The Characteristic Virtues Needed for Subjects of the Kingdom
- Earnestness and Confidence in Prayer (7:7-11)
- Consistency in Display of Love to Others (the “Golden Rule”) (7:12)
- Energy and Reality are Required by God (7:13-14)
- Discernment of False Prophets (7:15-20)
- Discernment of False Disciples (7:21-23)
- The Wise and Foolish: Wisdom of Practical Obedience (7:24-27)
- Conclusion: Response of the Multitudes (7:28-29)
Earnestness and Confidence in Prayer (7:7-11)
¶ 7 Ask, and it shall be given to you. Seek, and ye shall find. Knock, and it shall be opened to you. v.7 The disciple of Christ ought to be characterized by earnestness in the things of God. Very often there is too much casualness in spiritual things. It is critical to speak with God in prayer, and to do so in earnest, for our material and spiritual needs. God will answer.
8 For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened. v.8 Notice the increasing measures of earnestness in pleading with God: asking, then seeking, then knocking. To receive we must draw near to God… He wants to hear our heart speaking; asking, seeking, knocking. A response from our Father is certain… “it shall be opened”.
9 Or what man is there of you who, if his son shall ask of him a loaf of bread, will give him a stone; 10 and if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If therefore “ye”, being wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much rather shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to them that ask of him? vv.9-11 Next we have an argument to encourage our confidence in God’s desire to bless. Even natural fathers having natural affection for their children are willing to provide for their children’s needs when they earnestly ask. Notice a few things:
- Necessary things. First of all, notice that the man’s son is asking for necessary things; bread, or a fish. If we pray for frivolous things, we can’t expect it to be given, because it isn’t a prayer according to God’s will (1 John 5:14), or we may be asking amiss (James 4:3).
- Good gifts. The man doesn’t reward his own child with a worthless gift (a stone) or a harmful gift (a serpent). Neither will God, if we ask in faith. We can have confidence in prayer because God’s heart is good.
If natural men, being “evil” in comparison with the goodness of God, are willing to reward ernest requests with good gifts, how much more confident should a believer be to ask our Father for good things.
"Good things" in Matthew vs. the "Holy Spirit" in Luke. The same instruction is given in Matthew and Luke, with slight differences. In Matthew, the Lord says "how much rather shall your Father who is in the heavens give good things to them that ask of him?" In Luke He says, "how much rather shall the Father who is of heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Why the difference? In the Old Testament, those of faith were looking for the Holy Spirit to be given, as the characteristic of the power of God for the blessing of man (compare Joel 2:28 with Gal. 3:14). The Millennial day will be characterized by the Spirit being poured out for the blessing of the earth. It was right and proper for Old Testament saints (even the Lord’s disciples before Pentecost) to pray for the Spirit, because it had not been sent yet (John 7:39). But now that Jesus has been glorified and the Spirit has been sent, we have "received the promise of the Spirit through faith" (Gal. 3:14). It would not be intelligent for a Christian to pray for the giving or even the indwelling of the Spirit. However, it would be right to pray for more of the Spirit's working in us, and more of the Spirit's filling in our lives (Eph. 5:18). The prayer in Matthew 7 is a modified version of the prayer in Luke 11. It is "good gifts" in Matthew, the Jewish Gospel. But in Luke, which is addressed to the broader audience of Gentiles, the "best gift" is specified, the solution to the broader needs of the world; i.e. the Holy Spirit, which was about to be given.
Consistency in Display of Love to Others (the “Golden Rule”) (7:12)
12 Therefore all things whatever ye desire that men should do to you, thus do “ye” also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets. v.12 “Therefore”, knowing the Father’s fixed disposition of love, the Lord demands of His disciples a standard that is exceeding broad so as to encompass the whole “law and the prophets”. Love is really the fulfillment of the law; “for the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself'” (Gal. 5:14, quote Lev. 19:18, see Matt. 22:35-40). This exhortation has been called “the Golden Rule”. In context, it means that we are to treat others with love regardless of the harm they’ve caused us (as children of our Father), just as we would want them to treat us, repaying evil with good.
Energy and Reality are Required by God (7:13-14)
¶ 13 Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and many are they who enter in through it. 14 For narrow the gate and straitened the way that leads to life, and they are few who find it. vv.13-14 In these verses the Lord is evidently speaking beyond His disciples to the crowd.1 Recall that the Sermon on the Mount was not all given on one occasion. The Lord speaks of two gates and ways, which represent two paths which we can travel during the time when the King is absent:
- The broad way. This gate is “wide”, which admits subjects that have no faith in Christ, either by mere profession, or by baptism. Also, the way is “broad”, meaning it has no need to endure hardness, or exercise self-judgment. Finally, the end is “destruction”, because the angels will separate the tares from the wheat, and deliver them to destruction in the harvest judgment. Sadly, there are “many” that follow it.
- The straight way. This gate is “narrow”, meaning God has one way of entrance to the kingdom, which is through receiving the good seed by faith (Acts 4:12). The way is “straight”, meaning self-judgment and repentance are required. The end is “life” in the kingdom of our Father (the heavenly compartment of the Millennial kingdom). But there are only “few that find it”.
Discernment of False Prophets (7:15-20)
¶ 15 But beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravening wolves. v.15 Another thing that should characterize the disciples of the kingdom is discernment about false prophets. They are likened to “ravening wolves” who come “in sheep’s clothing”. Outwardly they appear harmless, and even to belong among God’s people. But inwardly their desire is to scatter and kill the flock (John 10). There is a moral connection between the “broad road” and the false prophets. When the door is opened wide, it is easy for the wolves to come in.
16 By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather a bunch of grapes from thorns, or from thistles figs? v.16 There is one thing men cannot completely disguise… their fruits. Where grace has worked, a man’s fruits will bear the impress of God’s nature. An apple obviously comes from an apple tree. On the other hand, men do not expect to gather grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles.
17 So every good tree produces good fruits, but the worthless tree produces bad fruits. v.17 Fruits are the outward display of the inward character. Wherever grace has truly worked in the heart of a believer, their fruits will match the character of God. As to light or holiness, a person will have a great care in what concerns God. As to love, a person will display great tenderness, forbearance, and longsuffering toward others.
18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruits, nor a worthless tree produce good fruits. v.18 It is a moral impossibility for a false prophet to produce good fruit. They may do good works outwardly, but it will lack reality. Their holiness will be hollow, or perhaps legal. Their love will be partial and merely human.
19 Every tree not producing good fruit is cut down and cast into the fire. v.19 God will deal with false teachers the way a farmer deals with a bad tree. God will do this beginning at the harvest judgment, and concluding with the great white throne. We need to be careful not to try to root out the tares ourselves (Matt. 13:28), but we do need to judge the prophets, and judge those who are “within” (1 Cor. 5:13).
20 By their fruits then surely ye shall know them. v.20 In conclusion, we have something concrete by which we can discern false prophets. Fruit reveals the character of the life that produces it. The false prophet has a false life, which must reveal itself in false fruit.
Discernment of False Disciples (7:21-23)
¶ 21 Not every one who says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but he that does the will of my Father who is in the heavens. v.21 Having dealt specifically with false prophets, now the Lord speaks of false disciples. There are many false disciples who loudly profess allegiance to the Lord, but the vital link of faith is lacking. Faith, as James tells us, will always manifest itself in works. One that is truly under the Lordship of Christ will do the will of the Father in heaven.
22 Many shall say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied through “thy” name, and through “thy” name cast out demons, and through “thy” name done many works of power? 23 and then will I avow unto them, I never knew you. “Depart from me, workers of lawlessness.” [Psalm 6:8] v.22 The professions of men in the kingdom of heaven on earth will be examined by the King Himself. Emphatic professions (“Lord, Lord”) and showy displays of power (“have we not…?”) mean nothing to Christ where there is neither faith nor submission to the will of the Father. To be a child of God, as born of Him, requires the vital work of God’s Spirit. God knows His children (and Christ knows all His sheep, John 10:27) personally. The eternal alternative is separation from God, the second death. This verse has been used by some to deny eternal security, but in fact it confirms it. Notice that the King will say “I never knew you”. None of these false disciples were ever known by the Lord.
The Wise and Foolish: Wisdom of Practical Obedience (7:24-27)
¶ 24 Whoever therefore hears these my words and does them, I will liken him to a prudent man, who built his house upon the rock; 25 and the rain came down, and the streams came, and the winds blew and fell upon that house, and it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. vv.24-25 The Wise Man. In a world characterized by political change, unfulfilled hopes, and broken promises, the Word of God is something solid that we possess. If we choose to build our life upon it, we lay a solid foundation that will last for eternity. This is what the “wise man” does. If we build our life on the Word of God, when the trials of life come we will find that our faith is strong, and we can weather the trial. It is because of some internal strength? No. It is because we have founded our life on the principle of obedience to the Word of God. (Compare)
26 And every one who hears these my words and does not do them, he shall be likened to a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand; 27 and the rain came down, and the streams came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell, and its fall was great. vv.26-27 The Foolish Man. To hear the Word of God, and to choose to disobey for whatever reason, is abject foolishness. We might think we know better, or that the Word of God is outdated, but it makes no difference. To disobey is to build on a poor and shifting foundation. There is nothing in the flesh, in the world, or in the Devil worthy of our trust. When the trials of life come, false foundations begin to erode, and finally our life can end in shipwreck. “How great is the fall” of a person who professed to believe that the Bible was the Word of God, and consistently refused to obey in favor of a human foundation. Some of these may have a saved soul, but a lost life (2 Tim. 1:19).
Conclusion: Response of the Multitudes (7:28-29)
¶ 28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were astonished at his doctrine, 29 for he taught them as having authority, and not as their scribes. vv.28-29 Although the sermon began by the Lord speaking to His immediate disciples, now we find that the crowds had drawn near to listen. Remember that the sermon is a collection of speeches given at various times. Here, at the conclusion, they are amazed at the profundity of His teaching. Ordinarily the scribes based everything they taught on the authority of notable rabbis who had preceded them. But Jesus spoke directly as giving the final word on every subject He set forth, which astonished them.