Behaving as God's Children

by Spiros Zodhiates

Spiros ZodhiatesVerses 7 & 8: Asking and receiving:

Jesus now told us to go to our heavenly Father with our requests: "Ask [aitete, the present active imperative of aitéo, to request from a superior], and it shall be given you; seek [zetete, the present active imperative of zetéo], and you will find; knock [kroete, the present active imperative of kroo], and it shall be opened unto you: for the one asking receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened" (a.t.).

This is the natural behavior of mature sons and daughters. Even though a father knows all the needs of his children, they do not hesitate to continually (given in the present imperatives) ask (mouth), seek (eyes), and knock (hands). This recognition and confession of comprehensive dependence-oral, visual, tactile-is pleasing to the father. And so it is with our heavenly Father, for through prayer we express our complete dependence on Him. He answers in kind with speaking, displaying, and touching-all revelation, which is given, found, and opened. The three verbs presuppose familiarity; we rarely ask, seek, or knock on the doors of strangers.

By definition, asking is not demanding, and the verb used here means to request from a superior. All requests to our Father should be accompanied with the deepest humility, knowing that He is both wise and omniscient. On the other hand, since Christ is our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), we can approach God confidently and boldly (parresa [3954]; 2 Cor. 3:12; Eph. 3:12; Col. 2:15; 1 Tim. 3:13; Heb. 3:6; 4:16; etc.).

The three articulated present participles in verse 8, "the asking one" (ho aiton), "the seeking one" (ho zeton), and "the knocking one" (to kroonti) imply a normal condition for believers who continually ask and seek humbly from the Father.

The respective promises are receiving, finding, and having doors opened. Note the verb "receiveth" (lambnei, the present tense of lambno, to receive). The present tense places the emphasis on God's giving in this present life, although the remote future (e.g., the world to come) is not excluded in principle from the promise. It also implies the Giver, although He is not named with any of these three verbs. In general, we know that "a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven" (John 3:27). The same applies to finding and walking through opened doors.

Verses 9 & 10: Jesus again appealed to the rational
faculty of His hearers:

"Or what man is there of you, whom if his son [huis, a mature child, contrasting with a téknon, a growing child] asks bread, he will not give him a stone. Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a serpent [phis, snake]?" (a.t.). The obvious conclusion is that no good parents would give their children anything that would not satisfy them or would harm them.

Verse 11: Jesus did not expect answers from these rhetorical questions.

No one was going to come forward and say, "I would!" He launched immediately into His conclusion:

"If ye then, being evil [from poners, harmful], know [odate, the plural of oda, the perfect of horo {3708}, to see and perceive, with emphasis on perception, used as a present] how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

Notice that the gifts are "good," but the givers are described as "continually [reflected in the present participle ntes] evil," a terrible picture of the depravity of human nature (see Gen. 6:5). Since Jesus was addressing His disciples, He affirmed that even they are malevolent (poners) by nature, that is, "in the flesh" that remains unsanctified. Notwithstanding this low level of sin, even evil parents can differentiate good gifts from malevolent (harmful) gifts and give the right ones to their children.

God is truly the only one who is innately benevolent (agaths). To call attention to the incomparable love of God, the Lord asked, "How much more?" If malevolent parents can select good gifts for their children, how much more should our good Father be predisposed to give good gifts? "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17).

The good that God gives cannot be compared with the "good gifts" parents give their children. Consider, for example, the gift described in John 3:16: "For thus [hotos, likewise, or of such quality] God so loved the world, that he gave" (a.t.). God's gift of His Son is incomparably unique.

The synoptic parallel in Luke 11:13 mentions another good gift: "How much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" Luke interjects the Holy Spirit because He is the source of all spiritual gifts that by their very nature are good (agath).

Verse 12: Jesus concluded His teaching:

"Therefore, all things whatever you wish [from thélo, to wish determinately] that people do to you, do you [poiete, the present imperative of poiéo, do continually'] even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets (a.t.).

Verse 12 seems to relate more to verses 1-5 than to verses 6-11. Verses 7-11 concern prayer to the Father, not relationships between persons. If, then, verse 12 is indeed a summary of verses 1-5, we have further evidence that the primary meaning of this entire passage (vv. 1-12), beginning with "Judge not, that ye be not judged," refers to judgments between Christian believers in this life.

Dr. Zodhiates is president emeritus of AMG International and publisher emeritus of Pulpit Helps.

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