St. Stephen's

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna
from wikipedia

In part 1, I began to look at Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount, as a preface to developing a strategy for making disciples of nominal Christians, especially in Europe. Now, I will finish the passage study with a look at the metaphors used by Jesus:

Our first metaphor is that of the two ways, or gates. One is narrow, the other broad. The gateway to life is narrow and difficult – the word used means tribulation, or persecution. The highway to hell, however, is broad, with overtones of prosperous,[1]and by implication, easy. With their relative size and ease, it makes perfect sense that many find the broad road, while few find – or choose – the narrow, difficult path.

“Wide gate, easy way, many travelers” – these words describe the path to destruction. Except for the destination, the road sounds like the perfect choice. There is an “abundance of liberty, no check to your temptations, nothing to hedge in those who walk in it, an abundance of company,” a walk downstream.[2] The destination, however, is destruction, everlasting separation from God, the same fate promised later in verse 23.

The trail to life has a narrow gate, a confined, difficult path with not many friends along with whom to share the journey. Of course, such an idea is not exclusively Christian. According to the Pinax or Tablet of Cebes, a contemporary of Socrates: “Seest thou not, then, a little door, and a way before the door, which is not much crowded, but very few travel it? This is the way that leadeth unto true culture.”[3] Most of the world recognizes the potential benefits of self-denial (Buddhist and Jain ascetics, Catholic and Orthodox hermits come to mind, among many others), but most of us still struggle to make such an unpopular, demanding choice. Jesus, of course, is referring to something more than simple asceticism, and the following verses expand on the choice facing every human.

Through the entire passage, there is also a series of contrasts related to religious people:

(1) the two ways of performing religious duties (13–14);

(2) the two types of religious leaders (15–23); and

(3) the two foundations of a religious life (24–27).[4]

The two types of religious leaders are contrasted by their fruit and their focus. In verse 15, false teachers are referred to as wolves in sheep’s clothing. However, we are encouraged that we can know them by their fruit. All false prophets will transgress the standards of the true believer in one or more of the following three respects:

a)   Their work will seek to glorify themselves, and not God (5:16)

b)   They will be materialistic (6:19)

c)   Their moral lives will not be pure (5:27–32).[5]

False fruits go along with a false focus. In 21-23, the focus is on the amazing works done in Jesus’ name, but the miracle-workers have forgotten to focus on a relationship with Christ. In fact, He says “I never knew you.” Although the possibility of hearing these words may puzzle – or even frighten – those who minister in Jesus’ name, concentrating on a living relationship with the living Christ, putting into practice His word, as a wise builder, removes any fear of hearing those damning words, “Depart from me!”

Jesus finishes with that picture of the wise builder, the man who doesn’t only hear His words, but applies them to life as well. “It is not enough simply to hear Jesus’ call or even to respond with some temporary flurry of good deeds. Rather, we must build a solid foundation that combines authentic commitment to Christ with persevering obedience.” [6] Crisis comes, the flood waters rise, and the wise builder is secure. The foolish builder, however, has no safety, because he has built an infirm foundation. D.A. Carson puts it this way: “Those who pretend to have faith, who have a merely intellectual commitment, or who enjoy Jesus in small doses are foolish builders.”[7]

In the next part, we will take a closer look at “small-dose” (nominal) Christians in Europe.


[1] A. H. M’Neile, The Gospel according to St. Matthew (London: Macmillan, 1915), 94.

[2] Henry, M. (1996). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible : Complete and unabridged in one volume (Mt 7:12–14). Peabody: Hendrickson.

[3] Robertson, A. (1997). Word Pictures in the New Testament (Mt 7:13). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

[4] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 9: The First Christian Primer: Matthew. Study Guide Commentary Series (65). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[5] Mills, M. (1999). The Life of Christ: A Study Guide to the Gospel Record (Mt 7:15–23). Dallas, TX: 3E Ministries.

[6] Blomberg, C. (2001). Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (134). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[7] Carson, D.A. (1984) Volume 8: Matthew The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (194). Grand Rapids, Michigan: The Zondervan Corporation.

Comments
  1. […] Part I and II I looked at Matthew 7:13-27 as a beginning point for looking at “nominal” Christians, […]

  2. […] Part I and II I looked at Matthew 7:13-27 as a beginning point for looking at “nominal” Christians, and in […]

  3. […] CHRISTIAN NOMINALISM IN EUROPE II: MT. 7:13-27, PT. 2 […]

  4. […] Jesus’ words into consideration (parts 1 and 2), leaning on an understanding of what we know about “secular Christians” (3 and 4), and […]

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