(For the PowerPoint file for this sermon, Click Here)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
October 5, 2014
Our Holy Treasure
Many people are confused by what the Bible says. One of the reasons for this is that there are often so many differing interpretations and opinions about what it says, but the main reason for that is so few are careful to understand what they are reading in its context. Because they do not pay attention to what is said before and after any particular passage or what is taught on that same subject in other places of Scripture, they can easily misunderstand it. We have seen several examples of this already in our study of the Sermon on the Mount.
Many people are confused by Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Matthew 5:31-32 because they overlook the context. Jesus was specifically speaking against the teachings of the scribes who taught that Divorce was okay as long as the paper work got done. Jesus corrected them and also emphasized that their practice of unrighteous divorce lead to a proliferation of adultery. The exception clause in verse 32 is not a command or a reason to divorce, but rather the one case in which divorce would not result in additional adultery. (See: The Dangers of Divorce)
Many people have memorized and will recite the “Lord’s Prayer” found in Matthew 6:9-13 which is very good. However, when a person thinks they are praying properly by simply reciting it, then they show they have ignored the context of the passage to practice something Jesus said not to do. Jesus gave this as a model or framework for prayer with the preceding verses including His specific command not to pray repetitiously without meaning.
Our Scripture text for this morning is also often misinterpreted because people separate it from its context. It is also often misunderstood because it is hard to put into practice even after understanding it properly in its context. (See: The Proper Purpose and Practice of Prayer)
In Matthew 7:6 our Lord tells us, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.”
Setting the Context
The first thing to notice in order to understand this verse properly is its context. As I have said all through this study of this sermon by Jesus, He is setting out the nature of true righteousness as opposed to the self righteousness of the hypocritical religious leaders. In this particular section of the sermon, Jesus is giving prohibitions (negative commands) about certain things the self righteous religious leaders were doing.
In Matthew 6:19-34 Jesus gives the prohibition, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth.” The scribes and Pharisees thought they could serve God and also seek after the things of this world, mammon, but they were wrong. If your goal is to lay up treasures on this earth, then you demonstrate that the things of this world, not the things of heaven, are more important to you. Those things which the Apostle John describes as the “lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” will be your master. This will lead to being anxious because mammon can be destroyed, corroded or stolen. (See: Where is Your Treasure?)
Jesus then went on to command, “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” When the things of heaven are more important to you than they things of earth, then God will be your master and you will serve Him. You will be able to rest peacefully in His promise to provide for your needs as you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. It is a wonderful life without anxiety and with eternal reward. (See: The Remedy for Worry)
Last week we examined Matthew 7:1-5 and Jesus’ injunction to not be like the self righteous and hypocritical religious leaders of Jesus’ time who were quick to judge others according to the rules and regulations of their traditions. They condemned others as sinners for violating some aspect of their tradition while at the same time being blind to the greater sin of prideful self righteousness hanging around their own necks. This was the sin Jesus denounced in Luke 11:42 saying, “Woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every king of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.” They majored on minors and lost the point. Jesus tells us to major on what is important first, then go back and work on the more minor issues.
We are to judge one another in the sense of being discerning and pointing out the sins in which others stumble and fall, but that judgment is to be done with humility and speaking the truth in love, not from self righteous condemnation (Galatians 6:1-2). When you see another Christian overtaken by sin, then you are to first examine yourself and recognize your own sinfulness and susceptibility to fall. Then you are to go in humility to help them out of their sin in the same way you would want them to help you out of your sin. You bear their burden with them. That is Jesus’ point in verse 5 of taking the log out of your own eye first so that you can see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Our usual problem is that we love ourselves and our sin too much to really want to practice this ourselves or have it practiced on us. We see someone in sin, instead of getting involved in helping that person get out of that sin, we back off for fear that our own sin will be exposed. Then we justify our inaction by saying that we are only following Jesus’ directive in 7:1 to “not judge lest we be judged.” However, if you are going to follow Jesus, then you must follow the whole command and not just the parts you want. The whole command is to deal with the sin in your own life. You are to confess it, ask forgiveness and strive against it, and then you go with all humility to help your brother out of their sin. (See: Judging Righteously)
This context must be kept in mind in order to understand the meaning of what Jesus says here in Matthew 7:6.
In the general context, the Scribes were those who copied the law and acted as the lawyers concerning the law. The Pharisees were those that prided themselves on keeping all the law according to the traditions handed down to them. Both were supposed to understand the value of the Law, its holy nature and how it should be followed. They had many traditions that gave respect to how a copy of the Law was to be physically handled, but they twisted the meaning of the Law and used it for their own purposes. This was actually the greatest degree of disrespect that could be shown. Frankly, it would be better for a man to take a Bible and throw it in the mud than to place it in a place of honor and pervert what it says.
In the immediate context, verse 6 is the contrasting balance to verses 1-5. Those who say that we are never to judge sin or sinners have their view shattered in this verse for here Jesus asks us to make a judgment about what is holy and what is not; Who is a dog and who is not; What is a pearl and what is not, and who is a swine and who is not. The follower of Christ is not to exercise hypocritical self righteous judgment against others, but at the same time, he is to make judgements and not heedlessly expose sacred things to a person who may subject them to abuse. The disciple must be judicious, not judicial. Evil condemnation is to be avoided, but discrimination is necessary.
Dogs and Hogs
Jesus uses two illustrations in this verse to make His point. Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not cast your pearls before swine. In our culture we lose a lot of the impact of these sayings. We think of dogs as those wonderful animals we keep as pets. We say that a dog is man’s best friend. We spend lots of money to feed them, to clean them and give them medical care. Diane even knows a lady that is a veterinary cardiologist. She gives medical treatment to dog hearts. Now, I had a dog when I was a kid and I loved that little mixed up mutt. We have a dog now that our family loves. I know that some of you may consider your dog part of your family. However, it is still beyond me that someone would even consider having their dog hooked up to an EKG and having heart surgery. But you get the picture, in our society which spends more annually on cat and dog food than on missions, to hear, “do not give what is holy to dogs,” elicits a response of, “Why not, I give them everything else.”
In ancient Israel, and even to a large degree even today in the Middle East, dogs are despised. They were and are rarely kept as household pets, and except for those used in helping to herd sheep, they were dirty, greedy, snarling, often vicious and diseased scavengers that would roam in packs and eat carcasses.
Depending on the particular type of offering, part of the sacrificial animal was burned up, part was given to the priest, part was taken home to be eaten by the family that made the sacrifice. Every part of the animal was holy because it was consecrated to the worship of God. The picture Jesus is making is taking meat from such a sacrifice and tossing it to these vile creatures. That would have been completely unthinkable for a Jew and near the height of desecration.
The picture of the pearls and swine is similar. According to the Levitical code, hogs are unclean animals and are not to be eaten. They, more than any other creature, came to symbolize uncleanness. Because a good Israelite would not have domesticated a pig, most hogs that they would have encountered would have been the wild ones that foraged for themselves – often on the edge of town in the garbage dump. They were greedy, filthy and vicious. They had long tusks and sharp hooves and they could tear an unarmed man to pieces.
Pearls are seen throughout the Scriptures as being a very precious and valuable commodity. They are the only gem mentioned in the gospels. Jesus used the pearl in Matthew 13:45-46 to depict the inestimable value of the kingdom of heaven. Now imagine these precious treasures being thrown out to the swine. Hogs do not recognize the value of pearls. They would simply trample them into the mud, and if you were that close to them, you were in danger of being attacked by them.
The General Principle
What is Jesus telling us? Simply this, God has given to us a very precious and holy treasure in His revelation of Himself in the gospel message and in His word. We need to recognize the value of what God has done for us and entrusted to us. Salvation is not cheap. It is free in the sense that you cannot earn it or buy it, but it is by no means cheap. As 1 Peter 1:18-19 states, you were not “redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.” Our salvation was purchased at the cost of the Lord Jesus Christ suffering and dying on the cross in our place as payment for our sins. Sometimes I fear we do not take that cost seriously enough. There is a tendency to reason that since Jesus, being God, did not stay in the grave but rose again on the third day, that His death must not have been so bad. Perhaps it was not that great a price to pay since it was only for three days. That is erroneous reasoning. It was a great price and that cost must never be diminished.
Jesus suffering on our behalf was great. He was falsely accused, spit upon, beaten, bruised, and flogged until the flesh was coming off his back while the blood streamed down His head from the crown of thorns. Then, on Golgotha’s hill, His worst suffering came at that moment when He bore the full weight of the sin of mankind, and in a horror that no theologian can explain, the Father forsook Him, and He died. Never diminish the price that was paid for your salvation. Jesus became the Holy sacrifice that purchased the redemption of sinful man. The message of redemption and the offer of salvation are precious and must be treated as such.
We also need to take the warning given seriously. Jesus tells us that the swine will trample the precious truth given to them under their feet, then they will turn on you and seek to tear you to pieces. Peter says something similar in his warning about false prophets in 2 Peter 2:1-3, “but false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” They will malign the truth. They are like pigs trampling pearls under their feet. They will exploit you. They are like hogs that will turn and tear you. Peter goes on to describe them in verse 12 as “unreasoning animals, born as creatures of instinct to be captured and killed, reviling where they have no knowledge, will in the destruction of those creatures also be destroyed.”
You need to be careful, discerning, and discriminating in what you do in telling others about the gospel and the truths of God’s word. This is not an easy thing to carry out because in trying to be discerning of who is a dog or a hog it is easy to fall into the danger of self righteous judgment of others. In the tension you want to say, “who am I to decide who is a dog or a hog,” and then race to all the passages that say we are to tell others about Christ. You are left somewhat confused about how to follow this instruction from our Lord. As I said earlier, this is the other reason that this is a difficult passage. It is hard to carry it out even after you understand it.
Let’s be open and frank here. Sometimes it is easy to tell who is a dog and who is a hog. At other times it is difficult or nearly impossible. However, Jesus states that I need to be careful to do this
I believe that discernment comes with maturity as you learn more of the mind of the Spirit and are conforming more into the image of Christ. I also know that both Jesus and the apostles were careful of what they said to those they were talking to. We can learn from their examples and follow them. What I want to do for the remainder of our time together is to look at some of the ways that Jesus and the Apostles dealt with different people and gain from that some principles to follow.
Revealing and Concealing
First, consider that Jesus purposely concealed from some while revealing to others. Turn to Matthew 13. In This chapter Jesus begins to speak in parables. In verse 10 the disciples ask Him why He changed His method of instruction. Jesus answers in verse 11, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. For whoever has, to him shall more be given, and he shall have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” This was the fulfillment of a prophecy concerning those whose hearts had become dull and they had closed their eyes. They were not interested in seeking after God. They had their religion and they were not interested in the truth.
Jesus proclaimed the truth in such a way that those who wanted to understand would be prompted to seek after it and those who did not would be left confused. Notice how the disciples would come to Jesus and ask questions in order to gain understanding. On the other extreme were those who were not really interested in the truth. They would ask Jesus questions but their purpose was to try to entrap Jesus. They were not interested in learning from Him and so would be left ignorant.
This general principle is found throughout Scripture. God reveals Himself to those that will seek after Him. He conceals Himself from those who will not. The search for God begins with faith. Hebrews 11:6 states, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” And God does reward those who seek by revealing Himself to them.
When you are telling people about Jesus Christ and the truths of Scripture, you need to be careful that you tell people in such a way as to prompt them to ask more questions. This is one way to find out if they are really seeking after God or not. You need to prompt people, not pressure them. This is one reason I very rarely do what is often called an Altar call and ask people to come up front in order to “accept Christ.” Instead, I invite them to talk with me or someone else, and if they are really seeking, then they will come and ask more questions. I wonder how much ridicule the name of Christ has undergone because of those who made some sort of profession of faith in the heat of an emotional moment, but their lives show that they really were not and are not seekers after God. They really only seek for themselves. Is that not giving what is Holy to dogs?
When I deal with someone personally, I try to do the same thing. I want to find out what the person is really interested in. One of the dangers of much of the evangelism in America is that it is based on marketing techniques. Find out what the person wants, develop the product and sell it to them. We are not here to “sell” Christ. We do not “market” Jesus. We proclaim Him.
The principle Jesus has given us is to reveal the full gospel message to those that are seeking after God, but conceal it from those that are not. One way to find out what a person is really seeking is to start with the negative aspects of the gospel. Man is sinful and under the just condemnation of God. That is how Paul starts his presentation of the gospel in the book of Romans. Then go on to tell how what God did to redeem man through Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross and how man can be justified before God through faith in Jesus Christ. Then, if the person is still interested in professing faith in Christ, take him or her to 1 Peter 1:16 and tell them that to receive Christ means they are to become holy so there will be a change in their life and their sinful habits will have to be put away. Take them to Matthew 5:11-12 or John 16:33 and tell them that to follow Christ means peace with God, but persecution by the world. If they are still interested, then they are truly seeking after God. Don’t “sell” Christ. He is not a commodity to be marketed. That brings great risk in giving what is holy to dogs.
Keep to the Basics
Another principle related to this is to keep to the basics. This is found in John 4 where Jesus deals with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus begins the conversation and prompts her to ask a question – (vs 9) “Why do you a Jew speak to me a Samaritan woman?” He prompts her again by talking about living water, but she seeks to side track the issue – (vs 12) “You cannot be greater than Jacob who dug the well.” Jesus does not answer her question but continues on his own theme prompting her to ask for that living water (vs 15). Jesus then brings up the basic issue of her sin. The conversation could easily have been side tracked there in a discussion of divorce and remarriage, but Jesus keeps to the basic issue and states the facts outright, but positively. To paraphrase, you have had five husbands and the one your living with now is not your husband, you were correct is saying you have no husband (vs 16-19). The woman obviously feeling very uncomfortable tries to side track the conversation again with a discussion where the best place to worship would be. Jesus cuts through that issue and keeps to the basic point. It is not the place that is important, but that those who worship God do so in spirit and truth (vs 20-25). She then tells Jesus that she is looking forward to the coming of Messiah. It is only then that Jesus reveals Himself to her.
We should not get into a discussion of the deeper truths of Christianity with someone until after they have responded to the basics. This is the pattern Jesus left with us. It also shows up in the case of the Rich Young Ruler in Matthew 19. The man came to Jesus wanting to know what good thing he was yet lacking in order to obtain eternal life. Jesus did not sell him an insurance policy of how to get to heaven in one easy step of faith. Jesus stuck with the basics throughout the conversation – only God was good, this young man was not. Jesus sought to get him to acknowledge his sin and his need for God, but the man’s great wealth blocked him. He loved his possessions more than God and he refused to follow Christ.
We also need to be careful to make sure those we deal with understand and respond to the basics first. People should understand that God is a loving, but also holy and just creator and that man is sinful before we go on to concepts such as substitutionary atonement and justification by faith. The fine points of doctrine like the nature of the church and its organization, the order of events in the end times, all about angels and demons, etc., have no place in the conversation until the person responds to the basics. Paul did not do that even with believers. In 1 Corinthians 3 we find Paul lamenting that he still has to give them milk because they are not mature enough for doctrine that is meat. We risk giving what is holy to dogs if we are not careful to stick to the basics first.
Proclaim, Don’t Debate
A last point I will make this morning is that we are to proclaim, not debate in the sense of argumentation to prove yourself to be superior. We do not find any account of Jesus debating anyone. God’s word is superior, so Jesus simply proclaimed the truth. Paul’s practice was similar. In Acts 17 when Paul is brought to the Areopagus in Athens and asked to explain Christianity to them. He builds his case starting with the basic that there is an all powerful creator God. Paul then proclaimed God’s call for everyone to repent and that God will judge men through a Man whom He raised from the dead. At this point some began to sneer and put him off. They did not want to hear more, so Paul left and talked further only with those that followed him. Paul does the same thing in his efforts to reach the Jewish population in each city. He would go to the Synagogue and seek to show them from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah. He would do this until those who refused to believe would resist, contradict and blaspheme (Acts 13:46; 18:6). Paul would then rebuke them, leave, and teach further only those that followed him. Paul did not have to win an argument, he only needed to proclaim the truth.
Let me add to this what it says in 1 Peter 3:15. This verse is often used as support for evangelism efforts, but look closely at what it says. Be mindful that context of this passage is suffering for the sake of righteousness – “but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” The defense is made to those who ask, not to anyone indiscriminately.
You do not need to debate with those in other religions and in cults. You simply need to stick to the basics and prompt them to seek and ask questions. Proclaim the truth to them as long as they are honestly seeking the truth and then stop when their interest demonstrates itself to be contradiction and maligning the truth. At that point, leave them with a warning and pray for them.
This is what Jesus told the twelve in Matthew 10 as He sent them out to preach that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, “whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet” (vs 14). People do not come to Christ because you prove yourself to be of superior intellect or you win a Bible battle with them. They respond to Christ’s claims as the Holy Spirit convicts them of sin and prods them to the truth. We must be careful with our holy treasure and be obedient to Jesus’ command to not give what is holy and precious to dogs and swine.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives. Here is some help. Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children – Do one or more of the following: 1) Count the references to dogs and hogs in the sermon. 2) Talk with your parents about how to properly tell other people the gospel of Jesus Christ
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others. What are some of the reasons that the Bible is so confusing to so many people? How does the failure to recognize context contribute to this problem? What are some of the ways in which portions of the Sermon on the Mount are misunderstood due to taking them out of context? What is the context of Matthew 7:6? – include the general theme of the Sermon on the Mount and the more immediate context of the section this verse is in. How does the context help you understand this verse? What would the average Jew in ancient Israel thought about a dog? About a hog? Why? What holy thing might be given to a dog? Why would that be desecration? What was the value of a pearl? What would a hog do to pearls cast before it? What is the holy and valuable treasure that Jesus does not want us to give to people that were like a dog or a hog? How do the unrighteous that are like hogs treat the gospel (see 2 Peter 2:1-3, 12). How can you tell who is a dog or a hog? Why did Jesus speak in parables? – See Matthew 13. How can this principle be incorporated into how you talk to people about God? What is the danger of using marketing techniques to present the gospel? What steps would you use in presenting the gospel to make sure you do not fall into the trap of marketing Jesus? Study Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well in John 4 and note how Jesus was able to keep the conversation on track? How can this example help you in your conversations with others about God? What should happen before the finer points of doctrine are discussed. Why didn’t Jesus or Paul get into debates with scoffers? How did they avoid it? How can you be proactive in evangelism and still avoid debates with scoffers? Are you ready to make a defense of the hope that is in you to those who ask (1 Peter 3:15)? If not, what do you need to do in order to get ready to do so?
Sermon Notes: Our Holy Treasure
The Bible is confusing to people because of the many interpretations made out of __________
People misunderstand Jesus’ teaching on divorce (Matt. 5:31-32) because they miss the _____________
People vainly repeat the “Lord’s Prayer” (Matt. 6:9-13) because they ignore the _____________
Setting the Context
The sermon __________true righteousness and self-righteousness and He gives 3 prohibitions in this section
Matthew 6:19-34, “do not store up for yourselves treasures on ____” where they can be destroyed or stolen
Store your treasures in ________- your heart will be where you treasure is – you can’t serve God & mammon
Matthew 7:1-5, do not ________________others in your self-righteousness, get the log out, then help others
_______________prevents helping others (Gal. 6:1-2) by either apathy toward others or fear of being judged
General context: The ___________of the Law by the scribes and Pharisees was the height of disrespect for it
Specific context: A contrast to Matthew 7:1-5 which demands that _______________be made
Dogs and Hogs
In ancient Israel, dogs were dirty, greedy, snarling, often vicious and diseased _________________- not pets
Tossing meat from a sacrifice made in the worship of God to a vile dog would be a great _______________
Levitical code established swine as unfit to eat – and they became a symbol of _________________
Wild pigs are greedy, filthy and vicious with long tusks and hooves that ________an unarmed man to pieces
Pearls are precious and used in Matthew 13:45-46 to represent the ___________of the kingdom of God
The General Principle
Recognize the holy & valuable _______God has given you in salvation (1 Pet 1:18-19) & treat it accordingly
Never diminish the ______________Jesus paid to redeem man from sin
Swine trample precious _______________under their feet – beware of them – 2 Peter 2:1-3, 12
Be careful, ______________, and discriminating as you proclaim the gospel
It can be difficult to discern who is a dog or hog, but discernment comes with __________& following Jesus
Revealing and Concealing
Matthew 13:10f – Jesus taught to reveal to those who ___________Him, but conceal from those who did not
Those seeking truth ask questions to ________________, those who do not, ask questions to entrap
The search for God begins with _______________- Hebrews 11:6
Share the gospel in such a way as to prompt others to __________more questions and seek the Lord
We are not to “sell” or “market” Jesus – we are to ______________Him
Start with the _____news of man’s sinfulness and God’s just condemnation before presenting hope in Christ
Keep to the Basics
John 4 – Jesus kept the conversation with the woman at the well from becoming ________________
Jesus would expose man’s _________________before proclaiming the hope of the gospel – Matt. 19
People must understand that God is a __________creator and man is sinful before going on to the atonement
Fine points of doctrine have not place in the conversation until the person responds to the ______________
Proclaim, Don’t Debate
Jesus did not debate, He simply ________________the truth
Paul did not continue to argue with ______, he concentrated on those who wanted to learn (Acts 13, 17, 18)
1 Peter 3:15 – we give a defense of our faith to those who ___________ – not anyone indiscriminately
Proclaim to those __________, but stop when their interests are contradiction and maligning truth – Matt. 10
People do not get saved due to your superior ability in debate, it due to the __________________ conviction
If you would like to receive Pastor Harris’ weekly sermons via e-mail, Click Here)
For comments, please e-mail Church office