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A Journey Through Matthew (Pt 7)


There are rules everywhere we go. We have rules at home, rules at work, rules at school, rules at church, and rules concerning laws of the land. In fact I had to follow the rules of driving to get to the church safely and without getting a traffic violation.  Rules are important for our safety and well-being. I found a list of rules called "Golden Rules for Living." I don't know who wrote them, but they are true and helpful.

  • If you open it -- close it.

  • If you turn it on -- turn it off.

  • If you unlock it -- lock it.

  • If you move it -- put it back.

  • If it belongs to someone else -- get permission to use it.

  • If you borrow it -- return it.

  • If you don't know how to operate it -- leave it alone.

  • If you use it -- take care of it.

  • If you mess it up -- clean it up.

These are good rules. They are standard rule and if we followed these rules, we will do well in life.


The Bible has many rules.  Sometimes we call them rules and other times we call them commandments or laws. Can you guess how many rules are in the Old Testament? There are 613 Rules, laws, or commandments in the O.T alone!  God gave and established rules to the Israelites a long time ago.  Many of these rules were simple and easy to abide by and some were not.  If you lived in ancient Israel, you would have to be careful to keep all the rules of God, because there were often consequences for disobedience.


Let’s put this into modern dialect…For me, ham, bacon, and shrimp are awesome! I could these every day of the week. But Old Testament forbade consumption of ham, bacon, or shrimp because they were considered unclean, and the laws stated that these foods should not be consumed.  That would be a hard rule for me to keep.  Maybe you don’t for care pork and shrimp, but did you know the OT law prohibited people from eating a cheeseburger?  That would be even worse.  There is another rule that states if you do not listen to your parents, terrible things will happen to you.  Parents may respond with “Amen.”  But think about when you were a child.  How many of you were ALWAYS obedient?  There is another rule that says anyone working on a Sunday would be in BIG trouble… I would be in trouble because I am working right now.  So, these rules were established by God for the people of God, and it was believed by ancient Jews that if you kept these rules, then it would show everyone that you were obedient and loved God.


Now, before we get too far along about rules, I need to clarify that even though the Bible is full of rules, laws and commandments, it is not distinctly a rule book, a handbook for how to follow rules, or a list of rules to keep so you can go to heaven.  No, the Bible is more than that, it is the story of God, who he is, and his work among his people.  The rules he gave were for the benefit of his children and ultimately for his glory.


Let’s fast forward a couple thousand years to the time of Jesus.  He knew the importance of rules. He established and promoted rules. In fact, at one point, he was asked by religious leaders what is the greatest rule of all rules. To which he responded, “Love God with everything you have” and “Love others as yourself.”


Today, we are going to look briefly at one of the greatest rules of all rules in the Bible.  It is great because it is the essence and fulfillment are all rules put into one.


Matthew 7:12


Golden Rule

For the past few weeks we have touched on a few primary points of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount such as loving God and your enemies, prayer, and worry.  Matthew 7 is the concluding and pinnacle teaching of his sermon, and it is summed up in this one verse that is commonly called “The Golden Rule.” This is not the title Jesus gave this rule, it is simply called this because it is a simple and widely applicable idea.  The Golden Rule has a diverse history. It is so diverse that it is not exclusively a Christian rule.  There are versions of the rule in Zoroastrianism, Confucianism, Buddhism, ancient Indian literature, Greek literature from the time of Herodotus, and Jewish sources. It is also believed that second century Roman Emperor Alexander Severus had a gold placard with What you do not wish to be done to yourself, do not do to others written on it.


The Golden Rule summarizes what God desires for His people.  Following the Golden Rule Jesus will challenge those listening to him to decide for either following him and his ways or following the ways of those who are against him. Now, this rule is often misquoted as “Do unto others as they do unto you.”  This is not what Jesus teaches. The Golden Rule” writes Anglican Priest and Biblical scholar John Nolland, “brings something of its own into the moral realm through its assertion of the significance of each other person in his or her own right and of the need to engage by sympathetic imagination with the reality of the other person’s experience.”[1] In the Golden Rule we find a basis or baseline for personal and community life. It essentially asks, how would I want to be treated in a situation and use that as the guideline for how I treat others, friend, or foe.


Jesus says the essence of all the laws and the prophets is summed up in this practice. In a simple response, it is the heart and the motivation behind discipleship. When we read the Golden Rule with this truth in mind this does not become an external performance to gain the approval of God and others. Instead, it becomes a matter of the motivation of the heart.  If one lives out the Golden rule as an ethical external rule or ideal, it will become a useless effort and can even become self-serving. To put another way, the Golden Rule must be lived in combination with the Great Commandment found in Matthew 22:37 – 40. “Jesus replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” One who loves God with all he/she has will find it easier to love and treat others with kindness and dignity. Loving God enables us to love our neighbor. It becomes a matter of experience. When one experiences the Father’s love, mercy, and forgiveness one can extend love, mercy and forgiveness to their neighbor and enemy.


Matthew 7:15- 20


False teachers

In the conclusion of this passage Jesus gives a warning about false prophets and teachers. There were prophets and teachers who were leading people astray with their false teachings and prophecy and their practices eventually crept into the early church.  We are told about this in the Epistle to Jude verses 3 – 4. Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people. I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

  Certain people had crept in and infiltrated the fellowship with false teaching and heresy.  They had “Crept in unnoticed” or entered in secretly or stealthily like parasites.  These people have secretly crept into this body, and they were designated ahead of time for condemnation.  This expression teaches that the condemnation of apostates has been determined long beforehand.  They may have crept in and taken the church by surprise but God in his sovereignty was not.  They were designated beforehand to be false teachers and God had taken measures to make sure these people were exposed.

Characteristics of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing or False Teachers

  1. Ungodly- Destitute of reverence to God.  Condemning God. 

  2. Pervert the grace to sensuality – To change or add to the gospel message of grace, to fall away, or put something else in its place (idolatry).  

    1. Sensuality - unbridled lust, excessiveness, shamelessness, and insolence.  

    2. They were changing God’s grace of kindness and forgiveness to a license to sin.

  3. Deny that Jesus is Lord – Disregard for Jesus or try to prove false the supremacy and Christology of Jesus.  People who say or believe, “Jesus wasn’t really God and He never claimed to be God.”  “He was a good man but not God.”

These wolves seem genuine at first, by their talk and association with a certain group, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing is called this because they seem harmless at first glance but are ferocious and harmful at the core. Knowing this, Jesus tells his disciples to have wisdom in their discernment. He gives a litmus test, if you will, in how to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He says, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” It’s a rather simple and easy process.  Can something claiming to be one thing, produce something completely opposite?

 

Galatians 5:19 – 26

 

Jesus tells his disciples to carefully evaluate and test those who proclaim to be prophets and desiring to come into the community. Is their message consistent with their actions? The fruit one bears should match the tree or vine it comes from.  Thus, the actions of a teacher or prophet must be consistent with the name they proclaim. 

 

Conclusion

Due to time restrictions, we were not able to look as closely to the Sermon on the Mount as I would like to, but I would like to give a general summary of what Jesus was preaching to his people and to us today.  He challenges the crowds to accept his invitation to the Kingdom of Heaven, because their choice has eternal consequences. He gives us practical information such as the model prayer, our witness as Christians, our attitude as followers of Jesus, the root of sin, the joy of giving, and how-to live-in community as disciples of Christ.

 

We read at the conclusion of Matthew 7 that the crowds were amazed at Jesus’ teaching.  My hope and prayer for us today is that we are more than amazed by his teaching. My hope and prayer is that we are transformed by his teaching. In response to his sermon, as with any sermon, we don’t walk away from it simply giving it an emotional response, critique, or compliment.  We need to be changed and this sermon will truly cause us to exalt Jesus as the one who teaching has authority and is the true foundation of what life in Christ can and should look like.


[1] John Nolland, The Gospel of Matthew: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2005), 330.

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