Verse 1 is one of the few verses that many people who know little else about the Bible are familiar with; and it is wrongly used both as self-justification and to rebuke criticism of wrong-doing. The verse denounces compassion-less condemnation and hypocritical judgment of others – not any judgment at all. In fact, verse 6 requires judgment on our part, and if we could not judge at all, how could we ever determine what was right or wrong. The problem also comes into play when people want to put us on the spot, asking if we believe one person or even a group of people will go to heaven. Thank the Lord that such judgment is not our responsibility! It sometimes takes tremendous courage to speak up to someone who is doing wrong. You run the risk of hurting their feelings or more likely, making them angry – and even alienating yourself from people you care about. But if you believe that someone is living in a way in which they risk losing their soul and you say nothing, is that not terribly wrong of you?
Verse 6 simply means that there comes a time when, try as we might, we must realize that we are not going to be able to persuade some people to serve the Lord, and we must move on. Verses 7-11 do not make God the vending machine of prayer that grants every wish if we just ask for something. Not all things we wish for are best for us or for His purposes. Certainly God answers prayers, and many times, that answer from our perspective is “yes,” – other times we must be patient and see that His way is better for all in the long-term scheme. But the good gifts spoken of here are more spiritual in nature, as Jesus is making the point that the kingdom is open to all, and not just a select few.
The Golden Rule of verse 12 should come naturally to those who love the Lord with all their heart, and their neighbor as themselves. Verses 13-14 mean that though the way to heaven can be difficult with all of the temptation around us, the other way – the easy way – leads to destruction. Verses 15-20 are great advice for knowing who the many false prophets are – just like a good tree or a bad tree, you will know by their fruits. What is the result of their influence on others? This will always show the truth of the matter.
Verses 21-23 do not refer to people who are completely lacking in religious fervor. The key point is the latter part of verse 21 “the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” There are many who do great works and genuinely consider themselves to be righteous, but have never fully submitted to the Lord’s authority. Partial obedience, or subverting God’s commands to fit man’s own desires has never been good enough, and never will be – it is still disobedience (see James 2:8-11). Note that those referred to in those verses listed the works that they had done, missing the point entirely concerning where salvation comes from. It comes from the Lord’s grace, and that grace does not negate the requirement for full obedience!
Most everyone who went to Bible class as a child knows something of the story of the wise man who built his house on the rock, and the foolish man who built on the sand. As Jesus concludes this powerful sermon, He uses this analogy to demonstrate that all of things that He is teaching us in this sermon constitute the foundation for the “house” that we are building with our lives. By using all of these principles, we are building on a solid foundation (rock). Ignoring some of them, we will still get the house built, and it may appear to be fine. But when the storms of life come, the lack of a solid foundation may well result in disaster – and the final outcome (the eternal one) will certainly be a great fall.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.