Mat 25:35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, Mat 25:36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Mat 25:37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?
I think I have blogged on Matthew 25 more than any other portion of Scripture but there are so many things tucked away in this discourse that I believe are interesting. In the above passage Jesus is relating that at the Day of Judgment he will divide the saved from the lost, sheep from goats, and that the way they lived will be the evidence of their salvation. I didn’t say the basis for their salvation but that there is a clear difference in the way the saved live as opposed to the way the lost live even when to us it isn’t always as noticeable as it should be.
To explain this, the first point I would make is that I don’t believe these are the literal words the redeemed will say as seen in verse 37. One reason is because once we read this passage we know that to serve God’s people is to serve Christ. So we can’t claim ignorance once these words of Christ were added to the canon. I think it is clear that these words are also given to be an incentive to live this way since such a life has such an important role in the judgment.
If we take these words literally then we might assume that the only good works Jesus recognizes are the ones that we don’t know we are doing or the ones in which no reward is in our minds when we do them. I have certainly heard some say that if the idea of reward crosses your mind when you do something it negates it or things to that effect. The problem with this is that Jesus spoke far too much about rewards for us to jettison it from our thoughts. Yes, if the desire of a reward is the primary thing that motivates you in the way you live I would suggests that you have some way to go in your biblical understanding and you need to remember where Jesus found you when he saved you, but that doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t quite often use rewards as a motivation for us.
But if all this is true what is going on in the response to Christ by the sheep in our text? I think the point is that as sheep with a new nature they automatically had a right relationship with Christ and therefore his people or his body. All saints know that their brothers and sisters in Christ are his body and so they love them with a special love. They were simply living out who they were which I think is the point of them not even realizing what they were doing. They are surprised for being commended for being what they were. Sheep are busy being sheep and are surprised when they are rewarded for it.
They pass the examination not so much because they were trying to pass but because they couldn’t help but live out who they were regardless of how well they understood who they were. And it is precisely here that their new nature is contrasted with the nature of the goats. While many goats are charitable, they reveal they don’t know Christ in the way they treat his brothers and sisters. The fact that they didn’t treat Christ’s body in a special way only proves they don’t know Christ and he doesn’t know them in a saving way.
Further proof might be found in 1 John where he gives ways to know if we have eternal life. One is by believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God come in the flesh, 2:20-23; another is obeying Christ because we love him for coming in the flesh to save us, 2:3-6; and then finally we can know we are saved because we love the brethren, 2:9-11.
There is nothing wrong with obeying the Lord we love because he commands us to and because he has promised to make it worth our while but at the end of the day we do these things because that is what sheep do and if we don’t then we need to make our calling and election sure. With this in mind we need to examine carefully what is going on when we see divisions and unloving spirits even within the church. It might be more than just us struggling with the Old Man, it might be a matter of some goats trying to live as sheep!