure our sympathy with the wrong-doer, however, if we remember that as we judge we shall be judged, moreover if we judge ourselves now we shall not be judged then, for true self-judgment leads to confession and the correction and amendment of the things wherein we condemn ourselves. Grace reigns, indeed, but the judgments of God are according to truth.* [* 1 Cor. 11: 31 ; Rom. 2: 2, and cp. 14: 13.]
THE SAWDUST AND THE PLANK
The parable of the mote and the beam is a striking picture of the folly of judging others, about whom we know little, while we leave ourselves unjudged, whereas were we but honest with ourselves we would discover that in the very things in which we condemn others we are ourselves the more guilty. If any man would test the truth of these words of the Lord, or of the Apostle’s commentary upon them in Rom. 2: 1, let him scrutinize his own ways for twenty-four hours when all doubt will be dispelled! When we are ‘carnal’ and ‘walk as men’* [* 1 Cor. 3: 3.] we shelter ourselves behind the delinquincies of our neighbours. How uncompromising we can be in condemning those who have been found out!
As we grow in grace we become rigorous in judging ourselves and lenient in judging other people.
One evidence of our fallen state is seen in that we find it easier to believe evil than to believe good. Let a name be mentioned and immediately the unlovely things with which it may be associated leap to the mind, the creditable things follow but slowly, if they come at all. The David who dealt shamefully with Uriah and Bathsheba is remembered more readily than the David who, sorry for his sin, in acknowledgment and confession showed himself to be a man after God’s own heart. The works of the flesh have greater natural attraction than has the fruit of the Spirit. Censoriousness and faultfinding, detraction and disparagement of our brethren are grieving to the Lord in Whom such things had no place.
Moreover, by the appointment of the Father, judgment is the prerogative of the Son ; hence the judgment-seat is forbidden to us, and great though its attraction is to the natural man, the spiritual man resists the temptation to usurp His place or to attempt the discharge of a function for which he has neither warrant nor qualification.* [* John 5: 22.] ‘Wherefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts.’ * [* 1 Cor. 4: 5.] ‘Before the time.’ For not yet does the Son judge ; ‘if any man hear My sayings, and keep them not, I judge him not : . . . the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day.’ * [* John 12: 47, 48 ; cp. 8: 15.]
PRIVATE JUDGING AND PUBLIC JUSTICE
Bearing in mind that the Lord is instructing His disciples in individual conduct, it becomes clear that He does not refer to the admninistration of public justice, which is everywhere in Scripture recognized as an institution of divine authority.* [* 2 Chron. 19: 5-10 ; Rom. 13: 1-7.] Neither is His concern with matters of doctrine, or of morals, which affect the well-being of the church ; provision was made for the discharge of such responsibilities in due time, as in 1 Cor. 5, 1 John 2: 22, 23, 2John 8-11, for example.
What the Lord condemns is the private, petty, captious, irresponsible judging of motives ; judgments that are often the expression of prejudices, personal dislike, or party spirit. The indulgence of such a spirit provokes it in others, just as the gracious, considerate, and helpful spirit produces its like in others.
A question of much practical importance here arises. Is there no such thing as lawful judgment? Is the Christian forbidden to form an opinion on the character or conduct of another person? Is he to be neutral in mind concerning the moral quality of actions that affect himself, or others for whom he has any measure of responsibility? Surely the words of the Lord and of His Apostle do not sanction an easy tolerance of wrong-doing! Did not the Lord describe the Scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites ; may not we, with justification do the same? An answer to the last and more specific question may be suggested first. To recognize a man as a hypocrite it would be necessary to know his heart as well as his conduct, and ‘the secrets of men,’ known to Him, are hidden from us. It were wisdom, then, to forbear charging anyone with hypocrisy, and, with regard to the general question, to remember that all judgment whatever must arise out of holiness - abhorrence of evil, not out of animosity to the evil doer.
That there are no obligations to judge imposed upon Christians becomes clear when other words of the Lord, and words of His Apostles, are taken into account, as they must be if we are to ‘prophesy according to the proportion (literally, analogy) of the faith.’* [* John 7: 24 ; 8: 15, m16, where there may be a reference to 2 Chron. 19: 6.] Scripture holds a mirror to men, reflecting life in its all but infinite variety, and is not concerned to deal with it all at once. For every changing scene there is guidance in the Book, but only to the sincere and diligent seeker for wisdom does it yield its light. The Lord laid down the broad general principle ; judging is not a normal human function. But when men are under obligation to judge one another, let them see to it that they ‘judge not according to appearance, but (that they) ‘judge righteous judgment.’ He condemned the Pharisees, saying to them, ‘Ye judge after the flesh,’ adding, ‘I judge no man.’ Which may mean that He judges not after that fashion, for He adds, ‘yea, and if I judge, My judgment is true, for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me.’ * [* John 5: 20] [It is noteworthy that so far as the record goes, the Lord never told any man that he was a sinner, yet those who came into contact with Him speedily became conscious that they were sinners]. Here, then, is the secret of judgment according to truth where responsibility to judge is clear.
QUALIFICATIONS FOR JUDGING
The Son judges in fellowship with the Father ; in this also He walks in the path of dependence on which He entered that the Father might be glorified on the earth. Because He sought not His own will but the will of Him Who sent Him, therefore His judgment was right.* [* John 5: 30.] If He, being what He was made fellowship with His Father the condition of His judgments, how much more we, being what we are, should distrust ourselves and judge only in fellowship with Christ! To judge otherwise is to judge after the flesh, to judge unrighteously. Where the ear is open to His Word, where the heart is attuned to His, by the grace of His spirit our judgments will not be ours but His.
Sympathy is necessary to judgment in truth. Just as it is the sharing of humility that qualifies the Son of God to be the Saviour of men, so also is He qualified to be their Judge.* [* John 5: 27 ; Heb. 2: 14-18.] [In the title the Lord so often used Himself, there is no article before each noun, literally, ‘the son of man.’ In John 5: 27 ; Rev. 1: 14 ; 14: 14, these articles are omitted, literally, ‘son of man.’ The former is a Messianic title, the latter represents the Humanity of the Lord]. In like manner where the grave responsibility of dealing with a brother overtaken in a trespass in involved, those who care for the churches are ‘to restore such a one in a spirit of meekness’ ; they must put themselves in the place of the delinquent if they are to have not their own but the mind of Christ.* [* Gal. 6: 1.] In the things of the spirit godliness and humility of mind turn the scale.
‘Let all that ye do be done in love’* [* 1 Cor. 16: 14.] - be done, that is to say, not for one’s own gratification or vindication, but always in the interests of, for the profit of, others, applies to our judging also. If a man is conscious of enmity, or prejudice, or antipathy of any kind, he had better leave judgment to those who can approach the matter in fellowship with Him Who is Lord of both judge and judged. The end of all judgment is restoration. Only those who are conscious of their own danger, and of their own need of the upholding hand of God, are competent to judge and to succour their brethren.
V. 6.That the words of the Lord concerning judgment are not to be taken absolutely, as if they admitted of no exception, the words that follow make abundantly evident. Their meaning will be better seen if they are printed thus:
A. Give not that which id holy unto the dogs.
B. neither cast your pearls before swine,
C. lest hapily they trample them under their feet,
D. and (lest haply they) turn and rend you.
This form of speech is called chiasm, or X form. It is found in many places in Scripture. John 10: 14, 15, is a simple example, Rom. 2: 6-11 a more complex one.
If one give the meat of sacrifice to dogs they will not appreciate it above other meat, nor will they be so moved to gratitude thereby that they will refrain from rending you when they have eaten. If one lays perils in the trough where the swine expected food, so far from recognizing what makes the perils precious to you they will trample them under their feet. Clearly then the Christian is to discriminate, he cannot treat all alike. His first attraction will always be to his brethren, he will desire to ‘follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.’* [* 2 Tim. 2: 22 ; cp. 1 John 3: 14.] Indwelt by the same Spirit they belong to one family, and among other things, share the family secrets, and prize them above rubies, inasmuch as they have been committed to them by the Father.
While it is true, and indeed because it is true, that ‘the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever’* [* Deut. 29: 29.] it does not follow that all that has been committed to the Household of the Faith should be proclaimed to the world. The Apostle makes this distinction in his First Letter to the Corinthian Church. When he brought the Gospel to their city for the first time he ‘determined to know nothing among (them) save Christ and Him crucified.’ But if he did not then proclaim ‘the mystery of God,’ it was only held in reserve until the time should be ripe and they able to receive it. ‘Howbeit,’ he goes on, ‘we speak wisdom among the perfect : yet a wisdom not of this age . . . we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, even the wisdom that hath been hidden . . . which none of the rulers of this world knoweth.’ [The reference to the ‘mystery’ in ch. 2. Vv. 1 and 7 suggests that the word ‘perfect’ (teleios) here means ‘initiated,’ and is used to describe those who had obeyed the Gospel and who had been baptized].
‘It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to the dogs,’ seemed a ‘hard saying’ to the Gentile woman, but truth demanded it and the way was opened for grace! To preach to the unregenerate such things as the doctrine of election, or the Holy Mystery of the manner if the Incarnation, or the doctrine of the Trinity, is to invite their scorn, or worse.[Or, to speak to some of the redeemed, of a ‘prize’ which must be won; and a ‘race’ which must be run according to the rules, if they are to be ‘accounted worthy’ to receive it ; is often met with the same hostile reaction from regenerate Christians who have no appreciation, or understanding of the Scriptural doctrine of rewards: they believe all will be received on the basis of their standing on bare faith alone!] These are [some of the] family secrets, revealed to the children by the Father for their instruction and comfort, and, inasmuch as they [some] are incapable of proof by any method of reasoning, they are receivable by faith alone. To ‘the natural man’ such things are ‘foolishness . . . he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged.’ *[* Deut. 29: 29 ; Matt. 15: 26 ; 1 Cor. 2: 6-8, 14 ; Phil. 3: 10-16 ; 1 Cor. 9: 24 ; Luke 20: 35 ; Col. 3: 23-25.]
MORE ABOUT PRAYER
Vv. 7-10.Earlier in His discourse the Lord outlined the proper subjects of prayer (‘after this manner pray ye’) ; here, He encourages us to present our individual needs, as they appear to us, to our Father. At the close of the previous chapter we were reminded that our real needs are all known to One Who loves, Who knows, and Who cares, and upon Whom we are instantly dependent. Prayer is the exercise of a soul that realizes this dependence, for only those who have learned that they have no good apart from God, and that ‘every good (way of) giving, and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights,’ will bend the suppliant knee (see James 1: 17). Now these words of the Lord are a categorical statement that all prayer is heard and that there can be no miscarriage of the answer. That, in fact, there is no such thing as unanswered prayer. We ask - for what? We seek - for what? We knock - but what do we suppose lies beyond the closed door? We ask, we seek, we knock for what we conceive to be good for us and for those for whom we intercede. Is our knowledge of that need true and adequate? Is our wisdom as to how best to meet it to be trusted? James warns us of a double danger : we may forbear asking, whether through indolence or through lack of faith in the good will of God to His children. Or we may ask amiss, with a merely selfish end in view, hoping to make the divine power the servant of our pleasure. If our minds be set on earthly things, or if the purpose of our asking be other than that the will of our Father may be done, how can He give what we mistakenly ask, or enable us to find what we mistakenly seek?
Again, the end before our minds may be good in itself, yet, due to our creature state and sinful condition, we may have misconceived the way to that end. Therefore, in order to answer the petition He must lead us by the path that will disappoint us at the outset because of our defective faith, because of our unwillingness to leave all to Him, the end and the means alike. ‘There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.’ Shall not God in His love and wisdom, seeing the end from the beginning, block up our way that He may lead us in His own?* [* Prov. 14: 12.]
PRAYER IN HIS NAME
The condition of prevailing prayer laid down by the Lord was that we should pray in His Name. This surely means something more than the mere mention of that Name at the close of our petitions! Only as we abide in Him may we ask what we will, for only then shall we desire nothing but what His Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered . . . He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.’ Hence we are told to pray always ‘in the Holy Spirit,’ for the object of prayer is not that God may be brought into the current of our poor wills, but that, taught of His Spirit to pray, we may be lifted up into the current of His will, and thus prove in experience that it is indeed both ‘good and acceptable and perfect.’* [* John 15: 7 ; 16: 24 ; Rom. 8: 26-27 ; 12: 2 ; Jude 20.] James 5: 16 should probably read ‘the inwrought supplication of a righteous man availeth much.’ Prayer inwrought in the heart of a Christian by the Holy Spirit is ‘the prayer of faith.’
When the Lord prayed ‘O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass away from Me : nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt,’ He left us an example to which all our prayers should conform ; when our petitions are framed as His were we are touching the depths that lie in the words ‘in My Name,’ The cup did not pass ; was His prayer therefore unanswered? Soon afterwards He said to His disciples, ‘The cup which the Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?’ He asked, sought, knocked ; three times He prayed ‘saying again the same words,’ but assuredly not in vain. In Gethsemane as at Bethany He knew that His Father heard Him always.* [* Matt. 26: 39-44 ; John 11: 42 ; 18: 11.]
THE SUCCOUR OF GOD
‘The path of life,’ the way to the Right Hand of the Majesty on High, lay for Him through the suffering, the shame, the darkness of the cross. The writer of Hebrews did not think of the petition of Gethsemane as unanswered, for he says that ‘in the days of His flesh’ the Lord ‘offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him out of death,’ and that He was ‘heard for His godly rear,’ that is, for His piety, His devotion to His Father’s will.* [* Psa. 16: 11 ; Heb. 5: 7.] From His experiences, written for our profit, we may learn that relief is given, not by lightening our trials, but by increasing our strength to endure.
Most of the perplexities of the Christian life find their solution at the Cross. When the beloved Son cried for deliverance from the dread cup, the bearing of sin that must entail the averting of the Face of God, the interruption of a communion unbroken hitherto in time as in eternity, did the Father for a loaf give Him a stone, for a fish a scorpion? ‘In the day that I called,’ said the Psalmist, ‘Thou answeredst me, Thou didst encourage me with strength in my soul.’ The cup did not pass from the Lord, indeed, but ‘there appeared unto Him an angel from heaven, strengthening Him.’* [* Psa. 138 : 3 ; Luke 22: 43.]
How often in what seems to us unanswered prayer there lies hidden an answer the larger and the richer because it is His planning, not ours - an answer worthy of God! ;The steps of faith fall on the seeming void,’ indeed, but ‘they find the rock beneath.’ The meaning of His acts we do not perceive now, but we shall get to understand hereafter. Meanwhile let us heed the exhortation of the Apostle ‘In nothing be anxious ; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth (that is, which is better than) all understanding, shall guard (garrison) your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.’* [* John 13: 7 ; Phil. 4: 6, 7.]
EVIL MEN AND GOOD GIFTS
V. 11.‘If ye’ (how significant that He did not say ‘we’ ) ‘being evil.’ No one ever set higher value on mankind, or treated individual men with greater respect, than did the Son of God. None ever loved men as He loved them, for ‘since the children are sharers in blood and flesh, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same,’ that it might be possible for Him to bear ‘our sins in His body upon the Tree.’ Nor did any ever speak the truth to men about themselves more plainly than He did. His description of Himself was apt, ‘a Man that hath told you the truth.’ Who that reads His story can fail to see that He spoke the truth in love,’ or doubt that the third chapter of Genesis was in His mind when He described men as evil? * [* John 8: 40 ; 1 Pet. 2: 24.] The word aletheuo * [* Eph. 4: 15] covers actions as well as speech ; compare Gal. 4: 6, margin, ‘deal truly with.’ It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT
‘Good gifts . . . good things.’ Two words are translated ‘good’ in the New Testament, agathos (here) which refers to the intrinsic quality of the thing whether it seem to be good or not, and kalos, which refers rather to the appearance, that which is seen to be good because it is good. The latter word is used in Matt 5: 16, ‘Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’ The Christian takes ‘thought for things honourable (kalos, good) not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men,’ and in this way takes care that his ‘good (agathos) is not evil spoken of.’ Our Father’s answers to our prayers may come disguised ; they may seem to us evil and not good, but whatever they seem, faith knows that ‘to them that love God, God worketh all things with them for good (agathos).’* [* 2 Cor. 8: 21 ; Rom. 8: 28 margin ; 14: 16.]
In the parallel passage in Luke (11: 13) the words run, ‘how much more shall your Heavenly Father give (the) Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?’ Each form of the saying casts light upon the other, nor can either be interpreted apart from the other. The words ‘Holy Spirit’ are without articles, pointing to His operations and gifts rather than to Himself, for since the Holy Spirit was given, and came, at Pentecost, we can no more ask that He may be given again than we may ask that the Son of God may be sent again to do the work already accomplished at Calvary. Nor are we ever instructed to ask for the Holy Spirit, though we are encouraged to pray the Father, as Paul did, that we and all saints ‘may be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inward man ; that Christ may dwell in (our) hearts through faith.’[ No! No! No! We are commanded to ask for the Holy Spirit ; and we are also to pray that He will not be taken from us! ‘Cast me not away from Thy presence ; and take not Thy HOLY SPIRIT FROM ME.’ (Ps. 51: 11). For more information, relative to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the believer, see (on this website at a later date, D.V., ) the subject (The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit’) expounded by G. H. LANG.] These are among the ‘good things’ the Lord would have us seek ; the ‘all things that pertain unto life and godliness.’ In answering their prayers, as in all His dealings with His children, our Father subordinates every other consideration to His purpose that we should be ‘conformed to the image of His Son,’ that in the day He may ‘be the Firstborn among many brethren.’ * [* Rom. 8: 29 ; Eph. 3: 165, 16 ; 2 Pet. I: 3.]
THE CHIEF POINT OF THIS
V. 12.The Golden Rule is not so much original as it is a fresh and succinct expression and interpretation of the law which ‘is summed up in this word, namely, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ It is love in action, for if ‘the whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, thou shalt love,’ and if the teaching of the Law and the Prophets is condensed into these words of the Lord, then clearly they also describe the way in which love displays itself. * [* Rom. 13: 9 ; Gal. 5: 14.] Love is the synthesis of the Sermon. To enter the kingdom is to enter the sphere where love is the sole law, comprehending all laws and abolishing them. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of the Son of His love, where love reigns, where love is all, for God is love.
The love of which the Gospel is the revelation is not an emotion, a feeling born of affinity ; it is a deliberate disposition of the will to forget oneself on the service of others. Love was the mind of the Father when ‘He gave His only-begotten Son’ to die for men ; the mind of the Son when ‘He emptied Himself,’ the mind of the Spirit when He led the Son through the wilderness to the Cross.* [* Luke 4: 1 ; Phil. 2: 5 ; Rom. 15: 30 ; Heb. 9: 14.] We must beware of debasing the pure gold of the love of God by giving the word any lesser meaning in such sayings as that of the Lord, ‘By this shall all men know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another,’ and such exhortations as that of the Apostle, ‘Through love be servants one to another.’ ‘Even as I have loved you’ is the new standard that makes the commandment itself a new one.’ * [* John 13: 34, 35 ; Gal. 5: 13.]
Love, the mind that was in Christ Jesus, constrains us not to look ‘each of (us) to his own interests, but each to the interests of others,’ and teaches us ‘not to please ourselves (but to) . . . please (our) neighbour, for that which is good (agathos) unto edifying.’* [* Phil. 2: 4 ; Rom. 15: 1, 2.] So learning from the word and example of the Lord, constrained by His love, and enabled by His Spirit Who sheds that love abroad in our hearts, we shall ‘become imitators of God as His beloved children,’ and ‘sons of our Father which is in heaven.’ Thus only shall we present to all men the one compelling testimony to the Gospel as the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes on our Lord Jesus Christ. * [* Eph. 5: 1 ; Matt. 5: 44, 45.]
8. THE CALL TO DISCIPLESHIP
Enter ye in by the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be that enter thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy Name, and by Thy Name cast out devils, and by Thy Name do many mighty works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you ; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
Everyone therefore that heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, which built his house upon the rock ; and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house ; and it fell not ; for it was founded upon the rock. And everyone the heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a man, which built his house upon the sand : and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house, and it fell : and great was the fall thereof.
And it came to pass, when Jesus ended these words , the multitudes were astonished at His teaching : for He taught them as one having authority and not as their scribes (chap. 7, vv. 13-29)
As the Sermon moves to its close it is noticeable that the tone changes from that of Teacher instructing disciples to that of the Preacher exhorting the multitude.[The multitude includes His disciples ; for the sermon is addressed primarily to them : ‘And when He had sat down, his disciples came unto him : and he opened his mouth and taught THEM saying . . .’ ] It is easy to visualize the crowd increasing as the discourse proceeds, and pressing ever more eagerly round the Prophet, until at this point He lifts up His voice to the whole concourse in the challenging call of this closing section.
Thus far He has outlined the truly blessed life and has charted the moral features of the Kingdom. A new charter marks the King’s subjects ; they were aware of deep spiritual poverty, they sorrow concerning evil, bear meekly another’s yoke, and passionately long to realize God’s will. They are pure-hearted, merciful, peace-loving and peace-seeking. In such a world as ours men of this character encounter opposition even to persecution, yet they do not withdraw themselves from the world’s life, or seek seclusion, but abide in close contact with it. They are the world’s salt, counteracting its tendency towards moral putrefaction ; and its light, penetrating and dispelling its moral gloom.
New standards of conduct mark their social contacts. They do not nurse anger, they are chaste in thought and act, and are incorrupt in word, they seek no personal revenge but live in the spirit of love, even towards those who choose to be their enemies.
New motives mark their religious activities. Toward men, benevolence ; toward God, communion ; toward self, discipline - all done ‘in secret’ - as for the eye of God alone.
New principles of heavenly-mindedness mark their life. Such simple trust is theirs as gives practical victory, on the one hand over senseless anxiety to amass corruptible wealth, and on the other over the fret and worry which fear of future poverty brings. A clear direction and a strong promise control their attitude towards things temporal. ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.’
New gentleness and charity in regarding others mark these sons of the Kingdom. They have such a humbling realization of their own faults and errors that censoriousness and harsh judgments of others have no place in them.
Trustful approach to God as Father in the spirit of conscious sonship, is their recourse in every deed. In their lack of knowledge of what is best for them they ask simply for those blessings the want of which they most feel, leaving the manner of the answer to the loving wisdom of the Father.
The actuating motive of love enables them to regard their neighbour’s need as through their neighbour’s eyes. Love, moreover, supplies the power whereby they act toward him as they would fain have him act toward them were their positions and circumstances reversed.
Among those first hearers of the Sermon were the critical, the hesitating and the interested. To this day these same attitudes are found in those who hear the King’s proclamation.
What a programme! Is it practicable? The multitude must have asked that question then ; mankind has not ceased to ask it since.
The New Testament supplies the answer, an unhesitating affirmative. This order of things is possible, not indeed to unaided and unchanged nature, but to those who, having received the spiritual empowerment and renewal promised to all who would receive Jesus Christ as Lord, are the true subjects of the Kingdom.
THE TWO PATHS
V. 13.The passage now before us speaks of two paths, of two trees, and of two foundations. There is a path whose end is life it is a narrow path, and even so is not crowded. At the nearer end it is entered by the strait gate of self-renunciation and acceptance of Christ as the Lord of his soul. There is also a broad road entered by a wide gate, at which go in the vast majority of mankind. - [including the vast majority of Christians.] No effort is demanded to begin upon this wide road - the easy-going multitude find themselves effortlessly walking it. It is wide enough to accommodate worldly ambition, to find room for self-seeking, to tolerate worldly standards, to permit the passage of popular wrongs, and to allow folly and reputation to travel together, but, nevertheless, it is the way of which it is written, ‘There is a way which seemeth fight unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.’ * [Prov. 16: 25 ; Rom. 8: 12, 13 ; Gal. 5: 13-21 ; 6: 8 ; Eph. 5: 1-7, 15 ; Phil. 3: 18, 19 ; 1 Thess. 4: 3-8. Etc.]
The Speaker earnestly calls upon His hearers to enter by the narrow gate upon the strait path, the path mapped out in the preaching discourse, for ‘life that is life indeed’ is found therein alone.
Purpose, decision, action are called for. To begin demands these things, therefore,[strive to ] enter! Because the way is difficult to walk in - enter! Because the road may be lonely - enter! Yea, and because the alternative is seductively easy - shun it! and, most of all, because the end of that easy way is separation from all that is true, good, just and blessed - yea from all that is of God, and finally, from God Himself - shun it!
Note that it is not merely the way to heaven, it is the way that leadeth unto life! Life that is really worth the name, the Teacher claims, IS FOUND ONLY AS ONE WALKS BY THE PRINCIPLES HE HAS ENUNCIATED. The natural conclusion would be precisely the opposite : that walking after the manner described, is to lose all that life means and offers. The oft -repeated aphorism of Christ that he who would save his life shall lose it, whilst he who loses life for His sake shall find it, holds good just here.
‘Get and live,’ says the worldling[and the carnal Christians] : ‘Give and live,’ says Christ. ‘Be ruthless and live,’ says the natural man, ‘Be meek and live,’ says Christ. ‘Strike back and live,’ says the man of the world. ‘The other cheek,’ says Christ, ‘if thou wouldst really know what it is to live.’ - and enter the kingdom.
‘Enter!’ - take this Prophet as true, this King as yours, and begin to-day to walk after the pattern of His teaching, for this is the way that leadeth into life. ‘In the way of righteousness is life ; and in the pathway thereof there is no death.’* [* Prov. 12: 28.]
THE TWO TREES
Vv. 15-20.Other teachers will seek your allegiance, other voices will call, other philosophers of life will press their claims upon you. Therefore, ‘Beware of false prophets,’* be not deceived by charming manners, high repute, great names, deep learning, or plausible eloquence. Know that the one test that matters is : What moral fruitage does this teaching bear? ‘By their fruits shall ye know them.’ The harvest declares the nature of the tree. If it is by nature an evil tree, then be its foliage never so delightful its fruit will be evil and only evil. On the other hand, however unprepossessing may be the appearance of a tree whose nature is good (agathos, intrinsically good) it will manifest by its fruits its true character in its own time. So also shall evil teachings reveal their true nature by the fruits they bear in the lives of teacher and taught. * [* The ‘false prophets’ are teachers who ignore responsibility truths and conditional promises: the are not all unconverted!]
Fruit, too, will be the test in the great day of account. Then it will not weigh with the Righteous Judge that we had this or that activity of a religious sort to our credit or the repute of piety with our fellows. The eye that is like a flame of fire will search for evidence of the doing of the Father’s will, and according as these are found or not shall be His decision and sentence.
In the bitterest hour of his life David learned that the mere language of confession does not satisfy God, but that He desires truth in the inward parts. How greatly we too need to lay to heart the fact that the Lord searches and tries the reigns to give to every man according to the fruit of his doings.* [* Psa. 51: 6 ; Jer. 17: 10.]
Vv. 21-23.We have already seen that our Lord lived what He taught. We must realize further that He expects those who name His Name to depart from iniquity, and that if we are to escape the just stigma of hypocrisy, we must set ourselves patiently to follow His steps before we preach His word. ‘Why call ye Me Lord, and do not the things which I say?’ This crushing question is unanswerable. No one save he who does His word may name His Name.
In verse 22 one stage of His judgment of the human family is already past, that set forth in Matt. 25: 31-46. In the judgment the doom of certain persons has been pronounced to their confusion and alarmed surprise. ‘When saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?’ they cry in dismay. But judgment falls upon them for what they had left undone, sure symptom that their heart knew not Christ.
The same note of astounded fear is in our passage, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy Name and by Thy Name cast out demons, and by Thy Name do many mighty works?’ Even closer is the thrust of the parallel passage in Luke 13: 26, ‘We did eat and drink in Thy presence, and Thou didst teach in our streets.’ Expressed in modern phrase : we went to Mass,[or Church] we partook of the Eucharist, [or the Lord’s Supper] , we took the Communion, we ‘broke the bread,’ and sat under Christian teaching. None of these pleas avail, and the professors [together with the slothful, disobedient, unrepentant regenerate servants] find themselves thrust forth, with the words of the Judge following them into the darkness, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’
The comment of another is to the point here ; " ‘I never knew you’ is but another way of saying ‘Ye never knew Me.’ Not to be known of the Lord is never to have known Him, and is therefore itself the condemnation."[Oh no! There are more than the unregenerate included here in the Lord’s condemnation. There was one (the Apostle Paul) who said, ‘ That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, becoming conformed unto his death ; if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection (out) from the dead.’ Phil. 3: 10, 11. Disobedient disciples do not know Christ in this deeper sense, attained only by strict compliance to His commandments. And furthermore, eternal issues are not here in the picture at all : it is a matter of entrance or exclusion from the Kingdom. ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed . . . ye shall in no wise enter . . . (5: 20) ‘Seek ye first the kingdom . . ‘ (6: 33) ‘ Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the Kingdom.’]
It is to be noted that He who utters the Sermon on the Mount calmly asserts that Himself and none other will decide the destiny of every man. What madness unless He really be God as well as man! ‘Many will say to Me in that day, Lord! Lord! . . . and then will I profess unto them ; I never knew you, depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.’[ If there be any who maintain that a disciple of Christ cannot ‘work iniquity,’ he is self deluded!] The most impressive claims of Christ are those made indirectly ; as here His claim to Universal Judgeship ; as in 7: 11 where is found His assumption of a sinlessness which separates morally from all other men, ‘If ye being evil, know how to give . . . : and as in 7: 24, 26, ‘these words of Mine’ imply His claim to absolute wisdom.
THE TWO FOUNDATIONS
Vv. 24-27.Lastly, the Lord passes to the test of abidingness as the sure revealer of the nature of conduct. Every man is a builder ; into the house of his life he is putting stone on stone by the acts of each hour. But the principles by which he lives are the foundation on which this house is being erected. In the parable before us the Teacher claims that the only life that has what has been called ‘survival value,’ i.e. qualities that will keep it intact when the tests of time, change and sudden tempest come, is the life founded on the moral principles that have been set forth in this discourse. It is not here a question of faith merely. It is obedience that is emphasized as the true wisdom of the life that will abide the day of crucial trial. ‘Everyone, therefore, which heareth these words of Mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man which built his house upon the rock. All opposing ways of life lead to destruction, all differing teachings produce evil fruits, all contrary principles produce a moral order which the judgments will overwhelm, revealing it to have been unstably founded on the sands of popular fashion, or intellectual self-sufficiency, or of personal aggrandisement.
Whether all we build shall have about it this quality of permanence, shall when ‘proved’ emerge ‘ap-proved’ depends wholly upon the acceptance and practice of the principles of conduct here proclaimed. Calmly the Speaker assumes final authority - the authority which men associate only with the Voice and Message of God. The test of every man, it is quietly, confidently, asserted, is his reaction to ‘these sayings.’ Little marvel that the crowd dispersed amazed at the authority with which He spoke, contrasting the absolute certitude of His utterances with the fumblings and perhaps-ings of their Rabbis.
That characteristic note still sounds in these sayings of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Radintzsky, a brilliant young Jewish Zionist, turned to the New Testament in order to equip himself to write against Christianity. He found ‘these words’ so marvellous that he came to admit that ‘when Messiah does come He cannot say anything better than this,’ But men may marvel and yet disobey. Christ seeks not the admiration of men. He speaks in order to declare pure truth, and with a view to secure the consent of the will of the listener, a consent evidenced by an obedience which unhesitatingly applies these heavenly principles to life’s actual problems and situations. The Teacher’s aim is to evoke demonstration of the moral excellence of this New Law through the conduct of its proper exponents, subjects of the Kingdom in which it operates.
Are we owning the authority of ‘these words?’ or are we passing them by as too high and too difficult, too idealistic to be underpinning principles on which the house of our life rests all its weight? The question is of the utmost importance and seriousness ; upon the answer we are giving to it depends whether, in the figure used by Paul, our work will abide the fiery trial of Christ’s judgment-seat, or be thereby consumed ; or, to revert to the figure used by the Lord Himself, whether our house will withstand the day of testing, or fall into ghastly and complete ruin when the full force of the tempest strikes it.
The only true wisdom is that which hears these sayings and does them ; which receives in faith these teachings and begins to act upon them ; which dares to apply them to life’s situations careless of the world’s sneer or censure, and which calmly chooses to base life upon them rather than upon the maxims of this present age.
We have seen that in these chapters the teaching stresses, not the gift of[eternal] life by grace, but the proof of life by obedience. The Sermon on the Mount, needless to say, is not the whole of Christian doctrine. Taken alone, beautiful as it is, it were law and not gospel. A greater than Moses is here, promulgating a law higher than that which was given from the Fiery Mount. Natural man finds this Sermon a sin-convicting, soul-humbling proclamation. Well may the world keep asking, ‘Is it practicable?’ Alas for us all if the Christian revelation had ended with the 7th chapter of Matthew!
But, unlike those of the old entreated that no more should be spoken to them from Sinai, we who have heard that grace and truth come by Jesus Christ wait to hear His further revelation, and are not disappointed.
This Sermon pre-supposes the gift of new life in those who are called to obey its teaching. A new man, a completely regenerated man, is needed before the far-off possibility of this ethic can even be seriously regarded. The Sermon anticipates the Cross, the Resurrection, the Descent of the Spirit, and the Intercessory ministry of the Enthroned Christ. ‘Give what Thou commandest and then command what Thou willest,’ cried Augustine long ago as this fact dawned upon his mind.
So the Gospel comes to give the captivity and the power to the standards here set forth. And because the gifts and empowerment of the Gospel our ours who trust in Christ, these words of Christ stand. Their revelation has never been withdrawn ; they set forth the true standard of Christian morality. They describe the conduct produced by the life of Christ in His believing people ; they abide in full moral applicability to us ; they are super-dispensational, and reveal the moral laws upon which the judgments of the Day of Christ are founded.
9. PARALLELS IN THE EPISTLES
Some of the parallels between the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount and the Epistles. Many of the passages commended on in the text have not been included, while duplication of references has been avoided as far as possible.
MATTHEW CHAPTER 5
3.Blessed are the poor in spirit : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Christ Jesus . . . humbled Himself (by) becoming obedient even unto death. Phil. 2 : 8.
Though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious : howbeit I obtained mercy . . . Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners ; of whom I am chief. 1 Tim. 1: 13-15.
Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall exalt you. Jas. 4: 10.
4. Blessed are they that mourn : for they shall be comforted.
For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ. 2 Cor. 1: 5.
Ye are puffed up, and did not rather mourn. 1 Cor. 1: 5: 2.
Ye were made sorry after a godly sort . . . for godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation. 2 Cor. 7: 9, 10.
(God) shall wipe away every tear from your eyes. Rev. 21: 4.
5. Blessed are the meek : for they shall inherit the earth.
Now I Paul myself intreat you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ. 2 Cor. 10: 1.
The fruit of the Spirit is . . . meekness. Gal. 5: 22, 23.
Showing all meekness toward all men. Tit. 3: 2.
O man of God . . . follow after . . . meekness. 1 Tim. 6: 11.
If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. 2 Tim. 2: 12.
6. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness : for they shall be filled.
The grace of God hath appeared . . . instructing us, to the intent that . . . we should live . . . righteously . . . in this present age. Tit. 2: 11, 12.
Follow after righteousness. 2 Tim. 2: 22.
According to His promise, we look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. 2 Pet. 3: 13.
7. Blessed are the merciful : for they shall obtain mercy.
The wisdom that is from above . . . full of mercy. Jas. 3: 17.
God is not unrighteous to forget your work and the love which ye showed toward His name, in that ye ministered unto the saints, and still do minister. Heb. 6: 10.
The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus : for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain . . . the Lord grant unto him mercy of the Lord in that day. 2 Tim. 1: 16-18.
Judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy. Jas. 2: 13.
8. Blessed are the pure in heart : for they shall see God.
God . . . cleansing their hearts by faith. Acts 15: 9.
Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth. 1 Pet. 1: 22.
The end (aim) of the charge is love out of a pure heart. 1 Tim. 1: 5.
Follow after . . . the sanctification without which no man shall see the Lord. Heb. 12: 14.
The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein : and His servants shall . . . see His face. Rev. 22: 3, 4.
9. Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called sons of God.
The kingdom of God is . . . peace . . . in the Holy Ghost. So then let us follow after things which make for peace, and things whereby we may edify one another. Rom. 14: 17, 19.
And let the peace of Christ rule (arbitrate) in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body ; and be ye thankful. Col. 3: 15.
10. Blessed are they that have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake : for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
But and if ye should suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are ye : and fear not their fear, neither be troubled ; but sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord . . . Having a good conscience ; that, wherein ye are spoken against, they may be put to shame who revile your good manner of life in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God should so will, that ye suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. 1 Pet. 3: 14-17.
Yea, and all that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. 2 Tim. 3: 12.
11. Blessed are ye when men shall reproach you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.
To you it hath been granted in the behalf of Christ . . . to suffer in His behalf. Phil. 1: 29.
If ye are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are ye ; because the Spirit of glory and the Spirit of God resteth upon you. For let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a meddler in other men’s matters : but if a man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed ; but let him glorify God in this name. 1 Pet. 4: 14-16.
They think it strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you. 1 Pet. 4: 4.
12. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad : for great is your reward in heaven : for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.
Take, brethren, for an example of suffering and of patience, the prophets who spake in the name of the Lord. Behold, we call them blessed which endured. Jas. 5: 10, 11.
I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward. Rom. 8: 18.
Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory. 2 Cor. 4: 17.
13. Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.
Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law ; ye are fallen away from grace . . . Ye were running well ; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? Gal. 5: 4, 7.
For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and tasted the good Word of God, and the powers of the age to come, and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance ; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. Heb. 6: 4-6.
Beware lest, being carried away with the error of the of the wicked, ye fall from your own steadfastness. 2 Pet. 3: 17.
Wherefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. 2 Pet. 1: 10.
14. Ye are the light of the world. A city set on an hill cannot be hid.
15. Neither do men light a lamp, and put it under the bushel, but on the stand ; and it shineth unto all that are in the house.
16. Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Ye were once darkness, but now light in the Lord : walk as children of light (bearing) the fruit of the light. . . and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness. Eph. 5: 8-11.
Blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom ye are seen as lights in the world, holding forth the word of life. Phil. 2: 15, 16.
Having your behaviour seemly among the Gentiles ; that, wherein they speak against you as evil doers, they may by your good works, which they behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. 1 Pet. 2: 12.
Avoiding this, that any man should blame us . . . We take thought for things honourable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. 2 Cor. 8: 20, 21.
17. Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets : I came not to destroy, but to fulfil.
The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good . . . I delight in the law of God after the inward man. Rom. 7: 12, 22.
Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth. Rom. 10: 4.
That the ordinance (requirement, margin, lit. righteousness) of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Rom. 8: 4.
Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? God forbid : nay, we establish the law. Rom. 3: 31.
18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.
God, Who cannot lie, promised before times eternal. Tit. 1: 2.
The gospel of God which He promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures. Rom. 1: 1, 2.
God, being minded to shew more abundantly . . . the immutability of His counsel, mediated (margin) with an oath : that by two immutable things . . . we may have strong encouragement. Heb. 6: 17, 18.
19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of the least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven : but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The law is good, if a man use it lawfully. 1 Tim. 1: 8.
He that loveth his neighbour (lit, the other man) hath fulfilled the law . . . Love worketh no ill to his neighbour : love therefore id the fulfilment of the law. Rom. 1: 3, 8, 10.
The whole law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Gal. 5: 14.
20. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.
My little children, let no man lead you astray : he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous : he that doeth sin is of the devil . . . Whosoever is begotten of God doeth no sin, because His seed abideth in him : and he cannot sin, because he is begotten of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil : whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. 1 John 3: 7-10.
I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. Rom. 12: 1.
21. Ye have heart that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill ; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.
22. But I say unto you, that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment ; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council ; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.
Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer : and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 1 John 3: 15.
God shall judge the secrets of men . . . by Jesus Christ. Rom. 2: 16.
If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. Gal. 5: 15.
23. If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee.
24. Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Be ye kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, even as God in Christ forgave you. Be ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Eph. 4: 32 ; 5 : 1.
Desire earnestly the greater gifts. And a still more excellent way shew I unto you . . . follow after love. ! Cor. 12: 31 ; 14: 1.
25. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art with him in the way ; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.
We before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin . . . that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may be brought under the judgment of God . . . for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. Rom. 3: 9, 19, 23.
Behold, now is the acceptable time : behold now is the day of salvation. 2 Cor. 6: 2.
Eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His might. 2 Thess. 1: 9.
Whose end is perdition. Phil. 3: 19.
They shall in no wise escape. 1 Thess. 5: 3.
27. Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt not commit adultery.
28. But I say unto you, that every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
Having eyes full of adultery. 2 Pet. 2: 14.
Let marriage be had in honour among all, and let the bed be undefiled : for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. Heb. 13: 4.
Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body ; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. Or know ye not that your body is a temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have from God? 1 Cor. 6: 18, 19.
29. And if thy right eye causeth thee to stumble pluck it out, and cast it from thee ; for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body be cast into hell.
30. And if thy right hand causeth thee to stumble, cut it off, and cast it from thee : for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not thy whole body goi into hell.
They that are of Jesus Christ have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. Gal. 5: 24.
If by the Spirit ye mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Rom. 8: 13.
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth ; fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, the which is idolatry ; for which things’ sake cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Col. 3: 5, 6.
I buffet (margin, bruise) my body and bring it into bondage ; lest bt any means . . . I . . . should be rejected. 1 Cor. 9: 27.
31. It was said also, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement.
32. But I say unto you, that every one that putteth away his wife, save for the cause of fornication, maketh her an adulteress : and whosoever shall marry her when she is put away committeth adultery.
The woman that hath a husband is bound by law to the husband while he liveth . . . so then if while the husband liveth she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress. Rom. 7: 2, 3.
But unto the married I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord, That the wife depart not from her husband . . . and that the husband leave not his wife. 1 Cor. 7: 10, 11.
33. Again, ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths :
34. But I say unto you, swear not at all ; neither by the heaven, for it is the throne of God.
35. Nor by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet ; nor by Jerusalem, for ot is the city of the great King.
36. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head for thou canst not make one hair white or black.
37. But let your speech be, Yea, yea ; Nay, nay ; and whatsoever is morethan these is of the evil one.
But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath ; but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay ; that ye fall not under judgment. Jas. 5: 12.
38. Ye have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.
39. But I say unto you, Resist not him that is evil : but whosoever smiteth thee on thy cheek, turn to him the other also.
Hereunto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example . . . who when He was reviled, reviled not again ; when He suffered, threatened not. 1 Pet. 2: 21-13.
See that none render unto anyone evil for evil ; but alway follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all. 1 Thess. 5: 15.
40. And if any man would go to law with thee, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.
It is altogether a defeat in you, that ye have lawsuits, one with another. Why not rather take wrong? why not rather be defrauded? 1 Cor. 6: 7.
41. And whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him twain.
Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers : for there is no power but of God ; and the powers that be are ordained of God. Therefore he that resisteth the power, withstandeth the ordinance of God : and they that withstand shall receive to themselves judgment. Rom. 13: 1, 2.
Put them in mind to be in subjection to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready unto every good work. Tit. 3: 1
Be subject to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake : whether it be to the king, as supreme ; or unto governors, as sent by him. 1 Pet. 2: 13.
42. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.
To do good and to communicate forget not : for with such sacrifices God is well pleased. Heb. 13: 16.
Let him labour, working with his hands the thing that is good that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need. Eph. 4: 28.
Not grudgingly, or of necessity : for God loveth a cheerful giver. 2 Cor. 9: 6, 7.
Charge them that are rich in this present world, that they . . . have their hope set . . . on God, Who giveth us richly all things to enjoy ; that they do good, that they be rich in good works, that they be ready to distribute, willing to communicate. 1 Tim. 6: 17, 18.
Whoso hath the world’s goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue ; but in deed and truth. 1 John 3: 17, 18.
43. Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.
Bless them that persecute you ; bless and curse not . . . Render to no man evil for evil. Rom. 12: 14, 17.
Being reviled we bless . . . being persecuted, we endure ; being defamed, we intreat. 1 Cor. 4: 12, 13.
Not rendering evil for evil, or reviling for reviling ; but contrariwise blessing. 1 Pet. 3: 9.
45. That ye may be (lit. become) sons of your Father which is in heaven : for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sendeth rain on the just and the unjust.
For there is no respect of persons with God. Rom. 2: 11.
He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness. Acts 14: 17.
By ye therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Eph. 5: 1.
46. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the Gentiles the same?
And follow after that which is good, one toward another, and toward all. 1 Thess. 5: 15.
As we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith. Gal. 6: 10.
Supply . . . in your love of the brethren love. 2 Pet. 1: 5, 6.
48. Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I count all things to be loss . . . that I may gain Christ . . . that I may know Him . . . if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead. Not that I . . . am already made perfect : . . . but I press on toward the goal. Phil. 3: 8-13.
Christ . . . Whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ. Col. 1: 27, 28.
Let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing. Jas. 1: 4.
MATTHEW CHAPTER 6.
1. Take heed that ye do not your righteousness before men, to be seen of them : else ye have no reward with your Father which is in heaven.
As many desire to make a fair show in the flesh . . . Gal. 6: 12.
Circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter ; whose praise is not of men but of God. Rom. 2: 29
Servants, obey in all things them that are your masters according to the flesh ; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, rearing the Lord : whatsoever ye do, work heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men ; knowing that from the Lord ye shall receive the recompense of the inheritance : ye serve the lord Christ. Col. 3: 22-24.
Look to yourselves . . . that ye may receive a full reward. 2 John 8.
2. When therefore thou doest alms, sound not a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
3. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.
4. That thine alms may be in secret : and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Cor. 13: 3.
Wherefore judge nothing before the time until the Lord come, Who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts ; and then shall each man receive his praise from God. 1 Cor. 4: 5.
Neither at any time were we found . . . seeking glory of men. 1 Thess. 2: 5, 6.
5. And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites : for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thine inner chamber, and having shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall recompense thee.
7. And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do : for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8. Be not therefore like unto them : for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.
In nothing be anxious ; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Phil. 4: 6.
The Spirit also helpeth our infirmity : for we know not how to pray as we ought ; but the Spirit Himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered ; and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom. 8: 26, 27.
9. After this manner therefore pray ye : Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.
For this cause, I bow my knees unto the Father, from Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named . . . One God and Father of all. Eph. 3: 14 ; 4: 6.
10. Thy kingdom come.
Looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. Tit. 2: 13.
The eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. 2 Pet. 1: 11.
The kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer. 2 Thess. 1: 5.
The Lord will save me unto His heavenly kingdom. 2 Tim. 4: 18.
The seventh angel sounded ; and there followed great voices in heaven, and they said, The kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ ; and He shall reign for ever and ever. Rev. 11: 15.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
Then said I , I am come . . . to do Thy will, O God. Heb. 10: 7.
We . . . do not cease to pray and to make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Col. 1: 9.
The God of peace . . . make you perfect in every good thing to do His will. Heb. 13: 20, 21.
As servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart (lit., soul). Eph. 6: 6.
11. Give us this day our daily bread.
He that spared not His Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? Rom. 8: 32.
My God shall fulfil every need of yours. Phil. 4: 29.
God is able to make all grace abound unto you ; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work. 2 Cor. 9: 8.
Having food and covering, in these we shall have enough. 1 Tim. 6: 8 (margin).
12. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
Forbearing one another, and forgiving each other, if any man have a complaint against any ; even as the Lord forgave you, so also do ye. Col. 3: 13.
13. And bring us not into temptation.
God id faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted (tried) above that ye are able ; but will with the temptation (trial) make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it. 1 Cor. 10: 3.
There was given to me a thorn in the flesh . . . Concerning this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He hath said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee ; for (My) power is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12: 7-9.
But deliver us from the evil one.
The Lord stood by me, and strengthened me . . . and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. The Lord will deliver me from every evil work. 2 Tim. 4: 17, 18.
The Lord is faithful, Who shall . . . guard you from the evil one. 2 Thess. 3: 3.
14. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.
15. But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, even as God also in Christ forgave you. Eph. 4: 32.
For judgment is without mercy to him that hath shewed no mercy : mercy glorieth against judgment. Jas. 2: 13.
16. Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance : for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face.
18. That thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thyt Father which is in secret : and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his heart, this man’s religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. Jas. 1: 26, 27.
Not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth. 2 Cor. 10, 18.
19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal.
20. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through nor steal.
21. For where thy treasure is there will thy heart be also.
Let your turn of mind (margin) be free from the love of money. Heb. 13: 5.
Laying up in store . . . a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on the life which is life indeed. 1 Tim. 6: 19.
For our citizenship is in heaven ; from whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil. 3: 20.
22. The lamp of the body is the eye : if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.
23. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is the darkness!
They . . . became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools. Rom. 1: 21, 22.
In the vanity of their mind, being darkened in their understanding. Eph. 1: 21, 22.
I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity and the purity that is toward Christ. 2 Cor. 11: 3.
24. No man can serve two masters : for either he will hate the one, and love the other ; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey? Rom. 6: 16.
Ye adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore would be a friend of the world maketh himself an enemy of God. Jas. 4: 4.
If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 1 John 2: 15.
If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. Gal. 1: 10.
25. Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink ; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment?
26. Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns ; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much more value than they?
27. And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto his stature?
28. And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin.
29. Yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31. Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32. For after all these things do the Gentiles seek ; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye need of all these things.
In nothing be anxious ; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God . . . and my God shall fulfil every need of yours according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4: 6, 19.
Be . . . content with such things as ye have : for Himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee. Heb. 13: 5.
Casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He careth for you. 1 Pet. 5: 7.
We brought nothing into the world, for neither can we carry anything out : but having food and covering, in these we shall have enough. 1 Tim. 6: 7, 8. (Margin).
33. But seek ye first His kingdom, and His righteousness ; and all these things shall be added unto you.
He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not also with Him freely give us all things? Rom. 8: 32.
As ye know how we dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you, and testifying, to the end that ye should walk worthily of God, who calleth [is calling you] into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thess. 2: 11, 12.
We are bound to give thanks to God alway for you, brethren, . . . for your patience and faith in all the persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure ; which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God : to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God. 2 Thess. 3, 4.
But ye are they which have continued with Me in my temptations [trials] : and I appoint unto you a kingdom, even as My Father appointed unto Me. Luke 22: 28, 29.
34. Be not therefore enxious for the morrow : for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Bo to now, ye that say, To-day or to-morrow we will go into this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain : whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Jas. 4: 13, 14.
MATTHEW CHAPTER 7
1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
2. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged : and with what measure ye mete, it shall me measured unto you.
Judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, Who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and make manifest the counsels of the hearts ; and then shall each man have his praise from God. 1 Cor. 4: 5.
Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth . . . Let us not therefore judge one another any more : but judge ye this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way. Rom. 14 : 4, 13.
3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye ; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye?
5. Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye ; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Brethren, even if a man be overtaken in any trespass, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of meekness ; looking to thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. Gal. 6: 1, 2.
6. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast your pearls before the swine, lest haply they trample them under their feet, and turn and rend you.
The mind if the flesh is enmity against God ; for it is not subject yo the law of God , neither indeed can it be. Rom. 8: 7.
Now the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God : for they are foolishness unto him ; and he cannot know them, because they are spiritually judged. 1 Cor. 2: 14.
7. Ask, and it shall be given you ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
8. For every one that asketh receiveth ; and he that seeketh findeth ; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9. Or what man is there of you, who, if his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone?
10. Of if he shall ask for a fich, will give him a serpent?
11. If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?
Praying at all seasons in the Spirit. Eph. 6: 18.
And whatsoever we ask, we receive of Him, because we keep His commandments, and do the things that are pleasing in His sight . . . this is the boldness which we have toward Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us : and if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions which we have asked of Him. 1 John 3: 22 ; 5: 14, 15.
Let him ask in faith, nothing doubting. Jas. 1: 6.
12. All things therefore whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, even so do ye also unto them : for this is the law and the prophets.
Owe no man anything, save to love one another : for he that loveth his neighbour hath fulfilled the law. Rom. 13: 8.
Ye, brethren, were called for freedom ; only use not your freedom for an occasion to the flesh, but through love be servants one to another. Gal. 5: 13.
13. Enter ye in by the narrow gate : for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many be they that enter in thereby.
Wherein aforetime ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience ; among whom we also all once lived in the lusts of the flesh, doing the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Eph. 2: 2, 3.
At the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven . . . rendering vengeance (lit. justice) to them that . . . obey not the gospel of the Lord Jesus : who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory from His might. 2 Thess. 1: 7-9.
Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch no unclean thing ; and I will receive you. 2 Cor. 6: 17.
14. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few be they that find it.
Through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. Acts 14: 22.
Ye behold your calling, brethren, how that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, have part therein. 1 Cor. 1: 26 (margin).
15. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves.
Grievous wolves shall enter in among you, not sparing the flock . . . wherefore watch ye. Acts 20: 29, 31.
Such men are false apostles of Christ. And no marvel ; for even Satan fashioneth himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also fashion themselves as ministers of righteousness. 2 Cor. 11: 13-15.
That we may be no longer children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, in craftiness, after the wiles of error. Eph. 4: 14.
In later times some shall fall away from the faith . . . through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies. 1 Tim. 4: 1, 2.
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God : because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 1 John 4: 1.
See also Col. 2: 8 ; 2 Pet. 2: 1-3.
16. By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17. Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit ; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a sorrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20. Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance. Gal. 5: 22, 23.
The fruit of the ligth is in all goodness and righteousness and truth. Eph. 5: 9.
Being filled with the fruit(s) of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. Phil. 1: 11.
Can a fig tree, my brethren, yield olives, or a vine figs? Neither can salt water yield sweet. Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him shew by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom . . . the wisdom that is from above . . . full of . . . good fruits. Jas. 3: 12-18.
21. Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ; but he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven.
22. Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by Thy name, and by Thy name do many mighty works?
23. And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you ; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.
He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 1 John 2: 4.
Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves . . . not a hearer that forgetteth, but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing . . . What doeth it profit . . . if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? Can that faith save him? . . . Faith, if it hath not works, is dead in itself . . . For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead. Jas. 1: 22, 25 ; 2: 17, 26.
The works of the flesh are manifest . . . They which practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5: 19, 21.
Let no man deceive you with empty words : for because of these things cometh the wrath of God on the sons of disobedience. Eph. 5: 6.
These are they who are hidden rocks in your love-feasts when they feast with you, shepherds that without fear feed themselves ; clouds without water, carried along by winds ; autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Jude 12, 13.
24. Every one therefore which heareth these words of mine, and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, which built his souse upon the rock.
25. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house ; and it fell not : for it was founded upon the rock.
26. And everyone that heareth these words of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand.
27. And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and smote upon that house ; and it fell ; and great was the fall thereof.
If any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble ; each man’s work shall be made manifest : for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire ; and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work, of what sort it is, If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss : but he himself shall be saved ; yet so as through fire. 1 Cor. 3: 12-15.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. Jude 20, 21.