|Dr. Couch, I have heard some say that Matthew 7:13-27 is about the church; they make a case for belief not being enough to enter the kingdom—only those who do the will of the Father will enter. It seems this section is dealing with false prophets. Aren't these the predominant ones during the time of Christ who claimed to prophesy, etc. And, who were the ones doing this stuff in Israel at the time of Christ?|
ANSWER: I won't be able to deal with this entire section in this short answer. It is important to say here that there are many spiritual principles in this section (Matthew 5-7: The Sermon on the Mount). So I will simply point out some observations that would tell us this is not first for the church; it has to do with what was happening with the nation of Israel as Christ began His ministry. And the passage is more than simply about false teachers.
Note the following:
(1) The entire section has to do with the presentation of the millennial kingdom, here called "The kingdom of heaven" (5:3; 10, 19, 20; 6:10, 33; 7:21). (2) The church is made up of Jews and Gentiles but in this section, Christ compares the Jews with the Gentiles (5:47; 6:7, 32). (3) The Lord speaks of the synagogue in this section (6:2, 5), and (4) The giving of alms, which was a distinct Jewish practice (6:2, 3).
Note 6:2: the church is not even around! "When you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues ..." 5:20 is a distinct Jewish passage that cannot be understood unless one sees that the verse is aimed at the thinking of the Jews. "I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes (Jewish) and Pharisees (very Jewish), you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Those who try to make a direct application of the Sermon on the Mount to the church have no understanding of history. There is no question but that the "kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God" is a description of the messianic kingdom! In no way is this used to describe the church age! If this is settled in one's mind, this section of verses makes definite sense. Again, while there are many principles that we can embrace in the Sermon on the Mount, it is not directed to the church age. We can have secondary application in some things the Lord says, but not direct application!
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch