----------I Thought of calling this posting,
"The Day No Pigs Would Die, Re-told," or "Animal Farm: Pigs preach cheap grace," or even, "Charlotte's Web: Pig refuses design," but the one above is right.
I am fascinated with Matthew 7:6. “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” A friend brought that verse to my attention and I began a process of studying it, wondering about its exact meaning.
And first a thought which has almost nothing to do with the verse. Have you ever noticed how when somebody makes reference to the verse they always focus on the pigs but never the dogs. My friend did that. I think this must be for two reasons. Americans are really into pet dogs but not usually pigs. Also, I think we are more fascinated with the picture, in our minds, of someone throwing a beautiful necklace of pearls at a herd of dirty pigs.
Well to begin with some thoughts about pigs. Pigs are only dirty because they roll around in dirt to keep cool. And actually if pigs were given the proper housing they would remain clean. Also, pigs are as intelligent as dogs. And there is another common trait that both dogs and pigs possess. They both can become terribly mean.
When I was a small child on a Missouri farm, I still remember farmers talking about some old sow that was so mean they had trouble getting near her to care for her babies. On the farm we had a slop bucket where we put all of our leftovers for the pigs. We even put in the water we washed our feet in at night. (We did not have indoor plumbing) But one thing we did not put into the bucket was meat. If you feed pigs meat they will insist on eating meat and they become even more dangerous.
I read several commentaries on the verse including Calvin’s. One interesting point in R.T. France’s Tyndale commentary is that this verse, while separate from the first two verses, nonetheless speaks to them. The first two verses insist that the Christian must not judge a brother or sister in the Lord. But still in matters of the proclamation of the gospel a call for discernment is necessary. How does one know who is a dog or a pig unless discernment (judging) is used.
France writes, “God’s gifts are not to be laid open to abuse, or his truth to mockery. There is a right discrimination which is different from the censorious judging of vv. 1-2.” So how does one proclaim the gospel without laying it open to abuse and mockery because certainly there are those who do just that and in very public places.
Calvin also separates this verse from the others and although agreeing with France that this implies that the gospel should not be open to mockery and abuse, still asks the same question I have. But he does answer it. Calvin writes:
“But here a question arises: for he [Jesus] afterwards commanded to preach the Gospel to every creature, (Mark 16:15;) and Paul says, that the preaching of it is a deadly savor to wicked men, (2 Corinthians 2:16;) and nothing is more certain than that it is every day held out to unbelievers, by the command of God, for a testimony, that they may be rendered the more inexcusable. I reply: As the ministers of the Gospel, and those who are called to the office of teaching, cannot distinguish between the children of God and swine, it is their duty to present the doctrine of salvation indiscriminately to all. Though many may appear to them, at first, to be hardened and unyielding, yet charity forbids that such persons should be immediately pronounced to be desperate."
Calvin then goes on to describe who the dogs and swine are. He writes:
“It ought to be understood, that dogs and swine are names given not to every kind of debauched men, or to those who are destitute of the fear of God and of true godliness, but to those who, by clear evidences, have manifested a hardened contempt of God, so that their disease appears to be incurable. …But by dogs and swine he means here those who are so thoroughly imbued with a wicked contempt of God, that they refuse to accept any remedy.”
And Calvin does make a difference between the pigs and the dogs. He explains that the pigs in the face of hearing of ‘the corrupt nature of man, free justification, and eternal election,’ turn it, “into an encouragement to sloth and to carnal indulgence.” And as for the dogs, when the Gospel is preached to them, they “tear the pure doctrine, and its ministers, with sacrilegious reproaches, as if they threw away all desire to do well, all fear of God, and all care for their salvation.”
So several points arise from this. We are required to give out the gospel to all. But eventually those who have a “wicked contempt of God,” will make themselves known.
Some will only see the grace of God as a means of continuing in their sin. Some will be so angered with the proclamation of the gospel that they will attempt to discredit and shame those who bring good news. Also God’s word is worth much more than pearls, his doctrine of free grace priceless. Allow no one to make a mockery of his word or his gift of savation. Have discernment
And finally as Calvin puts it, “remedy of salvation must be refused to none, till they have rejected it so basely when offered to them, as to make it evident that they are reprobate and self-condemned, ... as Paul says of heretics, (Titus 3:11.)”
"For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life." (2 Cor. 2:15-16a)