Matthew 7:13–29. Interacting With God.
Key Notes: Will few be saved? False prophets. "Lord, Lord" is not enough. Five views of the Sermon. Just do it.
In this last section of the Sermon on the Mount, we have four sobering lessons:
The narrow Gate and the hard Way.
Recognizing false (and true) prophets.
Power vs. possessions.
Good and bad foundations.
7:13–14 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.”
The other place where the gate is mentioned is Lk.13:23, and there the question was “Lord, will those who are saved be few?" The answer is “yes” and it is very disconcerting. In Luke, the application is to the Jews. We know also from Romans 9–11 that that will eventually change and the whole Jewish nation will be saved. But in Matthew, the lesson seems more generic, as if applying also to the world at large.
We can make three responses. First, we have little or no control over outcomes such as the fraction of the human race that will be saved. We accept predestination.
Second, we must realize that the Way is hard and go for it. “Farewell to Old Broadway.” The glamour and the glitz, the shows and booze--we turn our back on them. Going with “La Vita Dolce”, the soft life, is heading for destruction.
Satan offered Jesus the easy way to success, to win the crowds and capture the kingdoms of this world. He refused. His death, chosen for Him, was the hardest way imaginable. We celebrate His victory.
The early church martyrs were offered life in exchange for bowing to Caesar. They took the hard way. They refused—and died—and are glorified. Rev. 7:9–17
In fact, it is a good rule of thumb, that if there are two ways of doing something, we should do it the hard way. For example, we can buy a little electronic keyboard that virtually plays the music for us, or we find a real piano, take the lessons, practice the scales and learn to read music. We will have made a life-time investment. We can buy an X-Box and play soccer on the couch, or go out and run and learn to play the real game. There is great gain for the pain. Beware of “take it easy on yourself” . “The Big Easy” city of New Orleans isn’t having an easy time of it either.
The last response is not to despair of others finding the Gate, but challenge non-Christians to do something that appears very difficult and that goes against the grain. Don’t mislead people into believing that it is easy to be a Christian--although it is easier to become a believer after you have found your way to the Gate.
7:15–20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” You may not be able to detect the falseness in their words or their malicious objectives, but in their “fruit”—the outcome of their work. Jesus uses the analogy of a tree and its product. What impact has their teaching had on other people’s lives? Do they move people toward Christ or away from Him? What are their own lives like? Paul Johnson wrote a book called “The Philosophers” in which he pointed out the glaring difference between what modern philosophers said and how they behaved.
Some of our seductive modern teachers advocate yoga for exercise and relaxation although Hinduism lurks behind. Others teach martial arts like Karate which hides Buddhist philosophy. We are warned away from these seemingly innocent exercises by Christians who understand Hinduism and Buddhism. Self-improvement and building self-esteem are promoted as salvation. All the pseudo-Christian religions that surround us are eager to pull us away from the Lord.
7:21 “Not everyone who says to Me ‘Lord, Lord’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and cast out demons in Your name, and do many might works in Your name? ”
Most of us have no contact with people with such powers—prophesying, exorcising demons and doing great exploits—at all. But we know there are religious leaders with reputations for spiritual power. That they would name the name of Christ and still not be His children is hard to imagine. But Satanic power is a reality. And obedience is difficult. I think the point is that there is only one criterion for acceptance into the Kingdom—a relationship with Christ. No amount of power really counts in place of being known by Him. No amount of spiritual talk matters either, without personal knowledge of Him. Beyond the talk, and even beyond the walk, is the personal bond.
“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Jn.14:15
7:24 The final challenge is to build our lives—our houses—our families and jobs and destinies to endure the storms of our existence. We know that beach houses on the Atlantic Coast fall into the sea. People know that they are building on sand, but they believe they will not be swept away. New Orleans had built its house on the Mississippi mud. Death is the greatest storm of all. What is the Rock? Obedience to Christ.
7:28 “When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.” We continue to be impacted to this day.
“When Jesus finished these sayings” is repeated by Matthew six times in the book, and the phrase serves to divide the book into sections. The only section not marked off in this way is the introductory section of four chapters.
We can now apply the four lessons.
Enter the narrow gate and go the hard way. What is the gate and what is the way?
Jesus said “I am the Way….” Jn.14:6. “I am the door of the sheep”. Jn.10:7
By their fruits you shall know them. What is the fruit which we value?
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….” Gal.5:22
“…and then I will declare to them ‘I never knew you….” How do we know Christ?
“But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God.” Jn.1:12
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…”
He makes it quite plain that the solid rock is obedience to His Word. It is not enough to hear. We must also do what He commands.
And to summarize the applications, go to Jesus, stay with Him, obey Him, and depend on the Holy Spirit for your fruit-bearing—and your discernment.
Finally, we can look at the Sermon on the Mount in several ways in view of the tremendous challenges it brings to our struggling spiritual lives. How shall we apply it?
*“It’s just for a few.” That was the old Catholic view, that the Sermon was the “counsel of perfection” for the “religious”—monks, priests and nuns.
* “Its just to convict.” This was the Post-Reformation view. You can’t possibly do it. The Sermon should drive us as the Law does—to be our Schoolmaster to bring us to Christ that we may be saved by faith.
*”It’s just for your attitude.” Beatitudes are beautiful attitudes? This is a liberal view that the Sermon should influence our motives and direction.
*It’s just not for now.” A dispensational view is that the Sermon is Kingdom ethics to be practiced during the Millennium when Satan is bound and righteousness prevails on the earth.
*”Just do it.” This was the view of the early Church.
(with thanks to F.D. Bruner: Matthew, A Commentary. Eerdmans, 2004, p. 363–4)
And for that we repeat Jesus‘ last word: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock…’”
This prophetic word was found on a cathedral wall in Lubeck, Germany.
"Why do you call me 'Lord, Lord' and do not the things I say?
You call Me the Way and walk Me not.
You call me the Life and live Me not.
You call me Master and obey Me not.
If I condemn thee, blame Me not.
You call me Bread and eat Me not.
You call me Truth and believe Me not.
You call me Lord and serve Me not.
If I condemn thee, blame Me not."