Of Sheep and Goats Matthew 25:31-46

Are you a sheep or a goat?

NT scholar RT France said about this passage, “The theme of judgment which has run through chs. 23–25 here reaches its superb climax.” [1]

  • Unlike the others, this passage isn’t a parable
  • In this passage, Jesus tells his disciples about judgment day
  • One common theme in all the judgment passages and parables is that Jesus will separate the good from the wicked—the sheep from the goats

Reminds me of:  Miss Beulah and Miss Doris old ladies best friends since childhood

  • Good presbys—sat in the same seats their who lives
  • Just happened to be on diff. sides of the aisle
  • Sheep on the right and goats on the left…

It could be this why we say right handed and “wrong handed”…

The idea behind Jesus’ teaching here, the direct application for you as a believer here is: work for the kingdom, because that is what a sheep does

Two points:  1.  Judgment Day;  2.  Good Works

  1. Judgment Day—the Final judgment when Satan and unbeleivers are cast into hell, and the New Heavens and the New Earth receive Jesus’ people
    1. Jesus is asking this question to each of us:  are you a sheep or are you a goat?
      1. The great separation
      1. Background:
        1. ( next slide for quote) Two distinct races—John 8:42-44  Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.
        1. (next slide) Two Covenant Heads—either you are in Adam or in Christ.  Romans 5:12-16  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. But the free gift is not like the trespass. (next slide) For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ …the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.
        1. Jesus’ point is that there will be a separation between everyone—are you a sheep or a goat?  Don’t try to escape the question, and don’t take the question too lightly.
    1. The two races will inherit two very different rewards:  eternal life or eternal punishment
      1. This is a passage that clearly teaches “annihilationism” is an incorrect doctrine
      1. (next slide-#4) JC Ryle, “Who shall describe the blessedness of eternal life?  It passes the power of man to conceive.  It can only be measured by contrast and comparison:  an eternal rest after warfare and conflict, the eternal company of saints after buffeting with an evil world, an eternally glorious and painless body after struggling with weakness and infirmity and an eternal sight of Jesus after only hearing and believing.  All this is blessedness indeed.”
      1. (next slide) And on hell Ryle continues, “Who shall describe the misery of eternal punishment?  It is something utterly indescribable and inconceivable:  the eternal pain of body, the eternal sting of an accusing conscience, the eternal society of none but the wicked, the devil and his angels, the eternal remembrance of opportunities neglected and Christ despised, the eternal prospect of a weary, hopeless future…it is enough to make our ears tingle and our blood run cold.  And yet this picture is nothing compared to the reality.”[2]
    1. So, what’s the difference between the two races?  What’s so different about between being born in Adam who was a type of the one to come and being born into the perfect prototype?
      1. Jesus explains it in the next two verses. (26:1-2)  When Jesus had finished all these sayings, he said to his disciples, “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”
      1. And an angel explained it back in ch. 1:20-21  But as Joseph considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
      1. It all comes down to this:  whose are you
        1. Sheep belong to the good shepherd, even though they were born into Adam’s fallen race, through faith they were reborn into Jesus
        1.  Goats belong to their father, the devil, they were born into Adam’s fallen race, too, but were never reborn into Jesus’ heavenly one
        1. To be reborn you have to be convinced of your sin and your savior
  2. Good Works—this isn’t a dirty word.  Sometimes protestants treat it like it is, but the Bible is clear that Good Works are necessarily a part of your heavenly journey.  (repeat)
    1. Make sure you understand what I said.  I used the word necessarily and not necessary.  To use the word necessary would mean that good works, in some shape or fashion, earn heaven or cause Jesus to save you.  What I said was that good works are necessarily a part of your heavenly journey—meaning that there’s no such thing as believer who doesn’t do good works for the kingdom.
      1. Faith grabs hold of Christ and in him you are pronounced “not guilty” and “child of God”, and as that child you work for the Father’s glory and kingdom. 
      1. The first catechism:  what is the chief end of man?  To glorify God and enjoy him forever!
    1. Jesus’ answer in vv. 34-36 demonstrates this truth:  (slide)  Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 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, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’
    1. Notice the order:
      1. Blessed by my Father
      1. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world
      1. Then he tells them what they did that was so good
      1. It began in grace and the good works which the sheep do are all by grace
    1. Like John 14:2 “I go to prepare a place for you”—these phrases are rooted in the grace of ELECTION
      1. Eph 1:4-6 believers are elected (which means chosen ESV) in Christ from the foundation of the world, they are predestined (ordain beforehand) for adoption
      1. If you believe in Jesus (human/divine, fulfilled the law passively and actively, rose from the dead, sits at the right hand of the Father, and are living a life of repentance) then you are elect, because true faith doesn’t happen without God’s grace giving you faith beforehand.
      1. The grace of Election:
  3. Is your security, because you are the apple of God’s eye. 
    1. Election teaches you that you aren’t God’s delight because you did anything to become what God delights in. 
    1. Election teaches that believers are the apple of God’s eye, because God chose you to be the apple of his eye, God set his grace on you making you worthy of his love and delight.
    1. Dt. 7:7-8 God loves you because he loves you
  4. Election is the cause of your faith
    1. And faith without works is dead (James 2:26)
    1. So, God’s purposeful choice of showing you grace in Jesus is the reason for your Good Works
    1. (next slide) Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
      1. Not only did God predestine his workers beforehand, he predestined their works, too
      1. What constitutes a good work?
        1. They have to be something God commanded in his word—that excludes works that you believe to be good, but they don’t align with scripture
          1. Uzzah and the ark of the covenant
        1. True good works can only be done by a believer and if they are truly good, then your works will bear spiritual fruit in your life: 
          1. Some of those fruits:
          1. Thanksgiving to God for receiving the grace to do the works, humility knowing the works were by God’s grace, assurance of your place in God’s kingdom, and increase your daily communion with Christ
        1. Good works never come from the believer alone, they are always as the confession says “wholly from the Spirit of Christ” (WCF 16.3) and your good works are acceptable to God only because they, like you, “are also accepted in Christ Jesus” (WCF 16.6.
        1. Good works:
          1. Are Commanded in scripture
          1. They bear spiritual fruit
          1. Done by the power of the Holy Spirit and accepted through the death of Christ for you
    1. Beyond those requirements, your Good works are specific to you:  God prepared them beforehand for you.  Remember last week’s sermon?  The Spheres of Responsibility.
      1. First God, then spouse, then children, then church and your extended family, and then the world
      1. Remember that you aren’t responsible for things God hasn’t given you
      1. Salt and Light in the world—not the savior of the world…the world is a distant fourth in your speres of responsibility
        1. That doesn’t mean you aren’t to treat the world with love or show the grace of Christ in every situation
        1. You are, but the Church comes first
      1. Every believer is given to and gifted for the good of the Church
        1. (slide) 1 Cor. 12:4-7  Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.
        1. That last little participle phrase tells us why God gives spiritual gifts, “for the common good”
      1. Even though at the last day we are all judged based on our own faith, that same faith we’ve been given and have nurtured, incorporates us into Christ who makes us a part of his body
        1. Visible Church—the body of Christ
        1. The common good is to be poured out on the people who have Jesus in common
    1. Jesus brings out that truth in v. 40:  (slide)  And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
      1. “The least of these, my brothers”
        1. Relatives of Jesus—his family members
      1. (slide) Which means, as RT France said, “the criterion of judgment is not mere philanthropy, it is men’s response to the kingdom of heaven as it is presented to them in the person of Jesus’ ‘brothers’. It is, therefore . . .ultimately a question of their relationship to Jesus himself.[3]
      1. Giving the cup of water, clothing the naked, and visiting the ill and visiting the prisoner for every thirsty, naked, sick, or imprisoned soul on the planet isn’t your responsibility!  But doing it for the people in your church is.
      1. Now, Jesus didn’t want you to restrict yourself to just these four things—they represent a larger ideal that we are supposed to live out in the church, with the church.
      1. That ideal is  hospitality—it’s one of the qualifications mentioned for elders in 1 Tim. 3:2
    1. Biblical hospitality extends further than simple politeness and kindness—biblical hospitality means, at least, to invite people into your lives and your homes
      1. That’s part of what the Lord’s Supper is
        1. “I was glad when they said to me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1)
        1. “The Lord is my shepherd…he prepares a banquet for me in the presence of my enemies.” Psalm 23
        1. The Lord’s Supper is coming into God’s presence and being so welcomed that he says, sit and eat.  (one of the reasons the Scot Presbys have you sit instead of come forward)
      1. Hospitality is part of what God’s people are
        1. Genesis 18 God shows up at Abraham’s house and the old man insisted on inviting him in for a meal
        1. Acts 6—the church gathered to eat together frequently
      1. And it’s more than just eating (like me and my boys who set world records for finishing a meal…)
        1. It’s about getting deep; it’s about getting personal
        1. It’s spiritual—successes, failures, trials in your life and your family’s (not an organ recital…) comparing fruit to glean wisdom in pruning yours better
  5. Does that describe you?  Are you hospitable? 
    1. A quick hospitality quiz:  We had a visitor last week, do you know his name?
      1. Joshua
    1. Did anyone invite him over for Sunday lunch, or to grab a cup of coffee this week?
    1. Having someone over doesn’t have to be a big production, even for a first time guest.  If your house is messy, it just shows people you live there.  If you warm up a slew of leftovers, they’ll realize you invited them over for them, rather than to have company for a special dinner.
    1. And it doesn’t always have to be a meal—maybe cooking is too much for you anymore.  I get it.  You can at least put on some water for tea or make a pot of coffee.
      1. Remember Doris and Beulah?
      1. Doris—banana bread by the truckload
      1. Beulah—always fudge, not uncommon to take home a coconut cake
    1. You see, it’s not really about the food, it’s about sharing your life.  And it’s about doing so in a way that really ministers to your brother or sister in their current need.  Sometimes the best ministry is just to be physically present so they are spiritually comforted.  The food is just a great vehicle for sharing life.  Amen.

Chalcedonian Creed—451 AD to give orthodox (right glory, right teaching) boundaries for the person of Christ

  • Perfect in Godhood and manhood—doesn’t change
  • Truly God and truly man—fully both natures
  • Of a reasonable soul and body—able to reason like a human, with all the functions and equipment of a normal human
  • Consubstantial—con: with, substantial: substance/essence/nature;  there is nothing in Christ’s humanity that is unlike us
  • Begotten before all ages from the Father—“You are my son, today I have begotten you” Ps. 2:7, biblical language that emphasizes Jesus’ nature is the same as the Father’s and that he was not created, but begotten of the Father.  It doesn’t go further than that, because the Bible doesn’t.

#598  Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

[1] R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 357.

[2] Ryle, Daily Readings from All Four Gospels for Morning and Evening. Compiled by Robert Sheehan (Grand Rapids:  EP Books, 4th edition 2020), November 3 am. 

[3] R. T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 1, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 358–359.