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And He Himself gave some to be....evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ...
- Ephesians 4:11-12

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Location: The Hill Country of Texas

Pastor - Providence Reformed Baptist Church
Director - TIME in the Word Ministries

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Golden Suggestion

TIME in the Word - Daily Devotional
Together for Inspiration, Motivation, and Encouragement

Verse of the Day - Matthew 7:12
Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Daily Scripture Reading - 1 John 3

Puritan Catechism
Question #52 - Which is the fifth commandment?

Answer - The Fifth Commandment is, "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you" (Exodus 20:12).

Devotional Thoughts
Jesus has given us instruction about our relationships with others, specifically regarding the command not to judge one another, and He has illustrated His point in verses 3-5 of Matthew 7, addressing the speck and plank and the dangers of hypocrisy. As He teaches about relating to others He also includes verse 7-11 which we have examined the last few days. There we have seen Him tell us how to relate to God in faith, asking, seeking, and knocking - praying without ceasing. Then in verse 12 we begin with the word, "Therefore."

Of course I have said before that when we come to a therefore in the text we need to stop and ask what the therefore is there for. Here it points to what we have just been learning. Because we are to turn away from hypocrisy and because we are not to judge one another, and because we are to live a life of dependence upon God in prayer - because of all these things we are given the Golden Rule.

This command existed before Christ taught it. This was not a new truth. It appears in rabbinical writing and other writings that predate Christ. However, it was usually given as a negative command, that is, as Rabbi Hillel's version read, "What is hateful to yourself do not do to someone else." So it is negative in the aspect that it is not a command to do, but to not do. Jesus here though gives this as a positive command. As it is often restated, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

The actual command, the rule, states, "Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them." And we must take notice, this is a Rule, not a Suggestion. Jesus does not give us the Golden Suggestion here. Today we often hear this as a Suggestion, don't we? It is quoted, misquoted, twisted, and even mocked. Some say that the golden rule is that those who have the gold make the rules. Others present it as a moralism that we should attempt to live out though someone always has exceptions to the rule.

Looking at it though, Jesus presents this Rule, this Law, as a summary of the Law and Prophets. That means that just like the First and Second Great commandments - love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself - this goes beyond a goal for happy living. This is a summary statement of the will of God for us in our daily lives and relationships. This is God's Word to us. We MUST do unto others as we would have them do to us.

This is a radical teaching. There is no exception clause. There is no way out. Treat people like we would want to be treated. This is contrary to human nature. It goes against pride and the feeling that we have rights that are to be defended at all costs. It puts us in a very awkward position - for without the help of the Holy Spirit we cannot obey this Rule.

And lest we think otherwise, this is a Rule that applies to every relationship that we have - no matter how shallow or how deep. No matter how we know or relate to someone else, we are always to treat everyone else as we would want to be treated. This is truly what it means to esteem all others as better than ourselves. It is condescension, but not in a prideful way. It is humility. It is thinking the best of others no matter what they do or say toward us.

In relating this back to prayer Matthew Henry notes, "We cannot expect to receive good things from God, if we do not fair things, and that which is honest, and lovely, and of good report among men. We must not only be devout, but honest, else our devotion is but hypocrisy." How we relate to others tells us a great deal about how we relate to God.

The Apostle John makes this case for us in his first epistle. He writes there:

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth (1:6).

Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (2:3-6)

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (2:9-11)

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. (3:16-18)

There are more examples but I think this will suffice. The lesson we are learning is that the way in which we relate to others is a direct evidence of how we relate to God. And if we follow the Golden Rule we most likely are walking with God. Those who see the Rule as only a Suggestion, those who hate others and despise others and judge and condemn - if they claim to be a Christian they are actually a hypocrite. They claim to be something that their life, their fruit, declares that they are not!

For we see that this Rule is not given only to instruct us in how to relate to others. It is given to point us to the need for grace in every relationship. It is given to hold up the standard of holy and righteous living as we express our love to God through obedience.

The final lesson for today then is a reminder - if we are not right with others then we cannot be right with God. No one's relationship with God is good and healthy if they do not get along with other people around them! Those who do not live by the Golden Rule, striving to be at peace with all men, as much as depends upon them, those demonstrate for us the futility of working to live the Christian life by the power of the flesh instead of dependence upon the Spirit.

Today, keep the Rule!

Links for Further Study
(links to study each daily topic in more detail if you have the desire and the time)

Loving Our Neighbor by Richard Baxter
The Content of Kingdom Love by John MacArthur

Bible Reading For Further Study

Recommended Songs for Worship

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