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Go to Bible: Matthew 7
“Do not judge.” The Greek word translated “judge” is krinō (#2919 κρίνω), and basically it means to make a selection, or express an opinion about something. It is used in many contexts, including meaning to separate, to select, to approve, to be of the opinion of, to determine, to judge, to rule, to contend together (of warriors and combatants), to dispute, or in a forensic sense to have a lawsuit with. So whether “judging” is a good thing or a bad thing, or even just a part of life, must be determined from the context in which the word is used. For example, in Romans 14:5, a person “judges” what days he considers special (we, for example, might judge Christmas Day to be a special day, but many people would not).
Here in Matthew 7:1, krinō means to pass an unjust judgment upon someone or something. Not just an unfavorable judgment, but an unjust judgment. There are times when an unfavorable judgment is a righteous judgment. For example, in this verse, “Do not judge so that you are not judged,” the last “judged” is the Final Judgment of God, and His judgment, even if it declares someone unrighteous, is a righteous judgment. God is not unrighteous for judging us, or even condemning the unrighteous.
Krinō can also refer to judging that we do that is a righteous judgment. In fact, no one can live wisely without making judgments, and Christians are called to make correct judgments about others. If we do not make judgments about others, the Devil will take advantage of our weakness or indecisiveness and wreak havoc on the Church. In John 7:24, Jesus called upon us to “judge with righteous judgment.”
In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul told the Corinthians that it was their responsibility to judge other Christians. The Corinthians in Corinth had been blind and weak, too affected by the culture around them, which was very sexual. Corinth was a center of sexual profligacy in the Roman world, so much so that a common Latin slang term for a prostitute was a “Corinthian girl.” The Corinthians had allowed egregious adultery in their congregation—a man having sex with his father’s wife. Paul told them he had judged that person (1 Cor. 5:3), and they were to throw him out of the Church.
Other uses of “judge” in the NT that show it is something we have to do include: in Luke 7:43, Jesus praised Peter for making a correct judgment about what he was teaching, and in Luke 12:54-56 he reproved the religious leaders for correctly judging the weather, but not making a correct judgment about the times of the Messiah in which they lived. In Acts 20:16 Paul made a judgment while traveling not to stop at Ephesus. We are to judge the things of this life (1 Cor. 6:3). We are to judge what we hear people say (1 Cor. 10:15).
In the wider context of living life, we can see that it is impossible to live wisely without making judgments. We make judgments about everything we do and everyone we are with all day long. The judgments we make are expressed in words such as “test,” and “determine.” In 2 Corinthians 13:5 we are to test ourselves; in 1 John 4:1 we are to test the spirits, and in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 we are to “test everything. Hold fast to that which is good.”
Considering the wide range of meaning of “judge,” and the fact that Christians are called upon to judge others in the Church to keep the congregation godly, it is amazing that the Adversary has been so effective at using the phrase, “Do not judge, so that you will not be judged,” to keep people from standing against evil. In the first place, the context of this verse is verse 2, that we will be judged by the same standard we use to judge. We should correctly judge others because we want God to correctly (and graciously) judge us. But what if we will not make any judgments against others? Can we “opt out” of judging? No, we cannot. Opting out of judging was what the people of Corinth were trying to do in 1 Corinthians 5. There was evil in their midst, but rather than make a difficult judgment, they allowed the evil. Christians must accept the fact that living wisely means making judgments, and all judgment against evil is difficult and distasteful; no one wants to do it, even though it has to be done. Was it a blessing for the people in Corinth to be able to go before God and say, “Even though there was sin in our church, at least we did not judge anyone.”? No, instead they were reproved by God for their lack of making the kind of difficult judgment that protected the Church—a judgment Paul ended up having to make for them.
When Christ said for us not to judge here in Matthew 7:1 and in Luke 6:37, we can tell from the context that he meant for us not to condemn others unrighteously, like the religious leaders around Jesus were doing when they judged (condemned) him for healing on the Sabbath or telling someone his sins were forgiven. As Christians, we not only have to judge just so we can function in day-to-day life, but God expects us to judge others so our lives, and the Church, are not destroyed by the Devil.(top)
|Mat 7:2||- (top)|
|Mat 7:3||- (top)|
“Look!” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!).(top)
|Mat 7:5||- (top)|
“dogs…pigs.” Here in Matthew 7:6, “dogs” and “pigs” represent, by the figure of speech hypocatastasis, those things that are most unclean and vile to the Jew. Although in some contexts, “dogs” represent Gentiles, that is not the case here, for even Jesus gave pearls of wisdom to Gentiles (cp. the Samaritan woman in John 4). Here they refer to those who are unclean and ungodly in their thoughts and lifestyle. Those who reject the pearls of love and blessings that are given to them will not only reject what was said to them, but often use what was said to them against the one who spoke to them. The verse is a lesson in that we have to use wisdom in what we say to whom. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of knowledge, but fools show contempt for wisdom and sound teaching.” [For more on the figures of speech of comparison, and the figure hypocatastasis, see commentary on Rev. 20:2].
“pearls.” Pearls were very expensive in the ancient world, and very highly valued. [For more on pearls, see commentary on Revelation 18:12].(top)
“keep asking.” The verb for “ask” in this verse is in the active voice, present tense, and imperative mood. The present tense in this case is what is known as a broadband present, or continuous present (Cp. Wallace, Greek Grammar, pg. 519-25). This form indicates a continual action that takes place over a long time, rather than a one-time-event. We are not to just ask once for the things we seek from God, but to repeatedly ask, just as the widow kept asking the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8). Wallace explains the present tense here in Matthew 7:7 this way: “The force of the present imperatives is ‘ask repeatedly, over and over again…seek repeatedly… knock continuously, over and over again” (Wallace, Exegetical Syntax, 521). The imperative mood is the mood of command or of exhortation. Jesus is not just making a statement that we should ask, as if he thinks it would just be a nice thing to do. He is making an impassioned plea, an earnest exhortation that believers ask for what they need.
One of the faults that Christians have is that they stop praying for things before they get an answer. Of course there are times when we learn that something we are praying for is not God’s will. In that case, we should stop praying for that thing. Also, there are times when we are praying that the circumstances change, such as if we are praying for a sick person to get healed but they die, which occasionally happens. In these cases, too, we should stop praying. But otherwise we need to be like the persistent widow in Luke 18 who keeps coming to the judge time after time. We need to pray and pray and pray. When Daniel wanted an answer from God about the revelation he received from God, he prayed for three weeks (Dan. 10:2) before he got an answer, and we do not know how much longer he would have prayed if an answer had not come to him when it did.
Some Christians teach that is disrespectful of God, or shows a lack of trust (“faith”), if we pray more than one time for something. Their theology is that if you pray one time with trust, that is enough, and then just wait for the prayer to be answered. That sounds good, but it is unbiblical. The Bible says if we want to get our prayers answered we are to keep praying for what we want, keep asking, and keep knocking. Cp. Luke 11:9, John 16:24, and commentary on 1 John 3:22.
“keep seeking, and you will find.” God said basically the same thing to the Judeans (Jer. 29:13).(top)
|Mat 7:8||- (top)|
|Mat 7:9||- (top)|
|Mat 7:10||- (top)|
|Mat 7:11||- (top)|
|Mat 7:12||- (top)|
“gate.” The Greek word translated “gate” is pulē, (#4439 πύλη; pronounced poo’-lay), and it means “gate,” and is used just as we use the English word “gate,” usually referring to entering a city, yard, courtyard, or some other type of wide area like a park. In contrast, the Greek word thura (#2374 θύρα) is “door,” and usually referred to the door of a more enclosed or defined area, such as a house or a room. Thus Jesus called himself the “door” of the sheepfold (see commentary on John 10:1, “door”). The fact that it is a gate that leads to death and a gate that leads to life helps make the point that those are wide areas and can accommodate many people. Every person who has ever lived will enter either the wide gate to their death or the narrow gate to everlasting life.
In this teaching, the “road” and the “gate” are the figure of speech hypocatastasis (see commentary on Revelation 20:2). They illustrate in a way that is easy to understand that not many people will make the effort to live the lifestyle that will result in everlasting life, while lots of people will live an undisciplined life which results in everlasting death.(top)
“life.” This refers to “everlasting life”. See commentary on Luke 10:28.(top)
“destructive, greedy.” The Greek is harpax (#727 ἅρπαξ), an adjective, and it means, 1) vicious, ravenous, destructive, like a wild animal (Matt. 7:15) (2) violently greedy (Luke 18:11). When harpax is used substantively [when it is used as a noun], it means robber or swindler (1 Cor. 6:10) (Friberg’s Lexicon). Jesus, speaking of the false prophets, compared them to wolves, and used the adjective harpax, which means both destructive and greedy. Most versions chose one definition or the other so that the one word in the Greek text matches one word in the English translation, but we felt that the greedy and destructive nature of wolves and false prophets needed to be accurately represented in English. The one Greek word, harpax, carries both meanings, but two are necessary in the English translation. False prophets are very destructive, and greedy in that they never seem to be satisfied, pouring out their evil prophecies upon unsuspecting people.(top)
|Mat 7:16||- (top)|
|Mat 7:17||- (top)|
“tree.” Although the illustration that Jesus is using certainly applies to literal trees, the illustration is made more powerful and relevant because in the Bible the powerful people in a kingdom were sometimes referred to as “trees,” something that would not have been missed by Jesus’ audience (cp. Judges 9:8-15; Song of Solomon 2:3; 7:8; Isa. 56:3; Ezek. 17:22-24; Dan. 4:10, 22; Zech. 4:3-14; 11:1-3; Luke 3:9; Rom. 11:16-24). Calling people “trees” is usually the figure of speech hypocatastasis. [For an explanation of the figure of speech hypocatastasis, see commentary on Revelation 20:2].(top)
|Mat 7:19||- (top)|
|Mat 7:20||- (top)|
“will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of Heaven will be the kingdom that Jesus will set up on the earth after he comes down from heaven and fights the Battle of Armageddon [Rev. 19:11-21. See Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”]. People who get to enter the kingdom live forever, so in this context the phrase means having everlasting life and living in the kingdom, complete with all the kingdom blessings of perfect health, safety, no hunger, etc.(top)
|Mat 7:22||- (top)|
“I never knew you.” Matthew 7:23 shows us that we are supposed to do things the way God wants us to, and not make up our own agenda and expect that it will be acceptable to God. Jesus does not contest the fact that the people had cast out demons and done miracles in his name. They almost certainly did those things. However, they did things in their own way, in their own timing, and for their own glory, because Jesus calls them workers of “lawlessness.” Thus, when Jesus said he never “knew” the people, he is not saying that he did not know about them or have intellectual knowledge of them, but rather that he had no experiential knowledge of them—they did not really love him or walk in fellowship with him.
The word “know” is the word ginōskō (#1097 γινώσκω), which occurs more than 200 times and has a wide semantic range including intellectual knowledge (Acts 1:19; 23:28) and experiential knowledge. For example, when the Bible says that Jesus “knew” no sin (2 Cor. 5:21 KJV), it is not that he did not have intellectual knowledge of sin, but rather that he had no experiential knowledge of sin. Similarly, when Romans 3:17 says the wicked have not “known” the way of peace, it is not saying that the wicked do not know what peace is, but they have not experienced it. The semantic range of ginosko also includes “knowing” someone intimately and experientially via sexual intercourse (see commentary on Matt. 1:25).
This verse applies to Christians because even though a Christian’s salvation will not be in doubt at the Judgment, there are Christians who live “lawlessly” and never really follow or obey Jesus. Jesus will not “know” those people in the sense of having fellowshipped with them, and the works they did that were not built on Christ will be burned up (1 Cor. 3:10-15). 1 Corinthians 8:3, which says, “but if anyone loves God, that one is known by him.” In this verse, God “knows” the people who love Him. God “knows” everyone, but in this verse, like Matthew 7:23, “know” means to know on an experiential level, not just “have mental knowledge of” (cp. 2 Tim. 2:19).
“Away from me.” This verse is written about people before the Day of Pentecost who acted as if they are walking with Christ and obeying God but were not. Today a Christian can turn from God and live lawlessly and selfishly without his everlasting life being in jeopardy, but before the Age of Grace that was not possible because there was no New Birth and no guarantee of salvation [For information on the permanence of salvation, see Appendix 1, “The Permanence of Christian Salvation”].
It is very important that Christians understand this verse in Matthew, even though it was written to people who lived before the Administration of Grace. The general principle is that even if people do some good things or utilize the power of God, if their use of God’s power is outside the will of God such as being for their own aggrandizement or done without love, it is not pleasing to God. The phrase “depart from me” has to be taken in the context of Matt. 7:21, which speaks of entering into the Kingdom of Heaven and having everlasting life. Before the Day of Pentecost, those people who were not faithful to God will have to depart from Christ and will not receive everlasting life.
We should ask the question, “When can we use the power of God and be outside the will of God?” The abilities, talents, and ministries that people have are given to them by God. In contrast to our God-given talents, which we naturally possess, is godly character, which takes a lot of effort to develop. Developing godly qualities such as the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) or the character that leaders are supposed to have (1 Tim. 3:3-12; Titus 1:6-9) is hard work. In the systems of the world that Satan sets up or oversees, talent is more valuable than character. If a person is a good singer and can pack an auditorium, the fact that he or she is a drunkard, sexually immoral, mean-spirited, etc., gets overlooked by the world. This attitude must never be allowed to leak over into the way believers do things.
Every believer has God-given talents. There are believers who are great singers, administrators, teachers, businesspeople, etc., but their talent and their success are never as important as whether or not they exhibit the character of Christ. That was the case in this section of Matthew. Jesus teaches us that at the Judgment men and women with ministries and abilities in prophecy, working miracles and discerning of spirits will come forward, proud of their “great accomplishments.” However, if these people did not develop the character of Christ and did not walk in obedience to God, then they “did their own thing,” and thus they are said to “work lawlessness,” i.e., do things in a way that does not follow the ways and laws of God. This is made clear by the last phrase in Matt. 7:21, which makes the point that these people did not do the will of God.
We must not be confused by the fact that the people Jesus was referring to here in Matthew had holy spirit and were casting out demons, and think because of that this was a reference to people who were born again, like Christians are today. The New Birth that we Christians have started on the Day of Pentecost, but God had given the gift of holy spirit to many people in the Old Testament. Many leaders of Israel had it (cp. Num. 11:17, 25), the prophets, the judges in the book of Judges, many kings like David and Solomon, and others, had the gift of holy spirit upon them.
“lawlessness.” The Greek word is anomia (#458 ἀνομία), literally, “a,” without, and “nomos,” law, therefore “lawless, contempt for and violation of, the law (lawlessness can also be due to ignorance of the law). Although some English versions have “iniquity” (KJV), “evildoers” (NIV), or “you people who do wrong” (CEB), those translations are not as accurate as “lawlessness.” Usually casting out demons is a good thing, but these people were doing it “lawlessly,” meaning they were doing it outside the law of God, and therefore for their own purposes and self-aggrandizement, not for the furthering the Kingdom of God. Many people use the power of God to further their own cause, not God’s cause. It has been said, “The gifts and talents we have are God’s gift to us; the way we use them is our gift to God.” The people in Matthew 7 were not being faithful to God in their use of His power; they were being selfish and unloving. So Christ said he did not know them.(top)
“will be like.” The Greek is homoioō (#3666 ὁμοιόω). The verb is in the future tense, passive voice, so “will be like” is a good translation. The future tense, “will be like,” is important here, although some English versions ignore it and say “is like.” The context is the future, i.e., Judgment Day (Matt. 7:21, 23). Today people who build their lives on “sand” may be rich and powerful, but deny and defy God and His laws. They are building on sand, but do not appear to be doing that as far as the world is concerned. Nevertheless, on Judgment Day, they “will be like” people who built on sand--their life’s work will be demolished and they will be destroyed. In a similar way, many people who are actually “wise” today seem foolish to the world; indeed, many people even lose their lives because of Christ. The true wisdom of these people will not be revealed until the Day of Judgment, when the words that Jesus spoke, that the one who will lose his life for Jesus will find his life (Matt. 10:39), will be seen to be true.(top)
“beat violently upon.” In this parable Jesus shows the importance of a person building his “house,” his life, on a firm foundation. One of the important changes that is missed in many versions is that the wind did not just “beat upon” both houses (KJV), or “beat against” both houses (NIV). The Greek words are different. The Greek word we translate as “beat violently upon” is prospiptō (#4363 προσπίπτω) and its meaning in this context is to rush against, to move with force against. In contrast, the word “beat upon” in Matt. 7:27 is proskoptō (#4350 προσκόπτω) and it means to beat on in a violent manner, bruise, cause to stumble. It is clear that the way these two verbs are juxtaposed in this parable that the second one, proskoptō, has less force than the first. Lenski addresses this well: “[Proskoptō] is the weaker verb, “to stumble against,” “to strike the foot against,” while...[prospiptō] means “to fall upon suddenly,” “to strike.” the idea suggested is that the house on the rock withstood all the pounding of the winds and the waters while the house on the sand gave way as soon as the tempest stumbled against its foundation” (Matthew; p. 313).(top)
|Mat 7:26||- (top)|
|Mat 7:27||- (top)|
|Mat 7:28||- (top)|
|Mat 7:29||- (top)|