The Power of the Gospel
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you. 7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. 9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? 10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? 12 Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”
In three succinct teachings, the Lord instructs Christians how to relate to the world when the gospel is offered, how to relate to God in prayer, and how to relate to others in the normal activities of life.
How to Relate to the World
In relating to this world when the gospel is offered, Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs.” In the ancient world dogs were much more troublesome than they are in our society. Dogs would freely roam through the towns in packs. They were not pets, but scavengers, eating the garbage and refuse.
Using the offensive behavior of dogs as an illustration, Jesus said that there are some people who are so unworthy, that holy things should not be discussed with them. This may sound harsh, but obedience to the principle involves the Christian in the process of judicial judgment. When we are young in the faith, we want to believe that we can win the world to Christ.
Like the woman of Samaira, we are anxious to immediately go into the city and tell everyone, “Come, see a Man, the God-Man, Christ Jesus.” As we mature and remember the teaching of Jesus, we become more discerning, and more like the Master in our method of evangelism. We are more dependent on the Spirit to give us permission to display our Pearls of Great Price. There were certain places that Jesus did not display His mighty power leading to gospel repentance. We read the words of Jesus saying,
“Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee Bethsaida! For if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes” (Matt. 11:21).
We might wonder why the mighty works of Christ were not done in Tyre and Sidon if the Lord knew they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes?
The answer is this.
Jesus knew where, and to whom, He wanted to cast His precious gospel pearls. If Tyre and Sidon illustrate the principle of being careful to whom the gospel is to be proclaimed, the presentation of the gospel in Chorazin, and Bethsaida illustrates what Jesus meant when He spoke of those who will trample gospel pearls under their feet, and turn again and hurt you.
It is an awesome reality that those of us who name the name of Christ have, in these earthly vessels, the power of eternity. If we speak, and if we witness, and show a person the error of his way, it is possible for a soul to be brought into the kingdom of heaven, by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. If we are silent, the gospel will not be presented, souls will be left without the gospel message, without Christ, and without hope.
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?
And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?
And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach except they be sent? as it is written,
‘How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace,
and bring glad tidings of good things!’” (Rom. 10:15)
The good news of eternal life is wonderfully entrusted to God’s people. Therefore, witnessing should be considered as something holy, something sacred. Those who witness must use discretion in presenting the gospel. This is not an easy matter to decide, but must be Spirit directed.
The Bible teaches the Holy Spirit prohibited the early disciples from going into certain areas. In Acts 16:6 we read of how Paul wanted to go into Bithynia to preach the gospel, “but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas.”
As the Holy Spirit did not allow the gospel to be preached in certain areas, the Spirit gave freedom of utterance in other instances.
In Acts 8:29 the “Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him [the Ethiopian] and heard him read the prophet Isaiah and said unto him, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”
The gospel message is not only holy, it is also valuable, like a fine string of pearls. Jesus pressed His point of proper discretion by saying, “neither cast ye your pearls before swine.”
Once again, the language seems harsh, but the Fall of Man has made him in some respects like an animal, unable to appreciate the things of the Spirit. An animal has no regard for the most expensive jewelry. A swine will trample under foot that which man holds to be most valuable.
In like manner, there are those who have no respect for the gospel. They will mock and destroy all that is holy and decent. The Bible teaches that Esau was like this. The author of Hebrews calls him a profane person (Heb. 12:16). Esau despised his spiritual responsibilities, wanting only to eat, like a pig. He sold his soul for a bowl of food.
The gospel demands respect. The gospel exhortation comes. Let us be careful to be led by the Spirit in our noble desire to evangelize the lost, and minister to the Church.
We develop methods of evangelism, which are helpful tools, but we must not forget the teaching of Jesus, or the inner ministry of the Spirit, and our dependency on Him. It is possible to make superficial converts to Christ. All the Church must do is offer the equivalent of an environment of what John Bunyan called, “Vanity Fair.” Fun, games, loud raucous music, entertainment, beach balls bouncing in the worship service to prepare for the sermon. A message of health, wealth, and self-esteem. Let the good times roll. Grace is cheap. To believe is easy. Saying “Yes!” to four general points, and reciting a prepared prayer is all it takes to go to heaven.
Bible doctrine? Boring!
Conviction of sin? Stop the judging!
A cross? Who wants to hear about a bloody sacrifice?
Repentance? Love means you never have to say you are sorry.
“It is not possible to reach the Celestial City without passing through Vanity Fair, unless a person goes out of the world altogether. Even Christ passed through it, and Beelzebub offered to make him Lord of the Fair in exchange for Christ’s worship of him, but Christ resisted this temptation,” and so must the Church (LitCharts).
Why? Because, as we shall soon discover in Matthew 7:13, 14, salvation is rare, and difficult, according to Jesus.
How to Relate to God
In addition to being careful to whom we try to minister, the gospel demands duties, and one of the duties of the Christian is to pray. Jesus encourages the saints to pray by saying, “Ask and it shall be given.” “If I ask, God will answer.”
One of the major reasons why the problems of life overwhelm many Christians, is because the prayer life is not engaged, or it is not engaged well. Prayer is one of the most challenging tasks the believer faces, in part because prayer conflicts with our natural lives. A thousand thoughts suddenly pour through the mind during moments of meditation. A hundred voices give advice. Meanwhile there is the opportunity to have a dialogue with Deity.
James says, “You have not because you ask not” (James 4:3).
Jesus wants us to pray, and so He encourages the heart with a Divine promise, “and it shall be given unto you.” Neither what the Christian is to ask for, nor what the answer shall be, is limited in any way. If the fall of a sparrow, if the hairs of our head are significant to God, then nothing is beyond the scope of prayer.
It is true, that other principles must be brought to bear on the promise of Jesus in this verse. The Word of God offers a perfect harmony. Selfish prayers, for example, are not heard. James reminds Christians not to ask amiss to consume things upon our own lusts. That would be sinful praying.
However, asking for those things which pleases the Father can bring a confidence that when we speak, God will answer. The rest of Matthew 7:7 focuses attention on the need for a persistent prayer life. There is an intensity to prayer that must be vocalized. Jesus put it this way. “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened.”
The concept of seeking the will and way of God demands a diligent search. From time to time a man will lose or misplace something that he deems important. He checks with his wife. No, she has not seen the item. He speaks to the children. They have not seen the item. Going to the closets, the dresser drawers, the basement, the attic, the search is endless.As time passes a sense of urgency set in. “I must have that,” the man thinks.
All through the house the search is made, and finally, the diligence is rewarded. The item is recovered in a forgotten spot. We have all had this type of experience. Jesus said in essence, “Let a diligent search characterize your prayer life. Seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened.”
It is this determination not to go away till every attempt has been made to secure a hearing that Jesus commends. “For everyone that asketh receiveth, and he that seeketh findeth, and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened” (Matt. 7:8). Such intensive activity in prayer might lead the Christian to think that God does not really want to be bothered. To think that, is to miss the point.
What the Father wants is to know who really longs for Himself. That this is the true message of our passage is illustrated by the analogy of giving gifts, and meeting legitimate requests.
“your son asked for food.”
“Mother, I am hungry. Can I get a sandwich.”
The instinct is to say,
Hungry children have a right to ask for food, and good parents have a responsibility to supply the food, and to satisfy the hunger of the child. Moreover, good parents want to provide the food. There is a parental feeling of satisfaction that comes when legitimate needs are met, and legitimate requests are answered.
God is like earthly parents in this manner. He knows how to give good gifts. He does not mockingly offer meaningless substitutes. No parent who is kind would give to a child a rock in place of bread, nor a live snake in place of fish.
Neither does God offer answers to prayers that are harmful or meaningless. There is within the Divine decree a willingness to give good things. The major requirement is that personal requests be made known. There must be the asking.
The time for asking does not need to wait before all human resources have been exhausted. Prayer is not to be the last resort but the guiding force of life. Jesus also places great emphasis on the “much more” principle of prayer (Matt. 7:11).
As parents we give to our children according to our resources. Parents who have abundant resources can bestow much more upon their children. God the Father is also able to lavish in abundance “much more” upon His own.
Here we want to be careful, for in recent years it has been taught that people should expect “much more” by way of material prosperity. While there is an application that the reference might have to deal with material prosperity, it does seem that the “much more” has greater reference to spiritual gifts. What does it matter if people have buildings and budgets, but no love.
It is the spiritual that gives beauty and meaning to the physical. Consider the case of a wife who unwraps a beautiful, expensive mink coat. Her eyes look over every inch of the lovely design, and her heart is happy. There is a note stuck in the pocket of the coat from her husband.
As she reads her hand begins to tremble, and anger rises in her heart, for the message on the card has shocked her beyond belief.
This is the last present I shall buy for you for a long while. I am leaving tonight to go to New Mexico to file for a divorce. My secretary and I want to get married. You can keep the house, the car, and of course the mink coat.”
This is not too difficult of a scene to imagine. Something like this happens daily, many times over.
The physical becomes trashy, tarnished, meaningless, because of words spoken or written that reflect an attitude of hatred, and hostility instead of kindness and love.
How much more wonderful is the story by O. Henry of the young couple who, while poor, greatly loved each other.
Christmas time came, and they wondered what gift to give without money. The husband had discovered his wife had admired a comb set for her long and lovely hair. She had observed her husband could use a gold chain for his pocket watch. Christmas night came, and the young couple surprised each other with a gift. The young wife gave her beloved husband a chain, to his great surprise, and then discovered he no longer had his watch.
What happened to it?
The gift of love came upon his heart, and he sold his watch to buy her a set of combs. But, how could she have bought the golden chain? Slowly the secret came out.The young wife had cut off her beautiful hair, and sold it to buy the chain. What made the moment so tender and precious was not the physical gifts, but the gifts of the spirit, the gifts of love.
We say again, the spiritual is the most important part of the totality of existence.
Therefore, the “much more” that God is willing and able to do for those who pray, is to transform the profane into the sacred.
When Paul prayed for the saints of Ephesus his focus was not on the material, but upon the spiritual, and he asked that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory might give unto the church the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.
In John 17 when Jesus prayed for the saints, His focus of attention was not on material prosperity, but spiritual maturity and He asked the Father to sanctify, or make holy His people through the Word of Truth.
Of course, the details of life must be satisfied.
Of course, the bills must be paid.
Of course, there is need for shelter.
But “much more” we need the good things the Father has for us: love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, and long suffering.
How to Relate to Others in the World
And if we as Christians want these things and ask for these in prayer, then we should do something with the grace gifts. We should treat others as we would want to be treated (verse 12).
In conclusion, let me share a basic misunderstanding I had of this passage for many years. I took Matthew 7:12 to mean that if I treated people in a certain Christian way, then I had a right to expect them to treat me the same way in return. However, upon reflection, the danger with this position is that it allows a root of resentment and bitterness to come into the heart when the expectations are not realized.
In context, Jesus gives a unilateral command. His people must treat others as self would want to be treated even if self is not treated properly. Such is the true meaning of the teachings set forth even in the Law and the Prophets.