Questions to Consider
1. Briefly review the “middle parts” (ex: merciful, poor in spirit) of the Beatitudes, the “salt and light” passage, and the “heart of the law” passage in Matthew 5:1-12, 13-16, 14-20. Now read 7:1-14 in light of those passages.
Make a list of the topics Jesus deals with in this passage. Is there an obvious common theme connecting all of them, or is this more like a laundry list of assorted topics? How does one section (1-5, 6, 7-11, 12, 13-14) connect to the next? How does each section fit under the umbrella of the common theme?
2. In the Beatitudes, Jesus lists the traits that define Christian character. In much of the rest of the Sermon on the Mount He fleshes out what many of these character traits look like when walked out in “real life”. Which of the traits (the “middle parts” – there could be several) listed in the Beatitudes is Jesus expanding on in each section (1-5, 6, 7-11, 12, 13-14) of today’s passage?
How does “wide gate behavior” like hypocrisy and failing to treat others as you want them to treat you bland your saltiness? (5:13-16) How can “narrow gate behavior” like being good to others as God has been to you make you saltier and brighter?
3. Review from our previous lessons (links above) the idea that the Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament / new covenant what the Ten Commandments were to the Old Testament / old covenant.
Though they are not specifically mentioned in the Ten Commandments, which of the Ten Commandments could be connected to hypocritical judgment, God’s goodness and care for His children, treating others the way you want to be treated, and the way to destruction vs. the way to life?
Despite having dropped the “You have heard it said…but I say to you…” framing of His teaching in chapter 6, how is Jesus still shifting the people’s focus from outward obedience to the letter of the law to zeroing in on the attitude of their hearts and the spirit of the law? How should pursuing a “narrow gate” heart and behavior be at the heart of our obedience to God’s laws?
4. Read verses 1-5. What does “Judge not,” mean? (Did you realize that in answering that question you are judging verse 1 to mean one thing and not another?) Does verse 1 mean we are never to make judgments of any sort, or, considering verse 1 in the context of verses 2-5, does it mean we are not to judge in a certain way? Compare 1-5 to these passages for clarity. List all the instances in 1-20 in which judgment is necessary, assumed, or instructed by Jesus. (Ex.: 6 – How do you determine whether someone is a dog/pig or not a dog/pig?) Is Jesus contradicting Himself or being hypocritical by saying “Don’t judge,” and then assuming we will make judgments or instructing us to make judgments? How do you know?
According to verses 1-2, what is the reason we are not to judge improperly or hypocritically? “That you be not judged” by whom? How does judging rightly, according to Scripture, and without hypocrisy reflect God’s attribute of perfect justice? How is judging others in a godly way one way of carrying out the “golden rule” (12)?
Think back to Jesus’ emphasis on hypocrisy in the first part of chapter 6 (lesson 9, link above) and compare it with His emphasis on hypocrisy in 3-5. Why is hypocrisy such a big deal to Jesus? Which attributes of God does hypocrisy contrast with?
5. Examine verses 7-11. What do these verses teach us about God’s goodness toward His children (Believers)? What do these verses teach us about prayer – the way we should ask and the way God answers?
Think about the analogy of God giving good things to His children the way earthly parents give good things to their children (11) as you answer the following questions: Does this passage teach us that God will give us whatever we want whenever we want it? Could discipline and suffering be good gifts from God? What did the son ask for in verses 9 & 10? Were these bad things or good things? Was he being selfish and greedy? Was he asking for luxuries or basic provision? How does the son asking the father for provision demonstrate trust in and dependence on his father?
Meditate on God’s goodness to you in all of these ways as we move into considering verse 12.
6. Summarize verse 12 in your own words. How do you want other people to treat you? Considering God’s goodness to you from the previous section, if you had a choice, wouldn’t you want other people to treat you with the same goodness with which God treats you? Does verse 12 preclude things like justly firing an employee, disciplining your children, or sitting on a jury and rendering a guilty verdict? Why or why not? Compare verse 12 with the second greatest commandment. How are they similar?
7. Christianity is both inclusive (ex: “whosoever will may come” – people from any walk of life, ethnicity, background, etc.) and exclusive. What do verses 13-14 teach us about the exclusivity of the gospel? Can you believe or behave any way you like and still be saved? According to this passage, are genuinely regenerated Christians the majority or the minority of the world’s population? How might this passage speak to the number of false converts (people who think they’re saved but have never been truly born again) in the church?
Many people think that making biblical judgments, such as…
- saying a certain behavior is a sin
- sharing the gospel with someone and calling her to repent for her sin
- warning against false teachers
- exercising church discipline
- distancing oneself from professing Christians living in unrepentant sin
…is failing to “be like Jesus.” Make the argument -from rightly handled Scripture- that exercising biblical judgment is a) Christlike, and b) obedient to God’s commands.
Carefully examine verse 6. What does it mean for someone to be a pig or dog? Is it possible to argue someone into embracing biblical truth without God supernaturally opening her eyes to see it? How do you know a) when you’re dealing with a dog/pig, and b) when it’s time to gather up your pearls and get out of the pig pen? Pray that, this week, when an unbeliever is arguing against biblical truth – in real life or online – God will help you discern whether or not to engage that person in the first place, and, if you do engage, when is the appropriate time to apply Matthew 7:6.