Deeper Life in the Spirit
of the Deeper Life
The deeper life in the Spirit, as the Scriptures have shown us,
is living and walking in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25); it is total commitment
to discipleship (Luke 14:25-33); and it is crucifixion with Christ (Galatians
2:20). However, these are but words, unless we translate them into performance,
for the Spirit-led life is the application of Christianity to our conduct. This
is not as simple as it may at first sound, for it requires total commitment
unto Christ and His Word. The deeper life is the total application of the
Word to the total life. Conduct is three-fourths of life. Although most of us
may not realize it, we are
confronted every day with a variety of moral and ethical decisions in which we must
decide between right and wrong, between good and bad, between the exercise of
self-will or submission to God's will.
One cannot make the smallest moral or ethical decision except according to some standard or principle. The seemingly simple matter of whether to place a coin in the parking meter or ignore it, when one merely intends to run into the store for a minute, requires a moral decision. It is simply: "Shall I disobey the law under certain circumstances or not?" The presence or absence of a police officer in such circumstances often determines the conduct of Christians and non-Christians alike. Has the salesman who neglects to mention certain hidden charges to the customer acted unethically? If so, is he any more guilty of unethical conduct than the housewife who sells her used refrigerator, mentioning its good points, but carefully neglecting to point out its defect, which is the real reason she is selling it at such a "bargain" in the first place? Has the guest, who has found the food just served him unappetizing, been called upon to make a moral decision when asked by the hostess if he enjoyed his meal? If one attends a meeting, arriving at the same moment as another individual, and finds that there are only two seats left in the room, one close to the speaker and the other in a far corner, does his decision to take the preferred seat reflect selfishness and a lack of consideration for the other, or are there no moral or ethical implications in such a choice? Is it morally or ethically wrong to fail to report all of one's income, since a part of it was received in cash and is not recorded anywhere? And is the violation of the speed laws justified when one would be late for an important appointment unless he exceeded the posted speed limits? Are not the office staff which "loafs" half the day because their employer is out of town, or the grocer who is tempted to give less than full weight or measure in order to compensate for occasional losses on certain perishable items such as meat and vegetables, involved in conduct that is morally and ethically either good or bad? What one's attitude should be toward the black family who has recently moved in next door, or the nature of one's reaction to slander or abuse, certainly require moral and ethical decisions.
It should be clear from all this that each of us is confronted with moral and ethical decisions of one degree or another almost continually. The deeper life is the practical application of the teachings and principles of the New Testament to our daily conduct, especially Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount. It is the total application of the total Word to our total life.
The Sermon On The Mount
The basic principles of the deeper life in the Spirit are set forth by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, which is without question the most unique and distinctive passage in the Scriptures. All men everywhere, whether Christian or not, who have ever heard of Jesus, connect Him with the Sermon on the Mount. Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu religious and social reformer, read the Sermon daily, and many non-Christian Jews, including rabbis, acknowledge the moral value of its teachings, as well as the profound nature of its principles of conduct.
1. Distinctive elements of Jesus' teaching.
It is little wonder that the Sermon on the Mount is held in such esteem, inasmuch as it is an exposition of the deeper meaning of Christian discipleship. A glance at the distinctive elements in Jesus' teachings indicates this fact.
Jesus taught that discipleship is positive in its emphasis: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matthew 7:12). This is in contrast to the negative emphasis found in many religions and philosophies of the world (including some Christian religious bodies), which largely stress: "Thou shalt not." Christian discipleship, as Christ taught it, is positive in principle: "Do unto others."
Discipleship is placing one's affections on the right values: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things [physical provisions] shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). The deeper life is putting devotion to the kingdom before love of material possessions.
It is also totality of faith and absolute trust in God (Matthew 6:19-34); it is, in a word, to "take no thought" for one's material security, but to trust God completely.
Jesus taught that discipleship to Him is uncompromising, requiring total commitment (Matthew 7:13-14, 21-29).
Total commitment to Him would be necessary, for discipleship as He taught it is revolutionary in its demands (Matthew 5:10-21, 21-24, 27-30, 34-48).
Sincerity of motive will characterize the life of the true disciple (Matthew 6:1-18).
The deeper meaning of discipleship indicates that it is a life based not upon rules and precepts, but upon principles (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 43-44; 7:12).
Jesus announced that discipleship is a call to perfection (Matthew 5:48)—a perfection of a higher degree than that required by institutional religion (5:20).
2. Views Of The Sermon On The Mount.
The church for centuries has not taken seriously the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, either because it has believed the revolutionary nature of His demands were too impractical for the increasing complexities of life, or that they were simply impossible to fulfill. There are various views regarding the nature of the Sermon which may be summarized under two heads.
a. The erroneous view: the Sermon on the Mount is not for the present age.
Perhaps the dispensationalists are the most representative of this view point, advocating that Jesus' teachings in the Sermon were to be laws for the Jewish kingdom. However, they say, as a consequence of the Jews' rejection of the kingdom (Matthew 21:43), these laws are not valid for today, but will be the law code for the Jews in the Millennium. We are told by the advocates of this extreme interpretation that the Sermon is impossible to obey in permanent practice until all evil is put down and Jesus comes to reign in righteousness and peace. Since the Sermon demands a supernatural righteousness—for example, love of one's enemies, taking no thought for one's material needs, turning the other cheek and not resisting evil or abuse—then, it is not expected to be obeyed this side of the establishment of the visible Kingdom of God on earth.
b. The correct view: the Sermon teaches the deeper meaning of discipleship to Jesus and is to be in effect from the time Jesus taught these spiritual principles until his return.
The fact that the teachings of the Sermon are not
intended for the Millennium, but for the present, is apparent from several
considerations. If these teachings were only intended for the Millennium, when
all evil is put away and righteousness and peace prevail, then how are we to explain
the obvious fact that sin and evil are still present when these teachings are
to be in effect, as seen, for example, in Jesus' prohibition of divorce, oaths,
and lawsuits, as well as His injunctions to "love your enemies," to
"resist not evil," and to "rejoice" when reviled and
persecuted for righteousness sake? Moreover, strife and war are still present (5:9), Jesus is still absent (cf.
6:16 with 9:14-15), and the
disciples are instructed to continue to pray, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will
be done on earth, as it is in heaven" (6:10). Moreover, Jesus Himself
in chapter 7:24-29 gives us clear warning as to what to expect if we do not heed
His teachings and put them into practice now!
The reason Jesus' requirements in the Sermon on the Mount seem impossible to fulfill to the advocates of the former view is that the church for centuries has lacked the one spiritual experience which can make such obedience possible: the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Without the spiritual enduement of power from on high, the deeper life principles of the Sermon on the Mount are impossible to obey. The principles reflect the "fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23) in the life of the disciple who has made total commitment to Jesus after experiencing the infilling of the Holy Spirit. They are not "laws" for some other dispensation, nor "rules of conduct" for those saints today who wish to make deeper consecration to God, but who desire to do so on their terms without the empowering of His Spirit. The Sermon is an exposition of the deeper meaning of discipleship. It is the Spirit-filled life after Pentecost which Jesus anticipates here. This truth is clearly seen in the fact that all the principles set forth in the Sermon are taught in the epistles throughout the New Testament after Pentecost. See, for example, Romans 12:14, 19-21; I Corinthians 7:10-11; James 5:12; I John 3:15, etc.
The Deeper Life Principles and Practice
Taught in the Sermon on the Mount
Principles Of Character
The beatitudes, which are more or less familiar to most Christians, describe for us nine aspects of the character of the disciple. The first four deal with the inward life, while the remainder have to do with our relations with others.
1. Blessed are the poor in spirit; for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:3).
This means basically three things: (a) First, that we recognize our spiritual poverty in regard to our lost and undone condition without Christ, which is in contrast to the proud, indifferent spirit of the world. (b) We continue to be aware of our spiritual deficiency even after salvation, thirsting for more of God and a deeper experience with Him, which we discover is to be found in the baptism in the Spirit. Although many Christians are spiritually impotent and their lives fruitless, they seem unaware of the cause. Blessed, therefore, are those who recognize and acknowledge their lack in order that they might be filled with the Spirit (Luke 11:13). (c) The "poor in spirit" are the spiritually humble who feel no self-esteem, self-importance, or pride, and who have no confidence in the flesh (I Corinthians 1:26-29). This principle is the foundation of the deeper life, for until we have experienced it, the deeper life is impossible (cf. Revelation 3:17).
2. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (5:4).
The consequence of the Spirit's revelation of our spiritual poverty will be mourning, although the Spirit does bring us joy and peace because of our redemption in Christ and infilling with the Spirit. He will also gradually awaken in us a sense of mourning and sadness because of the world's sin and rebellion against Christ. Because we are living as Lot in the midst of Sodom, deploring the evil, our souls are likewise vexed. The soul also mourns and travails because of the spiritual shallowness and blindness of the contemporary church in rejecting the end-time outpouring of the Spirit in fulfillment of Joel's prophecy, while it says, "I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing," knowing not that it is "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked." But the promise to those who lament and mourn because of their own spiritual poverty, as well as the present spiritual state of humanity and the church, is that "they shall be comforted." There is yet to come a great latter-rain outpouring upon the world and church, unlike anything seen heretofore, resulting in a great end-time harvest for the glory of God.
3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (5:5).
As we allow the Spirit to work in us an awareness of
our spiritual poverty, and produce in us a sense of mourning and grief because
of it, as well as for the spiritual destitution of both the world and the
contemporary church, this will bring forth in us another grace: meekness. One
cannot have an inward awareness and concern in this regard except it humble
him. Jesus' promises of blessedness to the meek indicate, moreover, the
importance of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, inasmuch as meekness is set forth
in Galatians 5:22-23 as one of the fruits of the Spirit. This fruit of the
Spirit is a basic characteristic of the deeper-life experience, producing in us
the character of Christ (Matthew 11:29), making us teachable, humble in spirit,
gentle and kind, slow to take or give offense, self-controlled, and lowly of
mind (cf. Proverbs 15:1; 16:32; Ephesians 5:21-31; Philippians 2:3; I Peter 2:19-24).
The promised reward to the meek is that "they shall inherit the earth." The restoration of dominion and rule over the earth is promised "overcomers" in Revelation 2:26-27. "And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father." Until one has allowed the Holy Spirit to produce in him an attitude of meekness and humility, having his own disposition and spirit under control, he is in no position to inherit the dominion of the earth, which is already under the domination of the proud and arrogant. Jesus, in Matthew 20:20-28, sets forth the principle which will determine those whom God will select to inherit the earth and rule over the nations, saying, "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant."
4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (5:6).
The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit in unveiling
the message of the deeper life is to produce in us a sincere longing for
righteousness and holiness. This generation of Christians has largely
substituted outward religious observances and busyness with church work for the
inward work and fruit of the Spirit. Without a hunger and thirst after
righteousness, the baptism of the Holy Spirit will not, in itself, bring forth
the desired spiritual growth and development of the deeper life. When one
receives the infilling of the Spirit, the Scriptures become illuminated and
interesting, whereas before they had been difficult to understand and a burden
to study. If, therefore, this individual will allow the Spirit to continue His
work in his heart, he will find that he develops an immense appetite for the
deeper truths of the Scriptures, and that "his delight is in the [Word] of
the Lord, and in his [Word] doth he meditate day and night" (Psalm 1:2).
Anyone can read the Bible, or study it academically in some Bible class or
religious institution, but only those who experience this deep hunger and
thirst after righteousness will truly delight in the Word of the Lord. As long
as one is satisfied with his present level of spiritual experience, he will
never develop this hunger and thirst for the righteousness of the deeper life.
The promise to the spiritually hungry and thirsty is, however, that "they shall be filled." They shall not hunger and thirst in vain. They shall be filled with the Spirit, filled with His fruits, and filled with righteousness. The promise is made only to (a) those who hunger and thirst, and (b) those whose longing is after righteousness. It is significant to observe that Jesus in John 7:37-39 and in Revelation 22:17, just as the Spirit did in Isaiah 55:1, invites only the thirsty to come and drink, for before God can fill one with Himself and His righteousness, one must first realize that he is empty. I have seen in my experience some individuals who were so hungry and thirsty for a deeper experience with God, after years of enduring a dry wilderness experience in some institutional church, that they have come for miles from other cities and states for prayer to receive the infilling of the Holy Spirit. Yet, multitudes of other Christians, spiritually satisfied and complacent, ask, "But what do I need with the baptism in the Spirit?"
Moreover, God's promise that "they shall be filled" does not apply to those who are merely hungering and thirsting for the gifts of the Spirit, or the wisdom and ability to function more effectively in some form of religious activity or ecclesiastical office, and so on. His promise is only to those who are seeking righteousness for its own sake. Righteousness, and only righteousness, is the promised reward. "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled." If one is starving, he will not be satisfied with merely looking at pictures of food; nor if he is thirsty will he be satisfied with listening to a lecture on the chemistry of water. Likewise, God will not attempt to satisfy our hunger and thirst for righteousness with any religious substitutes as the contemporary church has done. His promise is that we shall be filled with righteousness.
5. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy (5:7).
The first four principles of the disciple's
character are related to one's inner life; the remaining five speak of the
active side of our character in its relation to others. For those who hunger
and thirst after righteousness, love expressed as mercy toward others will be
the evidence of such righteousness. Mercy is a principle of conduct as well as
character in the life of the disciple, which is so clearly demonstrated in the
Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10).
Mercy is not to be confused with mere justice. Mercy (or compassion) is grace, as is seen, for instance, in God's provision for our salvation, for it was "not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us" (Titus 3:5). The exercise of mercy on our part is not merely treating others fairly or doing our duty toward them. Too many Christians feel that they have satisfied God's requirements when they have fulfilled their legal obligations toward others as a duty one owes to all men, much in the same manner as one would obey the laws of the state. Thus, being truthful and honest in one's dealings with others, for instance, or being reconciled with someone with whom we are estranged (if they will also do their part in seeking restoration of harmonious relations), would demonstrate justice on our part; but that is not mercy, and bears no resemblance to it. One could lend money to an individual in need, charging a very low interest of only one percent. This would certainly be a just and fair rate of interest, far below the normal rate; but charging a much lower rate of interest than the law allows is not an expression of mercy, however just it may be. Mercy is not to be seen in merely charging a low rate of interest; it is charging none (Luke 6:30-36), or even forgiving the debt itself when necessary (Matthew 18:23-35).
The wonderful promise to those who show mercy is that "they shall obtain mercy" (cf. Proverbs 18:24; Matthew 7:2). As in chapter 7, Jesus states here the principle that we are to be judged on the same basis as our treatment of others. Do you, for example, ask God to forgive you your trespasses, while at the same time you have resentment or an unforgiving spirit toward others? Then Jesus warns that "if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses" (Mark 11:25-26; cf. Matthew 6:12). To whom is the disciple to show mercy? Only to his friends? To his fellow-Christians? To those who will appreciate it and be thankful? No. The Scriptures say, to all—to the helpless, the undeserving, or even to our enemies: "But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:35-36).
6. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God (5:8).
As being merciful speaks of our relation toward our
fellow man, purity of heart describes our relation toward God. If the deeper
life is anything, it is purity of heart, holiness, and godliness. The term
"purity" means "to be clean." It is, therefore, to have
clean desires, affections, thoughts, and motives. In contrast, it is said of
the wicked that "out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries,
fornication's, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matthew 15:19).
The promised reward to the pure in heart is that "they shall see God." Sin or impurity of heart acts as a veil and obscures our vision of God. His Word is no longer illuminated to our hearts, and our prayers remain unanswered (Isaiah 59:1-2; Hebrews 12:14). The Psalmist asks, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart" (Psalm 24:3-4). God's requirement for those who would enter the deeper life is I Peter 1:15-16: "But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy." David's prayer, "Create in me a clean heart, O God" (Psalm 51:10), should be an expression of our own desire.
7. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (5:9).
This has no reference to the efforts of secular governments to achieve peace through the United Nations, nor endeavors by pacifists, nor protests by demonstrators against war and bearing arms, but refers to the manifestation of love in the daily conduct of Jesus' disciples in their personal relationships with others. In a world filled with hate, riots, social unrest, strife, and war, the spirit-led disciple is characterized as a man of peace, as well as one who seeks to make peace with all with whom he comes in contact. The New Testament clearly teaches nonresistance as the passive side of Christian character (Matthew 5:38-39) and peacemaking as the active side (5:9; I Peter 3:8-11). The disciple who would follow Jesus and be like Him has peace in his own heart (Isaiah 26:3), follows after peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14; Romans 12:18), and seeks to promote peace between all men (Matthew 5:9; Proverbs 12:20; James 3:18). The promise is that "they shall be called the sons of God." By virtue of this characteristic, they shall be like God's Son, who is the Prince of Peace.
8. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5:10).
Persecution is the never failing consequence of living the righteousness of the first seven beatitudes! Until one has experienced the eighth and ninth beatitudes, it is evident that he has not been fully obedient to the others. The righteousness of the deeper life draws down upon one the world's indignation and persecution, as well as that of nominal, professing Christianity; for no one can make such total commitment to Jesus and not be persecuted for it just as He was. In fact, He promised, in no uncertain terms, that this would happen (John 15:18-27; 16:33; II Timothy 3:12). However, we must be sure that our trials and persecution are for "righteousness' sake," and are not chastisement or misfortune because of our shortcomings or sins. Moreover, "righteousness" is not to be considered a synonym for our "doctrine" or personal interpretation of the Scriptures. These can gender strife and tribulation which some may piously interpret as "persecution" for righteousness' sake. Righteousness means learning God's will and obeying it; righteousness is the acceptance of and obedience to Jesus' teachings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:20, 48; 7:21-29). The promise to those who give such obedience to Christ that they suffer persecution because of it is the same as in the first beatitude: "Theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
9. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven (5:11-12).
This is no mere repetition of verse 10. There Jesus
speaks of being persecuted for righteousness' sake, while here He speaks of
persecution for His sake. There is a difference, as the Scriptures plainly
show. There are personal trials of our faith (James 1:2-3) and trials and
persecution which result from our godly and righteous life and conduct (II Timothy
3:12; I Peter 2:19-23; 3:8-17). However, there are some tribulations and persecutions
which are given unto us in behalf of Christ for His Name's sake, as a result of
our testimony and faithfulness to His Word. "For unto you it is given in
the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his
sake" (Philippians 1:29). The Apostle John, who was exiled to the isle of
Patmos by the Roman emperor as a result of his faithful testimony to Jesus, is
such an example. He writes in Revelation 1:9, "I John, who also am your
brother, and companion in tribulation...was in the isle that is called Patmos,
for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Note also
Matthew 13:20-21; John 15:18-21; Acts 9:15-16; Colossians 1:24; I Peter 4:12-16;
There are three forms of persecution specifically mentioned here which those faithful to Christ and His Word will be called upon to endure. Jesus said that:
Men shall revile you. This is suffering personal reproach, hate and malice, or being assailed with contemptuous or vile denunciations and abuse (I Peter 2:22-23; 3:9-10; 4:14).
They shall persecute you. He has reference here to physical harassment or oppression, in the form of imprisonment, punishment, beatings, attacks from Satan, loss of employment or other forms of discrimination, religious excommunication, and so on.
They shall say all manner of evil against you falsely. Jesus says His disciples will be subjected to slanderous abuse, such as malicious gossip, false reports, misrepresentation, lies, defamation of character, misquotations, derogatory insinuations, and innuendoes, all for His Name's sake.
The writer can bear personal testimony, both from his own experience and from the experiences of others he has known personally, that Jesus' teaching concerning persecution, trial, and slanderous abuse is not exaggerated, nor is it to be relegated merely to some past age in church history. It is the lot of those who accept the message of the crucified life today. However, when undergoing such trials, Jesus encourages us to "rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven."
Principle Of Influence
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
comparing His disciples to "salt" and "light," Jesus sets
forth the two-fold influence His disciples are to have upon the world. What is
meant when He declares that "ye are the salt of the earth"? He means
that as salt has the chemical nature whereby it purifies, preserves, and
seasons, so the influence of the Christian is to have the same effect upon
Salt is antiseptic to a degree and can purify; saline solutions are frequently used in various ways, such as in cleansing one's teeth, as a mouth or eye wash, a gargle, and so on. In like manner, the disciple's purity of mind, conduct, and motive will act as a purifying influence in a world corrupted by sin (cf. I Corinthians 7:12-14).
Salt can also preserve from corruption as, for instance, in the case of meat. At one time this was the primary means used in the preservation of meats, and it is still the method for curing some forms of meat products, such as salt pork, ham, and corned beef. Without the presence of the church or Christian influence in the world, human society would doubtless have degenerated to an unbearable level long before now. The disciple's influence, prayers, and intercessions, and his love and unselfish concern for the welfare of others, help to preserve a measure of order, decency, and sanity in a corrupt and chaotic world, as well as postpone God's inevitable judgment upon the wicked (cf. Genesis 18:20f.; Acts 27:20-24).
Salt also seasons. As the believer ministers life, healing, deliverance, and help to others, and as he radiates joy, peace, faith, and love in the Holy Spirit, the Christian message is made "appetizing," and is embraced by others. Salt, however, can lose its flavor, Jesus warns, and is "thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot...." There is nothing more useless than salt that has lost its savor. The farmer would never cast it on good ground, for it would ruin the soil and nothing could grow there. It is not even fit, Jesus says, for the "dunghill," for this would only destroy the effectiveness of the fertilizer. It is good only to be cast into the street and walked on and trodden under foot (Luke 14:34-35).
The church today, as a result of its doctrinal divisions, its compromise with the world, and its lack of the power of the Holy Spirit, has little cleansing, preserving, and seasoning influence remaining, and its witness has lost its effectiveness upon the world. Salt may still appear as salt long after it has lost its flavor or effectiveness. The institutional church of today, with its dynamic programs, great organization, and zealous religious activities, but without the power of the Spirit, can be likened to Paul's description in II Timothy 3:5, as "having the form of godliness, but denying the power thereof."
Jesus also likens His disciples to "light," Most Christians, of course, are aware that Jesus calls Himself the Light of the world; but they have not known, or have not comprehended, the fact that the disciple is also called "the light of the world." This is plainly stated in Matthew 5:14, as well as in Philippians 2:15, where we are admonished to "be blameless and harmless, the sons of Cod, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world." Too often it appears that many professing Christians, because of worldliness and spiritual shallowness, are reflecting the light of the world, instead of being a light to the world.
There are three characteristics which the disciples, as light, are to manifest: the light's position, nature, and purpose,
Its position: It is set upon a hill or upon a lampstand for all to see. The purpose in this is that the world will know who we are, what we are, and where we are. The church is called to be a lighthouse set upon a hill, but has become, too often, little more than one of the world's lights, reflecting the same interests, using the same methods, and often trying to achieve the same goals. It has become involved in political strife, social and humanitarian interests, welfare projects, and community activities, all in the name of religion. The church was never called to be just another organization in the community, but to be a lighthouse set upon a hill. It is of no help down in the valley, where its true nature and purpose are hidden. The contemporary church has become merely a part of the community, and does not desire to be considered as a light set over against the darkness of the community in which it stands, revealing its sin and corruption, standing as a beacon revealing the rocks and shoals, drawing the lost and wandering into safe waters. It has, in a large measure, lost its distinctive character, testimony, and influence.
Its nature: By its very nature, light banishes darkness (Genesis 1:2-5). It will always penetrate the darkness and reveal what there is to see. Darkness, on the other hand, can never dispel the light when it shines (John 1:5). The disciple, as light, helps to dispel the spiritual darkness in the world, for wherever he goes, wherever he works, or wherever he lives, the light of his life will penetrate the darkness and glorify God (Matthew 5:16; Ephesians 5:8). Too many, however, have hidden their light under a bushel, either through their failure to mature spiritually, or by neglecting to tell of God's provisions and blessings in their life, such as His saving grace or His healing in time of sickness; or out of fear of the consequences, they have concealed their experience of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and so on.
Its purpose: Jesus tells us what this is in Matthew 5:16, saying, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Our lights are to shine so that the world, by seeing our righteous works, love, and devotion to God, may glorify Him. The world will care little for what we say if it is out of harmony with what we do, for it is quick to note the inconsistency of the Christian. Often we have heard it said, "I am not interested in the church as there are too many hypocrites in it." The charge is not without some basis in fact, for generally this individual has in mind the neighbor next door when he says this. Although often active in his local church, his neighbor lives little differently from the world round about him, being on about the same spiritual level in his faith, interests, ethics, and conduct. No one notices the mud on a hog, but an ink spot on a white dress will cause all to talk and stare.
Principles of Conduct
In the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets forth the principles which are to govern the disciple's conduct toward his neighbor and his worship of God, as well as his attitude regarding material security and possessions, and in his evaluation of others.
1. The relation of the law to the principles Jesus taught (17-20).
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
The principles which Jesus sets forth in His
teachings in the Sermon on the Mount were not intended to destroy the inner,
spiritual essence of the moral and ethical elements of the Law, but on the
contrary were for the purpose of making explicit what was implicit in the Law
and the Prophets. He declares, therefore, "Think not that I am come to
destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to
fulfill" (5:17). The Law, as He shows in these verses, had as its
intention fulfillment (verses 17-18). Until this occurred, it was to be taught,
respected, and obeyed to the letter (verse 19), but not, of course, as the
scribes and Pharisees had practiced. In order to justify their own
disobedience, they reinterpreted the Scriptures and taught others to follow
their example (verse 20), thereby making void the inner, spiritual principles
of the Law (Matthew 15:1f). How did Jesus fulfill the Law? (1) By His personal
obedience (Matthew 3:15); (2) by His teaching, whereby He set aside the
traditions and errors of the religious leaders and unveiled the inner meaning
and the original divine intention of the Law; and (3) by His death (Hebrews
10:12; Colossians 2:13-16), so that by faith in Him the righteousness of the
Law is fulfilled in us (Romans 3:19-31; 8:4).
Two things must be understood from the outset regarding the teachings of Jesus in the Sermon, which will also be true of the New Testament in general. First, the Sermon on the Mount is not a higher "moral law" for the Christian dispensation, which the disciple is to follow like a set of rules and precepts. It is an unveiling of the inner, spiritual principles, implicit in God's revelation to Israel, which are to guide the Christian's conduct, attitudes, and decisions. This fact is evident in Jesus' repeated reference to the Law. He says, for example, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill." He then unveils the inner meaning of that particular precept, saying, "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother...shall be in danger of the judgment." Thus, the Christian is to be motivated and guided by principles of conduct and action, which alone can save him from legalism.
Second, while the Christian is not under law, this does not mean, as the contemporary church so often teaches, that God requires less of the Christian under grace. On the contrary, a sincere reading of the Sermon on the Mount will show that God does not expect less in obedience from the Christian; rather, it shows that in the Old Testament dispensation, God tolerated more disobedience, because of the hardness of their hearts! The Christian is not under law for justification, for grace sets him free; but grace does not set him free to give less obedience unto God and to do as he pleases (Romans 6). Instead, it sets him free to give obedience to God and His Word from the heart (Romans 6:16-17; cf. I Corinthians 6:12; 10:23). With these two truths in mind, therefore, we can now turn to the inner, spiritual principles which are to guide the attitudes and conduct of the disciple who would know the deeper life in the Spirit.
2. Attitude and conduct toward others (5:21-48).
The profound and unique character of Jesus' teachings is nowhere more evident than in the remainder of Matthew 5.
a. The principle concerning anger (21-26).
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore: if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
Under Old Testament Law, unless one actually
violated the letter of the Law by taking the life of another he would not be
considered guilty of any crime, merely because there was sufficient hate and
anger in his heart to commit the act. Jesus, however, absolutizes the
commandments by bringing out their inward or intended meaning. Murder becomes,
therefore, under the teaching of Jesus, anger and hate in the heart. "Ye
have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and
whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you,
That whosoever is angry with his brother...shall be in danger of the judgment:
and whosoever shall say to his brother, Rata, shall be in danger of the
council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell
fire" (verses 21-22). This is likewise the significance of John's
statement that "whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know
that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:15). Jesus is
saying that sin is not merely an overt act, but it resides in the heart;
therefore, one can become guilty of the violation of God's standard of
righteousness in thought as well as in deed (cf. Matthew 15:17-20).
Thus, we see from the outset that the principles of righteousness to which Jesus taught His disciples to conform do not require less obedience than was required of the Old Testament saints under Law, but more. Why is this? There are several reasons: the Christian has the light of full revelation (Galatians 3:21-25); the Holy Spirit has been given to enable him to walk in full obedience to God's will (Romans 8:1-15); and he has been set free from fear under the Law, so that under grace he can obey God's will from the heart (Romans 6:17).
The anger and resentment in the heart which make one guilty of murder are expressed by the tongue through the use of such terms as "raca," meaning stupid or empty-headed, and "fool," which was an Old Testament synonym for a wicked or unregenerate individual (Psalm 14:1; I Samuel 25:25). In verses 23-26, the practical application of Jesus' principle concerning the danger of holding wrong attitudes toward another is that you must seek reconciliation with your brother with whom you have been angry or bear resentment before seeking to worship God and be in fellowship with Him (cf. I John 4:20-21). "Therefore: if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift" (verses 23-24). Moreover, we are to take the initiative, as verses 25-26 show, and in every case seek such reconciliation regardless of who is at fault, for the deeper life principles of conduct are based on love. The disciple is to seek such agreement while it can be effected by showing a willingness to settle any dispute or disagreement at once. Delay or waiting on the other individual to make the first approach toward a reconciliation may result at times in legal action against us and loss on our part. Therefore, "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison" (cf. Matthew 18:15). Legally one may have certain rights and his adversary be the one at fault; but love, Paul reminds us, will forego one's rights and privileges, for "love seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil,...beareth all things,...endureth all things."
b. The principle concerning lust (27-30).
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
As we have seen in His teachings concerning anger,
Jesus shows us that the conduct and attitudes of His disciples are to be
motivated by spiritual principles, and that even our thoughts as well as our
actions are to be brought into subjection to the Holy Spirit who indwells us.
Jesus does not intend that anyone, after reading the Sermon on the Mount,
should walk away feeling self-righteous, saying, "I have never been guilty
of violating God's commandments." He declares that even the lustful glance
makes one as guilty of adultery as one who has committed the act itself.
Often we are asked, "Are Jesus' words, 'And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee:...and if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off,' to be taken literally?" One will never be able to comprehend the nature of discipleship to Jesus and the message of the deeper life until he is willing to face squarely the fact that Jesus expects to be taken literally when He speaks (unless, of course, it is clear that He is using some analogy or figure of speech, such as "I am the Vine and ye are the branches"). Jesus is saying clearly that if the only alternative to habitual sin which will result in the spiritual loss of one's soul is to lose some member of the body, then we ought to choose the latter. Men will allow a surgeon to sever some diseased limb or organ from their body to save their lives, but seem shocked and offended when Jesus proposes the same remedy in order to save the soul! By His teachings in the Sermon Jesus shows the radical nature of discipleship and the meaning of total commitment.
While Jesus' words are not to be "spiritualized" and reduced to a mere figure of speech, certainly there is a higher realm of spiritual understanding and obedience for the disciple than the mere dismemberment of one's body in order to overcome sin and lust. Lust is not in the eye, but in the heart, and we must, therefore, deal with the heart. One could pluck out his eye and still lust in his heart. He could sever his right hand, or both hands for that matter, in order to overcome the temptation to steal, but still covet the possessions of another in his heart. The tongue, eyes, hands, and other members of the body are only instruments which express the desires and attitudes of the heart. Thus the disciple is to control, not just his actions, but also the very thoughts of his heart, which is the seat of all sin. Sin acted out is but an expression of what one has already conceived and committed in his heart (James 1:13-15). The Christian is without excuse because he can close his eyes, reject the thought, or walk away from the temptation (Job 31:1; I Corinthians 10:13).
c. The principle regarding the permanency of marriage (31-32).
It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.
The question of divorce and remarriage is complicated and complex, but Jesus, nevertheless, does give us certain basic principles concerning God's will in the matter. The Mosaic concessions due to man's spiritual immaturity (Matthew 19:1-12) are no longer allowed for the Christian, Jesus declares (Mat. 5:32). The only basis God allows for severance of the marriage bond is fornication (sexual uncleanness) which may be of various natures, including adultery. However, it should be carefully kept in mind in view of the total teaching of the New Testament that love is a greater force than sin. Therefore, simply because one feels that he or she has scriptural grounds for divorce, this does not mean that permission implies necessity, but that it is love's part to forgive the offending party and maintain at all costs the marriage bond, even as Christ has forgiven each of us (Ephesians 4:32). It should not be forgotten that Jesus' teaching on lust (verses 27-30) reinterprets for us the deeper implications of the term "adultery"; and He challenges all alike in His accusation to the scribes and Pharisees concerning the woman taken in adultery, when He says, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her" (John 8:7).
d. The principle concerning the oath and swearing (33-37).
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne: Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black. But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
Jesus refers here to God's
requirement under the old Covenant. The Israelites were to perform their oaths
in legal matters in His Name alone (Deuteronomy 6:13-14; Leviticus 19:12), in
order to wean them from their idolatrous practices learned in Egypt, and to
teach them that there was but one God. Now, however, Jesus teaches us the
higher spiritual principle which His disciples are to follow; namely, that of
giving a simple "yes" or "no" in reply to others.
Some have attempted to justify the practice of swearing with an oath, at least in legal matters or in a court trial, by citing Paul's statements in Romans 1:9 ("God is my witness") and II Corinthians 1:23 ("I call God for a record upon my soul"). The context will show, however, that he is not swearing an oath, but emphatically stating that God knows and is his witness that he is telling the truth. Moreover, such alleged proof texts are really beside the point, inasmuch as Jesus clearly forbids us to swear to an oath for any reason whatsoever, stating that anything more than a simple "yes" or "no" is from the evil one (5:34-37). Jesus refers to the Mosaic law which permitted the oath under certain conditions; but He then emphatically forbids it for His disciples. All contrary interpretations given in an attempt to justify why almost everyone, including the majority of Christians, is disobeying the plain teaching of the Word, are not going to change the fact that it is forbidden without exception by the Lord. This same prohibition of the oath is repeated in James 5:12: "But above all things [note the emphasis], my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath; but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." All oaths were refused by the early Christians for several centuries, as they were by such religious groups as the Waldensians, Anabaptists, and Mennonites. Nor is the oath to be considered sanctified today merely because it is taken with one's hand on a Bible in court, for the command is "swear not at all," "neither by any oath."
An oath is an unnecessary affirmation to the word of a Christian. An oath tells the world that, without it, the believer might not tell the truth, which is a contradiction to the meaning of the term "Christian." The Christian can give no better testimony in reply to any question or statement in which an oath is expected to confirm his statements than, "I am a Christian; my word will be the truth." Of course, such total loyalty to the Word of the Lord may bring occasional ridicule and laughter, or the retort, "I know many Christians who do not tell the truth"; but this will not deter the true disciple from his obedience to Christ. One might well reply to such derision, "There may be many church members who do not always tell the truth; but genuine Christians—and I am one—have no choice but to tell the truth, for the Lord Himself, who is Truth (John 14:6), dwells in my heart. I must obey God rather than men; therefore, my answer when it is 'yes' will mean 'yes' and when it is 'no' will mean 'no.' " At present, the law allows one whose conscience forbids him taking an oath in disobedience to Christ simply to "affirm" or state that he will tell the truth, without an oath. However, one should know where to support his position from Scripture, as he may be asked to do so by some skeptical official on occasion. The prohibition of the oath for the Christian is of such consequence to God that He twice forbids it in the New Testament (Matthew 5; James 5) as unbecoming those whom He has called to proclaim the truth and be an example of it.
e. The principle of nonresistance (38-48).
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
to a tragic neglect of scriptural teaching on
the subject, most Christians today are unaware that the main thrust of the New
Testament concerning the question of violence, resistance, retaliation, war,
and killing is a position of nonresistance. Many deeper truths such as this,
which have been neglected and obscured for centuries, are being restored today
by the Spirit. Those disciples who overcome in all things will demonstrate to
the world and the church their obedience to their Master in all things
regardless of the cost. As we shall see, the position of the New Testament is
such that the disciple is required (1) to love his enemy, and also (2) to give
humble obedience to all authority. What, then, is to be his attitude when the
government commands him to enter military service and resist an enemy of the
nation, resorting to violence and killing? In order to answer this properly, we
must first set forth the Biblical teaching concerning the Christian's
responsibility to give honor, respect, and obedience to all authority, whether
civil, religious, parental, or to one's employer or teacher.
In Matthew 5:41, for example, Jesus teaches us to obey, without objection, whosoever would compel us to go a mile, even volunteering to go two instead. He refers doubtless to the practice at that time of soldiers or authorities who would on occasion impress others into performing some immediate task of labor on which they wanted assistance. For example Simon was compelled by the authorities to carry Jesus' cross (Matthew 27:32). In light of this revolutionary teaching by Jesus concerning subjection to all authority, even when one's so-called rights are violated and he is compelled to labor even without remuneration, we now turn to the Biblical teaching concerning nonresistance, which includes honor and respect, in relation to God-ordained authority.
The principle of nonresistance, including obedience and subjection to the government, is the clear command of Scripture. Jesus' attitude toward the State (that is, secular government as the kingdom of this world, in distinction from the Kingdom of God) was to recognize its legitimate functions to impose and collect taxes (Matthew 22:15-22) or tribute (Matthew 17:24-27), conduct courts of law and justice (Matthew 5:25-26, 40; cf. Acts 25:11), and maintain law and order (Mark 10:42; Matthew 8:9), and that the authority of the rulers was ordained and given by God (John 19:8-11). However, He very carefully distinguished between His kingdom and the nature of it, and the kingdoms of this world (John 18:33-36; Luke 22:24-27; Matthew 5-7).
In like manner, the apostles' conception of the State is that it is an institution ordained by God (Romans 13:1; cf. Daniel 4:17), and that resistance to the State constitutes opposition to the ordinance of God (Romans 13:2). The State acts as God's minister to maintain law and order, peace, and justice, and punish wrongdoers (Romans 13:3-4; cf. Genesis 9:6). Therefore, the Christian is to be in subjection to it (Romans 13:5), and render to it tribute, taxes, fear, and honor (Romans 13:6-7). Whether the government is a monarchy, dictatorship, republic, or democracy is not the question, for the Scriptures declare that "the powers that be are ordained of God." The New Testament principle is unchanging regardless of time, or form of government, for the Apostle Paul commands obedience and submission to the State by the Christians at Rome, although they lived under the most wicked dictators and tyrants of history.
The Apostle Peter also exhorts the Christians to "submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; or unto governors.... For so is the will of God.... Honour the king.... [Slaves] be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward" (I Peter 2:13-18). Peter teaches total submission to those in authority as the will of God. Moreover, he instructs them to honor the king, who was none other than Nero, the wicked tyrant who persecuted and murdered thousands of Christians! Peter exhorts them to suffer patiently: "Hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps" (I Peter 2:21).
Paul commands Titus to "put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men" (Titus 3:1-2, cf. verses 3-5). Subjection and obedience to, and respect for, government, as well as other authorities, is the clear Biblical command to the Christian. Jude likewise rebukes those who "despise dominion [government authority, cf. II Peter 2:10], and speak evil of dignities" (Jude 8).
The attitude and practice of the average Christian are reproved by these Scriptures, since most, due to the present-day emphasis upon the "democratic right of freedom of speech," and the encouragement of political party strife, do not hesitate to speak out against their leaders. They level all manner of railing accusations and charges against the God-ordained authorities, a sin carefully avoided even by Michael, the archangel, concerning his encounter with Satan over the body of Moses. "But Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing judgment, but said, The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9; cf. Ecclesiastes 10:20; Proverbs 16:27-28).
To those who would seek to excuse or justify their disrespect for those whom God has placed over them with the argument that the United States' Constitution allows them such "freedom of speech" and the "right of petition," we unhesitatingly reply that God denies them such rights, "For it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people" (Acts 23:5; cf. II Peter 2:10-12). Our "constitutional freedom" is to be interpreted in the light of "Christian freedom" which never allows the believer the right to walk contrary to the teachings of Scripture. Democratic government grants its citizens many "rights" that the Christian, in obedience to the Scriptures, will not exercise (divorce, lawsuits, labor strikes, killing in self-defense, political party strife, drinking, gambling, etc.). In fact, the Scriptures warn against the misuse of freedom (I Peter 2:16, note context, verses I Peter 2:11-25; I Corinthians 6:12; 10:23-24).
The Christian is, therefore, to give honor and respect, and be in humble subjection to all authority. This applies not only to civil authority, but to all in authority—including employer, pastor, or parents. Moreover, contrary to the popular belief, the Christian is not to resist even misused authority of a corrupt State or government.
(1) Why the Christian is not to resist even misused authority.
(a) All the powers that be are
ordained by God. The Scriptures declare that even bad governments and wicked
authorities are raised up by Him to accomplish His will and purposes. He says
precisely this of Pharaoh (Romans 9:17), Assyria (Isaiah 10:5-19), Babylon
(Habakkuk 1:6-11), and Rome (Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:11-18; cf. Proverbs
8:15-16). This means also that the twentieth-century governments and rulers of
nations such as Germany, Japan, Russia, and China were no accidents of history,
but instruments in the hands of God, "for there is no power but of
God." Paul and Peter lived under one of the greatest despots and
persecutors of Christians in history (Nero), and yet they command obedience,
subjection, respect, and honor to the king, and forbid resistance, for "they
that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Romans 13:1).
Christians are forbidden to resist constituted authority for any reason
whatsoever, whether by peaceful means or otherwise, except when such obedience
would constitute disobedience to God.
(b) Rulers are accountable only to God, regardless of who has "elected" or "appointed" them. Pontius Pilate had been appointed by Caesar, but Christ said his power and authority were from heaven (John 19:10-11). Theoretically the Roman senate elected the emperors of Rome, but Paul says they were appointed by God (Romans 13:1). Nebuchadnezzar thought he ruled by virtue of his own power, but discovered his throne and kingdom had been established by the Most High (Daniel 4:17). Present-day political scientists, contrary to the Word of God, have convinced the masses that because men are elected to office, their authority proceeds from the hands of the people, to whom alone they are accountable, and the people, therefore, may resist, rebuke, or remove them at will, thereby usurping the sovereign prerogatives of God!
However, it is God who appoints all authorities, which are accountable only to Him. Therefore, the Christian is commanded to be in subjection to them, even when they occasionally abuse their power (Matthew 5:41), for it is God who will judge them (Romans 12:19 with 13:1-7, I Samuel 26:9-10). As long as He permits them to remain in power, we are forbidden to do aught else but honor and obey them. David honored King Saul, even though Saul abused his power and sought to slay David. For David said: "Who can stretch forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?... The Lord shall smite him" (I Samuel 26:9-10). Christ did not rave against the political institution that beheaded John the Baptist, and later crucified Him, nor did the church when Herod slew James with the sword. Neither did they encourage resistance against Rome, the cruel conqueror and oppressor of their people, but insisted upon respect and obedience. They did not take vengeance into their own hands, but committed themselves to God who shall judge their oppressors.
(c) The Christian is even to be in subjection to a corrupt government and not to resist, for the obvious reason that all human authority and government is sinful and corrupt, with differences between nations being only in degree, since the kingdoms of this world are all under the influence of Satan (Luke 4:5-6). To resist because a State misused its power or was in the hands of a despot would be an open invitation to endless revolution, insurrection, agitation, revolt, and strife, such as we see throughout the world today. It is for this precise reason that God has commanded subjection to authority. He did not say to be in subjection to relatively good government and authority only, but all authority: "not only to the good and gentle, but also the forward." The reason for this is that the principle of authority must be preserved, whether in the State, home, church, or one's occupation, even at the cost of personal hardship or affliction, for, without authority, anarchy would prevail. God ordains the State to act as His minister to maintain law and order as a restraint upon unchecked sin and violence. Hence, to resist even a bad State is not only to forget that all kingdoms of this world are godless and under the control of Satan, but also threatens the very principle of authority for which God has appointed the State. Furthermore, even a despotic ruler and corrupt State cannot long survive without some measure of law, order, and relative justice. Nero was a tyrant, but the Roman Empire was well regulated and at peace, and its law a pattern for modern jurisprudence.
The Christian's responsibility to the State is (1) to be in subjection, giving honor and respect to its leaders, speaking evil of no man, especially dignitaries, and (2) to pray for all who are in authority (I Timothy 2:1-2).
In view of all this, what then is the Christian's responsibility when the State commands him to resist an enemy of the nation and resort to violence? Is there a higher principle that would, in such cases where violence is required, permit the Christian to disobey the State in order to obey God? To answer this will require an examination of the whole question of nonresistance. The popular Protestant view proposed by Luther holds that we are to distinguish between (1) the Christian acting privately as an individual, where he is fully responsible for his moral actions, and (2) the Christian acting as a representative of the State on behalf of society, wherein the State bears the responsibility and moral guilt for his actions. This fallacy seeks to solve a difficult problem by transforming the Christian into a "schizophrenic." The Scriptures, in contrast, teach that every moral act of an individual is his own personal moral responsibility, whether he acts for himself personally, or on behalf of the State. Therefore, if he, as a morally responsible individual, disobeys the revealed will of God and resorts to violence, he must bear his own guilt. There are no scriptural grounds whatever for such theological nonsense as the imputation of personal guilt to the "soul of the State," a "soul" which has no real existence.
What then is to be the Christian's attitude toward war, violence, killing, vengeance, or the expression of hate in any form, whether in peacetime or war? Believers who practice nonresistance, in obedience to Christ and in accordance with Scripture, are not to be confused with modern-day "pacifists," who may or may not be Christian, and who are characterized by their humanistic agitation for world peace, protests against nuclear warfare, petitions and demonstrations against the government, and so on. Nonresistant Christians are those who take literally Christ's command that His disciples are to love their enemies and are not to return evil for evil. Nor, on the other hand, do they support other unscriptural world peace efforts, such as those sponsored by the United Nations and the World Council of Churches, for the precise reason that there can be no peace before the return of the "Prince of Peace," and as long as Satan remains unbound and directs the affairs of the kingdoms of this world (Revelation 20:1-3). Christ Himself predicted that the world would never achieve peace by its own efforts; but on the contrary, He prophesied that there will be "wars and rumours of wars," and "nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Luke 21:5-32). The world seeks peace by its own methods and on its own terms—without Christ! The church's task is not to seek to make the world better, but to warn men that it cannot get better, and of the certain judgment which is to befall it.
Some of the most significant Scriptures teaching the doctrine of nonresistance are as follows:
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink.. . . Be not vercome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world then would my servants fight.
Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)...
–II Corinthians 10:3-4
See also: Luke 9:52-56; Romans
13:1-10; I Corinthians 6:1-11; II Corinthians 11:20-21; Galatians 5:22; I
Thessalonians 5:15; Titus 3:1-2;
Hebrews 12:14; James 5:6; I Peter 2:13-24.
Those who seek to justify the practice of Christians engaging in carnal warfare must go to the Old Testament and another dispensation for their arguments, since they dare not appeal to the teachings of Christ and the New Testament, which would severely rebuke their false view: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth [Old Testament]: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil" (Matthew 5:38-39). Jesus clearly states here that the "law of retaliation" permitted under the Mosaic dispensation is forever abolished under grace, being superseded by the principle of love. These Scriptures forbid the Christian's use of physical resistance, inasmuch as the resistance of the Christian is moral and spiritual, not physical and carnal: "Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7); and "we do not war according to the flesh" (II Corinthians 10:3-4). Those who war after the flesh reveal that they do not have the Spirit of Christ, or at least that they are ignorant of the nature of the Spirit that indwells them.
Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elijah did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of: For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.
From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts...?
The doctrine of nonresistance is
not for the unregenerate, nor for the carnal Christian who is weak in the faith
and who feels he must resort to force in order to assert his so-called
"rights" and defend himself or his possessions from harm. All he
indicates thereby is that he lacks the faith and willingness to suffer
persecution with Christ, and that he lacks the spirit of humility to "turn
the other cheek," but must avenge himself and return evil for evil.
Capital punishment, force and violence in connection with police action,
warfare, and the like are necessary on the part of unregenerate governments who
must bear the sword for the protection of their citizens, or in the performance
of the will of God in judgments upon this world (Isaiah 10; Jeremiah 27:6-8;
Matthew 24:6; Luke 24:24; Romans 13). But violence is never justifiable on the
part of those who are not of this world. Whatever men may say, the Scriptures
are plain in this matter.
Furthermore, it is ridiculous to argue, as some do, that if everyone took the position of nonresistance, then it would invite enemy aggression against the nation. This reasoning fails simply because the vast majority are unregenerate and will never practice nonresistance. Even the number of Christians who actually obey Christ on this matter is relatively small. But, all that aside, what if everyone did obey God in this and all else? Such a nation would never need to fear any aggressor! Moreover, the doctrine of nonresistance does not apply to the secular State or the unregenerate, but only to the Christian under grace. Until a man comes under grace and is given a new heart he must be kept "under law," restraints, and the threat of "an eye for an eye" (I Timothy 1:9-10). The Christian is called to walk as Christ walked, and if any Christian can conceive of Christ bearing arms, killing His fellow man, avenging Himself, exercising physical force for any reason, or returning evil for evil, he reveals thereby his utter lack of understanding of the basic principle of Christianity, which is love.
It is a common historical fact that the early Christians believed the Biblical teaching that there are two opposing kingdoms—the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world (John 18:36)—and that they belonged to the former. Therefore, they refused to bear arms, use the secular courts or physical force to defend their lives or property, or participate in political uprisings, revolutions, strikes, anti-government demonstrations, or any form of carnal agitation. They chose instead to suffer the ridicule and physical persecution that the world heaps upon those who practice New Testament Christianity, knowing full well that they had been appointed unto suffering and affliction (Acts 14:22; Philippians 1:29; I Thessalonians 3:3-4; I Peter 4:12-16). The world has not changed, and this is why the practice of nonresistance in obedience to Christ is not for the weak and fearful. It is the duty of the Christian to obey the government in all things except that which is contrary to the revealed will of God (Romans 12:2, 17-21; 13:9-10; Acts 4:19-20; 5:29); therefore, he is never to resort to violence and force, nor promote in any way warfare, killing, and destruction, whether in combatant or noncombatant military service, or employment in war industry. Christians, by practicing their Christianity, can make a far better contribution spiritually to the nation through prayer on behalf of their leaders (I Timothy 2:1-8; cf. Jeremiah 29:7), and by their moral, ethical, and spiritual influence as the "salt of the earth" and "light of the world." This is the real strength of any nation (Matthew 5:13-14), rather than killing and violence. Furthermore, the doctrine of nonresistance seeks to put into practice the Biblical view of separation of the Church and State. Finally, the principle of nonresistance extends to the matter of lawsuits and the use of courts to settle disputes. This includes action between Christians as well as between a Christian and non-Christian (I Corinthians 6:1-8; cf. Matthew 18:15-17; Matthew 5:40, "any man"; Luke 6:29-31).
(2) Additional reasons why nonresistance is commanded of the Christian, whether in peacetime or war:
conscience of the Christian is subject to Christ and the Word of God alone, and
therefore can be compelled by no higher authority (inasmuch as no higher
authority exists) to disobey that which He commands. As God alone is Lord of
the conscience, it cannot be bound and coerced by the commandments of men
contrary to Scripture (I Corinthians 7:22-23; Acts 4:19-20; 5:29).
(b) One who dons a uniform on behalf of a kingdom of this world takes an oath of allegiance to obey its leaders in every detail, It is absolute, unquestioning obedience and loyalty which demand that country come before conscience, and which constitute willful disobedience as disloyalty or treason. Clearly, only to Christ can a Christian pledge such loyal devotion and absolute obedience. A soldier is a "slave" yielded to the will of his master, for in a real sense he has yielded his freedom, life, will, and body to the control and use of the leaders of a world kingdom. However, a Christian is already the slave of Christ (Romans 6:22; 1 Corinthians 6:20), and cannot serve two masters, especially in things so contrary to each other as are the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world. In view of this, the State is not authorized to enslave a slave of Christ, nor to pass laws which compel a Christian to kill, hate his enemy, or resort to violence in any way, contrary to the laws of God. In this the State would oppose God Himself and His commands to His children, and thus the Christian is not compelled to obey.
(c) The first Christians never considered themselves "patriots," inasmuch as Christianity supplanted the Hebrew love of nation with love of persons. Since Christians resided in all nations, what possible justification could they have given if brothers in Christ gathered themselves in opposing armies to maim and kill one another, as the professing church now approves?
(d) The Christian is not under obligation to defend the secular State against an enemy in disobedience to Christ because:
 A Christian's enemies are the world, the flesh, and Satan. Mere man cannot be his enemy. Even when others consider the Christian an enemy, he is commanded to love them, to do good unto them, and to pray for them (Matthew 5:43-48). The Christian, from his side, looks upon no man as his enemy.
 Christians should not regard their earthly citizenship as something to fight and kill for, in order to maintain it, but as something to lose and give up for obedience to Christ, since they count themselves "as strangers and pilgrims" (I Peter 2:11), with no true citizenship in this world (Colossians 1:13; John 18:36; Hebrews 11:14-16; 13:13-14).
 Christ commanded His followers not to fight to defend Jerusalem when the enemy gathered against the Holy City, but to flee to the mountains (Luke 21:20-21), and when they were persecuted in one city to flee to another (Matthew 10:23). How can a Christian fight to defend a city belonging to the kingdoms of this world when Christ forbade them to defend the chosen city of Zion itself!
 When Jesus commanded the Christian not to resist an enemy, but when smitten on one cheek to turn the other also (Matthew 5:39); when He warned, "avenge not yourselves" (Romans 12:19); when He rebuked Peter's use of the sword (Matthew 26:52); and when He refused to allow His disciples to defend His kingdom with force, saying, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight" (John 18:36), He forever forbade the Christian the right to do on behalf of another (the secular State), what he is not permitted to do for himself. If the disciple is not allowed to enforce Christianity with the sword, nor to defend himself or the Kingdom of God by physical force and resistance, how could he conceivably resort to force, death, and destruction to preserve a kingdom of this world which is under the influence and control of Satan?
are commanded, "Love your enemies," for this is how God Himself is
dealing with sinners in this age of grace. As God has thus dealt with us in
mercy and grace, we are not called to hate, maim, and kill, but to deal with
men in love and mercy: "But love ye your enemies and do good... and ye
shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to
the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful" (Luke
6:35-36). "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"
(Matthew 5:7; cf. Romans 11:30-31).
In conclusion, then, the Christian is to make a careful distinction between absolute obedience to the State in everything (including religion), and subjection to the authority of the State. He is to render a qualified obedience (Acts 5:29), but a total subjection (Acts 5:40; cf. verse 29 with 41-42). The Christian is to maintain an attitude of subjection and obedience (Romans 13:1-7; I Peter 2:11-23; Titus 3:1-2; Jude 8-9), except when obedience to human authority would constitute disobedience to God; and most important, while declining to obey, unless he can avoid it by scriptural and peaceful means, he is to submit peacefully to the penalty. Nonresistance, then, in the Biblical meaning of the term, is for the Christian to refrain from the use of physical force and violence for any reason and in all relationships, civil, social, or personal. The Christian is called to a life of meekness (Matthew 5:5), peace (Matthew 5:9), nonresistance (Matthew 5:38-41), and love of one's enemies (Matthew 5:43-48), being forbidden to use force, violence, or vengeance. Disregard to these clear teachings will issue in stern judgment at the hands of God, "for if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation" (Hebrews 10:26-27).
and conduct in worship and religious practice (6:1-18).
The first principle of conduct dealt with our relation to others; the second deals with our relation to God. The essential principle Jesus sets forth in this section is that the disciple is to avoid practicing his piety before men just to be seen or heard, and he is to shun hypocritical worship and religious practice.
a. Alms (6:1-4).
Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.
One is not to give to the needs of others or to the Lord with any expectation of praise or recognition. Even a good deed done with the wrong motive is sin, for one's actions are good or bad depending on the incentive or motive (6:1-2; Isaiah 1:13-15). But Jesus requires us to go further still: not only are we not to advertise our good works to the world; we must also forget them ourselves (6:3-4). We are to dismiss them from our minds, for if we congratulate ourselves for our generosity and kindness toward others, then we have our reward.
b. Prayer (6:5-15).
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your father forgive your trespasses.
Two requirements are set forth concerning the prayers of Jesus' disciples. First, they are to avoid prayer designed just to be heard and admired (6:5-6). He does not forbid public prayers (cf. John 11:41; I Timothy 2:8); but we are to refrain from "planned" prayers that are of the head and not the heart, prayers that are little "sermons" to others, or prayers that are mere words calculated to please the hearers. Second, Jesus commands His followers to avoid vain repetitions (6:7), because (1) God knows our needs before we ask, and constantly reminding Him adds nothing to the efficacy of our prayers; (2) such repetition may indicate a lack of faith that God will answer (Mark 11:24); and (3) prayer is not always a matter of a profusion of words (6:9-13; cf. 9:18; Romans 10:1).
c. Fasting (6:16-18).
Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.
Fasting was not merely a Jewish custom, as is evident from Jesus' remarks on the subject here. It is also seen in several other New Testament passages as a practice to be continued in the church (cf. Matthew 9:14-15; Acts 10:30; 13:3; 14:23; I Corinthians 7:5). As with alms and prayers, Jesus teaches that we are to avoid fasting and self-denial to gain attention. Even when the motive is right, we are not to expect sympathy because of our abstinence. Fasting should never become, as it often did with the Jews, a mere religious duty; but a true fast comes from the heart. Neither should a self-imposed diet be thought of as a "sanctified" fast, A spiritually motivated fast is not mere abstinence from food, but is a desire to turn one's back upon everything, including the normal ministration to the body, in order to seek the Lord. Such fasting becomes a source of spiritual power, strength, and victory. In some instances of unanswered prayer, or during satanic oppression, it is the only means of overcoming in the situation (Matthew 17:21; 4:1-11). When one does not obtain the victory merely by prayer and faith, then he should fast. Jesus promises in Matthew 6:17-18 that fasting, when it is in harmony with His teachings and based on right motives, will not be in vain, but will be rewarded by the Lord. We must remember that in all our worship and religious activity God judges us on the basis of motives.
4. Attitude and conduct regarding possessions, anxiety, and criticism (6:19-7:5).
The principle enunciated by Jesus in this section is that the disciple is to avoid covetousness and sinful anxiety concerning his needs, and to refrain from all criticism of others. Those who commit themselves to total discipleship unto Christ will give special attention to these significant areas of the deeper life.
a. Christ forbids covetousness (6:19-24).
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
Christ in this passage does not forbid the ownership or possession of goods, but requires His disciples to give up their affection for them. Mary and Martha possessed property and owned their home in which Jesus was an occasional guest. We are admonished to give alms of our possessions and to lay aside each week a portion of that which He has given us to return to Him for the Lord's work. One is to avoid, however, the selfish accumulation of material possessions for their own sake as an end in themselves, for such covetousness is condemned as idolatry (Colossians 3:5; cf. I Corinthians 5:11). The primary aim of so many, including Christians, is to acquire as much material wealth as possible, for security against the uncertainties of the future. To guard against this fallacy, Christ shows the worthlessness of worldly goods (6:19-20), and that it is impossible to give total allegiance to Him and to the things of the world at the same time (6:21-24; I John 2:15-17). We will avoid covetousness only if we are willing to give up all affection for the things of the world and commit all our possessions unto Him as Lord, while we act merely as stewards of these things. Only in this way can we possess those goods which He entrusts to us without allowing them to possess us.
b. Christ forbids sinful anxiety (6:25-34; 7:7-11)
Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things, But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (6:25-34)
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened, Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (7:7-11)
The principle set forth here by Christ is that His
disciples are to put total trust in Him for all their material needs,
absolutely refusing to take thought for them or be anxious about them in any
way. He promises that He will provide for every possible need if we will obey
the principle set forth in verse 33: "But seek ye first the kingdom of
God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you."
There are few individuals whose central interest is not focused on how to
acquire sufficient food, clothing, and shelter, and have a measure of material
security. One would be considered abnormal if this was not his basic concern in
life. All one's life, whether he is at school, at home, at work, or in the
church itself, is oriented toward this basic concern and need. The chief
concern of any government is not, as is commonly supposed, with who wins the
space race, or how to achieve a lasting peace, but its primary interest is
economic. No government will long endure which fails to secure stability in the
economic realm. We say that a vacation is taking a rest from the
relentless pursuit of our material goals or meeting our needs. The concern for
material security absorbs much of the average Christian's time and interest;
but the Lord requires His disciples to take no thought for these things,
committing them to Him, so they can give their attention to the kingdom and its
Why should we avoid anxiety concerning our needs? Because it is unnecessary (consider the birds, verses 25-26); unavailing (consider your inability to change the situation for the better anyway, verse 27); unfaithful (consider the lilies of the field, verses 28-30); and unbecoming a disciple of Jesus (consider the unbelieving world, verses 31-32). Disobedience in the matter of anxiety over our needs is serious for several reasons. First, such apprehension and concern indicate that an individual is covetous (verses 19-24). Second, it destroys our witness, because our basic concerns and interests are no different that those of the world (verses 31-32). Third, it indicates a lack of faith in God in basic matters, which shows that the individual is not developing and maturing spiritually, because the deeper life is a walk of faith from beginning to end. It is foolish to talk about having part in an end-time ministry if we cannot trust God for our basic needs, especially in view of such a clear promise from the Lord to provide fully for us. If we cannot trust God in the least matters, then how shall we be able to exercise faith for miracles or the overthrow of Satan?
The message of faith, as we have previously shown, is the very heart of the message of discipleship and the deeper life, for until one learns to walk in total faith in God in every circumstance, he will not have the time or the spiritual maturity to function as a disciple of Jesus. It is a simple matter of arithmetic. Without total faith in Christ for all things, one must spend a good part of his time concerned with such things as providing for his material needs, trying to maintain reasonable health or get healed from some sickness, attempting to solve his personal problems, or getting the victory over Satan and circumstances, and so on. When one learns to trust Christ for his material needs, for example, then he is free to spend this time, which others use taking thought for the things the Gentiles seek after, in putting first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, knowing that his needs will be provided for. Likewise, trusting completely in God for his healing and health, he does not have to waste valuable time battling Satan for days or weeks, when the Enemy attempts to put some illness on him. In faith he commits his case to the Lord, claims his healing, and, while others would be seeking healing and making intercession for themselves, he spends the time making intercession for others or for the work of the kingdom.
Some time ago I read of a missionary who was stricken with cancer. She claimed God's promise in His Word for healing, and it was confirmed to her by the Lord. However, as is often the case, her healing was not manifested immediately and at times caused her severe pain. At such times she would cry out in agony, praying for relief, often for some time before it came. One night the Lord told her she was not to be concerned for her healing, as He had borne her disease on the cross, but that she was to carry the burden of revival. He said to her, "Do not weep for your own body; weep for my body (the church), filled with the cancer of sin !" After this when the pain would strike, if she prayed, not for herself, but as the Lord had indicated, the pain would leave in a few minutes; but if she made intercession for herself instead of revival, her struggle with pain would be prolonged.
From this we learn that unless there is total trust in God for all our needs and in every circumstance of life, then our lives will continue to be largely occupied with ministering to the cancer of "self," trying to keep it alive, clothed, fed, warmed, and nurtured. Our overconcern with "self," which most have, is a disease that grows and grows, robbing us of our spiritual strength, our time, and our effectiveness. The work of the kingdom will be hindered to the degree that self remains uncrucified. Jesus stressed over and over the need of maturing in the faith, and of total dependence upon God for all things, for only in this way would there be time to function as disciples. Moreover, He calls us to go forth and demonstrate that God is still on the throne and that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, Neither the world nor the institutional church today are going to believe this fact, however, simply because we are Christians and go to church on Sunday, if in time of need we do as the world does, and run to the doctors, hospitals, psychiatrists, and finance companies for help. Only those disciples who have resigned themselves totally to God, trusting Him in everything great and small, will convince the world that they have a message worth considering. They will be those who know what Jesus meant when He said, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." They will know that He did not mean to seek first the kingdom, and then one's own life second, but that He was saying, "Seek only the kingdom," and that nothing else was to be put second, for He would supply all our needs without our having to consider them at all. Thus, seeking first the kingdom is not merely seeking the Lord to the extent that one gets his sins forgiven, and then goes back to seeking his own interests and welfare, but it is to put the kingdom first and last. Jesus also re-emphasizes in 7:7-11 that our prayers are to be an expression of our total confidence and trust in God to supply abundantly our needs, as a loving father would do for his children.
c. Christ forbids the expression of a critical spirit toward others (7:1-6; 15-23).
Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. (7:1-6)
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (7:15-23)
Christ did not
mean that we should not privately
and in love admonish other Christians of errors or practices which
purity of faith (Jude 3). This text in Matthew 7:1 is used by many
members as an excuse when they do not want to deal with the errors of
or be subjected to the unpleasant task of disciplining members who are
in sin. Time and again you will hear them say, "The Bible says, 'We are
not to judge, lest we be judged.' " However, many a pastor has often
wondered why this rule has not applied concerning some of his members'
criticism of him and his ministry! Jesus Himself contradicts the
misinterpretation of His meaning, for in John 7:24 He clearly states
are to use spiritual discernment and "judge not according to
but judge righteous judgment." In fact, He tells His disciples in
7:6 that they are to use careful discrimination so as not to give that
holy unto dogs, nor cast their pearls before swine. Again, in verses
He clearly teaches us to use discernment concerning false teachers, and
in 16:6 He warns His disciples to beware of the teachings of the
leaders (cf. Proverbs 1:7; 9:7-8). The reason many of the churches are
weak and lukewarm is that Christians have been unwilling to obey the
on the matter of discipline of erring members, hoping that if they
situation the problem will improve on its own. However, the Scriptures
instruction in this matter. See, for example, Matthew 18:15-18; Romans
16:17; I Corinthians
5:1-12; II Thessalonians 3:6-15; I Timothy 5:19-20; Titus 3:10-11;
What He does intend to convey in Matthew 7:1-6 is the principle that one should first occupy himself with perfecting his own life; then he can help others correct theirs. We are not, in an attitude of self-righteousness, to criticize the mistakes, sins, and weaknesses of others. We are to do as Paul admonishes in Galatians 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." Even when discipline is necessary, our purpose should be to bring the erring one to himself spiritually, and upon repentance, to restore him to fellowship. We are admonished not to judge hastily, harshly, critically, or carelessly. In Matthew 5:7, the positive aspect of this principle is set forth in that we are told, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy"; whereas Jesus, in 7:2, presents its other side, saying, "For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged." Thus, the selfish, inconsiderate, critical individual will be judged on the same basis as his treatment of others. Do you expect special consideration when you need an extension of time to pay a debt or meet a deadline, and then become impatient with others who ask this consideration from you? Do you criticize the faults and weakness of others, but take offense when you are admonished or corrected by another, even when it is done in a spirit of love? Do you ask God to forgive your trespasses, but manifest an unforgiving spirit by continuing to hold some resentment, grudge, or animosity toward others? Then re-read Matthew 5:7; 6:14-15; 7:1-5.
Jesus sums up all His teaching by stating in Matthew 7:12 the "golden principle" that "all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets," This verse has been erroneously called "the golden rule." However, as we have seen, the Sermon on the Mount is not concerned with "rules," or "laws." On the contrary, its purpose, as Jesus shows again and again, is to rise above the law and precepts of the Old Covenant, and to bring forth the inner principles that were inherent in God's revelation to Israel. The one principle enunciated in verse 12 eliminates the need of thousands of rules. It would be impossible to spell out specifically how one should act in every situation, but this divine principle makes it possible in every circumstance to deal with our neighbor in mercy and love. For in the application of this principle we need but ask ourselves in each situation, "How would I want my neighbor to treat me in this situation?" "How would I want him to react?" "How would I want him to answer?" "What attitude would I wish for him to hold concerning this or that question?" After you have asked yourself this question in all sincerity, then, Jesus tells us, act accordingly, This ethical principle was stated negatively in another religion: "Do not do anything that you would not have another do unto you." But the ethical principles of Jesus are positive, and His disciples are taught, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," for only in this way can our conduct be unselfish, honest, impartial, kind, compassionate, and loving. Our Lord expects us to take His teachings literally and obey them fully. He states this clearly in His conclusion to His message:
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.
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