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Here in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats the King has said to those on His right that they were separated as sheep to inherit the kingdom prepared for them from the foundation of the world, not on the basis of their sound doctrine or anything they believed (not that those aren’t necessarily important), but for their charitable acts, six of which He names that address the most basic needs of man.  For such love, demonstrated not just in word but in deed, is the fruit of a heart born from above by which one may know he has been saved from the spirit of the world and delivered into the kingdom of God (1Jo 3:10,14,16-19).  And it is only by being born again of God’s Spirit that a goat whose nature is to push with side and shoulder and thrust at all the weak with its horns can acquire a new nature, a divine nature, the very nature of God, and be transformed by His word into a sheep.  Hence it is not by such acts or any other works that one is “saved”, but by grace through faith (Eph 2:8-9).  Rather, such deeds of love are the fruit or evidence by which one may know that he is a new creation (1Co 5:15,17), having been born again into a new life from above through the imperishable seed of God’s word (1Pe 1:23).

What two words are repeated by the King in Mat 25:35-36 in regard to each of the six charitable acts that prompt as many questions by the sheep, and what is the key word in each of the questions they then ask of the King in Matthew 25:37-39?  What do their questions indicate about their surprise in regard to whom their charitable acts were reckoned to have been done?  How should knowing that such deeds of kindness are reckoned as being done to Jesus Himself, the King of the righteous kingdom of God that He is establishing over the whole earth, motivate even more love and kindness in our hearts?  See again Mat 25:34.  Will those whose hearts are not motivated by such love and kindness ever be at home in such a kingdom?  How does Jesus refer to the sheep in Mat 25:37 for their charitable acts?  What does this again teach us about the nature of righteousness?  Is it the doctrine we believe, or a heart motivated by love that manifests itself not just in sound doctrine but in righteous acts?

How does Jesus say that the King will answer the righteous sheep about when they saw Him hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick or in prison, and care for Him?  See Mat 25:40.  Who does Jesus mean by “these brothers of mine, even the least of them”?  See Mat 12:49-50, 28:10, Joh 20:17, Heb 2:11; cf. Mat 18:3-6,10.  Why would such as these be hungry, thirsty, strangers, naked, sick and in prison?  Cf. Joh 15:20, Mat 8:20, 1Co 4:11-13, 2Co 11:23-27, Heb 11:13,37-38, 1Pe 2:20, 4:15-16.  In what way do the deprivations of their most basic needs experienced by Christ’s disciples throughout the ages bear witness that they have very literally given up their life and taken up their cross to follow Him?  Cf. Gal 6:17[1].  Who then should we understand is primarily in view in this parable as the recipients of the sheep’s kindness, and the sheep who cared for them?  Cf. Mat 10:40-42, Mar 9:41, Rom 16:1-4, Phil 2:29-30, 4:10,14,18, 1Jo 3:16, 4:11.  How does this also help us to understand what Jesus is teaching His followers about righteousness in regard to those who serve Him at great personal cost, especially considering the social stigma heaped upon them by the world as they faithfully obey Him to establish His kingdom on earth?  Cf. 2Ti 1:8,12,16-18, Heb 10:34.  Considering again Jesus’ words that such deeds of sympathy done unto even the least of His brethren are reckoned as being done unto Him, what does this teach us about the great loyalty of the King to those of His household, and especially those servants like the apostles who forsake their lives in this world and take up their cross to serve Him?  As righteous deeds done to Christ’s servants are reckoned as having been done unto Him, to Whom should we suppose evil deeds against His servants are also reckoned?  Cf. Act 9:4-5.

Although Jesus’ words seem to indicate that He is referring primarily to the members of His own household in regard to whom the righteous sheep acted charitably, should we suppose that such deeds of kindness even to unbelievers will not also be rewarded?  Cf. Mat 5:43-48, Luk 6:27-36, Rom 12:21.  Especially considering His words, “even the least of them”, should we justify not acting charitably even to those we hate, supposing we can always discern who is a true brother, or that Jesus would answer differently if we were to ask Him “who is our brother” instead of “who is our neighbor?”  Cf. Luk 10:29-37.

[1] It is no new thing for those that are feasted with the dainties of heaven to be hungry and thirsty, and to want daily food; for those that are at home in God, to be strangers in a strange land; for those that have put on Christ, to want clothes to keep them warm; for those that have healthful souls, to have sickly bodies; and for those to be in prison, that Christ has made free.  Matthew Henry

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