Lesson 37: The Sermon on the Mount (#5, "But I say unto you")
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson # 37. We're still in Matthew ch. 5, the sermon on the mount. Don't lose sight of the setting. After the beatitudes, Jesus emphasized their importance; by saying those who possess these characteristics are like salt and like light. Thus, very, very important! He THEN emphasized His purpose and His relation to the Law of Moses. He said he did not come to destroy the law; but to FULFIL. And we said in our last lesson that fulfil meant to bring to a logical conclusion as was pre-stated in the law itself. V.17-20 is an introduction to a unique section (v.21-48). Jesus discussed some of the requirements for his kingdom and what his subjects may expect. Whether you want to call these Jesus' rules, the law of Christ, the new law, or commandments for the kingdom; take your choice. But, in the verses that follow; Jesus contrasted his rules with the rules for the old covenant that came forth from Mt. Sinai.
We've read this before; so, I'm NOT going to take the time to read it here. But, let's get the outline in mind before we start. Notice in v.21, v.27, v.31, v.33, v.38 and v.43 this section can be divided into six similar parts. In each of these divisions, Jesus began by saying, "Ye have heard" thus-and-so. I guess there's one exception to that; in v.31 he said: "It hath been said". But, the same meaning, of course. Then, after this repetitive beginning, each time, Jesus gave a statement from the Mosaic code. For example, in v.21, Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill..." Now, of course, you recognize that as one of the ten commandments that God gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai. The sixth commandment as given in Ex. 20:13. Then in the next verse, without exception, Jesus followed each of these statements by saying: "But I say unto you..." Then from there, Jesus proceeded to give the law(s) for His kingdom.
Now the old law and the new law differ principally in this respect. The ten commandment law and the statutes or ordinances given along with the ten commandment law were given for a national form of government. Thus, the ten commandments were written mostly in terms of overt acts. For example, "thou shalt not kill" (v.21) describes an overt act, i.e. outward conduct. Down in v.21, Jesus quoted the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And again, I trust you see, that is an overt act. It says nothing about the thinking process or anything that led TO that overt conduct. Obviously, thinking and conduct are always connected by the very nature of the case or should be. But, the point is, that in the Mosaic code, the emphasis was upon overt conduct. However, as we study the rules that Jesus gave for his kingdom; you will notice (#1) these rules were written to individuals, NOT a nation. (#2) These rules are applied internally, and make no reference to overt action or a national system of enforcement. Jesus requires that WE control our conduct; but the rules are written up front. They deal with attitudes and the mental process that initiates and controls our overt conduct. So, it's a completely different approach. Now, both systems deal with the same general areas of human behavior, YES! But, the commands are slanted from a different angle and applied at a different level. In the old system, a murderer was to be stoned to death. Thus, governmental activity was regulated, as well as, individual conduct; both by the same law. The individual was punished by the government; and yet, that same individual must face God in the judgment. Governments are ordained of God today (Rom. 13:1); but yet, governments are not regulated in the same way or by the same laws today, as Israel was regulated then. So, it's a new system, a new ball game. Many people have difficulty grasping this today. They teach their children the ten commandments of old and then try to follow a denominational creed book which is nothing more than the doctrines and commandments of men. And, you see, that skirts Jesus' law altogether. So, if you'll permit me to be just down-right pointedly honest; most religious people are so mixed up on this point they don't know which rules to follow. So, they would find it hard to obey, even if they wanted to. That points up the importance of rightly dividing the scriptures as is emphasized in II Tim. 2:15. Now, please'do not think of Jesus' kingdom as competing with the Mosaic system. The Pharisees took that attitude erroneously. The new system was a natural out growth of the old system. You see, God added the Mosaic law in anticipation that a messiah would come and the system would be changed. (See Gal. 3:19 on this point.) The Jews looked for this change for centuries and then wouldn't accept it when it came.
Jesus' law seems to be based upon the principle: get your attitude right and your conduct will come out all right. But, it won't work the other way around. You see, if your conduct should be right and the mental process wrong, you still don't get credit for it. I heard the story about an old disciple back in the good ole day who went to worship once and all the money he had was one half dollar and a twenty-dollar gold piece. I'm not that familiar with coins; but, I'm told a $20 gold piece and a half dollar are very near the same size. So, he put the half dollar in one pocket and the $20 gold piece in the other. But, for some unexplainable reason when he reached into his pocket to get the dime; he got mixed up and dropped the $20 gold piece in the contribution basket. He was very sobered, when he discovered this after the service. He told the treasurer about his mistake. The treasurer said: do you want to exchange them? The man said, "NO!, but, the thing that gripes me is that I won't get credit for $19.50 with the Lord." This man recognized that although he had done a good deed inadvertently, it didn't count because of his attitude. You see, it didn't come from the heart.
Do you remember the 6th beatitude? "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God." Now, it's imperative that you get this heart principle. If you will examine the six things that Jesus discussed here at the end of Matt. ch. 5; you'll find the heart principle in every case. Do you remember our reading in Jeremiah 31:31 where it was foretold that God would replace the Mosaic covenant with a new covenant? In v.33, further down than we read, God said, "this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people." So, NOT ONLY is this heart principle a N.T. teaching; it was prophesied it would be this way, you see.
Now, let's back up and look briefly at each of those six laws that Jesus gave for his kingdom, one by one. V.21, the old law was, "Thou shalt not kill..." But, (v.22), Jesus said: "But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Racca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire." You see, Jesus regulated the attitude that leads to murder. And this regulation even has ramifications in our worship (v.23-24). In v.25, the regulation is extended and must be observed in dealing with our adversaries from hour to hour, "while thou art in the way with him..." Then the last of v.25 and in v.26 the heart principle is extended to the point that if we are punished by civil authorities for our crime we must endure even that in good faith, "till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." And, notice one more time; Jesus requires this BY HIS AUTHORITY, "But I say unto you..." You see, this is a new law. It is even contrasted with the old. And Jesus didn't hesitate to put that punishment of "hell fire" right up front for those who would take it lightly.Now, v.27, "it was said by them of old time, Thou shait not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." Thus, Jesus quoted the Mosaic code for regulating sexual conduct. Then in v.28-32, Jesus spelled out the rules that would apply in His kingdom with respect to this area of human behavior. Again, you observe, Jesus' rules deal with regulating the heart (v.28). The heart controls the eye (v.29) and the hand (v.30). The heart, or mind, must control these members or it will jeopardize the soul. And again, you might notice, the punishment of hell was held up as a reminder to those who would ignore this rule.
V.31 and 32 deal with marriage and divorce, but this is more or less and extension of what was said on adultery in the previous verses. Jesus' rule, when internalized, is much broader in its application than was the Mosaic code.
In V.33-37, Jesus dealt with oaths or we would say simply honesty. This does not mean common vulgarity; although, that subject may be regulated elsewhere. Do you remember Matt. 4:4, we must live by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Oaths here have reference to foreswearing or what we would call perjure. Simply put, it was form of lying. The Mosaic code was "Thou shalt not bear false witness..." (Ex. 20:16). Again, this grew out of those Phariseeiac traditions. It involved calling upon another to witness the truth. Some said that swearing by "heaven" (v.34), or "the earth" (v.35), or "Jerusalem" (v.35), or one's "head" (v.36) didn't count unless the oath was performed to the Lord (v.33), i.e. if they swore by God's name, then it was binding. But Jesus said DON'T DO IT! (V.34) "Swear not at all." V.37 means that we should say either "Yes" or "No" and mean what we say. Don't try to camouflage your answer with some technical jargon. Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Then v.38-42 involves Christ's law against retaliation and revenge, i.e. recompensing evil for evil. Do not resist evil with evil. Of course, THIS teaching and THAT on oaths both involve the internal attitude principle we've discussed before. V.42 simply means that we DO NOT withhold that which is needed from another simply because they have injured us; to do so would be retaliation. We must return good for evil.
V.43 thru the end of the chapter involves love. The idea here is commanded love. The Greek word is "Agape", meaning to seek the best interest and highest good of another. As I said, this love is commanded by God. It has nothing to do with fondness and affection. So, there doesn't have to be any buddy-buddy feeling there. You simply act in the best interest of the other person because that's what God wants you to do. We must do it as God's children (v.45). And, again this involves that internal attitude principle. It makes no difference if the person is a neighbor or an enemy.
Beginning in ch. 6, Jesus gave the proper attitude on several topics: almsgiving (or benevolence), prayer, etc. These rules are not contrasted with the Law of Moses as those we just covered. However, it would seem that in most cases the attitude that Jesus taught was in contrast to what the scribes and Pharisees practiced and taught.
"Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them..." (v.1) This includes any form of benevolence, probably including church contributions, etc. This attitude like all the others involves that heart principle or the internal attitude principle. Notice at the end of v.2, he says to them that give for show, "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." You see, they get the glory of men when they give; but, that's all they get.
In v.5-15, Jesus dealt with the subject of prayer. And almost all that can be said about alms can be said about prayer. Then in the middle of v.9 thru v.13 Jesus gave a model prayer, sometimes called the Lord's prayer. I prefer to call this a model prayer and call the prayer in John ch. 17 the Lord's Prayer. Most of this, you're going to have to study and digest on your own. Much can be learned by studying this. This prayer was NOT given as something to memorize and repeat. The idea is a model prayer, as an example, to be studied and imitated but NOT to be repeated in a ritualistic way. This involves private prayers; but, should not be construed to rule out group and public prayers. Because such prayers are instructed and exemplified elsewhere in the N.T. Notice in v.10, Jesus praying to the Heavenly Father said, "thy kingdom come." You need to make a note on your KINGDOM WORKSHEET. This is absolute proof that the kingdom had not arrived at that time. Then V.14-15 is a very significant thought. Forgiveness from the heavenly Father is dependent upon our forgiveness of our fellow man.
The next section is on fasting, v.16-18. "When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites..." Again, you see the heart principle penetrating this attitude. And, as was said about almsgiving and prayer, fasting must NOT be done to be seen of men. The same statement is repeated, "Verily I say unto you, They have their reward." I feel very inadequate to comment upon fasting. The word "fasting" means to abstain from food. We learn in Luke 18:12 that some Jews fasted twice in the week; in a ceremonial sort of way, I would infer. I must confess to you that I, personally, have never indulged in fasting other than for health reasons and an occasional loss of appetite. Admittedly, this is NOT the idea in these verses. I can identify with the need and motivation for almsgiving and prayer; covered in the first 15 verses of this chapter. But, I have never been able to understand fasting to my satisfaction. Thus, I am tempted to move on and gloss over the subject. But, Jesus fasted for forty days, recorded at the beginning of Matt. ch. 4; which you will remember we have already covered. I simply do NOT understand when, why and how to fast. I do not say this to degrade the practice, not at all; for v.18 says clearly and distinctly there is a reward from the heavenly Father to those who do it properly. Of course, we were not told WHEN to give alms and WHEN to pray in the verses up above. It simply says, "when thou doest thine alms" (v.2), and "when thou prayest" (v.5). I Thess. 5:17, says "pray without ceasing." So, apparently the point is that it should be often; but, it is within man's discretion. I am inclined to think there is a natural place for fasting. But, like almsgiving, that natural place may not come about every day. There are times, in the ordinary routine of our duties; that food is not available -or- we may be motivated to forego eating in the interest of duty, e.g. in caring for the sick or the needy or some similar thing. This, I can understand. In this respect, I can understand the admonition that Jesus gave in v.17 about washing my face, combing my hair or even taking an aspirin; rather, than going around saying, look at me, OH! how I'm sacrificing. That's undoubtedly the idea in v.16. We're going to have to pick up with v.19 in our next lesson. So, have a good day!