0 Dispensationalism


The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)

D. Riches: Matt. 6:19-24. There are two great principles enunciated in this section: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also,” and “No man can serve two masters.” The Bible contains many warnings about worldly riches. Here the warning is about the uncertainty of such riches. And even if a man succeeds in amassing a fortune, he may be like the rich fool of Lk. 12:20, whose soul was required of him and he could not take any of his riches with him. The believer can transmute base earthly labor and money into heavenly treasure and have it kept safe on deposit awaiting his arrival in glory.

Paul’s main comments on riches, and they that would be rich are to be found in 1 Tim. 6:6-10. James has some scathing remarks about the rich in Ch. 5:1-6 of his epistle. God has entrusted some of His faithful people with worldly riches, and Paul has a word for them in 1 Tim. 6:17-19.

The parable of the Eye as the Light of the Body in vs. 22 and 23 seems to be related to the location of one’s treasure as well as the serving of two masters. The eye that is single is an eye that is focused upon just one object, not on a complex mixture of objects. We should have an eye single to the glory of God (Eph. 6:5). Likewise, our eye should be focused upon the Lord who is Light, otherwise the light that is in us becomes darkness.
“No man can serve two masters.” “Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning property or wealth, and is here personified, as it is in Lk. 16:13. People try to serve both masters, but their loyalties are divided.

E. Anxiety: Matt. 6:25-34. Anxiety is a sin; it not only demonstrates a lack of faith (and whatsoever is not of faith is sin, Rom. 14:23), but is also injurious to health. The A.V., “Take no thought,” is a very poor translation for today, although it was a good translation in 1611 when the word thought meant anxiety, as can be seen from Shakespeare’s usage in Hamlet: “The native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought.”
All six of the “take no thoughts” of this passage should be translated, “Don’t be over anxious.” Jesus did not mean a reckless neglect of the future, but uneasiness and worry and anxiety about the future. While many of the principles in this section can be applied equally to the Kingdom and to the Church, we believe there is a distinct difference in some of the Kingdom promises and those for us today. Kingdom promises include material blessings. The Kingdom disciples formed a kind of commune in which they shared all their possessions in common, and we read: “Neither was there any among them that lacked” (Acts 4:34), but a few years later, after the Kingdom program had been set aside in favor of the new Pauline dispensation, we read of these same people that they had become destitute, insomuch that Paul had to take up a collection from his Gentile churches for the poor saints at Jerusalem (Rom. 15:26). Since apostolic days numerous attempts have been made to establish Christian communism, but they have all failed.

Paul condemns anxiety, just as Jesus did (Phil. 4:6), but he encourages industry and the laying aside of funds and the right use of money. He doesn’t condemn the rich but tells them to be rich in good works. He warned those who willed to be rich, for this was an indication of the love of money, which is the root of all kinds of evil.

Matt. 6:33 is often misapplied. Two questions need to be asked: What does it mean to seek the Kingdom of God, and, Are all these other things automatically added? The Kingdom of which Jesus spoke was still future, for He had just instructed His disciples to pray for its coming into being. They were to seek it as a future expectation. This expectation is ours today only in a secondary sense.

Our expectation is the Rapture and to be manifested in glory with Christ. We are already in the spiritual Kingdom of His dear Son (Col. 1:13). We are not seeking the Millennial Kingdom as the disciples of Jesus were. Even if we interpret seeking the Kingdom to mean, putting God first in our lives, does this automatically guarantee that all of these material things will be supplied? We have known people who have gone out as foreign missionaries who believed on the basis of this verse that God would add to them all of these earthly needs. They surely put God first in their lives. Some took no health precautions, thinking this promise took care of all such things, but they came down with malaria, dysentery, and parasites and had to be brought home.

We today must remember that the disciples were living in a dispensation under which they had power over all manner of diseases and even over poisonous serpents. We are not living in that dispensation. Putting God first involves putting His Word first, and that means following His instruction to rightly divide His Word, so that we know which part is for our obedience. In so doing we may learn that putting God first means industriousness, “for if any will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thes. 3:10); and the use of remedies for sickness (1 Tim. 5:23); and bodily exercise (1 Tim. 4:8 – it is profitable for a little, not profiteth little). God works according to a plan and He expects us to have a plan for our lives. We can make such plans without becoming anxious or worried. He gives us common sense and He expects us to use it. In every dispensation God and His glory should be put first, but the promises of physical blessings flowing from such actions may vary from dispensation to dispensation. Paul surely put God first in his life, but read of some of his privations in 2 Cor. 11:24-33.

F. Discernment: Matt. 7:1-6; Lk. 6:37-42. The commands in the Bible about judging can be very confusing unless we use discernment. The command here, “Judge not,” seems to say that we should never judge. But that could not be so, for Jesus also said: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). And Paul instructs believers to pass judgment upon those in the Church who are misbehaving, and he asks: “Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” (1 Cor. 6:5). And in another place Paul says: “Yea, I judge not mine own self” (1 Cor. 4:3) and in the same epistle, “if we would judge ourselves we should not be judged” (11:31). These are not contradictory statements.

The context must determine the meaning. In Matt. 7:1 Jesus is saying, “If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t criticize others, for others will criticize you by the same standards you use in judging others. The measure you give will be the measure you get.” And He says, before finding fault with others be sure you don’t have the same or even greater fault. He illustrates this with exaggeration. How can you see to remove a speck from your brother’s eye when you have a big log in your own eye? Getting the log out of our own eye is self-judgment. The meaning of these verses seems clear, but what did Jesus mean in Matt. 7: 67?

“Give not that which is holy unto dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you?” This surely, does not mean to refrain from preaching the gospel to the unsaved, for this is the only message the Christian has for those outside of Christ.

In the figure which the Lord uses, the word “holy” refers to the meat of the animal sacrifice of which no unclean person could eat (Lev. 22:6,7,10,14,15,16). Dogs were unclean animals, a term which the Jews applied to Gentiles (Matt. 15:26). Early Christians applied this similitude of the holy things to the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, which should not be administered to the unsaved.

The other similitude has a different character. Pearls have a resemblance to peas and acorns which are given to swine, but if thrown to swine, upon discovery that they are inedible they will trample them underfoot and turn upon the donor in anger. There is truth in the Bible intended for the unsaved, and there is truth intended for only the saved. To minister a heavenly diet to the unsaved is like trying to feed swine on pearls. The unregenerated mind cannot tolerate spiritual food. It is, as Paul says, foolishness unto him. When God gave the heavenly manna to the Israelites they treated it with contempt and lusted for the leeks and garlic and the fleshpots of Egypt (Num. 11:4-6).
In the corresponding portion in Luke “the measure” is enlarged upon. If you, as a merchant, fill the measure, press it down, and shake it down further and then fill it to overflowing, your customers will deal in like fashion with you. If you give a skimpy measure, you will get the same in return. This principle applies also to our relation to God, (cf. 2 Cor. 9:6).

Luke also adds the parable of the blind leading the blind. If you have a log in your eye you are blinded and cannot see to lead another who is blind. Also, the disciple or learner is not equal to his master. One must study long to become perfected as a teacher, and then he becomes equal with his master. As the poet has said, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” Some people learn the meaning of a few Greek words in the N.T. and go about posing as authorities. They can easily lead others astray by conclusions based upon their ignorance of the language as a whole.

G. Encouragements: Matt. 7:7-21; Lk. 11:9-13. The encouragement is based upon prayer and the fact that if parents who are themselves evil know how to give good things to their children who ask, will not the heavenly Father rather give good things to those who ask Him? Asking, seeking, and knocking indicate varying degrees of earnestness in prayer. There is no promise of getting any or every request of a selfish nature (cf. Jas. 4:3). Parents have to be very unwise to give their children everything for which they ask. God gives good things, not requested things which would be for the hurt of the child. The comparison of bread and stones and fish and serpents might seem odd, but there can be a resemblance between these objects.

Lk. 11:13 has a variation on the Matthew rendering: “How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” In the O.T. the Holy Spirit came upon kings and prophets for special types of empowerments and might later leave them. The Holy Spirit was taken away from Saul because of his sins of disobedience. David prayed that God would not take His Holy Spirit from him (Ps. 51:11). The New Covenant promised that God would put His Spirit in the hearts of the children of Israel (Ezek. 36:27; 37:14).

Christ told His disciples that the Holy Spirit was dwelling with them, and that later on He would be in them (John 14:17). John explains that when Jesus spoke of rivers of living water flowing out of one’s innermost being, “He spake this of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). Whereas in that dispensation people had to pray for the Holy Spirit to come and dwell with them, and at Pentecost the Holy Spirit was given after repentance and water baptism, in the present dispensation the Holy Spirit is given upon believing (Eph. 1:13, where “after believing” as in the A.V., should be translated, “upon believing,” for it is a present participle).

H. The Golden Rule: Matt. 7:12. Many people have the impression that to become a Christian one must try to keep the Golden Rule. But the Golden Rule is not a means of salvation. When Christ gave it He said: “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” Scripture is clear that no flesh will ever be justified by keeping the Law. The law demanded that you do unto others what you would have them do unto you. There is nothing especially Christian about this rule. Confucius taught it 500 years before Christ and probably all religions contain the general idea. It is actually a part of natural law. But no man, aside from Jesus Christ, ever consistently lived up to this rule. But through the operation of the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, God is able to fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the moral Law in the believer (Rom. 8:24). There is nothing wrong with the Golden Rule or with the Law. Man’s sinful nature is at fault (cf. Rom. 7:12-18).

I. Alternatives: Matt. 7:13,14. Religionists often say that there are many roads that lead to heaven, but Jesus spoke of only two roads, and one of them led to destruction, leaving only one road that leads to life. In John 14:6 Christ speaks of Himself as the only Way by which men can come to God. In John 10:9 He spoke of Himself as the Door, through which if any man enter he shall be saved. In the passage before us the two gates and the two ways seem to refer more to the choices men make in life as they travel through this world.

A better translation of these two verses would be: “Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many are the ones going through it: Because narrow is the gate and constricted is the way that leads to life, and few are the ones finding it.” Notice the comparisons. One gate is very wide, the other very narrow; one way is broad and spacious, the other uneven and difficult to travel; one leads to disaster and destruction, the other leads to life everlasting.

If we isolate these verses from the remainder of Scripture we might get the impression that Jesus is teaching that in order to be saved one must by his own efforts overcome all of the obstacles and difficulties of the narrow way, that he must climb up to heaven by his own strength. But, of course, that is not at all what He is saying. When one enters through the narrow gate he is saved, but from there on the way will not be easy. Over and over Jesus told those who would be His disciples that they would suffer persecution and tribulation (John 16:33; Matt. 10:22; John 15:18), and the same is true in our present dispensation (2 Tim. 3:12; 1 Thes. 3:4). In Jesus’ day, as the opposition from the rulers mounted, it became more and more difficult to make the choice of going through the narrow gate, and the way became more and more straitened and difficult. On the other hand, it seems that the gate is so wide and the road is so broad which leads to destruction, that the unsaved are unaware of having gone through a gate. But they are aware of the bright lights and high life of Broadway, not realizing what is at the end of that road.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)

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