Generally speaking the Sermon on the Mount covers three distinct areas of the believers life.
(1) In chapter 5 we have the believers relation to the world.
(2) In chapter 6 we have the believers relation towards God.
(3) In chapter 7 we have the believers relation towards his fellow believers.
Campbell Morgan calls chapter 7 “a summary of principles of action.”
This chapter opens by forbidding hypocritical judgment of others. There seems to be a connection between the opening salvos and the Lord’s provocative teaching about earthly riches. The poor may have been critical and censorious of the rich. Conversely, the rich may have been wrongly judging the poor.
Verse 1, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”
There are some areas of the Christian life where it is improper to judge another.
(1) We should not judge another’s motives. Only God can read them.
(2) We should not judge outward appearances, John 7:24.
(3) We should not judge those with conscientious scruples, Rom 4:3-13.
(4) We should not judge the service of another Christian, 1 Cor 4:1-5.
We must avoid the sin of continually finding fault - being harsh - critical - censorious. When we are tempted to judge any of these things, we should remember Rom 14:10. But why dost thou judge thy brother? For we as well as he will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
While the foregoing may be true there are areas in which Christians are commanded to judge.
(1) When disputes arise between believers, they should be judged and settled in the church and not in the civil court, 1 Cor 6:1-8.
(2) The local church is required to judge certain sins and ex-communicate the guilty person, 1 Cor 5:9-13.
(3) Believers must judge the spirits - preachers, doctrine and teachers - to see if they are of God, see 1 John 4:1; Matt 7:15-20.
(4) In respect of recognition of elders and deacons, those in the local church must judge their qualifications, 1 Timothy 3.
(5) In the case of matrimony we must judge whether people are born again, 2 Cor 6:4.
When the Lord Jesus said, “Judge not lest ye be judged” He did not mean for us to abandon Scriptural forms of judgment. When these judgments take place, the charges must be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses, Matt 18:16. Furthermore, only the spiritual person should stand in judgment over others, Galatians 6:1.
Verse 2, unjust judgment is like a boomerang.
“What we sow, that shall we reap.” Gal 6. The principle of reaping what we sow is woven into our life and affairs.
(1) In Mark 4:24 the principle is applied to our appropriation of the Word.
(2) In Luke 6:38 the principle is applied to our giving.
Verse 3-5, these verses teach us that before we dare judge, or criticize another, we should make certain that we have remedied our own faults.
Verse 6, a clear cut case of divine authorization of judgment. Under the Mosaic Law dogs and swine were unclean animals. In this context they represent unscrupulous and wicked men.
While we are obligated to share the Gospel with all men, there are times, when we must make a judgment not to share the message with some of them any more, because of their utter contempt of Christ and His claims. To press the Gospel on such brings needless harm to ourselves and increased condemnation to the offenders.
The Lord says that these contemptuous men “trample the truth under their feet.” The writer to the Hebrews says: “They tread the Son of God underfoot. They count the blood of Christ an unholy thing. They insult the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of grace.”
In verse 7 we have degrees of earnestness in prayer. In verse 8 we have the corresponding blessings resulting from our earnestness.
Asking can be done walking, sitting or lying down.
Seeking suggests effort, expended energy and going forth.
Knocking brings the praying one right to God’s door.
Keeping these verses in strict context they mean, that those who would wish to exhibit the spirit and supernatural qualities of the Sermon on the Mount, they may do so by asking, by seeking and by knocking.
According to verse 8 this is a prayer that without doubt, shall be answered.
Those that ask receive;
Those that seek find;
Those that knock on the door it shall be opened to them.
This confidence and assurance is based on the character of God our Father.
Verses 9-11: On the human level, we know that if a father is asked by his son for bread, he will not give him a stone. No earthly father would give his child a serpent if he were asked for fish.
It is unthinkable that an earthly father would deceive or cause pain to his son. So then, “how much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask Him.”
In the parallel passage in Luke 11:13 Jesus said, “how much more will our Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those that ask Him.”
In one sense, this promise was fulfilled at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. All believers are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
But there is a sense in which we need to pray for the fullness and power of the Spirit, to live with Christ, to live like Christ, to live for Christ.
These verses are taken out of context by many and used to infer that they will get anything they ask. They assume that this is a blank check. This is far from the truth. They must be understood in the light of all the other verses in the Bible dealing with prayer.
(1) The person praying must have no unconfessed sin in his life, Psalm 66:18.
(2) He must pray in faith, James 1:6-8; Heb 11:6. “Without faith it is impossible.”
(3) He must pray according to the will of God, 1 John 5:14-15; James 5.
(4) He must pray sincerely, Heb 10:22.
(5) He must persevere in prayer, Luke 11:5-10 and 18:1-8. Andrew Born.
(6) All prayer must be for glory of God, John 14:13-14. “That the Father in heaven be glorified.”
Finally, before John 15:7 can become a reality: “Ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” Certain conditions have to be fulfilled.
There is the purging or the cleansing of verse 2.
There is the obedience of verse 10.
There is the abiding of verse 4.
When these conditions are met we can expect answers from heaven.
Verse 12. The Golden Rule.
“Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” This is probably one of the most life transforming verses in the Bible. If it were obeyed worldwide, there would be an immediate lessening of international tension. Husbands and wives would be reunited. Parents and children would live happily together. Church differences would be settled and would cease to exist.
In the immediate context the meaning seems to be: Our Father is the Giver of good things to others. The Lord says that in living the “Golden Rule” we express the moral teachings of the law and the prophets.
Love is the greatest of all forces. Example - God’s love, Eph 4:32. In the human realm it is equally powerful.
The Lord said that if we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and if we love our neighbor as ourselves, we keep the two greatest commandments. Paul says that we fulfill the law, Gal 5:14, Matt 5:44.
Verses 13-14 Two Ways Contrasted
In verses 13-14 where we have two ways contrasted. I would like to consider them first in their interpretation and, secondly, in their application.
The gate of Christian discipleship
In presenting His challenge of discipleship the Lord says that the gate of true discipleship is narrow, and the way is hard, Matt 10:38-39. But those who abandon the self-life and faithfully follow the Lord’s teachings find the “abundant life” verse14. Isaiah - The Lord - Paul - 1 John 10; John 7; Psalm 1.
The wide gate and the easy way - the effortless way - the selfish way - the flesh gratifying way - the way of pleasure - lukewarm way. The end of such a life leads to spiritual disaster. Matt 10:33.
Explain the difference between being a believer and a disciple, or follower. In the matter of discipleship the above is very true, Matt 10:37. There are only a few who enter the narrow gate of discipleship in deepest consecration and self-denial, Rom 12:1-2. While on the other hand, the many or the majority, drift through the broad gate into a life of comfort and self-pleasing.
The challenge to us is, What gate have you entered through? On which way are you traveling?
Gospel application - the two roads and the two destinies of the human race. The wide gate and the broad road leads to the eternal abyss of hell. Many find this gate and many travel this broad road, with its pleasures, to destruction. The narrow gate and the narrow way which leads to heaven. Relatively few find the narrow gate and walk the narrow way.
Verses 15-20, False and True teachers
Wherever a clear and challenging presentation of true discipleship is made, there will always be those who advocate the wide gate and the easy way. They dilute the claims of Christ-they water down the demands of the Word. Outwardly, these false teachers appear real, but beneath the façade there is a wolf’s nature. This is their true Personality - their purpose is to lead believers astray - their prey is the weak, immature and unstable.
Verse 16 Watch such closely. They will show their real character, in that they bear no fruit. Thorns and thistles they are, reminding us of God’s curse upon the earth. They cannot bear grapes and figs - good food for man’s nourishment.
Good trees bring forth good fruit - corrupt trees corrupt fruit.
Verse 20, The life and teaching of those who claim to be the mouthpiece of God should be tested by the Word of God. “To the law and the testimony” says Isa 8:20. Thus “by their fruits you shall know them.”
Verses 21-23, False professors
These are searching verses - they should drive us to our knees. It is not enough to acknowledge Jesus as Lord with our lips. Mere profession is not enough. “Not everyone that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven” --- the true kingdom.
Professors are in the kingdom, as man sees it. Professing kingdom.
Only those who acknowledge Christ as Savior and Lord, and who do God’s will are in the true kingdom --- which is the Church, verse 21.
Verse 22 raises an interesting thought: In the day of judgment many professors will plead, that in the name of Jesus, they have prophesied - cast out demons - and performed miracles.
Their pleading or protestations will be in vain. “I never knew you; depart from Me ye workers of iniquity.”
We learn from this verse that not all miracles are from God. Not all miracle-workers are God’s children. A miracle is a supernatural power at work. Judas; Ten Virgins. That power can be divine or satanic.
Verses 24-27, The wise and foolish builders The Lord Jesus closes His Sermon with a parable that drives home the importance of obedience. We must not only be hearers of the Word, but doers.
The wise man - describe how he built his house; it stood the test, because it was built on a rock. The rock is the teaching of Christ in the Sermon. He who hears these teachings and practices them, in his life, is the wise man. Because, when trouble and testings come from every direction he is able to stand, because he is firmly grounded in the Word.
The foolish man, on the other hand, is the one who hears the Word, but does not obey or practice it. When the storms of adversity come and the severe stresses of life avail, he collapses. His life is wasted; His testimony ruined, because he had built on sand instead of the rock.
Note at this point God’s standards:
Those who live by the principles of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus calls him a wise man.
Those who do not live by these principles, but live for themselves, Jesus calls them foolish.
There is also a very fine Gospel application in these verses.
Verses 28-29, The effect of the sermon on those who heard it.
“The people were astonished at His teaching.”
Frankly, I am also astonished at the contents of this address of our Lord. If lived out in our lives, its revolutionary character would amaze us.
To those who heard this address it was different. It was not like the usual, boring and powerless talks of the scribes. It was different in that the Lord stood before them as having divine authority as the Expounder and Judge of such profound truths.
“What manner of man is this?” On a subsequent occasion the people said, “Never a man spoke like this man.”
Beloved, Jesus did not speak from human authorities as did the scribes. He spoke with all the authority of heaven and as the Son of God. He has spoken to us here. We cannot lightly dismiss this sermon, for it came from God. We must either bow before Him and submit to His authority, or stand condemned in the blaze of His glory.
“And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings.”
There are five groups of sayings, or bodies of teaching, in this Gospel. Each is concluded by similar words to those that close this Sermon. In each section He is portrayed in a unique character.