Day 246 – Thru the Bible
Today we continue in Matthew.
Matthew 21-22 – This teaching of Jesus on faith and prayer should be interpreted in terms of what He has already said on these topics in 17:14–20. There Jesus emphasized that the power of prayer lies not in the power of the Believer but in the power of God. In addition, in 17:14–20 the context of Jesus’ teaching made clear that Jesus was talking about prayer for the accomplishment of God’s purposes, such as the defeat of the demonic world.
Here, then, when Jesus speaks of faith versus doubt, He also refers to trusting in the power of God, and the subject of the Believer’s request in prayer is not just anything imaginable but something that furthers God’s purposes. Jesus’ example of ordering a mountain to throw itself into the sea uses hyperbole to illustrate colorfully the power of God.
Believers who pray unselfishly for the things they think will advance God’s merciful and saving purposes should also pray boldly. They should have faith that God will either do what they ask or will work in some other way that He knows will accomplish His purposes more perfectly (1 John 5:14–15).
Much of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew’s Gospel addresses the question, “Who belongs to the people of God?” or, to put it another way, “Who will enter the kingdom of God?” The three parables in Matthew 21:28–22:14 reveal that entering the kingdom involves responding in faith to the message of repentance that John the Baptist and Jesus preached, recognizing Jesus as the One who brings in God’s kingdom (21:33–46), and living in a way consistent with this recognition (22:1–14). All three parables communicate the sad message that the leadership of Israel (21:23, 45; 22:15) had met none of these requirements for participation in God’s kingdom (see also Isaiah 5:1–7). Instead, “the tax collectors and the prostitutes” (21:32), and others who respond to Jesus in repentance and faith, will comprise the new vineyard tenants and wedding feast guests (22:8–9).
The final paragraph of the section (22:11–14) is a sobering reminder that the warning Jesus issued to the leadership of Israel in these parables is still valid for the people of God today. People are attracted to the church for a variety of reasons: it offers a place to socialize, opportunities to meet people of one’s own age and interests, and organizational structures for helping the needy. As a result, people whose hearts have never been transformed by God can find themselves associating with the church. This heart-transformation, evident in repentance, faith, and obedience to Jesus is the “wedding garment” that the guest in 22:11–14 lacked.
The order of the two great commandments is important. Jesus did not teach that, in order to be in a loving relationship with God, His disciples must first love their neighbors. He taught instead that the “great and first commandment” is to love God with one’s entire being, and elsewhere Scripture makes clear that this love for God is possible only because God loved believers first (1 John 4:19; Romans 5:8). A loving commitment to God, initiated by God Himself, results in love for one’s neighbor. When we love God, we love what and whom He loves—because we desire honor Him.
In 2 Corinthians 8:1–7, Paul demonstrated how this works in practical terms. He used the Macedonian Christians as an example of unselfish generosity, to urge the Corinthian Christians toward the same kind of generosity. Although poor themselves, he says, the Macedonians gave beyond all expectation: “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Jesus’ disciples do not earn God’s favor by loving their neighbors; they love God because He has shown them His grace and mercy through the sacrificial love of Jesus, and this love for God overflows in love for others (Ephesians 4:32–5:2).
As Believers we are called to “examine” ourselves to see whether we are “in the faith” (2 Corinthians 13:5; examples Matthew 7:21–23; 13:24–30, 36–43, 47–50; 25:11–12, 44–46; 2 Peter 1:10).
Have you truly turned from your sin and turned to Jesus for forgiveness (repentance) and believed in Him?
What other thoughts or questions does today’s reading bring up?
Some of these notes are from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible study notes. We highly recommend this study Bible.
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