Category: Sermon on the Mount

Holiness and Works

Holiness and Works

Text: Matthew 6:1-4

As chapter 6 opens, we see Jesus giving us instructions for our good works. The term in Hebrew is tzedakah, which literally means acts of righteousness. In this case, Jesus is speaking about our almsgiving, which by the time of NT Judaism was the meaning of Acts of Tzedakah.

“The ‘righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees’ (5:20) is to be seen not only in a new radical approach to the legal and ethical questions which concerned the scribes (5:21-48), but in a new attitude to the scrupulous religious observance which was the hallmark of the Pharisees (6:1-18). The new attitude consists not in a repudiation of the main aspects of Jewish piety, but in an avoidance of ostentation in their performance. Religious observance is to be directed towards God, not to gaining the approval of men.”

Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

6:1 practice … righteousness. This verse introduces the discussion of three acts of righteousness: (1) giving (vv. 2–4), (2) praying (vv. 5–15) and (3) fasting (vv. 16–18).

Jesus did not prohibit public acts of righteousness, but He warned that the motivation for such acts is more important than the bare fact of performing them. All such deeds must be done for God’s glory, not human reputation. Those who seek human acclaim when performing good works will receive no heavenly reward. In verses 2-18, Jesus supplies general principles for performing righteous acts.

James would later say, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27).  At the risk of belaboring the point, the concern here is the heart, in other words your mind, will/volition, and emotions.  I have said, several times, that the entire purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to destroy any sense of self righteousness that we might have and instead put the focus back onto the heart and what a heart full of the Holy Spirit looks like.
6:2-4 The words whenever you give assume that disciples will regularly assist needy people. The prohibition don’t sound a trumpet stems from the fact that the offering chests in the temple were trumpet-shaped with a wide opening where coins were deposited and a winding, ever-narrower funnel that, at its narrowest point, exits into the chest. This arrangement prevented thieves from sticking their hands into the chest. Thus, “sounding the trumpet” is likely a reference to tossing coins noisily into the trumpet-shaped coffer and thereby calling attention to one’s generosity. Jesus described such conduct as hypocritical and we can well see how Jesus, as the Divine Son of God, would consider this to be hypocritical; causing the loud sound of tossing a denarius or other coins into the chest would be nakedly self serving in its intent to gather attention.

The word hypocrites (Gk hupocrites) originally referred to actors who performed in Greek or Roman theaters. The hypocrites to whom Jesus referred are spiritual actors who pretend to have piety in order to win human approval. The instructions about the left hand and the right hand prohibit a person from celebrating their own acts of righteousness. Give liberally, but never dwell on the fact that you do so.

As believers, we need to realize that we are naked before God and that all of our thoughts/emotions/attitudes are laid bare before Him. Therefore, why we do a thing is as important as the actual deed itself. Any “good works” that we do for any other reason than God’s glory robs Him, or rather, attempts to rob Him of that which is due Him.


Holiness and works ARE connected, but not in the way most people think; we do works because righteousness has been imputed to us not so that it might be.


3 questions to consider when doing righteous works: 1. Why am I doing this deed? 2. How does this act glorify Christ? 3. Is there an opportunity to share the Gospel through what I am doing?


In the remainder of our time together, I am going to wade barefoot into a cactus patch…


There is a propensity among many Christians to focus on what may be known as the social gospel. Certain academics claim that this movement is in decline but I vigorously disagree. Before we get into that, let me explain what I mean by the social gospel.


The Social Gospel is a movement in North American Protestantism which applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labor, inadequate labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. It is argued, by some, to have peaked in the early-20th-century United States and Canada. However, an observant person would notice that it is alive and well in the United States today. Theologically, the Social Gospel adherents seek to operationalize the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10): “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This tends to lend itself to the post-millennialist position; that is, they tend believe the Second Coming can not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. This, unfortunately, leads to churches being overly involved in politics, particularly on the “liberal” end of the political spectrum.


This begs the question, “Is there a social justice aspect in the Bible?” Of course there is a social justice aspect in the Bible. God is always concerned with justice because He Himself embodies and defines it. We need to remember that we can have all the social programs we want but if the people we are commanded to minister to end up in Hell, we have not done justice. Justice must have its origin in the Gospel message; without it all you really have is welfare, not justice.


As Christians, we do need to be concerned with ministering to the world. There are two verses that I want to bring to our attention:


Micah 6:8 (NKJV)  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?


Hosea 6:6 ESV For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.


It is most excellent, and I would dare say, pleasing to God to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves; we saw that from the Apostle James. However, when we do these acts of righteousness, there is a propensity for 2 errors, self righteousness and judgmentalism.  Have you noticed that self righteousness keeps coming up? That is because it is the foundation for assuming Heaven is deserved. It is clearly very easy to fall into the trap of self righteousness because of the works we do. The other trap is being judgmental. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to others in terms of what we are doing for God and then use our level of activity as a barometer against which to judge others.


Note that this exactly the problem the Pharisees had, which is why Jesus refers to them as hypocrites. There is no issue with doing acts of mercy, there isn’t even an issue with those acts being seen, sometimes, to spur others on to do more themselves. It is the heart behind the actions that houses the issue. Why are you doing your good deed? Is it because you want to be made holy or is it because you know you have imputed righteousness and you are following the lead of your Lord? That, Beloved, is what we are getting at here; the Lord is destroying any sense of self righteousness that we might have so that we approach life in pursuit of holiness.

Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Text: Matthew 5:33-48


Teaching about Vows

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely”: The scribes and Pharisees had twisted the law You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) to permit taking virtually every other name in a false oath. Now, a false oath is not one where an unforeseen circumstance prevents you from fulfilling your oath; it is an oath that you never intended to keep in the first place. Even today, we have people give oaths that they never intend to keep and one of the most common issues that the courts have to decide is that of a breach of contract and in certain industries, a breach of your fiduciary, or good faith obligation, is grounds for loss of license, loss of job, and potentially even jail. Clearly our oaths are important.


So why the prohibition against taking oaths? Do not swear at all: Jesus reminds us that God is part of every oath anyway; if you swear by heavenearthJerusalem, or even your head, you swear by God – and your oath must be honored. But let your “Yes” be “Yes”: Having to swear or make oaths betrays the weakness of your word. It demonstrates that there is not enough weight in your own character to confirm your words.

Some have taken this word of Jesus as more than an emphasis on truth-telling and honesty as an absolute prohibition of all oaths. This is at best misguided and at worst ignorance of scripture because oaths are permitted under certain circumstances, as long as they are neither abused or used as a cover for deception.

  • God Himself swears oaths:Hebrews 6:13 and Luke 1:73.
  • Jesus spoke under oath in a court:Matthew 26:63-64.
  • Paul made oaths:Romans 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 1:20, 2 Thessalonians 2:5.

“The truly good man will never need to take an oath; the truth of his sayings and the reality of his promises need no such guarantee. But the fact that oaths are still sometimes necessary is the proof that men are not good men and that this is not a good world.” (Barclay)

Oaths and vows were not only permitted but, in certain circumstances, commanded in the Old Testament (Number 5:19.). Discussions of the relative validity of different forms of oath and vow occupied the Rabbis to the extent of filling several tractates of the Mishnah. But an oath is needed only if a person’s word alone is unreliable; it is an admission of failure in truthfulness. Of course we know that people lie because of the sinful flesh. Jesus therefore goes behind the whole structure of legislation on oaths to the ideal which it has replaced. The passage, while on the surface concerned with oaths, is actually on truthfulness, focusing on v. 37 rather than v. 34a (Jeremias, NTT, p. 220). As with divorce, the accommodating legislation, both in the Old Testament and in later Judaism, is bypassed to return to the ideal which makes it unnecessary.

“33. The two clauses summarize Old Testament teaching rather than quote it explicitly. You shall not swear falsely echoes Leviticus 19:12 (Exodus 20:7 may also be in mind); you shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn takes up the teaching of Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Psalm 50:14; Ecclesiastes 5:4. All these last are concerned with vows, but Numbers 30:2 mentions oaths as parallel, and the distinction between oaths and vows was generally not kept clear (see Davies, p. 240). The Old Testament thus prohibited both false oaths and unfulfilled oaths or vows.

34-36. Jesus’ total rejection of oaths (not … at all) is not paralleled even by the Qumran literature, strict as it was on this issue (Davies, pp. 241-244), and contrasts starkly with the Rabbinic casuistry which he goes on to expose in these verses (cf. 23:16-22). That this ideal should not be taken as a rigid rule, e.g. with reference to oaths in court, is suggested by Jesus’ own response when the High Priest ‘put him on oath’ (26:63-64), and by occasional ‘oaths’ in the New Testament (2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:27); even God can use an oath (Heb. 6:13-17). But Jesus goes on to repudiate the use of ‘second-class’ oaths which avoid the name of God (and therefore are not binding). First they do not in fact exclude God, as heaven, earth and Jerusalem are all inseparably linked with God (as Jesus shows by references to Isa. 66:1 and Ps. 48:2 (v. 3, Heb.), and even your head is God’s creation and under his control. And secondly, as v. 37 shows, they should be unnecessary.

  1. 37. Simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is literally ‘Yes yes, no no’. The repetition is not a new formula, but a Semitic way of indicating that ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are to be used (alone) on each occasion. (‘two two’ in Mark 6:7 for ‘two at a time’.) James 5:12, which is clearly based on this passage, has correctly interpreted the meaning: ‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no.’ All words are binding, and the Christian’s word should need no buttressing. Any addition comes from evil, or the evil one: The Greek genitive ponērou could be either masculine or neuter, here as often; it makes little difference to the general sense whether the need for safeguards against falsehood is traced to the wickedness of the world in general or to the ‘Father of lies’.”

Tyndale Commentaries – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.



So, in accordance with the Old Testament standard, we are to swear by no other name but God’s—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Appealing to heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and other such things was considered by most Jews to make their oaths less binding. Those were grand and great things, things that gave an aura of power, importance, and veracity to what was said or promised in their name. But because those things were far less than God, they made oaths given in their names far less binding than an oath made in His name. Still less binding would be an oath made merely by your head.


Any oath sworn is binding and should not be entered into lightly. How you deal with oaths and promises are a good indicator of your character.



Teaching about Revenge

The Mosaic law did teach an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). But over time religious teachers moved this command out of its proper sphere (a principle limiting retribution for the civil government) and put it in the wrong sphere (as an obligation in personal relationships). Retribution for a wrong done to you is no more obligated than a pancake breakfast. Like a pancake breakfast, vindication and retribution are nice but if you do not receive it, you need not be disappointed.


But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also: Here, Jesus presents the fullness of the eye for an eye law, and how its idea of limiting revenge extends into the principle of accepting certain evils against one’s self. Many times, I have heard the somewhat cliche comment, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” There is truth in that, though. A desire for retribution invariably leads to destruction.


Even today, in parts of the world, slapping the face and especially what we call backhanding a person is a horrible insult. When a person insults us (slaps you on the right cheek), we want to give them back what they gave to us, plus more. Jesus said we should patiently bear such insults and offences, and not resist an evil person who insults us this way. Instead, we trust God to defend us. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

It is wrong to think Jesus means evil should never be resisted. Jesus demonstrated with His life that evil should and must be resisted, such as when He turned tables in the temple. “Jesus is here saying that the true Christian has learned to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight.” (Barclay) When we think how Jesus Himself as insulted and spoken against (as a glutton, a drunk, an illegitimate child, a blasphemer, a madman, and so forth) we see how He lived this principle Himself.


Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us a correct understanding of the Law so…


It is wrong to think that Jesus means a physical attack cannot be resisted or defended against. When Jesus speaks of a slap on your right cheek, it was culturally understood as a deep insult, not a physical attack. Jesus does not mean that if someone hits across the right side of our head with a baseball bat, we should allow them to then hit the left side. “If a right-handed person strikes someone’s right cheek, presumably it is a slap by the back of the hand, probably considered more insulting than a slap by the open palm.” (Carson) 2 Corinthians 11:20 probably has in mind this kind of “insult slap.”


It is also wrong to think Jesus means that there is no place for punishment or retribution in society. Jesus here speaks to personal relationships, and not to the proper functions of government in restraining evil (Romans 13:1-4). I must turn my cheek when I am personally insulted, but the government has a responsibility to restrain the evil man from physical assault.


If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also: Under the Law of Moses, the outer cloak could not be taken from someone (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:13).

“Jesus’ disciples, if sued for their tunics, far from seeking satisfaction, will gladly part with what they may legally keep.” (Carson)

“Yet even in a country where justice can be had, we are not to resort to law for every personal wrong. We should rather endure to be put upon than be forever crying out, ‘I’ll bring an action.’” (Spurgeon)

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two: Positively, we are told to take command of evil impositions by making a deliberate choice to give more than we are required. At that time, Judea was under Roman military occupation. Under military law, any Roman soldier might command a Jew to carry his soldier’s pack for one mile – but only one mile. Jesus here says, “Go beyond the one mile required by law and give another mile out of a free choice of love.” This is how we transform an attempt to manipulate us into a free act of love.


“The Jews fiercely resented such impositions, and Jesus’ choice of this example deliberately dissociates him from militant nationalists. Rather than resisting, or even resenting, the disciple should volunteer for a further mile.” (France)”

“The old said, ‘insist on your own right, and loving your neighbor, hate your enemy, and so secure your safety.’ The new says, ‘suffer wrong, and lavish your love on all.” (Morgan)

I know good and well how hard it is not to return wrong for wrong. I am half Italian and, the joke among many of my kinsmen, is that getting even is the family business. It is tough to turn the other cheek, very tough indeed.


This idea of turning the other cheek takes me to research I was doing for this sermon and arriving at Lamentations 3:30. I would like to consider some things my colleague, Rev. Matt Bassford had to say


“That aside, the truly interesting translation in Lamentations 3:30 in the NLT is “turn the other cheek”.  This is certainly an interpretive reading, but the passage that it’s interpreting isn’t Lamentations 3:30.  Instead, it’s interpreting Matthew 5:39.  In fact, the NLT uses language from Matthew 5:39 to translate Lamentations 3:30, even though the latter is hundreds of years older.  It makes this choice to imply that Jesus in Matthew 5:39 is quoting Lamentations 3:30.


If indeed Jesus is citing Lamentations 3:30 as a signpost to an Old-Testament context and speaking to an angry Jewish audience that is considering rebellion against Rome, that dramatically changes the meaning of “turn the other cheek.”  The context of Lamentations 3:30 is clearly about how the defeated Jews ought to behave after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 589 BC.  Here’s Jeremiah’s prescription:


It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach.  For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion according to His abundant loving kindness. 


(Lamentations 3:27-32 NASB)


In other words, Jeremiah is saying to the Jews of his day, “You’re in this fix because you sinned and God punished you.  In these circumstances, rather than fighting back, you should submit to your oppressors until God rescues you in His compassion.”


It makes perfect sense for Jesus to be saying exactly the same thing to the Jews of His day.  Like the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, first-century Jews were suffering under the boot of the oppressor, albeit a Roman rather than a Babylonian overlord.  In using Lamentations 3, Jesus is arguing that the Romans are over the Jews because of divine punishment for Jewish sins.  The Jews need to solve their Roman problem not by rebelling against their conquerors (because fighting against God’s will is pointless) but by repairing their relationship with God—doing everything else that Jesus tells them to do in the Sermon on the Mount.


Once the Jewish nation is righteous, God will deliver them from the Romans.  Until then, they need to meekly submit to the oppression that they brought on themselves.  Note that this reading dovetails with Matthew 5:41 (the “second mile” text) which is also about Roman-Jewish relations.


If this reading is correct, Matthew 5:39 is not a general call to personal pacifism.  Instead, just as Christians in the seven churches would have understood Revelation 4 in the light of Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1, Jesus’ Jewish audience would have understood “turn the other cheek” in the light of Lamentations 3, as a primarily political rather than personal instruction.


This is not the way you treat the robber who breaks into your house in the middle of the night.  This is the way you treat the Roman soldier who abuses and oppresses you.  The point is not that violence is wrong per se, even in self-defense.  It is that violence is wrong when the object of your violence is somebody whom God has set over you.  Rebellion, not self-defense, is the spiritual problem.”


Like Matt, I find myself saying this is very, very different from the way that I’ve ever read Matthew 5:39 before. I’ve always only heard it relating to personal insult but I can most definitely see the case for it also being a rebuke to people who don’t want to submit to judgment.



Give to him who asks of you: The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn’t loving to give in to someone’s manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn’t always loving to give or to not resist.

Teaching about Love for Enemies


You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”: The Mosaic Law commanded you shall love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Yet some teachers in the days of Jesus added an opposite – and evil – misapplication: an equal obligation to hate your enemy. “They generally looked upon all the uncircumcised as not their neighbors, but their enemies, whom the precept did not oblige them to love.” (Poole)


But I say to you, love your enemies: Instead, Jesus reminds that in the sense God means it, all people are our neighbors, even our enemies. To truly fulfill this law, we must loveblessdo good and pray for our enemies – not only our friends. Most people have no idea how truly scandalous this idea is. Revenge comes naturally to us but vengeance is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35) but to show love and grace is to demonstrate the Holy Spirit working in us.


Jesus understood we will have enemies (it goes hand in hand with John 16:33, In the world ye shall have tribulation), yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy our enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.


That you may be sons of your Father in heaven: In doing this, we are imitating God, who shows love towards His enemies, by sending rain on the just and on the unjust.

“You see our Lord Jesus Christ’s philosophy of nature. He believed in the immediate presence and working of God. As the great Son of God he had a very sensitive perception of the presence of his Father in all the scenes around him, and hence he calls the sun God’s sun- ‘He maketh his sun to rise.’” (Spurgeon)

“As though he did not regard human character at all, God bids his sun shine on good and bad. As though he did not know that any men were vile, he bids the shower descend on just and unjust. Yet he does know, for he is no blind deity. He does know; and he knows when his sun shines on yonder miser’s acres that it is bringing forth a harvest for a churl. He does it deliberately. When the rain is falling yonder upon the oppressor’s crops, he knows that the oppressor will be the richer for it, and means that he should be; he is doing nothing by mistake and nothing without a purpose.” (Spurgeon)

“What does God say to us when he acts thus? I believe that he says this: ‘This is the day of free grace; this is the time of mercy.’ The hour for judgment is not yet, when he will separate between the good and the bad; when he will mount the judgment seat and award different portions to the righteous and to the wicked.” (Spurgeon)

This is an example – that we also are to love our enemies and bless them if we can. In doing so, we show ourselves to sons of our Father in heaven. “We are made sons by regeneration, through faith in the Son; but we are called to make our calling and election sure – to approve and vindicate our right to that sacred name. We can only do this by showing in word and act that the divine life and principles animate us.” (Meyer)

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you: What do you do more than the sinner? We should regard it as no matter of virtue if we merely return the love that is given to us.


Remember, Jesus here taught the character of the citizens of His kingdom. We should expect that character to be different from the character seen in the world. There are many good reasons why more should be expected from Christians than others:

  • They claim to have something that others do not have; they claim to be renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They do in fact have something that others do not have; they are in fact renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They have a power that others do not have; they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.
  • They have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
  • They have a better future than others do.

Therefore, you shall be perfect: If a man could live the way Jesus has told us to in this chapter, he would truly be perfect.

  • He would never hate, slander or speak evil of another person.
  • He would never lust in his heart or mind, and not covet anything.
  • He would never make a false oath, and always be completely truthful.
  • He would let God defend his personal rights, and not take it upon himself to defend those rights.
  • He would always love his neighbors, and even his enemies.


Do you see? Do you get it? The Law demands, “Be perfect.” It must demand this because the Law testifies to God’s holiness and God’s holiness demands our perfection. We cannot, however, be perfect. That has been the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount thus far. You, on your own, cannot be perfect. However, you can, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, fulfill the law.


So many people get it wrong: they over emphasize the law or they over emphasize grace and liberty and miss the point of the Law, to point us to Christ. The Law shows us our sin and it must condemn for without that condemnation we would never seek a savior. The Law, beloved, is itself a Means of Grace because it is how God ordained us to seek a savior, in fleeing to Christ our sweet savior from Law’s damnation.

Anger: Where Murder Begins

Anger: Where Murder Begins

Text: Matthew 5:21-26
The first thing we need to understand, here, is that Jesus is not overturning the Law nor is He altering it in any way. When He references what the people had heard, He is referencing the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees.
We said, last week, that Jesus gives the correct understanding and application of the Mosaic Law and, in this first lesson on the Law, He wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, literally.
“Jesus goes behind the act of murder itself to declare that the anger and hatred which give rise to it, though not capable of being examined in a human court, are no less culpable in the sight of God. The continued validity of the sixth commandment is assumed, but a legalistic interpretation which restricts its application to the literal act alone is rejected.” —Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.
You see, the actual act of murder, the killing itself, is the end result of the sin. In order to develop that more, shall we turn to the Epistle of James.
James 1:13-16
“13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”
James is not referencing the death from murder, like our primary text talks about. Instead, he is talking about the worst kind of death, spiritual death and that death is eternal. Let us turn back to our text and learn from the Holy Spirit.
James points out that you cannot be tempted except that you desire the thing in the first place. Logically, then, we see that unrighteous anger is rooted in the desire to destroy another person. This may seem a little extreme but we really need to process the fact that Jesus is intent on our understanding that no matter how “perfect” that we might believe we are, absent grace we find ourselves hopelessly devoid of any real chance at Heaven. I don’t want to take us too far down a rabbit trail, but in this lesson, Jesus is illustrating the doctrine of Total Depravity.
5:21 “You have heard that our fathers were told.” Jesus begins his detailed “filling” of the Torah (v. 17) with one of the Ten Commandments, implicitly alluding to this underlying ground for all obedience to God. In Judaism, the citation of a Scripture text implies the whole context: in this case, all Ten Commandments, not merely the quoted words.
The phrase “The ancients were told” could also be rendered “the ancients told, or said.” In the first instance the implication would be that the ancients were told by God, in which case Jesus would be referring to God’s revealed Word. The ancients. For Him to contradict God’s Word in any way would be totally out of the question in view of verses 17-19. In the second rendering the implication is that the ideas the ancients taught were primarily of their own devising. That must be the correct approach.
Jesus customarily referred to the Scriptures by such phrases as “Moses commanded,” “the prophet Isaiah said,” “it is written,” and such. Here His words are much more general and therefore cannot refer directly to the Old Testament. Jesus shows that, even in regard to the specific biblical commands against murder and adultery, their tradition was at variance with the Holy Scripture, which reveals that God’s primary concern has always been for inner purity, not simply outward compliance.
The rabbis of past generations were often called the “fathers of antiquity,” or “the men of long ago,” and it is to them that “the ancients” (vv. 21, 33) refers. Jesus was contrasting His teaching—and the true teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures themselves—with the Jewish written and oral traditions that had accumulated over the previous several hundred years and that had so terribly perverted God’s revelation.
In his Institutes (Library of Christian Classics, vol. 1, p. 372), John Calvin wrote,
“Let us agree that through the law man’s life is molded not only to outward honesty but to inward and spiritual righteousness. Although no one can deny this, very few duly note it. This happens because they do not look to the Lawgiver by whose character the nature of the law is to be appraised. If some king by edict forbids fornication, murder or theft, I admit that a man who does not commit such acts will not be bound by the penalty. That is because the mortal lawgiver’s jurisdiction extends only to the outward political order. But God, whose eye nothing escapes and who is concerned not so much with outward appearance as with purity of heart, forbids not only fornication, murder and theft but lust, anger, hatred, coveting and deceit. For since He is a spiritual Lawgiver, He speaks not less to the soul than He does to the body.”
Among Jesus’ most amazing departures from what would be considered traditional teaching were His insistence that tradition and Scripture were in conflict and that inner righteousness, not outward form, is the central and necessary characteristic of a right relationship to God. (Side note, this is one of the major problems that we, as Baptists have with Rome: The Roman Church elevates tradition as equal to the very words of Scripture and Jesus makes clear that tradition is not ever equal to the Scripture.) We will spend the remainder of our time, today, looking at that very concept.
“5:21-48 Six times Jesus contrasts traditional interpretations of OT texts or themes with his understanding of their meaning and application. In five of the six antitheses, he also prescribes proactive, positive action as an antidote to what is prohibited. Presumably similar action is implied in the remaining instance (to prevent divorce) as well.”–DA Carson
Looking at this, we see that Jesus corrects six misinterpretations or, as we referenced last week, “abolishing of the Law.”
5:21 murder. The sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) prohibits the taking of another human life. Now, the KJV renders this as, “Thou shalt not kill.” So does this mean that all killing is wrong? No; the verb refers to all killing except in war, capital punishment, or self-defense. Jesus’ assertion internalizes the command so that one who harbors rage or spews out spiteful words is also guilty of sin and its consequences (v. 22). The matter is so serious that one should leave a worship service, if necessary, to be “reconciled” (v. 24) to a fellow believer and “settle matters” (v. 25) if at all possible.
5:22 angry. The dangerous and destructive effect of human anger is likewise stressed throughout Scripture (Proverbs 20:2; 22:3; 29:22; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:20). Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder (Matthew 5:21 and James 4:1–2).
The scribes and Pharisees said that a person who referred to another as Raca, meaning “empty head,” was in danger of being sued for libel before the council (The Sanhedrin). To bring this into more modern terms, Raca would have the modern connation of calling someone an idiot or jackass. So am I saying that calling someone an idiot is as severe as murdering them? I’m afraid so. Calling someone a fool or an idiot is closely related to anger, in that it represents a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. This attack on the person, made in God’s image, is so fundamentally horrible, that the Lord equates it with murdering them.


  • Jesus exposes the essence of the scribes’ heresy. To them, the law was really only a matter of external performance, never the heart. Jesus brings the law back to the matters of the heart. “The supervision of the Kingdom does not begin by arresting a criminal with blood-red hands; it arrests the man in whom the murder spirit is just born.” (Morgan)




  • We should emphasize that Jesus is not saying that anger is as bad as murder. It is profoundly morally confused to think that someone who shouts at another person in anger has sinned as badly as someone who murders another person in anger. Jesus emphasized that the law condemns both, without saying that the law says they are the same things. The laws of the people could only deal with the outward act of murder, but Jesus declared that His followers understood that God’s morality addressed not only the end but also the beginning of murder.




  • Barclay, commenting on the specific ancient Greek word translated angry: “So Jesus forbids forever the anger which broods, the anger which will not forget, the anger which refuses to be pacified, the anger which seeks revenge.”
  • “The words ‘without cause’ probably reflect an early and widespread softening of Jesus’ strong teaching. Their absence does not itself prove there is no exception.” (Carson)


Note that the very first murder was the result of Cain’s anger that God did not accept his sacrifice, which, incidentally, was made in defiance of God’s revelation. (Genesis 4:1-17)
The first specific prohibition of murder is found in Genesis, in God’s instructions to Noah: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (9:6). Here the penalty for murder and the reason for its seriousness are given. The penalty was death for the killer, and the reason for such severe punishment was that man is made in God’s image. To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God. This assault, Jesus teaches, begins in the heart.
I may beat a dead horse a little but I really want to drive this home: By beginning with the prohibition against murder and showing its true nature, Jesus utterly destroys any illusion that we might have of our own self-righteousness. Consider that there is not a person alive who can claim to have never been angry without cause and there is not person alive who can say that they have never called a person an idiot or stupid.
From John MacArthur
“Here Jesus begins to specifically point up the inadequacy of the righteousness in which the scribes, Pharisees, and many others trusted. Because their view of righteousness was external, their view of themselves was complimentary. But Jesus shatters that complacent self-righteousness by beginning with the accusation that a person is guilty of murder even if he is angry with, hates, curses, or maligns another person. In a statement that may have shocked His hearers more than anything He had yet said, Jesus declares that a person guilty of anger is guilty of murder and deserves a murderer’s punishment.”
Do I mean to say that a person who is angry without cause is in danger of hell? I’m afraid so. Remember that we have to have better righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees in order to see Heaven.
So what do we do about the fact that sin lurks in the heart and waits to destroy? We repent and we pursue reconciliation. Repentance is the English rendering of metanoeo and it means to change your mind or change your thinking. So in repentance we change our thinking about ourselves and our righteousness and we agree with God that we are totally depraved and helpless to do anything about it. As a result we come to Jesus because He is our only hope of being restored into a relationship with the Father.
I want you to understand that repentance and the subsequent request for pardon is sufficient to spare you a place among the damned. However, repenting and asking for pardon does not restore your relationship. Looking at verses 23-25 in our text, we can see how important reconciliation is; it is so important that God Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus, commands us to cease worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person we have sinned against. Do you understand how radical that is? Stop worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person you have sinned against! This statement takes everything you know about worship and sets it on its head.
In other lessons, I have referenced Micah 6:8, but I want to show that verse, along with the previous two verses to help you understand. (This is perhaps the quintessential OT passage on God’s expectations in worship.)
Micah  6:6-8
What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
Turn also to Hosea chapter six. Reading verse six, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
If you will remember our earlier lesson, the whole of the Torah is to love God and love your neighbor, so reconciliation with another party is vital. Now, I need to point out that reconciliation is not always possible. There are times when the other party is so wounded that they are not able to reconcile with you and there may be times when one of the two parties is so steeped in sin that reconciliation is not possible.
In summary we have this quote: “Jesus is kind. His aim is to reach into our hearts, grab that anger and that ‘murder in miniature,’ and then pull it out and lead us to a place of reconciliation.” – Jim Salladin
Jesus and the Law

Jesus and the Law

Text Matthew 5:17-18


This week, we are interacting with a topic of fundamental importance: the relationship of not only Jesus Christ but also the Christian to the Law.


“It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).” — Got Questions Ministries


We need to start by understanding a few important ideas. Often times, we refer to the section of the Bible called the Torah as the Law; it is not. Torah, literally, means teaching. The mitzvot are the commandments/law and these are found in the Torah. Looking at this passage, we need to ask 2 questions, 1. Is the Law still in force for Christians? 2. What is the point/goal of the Law?


As Christians we see what is called a tripartite (3-parts) division of the Law: Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil. The Civil Laws are enjoined upon national Israel and are technically still in force today since Israel is a nation. There is not, currently, a Temple in Israel, so the Civil Law is not abolished but it is certainly on hold. That brings us to the Moral Laws in the Old Testament. Is it still in force for the Christian? Yes, and I would like to develop that idea a little this morning.


First, we need to understand the goal of the Law. “The Greek word, τέλος (telos), can be interpreted in the following ways: “end”, “purpose”, “goal”, “to set out for a definite point”… This word τέλος was used by Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and was also used in the New Testament by Paul, the author of the book of Romans. Paul states in Romans 10:4 that the Messiah is the τέλος of the Torah. The Messiah is the goal, the purpose, the end, and the definite point which the Torah was moving towards.”–One for Israel

“The author of Hebrews argues the Law was never a goal in and of itself, but rather it prescribed a system of worship that was divinely intended to point people to the Messiah. He writes about the tabernacle,

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation” (Heb 9:8–10; see also 10:1).”–One for Israel

Jesus clearly states that He came to fulfil the Law but what does this mean? Understanding this phrase is central to a proper understanding of the relationship of the Law to a Christian. Let’s look at 1st Century Judaism for a moment.

It is correct to state that the focus of all the rabbis teaching was the Law. For the rabbis, the “Law” consisted not only of the Written Law, but of the Oral Law as well. The Written Law was the Torah, or the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), that God gave to Israel at Sinai. In addition to this written revelation, Moses also received, according to the rabbis, additional commandments or instructions that were communicated orally. These additional commandments were designated by the rabbis as the Oral Law. You might have noticed that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus frequently says, “You have heard it said…” and this is what is called the Oral Law.


“Fulfill the Law” as a Rabbinic Idiom 

“It will help us greatly to know that the phrase “fulfill the Torah” is a rabbinic idiom that is still in use even today. The word we read as “law” is torah in Hebrew, and its main sense is teaching, guidance and instruction, rather than legal regulation. It is God’s instructions for living, and because of God’s great authority, it demands obedience and therefore takes on the sense of “law.” The Torah is often understood to mean the first five books of the Bible, but also refers to the Scriptures in general. In Jesus’ time, and among Jews today, this is a very positive thing – that the God who made us would give us instructions for how to live. The rabbis made it their goal to understand these instructions fully and teach people how to live by it.

The translation of “to fulfill” is lekayem in Hebrew (le-KAI-yem), which means to uphold or establish, as well as to fulfill, complete or accomplish. David Bivin has pointed out that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is often used as an idiom to mean to properly interpret the Torah so that people can obey it as God really intends. The word “abolish” was likely either levatel, to nullify, or la’akor, to uproot, which meant to undermine the Torah by misinterpreting it. For example, the law against adultery could be interpreted as specifically against cheating on one’s spouse, but not about pornography. When Jesus declared that lust also was a violation of the commandment, he was clarifying the true intent of that law, so in rabbinic parlance he was “fulfilling the Law.” In contrast, if a pastor told his congregation that watching x-rated videos was fine, he would be “abolishing the Law” – causing them to not live as God wants them to live. “–

There is so much in this concept that it is hard to know where to begin. Obviously, Jesus is going to give us the correct interpretation of the Law; the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount is entirely about a proper understanding of the Law. In another sense, to fulfill the Law can mean to obey it and Jesus fulfills the Law by perfect obedience to it.

In the context of Matthew 5:17, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “…not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.


There is a school of thought that suggests that “abolish” means to teach someone to misinterpret the Law. I can see that point and tend toward agreement with it. Clearly, from His own words, we can see that Jesus is not abrogating the whole law. (Matthew 5:18)

Without reading too far ahead, I want to share a quote from Jesus and a very similar quote from Hillel the Elder, a contemporary of Jesus that I think will set the tone for the remainder of our lesson.

According to Jewish tradition, a student asked Hillel the Elder to teach him the whole Torah and Hillel replied, “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”


Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”


Paul talks about the Law of Christ and I want to spend a few minutes on that because the Law of Christ is the correct interpretation of the entire Torah.

From Got Questions:

Question: “What is the law of Christ?”

Answer: Galatians 6:2 states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (emphasis added). What exactly is the law of Christ, and how is it fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens? While the law of Christ is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:21, the Bible nowhere specifically defines what precisely is the law of Christ. However, most Bible teachers understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated were the greatest commandments in Mark 12:28–31, “‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

The law of Christ, then, is to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In Mark 12:32–33, the scribe who asked Jesus the question responds with, “To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this, Jesus and the scribe agreed that those two commands are the core of the entire Old Testament Law. All of the Old Testament Law can be placed in the categories of “loving God” or “loving your neighbor.”

Various New Testament scriptures state that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law, bringing it to completion and conclusion (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15). In place of the Old Testament Law, Christians are to obey the law of Christ. Rather than trying to remember the over 600 individual commandments in the Old Testament Law, Christians are simply to focus on loving God and loving others. If Christians would truly and wholeheartedly obey those two commands, we would be fulfilling everything that God requires of us.

Christ freed us from the bondage of the hundreds of commands in the Old Testament Law and instead calls on us to love. First John 4:7–8 declares, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” First John 5:3 continues, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”

Some use the fact that we are not under the Old Testament Law as an excuse to sin. (This insidious and heretical doctrine is known as antinomianism.) The apostle Paul addresses this very issue in Romans. “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). For the follower of Christ, the avoidance of sin is to be accomplished out of love for God and love for others. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others. Our motivation for overcoming sin should be love, not a desire to legalistically obey a series of commandments. We are to obey the law of Christ because we love Him, not so that we can check off a list of commands that we successfully obeyed.

So what is the relationship of Christ to the Law?  Once again, I turn to notes from one of my favorite Baptists, John Piper.


The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness; Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) When we note that Christ is the end of the Law, He is, as I said earlier, the telos or point of the Law. Paul refers to the Law as our school master (Galatians 3:24). The mitzvot/law is glorious because it shows the holiness of the Lord and points us toward Christ.



  1. The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ fulfilled all that they were pointing toward. He was the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sins.Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”



  1. The priesthood that stood between worshiper and God has ceased. Hebrews 7:23–24, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”


“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9).

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or “type” of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ–a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).



  1. The physical temple has ceased to be the geographic center of worship. Now, Christ himself is the center of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the “temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no geographic center, no Mecca, no Jerusalem.John 4:2123, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’” John 2:1921, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ . . . He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my [Jesus’s] name, there am I among them.”


Since the Holy Spirit now indwells all believers, a temple is no longer necessary.


  1. The food laws that set Israel apart from the nations have been fulfilled and ended in Christ.Mark 7:18–19, “[Jesus] said to them, . . . ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him?’ . . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.)”


  1. The establishment of civil law on the basis of an ethnically rooted people, who are ruled directly by God, has ceased. The people of God are no longer a unified political body or an ethnic group or a nation-state, but are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all states. Therefore, God’s will for states is not taken directly from the Old Testament theocratic order, but should now be re-established from place to place and from time to time by means that correspond to God’s sovereign rule over all peoples, and that correspond to the fact that genuine obedience, rooted as it is in faith in Christ, cannot be coerced by law. The state is therefore grounded in God, but not expressive of God’s immediate rule.Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” John 18:36, “My [Jesus’s] kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.”

Ultimately, Christ completes the Law and, as we will see in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, He gives the proper understanding of the Law.

Let’s turn our attention to verse 20 in our final minutes together.

“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

How is that supposed to happen? The Pharisees were fastidious about keeping the Law. Look at what the Apostle Paul said about his time as a Pharisee, “as touching the Law, a Pharisee…As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6). The Pharisees considered themselves to be perfect and, in fact, they were as close to perfect as you could get BUT there was still that pesky pride that got them.

Think back a couple weeks to our lesson on the Beatitudes. Does this sound familiar, “God blesses those who are poor and recognize their dependence upon Him.?” This is what Jesus is talking about. If it were possible for a person to keep all 613 of the commands in the Old Testament, you would still be guaranteed a spot in Hell if you thought that obedience was going to do anything for your standing with God. For our righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees means that we come to God with nothing but an outstretched hand begging mercy.

The idea of being a beggar is offensive to most of us in our society. We hear about “self made millionaires,” doctors, lawyers, civic activists etc. But the truth of the matter is, no one is truly self made. The Sovereign of the Universe has orchestrated events in their favor. All throughout our time together, we are going to see Jesus butting heads with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and we will notice that it is very hard to come to the Lord when you are “perfect in every way.”

The better righteousness that Jesus is talking about is Imputed Righteousness. Now this is a legal term, as well it should be for we are judged before the Law. Even having come to Christ, the Law testifies against us that we are sinners. However, when we have knelt before the Lordship of Christ and repented of our sins, God the Father imputes or rather assigns the righteousness of Christ unto us. Having been judged in our stead, at Calvary, Christ’s righteousness grants us access to the Father. This is what Jesus meant when He talked about our righteousness being better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. When you stand before God, He will either account Christ’s righteousness to you and welcome you home to Heaven or He will look at your own righteousness and will justly damn you for all eternity. You need to make sure that you have made the right choice and bowed the knee to the Lordship of Christ and repented of your sin.

Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Beatitudes: A Life Hidden in Christ

Background and Introductory Remarks

The Sermon on the Mount is most likely a collection of Jesus’ sermons and not a single sermon. (Word Biblical Commentary). I want to say that I disagree with the commentator; I think the Sermon on the Mount is more of a Matthean example of the most common sermon/type of sermon that Jesus preached. 

The righteousness of the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) expounded in the sermon is presented as being in continuity with the righteousness of the ot law (5:17–19), yet also as surpassing it. In the Beatitudes, we see Jesus lead off with what a life that pleases God looks like; I call it a life hidden in Christ.

5:1–7:28 (NISB) These chapters comprise the Sermon on the Mount, the first of five collections (chaps. 10; 13; 18; 24–25) of Jesus’ teaching or revelation of God’s will. These thematic discourses instruct disciples, shaping their identity and lifestyle. The Sermon begins with blessings and sayings (5:3-16). Its middle section comprises six interpretations of scripture (5:17-48), instruction on three distinctive discipleship practices (6:1-18), and teaching on social and economic practices (6:19–7:12). The sermon closes with scenes of eschatological destiny (7:13-27). More than providing information about God’s will and motivating disciples to do it, the sermon offers visions of God’s empire. It sketches life in an alternative community marked by justice, transformed social relationships, practices of piety, and shared and accessible resources.

Main Sermon:

Word Wealth: makarios (Matt. 5:3; Luke 10:23; Acts 26:2; 1 Tim. 1:11) G3107. Strong tells us that it means to be blessed/happy/large/filled-up and/or content. Thayer points out that makarios is frequently paired with God’s name. Makarios, then, is most commonly used for blessedness or the enjoyment of favor from God.

I want you to understand that makarios can mean happy, and that is often the case, but it does not always guarantee your happiness. You may be in the midst of persecution but God is shepherding you through it, in which case, you are still blessed even if you are not, in the moment, happy.

Here, in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus both reinterprets the old law and offers a new law, recalling the revelation of the law to Moses on Mount Sinai (see Ex 19–24).

Since Matthew introduces the Sermon on the Mount by highlighting the connection between Jesus and Moses, the Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12) should probably be read against the backdrop of Moses’ teachings. The only time the adjective “Blessed” was used by Moses was in his blessing on Israel (Deuteronomy 33:29): “How happy you are, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord? He is the shield that protects you, the sword you boast in. Your enemies will cringe before you, and you will tread on their backs.” Israel’s blessing had both a historical and future focus. “Saved by the Lord” referred to Israel’s exodus from Egypt. The remainder of the blessing assured the Israelites of success in their conquest of the promised land. Against this backdrop, the blessings of the new Moses (Jesus, the one Moses prophesied as being greater than him {see Deuteronomy 18:15}) identify Jesus’ disciples as the new Israel who will enjoy a new exodus and conquest. The new Moses is a spiritual deliverer rather than a political one, and His promises must be understood in that light. In the Beatitudes, the new Moses pronounces spiritual salvation (exodus from slavery to sin) and promises spiritual victory (conquest and inheritance of a new promised land) to the new Israel. This background is confirmed by the allusion to Israel’s exodus and conquest in the promise that the meek will “inherit the earth” (5:5).

In the OT, the poor were those who cried out for God’s help, depended entirely on Him for their needs, had a humble and contrite spirit, experienced His deliverance, and enjoyed His undeserved favor (Psalm 86:1-5). In light of this background, Jesus was describing His disciples as unworthy sinners who depend on God’s grace for salvation. Although the promises in Matthew 5:4-9 are expressed in the future tense, the affirmation the kingdom of heaven is theirs is in the present tense (5:3,10). This suggests that the kingdom had already arrived through the coming of Jesus but that the fulfillment of many kingdom promises will occur only in the future. This future fulfillment awaits Christ’s second coming. The statement “the kingdom of heaven is theirs” appears at the beginning and end of the main body of the Beatitudes (5:3,10). This bracketing device suggests that the Beatitudes constitute promises only to those who belong to the kingdom. Isaiah 61:1 promised that Messiah would bring good news to the poor. This beatitude serves as a fulfillment of that prophecy (Luke 4:16-21).

In the case of the Beatitudes, blessed (Psalm 1:1) are…

  • poor in spirit
  • those who mourn
  • those who are humble (meek/gentle)
  • those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness
  • those who are merciful
  • those whose hearts are pure
  • those who work for peace
  • those who are persecuted
  • when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus


If you look, closely, you will see that they build upon one another. We will circle back in a minute to look at each one after we talk a little about their progression…The poor in spirit recognize their total dependence upon God for any hope of Heaven and because of that, they mourn over sin, not just their own but the fact that all sin separates from the goodness of God and richness of fellowship with him. They are not consumed with pride because they have recognized their dependence upon God. In longing for more fellowship with Him, they hunger and thirst (a picture of total desire) for God’s justice and righteousness to fill the earth. A life hidden in Christ leads to mercy, we do not give others what they deserve just as we are not given our just desserts. We become pure of heart in not having any guile but a sincere desire for more of God and in that desire we work toward peace with God. As a consequence, the unsaved world will persecute us; such persecution will result, among other things, in being mocked and lied about because of Christ.

So why bother? At the risk of sounding cliché, we bother because we will spend eternity in Heaven with the One in whom our souls delight. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. Shall we circle back and look at those beatitudes?

poor in spirit This first beatitude recalls Isaiah 66:2, “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word. (NKJV)”

The poor in spirit recognize that they have no spiritual “assets.” They know they are spiritually bankrupt. We might say that the ancient Greek had a word for the “working poor” and a word for the “truly poor.” Jesus used the word for the truly poor here. It indicates someone who must beg for whatever they have or get. (Guzik)

We learn from Calvin: “Many are pressed down by distresses, and yet continue to swell inwardly with pride and cruelty. But Christ pronounces those to be happy who, chastened and subdued by afflictions, submit themselves wholly to God, and, with inward humility, betake themselves to him for protection. Others explain the poor in spirit to be those who claim nothing for themselves, and are even so completely emptied of confidence in the flesh, that they acknowledge their poverty. But as the words of Luke and those of Matthew must have the same meaning, there can be no doubt that the appellation poor is here given to those who are pressed and afflicted by adversity. The only difference is, that Matthew, by adding an epithet, confines the happiness to those only who, under the discipline of the cross, have learned to be humble.”

We further learn, from Chuck Smith: “First of all, he’s not talking about physical poverty, poor in spirit. This is in opposition to being proud, and this is always the inevitable consequence of a man coming into a personal, real confrontation with God. If you have come into a true confirmation of God in your own life, the result immediately always is that of poverty of spirit. You see a person who is proud and haughty, he is a man who has not had a true encounter with God.

In Isaiah chapter six, upon the death of the popular king Uzziah, when the throne of Israel has been emptied of this great popular monarch, Isaiah writes, “And in the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting on the throne, high and lifted up, and his train did fill the temple…Then said I, woe is me! For I am undone; and I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell amongst a people of unclean lips:” (Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah 6:5). That’s always the result of a man seeing God in truth. “Woe is me! I am undone”.

Daniel, when he saw the Lord said, “My beauty was turned into corruption” (Daniel 10:8). When Peter had his confrontation he said, “Depart from me; for Lo, I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8). The man who truly sees God sees himself in truth.”

Of all the traits a Christian should have, it is poverty of spirit that is the most difficult for us. Why? Because we wish to aggrandize self, to be more than what we are, and to think that we bring something to the table for our salvation. Friend, Jonathan Edwards said it best, you contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary. All the self esteem and self worth you could ever need is found at the cross where God, Himself, took away your filthiness and gave you Christ’s righteousness so you can have a relationship with Him

Exactly what is being poor in spirit? I heard an excellent sermon from John Piper on this concept and in my notes I have:

  • It is a sense of powerlessness in ourselves.
  • It is a sense of spiritual bankruptcy and helplessness before God.
  • It is a sense of moral uncleanness before God.
  • It is a sense of personal unworthiness before God.
  • It is a sense that if there is to be any life or joy or usefulness, it will have to be all of God and all of grace.

In short, poverty of spirit says, “God I know I do not deserve anything from your hand but I come to you ready to accept anything you choose to give and I come ready to do anything I can to please you.”

In the hymn Rock of Ages, we find the perfect embodiment of being poor in spirit. The hymn says, “In my hand no price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” That, beloved, is what it means to be poor in spirit; it is not simply humility but it is the acknowledgement that everything we have, every single good thing that we possess, is a generous gift from the hand of God the Father, who delights in giving good gifts to His children.

those who mourn This is not a simple weeping or a general sadness.  “The Greek word for to mourn, used here, is the strongest word for mourning in the Greek language. It is the word which is used for mourning for the dead, for the passionate lament for one who was loved.” (Barclay). The connotation is a deep guttural wail. The poor in spirit have realized what sin does to our relationship with God and so there is weeping, not just over our own sin but a wailing over the fact that the wicked, who, will not turn, must in the end be consumed buy their wickedness and given over to judgment.

those who are humble (meek/gentle) Before we consider this trait we need to realize that blessed are the meek is the best translation. “Blessed are the meek: It is impossible to translate this ancient Greek word praus (meek) with just one English word. It has the idea of the proper balance between anger and indifference, of a powerful personality properly controlled, and of humility. In the vocabulary of the ancient Greek language, the meek person was not passive or easily pushed around. The main idea behind the word “meek” was strength under control, like a strong stallion that was trained to do the job instead of running wild.” (Guzik)

F.F Bruce points out that the meek are the men who suffer wrong without bitterness or desire for revenge. This is also a very hard personality trait to have since to be meek means to show willingness to submit and work under proper authority. Meekness means I give up my rights and privileges.

Let’s consider this thought from the great commentator, Adam Clarke “Our word meek comes from the old Anglo-Saxon meca, or meccea, a companion or equal, because he who is of a meek or gentle spirit, is ever ready to associate with the meanest of those who fear God, feeling himself superior to none; and well knowing that he has nothing of spiritual or temporal good but what he has received from the mere bounty of God, having never deserved any favour from his hand.”

those who hunger and thirst for justice/righteousness As we hide our lives in Christ, we become consumed by a hunger for His justice and righteousness to work through us. Do not kid yourself into thinking that this is a simple hungering. No this is a hunger that cannot be satisfied until Christ comes.

  • This passion isreal, just like hunger and thirst are real.
  • This passion isnatural, just like hunger and thirst are natural in a healthy person.
  • This passion isintense, just like hunger and thirst can be.
  • This passion can bepainful, just like real hunger and thirst can cause pain.
  • This passion is adriving force, just like hunger and thirst can drive a man.
  • This passion is asign of health, just like hunger and thirst show health.

How does this hunger and thirst for righteousness express itself?

  • A longing to have a righteous nature.
  • A craving to be sanctified, to be made more holy.
  • A fervent desire to continue in God’s righteousness.
  • An insatiable desire to see righteousness promoted in the world.


those who are merciful Here we are talking about someone who has already received mercy. The merciful one will show it to those who are weaker and poorer.

  • The merciful one will always look for those who weep and mourn.
  • The merciful one will be forgiving to others, and always looking to restore broken relationships.
  • The merciful one will be merciful to the character of other people, and choose to think the best of them whenever possible.
  • The merciful one will not expect too much from others.
  • The merciful one will be compassionate to those who are outwardly sinful.
  • The merciful one will have a care for the souls of all men.


Having been shown mercy, a heart filled with the Holy Spirit will desire to give mercy to others. This is the outworking of the Spirit in our lives both to will and to do (Philippians 2:13)

Next we have the final two characteristics of a life hidden in Christ and the world’s reception of us.

those whose hearts are pure Church Father Origen understood this to be a reference to having a pure mind, as this fits best with the Greek understanding of the intellect. (Origen, De Principiis, 1:1:9, in Roberts and Donaldson, Ante-Nicene Fathers, 4:245.)

This concept of a pure heart denotes one who loves God with all his heart (Deut. 6:5), with an undivided loyalty, and whose inward nature corresponds with his outward profession (cf. Isa. 29:13). ‘Such is the generation of those who seek him’ (Ps. 24:6), and they receive the promise that they shall see God. This can only fully be realized in heaven, when ‘we shall see him as he is’ (1 John 3:2); then ‘we shall be like him’, and the longings of v. 6 will be finally satisfied. But in a lesser sense the vision of God is already the experience of his true lovers on earth, who persevere in his service ‘as seeing him who is invisible’ (Heb. 11:27).
–Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.


those who work for peace (blessed are the peacemakers) In his exquisite commentary on Matthew, David Guzik tells us “This does not describe those who live in peace, but those who actually bring about peace, overcoming evil with good. One way we accomplish this is through spreading the gospel, because God has entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). In evangelism we make peace between man and the God whom they have rejected and offended.”

Truly, then, a peacemaker is one who works toward making peace not just between two rivals but ultimately, the true peacemaker seeks to make peace between God and the sinner. This is accomplished through helping the sinner to understand his sin and to understand what an offense sin is when considered by the Holy God. From there we take the sinner, now aware of his wickedness and what is due him, to the cross; it is from the cross that the sinner approaches God’s Throne of Grace and receives reconciliation between himself and his God. Once reconciled and no longer God’s enemies, the repentant now is adopted as a son since he is no more an outsider.

Now, having laid out what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, Jesus takes us to the reception that we can expect from the world and those who are outside the Kingdom…


Blessed are those who are persecuted when people mock, persecute and lie about you because of Jesus The world hates Christ and you can be sure that they will hate us too. If you watch any television, these days, you will see that we are portrayed as aberrant, sometimes as simple minded fools, sometimes outright lies are made up about us and our values.


Early Christians heard many enemies say all kinds of evil against them falsely for Jesus’ sake. The 1st generations of Christians were accused of:

  • Cannibalism, because of gross and deliberate misrepresentation of the practice of the Lord’s Supper.
  • Immorality, because of gross deliberate misrepresentation of weekly “Love Feast” and their private meetings.
  • Revolutionary fanaticism, because they believed that Jesus would return and bring an apocalyptic end to history.
  • Splitting families, because when one marriage partner or parent became a Christian there was often change and division in the family.
  • Treason, because they would not honor the Roman gods and participate in emperor worship.

Even today, there are those who believe they are doing a righteous work by killing Christians. For example, ISIS believed in beheading Christians, they were earning a place in Heaven and rewards from God. How many Christians have we seen dragged into court because they refused to engage in business practices that violated their conscience but the world demanded thes practices any way.

I could go on about persecution ad nauseum but I would leave you with this thought on the matter: John 16:33b, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

So what do I do about this? Beloved, having now understood what life in the Kingdom of Heaven looks like, it should be our sincere desire to see the traits laid out in the beatitudes cultivated in our lives. These character traits are a gift from God and also an answer to prayer. As we earnestly desire to be more like Christ, we will see these traits manifest more and more in our lives.

Do not be discouraged when trials come. Instead, have the mindset that James, the Lord’s brother encouraged– Count it as a blessing when trials and persecutions come because it means that our faith is being perfected. We will not always get to know what God is doing but when we look back over the most challenging times in our lives, we can see that God is working everything together to conform us to the image of His Son. The ultimate result of such confirmation will be the day when we are resurrected and glorified with bodies suitable for Heaven and prepared to enjoy the majesty of our Savior into the ages of ages.



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