Sunday School Lesson

NOV 25, 2001


Bible Background - Matthew 7:1-5,12-20

Devotional Reading—Romans 13:8-14


1. We should be able to think through the differences between judging others and exercising good discernment.

2. We should be reminded about the daily, difficult, and joyful nature of the choice to walk GOD’S narrow path.

3. We should be challenged to choose to apply the Golden Rule to a specific situation in our lives in the upcoming week



“Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12).

In concise form, Biblically the content of the law as it relates to human relationship is summed up in the phrase, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The lesson raises the question of how we relate to others. Are we as concerned for others as we are for ourselves? This lesson cautions us not to follow the popular way but rather to discern and recognize false teachings. Yet we must be cautious not to misjudge and to even be reluctant to judge others because we know that we set ourselves up for judgment also.

Chapter 7 of Matthew concludes the Sermon on the Mount that began in chapter 5. JESUS starts the new chapter with the subjects that deal with interrelationship. He speaks about and warns against the danger of being judgmental (vv.1-5), or finding fault in others and leaving our own fault unattended, He talks about how to deal fairly with one another (v.12), and concludes with a call for eternal decision and commitment to enter the kingdom of heaven. He then warns us about false teachers, describes how we can recognize Them, and warns about the consequence of their falsity.

By way of background, JESUS’ hearers would easily understand His references to gates (Matthew 7:24-14). Cities were walled as a form of defense, and the city gates were the only way in and out. Gates were places of public hearings, legal transactions and business dealings. Marketplaces were often situated near gates, just within the walls of a city.

The temple that existed in Jerusalem at the time of CHRIST also had gates that were an important part of its structure. The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia describes these gates as serving two purposes: one, as a seal for the temple in case of attack; and two, as a reminder to the non-Jews that they could go no farther than the outer court outside the temple, while the Jews could enter the gates to worship in the temple itself. The outer court, known as the Court of the Gentiles, was separated from the temple proper by a wall punctuated by 9 huge gates. Eight were about 15 feet wide and 30 feet high. The ninth, the main entrance to the temple known as the Beautiful Gate, measured approximately 60 feet wide and 75 feet high.

These images were in the minds of His hearers when JESUS spoke about entering into life with Him through a “strait” (narrow) gate. A small gate was nothing more than an opening in the wall. His kind of gate offered none of the grandeur of a temple gate, or the civic importance of a city gate. In fact, He offered just the opposite.

1.  JUDGE NOT (Matthew 7:1-5)

The chapter begins with a negative command as in the preceding chapter. While the preceding imperatives deal with an individual’s attitude towards oneself (for their good and benefit) and how to deal with stress, the instructions that follow deal with one’s relationship to others---how to deal with others’ problems and faults.

The command “judge not” used here forbids being judgmental and captious or being critical against others. We recall from the beginning of the sermon that JESUS was addressing a mixed crowd of people (4:25-5:2). The crowd probably included some scribes and Pharisees who were noted for their self-righteousness and condemnation of others. He therefore addresses them here and warns His disciples not to follow their example if they have the kingdom of heaven in view.

JESUS’ comments did not end with verse 1, however. He tells us that the standard that we use on others is the one that we deserve to have used on us (v.2). He then explained His meaning with a very graphic word picture. We are urged to have a good look at ourselves first.

Much of the harshness, indeed, even possibly much of the content, of our comments to others will be diffused by a willingness to examine ourselves first. Sin is still sin, however, and these verses do not make an excuse for sinful behavior. JESUS’ words expose ours sinful motives. The humility that comes with honest self-assessment can go a long way toward diffusing the out-of-context comments like those of a fictitious used as an example at the beginning of this section.


In verses 6-11, JESUS assures His audience of GOD’S care---how He supplies people’s needs---and  then states what has come to be known (universally) as the Golden Rule (v.12). The preposition (“therefore”) that begins verse 12, either refers to verses 7-11 (i.e., since GOD gives good gifts, the disciples ought to live by the same rule as a sign of gratitude), or verses 1-5 (i.e., rather than judging or condemning others, we should treat others as we would like to be treated). With the mention of “the law and the prophets” here, it seems most probable that (“therefore”) refers to the main body of the Sermon on the Mount (5:17-7:12).  It reads something like: “Therefore in view of what I have been teaching regarding the kingdom of GOD and the true direction that Old Testament law points, obey the Golden Rule; for this is the law and the prophets. The phrase “for this is the law and the prophets,” means that the so-called Golden Rule “sums up” (NIV), or in our language today it is the “bottom line” of the Old Testament teachings (law and the prophets).

These familiar words are the answer to the very popular question: What would JESUS do? They are a wonderful, practical tool of evaluation for any situation in which we find ourselves. “Therefore all things …” There are no conditions to this statement. It applies twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, with every person that we meet.

3.  DISCERN WELL (vv.13-20)

That broad way has the appearance of a road that will give us a peaceful journey. It is important to remember that our eternal destination is of much greater consequence than an easy trip. The remaining verses contain JESUS’ warning about the kind of road map we will choose for our journey. Approximately 600 years earlier, the Prophet Jeremiah gave us a perfect description of a false prophet that would point us in the wrong direction: “…And from the prophet to the priest, everyone deals falsely. They have also healed the hurt of My people slightly, saying ‘Peace, Peace! When there is no peace’.” (Jeremiah 6:13-14,NKJV). A false prophet directs us through the broad gate and onto the wide road.

JESUS then goes on to give a litmus test that we can use to discern a false prophet or teacher: the kind of  fruit displayed by that person. Sweet, nutritious fruit is not produced by patches of sharp, dangerous weeds.   JESUS points out the order set in place at creation. Healthy trees bring forth good fruit, and “corrupt” (vv.17-18) trees bring forth evil fruit. Useless trees are good for nothing but firewood! It is not only the message of the messenger that we are to evaluate, but the character and lifestyle. A person claiming to represent GOD who is at the same time practicing obvious and destructive sin is not a worthwhile messenger.

We live in an age where tolerance is promoted highly. People in our day operate under the premise that “whatever works for you is right for me.” By agreeing with GOD that certain attitudes and behaviors are sin, Christians are often viewed as intolerant and unyielding. Biblical tolerance is rooted in objective truth knit together with unconditional love. It should not turn a blind eye to sin or false teaching, but should sift what is false through the grid of Scripture. Our proclamation that JESUS is LORD must come from lives that are humble and free from hypocrisy.




  Rev. Chris Lowe, Sr., DD

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