Biblical Judging and Why Commanded by Christ Jesus
Here's Adams, Calvin, Clarke and Henry's conclusions on Matthew 7...
Counselor’s Commentary: The Gospels of Matthew and Mark:
by Dr. Jay E. Adams
Used by permission: Timeless Texts 1.800.814.1045
Matthew Chapter 7
We come now to the concluding chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. This section begins with a passage that has frequently been misused by counselors and others. Doubtless, when you have pointed out sin you have had someone respond, "Judge not!" (PeaceMakers is often asked “who made you judge and jury”) Jesus did not forbid judging; He condemned the wrong kind of judging. What He had in mind is that sort of judging in which one judges another improperly—in ways that the one doing the judging would not care to be judged. Far from advocating never judging in any way at any time, the purpose of the passage is to show His own how to correct others correctly. The passage provides instruction in judging.
Note, first, that elsewhere Jesus commands us to judge: "Judge a righteous judgment" (John 7:24). Later on in this chapter of Matthew the disciples are encouraged to judge who is a false teacher. In that place, a proper basis for making the judgment is given (not by trying to judge someone's motives, but by judging the fruits of his teaching; cf. vv. 15, 16, 20). And, even more immediately, Jesus' words in verse 6 demand that a judgment be made about who is a dog or pig. So, counselor, it certainly doesn't mean that you cannot form an opinion of people. Indeed, if you are going to counsel at all, one of your principal activities will be making judgments about people. But if you heed Jesus' warning here, you will make sure that your judgments are based soundly on factual evidence.
To judge rightly, among other things, means that you will take the time to carefully gather data.l You will make no snap judgments. For instance, you will take the observation in Proverbs 18:13 seriously. You will not guess. You know that your own conclusions, unaided by the guidelines laid down in the Scriptures, are bound to be flawed. You will lovingly give the benefit of the doubt (I Corinthians 13:7). You will believe a counselee until the evidence proves otherwise. All this and more is summed up in the statement, "Don't judge unrighteously" (John 7:24). Notice from that exhortation that a wrong judgment isn't merely a mistake, it is a sin (it is "unrighteous"). So what you do is a serious matter. You may not take it lightly.
1. See the chapters on data gathering in The Christian Counselor’s Manaul
In the parallel passage in Luke 6:37 an additional word is added to the word krinete ("judge") which is used here. It is katadikazete, "to condemn." Another way of judging wrongly is evaluating others from a faultfinding, censorious attitude in which one is ready at the drop of a handkerchief to pick him to pieces. That sort of thing is likely to characterize some of those you counsel. Even the best efforts of a wife or husband are condemned by a spouse who, when this attitude is present, can do nothing rightly. More than likely, you will also find such a person judging motives (trying to steal God's task from Him; He is the one who judges hearts). In this sense, Paul asks, "Who are you to judge another man's servant?" (Romans 14:4). And James asks, "Who are you to judge your neighbor?" (James4:11, 12).
The Lord Jesus told the one who is passing judgment on another to first Judge himself. He went on to say that he will be judged by the very same standards that he uses to judge others (v. 2). This is a strong warning. It amounts to an application of the golden rule to the matter of judging.
How, then, are you to judge? By judging yourself first, you will be able to learn to judge properly. If you are careful to preempt any judgment of you that would be according to unrighteous standards, you will be extremely careful about how you judge another. That is the background for learning to judge rightly. As you judge another, all the while you ought to be asking yourself, "Would I think it fair and right to be subjected to this sort of judgment?" If you keep that question in mind, you will find yourself steering clear of making unrighteous judgments.
Jesus went on to speak (as usual) in a hyperbolic fashion about logs and specks in the eye. Picture the situation: here is someone trying to remove a speck from the eye of another when he has a log sticking out ofhis own eye! Absurd? Of course. That's the point. That big log would keep him from even getting close enough to remove the speck from another (as, indeed, the spiritual log should). Moreover, it is absurd to think that one should be concerned about a tiny speck in another's eye when he has a log in his own. He must first remove his log before he can help another. That principle ought to be applied first to the counselor and then to the counseled. People who are able to see the speck in the eye of another are not always too swift at detecting the log in their own. That is why counselors are to be Nathans with respect to the Davids who come for counseling (cf. II Samuel 12).
I. James is probably reflecting Jesus' words here in Matthew, as he frequently refers to the Sermon on the Mount about other matters.
Does that mean one is never to be concerned about specks in the eyes of others? Of course not. But one must not be hypocritical about it. Having removed the log, he will be able to see clearly (v. 5). Seeing clearly, he will be able to help others with their sins.
But there is one other caution in this matter of helping others rid themselves of specks. In verse 6 Jesus warns against feeding holy meat to scavengers (dogs). Being the garbage collectors of the time, dogs were considered unclean. To feed meat from the altar to dogs was a sin. This meat was to be eaten by the priests or burned. The dog who ate such meat would give no thought to the fact that it came from the altar. He would make no distinction between it and any other meat. Likewise a pig would care nothing about the value of pearls. He would simply trample them underfoot, turn on you and attack you because what you gave him was not edible. Neither the dog nor the pig will appreciate what you have done. You won't gain anything by your gifts; neither will thank you for the precious gift nor glorify God.
So, Jesus was saying, you should not attempt to remove specks from the eyes of unbelievers. You will only unnecessarily aggravate them. They will not appreciate it. You will lose your witness to them. It is not your task to try to reform unbelievers. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:8). Why waste effort in turning them from one lifestyle that displeases Him to another that displeases Him? Your task with unbelievers is never to counsel, but only to precounsel them (that is, evangelize them). So, counselor, spend your time correcting believers—correctly.
Has what Matthew recorded been getting you down? Well, it need not. There are words of encouragement which, doubtless, Jesus knew that at this point in the sermon the disciples needed (vv. 7?12). But even these are not without a word of exhortation (the same principle is found in v. 12 that we encountered in v. 2). Counselors who have been in tense conversation with counselees ought to know when to sit back and throw out a word of encouragement. Jesus did.
Jesus knew that the disciples, hearing all that He had been saying might have been thinking, "Where would we ever get the strength to overcome worry, stop being censorious,….?" Again, remember that all of Jesus' commands are also encouragements. He never commands His own to do anything that they cannot do by His wisdom from His Word and by means of His strength. He even helps us pray (Romans 8) So we should not despair at His commands.
The answer is to come to Him in prayer (v. 7ff.). Three words—asking, seeking, knocking—are laid out before the wondering disciples. You ask. If God seems remote, seek, and even if He seems to have locked you out, knock. In other words, keep on praying until you get the wisdom and strength you need. These verbs teach persistence. They are not verbs that express actions but verbs that express habits: keep on asking, keep on ,, God amswers all prayers. But He does so according to His timetable. When you are ready to receive (you may think that you are when you aren't), He is ready to give. And He gives what He wants, m His way (sometimes through difficult experiences that when handled rightly make us strong). That is the sort of thing to explain to counselees. Often they will complain that their prayers are not answered
Teach counselees about God Himself. Many think because God acts sovereignly, as I have indicated above, that He is unconcerned for them. But Jesus asked them (as you also should) to consider whether God is less concerned about His children than an earthly father is. If a son asks for bread his father will not give him a stone. 1 He pointed out that if he asks for a wriggling fish he will not give him a wriggling snake. He goes on to say that if evil2 parents give good things to their children, the righteous Father will surely do every bit as much (and more) for His children. The loving Father has a disposition to give His children good things. The problem is in us. We want them when we want them; we want them to come our way and in our time. And we want the very thing we ask for when He has something better to give us. Counselees who complain about unanswered prayers should be taught the truth contained in these words. They should be told that continued complaints can be considered nothing but sin in the light of Jesus' explanation. God's answers to His children's prayers are always good. There is never reason for complaint.
In verse 12, Jesus drew out a further implication. In judging, and in giving, you should be like the Father in heaven. Here is a form of the golden rule. Why should one do so? Because it is the loving thing to do. That love is what the law and the prophets are all about. Fulfilling God's commandments is a matter of doing to others what you would have them do to you. For some counselees the idea of doing for others what we would desire to have done for us (apart from some intellectual response) is a totally foreign notion. They have simply never looked at life that way. Having grown up in a self?oriented culture, they have always operated on the principle of putting themselves first. They must be taught the golden rule!
Why is this so important? Because doing this is what the law and the prophets are all about. If a person is about to serve God by keeping His commandments in the Bible, he will find himself putting others in the place where formerly he put himself. If he follows this simple instruction of the Lord most of the problems that he has with others will evaporate.
1. Bread was made flat and round, pita?like, and looked somewhat like a rounded river stone.
2. Note Christ's assessment of human beings: they are evil (v. 11).
Therefore, it is a wise counselor who, noticing that self?interest seems to dominate a counselee's concerns as expressed in his conversation, his actions, and his goals, lays out verse 12 and its implications before him.
The remainder of the Sermon on the Mount deals with three antitheses. These are spoken of as two gates (vv. 13, 14), two trees (vv. 15?23) and two foundations (vv. 24?27).
Before closing, Jesus reminded the disciples that there are two, and only two, gates that people enter to obtain eternal life. One is narrow, the other broad. The narrow gate and the road leading to it are narrow because there are so few who enter that way. Yet it is the way to eternal life (v. 14). Most people enter the broad gate, which needs to be wide because there are so many who enter it. Yet it is the way to everlasting destruction. George Barna, in a recent poll, discovered that 99% of Americans think they are going to heaven. How deluded they are! Be sure your counselees do know the way to life through the gospel of Jesus Christ. In a way that is just the opposite from our civil law, in which a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Christians know that a man must be presumed lost and headed to hell unless proven saved. That is because all begin life as lost sinners, and unless they find forgiveness in Christ they will go on through life walking the broad road to finally enter the wide gate to hell. This reminder to the disciples ought also to be a reminder to every counselor. He is an evangelist as he confronts counselees whose lifestyles give little or no evidence of the new life in Christ
In verses 15 through 23 Jesus issued a strong warning about false prophets ("Look out for them," He says; v. 15). It is appalling that so many counselors have been taken in by the false prophets of psychology. These people who ought to be leading and directing others according to the Scriptures have themselves been seduced into feeding the flock on more of the unhealthy teaching that led them into the problems that brought them to counseling in the first place. This is like trying to put out a fire by spraying gasoline on it!
That false prophets are greedy wolves who come in sheep's clothing is an important insight (v. IS). The greediness that many of them have for money and prestige is clear from the prices that they charge for their wares and from the haughty attitudes that they assume. They are quite anxious to enlist the clergy in sending them more and more people to enrich their coffers. That ministers of the Word have fallen for their deceptive ways, according to them the place of sheep when they are actually wolves, is evidence that the warning has not been heeded.1
If they come looking like members of the flock (dressed in sheep's clothing), then we have the task of discerning who is and who is not a false prophet.2 Jesus went on to give directions about detecting them. He said, "You will know them by observing their fruit." All judgment is made by looking at the results of one's life. Here, Jesus enunciated that principle. The tree's produce tells you what sort of tree it is (vv. 16, 17). Good trees produce good fruit, bad ones rotten fruit (v. 17, 18). It can't be otherwise (v. 18). So, He said, inspect their fruit. That is how you will be able to distinguish the false from the true.
Verse 19 speaks of the seriousness of people leading God's sheep astray by insinuating themselves into the flock, pretending to be sheep; they will be thrown into the fire (here, the meaning is probably hell since these false teachers are represented as unbelievers: they have only the clothing of sheep). Warn counselees about the danger of following them.
How can you recognize a false teacher? Once more—look at the effects
(fruit) of his teaching. Are people drawn closer to Jesus Christ? Does
he lead them to follow His Word more faithfully? Does what he teaches accord
with the Scriptures? Carefully examine the harvest. For example, some persons
wanted to know the effects of Calvinistic teaching, so two hundred years
after the death of Calvin they examined the lives of the people of Geneva
and the effects his teaching had on the city. They found that this city,
which before Calvin came was one of the most wicked in Europe, had radically
changed for the better under his teaching and, two hundred years later,
was still one of the most righteous.
1. Of course, Jesus referred to all sorts of false prophets, not merely to those in counseling.
2. For additional help see A Call For Discernment (1998), TIMELESS TEXTS, Woodruff, SC.1.800.814.1045
Why do these false teachers produce rotten fruit? They are unsaved (along with their works they will be thrown in the fire). Their profession of faith is false. They are false through and through—from beginning to the end. They are liars who present falsehood as if it were the truth. Their profession is merely verbal; they talk a good game. But there is no reality behind that talk. They say, "Lord, Lord," but they take His Name in vain. (v. 21). Not everyone who professes to believe will enter the empire from the heavens. This warning ought to awaken every counselor so that he is not duped into believing that every one who professes, or every teaching of supposed believers, is to be accepted. There are liars abroad. Even in counseling!
They may seem quite sincere. They may have become so involved in what they teach that they, themselves, have become deceived. The worst form of error is self?deceit. Such persons will have a rude awakening when they stand before the Lord in the day of judgment (v. 22). Jesus will say to them (and to all who are within hearing distance), "I never knew you" (v. 23). He will tell them to depart from His heavenly empire for all eternity.
False teachers may even have been among those who had possession of the special gifts granted to the members of the early church (v. 22). Such gifts are not clinching evidence that God is with a teacher. It is not gifts or looking like sheep that impresses the Lord. There is but one thing in view in assessing them: do they do the will of the Father in the heavens (v. 21). If their faith and their message is true, they will. That is what you must look for. All else is irrelevant.
Finally, Jesus closed the sermon with the parable of the two foundations (vv. 24?27). The parable is too well known for me to take the time or space to retell. Besides, the record is so clear that one cannot miss the point or—to think again—can he? Well, many have. The parable is often interpreted as an evangelistic message. And certainly the gospel is present in this parable as it is in all of the Scriptures. Nothing can be treated rightly without reference to the saving work of Jesus Christ. But its application, given by the Lord Himself, is not evangelistic. It has to do with the obedience to which He called His disciples (of that day, and of every era since). Hearing Christ's words is not enough. They must lead to obedient action: that is what He is saying. Unless one has a foundation of obedience, when troubles and difficulties come in like a flood, when winds of adversity blow, he will not be able to withstand them.
Counselees who have been swept away by the floods of life may often be in their sad condition because they have failed to build their lives on the solid teachings of Christ. Oh, they may be able to articulate them; but the fundamental question is whether they have been putting those teachings into practice. In other words, the very things that Jesus taught will lead to a solid life that cannot be overthrown by the trials that come on as a flood. Teach this to counselees. Probe to find where they have failed to appropriate Christ's teachings, thus weakening the foundation by which their lives are supported. You might even quickly go through the sermon with a counseled, expositing it, and asking after each thrust Christ makes, "Have you built your life on this? If you haven't, no wonder your world has collapsed." In other words, examine the condition of the foundation of the lives of counselees.
That this great sermon was heard by more than the disciples, though
principally directed to them, is clear from verses 28 and 29. What astonished
the crowds was that Jesus taught with authority. When a counselor does
so today, that still astonishes people.There is so much weak teaching in
the church it is almost like it was in the days when teachers said, “Hillel
says so and so, but Shammai says thus and thus." People were left to take
their choices. Magazines and books today are published with opposing points
of view, even giving five views of this or that. If five views are presented,
at least four of them are wrong! Why don't Christians decide what they
believe to be true and teach it—with biblical authority? Counselees who
come for help (not those who pretend to do so) will appreciate it if you
counsel with authority. Most have been looking for an authoritative Word
from God. But, of course, you must be sure that when you tell a counseled,
"This is what God requires," you are telling the truth! In other words,
every counselor must counsel authoritatively, but he must acquire that
authority from careful, accurate study and application of the Bible at
all points. That is biblical counseling, and nothing else is.
The materials from Adam Clarke, John Calvin and Matthew
Henry are from CD-ROM
The Master Christian Library by Ages Library - 1.800.297.4307 and used by permission
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book Four, Chapter 9
OF COUNCILS AND THEIR AUTHORITY.
(We must not obey blind guides; decisions of later councils faulty in the light of Scripture, 12-14)
12. No blind obedience
But our Romanists, when, in defending their cause, they see all rational grounds slip from beneath them, betake themselves to a last miserable subterfuge. Although they should be dull in intellect and counsel, and most depraved in heart and will, still the word of the Lord remains, which commands us to obey those who have the rule over us (Hebrews 13:17). Is it indeed so? What if I should deny that those who act thus have the rule over us? They ought not to claim for themselves more than Joshua had, who was both a prophet of the Lord and an excellent pastor. Let us then hear in what terms the Lord introduced him to his office. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night…You shall not turn from it to the right hand or to the left; then you will direct your path, and understand it that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then shalt thou make thy way prosperous, and thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:7, 8). Our spiritual rulers, therefore, will be those who turn not from the law of the Lord to the right hand or the left. But if the doctrine of all pastors is to be received without hesitation, why are we so often and so anxiously admonished by the Lord not to give heed to false prophets? “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you; they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:16). Again, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15). In vain also would John exhort us to try the spirits whether they be of God (1 John 4:1). From this judgment not even angels are exempted (Galatians 1:8); far less Satan with his lies. And what is meant by the expression, “If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”? (Matthew 15:14.) Does it not sufficiently declare that there is a great difference among the pastors who are to be heard, that all are not to be heard indiscriminately? Wherefore they have no ground for deterring us by their name, in order to draw us into a participation of their blindness, since we see, on the contrary, that the Lord has used special care to guard us from allowing ourselves to be led away by the errors of others, whatever be the mask under which they may lurk. For if the answer of our Savior is true, blind guides, whether high priests, prelates, or pontiff, can do nothing more than hurry us over the same precipice with themselves. Wherefore, let no names of councils pastors, and bishops (which may be used on false pretenses as well as truly), hinder us from giving heed to the evidence both of words and facts, and bringing all spirits to the test of the divine word, that we may prove whether they are of God.
The materials from Adam Clarke, John Calvin and Matthew
Henry are from CD-ROM
The Master Christian Library by Ages Library - 1.800.297.4307 and are used by permission
ADAM CLARKE Commentary
Our Lord warns men against rash judgment and uncharitable censures, 1-5. Shows that holy things must not be profaned, 6; gives encouragement to fervent persevering prayer, 7-11. Shows how men should deal with each other, 12. Exhorts the people to enter in at the strait gate, 13, 14; to beware of false teachers, who are to be known by their fruits, 15-20. Shows that no man shall be saved by his mere profession of Christianity, however specious, 22, 23. The parable of the wise man who built his house upon a rock, 24, 25. Of the foolish man who built his house, without a foundation, on the sand, 26, 27. Christ concludes his sermon, and the people are astonished at his doctrine, 28, 29.
NOTES ON CHAP. 7
Verse 1. Judge not, that ye be not judged.—
These exhortations are pointed against rash, harsh, and uncharitable judgments, the thinking evil, where no evil seems, and speaking of it accordingly. The Jews were highly criminal here, and yet had very excellent maxims against it, as may be seen in Schoettgen. This is one of the most important exhortations in the whole of this excellent sermon. By a secret and criminal disposition of nature, man endeavors to elevate himself above others, and, to do it more effectually, depresses them. His jealous and envious heart wishes that there may be no good quality found but in himself, that he alone may be esteemed. Such is the state of every unconverted man; and it is from this criminal disposition, that evil surmises, rash judgments, precipitate decisions, and all other unjust procedures against our neighbor, flow.
Verse 2. For with what judgment—
He who is severe on others will naturally excite their severity against himself. The censures and calumnies which we have suffered are probably the just reward of those which we have dealt out to others.
Verse 3. And why beholdest thou the mote—
karfov might be translated the splinter: for splinter bears some analogy to beam, but mote does not. I should prefer this word (which has been adopted by some learned men) on the authority of Hesychius, who is a host in such matters; karfov, keraia xulou lepth, Karphos is a thin piece of wood, a splinter. It often happens that the faults which we consider as of the first enormity in others are, to our own iniquities, as a chip is, when compared to a large beam. On one side, self-love blinds us to ourselves; and, on the other, envy and malice give us piercing eyes in respect of others. When we shall have as much zeal to correct ourselves, as we have inclination to reprove and correct others, we shall know our own defects better than now we know those of our neighbor. There is a caution very similar to this of our Lord given by a heathen:-
Cum tua praevideas oculis mala lippus inunctis: Cur in amicorum vitiis tam cernis acutum, Quam aut aquila, aut serpens Epidaurius? Hor. Sat. lib. 1. sat. 3. l. 25-27
“When you can so readily overlook your own wickedness, why are you more clear-sighted than the eagle or serpent of Epidaurus, in spying out the failings of your friends?” But the saying was very common among the Jews, as may be seen in Lightfoot.
Verse 4. Or how wilt thou say—
That man is utterly unfit to show the way of life to others who is himself walking in the way of death.
Verse 5. Thou hypocrite—
A hypocrite, who professes to be what he is not, (viz. a true Christian,) is obliged, for the support of the character he has assumed, to imitate all the dispositions and actions of a Christian; consequently he must reprove sin, and endeavor to show an uncommon affection for the glory of God. Our Lord unmasks this vile pretender to saintship, and shows him that his hidden hypocrisy, covered with the garb of external sanctity, is more abominable in the sight of God than the openly professed and practised iniquity of the profligate. In after times, the Jews made a very bad use of this saying: “I wonder,” said Rabbi Zarphon, “whether there be any in this age that will suffer reproof? If one say to another, Cast out the mote out of thine eye, he is immediately ready to answer, Cast out the beam that is in thine own eye.” This proverbial mode of speech the Gloss interprets thus: “Cast out? µyoq kisim, the mote, that is, the little sin, that is in thy hand: to which he answered, Cast out the great sin that is in thine. So they could not reprove, because all were sinners.” See Lightfoot.
The materials from Adam Clarke, John Calvin and Matthew
Henry are from CD-ROM
The Master Christian Library by Ages Library - 1.800.297.4307 and are used by permission
The Matthew Henry Commentary
This chapter continues and concludes Christ's sermon on the mount, which
is purely practical, directing us to order our conversation aright, both
toward God and man; for the design of the Christian religion is to make
men good, every way good. We have,
I. Some rules concerning censure and reproof (v. 1-6).
II. Encouragements given us to pray to God for what we need (v. 7-11).
III. The necessity of strictness in conversation urged upon us (v. 12-14).
IV. A caution given us to take heed of false prophets (v. 15-20).
V. The conclusion of the whole sermon, showing the necessity of universal obedience to Christ's commands, without which we cannot expect to be happy (v. 21-27).
VI. The impression which Christ's doctrine made upon his hearers (v. 28, 29).
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
Our Saviour is here directing us how to conduct ourselves in reference to the faults of others; and his expressions seem intended as a reproof to the scribes and Pharisees, who were very rigid and severe, very magisterial and supercilious, in condemning all about them, as those commonly are, that are proud and conceited in justifying themselves. We have here,
I A caution against judging v. 1, 2. There are those whose office it is to judge — magistrates and ministers. Christ, though he made not himself a Judge, yet came not to unmake them, for by him princes decree justice; but this is directed to private persons, to his disciples, who shall hereafter sit on thrones judging, but not now. Now observe,
1. The prohibition; Judge not. We must judge ourselves, and judge our own acts, but we must not judge our brother, not magisterially assume such an authority over others, as we allow not them over us: since our rule is, to be subject to one another. Be not many masters, James 3:1. We must not sit in the judgment-seat, to make our word a law to every body. We must not judge our brother, that is, we must not speak evil of him, so it is explained, James 4:11. We must not despise him, nor set him at nought, Romans 14:10. We must not judge rashly, nor pass such a judgment upon our brother as has no ground, but is only the product of our own jealousy and ill nature. We must not make the worst of people, nor infer such invidious things from their words and actions as they will not bear. We must not judge uncharitably, unmercifully, nor with a spirit of revenge, and a desire to do mischief. We must not judge of a man's state by a single act, nor of what he is in himself by what he is to us, because in our own cause we are apt to be partial. We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions, for it is God's prerogative to try the heart, and we must not step into his throne; nor must we judge of their eternal state, nor call them hypocrites, reprobates, and castaways; that is stretching beyond our line; what have we to do, thus to judge another man's servant? Counsel him, and help him, but do not judge him.
2. The reason to enforce this prohibition. That ye be not judged. This intimates,
(1.) That if we presume to judge others, we may expect to be ourselves judged. He who usurps the bench, shall be called to the bar; he shall be judged of men; commonly none are more censured, than those who are most censorious; every one will have a stone to throw at them; he who, like Ishmael, has his hand, his tongue, against every man, shall, like him, have every man's hand and tongue against him (Genesis 16:12); and no mercy shall be shown to the reputation of those that show no mercy to the reputation of others. Yet that is not the worst of it; they shall be judged of God; from him they shall receive the greater condemnation James 3:1. Both parties must appear before him (Romans 14:10), who, as he will relieve the humble sufferer, will also resist the haughty scorner, and give him enough of judging.
(2.) That if we be modest and charitable in our censures of others, and decline judging them, and judge ourselves rather, we shall not be judged of the Lord. As God will forgive those that forgive their brethren; so he will not judge those that will not judge their brethren; the merciful shall find mercy. It is an evidence of humility, charity, and deference to God, and shall be owned and rewarded by him accordingly. See Romans 14:10.
The judging of those that judge others is according to the law of retaliation; With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, v. 2. The righteous God, in his judgments, often observes a rule of proportion, as in the case of Adonibezek, Judges 1:7. See also Revelation 13:10; 18:6. Thus will he be both justified and magnified in his judgments, and all flesh will be silenced before him. With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again; perhaps in this world, so that men may read their sin in their punishment. Let this deter us from all severity in dealing with our brother. What shall we do when God rises up? Job 31:14. What would become of us, if God should be as exact and severe in judging us, as we are in judging our brethren; if he should weigh us in the same balance? We may justly expect it, if we be extreme to mark what our brethren do amiss. In this, as in other things, the violent dealings of men return upon their own heads.
II. Some cautions about reproving. Because we must not judge others, which is a great sin, it does not therefore follow that we must not reprove others, which is a great duty, and may be a means of saving a soul from death; however, it will be a means of saving our souls from sharing in their guilt. Now observe here,
1. It is not every one who is fit to reprove. Those who are themselves guilty of the same faults of which they accuse others, or of worse, bring shame upon themselves, and are not likely to do good to those whom they reprove, v. 3-5. Here is,
(1.) A just reproof to the censorious, who quarrel with their brother for small faults, while they allow themselves in great ones; who are quick-sighted to spy a mote in his eye, but are not sensible of a beam in their own; nay, and will be very officious to pull out the mote out of his eye, when they are as unfit to do it as if they were themselves quite blind. Note,
[1.] There are degrees in sin: some sins are comparatively but as motes, others as beams; some as a gnat, others as a camel: not that there is any sin little, for there is no little God to sin against; if it be a mote (or splinter, for so it might better be read), it is in the eye; if a gnat, it is in the throat; both painful and perilous, and we cannot be easy or well till they are got out.
[2.] Our own sins ought to appear greater to us than the same sins in others: that which charity teaches us to call but a splinter in our brother's eye, true repentance and godly sorrow will teach us to call a beam in our own; for the sins of others must be extenuated, but our own aggravated.
[3.] There are many that have beams in their own eyes, and yet do not consider it. They are under the guilt and dominion of very great sins, and yet are not aware of it, but justify themselves, as if they needed no repentance nor reformation; it is as strange that a man can be in such a sinful, miserable condition, and not be aware of it, as that a man should have a beam in him eye, and not consider it; but the god of this world so artfully blinds their minds, that notwithstanding, with great assurance, they say, We see.
[4.] It is common for those who are most sinful themselves, and least sensible of it, to be most forward and free in judging and censuring others: the Pharisees, who were most haughty in justifying themselves, were most scornful in condemning others. They were severe upon Christ's disciples for eating with unwashen hands, which was scarcely a mote, while they encouraged men in a contempt of their parents, which was a beam. Pride and uncharitableness are commonly beams in the eyes of those that pretend to be critical and nice in their censures of others. Nay, many are guilty of that secret, which they have the face to punish in others when it is discovered.
Cogita tecum, fortasse vitium de quo quereris, si te diligenter excusseris, in sinu invenies; inique publico irasceris crimini tuo — Reflect that perhaps the fault of which you complain, might, on a strict examination, be discovered in yourself; and that it would be unjust publicly to express indignation against your own crime. Seneca, de Beneficiis. But,
[5.] Men's being so severe upon the faults of others, while they are indulgent of their own, is a mark of hypocrisy. Thou hypocrite, v. 5. Whatever such a one may pretend, it is certain that he is no enemy to sin (if he were, he would be an enemy to his own sin), and therefore he is not worthy of praise; nay, it appears that he is an enemy to his brother, and therefore worthy of blame. This spiritual charity must begin at home; “For how canst thou say, how canst thou for shame say, to thy brother, Let me help to reform thee, when thou takest no care to reform thyself? Thy own heart will upbraid thee with the absurdity of it; thou wilt do it with an ill grace, and thou wilt expect every one to tell thee, that vice corrects sin: physician, heal thyself;” I prae, sequar — Go you before, I will follow. See Romans 2:21.
[6.] The consideration of what is amiss in ourselves, though it ought not to keep us from administering friendly reproof, ought to keep us from magisterial censuring, and to make us very candid and charitable in judging others. “Therefore restore with the spirit of meekness, considering thyself (Galatians 6:1); what thou has been, what thou art, and what thou wouldst be, if God should leave thee to thyself.”
(2.) Here is a good rule for reprovers, v. 5. Go in the right method, first cast the beam out of thine own eye. Our own badness is so far from excusing us in not reproving, that our being by it rendered unfit to reprove is an aggravation of our badness; I must not say, “I have a beam in my own eye, and therefore I will not help my brother with the mote out of his.” A man's offence will never be his defence: but I must first reform myself, that I may thereby help to reform my brother, and may qualify myself to reprove him. Note, Those who blame others, ought to be blameless and harmless themselves. Those who are reprovers in the gate, reprovers by office, magistrates and ministers, are concerned to walk circumspectly, and to be very regular in their conversation: an elder must have a good report, 1 Timothy 3:2, 7. The snuffers of the sanctuary were to be of pure gold. 2. It is not every one that is fit to be reproved; Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, v. 6. This may be considered, either,
(1.) As a rule to the disciples in preaching the gospel; not that they must not preach it to any one who were wicked and profane (Christ himself preached to publicans and sinners), but the reference is to such as they found obstinate after the gospel was preached to them, such as blasphemed it, and persecuted the preachers of it; let them not spend much time among such, for it would be lost labour, but let them turn to others, Acts 13:41. So Dr. Whitby. Or,
(2.) As a rule to all in giving reproof. Our zeal against sin must be guided by discretion, and we must not go about to give instructions, counsels, and rebukes, much less comforts, to hardened scorners, to whom it will certainly do no good, but who will be exasperated and enraged at us. Throw a pearl to a swine, and he will resent it, as if you threw a stone at him; reproofs will be called reproaches, as they were (Luke 11:45; Jeremiah 6:10), therefore give not to dogs and swine (unclean creatures) holy things. Note,
[1.] Good counsel and reproof are a holy thing, and a pearl: they are ordinances of God, they are precious; as an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is the wise reprover (Proverbs 25:12), and a wise reproof is like an excellent oil (Psalm 141:5); it is a tree of life Proverbs 3:18).
[2.] Among the generation of the wicked, there are some that have arrived at such a pitch of wickedness, that they are looked upon as dogs and swine; they are impudently and notoriously vile; they have so long walked in the way of sinners, that they have sat down in the seat of the scornful; they professedly hate and despise instruction, and set it at defiance, so that they are irrecoverably and irreclaimably wicked; they return with the dog to his vomit, and with the sow to her wallowing in the mire.
[3.] Reproofs of instruction are ill bestowed upon such, and expose the reprover to all the contempt and mischief that may be expected from dogs and swine. One can expect no other than that they will trample the reproofs under their feet, in scorn of them, and rage against them; for they are impatient of control and contradiction; and they will turn again and rend the reprovers; rend their good names with their revilings, return them wounding words for their healing ones; rend them with persecution; Herod rent John Baptist for his faithfulness. See here what is the evidence of men's being dogs and swine. Those are to be reckoned such, who hate reproofs and reprovers, and fly in the face of those who, in kindness to their souls, show them their sin and danger. These sin against the remedy; who shall heal and help those that will not be healed and helped? It is plain that God has determined to destroy such. 2 Chronicles 25:16. The rule here given is applicable to the distinguishing, sealing ordinances of the gospel; which must not be prostituted to those who are openly wicked and profane, lest holy things be thereby rendered contemptible, and unholy persons be thereby hardened. It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to the dogs. Yet we must be very cautious whom we condemn as dogs and swine, and not do it till after trial, and upon full evidence. Many a patient is lost, by being thought to be so, who, if means had been used, might have been saved. As we must take heed of calling the good, bad, by judging all professors to be hypocrites; so we must take heed of calling the bad, desperate, by judging all the wicked to be dogs and swine.
[4.] Our Lord Jesus is very tender of the safety of his people, and
would not have them needlessly to expose themselves to the fury of those
that will turn again and rend them. Let them not be righteous over much,
so as to destroy themselves. Christ makes the law of self-preservation
one of his own laws, and precious is the blood of his subjects to him.
WARNING AGAINST FALSE PROPHETS
We have here a caution against false prophets, to take heed that we be not deceived and imposed upon by them. Prophets are properly such as foretel things to come; there are some mentioned in the Old Testament, who pretended to that without warrant, and the event disproved their pretensions, as Zedekiah, 1 Kings 22:11, and another Zedekiah, Jeremiah 29:21. But prophets did also teach the people their duty, so that false prophets here are false teachers. Christ being a Prophet and a Teacher come from God, and designing to send abroad teachers under him, gives warning to all to take heed of counterfeits, who, instead of healing souls with wholesome doctrine, as they pretend, would poison them.
They are false teachers and false prophets,
1. Who produce false commissions, who pretend to have immediate warrant and direction from God to set up for prophets, and to be divinely inspired, when they are not so. Though their doctrine may be true, we are to beware of them as false prophets. False apostles are those who say they are apostles, and are not (Revelation 2:2); such are false prophets. “Take heed of those who pretend to revelation, and admit them not without sufficient proof, lest that one absurdity being admitted, a thousand follow.”
2. Who preach false doctrine in those things that are essential to religion; who teach that which is contrary to the truth as it is in Jesus, to the truth which is accordingly to godliness. The former seems to be the proper notion of pseudo-prophets, a false or pretending prophet, but commonly the latter falls in with it; for who would hang out false colours, but with design, under pretence of them, the more successfully to attack the truth. “Well, beware of them, suspect them, try them, and when you have discovered their falsehood, avoid them, have nothing to do with them. Stand upon your guard against this temptation, which commonly attends the days of reformation, and the breakings out of divine light in more than ordinary strength and splendour.” When God's work is revived, Satan and his agents are most busy. Here is,
I. A good reason for this caution, Beware of them, for they are wolves in sheep's clothing, v. 15.
1. We have need to be very cautious, because their pretences are very fair and plausible, and such as will deceive us, if we be not upon our guard. They come in sheep's clothing, in the habit of prophets, which was plain and coarse, and unwrought; they wear a rough garment to deceive, Zechariah 13:4. Elijah's mantle the Septuagint calls he melote — a sheep-skin mantle. We must take heed of being imposed upon by men's dress and garb, as by that of the scribes, who desire to walk in long robes, Luke 20:46. Or it may be taken figuratively; they pretend to be sheep, and outwardly appear so innocent, harmless, meek, useful, and all that is good, as to be excelled by none; they feign themselves to be just men, and for the sake of their clothing are admitted among the sheep, which gives them an opportunity of doing them a mischief ere they are aware. They and their errors are gilded with the specious pretences of sanctity and devotion. Satan turns himself into an angel of light 2 Corinthians 11:13, 14. The enemy has horns like a lamb (Revelation 13:11); faces of men, Revelation 9:7, 8. Seducers in language and carriage are soft as wool, Romans 16:18; Isaiah 30:10.
2. Because under these pretensions their designs are very malicious and mischievous; inwardly they are ravening wolves. Every hypocrite is a goat in sheep's clothing; not only not a sheep, but the worst enemy the sheep has, that comes not but to tear and devour, to scatter the sheep (John 10:12), to drive them from God, and from one another, into crooked paths. Those that would cheat us of any truth, and possess us with error, whatever they pretend, design mischief to our souls. Paul calls them grievous wolves, Acts 20:29. They raven for themselves, serve their own belly (Romans 16:18), make a prey of you, make a gain of you. Now since it is so easy a thing, and withal so dangerous, to be cheated, Beware of false prophets.
II. Here is a good rule to go by in this caution; we must prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21), try the spirits (1 John 4:1), and here we have a touchstone; ye shall know them by their fruits, 16-20. Observe,
1. The illustration of this comparison, of the fruit's being the discovery of the tree. You cannot always distinguish them by their bark and leaves, nor by the spreading of their boughs, but by their fruits ye shall know them. The fruit is according to the tree. Men may, in their professions, put a force upon their nature, and contradict their inward principles, but the stream and bent of their practices will agree with them. Christ insists upon this, the agreeableness between the fruit and the tree, which is such as that,
(1.) If you know what the tree is, you may know what fruit to expect. Never look to gather grapes from thorns, nor figs from thistles; it is not in their nature to produce such fruits. An apple may be stuck, or a bunch of grapes may hang, upon a thorn; so may a good truth, a good word or action, be found in a bad man, but you may be sure it never grew there. Note,
[1.] Corrupt, vicious, unsanctified hearts are like thorns and thistles, which came in with sin, are worthless, vexing, and for the fire at last.
[2.] Good works are good fruit, like grapes and figs, pleasing to God and profitable to men.
[3.] This good fruit is never to be expected from bad men, and more than a clean thing out of an unclean: they want an influencing acceptable principle. Out of an evil treasure will be brought forth evil things.
(2.) On the other hand, if you know what the fruit is, you may, by that, perceive what the tree is. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; and a corrupt tree cannot bring forth good fruit, nay, it cannot but bring forth evil fruit. But then that must be reckoned the fruit of the tree which it brings forth naturally and which is its genuine product — which it brings forth plentifully and constantly and which is its usual product. Men are known, not by particular acts, but by the course and tenour of their conversation, and by the more frequent acts, especially those that appear to be free, and most their own, and least under the influence of external motives and inducements.
The application of this to the false prophets.
(1.) By way of terror and threatening (v. 19); Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down. This very saying John the Baptist had used, Matthew 3:10. Christ could have spoken the same sense in other words; could have altered it, or given it a new turn; but he thought it no disparagement to him to say the same that John had said before him; let not ministers be ambitious of coining new expressions, nor people's ears itch for novelties; to write and speak the same things must not be grievous, for it is safe. Here is,
[1.] The description of barren trees; they are trees that do not bring forth good fruit; though there be fruit, if it be not good fruit (though that be done, which for the matter of it is good, if it be not done well, in a right manner, and for a right end), the tree is accounted barren.
[2.] The doom of barren trees; they are, that is, certainly they shall be, hewn down, and cast into the fire; God will deal with them as men use to deal with dry trees that cumber the ground: he will mark them by some signal tokens of his displeasure, he will bark them by stripping them of their parts and gifts, and will cut them down by death, and cast them into the fire of hell, a fire blown with the bellows of God's wrath, and fed with the wood of barren trees. Compare this with Ezekiel 31:12, 13; Daniel 4:14; John 15:6.
(2.) By way of trial; By their fruits ye shall know them.
[1.] By the fruits of their persons, their words and actions, and the course of their conversation. If you would know whether they be right or not, observe how they live; their works will testify for them or against them. The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses's chair, and taught the law, but they were proud, and covetous, and false, and oppressive, and therefore Christ warned him disciples to beware of them and of their leaven, Mark 12:38. If men pretend to be prophets and are immoral, that disproves their pretensions; those are no true friends to the cross of Christ, whatever they profess, whose God is their belly, and whose mind earthly things, Philippians 3:18, 19. Those are not taught nor sent of the holy God, whose lives evidence that they are led by the unclean spirit. God puts the treasure into earthen vessels, but not into such corrupt vessels: they may declare God's statutes, but what have they to do to declare them?
[2.] By the fruits of their doctrine; their fruits as prophets: not that this is the only way, but it is one way, of trying doctrines, whether they be of God or not. What do they tend to do? What affections and practices will they lead those into, that embrace them? If the doctrine be of God, it will tend to promote serious piety, humility, charity, holiness, and love, with other Christian graces; but if, on the contrary, the doctrines these prophets preach have a manifest tendency to make people proud, worldly, and contentious, to make them loose and careless in their conversations, unjust or uncharitable, factious or disturbers of the public peace; if it indulge carnal liberty, and take people off from governing themselves and their families by the strict rules of the narrow way, we may conclude, that this persuasion comes not of him that calleth us, Galatians 5:8. This wisdom is from above, James 3:15. Faith and a good conscience are held together, 1 Timothy 1:19; 3:9. Note, Doctrines of doubtful disputation must be tried by graces and duties of confessed certainty: those opinions come not from God that lead to sin: but if we cannot know them by their fruits, we must have recourse to the great touchstone, to the law, and to the testimony; do they speak according to that rule?
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