Matthew 23:21 MEANING

Matthew 23:21
Verse 21. - By him that dwelleth therein. In fact, it comes to this: to swear by temple or altar is to swear by God - an oath most solemn, which may not be evaded. "That dwelleth" is in some manuscripts the aorist participle, κατοικήσαντι, implying that God once for all took up his abode in the temple, and filled it with his ineffable presence (see 1 Kings 8:13; Psalm 132:14). From such passages we learn that God sanctifies things and places to be devoted to his service, and to be accounted by men holy and separated from all common uses. The Authorized Version translates the received text, κατοικοῦντι, which has good authority, the past participle being, perhaps, a correction by some scribe who thought that the day of Judaism was past when Christ spoke.

23:13-33 The scribes and Pharisees were enemies to the gospel of Christ, and therefore to the salvation of the souls of men. It is bad to keep away from Christ ourselves, but worse also to keep others from him. Yet it is no new thing for the show and form of godliness to be made a cloak to the greatest enormities. But dissembled piety will be reckoned double iniquity. They were very busy to turn souls to be of their party. Not for the glory of God and the good of souls, but that they might have the credit and advantage of making converts. Gain being their godliness, by a thousand devices they made religion give way to their worldly interests. They were very strict and precise in smaller matters of the law, but careless and loose in weightier matters. It is not the scrupling a little sin that Christ here reproves; if it be a sin, though but a gnat, it must be strained out; but the doing that, and then swallowing a camel, or, committing a greater sin. While they would seem to be godly, they were neither sober nor righteous. We are really, what we are inwardly. Outward motives may keep the outside clean, while the inside is filthy; but if the heart and spirit be made new, there will be newness of life; here we must begin with ourselves. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was like the ornaments of a grave, or dressing up a dead body, only for show. The deceitfulness of sinners' hearts appears in that they go down the streams of the sins of their own day, while they fancy that they should have opposed the sins of former days. We sometimes think, if we had lived when Christ was upon earth, that we should not have despised and rejected him, as men then did; yet Christ in his Spirit, in his word, in his ministers, is still no better treated. And it is just with God to give those up to their hearts' lusts, who obstinately persist in gratifying them. Christ gives men their true characters.And whoso shall swear by the temple,.... As we have before seen they used to do, and as appears from what the poet says (w):

Ecce negas, jurasque mihi per templa tonantis Non credo: jura, verpe, per Anchialum.

In which he intimates, that if the Jew swore by the temple, he would not believe him; as well he might not, since such an oath was accounted nothing; but bids him swear by Anchialus, that is, by "Chi Eloah", or , "Chi Alon", or "Elion, the living God", or , "Chi Haolam, he that lives for ever" (x); and suggests, that he should then believe him. Now our Lord, though he did not allow of such swearing, yet justly argues, that he that sweareth by the temple, not only "sweareth by it", which could not be a witness of what was swore; but he must be interpreted to swear by the inhabitant of it, and by him that dwelleth in it; that is, God, for whom it was built, to whom it was dedicated; where he was worshipped, and where he vouchsafed to reside; taking up his dwelling between the cherubim upon the mercy seat, in the most holy place; from whence he communed with men, and gave tokens of his presence; and who only could be the proper witness of the truth, or falsehood, of what was swore; and therefore an oath, by the temple, ought to be looked upon as if made by God himself, and so to be sacred and binding.

(w) Martial. Epigr. l. 11. Ephesians 60. (x) Vid. Selden. Prolegomena ad lib. de Successionibus.

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