October 17, 2010

#27

Sermon on the mount,

To the Dogs

Matthew 7:6

Some bibles put this verse with the previous 5, and others make this verse stand on its own. It seems to me to go better with the next 5.

As pointed out last week, it easily stands with the previous 5.

As with every verse or passage, there are three contexts that must be considered:

1) The Old Testament law context
2) the context of the sermon itself
3) the context of the verse itself.

1) The Old Testament context.

Exodus 22:31 And ye shall be holy men unto me: neither shall ye eat [any] flesh [that is] torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.

Exodus 22:31 forbad God's people from eating any meat that was not bled properly, but it could be cast to the dogs. Deuteronomy 14:21 identifies the dogs:

Ye shall not eat [of] any thing that dieth of itself: thou shalt give it unto the stranger that [is] in thy gates, that he may eat it; or thou mayest sell it unto an alien: for thou [art] an holy people unto the LORD thy God. Thou shalt not seethe a kid in his mother's milk.

Deuteronomy 23:18 describes Sodomites as dogs:

Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these [are] abomination unto the LORD thy God.

Note that this verse forbids the giving to God any part of the wages of unrighteousness. In other words, the male or female prostitute could not bring any portion of his or her wage of whoredoms to the Lord. Thus the so called "Sin taxes" cannot be used to finance the work of God or good works of any kind. We might mention that this alone forbids any gambling to finance the church, e.g., BINGO.

Accordingly, dogs referred to any people outside of the Covenant people; that is, a non-Israelite. Leviticus 17:15. We will see from Peter's vision that any outside of Israel were identified with the unclean beasts of the field.

Covenant: We will not deal with it at this time, other than to say that God made a covenant-promise with Abraham concerning Christ. Christ is the Covenant. That Covenant was passed down to Isaac, then to Jacob, who became Israel. The Covenant at that time was a national covenant, and everyone in the Israelite nation was a member of the Covenant. When Christ came, the emphasis of the Covenant became spiritual, and the spiritual nation of Israel, the Church, became the heir to the Covenant-promise given to Abraham. The most recent Examiner dealt with the Covenant-promise of Genesis 12:1-3.

Torn meat could be given to or sold to any people outside of Covenant-Israel.

Throughout the law, dogs was a figure of speech used in the law to describe non-covenant members.

The Lord dealt with Peter's aversion of going to the non-Israelites in Acts 10 by showing him that the Gentiles could no longer be considered wild beasts and dogs which had to be avoided.

2) the context of the sermon itself.

This entire message, chs. 5, 6, 7, is directed to the disciples, 5:1, 2. Therefore, this verse is directed primarily to the new preachers who will be presenting the mew message of the King and His Kingdom. But, of course, it applies to all of God's messengers since.

The preacher's life must be above reproach before he can preach to others. The hypocrite, whether a preacher or layman, is disqualified to preach and teach God's word.

The Lord is certainly not requiring perfection, but he does require working toward perfection:

1 Co 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring [it] into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

This is reemphasized by Paul in his letters to Timothy and Titus.

3) the context of the verse itself.

7:1-5 referred to correcting the faults in others, and is followed by v. 6. The purpose of preaching and teaching the word of God is to instruct and correct the hearers according to the truths found in the Word of God.

We see from the context that the ones being compared to dogs and unclean swine are dangerous: they are antagonistic toward the word of God because they rend the teacher who tries to instruct them.

The Jews who heard the Lord knew immediately made the connection when they heard the term dog. They knew he was not referring to the small animal, but referring to those outside of the Covenant-faith. They understood that he was referring to those with an impure, hostile mind who were antagonistic against the word of God.

7:6, they trample them (pearls, or the words of life) under their feet.

This short statement tells us that the gospel is not to be given to those who will mock it or who will treat it with contempt. The haters of Christ and the Gospel of Christ are to be left alone.

V. 6, the Lord tells us that those to whom we present the gospel must be willing to listen, or we are wasting our time. In fact, we basically make matters worse when we press the issue.
The Lord gave further instruction:

Mt 10:14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

Lane told us that he and his wife did this after visiting with some Jehovah's Witnesses. It was the right thing to do.

Paul and Barnabas were run out of Antioch by the Jews, and when they left, they shook off the dust of their feet against them, and came unto Iconium. Acts 13:51.

Such an action showed that the Good News had been offered, and the results of their rejection is now in their hands. We are free of their blood. I probably should have done this after I offered the gospel to Dan.

Observe:

As we follow the spread of the Gospel in the New Testament, we find that the Lord and those he left behind never presented the gospel nor the laws of the Kingdom to any who did not express an interest in hearing about King and His kingdom.

However, the Lord and the disciples at times worked to excite an interest in the gospel, such as with the woman at the well and Paul at Mars Hill.

Even though multitudes followed Christ, it was primarily for the food He provided. He refused to commit Himself to the crowd that followed Him because He knew what was in the heart of man. The basic thrust of His messages, even when He preached to the multitudes, was for the benefit of His disciples.

Examples:

1) In John 1:41, Andrew brought his brother Simon to the Lord.

2) In John 1:43ff, Philip brought his brother Nathanael to the Lord.

3) In Acts 26, Paul spoke very boldly King Agrippa, but the king asked him about the gospel. The apostles spoke boldly in the temple and synagogue without necessarily being invited, but those present were those who expressed an interest in the God of Israel and were looking for the Messiah.

4) In Acts 7, Philip preached when the high priest asked about his faith.when asked by the high priest about his faith. But the dogs ("Jews" in that case) turned and rent him to pieces anyway.

5) In Acts 2:4ff, the first sermon in the New Testament preached after Christ left, was to those who gathered together to find out what was going on.

6) In Acts 3, Peter's second sermon was in the Temple where folks were gathered in interest in the promised Messiah.

7) In Acts 4, Peter's third sermon to the high priest was because the high priest asked him about the situation, v. 7. Then in fulfillment of the promise that the Spirit would give the answer, Peter spoke, v. 8ff.

8) In Acts 5:12ff, we find that the multitudes came to the first preachers to hear what was being said.

9) Acts 17:16, Paul's spirit was stirred when he saw the city given to idolatry, but he did not stand on the street corner and preach. He traced the root of the problem to the synagogue, in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him. Thus his message of Christ was restricted to only those who expressed an interest in the message by their being in the synagogue, and then latter on the street. Maybe their interest on the street was only ridicule, but it was an interest nevertheless.

Paul's message on Mars Hill was delivered by invitation of mocking philosophers, superstitious Athenians and strangers. Acts 17:18.

Even when Paul traveled, he first went to the synagogues where those assembled were looking for the Messiah, the Jewish hope, Acts 17:2.

As we search the Scriptures, we will find that the gospel went to those who gathered to hear it. It went to those friends and acquaintance who expressed an interest.

I spent over ten years working on the staff of fundamental "soul winning" churches. Even as a pastor in Indiana, my only fellowship was with fundamental churches. In these churches, spirituality was measured by being able to witness to the hardest people in the community. These men were exalted because the swine turned on them and rent them.

I was an associate pastor in Louisiana for 7 years. Part of my responsibility was "door to door" visitation. Though I spoke with hundreds of people, the ones who came to church and were saved were friends of those who were already attending church. I found the same thing true as a pastor for 20 years.

Thus we must conclude that the major spread of the gospel is to those we know. We saw from Matthew 7:1-5 that it is the consistent life and actions the Christian that influences his friends and neighbors for the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, we must go to every creature with the gospel because we are commanded to go, but the ones who are antagonistic are to be left alone. There are many who want to hear what the Spirit has to say, so offer it to everyone.

The main way of spreading the Kingdom is through our friends.

It can be quite discouraging when one insists on pressing the gospel on pressing the gospel on those who not only did not want to hear but were antagonistic against the words of Life.

One more point from v. 6: The minister of God's word must not give false comfort to his hearer. The churches that are growing today, as a rule, are the ones who are giving holy things to dogs and casting pearls to swine. Rather than disquieting their hears, they are giving them peace.

Matthew 7:7-11

Not only does v. 6 fit with vv. 1-5, but it also fits well with vv. 7-11.

We could call this section "A Plea for Grace."

The Lord, in 6:9-13, gave the proper outline for prayer. In this section, the Lord encourages His disciples to pray in spite of seemingly delayed answers.

From the negative side:

A) this section is not a blank check for the child of God to claim anything he desires. James 4:3, tells us plainly that we receive not, because we ask amiss. We are also told in 1 Jo 3:22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

So this passage is not a blank check to claim whatever we want.

B) It is not instruction to the unsaved any more than was the Lord's prayer.

From the positive side:

1) the instructions contained here were given to the disciples, yet they are for all of his people. The hardness of people and the hopelessness of circumstances can be discouraging, and prayer is the answer.

Being almost at the end of his Sermon on the Mount, Christ does not present the means of obtaining the grace of God until He has presented the need for the grace of God. Our fallen nature demands that we try to please God in the flesh. It is not until after we fail in our every attempt that we will turn to Him and do it his way.

The New York Times, October 11, 2010 had this article.

Ohio Attorney General Fights Against Wall Street
By MICHAEL POWELL

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Back East, at the corner of Broad and Wall Streets, the view is swell. The Dow is soaring, and bankers look pleased.

But here on East Broad Street, the mood is gloomier. At least 90,000 residential and commercial foreclosure notices will be filed in Ohio this year. Pension funds for teachers, secretaries and janitors have suffered grave losses. And multitudes of the unemployed in Ohio now speak of turning to prayer. ...

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/business/12avenge.html?th=&emc=th&pagewanted=print

Who ever thought that in our nation, any talk of turning to prayer would be news worthy??

If the followers of Christ have tried to do everything required of him by his Master in 5:1-7:7 on his own, he has failed miserably. By 7:6, he is weighted down with a terrible burden, and knows it not possible to please the Lord in his own strength, and may be ready to give up.

So, the Lord here is doing two things: first, pointing to the source of strength to continue in obedience to the Master (God's grace), and second encouraging His people, particularly his ministers, not to give up. Keep on praying no matter what the circumstances, and the Lord will provide his grace.

2) vv. 9, 10 places this prayer is on a personal level. The "Lord's prayer" of ch 6 was an unselfish prayer: every phrase was in the plural (our, we, &c.). But this prayer is for you; it is for a son of God who is in dire need of something personal.

3) vv. 7-11, the plea itself show us that it is a plea for grace. It is for personal strength to see us through sever personal needs, even to the point of starving. Moreover, it is the Lord who brought us to that point of sever need.

The Lord is speaking to his ministers and saints. They have been brought to the end of their rope. They have tried everything, and failed. They have been humbled beneath the mighty had of God as Divine Providence brought them to realize they have not the strength to follow the Lord's requirements upon their lives.

This passage shows us that regardless of circumstances, we cannot "give up" ; rather, distressing circumstances must be seen as a call to prayer for the grace of God.

Salvation is also based upon total emptiness before the Lord. Only when one realizes he is without excuse and without strength before God, can he be saved.

The Lord is speaking to those who hunger and thirst after His righteousness; those who love the law of the Lord, and desire to measure up to its righteous standards.

The Lord is assuring us that he hears the cry of the distress of the hungry heart for His grace. He will feed the hungary and thirsty soul that seeks after Him with the whole heart.

4) 5:3-10, the beatitudes (poor in spirit, mourn, meek, hunger and thirst after righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, pacemakers) show us that every mark of a Christian require God's grace to accomplish.

There are at least four reasons to plead for God's grace:

First, is the need for bread that we might feed others. Bread can be identified as the Gospel of Peace to meet the distresses of our friends. HOW CAN WE MEET THE NEEDS OF OTHERS WHEN WE HAVE NOT HAD OUR NEEDS MET BY GOD'S GRACE?

Many times, we must go through some very deep waters to see our need of his strength before we can aid others:

2 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia: 2 Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. 6 And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

2 Cor 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.

We cannot meet the needs of others unless we first have had those needs met. How can we satisfy other's hunger for the bread and meat of God's word when we do not have what we need?

Second, grace is needed for proper self judgement, vv. 1-5. Only the grace of God enables us sinners to see and deal with the truth about ourselves. Truth about self is one of the most difficult of all things. Truth must be faced before we can see our need for grace. God's word is truth, and reading his word will speak truth to us about ourselves.

Thus, proper judgment of others cannot be produced until proper judgment of ourselves is accomplished. V. 20, though we are commanded to judge others, we are forbidden to judge others until we have first judged ourselves. Vv. 1-5.

Gal 6:1 ¶ Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.

Third, grace is needed for proper judgement of others.

John 7:24 Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.

The gospel was/is not to be cast before the dog or swine.

The false prophets are to be revealed to God's people, and the flock protected from them.

The responsibility of judging dogs, v. 6, and false prophets, vv. 15-20, require a good amount of God's word and of his grace, vv. 7-11.

When should the gospel be presented to a sinner? When should we turn from the sinner according to v. 6? If we do the wrong thing at the wrong time, we will be found disobedient to the Lord God.

Moreover, as we will see at the end of this chapter, vv. 21-29, the minister, and the people, must be very cautious or we will find ourselves giving false comfort when we should be destroying false confidence. We must have God's wisdom as to how to properly approach and deal with others.

I have found this to be one of the most difficult decisions of my ministry. False confidence in one's salvation can settle a person on the broad road to destruction. On the other hand, unwise destruction of confidence is just as bad.

We must pray that the Lord will make hearts receptive.
We must pray that the Lord will lead us to those whom He has been and is working in.
We must pray that our own heart will be sensitive to His leading and that we will not miss an opportunity to speak up for Him.
We must pray for boldness to speak. Acts 4:29.

Fourth, v. 12, grace needed for proper action toward others, the "golden rule".

Some would say that v. 12 is a separate section in the Sermon, but I believe it is a part of the preceding. To me, the word Therefore firmly connects this verse with the preceding section.

The Golden Rule

V. 12, seems to be a strange verse to add to this encouragement to pray for grace, but I think it must be included. V. 12 opens with Therefore. The therefore of v. 12 connects it with the previous verses.