Stockport Evangelical Church

Stockport Evangelical Church
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." (Galatians 6:9 KJV)

Monday, 29 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 12 - Helpful Notes


Jesus and the Sabbath day  (1-14)
In this chapter Jesus addresses the issue of the sabbath. May I just emphasize that these thoughts that I will share with you are my thoughts, they are my understanding of the Sabbath from these and other texts. I am not issuing some kind of mandate, rather I am hoping to help you make sense of these verses and to share with you, what I believe is a great blessing.
If you cast your mind back to Matthew 5:17 and the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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.” In other words, he came to teach others the correct and fullest meaning of God’s moral Law. “Thou shalt not kill…thou shalt not steal…thou shalt not commit adultery…thou shalt not bear false witness etc.” Now most Christians would not have a problem in accepting that such commandments remain in force today. They would even teach such principles to their children. But what about keeping the Sabbath day? It’s commandment number 4…and yet Christians have many different feelings about it. It seems to be a commandment that can be kept, or dispensed with? Why is that, and (perhaps more importantly) what does Jesus have to say about it?
As we looked through the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus corrected the Pharisees and other religious leaders on their incorrect understanding of the Law. He says, “Ye have heard it said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill…but I say unto you…” and then he gives the deeper application. Again, in Matthew 5:27 He says, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery…But I say unto you…” and again he gives a deeper application. So we can see from these two examples that the Pharisees had only practiced an outward form of obedience, they hadn’t applied that Law strictly enough. However the problem with their understanding of the Sabbath, is the exact opposite. They had applied it in a far too strict a sense; they had laid an emphasis and a whole burden of rules that were never meant to be part of Sabbath keeping. They had been “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Mark 7:7)
This is why Jesus confronts them with the Scriptures, (verses 3-4 read)
Now at no point does Jesus suggest that the Sabbath has been repealed, or that he is bringing it to an end; not any more so than he indicates an end to the rest of the Ten Commandments. You will remember that the Apostle Paul also makes it clear that the Ten Commandments are still morally valid in Romans 13: 7 and 9-10 (Read) What Jesus is showing here in Matthew 12 is that they simply don’t understand what keeping the Sabbath means.
I think that part of the confusion for Christians, is that they …
  • Assume the Sabbath is one of the Laws of Moses and therefore only applicable to the Jews and only for that limited time. But the Sabbath was instituted long before that. Go to Genesis 2:2-3 (read)
  • Secondly, perhaps because they associate the Sabbath with the Jews, they glean what they understand about it, largely from their understanding of Judaism. They object that someone keeping the Sabbath ought not to “drive their car to church, because Jews walk to the Synagogue, they are forbidden to thread needles, to write, or to collect wood…” But Jesus said (verse7) “If ye had known what this meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, ye would not have condemned the guiltless.” Again, it is ironic that those that are objecting to the Sabbath, because they are, quote “not under the law,” are thinking more like a legalistic Pharisee, than like Jesus! It’s not about having a list of dos and don’ts.
  • Further objections? Go to Colossians 2:16 (Read) These are references to Jewish feasts and festivals, remember the Jews also celebrated every seventh month, every seventh year; they celebrated sevenths of sevens and so on; that is the context. These festivals find their fulfilment in Christ. What is the point of the Jewish Sabbath, if Christ is not “Lord… of the Sabbath day” if it’s not about Him and is an empty, vain and over-scrupulous tradition?
  • Go to Romans 14:5-7 (Read) The context is given in verse 6 “he that eateth…he that eateth not…” It is an example of Jewish feasts and Jewish fasts; New moons and Holy days. God says in Isaiah 1:13 “Incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbath’s, I cannot away with; it is iniquity…your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble to me…” Why, not because God hates the Sabbath, He instituted it, but because the people are living wickedly all the rest of the time! 
These verses do not repeal the Sabbath, they explain the basic spirit of the Sabbath; the idea that it is for man’s blessing; for man’s good. John Wesley said, “The Lord not only hallowed the Sabbath day, but he also blessed it, So that you are an enemy to yourself. You throw away your own blessing, if you neglect to keep this day holy. It is a day of special grace…this is the day He hath set apart for the good of your soul, both in this world and that which is to come.” Indeed Hebrews 4:9 says, “There remaineth therefore a rest (a “sabbatismos”) to the people of God.”
Should the Sabbath be a Saturday, or Sunday? The Old Testament Sabbath was on what we would consider Saturday, (they use a different calendar to us, their day being sundown to sundown) but Ignatius of Antioch, the earliest Church Father addresses this question. He says that Christian converts “had given up keeping the Sabbath (on Saturday) and now order their lives by the Lord's Day instead, the day when life first dawned for us, thanks to him [Christ] and his death." Is this a Roman Catholic thing? Well, the date of Ignatius’s statement is AD 107, long before the Roman Catholic Church and about a century and a half before Constantine was born. Some have argued that it was Christ Himself that changed the day, but I have not found any evidence for that.
Is the Sabbath about not driving your car, or threading a needle?
No, it’s about having sometime where you can put into perspective what your whole life is about. It is a time where you and your family can talk about God, meet in fellowship with other Christians; it was to be kept holy. What does that mean? It means that our commitments to this temporal world, all diversions and responsibilities, duties (those things that are necessary, yet not in the strictest sense holy) are laid to one side for that day. Why does God want that? What does he get from that? It is not about what God wants; it’s really about what we need! I’m not trying to enforce the Sabbath on anyone today; I know I’ll be accused of being a Judaizer, and a fundamentalist; I keep it in the spirit, rather than in the exact letter. I drive my family mad; I say to the children, “don’t read non-Christian books on this day… don’t watch non-Christian videos on this day;” That means that we have to really think and plan, how can we devote this day to the things of God and as a weekly reminder of our worship to Him? Now, I’m not imposing this on you. But…(and before you think it, I have no one specifically in mind) are you spiritually weak? Are you spiritually tired? Is your mind taken up with your job, maybe your thoughts are occupied even now with clients you have to speak to; places you have to be. Do you struggle to remember the last time you really went to the Lord in prayer, or in the word? Do you lament at your children’s fascination and absorption with the things of this world? Then maybe the Sabbath day is just what the doctor ordered! Maybe it’s just what the great Physician ordered! 
Prophetic Fulfilment (15-21)
Read verse 15-19. Often I am asked, usually by Muslims, why did Jesus not just stand up and say “I am God, worship me!” Well, here is one of the reasons. He is fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. He’s not going to cry out. He is not going to raise his voice. It is in fact one of the signs that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ. 
Spiritual Warfare (22-30)
A lot of what we have been looking at in the ministry of Jesus (and to a certain extent, his disciples) has been to do with the casting out of unclean spirits, or devils. In verse 24 the Pharisees make an accusation. They say, “…This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of devils.” Jesus starts to address these observations with the application of logic (verse 25-26 Read)
He then gives the real reason why the Pharisees reject his ministry and authority (Read 28)
In 1 John 5:19 we read that “the whole world lieth in wickedness.” That is, the whole world is under the sway of the devil, it is his house; he occupies and rules it. Jesus shows in verse29 that he has come in order to bind the devil and plunder his goods. What are his goods, his possessions that Jesus wants to take away from him? You and me!
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (31-32)
Let’s just read 31-32. Wesley says “How much stir has been made about this?” Certainly no little stir is heard in the world over these verses! Even some Atheists, in an attempt to disprove the existence of God, filmed themselves saying “I blaspheme the Holy Spirit.” Without actually blaspheming Him! That truly is exalting shame and folly; you should be ashamed at your lack of knowledge and nobody looks more foolish, than those that want to blaspheme someone that they don’t believe exists!
So what do these verses mean? The Pharisees know in their hearts that Jesus speaks the truth; they know that he has all the qualifications to be the Messiah; they know that he is claiming deity; they know that the power he has is from God; they know and are convinced of the truth; the Holy Spirit has convicted their hearts about this and yet, they ascribe the miracles that Jesus does by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the power of the devil. These are not just empty claims on their part…not a slip of the tongue…not blurting out something they did not mean, or understand. They have thought carefully and deliberately about what they are going to say, therefore, for them there is no way back. As my friend says, the only sin God will not forgive you of, is the one that you refuse to repent of.
Good and Evil (33-45)
Let’s read verse 35 (Read) As William Tyndale used to say, “The heart makes the deed good; the deed does not make the heart good.” Again we can compare this with verse 33 (Read) A god tree produces good fruit. A bad tree (or a corrupt, rotten tree) can only, ever produce bad, corrupt and rotten fruit. Jesus is in effect saying, I am bringing people out of bondage; giving them a deeper zeal and desire for the things of God; making them more compassionate and hungry for holiness. So am I a good and godly tree, or a corrupt evil tree? I wish people would use the same criteria when they choose which teachers and preachers they listen to today!
Jesus gives two examples of Gentiles that were willing to listen to God. The first is the men of Nineveh, who repented at the preaching of Jonah.
The second is the Queen of the South,  that is the Queen of Sheba. She came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, but now one greater than Solomon is here. Therefore, how greater will be the condemnation of those, be they Jews, or Gentiles, that reject the Son of God.
Let’s look at verses 43-45. I have heard a lot of different interpretations of these verses, but I think that the end of verse 45 is absolutely key. “Even so shall it be also unto this wicked generation.” These verses are really a parable: Using the example of casting out unclean spirits, Jesus is talking about that “wicked generation.” Matthew Henry says, “Let this be a warning to all nations and churches, to take heed of leaving their first love, of letting fall a good work of reformation begun among them, and returning to that wickedness which they seemed to have forsaken. For the last state of such will be worse than the first.”
The true family of God (46-50)
Verses 46-50 (Read) A bit of a difficult one for Roman Catholics! Here is a perfect opportunity for Jesus to say, “ladies and gentlemen, please can I have your attention! Here she is, My Mother!” But instead he uses it to preach about another family, the family of Believers.
When you become a Christian, when you are born again by the Spirit of God, not only do you have a new Father, but you also have become part of a new family. You are a brother, or a sister in Christ.
Copyright © Paul Jennings.
 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 11 - Helpful Notes




Christ’s Preaching (1)

In the first verse of Matthew 11, the emphasis changes from the disciples going out and preaching the gospel, to Jesus going out and preaching the gospel. It may be a surprise to some, but we learn that the Lord Jesus is something of a Street-Preacher! He went to teach and “preach in their cities.” This also fits in with his role as the ultimate prophet; as we read in Isaiah 58:1 “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”  We know that Jesus preached His longest sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, in the open air. What did he preach about? Matthew 4:17 tells us, “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Did Jesus tell the world that God loves them? Yes, we should all be familiar with the words of John 3:16, but in terms of emphasis in the Scriptures, most of the time Jesus was preaching about sin, repentance, righteousness and the coming judgement. In fact in the Sermon on the Mount, “hell” gets a mention 3 times in one chapter, even “hell fire.” So it would not be disingenuous to  say that the Biblical Jesus was a hell-fire, open air, street preacher! I’m not making a joke; I am saying that because I feel we could do with some balance in the way that Jesus is often misrepresented by churches today. Yes, Jesus is more accurately represented by that hard-preaching guy on the street corner (or at least certain ones) than the smooth-talking, easy-on-sin, mega-church Pastor!

Christ’s answer to John’s disciples (2-6)

We have an interesting encounter next with two of John the Baptists disciples (read 2-3) “art thou he that should come?” Are you the Messiah, the Anointed one; that’s what the name “Christ” means. Now, have they come because John isn’t sure about Jesus? Some have argued that true faith may also be mixed with an element of unbelief, I don’t really subscribe to that view, I think that what is happening here is, John is sending them for their own satisfaction, so that they might confirm their own faith. Even though Jesus says, “Go and shew John again those things which ye do hear and see…” (verse 4) They are to “shew” or tell, for their own benefit, not John’s.

Christ’s testimony to John the Baptist (7-15)

Read verse 7, first part. He began to speak about the person and character of John the Baptist. Remember John is still alive at this time, although he is in prison. What was John like? What drew you to hear him? Was john a “man clothed in soft raiment,” privileged, sophisticated, eloquent; as John Wesley puts it, “an effeminate courtier, accustomed to fawning and flattery?”  (Explanatory Notes on the NT - John Wesley) No, John was a loud, rough, hairy guy! He was direct and challenged people who were living in sin; that’s why he’s in prison at this moment. Is he a prophet?  “A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet.” He is the special forerunner of the Messiah. “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John,” (verse 13) John was the end of the Old Covenant dispensation. He was also “Elias,” that is Elijah that was prophesied. Malachi 4:5 says, “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet (This doesn’t mean he was somehow the reincarnation of Elijah; it means he came in the same spirit and character of Elijah)before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD.” This is consistent with the interpretation of a “Day of the LORD,” that I shared with you last Sunday evening regarding the verse in Matthew 10 “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man come.” I believe this further confirms, that it is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. There are other similarities between John and Elijah, both were loners, both lived in the wilderness, both showed a boldness in delivering the message of God; both of them upset the King in their day; respectively, Elijah with Ahab and john the Baptist with Herod.

Read verse 11. Even though John the Baptist had such a privileged role, in the sense that he introduced the world to Christ and His ministry, nevertheless, “the least true Christian believer” is greater than him, because they would have a more perfect knowledge of the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus; John of course would die before these events, which clearly shows that Christ had foreknowledge of these events, another aspect of His divine nature.

One of the most interesting verses is in verse 12. (Read)The violence that Jesus is speaking of, I don’t believe is physical violence. Neither is the archaic use of the word “suffer” used in the way that we would use it today. Remember Jesus says, “suffer the little children to come unto me.” What I believe Jesus is saying here is that if you want the kingdom of God, then you have to take hold of it violently, like you are never going to let go! Go to Genesis 32: 24-30.

The Perverseness of those that reject the gospel (16-24)

Read 16-19. The imagery, (which is largely a criticism of the Scribes and Pharisees, but I think it works for many that reject the gospel) is of children at play. They get together to play a game; do you want to play marbles? No, I hate games where you have to sit down! How about a game of football? No, I hate games where you have to run around! They are contrary, contentious, argumentative, petty, childish; just like the Scribes and the Pharisees. There is no pleasing them. Read 18-19. “Wisdom is justified of her children.” The wisdom of Christ is acknowledged and embraced by those that are truly wise. It is a godly wisdom. Go to 1 Corinthians 1:21 (Read)

John Gill said, in what may be one of the truest (and perhaps longest) sentences ever, “the Gospel, in which there is such a display of divine wisdom, which is vindicated from the charge of licentiousness, by the agreeable lives and conversations of the children of God: or rather Christ himself, who is the wisdom of God; and in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; who, however he may be traduced by ignorant and malicious men, yet will be acquitted from all such charges, as here insinuated, by all the true sons of wisdom; or by such, who are made wise unto salvation.” (Gill's Commentary)

Jesus starts to “upbraid” the cities where most of his mighty works were done. To upbraid means to reprove and denounce. The word indicates not so much a curse on them, rather a foretelling of the misery that they are going to endure. Why does he denounce them? Because they “repented not;” will Christ not also reprove and denounce people today that repent not? He mentions Capernaum in verse 23, now this was the city that Jesus entered into at the beginning of Chapter 9, which initially welcomed Him, yet refuses to repent; will Christ not also reprove and denounce those people that initially welcomed Him, yet “repented not?”

In fact so strong is the Lord’s denunciation, that he says this in verse 24 (Read)

The Gospel revealed to the Simple. (25-27)

Read verse 25.  God has revealed the truth through Jesus Christ, not to the religious leaders, Scribes and Pharisees, but to simple men and women who are truly seeking God. Remember it’s “the poor in spirit…the meek” that will be blessed. As Paul puts it:

“For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)

In verse 27 Jesus says something that is theologically and spiritually very significant. (Read verse 27) A man may be wise, clever, and insightful in worldly things and yet be a million miles away from his understanding of God; because these things are revealed by natural reason, but by divine revelation.

When Peter testified to Jesus being the Son of God, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17)

Again, Paul says “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

The Heavy Laden (28-30)

Jesus finishes off a chapter that has been quite hard, with a surprisingly tender invitation now to salvation. This shows me, that sharing the gospel must have that initial exposition of man’s sin, his guilt, his pride and ignorance; in order for the depth of conviction to prepare the heart. Nobody wants a saviour, if they don’t think they need to be saved from anything! Yet following on from this we have this wonderful invitation to “whosoever.” Read verse 28-30.

“Come to me,” Jesus says. Jesus has that life, that salvation, even that eternal life. We don’t go running after a man, an organisation, a particular church, a particular theology, or denomination; we MUST come to Jesus, the living Son of God. It is in Him that we find the rest and the peace that passes all understanding.

Find rest for your soul. Are you weary, is life a labour to you, then come to the one; the only one that can grant you rest. His yoke is easy, but it is a yoke. That means, He does expect you to work, yet it is light and easy, compared to the slavery of Satan’s kingdom; it is easy because the grace of God and the power of God, through His Holy Spirit, will enable you to walk as Jesus walked, in obedience to God.

As it says at the beginning of the book of Hebrews:

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith;”

Copyright © Paul Jennings.
 



 

 

 

 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 10 - Helpful Notes


The Choosing of the Twelve (1-4)
You will remember that Jesus called for Labourers in (Mt 9:37-38) In verses (1-4) of chapter 10, Jesus selects 12 disciples to be His Apostles. So out of all those that were following Him (and remember we read that there were multitudes) Jesus chooses twelve. We can see how this corresponds to the twelve sons of Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel. It is also interesting that HE gives them the power “against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.”
Also interesting, from a theological point of view is that Jesus chooses “Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.” He is one of the chosen, Jesus who “knew all men.” (John 2:24)
Their Commission and Authority (5-8)
In verse 5 Jesus commanded them, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” This is known as “the Limited Commission.” Their commission was confined for now, to Israel, yet it would go to the ends of the earth after the Holy Spirit had come at Pentecost.
 The preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles was put back, until it had first been preached to the Jews. That’s why, when the Jews, as Acts 13;45 puts it, “spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming,”  Paul says, “It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you,” (the Jews) or as he puts it in Romans 1:16 “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”  Why to the Jew first, because the promise was first to them and God keeps His promises.
 It must be noted however, that in these gospels, Christ’s doctrine is not limited to the Jews only, as Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”  and  Romans 15:4 “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” And 1 Corinthians 10:11 “and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Neither is Christ’s ministry completely restricted to the Jews, as we have seen already with the example of the Centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13) and as we will later see, the Syrophoenician woman’s daughter in (Mark 7:25-30).
What are the Disciples commissioned to do? Verse 7 (Read) At hand means near. It is near in the sense that doctrinally the Disciples are bringing the gospel literally to people’s doors, but also in the sense that they are coming in the authority and power of God, as we see from the healings and casting out of devils.  Notice that it is Jesus that has endued them with that authority and that supernatural power, another sign of the Deity of Christ. Only God has, or can give authority to others to raise the dead, unseat Satan from his place and heal diseases.
At the end of verse 8 there is a bit of wise counsel, for those considering the work of the itinerant evangelist, “freely ye have received, freely give.”
Their Support (9-10)
When the disciples went out, they were told (Read verses 9-10). This is really living by faith! In fact, historically, there have been evangelists that have lived and worked in very similar ways to this and been very blessed. Francis Asbury was an English Methodist Preacher who went to America in the 1700s to share the gospel, would travel and preach. Roberts Llardon, in his book God’s Generals says, “Francis would repeat this pattern of evangelism for the next forty something years-he would find a place to preach, stay with a local family, and pray with those present to accept Christ. And as he did this, a new Methodist Society would be born.”
What were they to do when they came to a city, or house?   (11-15)
What does it mean, “to enquire who in it is worthy?” It means to find some person who is willing to receive the gospel and the preachers of it. In Acts 13:46, in the verses that we have already touched on, Paul says to the Jews that rejected him, “seeing ye…judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life…” They had rejected not just the gospel but also himself and his ministry.
We get this memorable phrase in Matthew 10:14 “Shake off the dust of your feet.”
This comes from a Jewish tradition. When a Jew had travelled to the land of the Gentiles, and he returned to “the Holy Land,” he would shake the dust off his feet, so that the land would not be contaminated. What the picture is here, I think, is that those Jews that rejected Christ, his ministers and therefore his gospel, are, as John Wesley puts it “on a level with heathens and idolaters.”
Persecution (16-26)
Verse 16 (Read). Yet however “innocent” they were, or however “wise” they were, neither of these qualities, would prevent them from being persecuted. We know that  “all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” (2 Timothy 3:12) Jesus says, “beware of men…” The very people that this gospel has been brought to save, to help, to heal are the ones you need to watch out for. You will be brought before their courts and their councils; they’ll hate you, scourge you, try to silence you with every means possible! Verse 21-22 (read) Oh, I thought you got saved and that was it; I thought Jesus suffered so that you don’t have to. No, “the disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his Lord.” (verse 24) If Jesus was persecuted; and his disciples were persecuted; and every real Christian in history, that preached the gospel and walked in holiness was persecuted…do you want to fill in the blank? Go to Philippians 1:29 (Read) Philippians 3:10 (Read)
Verse 22 (Read) It’s not automatic that you will endure, if it was this warning would not make any sense. He that has no root in himself endures “for awhile: for when tribulation or persecution because of the word, by and by he is offended.” (Matthew 13:21) He fails to endure; he wasn’t prepared to suffer for his Lord.
In verse 23 Jesus says something that is often overlooked (Read)
  • Point one: If you are persecuted and the gospel is rejected and no one’s listening and you’re in danger, what’s the instruction…stay? No, flee!
  • Point two: What does Jesus mean “ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the son of man come.” There are differences of opinion about this, but a small yet significant number of commentators, agree that this is a reference to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70; which in Biblical language might be viewed as a sort of day of vengeance on all those that had rejected the gospel, a kind of “Day of the Lord.” But we will perhaps examine it more closely when we get to Matthew 24.
What were they to fear more than persecution? (28,33)
Jesus tells the disciples that they ought not to fear these persecutions. Even though the thought of these things surely causes our flesh to recoil. Rather they should fear “Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” (verse 28) Fear god? Fear hell? But aren’t these the disciples of Jesus? The warnings are very solemn and sobering and they ought to be noted. Verses 32-33 (Read) That seems a very radical and challenging teaching! The images in our minds of jumble sales, people dozing in the pews… “more tea Vicar?” It doesn’t look much like the Christianity that is being described in Matthew 10! That’s because it’s not; it’s not the same thing at all. Peter and Paul don’t go around offering to mow the lawns of sinners! They preach the gospel.
What Christ’s doctrines would do (34-40)
What is this real Christianity, this real Christ’s doctrine going to do to people? He tells us in verse 34-36 (Read) Wow! Are you ready for that kind of life? Are you willing to cleave to Jesus Christ and those that are his, even if it means the loss of your own family? Jesus says you must be ready, (Verse 37 read) You have to take up your own cross (38) you have to be willing to follow Jesus, even by taking hold of that thing that you least like to do…what me, go and share the gospel with her? Me, start doing that…(or in some cases, stop doing that!) Me, make THOSE changes to my life? Yes, you must take up your cross, that thing that your flesh reviles, will be the thing that God requires. You must lose your life for His sake.
You might have to leave your own Father behind, like Abraham. You have a new family now and a heavenly Father. Don’t be surprised if the spiritual warfare you encounter is fiercest around the dinner table, with your own flesh and blood!
The person that receives one of these disciples and the message he brings, effectively receives Christ, (as John says, it’s “as many as received Him”) and if they receive Christ, they receive the one that sent Him.
The blessings that will come to those that help the Apostles (41-42)
Verses 41-42 (read) He that receives a prophet, to prophesy can also mean to preach and if you welcome a preacher of the gospel, you will share in his reward. Very similar language to Genesis 12:3 “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”
Whatever kindness done, even to the least of God’s servants, is noted by God; as is every harsh word and malicious act. As Jude says, God “shall execute judgement upon all, and to convince (convict) all that are ungodly…of all their hard speeches which ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
Be careful how you treat the servants of God. How do you recognise a servant of God? “by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:20)
Copyright © Paul Jennings.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 9 - Helpful Notes



“And he entered into a ship and passed over…” Remember, in the land of the Gadarenes, after the demons were sent into the pigs,  that Jesus was told to leave by the townspeople. Jesus does not stay where He is not wanted. He will not hang around those that have hardened their hearts against him and he will respect their decision when it comes to the time of judgement.  As the Bible says, “ My spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Genesis 6:3) Matthew Henry comments, “ some observe, that in those bloody wars which the Romans made upon the Jews, which began not many years after this, they first besieged the town of Gadara, where these Gadarenes dwelt.” He says,” Those that drive Christ from them, draw all miseries upon them. Woe unto us, if God depart from us.” I remember as a young Believer, being told a cautionary tale about another Christian, rather like the foolish young man in Proverbs 7. This man made plans to see a prostitute and as he came to her house and he began to feel conviction, he said to God “Lord, look away…” They say it took about four years before he found the Lord again!

Outline

Jesus heals a paralytic 1-8

Jesus calls Matthew. 9

Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners; 10-13

Jesus defends his disciples for not fasting; 14-17

Jesus cures the sick woman and raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead.  18- 25

Jesus gives sight to two blind men; 27-31

Jesus heals a mute man possessed of a demon; 32-35

Jesus has compassion on the multitude. 36-38

Here in Matthew 9, we learn a bit about Matthew, the writer of the gospel, himself. We also learn about the further activities of evil spirits, or demons and the ways in which they can afflict people.

Jesus heals a paralytic 1-8

These verses are so important, since they reveal the authority of Jesus and the power of faith. As I look at the text in my Bible, the words of Jesus here are written in red: “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” John MacArthur has said, “Forgiveness is man's greatest need and therefore God's greatest gift.” He may well be right. But who has the right to forgive man’s sin?

Let’s start with an important question, what is sin?

There are sins of Commission, those things that we commit against God and there are sins of Omission, those things which we omit to do. We can perhaps sum up these two types of sin, with two Scriptures:

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4.

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” James 4:17.

But who has the authority to forgive sin? Surely, the one whose Law has been broken; this is the privilege of Almighty God and Him alone. So when Jesus pronounces the paralyzed man as forgiven, it is obvious why “certain of the Scribes said within themselves, this man blasphemeth.” If He was just a man, then He just committed blasphemy; but if He is more than a man, if He is God “manifest in the flesh,” (1 Timothy 3:16) then He is not claiming any right, that does not belong to Him. As Paul says in Philippians 2:6, Jesus “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” EXP (See Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:22.) None of the prophets had this power! (Read verse 8) That is, this is how it appeared to them, that Jesus was just a man.

Jesus calls Matthew. 9

I love the calling of Matthew, or Levi as he is called by the other gospel writers. There is a degree of modesty here, since Matthew, the writer of this gospel, is referring to himself. The other evangelists use the more respectable, or honourable name of Levi.

You will notice the lack of hesitation in Matthew’s response to his calling, “he arose and followed Him.” Let’s turn to John 6:44-45 (Read) It is only those that have been drawn, by the still small voice of God, that find themselves ready to follow when the call comes. “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (Matthew 22:14)

Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners; 10-13

We learn from the other Gospel writers that the meal that follows was actually a feast and it was given by Matthew himself. Again, we see the modesty of Matthew; perhaps there are some lessons we, as Christians can learn from Matthew’s example; such as speaking sparingly of our good works, rather than pointing them out to others! As James says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” 

Jesus defends his disciples for not fasting; 14-17

In the following verses we read about the subject of fasting. If we go back to Matthew 6: 17-18 (Read) So it’s important to understand that Jesus is not against fasting and there IS a time when His disciples would fast.

In verses 15, 16 and 17 we see three illustrations given as to why the disciples of Jesus do not fast, at this time. The first is as “the children of the bride-chamber.”

Albert Barnes said, “The children of the bride-chamber - that is, the bridemen, or "men who had the special care of the bridal chamber, and who were therefore his special friends" - do not think of fasting while he is with them. With them it is a time of festivity and rejoicing, and mourning would not be appropriate. When he is removed or taken away, then their festivity will be ended, and "then" will be the proper time for sorrow. So, says he, John, your friend and teacher, is in captivity. With you it is a time of deep grief, and it is appropriate that you should fast. I am with my disciples. It is with them a time of joy. It is not fit that they should use the tokens of grief, and fast now. When I am taken away, it will then be proper that they should fast.” Fasting is often associated with grieving. Maybe it’s time for Christians to grieve and fast for the state of the church today, maybe that’s what the Spirit of God would call us to?

So the first reason is: it’s not the right time. The second illustration is found in verse 16 (Read) John Gill says “it is true, that young converts are to be tenderly dealt with, as they are by Father, Son, and Spirit, as the disciples were by Christ, and the first Christians were by the apostles:” So we can see that this new cloth, or new (or New Testament) doctrine and new wine, (hard doctrine) in verse 17 are contrasted with old cloth and old bottles. There is a time of preparation needed; as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:2 “I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.” 

Jesus cures the sick woman and raises Jairus’s daughter from the dead.  18- 25

There came a certain ruler. This is one of the rulers of the synagogue (probably of the synagogue of Capernaum). His name was Jairus Matthew, Mark, and Luke all give this account. We also learn from the other writers that he had a daughter who was twelve years old who had been dying and now at the time of him speaking to Jesus, was in fact dead. Yet Jairus says to Jesus “come and lay Thy hand upon her, and she shall live.” As Jesus is on his way to heal this twelve year old girl, he is apprehended by a woman with an issue of blood, which coincidentally, has also been a problem for twelve years.

We read that she “said within herself, If I may touch his garment, I shall be made whole.” An action that has no inward conviction based on faith, is a vain action. Regardless of who tells you to do it, or who has done it in the past. Notice the logic of faith; the woman is able to reason within herself, that Christ is able; that he doesn’t even have to approach her, or speak to her (perhaps similar to the Centurion). It is also worth noting that her issue of blood would have made her unclean according to the Mosaic Law. Go to Leviticus 15;25 (Read) Her uncleanness makes another parallel with the healing of the leper that we saw last week. Bearing all these things in mind, let’s just recap for a moment. So we have learned from these miraculous healings in the gospel of Matthew, that Christ is the healer of: 

  • The unclean.
  • The incurable.
  • The humble.
  • The one that has faith.

We read in verse 23 that Jesus finally makes it to Jairus’s house. He orders the mourners out and says, “the maid is not dead but sleepeth. And they laughed Him to scorn.” The world will always laugh at the miraculous, their eyes are fixed on that which is temporal, they have been blinded by Satan the god of this world. But the supernatural power of God is confirmed by the healing hands of Jesus. John Wesley says, “Christ raised three dead persons to life; this child, the widow's son, and Lazarus: one newly departed, another on the bier (a bier is a stand on which a corpse, or a coffin is placed) , the third smelling in the grave: to show us that no degree of death is so desperate as to be past his help.” I would say, he particularly specialises in raising to life those that are spiritually dead!

Jesus gives sight to two blind men; 27-31

In verse 27 we have to men who are physically blind, yet spiritually they see! They proclaim that Jesus is the promised Messiah! “Thou Son of David, have mercy on us.” Now He doesn’t heal them immediately. Do they wander off despondent? No! They continue to follow and cry to him until they receive from him. I said it last week, there are many lessons for us in these miraculous healings, that go beyond just a physical healing.

Jesus heals a mute man possessed of a demon; 32-35

Verse 32-33 (Read) Here is a man who is dumb, or mute. It is clear from what happens, that the cause of his affliction is not natural, but supernatural. This is not to say that, on examination there may have been physiological, observable conditions that rendered the man to be without the power of speech; but that the root of these things was a demonic spirit. The demon is cast out and the man is once more able to speak. Can this happen today? Sure, why not? Who can say how many illnesses, afflictions are not merely physical, but actually spiritual in origin.

Jesus has compassion on the multitude. 36-38

In these last verses we see the compassion of Christ. I have said before, that there is a lot of talk of passion in the churches today, but a lack of compassion.

The people were looking for God, looking for salvation and instead they were getting the traditions of men.

Albert Barnes comments, “He saw the people burdened with the rites of religion and the doctrines of the Pharisees; sinking down under their ignorance and the weight of their traditions; neglected by those who ought to have been enlightened teachers; and scattered and driven out without care and attention.” They were like Isaiah says, sheep that had gone astray and yet here is Jesus, the Good Shepherd; the one who will take care of their souls.

Let’s read verses 37 and 38 (Read)

There are multitudes who are ready to receive the gospel, but the problem is, that not everybody is ready to be a labourer. Labouring is hard work; it is largely a thankless task. This involves a word that few Christians like to hear these days, “commitment.” I will finish with the words of John Wesley on this subject: “it is an employ not pleasing to flesh and blood; so full of reproach, labour, danger, temptation of every kind, that nature may well be averse to it. Those who never felt this, never yet knew what it is to be labourers in Christ's harvest.” I guess he should know.

Copyright © Paul Jennings.

 

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 8 - Helpful Notes


I want to examine in this chapter, the cost of following Jesus, miraculous healings and some of the supposed contradictions between this and the other gospels.
Mt 8:1-4. Christ cleanses the leper;
The cleansing of the leper is such an important verse in the gospels, because it tells us a number of important things. We have spoken a lot in the previous chapters about Holiness.  Holiness has the sense of being clean or undefiled. Figuratively speaking, the opposite of that is graphically demonstrated by the disease of leprosy. Go to Leviticus 13:44-45 (Read)
Dr. Richard H. Pousma, a missionary in Asia and a hospital superintendent in New Mexico, explains:
“Leprosy was greatly feared by the Israelites, not only because of the physical damage done by the disease, but also because of the strict isolation laws applying to leprosy, making patients feel like feared outcasts of society. . . . Leprosy [in the Bible] appears in two principle forms. The first, and by far the more dangerous, is called lepromatous; and the other, more benign type is designated tuberculoid. Both start with discoloration of a patch of skin. . . . In the lepromatous type of leprosy, the patch may spread widely in all directions. Portions of the eyebrows may disappear. Spongy, tumour-like swellings grow on the face and body. The disease becomes systemic and involves the internal organs as well as the skin. Marked deformity of the hands and feet occur when the tissues between the bones deteriorate and disappear. . . . Untreated cases may be sick with lepromatous leprosy from ten to twenty years, death occurring from the disease itself. . . . “
The leper approaching Jesus is, I believe, a picture of the sinner approaching Jesus. He comes with an incurable disease, one that has made him unclean; his whole flesh is touched by this plague. Luke 5:12 describes him as “a man full of leprosy.” Yet the leper is drawn to Jesus “and worshipped Him” a clear indication of the Deity of Christ, since he is not reproved for doing so) and says, “If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.” Is Christ willing to make the leper clean? Is Christ willing to make others clean? Next, the man expresses faith in the abilities of Jesus, “thou canst make me clean.” So we see that faith, when it is fixed to that object that is the will of God, brings results. (Read verse 3)
In verse 4 Jesus tells the man to “shew thyself to the priest…”
This is according to the law in Lev. 14:2 . Matthew Henry comments, “Christ took care to have the law observed, lest he should give offence, and to show that he will have order kept up, and good discipline and respect paid to those that are in office. It may be of use to those that are cleansed of their spiritual leprosy, to have recourse to Christ’s ministers, and to open their case to them, that they may assist them in their enquiries into their spiritual state, and advise, and comfort, and pray for them.” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary)  This is, I believe, part of the pastoral role and part of a Pastor’s gifting. Any Pastor that doesn’t make enquiry, or at least encourage the congregation to examine their spiritual state is, in my opinion, being negligent.
Mt 8:5-13. Heals the centurion's servant,
There are many healings in this chapter and the following and we can sometimes pass over them as we search out the more explicitly doctrinal, or prophetic passages. But here is often much to be learned from such healings. One such instance is he healing of the Centurion.
Two important things to note about the Centurion: One, he was a Gentile and two, he was a soldier. Neither of these conditions prevented him from not only receiving from Jesus what he requested and even receiving from Jesus the highest commendation. Judea and the surrounding area was under Roman military rule at this time, with headquarters at C├Žsarea, and soldiers in every leading town. This centurion probably commanded the company stationed at Capernaum.  We learn from Luke 7:3 , he came to Jesus, not in person, but by Jewish elders, he thought would have more influence with Jesus. These elders were perhaps willing to come because he had built them a synagogue. The Centurion reasons that, because HE is a commander and he tells a soldier to “go” and he goes; so Jesus, who is the highest authority, can command this sickness to go and it must obey.
Mt 8:14-15. Peter's mother in law,
Just let’s take a little time to look at Peter’s situation. Go to Luke 18:28-30 (Read)
  • Peter has a Mother-in-law, therefore he must have a wife; even though he was an Apostle of Christ.
  • Peter had a house, which was also Andrew's (see  Mark 1:29 )
  • Peter was then a young man, as were all the apostles.
The curing of Peter’s wife’s mother seems to be a special act of kindness on the part of Jesus and there is no suggestion that this was some kind of incurable illness.
Mt 8:16-17. The sick and the possessed.
Jesus goes on in verses 16-17:
  • To heal.
  • To cast out spirits with His word.
In fulfilment of Isaiah 53:4 (read) you will notice that “griefs,” are translated “infirmities” by Matthew; and “sorrows” is translated “sicknesses.” Now why do we have this discrepancy? Can both meanings of each word be applied to the ministry of Christ? John Wesley offers this explanation, “The evangelist here only alludes to those words, as being capable of this lower meaning also…He fulfilled these words in the highest sense, by bearing our sins in his own body on the tree: in a lower sense, by sympathizing with us in our sorrows, and healing us of the diseases which were the fruit of sin.”
Mt 8:18-22. Shows how he is to be followed;
Verse 18-22 (Read) This is one of the reasons why I don’t believe when Jesus says, in Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are they that mourn,” that he is referring to those that are mourning for the death of a loved one. Matthew Henry notes, “This seemed a reasonable request, and yet it was not right. He had not the zeal he should have had for the work, and therefore pleaded this, because it seemed a plausible plea…Many are hindered from and in the way of serious godliness, by an over-concern for their families and relations; these lawful things undo us all, and our duty to God is neglected, and postponed, under colour of discharging our debts to the world; here therefore we have need to double our guard.” (Matthew Henry Commentary.)
The term “the dead,” indicates the spiritual state of those without Christ; Jesus is in effect saying, let the people of this world take care of the business of this world, but when God calls you, be prepared to leave everything to follow Him. That I believe is the emphasis; what are you prepared to forsake, if necessary, when Christ says “follow me.”
As the old hymn says: 
Follow! Follow! I would follow Jesus;
Anywhere, everywhere, I would follow on!
Follow, Follow! I would follow Jesus!
Everywhere He leads me I would follow on!
Easy to sing; not so easy to do!
Kirsty and I were talking about this the other day. How, in the old days, if you were called to be a Missionary, it meant you may have to give up your house; your family, your career. You were not going for a few months, just to see how things worked out! The boss wasn’t holding your job open for six months; you weren’t renting your house out, so you could return if things got a bit difficult. God wasn’t about to “call you back!” Missionary’s children were born and grew up in the country God had called them to; some of them even died there, from tropical diseases and so on. Yet Christ calls us to do something and so often we check first for stability and security in temporal things. What if this doesn’t work out? Remember Jesus’ words from Matthew 6 “Take no thought for your life.”
Mt 8:23-27. Stills the tempest on the sea;
We have a fascinating account next, which has some interesting parallels with the book of Jonah.
  • Jesus goes into the ship; Jonah went into a ship.
  • Jesus falls asleep; Jonah was asleep.
  • A storm blew up whilst Jesus slept; a storm blew up when Jonah slept.
  • Jesus calms the storm and saves the lives of those on board; Jonah calmed the storm and saved the lives of those on board.
Let’s just turn to Jonah for a moment: Jonah 1:11-12 and 15 (Read) Jonah saved the lives of the men on the boat by sacrificing himself for them. Jesus would eventually offer himself as a sacrifice, not just for those on the boat, but for the whole world. Jonah then is what we call an Antetype, a forerunner of the Lord Jesus.
Mt 8:28-30. Drives the devils out of two men possessed;
Now straight away, we have an issue. Matthew says there were two men, Mark and Luke only record one man. But is that really a contradiction? The commentator, Albert Barnes says, “Had they denied plainly that there was more than one, and had Matthew affirmed that there were two, there would have been an irreconcilable contradiction. As it is, they relate the affair as other people would. It shows that they were honest witnesses. Had they been impostors; had Matthew and Luke agreed to write books to deceive the world, they would have agreed exactly in a case so easy as this. They would have told the story with the same circumstances. Witnesses in courts of law often differ in unimportant matters; and, provided the main narrative coincides, their testimony is thought to be more valuable.” (Barnes Bible Commentary)
Verse 29 (Read) In Luke 8:30 we read that the “they” are the demons, not the men. They know immediately who Jesus is and testify to Him being the Son of God. They say “what have we to do with Thee?” Wesley says this is a Hebrew phrase, in fact we have almost exactly this phrase used by David in 2 Samuel 16:10.
Mt 8:31-34. Jesus allows the demons to go into the swine.
It is interesting to note that although the devils knew who Jesus was, they did not wish to hang around in His company! It is also interesting, that they had to have permission from Him, to even enter into dumb animals. Why did Jesus allow this to happen? Matthew Henry says, “God often, for wise and holy ends, permits the efforts of Satan's rage.”
What is apparent is the utter destruction, death and annihilation that demonic possession brings. “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)
Verse 33-34 (Read) It is amazing, how much the people of the world, value the things of the world. Two men had been miraculously healed from the oppression of the Devil, restored and in their right mind; and yet the whole city comes out, not to thank Jesus, but to tell Him to go! He had brought about the loss of the herd of swine. Perhaps, writing from a peculiarly Jewish perspective, Matthew is highlighting how the people value that which is unclean, over the One who is sinless and holy.
Copyright © Paul Jennings.
 
 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Matthew Chapter 7 - Helpful Notes



We start Matthew 7 with probably the phrase that you are most likely to hear quoted to you by impenitent sinners, “Judge not…” But what does this verse really mean? The judgement that is warned against cannot be judging those that break God’s law as sinful. If that were the case Paul, Peter, John and indeed all the writers of the New Testament would be guilty of violating Christ’s commandment. It cannot mean to call something sin, that God has called sin, since one would simply be affirming what God has already declared in His word.

The warning is against making judgements from a personal point of view. Judging others without a certain knowledge of thought, or intent. When we judge another in this way, we are opening ourselves up to the judgement of God. The scary thing is, that we are actually measuring out our own judgement in this! Did you judge that brother severely? Be careful, God will judge you severely; better to judge others with mercy, when we do not know the motives of their heart.

The Lord Jesus gives an illustration to show the danger of hypocritical judgements. (Read 3-5) 

  • Mote = Splinter.
  • Beam = Large piece of wood.

The smaller mote is a picture of small infirmities, or faults. The beam is a picture of, to quote Wesley “gross, palpable faults.”

As we move into verse 6, we start hitting the sort of language that would not seem out of place in the book of Proverbs. These are sort of sayings, with a spiritual or moral message. They are presented in a certain Rabbinic style, similar to the Epistle of James; short, almost random statements.

(Read verse 6) Do not share the deep and beautiful things of God; Perfection, Holiness, Sanctification with those who like pigs are happy to wallow in their own sin. They will turn on you like vicious dogs and they will trample all over the precious things of Christ. Controversial though this might sound, I would even caution against sharing the love of God at this stage; more fitting would be a reproof for sin. Ephesians 5:11 says, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” 2 Timothy 4:2 “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

(Read 7-8)

  • Ask.
  • Seek.
  • Knock.

Ask.

We are to ask of God, not doubting that God will help (remember, Jesus warned in the previous chapter against taking thought, or being anxious about our lives) but in faith.

Seek.

We are to seek in prayer, which is the context of these statements. Furthermore, we are to be persistent in our asking.

knock and it shall be opened unto you.
John Gill comments,“as beggars do, who use much importunity (persistence in asking) for relief and assistance. So men should stand and knock at the door of mercy, which will not always be shut against them. Faith in prayer is a key that opens this door…” (John Gill’s Commentary)

(Read 9-11)

If your son asks you for bread, will you say “here you are and give him a stone?”

If he asks for a fish, will you say “here you are and give him a serpent?”

In ( Luke 11:12 ) it is added, "or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?" The illustration is to show the absurdity of Fathers giving their hungry children, whom they love, an inedible stone instead of a piece of bread and so on. Even non-Christian parents know how to care for the basic needs of their children, lovingly and graciously. “How much more shall your heavenly Father give good things to them that ask Him.”

(Read verse 12)

Verse 12 is the answer to Matthew 5:17 This is the whole spirit and heart of the law and the prophets. Go to Acts 3:24-26 (Read) So we see Repentance defined in verse 26, “turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” We also see why living out the Christian Gospel is not the destruction of the Law, but rather the fulfilment of it. What the Sermon on the Mount describes, from Chapter 5, to Chapter 7, is Gospel Obedience, or the Way of Holiness.

That way, is a narrow way (verse 14). Jesus says “Strait is the gate.” Strait, in this sense means narrow; as in the straits of Gibraltar. Jesus contrasts this with the wide gate and the broad way. See how deceptive these ways can be: The broad way does not need any searching out, we find ourselves automatically on it; it has a wide gate and many are they that will be our companions on this road. Is this the right way to live? The right direction to be going? Everybody else seems to think so. Yet Jesus says it “leadeth to destruction.”

What about the strait gate and the narrow way? Well, few are they that find it! There are not many on this road, you have to search out this road. You have to “ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16) Jesus says it is the way that “leadeth unto life.”

So if I adopt the views of the majority; if I subscribe to the morality and wisdom of the masses; am I likely to be walking the narrow way? No, I can’t walk down BOTH ways, I must choose.

Go to Psalm 1:1-2 (Read)

In verse 15 Jesus says, “Beware of false prophets.” Beware of all those that say the gate is wide and the way is broad. Beware those teachers and preachers that take up the views of the world and are afraid to stand on the word of God.

They might look like Ministers, but they are wolves in disguise; they will harm and devour the flock. As Jude puts it, “they speak great swelling words having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”  They are flatterers, they will feed your pride, your conceit; they are soothe-sayers. They are spiritual murderers.

Verse 21-23 (Read) perhaps some of the most sobering words that the Lord Jesus speaks.

It shows that ministering in the name of God; even ministering in the gifts, is not what is required. John Wesley observes, (and it is a great observation) “If any man marvels at this, let him acknowledge he is a stranger to the whole religion of Jesus Christ; and, in particular, to that perfect portraiture thereof which he has set before us in this discourse. For how far short is all this of that righteousness and true holiness which he has described therein! How widely distant from that inward kingdom of heaven which is now opened in the believing soul, -- which is first sown in the heart as a grain of mustard-seed, but afterwards putteth forth great branches, on which grow all the fruits of righteousness, every good temper, and word, and work.”

Go to 1 Corinthians 13: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity (that is love), I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

Jesus says that ALL the Law and the prophets are summed up in this, that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength and our neighbour as our self. Therefore, love is the fulfilment of the Law.

An illustration is offered by Jesus of a wise man and a foolish man. The foolish man is he "heard those sayings, and" yet "did them not." The wise man is he "who doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."

Jesus is drawing a direct correlation between Loving God and doing His will. Jesus further asserts this in John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

So we can sum up what Jesus is saying in that only the one that has the love of God shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost, is truly and perfectly able to love God and his neighbour; and the evidence of this will be obedience to God, or, to use a Wesleyan phrase, all inward and outward holiness. Anything less than this, is not building on the rock. The rock of course is Christ Jesus.

Rock of Ages cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee.

Verses 28-29 (Read) as we finish this chapter we see that the people are “astonished” at His doctrine, His teaching. There is an authority about what Jesus says and how he says it.

The Bible Commentator Albert Barnes says, “Jesus was open, plain, grave, useful, delivering truth as "became" the oracles of God; not spending his time in trifling disputes and debating questions of no importance, but confirming his doctrine by miracles and argument; teaching "as having power," as it is in the original, and not in the vain and foolish manner of the Jewish doctors. He showed that he had authority to explain, to enforce, and to "change" the ceremonial laws of the Jews. He came with authority such as no "man" could have, and it is not remarkable that his explanations astonished them.”

Copyright © Paul Jennings.