A Command and a Choice (Exposition of Matthew 7:12-14)

As we reach the end to the Sermon on the Mount, we come in verse 12 of chapter 7 to what A. M. Hunter has called the “capstone of the Sermon.” Beginning in Matthew 7:12 and continuing to the end of the chapter is the fitting conclusion and summary to a great sermon. In this morning’s text we are faced with a command and a choice.             

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. 13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. Matthew 7:12-14

I.    The Command, v. 12.

The command, of course, is what is commonly known as the Golden Rule. The idea of this command is expressed in a negative form in many ancient cultures. For example, Confucius said, “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.” And, the fourth century Athenian orator Isocrates said, “Whatever angers you when you suffer it at the hands of others, do not do it to others.” But this idea is never presented in a positive form by anyone before Jesus. What difference does it make?

As Robert Mounce notes in his commentary on Matthew, all that the negative form of this idea requires is for the individual to do nothing! A corpse can fulfill it. But Jesus requires more, namely, active service to others. Too often we view the Golden Rule in the way it was expressed by the ancient philosophers: Don’t bother anyone else, if you don’t want to be bothered. Jesus’ standard is much higher: Pursue the highest good of others, just as you would want them to do for you.

We usually take the Golden Rule out of context and use it as a stand-alone cliche – “Do unto others . . .” But it was originally spoken by Jesus in a specific context. Notice that verse 12 begins with the word “Therefore.” This word refers us back to the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount. A clue that this is the case is found in the expression at the end of verse 12 that adherence to the Golden Rule “is the Law and the Prophets.” This is the second bookend on this sermon by Jesus. The first is found in 5:17 where Jesus states that He came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. In between these two bookends, Jesus explains exactly what actions and attitudes fulfill and summarize the Law and the Prophets. In Matthew 7:12 we have the entire Sermon on the Mount in a nutshell. If you want to know what to do in any given situation, do whatever you want done to you. This one command would change the world if everyone were to obey it. What a different world would this world be if each one did to everyone else whatever they would want done to them. This is exactly what the apostle Paul teaches in Romans 13:8-10,

Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” “YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,” “YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,” “YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,” “YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

If everyone love their neighbor as themselves, there would be no need for any further laws. If you love your neighbor you won’t lie, steal, be angry, murder, lust, commit adultery, etc. against him or her.

The problem is that obedience to the simple command of the Golden Rule is impossible for sinful human beings. This short command, rather than being the solution to the world’s problems, drives us to the One who is the solution to the world’s problems: Jesus. This brings us to the narrow gate and the choice which each of us have to make.

II. The Choice, vv. 13-14.

The choice between the two gates and the two ways is a choice for eternity. Someone once said, “He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to.” If at the I-40 and I-75 split you take I-40W toward Nashville, you’ve chosen to go to Nashville if you don’t stop, turn off or make a u-turn. But there are no stopping places, no turn offs and no u-turns allowed on the road to hell. The only hope is to change roads by repenting and confessing your sins.

Which gate have you chosen? You are by default born on the broad way that leads to destruction. You don’t have to do anything to get on it. If you are to have your sins forgiven you must enter the narrow gate of faith in Jesus Christ! In this morning’s text you have been confronted with a command and a choice. The command summarizes the entirety of the Sermon on the Mount. The choice is between living your own way or entering through faith in Christ into the way that leads to everlasting life. It is only by entering through Christ that one is able to walk on the narrow way described in the Sermon on the Mount. If you see how impossible it is to live the Christian life, come to Jesus. He will receive you.

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