These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 7:13-23 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Teaching Points
I. The narrow gate and broad road (13-14) – A true disciple sacrifices his own desires and puts the Lord first.
What does the narrow gate represent?
The broad road?
What makes the narrow way difficult? Why is it difficult to find?
What makes the broad way easy? Why do so many people choose it?
How would one “enter” the narrow gate? After he enters is the way difficult or easy?
What is Jesus telling us about being a disciple?
John 14:6 – I am the Way.
John 10:7 – I am the gate of the sheep.
2 Thessalonians 1:9 – Eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.
- God’s way is narrow –
- It is difficult. Think for example about a hiking trip. When hiking a mountain, have you ever had a choice between walking up the paved road and walking up an almost wild path with stones, and mud, and plants? The narrow way is the more difficult way. It requires more discipline. It requires sacrifice. It requires perseverance. Jesus is warning us not to be false disciples. In Mark 10:17-23 we saw one person who wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, but he turned away because Jesus asked something difficult of him. Jesus asked him to sell his possessions and he wasn’t willing. This man was not a real disciple. His decision to take the broad way shows us a glimpse of his heart which was not regenerated. The narrow way is the way that looks to do to others what you would have them do to you. The person on the narrow way has the right eye. He looks and sees the beauty of God and not the beauty and lure of money. See Luke 14:26. The narrow way chooses to follow God rather than giving in to pressure from parents. See Mark 8:34. The narrow way is saying “no” to self and saying “yes” to Jesus no matter what the cost. That is what a disciple is. A true disciple is willing to say “yes” to Jesus even at great cost to themselves because they know that Jesus is worth it.
- It is hard to find – Sometimes people who are lost remain lost because they don’t ask the way. Pridefully they insist that they know they way. They insist that they are not lost. And they refuse to ask directions, much to the chagrin of their wives! Pride prevents them from finding the way. The way of Jesus is like this. IF someone asks directions, then they can find the way. God wants everyone to hear and to have this opportunity. (Romans 3:11). The problem is that people do not ask the way. And even when people come and tell them, they don’t respond. Generally it is their pride which prevents them from going the normal way. They don’t want to admit they need help. And they don’t want to accept that Jesus is the only one that can help them. It is hard to find the way because they are blinded and too prideful to admit that they need Jesus to open their eyes.
- Result of the narrow way – It leads to life. Being a disciple of Jesus is not easy, but the result is well worth it!
- Application: What is the narrow place that Jesus is asking you to walk? What is the difficult thing that Jesus is asking you to do? If you are His disciple you will be willing to do it.
- The way of the world is wide –
- It is easy – You will not have to say “no” to yourself. You can do whatever you like and go down that road. It requires less effort and less discipline. Like to sleep in and be a couch potato? No problem! Like to work like a dog to receive that promotion? Sure, go ahead!
- It is easy to find – People are born walking on it. You won’t have to do anything different to follow it.
- It is popular – Follow the crowds. Your unbelieving friends and peers can help you. They will give you advice which can help you go down this road. And it is crowded. Most people are going down this road. So simply follow the people.
- The result is destruction – 2 Thessalonians 1:9.
- Application: Do you generally take the path of least resistance? Do you tend to follow the advice of unbelieving family members and friends? Do you sometimes choose to follow culture rather than the instructions in the Bible because “In China (or insert wherever you are from), it is not easy to be a Christian?” Do you follow your own desires and live for your own pleasure or do you set your eyes on and follow Jesus?
II. A good tree bears good fruit (15-20) – A true disciple bears good fruit.
What is a false prophet? Just a person who makes false predictions?
Why does Jesus use the term “sheep’s clothing?” How would people view a sheep? A wolf?
What do people do when they see a sheep coming? How about a wolf?
Would a false teacher be able to fake good actions? What might the motivation of a false teacher be?
In this passage, what does “good tree” mean? How about “good fruit?” Bad fruit? Bad tree?
Why does Jesus say a bad tree cannot bear good fruit? Can’t an unbeliever do some good deeds?
Does the fruit make a tree good or vice- versa? Why is this distinction important?
Do all the good trees bear the same amount of good fruit?
How could you bear good fruit (have good roots and drink more water)?
2 Peter 2:1-3 – False teachers will be destroyed.
1 John 4:1-3 – Test the spirits.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 – They think that godliness is a means of gain.
Luke 13:6-9 – If the fig tree doesn’t bear fruit, cut it down.
John 15:5 – Abide in me and you will bear fruit.
Isaiah 64:6 – Our righteousness is like filthy rags.
Matthew 12:33-36 – A good man brings good things out of the good stored up within him.
Colossians 1:10 – Bearing fruit in every good work.
John 15:16 – I chose you to go and bear fruit.
James 3:17 – The wisdom from above is … full of good fruits.
- The false prophets have to disguise themselves – When people see a wolf coming they run. But when people see a sheep coming they say, “Ah, it’s so cute!” False prophets disguise their intentions in order to instill a false sense of security in those they intend to mislead. They are serving (sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly) Satan so it is natural they follow his same basic tactics, one of which is to appear as an angel of light. A false prophet does not only refer to someone who makes false predictions. Those people are easy to notice when their predictions don’t come true. In a general sense, a false prophet is someone who claims to be speaking for God, but is not. He is speaking for himself or someone else. He has his own motivations and he is not really God’s messenger. See 1 Kings 22 for an example of false prophets. These were a whole group of false prophets. They worked for a king, but not the high king in heaven. They worked for Ahab. Their job was to say whatever he wanted to hear. They were good at talking and they made it sound nice and convincing, but they falsely claimed to be speaking from the Lord. So how can we discern whether or not someone is speaking from the Lord or not?
- We can discern them by their fruits – One way Jesus gives to discern these people is by their fruit. A good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. A false prophet is a bad tree and their wrong actions and sinful behavior will expose them as bad trees. See also Matthew 12:33-36. Their words are also one type of fruit. And they words can show them as bad trees if their words do not match what Scripture says. A false disciple has bad fruit. It is their nature. It comes from their roots which are rooted in the world and not in Scripture.
- We need to examine our own fruit – Having good fruit does not save you. But IF you are a good tree, you will have good fruit. In other words, if you are a true disciple, your life will have evidence of that. We cannot say “Timothy has some good deeds so he must be saved” but we can say “If Timothy has no fruit at all, if his life hasn’t changed at all, he is not saved.” The fruit is the reason someone becomes a disciple, but a true disciple will have good fruit. What are some examples of good fruit? Does every fruit tree have the same amount of fruit? Is there anything you can do in order to bear more fruit? What is the relationship between the roots and fruit? Are you bearing more good fruit than before? We should evaluate ourselves and consider if we are bearing fruit as we should.
- The result of being a false disciple is being thrown into the fire. This is the same point as the broad way leads to destruction. The consequences of deceiving yourself are disastrous and eternal.
III. True and false disciples (21-23) – A true disciple does the will of the Father
Why would someone who says, “Lord, Lord” not enter the kingdom of heaven?
Does verse 21 teach a works based salvation (clearly not since people in verse 22 also did good works, but don’t enter)?
How does verse 22 show us that works cannot save us?
What is the will of the Father? How can we “do” it?
What is the warning for us? How can we evaluate our spiritual condition? How can we make sure that we are “in?”
Philippians 2:12 – Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.
Matthew 24:13 – He who endures to the end shall be saved.
Matthew 25:31-46 – The final judgment.
James 2:17 – Faith without works is dead.
Here we see again stated in a different way a warning about being a false disciple.
Words alone do not prove a person to be a true disciple – Words are easy. As someone once said, “talk is cheap.” It is easy to talk the talk of a Christian. There will be many people who claimed to be believers who will discover at the end that they were never true disciples.
“The most agonizing problem about the assurance of salvation is not the problem of whether the objective facts of Christianity are true (God exists, Christ is God, Christ died for sinners, Christ rose from the dead, Christ saves forever all who believe, etc.). Those facts are the utterly crucial bedrock of our faith. But the really agonizing problem of assurance is whether I personally am saved by those facts.
This boils down to whether I have saving faith. What makes this agonizing — for many in the history of the church and today — is that there are people who think they have saving faith but don’t. For example, in Matthew 7:21–23, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’”
So the agonizing question for some is: Do I really have saving faith? Is my faith real? Am I self-deceived? Some well-intentioned people try to lessen the problem by making faith a mere decision to affirm certain truths, like the truth: Jesus is God, and he died for my sins.”
- What is saving faith? – Saving faith believes the facts of the gospel. At the same time, it accepts the gospel personally. Rather than being persuaded only intellectually, a person with saving faith comes to behold the deep goodness and greatness and beauty of Christ. “Being persuaded with the mind that something is true is not the same as apprehending the beauty and worth of the truth.” The devil himself believes the facts of the gospel. But he hates them. Others may believe the facts, but still choose to follow their own way rather than be a disciple of Jesus (like the man in Mark 10:17-31.) They are therefore indifferent to Christ and their heart has not been changed. Others believe the facts and have some surface changes like going to church. This too is not a guarantee that the heart has been changed. Saving faith is real. It is alive. It changes the heart. It is based on an intellectual understanding and persuasion, but goes much deeper than that to the heart. It is a faith that with the mind believes and with the heart sees the beauty and wonder of Christ and enjoys Him. The person who has faith like this will be willing to do the will of the the Father. In other words, this person will be a genuine disciple.
These people in verse 21 love the feeling of safety they have in God. The probably love power and love it that God gave them power to do miracles. But that is different from loving God.
- Religious rituals do not save – We learn this from verse 22. Sharing the gospel or teaching Bible studies will not save you.
- Depart from me workers of lawlessness – These are bad trees with bad fruit. The core of the tree is rotten because there is something the matter with their faith. It wasn’t genuine. It didn’t love Jesus. The heart and the attitudes were not changed even if the mind accepted the truths.
- Application: We should work out our salvation with fear and trembling. There is no more important question. These passages are all a warning to us not to be a false disciple. We should take the warnings seriously and evaluate our lives. No one can do this for you. Are you a disciple of Jesus? Are you taking the narrow way? Do you have good fruit? Are your roots attached to Christ or is the seemingly good fruit a result of your own willpower? Is the good fruit increasing? Are you doing the will of your Father or your own will? Are you just saying the right words or is your life changed?
More to come soon