This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
A number of translations translate this as "condemn not, that you be not condemned" because Jesus is not just talking using the word "judge" to indicate "discerning." God tells us, all the way through the Bible, to be very discerning.
Greetings, friends around the world!
Once again, this is Roderick C. Meredith, speaking to you for the Living Church of God. We have been going through the book of Matthew, almost verse by verse, explaining and expounding the real meaning of this magnificent part of the Bible. We are now in an especially wonderful part of the Bible called the Sermon on the Mount. Last time, we discussed the importance of how you use your material resources. Jesus Christ explained clearly that " where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
Now let's begin Chapter 7:
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you."
A number of translations translate this as "condemn not, that you be not condemned" because Jesus is not just talking using the word "judge" to indicate "discerning." God tells us, all the way through the Bible, to be very discerning. He tells us to make judgments, as a matter of fact, but not to condemn—not to think that someone is "good for nothing" and utterly lost. We need to understand that difference.
"And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? [In other words, people were condemning others when they had greater faults themselves.] Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? [A plank is in your eye and yet you are out judging and condemning others.] Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
In other words, if you grow in grace and in knowledge and you become a spiritual leader, you may, in fact, be able to remove the speck in your brother's eye. You may indeed help him find out his faults, mistakes or weaknesses, and may help him overcome them. That is not wrong, but you are not to be having a condemning attitude.
Remember that Jesus Christ is the Word. He is the Logos. He is the one who inspired the entire Bible, and the New Testament is His New Testament—the new covenant of Jesus Christ. In the book of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul explains to us more about this matter of judging, which helps us understand Matthew 7:
1 Cor. 2:14
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God.
Another word for "natural" is "carnal." Carnal means physical. Americans know that the Mexican dish chili con carne means "chili with meat." Just as carne means "meat," carnal means meaty or "fleshly"—it does not mean especially or unusually evil. It just means the normal, physical mind of man that just thinks about physical things.
1 Cor. 2:14-15
The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him [he does not grasp spiritual things]; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned [you have to discern or judge these things]. But he who is spiritual judges all things,…
That's right! He who is spiritual—a really deeply converted person or true minister—may be able to judge and understand that certain things in society, or even in individuals, are sin—and help others work on those things. That's not wrong.
1 Cor. 2:16
…yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul says "we" and in the very next verse says: "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal." He said, "You folks do not have that kind of mind." Most of them were not spiritual. You have to be deeply spiritual, then you have the mind of Christ. Very few people on this earth have grown to that degree. They do not have the mind of Christ. But one who does is able to discern, or judge, and does need to judge and discern. To do so is not wrong.
1 Cor. 6:1-3
Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? [In other words, the saints would be the ones to judge upsets between brethren, contentions between brethren in the church.] Do you not know that the saints will judge [there is the word judge again] the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? [Don't you have the perception to judge between brethren?] Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?
Paul goes on to explain how those who are in the church ought to judge others in certain situations. So Christ was not contradicting the Apostle Paul, and Paul was not contradicting his Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. So many people say "Judge not, judge not." But you should judge: "This is a false doctrine," or "that is not Christ's church, because it teaches heretical ideas," or "this rotten stuff on television is sinful." You should judge that! You should discern those things if you are a Christian.
You should not get too picky about individuals, though; you might get their attitude wrong. If the Ladies' Aid Society had been out one Sunday afternoon and saw a man with a knife about to kill his son, they might have thought: "Wow, this man is the most evil man on earth." Of course, about 3,500 years ago, that might have been Abraham-who was willing to sacrifice Isaac. God intervened at the last minute and said, "Don't touch the lad, now I know that you fear Me." But what a sight that would have been if all those people came by and saw this man-they would not have been able to discern the situation. They would not understand the background of his actions. They would not know Abraham's attitude. Of course, God did not allow that to happen, but it shows how you can misjudge others. Jesus says: "Judge not according to appearance sake, but judge righteous judgment." So you do need to judge. He said to judge righteous judgment.
"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye [overcome your own sin, grow in grace and in knowledge], and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
You can help your brother. You can discern problems he may be having if you are a spiritual leader.
"Do not give what is holy to the dogs…"
If a person treats spiritual things cheaply, don't present those spiritual things in front of him—he doesn't understand what you are talking about and he won't appreciate it. You may give general comments to him—that there has to be a God, there has to be a great Creator to create everything that is and a Designer to design this world. You may talk to him about general things that are happening in prophecy. But if you get into deep spiritual things he will probably just spit on you. He doesn't understand it, so don't give it to him.
"…nor cast your pearls before swine…"
The hogs don't appreciate beautiful pearls. You throw them right in the slop with a bunch of hogs, and how much appreciation are the hogs going to have for that? People don't understand. Jesus said: "No man can come to me unless the Spirit of the Father draws him." God has to call people to understanding—otherwise, they will not understand what you are talking about. God is not trying to save the world now. If He were trying to save the world, He would do it! He is El Shaddai—God Almighty! But He is not trying to save the world, and most people will treat the truth very cheaply.
"…nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. Ask [as you come to God], and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find [in other words, you ask and then you seek help from God]; find; knock, and it will be opened to you."
Knock on the door. Cry out to God—that's not wrong. Put your heart in your prayer. Literally, cry out to God, and God will hear you.
"…knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds…"
If you seek God sincerely and heartfeltly, God will no doubt open your mind.
"…and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil…"
Jesus' disciples were just normal, carnal men at that time. The Holy Spirit was not given to anyone yet—not until the day of Pentecost, after Christ's death. So they were still basically evil. Remember Peter cursed and swore and denied Christ three times at the very end of Jesus' ministry. That very night, before He died, Peter was still carnal. He did not have God's Spirit in him. It was with him, but not yet in him.
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children…"
Everyone can give his children good things. Why? Myself, my job, my money, my house, my wife, my children—that's all in a sense part of me or related to me. So we want to take care of that. Even evil people will give good things to people around them as part of their family or their closest retinue.
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him."
He will want to give you good things. So you need to ask God, and cry out to God, and come to God often.
Turn to Mark 11. Jesus had cursed this fig tree, as many of you will remember:
And Peter, remembering, said to Him, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away." So Jesus answered and said to them, "Have faith in God."
Of course, the fig tree would be cursed! Jesus cursed that fig tree with total faith in God-that God would do this for a good reason, to teach them a lesson. So God did do it.
"For assuredly, I say to you [This is not just what Jesus could do, but what they could do even though they were still carnal. Jesus was teaching them this for the future.], I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says."
What an attitude of faith! There might be a time when a literal hill or mountain or some bridge would need to disappear. If you knew it was God's will, you could ask and if you asked in faith, God would do that—if you are His servant and if you are following Him. This is a POWERFUL example of prayer.
"Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, BELIEVE that you receive them, AND YOU WILL HAVE THEM."
You have to believe whatever things you ask. Certainly, other scriptures tell us, however, that we are to ask according to God's will. If you ask some crazy thing, a true Christian will have doubt, and won't honestly believe in the heart. If you ask along the line of what God is showing He will do and wants to do and you have faith as you pray: "whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them." So that is a powerful thing. Jesus Christ said, "YOU WILL HAVE THEM."
One key we often don't think about in this regard is something God brings out through the beloved Apostle John, who was Jesus' closest personal friend:
1 John 3:22
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments [the antecedent is God—not the new commandments of Jesus, we keep God's commandments (plural)] and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
If you keep God's commandments—if you walk with Him and walk with Christ and have Christ living His life in you— when you pray you will receive whatever you ask because you are obedient. Certainly, you have to ask in faith. So those are some of the conditions for answered prayer. Let's understand that this is a powerful thing we need to learn.
Here in Matthew 7, Christ talks about how much more God will give you good things if you come to Him. Even though you would give your children, "how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him"?
"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."
This is what the Bible tells us! People say this is a brand new teaching. But no, it wasn't. It wasn't a new teaching back then, because Jesus Christ was the God of the Old Testament. He was the Word, the Logos, the Spokesman, as when He spoke in Leviticus:
'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.'
"I am the great God who made all men. You are to love your neighbor as yourself." God said that through Moses. Moses did not say it; God said it through Moses. Jesus brings out through John later that the Law came through Moses, not from Moses, and that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ—all through God the Father.
"Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them…"
Are you encountering a person of a different race? How would you want to be treated if you were of that race? Would you want to be treated with respect and kindness and mercy? Maybe you are encountering an old person who is crippled, or a young child who is helpless, or a nervous teenager who doesn't know quite what to do. Think about it! When you were at that age, or if you were in that situation, how would you want to be treated? Love that person. Help that person. Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Treat others as you would want to be treated. This is the intent of the Law and the Prophets! God's Law tells us how to love God and how to love our neighbor.
That's it for today. We will continue in the Sermon on the Mount next time.
This is Roderick C. Meredith for the Living Church of God.