[This sermon is one of a series entitled “Sermon on the Mount, Concentrating on the Beatitudes,” which is being preached on Sunday mornings by Pastor Tim Senter.]
Introspection is a great thing when applied in a Christlike manner. When we look at ourselves through the prism of our Savior, we find that any light beam that emanates from us is tainted with black specks. Some of the light beams in fact may only emit dark hues of barely distinguishable color. That is why we need Jesus. If we see light beams from other believers that tend toward the darker side, we must approach this knowing the darkness we emanate as well.
We last discussed the issues dealing with introspection and identifying sins within ourselves before attempting to help others deal with theirs. Let me just say that the best way to help a beloved Christian brother or sister is through a testimony on how you yourself overcame a specific sin with the Lord. I pray you realize that when you have come through a difficult time your brother or sister can benefit from that – but only when it is conveyed in love. If you have come through a trying time, or a time of great sinful behavior where through the Lord you were delivered and not destroyed, that is a very comforting thing for others to know. However, it may just be a small speck or splinter and if you approach the situation inappropriately, you run the risk of making it a beam in the eye of another. You have a testimony, that is wonderful, and testimonies normally help others. The best testimony given to others in the wrong attitude or with an improper heart can hurt more than help. When a testimony is not desired, one should not give it. This is the road Jesus takes us down today.
Look at Matthew 7:6 please. Many wonder how this verse is connected to those above. Redactors[i] would say this is a break in the traditional recounting that was modified. However, with careful and proper application of the teachings in verses 1 through 5 we begin to understand the connection in verse six.
At first this scripture seems completely disconnected from the previous discussion. However, considering carefully what came before, this is further warning to be discerning, make the most of your witness and testimony. Trust your spirit which is under the influence of the Holy Spirit within you.
You may not have an opportunity to witness to someone as you think you should. I know I have waited with baited breath to say something to an individual and could not steer the conversation in the proper direction to save my life. I have purposefully gone to places and begun a conversation on spiritual things only to find that the individual was antagonistic, un-teachable or just as negative as they might possibly be. I have stood in doorways, on street corners and side walks talking to people with a clear and focused mind only to find that when the opportunity came about, the words left my mind without ever reaching my lips. I have also met stern and almost virulent criticism or ridicule for sharing Christ with people. All we have to say is, “Jesus died for your sins” and sometimes we cannot even get that out without a profane diatribe in retort.
As mentioned above, one must discern when their testimony will be beneficial or when it will be mocked, derided and ignored. There are times still when our testimony may fall prey to one of these wicked things by some, but others in the crowd may see it for what it is, purely of Christ (this assumes that the testimony is exactly that – of Christ).
I say all this because it is okay to both keep quiet and speak aloud. We are not talking about missing witnessing opportunities because you deny the Spirit as He tells you to go witness to this or that person. We are discussing turning down opportunities to share the gospel because the Spirit of God specifically tells you it is not worth your time.
I have described this to you before but it is the best example I can think of. My son Sean and I visited a Satanist once. He invited us back regularly. We talked, he listened, we debated and opened scripture and talked more. We went there for seven or eight weeks, I do not exactly remember. These folks were not changing their position or opinion, but they were not rude or destructive in their behavior. Regardless, as we continued to visit and communicate with this individual he would tell us about his continued participation in rituals. As I prayed about the situation more and more it occurred to me that we were being kept from other visits. In permitting this individual to consume all our time each week, we were not visiting others who may need just an encouraging visit, a prospective church member, or some person who needs the Savior. After talking about our time spent with them to our pastor, we agreed that we would cut off visits and go to visiting others. On the last week, we informed the individual of these facts and even discussed Satan’s using him to keep us from those other visits.
Our first order of business is to dismiss the indiscriminate manner in which we are often tempted to exhibit when giving the gospel. We have spoken many times during these passages of a Christian’s need to be discerning. None of the discussion of judgmentalism, none of the discussion concerning your own sin and being introspective, none of those things in any way should lend itself to an air of gullibility. Christians are spiritual beings. The rest of the world is not. Our spirits are enlivened, quickened to life by the Holy Spirit of God (Eph 2:1). You have a living spirit within you, both yours and the Holy Spirit of God (Rom 8:9). It is a discerning Spirit. This discerning Spirit can tell the difference between one who may be receptive and one who is not. For instance, you should never witness Christ to an individual who is inebriated or in a drug induced stupor. Their mind is wallowing in the mire of artificial influence. They cannot think straight and would likely have no comprehension of the conversation. Even if they had enough faculties to remember, they could, in their sinfulness, argue later that they were taken advantage of. They would be right. With that said, what are the main pieces of this passage? As we look at our scripture, we find dogs and swine, holy things and pearls and the wicked ones turning against you. First, dogs and swine and how they apply to this message.
I. Dogs and Swine
In the Levitical books, dogs and swine are unclean animals (Lev 11:1-8). Dogs in the time of Jesus were normally wild and ran in packs like our wolves here. They were not as dangerous, but they often ate carrion and other things. It is rather common knowledge in the west that coyotes will follow close to herds of cows and eat a nursing calf’s feces because it is full of the milk proteins of the cow. I know, gross, but it displays the “unclean” label given to dogs quite well. Phillips notes:
“Dogs are ready to devour anything, be it the choicest morsel or the filthiest offal.”[ii]
How true. If we relate this attitude to the spiritual world, the worldly are ready to intellectually consume anything, thinking that anything they take in can be beneficial regardless the content, intent or effect. This means they can go anywhere to be educated, just as much as they can view any amount of pornography or violence for entertainment. Like the dog in the time of Jesus, people of the world without His life changing salvation will “devour anything, be it the choicest morsel or the filthiest offal.” This individual would, in public desire to be seen as one who just wants to scrape out an existence while in private he enjoys all the sin this world has to offer. The dog is an individual who will patiently listen to your testimony for Christ, and even discuss things with you about your faith. Meanwhile, they are not personally interested in hearing of God, about His Son or the salvation available to them in Jesus. If you catch these people off guard, you will hear them telling other unbelievers (with whom they can really relate) how they had such a great time at a party getting drunk, indulging in immorality, or their plans to do so. They may ask you what scripture says about divorce and marriage, then once separation is official or the divorce papers are filed or completed they are immediately involved in another relationship regardless of your counsel. Their justification is that their spouse did so, or they finally have enjoyment in life. It is an opportunity to enjoy physical pleasure like the dog following the nursing calf to feed on feces. You should be aware that most of the world operates as the dog – they do not want you to know their true private life, while they want to appear civilized in public. These dogs believe you are the same way – Christian in public (and especially at church) but your private life is separate and ungodly. Dogs judge you based upon their own existence – as a twofaced hypocrite.
The swine is much the same, except where the dog operates on opportunity for consumption and will at times consume healthy things, the swine prefers to exist in the mire. Where the dog may appear somewhat kempt in their appearance, the swine could care less what they look like, they love the mire and wallow in it with wild abandon as it is their preferred lifestyle. Worldly folks in this category work, live, exist and bathe themselves in the corruption, slime, immorality, decadence and depravity of the world. They regularly share pornographic pictures and texts on their phones with others at work – especially if you are a Christian or may be offended because they like to shock you and seek, “that look on your face.” They not only take advantage of every vice, but do so without shame, without concern and plainly encourage others to imbibe as they publicly enjoy displaying their depraved minds. The swine may be that one individual you know for a fact is antagonistic toward Christ or the things of God. That one individual may never want to hear the name “Jesus” spoken from the lips of anyone. In our society today we have to be keenly aware of our work environment for witnessing and testimony. Where the dog may not only listen to a spiritual discussion, but may even seek one out just to be accepted or seen as a spiritual individual, the swine is not only uninterested but can be antagonistic. This individual would run immediately to management to report a religious infraction or breech of professional protocol. This would take place if a believer simply wanted to tell of their time at a men’s or woman’s retreat or even a special event at church where the gospel was presented and a soul saved for Christ. At the same time, they would have no qualms about reciting verbatim their sexual or drinking escapades over the weekend in the office whether it offended you or not. The hypocrisy of this is blatant to the believer. It is acceptable to testify of a degenerate lifestyle, but a holy lifestyle for Christ is personal and not supposed to be shared.
Dogs and swine are unbelievers who have no interest in the things of God. One may very well deride the other. The dog may very well call the swine uncivilized. The swine may call the dog dishonest and two-faced. Both are simply evil, lost and bound for destruction. We are admonished to make sure that we waste no time dealing with these folks. How do we discern this? It is not simple; in fact, it can be down right complex. I believe it boils down to the attitude an unbeliever has toward a believer’s testimony or witness. One has to admit that at a level the swine is right, no one can be that good. However, they do not see that the true Christian has an escape from his wickedness through Christ. They only see that, and quip, “we’re all sinners aren’t we…” which gives them license to indulge in their mire, and judge everyone else as disingenuous because they will not embrace their true self.
It is challenging but we have to remember that the unbeliever does not see their lifestyle as their faith, whereas the believer sees their faith depicted in our lifestyle. We must be aware of those around us that are the dog, simply wanting to be seen as tame in public, yet they regularly feed off of any carrion or refuse in private to nourish the flesh. If you witness to an individual and they seem truly to begin to or want to change their life, yet they are still feeding off the world’s filth, continue to give them hope but be on guard.
Be attuned to the swine who not only enjoys the world’s filth, but wears it on their clothes, on their body, and demands their rights to display their mire everywhere in an “accept me as I am” attitude. These same people will judge you quicker than a snake will bite. The swine wears worldly clothes, boldly displays the world’s marks upon their body, speaks worldly language, watches the best and the worst the world can offer and expects others to enjoy everything about this mire just as much as the swine himself does. They, in fact, think they are normal people, that they are better than others (like the dog) because they hide nothing of their debauchery. They justify that at least with them “what you see is what you get.” They would even call themselves moral, more so than the dog or especially the Christian, who would hide this evil part of themselves or seemingly deny what is truly in them.
The Christian knows the dog and swine within, but he also knows Christ and the Holy Spirit are within fighting off the wicked wretched heart that is naturally ours. The difference between the dog, swine and the Christian is that the first two will be condemned to eternal torment, while the third will be in eternal glory. Another glaring difference, and I pray you all grasp this, is that the capacity to be doggish or swinish remains inside you. Where the dog or swine have no capacity to deny their wretchedness, the Christian not only can deny it, but is keenly aware of this poor spirit and sees only the great humility they must have in their life. The poor spirit and humility are part of the holy pearls we can give.
II. Holy Pearls
Many feel that this passage deals specifically with the sacraments (see Clark’s Commentary).[iii] This misses the point of the discussion completely. There is no reference to sacraments, either the Lord’s Supper or Baptism, in this passage. This section of scripture deals first with introspection and looking at your heart. Later we discuss this attitude with respect to prayer. What are the dogs and swine of the world that we should not give what is holy to them?
Are these pearls salvation? Are pearls spiritual things? Are the pearls things we would hold in great value to us in our Christian life? Are the holy pearls life counsel that leads to godly living? The answer is yes to all questions. When we run into one of the two types of individuals, we can politely answer any questions they may have and relate to them the things they ask, but we guard carefully the deepest spiritual things such as our convictions. Many times, our unique convictions can be turned right back against us and used as vicious ridicule. These convictions, if properly born from a deep and abiding relationship with God, are forms of worship (for instance, if we fast on a regular basis, or if we avoid or dislike certain television shows or movies). These decisions in our lives will find ridicule with the dog and the swine whether in private (the dog would gossip and judge in private) or in public (the swine would denigrate publicly) mocking any such conviction.
In the public sphere today it is quite common for Christians be labeled because they do not accept homosexual activity. Satan’s influence in the world is training the spiritually depraved to be more ungodly by ignoring passages such as Romans 1:26 and 27 as well as Leviticus 18:22. They call these homosexual-prohibitive passages out of date, out of the mainstream. The scriptures have not changed, people just want them to. Note, we are no longer called upon to accept the homosexual as a person, but the homosexual activity as a normal function of life. If we do not accept the activity, we are either bigoted or homophobic. Politically we call this tolerance doctrine, biblically we call this sin and the world’s acceptance, promotion, embracing and celebration of it. Spiritually speaking it is the swine saying accept my mire as normal or do not seek to accept me at all. How do we handle these things?
First, check your attitude. You can, as Paul so keenly reminds us, do evil easily as it is your natural bent to do so (Rom 7:15-18). We do that which is unnatural to us only because Christ is within us to inspire the activity. We are wretched creatures saved by grace. This is our first consideration. How does this apply to testimony? Is there a beam in your eye?
Even when you know you might do the same as a sinner, we should not be tempted to give in to doing sinful things or things we know would not honor God. Wesley notes:
“Yet even then, when the beam is cast out of thine own eye, Give not—That is, talk not of the deep things of God to those whom you know to be wallowing in sin. Neither declare the great things God hath done for your soul to the profane, furious, persecuting wretches. Talk not of perfection, for instance, to the former; not of your experience to the latter. But our Lord does in nowise forbid us to reprove, as occasion is, both the one and the other.”[iv]
Proverbs 25:12 is clear that wise counsel is a precious, valuable and holy thing. [v] Our salvation is an equally precious, valuable and holy thing. Neither of these should be handed out indiscriminately, but through a discerning spirit that seeks opportunities for witness and testimony, but also seeks wisdom and discernment in doing so.
III. Turning against you
In Jamieson Fausset and Brown, we find a more contemporary understanding of the scripture:
“Religion is brought into contempt, and its professors insulted, when it is forced upon those who cannot value it and will not have it.”[vi]
I have seen debates between atheists and believers where the atheist will, in the course of the debate, blaspheme God. If the believer were to attack the atheist, they would be labeled intolerant, hateful or just mean. We would do well to remember the complete reprobate will not heed your warning of their doom after this life. That individual is lost and may never be found. Of course, this is not our decision and we must obey the living Word of God’s commands to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). For the gospel is an antidote to the darkness of Satan’s power of death and condemnation (Rom 1:16). Equally Paul reinforces Christ’s teaching here in 1 Corinthians 1:18, where to those not elected by God, the gospel is a fool’s game. These poor souls do not believe in the power of God because God has chosen to delay their judgment. Because they either believe in nothing, claim to have nothing to believe in or choose only to believe in themselves. These individuals mock meek believers calling them weak. They mock those who appear timid (merciful). They mock a pure heart and a hunger or thirst for righteousness as foolish limitations, unwillingness, or fear of enjoying life to the fullest. When the lost are so steeped in their sin that they enjoy it, they call it “living every day as if it were your last” (Eccl 8:15; Is 22:13). They would prefer to drag others down into their pit of filth in order to justify their own existence. Their hearts are seldom capable of understanding the need for redemption. They are doing fine in their mind’s eye, and the more they can take with them, the better. The more that participate, the more proof that they are doing just fine. These folks regularly push their “morality” upon others, yet they cry foul like the spoiled child on the play ground if you mention your convictions to them.
The gospel of Christ will meet with stiff opposition from Satan’s little puppets. We have looked at some of those who are metaphorically described as dogs and swine in the scriptures. We also identified some of the holy pearls we possess that the fallen man cannot comprehend. Finally, as many of us have probably experienced, we looked at how the overtly wicked can turn the truth of the gospel of Christ against us, ridicule us, deride us and abuse us.
We do well to remember Colossians 1:5-6,
“5 For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; 6 Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth:”
To the believer, these are sweet words of hope in Christ and His salvation. Do not waste time giving such holy hope to the dog or the swine of the world that prefers their temporal wretchedness on earth to heavenly eternity. Your continued efforts will simply infuriate them, and could be keeping you from a more profitable appointment.
Witness to the lost, but do so with spiritual discernment.
[i] Liberal theologians who have developed a theory about scripture that it is a conglomeration of oral traditions passed down through time then finally written down and edited to develop into the form we have today.
[ii] John Phillips, Exploring the Gospel of Matthew, An Expository Commentary, (Kregel: Grand Rapids, 1999), 124.
[iii] Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, Public Domain, text from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org Formatted and corrected by OakTree Software, Inc. ver 1.0 – link to Matthew 7:6. “As a general meaning of this passage, we may just say: “The sacrament of the Lord’s supper, and other holy ordinances which are only instituted for the genuine followers of Christ, are not to be dispensed to those who are continually returning like the snarling ill-natured dog to their easily predominant sins of rash judgment, barking at and tearing the characters of others by evil speaking, back biting and slandering; nor to him who, like the swine, is frequently returning to wallow in the mud of sensual gratifications and impurities.”
[iv] John Wesley, John Wesley’s Notes on the Whole Bible, Public Domain Derived from an electronic text from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org Formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 1.0
[v] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Hole Bible Complete and Unabridged in one volume, (USA: Hendrickson, 1991), 1643. Note, [1.] Good counsel and reproof are a holy thing, and a pearl: they are ordinances of God, they are precious; as an ear-ring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is the wise reprover (Prov. xxv. 12)…
[vi] Jamieson Robert, Fausset, A. R., Brown, David. A Commentary Critical, Experimental, and Practical on the Old and New Testaments, Vol III. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Pub Co., 1973), 47. JFB goes further to discuss the proposed paradoxical confrontation in Mk 16:15 and 2 Cor 2:16. Plainly, we are to discern our opportunities to preach, teach and reprove. This is where the Proverbs 25 reference is specifically encouraging – to provide gold nuggets of wisdom to the fellow believer is to disburse pearls of holiness. However, the wicked of the world simply treat this wisdom with brute stupidity and blatant ignorance of the things of the spirit. As JFB goes further to say, “Whatever is taught in Scripture, for instance, about the corrupt nature of man, free justification, and eternal election, is turned by many into an encouragement to sloth and to carnal indulgence. Such persons are fitly and justly pronounced to be swine. Others, again, tear the pure doctrine, and its ministers, with sacrilegious reproaches, as if they threw away all desire to do well, all fear of God, and all care for their salvation.”