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For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 7:15-23; A Tree and Its Fruit (Inductive Studies)

posted by Mike Nappa

Matthew 7:21 contains probably the most tragic truth revealed in all of Scripture. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here are a few observations about that moment in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:

• Some skeptics assert loudly that Jesus never claimed to be God, but Christ’s statements in Matthew 7:21-23 make that a laughable, indefensible position. Consider: Jesus called himself by a title ascribed to God (“Lord, Lord”); Jesus claimed to have sole authority over who enters the kingdom of heaven—God’s eternal realm; Jesus insisted that he will preside over the final judgment of humanity—a judgeship reserved solely for God himself; and Jesus claimed to have authority to send evildoers to eternal punishment—also something reserved only for God himself. If Jesus is not God (and I believe he is), then he was a blaspheming pretender to deity, and Matthew 7:21-23 is proof of that.

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• It’s possible for some to mimic God’s miracles, yet not be followers of him at all. Remember the magicians in Pharaoh’s court? They replicated God’s miracles in a failed attempt discredit his authority (see Exodus 7). In Jesus’ time and during the days of the early church, others appropriated Jesus’ authority to work miracles and cast out demons—and sometimes succeeded (see Mark 9:38, Acts 19:13-16). Thus, a miracle itself is not proof of God. In fact, Old Testament law specifically warned against following a miracle-worker if his teaching led away from the one true God (Deuteronomy 13). This situation seems to be what Jesus is describing in Matthew 7:21-23.

• At the final judgment, “false prophets” of Christ will appeal to their religion for salvation, while Jesus will emphasize a relationship with him. They’ll point to their resume of good works as evidence they belong in heaven: Prophesying in Jesus’ name; driving out demons; performing miracles. Christ, in response, will point to their lack of a personal relationship with him, saying, “I never knew you.” This lends credence to the Apostle Paul’s theology later expounded in his letter to the Ephesians, that grace—not works—is the essential component of salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Heaven awaits those who, by grace, enter a personal friendship with Jesus—not those who try to earn their way into his favor.

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Works Cited:

[MAT, 178-179]

 

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Matthew 7:15-23; A Tree and Its Fruit (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

Speaking against the threat of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus makes this statement, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” So what kind of “fruit” is supposed to tip us off to the presence of false prophets in our midst?

Perhaps Jeremiah 14:14 offers help—it’s a passage where God himself describes five activities of false prophets. Let’s break down that verse into bullet points to help us see it more clearly:

  • Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them…
  • They are prophesying to you false visions
  • “…divinations
  • “…idolatries
  • “…and the delusions of their own minds.”

With Jeremiah 14:14 in view, we can make the following assumptions: 1. Anyone who presents untruth as God’s truth (i.e., “prophesying lies in my name”) should be considered a false prophet. This would apply to preachers and teachers who distort or disavow the Bible’s teachings in order to accommodate their own preferences or current societal norms. 2. Likewise, claiming to have new, personal revelation of God’s plans that conflicts or contradicts God’s truth in Scripture (i.e. “prophesying false visions”) would be considered “bad fruit” from a false prophet.

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3. People who attempt to predict the future by supernatural means, even misusing Scripture to support their predictions (such as when preachers predict the date of Christ’s return) would be guilty of “false divinations”—and that’s bad fruit which is evidence of a false prophet. 4. Also, teachers who allow any other thing—such as piety, money, prestige, other prophets, social concerns, and so on—to be placed in higher authority than Christ himself (i.e., “idolatries”) would be guilty of producing bad fruit.

5. Last but not least, church leaders who begin to invent new standards of truth and behavior for themselves, who assume that their ideas somehow supersede the truth of Scripture, or that they are somehow not subject to the same standards as other Christians, are guilty of prophesying “the delusions of their own minds.” That’s bad fruit, and is more evidence of a false prophet.

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Now the question arises: Do you follow any church leaders who are producing this kind of bad fruit? If so, what will you do about it?

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 145]

 

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Matthew 7:15-23; A Tree and Its Fruit (Symbolism)

posted by Mike Nappa

In warning about false prophets in Matthew 7:15, Jesus compares those people to “wolves” disguised in sheep’s clothing. The meaning here is clear: Christ’s followers are vulnerable sheep, and false prophets are the hungry predators who will harm them.

In biblical use, in both Old and New Testaments, the term “wolf” or “wolves” is almost always a symbolic image. Only rarely, such as in Isaiah (11:6, 65:25) and once in John’s gospel (10:12) does the term refer to a literal, physical animal—and even then the wolf is illustrative of a larger symbolic context (Isaiah) or a representative icon in a parable (John).

In most other uses (including Matthew 7:15), the wolf represents only the worst, and most dangerous, aspects of people and life. As such, the wolf is a depiction of callous, insatiable hunger (Genesis 49:27), of destruction (Jeremiah 5:6), and of vicious, deadly abuse of the innocent (Ezekiel 22:27, Habakkuk 1:8, Zephaniah 3:3, Matthew 10:16, Luke 10:3, Acts 20:29).

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Interestingly, one Bible historian notes that in ancient Palestine, “Owing to the ease with which food is obtained, and the mildness of the winter, they [wolves] do not hunt in packs, as in the colder north, but prowl alone.” In that context, Jesus’ warning could apply to either a “lone wolf” or a group of “wolves” hidden among his followers. And the results of either of those situations is deadly.

 

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Matthew 7:13-14; The Narrow and Wide Gates (Historical Backgrounds)

posted by Mike Nappa

When we read about Jesus contrasting “wide” and “narrow” gates in Matthew 7:13-14, the modern assumption is to picture two separate gates at the end of separate roads. Historically speaking, that image is probably incorrect.

In Jesus’ time, city gates were large and multi-layered. The broad, tall, wide gate opened during the day to allow entry of large caravans, livestock, groups of people, and so on. It was a bustling, busy, place where anyone (such as thieves or other criminals) could hide undetected within a crowd. Just inside that gate, or sometimes inset into the broad gate, was a smaller opening that allowed only one or two people, or a single donkey to pass through. This was typically guarded. No one could pass through here anonymously.

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This type of city-gate setup was similarly true in wealthy homes and estates, and that seems to be Jesus’ reference point in the parallel passage of Luke 13:24. These large homes typically featured a walled-in courtyard with a large entryway that was opened to allow carts and animals to pass through during the day. Inset into that large door would have been a smaller door which individual family members used to enter and exit in either day or night.

Thus, to “enter through the narrow gate,” could have been understood to mean entering God’s kingdom without anonymity, without any possibility of hiding anything about who you are—and to enter as a recognized member of God’s family.

 

Works Cited:

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[ZP2, 645-646; SLU 359]

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

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Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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