Matthew 7:7-12

Asking, seeking, knocking – why is this here right now?  Is this, as most would assume, a continuation, somehow, of the prayer theme?  Asking and seeking and knocking are prayer type words, aren’t they?  But wouldn’t this be terribly out of place if it were that?  If it were a part of Jesus’ teaching on prayer, wouldn’t it be back up there with the Lord’s Prayer somewhere?  Wouldn’t it have been in the logical sequence of thought up there rather than coming after His teaching on judging each other?  If it is on prayer, then, and if it is out of place, do we then have to consider the Sermon on the Mount a writer’s concoction rather than a faithful rendition of what Jesus actually said?

See, these are the things we have to consider when we read a passage of Scripture!  It is of utmost importance to interpret the sequence properly.  The context.  In actuality this has very little to do with the subject of prayer!  So we don’t have to start looking back up at the Lord’s Prayer for the proper place to put it; and we don’t have to deal with terrible topics like whether the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is a faithful rendering of His words!

Okay, let’s ask some other questions of ourselves:  if this passage truly belongs here – if it isn’t out of place – (and it certainly isn’t, because Jesus said it), then why is it here?  What’s the true context?  Is it to gain the strength to carry out the commands He gave us in verses one through six on judging each other?  Or are we being commanded to pray for dogs and swine? (verse six)

Well, obviously none of these things are the case.  But what we have before us this morning is a continuation, in perfect logical sequence, of the teaching of the Son of God – the Word made flesh!  We must never come to the conclusion that Jesus’ thinking was somehow muddled, and that we have to correct His order and sequence!  (How often I see that!  Men – changing the words of God because what is obvious to them doesn’t fit!)

But, you see, if verses one through six is understood properly, then seven through twelve flow directly from it.  And, as you may remember, Jesus’ condemnation of our sinful judgment of others is the topic in verses one through six.  The sinful judgment of others.  It was made clear to us that Jesus’ prohibitions with regard to the judgment of our brothers wasn’t absolute, because we are definitely to make judgments concerning sin – and to discriminate between good and evil.  Vigorously!  And it is very clear – with just a superficial reading – that we are to make judgments with regard to those who are wallowing in filth and those who are ferocious toward the Gospel – swine and dogs.

But it is inane hypocrisy for one to stand in judgment over another when the one that is judging is a spiritual paraplegic due to depraved blindness!  It’s almost laughable – if it weren’t so sad – to witness the process.  Sometimes it gets to be almost embarrassing it’s so obvious!

But the point is here – and I don’t want to preach the former sermon over again – the point is that Jesus’ prohibition against the judgment of others isn’t absolute.  And neither is the judgment of ourselves absolute!  Paul even said this, in I Corinthians chapter four:  “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment; yea, I judge not mine own self.  For I know nothing by myself, yet am I not hereby justified, but He that judgeth me is the Lord.”

So, just as there is proper and righteous judgment of others, there is also righteous and godly judgment of self.  God has judged men, and, as sons of God, we are to make the judgments that God has made – after Him.  But it is also obvious that, where God has not judged, we are not to judge!

While we must realize that we are depraved and evil, and that we must mourn that iniquity, we, at the same time, must not falsely condemn ourselves.  As there is proper and godly judgment of others, and improper and ungodly judgment of others, there is also godly and ungodly judgment of self.

The fact is that we who belong to Him are children of our Heavenly Father.  And He has made us that!  And we stand in that peculiar relationship because He did it.  He graced us that way.  And He gives us what we need and responds favorably to our cries as beloved offspring and heirs!  And our Father is our judge – and He’s the Father and judge of the entire covenant group whom Jesus came to redeem!  He is their father, not us.  And He is our Father.  So, we can’t improperly judge ourselves!

He’s not the Father of the hypocrites who are egocentric pretenders; He’s not the Father of those who wallow around in their own iniquity; He’s not the Father of ferocious dogs.  But He’s the Father of the true heirs of the promise.  The Son of God – the Word – purposely came down from heaven to cover the sin of God’s children, and the heavenly Father makes them His family, and He gives them everything good!

Even though we are evil, God nevertheless loves us!  And even though we judge ourselves as depraved, we must not judge ourselves falsely.  God has made us children.  Such is His judgment of us now – and such it ever will be His judgment of us.

And as Jesus speaks to His Own disciples here, He is also speaking to us as His heirs in the future.  “…Ask and it shall be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you – for everyone who is asking is receiving, and the one searching is finding and it shall be opened to the one knocking.”

Not the hypocrites – not the swine – not the dogs, but My children, the heirs of the promise, the joint-heirs with My Son Jesus, the ones whom I sent Him to save.  This is the context.

And Jesus says – present tense iterative – “go on again and again asking.  Go on again and again seeking.  Go on again and again knocking!”  And each one of these commands carries with it a direct and unequivocal promise which shows how God regards us.  And when we’re judging ourselves we are to remember that!

We are His children, and joint heirs of the Kingdom, and, therefore, all that the Father owns belongs to His children – a double portion to the first-born, Jesus, but a share of everything to all the rest!  So all the good things of His Kingdom belong to each of us who are promised it.  It is ours by grace, and we are not to judge ourselves falsely by refusing to participate in that grace!

Jesus says, “Be continually asking and seeking and knocking.”  These are words of fervency and faith – each more intense than the former, but not necessarily to relate more information than the former!  Importuning as children is the point – we don’t want to get so tied up in the words here that we try to make more out of them than is required of us.  Jesus isn’t giving us three different words and three different meanings – we aren’t to labor over them, trying to discover all the differences between asking and seeking – and then the differences between knocking and seeking, and knocking and asking – ad infinitum.   The point, as I said, is the trusting fervency of children importuning God for good things – not judging ourselves falsely!

And Jesus says that if we, as children, are continually asking, then we’re continually receiving!  And if we’re continually seeking then we’re continually finding.  And if we’re continually knocking then we’re continually going in!

It’s as if He’s asking “why?”  Why aren’t you continually pursuing the Father?  Why aren’t you importuning Him for the good things?  Is He not your Father?  Or do you judge yourself to be the son of some other, who is he?  Why do you do that?  There is only one Judge!

And everyone who continually asks – receives.  Everyone who is importuning their Father has access to Him – it’s open to them!  If they’re seeking, they’re finding!  Why are you judging falsely?

And Jesus then gives an illustration of that goodness of the Father to His Own children:  verses nine and ten:  “Or, what man is there among you, when His son should ask for bread, would purposely give him a stone?  Or should ask also for a fish, would purposely give him a snake?”

Now, even among men, sonship and fatherhood preclude such a thing as giving a stone in place of bread!  We don’t want to get too far off the track by concentrating on stones and snakes, here, but in those times, bread was baked, not in loaves as we know a loaf, but in sheets.  Or small cakes.  And they were smooth – so as to resemble a smooth rock.  And I suppose that’s what Jesus was doing – trying to use a similar looking object to illustrate an illusion!  There was the illusion of giving a cake of bread, but no real bread.  It wasn’t good to eat.

And the snake illustration might be seen as the same thing.  I don’t think the harmfulness of a snake is the point here, since a snake would bite the father before it bit the son.  The point is that Jesus was teaching at the Sea of Galilee, and his audience was His disciples, and they were mostly fishermen!  They caught and ate fish, which were good.  And they killed snakes, which were not good.  But snake meat might serve as an illusion of fish!

And what father, even among men when his son importunes him for food, would give him an illusion of food!  What father, even among men, when his son is begging to be shown the right way, would purposely direct him toward an illusion?  A false destination?  What father, even among men, when his own son is requiring good things, would purposely deceive him and give him things which only look good, but have no value?

So then Jesus answers His Own question by saying this:  “If then you, being evil ones, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more your Father in the heavens shall give good things to those who are asking Him?”

Now, this is a very important verse.  The source of all good, as Jesus will explain a number of times, and which all the apostles and writers of the Gospel will confirm, is God the Holy Spirit.  Whatever is the “good” coming to them, it isn’t because of them, but because of the Spirit by grace!  And when Jesus says that they’re evil ones, He’s making it clear that this is the judgment that they must pronounce on themselves.  And it will keep them from self-righteously judging other people!

But when judging themselves in this way, which is what this passage is all about, their need of the good gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are not earned but given freely, should keep them conscious of their childhood!

Now, this is so important – let me put it another way.  You fleshly fathers, He says, give good things to your children rather than illusory things and deceptive things.  And you’re naturally evil!  So how much more will the Heavenly Father give “good things” to His children who ask Him?  And by doing so He proves that you are His children!  So when judging yourselves, do so a rightly and not falsely.  Judge yourselves as fleshly and evil ones who are being given all good things by the grace of God Who responds to your cries and importuning, and who assures you that you are His children!

And, you see, this is the only way to make verse twelve fit correctly!  Any other way and the golden rule stands alone without any context, and doesn’t mean anything!

“Therefore, all things, to the degree that you would have men do them unto you, so also you do to them, for so is the Law and the Prophets.”  You know as well as I that this verse, this so-called golden rule, is lifted from this context and made to mean a thousand different things, and made to justify countless sins and errors!  Between “judge not lest ye be judged,” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” between those two, dogs and swine and fundamentalists have made a mockery of Biblical ethics, the Old Testament Law, and good contextual exegesis.

But Jesus says, “Therefore…” verse twelve.  In other words, the statement – “all things, to the degree that you would have men do them unto you, so also you do to them….” - that statement, commonly called the “golden rule” is a direct result of something Jesus has just said!  It has a context!  “Therefore…” means what’s coming next hinges on what I just said!

So the so-called “golden rule” rests on this true judgment, which comes before it, that we, although by nature wicked, are yet by grace God’s children, (this all comes before the “therefore,” now, so the golden rule rests on all this) although we are evil by nature, we are God’s children by grace.  And we are acknowledged as such by God – Who commands us to fervently importune Him for the good things we need; and Who grants those things to us without fail!

And the conscious result of all of this – that we are evil, but that we receive all good things by grace as children – is that we will not judge others falsely, and we will do unto them the good things that we would have done to us!  That’s the context of being good to others!  That’s the motivation of being good to others!

First, to be children – to act like children by faith and by prayer.  Then to act as such children in contact with men generally!  This is of course the second table of the Law.  First – to acknowledge that God is our Father, second to act like it among men – that’s why Jesus says, “For so is the Law and the Prophets.”  This is the teaching of the Old Testament.  The whole of Scriptures teaches it, He says.

Lastly, let me say that this verse twelve has appealed to many.  But only children of the heavenly Father understand it and translate it into life to an ever increasing degree.  For, among the good gifts for which the Father’s children pray and beg is the power to overcome the sin of the flesh so that, by grace, and for Christ’s sake, they might love their neighbor with a truly Godly love.  And so heap upon him all the good things which he, himself, by grace, wants to receive.

So, let me summarize all this for you.  First, we will not judge others by some standard other than God’s standard!  God is the only judge of men.  If we judge by some standard of our own, then we attempt to replace God with ourselves!  But, in the same light, we are called “judges of men and angels!”  That judgment is reserved for elect children of our Father, who make judgments according to our Father’s Word.  We bring His Word to bear on the world and the way of the world order.

Secondly, our brothers and sisters in Christ are children of God who are promised every good thing.  And all of us are to importune Him constantly for all His goodness.  And He will never deceive us by giving us something that’s not good, in place of what we ask for!

And we are not to judge ourselves in an ungodly way.  We aren’t to make the judgment that we are “good,” and that we deserve His goodness, but we are to judge ourselves as being “unworthy” of receiving anything from our Father – thereby refusing to ask for anything – then we judge ourselves falsely!  God our Father has promised us everything good because of the Christ!  Therefore we ought to be importuning Him constantly for every good thing!  Ask and seek and knock because God said He’ll give us all good things – in Christ!

And, lastly, we ought to be operating in the world in that same way!  Do you see the context?  This is what the Law and the prophets teach!  The manner in which you conduct yourself with others is based on the manner in which God conducts Himself with you!

Verse twelve: “The golden rule.”  You don’t want anybody else to judge you by their own standard of judgment.  You, as sons of God, wish to be free of that kind of judgment.  So… don’t judge anybody else by your own personal standards!  You don’t receive anything good from God because you’re good; you receive good things from God because of the Christ!  And because you ask in His Name!

So, by what pretense do you judge your neighbor by some other standard?  We are to truly love our neighbors by doing to them what we would have them do to us!  That is:  leave them free of your personal rulership and judgment!  God the Father is their Judge and Ruler!  And when you must make judgments with regard to them, do so, as children of your Father, with His judgments – not yours!  Your neighbors don’t belong to you … they belong to Him!