Summary: Lesson 14 in a series on the Sermon on the Mount. I spent the whole sermon talking about holiness and what it means and how it changes us. I took the people through the process of putting this sermon together to help them see how I arrived at my conclusio
Fix Your Holiness
This morning I am going to do something that I very rarely do. As we are moving through the Sermon on the Mount, I have tried to select sections of scripture for us to examine. We have looked at as many as 10 verses at one time. This morning, we will examine a single verse. It is very rare for me to preach on just one verse and I have struggled with this sermon all week long.
Preparing a sermon is often like going on a trip. When I stand up in the pulpit it is like coming home. It is my job to unpack everything that I have seen and show you my photographs and souvenirs and try to give you a feel for the trip I’ve taken. In a small way, you can try and go on the trip with me. I will try to unpack this verse and show you where I’ve been and where I am. We won’t go through everything I’ve studied or learned this past week, but I’ll try to hit the highlights for you and help you take the trip with me.
If you have your Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter 7. We are going to look at verse 6 this morning. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.
On the surface, this verse obviously stands apart from the previous section and the next section. In fact, some commentators have called this verse a proverb because it seems to stand on its own. That’s why we are studying it by itself. But what does it mean?
First, Jesus tells us not to give what is holy to dogs nor pearls before swine. Dogs and swine were unclean animals to the Jews. When a sacrifice was made and the priest received a portion of the meat, only the priest and his family could eat it because they were holy and the meat was holy. It could not be given to just anyone. Jesus seems to be saying the same thing here. Do not take what is holy and give it to unclean things.
Ok, so now we know a little more history, but if you are like me then you are still a little confused about what Jesus means by this. There are a number of interpretations. One of the earliest dates to just about 250 years after Jesus preached this sermon. Some in the early church took this to refer to the Lord’s Supper. In other words, don’t let non-Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper. On the surface that sounds good, but how does letting non-Christians partake of the Lord’s Supper lead to us being destroyed. You must factor in everything in the verse when you come up with an interpretation.
Some have suggested that it means the church should remain pure, not being involved with the other denominations. But where do you get that idea in the text? What in the Sermon on the Mount leads you to believe that Jesus has suddenly jumped from talking about the individual’s life to the church as a whole? Both the previous section and the next section have to do with the individual Christian’s life. You really have to stretch to say that Jesus breaks off here to talk about the church.
Perhaps the worst interpretation is that Jesus is saying that there are some people who are not worthy to hear the gospel and we should ignore them. You can actually read people who say that the poor don’t need to hear the gospel and the church shouldn’t waste time with them. In other words, if people aren’t like us, then they can’t be in our church. How blasphemous!!
Rather than trying to look at everyone else’s solutions, let’s come up with our own. What is Jesus saying here?
Let’s begin by looking at what we know. What is obvious? Well, the first thing that is obvious to me is that Jesus is saying there is a difference between holiness and unholiness. Some things are holy and some things aren’t and apparently it’s pretty important.
So what is the difference between holy and unholy? It used to be easy to tell. In the Old Testament, a priest made things holy. If the priest blessed it or declared it holy, it was. If you consecrated it to the Lord and the priest accepted it, then it was holy. But what about in the New Testament? What about for us today? What is holy?
Holy means set apart to God and anything that is set apart for Him is holy. In the New Testament God, Jesus, the angels and obviously the Holy Spirit, are all called holy, as are the prophets, Jerusalem, and the Bible. You can read about holy men and holy women. John the Baptist was a holy man and elders and deacons are expected to be holy. You can find holy hands and holy kisses. But most importantly you can find that our bodies and our spirits are holy and that Christians are expected to live holy lives. We are a holy priesthood, a holy nation. We have been given a holy calling to a holy faith. Every one of these is mentioned in scripture. Perhaps you remember Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship.” Paul put it a little more clearly in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 “For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” The Living Bible paraphrase puts it this way. “For God has not called us to be dirty-minded and full of lust but to be holy and clean.” The Bible makes it clear that Christians are holy and their lives are to be holy. We must live set apart to God. As a Christian our lives are to mark us as holy. Not just different, but holy. You could paint your hair green and wear clothes that were made out of recycled burlap and that would make you different, but not holy. We are to be holy.