Saturday, April 13, 2024

2024.04.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 7:1–6

Read Matthew 7:1–6

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Matthew 7:1 forbid? What happens to those who do it? What two things are parallel in Matthew 7:2? What does Matthew 7:3 ask about our looking at? In whose eye? What does it ask about our not considering? In whose eye? About speaking to whom does Matthew 7:4 ask? What statement/instruction, specifically, to a brother? When we ourselves are in what condition? What does Matthew 7:5 call the plank-eyed person who does this? What must he do? What change will this make in himself? For usefulness in what task? What does Matthew 7:6 say about this help? To whom is it not to be given? What else does he call these things? Before whom must they not be cast? What will happen is this warning is not heeded? 

How does treasuring holiness shape our relationships? Matthew 7:1–6 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that treasuring our own holiness humbles us and sweetens us to be helpful to others who are treasuring holiness.

Knowing ourselves as needy of helpMatthew 7:1-2. In treasuring the Lord (cf. Matthew 6:24) and seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness (cf. Matthew 6:33), sanctification is heavenly treasure (cf. Matthew 6:20), and helps in sanctification is like precious pearls (cf. Matthew 7:6). Those who know their need of it will, by grace, be grateful for the gentleness and patience and mercy of God with them. And, by grace, they will be gentle and patient and merciful with others. This has been a theme near the openings of chapter 5 (cf. Matthew 5:7), chapter 6 (cf. Matthew 6:12Matthew 6:14Matthew 6:15), and now chapter 7 (Matthew 7:1-2). Matthew 6:14–15 is particularly parallel to Matthew 7:1-2. Receiving and reading this in context, it becomes clear that this is not a prohibition against exercising judgment (discernment) about what is or isn’t sinful, or even about whether another’s actions are or aren’t sinful. Rather, as the language of “measure” in Matthew 7:2 clarifies, it is about manner and spirit of interaction with others. So just as, previously, the Lord warned that the unforgiving will find themselves unforgiven (cf. Matthew 6:15), now He warns that the judgmental and censorious will find themselves condemned (Matthew 7:1-2)!

Helping one anotherMatthew 7:3-5. But how do we reconcile the fact that sanctification is a blessing, and that we are to be a blessing to one another (and therefore helpful in one another’s sanctification), with this warning against judgmentalism? Because, as Matthew 7:3-5 go on to teach, we must be upper-classmen in the school of mortification before we are humbled enough and clear-sighted enough to be helpful to a brother. The metaphor of the object in the eye is poignant. No one with a foreign object in his eyeball says that it is “just a speck”! When this happens to us, our whole life comes to a grinding halt until we have got clear of that foreign object. A believer who rightly understands his own sin will not tolerate any amount of it for any amount of time. If we haven’t humbled ourself to know the great badness of our sin and the great goodness of God in cleansing us from it more and more, we are unprepared to be helpful to our brother. What sweet liberty and freedom the man knows, who finally gets a foreign object (or some of foreign objects) out of his eye! So also we, who have been wretched, and have discovered great treasure must be prepared by that school of sanctification to interact with our brethren in tenderness and compassion that desires for them to know the sweetness with us in the discovery of the same treasure.

But as long as we are two-faced, we are self-deceived pretenders, the hypocrite of Matthew 7:5. How many, who haven’t been humbled and sweetened in Christ’s school of sanctification, have thought (or even denounced) others to be dogs or swine, because they did not yield readily to accusation, condemnation, or command! But the judgmental hypocrite is exposed even by the language of the verse by which he vindicates himself in his heart, for not having been humbled and sweetened by Christ’s school, he does not give his help with the gentleness and patience of one presenting holy treasure for the delight of the recipient. No, we must wait until Christ’s school has cleared our vision of self, sin, sanctification, and brother. Then we may be able to help.

But what about those who won’t be helped? Matthew 7:6. Of course, even when helping a brother with sin-removal is offered in a humble spirit and an affectionate manner, it is not always received as holy treasure! If the possible sin in question is not clear and chargeable and confrontable, it is best, in that case, to cover it over with love. And you will have learned that this one is not ready to receive help. Love can cover it over. 

But if there is a clear case of sin, then we must follow Luke 17:3, Galatians 6:1, 2 Thessalonians 3:13, James 5:19–20, knowing that if a Matthew 18:15 situation progresses to Matthew 18:16–17, the former “brother” will turn out to have indeed been dog and swine. These are not mean-spirited insults but “unclean animal” metaphors reminding us that sanctification is only for believers. Not everyone in the church is one, and trying to sanctify “everybody” will lead to vicious attacks. You do not have an infinite supply of pearls. Spend your time and effort and concern wisely. This is one reason why we are to let church discipline do its work in the rather speedy way described in Matthew 18:15–17, Titus 3:10–11, 1 Corinthians 5, and not be permitted to drag out in situations of clear, unrepentant sin. To let ourselves think it patient, or gentle, or judicious to let it drag out is to consider ourselves wiser than God and make it that much more difficult for those who actually are being humbled and sweetened together in sanctification to know how to spend their pearls wisely.

How/when have you enjoyed eye-object removal in your spiritual life? What effect has this had upon your view of yourself? How much desire for others’ liberty and sweetness has it produced? Whose help have you readily received?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us the heavenly treasure of sanctification. Help us to be as intolerant with our own sin as we are with foreign objects in our eyes. Help us to be as tender and caring with our sinning brother, as with someone who has a foreign object in his eye. Give us sweetness with You in being helped by You, and give us sweetness with one another in being used by You to help one another, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” 

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