Notes on Matthew 7:13-29

Matthew 7:13‑29  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 6
This is a very searching word, and a word that we need. It shows, as also the verses lower down, that an empty profession will not do; we must remember that we are in a world where everything is against Christ. And I often think people make too light of what Christianity means. “If the righteous scarcely (or, with difficulty) be saved” —this alone shows that it is not an easy thing for a Christian to go through this world. We know that we are in a different position from what these disciples were, and full provision was made for us, after the Lord died and rose, by the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven. But this is the side we need to look at. Not only is it a narrow entrance, but narrow all the way; the path is narrow. There are two paths in the world, one broad, which would speak of self-pleasing without reference to God; the other narrow, that of self-denial. “If any man would come after me let him take up his cross daily and follow me.” This is not the Lord's cross, but every saint has his own cross in a world like this. In Luke, it is “Strive to enter in at the strait gate,” and that would apply to real earnestness. It is where the question was put “Are there few that be saved?” The Lord never answered a curious question, curiously; He always answered morally. So here you be in real earnest to be right individually. Gate and door have a like significance—that of entrance. A door is generally to a house, a gate gives entrance to a pathway. But the most important part no doubt is the end of the journey. The end of the broad road is destruction; the end of the narrow path, life. Of course it presupposes life if you are to enter, and to pursue it. We commence with eternal life, and the end is eternal life. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life,” that is the starting point; “ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end, everlasting life” —life in all its blessedness at the end of the journey. The broad road pleases the many; but as to the narrow, “few there be that find it.” So we ought not to be surprised at the unpopularity of the narrow path of faith and obedience.
I have no doubt that Peter's reference to the deluge in his First Epistle (3:20) was given as an encouragement to the Jews scattered abroad, only a few of whom confessed Christ. So in Noah's day, whilst the ark was preparing, there were, he says, “few, that is, eight souls, saved” out of the vast population living on the earth at that time; for we must remember that man's life then was but little short of a thousand years. So it ought not to discourage those to whom Peter was writing, if so few accepted Christ as the Messiah. The Lord Himself, for us, is the Way. It does not matter whether it is a religious world or anirreligious one; there is, as has often been said, not only the dirty side, but the clean side of the “broad” way; and this is the “way” that causes no exercise. On the contrary, the “narrow” way is that which calls for exercise of conscience, so, as ever, to please God. As Paul could say, “Herein do I exercise myself to have always a conscience void of offense toward God and toward men,” and he was thought narrow and bigoted in consequence. False teachers would affirm the path to be not so narrow as scripture lays down. The character of the false prophets in Ezek. 13 was their making it very easy for people to go along: for they prophesied out of their own heart. The serious thing was that they followed their own spirit and heeded not the words of God.
There should be a “But” before ver. 15. Of course, we now, as Christians, are in a different position to these disciples. They were to know the false prophets by their fruits, but we have the Holy Spirit and the written word whereby to “try the spirits whether they be of God.” The two great tests are, the person of Christ, and the word of God. If you find anything derogatory to the person of Christ you may be sure that it is not of God, for the Holy Ghost is here to glorify Christ. Sheep's clothing is what is suitable to a sheep; but these false men have a fair exterior, but by their fruits ye shall know (or, recognize) them. This is all very searching, and shows thoroughly how these false prophets had not divine life in their souls. “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” If we take this as a figure of men, “there is none good"; “there is none that doeth good, no not one"; so, if there is any good, it can only be from a new, a divine, nature. Thorns cannot produce grapes, nor thistles figs, and those who do not produce good fruit have only one end, and that is the fire for “every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” It is all connected.
Ver. 21 shows us that these were evidently self-deceived. It was quite right to call Him “Lord” as He says of His disciples in John 13, “Ye call me Master and Lord, and ye say well; for so I am.” Yes, He was, and is, the Lord; and all through this portion He speaks with authority, not only as the great Teacher, but also as the Judge. Every one of the human race shall have to do with Him. In the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. But here, in Matthew, it is of those who make profession and call Him Lord by lip only. Scripture plainly reveals that profession alone will not suffice; there must be much more than profession. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord,” and this is practical holiness. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation” teaches us (and you cannot divorce the doctrine from the grace) “that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world.” There is the danger of making everything of the profession. I think there is often a mistake in dealing with souls as to this. It is thought to be the great thing to get people to say 'I believe.' You should get them to believe, and, to this end, present Christ. But there must be subjection to Him, to His will, to His word. It is true that we who are the Lord's are “elect, according to foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.” That is, we are set apart by the Spirit, the very first moment He begins to work in us, not only to the sprinkling of the blood of Christ, but also to the obedience of Christ.
Ver. 22. The Lord does not deny that they had prophesied. It was possible for a wicked man to do so. Balaam prophesied magnificent prophecies, but he perished with the enemies of the Lord. Caiaphas also prophesied. It is possible to understand all mysteries, and yet not be saved. It is well for us to take notice of what is said here, “In Thy Name have cast out demons.” A man may be a wonderful preacher, and used of God to the conversion of souls, but yet have not life in his own soul! Paul says, “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 cast-away.” He is referring to the Grecian games. He does not mean that he feared his being reprobate, for he ran, not as uncertainly, nor did he beat the air, but that if keeping under of the body did not go along with his service, it would but prove him a counterfeit. It was the apostle's way, when enforcing the unpalatable rather than the pleasant, to apply the former to himself as illustration. But where it was matter of what was pleasant, he loved to bring in others by way of example. “In Thy Name done many wonderful works.” All this might be true. A man might indeed be used to turn a lot of drunkards into respectable citizens, and yet, sad to say, be lost! “I never knew you.” But the Lord does know them that are His (2 Tim. 2:1919Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19)). There is no such thing as a child of God being “lost.” “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand,” is what the Lord Himself has said. How emphatic! Yet one may be a mere professor, able to speak of wonderful deeds he has done, and yet have no love to Christ!
That was the difference between Judas and Peter. Peter's was an awful fall, but he did love the Lord, and had faith in Him, which Judas never had; though I have no doubt the Iscariot participated in the powers conferred on the apostles, being one of them. Another scripture says “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets” (Luke 13). We may suppose a regular attendance at the preaching, or a partaking of the sacrament so called—a resting on these privileges, yet with no real link between the soul and God, no divine life and indwelling of the Holy Spirit! There is no such thing as a simple believer saying, Lord, I was resting exclusively on the value of Thy precious blood, and the Lord saying to such an one, “I never knew you.” Think of the solemn words, “Depart from me” —to be shut out from all blessings! if you have not Christ. As 2 Tim. 2:1919Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. (2 Timothy 2:19), there is not only God's knowledge of His own, but also our responsibility. I mean the responsibility of those that are saved. I do not for a moment believe in what some teach, that God has done His part and I must do mine. No; we cannot mix 'up our works with God's plans. Christ's finished work alone gives us a standing before God.
Coming back, then, to our chapter, there is the good tree and good fruit. A true profession, and working iniquity cannot go together. It is not what we give up, or do, or bring. Every false religion says, “Something in my hands I bring.” I am a receiver; and after conversion, I am only elevated by my wants, for they lead me to God.
The Lord is showing, from ver. 24 and onwards, that the great thing is to have the right foundation, that which will bear all testing. It is true that it is not enough to hear, it is “Whosoever heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them.” In Luke, it is, “Whosoever cometh to me,” etc. The coming would speak of faith. You get this in Hebrews, “He that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that r diligently seek him.” It would go to show that if there is merely hearing and not doing, the root of the matter is not there. In the case of Simon Magus, he heard and he believed when he saw, and yet he had no part nor lot in the matter; there was no faith in him. Hearing, with the doing also, supposes reality; and nothing but reality will do for God. Here it is evidently reality in contrast with mere profession.
Ver. 25. It stood all the testing, and where there is reality
“We to the end shall endure,
As sure as the earnest is given;
More happy, but not more secure,
The spirits departed to heaven.”
Ver. 26. If one does not hear you cannot speak of building at all. Hearing brings responsibility with it; here it is, “and doeth them not.” John 13 says – “If ye know these things; happy are ye if ye do them.” We shall not be rewarded for merely knowing (though it is a blessed thing to be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding"), but for doing. “Happy are ye if ye do them.”
The rock is in contrast with the sand. The apostle Paul writes “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid which is Jesus Christ.” There is the foundation of the apostles and prophets, but that is their testimony in connection with Him, but He is the corner stone and holds all together; and He is also the head stone, the place of exaltation (ver. 27). We ought not to be satisfied to be uncertain about this matter: the building is for eternity. I suppose this verse contemplates profession without even the desire to do His will. “If any man desire to do His will he shall know of the doctrine.” There is a great deal of comfort in that. Many say, 'I want to do it' who would not like to say, ‘I do it' (vers. 28 and 29). There is the difference between the Lord and the highest apostle or the greatest prophet. They say “Thus saith the Lord.” He never did. He is the Lord “I say unto you.” He is the One with whom all have to do. He taught them as one having authority. In Mark 16 we find “they believed not” them, and this again and again. But after that the Lord had spoken to them, the disciples went forth and preached everywhere. His word had effect, for He speaks with authority.