Matthew 7
Pulpit Commentary
Judge not, that ye be not judged.
Verses 1-12. -

(2) As anxiety about the things of this life hinders us Godwards (ch. 6:19-34), so does censoriousness manwards (vers. 1-12), our Lord thus tacitly opposing two typically Jewish faults. Censoriousness - the personal danger of having it (vers. 1, 2), its seriousness as a sign of ignorance and as a hindrance to spiritual vision (vers. 3-5), even though there must be a recognition of great moral differences (ver. 6). Grace to overcome it and to exercise judgment rightly can be obtained by prayer (vers. 7-11), the secret of overcoming being found in treating others as one would like to be treated one's self (ver. 12). Verse 1. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:37. Judge not. Not merely "do not condemn," for this would leave too much latitude; nor, on the other hand, "do not ever judge," for this is sometimes our duty; but "do not be always judging" (μὴ κρίνετε). Our Lord opposes the censorious spirit. "Let us therefore be lowly minded, brethren, laying aside all arrogance, and conceit, and folly, and anger, and let us do that which is written... most of all remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which he spake, teaching forbearance and brag-suffering; for thus he spake... 'As ye judge, so shall ye be judged,'" Clem. Romans, § 13 (where see Bishop Lightfoot's note; el. also Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 96, 136 ft.); cf. 'Ab.,' 1:7 (Taylor), "Judge every man in the scale of merit;" i.e. let the scale incline towards the side of merit or acquittal. That ye be not judged; i.e. by God, with special reference to the last day (cf. James 2:12, 13; James 5:9; Romans 2:3). Hardly of judgment by men, as Barrow (serm. 20.): "Men take it for allowable to retaliate in this way to the height, and stoutly to load the censorious man with censure."
For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
Verse 2. - Parallels to the second clause in Luke 6:38 and Mark 4:24, For. Explanatory of" that ye be not judged." The principle of your own judgment will be applied in turn to yourselves. With what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. The judgment (κρίμα) is the verdict; the measure is the severity or otherwise of the verdict. In both clauses (cf. ver. 1, note) the passives refer to judgment by God, as is even more clear in Mark 4:24. The saying, "with what measure," etc., is found in Mishua, 'Sotah,' 1:7 ("With the measure with which a man measures do they measure to him"), where it is applied to the jus talionis in the case of a woman suspected of adultery (Numbers 5:11-31). Again. Omitted by the Revised Version, with the manuscripts. It was naturally inserted by the copyists, either as an unconscious deduction or from the parallel passage in Luke; but it is absent in the characteristically Jewish form of the saying found in the Mishna.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Verses 3-5. - The heinousness of censoriousness as a hindrance to one's self and to one's work for others. Verse 3. - Parallel passage:Luke 6:41. And why - when it is so contrary to common sense - beholdest thou the mote, etc.? A Jewish proverbial saying, e.g. Talm. Bab., 'Bab. Bathra,' 15b, Rabbi Jochanan ( third century A.D.),expounding Ruth 1:1, says, "A generation which when under judgment (שנשפט) judgeth its judges. When one saith to a man, Cast out the mote out of thine eyes, he saith (in answer), Cast out the beam out of thine eyes." In Talm. Bab., 'Erach.,' 16b, "Out of thy teeth" seems to be the right reading. In these verses the "eye" is usually taken as belonging solely to the illustration, and as not itself representing any one object. It may be so, but it has been used so recently (Matthew 6:22) of the spiritual sense that it is more natural to take it so here. In this case the thought of the passage is of faults existing in a man's spiritual sense hindering his spiritual vision. The censorious man sees any fault, however small, readily enough in others, but does not see the much greater fault which he himself as a matter of fact has - his own censoriousness. This censoriousness is not a slight, but a great hindrance to his own spiritual vision, much more to his being of use in removing hindrances from the eye of another. The mote; τὸ κάρδος; Latt. festucam; any small vegetable body. The English word is from the Anglo-Saxon mot, "a small particle" (cf. further Luke 6:41, note). Observe that our Lord allows that there is something wrong with the brother's spiritual vision, just as he allows that the unmerciful servant had a real debt owing to him. That is in thy brother's eye (Matthew 5:22, note). Our Lord is here speaking of the relation of believers to fellow-believers. He tacitly contrasts the censoriousness of the Pharisees towards fellow-Jews (John 7:49). But considerest not (οὐ κατανοεῖς). With any attention of mind; contrast Romans 4:19 (Abraham gave earnest consideration to his own age, and yet believed). The beam. So huge a piece of wood is there in thine own eye. That is in thine own eye. The order of the Greek lays still more emphasis on the fact that, though in thy very own eye there is a beam, thou payest no regard to that (cf. ver. 5, note).
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Verse 4. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:42a. Or. A second case is supposed. You may only see the mote or you may offer to remove it. How; with any conscience. Wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out? Let me (ἄφες,, ch. 3:15). There is nothing here of the rudeness that so often accompanies censeriousness. Pull out; Revised Version, cast out (ἐκβάλω). The thought is of the completeness, not the method, of the removal (cf. Matthew 9:38). A beam; the beam (Revised Version); i.e. the beam already mentioned.
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
Verse 5. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:42b. Thou hypocrite (Matthew 6:2, note). The thought here is of the personation of a part (a man free from impediment in his vision)which does not belong to you. First cast out the beam out of thine own eye, In ver. 3 the order of the words lays the emphasis on "thine;" here, on the eye. It is in thine eye, of all places, that the beam now is. And then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Surely a promise as well as a statement. See clearly (διαβλέψεις, δια- discriminatingly); as in the right text of Mark 8:25, itself after the recovery of full power of sight. See clearly. Not the mote (ver. 3), but to cast out the mote. The verse seems to imply that if the spirit of censoriousness be absent, it will be possible for us to remove "motes" from the eyes of our brothers. Thus the passage as a whole does not say that we never ought to try to remove such "motes," but that this is monstrous and almost impossible so long as we ourselves have a fault of so much magnitude as censoriousness.
Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.
Verse 6. - Matthew only. Give not that which is holy, etc. While you are not to be censorious towards brethren (vers. 1-5), you must recognize the great and fundamental differences that there are between men. You must not treat those who are mere dogs and swine as if they were able to appreciate either the holiness or the beauty and wealth of spiritual truth. Give Observe that "give," "cast," are naturally used of feeding dogs and swine respectively. That which is holy (τὸ ἅγιον). The metaphor is taken from the law that the things offered in sacrifice were no longer to be treated as common food (Leviticus 22:1-16, especially ver. 14, τὸ ἅγιον). Unto the dogs. The scavengers of Eastern cities, which by nature and habit love and greedily devour the most unholy of things (cf. Exodus 22:31). Neither cast ye your pearls, Pearls. Only here and Matthew 13:45, 46 in the Gospels. In form not so very unlike swine's food of beans or nuts, they here represent the beauty and precious wealth of the various parts of the Gospel, in which Christ's disciples are accustomed to delight (ὑμῶν). Ignatius ('Ephesians,' § 11) calls his bonds his "spiritual pearls." Before swine; before the swine (Revised Version). Probably in both cases the article is used with the object of bringing the particular dogs and swine to whom these are given more vividly before us. Swine. Which have no care for such things, but rather wallow in filth (2 Peter 2:22). Dogs... swine. The terms seem to so far indicate different classes of men, or more truly different characters in men, as that the one term points to the greedy participation of the wicked in open profanation, the ether to the sottish indifference of sinners to that which is most attractive. Lest they; i.e. the swine. Dogs, even though wild in the East, would not "tread down" the food. Trample them under their feet (Matthew 5:13). In ignorance of their real worth and in disappointment that they do not afford them satisfaction (For the future, καταπατήσουσιν, cf. Matthew 5:25, note.) It here expresses the greater certainty of the trampling than of the rending (aorist subjective). And turn again - Revised Version omits "again" - and rend you. In rage at the disappointment experienced. The clause expresses the personal enmity which those who wilfully reject the gospel often feel towards those that have offered it to them. It might be thought difficult to carry out this command, as it is evident that we cannot know beforehand who will accept the gospel or not. But in cases where the character of the person is not known (e.g. as when St. Paul preached at Athens, etc.), the command does not apply. Our Lord supposes the case where the character is apparent (cf. 1 Timothy 5:24). Theodoret (vide Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 103, 168), in quoting this verse, adds, "My mysteries are tot me and mine," which, clearly an adaptation of Symmachus and Theodotion's rendering of Isaiah 24:16, רזי לי (cf. also Targ. Jon.), seems to have become almost an authorized, and certainly a true, interpretation of our verse.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
Verses 7-11. - Ask, and it shall be given you, etc. Parallel passage: Luke 11:9-13. Nearly verbally identical, but in the son's request, reads "egg" and "scorpion" for "bread" and "stone," and reverses the order of the sentences. In Luke the verses are closely connected ("and I say unto you") with the parable of the friend at midnight, which itself immediately follows the Lord's Prayer. It seems probable that, as with the Lord's Prayer (ch. 6:9-13, note), so with these verses, the original position is given in Luke; yet, as also with the Lord's Prayer, Matthew's form of the individual clauses may be the more original (cf. ver. 11, note). With the general promise contained in these verses, cf. Mark 11:24. The connexion with the preceding verse is probably not

(1) pray for others who have no apparent capacity for receiving the truths of the gospel (Weiss); nor

(2) in answer to the question suggested by ver. 6, if this be the measure of the Divine dealings, what bounties can sinners expect at God's hands? Let them, nevertheless, ask of God, and it shall be given them (cf. Alford); but

(3) in close connexion with the whole subject from vers. 1-6, you feel conscious of want of wisdom for the true and loving judgment of others without censoriousness - ask for this special grace. With this connexion ver. 12 follows on naturally; i.e. the key to the right treatment of others may be found in one's own feelings and wishes; from the perception of what we desire to receive from others we may learn what others ought to receive from us. Verse 7. - Ask... seek... knock. Gradation in urgency. Further, the three clauses think of the Giver, the sphere in which the gift lies, the obstacles in the way of obtaining it.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
Verse 8. - For every one that asketh receiveth. Every one that asketh of God receiveth, for he is not the censorious Judge that you are inclined to be in your dealings with others. Therefore ask expectantly. He "giveth to all liberally, and upbraideth not" (James 1:5).
Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
Verses 9, 10. - Or what man is there of you, etc.? Or. Is not what I say true? or - if you think not - what man of you yourselves would act otherwise towards his own son? Our Lord appeals to the experience and natural feelings of his hearers themselves to emphasize the readiness of the Father - "your Father," whose nature you share, and from whom you derive your feelings of fatherhood (Ephesians 3:15) - to grant the prayers of his children. Observe:

(1) Our Lord assumes that our natural feelings are of the same kind as God's.

(2) Our Lord speaks of God's children asking him for gifts (cf. Matthew 5:16, note).

(3) Our Lord does not suggest, "Will he absolutely refuse him?" but "Will he give him something which is an answer in appearance only (a stone for bread, a serpent for a fish)?" i.e. our Lord implies that God's gifts, like an earthly father's to his son, are such as really and completely to satisfy the need which is expressing itself. A blessed encouragement, for he will thus answer the underlying desire, though not necessarily the verbal expression of the prayer. So when Monica prayed that her son might not sail to Rome, God did not grant this, but gave her "the hinge of her desire," for it was Augustine's journey to Italy that was the means of his conversion (Aug., 'Conf.,' 5:15). Bread... fish. The most usual food on the Lake of Galilee (cf. Matthew 14:17; John 6:9; cf. Matthew 4:3, note).
Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
Verse 11. - Parallel passage: Luke 11:13. If ye then being evil. Application of the thought of vers. 9, 10, with further emphasis on the evil of human nature. If you with your moral worthlessness (Matthew 6:13, note), etc. (cf. also Matthew 12:34). Being (gyros). The presence here in the parallel passage of Luke of his common word ὑπάρχοντες points to St. Matthew's form of the sentence being the more original. Know; intuitively (οἴδατε). Notwithstanding, then, the evil bent of fallen human nature, there is some good still remaining. How much more shall your Father which is in heaven. "In quo nulla est malitia" (Bengel). Give good things. Observe:

(1) In the parallel passage in Luke, "the Holy Spirit," or, more strictly, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Πνεῦμα Αγιον). The historian of the early Church not unnaturally singles out that gift which ultimately produces all others; but St. Matthew, keeping to the general subject of wisdom, etc., in the treatment of our brethren, uses a more distributive expression which yet includes the particular gift asked for.

(2) Is the omission of the word "gifts" in this clause to be accounted for by our Lord not wishing to suggest that the grace asked for is so given as that it can afterwards be possessed apart from the Giver?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
Verse 12. - Ver. 12a, parallel passage: Luke 6:31; Luke 12b, Matthew only. All things therefore. Therefore. Summing up the lesson of vers. 1-11 (cf. ver. 7, note). In consequence of all that I have said about censoriousness and the means of overcoming it, let the very opposite feeling rule your conduct towards others. Let all (emphatic) your dealings with men be conducted in the same spirit in which you would desire them to deal with you. Even so. Not "these things" do ye to them; for our Lord carefully avoids any expression that might lead to a legal enumeration of different details, but "thus" (οὕτως), referring to the character of your own wishes. (For this "golden rule," cf. Tobit 4:15 (negative form); cf. also patristic references in Resch, 'Agrapha,' pp. 95, 135.) On the occasional similarity of pre-Christian writings to the teaching of our Lord, Augustine (vide Trench, 'Serm.,' in loc.) well says it is "the glory of the written and spoken law, that it is the transcript of that which was from the first, and not merely as old as this man or that, but as the Creation itself, a reproduction of that obscured and forgotten law written at the beginning by the finger of God on the hearts of all men. When, therefore, heathen sages or poets proclaimed any part of this, they had not thereby anticipated Christ; they had only deciphered some fragment of that law, which he gave from the first, and which, when men, exiles and fugitives from themselves and from the knowledge of their own hearts, had lost the power of reading, he came in the flesh to read to them anew, and to bring out the well-nigh obliterated characters afresh." (Compare also Bishop Lightfoot's essay on "St. Paul and Seneca," in his 'Philippians.') For this is the law and the prophets. For this. This principle of action and mode of life is, in fact, the sum of all Bible teaching (cf. Leviticus 19:18). Observe:

(1) Our Lord brings out the same thought, but with its necessary limitation to the second table, in Matthew 22:40 (cf. Romans 13:10).

(2) Our Lord thus returns to the main subject of his sermon, the relation in which he and his must stand to the Law (Matthew 5:17).
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
Verses 13-27. -

(4) Epilogue (cf. Matthew 5:3, note). Dare to take up this position, which has been laid down in Matthew 5:21 - 7:12, involving though it must separation from the majority of men (vers. 13, 14); and this notwithstanding the claim of others to reveal the Lord's mind, whose true nature, however, you shall perceive from their actions (vers. 15-20); they that work iniquity have neither present nor future union with me (vers. 21-23). Finally a solemn warning (vers. 24-27). Verse 13. - For vers. 13, 14, cf. Luke 13:23, 24, which, however (notwithstanding the similarity of vers. 25-27 to our vers. 21-23), were probably spoken later, and were perhaps suggested to both the disciples and the Master by this earlier saying. On the other hand, our ver. 14 seems so direct an answer to Luke 13:23 that it is not unlikely that this is one of the many passages placed by St. Matthew, or the authors of his sources, out of chronological order. Enter ye in. Show immediate energy and determination. Observe:

(1) In Luke, "strive (ἀγωνίζεσθε) to enter in"; here, "enter at once."

(2) In Luke, "through the narrow door" into, apparently, the final abiding-place; here, "through the narrow gate" into apparently the (perhaps long) road which takes us at last to full salvation. Thus in Luke our Lord speaks of continued striving; here, of immediate decision, in which, however, lies the assurance of ultimate success (cf. ver. 14, end; also 1 John 2:13). At the strait gate; Revised Version, by the narrow gate - the entrance resembling the road (ver. 14, note). Chrysostom (in lot.), contrasting present trials with future happiness, says, "straitened is the way and narrow is the gate, but not the city." For wide is the gate, and Broad is the way. So also the Revised Version, but the Revised Version margin has, "some ancient authorities omit is the gate." (For a full discussion on the difficult question of the genuineness of ἡ πύλη here, vide Westcott and Hort, 'App.') Westcott and Hort omit it, with א, Old Latin, and many Greek and Latin Fathers, and say that, though ἡ πύλη is probably genuine in ver. 14, "till the latter part of the fourth century the first ἡ πύλῃ has no Greek or Latin patristic evidence in its favour, much against it." They think this is "one of those rare readings in which the true text has been preserved by א without extant uncial support... . It was natural to scribes to set ver. 13 in precisely antithetic contrast to ver. 14; but the sense gains in force if there is no mention of two gates, and if the contrast in ver. 13 is between the narrow gate and the broad and spacious way." There must be a definite entering upon the right way; no entrance upon the wrong way is necessary, men find themselves upon it only too easily, and it is "made level with stones" (Ecclus. 21:10). Wide... broad. The second epithet (εὐρύχωρος) lays stress on there being plenty of space to walk in (Latt., spatiosa). That leadeth to destruction (ei) th\n a)pw/leian); that "perishing" in which "the sons of perishing" perish (John 17:12). And many there be which; Revised Version, more exactly, and many be they that (καὶ πολλοί εἰσιν οἱ εἰσερχόμενοι). Our Lord says that they that are perishing are many (cf. ver. 14, note). Go in; Revised Version, enter in; keeping up the allusion to "enter ye in." Observe, however, that if ἡ πύλη (vide supra) is false, the thought here is of entrance into the final issue of the way - ἡ ἀπώλεια. Thereat; Revised Version, thereby; i.e. by the way.
Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
Verse 14. - Because (ὅτι); for (Revised Version); "many ancient authorities read, How narrow is the gate, etc." (Revised Version margin). The reading, "how" (τί) is much easier, as avoiding the difficulty of the connexion of this verse with the preceding, but probably ὅτι is right. The connexion is either that it is parallel to the first ὅτι, and thus gives a second reason for decision in entering through the narrow gate; or, and better, that it gives the reason for the statement in ver. 13b - many pass along the wrong way because the right way requires at the very outset so much determination and afterwards so much self denial. Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way; narrow is the gate, and straitened the way (Revised Version). Not only is the gate narrow, but the way itself seems compressed (τεθλιμμένη) by rocks, etc., on either side. That leadeth unto life (εἰς τὴν ζωήν). Observe, Christ does not say, "life eternal." He only cares to emphasize the thought of life in the fullest nature of life - life as "the fulfilment of the highest idea of being: perfect truth in perfect action" (Bishop Westcott, on 1 John 3:14). And few there be that; Revised Version, and few be they that (ver. 13, note). Our Lord here affirms more than the disciples ask in Luke 13:23; for there the question deals with those in a state of salvation (οἱ σωζόμενοι), here those finally saved. Find it; i.e. the gate and all it leads to. The narrow gate is here looked at as involving life. Find. It needs a search (contrast ver. 13). But there is the promise of ver. 7, "Seek, and ye shall find."
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Verses 15-23. - Matthew only in this form, though most of the separate verses have much matter common to other passages; viz.: vers. 16, 18, parallel with Luke 6:43, 44, cf. also infra, Matthew 12:33; ver. 19, cf. Matthew 3:10; ver. 21, cf. Luke 6:46; ver. 22, cf. Luke 13:26; ver. 23, parallel with Luke 13:27. (For the connexion of these verses, cf. ver. 13, note.) Verse 15. - Matthew only. Beware. The warning against being led from the right entrance and the right way is all the more emphatic for there being no adversative particle in the true text. Beware of false prophets. The whole class of them (τῶν). Not, observe, "false teachers" (2 Peter 2:1), as though these persons only falsely interpreted fundamental truths, but "false prophets," as falsely claiming to bring messages from God. They claim to bring from God the true message of salvation, but their claim is false. These were doubtless found, at the time that our Lord spoke the words, especially among the Pharisees; but when St. Matthew recorded them, chiefly among Christians, either on the Jewish or on the Gnostic side (Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:20, 21; cf. also 1 John 4:1 and 'Did.,' § 12.). Which; qualitative (οἵτινες); seeing that they. Come unto you in sheep's clothing. In, as it were, the skins of sheep (ἐν ἐνδύμασι προβάτων), professing simplicity and gentleness, and (for, perhaps, this thought is also included) claiming to be members of God's true flock. Externally they are all this, but at heart they are something very different. But inwardly they are ravening wolves. The thought of "ravening" (ἅρπαγες) is of both violence and greed. These false prophets are not merely wicked at heart and opposed to the truth, but they wish to injure you, and that for their own gain (cf Galatians 6:13). "Of the ravenousness of wolves among the Jewes, take these two examples besides others. The elders proclaimed a fast in their cities upon this occasion, because the wolves had devoured two little children beyond Jordan. More than three hundred sheep of the sons of Judah ben Shamoe were torn by wolves" (Lightfoot, 'Hor. Hebr.;' cf. Ezekiel 34:4, on false shepherds).
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
Verse 16. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:44. (For the first clause, cf also ver. 20 and Matthew 12:33.) Ye shall know them by their fruits. Their appearance and their claims are no proof of their true character. It may seem difficult to recognize this, yet there is a sure way of doing so, by their life. The emphasis of the sentence is on "by their fruits." Ye shall know. Ye shall come to know them to the full (ἐπιγνώσεσθε). (On the greater strength of the compound, vide Ellicott, 1 Corinthians 13:12.) Fruits. All considered separately (cf. vers. 17, 18, 20), but in ver. 19 as one whole (cf. Matthew 3:8, note). It is, however, just possible that here and in ver. 20 the plural points to fruit growing on different trees. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? The visible outgrowth reveals the nature of that which is within. Those who "profess to combine fellowship with God with the choice of darkness as their sphere of life "(Bishop Westcott, on the suggestive parallel 1 John 1:6) only show that within they are destitute of fellowship with God. Observe, Christ does not say, "Do thorns produce grapes," etc.? (cf. James 3:12), but "Do men gather?" i.e. he desires to bring out the way in which men ordinarily deal with productions external to themselves. You, my followers, ought to use that common sense in spiritual matters which men show in matters of everyday life. Thistles; apparently Centaurea calcitrapa, the common thistle of Palestine; in the plains the only fuel.
Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
Verse 17. - Matthew only. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. The similarity between the fruit and the nature of the tree extends not only to the species, but also to the specimen. Good tree (δένδρον ἀγαθόν); intrinsically sound. Good fruit (καρποὺς καλούς); attractive in the eyes of men. As is the inner character of the tree, so is the obvious nature of the fruit. But a corrupt tree (τὸ δὲ σαπρὸν δένδρον); "the" picturing it. Corrupt; unsound, rotten, worthless (cf. Matthew 13:48); also in the moral world (Ephesians 4:29).
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Verse 18. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:43 (cf. also infra, Matthew 12:33). A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. This correspondence of external product to internal character is necessary. It cannot (emphatic) be otherwise. It' the heart is good, good results follow; therefore, he implies, if good results are not seen in these "false prophets," it is because of their real character. A bad life cannot but spring from a worthless heart. Of course, our Lord deals only with the general rule. There are apparent anomalies in the world of spirit as of nature. Bring forth... bring forth; ἐνεγκεῖν (Westcott and Herr)... ποιεῖν. A good tree cannot have bad fruit hanging on it; a rotten or worthless tree cannot, with all its efforts, produce good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Verse 19. - Matthew only (cf. Matthew 3:10, vide infra). Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. A parenthesis expressing the terrible fate of those the general product (ver. 16, note) of whose life is not good. Christ will warn his followers plainly against listening to them. Observe that the form of the sentence (πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπόν, κ.τ.λ.) implies that all trees will be cut down unless there is a reason for the contrary; that the normal event (the natural result of universal sin, apart, of course, from Christ's atonement) is that men are condemned and perish. In Matthew 3:10 this general statement is applied (οϋν) to a definite time of impending judgment.
Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Verse 20. - (Ver. 16, note.) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Wherefore (ἄραγε). Ver. 16a is restated, but now in "rigorous logical inference" (Winer, § 53:8. a) from vers. 16b - 18. Since it is a certainty that fruit is the result of inner nature, you shall from these men's fruits fully learn their true character.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
Verses 21-23. - These verses stand in close connexion with vers. 15-20. Seeing that external actions are the result of internal life, it is they, not words nor even miracles (since these may in themselves not be dependent on the inner life, though permitted by the Divine power), by which the true followers of Christ will be finally distinguished from others, and which therefore will alone secure admission to abiding with Christ in the kingdom of heaven. To these verses Luke 13:23-28 have many resemblances (cf. also vers. 13, 14, supra). St. Luke thus omits the warning against false teachers. (For ver. 21, cf. also Luke 6:46.) Verse 21. - Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord. Professing obedience (Matthew 6:24). Observe the indirect claim to this title of reverential submission and the implied expectation that it will be given him by many. Shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. The final goal of our hopes. But he that doeth the will of my Father. Not "of me," but of him whom I represent, and to whom I stand in a unique relation (observe the claim). This man also says, "Lord, Lord" (Winer, § 26:1), but not merely says it. Such a man enters into family relationship to Christ (Matthew 12:50). Which is in heaven. Since you desire to enter the kingdom of heaven, be now obeying the will of him who dwells in heaven. (For the thought of the verse, cf 1 John 2:4.)
Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
Verse 22. - Matthew only; but cf Luke 13:26, from which the "Western" addition of eating and drinking is probably derived. Many will say to me in that day. The great day. Notice Christ's claim, so early as this, to be the future Judge of the world. Lord, Lord (cf. Hosea 8:2). In ver. 21a profession of service, i.e. as regards work; here, as regards wages. Have we not prophesied. Revised Version did, etc.? The thought is not of abiding effect, but merely of historical facts (οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν). In thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? Revised Version, by thy name. An important difference, for "in" implies some vital connexion. But in this case the revelation (Matthew 6:9, note) of Christ was merely the instrument by which these men proclaimed Divine truths, cast out; demons, and wrought miracles. With him, or even with it, they had no real union. The connexion of "prophesied" with the two other words seems to forbid this being only false prophesying (ver. 15; cf. especially Jeremiah 27:15 [34:12, LXX.]; 14:14). Rather does the verse teach that spiritual results can be effected by unspiritual men. "Suggested by this and like passages. Augustine has many instructive words and warnings on the nothingness of all gifts, even up to the greatest gift of working nil miracles, if charity be wanting" (Trench, ' Sermon on the Mount').
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Verse 23. - (Cf. Luke 13:27.) And then will I profess unto them. Openly in the face of all men (cf. Matthew 10:32). I never knew you. Even when you did all these miracles. etc., I had not that personal knowledge of you which is only the result of heart-sympathy. There was never anything in common between you and me. Although this is, perhaps, the only example of this sense of ἔγνων in the synoptic Gospels, it is common in John. Depart from me. The absence of recognition by Christ, though not represented as the cause, yet will involve departure from his presence (cf. 2 Thessalonians 1:9). This clause reproduces verbally the LXX. of Psalm 6:8, except in St. Matthew's word used for "depart" (ἀποχωρεῖτε), which gives more idea of distance in the removal than the word used in the psalm and in Luke (ἀπόστητε). Ye that work. In full purpose and energy (οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι, cf. Colossians 3:23), and that till this very moment. Iniquity. The assurance of the psalmist becomes the verdict of the Judge. Observe that at this, the end of his discourse, our Lord speaks not of sin generally (τὴν ἁμαρτίαν), but of lawlessness (τὴν ἀνομίαν). He has throughout been insisting upon obedience to the Law in its final meaning as essentially necessary for his followers (most recently ver. 12). So that instead of saying, "ye that work sin," he uses the correlative (1 John 3:4), for sin is neglect of or opposition to the perfect Law of God in the three spheres that this regards - self, the world, God (cf. Bishop Westcott, on 1 John 3:4). It is, perhaps, more than a coincidence that in 2 Timothy 2:19 we have again the collocation of the Lord knowing and of man's departing, i.e. either from him or from sin (cf. especially the parallel Luke 13:27); vide Resch, 'Agrapha,' p. 207.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:
Verses 24-27. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:47-49 (cf. also Ezekiel 13:10-16). A solemn close to the sermon. By the similitude of two builders our Lord warns his followers that to have heard his words will have been useless unless they put them into practice. Observe that although the word "hear in these verses cannot indicate that full "hearing" which it sometimes connotes (Matthew 10:14), yet it seems to mean more than merely listening, and to imply both a grasp of what is intended by the statements made and at least some acquiescence in their truth (Acts 2:22; Revelation 1:3; John 5:24). According to the above explanation, it will be seen that in the imagery the rock represents practice; the sand, mere sentiment. There is thus a partial correspondence with the works insisted on by St. James in contrast to a bare orthodox faith (James 2:24). Assent is insufficient; there must be action. Not uncommonly, indeed, the rock is considered to refer to the Lord himself, and the sand to human effort. Cf. Ford: "The parallel passage (Luke 6:48), where the words, 'cometh unto Me,' are inserted, indicates clearly the foundation of faith, the receiving the Lord Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King, which is the only basis on which good works can be built" (cf. even Allord). This, however, is hardly exegesis, but application, for the "coming to Christ" is in Luke only introductory to the hearing and doing, and is altogether omitted here. Although the statement is true in itself, it is only so far proper to this passage in that, apart from practice, there is (ver. 23) no heart-union with Christ. Verse 24. - Therefore whosoever hoareth; Revised Version, every one therefore which heareth (πᾶς οϋν ὅστις , Matthew 10:32). The relative used lays stress on the quality implied in the verb: every one who is of the kind that hears (contrast ver. 26). These sayings (Revised Version, words) of mine, and doeth them. Not the individual utterances (ῤήματα, John 6:63), nor the substance of my message considered as a whole (λόγον, Matthew 13:[19] 20), but the substance of its parts, the various truths that I announce (λόγους). I will liken him; Revised Version, shall be likened, with the manuscripts. Not shall, in fact, be made like, ch. 6:8 (Weiss), but shall be likened in figure and parable. Unto a wise man. Prudent, sensible (φρόνιμος). Which built his house upon a rock; Revised Version, the rock. Which in not a few cases may be found at no great distance from the surface.
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
Verse 25. - And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a (Revised Version, the) rock. The stages of the tempest are expressed more vividly than in St. Luke.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:
Verses 26, 27. - And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell; and great was the fall of it. In the Plain of Sharon the clay seems to have been so interior that not only were the jars made of it often worthless, but the bricks could offer so little resistance to the weather that the houses were hardly safe. Hence a special prayer was offered by the high priest on the Day of Atonement that the Lord would grant that their houses might not become their tombs (Talm. Jeremiah, 'Yoma,' 5:2 [Schwab, p. 218]; cf. Neubauer, 'Geograph.,' p. 48). In the parable, however, it is not the structure, but the foundation, that is wrong. The sand may refer, as Stanley suggests ('Sinai and Palestine,' ch. 13. p. 430), to one locality, in which case it is probably "the long sandy strip of land which bounds the eastern plain of Acre, and through which the Kishon flows into the sea;" or, as would seem more probable, to the sand which would naturally be found on the edges of such a torrent as is here described. Beat upon; smote upon (Revised Version). In ver. 25 the thought is more of the swoop of the tempest (προσέπεσαν); here, of its impact on the house (προσέκοψαν). It is possible that there is here less indication of force necessary for the destruction. "It needed only the first blow, and the house fell" (Weiss, 'Matthaus-ev.'). And great was the fall of it. Our Lord's solemn verdict of the utter ruin awaiting him who does not put his assent into action. The clause conveys an impression even stronger than ver. 23. There the positive worker of lawlessness is banished from Christ's presence; here, on the mere non-worker of Divine messages received is pronounced ruin and (for such, at least, seems suggested) that irremediable.
And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
Verses 28, 29. - The impression produced on the multitudes. With the exception of the formula, "It came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings" (cf. Matthew 11:1, note), the words are almost identical with Mark 1:22 (Luke 4:31, 32), but the time is, as it seems, later. The oral statement of an impression which was probably often produced is affirmed of slightly different times. Verse 28. - Sayings; Revised Version, words (ver. 24, note). The people; Revised Version, the multitudes (οἱ ὄχλοι). In contrust to the scribes and ruling classes. Were astonished (cf. Acts 13:12). At his doctrine; at his teaching (Revised Version).
For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Verse 29. - For he taught them. Such was his constant habit (η΅ν... διδάσκων). As one having authority, and not as the scribes. Who, indeed, never claimed personal authority. Jewish teachers lean on the fact of their having received that which they expound. They professed]y sink their own personality in that of those of old time, to whom the teaching was first given (Matthew 5:21). To this our Lord's personal claims stand in sharp contrast. The scribes; Revised Version, their scribes, with the manuscripts; i.e. the scribes to which they were accustomed to listen. Whether the reference is primarily to scribes of the nation generally or only to those of the neighbouring district, is hardly material, for these were representatives of the one class. A few authorities add, "and the Pharisees," which may either be derived from Luke 5:30 or be an independent gloss due to the fact that the Pharisees were looked upon as the typical Jewish teachers.

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