Matthew 25:40
And the King shall answer and say to them, Truly I say to you, Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these my brothers, you have done it to me.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(40) Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren.—The words are true, in different degrees of intensity, in proportion as the relationship is consciously recognised, of every member of the family of man. Of all it is true that He, the Lord, who took their flesh and blood, “is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). We have here, in its highest and divinest form, that utterance of sympathy which we admire even in one of like passions with ourselves. We find that He too “counts nothing human alien from Himself.”

25:31-46 This is a description of the last judgment. It is as an explanation of the former parables. There is a judgment to come, in which every man shall be sentenced to a state of everlasting happiness, or misery. Christ shall come, not only in the glory of his Father, but in his own glory, as Mediator. The wicked and godly here dwell together, in the same cities, churches, families, and are not always to be known the one from the other; such are the weaknesses of saints, such the hypocrisies of sinners; and death takes both: but in that day they will be parted for ever. Jesus Christ is the great Shepherd; he will shortly distinguish between those that are his, and those that are not. All other distinctions will be done away; but the great one between saints and sinners, holy and unholy, will remain for ever. The happiness the saints shall possess is very great. It is a kingdom; the most valuable possession on earth; yet this is but a faint resemblance of the blessed state of the saints in heaven. It is a kingdom prepared. The Father provided it for them in the greatness of his wisdom and power; the Son purchased it for them; and the blessed Spirit, in preparing them for the kingdom, is preparing it for them. It is prepared for them: it is in all points adapted to the new nature of a sanctified soul. It is prepared from the foundation of the world. This happiness was for the saints, and they for it, from all eternity. They shall come and inherit it. What we inherit is not got by ourselves. It is God that makes heirs of heaven. We are not to suppose that acts of bounty will entitle to eternal happiness. Good works done for God's sake, through Jesus Christ, are here noticed as marking the character of believers made holy by the Spirit of Christ, and as the effects of grace bestowed on those who do them. The wicked in this world were often called to come to Christ for life and rest, but they turned from his calls; and justly are those bid to depart from Christ, that would not come to him. Condemned sinners will in vain offer excuses. The punishment of the wicked will be an everlasting punishment; their state cannot be altered. Thus life and death, good and evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us, that we may choose our way, and as our way so shall our end be.One of the least of these - One of the obscurest, the least known, the poorest, the most despised and afflicted.

My brethren - Either those who are Christians, whom he condescends to call brethren, or those who are afflicted, poor, and persecuted, who are his brethren and companions in suffering, and who suffer as he did on earth. See Hebrews 2:11; Matthew 12:50. How great is the condescension and kindness of the Judge of the world, thus to reward our actions, and to consider what we have done to the poor as done to him!

40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, &c.—Astonishing dialogue this between the King, from the Throne of His glory, and His wondering people! "I was an hungered, and ye gave Me meat," &c.—"Not we," they reply. "We never did that, Lord: We were born out of due time, and enjoyed not the privilege of ministering unto Thee." "But ye did it to these My brethren, now beside you, when cast upon your love." "Truth, Lord, but was that doing it to Thee? Thy name was indeed dear to us, and we thought it a great honor to suffer shame for it. When among the destitute and distressed we discerned any of the household of faith, we will not deny that our hearts leapt within us at the discovery, and when their knock came to our dwelling, 'our bowels were moved,' as though 'our Beloved Himself had put in His hand by the hole of the door.' Sweet was the fellowship we had with them, as if we had 'entertained angels unawares'; all difference between giver and receiver somehow melted away under the beams of that love of Thine which knit us together; nay, rather, as they left us with gratitude for our poor givings, we seemed the debtors—not they. But, Lord, were we all that time in company with Thee? … Yes, that scene was all with Me," replies the King—"Me in the disguise of My poor ones. The door shut against Me by others was opened by you—'Ye took Me in.' Apprehended and imprisoned by the enemies of the truth, ye whom the truth had made free sought Me out diligently and found Me; visiting Me in My lonely cell at the risk of your own lives, and cheering My solitude; ye gave Me a coat, for I shivered; and then I felt warm. With cups of cold water ye moistened My parched lips; when famished with hunger ye supplied Me with crusts, and my spirit revived—/Ye did it unto Me.'" What thoughts crowd upon us as we listen to such a description of the scenes of the Last Judgment! And in the light of this view of the heavenly dialogue, how bald and wretched, not to say unscriptural, is that view of it to which we referred at the outset, which makes it a dialogue between Christ and heathens who never heard of His name, and of course never felt any stirrings of His love in their hearts! To us it seems a poor, superficial objection to the Christian view of this scene, that Christians could never be supposed to ask such questions as the "blessed of Christ's Father" are made to ask here. If there were any difficulty in explaining this, the difficulty of the other view is such as to make it, at least, insufferable. But there is no real difficulty. The surprise expressed is not at their being told that they acted from love to Christ, but that Christ Himself was the Personal Object of all their deeds: that they found Him hungry, and supplied Him with food: that they brought water to Him, and slaked His thirst; that seeing Him naked and shivering, they put warm clothing upon Him, paid Him visits when lying in prison for the truth, and sat by His bedside when laid down with sickness. This is the astonishing interpretation which Jesus says "the King" will give to them of their own actions here below. And will any Christian reply, "How could this astonish them? Does not every Christian know that He does these very things, when He does them at all, just as they are here represented?" Nay, rather, is it conceivable that they should not be astonished, and almost doubt their own ears, to hear such an account of their own actions upon earth from the lips of the Judge? And remember, that Judge has come in His glory, and now sits upon the throne of His glory, and all the holy angels are with Him; and that it is from those glorified Lips that the words come forth, "Ye did all this unto Me." Oh, can we imagine such a word addressed to ourselves, and then fancy ourselves replying, "Of course we did—To whom else did we anything? It must be others than we that are addressed, who never knew, in all their good deeds, what they were about?" Rather, can we imagine ourselves not overpowered with astonishment, and scarcely able to credit the testimony borne to us by the King?Ver. 35-40. The recompences of the last judgment are according to the tenor of our good works, and the desert of evil works. The King here gives the reason of his gracious rewarding sentence,

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat. This doth not imply any desert, much less any worthiness of equality between the work and the reward; but that evangelical works, the products of unfeigned faith and love, qualify us by the covenant of grace to receive it. The causes of the reward are either, the original cause, the most free and rich mercy of God, or the meritorious, the most perfect righteousness and sacrifice of Christ; and the good works here recited are infallible signs that the performers of them are the objects of the Divine favour in predestination, and are truly united to Christ. Besides, in the gospel, which is the law of grace, God has established a necessary connection between faith, that works by love, and the blessed reward; and accordingly evangelical works are the condition of our title, that qualifies us to obtain the kingdom of glory, freely promised for Christ’s sake to obedient believers. And in this respect the dispensing the reward may be said to be an act of justice, namely, in the faithful performance of the promise; as in the forgiving sins, which is an act of pure mercy, God is said to be faithful and just, 1Jo 1:9. Our Lord here reckons but one species of good works, instead of many, as is usual in Scripture, and he rather chooseth to instance in works of charity than of piety.

1. He knows the hardness of men’s hearts; and;

2. That the poor they should have always with them, especially such as would live godly, and so be more than others out of favour with the world.

3. He knew how acceptable these were to his Father, and had a mind the world should know it, Isaiah 58:7 Ezekiel 18:7 Micah 6:8 Matthew 9:13 1Jo 3:17. And hereby declares, that acts of charity to the souls makes us fit subjects for the Divine mercy in the day of judgment, 2 Timothy 1:18.

The answer, Matthew 25:37, Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, &c., only teacheth us this, That at the great day the best of men shall blush and be ashamed to hear God speak of any good works they have done, and be swallowed up in the admiration of God’s free and infinite grace, in rewarding any thing which they have done at so liberal a rate.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, &c. This only confirmeth what we had, Matthew 10:42, that Christ looketh upon acts of kindness done to the meanest godly persons, and will reward them, as if they had been done unto himself; so that though our charity must not be limited only there, yet it must be chiefly shown to those of the household of faith: other charity may be showed in obedience to the command of God, and have its reward, but none can so properly be said to be done to Christ, as that which is done to those who are his true members. And the king shall answer, and say unto them,.... Christ, though a king, and now appearing in great glory and majesty, yet such will be his goodness and condescension, as to return an answer to the queries of his people; blushing and astonished at his notice of their poor services, which they know to be so imperfect, and are always ready to own themselves unprofitable servants; and this he will do in the following manner:

verily I say unto you; a way of speaking often used by him, when here on earth, when he, in the strongest manner, would asseverate anything as truth, and remove all doubt and hesitation about it,

Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me: which is to be understood, not in so limited a sense, as to regard only the apostles, and the least of them, for these were not the only brethren of Christ; nor in so large a sense, as to include all in human nature; but the saints only, the children of God, and household of faith: for though acts of charity and humanity are to be done to all men, yet especially to these; and indeed, these only can be considered as the brethren of Christ, who are born of God, and do the will of Christ; for such he accounts his mother, brethren, and sisters; and who are not only of the same human nature, but in the same covenant with him, and the sons of God, not by nature, as he is the Son of God, but by adoption, and so are heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: now he that does any of the above acts of kindness to these "brethren" of Christ, and because they stand in such a relation to him, even the "least" of them: though he is not an apostle, or a martyr, or a preacher of the Gospel, or has any considerable gifts and abilities for usefulness, but is a weak believer in spiritual things, as well as poor in temporal things; and though it is but to "one" of these opportunity and circumstances not allowing it to be done to more; yet as such is the humility and condescension of this great king, as to account such mean persons his brethren; such also is his grace and goodness, as to reckon every instance of kindness and respect shown to them, as done to himself in person; and will take notice of it, accept and reward it, as if it had been so done.

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 25:40 ἐφʼ ὅσον, n so far as = καθʼ ὅσον (Hebrews 7:20), used of time in Matthew 9:15.—ἑνὶἐλαχίστων, the Judge’s brethren spoken of as a body apart, not subjects, but rather instruments, of judgment. This makes for the non-Christian position of the judged. The brethren are the Christian poor and needy and suffering, in the first place, but ultimately and inferentially any suffering people anywhere. Christian sufferers represent Christ, and human sufferers represent Christians.—τῶν ἐλαχίστων seems to be in apposition with ἀδελφῶν, suggesting the idea that the brethren of the Son of Man are the insignificant of mankind, those likely to be overlooked, despised, neglected (cf. Matthew 10:42, Matthew 18:5).40. ye have done it unto me] This unconscious personal service of Christ may be contrasted with the conscious but unreal knowledge of Christ assumed by false prophets; see Luke 13:26.

Christ identifies Himself with His Church, as in His words to Saul, “Why persecutest thou me?” (Acts 9:4).Matthew 25:40. Ἐφʼ ὅσον, inasmuch as, in as far as) An intensifying particle. Without doubt, even individual acts will be brought forward.—ἑνὶ, unto one) All things are accurately reckoned up; nothing is omitted. Even a solitary occasion is frequently of great importance in either direction; see Matthew 25:45.—τούτων, of these) used demonstratively.—τῶν ἀδελφῶν Μου, My brethren) It is better to do good to the good than to the wicked; yet these are not excluded from the operation of Christian love (see Matthew 5:44), provided that a due precedence be preserved in the character of the men and works. Men, the more that they are honoured, treat so much the more proudly those with whom they are connected (suos): not so Jesus: at the commencement of His ministry He frequently called His followers disciples; then, when speaking of His cross (John 13:33), He once called them little sons,[1103] and (John 15:15) friends; after His resurrection (John 21:5), παιδία, children,[1104] and brethren (cf. ch. Matthew 28:10; John 20:17; and cf. therewith Ib. Matthew 13:1); and this appellation He will repeat at the judgment-day. How great is the glory of the faithful! see Hebrews 2:10-12, etc. During the time of His humiliation (exinanitionis) the honour of Jesus was guarded, lest from such an appellation He might appear to be of merely common rank; but in His state of exaltation no such danger exists. Observe, however—(1) that Christ addresses no one as brother in the vocative; the case is different in ch. Matthew 12:48-49, and Hebrews 2:11-12; (2) that Scripture does not call Christ our brother; and (3) that it would not have been suitable in Peter, for example, to have said, Brother, instead of Lord, in John 21:15; John 21:20; John 21:7 (see Ibid. Matthew 13:13). Even James, called by others the Lord’s brother, calls himself the servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, Jam 1:1. Jude also, in the first verse of his epistle, calls himself the servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James; see also Matthew 23:8; Luke 22:32. Amongst mortals, unequal fraternity is so maintained, that the superior friend honours the inferior by the title of brother; whilst the inferior addresses the superior by his title of honour. Thus also the heavenly court has its own etiquette, without any conflict between humility and confidence. Thus, also, the appellation of friend appears one-sided, so that the Lord calls His own, “friends,” but is not so called by them: see John 15:15. We must except the faith whose freedom of speech attains to that of the Canticles.—τῶν ἐλαχίστων, of the least) sc. outwardly, or even inwardly. A certain species is pointed out in the whole genus of saints: there are some who have received, others who have conferred favours.—Ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε, ye have done it unto Me) not merely to Me also, but TO ME absolutely; cf. οὐδὲ Ἐμοὶ ἐποιήσατε, neither have ye done it unto Me, Matthew 25:45.

[1103] Filiolos. The word in the original is τέκνια, plural of τέκνιον, which is the diminutive of τέκνονchild or offspring—derived from τίκτω, to bring forth.—(I. B.)

[1104] Puerulosπαιδία being the plural of παιδίον, which is the diminutive of παῖς.—(I. B.)Verse 40. - The King shall answer. The royal Judge condescends to explain the meaning of the seeming paradox. Inasmuch as; ἐφ ὅσον, rendered in the Vulgate quamdiu, rather, quatenus, in which sense the phrase is found also in Romans 11:13. Unto one of the least of these my brethren. That is, not the apostles, nor specially but all the afflicted who have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings and Any such he is not ashamed to call his brethren. Ye have done (ye did) it unto me. The Lord so perfectly identifies himself with the human family, whose nature he assumed, that he made their sorrows sufferings his own (Isaiah 53:4; Isaiah 63:9; Matthew 8:17), he suffered with the sufferers; his perfect sympathy placed him in their position; in all their affliction he was afflicted From this identification it follows that he regards that which is done to others as done to himself. Thus he could expostulate the persecutor, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" And we have the amazing revelation that he receives with the same graciousness the pious workings of natural religion in the case of those who know no better. The least

The word in the Greek order is emphatic: One of these my brethren, the least. So Rev., even these least.

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