“Emmanuel’s Opponents” – Matthew 12:38-50

October 18th, 2015

Matthew 12:38-50 (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35; Lk 8:19-21)

“Emmanuel’s Opponents”


Service Orientation: Jesus continues to show us our deadly tendency of coming to God on our own terms and in our own righteousness.  We will never become Children of God, adopted into His family, by our own efforts.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-   —John 1:12


Background Information:

  • Three times in chapter 12 Jesus has used this phrase of himself “greater than.” In 12:6 he said, I’m “greater than the temple” (i.e., greater than the priesthood and sacrificial system).  In 12:41 he said, I’m “greater than Jonah” (i.e., greater than the prophets).  And finally in 12:42 he said, I’m “greater than Solomon” (i.e., greater than the kings).  In other words, he claims to be the prophet, priest, and king.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 343)
  • (v. 39) In Jn 7:52 the Pharisees said, “Out of Galilee ariseth no prophet” (KJV). But Jonah had come from Galilee!  This may have been the sign of Jonah which Jesus meant.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 162)
  • (v. 39) It is clear that Jesus accepts this OT account as the record of a historical fact. (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 533)
  • (v. 39) Jesus obviously believed in the full literalness of the biblical account of Jonah. If Jonah had not been literally swallowed and miraculously protected while submerged for three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, that event could not have typified Jesus’ literal burial and resurrection.  In light of Jonah’s hardhearted stubbornness, it is not difficult to believe that he would lie about his experience; but it is difficult indeed to believe that Jesus would join Jonah in such duplicity or be mistaken about the historicity of the story.  In declaring Jonah’s experience to be a type of His own burial and resurrection, Jesus also verified the authenticity of Jonah’s account of himself.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 329)
  • (v. 40) The Jewish Talmud held that “any part of a day is as the whole.” Jesus was simply using a common, well-understood generalization.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 329)
  • (v. 40) The Jews would have taken “three days and three nights” as an idiom for “three days” and would have seen no contradiction. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 250)
  • (v. 40) Some disagree, but it seems likely that Jonah actually died in the belly of the great fish that swallowed him, and subsequently he was resurrected. Jon 2:2 says he was in “the belly of hell.”  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 236)
  • (v. 43) He said that the demon wanders through “dry places,” presumably desert. This scenario fits with an OT association between demons and dry places.  There seems to have been a notion that deserts were places that were denied the blessing of God as represented by rainfall (see Isa 13:19-22; Jer 17:6; Mal 1:3).  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 403)
  • (v. 43) As to the “waterless places” or deserts (see also Isa 13:21; 34:14; Mt 4:1; Rv 18:2), only this: if we are accustomed to associate the good angels with places in which order, beauty, and fullness of life prevail, does it not seem natural to link evil angels with regions where disorder, desolation, and death dominate?  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 540)
  • (v. 44) The NIV says “the house I left” the Greek literally reads, “my house”.
  • (v. 46) Their stated purpose was to speak with Him, but Mk 3:21, 31 makes it clear that their real purpose was “to lay hold on him” because “they said, He is beside himself.” It is evident that the Lord’s mother and brothers had heard of His ceaseless activity and had heard that He was on a collision course with the authorities.  They had concluded that He was out of His senses, virtually insane, and they had come to put Him under some kind of restraint.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 239)
  • (v. 47) Some of the manuscripts do not include this verse and therefore may be omitted in some translations.
  • (v. 47) In the Gospel record of the ministry of Jesus there are only two occasions (prior to the crucifixion) when Mary appears (here and in Jn 2:1-4). Both times she seeks to have a say in His affairs and both times she is reproved by Him.  (John Phillips, Exploring the Gospels: Matthew, 239)


The question to be answered is . . . Who are adopted as sons and daughters of the Living God and no longer opponents?


Answer:  Only those who humbly abandon any hope of moralistic or legalistic self-righteousness and by faith in and love of Christ live for Him.


The Word for the Day is . . . adopted


What is Jesus trying to teach?:

I-  Proud opponents seek a relationship with Christ on their own terms. (Mt 12:38-42; see also: Prv 3:5-6; Isa 55:8-9; Mt 16:1-4; 28:17; Lk 16:29-31; Jn 6:29, 40; 12:37; Acts 2:22; 1 Cor 1:22-23; 2 Cor 5:7)


The Ninevites recognized God’s warning in Jonah; the Queen of Sheba recognized God’s wisdom in Solomon.  In me there has come to you a greater wisdom than Solomon ever had, and a greater message than Jonah ever brought–but you are so blind that you cannot see the truth and so deaf that you cannot hear the warning.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 58)


Such an attitude does away with faith.  It originates not in a desire to know but in the decision not to believe.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 120)


Even in the face of the resurrection, Jesus’ contemporaries refused to believe in Him.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 166)


The desire for signs and miracles is a mark of spiritual immaturity.  The mature Christian is a man of faith.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 72)


In Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian empire, and it was as powerful as it was evil (Jon 1:2).  The extremely wicked city of Nineveh repented at Jonah’s preaching; by contrast, when Jesus came to his people, they refused to repent.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 249)


This leads to the inquiry, Does Christ address them with such harshness of language, because they wished to have a sign given them?  For on other occasions God manifests that He is not so much displeased on this account.  Gideon asks a sign, (Jdg 6:17) and God is not angry, but grants his request; and though Gideon becomes importunate and asks another sign, yet God condescends to his weakness.  Hezekiah does not ask a sign, and it is offered to him, though unsolicited, (Isa 38:7, 8).  Ahaz is severely blamed for refusing to ask a sign, as the prophet had enjoined him to do, (Isa 7:11).  It is not solely, therefore, because they ask a sign, that Christ makes this attack upon the scribes, but because they are ungrateful to God, wickedly despise so many of his wonderful works, and try to find a subterfuge for not obeying his word.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 94)


He came to take down a model of religion that was set up by miracles, and therefore it was requisite he should produce the same credentials; but it was highly unreasonable to demand a sign now, when he had given so many signs already, that did abundantly prove him sent of God.  Note, It is natural to proud men to prescribe to God, and then to make that an excuse for not subscribing to him; but a man’s offence will never be his defense.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 175)


Familiarity and easiness of access breed some degree of contempt.  We are apt to neglect that this day, which we think we may have any day, forgetting that it is only the present time we can be sure of; tomorrow is none of ours.  There is too much truth in that common proverb, “The nearer the church, the further from God;” it is pity it should be so.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 178)


We daydream about how easy it would be to be faithful after seeing such a sign.  But God does not tend to answer such requests.  Why?  He is not standing by to perform at our beck and call.  He is God and we are His creatures, and it is evil for us to demand that He prove Himself to us.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 397)


No sign authenticates the person of Christ more completely and powerfully than His resurrection from the dead.  We simply will not get anything greater than this sign.  If we will not acquiesce to it, we will not benefit from the ministry of Jesus.  We will remain in the ranks of the scribes and the Pharisees, the “evil and adulterous generation.”  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 400)


Less enlightened people obeyed less enlightened preaching, but more enlightened people refuse to obey the Light of the world.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 536)


The request of the scribes and Pharisees in verse 38, said nearly 2,000 years ago, is an everyday, every-generation request.  But it is not so much a request as it is an excuse.  People want signs that God exists and that Jesus is Lord, but they always want their signs rather than the ones God provides.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 337)


The problem is not the sign God has given–the problem is unbelieving individuals.  They won’t accept the sign.  They want God’s sign to be their sign.  God has shown them A, B, and C, but they ask for X, Y, and Z.  It is a pride issue.  It is rebellion.  They refuse to submit.  They won’t cast their crowns before God.  They continue to steady their puny little crown upon their big oversized head.  Pride is the problem.  The sign is sufficient–the death and resurrection of Jesus is enough.  But it’s not enough for those who refuse to see and hear.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 342)


The first witness is called.  Will it be Abraham or Moses?  No; here come the Ninevites.  What?  The awful Assyrians?  Yes, even the awful Assyrians are valid witnesses because they repented when Jonah (aka Unmerciful Prophet of the Century) came to town.  So the men of Nineveh stand up, walk over to the accused, point a finger, and say, “Guilty as charged.”

Then the second witness is called.  Is it Elijah or Isaiah?  No.  It’s not a man.  It’s not even a Jew.  It’s a Gentile woman, “the queen of the South.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 342-3)


Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God; To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life. (Jerry Bridges, Transforming Grace; Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, 33)


Ministries which attack only the surface of sin and fail to ground spiritual growth in the believer’s union with Christ produce either self-righteousness or despair, and both of these conditions are inimical to spiritual life. (Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics Of Spiritual Life—An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 214)


What you do with Jesus has always been more important than what you do for Jesus.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 111)


Your greatest temptation in life will be to chase after not what is ridiculously evil but what is deceptively good.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 119)


Religion says that if we obey God, he will love us.

The gospel says that it is because God has loved us through Jesus that we can obey.

Religion says that we should trust in what we do as good, moral people.

The gospel says that we should trust in the perfectly sinless life of Jesus because he is the only good and truly moral person who will ever live.

The focus of much religion is to get from God such things as health, wealth, insight, power, and control.

The focus of the gospel is not the gifts God gives but rather God himself–in the form of Jesus–as the gift given to us by grace.

Religion is about what I have to do.

The gospel is about what I get to do.

Religion leads to an uncertainty about my standing before God because I never know if I have done enough to please God.

The gospel leads to a certainty about my standing before God because of the finished work of Jesus on my behalf on the cross.  (Pete Wilson, Empty Promises, 120-1)


Comparison between Those Whom Jesus Addresses, and Ninevites

As to the scribes and Pharisees                         As to Ninevites:

and their followers:

  1. It is the Son of God himself who a.  It was a minor prophet who

addresses them again and again,                      preached to them.

and bids them to repent (Mt 4:17;

11:28-30; 23:37).

  1. This Christ is completely sinless b. This prophet was a sinful, foolish,

(12:17-21; Jn 8:46), filled with         and rebellious person (Jon 1:3;

wisdom and compassion (Mt                             4:1-3, 9b).

11:27-30; 15:32; 1 Cor 1:24)

  1. He presents the message of grace and c.  His message was one of doom.

pardon, of salvation full and free                      Though a call to repentance was

(Mt 9:2; 11:28-30; Lk 19:10; Jn 7:37).                 certainly implied, the emphasis

was on “Yet forty days, and

Nineveh shall be overthrown”

(Jon 3:4).

  1. This message is being fortified by d.  There were no miracles or other

miracles in which prophecy is                             Authenticating signs to confirm

being fulfilled (Mt 11:5; Lk 4:16-21;                   Jonah’s message.

Cf. Isa 35:5, 6; 71:1-3; Jn 13:37).

  1. It is being brought to a people who e.  Jonah’s message was addressed to a

who have enjoyed ever so many                       people with none of the advantages

spiritual advantages (Dt 4, 7, 8;                         that scribes, Pharisees, and their

19:4; Ps 147:19, 20; Isa 4:1-4;                               followers had enjoyed.

Amos 3:2a; Rom 3:1, 2; 9:4, 5).

(William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 535)


The scribes and Pharisees and                           The Queen of the South

their followers:

  1. For them the truth is near at hand, a.  She braved the hardships of a lengthy

within easy reach (Mt 26:55).                              Journey over difficult terrain.  She

Probably came from what today is

Yemen, in the southwestern part of the

Arabian peninsula, on the Asian shore

of the Red Sea, opposite Ethiopia

(Africa).  Her trip must have covered at

least twelve hundred miles.

  1. They have access to One wiser, better, b.  She came to listen to Solomon’s wis-

and greater by far than Solomon.                      dom, “In connection with the name of

the Lord,” even though the truth con-

cerning God was but very imperfectly

reflected in Solomon.

  1. They give nothing, but are plotting to c.  She gave Solomon of her treasures, an

take away Christ’s very life.                               Enormous present (1 Kgs 10:10).

  1. They have enjoyed many religious d.  She had merely heard reports.


  1. They have been invited, urged even, e.  It is not reported that she had received

to accept Jesus, and the truth in                       any invitation at all.

him (Mt 11:28-30; cf. 22:1-5).

Yet she came, but they refuse.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 538-9)


“Jesus’ teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day.   However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect.  The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones.   We tend to draw conservative, button-down, moralistic people.  The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church.  That can only mean one thing.   If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.  If our churches aren’t appealing to younger brothers, they must be more full of elder brothers than we’d like to think.    (Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God, 15-6)


John Newton, a minister, once wrote a letter to a man who was very depressed.  Take note of what he said:

You say you feel overwhelmed with guilt and a sense of unworthiness?  Well, indeed you cannot be too aware of the evils inside of yourself, but you may be, indeed you are, improperly controlled and affected by them.  You say it is hard to understand how a holy God could accept such an awful person as yourself.  You then express not only a low opinion of yourself, which is right, but also too low an opinion of the person, work, and promises of the Redeemer, which is wrong.  You complain about sin, but when I look at your complaints, they are so full of self-righteousness, unbelief, pride, and impatience that they are little better than the worst evils you complain of.  (John Newton, The Works of the Rev. John Newton, Vol. VI, 185)  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 90)


The noonday devil of the Christian life is the temptation to lose the inner self while preserving the shell of edifying behavior.  Suddenly I discover that I am ministering to AIDS victims to enhance my resume.  I find I renounced ice cream for Lent to lose five pounds.  I drop hints about the absolute priority of mediation and contemplation to create the impression that I am a man of prayer.  At some unremembered moment I have lost the connection between internal purity of heart and external works of piety.  In the most humiliating sense of the word, I have become a legalist.  I have fallen victim to what T. S. Eliot calls the greatest sin:  to do the right thing for the wrong reason. (Brennan Manning; The Ragamuffin Gospel, 131)


Love asks:  How much can I give?   Legalism asks:  How little can I give?


The greatest adversary of love to God is not his enemies but his gifts.  And the most deadly appetites are not for the poison of evil, but for the simple pleasures of earth.  For when these replace an appetite for God himself, the idolatry is scarcely recognizable, and almost incurable.  (John Piper, A Hunger for God: Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer, 14)


II-  Self-righteousness makes you an opponent of God and this empty claim is more demonic than sin.  (Mt 12:43-45; see also: Lk 18:9-14; Heb 6:4-6; 2 Pt 20-22)


The Pharisees were classic moralists, thinking they could reform their own lives.  This kind of self-righteous moralism is empty; it only drives you further away from God, making you worse off than you were previously.  Ultimately, this kind of approach to God damns you.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 168)


The more we convince ourselves that we can reform our lives, the more we find ourselves working harder and harder; yet we come up empty every time.  That is a recipe for hopeless living and eventual condemnation.  Make no mistake about it:  legalism is demonic.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 168)


It is not enough to repent of your sins and sweep your house clean.  You must repent of your righteousness and recognize that only the righteousness of Christ is good enough to merit anything before the God of the Universe and fill your house with that which can withstand the attacks of the Devil.  For you to present to God anything less than the righteousness of Christ is blasphemy to God.  It is to make God and His standards, lesser, smaller or less holy than He is.  — Pastor Keith


Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.  Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperately we need God’s grace. – Martin Luther


Let us never be content with a partial reformation of life, without thorough conversion to God, and mortification of the whole body of sin.  It is a good thing to try to drive sin out of our hearts, but let us take care that we also receive the grace of God in its place.  Let us make sure that we not only get rid of the old tenant, the devil, but have also got the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 101)


He describes them as people who had sought to get their house in order, likely a reference to this attempt to follow God’s laws and a variety of other rules and regulations.  The Pharisees had tried to sweep evil out of their lives and put things in order in their own strength.  But their religious devotion had ultimately left their hearts empty.  They were to focused on outer reformation when their greatest need was a new heart.  And as a result, they were even more susceptible to the advance of the Evil One than they had been before.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 168)


The Lord likened contemporary Israel to a deserted house, abandoned to demons who urged them to self-destruction.  The demon had been exorcised, but because they were empty, i.e. unrepentant, he returned with reinforcements, and their condition was worse than before.  This emptiness, this impenitence, would result in their being condemned at the last judgment (45).  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 72)


It is not enough to repent and cast off evil habits.  That is purely negative.  The house of our lives must be “filled with the Spirit.”  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 72)


It may have seemed for a while as if a demon had been driven out of a man, the man representing the Israel of that day.  But under the influence of scribes and Pharisees, envious men, the picture was even now rapidly changing.  At this very moment these wicked leaders are plotting Christ’s destruction (Mt 12:14).  And at last the Jewish people as represented in front of the cross will cry out, “Crucify, crucify.”  (27:20-23).  They will do so prompted by their leaders (Jn 19:6, 15, 16).  The one demon will have been replaced by eight.  Cf.  11:7-19.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 539)


To become scared of going to hell, scared, perhaps, even to the point of confessing one’s sins and accepting baptism, is not enough.  It would only leave the soul empty: “unoccupied, swept clean, put in order.”  Such a condition cannot meet the deepest needs of the human heart.  Harmlessness is not the same as holiness.  Desisting from wrong differs by a whole heaven from being a blessing.  What Jesus demands is the entire devotion of the heart, so that it will render spontaneous thanksgiving to God and for his sake will be a blessing to the neighbor.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 540)


Augustine is famous for his prayer, “You made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”  He was making a profound observation about unconverted human beings.  A person may be successful, powerful, attractive, and exceedingly rich, having all of the goods that this world offers, but if he is outside of Christ he is tormented by a sense of emptiness and restlessness in his soul.  Most people go through life in this state of restlessness.  Obviously, the demons have this sense of restlessness because there is nothing of God in their lives.  They are completely alienated from their Creator.  How horrible it is to contemplate that unsaved human beings are in the same condition as demons.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 403)


This is one of the more difficult parts of this passage.  Jesus’ words paint a picture of a positive change, yet the man is still susceptible to demonic possession, so I believe he remains not only empty of the demon but empty of the Spirit of God that alone could prevent the demon from returning.  Perhaps the man had cleaned up his life in something like a self-reformation.  Perhaps he gave up a vice or vices, but there is no salvation in that.  A vacuum remains in his soul, and whereas nature abhors a vacuum, this demon likes it.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 403)


Jesus’ atoning death took care of the negative problem of our sin.  However, God requires not only that we be innocent of sin but that we come into His presence with true righteousness.  That’s why I stress the double transfer that is involved in our salvation–our sins are imputed to Jesus on the cross and His righteousness is transferred to us by faith.  Therefore, when I put my trust in Christ, He takes my sin and gives me His righteousness, so that when I stand before God, I stand clothed in the righteousness of Christ.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 403-4)


When we are converted, the Spirit of God comes to live inside of us.  Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and where the Spirit of God dwells, no demon can take up residence.  I do not believe that demons can possess genuine Christians.  They can harass, tempt, and annoy Christians, but they cannot possess them.  In the Christian life, there is no such thing as a vacuum, because God Himself has come into that life.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 404)


The obvious message is that self-reformation was not enough.  The Pharisees needed a reformation from above, a conversion, a new birth.  So, this was a stern warning, a forceful call to repentance.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 404)


Christians cannot but be concerned about moral and ethical issues, because God’s Word is unequivocal and unmatched in its standards of righteous living, justice, and social responsibility.  But Scripture also makes clear that morality by itself, without a right relationship to God, is in many ways more dangerous than immorality.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes that mere outward righteousness is one of the greatest hindrances to the gospel.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 334)


No other Jews, and certainly no Gentiles, were committed to such rigid standards of religion, morality, ethics, and daily living.  They lived by a complex and demanding code, a system of laws that regulated virtually every aspect of life.  But those man-made standards, purportedly based on God’s Word, had led them further and further from God.  They were so self-sufficient and self-righteous that when the very Source of righteousness stood in their midst they accused Him of being in league with Satan.  Under the illusion of their own goodness they became unreachable with the saving message of the gospel.  When Jesus came preaching deliverance from sin, they were not interested, because they could not imagine such a message having relevance for them.  And when Jesus declared that their self-righteousness was, in fact, the most insidious form of unrighteousness (Mt 5:20), they were infuriated.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 334)


A religious, self-righteous, reformed person is subject to Satan in a way that a guilt-ridden immoral person is not, because his very morality blinds him to his basic sinful condition and need.  He is perfectly satisfied with his empty house, thinking that freedom from outward manifestation of sin is freedom from its presence, power, and damnation.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 337)


To preach morality, even according to biblical standards of behavior, but not salvation through Christ promotes a religion that drives men further from God than they were before they reformed.  It is much easier to reach someone who is overwhelmed with a true sense of His sin than someone who is overwhelmed with a false sense of his righteousness.  That is what Jesus meant when He said, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mt 9:13).  It was not the immoral and irreligious people of Israel who put Jesus to death but the religious leaders who prided themselves in their goodness.  Christ could not reach them, because they thought they had no need of any spiritual help, least of all salvation from sin.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 337)


“Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in thee, O Lord.” — St. Augustine


There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any other created thing, but only by God the Creator, made known through Jesus.  — Blaise Pascal


You want to mess up the minds of your children?   Here’s how—guaranteed!  Rear them in a legalistic, tight context of external religion, where performance is more important than reality.  Fake your faith.  Sneak around and pretend your spirituality.  Train your children to do the same.  Embrace a long list of do’s and don’ts publicly but hypocritically practice them privately . . . yet never own up to the fact that it’s hypocrisy.  Act one way but live another.  And you can count on it—emotional and spiritual damage will occur.  Chances are good their confusion will lead to some sort of addiction in later years.  (Charles Swindoll; Grace Awakening, 97)


If Jesus’ critique of legalism was not devastating enough, the apostle Paul added another fundamental complaint.  Legalism fails miserably at the one thing it is supposed to do:  encourage obedience.  In a strange twist, a system of strict laws actually puts new ideas of lawbreaking in a person’s mind.  Paul explains, “For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, ‘Do not covet.’  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire.”  In a demonstration of this principle, some surveys show that people raised in teetotaling denominations are three times as likely to become alcoholics. (Philip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 206)


The central neurosis of our time is emptiness. —Carl Jung.


The emptiest moment in life is when you have just accomplished what you thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down.  (Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 6)


The lives of these people must not only be sterilized from evil; they must be nurtured to become productive and fruitful.  It will always remain true that “Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.”  And if one kind of action is banished from life, another kind must be substituted for it, for life cannot remain empty.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 60)


The one fatal disease is idleness; even a sterilized idleness will soon be infected.  The easiest way to conquer the weeds in a garden is to fill the garden with useful things.  The easiest way to keep a life from sin is to fill it with healthy action.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 60)


There are people who seemed at one time of their lives to be under the influence of strong religious feelings; they reformed their ways; they laid aside many things that were bad; they took up many things that were good.  But they stopped there, and went no further, and by and by gave up religion altogether.  The evil spirit returned to their hearts, and found them “unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.”  They are now worse than they ever were before.  Their consciences seem seared; their sense of religious things appears entirely destroyed–they are like people given over to a reprobate mind.  One would say it was “impossible” for them to be “brought back to repentance” (Heb 6:4-6).  None proves so hopelessly wicked as those who after experiencing strong religious convictions have gone back again to sin and the world.  (J.C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Matthew, 101)


The evil spirit is banished from the man, not destroyed.  That is to say that, in this present age, evil can be conquered, driven away–but it cannot be destroyed.  It is always looking for the opportunity to counter-attack and regain the ground that is lost.  Evil is a force which may be at bay but is never eliminated.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 2, 59)


Incomplete repentance is man’s desire for release from guilt without full participation in the Kingdom (vv. 44-45a).   Insincere faith or incomplete faith is worse than having never started in the way of truth, for such then know enough about God to know how to resist His claims and harden themselves against Him.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 163)


Christ is unquestionably describing those who, being destitute of the Spirit of God, are prepared for receiving the devil; for believers, in whom the Spirit of God efficaciously dwells, are fortified on all sides, so that no opening is left for Satan.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 85)


The meaning therefore is, that Satan never finds a more appropriate habitation within us, than when, having parted with Christ, we receive Satan as a guest.  His highest delight is in that emptiness by which the neglect of divine grace is followed.  (John Calvin, Commentaries, Vol. XVI, 85)


The man who buries his talent is rejected (25:18, 26-28).  Those who during the present life have done nothing for the hungry, thirsty, etc. never enter the halls of glory (25:41-46).  Cf. Jam 4:16.  What Jesus wants is a full life of being a positive blessing out of gratitude for salvation by grace alone.  He wants nothing less than this.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 540)


Reformation is not salvation, regeneration, or redemption.  It may, in fact, work toward the very opposite by entrenching a person in self-satisfaction and blinding him to his need for God’s mercy.  In order to have salvation there must be a new and right relationship to God, which comes only as a sinner humbly confesses and turns from his sin and receives Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 8-15, 338)


To presume that we can crucify our own flesh is vanity.  If we were to crucify ourselves, all that we would have left is self-righteousness.  We do not crucify ourselves, but rather we are crucified “with Christ.”  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 145)


*Self-righteous service comes through human effort.  True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.

*Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.”  True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.

*Self-righteous service requires external rewards.  True service rests contented in hiddenness.

*Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results.  True service is free of the need to calculate results.

*Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.

*Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.  True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.

*Self-righteous service is temporary.  True service is a life-style.

*Self-righteous service is without sensitivity.  It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive.  True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.

*Self-righteous service fractures community.  True service, on the other hand, builds community. (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service”)


My dad had imparted to me a latter-day Puritanism:  Never lie.  Always tell the truth, no matter what the cost.  Work hard at any task you are given.  Give people a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.  I learned so much about truth telling and integrity from him.  What I hadn’t learned was that by presuming I lived by his strict moral code, I would become blind to the ways I failed it.  My self-righteousness enabled me to compartmentalize:  to believe I was doing the right thing while simultaneously going along with the wrong thing.  (Charles Colson, The Good Life, 195)


In your old days and before this “living” thing had happened to you, your immediate reaction would have been to decide to do good works and to say, “I am going to turn over a new leaf.  I am going to do this, that and the other.”  But the moment there is true repentance, all that stops.  You renounce your own works, you admit that there is no good thing in you, that all your righteousness is as “filthy rags,” and that obviously there is no point in your deciding to live a better life, or, by a great effort of the will, to serve God, because all you do will still be polluted and therefore useless.

So you do not do that.  You renounce your good works, your self-reliance, and every attempt at self-justification.  This a part of the obedience of faith.  You accept the pronouncement of the Scriptures that none of us can ever justify ourselves before God, that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom 3:20).  You accept it completely, and you prove it in action by not attempting to do anything to save yourself.

Then you accept the teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ and His way of salvation.  You accept, you believe this message concerning the Lord Jesus Christ as your Sin-bearer, as the One sent by God to reconcile you to God.  And not only that, you are ready to confess this.  You are ready to acknowledge that He is thus your Savior and your Lord, that He has bought you with a price, that you are not your own, that you have no right to yourself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 10, 336-7)


Jews were to see their inability to keep the Law and, because of this, look to the Messiah all the more.  God designed the Law this way.  Moreover, even if by some miracle a Jew was able to keep EVERY SINGLE tenet of the Law, he would likely still fail in one—his attitude.  The Law, after all, creates a horrible “Catch-22” almost by necessity.  The better you “keep” the Law, the more you think yourself basically “good” and the less you humble yourself before God.  You quickly become self-righteous and prideful.  Thus, though you may be able to keep many outward tenets of the Law (as the Pharisees did), your motivation for doing so would have shifted from love of God to love of self.  All the outward piety in the world cannot cover a sick and twisted heart. Period.  —Chris Scripter


Throw your heart open to the Holy Spirit and invite Him to fill you.  He will do it.  Let no one interpret the Scriptures for you in such a way as to rule out the Father’s gift of the Spirit.  Every man is as full of the Spirit as he wants to be.  Make your heart a vacuum and the Spirit will rush in to fill it.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 41)


What is the difference between a person who relies only on himself and a person who has learned to turn to God for help?  It’s not that one will do bad things while the other will do good things.  The self-reliant atheist may be a fine, upstanding person.  The difference is the atheist is like a bush growing in the desert.  If he has only himself to rely on, when he exhausts his internal resources he runs the risk of running dry and withering.

But the man or woman who turns to God is like a tree planted by a stream.  What they share with the world is replenished from a source beyond themselves, so they never run dry.  (Reader’s Digest, 11/96, 90)


I took some comfort in the fact that the church in the first century was already on a seesaw, tilting now toward perfectionistic legalism and now toward raucous antinomianism. …The church, in other words, should be both:  a people who strive toward holiness and yet relax in grace, a people who condemn themselves but not others, a people who depend on God and not themselves. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 222)


God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism…There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)


III-  Being “in Christ” as a new creation adopts you into the Family of God where you are no longer an opponent of God.  (Mt 12:46-50; see also: Mt 10:37; Mk 3:20-21, 31-35; Lk 8:19-21; Jn 1:11-13; 7:1-6; Acts 1:14; Rom 8:14-17; Gal 3:26-4:7; 6:10; Eph 2:19; 3:15; 1 Jn 3:1, 10; 5:2)


In His humanity, Jesus is like us in every way, only He is without sin (Heb 4:15).  He alone is righteous.  He alone is able to obey the law that we cannot obey.  He alone is stronger than Satan, which enabled Christ to overcome sin in His life and in His death.  And finally, only Jesus was able to rise from the grave.  On that basis, Jesus invites us into His family.  He makes it possible for us to be called sons and daughters of God.  When we turn aside from sin and self and trust in Jesus, we are brought into God’s family by the power of His Spirit.  This is the kind of relationship that brings about inner transformation.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 168)


. . .  adoption is not a change in nature, but a change in status.  If we fail to see this truth, we will miss the significance of our adoption.  Similarly, if we think of adoption as based on anything we have done, or on what we are, then we will jeopardize our assurance of God’s Fatherly relation to us. (Sinclair B. Ferguson; Children of the Living God, 36)


The Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 154)


It is not a very nice picture of Jesus’ family, but what else could they conclude?  How could any sane man claim to be greater than Jonah?  Or King Solomon?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 225)


Jesus asks a question.  As verses 49 and 50 indicate, what he meant was “Who are those that belong to my spiritual family,” to “the household of God” or “of the faith?”  He is indicating that spiritual ties are more important than ties of blood.  For other references to this spiritual family see Jn 1:13; Gal 6:10; Eph 2:19; 3:15.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: Matthew, 542)


Mark explained that “Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat.  When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind” (Mk 3:20-21).  Mary hoped to use her personal relationship with Jesus to influence him.  She saw her son in a busy ministry that was taking its toil on him.  Perhaps she hoped to get him to come home; maybe she brought the brothers along to drag Jesus away from the crowd if necessary.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 252)


In these words, Jesus explained that in his spiritual family, the relationships are ultimately more important and longer lasting than those formed in his physical family.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 252-3)


All obedient believers are near akin to Jesus Christ.  They wear his name, bear his image, have his nature, are of his family.  He loves them, converses freely with them as his relations.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 179)


His question could be rendered, “Who are the types of people who can have a family relationship with me?”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 252)


We ought to conform to God’s will in poverty and all the inconveniences poverty brings in its train.  It is not too hard to do so if we fully realize that God watches over us as a father over his children and puts us in that condition because it is of most value to us.  Poverty then takes on a different aspect in our eyes, for by looking on the privations it imposes as salutary remedies we even cease to think of ourselves as poor.

If a rich man has a son in bad health and prescribes a strict diet for him, does the son think he has to eat small amounts of plain or tasteless food because his father cannot afford better?  Does he begin to worry about how he will exist in the future?  Will other people think that because of his diet he has become poor?  Everybody knows how well off his father is and that he shares in his father’s wealth and he will again have what is now forbidden him as soon as his health is restored.

Are we not the children of God of riches, the co-heirs of Christ?  Being so, is there anything we can lack?  Let it be said boldly:  whoever responds to his divine adoption with the feelings of love and trust that the position of being children of God demands has a right, here and now, to all that God Himself possesses.  Everything then is ours.  But it is not expedient we should enjoy everything.  It is often necessary we should be deprived of many things.  Let us be careful not to conclude from the privations imposed on us only as remedies that we may ever be in want of anything that is to our advantage.  Let us firmly believe that if anything is necessary or really useful for us, our all-powerful Father will give it to us without fail.  To those gathered round to hear him our Savior said:  If you evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father. . .? (Father Jean Baptiste; Trustful Surrender to Divine Providence, 58-9)


I suppose every Christian goes through springs, summers, autumns, and winters, various cycles of ups and downs in their attitudes toward private worship.  But the person in whom it is always winter in their desires for private worship is a person with a cold, dead soul.  When there are no longings month after month, year after year, for regular communion with God, obviously there is no life from God or life with God.  In Gal 4:6 the Bible explicitly describes the desires for communion with God on the part of those who are children of God, who have his Holy Spirit:  “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba!  Father!’”  Without such a heart cry to draw near to God, there is no Spirit of God in the heart.  And without the presence of the Spirit of God there is no relationship with God.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God; A Vision for Reforming Worship, 313-4)



Worship Point:  “In Christ” we no longer are burdened with the weight of sin or the yoke of the Law; though a bruised reed or a smoldering wick, we are no longer anxious about being rejected.  We are made children of God and co-heirs with Christ.  Worship!


Should not we, who know the mercy of redemption, be filled with more praise than the angels who have worshiped since the beginning of time?  God recounts how all the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7).  How much more should we, who have been forgiven, redeemed, adopted, and made heirs of His kingdom, praise Him and shout for joy?  Indeed, the heavens are filled with praise (Rv 19:5-7), and the inanimate is moved before Him (Isa 6;4; Lk 19:40).  This demonstrative worship is the environment of God.  Heaven is filled with prayers and praises, and our eternity will be spent singing and rejoicing in His magnificence.  (Elyse Fitzpatrick, Idols of the Heart, 198)


Gospel Application:  “In Christ” we are accepted, protected, from Satan, adopted into the Family of God and made co-heirs with Christ.  This is truly Good News.


It is not the hookers and thieves who find it most difficult to repent:  it is you who are so secure in your piety and pretense that you have no need of conversion.  They may have disobeyed God’s call, their professions have debased them, but they have shown sorrow and repentance.  But more than any of that, these are the people who appreciate His goodness:  they are parading into the kingdom before you:  for they have what you lack—a deep gratitude for God’s love and deep wonder at His mercy.  (Brennan Manning; Ragamuffin Gospel, 103)


Spiritual Challenge:  Guard your heart from anything that smacks of meriting or earning your salvation.  Never forget the Gospel is Good News, not good advice.


For all who have worked hard to try to be righteous, rest in the Lord of the Sabbath who is righteous for you.  To all who are bruised and broken, whose light is struggling to find life, humble yourself before the One who brings hope to the hurting and ask Him to heal you.  To all who are struggling under the weight of sin, come to the One who is the Power of God–to the One who is stronger than your enemy.  To all who fear death, come to the greater Prophet who conquers death.  To all who seek wisdom, come to the only wise King.  And to all who long to be loved, come to your Elder Brother, who brings you into the family where God is Father.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 168-9)



For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. — Matthew 12:50



The Way

the Truth

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