Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 7:12d “. . .do ye even so to them:. . .”
“Therefore”–we want God to be good to us; thus, be good to others. “As ye would that men should do to you”–the injunction is positive. “Harm no one” is poles apart from “Help everyone.” The negative is only cold, legalistic justice; the positive is beautiful proactive kindness. As we realize the full intent of the Golden Rule, we know we can not fulfill it in our own strength. Living it requires an ongoing miracle in our life. Blessed are the saints who let God live through them. Hudson Taylor, the most famous missionary to China, said the Lord told him, “Hudson, I am going to take the gospel to inland China and if you want to walk beside me I will use you to do it.” The secret is in being a yielded vessel in which God works.
Be sure to catch the precise meaning of the Golden Rule. It teaches us to treat others based not on how we expect them to treat us, or how they deserve to be treated, but on how we want to be treated. In deciding how to act in a given situation, consider how we would want others to act toward us if the table were reversed.
The Golden Rule is God’s way of making self-love an ally to godliness. If our own well-being is at stake, we can each wax eloquent and explain in minute detail every one of our rights. It is easy for us to determine what we would like for ourselves. We know how we want to be treated. Since we are experts in our own behalf, Jesus tells us to use this trait as the standard of our behavior toward others.
God intends for us to love ourselves. Jesus said to love our neighbors as we love our own selves (MT 22:39). For every God-given blessing, though, Satan provides a counterfeit curse. In this case, Narcissism is Satan’s counterfeit for the genuine article. Narcissus saw his reflection in a pool, and fell in love with himself. He was so enamored with his face that he could not leave the pool, and died there.
Self-love, out of control, stands in the way of our doing right, but God ordered life in such a way that self-interest can be the helper and servant of obedient living. Instead of letting self-love blind us to our duty, allow it to light our way.
Selfishness leads to a grasping, hard-hearted, mean society which is Hell on earth. The Golden Rule is God’s way of trying to bring Heaven on earth, to make all people happy by causing everyone to be treated like a king. If we lived by the Golden Rule, there would be no self-esteem problems, unkindness, broken hearts, or wounded feelings. All would be helped, encouraged, defended when wronged, befriended when down. If obeyed, the result is happiness; if ignored, there is pain.
I commend the Golden Rule for Life and Living. It is brief, easy to remember and understand, and always applicable. It is not enough to praise it, practice it. Don’t just applaud it, apply it. Love is always our most beautiful and winsome trait. In the twelfth century, Celsus wrote, “These Christians love each other even before they are acquainted.” The world still marvels at true love. It is a rare commodity.
Matt. 7:12e “. . .for this is the law and the prophets.”
This refers to the Old Testament, the Bible of Jesus’ day. The Golden Rule summarizes the Old Testament’s precepts on how to treat others right. The Bible aims at making us right with people in addition to making us right with God. Dealing with theology and ethics, it is as much a code for conduct as a creed for belief.
While others in Jesus’ day sought to make the Old Testament more complicated by adding on more rules and regulations, Jesus disentangled these complications and simplified, without losing the essence. Instead of adding on endless rules, Jesus, using as His masterstroke one great principle, hacked through the underbrush.
Scripture provides the parameters within which the Golden Rule has to operate. This keeps the Golden Rule under the authority of the Golden Ruler. Occasionally a prechristian will say the Golden Rule is all the religion they need. This is a serious error. The Golden Rule presupposes a previously accepted standard of behavior. Otherwise, the Golden Rule could be used to promote sinful and unreasonable deeds. People who desire evil things for themselves could justify bestowing them on others. For instance, a drug addict could use the Golden Rule to rationalize giving drugs to others, criminals would expect their Judges to set them free.
The Golden Rule cannot be one’s total religion, for, as this passage’s context shows, it does not apply when inconsistent with God’s precepts. It has validity only in the context of God’s will as revealed in His written Word. We could rightly say, whatsoever you ought to wish that men should do to you, even so do ye unto them.
Our Master believed in the old writings. Regarding morality, beware anything claiming to be new. We do not need new moralities. We need to find and implement God’s original plans. This is what Jesus did. He was not as much interested in being original as in helping us rediscover God’s intent from the beginning.
Jesus often put His stamp of approval on Scripture. Being God, Jesus was a valid authority unto Himself, but never hesitated to point to another valid authority, the Bible. Augustine was right in saying, when the Bible speaks, God speaks.
A highlight of going to Israel is to see the Dead Sea Scrolls, history’s most important archaeological find. They confirm the Old Testament’s authenticity by proving the text we have today is the same one Jesus had and believed. God kept this manuscript treasure hidden, allowing it to be found when liberalism’s ugly head of skepticism against the Bible was rising to its peak. We lovingly hold the Dead Sea Scrolls in one hand, and with the other hand gladly wave farewell to liberalism.
As Western Culture sinks into the abyss, may it take along to the grave the liberalism it embraced and which sucked out its very life. Liberalism crossed all denominational lines, and contaminated many nations. As liberalism sinks into the Hell from whence it came, Bible-believing Christianity, genuine Christianity, “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), shall rise from the ashes as a phoenix–no, as its resurrected Lord–to carry the day again.
We live in the midst of Christianity’s fastest expansion in history, and none of this explosive growth is connected to liberalism. Prechristians considering our faith are sometimes smarter than we are. When contemplating Christianity, they ponder the real McCoy, not a fraud. Knowing Christianity entails a Person and a Book, if they do not accept these, they put their faith elsewhere than in a bogus counterfeit.
Liberalism, the rejection of Scripture, was an aberration spawned by snobbish Western intellectual elitism. It was a fad, a flash in the pan, a tool used by Satan to undermine the underpinnings of some of the greatest nations in world history.
We believe in the Holy Bible. Do not be ashamed of it. Good grief, American Christians, get a grip! Believe the Bible and embrace it. It will never go away.
While preparing this message, I thought of the pulpit Bible I used thirty-two years ago (February 1967) for my first sermon. Retrieving it from my bookshelf, I looked again at the front page autographs of my deceased preacher-grandfathers and my preacher-dad. (When Grandpa Marshall lay a corpse, Grandma said he did not look right. After she had the funeral home people place his study Bible under his dead, folded hands, she said, “Now he looks like himself.”) Today I gladly take pen in hand, and in my first pulpit Bible, write my name under those of my forebears as a tribute to the Book which defies critics, supersedes time, and blesses generation after generation. Our Master believed the Bible. We dare not do otherwise.