Today we are looking at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “How to Walk Circumspectly” from Matthew 7:13–27. That is not a word we often use but it does describe very well the topic for today. Circumspectly is defined this way: 1. watchful and discreet; cautious; prudent: circumspect behavior; 2. well-considered: circumspect ambition.
Here are the commands that we find in the gospels: Matthew 4:17 – repent, Matthew 7:13 – enter, Matthew 7:15 – beware, Matthew 11:28 – come, Mark 1:15 – repent, believe, John 6:27 – do not work, John 12:35 – walk, John 12:36 – believe.
It is also illustrated in the book of acts: Acts 9:2, 16:17, John 14:6, Acts 19:9, 23, 22:4, 24:14, 22.
It is also amplified in the epistles: Romans 1:1–5:21, 2 Corinthians 13:5, Ephesians 2:1–10.
1. How do we know that the multitude joined the disciples when he gave this command? (Matthew 5:1, 16, 45).
2. What is significant about the command to “enter by the narrow gate” in Matthew 7:13?
3. Why do so “few” enter by the narrow gate? (Matthew 7:13, Luke 13:23–24)
4. What is similar about the narrow and wide gates? What is the difference between them? (Matthew 7:13, 14)
5. How can we determine that someone has entered through the narrow gate? (Matthew 7:13, 14)
6. The destiny of those who choose to broad way is destruction. Does destruction mean existence or annihilation? (Matthew 7:13, 18:8, 25:41, 46, 2 Thessalonians 1:9)
7. Why does Jesus warn his audience concerning false teachers? (Matthew 7:15)
8. What did Jesus say what the criteria for judging between true and false prophets? (Matthew 7:16–20)
9. How does Jesus’ message compare to John the Baptist’ message? (Matthew 7:19, 3:10)
10. What kind of fruit was John the Baptist looking for? (Matthew 3:8, Luke 3:8–14)
11. Is the profession of faith “Lord, Lord,” adequate enough to secure a place in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 7:21, Romans 10:13)
12. Is your assurance of salvation based on a past act or present obedience? (Matthew 7:21)
13. What is a possible explanation for the claims of false believers in Matthew 7:22?
14. Who are the “many” that will face “that day” of divine judgment? (Matthew 7:13, 22)
15. What does it mean when Jesus said, “I never knew you?” (Matthew 7:23, Galatians 4:8, 9)
16. What is the only difference between the construction of the two houses? (Matthew 7:24–27)
17. What does the sand in Matthew 7:26 represent?
18. What does the storm in Matthew 7:25, 27 represent?
19. Who does Jesus rebuke through the story of the two builders? Why? (Luke 6:46–49)
20. Why did the multitudes respond with astonishment to Jesus’ message? (Matthew 7:28, 29)
- Two gates, two roads, two destinations (Matthew 7:13, 14)
- Two kinds of fruit (Matthew 7:15–20)
- Two types of professions (Matthew 7:21–23)
- Two foundations (Matthew 7:24–27)
Summation: This whole sermon on the mount is summed up in Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Entrance into the kingdom is dependent upon righteousness. How righteous do you need to be? Jesus said in Matthew 5:20 that you need to be more righteous than that of the scribes and Pharisees.
From a human perspective, the Pharisees were very righteous, but Christ commands a righteousness that exceeds theirs. In fact, our Lord requires a righteousness that is beyond man’s capacity to attain. It is a righteous does that can only come from the holy God. (Philippians 3:9, Luke 18:9–14).
This will leave man with two options: either they invent their own religion, or they live God’s way. They must decide whether to try to get to heaven on their own terms, or come to heaven on God’s terms. Think about taking out a bank loan, it’s always on their terms.
In the Land Before Time movie, several little dinosaurs are making their way to the Big Valley, a place of peace, old friends and family, food, and free from meat eating dinosaurs (somewhat representing heaven). The road is long and hard but the one called Cera wants to take a different, less strenuous route, with the objection, “but you’re going the wrong way.” One tiny friend named Ducky makes a great observation, “Cera’s way is easier.”
Jesus said the broad gate leads to the broad way and destruction. It is the way of easy religion and human righteousness. The scribes, Pharisees, and other people who think they are good enough to get into heaven travel that road. On the other hand, the narrow gate that precedes the narrow way leads to life. That is where people with broken hearts and contrite spirits go. They know they can’t keep God’s standards and be perfect like him. They cast themselves on the mercy of Christ, who gives them his own righteousness.
These two gates represent two ways of salvation. All the religions of the world walk through one of these two gates. Man’s way of salvation focuses on “human achievement” (self righteousness). It is a DO system. This approach is man’s attempt for his good things to outweigh the bad things he does in this life. God’s way of salvation focuses on “divine accomplishment” (Christ righteousness), it’s a DONE system. The Bible teaches there is nothing that we can do to get saved it, it’s already been done through the finished work of Christ on the cross at Calvary.
The Narrow or Small Gate: Matthew 7:13a, 14 “enter through the narrow gate, … for the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are a few who find it.”
The word “find” is important: it tells us that we have to search for the narrow gate. It requires effort. Jeremiah 29:13 says, you will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart. No one stumbles into the kingdom of God inadvertently. You have to search for it. (Matthew 7:13a, 7:14, John 14:6, 1 Timothy 2:5-6, Acts 4:12, 16:17, Luke 13:24).
The word strive is the Greek word “agonizomai” which means “to agonize.” It is difficult to come to God on his terms. You must recognize your inability to be righteous enough to please God, which means getting rid of your pride. This requires acknowledging that we have lost our way, confession, and repentance from sin. There must be a childlike humility, trust, and dependence on God alone to to rescue or save us from the penalty of our sin. This means placing no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).
The Wide Gate: Matthew 7:13b, “but the gate is wide and the way his broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”
The Narrow Way: Matthew 7:14, “for the gate is small and the way his narrow that leads to life, and there are a few who find it.”
In 2 Timothy 3:16, we read that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” This illustration helps us to understand what these four points really mean.
The early church was called The Way because it taught that Jesus Christ was the only way to heaven and obedience to his commands was the only way to live here on earth. Acts 19:9 is a good example.
- But when some were becoming hardened and disobedient, speaking evil of the Way before the people, he withdrew from them and took away the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. (Acts 19:9)
- But this I admit to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect I do serve the God of our fathers, believing everything that is in accordance with the Law and what is written in the Prophets. (Acts 24:14)
The Broad Way: “for the gate is wide and the way his broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13b)
Two Destinations: “for the gate is small and the way his narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” (Matthew 7:14). “For the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it (Matthew 7:13b). The word here for destruction really means “the absence of well-being,” never annihilation.
Two Kinds of Fruit: Jesus said that false prophets add to the difficulty of entering the narrow gate. They stand at the crossroads, trying to push people toward the broad road. They try to divert people for Satan’s purposes. False prophets tell people that they can go to heaven with all their sin and all their selfishness. Read Matthew 7:15-20.
In this passage, Jesus says, as you strive to enter that narrow gate, beware of those who try to mislead you. The Bible warns us repeatedly about false prophets… (Deuteronomy 13:1–5, Isaiah 30:9–10, Jeremiah 5:1, 14:14, 23:14–16, 23:21, 28, Zechariah 11:16-17, Matthew 24:11, 24, Romans 16:17–18, 2 Corinthians 11:26, 1 Timothy 4:1–2, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1).
The command “beware” in Matthew 7:15, should be enough to let us know that false prophets are dangerous. Whenever I see the word “beware” on a sign, I stop. I don’t want to run into a huge dog. I want to be careful not to get electrocuted. Beware is a strong word, the Greek word for it means “hold your mind away from.” Don’t ever expose your mind to the influence of false prophets. Don’t pay attention to them, they pervert the mind and poison the soul.
The worst enemy of sheep is a wolf. Hired laborers just run away, but wolves eat the sheep. The good shepherd protects his flock, a hired laborer abandons the flock that is entrusted to him, but the false prophet destroys sheep. They are ravenous wolves. The verb form of the Greek word for ravening in Matthew 7:15, literally means “to snatch or to seize.”
In the Old Testament, and in the case of John the Baptist in the New Testament, a prophet was known by what he wore. Elijah wore a rough, hairy, burlap garment (2 Kings 1:8). That was a statement to society that he was giving up personal comforts for the Lord’s cause. John the Baptist lived in the wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, and and wore a rough camel hair coat. Camel hair products today or not the same that they used to be; they were very uncomfortable. He wore the clothing of a prophet. God’s prophets had no worldly goods and did not wear worldly clothes. They looked as if they had come in from the wilderness, where they communed with God.
False prophets know about the proper clothing. Zechariah 13:4 even says that a false prophet will “wear a rough garment to deceive.”
When Jesus said that a false prophet wore sheep’s clothing, he wasn’t talking about a person crawling on his hands and knees wearing a sheepskin and a sheepshead. Most shepherds wore cloaks made from sheep’s wool, which is the mark of a shepherd. He needed a warm cloak because it Israel the evenings are cold. So when Jesus spoke of false prophets in sheep clothing, he was talking about people dressed like a shepherd. Sheep clothing is another term for wool. Just as a false prophet would wear the clothing of a prophet, a false shepherd wears the clothing of a shepherd. Jesus wasn’t talking about a sheep’s disguise. He was talking about a shepherd’s disguise. A false shepherd looks like a shepherd, but he is really a wolf.
There was an old proverb that says, “like root, like fruit.” The Jews, Greeks, and Romans all said that a tree is judged by its fruit. If you want to know whether a prophet is true or false, look at what he produces. What is the fruit of his character, conduct, creed, and converts? Be careful: just because a person is associated with Christians doesn’t mean that he can’t to be a false prophet (Acts 20:29-31).
Keep in mind that the Lord was not speaking to irreligious people, but to people who were obsessed with religious activity. They were apostates, heretics, or atheists; they weren’t anti-God. The people Christ spoke to were religious, but they were damned because they were self-deluded and on the wrong road. A false prophet could’ve caused their delusion, or they have delude themselves. Using Paul’s words, they were people that had held “to a form of godliness, although they have denied it’s power” (2 Timothy 3:5). Remember that there are many who enter through the wide gate (Matthew 7:21-23).
Self Deception: JC Ryle, a 19th century English Pastor, wrote,” the Lord Jesus winds up the sermon on the mount by a passage of heart piercing application. He turns from false prophets to false professors, the unsound teachers to unsound hearers.” it is not only false teachers who make the narrow way difficult to find and still harder to walk. A man may also be grievously self deceived.
Some people think they are saved because they go to church, hear sermons, sing songs, read the Bible, and go to a Bible study or class. They are completely involved in religious activity, but that’s a great illusion. There are many people in the church who are not saved. They are tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:24–30).
Dr. Elton Trueblood, a protestant philosopher of religion, said, “our main mission field today, as far as America is concerned, is within the church membership itself.” Theologian Karl Barth, who wasn’t evangelical but is recognized as a major theologian in modern times, said, “the true function of the church consists first of all in its own regeneration.” The church is full of people who say empty words. They say they are Christians, but don’t do God’s will. Romans 10:9 says, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Confession is necessary, but confession without obedience is a sham.
In the 1990s, researcher George Barna startled the church with what he termed, “one of the rudest awakenings I have ever received in my uppers to help the churches grow.” He said, “half of all the adults who attended Protestant churches on a typical Sunday morning or not Christian. Churches are filled with individuals who by reason of tradition, misinformation, demonic deception, or something else have never come to a Grace-based relationship with Jesus Christ. They are lost in church.” For more check out www.lostinchurch.com.
- Titus 1:16 says, “they profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
- Luke 6:46 says, “why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?”
The word “Lord” is Kurios, it is used for the name Jehovah in the Septuagint. In it, the people are staying, “We know you are God. We except all of your divinty involving the virgin birth, miraculous life, substitutionary death, powerful resurrection, intercession, and second coming.” These people use the right terms and appear to have the right attitudes.
Since they use the term, Lord, Lord twice, this indicates there fervency. If the judgment spoken of here in Matthew 7 refers to the great white throne judgment, then those people will have already spent centuries in a place of punishment. That will add to their fervency. They will say, “Lord, why are we being punished?”
These people will get a terrible shock. You say, “you mean God won’t know who those people are?” No, God knows everything. We are not talking about an awareness of who someone is. In the Bible the word “know” is often used to speak of an intimate relationship (Galatians 4:8-9).
Why does God ask them to depart from him? According to the end of Matthew 7:23, they were those who practice lawlessness. In other words, instead of doing the will of the Father, those people continually acted lawlessly. It isn’t what you SAY that get you into the kingdom, it is what you DO with your faith. A profession of Christ is worthless if it isn’t backed up by your life. In a sense, Peter said that if you can’t add virtue to your faith, then you aren’t really redeemed (2 Peter 1:5–10). James said, “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17).
But They Did Great Works: But wait a minute, these people who made those claims “preached, cast out demons, and they did mighty works.” Here are three alternates.
1. It is possible that they did this by God’s power, God sometimes works through unbelievers, for example Numbers 23:5 and 2 Peter 2:15 (Balaam) or 1 Samuel 10:10 (Saul) or John 11:51-52 (Caiaphas).
2. They may have done these things by Satan’s power. It is possible that self-deluded people did their preaching, exorcism, and wonderful works under the power of the enemy, who can express his power. Do you remember what he did to Job? He brought death, destruction, and disease.
- God allowed the witch of Endor to conjure an evil spirit impersonating Samuel (1 Samuel 28:7–12).
- According to Acts 19:13-14, the sons of Sceva cast out demons.
- Jesus even acknowledge that some Jewish people had probably cast out demons when he said, “if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cash them out?” (Matthew 12:27).
- There are false prophets that would prophesy signs and wonders that really did happen, (Deuteronomy 13).
- Jesus said that false prophets would do signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24). The antichrist will even do them (2 Thessalonians 2:8–10).
3. They may have faked what they did. Some of what appears to be wonderful works can be just fakery. In Exodus 7 and 8, the magicians of Egypt who tried to copy Moses miracles were just doing tricks.
According to Matthew 7:24–27, “Anyone who hears these words of mine and ask on them.” This is the one who obeys his commands and does his will. (Also Luke 6:46-49).
Those who say they are Christians or hear what God says won’t necessarily go to heaven but rather those who live a life of obedience. Jesus is not talking about the perfection of a persons life but rather it’s overall direction. The fruit of obedience is the evidence that a person is truly saved.
By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3). But he answered and said to them, my mother and brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21).
Salvation is established by a past act, but verified by present to obedience. People are often told because they said the right prayer and sign the card, they don’t have to worry about whether not they are saved. They are fooled into thinking they are saved when in reality the Spirit of God never was involved and their lives never changed. Don’t tell a person, “I know you are saved because you did the right thing. Don’t ever doubt your salvation.” There is no way you can know if a person really came to know Christ. Don’t risk giving that person false assurance. Some people are deceived because they never examined their lives Second Corinthians 13:5 says, “test yourself to see if you are in the faith, examine yourselves.”
Lost in Church:
How would your approach to evangelism be different if you knew that up to one half of the people attending your church were not Christians? (Barna, Bill Bright, North American Mission Board) Many of these type Christians do not know whether they will experience eternal life, eternal damnation, or some other outcome.
Research says that many who attend Protestant churches have been anesthetized to the Gospel. Many have mentally excepted correct beliefs but have “lived without a shred of insight into what a relationship with Jesus Christ is all about.” Many refer to this as reaching the 7:21 window.
Paths to Salvation:
1. Works = Justification (building your own bridge)
Question: “Why is salvation by works the predominantly held viewpoint? Why do so many people believe that we can be saved by works?” (gotquestions.org)
Answer: The simple answer is that salvation by works seems right in the eyes of man. One of man’s basic desires is to be in control of his own destiny, and that includes his eternal destiny. Salvation by works appeals to man’s pride and his desire to be in control. Being saved by works appeals to that desire far more than the idea of being saved by faith alone. Also, man has an inherent sense of justice. Even the most ardent atheist believes in some type of justice and has a sense of right and wrong, even if he has no moral basis for making such judgments. Our inherent sense of right and wrong demands that if we are to be saved, our “good works” must outweigh our “bad works.” Therefore, it is natural that when man creates a religion it would involve some type of salvation by works.
Because salvation by works appeals to man’s sinful nature, it forms the basis of almost every religion except for biblical Christianity. Proverbs 14:12tells us that “there is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” Salvation by works seems right to men, which is why it is the predominantly held viewpoint. That is exactly why biblical Christianity is so different from all other religions—it is the only religion that teaches salvation is a gift of God and not of works. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).
Another reason why salvation by works is the predominantly held viewpoint is that natural or unregenerate man does not fully understand the extent of his own sinfulness or of God’s holiness. Man’s heart is “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and God is infinitely holy (Isaiah 6:3). The deceit of our hearts is the very thing that colors our perception of the extent of that deceit and is what prevents us from seeing our true state before a God whose holiness we are also not able to fully comprehend. But the truth remains that our sinfulness and God’s holiness combine together to make our best efforts as “filthy rags” before a holy God (Isaiah 64:6; cf. 6:1–5).
The thought that man’s good works could ever balance out his bad works is a totally unbiblical concept. Not only that, but the Bible also teaches that God’s standard is nothing less than 100 percent perfection. If we stumble in keeping just one part of God’s righteous law, we are as guilty as if we had broken all of it (James 2:10). Therefore, there is no way we could ever be saved if salvation truly were dependent on works.
Another reason that salvation by works can creep into denominations that claim to be Christian or say they believe in the Bible is that they misunderstand passages like James 2:24: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.” Taken in the context of the entire passage (James 2:14–26), it becomes evident that James is not saying our works make us righteous before God; instead, he is making it clear that real saving faith is demonstrated by good works. The person who claims to be a Christian but lives in willful disobedience to Christ with a life that shows no works has a false or “dead” faith and is not saved. James is making a contrast between two different types of faith—truth faith that saves and false faith that is dead.
There are simply too many verses that teach that one is not saved by works for any Christian to believe otherwise. Titus 3:4–5 is one of many such passages: “But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” Good works do not contribute to salvation, but they will always be characteristic of one who has been born again. Good works are not the cause of salvation; they are the evidence of it.
While salvation by works might be the predominantly held viewpoint, it is not an accurate one biblically. The Bible contains abundant evidence of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
2. Faith + Works (merit) = Justification (we do works with a little help from our friend, Jesus)
Question: “Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works?” (gotquestions.org)
Answer: This is perhaps the most important question in all of Christian theology. This question is the cause of the Reformation, the split between the Protestant churches and Catholic Church. This question is a key difference between biblical Christianity and most of the “Christian” cults. Is salvation by faith alone, or by faith plus works? Am I saved just by believing in Jesus, or do I have to believe in Jesus and do certain things?
The question of faith alone or faith plus works is made difficult by some hard-to-reconcile Bible passages. Compare Romans 3:28, 5:1and Galatians 3:24with James 2:24. Some see a difference between Paul (salvation is by faith alone) and James (salvation is by faith plus works). Paul dogmatically says that justification is by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), while James appears to be saying that justification is by faith plus works. This apparent problem is answered by examining what exactly James is talking about. James is refuting the belief that a person can have faith without producing any good works (James 2:17-18). James is emphasizing the point that genuine faith in Christ will produce a changed life and good works (James 2:20-26). James is not saying that justification is by faith plus works, but rather that a person who is truly justified by faith will have good works in his/her life. If a person claims to be a believer, but has no good works in his/her life, then he/she likely does not have genuine faith in Christ (James 2:14, 17, 20, 26).
Paul says the same thing in his writings. The good fruit believers should have in their lives is listed in Galatians 5:22-23. Immediately after telling us that we are saved by faith, not works (Ephesians 2:8-9), Paul informs us that we were created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). Paul expects just as much of a changed life as James does: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). James and Paul do not disagree in their teaching regarding salvation. They approach the same subject from different perspectives. Paul simply emphasized that justification is by faith alone while James put emphasis on the fact that genuine faith in Christ produces good works
3. Faith in Christ Alone = Justification – Works (Fruit) which is antinomianism, in their life there is no evidence of transformation, they signed a card and prayed a prayer. Antinomianism says that we don’t need the Law to prove we are saved.
Question: “What is antinomianism?” (gotquestions.org)
Answer: The word antinomianism comes from two Greek words, anti, meaning “against”; and nomos, meaning “law.” Antinomianism means “against the law.” Theologically, antinomianism is the belief that there are no moral laws God expects Christians to obey. Antinomianism takes a biblical teaching to an unbiblical conclusion. The biblical teaching is that Christians are not required to observe the Old Testament Law as a means of salvation. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He fulfilled the Old Testament Law (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15). The unbiblical conclusion is that there is no moral law God expects Christians to obey.
The apostle Paul dealt with the issue of antinomianism in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” The most frequent attack on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone is that it encourages sin. People may wonder, “If I am saved by grace and all my sins are forgiven, why not sin all I want?” That thinking is not the result of true conversion because true conversion yields a greater desire to obey, not a lesser one. God’s desire—and our desire when we are regenerated by His Spirit—is that we strive not to sin. Out of gratitude for His grace and forgiveness, we want to please Him. God has given us His infinitely gracious gift in salvation through Jesus (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Our response is to consecrate our lives to Him out of love, worship, and gratitude for what He has done for us (Romans 12:1-2). Antinomianism is unbiblical in that it misapplies the meaning of God’s gracious favor.
A second reason that antinomianism is unbiblical is that there is a moral law God expects us to obey. First John 5:3 tells us, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.” What is this law God expects us to obey? It is the law of Christ – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40). No, we are not under the Old Testament Law. Yes, we are under the law of Christ. The law of Christ is not an extensive list of legal codes. It is a law of love. If we love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, we will do nothing to displease Him. If we love our neighbors as ourselves, we will do nothing to harm them. Obeying the law of Christ is not a requirement to earn or maintain salvation. The law of Christ is what God expects of a Christian.
Antinomianism is contrary to everything the Bible teaches. God expects us to live a life of morality, integrity, and love. Jesus Christ freed us from the burdensome commands of the Old Testament Law, but that is not a license to sin, but rather a covenant of grace. We are to strive to overcome sin and cultivate righteousness, depending on the Holy Spirit to help us. The fact that we are graciously freed from the demands of the Old Testament Law should result in our living our lives in obedience to the law of Christ. First John 2:3-6 declares, “We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys His word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in Him: Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” (gotquestions.org)
4. Faith in Christ Alone = Justification + Works (Fruit) which is the theology of the reformers. If there’s a root there is fruit. Obedience does not mean that we are sinless but that we sin less. Martin Luther said, “justification does not require the works of the law, but it does require a living faith, which performs its works.”
Refer to the pathway number 3 question and answer. The bottom line is that when we are truly saved, we desire to bear fruit and do good works.
* Additional Commentary:
Matthew 7:13–14 / In one sense the Golden Rule represents the high point of the sermon. The four paragraphs that follow contrast the two ways (Matthew 7:13–14), the two kinds of fruit (Matthew 7:15–20), the two kinds of followers (Matthew 7:21–23), and the two kinds of builders (Matthew 7:24–27). In each case there is a sharp distinction drawn between true discipleship and mere religious activity. Jesus brings his sermon to a close with a clear call for action.
Matthew’s use of the gate/road is a bit ambiguous in that it combines both gates and roads. Does one enter through a gate onto a road (Matthew 7:13), or does a road lead ultimately to a gate (Matthew 7:)? But the point is clear: One way is broad and easy. It is the way of self-centeredness, and the majority travel that road. The other way is narrow and hard to find. Only a few travel the road of personal commitment and discipline. One road leads to destruction and the other to eternal life. The saying is primarily eschatological, although it speaks as well of life here and now. It describes two ways to live: two ways that separate and lead to two distinct destinies. The choice is clear: follow the crowd with its characteristic bent toward taking the path of least resistance, or join the few who accept the limiting demands of loyalty. The easy way will turn out hard (it ends in destruction), whereas the hard way will lead to eternal joy (life).
Matthew 7:15–20 / For several hundred years before the time of Christ it was generally believed that prophecy had ceased. The period between the two Testaments is sometimes called the silent years. With John the Baptist the prophetic voice returned, and in early Christianity prophecy flourished. To the crowd that gathered on the Day of Pentecost, Peter explained that the phenomenon of tongues was the fulfillment of Joel’s promise that in the last days God would pour out his Spirit on everyone, so that young men would see visions, old men would have dreams, and both men and women would proclaim his message (Acts 2:17–18; cf. 1 Corinthians 14:29–31).
As the church grew, the problem of false prophets became acute. Jesus had warned against the rise of false prophets who would deceive the people (Matthew 24:11, 24). John also warned his followers (1 John 4:1–3; Revelation 2:20). How were the Christians to recognize a false prophet? In earlier days a prophet was discredited if what he proclaimed in the name of the Lord did not come true (Deuteronomy 18:20–22). The Didache had some simple tests to identify a false prophet (if he stays more than two days or asks for money, 11.5–6). It is “from his behavior, then, [that] the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known” (Didache 11.8).
Matthew 7:21–23 / Since what people do reveals who they really are, it follows that simply calling Jesus Lord is not enough. On the day of judgment false prophets will protest that in the name of Jesus they prophesied, drove out many demons, and worked many miracles, only to be declared evildoers unknown to the Lord. Only those who do what God desires will enter the kingdom of heaven. Judgment is based upon living out the will of God, not on claims of apostolic activity.
Lord was a common form of polite address (much like our “sir”), although the present context (final judgment) reflects its later use as a reverential title. The earliest Christian creed was “Jesus is Lord” (1 Corinthians 12:3). It implied that he was accepted as master and that his teaching was therefore binding. To claim allegiance (Lord, Lord) does not secure entrance to the kingdom of heaven (the final state, when God’s sovereign reign is perfectly realized). Only those who do the will of my Father may enter.
On that day (Matthew 7:22) refers to the day of judgment (Malachi 3:17–18; the “day of the Lord,” Joel 2:1; Amos 5:18; etc.). At that time false prophets will make all sorts of claims regarding what they did on earth. Some will have invoked the name of Jesus to perform exorcisms. The seven sons of Sceva are an example of this (Acts 19:13–16). The use of a name in this connection implies full authority of the one named. Peter commanded the lame man at the Beautiful Gate to get up and walk “in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 3:6).
Matthew 7:24–27 / Jesus has just taught that false prophets can be detected by what they do (Matthew 7:16) and that it is action, not rhetoric, that provides entrance into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 7:21). This principle of judgment based on deeds is now applied to everyone. Jesus pictures two builders.
The purpose of the parable is to warn those who have listened to the sermon that wisdom calls for action. The wise man … hears and puts [Jesus’ words] into practice: the foolish man … hears and does not put them into practice (Matthew 7:24, 26). The storm is final judgment. Although both houses may look very much alike, only one will withstand the final testing. The wise not only hear the teachings of Jesus (these words of mine, Matthew 7:24) but make a concerted effort to live out in their daily lives all that the teaching implies. The foolish may have built a well-structured theology, but it is the foundation, not the house, that determines what happens in the last days. “Obedience to his [Jesus’] teaching is the one solid basis for withstanding the future crisis” (Filson, p. 108).
Matthew 7:28–29 / This is a transition from the teaching of Jesus to a section recording a number of his miraculous deeds (Matthew 8:1–9:34). It opens with a formula (kai egeneto) that is found at the juncture of each of Matthew’s blocks of teaching and the narrative that follows (Matthew 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1) but nowhere else in his Gospel.
When Jesus finished his teaching, the crowds were amazed at the authority with which he taught. Unlike the scribes, who based their opinions on the explanations offered by all the rabbis who preceded them, Jesus had a self-authenticating ring of authority to his words. It was the same authority that led him to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man (Matthew 9:6) and that he gave to his disciples so that they could drive out demons and heal the sick (Matthew 10:1). It was an expression of who he was (cf. Matthew 28:18) and was recognized immediately. There was no need for his teaching to be buttressed by philosophical argument or persuasive rhetoric. It validated itself to the human conscience.
* Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew. Understanding the Bible Commentary Series (67–70). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
[print_link] [email_link] [Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]