The Gospel of Christ
According to the Evangelist Matthew
Chapter 5:1 – 11:1
Al-Hayat al-Fudla - Beirut – Lebanon
We introduce to you, with the help of God, the “Meditations on the Gospel of Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew,” which brings to light important guidelines in a commentary on this first and longest book of the New Testament, together with fundamental decisions of the Christian law.
The aim of our explanations is to give you a good understanding of the teachings of Christ, that you may study the rights of His new law, continue in your worship and cling to your Savior, according to His calls to repentance, faith and love.
At the end of every meditation, you will find a short prayer. We encourage you to pray it with us and complete it by adding words of your own, depending on your own needs, following the guidance of the Holy Spirit and commit yourself to your good Shepherd.
After these meditations and prayers, you will find questions, which can help you to penetrate deeply into the Word of God. If you answer, in brief, 80 percent of these questions well and mail to us your answers to the questions throughout the book, we will send you
‘The Certificate of Maturity
In the Study of the Gospel
According to the Evangelist Matthew’
We will also send you as a valuable gift a useful book to help you to acquaint yourself with the Holy Bible and bring the good news of salvation to those who do not know the living Christ.
If you have questions about faith, or about the Gospel, please write your questions on a separate sheet and send them to us stating your full name and address.
We pray that the Lord will bless you and keep you safe. May the Lord make His face shine upon you and give you peace.
Table of contents
CHRIST TEACHES AND MINISTERS IN
(MATTHEW 5:1 – 11:1)
(The First Collection of the Words of Jesus)
The Beatitudes 5:1-12
The Purpose of the Sermon on the Mount 5:13-16
The Infallibility and the Fulfillment of the
Law of Moses in the Law of Christ 5:17-48
Forbidding Murder Aims at Reconciliation 5:21-26
Forbidding Adultery Signifies Seeking Purity 5:27-32
Forbidding Oaths Signifies Telling the Truth 5:33-37
Meekness Overcomes Revenge 5:38-42
Hatred of Enemies is Replaced with Love 5:43-48
Almsgiving in Secret 6:1-4
Prayer in Solitude 6:5-8
The Lord’s Prayer 6:9-13
The Inevitable Seeking of Reconciliation 6:14,15
Fasting Joyously 6:16-18
He Who Collects Money for Himself Shall Serve Satan 6:19-24
Trusting the Providence of Your Heavenly Father 6:25-34
He Who Knows his Lord, Judges Himself not Others 7:1-6
The Prayer of Faith in God the Father 7:7-11
The Golden Rule 7:12
The Two Ways 7:13,14
The False Prophets 7:15-20
The Application of the Law
by the Power of the Holy Spirit 7:21-23
The Wise Man and the Foolish Man 7:24-29
2. THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST IN CAPERNAUM
AND ITS SURROUNDINGS 8:1-9:35
The Leper Healed 8:1-4
Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant 8:5-13
Peter’s Mother-in-law Healed 8:14-17
Principles of Following Jesus 8:18-22
Jesus Calms the Storm and the Waves 8:23-27
Thousand Devils Cast out of Two Possessed Men 8:28-34
Christ’s Authority and Power to Forgive and to Heal 9:1-8
The Calling of Matthew, the Tax Collector 9:9-13
The Baptist’s Disciples Question about Fasting 9:14-17
A Girl Brought Back to Life and a Woman Healed 9:18-26
Two Blind Men and a Dumb Man Healed 9:27-34
3. THE TWELVE DISCIPLES ARE SENT OUT
TO PREACH AND TO SERVE 9:35-11:1
The Great Compassion of Christ 9:35-38
The Calling of the Twelve Disciples 10:1-4
(The Second Collection of the Words of Christ)
The Fundamental Principles of Preaching 10:5-15
The Risks of Preaching 10:16-25
Encouragement Amidst Trouble 10:26-33
Division as a Result of Preaching 10:34-39
The Sublime Aim of Preaching 10:40-11:1
CHRIST TEACHES AND MINISTERS IN
(MATTHEW 5:1 - 11:1)
1. THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT
ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION OF THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
(MATTHEW 5:1 - 7:27)
(The First Collection of the Words of Jesus)
The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12)
5:1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. (2) Then He opened His mouth and taught them saying:
Christ had compassion on His people who knew neither their Lord nor themselves. He chose His disciples out of these lost ones. He called them and led them to a hill where He sat and taught His chosen disciples and the crowds around them. In the midst of nature, Christ declared the principles of the divine kingdom and revealed His heavenly constitution.
The many miraculous healings of Christ in Galilee, which we read about at the close of the previous chapter, were intended to prepare the way for this fundamental sermon and to dispose people to receive instructions from the One in whom appeared the divine power, goodness and mercy. Probably, this sermon was the summary of what He had preached in several synagogues of Galilee. His basic theme was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Through His sermon He wants to reform not only our acts but also our aims, not only our deeds but also our intentions. He reassures us of God’s word: “Return to Me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:7).
The place of the sermon was one of the hills in Galilee. Christ had no convenient place to preach in, any more than “to lay His head” on. While the scribes and Pharisees had Moses’ chair to sit in, with all possible comfort, honor and state, and there corrupted the law, our Lord Jesus, the great Teacher of truth had to choose a hill as His pulpit. This hill was not a holy place as the mountain of Zion. In this way Christ intimates that men should pray and preach the holy Gospel everywhere.
Christ delivered this sermon as an exposition of His divine law upon a mountain, because upon a “mountain” the Old Testament law was given. But observe the difference. When the law was given to Moses, the Lord “came down” upon the mountain, now the Lord “went up.” On the mount of Sinai the Lord spoke in thunder and lightning, but in Galilee, in a kind voice. Previously the people were ordered to keep their distance, now they were invited to draw near, a blessed change! (2Corinthians 3:7; Hebrew 12:18)
The listeners standing near to Jesus were His disciples who followed His call (Mark 3:13; Luke 6:13). To them He directed His speech, because they followed Him for love not of necessity, while others attended Him only for healing. He taught His followers, because they were willing to listen. They wanted to understand every word He taught. Because they were to teach others in future it was necessary that they should have a clear and distinct knowledge of all details of His Law themselves.
Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount with the unique word “Blessed.” He repeated it nine times like a bell ringing from heaven, proclaiming to us that happiness and rejoicing are the basis and the secret of the law of His kingdom. You do not have to fulfill burdensome commandments and statutes or perform certain rituals to enter the kingdom of God, but you should accept the kind words of Christ with the simplicity of faith. Then you will be saved from divine judgment and delivered from eternal punishment. Christ invites you to overwhelming joy since He did not come to destroy sinners but to save them. God’s constitution for mankind is based on everlasting joy, thankfulness and exultation, not on ordinances and tears.
QUESTION 43: Why does the law of Christ begin with the word “Blessed” instead of “You shall” or “You shall not?”
5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Isaiah 57:15)
Christ begins His sermon with beatitudes, for He came into the world to save and bless us. He came not just to provide some of His blessings for us, but to pour out all His blessings on us (Ephesians 1:3). He does it “as one having authority,” as one that can command the blessing and grant eternal life. He offers His blessing again and again, as He had promised to the repentant. He calls them “blessed and happy” and makes them so, for those whom He blesses, are blessed indeed.
The Old Testament ended with “a curse” (Malachi 4:6 [3:24]), the law of the New Testament begins with beatitude and “a blessing.” We are called to inherit His blessing.
Christ assures us, first, that nobody can enter the kingdom of heaven except through the Holy Spirit. Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit who unveils our sins and our wrong intentions. He breaks our pride that we might bow down and admit that we, the poor and miserable, are guilty and perishing before God’s holiness and appear unclean with respect to His cleanness and kindness of His majesty. We recognize our selfishness in the light of His love and our lying before the light of His truth. Blessed are you if the Spirit of God has uncovered your sins, led you into faithful repentance and cured you of your spiritual blindness. Then the gate of heaven is wide open to you for only a repentant sinner can come to God. The repentant sinner who comes to the Lord does not only enter the kingdom of heaven, but also possesses it as his inheritance eternally as it is his forever.
It is remarkable that Jesus chose his disciples only from the followers of John the Baptist. They had confessed their sins and were baptized in the river of Jordan. Only broken, repentant ones can enter the kingdom of God. The first beatitude is the unavoidable step to the riches of all the other beatitudes.
QUESTION 44: Why does “the poor by the spirit” enter into the kingdom of heaven?
5:4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (Psalm 126:5; Revelation 7:17)
The second ring of the bell of God’s love concerns those who mourn. Christ says full of compassion for them, “Do not weep, for a new era has begun. I overcame through my sacrificial death all reasons for distress and sorrow. The Spirit of God will come upon you and comfort you. This Holy Spirit is your peace and your hope” (Ephesians 1:14). The sorrow of your heart, no matter how big, is overcome by the joy and comfort of heaven. Christ gives certain hope to our sorrowful world; so rejoice, thank and be glad at His great salvation. Our songs and hymns of thankfulness and praise will overcome the deepest sorrow. Wait for the near coming of the Lord, as then He will fulfill our glorious hope. God will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Revelation 7:17; 21:4; Isaiah 25:8).
The happiness of heaven consists in being perfectly and eternally comforted. The joy of our Lord is “a fullness of joy and pleasures for evermore” (Psalm 16:11). It will be doubly sweet to those who have been prepared for it by a “godly sorrow.” Heaven will be a heaven indeed to those who suffer on earth. It will be a harvest of joy, the return of a “seed-time of tears” (Psalm 126:5-6); a mountain of joy, to which our way lies through a vale of tears (Psalm 30:5).
5:5 Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (Matthew 11:29; Psalm 37:29)
The meek rest in peace. They surrender and submit themselves to God, to His word and to His rod; they follow His directions and comply with His designs. They are gentle towards men and bear provocation without being inflamed by it. They are either silent, or return a soft answer; and who can show their displeasure when there is occasion for it, without resorting to any unbecoming behavior. They can be cool when others are hot and in their patience keep possession of their own souls, when they can scarcely keep possession of any thing else. They are the meek, who are seldom and with difficulty provoked, but quickly and easily pacified. They would rather forgive twenty injuries than revenge one, having the rule of their own spirits.
These meek ones are really blessed, even in this world. They are happy, for they follow Jesus who says, “Learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart” (Matthew 11:29). They imitate Christ who is Lord of His anger, and in whom fury is not. They are blessed and happy, for they have the most comfortable, undisturbed enjoyment of their Lord. They are fit for any relationship, any condition and any company – fit to live and fit to die.
But the powerful, leaders, rich and proud will mourn when Christ comes again. They will become desperate for they do not recognize the basic principles of the law of God and break it. They will be subjected to severe punishment and loss. The meek Christ will inherit the earth together with all those that have accepted Him and changed their nature from violence into meekness.
Question 45: Why will the meek and not the powerful inherit the earth?
5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. (Luke 18:9-14; John 6:35; Romans 3:23-24)
The fourth ring of the bell of God’s love inspires with hope those who hunger for righteousness, those who have woken up from their sleep in sins. Everyone desires to do good and longs for the success of humanity, but no one can do it of his own accord, for we are slaves of sin. Yet, Christ has justified all sinners through His sacrificial death. Whoever longs for righteousness and holiness can find in Christ the fullness of the divine righteousness prepared for him and shall receive the power to live up to the true love. Come to Jesus that He might cleanse your heart and renew you for steadfastness in God. Then you will not build your joy upon your personal abilities, but upon God’s grace only, since your faith has saved you, and the joy of Christ dwells in you.
Righteousness is a summary of all spiritual blessings (Psalm 24:5). These blessings we should hunger and thirst after. We are encouraged to desire them, as one who is hungry and thirsty desires food and drink and will not be satisfied with anything else. Our desires for spiritual blessings should be earnest and unceasing. God’s own righteousness is prepared for you. If you believe in Christ, you will be satisfied forever, for God’s righteousness is available to all who repent and accept it with thanks.
Oh Holy Lord, we love You and praise You, for You had mercy upon us in the coming of the beloved Christ. Please forgive us our pride, pessimism and violence. Purify us with the blood of Jesus and consecrate us by the power of Your Holy Spirit to live pure lives. Give us the certain hope that, together with all the faithful, we may enter into the joy of Your presence in the eternal kingdom.
Question 46: How does Christ quench our thirst for righteousness?
5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 25:35-46; James 2:13)
The merciful are those who are piously and charitably inclined to pity, help and succor others in misery. A man may be truly “merciful,” who has not means to be bountiful or liberal, then God accepts the willing mind. We must not only bear our own afflictions patiently, but partake of the afflictions of our brethren. Pity must be shown and bowels of mercy put on (Colossians 3:12).
We should have compassion on the souls of others too and help them, pity the ignorant, instruct the careless and warn who is in a state of sin and snatch him as a brand from the burning.
We should also have compassion on those who are in sorrow and comfort them and not be severe with them. We should recognize those who are in want and supply their needs with wisdom. “Extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul … share your bread with the hungry” (Isaiah 58:7,10). Nay, a “good man is merciful to his beast” (Proverbs 12:10).
He who is justified by the blood of Christ, the mercy of God dwells in his heart. He who loves Jesus for His great reconciling love, will voluntarily forgive all his enemies’ faults. He who has an anointing from the Holy Spirit, does not despise a simple man, he rather helps him, blesses him and comforts him. He sacrifices what he has for him. Thus, God is love! He who believes in our Father in heaven shall enter into that love. He who does not know God will remain in hatred, contempt and under judgment. Have you become merciful like Christ, the most merciful? If so, the power of God will flow from your heart into our dying world. Because of your faith in Christ, you will be justified and rise from the dead into everlasting life. You will be saved from the final judgment by His mercy only, which will be realized by the love of God poured into your heart through the Holy Spirit given to you. You are not saved by your good deeds but for the sake of the blood of Jesus Christ who changes you into a loving servant.
The merciful have a certain privilege as we read in the Old Testament, “Blessed is he who considers the poor” (Psalm 41:1). Herein we shall resemble God, as Jesus commands us, “Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). We are invited even to become perfect, as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). This is an evidence of the love of God. One of the purest and most refined delights in this world is mercifully doing good deeds. In this word, “Blessed are the merciful,” a word of Christ is included, which is only found in the testimony of His apostles, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Question 47: How can we change from being selfish into being merciful?
5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (Psalm 24:3‑5, 51:12-13; 1John 3:2-3)
Are you pure in heart? What do you dream of night and day? Christ wants to cleanse your heart, purify your inner thoughts and fill you with the purity of His Spirit, that lust and covetousness might not overcome you. He wants you to enter into the freedom of the children of God and admit that it is impossible for you to live in purity by our own efforts. However, the Spirit of God can overcome the evil desires of your soul and body, make your tongue true, control your thoughts and refine your feeling.
True faith brings heart-purity. Those who are inwardly pure, show themselves to be under the power of a pure and undefiled religion. True Christianity lies in the heart, in the purity of heart, the cleansing of the heart from wickedness. We should lift up to God, not only clean hands, but a pure heart (Psalm 24:4,5).
Jesus confesses, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matthew 15:19). If our hearts are the source of our uncleanness, we need a new heart, a cleansed conscience, which will be granted by the redemption of Jesus and His gift of the Holy Spirit.
God promises you that you will see His glory, not because of your achieved goodness or your own righteousness, but because the blood of Christ cleanses you from every sin (1John 1:7) and His powerful Spirit helps you to overcome the whims of your flesh. The joy of seeing God is promised to those, and those only, who are “pure in heart.” None but the pure in heart are granted to see God, and there will be no lasting joy for the impure, who will not see God. What pleasure could an unsanctified soul take in the vision of the holy God? As He cannot endure to look upon their iniquity, so they cannot endure to look upon His holiness. No unclean thing can enter into the new heaven, only those that are “pure in heart,” all who are sanctified, having desires wrought in them, which nothing but the sight of God will satisfy. The divine grace will not leave those desires unsatisfied.
Do you participate in the struggle of the Spirit of God against your sins? He who overcomes by the name of Jesus shall see God our heavenly Father and shall be with Him forever. Do you long to see God, or do you seek to return to your impure and corrupt old life? Come to your merciful Lord, and he will purify you through the blood of Jesus Christ, which cleanses us from all sin (1John 1:7). He is faithful to you, even if you slip into sin again unwillingly.
Question 48: How can you become pure? (1John 1:7)
5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Hebrews 12:14)
The seventh ring of the bell of God’s delight calls you to the service of peace. The faithful one does not live for himself. He does not relax into laziness and selfishness. He rather goes out as an intercessor between God and men and invites the perishing into peace with God. Tell people how the heavenly peace came to dwell in your heart. Call them to faith and hope. Then you are one in harmony with the Spirit of Christ and you become a brother of Christ, who by His death reconciled the world to God His Father. He wants to spread His peace all over the world. God in His love receives you into His heavenly family, then sends you to others to bring the message of peace to them. But never forget that there is no peace without the cross, and he who wishes to make peace without the Prince of Peace will definitely fail.
The peacemakers shall be called sons of God. The everlasting Lord will accept them as “His sons” and send them as peacemakers into the world full of hatred. God Himself is the God of peace; his only Son is the Prince of Peace; the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Peace. God has revealed Himself to us as our forgiving Father, but He will not accept those who are implacable in their enmity to one another. If the peacemakers are blessed, woe to the peace-breakers!
Christ never intended to have His religion spread by sword or fire, or penal laws, or to acknowledge bigotry, or intemperate zeal, as the mark of His disciples. The children of this world love to fish in troubled waters, but the children of God are the “peace-makers,” the “quiet in the land” (Psalm 35:20).
There was a critical objection on the ground that there is a difference and contradiction between this verse and the word of Jesus, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Christ is the real Prince of Peace who commands all his followers, “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you,” and “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also,” and “I tell you, not to resist an evil person,” and similar verses (Matthew 5:38-48).
He nonetheless says, “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” His purpose in this statement is not to create dissension and dispute or to remove love and peace. His purpose is to make a clear distinction between holiness and filthiness. There can be no agreement between His pure truthful spirit and the corrupt principles of those that have deviated from the truth and strayed from the right path by lying. Christ has come to create a distinction between truth and untruth, between light and darkness. Many young believers struggle with this call of Christ. They will not die in the struggle with themselves, but will suffer in their struggle with their relatives and friends who want to turn them away from truth. How often a new believer has acted in opposition to his parents out of love for his own salvation. How often a believer has preferred to follow the gospel and as a result enrage his relatives, friends and parents because he looks forward to that which is more lasting and better.
Question 49: How will Christ use you to bring peace to others?
5:10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (1Peter 3:14)
The eighth ring of joy sounds somehow bitter, for it is directed towards God’s servants, His peace-makers, those who are beaten for their love’s sake, mocked at for their bringing the good news of reconciliation to God and despised for forgiving others’ faults. Do you think the result of your preaching would be better received than that of Christ and his followers? Blessed are you if you suffer for the sake of your testimony. In case you are facing troubles for the sake of the righteousness of God and His gracious justification of sinners, you are in actual fellowship with Christ. As a result the Savior of the world will dwell with you, empower you, comfort you and keep you as the apple of His eye. Do not be angry bearing grudges against others, but rather rejoice, for your Lord is greater than the earthly possessions lost for the sake of His righteousness. He has provided for you a spiritual kingdom in His presence forever. All that God owns is waiting for those who are persecuted for the sake of His righteousness.
Question 50: Why do the propagators of the gospel of peace sometimes experience violent opposition?
5:11 Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. (12) Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 10:22; Acts 5:41; 1Peter 4:14; Hebrews 11:33-38; James 5:10)
The Lord repeats the blessing of his rejected messengers. For the spirit of the world hates God and those who are born of His Spirit. The sons of this world test the sons of the Most Holy as Satan had tested Christ and His apostles. The Lord tells them clearly, in advance, of what will happen to them. They may be “persecuted,” pursued, run down, abandoned as the “dregs of all things” (1Corinthians 4:13), fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, excluded from places of profit and trust, scourged, sometimes delivered to death and accounted as sheep for the slaughter. This has been the effect of the enmity of the serpent’s seed against the holy seed, ever since the time of righteous Abel. It was so in Old Testament times. Christ has told us that it would much more be so with the active believers in His church, and we are not to think it strange (1 John 3:13). He has left us an example.
In the bitter hour of suffering, when you lose your house or your job due to persecution, the Son of God encourages you to rejoice and be exceedingly glad. The sufferings of the present age are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in you and in other faithful believers. So why should you mourn? Rejoice, exult and be thankful, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
God will provide for those who suffer for His sake. Even those that loose their life shall not lose Him in the end. Life in heaven with Jesus, at last, will be an abundant recompense for all the difficulties we meet in our days.
The prophets were persecuted and abused like you. Can you expect to go to heaven any differently? Was not Isaiah mocked for his teachings and Elisha for his bald head? Therefore don’t marvel as if it is a strange event, and don’t murmur because it is a difficult thing. It is a comfort to see the way of suffering as a road traveled by many and as an honor to follow such leaders in faith. That grace which was sufficient for them, to carry them through their sufferings, shall not be less available to you. Those who are your enemies are the seed and successors of them who of old mocked the messengers of the Lord.
Therefore, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” It is not enough to be patient and content under these persecutions as under common afflictions and not to render railing for railing. You should rejoice, because the honor and dignity, the pleasure and advantage, of suffering for Christ, are much greater than the pain or shame of it. Not that we may take a pride in our sufferings (that would spoil all), but we should take a pleasure in them, as Paul (2Corinthians 12:10), knowing that Christ remains with us, and that he will not forsake us.
We thank You, Heavenly Father, for accepting us as Your sons by grace. Forgive us our fear, stubbornness and our clinging to earthly values. Teach us the mercy, patience and purity of Christ. Give us power and courage to confess the gospel of Your peace. Keep us when we are rejected by our friends and our family that we might bless those who hate us, love those who beat us and pray for those who persecute us. Make us firm in joy and gladness for You are with us, centered in us. Please comfort those who suffer today for Your holy name.
Question 51: What are the wages paid to persecuted believers?
The Purpose of the Sermon on the Mount:
The Application of the Law of God (5:13-16)
5:13 You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. (Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35)
Food without salt has no savor. Such is the world when there are no active followers of Christ. It loses the true love. As salt preserves food from putrefaction, so the message of Christ and its bearers keep the world from ending in total darkness. Just as salt compensates the loss of some substances of the body, the gospel builds the new life in those who are dead in sins. Without salt, human life cannot be sustained. Believers should have their lives seasoned with the gospel. The doctrine of the gospel is a “salt,” it is penetrating, quick, vivid and powerful. It reaches the heart. It is cleansing, relishing, and it preserves from putrefaction.
Salt was also required in the sacrifices (Leviticus 2:13) and in Ezekiel’s mystical temple (Ezekiel 43:24). Now Christ’s disciples, having themselves learned the doctrine of the gospel and being employed to teach it to others, were as salt. Thoughts and affections, words and actions, all are to be seasoned with grace (Colossians 4:6).
This is what they are to be in themselves. What should they be to others? They should not only be good but do good and influence the minds of people, not to serve secular interests of their own, but that they might transform others into the taste and relish of the gospel. Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, was unappetizing, ready to putrefy, but Christ sent forth his disciples, who by their lives and testimonies were to season it with knowledge and grace, and so to render it acceptable to God, to the angels and to all who desire the divine spirit.
If not, they are as salt that has lost its savor. If you, who should season others, are yourselves unsavory, empty of spiritual life, grace and vitality, your condition is sad, for you are in a disastrous state. “Wherewith shall it be salted?” Salt is a remedy for unsavory food, but there is no remedy for unsavory salt. Christ will give a man a flavor; but if that man will take up and continue the profession of it, and yet remain flat and foolish, graceless and insipid, no other doctrine and no other means can be applied to make him savory.
If the salt loses its flavor, it is then good for nothing. What use can it be put to, in which it will not do more harm than good? As a man without sense, so is a Christian without grace. He faces ruin and rejection. He shall be “cast out” – expelled from the church and the communion of the faithful, where he is a blot and a burden, and he will be rejected as trodden under foot of many.
Christ is inviting you to partake in building and preserving a new world amidst the corruption of our civilization. So do not be deceived by the thought that you can change people of our earth by means of your abilities, for whoever trusts human activities shall lose his message, become futile in words and in conduct, and people shall mock him. So do not reject the message of the gospel for it alone creates in you an ability to be the salt of the earth; otherwise people will reject you because of the insincerity of your love.
Question 52: What does it mean that Christ invites you to be “the salt of the earth?”
5:14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. (15) Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (John 8:12; Philippians 2:14-15; John 15:8; Ephesians 5:8-9)
How great is the grace of Christ! He caused the light of His kind love and the rays of His holy truth to glow in His followers. Do not think that the new light within you is yours. It is a gift of your Lord. Do not hide your divine gift fearing the opposition of men, for Christ has given you the constant privilege and hope to be lights in our pessimistic world. Do not be ashamed of being like a lit match for it can be seen from miles away, even in the darkest night. When Christians meet in fellowship sharing their faith they are like a city that is set on a hill shining as a group of glittering stars guiding straying vessels to the safety-port.
Christ is inviting you to be a light for those in darkness. He changes you into a witness of His virtues and enables you to proclaim His Name in your house, in your school and in your office. One young believer worked in a factory where people were ungodly. They tried to spoil him with their unclean words. His friends warned him, “Leave this work lest you fall into the pit of misery,” but he answered them, “I am not alone there. Christ stands by me, protects me and dwells in me. He promised not to leave me, and where I am there He is also, therefore I will fear no evil.”
The divine King of Kings orders you to pluck up courage and to radiate with the light shining in you. So do not hide yourself or keep yourself out of sight, but go on reassured as one sent by God to your neighbors and colleagues. Meet people and talk to them in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. What can people see in you all day long? Does Christ clearly shine in you?
Christ is inviting you to live a pure life. Then people will honor God for His kindness and power in you and will believe by virtue of your conduct whether the Spirit of God dwells in you.
As lights of the world, followers of Christ are shining – and they are being watched by all who know them. Some observers admire them, commend them, rejoice in them and seek to imitate them. Others envy them, hate them, censure them and seek to destroy them. All believers need therefore to walk circumspectly before men. They are examples of Gods gift to the world and should avoid all that is wrong, because they are constantly watched.
Christ gave you a chance and the privilege to participate in glorifying His Father in heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount we read in this verse for the first time the great secret that the almighty God is our Father! The Holy is neither far from us nor fearful to us. His divine love appears to us in the authority of “the Father.” Jesus enables people to believe in the Fatherhood of God through our conduct in the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit. You are allowed to be either a proof of the unity of the Holy Trinity or a reason for unbelief and reluctance of others. According to your nature you are a sinner since childhood, but the Spirit changes you from a lost person in darkness into a son of light. The Spirit of Jesus dwelling in you appears through your words and work, that the greatest promise should be fulfilled in you according to the words, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1John 4:16).
Our light must shine – by good works. Our deeds can cause others to think well about Christ. We should do good works that benefit others, but not that we might be seen. We are told to pray in secret, and what lies between God and our souls, should be kept to ourselves. But whatever is open and obvious to the sight of men, we should seek to make conformable with our profession and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Our friends should not only “hear” our good words, but also “see” our good works; that they may be convinced that religion is more than a bare name, and that we do not only confess our faith, but abide under the power of it.
Yet, for what purpose should our light shine? That those who see your good works may tend not to glorify you, but to glorify your Father, which is in heaven. The glory of God is the great aim we should keep in mind for all we do. We should not only endeavor to glorify God ourselves, but we are called to do all we can to bring others to glorify our Father in heaven.
Our good works could guide others to glorify God our Father. Let them see your good works, that they can recognize the power of God’s grace in you and begin to thank Him for its rays of piety in you. Let them see your kind behavior, that they may be convinced of the truth and excellence of the Christian religion and be provoked by a holy zeal to imitate your good works and glorify the holy God.
Believers in some difficult countries are unable to express their faith openly before conservative fanatics, but their silent conduct is a living testimony to their Savior and Heavenly Father.
O Heavenly Father, You are the holy light. You have sent your beloved Son Jesus as a shining light into our world. We were in darkness, but the Spirit of Your Son furnished us with divine light. Please let Your light shine into our surroundings that many people will be freed from their sins and become pleasing lights too. We glorify You for Your great salvation and seek Your guidance in the best use of the light that no one would become an unbeliever because of our acts, but recognize You in us. Amen.
Question 53: How can you be a light in the world?
The Infallibility and Fulfillment of the Law of Moses
In the Law of Christ (5:17-48)
5:17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. (18) For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass way, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (19) Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (20) For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. (Luke 16:17; Romans 3:31; 10:4; James 2:10; 1John 2:7)
Do not preach nor teach the gospel with zeal unless you are certain that Christ had called you into this service, for He weighs not only your words, but your acts as well. If you do not do what you talk and preach, you are a hypocrite and a deceiver. If you do not conduct yourself prudently, your testimony will be meaningless. Your acts are the measure of your words.
Christ alone is the perfect teacher of the Law of Moses and of His own Gospel. He did not cancel any essential commandment of the Law but fulfilled them in explanation and teaching and lived them out in His perfect life. Christ protected the infallibility of the inspiration of the Old Testament by His clear declarations. Who will then dare to claim that the scriptures of the Old Testament and the Prophets are corrupted after having been verified by the Son of God? Neither the least jot nor the smallest tittle of His divine inspiration has passed away or been changed. It is stupid to despise the Old Testament, its promises and commandments proclaimed to the patriarchs and chosen prophets, for God, from antiquity, spoke to men during their history and their particular situations. The Word of God is neither a fantastic philosophy nor a common subject. The Holy One chose sinners and made a covenant with them, guided them by His Law and punished them in His anger. Those who attack and reject the Old Testament are poor indeed, for they reject the Word of God and consequently God Himself.
Woe to the man, who is called by the Lord to preach the whole Word of God, but changes it a bit or denies its inspiration. It would be better for that person to have a large millstone tied around his neck and be drowned. Everyone who changes, falsifies, or criticizes the Word of God wrongs not only himself but new believers as well. When Christ calls you to preach, announce His word with fear and wisdom that you might not be a reason for the hardening of yourself and others.
Christ invites us not only to the Old Testament, but also to Himself. In Him the Word of God became flesh. He was the Law moving among us, the incarnate love of His Father. So let us adhere not to lifeless letters but to the living Son of God. He has fulfilled the Law by His deeds on earth. He is now perfecting it by His faithful intercession and will complete it in His second coming. Then, the necessity to Law ends, for the heavens and the earth will pass away; our Lord creates a new earth and a new heaven in which those born of the Holy Spirit will dwell in righteousness.
But since we are still on earth, Christ declared to His disciples, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:34). With these words, Christ summarized the Mosaic Law and His own Law in one sentence, making Himself, the measure of our love. Thus, He is our incarnate Law, for He lived out what he said.
The Son of Man knows that no man can fulfill His law completely; therefore, He established through His atonement a comprehensive justification and granted His followers the power to fulfill His commandments. Let us not serve God and men by our own ability but by the guidance of the power of His grace, as Paul, the apostle, admitted, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2). Accordingly, neither the Law of Moses nor any Christian Law can press on us any more since they have been fulfilled by Christ for us.
The Law of Moses was given to train us in repentance and to judge us spiritually, but Christ came to fulfill the law in our place. The Holy Spirit comes to us as law and also as the power to fulfill it at the same time. He pushes us to keep it through His remaining in us.
Observe that the care of God concerning His law extends itself even to subtle details that seem to be of least account in it, “one jot or one dot”; for whatever belongs to God and bears His stamp, be it ever so little, shall be preserved. The laws of men are full of imperfection, but God will stand by and maintain every jot and every tittle of His law.
Some people claim that the books of the Old Testament had been corrupted. But in these verses we read the unique confirmation of the infallibility of the unchanged Torah, Psalms and Prophets by the Son of God. Whatever critics may say is of no value compared to the authority of Jesus, who is truth in Himself.
O Father, we thank You and glorify You, for Christ has fulfilled the law by His love and suffering; He is the incarnate law. Forgive us our many faults and sins. Teach us obedience and mercy in the power of Your Spirit, that we may follow Christ and live under the compulsion of His power according to the law of Spirit centered in our hearts.
Question 54: How can we keep the holy Law of God?
A. Our Duties Towards Men.
Forbidding Murder Aims at Reconciliation (5:21-26)
5:21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. (22) But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, Raca! Shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, you fool! Shall be in danger of hell fire. (23) Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, (24) leave your gift there before the altar and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (25) Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. (26) Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. (Exodus 20:13; 21:12; Mark 11:25; Matthew 18:23-35; Luke 12:58-59; 1John 3:15)
Christ, by His authority, proved the Law of Moses. He put us in His shining light, uncovering the hidden intents of our hearts. He did not stress on legal interpretations of the constitution of the kingdom of God, and did not describe the principles of the creed of faith, but He made His divine love the true measure of our daily life. Holy love is the fulfillment of the law and the fundamental piety of the kingdom of heaven.
A killer deserves judgment and severe punishment in our world. He will also experience God’s wrath in the final judgment and live restless forever, unless he repents and is justified by Christ.
Christ tells us that rash anger is like murder popping up from the heart, which breaks the sixth commandment. Anger is a natural passion and can sometimes be lawful and laudable, but it is sinful, when we are angry without an essential cause. When, for example, we are angry with children or servants for mistakes or forgetfulness that we ourselves might easily have been guilty of, it is “without cause.” When anger exceeds due bounds, when we are hardy and headstrong in our anger, violent and vehement, outrageous and mischievous, and when we seek the hurt of those we are displeased with, it is “without cause.” This is a breach of the sixth commandment, for he that is this angry would kill if he knew he would suffer no consequences. Cain’s killing of his brother began with anger. He is a murderer in the reckoning of God, who knows our heart, out of which murder comes (Matthew 15:19).
Speaking in abusive language to our brother is tongue-murder. When God examines your heart, what will He find in it? Love or hate? When such language is given with mildness and for a good end, to convince others of their vanity and folly, it is not sinful. Even James says, “O foolish man” (James 2:20); and Paul, “Foolish one” (1Corinthians 15:36); and Christ himself, “O foolish ones and slow of heart” (Luke 24:25). But when it proceeds from anger and malice within, it is the smoke of that fire which is kindled from hell and falls under the character of murder.
“Raca” was a scornful word and came from pride. It says, “You empty-headed fellow,” looking upon one’s brother, not only as mean and not to be honored, but as vile and not to be loved. Malicious censures are “poison under the tongue,” that kills secretly and slowly. Bitter words are as arrows that would suddenly wound (Psalm 64:3), or as a sword in the bones.
How many times did you dishonor a man calling him an animal? Be sure that in such a case you deserve the flame of hell for every word like this. God is love, and he who does not love like Him contradicts His law. All the intents that are not based on His love will fall down for they are woven with selfishness. Everyone who does not love is a killer in his heart, who shall receive the wages of a killer. Do not think that these words are philosophy and fantasies; they are an explanation of the divine constitution from the pious judge Himself. Did you recognize that you are a killer in the eyes of the Lord, and a heart of a killer is beating within you?
We ought to train ourselves in Christian love and carefully preserve peace with our brethren. If at any time a breach happens, we should labor for a reconciliation, by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to our brothers, begging their forgiveness and making restitution, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed, as appropriate. We should repent quickly for two reasons:
1. Until we have faithfully tried to reconcile, we are utterly stressing our communion with God in holy ordinances.
2. We will not be acceptable to God, if we remain in anger, envy, malice and spite and behave without love. These sins are displeasing God, since nothing pleases Him which comes from a heart wherein hatred and enmity remain dominant. Prayers made in anger are offered mostly in vain (Isaiah 1:15; 58:4).
Do you love your enemy? If you say yes, prove it. Go to him and be reconciled to him. Do not say superficially, there is nothing wrong between us. Go to him, knock at his door and visit him. If you were wrong, even one percent in the matter with him, humble yourself and beg his forgiveness. You make the first contact, for this is the direction God’s love guides you. How can you pray to God when you live in bitter enmity with someone? Judgment will be more severe on believers with hatred in their hearts than on sinners who have never repented. Hypocrisy before God is filthier than the offense. Woe to you if you praise God and hate your brother! Ask God to forgive your pride and lead you actually to a complete reconciliation. God is love, and if you are filled with His love, He will make you a merciful, tolerant and humble child of His. If you do not respond to this purpose of God, you will fall prey to a hateful spirit – a killer since the beginning. Did you let God melt your stony heart? Go at once and be reconciled to your adversary as long as you both live.
O Holy Lord, who am I? Deep in my heart I am a rejecting, hateful killer. Please forgive my malice. Purify my heart and make it clean with the blood of Your only Son who loved us to death though we were His enemies. We pray that you will renew our hearts with the power of Your Holy Spirit that we may be filled with love and determination to be reconciled to our adversaries in wisdom and live with them in peace.
Question 55: Who is a killer according to the Law of Christ?
Forbidding Adultery Signifies Seeking Purity (5:27-32)
5:27 You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery. (28) But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (29) If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (30) And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. (Exodus 20:14; 2Samuel 11:2; Job 31:1; 2Peter 2:14)
Christ is the divine legislator in the New Covenant. He confirmed the essential meanings of the old law and explained and developed them with the holiness of His love. He did not abrogate the previous commandments but fulfilled them by teaching and by His conduct. He had the authority to declare, “But I say to you.” In these verses, we read an exposition of the seventh commandment given by the same hand that had set the original law. He has the right and the wisdom to be the interpreter of it. This law against any uncleanness fitly follows upon the former. That one laid a restraint upon sinful acts, this one upon sinful intentions, both which ought always to be under the government of reason and conscience, and if indulged, are equally pernicious.
Christ loves sinners and invites them to salvation. Therefore, we should not despise any kind of sinner but rather love them. People usually point to a woman who conceived in sin or gave birth to an illegitimate son, condemning her evil deed, not knowing that they are more evil than her, for whoever looks at another person with the eye of lust is considered an adulterer before God. Men are full of lust, impure motives and unclean desires. We are all corrupt in our intents and dreams. There is no one who does what is right (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:12). So beware of hypocrisy and do not claim that you are better than the rejected and despised adulterer. Confess and say, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13).
Did you recognize that every man is a real sinner in his nature? Christ addressed the tempted sinner saying, “Pluck out your offending eye and throw it away.” Christ is aware of the intents of the heart, the source of evil. We are in need of a spiritual doctor to cure and renew our deceiving hearts. Even more, that He will “create in us a clean heart and renew a stedfast spirit within us” (Psalm 51:2).
If you cut off your offending hand, your tongue will remain, in spite of that, polluted with slander and evil words. None of the apostles carried out this command of Christ, but they received a new heart, cleanness of the Holy Spirit and divine purity. When Christ said, “Pluck out your eye” and “Cut off your hand,” He did not inspire us to practice that literally, but He wished to reveal to us our condition and show the extent of the danger, which lies in wait for us and can lead everyone of us to hell.
Our flesh is impure and our soul is evil from our youth. But the blood of Christ is able to cleanse our conscience of every deadly act, and His Holy Spirit builds in us the new desire that overcomes your flaming lusts. If you fall into sin, do not stay in its mud. Get up and resort to your Lord. He is aware of your longing for purity, and He supports you in achieving victory over self. Abide in Christ, for He is the only way to a pure life. He is the true Savior, and your faithful Helper who does not condemn you but continuously loves you. He waits for you!
O Holy Lord, we appear unclean before Your purity and holiness. Please forgive us every unclean thought, bad word and wrong action. Purify us completely. Create in us a clean heart through the indwelling of Your Holy Spirit. Forgive us our sins that we will follow Your guidance. Help us to avoid circumstances that lead us into immorality and adultery. Sanctify us completely that You may not separate us from Yourself.
Question 56: How are we freed from the temptations that lead us to uncleanness and adultery?
5:31 Furthermore it has been said, Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce. (32) But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. (Deuteronomy 24:1; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:4-12)
Man’s divorcing of his wife for any cause (except adultery), is a violation of the seventh commandment, as it opens a door to continuous adultery. Jesus explains, “It has been said”; He does not say as before, “it was said to those of old.” This was not a precept like other commandments, as the Pharisees wanted to believe, this was a permission.
Some of their Old Testament regulations suggested that a man should not divorce his wife by word of mouth when he is in rage. He should do it deliberately by a legal instrument in writing, attested by witnesses. If he would dissolve the matrimonial bond, he may do it solemnly. Thus some of their laws tried to prevent rash and hasty divorces. In earlier times, writing was not common among the Jews, and that made divorce something rare. But in the process of time it became common, and this direction of how to do it, when there was just cause for it, was understood as permission of it for any cause.
God, in His mercy, brought in the ordinance of “marriage to one woman only,” that each of the partners would serve the other in true love and mutual respect. The secret in the matrimonial bond is not the unity of the flesh alone but the respect and appreciation shown to each other. The Holy Spirit will sanctify the relationship between both partners if they continue in the word of the Gospel and in love.
If one of them commits adultery, this could be the result of a previous spiritual separation between both, that they lost mutual confidence, respect, service and caring. But if they live in godliness, His love will bless their love and keep them in harmony and sympathy. If Jesus is not the Lord of any marriage covenant, the practice of adultery will penetrate faster than we can imagine. Christ will be the sponsor in marriage, if the partners faithfully abide in Him, for He teaches us forgiveness, tolerance, patience and endurance.
Christ, to Him be the glory, did not open the door of breaking the matrimonial relation as other religions did. When the matrimonial relationship is broken because of spiritual discord or dislike, and the will for forgiveness is lost, then some suggest the possibility of divorce, but that is contrary to Christ’s commandment. They claim that such a divorce would be the best solution for both partners to avoid quarrels and violence. Those poor people ignore the power of divine love and the reconciliation in the cross of Christ.
Every divorce (except in case of adultery) is considered as adultery. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate. The matrimonial unity is established not only by the flesh but also by the soul. The woman remains related to her first husband even if she were married to another man. Woe to the partner who does not forgive and divorces thoughtlessly. He would be the greatest sinner. We are all stained with sin and need God’s ongoing forgiveness and an every-day purification of our inner feeling. The Holy Spirit is able to cure our subconscious diseases and to purify us. Without the Spirit of Christ, we are not able to practice sound marriage or lasting purification, because this Spirit honors the Creator and does not deny natural principles.
O Lord Jesus, we worship You because You lived among us in perfect purity, and Your Holy Spirit controlled Your body with absolute purity. Please forgive us our egotistic lust and bad deeds and plant in us the purity of Your Holy Spirit that we may be humble and forgive others as You have forgiven us. And help us to forgive the adulterer instead of condemning him.
Question 57: Who is an adulterer according to the Law of Christ?
Forbidding Oaths Signifies Telling the Truth (5:33-37)
5:33 Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord. (34) But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; (35) nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. (36) Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. (37) But let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No. For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. (Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:3; Matthew 23:16-22; James 5:12)
The world overflows from lying, deception and exaggeration. Every man flatters the other. Students cheat in their exams. The germs of deception and cheating penetrate into the areas of commerce, politics and different aspects of social life. The greatest deception is that people swear by God for their devious lying, due to the sense of weakness in their statements. Hasty swearing often indicates hidden lying.
Some people pretend that they are clever and that their ideas are undoubtedly right, but God alone knows every secret. He is the Omniscient One and aware of our intents and of the real reasons for our actions. Our knowledge is not perfect but limited, and our judgments are not always sound. Without God’s help, our knowledge and judgments are as far removed from God’s as heaven is from our world.
It is difficult to know one’s attitude or words even though they were supported by an oath. We have to admit that sometimes we do not know the truth. Then we will listen to others’ views and get ready to learn from friends, even from the simple minded and their positive experiences, knowing that we all are useless servants (Luke 17:10). A proud person or a fanatic swears since he dreams that he is sure of himself; but a believer does not trust in himself but in his Savior, the Lord.
The Holy Spirit teaches us to always tell the truth humbly and without exaggeration; and guides us to glorify and honor God. Here we find the initial difference between the liar and ourselves. They appear proud, longing for celebrity, just like their wicked father, Satan, who cheated himself imagining himself as great; while we, in Christ, humble ourselves, confessing our weakness and sins and cling to God’s salvation and grace, seeking His guidance.
Jesus has freed us from serving persons of distinction and guides us to serve everyone in truth. Love without truth is lying. Similarly, truth without love can be like killing. Let us exercise love based on truth and offer God’s truth in the wisdom of love.
Christ, alone, is able to save us from every lie and exaggeration. He who enters His school of the divine truth learns to reject lies, even “white lies,” and not to take the name of God in vain. We should learn to honor Him with straight testimonies, that our tongue might become true and our conscience holy, for we are not the children of the father of lies, but of the Father of truth. We should not speak more then necessary, and when we have to speak, it should be short and clear and in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.
O Heavenly Father, our tongues often tell lies. Please burn every exaggeration, every twisting and every lie out of them. Teach us humbleness that we may become true in Your Holy Spirit. Illuminate us that we may know the truth. Guide us to the truth and fill us in Your name, for You are the truth, that we may become true in our intents and thoughts and walk in truth, rightness and justice. Let the Spirit of Truth reign in our thoughts and words.
Question 58: How can we become true in speech, actions and behavior?
Meekness Overcomes Revenge (5:38-42)
5:38 You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. (39) But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. (Exodus 21:24; John 18:22-23; Romans 12:19-21)
This old legislation was a fixed principal to the judges of the Jewish nation until today. They had to inflict punishment in cases of maiming, for frighten everyone who planed to do mischief on the one hand, and for a restraint to such as have suffered mischief done to them on the other. They should not insist on a greater punishment than is proper. It is not written, “a life for an eye,” or “a limb for the tooth.” But everyone should observe exactly the proportion, “an eye for an eye” only. It is intimated (Numbers 35:31), that the forfeiture in this case might be redeemed with money; for when it is provided that “no ransom shall be taken for the life of a murderer,” it is supposed that for maiming a pecuniary satisfaction was allowed.
Christ, the essence of truth, has declared Himself as love, for He is the incarnate truth. Jews and Muslims cannot prevent anybody from taking revenge, for their laws command them to do so. If they forgive freely, they have sinned. However, the New Testament considers any kind of revenge a sin, since Christ has carried the guilt and even suffered the punishment for every sinner. Therefore he was entitled to reveal the new law of love which supports us with the right to forgive and the power of meekness to give up our assumed rights willingly. The blood of Jesus has silenced the demands of the Old Testament law: No forgiveness without bloodshed! (Hebrew 9:22) Since the sinless Son of God died on the cross for all, revenge is no longer necessary. Jesus has freed us from this demand of this Mosaic Law.
The Holy Spirit forbids us from carrying out our supposed rights and personal aims with violence. He does not allow us to attain our desires using devious ways. God is love and He does not accept disobedience. His Spirit fights against the principles of vengeance. He is the divine stream of patience and toleration. Therefore, we wait for the providence of God and yield to His right guidance. You might ask, “Is this attitude not a weakness and failure to the will of man and a treading on his rights, which might open the door to increased wickedness?”
No! The meek one is the stronger if he submits himself to God, but the avenger is the weaker, for he allows hatred to rule his heart. He who renders evil for evil to anyone is as wicked as his adversary is, but he who meets iniquity with love is victorious over his selfishness. Wars and quarrels do not build any society. They destroy and poison it, but love, confidence, meekness, condescension and patience open to us the gate of hope.
Christ does not always expect from us a literal obedience with His saying, “Whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.” When He was slapped during His trial before Ananias, the high priest, He did not ask the servant to slap Him again (John 18:22 and Acts 23:2). Christ makes clear to us that our exaggerated sensibility should be crushed, if we desire to enter the kingdom of heaven. So, give up your rights and do not defend yourself too much. Commit yourselves unto the Lord, and He will take the responsibility for you. The Holy Spirit will overcome your boiling agitating soul. If anyone slaps you, the proper thought would be: I deserve to be slapped for the numerous sins that I have committed. Blessed be God our Father that my meek Savior bore more than my painful slaps on the cross for me.
O Heavenly Father, You are the truth full of love. For your righteousness You should punish every sin and sinner; but You loved us and put all our sins upon Your beloved Son that He might suffer instead of us. You delivered us from our punishment and forgave us our sins. Your Son paid and died for everyone. So we can also forgive our enemies since Christ took away their sins and their punishment as well. Please help us to forgive without exception that we may not harbor feelings of hatred against those who do evil to us.
Question 59: How did Christ deliver us from the law of revenge and punishment?
5:40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. (41) And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. (42) Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. (1Corinthians 6:7; Hebrew 10:34)
Christ also delivers us from materialism, for he lived among us – poor, meek and content. Today He changes us into His own image. This divine purpose was realized in the experience of a carpenter who was coming back to his house after meeting with his Christian brothers. He saw two thieves carrying logs out of his plant. The carpenter overcame himself. He helped them and added some other articles. He finally accompanied them to the car, which made them think he was also a thief willing to participate in their crime, but they soon blushed when he told them he was the owner of the plant. He met their theft with meekness and love. One of them was so ashamed of himself that he repented and committed himself to Christ confessing his sins. Do not forget that Christ is willing to free your heart from your rights and possessions to loving sacrifice and silent service.
The sum of this is that Christians must not be litigious. Small injuries must be overlooked. If the injury requires us to seek reparation, it must be for a good end and without thought of revenge. We must not invite injuries, yet we must meet them cheerfully in the way of duty and make the best of them. If any one says, “Flesh and blood cannot pass by such an affront,” let them remember that “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1Corinthians 15:50).
The Holy Spirit leads us to give wisely and generously from our food and money so that we may not become greedy. Our Heavenly Father did not demand from us almsgiving, fasting and praying as a provision for our salvation, since He is the unlimited lover and the giver, free of charge. He blesses us and saves us together with all who accept his generous kindness. His purpose is that we, as well, become an overflowing stream of His grace, lend to the needy without interest, refuse the love of money in us and glorify His name in the life of sacrifice.
Let us be ready to lend, which is sometimes as great a piece of charity as giving, as it not only relieves the present emergency, but also obliges the borrower to providence, activity and honesty. Therefore, do not turn him away, he that would borrow from you something to live on, or something to trade on. Do not shun those that you know have such a request to make to you, nor contrive excuses to shake them off. Be easy of access to him that would borrow: though he be bashful, and have not confidence to make known his case and beg the favor, yet you know both his need and his desire, and therefore offer him kindness as possible and wisely.
Heavenly Father, You are full of patience and love, and Your Son is the mild, gentle incarnate One. Please forgive us our disobedience and excessive sensitiveness and put to death our selfishness and hard hearts that we may become strong to sacrifice and humility, bear the sinners and draw their hearts to repentance by love, that they may also behave as children of Your Holy Spirit.
Question 60: Who are the self-released?
Hatred of Enemies is Replaced with Love (5:43-48)
5:43 You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. (44) But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, (45) that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (46) For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47) And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? (48) Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Exodus 23:4-5; Leviticus 19:2.18; Romans 12:14-20)
The Old Testament did not mention any teaching that one must hate their enemy. However, the Pharisees and the scribes concluded from Leviticus 19:18 that the commandment to love their neighbor requires them to hate the enemy, because the laws of the tribes demand reservation of rights, adherence to honesty and keeping away from the enemy. Christ’s kingdom destroys the boundary of tribes and nationalities by giving all people access to God’s love and by calling us to follow Him. Therefore, your faith in Christ is proved through your love for your enemy, not toleration of him. Love for the enemy is much higher than a mere human virtue. Without Christ, it is impossible for a normal man to practice.
If somebody wants to love his enemy, he has to cast away his selfishness, think of the beloved and look after him actually. How rather if your Lord asked you to love your enemy? Had the spiritual fellowship between Christ and the believer not been firm, no one could ever carry out this commandment. So thanks to our Savior, because His Spirit leads us to overcome our hate and helps us to love everybody. But beware! As long as you are angry with someone or some group of people, the Spirit of God can hardly overcome your wicked motives.
· Pray for them that persecute you. This is the first step in realizing love for your enemy. Once there was a man who did wrong to a colleague and his family, which troubled their lives, but the Spirit of God urged the colleague to pray for the offender, so he asked his Lord to keep on blessing his adversary more than his own family. Our Father in heaven wants to bless you by your adversary through the joyous prayers of your heart.
· If you are freed from resentment and have brought down the blessing upon your adversary through your prayers, you can visit him. If he is in distress, help him in a way that he does not notice your help so that he might not be embarrassed by you. Spend as much as you can to save him and his house, in body, soul and spirit, even if he does not accept you but carries on rejecting you, for God treats us, as humans, this way in spite of our disobedience.
· Your position would not be better than that of God and His Son. As much as men rejected the love and the sacrifice of Jesus mockingly, they might not accept your love and might not trust you, but meet your attempts to help them with insults. They would raise a complaint against you to the authorities accusing you of deception and wickedness, because there is a strange spirit working in them. But you have become a child of the peace of God and you understand some of the motives in others. Ask your Heavenly Father to free them from their malice and shower them with love as God did you. He is the Almighty who can overcome and crush also the stony heart of your enemy.
· God is love. He has called us to guide us into the fullness of mercy. His call to perfection leads us to brokenness so that we may confess our failures, especially in loving our enemy. But our Father in heaven gives us a deposit of His own perfection and forgives our sins completely through the blood of His Son. This purification is perfect since there is no purity greater than the forgiveness of the crucified. Finally, for your free justification, God pours His own Spirit with His complete love into the heart of the believer. Christ is not a theoretical philosopher who speaks of inapplicable ideals, but He is perfect in Himself. He gives you in the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in your heart the evidence of perfection shown in your love for the enemy.
· You are unable to perfect love by your own accord, but as God’s spiritual child it is possible. The essence of love requires partnership, therefore God revealed Himself as the Father of Jesus. Likewise believers should love one another in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Do you meet with believers in the patience and amazing love of Jesus? How does the perfect love of God appear in your life?
O Father, thank You for calling us through Your Son to become perfect like You. But we are often disobedient and stubborn sinners, and Your love raises us from the mud of our sins to Your level through our purification by the blood of Jesus, that we may be righteous and pure in perfection. Your Holy Spirit is the divine power and the sign of Your perfection in us, the failures. Please enable us to really love our enemies and adversaries, that Your joy in us may be fulfilled.
Question 61: How can we be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect?
He who penetrates into the above-mentioned new commandments of Christ, will notice that He does not talk much either about the sinner’s breaking of the Law of Moses or about the penalties imposed thereon. These principles were written in the old Scriptures thousands of years ago and there was no need to bring them back or repeat them once again.
Christ came to fulfill the Law of Moses. He revealed and examined the intents in the sinner. Christ does not aim to punish us, as is required by the Law, but to deliver us from the evil motives in us that dominate us and to sanctify us to the uttermost. Therefore, He renews our aims, changes our purposes, establishes love in us and leads us into purity and temperance. The Christian Law is neither hidden nor pressing on man. Christ does not want to educate the sinner by punishment and break him through penalties. He rather intends to change us into His own image, into the image of His Heavenly Father, that the purpose of creation could be fulfilled in us “God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him” (Genesis 1:27). Christ loves and purifies the sinner, but He fully rejects the sin and consequently reveals our innermost thoughts. Because of our weakness, He bore our sins on His heart and took upon Himself our severe judgment to fulfill in Himself the love required from us. On the basis of His atonement He poured His Holy Spirit into our hearts to create new understanding in us so that we might love one another as He loved us.
The essence of His Law is love, for God is love and Christ carries out His law in us by changing our intents and giving us the power of the Holy Spirit that we may comply with His law. Thus, the prophet David prayed and said, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
Question 62: What is the radical difference between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ?
B. Our Duties Towards God (6:1-18)
Almsgiving in Secret (6:1-4)
6:1 Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have not reward from your Father in heaven. (2) Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (3) But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. (1Corinthians 13:3; Matthew 25:37-40; Romans 12:8)
Matthew was a tax collector at the Roman customs in Capernaum. He became an expert in unveiling the deception of merchants and travelers. He observed how people loved their money and held on to it. So, he understood clearly from the sermon of Christ about worship that every righteous should offer donations to God. Matthew was convinced that the sincerity of the worshipers could be seen in the way and the amount of money they offered.
Jesus did not talk much about the value of the offering by a believer, but stressed the way of making it and concentrated on the intent of his mind why and how to give.
Christ did not ask His followers to pay the tithe. He rather concentrated on the sacrifice originating from a merciful heart by reason of love, just as He has sacrificed Himself completely for sinners. As such, He expected His followers to participate in the responsibility of the church in accordance with their love and capability. The intent is as important as the act, and he who loves much sacrifices much, according to what he owns. Yet, he who does not love remains stingy. The needy widow gave her daily pay in full. The amount was small, but was a great amount before the Lord. She gave more than all the rich who presented only the tithe of the surplus of their money. The Lord looks at the heart. He wants to free those that trust their money as their golden idol. Can your love for God free you from clinging to your wealth and guide you to financial sacrifice for the spread of the gospel and help for the needy? The Lord’s Spirit urges you to give, in public and in private, real sacrifices to the Lord. Giving is not a duty in Christianity, but a privilege to express the spiritual growth of the believer.
Christ treated the subject of giving alms in secret without the knowledge of any one, and without putting the amount and the name on the records of donors, which would make the gift known to every body. He who makes himself obvious and expects honor from man for his gifts will lose the divine blessing. Jesus urged His disciples when giving their alms, not to tell the members of the family and friends that the donor may not become proud afterwards.
“Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” when you give alms. Perhaps this alludes to corban, giving gifts to God in the temple treasury – something possibly done with the right hand while entering or exiting the temple passing the treasury box. Or giving alms with the right hand may indicate a graceful willingness to give rather than an awkward reluctance. The right hand may be used in helping the poor, lifting them up, dressing their sores, and doing good deeds other than financial contributions. But, whatever kindness your right hand does to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Conceal it as much as possible; try to keep it private. Do it because it is a good work, not because it will give you a good name.
We must not take too much notice of the good we do – applauding and admiring ourselves. Self-conceit and an adoring of our own shadow are branches of pride. We find those had their good works remembered to their honor, who had themselves forgotten them. When we take least notice of our good deeds, God takes most notice of them.
Do we give our gifts to obtain more blessings and a tangible reward in paradise? Our God is not a merchant and does not pay interest for alms from the heavenly bank. Before we had given Him our gifts, He had already sacrificed His only Son completely for us. The Lord Himself is our reward! We do not sacrifice to obtain salvation, but we contribute because we have already obtained salvation, so we give our money and ourselves to the Father and the Son guided by the Holy Spirit. The intent of giving in Christianity is the thanks and praise for our freely given salvation.
The declaration of the name of God the Father makes the giving of alms meaningful. Can the children present alms to their Father? No, but they present to Him symbols of their thanks and give Him a share of the crop that He gave them out of His fullness. Our God is not in need of your gifts, for He is rich, He is the giver, but He lets His children present to Him the produce of prosperity and participate with Him in spreading the gospel and helping the poor wisely. The Lord has laid a big responsibility upon us that we may continuously participate in the responsibility of the church. So who moves and who gives pleasantly and regularly?
Some of the rich Jews used to pay their contributions in public, that even a parade might go out in their names, trumpets sounded and drums beaten. But today, we sacrifice our lives for God in secret, without words or blowing. Sacrifice your heart and your money for God and do not tell anybody of your services, for you are the Lord’s and the Lord is yours.
O Heavenly Lord, Thank You for bearing us patiently. Please forgive us our hypocrisy and small sacrifices and teach us to give all our life in thankfulness as our praise to You, that we may continuously help the poor, the sick and the needy. Bless all who seek You and do not know You, Teach us to keep silent when we give our alms and bind us to meekness and self-denial. Help the members of our church to continuously contribute in the financial charges asked of them.
Question 63: How should an offering be made before God the Father?
Prayer in Solitude (6:5-8)
6:5 And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (6) But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (7) And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. (8) Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things, you have need of before you ask him. (Isaiah 1:15)
Every religion has special rituals to exercise prayer, as prayer is a basic element of religion. The Jews raised their hands to receive immediately the blessing of God directly descending upon them. Sometimes they prayed in public in the streets and alleys to draw attention to themselves. But we, the Christians, have no determined routine arrangement for prayer, since Christ has exempted us from rituals and formalities. We are not slaves in the eyes of God. We are sons and we talk to our Heavenly Father whether sitting, walking, standing or kneeling. The essence of prayer is speaking to God as sons speak to their father, presenting to Him thanks, praise and confession of sin, as well as asking forgiveness and prayer and supplication for others. As you speak to your bodily father, you should rather speak and express your own affections to your Heavenly Father.
In prayer, we have more immediately to do with God than in giving alms, and therefore we are yet more concerned to be sincere, which is what we are here directed to. It is taken for granted that all Christ’s disciples pray. As soon as Paul was converted, it was said about him “behold he prays.” You may as soon find a living man that does not breathe, as a living Christian that does not pray.
Generally, we do not pray in public. He who does not pray in secret does not pray with a group too, for we do not pray to people, but to God directly. Your Heavenly Father always hears you and knows what you need before you ask Him. During prayer, your sins, false hopes and exciting desires disappear, since you recognize God’s presence with you. It is advisable to kneel, but you are saved by your faith not by your outward movements. You have the right to prostrate yourself just as Christ did in Gethsemane, but God does not save you for your kneeling down or prostration. He saves you because He loves you. He sacrificed His only Son for you before you ever worshipped Him.
If you want to pray, go into a quiet secret place. Close the door and pour out the worries and burdens of your heart before your Father. If you do not have a closet of privacy, go to the wilderness and speak there to your Heavenly Father and He will hear you. You are not able to live without prayer. As your body is unable to live without breathing, so your soul is unable to live without prayer. Pray several times a day with meditation on the Holy Bible if possible, that your prayer may become a response to your Father’s words to you. If you do not like to pray and you abstain from reading the Gospel, then you are on the brink of a great danger, for this means that you do not like to be alone with God. Do not you long to speak to your Heavenly Father? He is waiting for your words, your thanks and your trust.
The Pharisees prayed to men rather than to God. The scope of their prayer was to beg the honor of men and court their favors. Don’t fall into the same Pharisaical practice. Pray to God as a Father, as your heavenly Father who always is ready to hear and answer, graciously inclined to pity, help and support you. Pray to your Father who waits for you.
Much speaking, the love of long prayers is either a result of pride or superstition, or the wrong opinion that God needs either to be informed or argued with by us, or out of mere folly and impertinence, because men love to hear themselves talk. Not that all long prayers are forbidden; Christ prayed all night (Luke 6:12). There is sometimes need of prayers when our errands and our affections are extraordinary; but merely to prolong the prayer, as if it would make it more pleasing or more prevailing with God, is that which is here rejected. Long prayers are not condemned; no, we are bidden to pray always. The danger of this error is when we only say our prayers without thinking what we pray. This is explained by that of Solomon (Ecclesiastes 5:1), “Let your words be few,” considerate and well weighed; “choose out words” (Job 9:14) and do not say everything that comes uppermost. The heathen thought God needed many words to make Him understand what was said to Him, or to bring Him to comply with their requests, as if He were weak and hard to be entreated. Thus Baal’s priests were hard at it from morning till almost night with their vain repetitions, “Oh Baal, hear us; Oh Baal, hear us”; and vain petitions they were. But Elijah, in composed frame of voice and with a very concise prayer, asked for and received fire from heaven and then rain (1 Kings 18:26-45). If prayer is not sincere communication with God but merely Lip-labor, it is lost labor.
The God we pray to is our Father by creation, by covenant and by the Holy Spirit. Therefore our words to Him should be easy, natural and unaffected. Children do not need to make long speeches to their parents when they want any thing. It is enough to say, “My head, my head” (2 Kings 4:19). Let us come to our Father with the disposition of children, with love, reverence and dependence. Then we need not say many words, but are taught by the Spirit of adoption to say, “Our Father!”
Confess your offense to the Lord and don’t forget to say, “Thank You, oh Heavenly Father, for all Your gifts.” Seek knowledge, power and wisdom to realize love in your life. Let it be known to you that your Father knows you better than you know yourself.
Do you pray? This is the decisive question to examine your faith, for whenever you do not pray your soul and your conscience become sick. Confess your sins completely to your Lord soon. Seek your deep purification and cure that you may be filled with His Holy Spirit, which teaches you the heart prayer. Believe in whom you pray to. Your Father in heaven hears and responds. Then the joy of the Lord fills your heart and you pray not only for yourself, but also for all those whom the Lord puts on your heart. The Spirit of your Father will help you to pray in the right way!
O Heavenly Lord, thank You for You have allowed us to call You “Our Father.” Please teach us the accepted prayer and lead us with Your Holy Spirit that we may always glorify You and Jesus Christ. Help our friends, relatives and enemies that they approach You and dare to speak, “Our Father in heaven!”
Question 64: What kind of prayer will be answered by our Father in heaven?
The Lord’s Prayer (6:9-13)
The disciples admitted that they did not know precisely how to pray to God. The Holy Spirit had not yet been poured into their hearts, so they approached Jesus seeking a basic form of an accepted prayer. He had mercy on them and shared with them His own great prayer.
6:9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. (Ezekiel 36:23; Luke 11:2-4)
Christ did not teach us to address ourselves to God as God, or call Him the Mighty Lord, the Master of the Universe, or the Most Merciful. All these titles are found in other religions. He taught us the unique name of God, which summarizes the richness of the New Testament in one word: “Our Father.” We do not deserve to call God “our Father” and we are unable to approach Him automatically. But Christ has descended from heaven born of the Holy Spirit. He made us partners in His special privilege, entered us into His personal rights and took away our sins that we might become worthy of being legal children of God by adoption, and spiritually, by the second birth.
He who considers carefully the words of the Lord Jesus mentioned in the Gospel, will observe with astonishment, that in His prayers and talks with His disciples, He mostly used in His speech about God, the word, “Abba,” “Father,” “My Father” or “Our Father” or “Your Father” about 200 times. But when addressing His enemies or casting out devils from demon-possessed people, He mentioned the name of God only. Yet when His Father’s face was hidden from Him while on the cross, He cried, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” At that moment, He was bearing in His body the sins of the world, and the compassion of His Father turned into a flaming rage for He appeared to Him as an eternal Judge. He condemned our sins in His Son instead of us.
Though the Father hid His face from Him, Jesus struggled faithfully. He clung to the fatherhood of God and prayed in the end saying, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Since then, He has been pouring the Holy Spirit upon us, that cries joyously in us, “Our Father in heaven.” This Spirit declares the mystery of the fatherhood of God to believers. This is why we praise Him and thank Him joyfully, because the Heavenly Father forgave us, granted us His own eternal life, brought us into His family, called us His beloved and accepted us as servants in the kingdom of His love. Therefore, we do not have to be afraid of an avenging God as the heathens are, for we received the right to approach the Holy through the blood of Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit every time and any minute.
The first and most important demand of Christ is to hallow the name of the Father. No doubt that the Heavenly Father is Holy in Himself and does not need to perfect His holiness through us, but He allowed us participate in this privilege, and we therefore praise Him, glorify Him and serve Him thankfully and gladly.
It ought to be our chief and ultimate aim in all our petitions, that our Father may be glorified. All our other requests should be in subordination to this and in pursuance of it. “Father, glorify yourself and give us our daily bread and pardon our sins.” Since all is of Him and through Him, all must be to Him and for Him too. In prayer, our thoughts and affections should be focused on the holiness of our Father in heaven. The Pharisees made themselves the chief end of their prayers, but we do the opposite. We are directed to make the name of God our Father our chief end. Let all our petitions center in this goal and be regulated by it.
Every father in this world desires that his children live with respect, render faithful services to society and raise the value and standing of the family. Thus, Christ hopes that we honor our Heavenly Father with our holy behavior and bear the fruits of His Spirit. Then even unbelievers will glorify our Father in heaven because of His respected sons and daughters. What a joy it would be for our Father if the world would say, “Look at them, they believe like their Father!”
Since not every man is a father unless he has children, we pray that a multitude of spiritual children will be born to our Heavenly Father like the dew in the sunshine and that they live in holiness, righteousness and love.
O Father, Your name on our lips is sweeter than refined honey. We were sinners and now we are Your children. Thank You for your love, for the grace of Your Son and for the mercy of Your Holy Spirit. We thank You, because, through Your assured redemption, we became Your sons and daughters in truth and essence. Please reveal Your Fatherly name to our towns and cities that today many children be born to You and let Your Holy Fatherly name be glorified in our lives.
Question 65: How can we hallow the name of the Father?
6:10 Your kingdom come. (Matthew 25:34)
This petition is closely connected to the message that Christ was preaching, that John the Baptist had preached, and that Jesus sent out His apostles to continue preaching; “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” The kingdom of your Father who is in heaven, the kingdom of His “Messiah” – this is at hand and we are allowed to pray that it will come soon.
God created the whole world, so it is His own. He is our owner, but people disobeyed their Lord and left Him, as if they stole themselves from His hand. In spite of this disobedience, they remain His own. You too, brother and sister, belong to God in the full sense of the word.
God did not want to stay far from that which was His own, so He sent His Christ to be the King in His kingdom. He cured the sick, had mercy upon the poor, preached the repentant, wept over the disobedient and died instead of us. The kingdom of our Father is based on the atonement of His Son that has qualified the believing sinner to enter into His kingdom. Yet, the Holy Spirit realizes the spiritual kingdom in the world through His power and sanctifies the believers in Christ.
This divine kingdom continues today in the children of God. Just as His eternal kingdom is not of this world, we are also strangers in our world. We are spiritually separated from this world if we pray that the name of the Father be hallowed.
In this second petition, we also desire that His heavenly kingdom be spread on earth, that His kindness be accepted by all nations. The Heavenly Father gives His children and His churches the privilege to preach the gospel of His kingdom. We pray that it may be executed in our world. God is love, and He desires to fill the world with His presence. He “desires all men to be saved and brought to the knowledge of the truth.” Do you recognize these vast meanings when you pray, “Your kingdom come?” The intent of your Father in heaven is to move your heart that you may spread this message in your neighborhood and all over the world.
The kingdom of our Father will finally appear in glory when the King of kings comes again in the splendor of His power to govern His kingdom. Then all the conflict will be dissolved and Satan cast away. We then shall hurry back to our Heavenly Father to see Him and be with Him. Did you recognize the depth and the aim of the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer? The coming King offers you the privilege to prepare His way in word and deed through prayers and sacrifices that the kingdom of His love may prevail on earth.
O Heavenly Father, we glorify You because You sent Your Son, the King of kings to us. We rejected Him and crucified Him with our sins. However, He redeemed us and qualified us to become members in Your heavenly kingdom. We ask You to spread Your spiritual kingdom in our town and country and among our kindred. Come Lord Jesus, we are waiting for You together with those who are suffering for the sake of spreading Your kingdom. We thank You because You came to take us home to our Heavenly Father whom we shall see as He is.
Question 66: What do you think when you pray, “Your kingdom come?”
6:10 Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Luke 22:42)
Many religious people exhaust themselves trying to know the will of their Lord. Consequently, laws and rituals came into existence to teach people to carry out the commandments of God as proclaimed. These rules and laws strictly demand, “do this and abstain from that.” In reality, no man can carry out the will of God exactly or know it precisely, for men are sinners and ignorant.
Blessed be God who released us from the pressure of the Mosaic Law and its heavy burden and sent His beloved Son to declare to us His Father’s will. He does not ask us to do anything to satisfy Him, yet He is the doer, the giver and the blesser. He is the merciful Creator and Savior. He does not ask us to do any conditional duty in order to accept us, but asks us to be open to His grace and accept His salvational work. He is the source of all gifts. He is decided to be merciful toward us, to bless us and help us. If we again fail in keeping His commandments, He forgives us through His grace and merciful love. Did you understand the will of your Heavenly Father? He does not ask anything of you, but He looks forward to blessing you, saving you and filling you with the power of His Holy Spirit. Your Heavenly Father wants to give you all that He owns.
There is a great difference between the principal of religion and the true knowledge of our Father in heaven. Our God is not a dictator. He is a compassionate Father. His love lifted His punishment from us and removed fear from our hearts. This is why we thank Him joyfully and search for His will to carry it out to the full satisfaction of His great love. We believe that His Holy Spirit empowers us to keep His commandments through the manifold application of His love. His Law has become our pleasure and life.
We pray also that earth be made more like heaven by the observance of God’s will. This earth, through the active work of Satan, has become nearly like hell. We pray that the saints may be changed into the likeness of Jesus Christ in their devotion and obedience. However, we are still on earth, blessed be God, not yet under the earth. So let us search for the will of our Father and do it with the help of His Spirit.
We worship You, o Father, because You granted Your Son all authority in heaven and on earth. He is our King and we worship Him. We pray that You will complete Your Fatherly will in our lives just as your angels carry out your thoughts. Please fill us with Your love and bring our friends and enemies into Your kingdom too that Your name be hallowed and that they may willingly follow the guidance of Your love.
Question 67: What is the will of your Father in heaven?
6:11 Give us this day our daily bread.
Our natural being is a base to our spiritual well-being in this world. Therefore, as God’ children we are allowed to pray to our Father for the necessary support and comfort of our present life, which are gifts of God.
Christ was not dreaming. He lived as a real man on this planet. He had a body that felt hunger and needed care, attention and rest. He knew that it was difficult for the sick, the hungry and the weak to praise and serve God joyfully. Christ did not despise the human body. He made it a temple of the Holy Spirit and ordered us to preserve and use it in our service for ministry to God.
Jesus did not teach us to seek wealth and riches, so that our bellies might be filled with revelries and drunkenness. He did not guide us into asceticism and abstinence that we might imagine that we could sanctify our bodies through beatings, hunger and thirst. He taught us contentment to pray to our Father, “Give us our daily food, drink, dress, work, rest, residence and necessities of life.” The word “bread” covers all the bodily, spiritual and psychological needs of man. We are not animals that are satisfied only with food and drink. We need friends, books, art and health. This is why Jesus taught us to ask humbly and trustfully for everything we need to preserve our lives, not to boast or live in ease but to live for God and His service joyfully and contentedly with the necessities of life.
Jesus insisted that the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer do not mention the first person, “I.” He replaced it with the plural, “we,” for the Holy Spirit teaches us care and supplicate for others. God is not only my Father. He is the Father of all the faithful without distinction. His love is not restricted to me. It covers all people. The Holy Spirit frees us from selfish prayer so that we may not only ask for our own bread from our Father, but also ask for the daily bread and blessing for all mankind. He prepares us to share our provisions with anyone.
Man is not the master of his own life. He is neither the owner of his houses, nor the master of his time and muscles. He is a creature of God and a child of his Heavenly Father. This is why you are His, with everything you have. Your Heavenly Father created you for the service of love and He expects that you to share your gifts together with your brothers and sisters. You cannot ask your Father only to help you and save your soul if you do not ask the same for others. The secret of your success is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, then the other things shall be added to you.
Since faithful labor is a condition for obtaining daily bread, we ask our Father to give other people and us an honest job.
Our Heavenly Father is unbelievably rich, but because of the greediness and hard-heartedness of His children, His blessings are often delayed. The Holy Spirit pushes you to pray for the hungry and the needy too. Ask for the daily subsistence and leave the sorrows of tomorrow, for your mighty loving Father cares for you.
O Heavenly Father, we thank You from the depths of our hearts because You did not punish us with hunger for our sins. Please forgive us our selfishness and teach us to share our bread with the hungry and the needy. Fill us with Your love that no worries may disturb us, but help us to trust You absolutely in our life and death. Please give us enough money to spread evangelistic publications, as spiritual food to many. We also thank You for every help and guidance You give us. Grant every needy person an honest job that he may serve You diligently and persistently.
Question 68: What does the petition for “the daily bread” include?
6:12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. (Matthew 18:21-35)
Blessed is the man who recognized his own sins and confessed them. Ask your Heavenly Father to forgive you your wicked thoughts and acts, and believe that your prayer is heard, for Christ has purged them on the cross. Accept the grace of Christ into your conscience. The Holy Spirit will comfort you and affirm to you the peace of God. Confess all your sins and believe that they are forgiven in Christ. He has justified you forever. Did you thank your Father in heaven for the extensive forgiveness given to you on basis of the atonement of Christ?
Is the petition of forgiveness related only to criminals and atheists, or does it also cover His justified children? If the Holy Spirit lives in you, He will reveal to you the depths of your evil desires, the extent of your exaggerations, the abundance of your tale bearing, the poison of your hate and the mountain of your pride. The children of God are in dire need to seek sanctification in the blood of Christ every moment of every day. No man is pure before God of his own accord. Christ’s sacrifice is the sole basis for our life with Him. There is no comfort to our conscience except through the blood of the Lamb slain for us. Christ did not teach the Lord’s prayer only to sinners, but He taught it first to His followers who knew and confessed that God was their Father. This is why we pray every day that He will purify us of every wicked thought, saying and act.
If, by the grace of the Savior, you have received forgiveness of your own sins, have been comforted in overcoming your selfishness and have been freed from your unclean acts, you will discover in the fifth petition of the Lord’s Prayer that Jesus leads you not only to beg His pardon for your personal sins, but also to ask Him to forgive other sinners whom you know. There is none good. Everyone needs the faithful Savior. You are charged with interceding for every transgressor and offender of the law, so be a faithful intercessor.
Christ Himself pronounced these words. Because of His abounding love, He took upon Himself all the sins of the world and interceded for us, asking in His Prayer, “Forgive us our debts!” Christ meant by this supplication His disciples, people and all mankind. He accepted our debts as if they were His and bore the punishment instead of us. How great is His humble love that the Most Holy participates in our burdens (2Corinthians 5:21).
Blessed be the Lord Jesus for this unique petition, that helps everyone who prays it to admit that he is a real sinner and that he deserves the punishment of God. Every repentant person that pronounces this petition with belief and conviction will not remain proud since he has admitted that he is guilty like all men. This petition will discharge us from hypocrisy and pride if we admit and confess that we are sinners justified by the grace of Jesus Christ.
Where is our praise? How do you thank him? When will you glorify His general amnesty?
How does a man know that the Creator has forgiven his sins? And how does a man make sure that his transgressions were completely wiped away before the coming of the Day of Judgment? How are you justified eternally before God and His angels? You will not gain lasting certainty, except in the crucified Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world. He is your deputy in judgment. He is the one who suffered instead of you. His atonement established your full righteousness. He reconciled the world to God. Whoever believes in Him obtains freely forgiveness and eternal justification.
If you want to thank Christ for His comprehensive atonement and conclusive forgiveness of your sins, forgive also your adversary as Jesus Christ forgave you. His love guides you to love your enemies. By that, you experience the secret of forgiveness in His love.
Your Father is calling you to forgive every man, bless him and pray that God be merciful toward him. This deep change in manner began with the death of Christ on the cross and shall be realized every day through your faith and forgiveness.
If you do not forgive your enemies all their transgressions, you will deprive yourself of the grace of your Father, for, in your petition in the Lord’s prayer, you say, “Forgive me exactly as I forgive my debtors.” If you do not forget their transgressions, you transgress the rule of this prayer, as condemning yourself saying, “Oh Father, forgive me, but do not forget my sins, as I did not forget the others.” If you apparently forgive them, then you are asking God to deal with you the same way. This little word “as” is the most dangerous word in the Lord’s Prayer, so make sure that you give it practical effect in your life.
God does not require impossible acts from you to obey Him. He expects you to be renewed and become merciful as He is. This is the principle of love, to live not only for yourself but to live for others, including the unworthy. All your sins are forgiven so forgive your adversary all his faults and transgressions against you, again and again, as your Father in heaven forgives.
O Holy Father, we praise You, glorify You and rejoice in Your gentle Spirit, for You have forgiven us and all the repentant, every transgression, by the atoning death of Your beloved Son on the cross. We bow down before Your love and seek to embody it in our lives. We try to bless our enemies as You bless us. Please help us to forgive their offences against us as You forgive us in the greatness of Your love.
Question 69: What are the mysteries in the petition for forgiveness?
6:13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (1 John 5:4-5 and 19)
The Heavenly Father will never mislead nor lead anybody into temptation, for His holy love saves us and does not destroy us. But if one of His children does not respond to the pushing and reproof of the Holy Spirit into purity, truth and love and remains in stubbornness and pride, then God allows the wicked one to fall in sin and shame. Thus, he recognizes that he is not good in himself, but corrupt and wicked from his childhood. He cries, repents and goes back to his Father begging His pardon and asking for his full change and sanctification.
Your heavenly Father wants to change you into His image. Christ gave you His own name. He calls you “Christian” that you may behave as anointed with His Holy Spirit and become saintly in love and know the joy of peace and kind patience. Where no part of your Father’s virtue is realized in you because of your hard-heartedness, God finds no other way but to allow temptation to blow upon you, such as disease, distress and disasters. He punishes you that you may listen to reason and go back repenting and seeking your salvation and sanctification in His power.
If you asked for yourself and for all believers, renewed repentance and keeping from temptations and from committing faults, you would be seeking both renewal and sanctification of hearts. Paul, having interpreted the principle of justification in detail in his epistle to the Romans, clarifies the sanctification and the renewing of the minds of believers, to present their bodies a living sacrifice, acceptable to God (Romans 12:1.2). Then you must be corrected too, for this is the will of God, our sanctification. The Holy Sprit continuously exhorts you to deny your haughty self and be filled with the humble love of God.
The temptations around you are numerous, for the movies, advertisements, books, clothes and all life have become one cry against the holiness of God. Wicked thoughts contrary to the commandments of the Lord come out of our heart. We all need prayer to be kept from temptations. So let us pronounce it consciously and believe in what we say in our prayers. The last goal of every temptation is our disobedience against the will of God and our departing of His covenant, to live independently of Him.
The Christian people are threatened with the danger of falling into many Anti-Christ-temptations. Whoever hears the gospel, believes it and experiences its power, but does not act under the obligations of God’s love and under the guidance of the Lord’s Spirit, hardens his heart. This is why you find, in countries that have experienced the grace of the Old and New Testaments, more atheists than you find among the nations who have not yet heard about the grace of God on the cross. Be cautious not to harden your heart against the voice of the Holy God. Do not resist the drawing of His Spirit towards forgiveness, chastity and truth.
Do not imagine that you are strong, clever and good, for we all are ignorant, weak and wicked in spiritual matters. Confess your inability before your heavenly Father and believe in the authority and help of Christ alone. This is the way in which the Son of God overcame Satan saying, “The Son can do nothing of himself.” The proud fall victim to the devil, but the meek repent and are justified in the name of Christ, walking in the power of His Spirit. He will dwell in the vast expanses of his Lord forever and become protected in the fire of temptations and the grim authority of death, for the life of God will endure in him.
Do not imagine that you are able to overcome Satan, for we are weak and helpless before the fallen angel of light. The devil is “older” than you and knows all tricks, lies and temptations. Ask Christ, the conqueror of death, the triumphant over the devil, to make you a partner in His victory. He who believes in the mighty Jesus shall stand by the Triumphant’s side. He is our shelter, in Him we are secure. Christ calls Satan “the evil one” because he is the source of every evil. Nothing is originated from him but destruction and corruption. The world stands in the battle between the Father in heaven and the evil one, between good and evil. Just as the first word in the Lord’s Prayer is “Father” and the last one is “the evil one,” your life goes between these two words which express the great character of God and the character of His enemy, Satan. To whom do you resort?
Do not seek salvation from the deceiving power of Satan for yourself only, but pray also that all mankind may be set free from the dominion of darkness and move into the kingdom of God’s family. Christ is the mighty deliverer. He redeems His supplicating church from the lurking authorities of darkness. Seek the coming of the Holy Spirit upon your friends that they may be filled with true love, for without the Holy Spirit they cannot do any good thing.
When Christ comes in glory, we shall rush to Him, with a shout, for in His presence the authority of Satan is finally ended. Then nothing separates us from the love of God, neither death, nor sin, nor temptations. In this last petition we insist that Christ comes soon, to manifest the kingdom of His Father publicly with the power of His glory. Therefore, the aim of the Lord’s Prayer is to realize the kingdom of our Father in heaven, which overcomes all contradicting powers.
O Heavenly Father, we worship You for Your love, for the salvation of Your beloved Son and for the power of Your Holy Spirit. Please overcome our disobedient hearts and sanctify us completely. Fill us with Your virtues that we may not become a victim of Satan’s. We are all unsuccessful and futile in the holy struggle, but Your powerful Spirit releases us, sets many others free out of the prison of the devil and carries us all to the kingdom of Your love that we shall participate in Your triumph over the evil one.
Question 70: How are we made free from the evil one in our lives?
6:13 For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. (1Chronicles 29:11-13)
The glorification of the Father at the end of the Lord’s Prayer is the response, thanks and worshipping of the church.
· Christians admit that their heavenly Father is the owner of the world, for He is its creator. He lives and rules from eternity and forever. His truth is abiding in all the people, even if they did not recognize His right.
Capitalism and socialism became deceiving powers. Properties, minerals and health are not owned by individuals or by people. They are the property of our Father in heaven. This is why we do not worship the god of mammon, but give our money and time to our heavenly Father. We should not cling to earthly things, but cling to the eternal One. He is nonperishable.
· Our Father in heaven is unlimitedly strong. As the sun sends its rays, day and night, to space, without any reduction in its nuclear power, so He shines with His love on all mankind to enlighten them, save them and protect them, even if they refuse. The power of God is beyond our perception. We sometimes sense its gravity when the earth shakes or the thunder rumbles. All the hydrogen bombs together form nothing against the great power of the Omnipotent. Do you believe in His work, His wisdom, His presence with you, and His willingness to save you? The Almighty is your Father, so how long will you remain unmindful of His honor and love?
· Our Father in heaven is glorious. No one can see Him, for we are mortal. Every natural person is unable to enter into the kingdom of God. He needs regeneration, spiritual birth and resurrection with Christ. Without being born again of the Word of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, we cannot endure the glory of God. But he that is newly born of the spirit of the Heavenly Father shall be as glorious as the sun. This comes not out of himself, but because of his nearness to our glorious Father. Then he will recognize that the heart of glory is holy love that wants to change us into our Father’s image that we may be glorious as He is. The aim of our salvation is not to be glorious but our changing into the source of glory that is love.
Christ taught us that God is love in the legal form of a Father. He entrusted us with this famous prayer an invaluable treasure. This prayer is, in fact, the “fatherly prayer” since it is centered upon the person of the Father to glorify Him and to hallow His unique name. The aim of the proclamation of Jesus is that we know the Father, be His children, honor Him with our trust and long to see Him in the coming of His kingdom on earth.
Our Father in heaven! Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
Question 71: How do you glorify God your Father?
The Summary of the Lord’s Prayer
If you penetrate faithfully into the most important prayer in the Holy Bible, meditate on its precious words and pray it from the bottom of your heart, you will come near to your Father who cares for you and will never leave you. What did you, so far, understand and observe from this divine model prayer? Has Almighty God become the Heavenly Father in your life and recognition? Do you speak to Him directly? Did you become one of His beloved children? Or you are still far from Him? Do you thank Him for accepting you in His Fatherhood with abiding faith and praiseworthy trust?
Christ did not only declare to us that almighty God is the great Creator, the Omnipotent and the eternal Judge. He did not first teach us to pray to the Lord of the covenant, or to the Most Exalted Master. He guided us to His own Father, shared with us His personal rights and qualified us to become members of His eternal family. Through the atonement of Jesus Christ we receive the privilege to call God our Father, because Christ reconciled us to Him. He commanded us to sanctify the name of the Father and accept Him as a center for our thoughts and hopes so that He may be the essence of our life and hope.
However, the Holy Spirit cries out within us, “Abba, Father!” The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:15b-16). Since the heavenly Father adopts us as a result of the atonement of His Son, He grants us to be born again by His Holy Spirit that He will dwell in us. He makes us worthy of His Fatherhood and charges us with His service in His kingdom and sanctifies us with His everlasting love. We, the unworthy, whom He chose in Christ before the foundation of the world, are looking forward to seeing Him and staying with Him forever. He loves and longs for every one of His own. Do you also love Him, thank Him and glorify Him? He who discovers the depth of the Lord’s Prayer will perceive the essence of the whole gospel. We do not believe in an unknowable, far off and fearful god, but in a near and loving Father who has attached Himself to us in the New Covenant forever.
The Inevitable Seeking of Reconciliation (6:14-15)
6:14 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)
How shameful that Jesus has to tell us frequently that forgiving love alone is a fulfillment of the Law. If we deliberately abandon God’s love, the Almighty will become a stranger to us, and if we harden our hearts against Him, we will fall into judgment.
Please examine yourself, dear friend. Did God renew you and fill you with His mercy? And how does this renewal look?
Our Father in heaven has called you to spread the heavenly peace around you, for the children of God are the peacemakers. Is there any man or woman whom you hate? This will be the most important person in your life, for God has sent him to test you and to examine your heart, whether rage and revenge are still in you. The mighty Spirit seeks to crush your hate, overcome your grudge and teach you tolerance, forgiveness, caution, patience and meekness that you may accept this hard man, truly love him, rejoice whenever you meet him, invite him into your house and make him feel at home. God’s forgiveness is brought to every man, and our forgiveness for one another is the basis of the New Covenant. Wherever this condition is not realized, there will be no dwelling of the kingdom of God. The love for the enemy is the fruit of your faith. In your lack of forgiveness you contradict the work of the Holy Spirit in you and around you. “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Carry out this merciful commandment, and you become or remain a son or daughter of God and a brother or sister of Christ.
But if you keep on hardening your heart, taking revenge, angering your enemy and treating him with contempt, rudeness and harshness, you are at enmity with God and you will be denying Christ once more. All your prayers and godliness will then appear as hypocrisy and lying.
When Paul was put into prison together with his friend Silas, they sang hymns to God, though their feet were fastened in the stocks so that blood ran out of them. Yet, they loved their beaters and the keeper of the prison and prayed for them. The earth quaked, the hearts changed, and the keeper of the prison repented. When Stephen was stoned, he prayed for his killers, for all the children of God follow the cry of the crucified, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
God’s love forgave us all our sins. Whoever corresponds with it and opens his heart to enemies, sees the heaven open, as Stephen did, and experiences the power of God at work just like Paul and Silas whose patient endurance lead many people to conversion and recognize that God is the Father. Examine yourself. Do you allow the Spirit of God to dwell and act in your life?
O Father, we repent with the regret of our hearts and with a true resolution. Please forgive us our pride and teach us Your holiness, forgiveness and the meekness of Your Son. Help us to forgive every person for every offense as You have forgiven us, since you have showered us with kindness, mercy and goodness. Change our hatred in us with Your love and mercy.
Question 72: What is imperative for our continuance in fellowship with our Father in heaven?
Fasting Joyously (6:16-18)
6:16 Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. (17) But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, (18) so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. (Isaiah 58:5-6)
Christ speaks especially in these verses of private fasts, such as particular persons prescribe to themselves, as free-will offerings, commonly used among the pious Jews; some fasted one day, some two, every week; others less often, as they felt the need. On those days they did not eat till sunset, and then very sparingly. It was not the Pharisee’s fasting “twice in the week,” but his boasting of it, that Christ condemned (Luke 18:12).
The salvation of soul is not dependent on your fasting, prayers, almsgiving, or pilgrimage. Christ saved you freely and completely by His death on the cross, and He renews you with His kindness. Christ poured out His own Spirit into your heart, so you do not need to increase your sanctity through fasting, pilgrimage and worship, for Christ has completely and perfectly cleansed you! In the fellowship of Christ, we are anointed with the Holy Spirit of our heavenly Father.
Why do we fast? Our fasting is not purposed to justify or cleanse ourselves. It is a sign of repentance, penitence and supplication. Fasting is prayer within your inner self. If the nerves of your stomach tremble with hunger, and your spirit always remains oriented toward God, your soul will become free from its burdens, relieved to faith, prayer and thankfulness. He, who fasts, penetrates into the grace of God, becomes free from judgments and can worship God with gladness.
Fasting is a laudable practice, and we have reason to be sorry, that it is generally neglected among Christians. The old Anna “served God with fasting” (Luke 2:37). The first Christians practiced it often (Acts 13:3; 14:23). Private fasting is an act of self-denial and mortification of the flesh, a holy revenge upon ourselves and humiliation under the hand of God. Mature Christians confess by their fasting that they are far from having anything to be proud of, that they are even unworthy of their daily bread. It is a means to curb the flesh and it’s desires and to make us livelier in religious exercises, as fullness of bread is apt to make us drowsy. Paul was “in fasting often” and so he “kept under this body and brought it into subjection.”
But be cautious when fasting. Let your soul be filled with the Word of God, not with human imagination and illusions. Satan approaches the fasting believer, pretending holiness, untrue care and false shining godliness, which were revealed by Jesus when tempted by Satan around the end of His worship in the desert. Fasting does not save you. It is only the Word of God that makes your fasting a part of your faith, that you may receive new power from your merciful Lord.
The hypocrites pretended fasting, when there was nothing of that contrition or humility of soul in them, which is the life and soul of the duty. Theirs were mock-fasts, the show and shadow without the substance. They took on themselves to be more humble than they really were and endeavored to deceive God, which is a great affront to Him. The fast that God has chosen, is a day to afflict the soul, not to hang down the head like a bulrush, nor for a man to spread sackcloth and ashes under himself; we are quite mistaken if we call this a fast (Isaiah 58:5).
They proclaimed their fasting and managed it that all who saw them might take notice that it was a fasting-day with them. Even on these days they appeared in the streets, whereas they should have been in their houses. They affected a downcast look, a melancholy countenance, a slow and solemn pace; and perfectly disfigured themselves, that men might see how often they fasted and might extol them as devout, mortified men.
Do not talk to people about your fasting to recommend yourself to the good opinion of men. Appear with your everyday countenance, guise and dress. Look pleasant for God meets you and makes you a partner in the victory of Christ through your faith by fasting. Then you will be filled with the joy of the presence of God, and you will not fail in the practice of godliness.
Our Father in heaven proclaims Himself to him who prays, fasts and penetrates into the word of the gospel. This is the greatest step of inspiration, for you may recognize God the Father in the conduct of Christ as He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.” This is the longing of our hearts, to see Him, the Holy One, as He is.
Did you know that the almighty God dwells also in the followers of Christ, for they are together the temple of His Holy Spirit? This divine Spirit does not come to you for the sake of your fasting or prayer, but as a result of your faith in the atoning death of Jesus.
One who fasts can communicate Christ’s power to others. By prayer, faith and fasting evil spirits must leave possessed ones, since the name of Christ with authority casts out demons.
Do not let your fasting be restricted to food and drink only. Abstain from impure pornography, continuous smoking and bad habits, thus you save your money and become able to sacrifice it for the spreading of the kingdom of your Father in heaven. Your abstention from devastating things is sometimes more important than fasting and keeping away from food and drink. Dedicate your time and ability to God without pretension and you will find the fruits of His glory growing in others.
O Father, You intend to dwell in us with Your kind Spirit. We joyfully worship You and cheerfully thank You, for You have invited us to Your fellowship. Please teach us to behave as You please, to pray for others and to fast gladly and trustfully, that many may be freed from the bounds of Satan and receive eternal life.
Question 73: What does fasting mean in the New Testament?
C. The Victory Over Our Evil Intents (6:19-7:6)
He Who Collects Money for Himself Shall Serve Satan (6:19-24)
6:19 Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; (20) but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 19:21; Luke 12:33-34; Colossians 3:1-2)
Some of the rich gather their treasures with covetousness. They build large houses, wear valuable dresses and increase their riches through devious financial methods. They employ money to multiply their wealth, to become, together with their kindred, powerful clans and overrule others with the might of their properties. Thieves also do not sleep. They, cunningly and deceitfully, try to steal the money of the rich and avoid and disgust honest work. They hide themselves from the light of the day and cheat themselves, similar to the rich, wishing happiness, greatness and celebrity by stealing money or precious goods; but they soon die as other people do and do not enjoy their riches forever.
We should become wise and learn that only laying up our treasure in heaven is safe. It will not decay; moth and rust will not corrupt it, and force and fraud can not deprive us of it. Thieves cannot break in and steal. It is joy above and beyond the changes and chances of time – an inheritance incorruptible and nonperishable.
Where your treasure is, on earth or in heaven, there your heart will be also. We are therefore concerned to be right and wise in the choice of our treasure, because the temper of our minds, and consequently the tenor of our lives, will be accordingly carnal or spiritual, earthly or heavenly. The heart follows the treasure, as the needle follows the loadstone or the sunflower the sun. Where the treasure is there the value and esteem are, there the love and affection are, that way the desires and pursuits go. The Lord will be your treasure and great rewards that you shall be centered in Him with all your intents and thoughts, thus you will become free from the material and the earthly and obtain heavenly treasure.
The poor are not better than the rich are, since they do want to possess what the rich already have. Both of them build their future on the basis of earthly properties. They seldom perceive that their souls are eternal and are in need of spiritual food. Everything is coming to an end except God. Christ’s forgiveness offers greater security for your life than a house made of cement and iron that may be destroyed by bombs and removed by earthquakes. Your faith is more important than your diplomas; your love in the Holy Spirit is more valuable than the amount of credit in your bank. Your service to the needy glorifies God. Your offerings will not increase your treasure in the heavenly bank, since God is your share, and He is the greatest treasure.
Our age has become materialistic. Men are keeping up with the development of economics and modern discoveries, looking forward to welfare, forgetting the Holy God and His Law. The Holy Spirit is not with them and they are being filled with the impure spirit of this world. He who is mostly concerned with earthly profits is in bondage to the spirit of darkness. God created you in His image. Look at Him. Then His glory will be reflected in the glamour of your eyes. But if you turn your eye away from your Lord and aim at money, your desires and impurities will enslave you, and your eye will change into sadness and darkness.
The evils in you do not mean only money and matter, but a spirit working against God as well, which Christ called the unjust “mammon,” which prevails over those who do not continue in God. In fact, he who becomes rich may find many chances of the world open to satisfy his desires. Your mammon inspires you to commit horrible wickedness and adultery. The rich are easily led to corruption and unclean acts. It is a mercy of God that we cannot see what shocking crimes and impurities people commit during one night with their money in our towns. Otherwise, we would have gone out of our minds as a result of seeing such acts. God, on His part, is patient and is able to bear even impure men.
The Lord advises you to come back to Him that He can embrace you and free you from your mammon idol, for you cannot love God and mammon at the same time. Your prayer would become void if you trusted your support of money. You are to trust either God or your riches, for one of them is sought after and preferred by you. Examine yourself and recognize how much time and money you spend to serve God, and how much you spend of them on yourself, your car and your amusement. We are all in temptation to become slaves of mammon. We cheat ourselves more than we know and worship the mammon idol joyfully with trembling hands when we amass such wealth. God helps you to become free from the bondage of money that you shall not be obsessed by it, but shall abide in Christ and His salvation. The Most Holy is a unique treasure for your life, so do not go on seeking to be esteemed in society. Seek a high degree in the service of the Lord, spend on the poor and sacrifice yourself for them as Christ sacrificed Himself for you.
Some believers try to serve both God and mammon. They do not observe that Christ confirmed to them that no one could serve them both. So ask the Lord of glory to help you that you will love Him and that He shall keep you and provide for all your needs. Are you prepared to worship God alone? Or are you still halting between both sides? Resort to Christ who does not crown a divided heart.
(22) The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. (23) But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
The eye is the lamp of the body, and the lamp symbolizes the light. The eye is thus the light by which man sees everything. The eye is the mirror by which we can notice the feelings, thoughts and sensations of a man and woman. If they love us, we will see the love in their look. If they hate us, we will sense the hate in their eyes. If one has anger, rage or a grudge in his heart, this will appear in their eyes. If he has feelings of cruelty, aggressiveness or revenge, his eyes will reveal them. Deception appears in his eyes. Pride and arrogance glitter in his eyes as well as jealousy and envy and even disgust, impatience and other feelings.
What then is the meaning of “if your eye is good?” “Good” means as created by God, without the addition of the wrong human sensations, without the addition of spite, craftiness, desire and pride, for with these additions it is not good.
Let us give another example. Our first parents, Adam and Eve, their eyes were pure in the beginning. The tree of knowledge of good and evil was in the midst of the garden (Genesis 3:3). They must have passed by it every day without any trouble, but when the temptation of the serpent was added to their pure eyes that they “shall be as god, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5), the eye was no more pure. Thus “when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired” (Genesis 3:6) everything was completely changed, for the eye has lost its purity. Just as their look at the tree was changed, their look at each other was changed as well.
So when your eye is kind, without any addition of desire, temptation or hidden thoughts, all your body is bright. But when anything else is added to your eye, such as anger or revenge, your features change and your blood pressure increases. Your feelings leave their touch on your body and then your body will look dark.
Repent quickly if you are angry, depressed or in superficial joy! Come back to Jesus. He is the true and guiding light for you and your eyes.
(24) No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Luke 16:13; James 4:4)
Christ reveals a general saying for us, “No man can serve two masters,” much less two gods, for their commands will some time or another cross or contradict one another. While the two masters go together, a servant may follow them both, but when they part, he will follow one of them. He cannot love and observe and cleave to both, as he should. If to the one, not to the other, either this or that must be comparatively hated and despised.
The word “mammon” mentioned in the original text is a Syriac word that signifies “gain”; so that whatever in this world is, or is accounted by us to be gain, is mammon. Whatever is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the pride of life, is mammon. To some, ease, sports and pastimes are their mammon – to others their honors and promotions. The praise and applause of men was the Pharisees’ mammon. The sensual, secular self, is the mammon that cannot be served in conjunction with God. For if it be served, it is in competition with Him and in contradiction to Him.
Christ does not say, you “must” not, but you “cannot” serve God and mammon. We cannot love both, or hold to both, or hold both in observance, obedience, attendance, trust and dependence, for they are contrary the one to the other. God says, “My son, give me your heart.” Mammon says, “No, give it me.” God says, “Be content with such things as you have.” Mammon says, “Grasp at as much as you can by fair or by foul means.” God says, “Do not defraud, never lie and be honest and just in your dealings.” Mammon says, “Cheat your own Father, if you can gain by it.” God says, “Be charitable.” Mammon says, “Hold your own: this giving does not help us at all.” God says, “Be careful for nothing.” Mammon says, “Be careful for everything.” God says, “Keep holy your Sabbath or Sunday.” Mammon says, “Make use of that day as well as any other for the world.”
Thus inconsistent are the commands of God and mammon, so that we “cannot” serve both. Let us not compromise between God and Baal, but choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve and abide by your choice.
O Father, we thank You for being patient with us, we materialists. Please forgive us our inclination and love for money. Free us from trusting our possessions. Teach us to love and trust only You to give You everything and gain You, our only treasure and reward in life and eternity. Make us free to give willingly with wisdom to the needy around us.
Question 74: Why can we not serve both God and mammon simultaneously?
Trusting the Providence of Your Heavenly Father (6:25-34)
6:25 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? (26) Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value then they? (27) Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (28) So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; (29) and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. (30) Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? (31) Therefore do not worry, saying, What shall we eat? Or What shall we drink? Or What shall we wear? (32) For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. (33) But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (34) Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Luke 12:22-31; Romans 14:17; Philippians 4:6; 1Peter 5:7)
This is one of the most wonderful sermons of Christ! Keep it in your heart! How great is this speech of Jesus on our trust in the care of the heavenly Father. He, who hears and believes these words, will experience eternal peace, which dwells in his heart. As a baby who trusts the care of his earthly father, so Jesus wants to bring us up in our faith to trust fully in God our Father and His eternal love for us.
He that is filled with the love of God, freed from the temptation of collecting money for himself, and continuously sacrificing with wisdom, will be tempted by Satan in different ways. Satan will whisper to him, “Your money is not enough for you! Who will look after you if you fall ill? Your clothes are worn out, and the prices are high. The economic development is moving from one crisis to another. Secure yourself, study, make every effort, save your money in order to live a pleasant way of life.”
But the Spirit of God overcomes your excessive concern with your worries and guides you to the fatherly care of God who looks for you entirely. This does not mean that you shall sit idle without working, waiting for God to open the windows of heaven. Yet, the love of Christ frees you to strive and work in the spirit of tranquility, without fear or covetousness. Your fellowship with Christ releases you from your worries and then encourages you to trust the love of your heavenly Father, the Omnipotent Creator.
Watch the birds as they pick up what they do not plant and easily fly wherever they find food. Furthermore your heavenly Father allows you to turn to Him, for He alone will care for you and look after you. He thinks about you and can give you a suitable job and helps you to remain meek and faithful.
Your heavenly Father granted you a wonderful body, full of life, which is still a mystery not explored by scientists as yet. Have you watched the growing of flowers and fruit trees, which tell you about the greatness of the Creator? Look at the plants under the microscope and learn from them. Smell a rose and learn that all the beauty and the system of the universe is but a reflection of the glory of the mighty Creator who leads the stars in their ways and knows the number of the atoms turning around their core. He also knows you, guides you and loves you, for He is your spiritual Father. Everything in the world is created; yet, you are born of His uncreated Spirit. He has sacrificed His unique Christ for you. Is it possible that He may forget you? It is impossible for your heavenly Father not to think of you every moment of your life. Your worries and sorrows are considered little faith, and your grumbling complaint is denial of His goodness. God’s love is wider and deeper than the sea. His mercy is like heaven. He says to you, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
Meditate on the words of God and study His salvation. Penetrate into the teaching of Christ and serve the kingdom of God in your activities. Take off every unbelief, worry, bitterness and complaint, and trust your heavenly Father who cares for you faithfully. Christ raises you from your worry, and the Holy Spirit empowers you that you may not be shaken at the hour of testing. Unbelievers seek material things, but you are called by God. Turn away your face from the earthly matters and hold fast to His guiding hand and abide with Him in the eternal life. Your body will definitely die one day, but this is not the end, for your spiritual life is concealed with Christ in God. Do not allow fear and worries, whether great or small, to overcome your faith, stand firm in the providence of your Father, for He is ready to give you what is necessary and sufficient for you to live and to serve Him and to honor Him with your continuing trust.
Concern yourself with God and His principles and your life will be adjusted automatically, for the presence of God sanctifies it. Study the succession of petitions in the Lord’s Prayer and you can learn the meaning and the purpose of the divine kingdom in your life and the interest of your Father in you. Hallow His name, consider His kingdom and spread the gospel in speech, in prayer, in service and in sacrifice. Do not worry about yourself in the first place, but glorify the righteousness of the heavenly King and testify the rights and power of His kingdom that many lost ones may enter into the vast expanses of salvation. Then the King looks after your concerns, bears the responsibility for you and blesses every section of your life.
O Father, we thank You for Your
Fatherly kindness, Your constant care for us and for forgiveness of our sins.
We thank You for Your help in hardship and for giving us what is sufficient in
life and eternity. Please keep us from complaint and from little faith.
Strengthen us with great confidence in your love and free us from excessive
worrying about ourselves so that we really seek Your kingdom and the spread of
Your righteousness first and last.
Question 75: How does Christ prevent us from sinking into and yielding to worries?
He Who Knows His Lord, Judges Himself, not Others (7:1-6)
7:1 Judge not, that you be not judged. (2) For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. (3) And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? (4) Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me remove the speck from your eye!”, and look, a plank is in your own eye? (5) Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Isaiah 33:1; Mark 4:24; Romans 2:1; 1Corinthians 4:5)
Jesus has suffered from the hard-heartedness, hypocrisy and pride, which were in His disciples and in the people in general. He ordered them not to judge anybody, but judge themselves first. The Law of Christ reveals our bad and impure intents, their reasons and the decisions resulting from them. Jesus wants to reform the source of our thoughts and to renew our hearts first that thought, speech and act might be reformed altogether.
· We should judge first ourselves, and judge our own acts, but we must not judge our brother and sister. The Lord did not give us an authority over others to judge them. We should not sit in the judgment seat, to make our word a law to everybody.
· We should never be hasty in judgment, nor pass a judgment upon our brother or sister without clear reason, certainly not if it is only the product of our own jealousy and ill nature. We should not think the worst of people, nor infer such invidious things from their words, through misrepresenting them.
· We should not judge unmercifully, uncharitably, nor with a spirit of revenge and a desire to do mischief. We cannot judge a man’s state by a single act, nor of what he is in himself by what he is to us, because in our own cause we are apt to be partial.
· We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions, for it is God’s prerogative to try the heart, and we must not step into His position as Judge. We should not be judges of their eternal state, nor call them hypocrites, adulterers, castaways or reprobates; that is going beyond our limit.
If we judge others, we will be judged equally. He who abuses the bench, shall be called to the bar. Those who are the most condemning are commonly the most condemned; everyone will have a stone to throw back at them. He who has his hand and tongue against every man, shall have every man’s hand and tongue against him. No mercy will be shown to the reputation of those that show no mercy to the reputation of others.
We should confess that we judge others hastily and superficially and consider them weak or strong, bad or good, helpful or harmful. We often hate and reject them, saying wrong words about them. Man acts as if he were the eternal Judge. He condemns others and considers himself good and worthy of understanding and admitting others. Christ rejects such thinking sharply and condemns it as disobedience for many reasons:
We do not know the inner background of a man or the inherited factors he received from his forefathers or the effects of his surrounding environment that took part in his formation since childhood. He who judges will be judged with the same measure he uses. Therefore, be cautious not to pass your judgments hastily upon anybody that you may not judge and destroy yourself through your merciless judgments.
This does not prevent us from rebuking others when they practice sins and impurities by reason of their corrupt society. Some friends practice filthiness and adultery using the society they live in as an excuse. To those brothers and sisters we can say, “You should not judge the world and others but judge yourself.”
What is more horrible is those who carelessly match the world. They gamble, revel and commit adultery, and if you asked them about their behavior, they would answer, “It is a social necessity through which I learn to live in agreement with my partner in future, better be sure than sorry.” To those we can say, “Who told you that this partner will keep later on his promise and marry you after he had satisfied his desires, and not move to others, like a bee which moves from one flower to another looking for their nectar.”
God is the most merciful. He loves even the adulterers and the thieves and seeks to save them. If you are obligated to pass a judgment upon someone, let it be done slowly with love and straightness, not with violence, harshness and hate. Others should sense your love and respect through your words and behavior.
If everyone knew themselves as God knows them, they would be ashamed of their own impurity, haughtiness, stinginess and of their limited knowledge and ability in science and arts. Every man should first examine himself honestly in the light of the holiness of God that he may become humble, aware of his own sins and his ruined state, disgusted with himself, broken in his proud soul and never judging others any longer but judging himself first. Blessed is the man who denies himself and takes up his own cross every day and follows Jesus. Then his pride comes to an end, and he does not judge others till he had first recognized and confessed his own corruption. Repentance paves the way for mutual understanding and love and he who gets spiritually broken is able to help the unbroken with his kindness and love and guide them to their loving Savior, the greatest psychiatrist.
Christ calls everyone who thinks himself to be better than others, a hypocrite, unaware of real matters, since he has not yet perceived his own state. On the other hand, Christ delivers whoever resorts to Him, that is prepared to accept Him, from self-conceit and carries him into the eternal abode of His love. He who believes in the Son of God shall not be condemned, but he who does not believe in the Son of God already is condemned, for he rejects his self-sacrificing deputy in the final judgment and neglected His eternal atonement prepared for the world.
O eternal Judge, be merciful to me, a great sinner! I have judged and despised many of my friends and leaders. Please forgive my pride and purify me from haughtiness that I may be changed and become merciful to everybody as You are merciful to us. If I must make decisions about the life of somebody, please give me wisdom, love and deliberation that I may learn Your will first. Please help me to judge and deny myself first, to take up my cross every day and follow You.
Question 76: Why did Christ forbid us from judging others?
7:6 Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matthew 10:11; Luke 23:9)
Do not be hasty in offering salvation to the enemies of the cross, and do not think that you will be able to save a corrupt person, for Christ alone is the Savior, we are only instruments in His kind hand. Many worldly minded people are not ready to hear the Word of God, which they reject mockingly, nor prepared to accept the unity of the Holy Trinity. Be cautious not to tell them the essence of the gospel too soon, for they cannot grasp it at once. Do not force them to accept your spiritual view on the Savior if they rejected it. Do not speak in exaggerated language about your conversion and regeneration for they cannot comprehend this reality, unless the Spirit of the Lord opens their ears to the spiritual mysteries, otherwise they will mock at you, tempt you and open traps for you to destroy you.
Pray that the Spirit of the Lord will hover over them and prepare their hearts to accept His word in order that they may become enlightened and able to recognize what is good for them.
Guide every seeker of truth to Christ, not to your own godliness. Evil spirits lurk to destroy people, and if those spirits get hold of someone rejecting Jesus, they may dwell in him so that he will behave like animals and worse. Do not think that you are able to save such a mislead one by yourself. We should love them in the name of Christ and respect even the possessed. Although they reject and blaspheme Christ and do not know his forgiveness, He has died for their sins too.
Do not judge a man, or try to bring him to salvation in your own ability, for both are the work of God alone. God invites you to follow His Christ, declare His authority and realize His power by your faith. Pray more than you think. Penetrate regularly into the gospel more than you speak. Never judge a man, but love, bless, bear and pray for him that the love of God may reveal itself in him.
Our zeal against sin must be guided by discretion. We must not go about to give instruction, counsel and rebuke to hardened scorners. It will certainly do no good, but will exasperate and enrage them toward us.
O Father, please forgive us our judgmental pride. We do not know nor understand people properly, and we are not better than they are. Cleanse us from our haughtiness and impurities that we may become Your holy children, love the lost and be sanctified under Your protection. Please teach us to have mercy with the wicked and love them. We pray for everyone that is possessed with demons, that You may cast them out of him and let Your Holy Spirit come into him. Please keep us protected under the precious blood of Jesus.
Question 77: How should we love and serve those who do not want to hear the Word of God?
D. The Summary of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven (7:7-27)
The Prayer of Faith in God the Father (7:7-11)
7:7 Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (8) For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. (9) Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? (10) Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? (11) If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Jeremiah 29:13-14; Mark 11:24; John 14:13; James 1:17)
Do you suffer from a problem or distress, finding no solution or redemption? Come to your Lord and tell Him about it. He is the only one who can solve the problems of your soul, body and spirit. He sent His almighty Christ to the world with sovereign authority to wipe away your ugly sins and poured out the Spirit of His love into you to guide you to contentment, wisdom and honesty. Do not concern yourself night and day with your worries, but listen to the Word of God and believe His faithful promises. Do not be confused. Do not be afraid. Come to your heavenly Father and trust Him with open conscience, for your sins have often been the reason for your prayers being unanswered. Beg His pardon and forgiveness. He is waiting for you to return to Him. When will you come? Your heavenly Father will help you in your personal problems. Moreover, He will be pleased to answer you if you pray for others, for God is love and He wants to fill your heart with His love. How many demands do you ask for yourself, and how many prayers do you pray for others? The answer to this question shows you the reason for what slows down the answers to your prayers.
However, the Holy Spirit guides you to the saving will of God and leads you to His Fatherly heart. He does not help you only superficially, nor support you with cash-money and success in the first place, but makes you stand fast in His unique Christ. This Savior does not only give you the assurance of salvation, but He Himself loves you.
Did you observe the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s school of prayer? Every man is wicked and corrupt in his nature, for Christ called us in his kindness, “evil.” But God loves us as a merciful Father even while we are lost. He wants to change us by His Spirit that we can live with Him forever. How do we come to Him seeking only the delights of the world? This is why Christ invites you to enter into His gospel that you may seek the kingdom and righteousness of God first and help to spread them, sparing no effort to establish them in your surroundings, then your heavenly Father adds what you need.
God often seems to be slow in answering those who call Him, for He examines their hearts whether they love Him in person or only ask for His gifts. God waits for your full confidence in your prayers. He wants to open the windows of heaven and shower you and your friends with His blessings, grace for grace. Persevere in praying and believe in God’s presence beside you, for He is ready to be with you and to use your life to His glory. Do you accept Him, thank Him and consider Him the center of your future?
Christ has taught us to advance step by step in our prayers and to insist more and more in our petitions individually and in groups. Come and meet for common prayer that your heavenly Father may bless you. He is waiting for the thanksgiving and requests of His children. Ask Him first with dignity and love about the best solution for your problems. Seek the power of God for the salvation of others. Knock at His door insistently through your prayers, begging His pardon and asking for renewal for those who hunger for righteousness in your surroundings, for without love for the lost, your prayer remains weak.
How beautiful is the image that Christ has given the earthly father, who gives his children help and good livelihood in spite of their selfishness in their childhood. He will not crash them in his rage if they do wrong, but will educate them, for he loves them. Thus, God gives you only good gifts. He does not reject you, for He is your Father and He makes every effort for bringing up, feeding and dressing His children. He cares for the body, the soul and the spirit, that His children may reach spiritual maturity.
Believe in the providence of your heavenly Father and thank Him for His goodness flowing upon you and your church. Do not be tired of praying. Believe in what you ask in your prayer in the name of Christ, and you will experience His miracles through the indwelling of His Spirit and a divine wisdom in preaching to the lost.
The promise is made. Your heavenly Father will meet those who come to Him. Ask and it will be given to you; not lent to you, not sold to you, but given to you. And what is more free than a gift? Whatever you pray for, according to the promise, whatever you ask in the spirit of Jesus, will be given to you. Ask and have. You do not have, because you do not ask. Or do you not ask rightly? What is not worth asking for, is not worth having, and then it is worth nothing.
The child is supposed to ask for bread, which is necessary, and for fish, which is wholesome. But if the child should foolishly ask for a stone, or a serpent, for unripe fruit to eat, or a sharp knife to play with, the father is wise to deny him. We often ask God for things which would do us harm if we had received them. He knows this, and therefore does not give them to us. Denials in love are better than grants in anger. We should have been undone before this if we had had all we desired.
Examine your intentions in your prayers comparing them with the gospel and pray according to what we have learnt from Christ in the Lord’s Prayer, for these petitions are answerable.
O Merciful Father, we rejoice, for You do not neglect our little and big worries, but respond to us every time. Please forgive us every selfish prayer and fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may love You and pray to You continuously for the salvation of our relatives and others. We will not leave You until you have saved them. Teach us to ask You, to seek You and to knock insistently at the door of heaven so that You may send Your help so that Your holy name be glorified.
Question 78: Why does Jesus ask us to pray constantly and insistently?
The Golden Rule (7:12)
7:12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8‑10; Galatians 5:14)
Did you know that God loves you, answers your prayers, frees you from your jealousy, delivers you from the effects of your worries and rids you of your exaggerated insensitiveness into a wholesome life of peace, service and purity? In response to this great love, do not think of yourself first. Change your thought and look attentively at the condition of your kindred. As much as you love yourself, so give your time and money as a sacrifice for others. Look at Christ who has given Himself completely for sinners. With His example, the basic principle of life changes. Do not expect services, but help with kind treatment needy people. Do them favors without delay, for the following of Christ changes His servants into real servants and in the image of their Lord.
Christ came to teach us, not only what we are to know and believe, but also what we are to do – what we should do, not only toward God, but also toward men – not only towards our relatives and those of our party and persuasion, but also towards men in general. The golden rule of equity is to do to others as we except that they should do to us. Take it positively, or negatively, it comes all to the same. We must not do to others the evil they have done to us or the evil that they would do to us if it were in their power. May we do to them only what we desire they do to us. This is grounded upon that great commandment; “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As we must bear the same affection to our neighbor that we would have borne to ourselves, so we should do the same good offices. We can, in our dealings with others, suppose ourselves in the same particular case and circumstances with those we have to do with, and act accordingly. If I were making such a bargain, laboring under such an infirmity and affliction, how should I desire and expect to be treated? And this is a just supposition, because we do not know how soon their case may really be ours. At least we may fear, lest God by His judgments should do to us as we have done to others, if we have not done as we would be done by.
O Heavenly Father, You are worthy of worship by every man. How frequent You are affronted by the people walking indifferently before You. In Your patience, You did not destroy them, but You gave Your only Son for them to draw them near to You and to change them into Your likeness. Please forgive us taking no notice of Your generosity, kindness and power. Change us fundamentally that we may serve You and serve everybody with praise and thankfulness to Christ our ideal and example.
Question 79: What is the secret of the golden rule?
The Two Ways (7:13-14)
7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. (14) Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. (Matthew 19:29; Luke 13:24; Acts 14:22)
God invites you to come to Him. But where is the door of heaven? Christ said, “I am the door” and nobody can enter into heaven unless he accepts the love of God incarnate in Jesus. He has taken away your sins. In Him, you can come to God, cleansed from your sin. Without getting rid of your sins, you cannot pass through the narrow gate. We have to confess our sins that He can purify us. The cross is the only gate leading to heaven.
In the wide broad way, you will have abundance of liberty. This gate stands wide open to tempt many to go right on their deceiving way. You may go in at this gate with all your lusts. It gives no check to your appetites, to your passions. You may “walk in the ways of your heart and in the sight of your eyes” (Ecclesiastes 11:9), that gives room enough. It is a broad way, for there is nothing to hedge in those that walk in it, but they are lost and wander endlessly. A broad way, for there are many paths in it, there is choice of sinful ways, contrary to each other, but all paths end in this broad way.
There are many who go in by this gate and walk in this Way. If we follow the multitude, we will do evil. If we go with the crowd, it will be the wrong way. It would be natural for us to go with the stream and do as the majority do. Those who follow the broad way will surely enter hell. We should not accompany them, since we are on our way to heaven.
The way to follow Jesus is not easy. It always requires great attention to closely follow the leader in the mountains if the valleys from right and left open their mouths to swallow the travelers. Do not be afraid of the dangers as you walk through heights and valleys of your life. Follow your leader Jesus. Be tied to Him with the rope of faith that you may not fall in the pit, but reach the top, the Most High, the aim of your life.
The followers of Christ are relatively few. People do not recognize that the way of His love is beautiful. They boastfully rush into the ways of false lusts and hopes, disobeying God and wandering in the broad way down to the bottom of the pit, thinking that they are good, righteous, following the right path, and not in need of a merciful Savior. Those who live without God have no real joy and no enduring happiness. They revel, get drunk and commit adultery, and then their way leads them directly to eternal damnation.
Where are you going? Which way do you follow? The way leading to God or the other way leading to the evil one? Do not answer quickly, for the godly Pharisees, at the time of Christ, believed that the ticket to heaven was in their pocket. They abstained from smoking and drinking, put on modest dresses, prayed without interruption, fasted for numerous days and nights, offered gifts and sacrifices and gave evidences aloud. But in spite of all these, such external acts of worship did not suffice. They were the closest men to the flames of hell, because they walked in obvious pride. Satan could drive them through their self-righteousness, directly down into the fire of hell.
Spiritual recreation is the gate by which we follow the narrow way, in which we begin a life of faith and godliness. By the new birth we pass out of a state of sin into a state of grace. This means the “narrow gate,” hard to find, and hard to get through, like a passage between two rocks. The Lord will give you a new heart and a new spirit, but the old things must pass away. The inclination of the soul will be changed, corrupt habits and customs broken off, what we have been doing all our days must be stopped. We must swim against the stream. Opposition must be struggled with and broken through, from without and from within. It is sometimes easier to set a man against the entire world than against himself, and yet this must be so in conversion. It is a “narrow gate,” for we must stoop, or we cannot go in at it. We should become as little children. High thoughts must be brought down. We must strip and deny ourselves, put off the world, put off the old man. We must be willing to forsake all for our interest in Christ. The gate is narrow to all, but to some it seems narrower than to others, such as to the rich, or those that have been long prejudiced against religion. The gate is narrow. Blessed be God, it is not kept with a flaming sword, nor shut up, nor locked against us, as it will be shortly (Matthew 25:10).
The matter is fairly stated. Life and death, good and evil are set before us, both the ways and both the ends. Let the matter be taken in its entirety and considered impartially, and then choose this day which you will walk in. The matter determines itself and will not admit of a debate. No man, in his senses, would choose to go to the gallows, because it has a smooth, pleasant way to it, nor refuse the offer of a palace and a throne, because it has a rough, dirty way to it. Yet such absurdities as these are men guilty of, in the concerns of their souls. Do not delay, therefore; do not deliberate any longer, but enter into the narrow gate; knock at it by sincere and constant prayers and endeavors, and it will be opened. It is true, we can neither go in, nor go on, without the assistance of divine grace. But it is also true, that grace is freely offered and will not be delayed to those that seek it. Rebirth is not logical, but spiritual. It will be given freely by our Father in heaven.
O great Father, You are holy love. Please forgive me my earthly concerns and my neglect of others. Help me to resort to Your crucified Christ so that He may free me from the heaviness of my burden, so that I can walk together with all Your children in the path of holiness following the Prince of Peace. Draw me to You in spite of fears and temptation, for Your Son has bound Himself to me in His new covenant.
Question 80: Why is the gate and the way leading to our Father in heaven narrow?
The False Prophets (7:15-20)
7:15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn-bushes or figs from thistles? (17) Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. (18) A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. (19) Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. (20) Therefore by their fruits you will know them. (Matthew 24:4-5; John 15:2.6; 2Corinthians 11:13-15; Galatians 5:19-23)
Christ warns us against false teachers, who mislead those who seek righteousness with their high-sounding words. Satan uses impostures and counterfeits, hypocrites pretending humanity and knowledge. He inspires them with the gift of public speaking that they may draw the public with visions and prophecies and by magic powers performs clever miracles through them. People like to see miracles and believe afterwards quickly but superficially.
Be cautious and do not commit yourself to any spirit nor trust every religion. Examine the different doctrines carefully through the gospel, for the church and its pastors do not save you, the living Christ is the only Savior.
He who preaches another gospel and does not offer the forgiveness of sins in the blood of Christ is like a wolf with a destructive heart, even if he appears in the mildness of a lamb. Likewise every priest or metropolitan who does not preach the new birth by the Spirit of Christ is an offense to others, for Christ has died that we may receive eternal life through faith.
Whoever tries to mislead you to fabricated and false sanctification through fasting, pilgrimage, or almsgiving is a deceiver, for man is justified not by his own acts but by the grace of God alone. If you seek salvation, do not cling to theologians and preachers who bring you into the bondage of law and rituals to satisfy God through human services and external keeping of certain days. Such legalism does not bring sanctification. You are only sanctified by the atoning death of Christ, and He is satisfied with your faith in His blood.
Lay aside angel visions, luminous appearances, shining lights, and any kind of spiritism. Resort to Christ alone, for Satan can turn himself into an angel of light, seducing men and bringing out fascinating miracles to draw many and take them away from the crucified One. If you hear voices or dream dreams, do not worry about them, for Satan is able to project evil ideas into your mind so that you may think yourself a chosen prophet and a mighty reformer. As a result of that you become puffed up with yourself and look down upon others. Remember that you were a great sinner on earth. Answer the tempter that you are weak and small but saved in Christ, and he will break away. You have no worldly honor, place or position in the salvation of Christ, who says to you, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Matthew 16:24)
Every priest or preacher that draws his audience to himself with partiality is of the lower spirit, for the true ambassadors for Christ turn the believers from looking at themselves to the faith in the person of Christ alone. So do not be impressed by the greatness of anybody, seek and follow only the footsteps of the Crucified. By the fruits of their persons, their words and actions and the course of their conversation, you will know them.
If you would know whether they be right or not, observe how they live. Their works will testify for them or against them. The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ chair and taught the law, but the majority of them were proud, covetous, false and oppressive. Therefore Christ warned his disciples to beware of them and of their “leaven.” If someone pretends to be a prophet and his life is corrupt, that disproves his pretensions. False prophets hate the cross of Christ. Whatever they profess, their God is their belly. They are not inspired nor sent of the real God. Their lives evidence that an unclean spirit leads them. They may declare God’s law, but their actions contradict their sayings.
Be cautious, do not think that you by yourself can lead people to Christ. If you do not reject all your sins through faithful repentance and keep away from sources of spiritual death, you will remain a misled wanderer. Ask your Lord to give you a contrite heart and more of His holiness and mercy, that you may not preach your own ideas, but live humbly and contentedly in the power of the Holy Spirit. Those who hate their enemies and despise the ignorant are not of God. The Eternal has sent His merciful Son into the world to save and strengthen the sinful poor. Those who seek honor and high respect are not followers of Christ. He has always honored His Father as the Father honors Him forever. Just as He did not collect nor lay up money, but remained content, we also should not cheat ourselves with the vanities of riches and ease, but toil and strive to get the daily food to support our lives. Paul has presented himself as an example. The purity of your heart and cleanliness of your speech are clear evidence that your origin is of God, for he who speaks with the power of the Holy Spirit shall live happy and protected.
O Heavenly Father, we thank You because Your Son has saved us from lying and self-centeredness, and His messengers have guided us to You. Please open our hearts to Your Spirit of Truth that we may not go astray, but be able to discern the spirits, bear good fruits, not offend anybody, but guide them to Jesus, the only Savior.
Question 81: Who is the deceiver?
The Application of the Law by the Power of the Spirit (7:21-23)
7:21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord!”, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. (22) Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? (23) And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 13:25-27; Romans 2:13; James 1:22)
Christ saved you that you may live joyfully according to His Law. Your faith in the Savior connected you with Him. His death justified you that the power of His Holy Spirit can dwell in your body. Then how are you certain that you are a child of God?
Your belonging to God appears though your prayer, for the children of God do not cry all the time as other religious, “Lord, Lord” nor, “Master, Master.” They call God, “Our Father in heaven.” The Holy Spirit testifies to your spirit, that God is your Father and we are His children. They lay down their matters and selves in His hands, trust His constant care, convert and become active in His service. They enter deeply into the good news of the gospel and grow in confidence, love and hope. Christ did not free us to reform our wicked actions by our own power, but to commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit who establishes a new creation with its fruits in us. He guides us into His church as active, humble members.
Once there was a liar who started to believe in Christ. His friends, before that, used to say that eighty percent of his sayings were exaggerated, but after his conversion, one of his friends said that twenty percent only of his sayings were exaggerated. The broken-hearted believer was glad. He asked Christ with tears to save him completely from exaggeration and make him true in every word and letter and right in all his being.
If you find any weakness or defect in your own character, mention it to Christ. Confess it with repentance and ask Him to cure you and sanctify you, then reject, with resolution and strength, every iniquity.
Your abiding in Christ may be done through your self-denial, for nothing good is dwelling in our nature. Do not be proud, for pride is the sin of Satan. Do not try to cast demons out of the demon-possessed using your human power lest they come out and dwell in you. Christ is the only one who is able to cast out impure spirits through His Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Lord uses your sincere testimony to deliver and save those in bondage.
The Lord invites you to be a faithful witness of His actions today. Do not seek from Him unnecessary knowledge of the future, revealing more than what is proclaimed through the Holy Bible. Trust the guidance of your Father and do not think that you are important in yourself. Do not try to free our society from hunger and injustice by your own efforts. Listen carefully to the spirit of the gospel who guides you to preach to others and perform useful deeds. If Christ invited you to perform a blessed action to glorify His Father, He would authorize you through His own authority. But do not forget then that you, in yourself, are useless, and that your gifts are not of you. God’s love is poured out also in you. It has come from outside yourself as a great gift to your worthless life. Examine carefully the hymn of love in 1 Corinthians 13 to recognize that the attractive gift of public speaking and the mountain-removing faith do not save you. It is the love of the Holy Spirit originating from faith in Christ that enables you to stand fast in it and bring about the fruits of your salvation. Abide, then, in Jesus as the branch abides in the vine, and the Lord will produce His fruits in you. This is the will of your heavenly Father that you become united with His Son Jesus and live in him and He in you. What a great promise, that you may become a true believer, acting with divine love and serving with meekness and patience.
Do not be misled by false prophets who perform great miracles, healings and cast out demons (even in the name of Jesus) but do not confess salvation by the crucified Son of God! They are separated from the Lamb of God!
Woe to the religious minded multitudes who think they are under covenant with God and are not following Jesus in their lives. Woe to the elders in churches and societies who become proud and do not behave humbly, as washing their companions’ feet, but judge them severely. Woe to those who are gifted in speaking with the power of their intellect, but do not love the lowly and poor. They will receive severe judgment in the hereafter.
Love is the completion of the law. Faith will end when Christ comes again to our world, and hope will end when we see our Savior and our glorious Father, but love remains immortal, for God is love. Therefore, aspire to be filled with divine love that you may show in your life that you are indeed a true child of your merciful Father and an honest brother of Jesus Christ. He is the Judge in the Day of Judgment and He distinguishes between the righteous and the unrighteous, between the ones who serve the needy and the others who serve themselves. Continue practicing love, which is the final evidence of your true faith.
O Holy Father, we thank You, for You have poured Your own love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit given to us. Please purify us with the blood of Your beloved Son. Forgive us our impatience and worrying about our haughtiness and ourselves. Make us abide in Jesus, that we may fulfill Your will in His power and continue in His providential guidance and protection. Save many of our friends and enemies and free them from the lies of Satan.
Question 82: Who will enter heaven?
The Wise Man and the Foolish Man (Matthew 7:24-29)
7:24 Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: (25) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. (26) But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: (27) and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
You will be exposed to storms and tempests whether morally or practically, for our materialistically minded world is standing under God’s wrath. The Mighty has withdrawn His peace from the world. We live amidst the woes preceding the Second Coming of Christ. If any body says, “Peace be with you,” then he is dreaming, for God fights against egoistic sinners. Hate is increased, hunger is marching and grave sins are common in our society. How do you stand, my dear brother and sister, in the midst of this frightful tribulation?
Christ has answered you with a comforting word; “In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Do not be afraid, for He who rose from the dead has given you a solid basis for your future and a jewel more precious than rubies, that is the Holy Gospel in which you find power for life and death, for work and rest, for joy and sorrow. In the Gospel you can find the spiritual medicine for all your diseases and illnesses. If you use these divine words as a motto for your life you will become clever and wise. Nothing can shake you, and you will remain steadfast and untroubled amidst the devastating flood of God’s wrath, because you know the tender voice of Jesus saying to you, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you” (Matthew 9:2). Christ is the only solid basis for your future.
Woe to a person who builds his life on philosophies and doctrines that are not based on the cross, for they cheat him and tell him about the superiority and success of men through their own works. They puff him up till he bursts. Then he may finally perceive that there is nothing good in himself. He flees, hopeless, with pessimism lashed by fear, running after every false and unfaithful leader. They speak empty words that inspire them with worthless imaginations. The multitudes that have not learnt and grasped the gospel of truth will become an easy prey for the false christ and his false prophet, and at the same time, a blasphemy on the heavenly Father who has loved and redeemed them too.
But you know the voice of the Good Shepherd who neither shouts nor cries, but protects and keeps His followers through His truth forever. He strengthens them for the good works originating from the power of His love and His patience. Nobody can snatch them out of His hand. He and the Father are one, and nobody can snatch us out of the hand of our heavenly Father (John 10:28). Christ lives and rules with His Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. He will come again soon to take those who believe and act according to the gospel into His spiritual kingdom. They are waiting for Him expectedly, paving the way for Him with pure conduct and presenting to Him the fruits of His Holy Spirit. All other people will cry out trembling with fear, “If only we had listened to the gospel and believed in Christ, we would have been saved. But now the wrath of God will judge us, and our determination is hell forever!”
7:28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, (29) for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. (John 7:16.46; Acts 2:12)
Christ is a true man and true God, and all His words are sovereign. They can move stony hearts, save those that hunger after righteousness and heal the brokenhearted. We have today the privilege to distribute the gospel of redemption among those who are eager for it, in order to explain the greatness of the kindness of our unique Savior who will be the eternal Judge in the last judgment.
Spread the fullness of the Word of God in your surroundings that many may be saved in these last days. Do not exaggerate your intellectual knowledge or your own ability. Glorify the Father and the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit, the one God, and you will experience what Jesus said, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
O Holy Father, we thank You for You have inspired Your apostles with the word of our salvation and given us a valuable chance to penetrate deeply into your promises and the law of Your gospel. You saved us through the blood of Your Son and gave life to us with Your power. Keep us in Your love. Bless all who are eager for Your salvation and use us by Your grace that we may spread the gospel of redemption in our surroundings, that we may prepare together the way for the coming of Your beloved Son.
Question 83: What is the only solid basis for your life?
2. THE MIRACLES OF CHRIST
IN CAPERNAUM AND ITS SURROUNDINGS
(MATTHEW 8:1 - 9:35)
The Leper Healed (8:1-4)
8:1 When HE had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. (2) And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” (3) Then Jesus put out His hands and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (4) And Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” (Mark 1:40-44; Luke 5:12-14)
This miracle is fitly recorded as the first of Christ’s miracles, because the leprosy was looked upon, among the Jews, as a particular mark of God’s judgment. Hence we find Miriam, Gehazi and Uzziah, smitten with leprosy for some particular sin. Therefore Christ, to reveal that He came to turn away the wrath of God by taking away sin, began with the healing of a leper.
Because this disease was supposed to come immediately from God, so it was supposed to be removed immediately by Him too. Therefore it was not supposed to be cured by physicians, but was put under the inspection of the priests, the Lord’s ministers, who had to examine and see what God would do (Leviticus 13:1 – 14:57). The followers of Jesus wondered how Christ let the leper come near Him and did not turn him away, and how Christ overstepped the regulations and customs of their nation to save this despised and rejected person. Christ proved Himself to be God, by healing many from the leprosy and authorizing His apostles, in His name, to do so too (Matthew 10:8). This is one of His proofs of His being the Messiah.
The leper, who was an outcast, believed with all his heart, in the power of Christ, for he had heard of his miraculous acts and trusted His divine capability. He worshiped Him in front of all, saying, “Lord.” The poor man murmured in his worship asking to be cleansed, opening his heart and soul to the generosity of Christ, and believing in His great power. He added, “if you are willing, You can make me clean.” Christ immediately responded to this total devotion to Him. He was not afraid of being infected, but touched the affected skin, in spite of the resentment of the multitudes who moved backward with fear and fright. By this touch to the leper, Christ proved His Deity saying, “I am willing; be cleansed,” when He cleansed and cured him. He did not say, as Elisha to Naaman, “Go, wash in Jordan”; He did not put upon him a tedious, troublesome, chargeable course of a medical treatment, but spoke the powerful word of absolute authority and healed him at once.
In this brief statement, we see the proclamation of the effective and essential will of God. He has created us and He will guide, cure, save, sanctify and perfect us. God is willing and is working towards cleansing us from corruption, and He has the power to save us. Never forget that Christ answered the prayer of the leper by clear words, “I am willing; be cleansed.” By the exceptional power of the Lord, the leprosy immediately left the man, his affected skin was renewed, and the once inactive, lifeless nerves of his body grew.
The multitudes were shocked and astonished at the power of Jesus and the greatness of His mighty love. They experienced the presence of the divine power and saw in the miracle a proof of the divinity of the greatest physician. Thus He will touch you to clean you, take your hand and support you that you may believe that the Lord really loves you and is willing with all His heart to help you and purify you with His holy power.
The Savior sent the cured to the priests that they might officially confirm the triumph of God over this fearful disease, believe in Jesus continuously and testify His supreme power over sin and its results. Christ did not nullify the Law and its commandments, but fulfilled it with His love and humble spirit.
O Father, we thank You, for Your will seeks our salvation and purification at all times. You want us to be purified, to worship You and to declare Your plan for salvation in Jesus. Please teach us the courage of faith and the full confidence so that we come to Him and give Him our problems, sins and diseases for our redemption’s sake, that we may be purified, for You want us to be purified and saved forever.
Question 84: Why did Matthew mention the healing of the leper as the first of Christ’s miracles?
Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant (8:5-13)
8:5 Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, (6) saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” (7) And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” (8) The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. (9) For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, Go, and he goes; and to another, Come, and he comes; and to my servant, Do this, and he does it.” (10) When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! (11) And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (12) But the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (13) Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” And his servant was healed that same hour. (Mark 6:6; Luke 7:1-10; 13:28-29; John 4:46-53)
The Jewish custom considers every Gentile unclean and impure like a leper. The cure of the centurion’s servant meant a new attack by Christ against the complex interpretations of the Law of Moses, for He received the Roman officer, an occupier of His country, in front of all the people. This proved that the gospel was not confined only to the Jewish people, but also to the gentiles.
This officer was the greatest man in Capernaum, representing the occupying authority. He came to Jesus, the healer, asking Him to heal his servant and confessed openly his unworthiness saying, “I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” He accepted the Jewish custom that Jesus was not allowed to lower Himself and enter the house of a Gentile. He did not want to embarrass Christ. This indicates that he was wise and humane, that he respected the custom of the Jews whom the Romans despised, and considered his servant as one of his sons in indication of his humble love and care for his servants.
Though he was a Roman centurion, and his dwelling among the Jews was a badge of their subjection to the Roman yoke, yet Christ, who was “King of the Jews” favored him. By this He teaches us to do good to our enemies and not to limit ourselves in national enmities. Though he was a Gentile, yet Christ met with him publicly and answered his request openly.
Furthermore, we find that the Roman centurion believed in Christ’s power to cure every disease. He orders the spirits and the illnesses as a commander orders his soldiers to go, and they obey him. This belief certainty grew in the centurion as he watched Jesus and collected reports and information about His acts and sayings, and ascertained that this Nazarene had great spiritual authority over spirits, demons and diseases. He knew that His word was mighty, that it was not necessary for Him to come into the house to cure the sick. From His distant place He could but speak His word and it was sure to be done, for all the heavenly authorities are at His disposal.
Christ was impressed with this great faith, which He did not find among His own followers and people. May we follow this commander, become humble, love our servants, and consider ourselves unworthy that Christ should come under our roof. At the same time, we should believe that Jesus loves us and wants to help us. Thus we commit ourselves to Him, experience the realization of His heavenly powers in our friends and our lives and confess true faith in the proclamation of Jesus on the heavenly facts. Jesus acknowledged eternal salvation to him who comes to Him. He revealed later on that the believers would rest in heaven and sit with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the presence of God, the center of our hope. Yet, those who do not believe in the power of Christ will turn away into continuous despair, inasmuch as they did not accept God’s love.
The paralysis disabled the servant from doing his work and made him as troublesome and tedious as any illness could, yet he did not turn him away when he was sick. He did not send him to his relatives, nor let him lie neglected, but sought out the best relief he could for him. The servant could not have done more for the master, than the master did here for the servant. The centurion’s servants were dutiful to him, and here we see what made them so, their chief was merciful kind to them. As we should not despise the cause of our servants, when they contend with us, so we should not despise their case when God contends with them. We are made in the same mould, by the same hand, and stand upon the same level with them before God, even if they come from developing countries.
The centurion did not apply to witches or fortune-tellers for his servant, but to Christ. The palsy was a disease in which the physician’s skill commonly failed. It was therefore a great evidence of his faith in the power of Christ, to come to Him for a cure, which was above the power of natural means to effect. The piety of the Law alone does not grant salvation to sinners. His commitment to Jesus is the qualification to eternal salvation. Jesus immediately cured his servant in spite of the distance between them. Here we learn that time or place does not bind Christ. He is the Lord of the universe and can cure us, save us and sanctify us today also, for He is seated at the right hand of His Father in His throne. He is waiting for us to come near God in faith asking Him to cure our relatives and friends, that He may answer our prayer immediately in His eternal love.
Many Jews who persist in unbelief, though they were by birth “Children of the kingdom,” will be cut off from being members of the church of Christ. “The kingdom of God,” of which they boasted that they were the children, shall be taken from them, and they shall be rejected. In the great day it will not avail men to have been “children of the kingdom,” either as Jews or as Christians, for men will then be judged, not by what they were called, but by what they were. “If a son, then an heir” (Galatians 4:7). But many merely claim to be children. They live in the family, but belong not to it and will not receive of the spiritual inheritance. Being born of professing parents gives us a spiritual blessing, but if we rest in that and have nothing else to show for heaven, we shall be cast out.
It is understood from Matthew 8:5-13, that the centurion came to Christ pleading with Him to cure his servant, and when Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him,” the centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”
However, Luke 7:2-10 mentions that the centurion sent elders of the Jews to Christ, and that when He was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to Him saying to Him, “Lord, do not trouble Yourself, for I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof.”
The answer to what appears to be a contradiction is that Matthew attributes the centurion as the one pleading with Christ because the centurion commissioned the elders, on his behalf, to speak with Christ. It was said that Solomon built the temple, while he did not build it by himself, but entrusted others with it. A similar statement in John 4:1 reports that Jesus was baptizing. Then a parenthetically explanation in John 4:2 states it was not Jesus Himself but His disciples. It was said that Pilate scourged Jesus. He did not but his soldiers did. Accordingly what the elders of the Jews asked of Christ was attributed to the centurion, but his words “I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof” were spoken by him to Christ. First, through his friends, when Christ was not far from his house, as Luke mentions, and afterwards he spoke them himself when he received Him near the house. However, Jesus healed His servants according to the faith of the centurion.
We worship You, O Heavenly Father, because You chose us in Christ to be one with the saints in heaven. Please forgive us our little faith and our weak confidence. Teach us to trust your readiness to cure us and our friends of unbelief and sin. Create in us humbleness, brokenness and real love for others that we may persistently seek their salvation in You.
Question 85: Why was the centurion’s faith great?
Peter’s Mother-in-law Healed (8:14-17)
8:14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, He saw his wife’s mother lying sick with a fever. (15) So He touched her hand, and the fever left her. And she arose and served them. (16) When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, (17) that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” (Isaiah 53:4-6; Mark 1:29-34; Luke 4:38-41)
After Matthew highlighted that Christ loves the lonely, the outcast, and the despised and does not reject the Gentiles who were considered impure, he shows us also how He had mercy on a weak woman with respect to conceited men. Peter, the boldest of the disciples, was married, and when he followed Jesus, he did not annul his marriage contract, for marriage is not a sin, but a grace of the Creator and a basic system in nature. Christ approved the marriage of His apostle.
Difficulty increased in Peter’s house when his wife’s mother fell sick. Satan attempted to hold the disciple back from service; but Jesus came to her without being called. He touched her fevered hand and cured her without any word being said. His power ran into her and the fever left her at once. Thus, Christ cares for the relatives of His followers and cures them without being asked to do that, and this is a result of His great mercy for them.
The recovery was complete, and she arose and ministered to them at once. They that recover from fevers by the power of nature are commonly weak and feeble and unfit for work for a great while after. To show therefore that this cure was above the power of nature, she was immediately so well as to go about the duties of the house.
The mercy was sanctified, and the mercies that are so are indeed perfect. Though she was thus dignified by a peculiar favor, yet she does not assume importance, but is ready to wait at table, if there be the need, like any servant. They must be humble whom Christ has honored. Being thus delivered, she studies what she will give in return. It is very fit, that they whom Christ has healed would minister unto Him, as His humble servants, all their days.
The people felt the power of Jesus, brought all their sick to Him and told their families, relatives and neighbors about the great Savior dwelling among them. And he healed them all! He rejected no one, even those of little and unripe faith. Yet, faith, however little it may be, is enough for Jesus to overcome the wicked aims and acts in and around us.
Matthew, the evangelist, mentioned particularly the arrival of many who were demon-possessed that Jesus might deliver them from the authority of evil spirits. Jesus is also the Lord over the spirits and they are without any doubt at all subject to His words. We are living now at the time of the sons of disobedience, and we need the power of Jesus’ word to cast the unclean spirits out of the mind and souls of our relatives and friends. We may bring them to Him through our persistent prayers, believing in His ability to deliver them.
Matthew found an interpretation to the saving act of Christ in the great prophecy of Isaiah 53, where we read about the Servant of the Lord who has borne our sicknesses and cleansed us from our sins. “Surely He has borne our grieves … But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).
The mystery of the acts and miracles of Jesus is found in His love and preparedness to bear all our diseases and sins instead of us. Yet who thanks Him, honors Him and believes in Him faithfully?
Our Father in heaven, we are sick in our souls. We come to You confessing our weaknesses and unclean thoughts. Please forgive us for being guilty, cleanse us from our faults and do not allow the evil spirits to dwell in us. Answer also our prayers for our friends and relatives. Cast the spirits that are against Your Holy Spirit out of them and fill them with Your pure love. Consecrate us to glorify Your name and help us with our various problems. Help us in the name of Christ. Thank You for answering our prayers. Amen.
Question 86: What does the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law imply?
The Principles of Following Jesus (8:18-22)
8:18 And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. (19) Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go.” (20) And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests. But the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Luke 9:57‑60; 2Corinthians 8:9)
Christ is the stream of the power of reconciliation that gives the riches of His love to every believer, changes hearts and enlightens minds. In spite of His cures, He remained contented, but without home and shelter, for He denied for Himself earthly possessions and did not crave the pleasures of the world. He cured the sick freely and did not ask for any compensation for His services.
Christ remained content by will. This frees His followers from the false hope that they would receive jobs, money, or wealth if they join Him. If the Christian church becomes rich in properties and money, it will not be the true church, for God’s love urges us to spend what we have and not seek to wealth. If you follow Jesus, do not expect riches nor payment, nor office, but the dwelling of God’s power in your weaknes, the comfort of His Spirit in your heart and the flowing of His love for the despised through you. This is the Christian privilege.
We see here Christ’s answering two different tempers, one quick and eager, the other dull and heavy. His instructions are adapted to each of them and designed for our use.
The first one was too hasty with his promise. He was a scribe, a scholar and a learned man, one of those that studied and expounded the law. The scribe expressed overwhelmed his preparedness to follow Christ saying, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever you go.” No man could have spoken better. His preparedness to dedicate himself to Christ was clear and honest. He was not called to it by Christ, nor urged by any of the disciples, but, of his own accord, he wanted to be a close follower of Christ. He was a resolute volunteer. He did not say, “I think I should follow You,” but, “I am determined, I will do it, I will actually follow You.” His statement was unlimited and without reserve. “I will follow you wherever you go,” not only to “the other side” of the country, but even to the utmost regions of the world. Now we may think that such a man could be a good disciple, and yet it appears, by Christ’s answer, that his resolution was rash, his ends low and carnal. The scribe had seen the miracles Christ had accomplished and hoped He would set up a temporal kingdom, and he wished to apply in good time for a share in it.
Christ tested his forwardness to see, whether it was sincere or not. He let him know that this “Son of Man,” whom he is so eager to follow has nowhere to lay his head. Now from this account of Christ’s poverty, we observe that it is strange in itself that the Son of God, when he came into the world, should put himself into such a low condition, as to want the convenience of a certain resting-place, which the meanest of the creatures have. If He would take our nature upon Him one would think, He should have taken it in its best estate and circumstances; but He takes it in its worst!
The inferior creatures are well provided for. The foxes have holes to shelter them, though they are not useful to man. God provides; their holes are their castles. The birds, though they seem not to take care for themselves, are taken care of and have nests.
When Our Lord Jesus Christ was here in the world, He submitted to the disgraces and distresses of poverty, “for our sakes He became poor.” He had not a settlement, had not a place of rest, not a house of His own and not a pillow of His own to lay His head on. He and His disciples lived upon the charity given to them. Christ submitted to this, not only that He might in all respects humble Himself and fulfill the scriptures, which spoke of Him as poor, but that He might show us the vanity of worldly wealth and teach us to look upon it with a holy contempt, that He might purchase better things for us, and so make us spiritually rich.
It is strange that such a declaration should be made on this occasion. When a scribe offered to follow Christ, one would think Christ would have encouraged him and said, “Come on, you are most welcome! I will take care of you.” One scribe might be capable of doing Him more service than twelve fishermen. But Christ saw his heart and answered to his thoughts and therein teaches us how to come to Christ.
Christ would have us, when we take upon us a profession of religion, to sit down and count the cost, to do it with consideration. To choose the way of godliness, not because we know no other, but because we know no better. It is no advantage to religion, to take men by surprise before they are aware. They that take up a profession hastily will hastily throw it off again when it annoys them. Let them, therefore, take time, and they should do it in the beginning. Let him that will follow Christ know the worst of it and expect to lie hard and fare hard.
Jesus brought out the difference between Himself and the scientists and religious scholars, saying He was poorer than animals and more homeless than birds. The earth is not His home. He is a stranger in it, driven away by men and crucified by His people, and whoever follows Him would become a stranger and poor like Him.
Are you determined to follow Jesus in spite of such painful difficulties and hardship?
O Heavenly Father, our home is with You. Sin and money rule this world. We are strangers here. Please help us not to seek riches, honor, or security for ourselves. Free us from all our worldly illusions that we may be changed into servants and that the knowledge of salvation may flow from us to those who search for it.
Question 87: To what extent remained Jesus poor and content?
8:21 Then another of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” (22) But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 10:37)
The multitudes came to Christ, drawn by His comforting word and healing power. Many walked with Him to hear every word He said and watch everything He did. They felt His great love and authority and sensed His divine glory. His word deeply touched them, for He called them to repentance, trust and commitment and demanded full faith from them.
One of the listeners to Jesus was not willing to break off relations with his aged father. He wanted to stay with him until his death, and then he would be ready to follow the Lord. But Christ knew that this young man would change his mind if he went back to his relatives and his clan, and that he would lose contact with him. So He commanded the hesitant to follow Him at once to leave his father. He called him from his family responsibilities into the service of the kingdom of heaven.
Some commentators say that the young man suddenly heard about the death of his father and considered his absence from the observances of the burial an insult. Yet Christ explained to the grieved that the followers of Jesus have nothing to do with the perishable society, for whoever follows the Son of God moves from death to life and from sorrow to joy. Under the law, the high priest and those consecrated to the service of the Lord were not allowed to go near any dead body, nor defile themselves for their own father because they were holy to the Lord (Leviticus 21:11; Numbers 6:6). He who believes in Jesus must not be affected by death or by sorrow. He should testify to the life of God residing in him in order to become free from his family obligations that prevent him from serving Jesus fulltime so that the smell of the divine life may emanate from him. The request of the disciple seemed reasonable and yet it was not spiritual. He was not filled with the zeal to work for Jesus, and therefore pleaded to serve his family first, which seemed a plausible plea to him.
An unwilling heart creates excuses. We suppose the urge for this request comes from a true filial affection and respect for his father, yet still the preference should have been given to Christ.
The scribe said to Christ, “I will follow you” (Matthew 8:19). To one of His followers Christ said, “follow me” (v. 22). Comparing them together, it is intimated that we are brought to Christ by His call to us, not because of our promises to Him, “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Romans 9:16). He calls whom He will.
Christ considers natural people as living dead, void of divine life. All their activities lead them finally to death, for the spirit of death works in their thoughts and acts. All the teaching concerning culture, economics and politics do not lead men into eternal life, but rush them finally into hell. There is no hope in our world but in the living Christ who gives us endless life. He who follows Him shall find a new Father and many spiritual brothers and sisters. The joy in the family of God is greater than the sorrow in the family of men. Trust the Lord with all your heart and do not cling to your esteemed and honored family to an extent that prevents you from executing the will of God.
Let worldly offices be left to worldly people. Do not encumber yourself with them. Burying the dead, and especially a dead father, is a natural good work, but in some occasions it is not your duty. It may be done as well by others, that are not called and qualified, as you are, to serve Christ. You have something else to do and must not defer that.
O Holy Father, we worship You for You have granted us eternal life in Your Son that we should cling to Him and never leave Him. Please help us not to consider our families more important than You. Help us so our worldly offices may not lessen our service for You. Free us from the fear of death and make us stand fast in the joy of Your life with all those who seek eternity.
Question 88: Why did Jesus prevent the young man from attending the ceremonies of his father’s burial?
Jesus Calms the Storm and the Waves (8:23-27)
8:23 Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. (24) And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. (25) Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (26) But He said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. (27) So the men marveled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25; Acts 27:22-34)
Christ could have prevented this storm and have prepared His disciples a pleasant passage, but that would not have been so much for His glory and the confirmation of their faith as their deliverance was. One would expect that having Christ with them, they would always have favorable passage. On the contrary, Christ shows us that passing over the ocean of this life to the other side with Him, violent storms should be expected along the way.
Christ does not always provide His disciples with physical comfort and ease. Yet He saves them in the midst of storms, tempests and perils, for Satan spares no effort to abolish Christ’s protection and surprise his followers with his tricks, deceptions and traps. The Christian church is certainly to face, while on earth, attacks, disturbances and divisions.
Christ was asleep in the boat with peaceful mind despite the imminent danger. He slept to show that He was living as a mortal man like us with the exception of being sinless. His plentiful work made Him weary and sleepy, yet because He had no guilt, He had no fear within to disturb His repose. He who walks with Christ into the ship of the church, across the ocean of life, will become secure in spite of the eminent dangers, for the faithful and the mighty Savior is with him. Enter Christ’s boat and do not be afraid, for He is the best helmsman. If you hand to Him the steering wheel of your life, He will definitely bring you to the safe harbor of eternal peace.
Your fellowship with Christ does not keep you from sudden or dangerous storms, which might threaten you even with sinking. Such experiences are ordinary. We must learn from them that the church is not secured by man and no one can protect her except her Lord and Master, Jesus Christ.
The experienced fishermen continued their exhausting work in the midst of the tempest, emptying the boat of the incoming water, but when the rough sea covered them with overwhelming waves, they became afraid and disturbed and began to cry. Their boat was filled with water and was about to sink. They lost patience, awoke the sleeping Jesus and shook Him crying, “Lord, save us! Don’t You see we are in trouble? How do You sleep while we are on the verge of destruction?”
Christ got up from His sleep immediately in the midst of the deadly dangers. He did not save them instantly, but rebuked them, for the danger was not because of the rough sea, but because of their little faith at the time of testing. Christ demands from His followers a brave and absolute trust in the care and protection of their heavenly Father at every moment of their lives, for fear is not in line with God’s love.
Christ then rebuked the raging winds and the sea. When He commanded them with His words to calm down, they calmed down, and there was a great calm. Horror gripped His disciples when they saw this miracle, for they had seen the evidence that Jesus is the Lord of nature as well. Wherever Christ rules heavenly peace will come into the hearts. When are you going to worship Jesus, believing in His dominion over nature, nations and troubles? Commit yourself to Him and you shall live in peace amidst disturbance, protected in the pit of death.
O Lord Jesus Christ, You are the Almighty. Please forgive me my little faith at the time of danger. Strengthen our love for You that we trust You in full confidence. Abide with us that we shall not lose hope at the time of distress. Open our eyes that we may see You and realize that You triumph over all powers, nature and hardship, and that You love Your people constantly.
Question 89: Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples amidst the danger?
Thousand Devils Cast Out of Two Possessed Men (8:28-34)
8:28 When He had come to the other side, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs, exceedingly fierce, so that no one could pass that way. (29) And suddenly they cried out, saying, “What have we to do with You, Jesus, You Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?” (30) Now a good way off from them there was a herd of many swine feeding. (31) So the demons begged Him, saying, “If You cast us out, permit us to go away into the herd of swine.” (32) And He said to them, “Go.” So when they had come out, they went into the herd of swine. And suddenly the whole herd of swine ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and perished in the water. (33) Then those who kept them fled; and they went away into the city and told everything, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. (34) And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged Him to depart from their region. (Mark 5:1-17; Luke 4:41; 8:26-37; 2 Peter 2:4; James 2:19)
Jesus Christ is Lord over nature and over the devils as well, for they have no right to stay where the only one born of the Spirit of God comes in.
The spirits brought force in the deadly storm over Lake Tiberias to drown Jesus and His disciples before they could reach the shore. Jesus, while in the boat, rebuked the spirits hidden amidst the storm, shut up the rebels in the air and demanded absolute faith from His followers, that they recognized that the devils will find no right nor power in them.
Jesus traveled across the lake into the eastern region of the ten cities, which had received special privileges from the Roman authority. He wished to find rest there away from the pressing multitudes racing after Him and from the increasing persecution of the Jews.
The ten towns were not Jewish-cultured, for their people kept herds of pigs while the Jews considered them unclean.
On His way to the city of Gergesa, accompanied by His followers, He passed among the burial caves excavated in the rocks of the mountain. Two naked demon-possessed men came out of there. These men were so fierce that no one dared travel on that road. Many times they had been tied, but every time they easily broke the iron chains. Every body was afraid of the destructive and strong demons in these men.
Jesus did not speak any word when He was attacked by the demon-possessed men who stopped suddenly as the spirits in them recognized Jesus. A forceful cry uttered saying, “Why did You come to us before the time of judgment to torment us? We know You, You are the Son of God.” The devils, as quick as a flash recognized that the Son of the Almighty stood before them. The rays of His holiness pierced through them and condemned them. They realized they were damned to go at once to eternal damnation. They begged Jesus to permit them dwell, even thought for the time being, in the herd of swine present in the pastures near them. By this begging, they admitted Christ’s power over them, that without His permission, they could not even hurt a pig. This is comforting to everyone, that, though the devil’s power may be great, yet it is limited and not equal to his malice, especially that it is subject to the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, our powerful friend and Savior. Satan and his instruments can go no further than He permits; “I said, this far you may come, but no farther, and here your proud waves must stop” (Job 38:11).
The devils proved their origin and caused the herd of 2,000 pigs to run into the lake and drown. When the men who had been taking care of the pigs saw what happened, they ran away into the town to the owners, to give an account of the event. They also told the owners of the pigs how the demon-possessed men were delivered. This drew all the people of the town together to see the unique miracle there. But when they saw Jesus with the two men sitting at His feet clothed and in their right minds, they were frightened at the holiness of Jesus and realized that nothing unclean can ever live in His presence. Therefore, they preferred their old culture and their relation with the unclean spirits and begged the HOLY ONE OF GOD to leave! Christ complied with their request and went away from them, for Christ will not tarry long where He is not welcome, nor abide with those that do not want Him to stay. Thus, He left them to the dominion of devils and demons according to their will and wish (Matthew 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39).
We should not quickly say that a person is possessed by an evil spirit. However, if someone continuously rejects the divinity of Christ and His Sonship to his heavenly Father, or continuously hates the fact and truth of His being crucified, then can it be, that this person is collectively possessed by the spirit of antichrist (1John 2:22-25; 4:1-5).
Some people live in a depressing atmosphere surrounded by unclean spirits and are seriously tempted by them. That can be the result of their previous contact with such spirits and of asking for their intercession, or because of their consulting fortune-tellers to know about their own future or to get a blessed marriage by the help of these spirits.
He who wishes to become free from the grip of evil spirits and from the binding of them, must confess all his sins before God and break off at once every relation with these destroying spirits. Then he should turn to Jesus, the Son of God, who forgives sins and overcomes every unclean and wicked spirit, for the sake of His holiness and eternal power. Christ will pour out the Holy Spirit into the heart of the forgiven, that He might be comforted and strengthened. When the one that is freed from devils reads continuously the Word of God in the Gospel, keeps the words of Christ in his heart, joins in spiritual meetings and prays together with the Lord’s servants, the once possessed will become completely and decisively free from all the spirits. As long as he remains in fellowship with Christ and is committed to follow His instructions and commandments, he will stay free!
An objector said, Matthew 8:28 mentions that when He had come to the other side of the lake Tiberias, to the country of the Gergesenes, there met Him two demon-possessed men, coming out of the tombs; whereas Mark 5:2 and Luke 8:28 mention that there met Him only one man with an unclean spirit.
We answer that Mark and Luke mentioned only the one that was more violent in whose cure the power of Christ became evident. This is apparent from their statements where his violence and fury is mentioned in detail to show the greatness of the miracle their master wrought in curing him. The cure of the other person was of less interest and was therefore not emphasized by them.
Let two persons go into a lunatic asylum and meet two insane persons. They would very likely give the same account that Matthew and Luke do, in different ways, and no one would doubt the statement was correct though one teller mentions only one insane person and not the other, while the second teller mentions both. Can we say that their words are contradictory? No, but if one of them proved what the other negated, or vice versa, it would have been contradictory. In this case, the definition of contradiction is realized. But thanks to our Lord! The possessed one was freed of his bondage. Jesus set him free!
O Holy Father, we rejoice and exult for the victory of Jesus over the devils in the country of the Gergesenes and the freeing of the possessed from their evil spirits. We thank You for freeing every demon-possessed or insane person in our day in the name of Christ. We glorify You because You deliver us from the evil one and his instruments and keep us save in fellowship with Christ. Lord, please pour out Your Holy Spirit into them and us that we abide in You, protected by Your eternal name. We ask You, our Lord, to free all the demon-possessed in our surrounding, that the kingdom of Your only Son may be glorified.
Question 90: What did you learn from the freeing of the demon-possessed on the other side of the lake Tiberias?
Christ’s Authority and Power to Forgive and to Heal (9:1-8)
9:1 So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. (2) Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” (3) And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This man blasphemes!” (4) But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? (5) For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? (6) But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (7) And he arose and departed to his house. (8) Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men. (Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 103:3; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26)
Christ is triumphant over diseases, nature’s elements and evil spirits. He is also the One who forgives sins. In the previously mentioned events, we find that sin, in general, is the reason for disease, disorder and death, for it separates us from God and His peace. He who lives away from his Lord is very mistaken. Paul, the apostle, makes clear that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
Christ had an eye to the depressed conscience of the sick in front of Him. He could not heal him before wiping out his sins, but He would not forgive them unless the sinner opens himself completely to the remedy. He saw the faith of the four friends of the sick who brought him and, through the opened roof, let him come down in front Him. When He became certain of the paralytic’s confidence, Jesus called him, His son in faith, forgave his sins with his powerful word and cleaned him from his iniquities. Jesus in His divine authority has the right and the power to forgive sins. The guilty immediately became innocent and a son of God by grace.
Christ bid the sick take up his bed, to show that he was perfectly cured, and that not only he had no more occasion to be carried upon his bed, but that he had strength to carry it. He sent him to his house, to be a blessing to his family, where he had been so long a burden. Jesus did not take him along with Him for a show, which those who seek the honor of men would do.
How great is Christ’s love apparent in the remission of sins. Could Christ free you with His word from all your sins? The answer to this question is more important in your life than all diplomas, certificates and exams. To become certain of the remission of your sins, look at the crucified Christ, who took away your sins and died as the offering of reconciliation for you. Whoever believes in Him is justified, and whoever opens himself to His love experiences salvation in his heart.
When Christ pardoned the sins of the paralytic laid before His feet, the experts of the Scriptures embarrassed him, became angry and charged Him with blasphemy. They did not believe in His divinity and considered Him a breaker of the law who deserved stoning. Christ immediately knew their thoughts. He has perfect knowledge of all that we think and say within ourselves. Thoughts are secret and sudden, yet naked and open before Christ, the eternal word, and He understands them afar off.
Then Christ did not declare to them that He was the Son of the Almighty God. He called Himself “the Son of Man,” that they might start thinking of Him, the greatest miracle. Daniel 7:13-14 reveals that the Son of Man is the Eternal Judge and Lord of the Universe, whom the scribes condemned blindly.
Christ did not reject His enemies, but proved to them that the Son of Man has the right and the authority to forgive sins, by declaring the paralytic man was cured. When Christ turned to the sick, a power went out through His divine word and entered into the patient’s body and the latter felt refreshment and renewal. He jumped, ran and took up his bed, symbolizing the power of Christ.
Let us take one another to Jesus to be treated, pardoned and cured of our spiritual paralysis, that the power of the crucified may raise us for a life full of movement and service and that we may serve the Nazarene to testify of the greatness of His authority.
O Father, we acclaim You, for Your Son has forgiven all our sins and completely wiped them out because of His death on the cross. We glorify You and we worship Your love, asking You to save many lost ones who have not yet known the salvation of Your kingdom. We mention before You those who hunger for righteousness in their surroundings, and we mention the names of some opposing Your love. We thank You that You hear our prayer and heal, save and bless us.
Question 91: How did Jesus forgive the sins of the paralytic?
The Calling of Matthew, the Tax Collector (9:9-13)
9:9 As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. (10) Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. (11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (12) When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. (13) But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Hosea 6:6; Matthew 10:3; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:27-32)
Matthew gives evidence to the decisive moment in his life, which he mentions in his gospel that is based on forgiveness. He sets this turning event in his life after the healing of the paralytic to show that he is less than that sick sinner. Tax collectors symbolized, at that time, deception, covetousness, injustice and treachery, being agents of the colonizing authority. They were counted with adulterers, thieves and killers and were damned by the law. Jesus, in calling Matthew, the tax collector, to follow Him, changed his life completely and made of him His authorized apostle in heaven and on earth. This demonstrates that Jesus has the will and the ability to purify the worst sinners. His love also includes you in your commitment to sin and to free you completely from it.
We do not read that Matthew searched for Christ, or had any inclination to follow Him, though perhaps some of his kindred were already listeners of Christ. But Christ showered him with the blessings of His goodness. Christ spoke first calling Matthew and saying to him, “Follow Me.” We have not chosen Him, but He has chosen us. He said to him, “Follow Me,” and the same divine, almighty power accompanied this word to insert everlasting life into Matthew, which attended that word, “Arise and walk,” to heal the paralyzed man.
Christ works a saving change in the soul, and His word is the means. His gospel is the “power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16).
“Follow Me,” was the arrow of Christ, which hit and penetrated the heart of Matthew. His name, before that, was “Levi,” and it became “Matthew, the gift of God.” The word of His Creator from the mouth of Christ is more powerful than thousands of meaningless human books. From this unique word, the gospel of Matthew developed, for the tax collector was accustomed to record the facts strictly. He was the disciple who mastered several languages. He served Jesus through the gifts of his profession. His name in his gospel is only mentioned in this place, while he brings into view, the name, the acts and the powerful words of Christ.
He was so exited at the call of Christ that he made a big feast in his house for Jesus, to which he invited those who wanted to do what God requires. Among the guests were thieves, cheaters, adulterers and the lower classes of men. They saw Christ closely the light to the world, heard His merciful words and accepted His penetrating comfort. From the moment of following Christ, Matthew appeared as a servant and apostle.
The godly and the educated and those who speak about their own righteousness did not recognize the mercy of Christ. Their hearts became hard. They cheated themselves thinking themselves good in their faith and masters of inspiration in the covenant with God. In fact, they were spiritually sick. The sinning sick will become well if they repent and come to Christ. But he that is satisfied with himself falls down into hell. What do you think of your self? Are you good or wicked?
Christ’s call to Matthew was effectual, for he responded quickly to the call. “He arose and followed Him” immediately. He neither denied, nor deferred his obedience. The power of divine grace soon answers and overcomes all objections. Neither his office, nor his gains by it, could detain him, when Christ called him. He did not confer with flesh and blood. He quitted his post and his hopes of preferment. Though we find the other disciples that were fishermen occasionally fishing again, but we never again find Matthew at the receipt of custom.
After Matthew had accepted the call and the following of Christ, he invited Him to his house together with many publicans and sinners. Matthew’s aim was to acquaint his old associates with Christ. He knew by experience what the grace of Christ could do, and would not give up hope for them.
They who have been called to Christ, cannot but be desirous that others also may be brought to Him, and eager to do something about it. True grace will not contentedly eat its morsels alone, but will invite others.
Christ and His intimacy with publicans and sinners disgusted the Pharisees. To be intimate with wicked people was against the law of God (Psalm 119:115). Perhaps by accusing Christ of this to His disciples, they hoped to tempt them away from Him, to put them out of favor with Him and so to bring them over to themselves to be their disciples, who kept better company, for they “travel land and sea to win one proselyte.”
Jesus brought a great change in religious principles, for He has called the godly and the pious perishable and lost on one hand, and called the repentant sinners righteous and blessed on the other. He who thinks himself upright and acceptable to God and men is a real sinner, but he who is ashamed of his wickedness confessing his faults, pleases God and is acceptable to Him. He will hear and respond to the call of Christ, “Follow Me.”
The objector says that Matthew 9:9 mentions that the man whom Christ called at the tax office was called Matthew. In Mark 2:14 the man was called Levi the son of Alphaeus, and in Luke 5:27 he was called Levi only.
1. The circumstances in which the man was called, as mentioned by each of the evangelists, indicate that he was the same man. Each of them mentioned his well-known job and said that he was sitting at the tax office, and that Christ called him to follow Him.
2. It was a custom in those days to give a person two names, a Semitic name and a Greek name. Thus, Peter was called Cephas. It is still familiar to us that a man would change his name if he moved from a situation to another (from one religion to another) as an indication of rejection of the previous situation.
3. Some of the evangelists mentioned his name only without stating his father’s name, since the specific context that is his profession and particular position as sitting at the tax office, is more than sufficient. Thank the Lord that Matthew followed the call of his Lord and Master.
O Heavenly Father, I am wicked and my sins are known to You. I thank You for Your Son’s call to me. You do not reject me. Cleanse me of every sin, pride and deceit that I may not continue in my old ways, but become a renewed person connected and united with Your Son Jesus and serve Your love at all times, together with all repenting sinners.
Question 92: What does Christ’s call to Matthew signify?
The Baptist’s Disciples Question about Fasting (9:14-17)
9:14 Then the disciples of John came to Him, saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but Your disciples do not fast?” (15) And Jesus said to them, “Can the friends of the bridegroom mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-38)
Christ shows us the meaning of true and false godliness, by His reply to the question asked by the disciples of John the Baptist, who was at that time cast into prison in very unpleasant conditions. The son of Zacharias taught the people to be sorry for their faults, repent and fast. His followers thought that Christ also taught His disciples brokenness and grief that God may be merciful toward their fear, repentance and diligence in godliness.
It seems that fasting is connected with the godly. They hoped to obtain the remission of sins and the blessing of God by their fasting. How terrible is this self-conceit! Yet grace is not obtained as a wage, it is a pure gift. Fasting will not clear sins away, and your malice will not be wiped out by making an offering. You are saved by your faith in the redemption of Christ. Then your fasting becomes thankfulness and not a trade, your giving praise will not be a payment for forgiveness. Grace, salvation, forgiveness and redemption come to us only in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the humble Lamb of God who took away our sins and wiped away our faults entirely. Faith qualifies us to come to God and continue in His fellowship given to us in the new covenant. The covenant of God’s love covers only justified sinners. They are bound together by the covenant of God’s love. Jesus considers them as His friends and explains that He is the bridegroom. They are with Him in the mood of great joy! Christians should not grieve the same way people without Jesus grieve. Christians are secure in hardship and they continue in the comfort of the Holy Spirit despite their problems and temptations, for God is with them and Christ is in them. He who recognized this unique privilege shall praise God with all his strength and thank Him for His great grace.
John’s disciples fasted often, partly in compliance with their master’s practice, for he came neither eating nor drinking. People are apt to imitate their leaders, though not always from the same inward principle, partly in compliance with their master’s doctrine of repentance.
John’s disciples blamed Christ’s disciples for not fasting so often as they did, “Your disciples do not fast.” They could not but know, that Christ had instructed His disciples to keep their fasts private, so as that might not appear to men to fast. Therefore, it was uncharitable of them to conclude they did not fast, because they did not proclaim their fasts. This leads us to the rule that we must not judge other people’s godliness by that which falls under the eye and observation of the world.
Observe that the quarrel with Christ (v. 11) was brought to the disciples, and the quarrel with the disciples was brought to Christ (v. 14). This is the way of sowing discord and killing love, to set people against ministers, ministers against people, and one friend against another.
At the same time, Christ calls us to be His stewards. Who will take heart, proceed towards our fellow men and invite many to come into the fellowship of Christ? Does the joy of your Savior in your life urge you to serve, preach, toil and work hard? Or to frown as if you have drunk bitter vinegar and not to do this work wholeheartedly, but to boast of it before your associates, or do something else? Everything that is not done by free will for the glorification of Christ makes you open to warnings of the judgment day. What will you say to the Lord when you stand before him to give account for the talents He has entrusted you with?
Jesus told His disciples that He would leave them and ascend to heaven. He sensed the fear that would come upon them as a result of this. They would then fast, pray and lament asking that He may come back again as soon as possible. As for us, we live at the time of close fellowship with Christ, for He has poured out His Holy Spirit into our hearts as a sign (down payment) of the spiritual contact between the bride and the groom. We are waiting for the coming of the bridegroom in public, that the fellowship may actually be realized in glory.
Hallelujah, our Holy God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who called us from the grief of sin into the joy of fellowship and delivered us from the heaviness of the law into the covenant of His love. We worship You and praise Your holy name. Please help us to communicate Your joy to our friends and enemies that Your good will may prevail on earth.
Question 93: Who are the friends of the bridegroom and how should they live?
9:16 No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. (17) Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved. (Romans 7:6)
The difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament, between the gospel and other religions, is deeper than we feel and think. Religions warn man of the day of judgment and they all, except the gospel of Christ, instruct their followers that the keeping of many laws is the best way to please God. Sacrifices, giving alms, fasting, praying, good deeds and fighting for God are duties and ordinances that are met with a reward from God. Many rituals and religions portray God as a trader holding a big balance with His hand. Sins are placed on one end of the balance, while good deeds and prayers are placed on the other end. The scales are tipped in favor of the heavier end and this determines the fate of the person concerned. This belief is not in conformity at all with the message of Christ in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ teaches us that all men are completely wicked without distinction, and no one can do sufficient good deeds. This is why Christ places His own good deeds, righteousness and grace on the scale of God’s balance in favor of us so that His love can take away our iniquities. His sacrifice will annul our condemnation, since we are saved not by our godliness but by His free grace. Also, you are saved by your faith, not by your deeds. Only faith unifies you with your Savior, and His Holy Spirit in you is the new life.
Accordingly, your life becomes praise, commitment and service to your Deliverer. Do not remain straying and sad, but rejoice in the protection of God. Do not give a deaf ear to God, but seek salvation of others, for you have freely been justified by the crucified. Christ has qualified you for fellowship with His Father, and Christ’s blood that appeared as wine (as a proverb) that cleanses you completely of all your sins. The Holy Spirit takes you to the freedom of the children of God based on the joy of love and service.
Do not mix both ideas for they never agree, since justification by the law and other rituals is contrary to justification by faith. Godliness based on ordinances does not bring salvation by grace; and the freedom of the children of God explodes the molds of the people of the law and their rituals. Whoever endeavors to reform the community that is clinging to frozen systems fails, for the new spirit of grace requires a new birth and a new order. It is better to create small groups in the spirit of gospel happiness, than to belong to a big community clinging to dead customs and not being prepared for spiritual change from within.
O Heavenly Father, we thank You for You have invited us into the new covenant and freed us from the deception of our self-righteousness. We are sinners, but Your Christ has justified us completely. Please teach us how to serve you in the joy of heaven and give us the ability to discern societies that are based on grace and living churches that we may join and be kept together in Your fellowship.
Question 94: Why is it impossible to put the new wine of the gospel into the old wineskins of the law?
A Girl Brought Back to Life and a Woman Healed (9:18-26)
9:18 While He spoke these things to them, behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live.” (19) So Jesus arose and followed him, and so did his disciples. (20) And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. (21) For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” (22) But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour. (23) When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, (24) He said to them, “Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. (25) But when the crowd was put outside, He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. (26) And the report of this went out into all that land. (Matthew 14:36; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56)
Christ overcame the powers and authorities against God and His spiritual kingdom. Last of all, He overcame death. What a great truth! After showing us how Jesus triumphed over different diseases, storms, spirits, sins and laws, Matthew brings into view how Christ drove away death, our last enemy. Christ offers us complete deliverance from every burden and fear and leads us into eternal life. Are you triumphant in Christ?
A elder in charge (rabbi) of the synagogue of Capernaum had a sick daughter. All those who endeavored to cure her could not find a way to control her disease. The daughter was about to die and her father was terribly confused. He hurried to Jesus and fell down before Him in public, though he was the rabbi of the synagogue, knowing that worship is proper only for God and not for men. In his falling down before Jesus, he confessed that he considered Him a divine person. But Christ accepted this worship, for He is true God of true God, being in one essence with His Father. The faith of the head of the synagogue made him beg Jesus to heal his daughter, for he has already seen that Christ’s laying hands on the sick would cure them perfectly. Christ immediately went with him, as the situation was critical, but while amidst the crowd, a sick woman came near Him and touched His garment without speaking a word. Christ felt power had gone out of Him, for her touch was that of faith and not like that of the multitudes around Him. Jesus stopped, turned round and saw her. He perceived her story and spoke to her in public, as a testimony before everyone. He confirmed her faith in her, for faith takes power, life and grace from Christ.
This delaying was a hard lesson to the rabbi of the synagogue who was hurrying at the point of death. Jesus wanted him to learn that the Lord does not prefer those of high dignitaries to others, and that He works in harmony with the faith of the one who seeks Him no matter how small or big, be it woman or man.
When at last they reached the house, the daughter was already dead. Christ described her death as sleeping which made the weeping women ridicule Him. They confirmed to the Lord of life that the daughter was not almost dead but was really dead.
As Jesus saw the power of death and ignorance of the crowd, He was upset. He permitted no one in except the girl’s parents and three of His disciples. He stood silently before the dead child and took her by the hand. Then her spirit returned, and death broke away defeated and conquered, for the power of Christ extends beyond the screen of life, and the power of His words overcomes death. The girl arose, walked between her parents, and everyone was shocked and amazed.
Christ is not only the Creator, but also the Giver, Keeper, Protector and Developer of life. This is why He commanded that she be given something to eat, which indicates that she was completely recovered and that the salvational act of Christ is complete to the utmost.
What a great comfort to us, followers of Christ, that by the power of His love, He will raise us from the dead too, for He knows our name. Christ will take you by hand that you may immediately rise from your death in sins and live in His eternal life.
O Heavenly Father, we are bound in sins according to our nature, but Your only Son is the Giver of life, and the stream of spiritual flood. Thank You for sending us this unique Deliverer that we can obtain Your eternal life by faith. Let Him take us by hand when we read Your gospel that we may immediately rise up together with many other young men and women in our communities.
Question 95: How did Jesus raise the dead daughter according to Matthew?
Two Blind Men and a Dumb Man Healed (9:27-34)
9:27 When Jesus departed from there, two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, “Son of David, have mercy on us!” (28) And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” They said to Him, “Yes, Lord.” (29) Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith let it be to you.” (30) And their eyes were opened. And Jesus sternly warned them, saying, “See that no one knows it.” (31) But when they had departed, they spread the news about Him in all that country. (Matthew 8:4; 20:30; Acts 14:9)
The promise made to David, that of his loins the Messiah should come, was well known, and the Messiah was therefore commonly called, “the Son of David.” At the time of Jesus there was a general expectation of His appearing. These two blind men knew and proclaimed in the streets of Capernaum that He is already come and that Jesus is He, which aggravates the folly and sin of the chief priests and Pharisees who denied and opposed Him. Those two blind men could not see Him and His miracles, but by faith they saw more than people with sight!
Christ lived among the Jews, but only few of them recognized He was the Messiah, for the majority waited for a political Savior. Therefore, they remained blind despite their open eyes and thoughtful minds. Today, many pious people and scholars think they know Jesus, yet they do not perceive His holy reality. They do not recognize the spirit that gives peace in their hearts. However, the two blind men believed that Jesus was the descendant of Abraham, and that He was the divine king promised of in the Old Testament (2 Samuel 7:12-14). They cried out openly begging Him to heal them, but Christ did not immediately respond, for He would test their faith. They passed this test, followed Jesus and kept close to Him until they reached Peter’s house insisting on their petition. Then Christ honored their zeal by confirming their faith by His power. He asked them if they truly believed that He was able to do such a unique deed, and they answered, “yes.” Do we share with them today their belief and decide that Jesus is HE who is able to heal and save, and do we direct our petitions to Him, frankly and plainly in spite of the opposition around us?
After their confession of faith, Christ touched their eyes with His hand, and they felt His love and healing power. They saw Him first. The sight of Him had a deep impression in their hearts. They recognized in Him the almighty Savior and King, and their faith resulted in a truly spiritual insight.
It is strange that Jesus prevented them from spreading the news about their cure, but He did not want people to come after Him because of the miracles. His purpose was to create in His followers faith that is based on repentance first, that their hearts may be changed, their minds renewed, and that they may become free from spiritual blindness and walk consciously in the light of God. Did the love of Jesus make you receive your spiritual sight? Or you are still living far away from Him, blind in the darkness of sins and without salvation?
We thank you, Heavenly Father, for opening our eyes by grace to see You and love You. We became your children by faith, so please let us continue in Your love to recognize Your glory and fall down before the throne of Your grace praying for our neighbors and friends, that You may reach out to heal them too and open their eyes and their hearts that they may see You and experience Your mercy and love.
Question 96: What is the secret in the healing of the two blind men?
9:32 As they went out, behold, they brought to Him a man, mute and demon-possessed. (33) And when the demon was cast out, the mute spoke. And the multitudes marveled, saying, “It was never seen like this in Israel!” (34) But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the ruler of the demons.” (Matthew 12:24-32)
Christ has no sooner cured the two blind men, than He meets with a dumb and demon-possessed man whom some believers brought to Him. It is most probable that this man’s dumbness was because he searched for help by contacting spirits and sorcerers.
See how unwearied Christ was in doing good. How closely one good work followed another! Treasures of mercy, wondrous mercy, are hid in Him, which are continually communicated, but can never be exhausted.
This man was under the power of the devil, so that he was unable to speak. See the calamitous state of this world, and how various the afflictions of the afflicted are! Christ has no sooner dismissed two blind men, but He met with a dumb man. How thankful should we be to God for our sight and speech! See the malice of Satan against mankind, and in how many ways He initiates it. When the devil gets possession of a soul, it becomes silent to any thing that is good.
This poor creature they brought to Christ, who received not only those that came themselves in their own faith, but those that were brought to Him by friends whom had faith for them.
When a believer or a church accepts the spirit of the age, liberal theology, or the boastful worldly ideas, the testimony for the Savior will come to an end. When we read newspapers, modern books and philosophical opinions more than we ponder the Word of God, we should not be surprised if these spirits can occupy our thoughts. The Spirit of Christ desires to be the focus of our hearts through our pondering of His words. That is why you should discern the spirits and to be on your guard. Submitting to any spirit other than the Spirit of Christ will destroy your love for Jesus.
The faithful petition of the believers who brought the dumb demoniac moved Christ’s heart towards him. So he cast out the evil spirit from him and loosened the hindrance of his tongue. When persistent prayer for your church begins, Christ will loosen the tongues of the people of your church and society. He drives out the modern spirit, pride and self-conceit, that they will testify of the salvation of Jesus with clarity and exemplary behavior. Cleave to Jesus and never leave Him, that He may heal many dumb people in our days and make them holy witnesses of Christ’s redemption.
Some guess that a dumb person is like an animal, but this is wrong. He is, like every one of us, invited into the salvation in Christ. In Christ, there is no difference between this and that. They are all equal. Therefore, we should look after them and respect them just as Christ looked at them and loved them most sincerely.
Do not be astonished at the contradicting result of what Christ has done. The harmless praised Christ for He purified the believers and manifested His power in them. But the teachers of society and theology became angry, for, without them, many people experienced revival and help that was not in conformity with their traditional teaching. They became angry and claimed that Jesus would be the head of the demons. Thus, those hateful and spiteful scribes lost their spiritual sight for the miracles.
The objector said that Chapter 9 according to Matthew included the story of the dumb demoniac, and Chapter 10 explained the empowering of the disciples to cast out demons and to cure the sick, also sending them out to do other miracles. Then the transfiguration is mentioned only in Chapter 17. Luke, however, brings the empowering of the disciples execute miracles in Chapter 9, then the transfiguration, and in Chapter 10 and the first part of Chapter 11 he mentions other miracles. After this he testifies to the miracle of the dumb demoniac. When we compare between the two gospels, we do not find the same succession of events.
We reply that one of the evangelists observed specially the miracles that Christ did for the Jews. He mentioned them first and delayed the instructional sayings, as Matthew did. The other evangelist records the teachings and the divine speeches before the miracles. Irrespective of that, Christ wrought many miracles before and after His transfiguration and cast out many more demons than that of the dumb man. You cannot find all the miracles of Christ in each gospel, for that would require too many books.
O merciful Father, Please fill us with Your Holy Spirit that we may thank You with understandable words for the grace of our hearing and speaking. Put away from us every unclean spirit that we can present to the world a clear testimony for Jesus Christ, our living Savior. Heal many of those that are possessed with the spirit of atheism and deceiving thoughts as well as their involvement with diviners and devils. Thank You that Jesus healed the dumb man at that time, as thus you deliver those we bring to You today.
Question 97: What does the healing of the dumb man signify?
3. THE TWELVE DISCIPLES ARE SENT OUT
TO PREACH AND SERVE
(MATTHEW 9:35 - 11:1)
The Compassion of Christ (9:35-38)
9:35 Then Jesus went about the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. (36) But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. (37) Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. (38) Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Ezekiel 34:5; Mark 6:34; Luke 10:2)
Jesus went about the villages and the cities with His disciples teaching and preaching. He searched for the lost, for those who were hungering for righteousness, for the ignorant and the superficial, even among the teachers to win them to the kingdom of His love. He entered houses, called out in streets, taught in synagogues and spoke to individuals. He seized every opportunity to spread His gospel into the minds of people and to explain the Old Testament in the light of His new covenant. He did not retreat before malicious questions, but overcame the cunning with the wisdom of His Spirit. He made known the good news of His salvation and called every body into the kingdom of heaven, making known His Father’s will which was manifest in His powerful work. With His wonderful miracles, He proved the truth of His call, that even the ignorant could understand that God’s authority on earth appeared with Christ, and that God’s love and truth was incarnate before anyone had received spiritual sight. A multitude of people felt the beginning of a new age and gathered around Jesus.
Christ suffered a lot in His mind, for He saw disease and it’s cause, the sinful life, the ignorance, the economical destruction and the colonial injustice. Jesus was especially sorry at the weak faith, its communion with worldly thoughts, the interference of pride, the demon-possession and the reign of death over all. Christ did not keep away from sinners, nor hate the agitator as some boastful poets and philosophers do. He looked at them as a mother looks at her sick children and was moved with compassion for them. This is why He left heaven, died on the cross and makes intercession for us. Christ’s compassion is the essence of His heart.
God loves us, even though we are poor and lost in this world, like a scattered herd that is being savagely attacked by wolves, as if we have no shepherd. But Christ is the Good Shepherd who looks after you, sees you in your distress, suffers with you and hurries to help you. Jesus has explained to His disciples the condition of the people as a ripe field that is ready for harvest. The distress was so severe upon the nation that a hunger grew in many souls for righteousness, discipline and fulfillment, and the world became ready for sowing the gospel. The violent quakes and floods in our days shake people and wake them from their negligence. As tranquility disappears multitudes become confused. Jesus calls such conditions the most suitable opportunity for a spiritual harvest. We actually find in our age deep shocks and moral disturbances sweeping our nation, right and left, overturning our civilization and bringing our security to an end. Thus, time ripens for the divine harvest, as people seek new principles and solid basis for their lives.
Servants of the Lord should be laborers in God’s harvest. The ministry is a work and must be attended to accordingly. It is harvest-work, which is needful work, work that requires everything to be done in its season and diligence to do it thoroughly.
Where are the Lord’s servants who have the decisive answer, who make every effort to raise those who fall and teach the ignorant how to lessen their spiritual hardship?
Christ calls you to pray and ask God insistently to send in our days many faithful believers to serve His ministry of salvation. This prayer is a holy duty based on Christ’s order. Christ did not simply surrender before a limitless ministry that is beyond the ability of any man, but commanded us to pray to the Lord of the harvest, insistently, that he would send out, in our days, competent and faithful laborers to gather in His harvest. Therefore take part in praying that God will send His servants to your town or city too. Do you feel pity for the scattered people and want God’s forgiveness for them? Do you feel pity for the sons of disobedience who do not know their Lord? Pray to the Lord to send out laborers in our days, for today is the day of the harvest.
It is God’s work to send out laborers. Christ makes from us servants. The office is of His appointing, the qualifications of His working and the call of His giving. They will not be owned nor paid as laborers, “How shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15)
Are you a called one? Ask God to open your ears that you may hear His call, that He may guide you to service and that you may reap much to glory of His holy name. If you are called, then do not be late or reluctant. Ask the Lord of power to empower you that you may carry out your call in good days and bad days.
O Heavenly Father, here we are prepared to serve Your harvest. If You find us useful for service, employ us. We admit we are unsuccessful and unworthy of harvesting. Please purify us with the blood of Your Son and equip us with the power of Your Spirit. Send out many laborers into Your harvest all around our country and fill the world with Your ministers that Your kingdom will come soon.
Question 98: What does Jesus command us to ask Him insistently?
The Calling of the Twelve Disciples (10:1-4)
10:1 And when He had called his twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. (2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (3) Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; (4) Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. (Mark 3:13-19; 6:7; Luke 6:12-16; 9:1)
Christ commanded His disciples, before ordaining them, to be His servants, that they should pray for God to send out laborers into His harvest. The Lord calls you, before every activity or movement, to pray. He that does not pray for the lost, nor loves them, nor visits them, cannot be a preacher for Christ. Neither your talents, nor your diplomas, can qualify you to the ministry of the Lord. It is only your prayers, faith and care for the salvation of many that are the start to the fulfillment of the calling.
All that while, Christ had kept these twelve in a state of probation. He knows what is in a man, and though He knew what was in them, yet He used this method as an example for His church.
The service for Jesus is a great trust. It is fit that a minister should be tested for a time, before he is entrusted with it. Let him first be proved. Therefore, hands must not be laid hastily on any minister, for “some men’s sins precede them, others follow” (1Timothy 5:22,24).
Christ called His ambassadors from among those who had repented with John the Baptist and those who had followed Jesus for a long time. They had heard Him preaching and seen Him healing and received from Him spiritual power. He who aims at the ministry of preaching without being called by Christ, gives empty teaching and hurts himself and his church with thoughts originating from his dry mind. But he who is sent by Christ received power to lead many to repentance and renewal of heart. He does not glorify his own name by his acts, but gives the whole glory to his Savior Jesus, who was raised from the dead, who works through His servants as if He were present in them. The apostles healed the sick, raised the dead and cast out demons, not by their own power nor in their own name, but in the name of the living Christ.
The secret of success in the Acts of the Apostles finds its explanation in Christ’s calling. Examine yourself. Are you really called by Christ to serve Him, or do you want to minister because you have failed to master any other job? Beware, for the Lord has no delight in those who intrude upon ministry and are not called into it. Pray that you may receive the guidance and the call from the Lord, for the harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, now, by faith, to send out laborers into His harvest.
Christ is the king who supervises His kingdom. He chose ambassadors and sent them according to His plan. He tested them, not in a human way, but in His supernormal wisdom. He, who looks great in this world, is lowly before God, yet God will fill the one that looks simple before men with His divine power.
Christ’s disciples did not come from those who were highly educated or cultured. They were like other men. Some of them were fishermen who experienced weariness and exhausting hard work amidst the storms and the danger of the high seas of practical life. We have all been spiritually feeding on the power of Christ through His disciples up to this day for they have carried His gospel and power into the world. We have been saved as a result of their ministry and are living by their testimony and sacrifices.
Those disciples were with Christ as students, and He taught them privately, besides the benefit they derived from His public preaching. He explained the scriptures to them and opened their understanding to comprehend the scriptures. To them it was given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, and to them they were made plain.
All who desire to be teachers must first be learners. They must receive that they can give. They must be able to teach others. The gospel must be firm in them, before they be commissioned to be gospel ministers. To give men authority to teach others, that have not ability, is but a mockery to God and the church. It is sending “a message by the hand of a fool” (Proverbs 26:6). Christ taught His disciples before He sent them forth. These preachers were sent out destitute of all external advantages to recommend them. They had no wealth, nor learning, nor titles of honor, and they made a very mean figure. It was therefore necessary that they should have some extraordinary power to advance them above the scribes.
If we ponder on the names of the disciples and their relation to Jesus, we find three overlapping circles. The first is a selection of four disciples that were close to Jesus, whom He acquainted with the spiritual mysteries and the secrets of His heart. The second is a group of four disciples whom we know by virtue of their manners. However, Mathew considers himself one of them and called himself the tax collector. The third group is the farthest from the center, which is composed of four disciples of whom we know no more, from the scripture, than their names, excluding Judas Iscariot, the traitor. There was wisdom in calling the twelve, for their number symbolizes three multiplied by four, referring to the mixing between heaven and earth. Christ always carried the names of the twelve within His heart as the chief priest carries the names of the twelve tribes of his people in the plaque on his chest. Thus, Christ carries you today. If your heart is broken or renewed, the Lord will send you out into His harvest.
Judas Iscariot is always named last and with a black brand upon his name: “who also betrayed him.” This indicates that from the beginning, Christ knew what a wretch he was and that he would prove a traitor! Yet Christ took him among the apostles, that it might not be a surprise to His church, if, at any time, the vilest scandals should break out in the best societies. Such spots there have been in our feasts, tares among the wheat and wolves among the sheep. But there is a day of discovery and separation coming, where hypocrites shall be unmasked and discarded. The authority of the apostles was not weakened by the fact that Judas was one of the twelve. While his wickedness remained hidden to others, Jesus knew he would betray Him.
As for Christ, he offered him a divine call to serve Him. He allowed His enemy several opportunities that he might put away his wickedness, come to his senses and turn from his sins. This shows that Christ loved all the people even those who bore ill will against Him and waited for an opportunity to kill Him.
O Heavenly Father, thank You for You have called us by the gospel into adoption, cleaned our hearts with the blood of Christ and filled us with the love of Your Spirit. The call of Jesus moves us towards the despairing lost. Your Son carries us by His intercession during our service. We therefore beg for the guidance of Your Holy Spirit. Give wisdom, obedience, power and constant love to all Your ambassadors, in our world, that we may be able to gather the harvest in the name of Jesus.
Question 99: What is the content of the authority that Jesus gave His disciples?
THE METHODS OF SPREADING THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN
(MATTHEW 10:5 - 11:1)
(The Second Collection of the Words of Jesus)
The Fundamental Principles of Preaching (10:5-15)
10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. (6) But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24; Mark 6:7-13; Luke 9:2-6; Acts 13:46)
In the beginning of His ministry, Christ directed His twelve disciples not to go to the whole world, but to their own countrymen, for other nations were still not prepared for the preaching, and the Holy Spirit had not yet dwelt worldwide. Christ presented His kingdom to the lost Jews first, according to the promise of God to their fathers, and called them into true repentance and living hope.
Christ had a particular and tender concern for the house of Israel; they were “beloved for the sake of the fathers,” (Romans 11:28). He looked with compassion upon them as lost sheep, whom He, as a shepherd, had to gather out of the by-paths of sin and error, into which they were gone astray, and in which, if not brought back, they would wander endlessly.
The objector says that Matthew 10:5-6 mentions that Christ advised His twelve disciples to preach the lost sheep of he house of Israel. Matthew 15:24 mentions that He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”; though Christ said in Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”
We reply that the rule that Christ made for His apostles was to preach the house of Israel first that they might not err, thereafter preach the rest of the world. The Bible speaks, from beginning to end, that the people of the covenant should be looked after first and other nations next. It was proper that the children of Jacob should be given priority over others.
10:7 And as you go preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ (8) Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. (Matthew 4:17; Mark 16:17; Luke 10:1-12)
The content of the apostles’ preaching was twofold: preach and heal. The subject of their speeches was Christ Himself with His authority, truth, spirit and love. The disciples were impressed, deep in their hearts, by the personality of their Master, His compassion and His power. They testified of what they saw and experienced. They recognized that it was in the person of Christ that the kingdom of God began, came true and became tangible and apparent. Therefore, their good news differed from the Baptist’s speech, with respect to the kingdom at hand, for they had experienced that Jesus was the capable divine king. They did not preach a distant kingdom, but declared that the beloved king has already come.
Christ’s disciples did not only speak, but they communicated to others the authority of His power dwelling in them. The Gospel signifies a divine power and not empty words or a lifeless doctrine.
This truth shows that preachers will become nothing if they just present echoing words instead of power. Christ today is willing to triumph through His servants as He, then, triumphed through His apostles; but because of their little faith, pride and hard-heartedness, He cannot do many of His works, for miracles are wrought where perfect love is united with simple faith. Christ wants to do the same miracles through his sent followers as He Himself had done while He was on earth. This call leads us to repent that we may learn to serve out of His compassion!
10:8 Freely you have received, freely give. (9) Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, (10) nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. (Numbers 18:31; Acts 20:33; 1Corinthians 9:14; 1Timothy 5:18)
An employed servant wishes to receive his wages after his faithful performance of a duty. He also desires a regular job, but the heavenly king prevented His apostles from receiving any wages or salary, or making a business or gain out of His word. He ordered them to render their services freely, live from their faith in Christ, and not to put their trust upon money, property and endowment. Christ frees us completely from the love of money that you will love Him alone and trust His constant providence.
Those that had power to heal diseases had an opportunity to enrich themselves. Who would not purchase such certain cures at any price? Therefore they are cautioned by Christ not to make a gain of the spiritual power they had to offer miracles. They must cure freely, further to exemplify the nature of the New Testament kingdom, which is made up, not of mere grace, but of free grace.
Christ, also, prevented His apostles from purchasing additional clothes and shoes, that they could minister without heavy bags and walk freed from the burdens and worries of the world. Go to the service of the Lord as you are. You need no weapon, nor special protection, for the angels of God shall guard you. Wherever you offer the power of God to your listeners and they experience the salvation of their soul and their body, the thanks should not return to you but to God. He will feed you and dress you. Yet, you should not make much of provisions, nor design to accumulate money in the bank, that your faith may not become weak, for the kingdom of God remains spiritual and not material.
They, who go upon Christ’s errand, have, of all people, most reason to trust Him for all necessary provisions. Doubtless, His will is to provide for those that are working for Him. Christ’s servants shall have bread enough and to spare. While we abide faithful to God and our duty and are careful to do our work well, we shall cast our other care upon God. Let the Lord provide for us and ours as He thinks fit.
They that serve might expect that those to whom they were sent would provide for them what was necessary, for the workman is worthy of his meat. They must not always expect to be fed by miracles, as Elijah was, but they might depend upon God to incline the hearts of those they went among, to be kind to them and provide for them. Though they who serve at the altar may not expect to grow rich by the altar, yet they may expect to live and to live comfortably upon it. It is fit they should have their maintenance from their work. Servants are, and must be, “laborers,” and they that are faithful are “worthy of their meat,” so as not to be forced to other labor in order to earn it. Christ expects from His disciples that they trust God, and not their countrymen, to provide everything necessary for them to live. If you preach to them and endeavor to do good among them, surely they will give you bread and drink sufficient for your needs: and if they do, don’t yearn for more. God will reward you in due time, and until then accept His provision. However, the Apostle Paul suggested that every servant for the Lord also work with his hands to secure his daily living and not depend on donations. So every servant of the Lord should ask His Lord how he or she would best serve Him according to His guidance.
O Heavenly Father, we are ashamed of our little faith and our little love to You and regret our inclination to unrighteous mammon. Please forgive our selfishness and teach us to follow Jesus faithfully, without any personal interest or gain. Help us to receive from Him power and love to help the needy, the weak, those imprisoned under the might of Satan and all those whom the Holy Spirit guides us to. Call many people from our nation to serve, for the harvest truly is plentiful, but the faithful laborers are few. Therefore, Lord, send out many laborers into Your harvest.
Question 100: What are the first five commands that Christ gave to His disciples with respect to preaching?
10:11 Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. (12) And when you go into a household, greet it. (13) If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.
Christ always followed in His private ministry the guidance of the Spirit of His Father. Before coming to any city or town He prayed that it would be shown Him who in it is worthy to stay with, knowing that the best are not good in themselves. They are the ones who recognized the wickedness flowing out of their hearts and felt pain for their corrupt natures. Thus, they became worthy of the kingdom of God and of receiving His ambassadors. Ask God, in the beginning of your ministry, to take you to the repentant not to those that are satisfied with their self-righteousness, or to the haughty rich. He who is eager to know the grace of God is he who accepts the gospel of peace. The poor gives you a share in his bread, but the rich, the jurist, the strong and the haughty thinks he has no need of you. When a man falls into distress and regrets, he is more prepared to accept salvation, for your Lord has cultivated his heart that you may plant His peace in it.
“Inquire who in it is worthy,” who fears God and has made some improvement of the light and knowledge of Jesus. The best is still far from meriting the favor of a gospel offer, but some would be more likely than others to give the apostles and their message a favorable reception and would not trample these pearls under their feet.
The Lord will help us to search out those who hunger for righteousness, and not to go, in the beginning, to those who invite us merely to waste time and engage in stupid discussions. Christ advises us to focus on those who are already guided by the Spirit of the Lord. Christ ordered his disciples that they should inquire, not who is rich, but who is worthy, not who is the best gentleman, but who is the best man.
With such a brother, we may set out to visit those who surround us. It is better to have our host with us, for he knows the people and the situations in his area better as we can.
Ask Christ to open a house for preaching in each district of your city, which could bring, by His power, many to faith. Did your house become a center for active service and a spring of peace to your surroundings?
The common salutation in the country was, “Peace be to you!” This phrase, as they used it, was turned into the gospel too. Here, it meant the peace of the Father and the Son, the peace of the kingdom of heaven that they could lay on everyone they greet. Whoever has reservations in pronouncing this blessing on every body should remember that Christ tells us that this gospel prayer is suitable for everyone, since the Gospel was offered to all. Christ knows the hearts and characters of all men, and He knows in whom this salutation will result in a real blessing. If the house is worthy, it will reap the benefit of your blessing. If not, there is no harm done, you will not lose the benefit of it. It shall return to you, as David’s prayers for his ungrateful enemies did (Psalm 35:13)
It becomes us to serve charitably all men, to pray heartily for all we know and to conduct ourselves courteously to all we meet and then to leave it with God to determine what effect it shall have upon them. He who responds to the Spirit of God will benefit from the salutation and receive a blessing from Him, but he who hardens his heart to God’s peace and mercy will receive a judgment for denying him.
10:13 If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. (14) And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. (15) Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the Day of Judgment than for that city! (Genesis 19:1-29; Acts 13:51)
Should the community be unwilling to accept the gospel of Jesus, do not knock at their door constantly and insistently, for God’s love would not force any body. His power dwells in the hearts of those who long for peace and truth, who open themselves to it willingly not as a result of force. Our faith knows no forcible seizure nor surrender, but conviction and responsibility.
When a man, a family, a city, or a nation reject Christ and His apostles, superficially or sluggishly, separate from them quietly that you will not share the judgment which will be theirs. Whoever rejects the gospel of Christ with its peace rejects God Himself.
There is a day of judgment coming, when all those that refuse the Gospel will certainly be called to account for it, however they now make a jest of it. They that would not hear the doctrine that would save them shall be made to hear the sentence that will ruin them. Their judgment is reserved until that day. But you continue to pray for them, even if they reject you and your Lord.
The condemnation of those that reject the gospel will in the last day be severer and heavier than that of Sodom and Gomorrah. Sodom is said to suffer the vengeance of eternal fire. But that vengeance will come in a stranger manner upon those that despise salvation. Sodom and Gomorrah were exceedingly wicked, and that which filled up the measure of their iniquity was, that they did not receive the angels that were sent to them, but abused them and did not give respectful attention to their words. And yet, it will be more tolerable for them than for those who do not receive Christ’s ministers and give respectful attention to their words. God’s wrath against them will be more flaming and their own reflections upon themselves more cutting. These words will sound more dreadful in the ears of such as had a fair offer made them of eternal life and rather chose death. The iniquity of Israel, when God sent them His servants the prophets, is represented as, upon that account, more heinous than the iniquity of Sodom. Much more now, after He sent them His Son, the incarnate Spirit of His word.
Be cautious before you leave the disobedient. Examine yourself, that you may not be the reason for their reluctance and disobedience, through misunderstanding, or because of your rudeness or rashness. Go back and examine yourself first and repent that you may not offend others. And if necessary, go back and ask for forgiveness so that you will not be responsible for a lost soul.
Christ confirmed through these words the fact of the Day of Judgment and proclaimed His gospel as the only way to salvation from this terrible day. He who rejects or opposes the people of the Gospel chooses for himself God’s wrath upon him in the Day of Judgment.
O Holy Father, Your Son called us to be peacemakers. Please guide us to behave wisely. Forgive us our thoughtless acts. Give us sincere friends and brothers and open in every quarter of our city a center for Your gospel, that living water may flow out of it into the dry desert.
Question 101: Who will accept the peace of God?
The Risks of Preaching (10:16-25)
10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Mark 13:9-13; Luke 10:3; 21:12-17; Romans 16:19; Ephesians 5:15)
What if Christ’s parable about sending sheep in the midst of ravenous wolves came true? What would happen? And how long would the sheep remain alive? The wolves would devour them in a moment and leave nothing that is worth mentioning of them.
It looked unkind of Christ to expose His servants to so much danger, who had left everything to follow Him. But he knew that the glory reserved for His sheep in the great day would be recompense sufficient for sufferings as well as service. But Christ sends them forth, and that is comforting. For He who sends them forth will protect them and care for them until they have finished their task. But that they might know the worst, He tells them exactly what they must expect.
Thus, Christ sends us out into the world of our day. But if we live or die, Christ remains responsible for us. We are not alone, He is with us, His name is over us, and His power surrounds us. When you obey Jesus and preach in your neighborhood, He will protect you, take notice of your service and care for you with His divine wisdom. The danger exists, but the Lord exists too, and in Him we trust. In order not to leave them alone, Christ gives valuable advice to His followers in the midst of this desolate world, which is filled with wolves.
Christ asks His disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But it is rather to be taken as a precept, recommending to us that the wisdom of the prudent, which is to understand His way, is useful at all times, but especially in times of distress, tribulation and suffering. Therefore because you are exposed to dangers as sheep in the midst of wolves, “Be wise as serpents.” Not wise as foxes whose cunning is to deceive others, but as serpents, whose policy is only to defend themselves and to look out for their own safety.
In the cause of Christ, we must hold on to life and all its comforts lightly, but must not be wasteful of them. It is the wisdom of the serpent to secure his head, that it may not be broken. Let us be wise, not to pull troubles upon ourselves and upon others and let us keep silence in an evil time and not give offence, if we can help it.
In return, Christ asks His followers to be harmless as doves. Be mild and meek and dispassionate, not only do nobody any hurt, but bear nobody any ill will. Be without gall, as doves are. This must always go along with the former. They were sent out in the midst of wolves, therefore must be as wise as serpents.
The serpent symbolizes Satan, but a dove symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Therefore a Christian should be wiser and more careful than the devils, but in the holiness of the Holy Spirit, without wickedness or blame. This remark needs prayer and faith that we will not become clever as Satan and devour ourselves in his spirit. But on the contrary, let the Holy Spirit sanctify us to the uttermost so that we follow Jesus closely.
10:17 But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. (18) You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. (Acts 5:40; 25:23; 27:24; 2Corinthians 11:24)
Jesus warned His disciples not to preach with superficial enthusiasm, for the greatest danger in the world comes not from spiders and tigers, but from man himself. Jesus sent us in His merciful love to the lost. He was not cheated by humanistic thought for He knew that in every man there is a beast waiting for an opportunity. This requires from us excessive wisdom and spiritual awareness that we may not be a reason for its rousing and attacking us.
The apostles experienced the accomplishment of Jesus prophecies, as we read in the book about the Acts of the Apostles. In every small town, there was a council followed by a judicial tribunal composed of twenty-three persons who condemned every adultery, breach of fasting and non‑fulfillment of the law. They had the right to sentence the violators to scourging. The persons who were sentenced to scourging were whipped forty stripes minus one with a scourge, which consisted of four leather cords on their chest and naked back. Saul, himself, forced the Christians to deny Christ when he used this way with them, but he, after becoming a believer, was scourged in this way on his naked body too. Your testimony brings to your listeners either justification and life, or judgment and destruction. Do not speak of your own ideas and fancies, but ask by prayer for the guidance of the Holy Spirit at all times.
Some apostles appeared before Roman rulers and local kings to be witnesses for the name of Jesus Christ. They offered salvation to them, which if they rejected they would be witnesses against them in the Day of Judgment.
10:19 But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; (20) for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (Exodus 4:12; Luke 12:11-12; Acts 4:8; 1Corinthians 2:4)
Do you fear the enemies of Christ? Yes, they are filled with deception, pushed by the father of liar, the killer from the beginning. But Christ, the Lord of life stands up for you. He supports you and grants you the Spirit of Truth who will definitely overcome your fear, comfort you in temptation, confirm faith to you and glorify the name of Jesus through you. You do not have to defend yourself. Listen to the voice of your Lord in your heart. Do not be angry against your judges or adversaries; then the Spirit of your heavenly Father will guide you to wisely answer them.
You are an appointed witness of the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit. The Father regenerated you, the Son saved you, and the Holy Spirit in you is the eternal power. Trust the Almighty with all your heart. Do not trust your own mind. It is your Father who protects you and inspires you in critical hours.
Christ confirmed to His followers that they would not be left to themselves upon such a dangerous occasion, but God would send His Spirit of wisdom to speak in them, as His providence has promised them. Our Father in heaven gives them the ability, not only to speak to the point clearly, but also to speak with holy zeal. The same Spirit that assisted them in the pulpit assisted them at the bar. They cannot but come off well, who have such an advocate, as he said to Moses, “go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say” (Exodus 4:12).
We glorify You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the One and only God, for You have called us to a clear testimony. Please forgive us our hastiness in speaking and our incomplete wisdom. Open our minds to Your inspiration that we may glorify You by listening to the voice of Your Holy Spirit and speak of what He tells us. Purify us from the result of our sins and fill us with the spirit of humility and meekness so that your redemption sanctifies us in our lives. Overcome the fear in us and fill us with Your loving kindness.
Question 102: Who are our enemies, and what promise did Jesus give us concerning them?
10:21 Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. (22) And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. (23) When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Micah 7:6; Matthew 16:28; 24:9-13; Acts 8:1)
Jesus depicted four sources of danger before His disciples, each of which waits for His followers. These sources of problems were the common people, the religious court, the civil authority and their own families. How painful it is when brothers hate their brother or sister for their faith in Jesus and beloved parents turn into enemies of the redeemed One who opened his heart to Christ.
Once a faithful father, in a dictatorial country saw his son restlessly turning over in his bed while asleep. He asked his son who was half awake, what had disturbed him. The boy answered that the youth leader forced him to spy on his parents and to tell him all that they spoke about at dinner.
A medical student wrote that her father hated her because she left the faith of her fathers, but at the same time he loved her because of her humility, love and purity inside and outside the house. On the contrary, her father loved her brother for his continuance in the faith of the fathers, but hated him at the same time for his indulgence in every impurity. The student asked us to help her through our prayers that she might be able to walk in holiness and be an active witness through her silence, for she, as a girl, was prevented from debating or arguing with her father.
The hate of the powerful and of the society reaches its highest point when a country is ruled by an anti-Christ tyrant who employs the media to force people to submit to him and to his party. We find, in the history of the church, waves of severe persecutions that have killed many and shed the blood of the innocents, as an evidence of their love for Jesus, their Lord. They were certain He lived and nothing could separate them from his love. We are faced with critical times, for the false Christ is drawing near to us to unify the nations and the religions against the true Christ. During his limited ruling, he will dominate most of the Christians and slay them in droves. Then will appear who would faithfully abide with Christ, and learn from His Spirit, patience and endurance, who would continue to love and bless his enemies and be merciful with those that are persecuted by evil spirits.
Our salvation began on the cross, was realized at the second birth and is purified through sufferings, as the apostle says, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” In the Second Coming of Christ our salvation will be perfected by grace.
Christ does not call every one of His witnesses to martyrdom. He commanded His disciples occasionally to flee to another city if they were persecuted in the first one, and to be his witnesses there anew. Jesus testified to His faithful apostles that the cities they can resort to are endless till He comes. Therefore, the disciples, at times of severe danger, may change their dwelling and residence to secure themselves when the Lord, in His providence, opens to them another door to His service. He that flies by the guidance of the Lord should serve again. It is not shameful for Christ’s servants to abandon their ground, provided they do not abandon their colors. They may avoid the way of danger, though they should not avoid the way of duty.
Observe Christ’s care of His disciples, in providing places of retreat and shelter for them. Persecution will not rage in all places at the same time. When one city has become too hot for them, another is reserved for a cooler shade and a little sanctuary, a favor to be used and not to be slighted. Yet always with this proviso, no sinful, unlawful means should be used to escape, for then it is not a door of God’s opening.
Christ did seldom speak about His death and resurrection before this sermon according to Matthew. He now explains to them about His next coming, the goal of the history of mankind, putting before them, first of all, a great hope. The sufferings, death and resurrection will remain an expectation of the Christian, but the presence of Jesus in glory when He overcomes all the kingdoms and makes His enemies His footstool is His eternal goal. “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
Oh Holy coming King, Please forgive my weak courage, little faith and impatience. Overcome in me all hatred. Teach me to recognize Your plan of salvation that I may be prepared to suffer and testify for Your name publicly. Guide me when I must keep silent or escape the hand of the enemies that I may proclaim Your name in another place. Make me obedient to Your leadership. Bless those who cause pain to me and persecute me and fill those who hate me with your grace. Come quickly our Lord Jesus. Strengthen every believer who suffers today for Your name or dies for Your sake.
Question 103: How do we overcome the waves of persecution?
10:24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. (25) It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! (Matthew 12:24; Luke 6:40; John 13:16; 15:20)
To follow Christ means to imitate Him in His love, joy and humility and to serve in His power. It also means to cling to Him in sufferings, death and resurrection. He leads us after Him and never leaves us till we enter His glory. Christ would not put upon us a yoke or a heavy burden that He did not try before. Men hated Him, and His kindred denied Him. They asked Him to fall into the enemies’ trap. He appeared before the religious court and was beaten and scourged. They spat in His face and King Herod mocked him. Thereafter sentenced by the Roman ruler to another scourging, then to crucifixion. The Roman ruler crucified Him, though He proved three times to be innocent. His enemies tempted Him cunningly at the point of death. It appeared to Him after all that God hid His face from Him. Yet He remained faithful in His belief, strong in His love, steady in His hope. He bore in the sufferings of His body God’s judgment for sin instead of us, and the evil one did not have any power nor right in Him.
We shall not face what Jesus faced, since we do not bear the sin of the world, and God’s anger will not be poured upon us, but the enemy of the good lurks to torment us and try to take us away from our merciful Savior. We are weak, but Jesus takes our hands and supports us. We do not build our future upon our own power but upon Jesus’ faithfulness and upon the power of His precious blood.
One of the fundamental priorities of preaching is to die to your excessive sensitivity and selfishness, for the sons of disobedience will say all kinds of evil against you and blaspheme God because of you. The Jews called Jesus the ruler of hell. They denied His power, though His miracles were pure and void of covetousness. They accused Him of ruling an army of demons that are as numerous as the flies, for the name “Beelzebul” signifies in Aramaic “the god of flies.” However, Jesus did not reject His enemies, but defended the dignity of His Father and of the Holy Spirit, for He made Himself and His glory of no reputation to the end.
O Lord Jesus, thank You for You have borne many insults, reproaches, charges and lies. They poured upon You every evil word. But You continued in love and kindness and spoke in truth and wisdom. You did not attempt to go along with them, but you continued Your journey to fulfill Your purpose, towards the death of the cross. Thank You for giving us a chance to follow You. We ask you to grant us the power to bear every evil word and to continue in love. Help us to wisely declare the truth, even if this will lead us to death. Stand beside us so that we may bless You, for we are unable to persevere and continue without Your help. Amen.
Question 104: What does He mean with His saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher?”
Encouragement Amidst Trouble (10:26-33)
10:26 Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. (27) Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. (Mark 4:22; Luke 8:17; 12:2-9)
The kingdom of God is not words without power. We have no secrets to hide or keep. We offer the power of the Holy Spirit through our testimony to everyone that is willing. Christ’s power has entered our hearts guiding us rightly. His holy love did not remain hidden in us, but appeared in our services. You cannot hide your faith if Christ abides with you, for he who loves his Lord does not lie nor steal, nor become proud, but pleases his parents and honors his neighbors. He does not cheat in school exams or in his work and does not take part in revolutions and coups. Your fellowship in Christ appears through the testimony of your life in public. We do not struggle for faith by our own strength; it is the Lord who strengthens us day and night, in light and in darkness, in good days and in bad days. We are not alone. We are required to communicate to others, without fear, everything we hear from the Gospel about our own salvation. The divine proclamation leads us to testify. Since the Holy Spirit testifies with your spirit that you became a child of God through the blood of Christ, you have the privilege to testify of this grace. Tell society, if possible, what your heart hears, for the Lord’s word is the basis of men’s salvation.
Once a paralyzed blind servant of the Lord asked his friends to buy him a microphone. They were surprised at his request and some of them mocked at him. When they inquired from him the reason, he told them to carry him to the flat roof of his house that he might direct his words with a clear voice to every person that passed by his house asking them to turn their faces towards heaven not towards hell. If this half paralyzed blind man can give his testimony, how rather should we that are well endowed with eyesight and that are called to open our mouths, help those that are drifting away to hell fire and deliver them by the Gospel of salvation?
Go on with your work, proclaiming the gospel to the world. That is your call, mind it! The design of the enemy is not merely to destroy you, but to suppress your testimony! Therefore, whatever the consequences, proclaim the gospel as much as possible. “Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light, … preach on the housetops.”
O Lord Jesus, You suffered for us, and we are frightened of the wickedness of men. We glorify You for saving us. Please teach us to follow You faithfully and give us the encouragement of Your Spirit, that we may testify to others of what You proclaim to us in the gospel so that Your kingdom will come into our homes and surroundings.
Question 105: What does the faithful following of Christ signify?
10:28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Hebrew 10:31; James 4:12)
These words are easy to say, but the reality is difficult to bear. When it comes to facing trials, whippings, dungeons, sword and fire the toughest heart will tremble and try to escape, especially when it is possible that they can be avoided by compromising.
Jesus mentioned the phrase “do not fear” thrice in His speech when sending His disciples to preach. This command is a divine order, that we should not fear men, death and Satan, even if the fear came to us from princes, parents, demons or other horrors.
What does a man fear? Does he fear suffering? It is only an introduction to death. Does death deserve to be feared? No! If Christ pours His life into us, we shall not die but live forever! Do we fear the life beyond the veil of death? No! For Christ’s blood washed our consciences from all unclean acts, and the Holy Spirit comforts us. Do we fear God? No! For He is our Father. The whole mankind, except the real Christian, fears and trembles because of His just judgment. As for us, He made us His beloved children, if His honest Spirit truly dwells in our hearts.
Christ fortified His disciples against these frightful temptations. He gives us a good reason against this fear, taken from the limited power of the enemy. They can kill the body only, that is the utmost their rage is able to do, if God permits them, but no further. They are not entitled to kill or hurt the soul, since the soul is within the person. The soul does not, as some dream, fall asleep at death, or cease from thought and perception; otherwise, the killing of the body would be the killing of the soul too. The soul will be tormented when it is separated from God and His love. This is out of the reach of their power. Tribulation, distress and persecution may separate us from all what is in this world, but cannot part between God and us, cannot cause us either not to love Him, or not to be loved by Him. If we were more concerned about our souls than our wealth, we should be less afraid of men, whose power cannot rob us of them. They can only kill the body, which may quickly die of itself, but not the soul, which will enjoy itself and remain in the realms of God in spite of them. They can but crush the cabinet but the precious pearl remains untouched.
Then how could Jesus say that we should fear God? And that He alone can cast us into hell? Christ declared to us the stern commandment of fearing God if we consider that the safety of our life would be more important than the dignity and love of our heavenly Father, and fall away from our faith in Christ. Then our Father would change into our Judge, for we have trodden on His salvation out of the fear of men. We shall stand before Him and give account for every idle word we said, every penny we spent and every intention we had. Blessed is the man who has already confessed all his sins to the holy God. Were it not for the blood of Jesus Christ, we would have been overwhelmed by fear and despair, yet Jesus saves us from the wrath to come, that we can always live in everlasting peace.
O Heavenly Father, Your Holy Spirit declared to us that there is no fear in love, for perfect love drives away fear. Forgive us our little love to You if we became afraid and fearful of death more than fearing You. Fill us with Your love that we may love You as you love us, and that we may love our enemies as You loved them and sacrificed your life for them. Strengthen us in love that we may testify for You in words and deeds, in prayer and thought to those whom Your Holy Spirit guides us. Open the ears of our hearts that we may hear Your directions and obey Your words.
Question 106: How can we overcome in us the fear of men with regards to our testimony?
10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. (30) But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. (31) Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 6:26; Acts 27:34)
Our Heavenly Father is the Almighty, the Omnipotent. He knows every sparrow and looks after it. Not one of them falls to the ground without His notice and will. The very hairs of our heads are precisely numbered. You do not know how many hairs remain on your head, but your heavenly Father does. We do not die by chance, nor shall we suffer in vain, but our loving Father’s will prevails in our lives. He knows you, sees you, guides you and surrounds you in every direction. Your faith in your heavenly Father prevents you from fearing men, for they are unable to treat you but according to the direction of His providence. Your Father is the greatest of all. Look to him, not at your enemies. See beyond them His kind face.
If God numbers our hairs, much more does He number our heads and take care of our lives, our comforts and our souls. It intimates that God takes more care of us, than we do of ourselves. They who are solicitous to count their money and goods and cattle, are never careful to number their hairs, which fall out and are lost, and they never miss them. But God numbers the hairs of His people, and “not a hair of their head shall be lost” (Luke 21:18). Not the least hurt shall be done to them, except that allowed by His permissive will. So precious to God are His saints and their lives and deaths!
Do not fear destiny and divine decrees, for it is your heavenly Father who foreordained you and lifted you to His own level as His child, enabling you to choose the best in Christ.
O Heavenly Father, we thank You for You are the Almighty and the Omniscient. You know our past, present and future. We will not fear divine decrees, but we thank You for You are our Father who looks after us and knows the number of hairs of our heads. Please strengthen our faith that we may always serve You sincerely in word, deed and thought. Give our friends and relatives this spiritual insight that they may know that You are their loving Almighty Father too.
Question 107: What do fate and divine decrees signify in Christianity?
10:32 Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. (33) But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven. (Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 2Timothy 2:12; Revelation 3:5)
Christ confirms to you that He ascended to heaven. He mentions your name before God, because you served on earth in the name of Jesus Christ. Your confession on earth has a clear impact in heaven. The Son of God, Himself, recognizes your voice, so forget about your reputation and family rank and speak wisely and openly that Jesus is the Savior and the King of Kings. Thus, you will remain fixed in God’s memory forever. Many people wish presidents, leaders and kings would know their name in hopes of special favors. But your name will be mentioned before God personally, if you confess the name of Jesus to your friends, relation and enemies. Do you testify of Jesus’ salvation, crucifixion, burial and resurrection? Or you look like a dead stone, motionless and lifeless? If you are unable to testify openly, ask the Lord Jesus to show you a suitable occasion that you may give testimony after your prayer to Him. He who does not pass over his testimony for Jesus and denies Him will not be named in heaven. Your faith in Christ as a mere belief is not sufficient, for the thanksgiving of testimony should always go out of you.
If you love Jesus, you will confess Him. God’s Sprit prompts you to announce the name of Christ, your Savior. But if you neglect and resist the guidance of the Holy Spirit in you and do not speak to others about the Savior, you separate yourself from God’s power. A bride loves her bridegroom and if she did not speak of him, her love would cool down and disappear. Such is your testimony. It is the proof of your faith. Without a wise profession and a plain testimony for Jesus under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, your faith would definitely fail.
It is our privilege, not only to believe in Christ and to serve Him, but also to suffer for our faith in Him when we are called to do so. We must never be ashamed of our relationship with Christ, our dependence on Him and our expectations from Him. By this, the sincerity of our faith is evident – His name be glorified and others edified.
However this may expose us to reproach and trouble now, we shall be abundantly recompensed for that, in the resurrection of the just, when it will be our unspeakable honor and happiness to hear Christ say (what would be more?) “Him I will confess.”
It is a dangerous thing to deny and disown Christ before men. He will disown them who so do in the great day, when they have most need of Him. Christ will be the Master of those who will not be His servants: “And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7:23).
O Lord Jesus, You live. Your intercession is our power and hope. We should not fear those who persecute us, for our life is concealed with You. Please teach us acknowledge Your name courageously and wisely and give us the boldness of Your Spirit to declare Your love for us. Thank You for mentioning our names before our heavenly Father who cares for us that He counts even the number of the hairs of our heads. Amen.
Question 108: Why are we prohibited from fearing men or death?
Division as a Result of Preaching (10:34-39)
10:34 do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Micah 7:6; Luke 12:51-53)
Jesus is the prince of peace, and His followers are called peacemakers. In the gospel, we read the word “peace” about 100 times, but why does Jesus say He came to bring a sword and not peace? This means, first, that whoever enters the violent struggle against sin denies himself and dies to himself. You cannot serve God and yourself at the same time. You either hate the first and cling to the second or love the first and part from the second. Jesus wants to call up your will that you may overcome and leave your sin by your Lord’s power.
Second, to draw the sword of Jesus means that we do not use it to destroy His enemies, since He never took a sword in His hand, nor shed blood. He that penetrates into the book of Acts cannot find any mention of a battle between the people of the kingdom and the Jews on one hand, or the Gentiles, on the other. Yet, this historical book testifies to us that the world authorities used the sword against members of the churches to satisfy the religious leaders and the fanatic.
Christ did not permit any killing or bloodshed for the sake of His spiritual kingdom! Our religion is not based on the sword, but on love and respect. Every Christian that breaks this principle is condemned. Jesus did not avoid spiritual struggle, but prepared His disciples to the severe fight against evil spirits, that they would not flee when such a war becomes hot during the spiritual fight. Paul, the apostle, wrote that we shall overcome the forts of evil with faith and love (Ephesians 6:16 and Romans 12:21). We ask God to completely destroy these forts of false religion and philosophy because of the offenses and disasters they bring to men.
Charles H. Spurgeon, a man of faith, was once mockingly and contemptibly invited by an artist to introduce to the opening ceremony of a lewd center. The pastor responded to the invitation wearing his dress as a pastor. When the opening ceremony was about to begin, the pastor stood and addressed the audience saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, you invited me to attend the opening and I responded to your invitation, so let me open this meeting with prayer.” The audience was shocked and surprised. They looked at each other perplexed, but the pastor, paying no attention to their astonishment, prayed, “O Lord, You are present in all places, and You see what these people are willing to do. I ask you to interfere with Your authority and stop this madness, that they can not persist in it spreading this sin into our society among the young and the old,” then he ended his prayer with “Amen, O Lord,” said good-bye to everyone and left.
One year later, a severe misunderstanding and dispute arose among those in charge of the theater. The theater was closed, and this work was stopped.
How far are most of the religious leaders today from Spurgeon. They do not bend their little finger against ugly pornographic programs whether on the television or in movies. We find some of them joining their ceremonies and occasions, on the pretext of openness and modernization. They pretend to have forgotten the role with which their Lord entrusted them when He said, “You are the salt of the earth; if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13).
Most of Christ’s speeches aimed at preparing His messengers to reply orally and bear the attacks. To Christ, the sword symbolized the fighting against the evil powers that threatens every body and wishes to dominate us.
The Jews thought that Christ came to give all His followers wealth, fame and power in this world. “No,” said Christ, “I did not come to grant you peace; peace in heaven you may be sure of, but not peace on earth.” Christ came to give us true peace with God, lasting peace in our consciences, real peace with our brothers, but “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). In the last days peace will be taken completely from the earth (Revelation 6:4) until the Prince of Peace finally arrives.
10:35 For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; (36) and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household,’ (37) He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Deuteronomy 13:7-12; 33:9; Luke 14:26-27)
Jesus knows all who accept His name and abide in Him. He endeavors to draw them out of the bond of their clan, and out of nest of their favorite family, or out of the culture of their people. He knows that the blood relationship is often stronger and more valuable according to the customs than religion is, and neighbors would not let their relative follow Jesus easily. They choose to live in deviousness and impurity rather than be born again in Jesus.
Those of the tender sex shall become persecutors and persecuted. The mother will be against her believing daughter, where natural affection and filial duty, one would think, should prevent or quickly resolve the quarrel. No marvel then if the daughter-in-law be against the mother-in-law, where, too often, the coldness of love seeks occasion of contention. In general, “a man’s enemies will be those of his own household” (v. 36). They who should be his friends will be incensed against him for embracing Christianity, and especially for adhering to it when it comes to be persecuted, and will join with his persecutors against him.
In His sermon on spreading the divine kingdom, Jesus testified twice that the severest pain a man can experience in life is his separation from his family by reason of honoring the name of Jesus. Our membership of God’s family is more important than our continuance in the earthly family. When your parents and neighbors prevent you from following Jesus, you ought to obey God rather than men for Creatures cannot be obeyed in their disobedience to the Creator. Sometimes the parents suffer! They love their children and exert pressure on them to leave Jesus and join the anti-Christ party, but God’s love overcomes even our emotions.
He who goes through these trials deserves our prayers, support and fellowship in every respect, since we became his new family after he had left his relatives and kindred.
O Holy Father, we thank You because You love all men, especially those who face persecution and violence because of their faith in Your Son Jesus. You are their spiritual Father! Please give them the wisdom on how to behave with their relatives, that they may humble themselves, love their relatives, serve them and live together with them under the kind Spirit of Christ. Open to Your persecuted children the door of joining Your divine family, that they may not live isolated and persecuted, but protected and loved in the fellowship of the saints.
Question 109: How should the converted behave with his family, which persecutes him because of his faith in Jesus?
10:38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. (39) He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25; Luke 9:24; John 12:25)
This is the first reference to cross that is mentioned by Jesus in His gospel according to Matthew, the evangelist, when he speaks about the separation of the believer from his family. He did not focus in His speeches on His own cross, but spoke about His followers’ first, those whose suffering for their families is made similar to the nails that pierced Jesus’ hands and feet. Our Lord asks us to follow Him at any cost, for the one who divides his heart between men and the Son of God, shall have no room left in him for the Son of God. Christ gave Himself wholly for you; He wants you to give yourself wholly to Him, or He wants nothing of you. The bliss of life is not to live in ease and in harmony with your relatives and friends, but to be, at the same time, a witness of Him that was raised from the dead and poured out the Holy Spirit into His followers. He, who chooses the world, chooses death and destruction, but he who chooses the death of Jesus, chooses eternal life. He who endeavors to satisfy men and Christ at the same time, fails and becomes a hypocrite and dishonest, but he who raises Jesus above money, inheritance, relatives and earthly future, shall know the Son of God in His fullness.
The Law of Moses provides that everyone that turns from the law of their nation shall be separated and stoned. The Roman government did not permit the Jews to put this law into practice, for the danger of death was always hanging threateningly as a sword over the heads of those of Jewish background who believed in Christ. Therefore, Jesus said that having faith in Him is similar to the cross for both require preparedness to death every day.
They, who would follow Christ, must expect their cross and take it up. In taking up the cross, we are allowed to follow Christ’s example and bear it as he did. It is a great encouragement to us, when we meet with the cross, that in bearing it we follow Christ, who has showed us the way. If we follow Him faithfully, He will lead us through all our sufferings, to glory with Him.
O Lord Jesus, You are the Son of God. You left your Father to save us. Please teach us to leave our relatives if they hate You, that we may abide only in You. You are our redeemer, protector and You show us the Father. Please free us from our earthly engagements that we may be completely Yours, for Your love is greater than that of men. Bless our friends who left their homes for Your name’s sake. Show them Your word. Give them bread to eat, a room to live in and a job to live by Your grace.
Question 110: On what occasion does the gospel of Matthew mention Christ’s talking about the cross for the first time?
The Sublime Aim of Preaching (10:40-42; 11:1)
10:40 He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. (Luke 9:48; John 13:20; Galatians 4:14)
What does Christ want to happen through sending His witnesses? His aim is not the knowledge of the divine truth alone or the acceptance of personal salvation or the mere experience of the second birth. The aim of the preaching of Jesus disciples is higher than that. It is our union with Christ Himself. Our faith is not based on mere thinking, emotions, knowledge and determination. It signifies a spiritual fellowship and eternal unity with our beloved Savior. We are not prepared only to inherit His death and resurrection, but to inherit Himself directly and abide in Him as a branch in the vine.
Jesus confirmed to His disciples that He considered their ministry as if He Himself were the speaker and the worker. The Lord unites with His servants exactly as Paul confessed; “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us” (2Corinthians 5:20). The Most Holy Himself speaks through His human servants, and Christ’s disciples do not only carry His word to the world, but also carry Him Himself for He is present in them.
Christ is the holy link between God the Father and us. He who receives His ministers receives the Savior Himself, and he who has received Christ, has received the heavenly Father. Jesus called Himself a messenger, for His Holy Father sent him. Jesus is the unique Word of God made flesh. He who receives Him experiences God’s dwelling in his heart. Does the spirit of the Lord fill your mind? Does the Almighty really dwell in you?
Christ’s followers are God’s temple and residence, and His saints are Christ’s spiritual body. Be sure of your approach to the unity of the Holy Trinity. Feel secure for you are not going alone into the corrupt world to offer it true salvation. Christ is with you and in you always, even to the end of the age. He who hears your testimony and believes in Him that has sent you shall receive the Son of God personally into his heart and mind.
We glorify you, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in Your unity, for You came near us and dwell in us after you cleansed us with the precious blood of Your Son. You granted us the indwelling of Your good Spirit in our weakness that we may walk in love and serve You in honesty, prayer and testimony. We glorify You for Your fellowship with us, justified sinners, mortal beings, to whom You gave eternal life.
Question 111: How is the unity between God and those who believe in Christ completed?
10:41 He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. (42) And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by not means lose his reward.” (1Kings 5:17; 8:24; Matthew 25:40; Mark 9:41)
The wages of a prophet is the fulfillment of his prophecy. His hope is not to appear a liar in his speech, but a caller in the name of God. Isaiah proclaimed the coming of Christ as a baby (Isaiah 9:5); Jeremiah manifested the dwelling of the law into the hearts of the believers; Ezekiel prophesied that the new heart is a gift of God, whereas Daniel saw Christ’s triumph over the earthly kingdoms and progression towards the final judgment. These prophets urgently wished that their prophecies would be quickly fulfilled. Their wages are Christ’s coming again to perfect God’s plan of salvation and kingdom on earth.
We thank God the Father that Christ really came. His spiritual kingdom rests in His disciples, who are often considered little ones in the world. Without earthly weapons, they proceeded into the cities and towns to win many to the divine kingdom of love. How astonishing that to many of those who despised them, persecuted them, scourged them and killed them, they appeared little ones and weak before God! But he, who receives them, receives God in person, and he whoever gives them a cup of cold water, shall receive a great reward.
Their promised bread of life is Christ Himself, if they believe in Him. The accompanying blessing of Jesus’ children is not an imaginary hope. It is the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s dwelling in the hearts of the repentant, the world’s hope from everlasting.
Kindness to Christ’s disciples, which He will accept, can be done with an eye to Christ and for His sake. A prophet should be received in the name of his Lord and a righteous man in the name of the One whom justified him. Little ones should be blessed “in the name of a disciple”; not because the disciples are learned or witty or because they are our neighbors, but because they bear Christ’s image. They are at the same time prophets and disciples and so are sent on Christ’s errand. It is a believing regard to Christ that puts an acceptable value upon the kindness done to His ministers.
We glorify You, our Father, for sending Christ to our world, bread to the world and light to the nations. He is our wages. If we accept Him by faith and confess His holiness to others, He will quench the thirsty and satisfy the hungry. We thank You because You will look after the persecuted for Your Name and give them refreshment amidst distresses.
Question 112: What are the wages of the prophets, the righteous and the followers of Christ?
11:1 Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. (Luke 7:18-23)
Matthew the evangelist put on record for Christ’s messengers and servants the transcendent greatness of Christ, that they might preach the coming of the kingdom of heaven. He did not incite them to get a high salary, but guided them to set up bible study circles in homes and to realize God’s power in believers. He gave them authority to live out what they say. He warned them, at the same time, of those who use tricks, deceit and violence. In the midst of their parting from their relations, He gave them great comfort in their persecutions and confirmed to them His providence, presence and power, that they would not be harmed nor abandoned. He reassured them that every hair on their heads is numbered, that not one of them falls out apart from His divine will and that God Himself dwells in them by His Spirit. He confirms their confession of Jesus who will enter into the hearts of those who receive Him.
Jesus’ disciples set out obeying His orders, and the Lord confirmed their testimony, blessed their services and perfected all that they fell short of during their work. Are you setting out or you are still sitting in your room? Did the distress of the multitudes touch your heart to be merciful to them, or is your heart still hard? Did you experience the life of Christ in the recess of your heart? Then speak out and express it wisely. Do not keep silent. Do not fear the accusers, but comply with God’s design and will. Do you want the Lord to choose some useless as His messengers, because His appointed servants are cowards, and His children hide and make groundless excuses in order not to complete their ministries and hold their tongues about the glory of their Father?
The Lord Jesus orders us to go ahead in His service, even today! Matthew the evangelist summarized Christ’s second speech as an order from the Lord of heaven and earth, which is to be carried out faithfully. Which one of us will be so stubborn to violate the order of the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords?
There is a great invitation before us, the invitation of heaven, the invitation of love. Is there any willing to obey, to pray, to testify in the power of the Holy Spirit and carry out His invitation?
O Lord, we thank You for sending Your Son Jesus Christ to our corrupt world. Through Him, You chose apostles for Yourself, shepherds and witnesses. We praise You for Your word has reached us, cleaned us, refreshed us and sanctified us. Please fill us with the power of Your love, give us the will and the determination to confess wisely and declare Your spiritual kingdom on earth. Prompt us and censure us that we can go in the power of Your Holy Spirit and bear the fruits of Your kindness and love. Abide with us and in us. Lead us in the way of life, for You have called us that our weak words may become Your powerful words.
Question 113: What did you learn from Christ’s order to preach to the lost?
The Second Test
Of the Gospel of Christ According to Matthew
Dear brother, if you studied the Gospel of Christ according to Matthew, you should be able to answer easily the following questions on this page.
If you answer 80 percent of the questions properly, we will send you the next part of this commentary or another book as a gift and for your edification.
Should you send us your answers by mail, please do not forget to clearly write your name and your full address on your answer sheet and not only on the envelope.
43. Why does the Law of Christ begin with the word “Blessed” instead of “You shall” or “You shall not?”
44. Why does the poor in spirit enter first into the kingdom of heaven?
45. Why will the meek and not the powerful inherit the earth?
46. How does Christ quench our thirst for righteousness?
47. How can we change from being selfish into being merciful?
48. How can you become pure?
49. How will Christ use you to bring peace to others?
50. How do the propagators of the gospel of peace experience sometimes violent opposition?
51. What are the wages paid to persecuted believers?
52. What does it mean that Christ invites you to be “the salt of the earth?”
53. How can you be a light in the world?
54. How can we keep the holy Law of God?
55. Who is a killer according to the Law of Christ?
56. How are we freed from the temptations that lead us to uncleanness and adultery?
57. Who is an adulterer according to the Law of Christ?
58. How can we become true in speech, actions and behavior?
59. How did Christ deliver us from the law of revenge and punishment?
60. Who are the self-released?
61. How can we be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect?
62. What is the radical difference between the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ?
63. How should an offering be made before God the Father?
64. What kind of prayer will be answered by our Father in heaven?
65. How can we hallow the name of the Father?
66. What do you think when you pray, “Your kingdom come?”
67. What is the will of your Father in heaven?
68. What does the petition for “the daily bread” include?
69. What are the mysteries in the petition for forgiveness?
70. How are we made free from the evil one in our lives?
71. How do you glorify God your Father?
72. What is imperative for our continuance in fellowship with our Father in heaven?
73. What does fasting mean in the New Testament?
74. Why can we not serve both God and mammon simultaneously?
75. How does Christ prevent us from sinking into and yielding to worries?
76. Why did Christ forbid us from judging others?
77. How should we love and serve those who do not want to hear the Word of God?
78. Why does Jesus ask us to pray constantly and insistently?
79. What is the secret of the golden rule?
80. Why is the gate and the way leading to our Father in heaven narrow?
81. Who is the deceiver?
82. Who will enter heaven?
83. What is the only solid basis for your life?
84. Why did Matthew mention the healing of the leper as the first of Christ’s miracles?
85. Why was the centurion’s faith great?
86. What does the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law imply?
87. To what extent remained Jesus poor and content?
88. Why did Jesus prevent the young man from attending the ceremonies of his father’s burial?
89. Why did Jesus rebuke His disciples amidst the danger?
90. What did you learn from the freeing of the demon-possessed on the other side of the lake Tiberias?
91. How did Jesus forgive the sins of the paralytic?
92. What does Christ’s call to Matthew signify?
93. Who are the children of the bridegroom?
94. Why is it impossible to put the new wine of the gospel into the old wineskins of the law?
95. How did Jesus raise the dead daughter according to Matthew?
96. What is the secret in the healing of the two blind men?
97. What does the healing of the dumb man signify?
98. What does Jesus command us to ask Him insistently?
99. What is the content of the authority that Jesus gave His disciples?
100. What are the first five commands that Christ gave to His disciples with respect to preaching?
101. Who will accept the peace of God?
102. Who are our enemies, and what promise did Jesus give us concerning them?
103. How do we overcome the waves of persecution?
104. What does He mean with His saying, “A disciple is not above his teacher?”
105. What does the faithful following of Christ signify?
106. How can we overcome in us the fear of men with regards to our testimony?
107. What do fate and divine decrees signify in Christianity?
108. Why are we prohibited from fearing men or death?
109. How should the converted behave with his family, which persecutes him because of his faith in Jesus?
110. On what occasion does the gospel of Matthew mention Christ’s talking about the cross for the first time?
111. How is the unity between God and those who believe in Christ completed?
112. What are the wages of the prophet, the righteous and the followers of Christ?
113. What did you learn from Christ’s order to preach to the lost?