Faithlife Sermons

Lesson 5- Interpretation of the Scriptures

How to Study the Scriptures  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Last week we explored Matthew 7:1-5 and asked a number of important questions in the Observation stage of studying this passage of scripture.
We discovered that the context of Matthew 7:1-5 is the Sermon on the Mount.
We determined that it is Christ who is speaking and that the original audience was His disciples.
We also defined several important terms such as Judge (distinguish between things determining one as better than another), Mete (to measure by a particular standard), Mote (speck or small particle), Beam (the principle part of a structure).
All of this information helps us as we go back and read and re-read the passage and the surrounding context with this information in mind.
Now we are ready to move forward to the Interpretation stage. In this step we will seek to determine what this particular portion of scripture means.
Let’s take the information we have gathered and see how it helps us to interpret this often misused passage.

How does the context influence our interpretation?

We discovered that this passage is found right in the middle of what is often referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”
How might this impact our interpretation of the text?
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is teaching His disciples spiritual truths for living godly lives. In many instances he compares and contrasts the way of the hypocritical religious leaders with the instruction that He is now giving them.
It appears that Jesus is doing the same here with his disciples as he calls those who judge others without first judging themselves hypocrites.

How does the speaker and the original audience affect our interpretation?

Since we know that Jesus is teaching His disciples directly here, we know that this portion of scripture is to be interpreted as instructional for Jesus disciples.
Jesus is providing clear instruction regarding judging others. It becomes obvious that Jesus’s intent is to correct a common error with regard to the judgement of others.

What does this passage actually say?

Verse 1-
This verse is the one verse in this passage that is most often misinterpreted, so we must be careful in our interpretation of it.
Because we now know exactly what the word “judge” means, we are able to arrive at the correct interpretation of this important verse.
To judge means to distinguish between and to declare one thing better than another.
In context of this conversation we can clearly see that Jesus is speaking with regard to judging people. This leads us to conclude that Jesus is instructing His disciples not to pass condemnatory judgement on others.
Jesus also warns His disciples that if they “judge” others they shall in return be judged themselves.
Verse 2-
This verse primarily deals with the standard of judgment which is used.
Jesus states that the standard by which the disciples judge others is the same standard which shall be used to judge them.
Verse 3-5-
These three verses are obviously not to be taken in the literal sense, but rather they serve to illustrate the point that Jesus is making in His instruction to His disciples.
It would be a ridiculous notion to imagine a man with a literal beam in his eye so we must take the language figuratively.
In verse three Jesus poses a searching question- why are you focused upon the small speck in the eye of your brother but have not taken the time to consider the large beam in your own eye.
In verse 4 He asks a second question- how do you intend to help your brother remove the speck from his eye when there is a beam remaining in your own eye?
Verse 5 begins with a strong condemnation of those disciples who would not consider the beam in their own eye because of their fixation upon the speck in their brother’s eye. Jesus calls an individual who is guilty of this misjudgment a hypocrite.
Finally, in the remainder of the verse, Jesus offers up instruction for this individual. He is to first cast out the beam in his own eye and only then will he be capable of seeing clearly to assist his brother with the removal of the speck from his eye.
In order to correctly interpret these verses we must determine what the mote and the beam represent in the illustration.
So what do you think these items represent? How do we arrive at this conclusion?
The context of the passage leads us to the conclusion that the mote and the beam are representative of faults or sins that are recognized in an individual. The mote is the lesser fault/sin while the beam is representative of a much greater fault/sin.
Only now are we in a position to correctly interpret the illustration that Jesus is presenting to His disciples.
When we substitute the lesser and greater fault for the mote and the beam we get the true intent of Jesus questions and His instruction in this striking illustration.
Verse 3- “Why are you so concerned with the lesser fault of your brother when you have not considered the greater fault within yourself?”
Verse 4- “How do you intend to help your brother with his lesser fault , when you have a much greater fault within you?”
Verse 5- “First deal with the greater fault in yourself and then you will be in a position to help your brother with his lesser fault.”


Notice how all the information that we gathered in the observation step contributes to our interpretation of the text.
Notice especially the vital importance of the surrounding context as we interpret each verse. If we were to tear any individual verse from the its context we might arrive at an entirely different interpretation.
Now that we know exactly what Jesus was saying to His disciples, we are in an excellent position to make application of the text to our own lives.
Throughout the coming week look back over our interpretation of the text and determine how you think this text applies to you today.
Think especially of specific circumstances where this instruction would be to your benefit as you strive to live a godly life.
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