(a Mountain Plateau Not Far from Capernaum.)
The Two Ways and the False Prophets.
^A Matt. VII.13-23; ^C Luke VI..43-45.
^a 13 Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby.14 For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it. [The Master here presents two cities before us. One has a wide gateway opening onto the broad street, and other a narrow gate opening onto a straitened street or alley. The first city is Destruction, the second is Life.] 15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. [From the two ways Jesus turns to warn his disciples against those who lead into the wrong path -- the road to destruction. Prophets are those who lay claim to teach men correctly the life which God would have us live. The scribes and Pharisees were such, and Christ predicted the coming of others (Matt. xxiv.5, 24), and so did Paul (Acts xx.29). Their fate is shown in verses 21 and 22. By sheep's clothing we are to understand that they shall bear a gentle, meek, and inoffensive outward demeanor; but they use this demeanor as a cloak to hide their real wickedness, and so effectually does it hide it that the false prophets often deceive even themselves.] 16 By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. ^c 43 For there is no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor again a corrupt tree that bringeth forth good fruit. ^a 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. ^c 44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. ^a 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [It is a law of universal application that whatever is useless and evil shall eventually be swept away.] 20 Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them. ^c 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh. [Teachers are to be judged by their conduct as men, and also by the effect of their teaching. If either be predominantly bad, the man must be avoided. But we must not judge hastily, nor by slight and trivial actions, for some specimens of bad fruit grown on good trees.] ^a 21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven. [To say, |Lord, Lord,| is to call on the Lord in prayer. While it is almost impossible to overestimate the value of prayer when associated with a consistent life, it has been too common to attribute to it a virtue which it does not possess. The Pharisees were excessively devoted to prayer, and they led the people to believe that every prayerful man would be saved. The Mohammedans and Romanists are subject to the same delusion, as may be seen in their punctilious observance of the forms of prayer, while habitually neglecting many of the common rules of morality. It is here taught that prayer, unattended by doing the will of the Father in heaven, can not save us. Doing the will of God must be understood, not in the sense of sinless obedience, but as including a compliance with the conditions on which sins are forgiven. Whether under the old covenant or the new, sinless obedience is an impossibility; but obedience to the extent of our possibility amid the weaknesses of the flesh, accompanied by daily compliance with the conditions of pardon for our daily sin, has ever secured the favor of God.] 22 Many will say to me in that day [the final judgment day], Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy by thy name, and by thy name cast out demons, and by thy name do many mighty works? [Jesus here prophetically forecasts those future times wherein it would be worth while to assume to be a Christian. Times when hypocrisy would find it a source of profit and of honor to be attached to Christ's service. In these days we may well question the motives which induce us to serve Christ. High place in the visible kingdom is no proof of one's acceptance with God. Neither are mighty works, though successfully wrought in his name. Judas was an apostle and miracle-worker, and Balaam was a prophet, yet they lacked that condition of the heart which truly allies one with God (I. Cor. xiii.1-3). Jesus says the number of false teachers is large. We must not carelessly ignore the assertion of that important fact. We should also note that Christ will not lightly pass over their errors on the judgment day, though they seem to have discovered them for the first time. Such truths should make us extremely cautious both as teachers and learners.] 23 And then will I profess [better, confess] unto them, I never knew you [never approved or recognized you]: depart from me [ Matt. xxv.41], ye that work iniquity. [This indicates that false teachers filled with a patronizing spirit toward the Lord, and with a sense of power as to his work, will be deceived by a show of success. Through life Christ appeared to them to be accepting them and approving their lives, but he now confesses that this appearance was not real. It arose from a misconception on their part and on that of others. Many works which men judge to be religious really undermine religion. The world esteems him great whose ministry begets Pharisees, but in Christ's eyes such a one is a worker of iniquity.]