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2008 Mid-America Conference on Preaching, Part 6

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Dave Doran’s First General Session
Part 3 – Horn and Conley’s General Sessions
Part 4 – Dawson on Culture
Part 5 – Snoeberger on Culture

General Session 4 (Matthew 7.6) – Dave Doran

After prayer and a few hymns, Dave Doran presented the first general session Friday morning. The following is a summary.

1″Do not judge so that you will not be judged.

2″For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

3″Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

4″Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?

5″You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

6″Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

At this point in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues his instruction to them about judgment. Most consider vv 1-6 as fitting under the subject of judgment. Verses 1-5 relates the kind of judgment we are not to do, and verse 6 describes the kind of judgment we should be involved in. As we evaluate culture, one of the potential dangers is the kind of judgment we find in verses 1-5. Jesus is not opposed to judgment, but he is opposed to a self-righteous kind of judgments without mercy. That’s a problem that all depraved people have. This kind of judgmentalism invites God’s judgment on us and reveals our own hypocrisy. The answer is to take care of our problem and then address the other person’s problem. There is a legitimate place for helping others see where they are disobedient, but we must judge ourselves as well.

It’s upon that backdrop that we find verse 6. What Jesus is talking about is the right kind of judgment; the kind that we ought to exercise. He gives it to us in the form of a Proverb.

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2008 Mid-America Conference on Preaching, Part 8

An Explanation of The Proverb

There are three components to this proverb: (1) Something sacred or valuable. (“holy,” “pearls”). It is not entirely clear what this holy, valuable thing is. Most understand it in this context as being the message that Jesus is preaching. In a general sense, then, it is the truth of God.

(2) Something profane or unclean (“dogs,” “swine”).

(3) Something is trampled or torn.

The point, then, is to communicate the contrast between the parts. Sacred and valuable things are given to those who have no appreciation for them. If what is holy and valuable are representative of God’s truth, then the point has to do with not giving God’s truth to those who have no appreciation for it. God’s messengers must evaluate their hearers so that they do not dishonor God’s word and endanger themselves.

This causes some cognitive dissonance for us. This is probably not how we are accustomed to thinking. But this is how the Lord carried out his ministry. In Matthew 11.20-27, Jesus denounces those who disregard him and his message. His conclusion is that they have made themselves out to be dogs and swine. In Matthew 12.38-45, Jesus refuses to give a sign to the scribes who he knows do not regard the truth. In Matthew 15.14, Jesus says of those who reject him, “Let them alone.” In Matthew 10.14-15, Jesus instructs his disciples to shake the dust off their feet when people do not hear them. In Acts 13.46-47, Paul turns away from those who have no regard for the gospel. In Acts 18.5-6, Paul once again turns away from those who reject his message. He does the same thing In Acts 28.25. This strategy is quite unlike how we talk about it.

This kind of principle does not go well with the man-centered approach that we often have to the task that we’ve been given. The last thing we would think about is actually taking a stance toward the audience in any way that would be like this. We tend to think that God wants people to believe so much that he is willing to be trampled under fee. But we did not get this from the Scriptures.

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How can we make this kind of judgment? But do we have the right to disobey God in this matter? If we don’t obey God, are we not saying that we care more about people than God’s truth? We’ve taken the truth of God and submitted it to people. We’ve made man the controlling focus.

But in each of these cases, it is not that we right them off; they have made a judgment themselves. They have repudiated the truth of eternal life. They have condemned themselves by the rejection of the truth. We’re talking about having proclaimed the truth of God, and coming to see the hard-hearted rejection among those who have no use or appreciation for it. At that point, God says stop. Do not take what is holy and give it to dogs. Do not cast your pearls before swine.

How does this fit with our responsibility to teach all and be patient toward all? Our disposition should be exactly that, so it does fit. The point is our responsibility to honor the truth, not our disposition.

Application

What does a principles like this signify for a ministry approach that tries to make what is holy profane and common for people who don’t like holy and pearls? They recognize that people don’t like truth, so they try to make it palatable. The most dangerous forms peals away everything but the very narrowest kernel of truth so that it will be acceptable to the culture. This is taking the truth of God that is holy and valuable and saying that many parts of it can be discarded for evangelistic economy, so that it is more effective in crossing barriers. This elevates the receptor above the sender.

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In our country we have radical rejections of Christianity. We cannot just find all the points where they have rejected it and eliminate those so that the message will be accepted. God must come first in our priorities. If we show up with a message that is not true to what has been said, we dishonor God. We turn the piggishness and swinishness to the design of our ministry strategy.

We have moved here very subtly over decades by thinking that our primary obligation is to the people who are hearing us. We think we have to find a way to get people to accept our message. This is not true to Scriptural principle or example.

God is not in heaven begging people to come home to him and willing to do anything to get them to do it. In Matthew 22.1-14, God judges those who reject his invitation. And people cannot come to his banquet in any way they want, even if it dishonors them.

We need to preach the gospel like we represent a King, not some jolted lover waiting for someone to return to him. This may cause us to make determinations that say, we will preach the truth to anyone, but when someone rejects it, we cannot cast what is holy before dogs.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

2 Responses to 2008 Mid-America Conference on Preaching, Part 6

  1. Hi Scott

    I appreciate your doing this reporting. I have the downloads and am looking forward to listening to as many as I can in the next few weeks. These posts whet my appetite.

    With respect to strategy, I think in the most famous 'contextualization' passage of all, Ac 17, Paul employed this very strategy as his message drew to a close:

    Some mocked (let them go)
    Some said 'we will hear thee again' (let them go, too)
    Some believed…

    And these are named. It is precisely with these who are named that we must spend the bulk of our ministry. When we have the opportunity, preach to as wide a crowd as possible. When most reject, disciple the few that remain.

    Maranatha!
    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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