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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  


Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Transformed: My Life in God’s Kingdom

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The focus of the study this week is centered on the way we treat others, which should reflect the way we’re treated by God.



June 05

Transformed in My Worship


June 12

Transformed in My Prayer


June 19

Transformed in My Possessions


June 26

Transformed in My Plans


July 03

Transformed in My actions


July 10

Transformed in My Choices






The way we treat others should reflect the way we’re treated by God.


Matthew 7:1-12





Evaluate Yourself Instead of Judging Others (Matt. 7:1-6)

Seek God’s Wisdom (Matt. 7:7-11)

Treat Others Like You Want To Be Treated (Matt. 7:12)


As Jesus continued to teach His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, He guided them to deal with the problem of being critical or judgmental of others. He taught them to live according to a standard set by God Himself. God had treated them with love expressed in mercy and grace. He expected them to treat others in the same way. In so doing, they would reflect the way they had been treated by God.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Tolerance is a word that gets tossed around a lot by both Christians and non-Christians, even though both sides have differing definitions for tolerance. In spite of the high value placed on tolerance, we still tend to judge people and criticize their opinions or behavior. Jesus calls us to a far higher standard. Even if our viewpoint is the correct one, Jesus calls us to treat people as we desire to be treated.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Evaluate Yourself Instead of Judging Others (Matt. 7:1-6)

1 “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.








1.   What’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for you?

2.   How did it make you feel?  Did you want to respond in reciprocity?  If so, why?

3.   What’s one of the meanest things someone has ever done to you?

4.   How did that make you feel?  What did that prompt you to want to do?  Why?

5.   What does the word “judge” mean to you?

6.   Do you think Jesus meant “Do not judge,” as an absolute command? Why, or why not? (See “Do not judge” in Digging Deeper.)

7.   If Jesus meant “Do not Judge” to be an absolute, how do you think a judgment prohibition would impact our culture?

8.   Based on verses 1 & 2, why should we exercise caution in how we judge others?

9.   Why do you think we (even believers) have the propensity to judge others?

10.   Based on this passage, what kind of judging do you think Jesus condemned?

11.   How is the judgment Jesus described hypocritical?

12.   What is the difference between judging in verses 1-5 and being “discerning* as taught in verse 6?

13.   How would you explain the type of judgment Jesus had in mind in this passage?

14.   Do you believe there is such a thing as “constructive” criticism?  Why, or why not?

15.   Why is it a good thing to properly self-evaluate before judging others?

16.   How would you like to be judged and by whom?

17.   Why is it good to judge others the same way you want to be judged?

18.   What does verse 6 mean to you and how would you explain it to a new believer?


Lasting Lessons in Matt. 7:1-6:

1.  Destructive criticism and petty fault-finding have no place in our relationships with fellow believers.

2.  The standard of judgment we apply to others will in turn be applied to us, is not by others, certainly by God.

3.  Disciples of Jesus are to treat the things of God with honor and respect.

4.  Jesus’ disciples are to be discerning in how and when to confront unbelievers with the gospel.



Seek God’s Wisdom (Matt. 7:7-11)

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

1.   Why do you think Jesus came back to the subject of prayer after dealing with it in Matthew 6:5-15?

2.   Why do you think Jesus used action verbs—ask, seek, knock—in connecting with God?

3.   What do you think is implied by using these action verbs?

4.   Why do you think Jesus urged His believers to be persistent in their prayers anyway (v. 7)?  What is the point?

5.   How do you think these verses illustrate the need to seek God’s wisdom when it comes to judging others?

6.   Why is wisdom important when judging others?

7.   What light does James 1:5-7 shed on our need for wisdom from God?

8.   Based on James 1:5-7, how can we expect God to answer our prayers?

9.   James 5:16 says that the prayers of a righteous person accomplish much, what, then, do you think that verse implies?

10.   Looking at verses 9-11, what point do you think Jesus wanted His disciples to understand?

11.   In light of verse 11, what picture should believers have of God when they pray?

Five principles of an effective prayer life!

12.   What part do you think character plays in an effective prayer life? (See James 5:16.)

13.   What does humility have to do with an effective prayer life?  (See Luke 18:9-14.)

14.   How does faith impact an effective prayer life? (See chapter 11 of Hebrews.)

15.   When it comes to an effective prayer life, what part does motives play? (See James 4:3.)

16.   And finally, what does one’s relationship with others have to do with an effective prayer life?  (See Matt. 5:23-24; 6:14-15.)


Lasting Lessons in Matt. 7:7-11:

1.  Spiritual discernment calls for spiritual wisdom that comes from regular, ongoing prayer.

2.  Believers who persist in prayer can expect God to respond.

3.  God treats us with a goodness that is far superior to the way we treat each other.

4.  God responds to our prayers with what is good because He is good.



Treat Others Like You Want To Be Treated (Matt. 7:12)


12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.

1.   What benefit do we get when we treat others like we want to be treated?

2.   What does this verse mean to you?

3.   Do you think this verse if a fitting summary for how His disciples should treat others?  If so, why?

4.   Do you think this verse emphasizes helping others, not just refraining from harming them?  Why, or why not?

5.   What usually happens when we treat others the way we want to be treated?

6.   If we reflect God in our treatment of others, what impression do you think we will leave with them?

7.   What are some things we can do to become more consistent in our treatment of others in the way we are treated by God?

8.   What is the Law and the Prophets referred to in the latter part of this verse?  (See Digging Deeper.)


Lasting Lessons in Matt. 7:12:

1.  As disciples of Jesus, we are to treat others as we would like to be treated.

2.  By living out the teaching of Matthew 7:12, we are giving practical expression to what God has revealed in His Word.



We still need to be reminded that the ultimate standard by which we are to live, make judgments concerning others, and to correct both ourselves and others is the Word of the Lord.  Our personal opinions, preferences, likes, and dislikes do not matter, especially in relationship to what God expects.  We are in no position to judge people’s hearts, especially when we refuse to evaluate our own.

God always does what is right, good, and best.  He expects us to do the same.  The strength and ability to do so comes by being in constant communication with Him.  As He works in our lives, we become equipped to treat others as we want to be treated by others and as we have been treated by a compassionate God who is our Father in heaven.

So, how do you rate with it comes to living our Matthew 7:12 in your daily life?  On a scale of 1 (not very close) to 10 (close, but not perfect) how would you rate yourself with respect to Matthew 7:12? Ask God to help you draw closer, He will if you ask Him!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Matthew 7:1-12

 Matthew 7:1-12 (KJV)

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 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? 5 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. 6 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 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 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? 12 Therefore 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.


New Revised Standard  Version:  Matthew 7:1-12

 Matthew 7:1-12 (NRSV)

1 "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. 6 "Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. 7 "Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?
10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 "In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.


New Living Translation:   Matthew 7:1-12

 Matthew 7:1-12 (NLT)

1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. 6 “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you. 7 “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him. 12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.


 (NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from five sources: The New American Commentary,Believer's Bible Commentary,The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” “The College Press NIV Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)


Lesson Outline — “Transformed in My actions” — Matthew 7:1-12




Evaluate Yourself Instead of Judging Others (Matt. 7:1-6)

Seek God’s Wisdom (Matt. 7:7-11)

Treat Others Like You Want To Be Treated (Matt. 7:12)


The New American Commentary:   Matthew 7:1-12

How to Treat Others (7:1–12). This section seems more loosely tied together than 5:3–6:34. Certainly, the demanding nature of the greater righteousness required of Jesus’ disciples means that they have plenty to do just to take stock of their own spiritual progress. Christians scarcely can afford to be judgmental. Verses 1–6 seem to be united by the theme of how believers treat each other, specifically in judging or not judging one another, while vv. 7–11 illustrate how God treats his people. Verse 12 rounds out this section and probably summarizes the body of the sermon as a whole, with its classic statement of ideal interpersonal behavior. 

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

(1) On Judging Others (7:1–6).

7:1–2. “Judge” (krinō) can imply to analyze or evaluate as well as to condemn or avenge. The former senses are clearly commanded of believers (e.g., 1 Cor 5:5; 1 John 4:1), but the latter are reserved for God. Even on those occasions when we render a negative evaluation of others, our purposes should be constructive and not retributive. So Jesus is here commanding his followers not to be characterized by judgmental attitudes (cf. Williams, “Stop criticizing others”). The immediate practical rationale for his command is that others, including God, may treat us in the same manner we treat them. Verse 2 provides the premise for v. 12. 

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

7:3–5. Jesus now illustrates the foolishness of most judgmentalism with the hyperbole of the speck and the plank. He is clearly not concerned about literal pieces of foreign matter in people’s eyes but about his followers’ moral failures. How often we criticize others when we have far more serious shortcomings in our own lives. Such behavior offers another example of hypocrisy (recall 6:2, 5, 16), especially when we treat fellow believers this way, whose sins God has already forgiven. But v. 5 makes clear that vv. 3–4 do not absolve us of responsibility to our brothers and sisters in Christ. Rather, once we have dealt with our own sins, we are then in a position gently and lovingly to confront and try to restore others who have erred (cf. Gal 6:1).

6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

7:6. Verse 6 seems cryptic and unconnected to the immediate context, but it probably further qualifies the command against judging.  One must try to discern whether presenting to others that which is holy will elicit nothing but abuse or profanity. In these instances restraint is required. “Do not give dogs what is sacred” and “do not throw your pearls to pigs” are obviously parallel in meaning, so it is natural to assume that both dogs and pigs are the subjects of the verbs “trample,” “turn,” and “tear” in the second half of the verse. But the verse may form a chiasmus. After all, pigs are more likely to trample than dogs, while dogs more normally tear things in pieces than do pigs (cf. GNB: “Do not give what is holy to dogs—they will only turn and attack you. Do not throw your pearls in front of pigs—they will only trample them underfoot”). 

The dogs described here are wild scavengers. The pigs best represent unclean animals for Jews. Both are natural opposites to what is holy or, like pearls, of great value. Both “dogs” and “pigs” were regularly used as pejorative epithets for Gentiles within ancient Judaism. Jesus is using the terms equally pejoratively but in the more general sense of those who are ungodly (cf. 2 Pet 2:22 for the same combination). Certainly for him these would include those who heaped scorn upon his message, which ironically occurred most commonly among his fellow Jews and among the more conservative religious teachers and leaders (cf. Ps 22:16).  The number of parallels in modern Christianity to this phenomenon remain frightening. Jesus is obviously not telling his followers not to preach to certain kinds of people, but he does recognize that after sustained rejection and reproach, it is appropriate to move on to others (cf. Paul’s regular practice in Acts—e.g., 13:46; 18:6; 19:9). Bruner’s additional applications prove equally incisive:

There is a form of evangelism that urges Christians to use every opportunity to share the gospel. Unfortunately, insensitive evangelism often proves harmful not only to the obdurate whose heart is hardened by the undifferentiating evangelist, but harmful also to the gospel that is force-fed. … Aggressive evangelism gets converts and counts them, but we are never able to count those turned away from the gospel for the numbers of the offended are never tallied. 

The cultic language of “what is sacred,” probably referring to consecrated food, has from as early as the end of the first century suggested the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper (cf. Did. 9:5). Here, however, it is not clear why dogs would spurn food and turn on the one offering it, but it is completely understandable if something other than food was offered to animals expecting to satisfy their hunger.

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

(2) God’s Generosity (7:7–11). 

7:7–11. In anticipating but going beyond the principle of v. 12, Jesus tells how God treats people at least as well as and often even better than they treat each other. Verses 7–11 may also link back with the rest of the sermon in that they show people how to get the help they need to obey all that Jesus has previously commanded. We must ask, seek, and knock—petitioning God with an expectant attitude. As Heavenly Father, God will respond with “good gifts,” just as otherwise sinful human fathers usually do. Isaiah 49:15 uses the image of a mother to convey the same truth about God’s care and is aware of exceptions in the human realm which do not apply to God. Strikingly, Jesus dissociates himself from sinful humanity by using the second-person form of address (“though you are evil,” v. 11).

The rhetorical questions of vv. 9–10 imply a negative answer and are based on the similarities in appearance between small loaves of bread and stones and between certain eel-like fish and snakes. No loving parent would try to trick his or her children into thinking their requests had been granted by such deceptive substitutions. “How much more” logic prevails again. Even if human parents did occasionally prove untrustworthy (and far too often they do), God would never so mistreat his children. He always gives good things. “Give” is the key word throughout vv. 7–11, appearing five times as well as linking back with v. 6. The “good gifts” God gives include everything that pertains to seeking first his kingdom and its righteousness (6:33). They do not necessarily correspond to everything for which we ask. The commands of vv. 7–8 are in the present tense, suggesting persistent prayer over a period of time. “It” in v. 7 is somewhat misleading. The word does not refer to any particular thing requested but forms part of a divine passive construction that means ask and God will give you [what he deems best].

Jesus also presupposes that his listeners will recall his teaching in the Lord’s prayer in which one insists that God’s will be done (6:7–8). Those who today claim that in certain contexts it is unscriptural to pray “if it is the Lord’s will” are both heretical and dangerous. Often our prayers are not answered as originally desired because we do not share God’s perspective in knowing what is ultimately a good gift for us. We are especially tempted to think of the values of this world (e.g., health and wealth) rather than spiritual values. Not surprisingly, the parallel passage in Luke uses synecdoche to replace “good gifts” with “the Holy Spirit” (Luke 11:13)—the preeminent example of a good and perfect gift coming down from above. 

12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

(3) The Golden Rule (7:12).

7:12. In view of God’s generosity to us, treating others in the manner we would like ourselves to be treated is the least we can do. “As you would have them” does not imply “in order that they might,” as some have mistakenly thought. Verse 12 embraces an impressive amount of scriptural teaching, including, as Jesus says, the “Law and the Prophets” (the Old Testament). This epigram has become known as the Golden Rule because of its central role in Christian ethics. Jesus assumes no pathological deviations in which one would desire to harm oneself, and he presupposes the perspective of disciples who seek what is God’s desire rather than self-aggrandizement.

Many parallels to this “rule” appear in the history of religion. Of those closest in time and milieu to Jesus, see especially Tob 4:15, Hillel in b. Sabb. 31a, and Did. 1:2. Most of these parallels phrase the rule negatively (sometimes called the “silver rule”), implying, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.” It is not clear how significant this difference is, but Jesus’ positive phrasing does remind us of the principle that we can never fully carry out Christ’s commands. As Mounce explains: “In its negative form, the Golden Rule could be satisfied by doing nothing. The positive form moves us to action on behalf of others.” But from a Christian perspective even negative commands imply positive action. Thus, e.g., in the first antithesis (5:21–26) even if we succeed in not murdering and in not hating or verbally abusing others, we still have not completely obeyed until we earnestly seek others’ well-being. With its reference to “the Law and the Prophets,” 7:12 ties back in with 5:17 and provides a frame to bracket the body of the sermon.

f. Conclusion: Only Two Ways (7:13–27).The rest of the Sermon on the Mount adds no new commandments but encourages obedience to those already given while warning against disobedience. By three illustrations, Jesus makes plain that there are ultimately only two categories of people in the world, despite the endless gradations we might otherwise perceive. He utilizes a “two-ways” genre well-known from other Jewish literature (e.g., Deut 30:15–20; 2 Esdr 7:1–16; cf. also Did. 1:1–6:7). These three illustrations contrast those who select the narrow rather than the wide gate and road (vv. 13–14), those who bear good rather than bad fruit (vv. 15–23), and those who build their homes on solid rock rather than shifting sand (vv. 24–27). In each case the first category refers to those who hear, obey, and are saved; the second, to those who only hear and so are destroyed. In each case eternal life and judgment are at stake.

SOURCE:  The New American Commentary; Volume 22; Matthew; Craig L. Blomberg; David S. Dockery, General Editor; © Copyright 1992; Broadman Press; Broadman Press; Nashville, TN.


Believer's Bible Commentary:  Matthew 7:1-12

This section on judging immediately follows our Lord's provocative teaching concerning earthly riches. The connection between these two themes is important. It is easy for the Christian who has forsaken all to criticize wealthy Christians. Conversely, Christians who take seriously their duty to provide for the future needs of their families tend to downplay the literalness that some place on Jesus' words in the last chapter. Since no one lives completely by faith, such criticism is out of order.

This command not to judge others includes the following areas: we should not judge motives; only God can read them; we should not judge by appearance (John 7:24; Jas. 2:1-4); we should not judge those who have conscientious scruples about matters that are not in themselves right or wrong (Rom. 14:1-5); we should not judge the service of another Christian (1 Cor. 4:1-5); and, we should not judge a fellow believer by speaking evil about him (Jas. 4:11, 12).

7:1.  Sometimes these words of our Lord are misconstrued by people to prohibit all forms of judgment. No matter what happens, they piously say, "Judge not, that you be not judged." But Jesus is not teaching that we are to be undiscerning Christians. He never intended that we abandon our critical faculty or discernment. The NT has many illustrations of legitimate judgment of the condition, conduct, or teaching of others. In addition, there are several areas in which the Christian is commanded to make a decision, to discriminate between good and bad or between good and best. Some of these include:

1. When disputes arise between believers, they should be settled in the church before members who can decide the matter (1 Cor. 6:1-8).

2. The local church is to judge serious sins of its members and take appropriate action (Matt. 18:17; 1 Cor. 5:9-13).

3. Believers are to judge the doctrinal teaching of teachers and preachers by the Word of God (Matt. 7:15-20; 1 Cor. 14:29; 1 Jn. 4:1).

4. Christians have to discern if others are believers in order to obey Paul's command in 2 Corinthians 6:14.

5. Those in the church must judge which men have the qualifications necessary for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13).

6. We have to discern which people are unruly, fainthearted, weak, etc., and treat them according to the instructions in the Bible (e.g., 1 Thess. 5:14).

7:2.  Jesus warned that unrighteous judgment would be repaid in kind: "For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged." This principle of reaping what we sow is built into all human life and affairs. Mark applies the principle to our appropriation of the Word (4:24) and Luke applies it to our liberality in giving (6:38).

7:3-5.  Jesus exposed our tendency to see a small fault in someone else while ignoring the same fault in ourselves. He purposely exaggerated the situation (using a figure of speech known as hyperbole) to drive home the point. Someone with a plank in his eye often finds fault with the speck in the eye of another, not even noticing his own condition. It is hypocritical to suppose that we could help someone with a fault when we ourselves have a greater fault. We must remedy our own faults before criticizing them in others.

7:6.  Verse 6 proves that Jesus did not intend to forbid every kind of judgment. He warned His disciples not to give holy things to dogs or to cast... pearls before swine. Under the Mosaic Law dogs and swine were unclean animals and here the terms are used to depict wicked people. When we meet vicious people who treat divine truths with utter contempt and respond to our preaching of the claims of Christ with abuse and violence, we are not obligated to continue to share the gospel with them. To press the matter only brings increased condemnation to the offenders.

Needless to say, it requires spiritual perception to discern these people. Perhaps that is why the next verses take up the subject of prayer, by which we can ask for wisdom.

Keep Asking, Seeking, Knocking (7:7-12)

7:7, 8.  If we think that we can live out the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount by our own strength, we have failed to realize the supernatural character of the life to which the Savior calls us. The wisdom or power for such a life must be given to us from above. So here we have an invitation to ask and keep on asking; to seek and keep on seeking; to knock and keep on knocking. Wisdom and power for the Christian life will be given to all who earnestly and persistently pray for it.

Taken out of context, verses 7 and 8 might seem like a blank check for believers, i.e., we can get anything we ask for. But this is simply not true. The verses must be understood in their immediate context and in light of the whole Bible's teaching on prayer. Therefore, what seems like unqualified promises here are actually restricted by other passages. For example, from Psalm 66:18 we learn that the person praying must have no unconfessed sin in his life. The Christian must pray in faith (Jas. 1:6-8) and in conformity with the will of God (1 Jn. 5:14). Prayer must be offered persistently (Luke 18:1-8) and sincerely (Heb. 10:22a).

7:9, 10.  When the conditions for prayer are met, the Christian can have utter confidence that God will hear and answer. This assurance is based on the character of God, our Father. On the human level, we know that if a son asks for bread, his father will not give him a stone. Neither would he give him a serpent if he had asked for a fish. An earthly father would neither deceive his hungry son nor give him anything that might inflict pain.

7:11.  The Lord argues from the lesser to the greater. If human parents reward their children's requests with what is best for them, how much more will our Father who is in heaven do so.

7:12.  The immediate connection of verse 12 with the preceding seems to be this: since our Father is a giver of good things to us, we should imitate Him in showing kindness to others. The way to test whether an action is beneficial to others is whether we would want to receive it ourselves. The "Golden Rule" had been expressed in negative terms at least one hundred years before this time by Rabbi Hillel. However, by stating the rule in positive terminology, Jesus goes beyond passive restraint to active benevolence. Christianity is not simply a matter of abstinence from sin; it is positive goodness.

This saying by Jesus is the Law and the Prophets, that is, it summarizes the moral teachings of the Law of Moses and the writings of the Prophets of Israel. The righteousness demanded by the OT is fulfilled in converted believers who thus walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4). If this verse were universally obeyed, it would transform all areas of international relationships, national politics, family life, and church life.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary:  Matthew 7:1-12

7:1. Jesus condemned judging (especially in the sense of finding fault with or condemning) one's "brother" (cf. 5:21ff.). "Brother" (verse 3) equals fellow member of the community of the faithful (cf. 5:22, 43, 47). The one judging his brother will be judged by God. Only the Lord knows the motives behind our words and deeds; therefore, judgment is His prerogative alone. Rather than expecting His disciples to judge one another, Jesus asks His followers to be forgiving and merciful so that they may receive forgiveness and mercy as well (Matthew 5:7; 18:34, 35; cf. James 2:12, 13).

7:2. This verse reflects a common thought in Judaism, and Jesus reiterated this important principle: what a man sows, he will also reap (Job 4:8; Proverbs 22:8; Galatians 6:7). But in contrast to the rabbis who understood this principle in the sense of a strictly corresponding reimbursement for words and deeds, Jesus recognized another standard, the standard of mercy which is based upon love and forgiveness. Mercy does not repay evil for evil, as the rabbis would have recommended.

The context makes it plain that "judgment" here has nothing to do with "discerning spirits." Jesus warned against false prophets in verses 15-20 and even gave the criteria for distinguishing them (see also commentary on 16:19).

7:3, 4. Jesus then gave an exaggerated example to illustrate his point. The "mote" or "speck" (NIV) is insignificant; it represents something which might easily find its way into one's eye. The "beam" or "plank" (NIV), however, suggests a ridiculous contrast to the "speck." To have a "plank" in one's eye and not know it truly suggests a blind, insensitive individual, especially if that one tries to "help" someone remove a speck. Thus Jesus illustrated why judgment is impossible for anyone but God. Human imperfection, especially the blindness to one's own shortcomings and sins, leads to an unmerciful criticism of others' conduct. In fact, the things a person criticizes the most loudly are often the things that are his own faults or secret sins.

7:5.  A "hypocrite" is one who wears a mask, an actor who conceals his true nature or who is blind to his own faults (see commentary on 6:2). In addition to a strong admonition, "Thou hypocrite, first cast out," the verse also makes a promise, "then shalt thou see...." Thus with proper humility and motivation, Christians can indeed help one another with faults and shortcomings. A person can offer assistance in "removing specks" only when he has dealt with any critical spirit or self-righteousness that might blind him to his own sins and when he has chosen to live in the forgiveness and grace of our Lord (see commentary on verses 1 and 2; cf. 18:15-18).

This means also that a believer will approach his brother in a spirit of humility and love, realizing that he too has been guilty and has been forgiven. He will also treat his brother's faults as a "speck" and not as a beam. Galatians 6:1 indicates also that when a believer is overtaken in a fault or caught in a trap of sin those who are spiritual should be gentle as they attempt to restore such a one to a right relation to God and to the fellowship of the assembly. Galatians then goes on to warn that even as Christians are trying to do this work of restoration they must be careful to watch themselves, for they are also able to be tempted. If they fall they can hurt or even destroy those they are attempting to restore. But fear should not stop believers, however, for they have a responsibility to carry the burdens of others' moral failures or weaknesses. This is necessary if Christians are to fulfill Christ's law of loving others as He has loved them. (See Romans 15:1-3; John 15:10, 12.)

7:6.  The warning against judging others (verses 1-5), however, should not lead to being naive. Christians are not to try to force the holy and beautiful spiritual things God has given them on rebellious sinners. Consequently, Jesus admonished believers against giving what is holy or sacred to dogs or throwing pearls to pigs. As the pearls represent what is holy, so the dogs and swine represent the unholy. The Old Testament laid down strict prescriptions for the disposal of sacrificial meat (for example, Exodus 29:33; Leviticus 2:3; 22:10-16; Numbers 18:8-19). To give dogs the food which had been sacrificed to God would be a gross blasphemy. Dogs and swine were used as scavengers in those days and were symbols of evil and uncleanness (cf. 1 Samuel 17:43; Leviticus 11:7; Philippians 3:2; 2 Peter 2:22; Revelation 22:15). The pearls refer to the holy nature of the gospel and its provisions and gifts. The dogs and swine refer to rebels who persistently reject the gospel. However, care must be taken not to be too quick to identify people as dogs and swine unless they show an unholy reaction.

7:7.  The present tense verbs "ask," "seek," and "knock" all carry a continuing sense, i.e., "keep asking," "keep seeking," etc. These three terms are common ways of referring to supplicatory prayer (cf. "asking," Matthew 18:19; Mark 11:24; John 11:22; "seeking," Deuteronomy 4:29; Isaiah 55:6; 65:1; "knocking," cf. Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 1:458). The future passive forms, "it shall be given you," "it shall be opened unto you," etc., are "divine passives," indicating God's actions.

James added a further thought when he said believers do not have because they do not ask. But it is possible to ask and not receive if motives are wrong and the seeking is for something to satisfy selfish desires (James 4:2, 3). Jesus was speaking of prayers that are in line with the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer that are part of this same Sermon on the Mount (5:3-12; 6:9-13).

7:8.  This verse essentially repeats verse 7, but with the emphasis upon the certainty of God's answer. God does not play favorites. Everyone who prays receives. The condition for answered prayer is simple: Ask (cf. verse 11; Luke 11:13). God always hears His children's prayers, but He answers them in His own way in perfect fatherly love and wisdom (cf. verse 11).

The Greek participles used in this verse also draw attention to the continuing action of the believer. The believers' faith and trust in God makes them keep on asking until they can be characterized as "askers" who keep asking with a deep desire for God to meet needs, "seekers" who have a determination to keep seeking the gifts and ministries God has for them, and "knockers" who keep knocking, earnestly desiring to enter into the fellowship and blessings that are theirs in Christ. It would be an insult to knock once at someone's door and then leave. The very word "seek" means to keep on searching diligently. To ask once and then cease asking is not an evidence of faith and trust in God. Faith in God will cause believers to keep on praying and not give up. See Jesus' illustration of this in Luke 18:1-7.

7:9, 10.  The examples in verses 9-11 are powerful justifications for the principle laid down by Jesus in verses 7 and 8. Bread and fish were common food staples in the regions around Gennesaret (cf. Matthew 14:17; 15:34; John 6:9). Loaves were round, flat, and not very large, something like the pita bread today. They might easily be compared to stones. In the same way, a snake and a fish (e.g., eel, lamprey) might resemble one another in external appearance. However, no father would give his son a stone and let him break his teeth on it. Nor would any father give his son a poisonous snake and let it bite him.

7:11.  Jesus here pointed out both the contrast and the similarity between earthly fathers and the Father which is in heaven. Compared to Him men are ponēroi ontes ("being evil"). Either through deliberate action or careless mistake, they can fail to care properly for their children's needs. The best of human parents do not always do what they should. Yet even such imperfect people desire good things for their children. How much more will the Heavenly Father, who is good in the truest sense of that word, give good things to those who ask Him! It is undisputed that the Lord will give His children His good gifts (e.g., the saving gifts of His kingdom, cf. Isaiah 52:7; Hebrews 9:11; 10:1; cf. Luke 11:13). For this reason the words in verses 7 and 8 simultaneously encourage trusting prayer and unwavering faith. The aspect of a lack of trust links verses 1-6 to verses 7-11.

7:12.  These words are known as the Golden Rule (cf. Luke 6:31). They do occur elsewhere in Judaism, but in a negative form. Rabbi Hillel stated, "Do not do to your neighbor what you consider damaging. This is the whole law, and everything else is a commentary on this" (Strack-Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament, 1:460). The apocryphal Book of Tobit records the following: "Do to no one what you would not want done to you" (4:15, Jerusalem Bible). But whereas Judaism formulated the rule in a negative way and was content with a command not to do wrong, Jesus urged His followers, in positive terms, to love their neighbors, regardless of how they act. This is the law for living in the kingdom of God, and it is a visible mark of the child of God (cf. 1 John 3:14-22). A simple way of stating this principle is: "Put yourself in the other person's shoes."

The guideline for knowing how to treat others is to ask one's self how he would like to be treated if the circumstances were reversed: a teacher and a student; a parent and a child; an employer and a worker, for example.

It is the outworking of another principle Jesus stated: loving others as one loves himself. Self-love demands that one think of his own concerns, how he can provide for himself in the best way possible. Christians are to simply treat others the same way. All the requirements of God's law can be met by following this principle.

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary - Acts.  Copyright © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.


The College Press NIV Commentary:  Matthew 7:1-12

Judging Others (7:1-5)

1“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (NIV)

3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

7:1-2. The present imperative (κρίνετε, krinete) preceded by μή () suggests a general rule of conduct best understood as “Don’t get into the habit of being judgmental” or “Don’t make judgmentalism a part of your lifestyle.” The reason (γάρ, gar, v. 2) that a judgmental spirit is to be avoided is that such an attitude directly impacts how others, including God, respond to our deficiencies. It should be observed that the principle suggested in verses 1-2 anticipates the wider premise of verse 12.

7:3-5. It becomes apparent in verses 3-5 that Jesus was not issuing an ultimatum against all critical thought or assessment of others. In fact, Jesus expects his followers to be sensitive and responsive to the failures of others (18:15-18), and to be critically discerning toward those who lack receptivity (7:6). What Jesus condemns is a censorious judgmentalism which is preoccupied with faultfinding in others while refusing to honestly assess the enormity of one’s own failures. The graphic illustration contrasting a speck of sawdust with a plank (δοκός, dokos, “beam of wood” BAGD, p. 203) intentionally exaggerates the absurdity of pointing out the minor flaws of another, while at the same time ignoring the far more serious shortcomings in one’s own life. Furthermore, Jesus insists that only by an awareness of personal failures can one adequately assess and properly treat the spiritual wounds of others. Jesus calls his followers to a scrupulous self-judgment as a prerequisite to the unimpaired vision necessary for helping others.

Honor What Is Valuable (7:6)

6“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.

7:6. Although this text appears to be a detached saying, unrelated to the immediate context, it does qualify the prohibition of verse 1 by calling for a discerning spirit toward those unreceptive to the gospel. The terms dogs and pigs are among the most derogatory in Jewish vocabulary. Although the terms can be used for “Gentiles” (cf. 15:26), it is improbable that the saying was meant to be restrictive to any individuals or groups. Most likely the dangers envisioned refer to the possibility of resistance or hostility coming from anyone who lacks receptivity (cf. 10:13-14). Those who lack the capacity for appreciating the intrinsic worth and value of the gospel often respond with vicious scorn and hardened contempt. Although no one knows in advance what the response of others will be, the disciple must be keenly sensitive to when it is appropriate to move to a more receptive environment (cf. 10:16; Acts 13:46-48).

Ask, Seek, Knock (7:7-11)

7“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9“Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Once again it appears that these verses constitute a self-contained unit with no connection to what precedes or follows. However, the emphasis on prayer does provide a fitting conclusion to the imperatival thrust of preceding sections by reminding the hearers of their need for divine resources and assistance in the “doing” of the Lord’s will. Furthermore, after being told how to treat others (7:1-6), it is most appropriate to detail how God treats those who seek him in prayer. Finally, it should also be noted that the depiction of God as a caring Father (vv. 9-11) anticipates the general principle enunciated in verse 12: “disciples are to do unto others as they would ask, seek, and knock for God to do for them.”

7:7-8. The three present imperatives (ask, seek, knock, v. 7) demand a persistency that refuses to give up. The passives (will be given, will be opened) anticipate God’s response to our continual “asking,” “seeking,” and “knocking.” Verse 8 balances the present imperatives of verse 7 with three present participles (asks, seeks, knocks), followed by three verbs (receives, finds, opened) emphasizing God’s unfailing response to those who seek his presence. The text is not intended as a magical formula for manipulating God through sheer tenacity in prayer (cf. 6:7-8). The object of our “asking” and “seeking” is best understood in light of the petitions outlined earlier in the Lord’s Prayer (6:9-13).

7:9-10. The rhetorical questions of verses 9-10 anticipate a negative response: No parents when asked by their children for bread or fish (typical daily food, cf. 14:17) would give them a stone or snake (i.e., that which is useless or even harmful, cf. Luke 11:13). Jesus then reasons from the “lesser to the greater” to demonstrate God’s unfailing care for his own children. In contrast to God, humanity can only be assessed as fundamentally evil or sinful (cf. 19:17). Yet, earthly parents respond to their children’s requests by providing that which would be beneficial (ἀγαθά, agatha, cf. 5:45). Thus, a fortiori, God’s fatherly care can be relied upon to provide what is best for his children. Hence, the stress on the persistency in prayer in verse 7 should not be construed as suggesting God’s unwillingness or reluctance to provide for his own. In fact, it is our relationship to God as Father that gives confidence in his benevolent care and goodness.

The Golden Rule (7:12)

12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

7:12. The main body of Jesus’ sermon (5:17-7:11) closes with what has traditionally been called the Golden Rule (7:12). Jesus summarizes the essence of God’s will as expressed in the Law and the Prophets by giving his hearers a general principle designed to govern human relationships in all circumstances. Probably Jesus’ words are intended as a commentary on Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (cf. 22:34-40). While other Jewish sources have expressed similar sentiments in a negative form (e.g., Hillel’s saying, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole Torah while the rest is commentary on it,” Babylon Talmud Sabbat 31a), Jesus’ emphatic insistence on pursuing the good of others, is at the least, extremely rare in ancient sources. Nevertheless, the truly unique aspect of Jesus’ words is his contention that such unbounded love constitutes the interpretive key for correctly understanding God’s will in the “Law and Prophets.” In Matthew’s presentation of Jesus’ teaching concerning the Law one learns that the Law must be read in light of the greater principles expressed in the love command (22:34-40), the “golden rule” (7:12), and God’s desire for mercy not sacrifice (9:13; 12:7).

The contextual significance of the “golden rule” is aptly summarized by Hendrickx:

In this context the ‘golden rule’ is not so much a summation of Jesus’ ethical demands, as a bridge which leads men to turn themselves radically toward their fellow-men, as this demand results from the message of God’s eschatological action and expresses itself in practice in the love of enemy and the waiving of one’s own rights. This means then that the good of one’s fellow-man is not an autonomous principle of action within Jesus’ ethics. The radical concern for one’s fellow-man is rather a principle derived from the eschatological proclamation of the kingdom which constitutes the decisive principle of action and bestows on the concern for one’s fellow-man its radical dimension which receives its orientation from God’s concern for men. Only in this context can the ‘law and the prophets’ be fulfilled.

SOURCE: The College Press NIV Commentary: Matthew; by Larry Chouinard; New Testament Series Co-Editors: Jack Cottrell, Ph.D., Cincinnati Bible Seminar; Tony Ash, Ph.D., Abilene Christian University; College Press Publishing Company, Joplin, Missouri


The Moody Bible Commentary:  Matthew 7:1-12

7:1-2. Jesus has been discussing His disciples' motivation. Here He begins to discuss His disciples' relationships with others, especially those who are antagonistic to His message. Do not judge does not mean that believers are to suspend all discernment. In 7:6 determining the identity of the "dogs" and "swine," as well as false prophets (v. 15), is impossible without critical thinking. Judge means "harsh, destructive criticism." If a person sets himself up as judge, it implies that he has a broader knowledge of God's Word and standards and a higher degree of being able to live it. The harsh, strict standards by which they criticize others will be the same standard by which God will hold them accountable.

7:3-5. Judgmentalism (7:1-2) can easily lead to fault-finding (7:3-5). When people are critical of others without recognizing their own faults, they have the satisfaction of self-righteousness without the rigors of self-improvement. One is a hypocrite who uses an apparent act of kindness (removing a speck) to inflate his own ego. Before presuming to help others, one must undergo some self-discipline and yield to the discipline of the Lord (Ps 51:10-13).

7:6. If one is not to be judgmental, neither is one to be completely blind to others' faults. Dogs and swine were considered unclean animals by the Jews. The holy thing and the pearls, given the context of vv. 3-5, may be the correction a disciple might give to someone who needs it, after the disciple has removed the log from his own eye.

7:7-11. When seeking to remove the speck from someone's eye (vv. 3-5), or trying to discern when to refrain from casting pearls (v. 6), one must pray for wisdom and discernment. Verse 8 does is not guarantee that every persistent prayer will be answered the way one prefers. The context (vv. 6-11) suggests that God is generous when His people ask for discernment when "casting pearls before swine." Three analogies indicate He will gladly provide discernment. First, many desert rocks had roughly the same color and shape as loaves of bread, but no father would substitute a rock if a child asked for bread (v. 9). Second, snakes were considered unclean for eating (Lv 11:12) but like fish had scales. A snake filet might resemble a fish filet, but no father would deliberately trick a child with something that would defile him (v. 10). Third, as parents give gifts to their children, similarly God will give wisdom in knowing how to act toward those who are resistant (v. 11).

7:12. This is arguably the most famous verse in all Scripture. God is gracious in response to prayer for discernment (vv. 6-11), so God's people should be gracious in how they treat others (v. 12). The guideline is to treat others the way one wishes to be treated. Such an approach summarizes and fulfills the 39 books of the Hebrew canon (the Law and the Prophets) and puts in pithy form the command, "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lv 19:18; Mt 22:39; Rm 13:8-9).

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



The Law and the Prophets (v. 12)—This expression brought to mind the entire Jewish Scripture, our Old Testament.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


adj. having or showing good judgment.

SOURCE: Concise Oxford Dictionary; Tenth Edition; Oxford University Press

Do not judge (v. 1)—“Do not judge” appears to be an absolute prohibition of all judgments concerning others.  Before we can determine the extent of this prohibition, however, we must first define the verb to judge.  The Greek verb translated judge (krino) is used with different emphases in the New Testament.  The Bible declares that God is the ultimate Judge to whom we must all give an account for our thoughts, words, and actions (2 Tim. 4:1).  People are not authorized to make this judgment (Jas. 4:12).  One violation of this principle would be sins of speech when we in anger pronounce condemnation upon another. 

If condemnation of others was the particular meaning of “to judge” that Jesus had in mind, the prohibition would be absolute.  The verb “to judge,” however, also has the meaning of evaluating conduct.  If Jesus prohibited this kind of judging, His command would be radical, to say the least.  If we are prohibited from evaluating others’ actions, we would be unable to apply the principles of morality regarding their conduct.  In the very contest of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus was teaching His disciples to discern the words and actions of others.  He taught them to be wise and not to be deceived by false teachers.  Paul later would use the verb “to judge” in the context of necessary church discipline in the Corinthian church.  He urges a sinning brother to be expelled and noted the responsibility of believers to judge conduct in the church (1 Cor. 5:12).  He also urged believers in Corinth to judge their own legal disputes rather than taking them before a secular court (6:2).  If Christians are forbidden to evaluate other believers, how could we make decisions about qualifications for elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3)?

A prohibition of all judgments about others would undermine the judicial system and destroy the power of witnessing.  The legal system requires that we evaluate evidence and render verdicts of guilt or innocence.  We have witnessed the ineffective preaching of those who avoid identifying sin and refuse to call for repentance.  How can we warn the wicked of judgment if we do not make judgments about conduct (Ezek. 3:17)?  God revealed the law in order that we might have a basis for judging our actions and the actions of others.  Jesus clearly did not intend to overturn the moral necessity of evaluating the actions of others.  What then did He mean by the prohibition not to judge?

The type of judgment Jesus had in mind is revealed in Matthew 7:2-5.  Jesus warned against hypocrisy in our judgments to make His point.  He used a humorous and exaggerated illustration to make His point.  He spoke of someone who had a log in his eye attempting to remove a speck from his brother’s eye.  The object in each person’s eye in the illustration represents a sin or fault.  Hypocrites see clearly the small faults in others but fail to see greater sins in their own lives.  The hypocrite is not a sincere and loving judge who seeks to help someone but a prideful judge who seeks to condemn.  Jesus had in mind the hypocritical religious leaders who practiced these kinds of judgments.  He warned that God would judge harshly those who pursue these kinds of judgments.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; Summer 2016, pg 60-62; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.




The Law And The Prophets

By Steve W. Lemke

Steve W. Lemke is provost and professor of philosophy and ethics at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, New Orleans, Louisiana, and director of the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry, and editor of The Journal for Baptist Theology and Ministry.


HE LAW AND THE PROPHETS” is a phrase used in the New Testament to describe most of the Old Testament.1  The phrase “the law and the prophets” or near equivalent phrases occur four times in Matthew; five times in Luke; once in John; three times in Acts; and in Paul’s writings only once, in Romans 3:21.

First-century Judaism divided the Old Testament into the three sections Jesus mentioned in Luke 24:44; the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms.  The law consisted of the first five books of the Old Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch.  The prophets included both the “former prophets”; the historical books Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings; and the “latter prophets,” which we know as the major and minor prophets.  The third division, called the “writings,” consisted of the books of poetry, Psalms, Chronicles, and Hebrew literature.

In the New Testament, the Hebrew word torah was translated by the Greek word nomos.  Nomos often refers to the entire Old Testament.  For instance, in John 10:34 and 15:25 Jesus referred to predictions in the “law,” although they were found in Psalms 82:6 and 35:19.  Paul referred to “the law” in 1 Corinthians 14:21 while quoting from Isaiah 28:11-12.  Since nomos also could refer specifically to the law of Moses or even more narrowly to the Ten Commandments, the phrase “the law and the prophets” helped clarify that one was referring to the Old Testament works which had been accepted as Scripture.

Jesus often summarized the Old Testament Scriptures with the phrase “the law and the prophets.”  He taught in the Sermon on the Mount that He had not come to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matt. 5:17).  Jesus summarized the law and the prophets with the Golden Rule (7:12) and with the commandment to love both God and neighbors (22:36-40).

First-century Judaism was divided over the question of whether the three major divisions of the Old Testament were inspired equally.  The Pharisees believed in the divine inspiration of all three divisions of the Old Testament, as well as the oral tradition of the rabbis (Mishnah) based on these Scriptures.  The Sadducees emphasized the divine inspiration of the Torah alone.  They held that the authority of the other two divisions and the rabbinical tradition was derived directly from the law.

The Hebrew word for law, torah, originally referred to any instruction from God.  After the reception of the law of Moses, torah came to refer most specifically to the Ten Commandments, but also to the Pentateuch in general, and even at times to the whole Old Testament.  The later Jewish writers Philo (ca. 20 BC—AD 50) and Josephus (AD 37—ca. 100) used torah as a generic term to describe the complete Old Testament Scriptures.

The Jews took the law much more seriously than the Greek world.  Unlike Egyptian wisdom and Greek philosophy, the Mosaic law was seen as being derived directly from God.  Mosaic law had a force and authority that was absent from the law in the Hellenistic world.

During and after the Babylonian exile, the law became the focal point of the Jewish faith.  Before the exile, the law had been seen as the requirement for continued fellowship with God.  After the exile, the law came to be regarded as the requirement to establish a relationship with God.  God’s covenant initiative was downplayed; human initiative was underscored.

As respect for the law increased, respect for the prophets and poetic writings proportionately decreased.  The other Old Testament writings were viewed as extensions of the Torah.  The Torah became normative for the prophets and the writings of poetry.  The Jews believed that nothing in these other divisions truly was unique; everything in them was present at least germinally in the Torah.  Many of the rabbis thought that all prophecy ended with Malachi. 

Jesus shared the respect that first-century Judaism had for the Torah.  Jesus was reared according to the law (Luke 2:21-30,39,41).  He emphasized the importance of the law in His teaching and thought of Himself as fulfilling its true meaning rather than challenging its authority (Matt. 5:17-20).

Unlike many of the rabbis of His day, however, Jesus did not ascribe more authority to the Old Testament law than to the prophets and Psalms (Luke 24:44).  He rejected the authority of the rabbinical tradition which went far beyond the law (Mark 7:1-9).  The scribes often criticized Jesus for disregarding the teachings of tradition concerning such issues as ceremonial cleansing (vv. 1-5), fellowship with sinners (2:15-17), fasting (vv. 18-22), and observing the Sabbath (vv. 23:28).

Jesus demonstrated in His teaching that His appreciation of the law was more profound even than that of the rabbis of his day.  Jesus upheld the law as an unconditional standard (Matt. 5:17-20), while the rabbis used their oral tradition to find loopholes and put limitations of the law (Mark 7:9-13).  Jesus obeyed not just the letter of the law, as did the scribes and Pharisees, but also its spirit (Matt. 5:21-48).  Jesus was concerned with keeping the law not only with the legalistic detail of the Pharisees, but also with the attitude of the heart (Mark 7:14-23). 

In the Jerusalem Council (Act 15:1-20), the early church sought to apply to life what Jesus had taught about the law.  Many converted Jews continued to keep the law, but for a different reason—not to earn God’s favor but to maintain a witness to their fellow Jews.  The Jerusalem Council agreed to fellowship with Gentile Christians who did not keep the law, but they asked the Gentile Christians to avoid several matters that would blatantly offend the law-honoring Jews.

The apostle Paul, the great theologian of the New Testament church, was taught strict adherence to the Torah in his Jewish upbringing (Acts 22:1-4; Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:4-6).  When he encountered the risen Christ, however, he came to see the law in a new way.  While Paul affirmed the verdict of the law, he found the law to be ineffective in overcoming sin.  The law could condemn, but could not save (Rom. 3:20-23).  The law kills, but the Spirit brings new life (Rom. 7:9; 8:1-4; 2 Cor. 3:6).

Paul realized that trying to achieve perfection through the law was doomed to frustration and failure.  Since salvation never would come through one’s righteousness, it must come only through the righteousness on Christ (Rom. 3:21-22).  Christ was thus the end of the law (10:4).  For Paul “it is only the man who is ‘in Christ’ who can keep the law, not with any thought of works-righteousness, but rather out of gratitude and in the liberty of one set free to love and obey.”2  Only the righteousness of Christ can truly fulfill “the law and the prophets” (3:21)!                                                                                                                                                                    Bi

1.  Reprint of an earlier Biblical Illustrator article, originally published in Spring 1988.

2.  Hans-Helmut Esser, “Law” in  The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, gen. ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986), 2:444.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2013-14.



By L. Milton Hankins

L. Milton Hankins is Pastor, Victoria Baptist Church, Victoria, Virginia.

NOWHERE IN THE GOSPELS do we find a stronger indictment of the judgmental attitude than in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 7:1-5. Utterly dismayed by sharp racial, religious, and class distinctions, Jesus decried the constant use of criticism and judgment to heap scorn and misery on the underprivileged. Most of the common people of Jesus’ day felt as though they had little or no contribution to make to their society either for better or for worse.  This dehumanization of the masses was felt most keenly among those people who were central to and, not incidentally, most receptive to Jesus’ message.

To those persons who elevated themselves at the expense of others, Jesus warned:

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? (Matt. 7:1-3, KJV).

In the Greek construction of the New Testament passage, the emphasis clearly lies on the beam that is in the critic’s eye and draws attention to the fact that such a person, while completely ignoring his own beam, will hasten to remove his neighbor’s speck.

As Don H. Stewart point out in his Matthew 5 – 7: Design for Discipleship:

The thought that a person might endure a large timber in his or her eye and still function was obviously impossible.  Yet, spiritually speaking, the self-righteous Pharisee types attempted to do that.  Jesus warned His disciples against such an effort.  Until an individual could see clearly, he or she was in no position to help any other person solve a vision problem. To attempt to do so was/is gross hypocrisy.1

Because Jesus grew up in the home of a Nazarene carpenter, we lean toward the assumption that His reference to “motes” and “beams” is rooted in childhood experiences in His father’s carpentry shop. If we make this assumption, however, we fail to take into account that first-century homes and smaller structures were built mostly of clay and stone with beams for roof support only. For obvious reasons, we must look elsewhere for the source of part of Jesus’ comment.

The karphos [KAR fohs], “mote,” as it is commonly translated, may have been a tiny piece of chaff, a dry stalk or twig,2 which might fly into the gleaner’s eye during the threshing process. Grain harvesting was practiced in the land from earliest times, and the word karphos generally was applied to this attendant hazard. Sometimes, the irritant was merely a small stem or a dry twig. These, too, were called “motes.” Interestingly, since we would more often think of a gnat invading our eye, the mote was always a small, vegetable body.

The dokos [doh KOSS], or “beam,” on the other hand, was a log or a large timber3 such as might be used to support a roof or portico. Small beams were used in the building of small dwelling places. Large beams were fairly often seen in large, public buildings.

We discovered an interesting coincidence while researching the etymology of the word translated “mote.” Our English word “mote” originally was related to the Anglo-Saxon “mot,” a small particle, which has come to mean “a short, pithy saying” in today’s English. We find a relevant saying in an exposition of the Book of Ruth by a third century AD rabbi named Jochanan. It sheds light on our focal passage. Jochanan referred to an ancient Jewish proverb from the Talmud, Bab. Bathra, that said:

A generation which when under judgment . . .judgeth its judges. When on saith to a man, Cast out the mote out of thine eyes, he saith (in answer), Cast out the beam out of thine eyes.4

It appears, then, that Jesus may have been referring to this ancient and especially appropriate Jewish proverb that was well known to His listeners. His reference, Oriental hyperbole at its best, likely earned Him a hearty laugh and enthusiastic approval. Although Jesus clearly was drawing attention to the hypocritical censorship of His opponents, His advice applied as well to His own followers who sometimes criticized those who sought their Master’s help.

Some Bible scholars have extrapolated on the passage to suggest that it was the censor’s violation of the law of love rather than his or her censorious disposition that is condemned here. Jesus’ teachings emphasize that we are to be loving in our dealings with one another. Others remind us that Jesus was not relieving His followers of their responsibility for making moral distinctions.

Others suggest that Jesus was showing how self-criticism prepares one for proper judgment. Failing to recognize that the right to judge was never ours, as we shall show, we nonetheless relinquish it reluctantly.

That God is the only one who may rightly judge us is an idea found in the earliest Scriptures. In the Book of Job, recognized as being among the most ancient writings of the Old Testament, God’s suffering servant Job acknowledged the righteousness of God’s judgment by saying, “Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge (Job 9:15).

Having listened patiently to the advice of his well-meaning critics, Job longed for the opportunity to appear before God, his Judge, that he might vindicate himself.

Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which he would say unto me . . . so should I be delivered for ever from my judge (Job 23:3-5,7b).

When Sarah observed how her handmaiden Hagar looked on her after the birth of Ishmael, she went to Abram admitting that her decision to allow Hagar to come in to him was less than proprietous. She cried out to him, “the Lord judge between me and thee” (Gen. 16:5b). When Abram gave the judgment to Sarah, allowing her to do with Hagar as she pleased, Sarah dealt harshly with the woman. Subsequently, it was the Almighty, the Righteous Judge, who came to Hagar’s rescue.

The simplest interpretation of the focal passage seems to be that those who put themselves in the ludicrous position of judging others must first be careful to be perfect themselves. To be otherwise is to become the hypocrite.

How eagerly, how often gleefully we rush to judge our neighbor with little or no consideration of our own faults. Jesus says to us that it is better to flee from any sort of judgment than to have that same judgment visited on us.                                                        Bi

1.  Don H. Stewart, Matthew 5 – 7: Design for Discipleship (Nashville: Convention Press, 1992), 106-107.

2.  Joseph Henry Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1976), 328.

3.  Thayer, 155.

4.  H. D. M. Spence and Joseph S. Exell, eds., “St. Matthew” in The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 33 (New York: Funk & Wagnall Company, n.d.), 280.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1996.



By Elmer L. Gray

Dr. Gray is editor of The California Southern Baptist, Fresno, California.

JESUS USED THE WORD “HYPOCRITE” more that anyone else in the Bible. It appears first in the New Testament in Matthew 6:2.

“Hypocrite” appears thirty-one times in the King James Version, eleven of which are in the Old Testament in Job, Proverbs, and Isaiah. The rest are in Matthew, Mark, and Luke where Jesus used the word.

In the King James New Testament, “hypocrite” is not a translation but a transliteration; that is, the translators simply used the same word Matthew used but they spelled in with English letters instead of Greek letters. In our day, “hypocrite” means to pretend to be something one is not. This meaning may have grown out of the way it was used in the King James Version, translated in 1611.

The Greek word hupocrites (hoo-poh-cry-TAYS), translated “hypocrite” was a theatrical term referring to actors. It was a compound word of a preposition (hupo) which means “under” and a noun (krites) which refers to a person expressing a judgment or making a statement. The word appears in writings as early as the fourth century BC in reference to reciting or acting in a play.

The persons whom Jesus called hypocrites, however, were not playactors. As a matter of fact, the word is never used  in the Bible to refer to an actor playing a part on a stage. Rather, the word may imply that the Pharisees Jesus condemned and those like them were guilty of sham, of pretending to be good when they knew they were not.  The Pharisees in general were deeply convinced of their own righteousness. They were not like the mask-wearers in a Greek play. They were intensely scrupulous persons. Fred L. Fisher says that the word “hypocrite,” therefore, as Jesus used it, should be translated “misguided.”1

What did Jesus means by his use of the term?  His use of it related more to Old Testament writings than to the Greek theater. The Old Testament term hanef (khah-NEFF), translated in the King James Version as “hypocrite,” refers to a person without piety,2 who is “godless” (Job 8:13)3 or “ungodly” (Isa. 9:17, NIV).

The Pharisees whom Jesus criticized were not insincere persons who pretended to be good. They did that which they had defined as good, and yet they knew that much of what they did was evil. By calling the Pharisees “hypocrites,” Jesus referred to their self-righteousness and confidence in their own goodness.  They had not intended to put on a false front.  The problem was that their self-concept was wrong.

They were in this sense like actors who played to the crowd.  They developed a morality for public applause. Therefore, they cultivated only a semblance of righteousness. They practiced the kind of honesty and uprightness that would evoke people’s praise.  They convinced themselves this was genuine righteousness and scorned any who spoke of the righteousness of faith or of the law of love. Their effort to impress people perverted their giving, praying, self-discipline, values, and even service to God.

“Hypocrisy” in the New Testament is more than a pretense. It is the action of people turning away from what God wants them to do to become instruments of evil. The Pharisees magnified the Law and meant thereby to serve God. Instead of serving God, they supplanted Him with the very Law He had given them. They became godless and impious persons.  This is the general meaning of “hypocrite” as Jesus used the term.

“Hypocrites” are blind persons attempting to lead other blind persons.                                                                                                                            Bi

1.  Fred L Fisher, The Sermon on the Mount (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1976), p. 102.

2.  Benjamin Cavies, ed., Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon (Boston: Bradley and Woodruff), p. 221.

3.  Holy Bible New International Version, copyright ã 1978, New York Bible Society. Used by Permission.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1983.


Pearls in the Ancient World

By Sharon Roberts

Sharon Roberts is assistant editor, General Office Section, Sunday School Department, The Sunday School Board, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


HROUGHOUT RECORDED HISTORY, the lustrous beauty of pearls has appealed to man’s aesthetic sense.  Pearls may have been strung as beads as early as the first Egyptian dynasty (3200 BC) when pieces of turquoise or carnelian, some of the earliest jewelry forms in the world, were used.  They have continued to rank high among precious possessions of all races.

The delicate formation of the pearl may account partially for man’s fascination with the jewel.  It is found inside several species of Mollusca and is composed of a substance identical with the iridescent lining of some shells—mother-of-pearl or nacre (NAY-kur).  This material is interspersed with alternate layers of calcium carbonate.  The animal membrane is known as conchiolin (kahng-KYE-uh-luhn), the calcium carbonate as aragonite (uh-RAG-uh-nite).

Actually the pearl develops from abnormal conditions in its environment.  Any mollusk with a shell of nacre has the capacity to produce a peral when foreign matter irritates the inside of its shell.  A parasite, worm, small fish, or even a grain of sand can disturb the comfort of a clam, oyster, or mussel sufficiently to form a pearl.  In trying to rid itself of the foreign substance, the mollusk covers the intruder with successive layers of carbonate of lime and nacre that forms the round, oval, or irregular shapes of pearls.  Each layer is extremely thin; the outer one is composed of nacre.

Contrary to popular opinion, not all pearls are valuable; some are not even attractive.  The most beautiful and costly of pearls are formed by the oyster species Pinctada margaritifera, which primarily inhabits the waters of the tropical seas.  These expensive pearls are called Oriental pearls because of their characteristic shimmering luster.  When held to the light, Oriental pearls show areas of reflected and refracted light very similar to opals.  Normally, Oriental pearls are white, although some varieties have been discovered to have yellowish, bluish, or the rarer salmon pink, reddish, and gray tints.  Black pearls are rare but no more valuable than white pearls.

Since early times, the Persian Gulf waters off the coast of Arabia have been famous for its pearl fisheries.  Today it still produces Oriental pearls.  The Gulf of Mannar, adjacent to the coast of Ceylon, is noted for the beautiful white and silver pearls which are produced in its waters.  The Red Sea area is another source of pearl-producing mollusks.  Today, of course, pearls come from areas unknown to the ancients.  Those fisheries in Ceylon are among the oldest ones specifically known to us, dating back to the early Christian era.

Since pearls lose their luster, it is helpful to wear them in order to retain their natural beauty.  The gems, though, usually are soft and easily scratched.

The unblemished pearl has been one of the most ancient symbols of perfection.  It was referred to frequently in the literature of ancient India and China.  Vedic ([YAYD-ik] early Hindu) literature mentions that the pearl was known in India before the influx of the Aryans ([AIR-ee-uhns] around 1500 BC).  Archaic Greek and Etruscan (ih-TRUHS-kuhn) jewelry (around 400 BC) featured borders of pearls that surrounded a central setting of colored gemstones.  Fine pearls were fished in the Persian Gulf during the powerful reign of Macedonia, and they were prized among the ancient Romans.  In fact, pearls were so highly valued in imperial Rome that only persons of specified rank were permitted to wear them.  Pliny spoke of pearls as “the richest merchandise of all, and most sovereign commodity in the whole world.”  Roman trade in pearls was conducted by a special corporation whose members were known as margaritarii  (notice the resemblance to oyster species Pinctada margaritifera).  Traditionally, the pearl was used as a precious article of commerce.

The ancients created fantastic stories regarding pearls.  Some believed that the pearl originally was a dewdrop from heaven that condensed within the seashell to form perfectly.  Others philosophized that the pearl mirrored the beauty of a day, much like a thermometer—it became limpid and clear when the skies were serene; turbid and cloudy when they were overcast.  Many persons believed the pearl’s iridescent beauty resulted out of sympathy with the rainbow.

Old Testament references to pearls are uncertain (see Job 28:18), but New Testament books mention pearls considerable more (see Matt. 7:6; 13:45-46; 1 Tim. 2:9; Rev. 17:4; 18:16; 21:21).  The New Testament writers tended to be less descriptive of material environments in their concern to communicate the spiritual nature of Jesus and His kingdom.  Some comments concerning jewelry (1 Tim. 2:9-10) actually were made in condemnation: Paul had seen too much personal devastation from wealth not to be alarmed.

Jewels were useful, too, in that a merchant could carry a pearl safely on his person.  This was no small detail, for he might pass through many dangerous areas before arriving at his destination.

While our facts about the commercial uses of pearls are limited, we can focus in on one biblical city which had an historical mother-of-pearl industry.  In fact, in Bethlehem today, artisans still continue to work on a small scale with mother-of-pearl.

In the Milk Grotto, an area adjacent to the Church of the Nativity, pearl artisans traditionally have developed their skills.  It is believed that the Crusades (by Italian families) marked the beginning of this work in Bethlehem.  Woodworking, begun by Franciscan fathers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, preceded the mother-of-pearl trade.  When Father Bernardino Amico did scale models of the holy sepulcher and the manger, he also worked in what was described as a “very fine stone.”

The shells that first were used in Bethlehem came from the Red Sea.  Artisans cut the delicate outer layer of mother-of-pearl into tiny pieces to make inlays or patterns.  This outer material also was suitable for bas-relief and miniature statuaries.  The inner layers have little use, which partially explains the high cost of mother-of-pearl.

We can intuitively assume that Jesus appreciated beautiful objects and that He chose the gleaming, lustrous pearl for a purpose.  Most of Christ’s listeners would readily understand how a merchant was willing to sell all for such a valuable gem.  Jesus longed for them to go further—to develop a similar passion for the kingdom of God.                                                                                                       Bi

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 39, No. 1; Fall 2012.




(6.325)  What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? Who compared his days to eagles swooping down on their prey?  Answer Next Week:

Last week’s question:  What tree’s fruit was symbolically represented on the clothing of Israel’s high priest? Answer: A pomegranate’s; Exodus 28:33.