Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was originally spoken to people who were living under the Old Covenant. Today we read Jesus’ words with new understanding. Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead has instigated the prophesied New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-33). Therefore those who have embraced Him as Lord and Savior can read His words in the light of the New Covenant. His words are now applied to our hearts in the illumination of the fulfillment of the plan of redemption God has ordained from the foundation of the world.
It is with this understanding that this study has been written. And it is through this understanding that His sermon becomes a training manual for true disciples of the Lord Jesus, the Messiah.
Matthew Chapter Five
In the Scriptures, mountains are used as places where people commune with God. Moses was called by God to Mt. Sinai’s summit to receive the Ten Commandments and the plan for the tabernacle.
In the first verse of chapter five of Matthew’s gospel which begins Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we see Jesus gazing at the multitudes, and then He leaves them to do some mountain climbing.
And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came to Him: (Matthew 5:1).
Jesus climbs the mountain and we see that those who were His disciples, made the effort to exert themselves and follow Him to the summit. I assume that there were some that remained behind. This verse makes the point that it was His disciples who followed Him to that place of intimacy.
And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, (Matthew 5:2).
Jesus climbs the mountain and we see that those who were His disciples, made the effort to exert themselves and follow Him to the summit. I assume that there were some that remained behind. This verse makes the point that it was His disciples who followed Him to that place of intimacy.
And He opened His mouth and taught them, saying, (Matthew 5:2).
The point here again is made that Jesus’ sermon is directed to His disciples; people who are sincerely seeking God and want to feast on His words. Will you follow Him with me to the summit, rest at His feet and receive what He has to say to your heart?
We know that only Moses and his assistant, Joshua, were called to Mount Sinai’s peak. The masses stayed behind unable to behold God’s glory and did not partake in that intimate communion. It was a different season. The establishment of the Old Covenant was designed to be a preparation for the New Covenant that was fulfilled by Jesus.
In our minds we can see God engraving His basic laws with His finger on tables of stone. In the New Covenant, He implants His word in our hearts. The prophet Jeremiah foretold of this miracle. –
Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which My covenant they broke, although I was a husband to them, says the LORD:
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says 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 (Jeremiah 31:31-33).
In the Old Covenant, we are shown through Moses what the law is. As we sit at Jesus’ feet, He shows us what the law means. The law shows us what to do, Jesus shows us what we need to be. Therefore, as the instigator of the New Covenant, Jesus does not begin His discourse with a list of do’s and don’ts as were presented to us in those tablets written in stone. Instead, He begins by showing us the heart conditions that are most pleasing to God; and those who possess them are “blessed.”
God is most concerned about who we are as people, the inner man. This is the fruit of the New Covenant through which we are re-created so to speak, to become a new creature/creation though the inner workings of Holy Spirit that is released to us through faith in the atonement; Messiah’s death.
The beatitudes illustrate for us characteristics of the people God desires for us to be.
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3).
These are what I call the “spiritually needy;” people who recognize their need for God and are hungry for His Spirit. This desire begins at the foot of the cross where they are made aware of their deep need for His salvation. They acknowledge that they have sinned, and that these sins separate them from the God they desire.
They realize that in order to have a relationship with God, those sins must first be removed.
The salvation they receive by believing, repenting and receiving the truth that Jesus’ died on the cross to remove their sins, opens the door for these poor in spirit ones to be filled with the things of God they are longing for.
They are not satisfied with the things of this life. Their focus is on the Lord and their home with Him in heaven. Their desire is to be in God’s presence. He is the goal of their faith. Therefore they are rewarded with the “kingdom of heaven” that they have desired.
We are shown that this kingdom is “within” (Luke 17:21). The kingdom of God’s presence is bestowed within the believer through the Holy Spirit, and we can dwell in His presence in this life, even before we are transported into our heavenly home.
Jesus’ death and resurrection from the dead procures the kingdom relationship with God for us. He is the key to the entrance to our new dwelling place in God. Through faith in Jesus we receive the Holy Spirit which enables us to be indwelt by God and we become His habitation (Ephesians 2:22).
The spiritually needy desires this relationship above all things and all the temporary illusions of this life.
The poor in spirit sit at Jesus’ feet in rapt attention ingesting every word as vital nourishment for their souls.
Are you hungry too?
A disciple is spiritually hungry for the things of God.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted (Matthew 5:4).
The Lord is showing us here that we can be assured that God sees our pain when we suffer loss in this life, just as He wept through Jesus at the door of Lazarus’ tomb (John 11:35).
The Father sees the heart and He grieves with us. He is a loving Father, and He comforts us as a mother who comforts her hurting child (Isaiah 66:13). His Holy Spirit, who is called the Comforter, is bestowed upon us to bring us God’s healing comfort.
We are not alone in our sorrows. He draws close to those wounded in heart and He blesses them. It is a devastating thing to suffer loss, but if in the process we can be brought closer to God, then there is a purpose and a plan to our suffering and we are blessed by a deeper relationship with God.
A disciple who has mourned can identify with those who are grieving, mourn with those who mourn, and is enabled to ‘Comfort those with the comfort that they received from God’ (I Corinthians 1:3,4). There is a purpose to our own mourning, which enables us to identify with the suffering that is common to mankind and to express God’s compassion and comfort to those who are suffering in this manner.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).
Those who have been humbled through mourning and identify with the suffering; and the spiritually needy who have recognized that there is a God who is so much higher than themselves, have partaken of the meekness, the humility that is required to receive the Lord’s salvation. “For God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (I Peter 5:5).
God’s Spirit searches for these ones who need Him so much. He sees the down trodden. He recognizes those who have been victims in this life. He promises them victorious restoration. They will inherit what has been taken from them, they will be restored and justice will be served. But, the meek, who have mourned and are the spiritually needy, the disciples; these ones are looking beyond the perimeters of this world. Yes, there will come a time when Jesus returns, when the world will rest under His righteous justice and the meek will hold a special place in His kingdom, no longer victimized by their oppressors who have been removed. But we are told that this time is only a season. There will be a new heaven and a new earth, when God’s heaven, His presence and a new earth merge as one.
Blessed are the meek who will be blessed in this life when Jesus returns and will also inherit so much more than this earth. Blessed are the meek who await the finale of all time.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).
The poor in spirit, who have mourned, who are meek and humble, gaze at the world around them and their hunger for another world is increased. They are starving for justice. God promised us that a different world is coming, one where righteousness will reign; but as we wait for that world to come, our hunger is filled by God’s presence within us. He transforms us to become the righteous representatives of His kingdom.
The more we hunger for the things of God, the more He fills and changes us into the people He wants us to become; formed after the image of His Son, (Romans 8:29) who in turn is the image of God (Colossians 1:15).
It is God’s desire to fill this world with righteous individuals that can make a difference by sharing the Gospel and making disciples.
Our hunger for righteousness begins with us, within ourselves, and God in Christ Jesus promises that He will feed us and satisfy us with His righteousness.
Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy (Matthew 5:7).
Can righteousness be separated from mercy? No, they walk hand in hand. Mercy can be a definition of righteousness in action.
Those humble spiritually needy ones, who mourn over the injustices and cruelty in this life, and hunger and thirst after righteousness, exhibit the mercy of their God imparted righteousness. We are told that we will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). Those who are merciful, are promised that they will reap the fruit of the mercy they have sown and God will be merciful to them.
Blessed are the pure in heart; for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8).
How many of us really are pure in heart? At this point, I am sure many of us are gazing back at Moses and his to do list, and wondering if it’s easier to magnetize them to our refrigerators and check them off on a daily basis - except when we get to the tenth commandment, the one that deals with the sins of the heart. Many of us never realized that’s what the tenth commandment is all about, the sins of the mind and heart life; “Thou shalt not covet.”
Ah, children, but this is the point of the New Covenant, the inner transformation that Jesus is bringing. He wants to create in us an inner purity. He wants to give us a child’s innocent heart. He wants us to see God with a child’s eyes. This is why He said we must come to Him as little children (Matthew 18:3). This is where it all begins, through child-like faith that enables the transformation into child-like purity.
This is only accomplished though the union of God with the believer through the Holy Spirit. It is God who works in us to change us into the people He wants us to be. All He wants us to do is be willing to give Him our flaws and let Him change us. That’s what repentance is all about.
The spiritually needy who have mourned, and are humble enough to seek what is lacking in their faith, will hunger and thirst for this righteousness. And through the mercy they show and receive, and the purity of heart that is created within them, they will naturally become “peacemakers.” –
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9).
The transformation of the inner man brings a peace that extends outwardly. We embrace the gospel and seek to share it and the peace it brings. Blessed are these evangelists who bring peace to the soul.
Those who have believed the gospel are sons of God, His children (I John 3:1). They have received His commission to take the Good News into all the world, which includes their neighborhoods, work places, market places and all places.
They are not ashamed of the good news they bring, these messengers of eternal life.
They have sat at the feet of Jesus and are willing to allow His words and His Spirit to penetrate their souls, transforming them into these new creatures of peace.
We have been shown the characteristics of a disciple. While all of us who are sincerely following Jesus may not as yet be fully endowed with all these wonderful characteristics that have been presented to us on this mountain with Jesus, the seeds of His words have been planted in our hearts. We are His workmanship and the character of a disciple can only be formed in us as we abide in His vine (John 15). When we have received this gospel of the New Covenant, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, which enables our sins to be removed; the whole God-breathed process of transformation begins.
Those who have been set apart by His hand to be a disciple, which is all of us who believe, will shine in contrast to the darkness around us. Our light will draw persecution. The Lord wants us to be prepared and encouraged.
The following three verses deal with persecution. He wants to assure us that the persecuted are blessed.
The childlike enthusiasm of the disciples reverberates against the darkness that encapsulates this planet. The truth of Jesus’ words in them vibrates against the falsehood and unrighteousness in those who hear it.
For some, the vibrations shatter their walls of resistance and they can recognize the peace and freedom that the spiritually needy who have mourned like them are bringing. They are willing to follow these disciples up the mountain into the presence of God and be transformed.
Others, however, resist those vibrations and fortify themselves against the truth and retaliate. When the children of the kingdom are attacked, they look back at the mountain with questioning eyes. The purity in their hearts that sees only the good they are bringing and something as wonderful as eternal life, cannot understand how it can be rejected so violently.
The blood of their martyrdom covers the earth, and the Voice from the mountain assures them that they are blessed. –
Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5: 10).
Jesus reminds us again that God’s kingdom is the reward for our suffering for Him on this earth. Our eyes are on Him and we can suffer for the righteous truth of the gospel. Our home is His home and this temporal world is not our permanent dwelling place.
Those who minister repentance and a turning from sin brings conviction to those who prefer to see us wallowing in the mud of this world like them. Living righteously will draw attacks and criticism from fellow believers who are not seeking to follow the Lord as they should. Remember, Jesus said that our enemies would be from our own house as well as unbelievers (Matthew 10:36).
Blessed are you, when men shall revile (reproach) you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake (Matthew 5:11).
It hurts when we are slandered; when men invent falsehoods to try and discredit us and our witness for the Lord. But we are blessed by the Lord for the various persecutions we are forced to endure for our witness. Knowing that we are blessed by God for the things we suffer is meant to be a balm for our inner wounds.
Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Matthew 5:12).
When we are persecuted, we are told to put a smile on our face and rejoice. The enemies of our faith are merely increasing our rewards in heaven, expanding our spiritual bank accounts in our Father’s presence.
Our persecution is compared to that of all God’s prophets. Persecution places us in this elite category of those who are deemed worthy to suffer for God and His purposes. In this verse Jesus is also showing us that the spirit of the same group of people who rejected God’s prophets of old, will also be operating to thwart the gospel in the latter days.
As they gain control and more power though the establishment of the prophesied one world government (Rev. 13), their goal will be to eliminate the Christian faith from the planet. God will only permit this as far as it serves His purposes. Evil must come to its fullness before He destroys it (Genesis 15:16, Psalm 92:7). The vindication of His true servants is assured.
Knowing this for a certainty helps us to endure and obey the Lord’s command to rejoice in our persecutions. They are temporary, for all evil is promised to one day be removed.
In our suffering we are blessed by the God of heaven and our reward in heaven is great. Rejoice!
So far in this study, we have been shown the characteristics of a disciple. We have been prepared to face persecution for following Jesus. Now He begins to reinforce us with the encouragement of knowing how He sees us.
You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost his savor, (flavor), wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under the foot of men (Matthew 5:13).
You are the salt of the earth… Salt is a preservative. It was an extremely valuable substance in Jesus’ day when refrigeration was nonexistent. The Lord is saying to us here that He sees us as valuable. Those who are His disciples preserve the earth with their presence, holding back God’s wrath until their season of service has been completed.
But if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? If we lose our zeal for the Lord and cease to serve Him, then there is nothing that makes the earth palatable in the eyes of God. He sees His people as making a difference for Him in this life, and it is His people that gives the world its purpose for existence.
When we realize how important our role in this life is to God, then we will work to make sure we stay “salty.” Otherwise – it is good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden down under the foot of men.
We see a parallel here to Jesus’ exhortation for His people to “Abide in the vine” (John 15). Those who do not abide in Jesus and remain in the faith, cut off the flow of the Holy Spirit and communion with God in their lives. These ones will spiritually dry up, wither and be led away by the false doctrines of men (John 15:6); which is the equivalent of being overcome by the world and ‘trodden under the foot of men.’
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14).
You are the light of the world… Jesus is also referred to as the light of the world (John 8:12). His disciples are bearers of the light of the truth in Messiah Jesus. Think of a lighthouse. The tower represents the Lord’s disciples. Their light, is the light of Jesus in them that shines out into the spiritual darkness of this world to guide men into the safe harbor of God’s loving embrace. Without the light of God’s people, there is no light in this world. That’s how valuable the light of God’s truth is in you, and how valuable you are to Him.
….A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. God raises His people up so their light can be seen by everyone for the purpose of bringing them to Jesus through the proclamation of the brilliant illumination of the gospel. Their zeal cannot be hid, because they understand the importance of their mission on this life and make sharing the gospel their priority.
Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick, and it gives light to all that are in the house (Matthew 5:15).
God has lit your candle by infusing you with the Holy Spirit through your acceptance of His plan of redemption in the Messiah Jesus. He did not ignite you to keep you hidden. He’s called you to be a witness for Him in the house where you live, in His church and in the world. He is showing us what our purpose is in this life and that is to shine for Him.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:16).
We are shown here that our motivation for service should be to glorify God. We are not to do our good works and evangelism to draw attention to ourselves, to lift ourselves up to become exalted in the church, but to be a witness that honors God and brings many to faith in Jesus for their salvation.
This is where the holy character development of a disciple that was shown to us in verses three through nine come into play. The more we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us to change us into the people He wants us to be, the more salt and light we will have to accomplish God’s purposes in this life.
We realize that we have been shown what God wants us to become within and the characteristics that define what a disciple should be. The inner workings of His Spirit makes us salt and light and useful for God’s glory. We have been shown our purpose and He has revealed to us how valuable we are to Him, and how valuable He sees those “Blessed” qualities that He wants all of His people to have.
So far we have been focused on “internals.” We have been given a list of things to be, to become through our yielding to the Holy Spirit’s inner workings in our lives. I am sure that those who were hearing these things in Jesus’ day, whose whole religious experience up to that time revolved around what to “do;” that is, keeping God’s commandments, might be thinking; “How come He’s not quoting scripture? Or why isn’t He teaching from Moses?” Jesus’ whole approach was new to them, I am sure. But that’s the point of the New Covenant as we shall see.
Because Jesus is the Son of God and He knew what they were thinking, He suddenly changes the direction of His sermon.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of this season when God would give His people a New Covenant, one in which God’s laws would be written upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:-33).
Jesus came to fulfill this prophecy, to establish the New Covenant and fulfill all the prophecies about Him recorded by Moses and the prophets (Luke 24:27).
For truly I say to you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled (Matthew 5:18).
God’s words, His law is eternal. In another place Jesus’ says, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Matthew 24:35). The law will remain until “all be fulfilled.” Jesus fulfilled all the righteous commandments of the law which no man before Him has ever done. That righteousness is imparted to all who receive Him and we are justified by His grace.
The law will continue to remain as our moral guide until the end when the drama of this life culminates into the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:1). It is at this time that all the souls who belong to God through Jesus will have been perfected into the image of His Son, a process that begins when we receive Him and continues throughout our lifetimes.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:19).
Jesus is emphasizing the value and importance of God’s law, His instructions to mankind for their health, welfare and protection.
I imagine Jesus scanning the faces of His audience watching them mentally evaluating their failures at keeping all those laws perfectly their entire lives.
The Lord is aware of the grace He is bringing to cover those failures. He knows we cannot be justified by law keeping, our human frailties prevent us from keeping them perfectly.
The religious leadership of His day prided themselves at keeping the law. Yet, their outward obedience was not enough. Jesus rebuked them severely in Matthew chapter twenty-three.
While Jesus has uplifted God’s word to the people, He was bringing in another level of fulfillment that goes beyond outward religiosity. I reiterate; Moses shows us what the law is, Jesus reveals what it means.
For I say to you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).
This was a mindblower for the masses who were taught from infancy that the Pharisees were the epitome of righteousness and their example was to be followed without question. Now they were being told that the righteousness exemplified by those religious leaders was not enough.
Jesus goes on to show us that outward religiosity is no substitute for inner reformation.
You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: (Matthew 5:21).
Jesus is quoting from the Ten Commandments, specifically commandment number six. He is reminding them of the penalty for taking the life of another; the judgment is a life for a life (Exodus 21:23).
But I say to you, that whoever is angry with His brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: …
Jesus is showing us that the harboring of animosity and unforgiveness is just as unacceptable to God, as the actual taking of a life. And the person who continues to allow these things to grow and develop unchecked could conceivably be provoked into taking a life in revenge.
As Jesus said, it is the inner sins that defile a man (Matthew 15:11). Unforgiveness causes us to be blocked from God’s forgiveness and the judgment Jesus is referring to here is the last one before the Lord’s throne. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Romans 14:10).
…and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, (empty, empty headed, a malicious judgment upon another) shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, “You fool” shall be in danger of hellfire (Matthew 5: 22).
“Fool” can mean basically the same thing as the Aramaic word Raca. We are being shown the differences between what man sees and what God sees.
Man’s outward offences are judged by man, “the council,” but his inward sins of judging, unforgiveness and malice toward another, endangers his soul before God.
Jesus is comparing the violations of man’s ordinances with God’s law. Again, harboring unforgiveness toward anyone, negates God’s forgiveness endangering the soul with the threat of hell; because unless you forgive, your heavenly Father will not forgive you (Matthew 6:15).
Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the the heart (I Samuel 16:7). Jesus could see the hearts of the Pharisees and likened them to dead men (Matthew 23:27).
The new life He was bringing through the Holy Spirit, was designed to reform us into New Creatures, something the law, through self-effort could not do.
Jesus’ words here are orchestrated to strip away our outward religiosity and cause us to examine our hearts and repent of those inner sins that defile us.
We are being escorted into a new realm that transcends religion, like a butterfly that has broken free from its cocoon.
We have been shown in this last verse that spewing a verbal condemnation at another from an unforgiving heart puts us in danger of hellfire.
In the next verse, Jesus shows us the importance of making things right in this life.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you (Matthew 5:23).
You’ve offended someone by your words or actions, therefore causing them to sin also by the animosity you have caused in their heart. For the spiritual welfare of both parties, Jesus says, -
Leave there your gifts before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24).
Our service to God is marred when it is offered or performed when our hearts are not right before Him.
The prophet David wasn’t perfect, but this one who was called a man after God’s heart knew the true meaning of the law and what was important to God. So he prayed for that inner cleansing that is so important to the One who sees beyond the flesh into the soul of who we really are. – Create in me a clean heart, O Lord, and renew a right spirit in me (Psalm 51:10).
David recognized that this transformation must be a work of God.
Agree with your adversary quickly, whiles you are in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver you to the judge, and the judge deliver you to the officer, and you be cast into prison (Matthew 5:25).
This verse is related to the Lord’s previous instructions to make right anything that you have done to offend another. If you have done something wrong, don’t justify yourself, humble yourself. If you have damaged someone’s property, or offended someone, apologize and make restitution. Avoid being hauled into court as a believer which damages your witness. Submitting, and humbly apologizing glorifies the Lord and reflects His character, which is humble (Matthew 11:29).
If we don’t follow these instructions, we can then make God our adversary because He will do what is necessary with the ones He loves to correct and refine them.
Truly I say to you, you shall by no means come out hence, till you have paid the uttermost farthing (Matthew 5:26).
If we do not admit it when we are wrong, we will reap what we sow. God uses our circumstances to mold us into the people He wants us to be. The situations we create by operating in opposition to the Lord’s instructions can end up becoming very costly, and not just monetarily. God wants us to live in peace with everyone. The stressful situations we create by operating in accordance with our carnality can drag on for years taking a toll on our physical and mental wellbeing. We will end up paying the utmost. Be humble, and always admit when you are wrong and seek to be a peacemaker in every situation.
You have heard that it was said by them of old time, you shall not commit adultery: (Matthew 5:27).
This is the seventh commandment. God wants us to be faithful to our spouses. The marriage relationship in a way is a similitude of the relationship God desires to have with His people; one of spiritual intimacy. He wants to be totally one with us and He wants us to be faithfully devoted to Him, just as He is faithful and devoted to us.
But I say to you, that whoever looks on a woman (or man for that matter) to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his (or her) heart (Matthew 5:28).
Here Jesus is teaching the tenth commandment, “Thou shalt not covet.” This commandment deals with the sins of the heart and the thought life. God sees the heart and He knows every thought that enters our minds, good and bad.
Jesus is stripping away our masks of self-righteous purity, masks that the Pharisees wore so proudly. The Lord is showing us God’s standards. Again we realize that justification cannot be obtained through human effort. Every commandment that God has given us can be broken within our evil hearts. We need a Savior and we have been given One.
And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should
perish, and not your whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29).
Jesus is speaking spiritually and figuratively. He is not talking about literally removing an eye. He is telling us to remove the things in our lives that can cause us to sin. In another place He talks about the single eye. – The light of the body is the eye: if therefore your eye be single, your whole body shall be full of light (Matthew 6:22). This is the eye or vision that is to be focused on the things of God above the things of this life.
Again, this goes back to the reformation of the inner man, the new creature. It is only through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus’ Spirit within us that enables us to put away the things that hinder us in this life, and helps us to look away from that which causes us to lust for things that God has forbidden.
Paul shows us that we are to manage our thought lives. - Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; (II Corinthians 10:5). This is very important because the evil thoughts we allow to remain can grow, resulting in outward sin. If we end up preferring those sins to maintaining a holy walk with the Lord, then we can be led away from our faith and as Jesus has shown, hellfire awaits all those who abandon the Messiah.
And if your right hand offends you, cut it off, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:30).
We were shown in verse twenty-nine to guard what we allow to enter our eye gates. Verse thirty warns us about what we put our hands to. Are we involved in righteous endeavors or evil ones?
Again, the Lord is not telling us to literally cut off a body part, but to put away those things in our flesh that can cause us to sin.
We are saved by grace and if we are saved, the grace works in the believer to cause us to walk in the things that please the Lord. Paul summarizes this beautifully. – For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:8-10).
The refining inner workings of the Holy Spirit in our lives are all for our benefit and our overall spiritual and physical welfare as He guides us into the blessings of holy living.
Our God is a loving and good Father. His word is a guide for our benefit. He wants to protect us from the damage sin can do to ourselves and to others. That’s really what the Ten Commandments are all about.
Going back to verse twenty-seven, Jesus brought up the subject of adultery. He is talking about unfaithfulness in marriage. He returns to the subject of marriage in the next verse like a bookend to the discussion on removing those things in your life that can cause you to sin – and possibly ruin your marriage relationship with your spouse and with God.
It has been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: (Matthew 5: 31).
In another place Jesus tells us that Moses basically was pressured into permitting divorce because of the people who wanted it (Matthew 19:8), but divorce was never the perfect will of God. He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). If we say we love God, we want to avoid doing the things that He says He hates.
As I mentioned before, the marriage union is a similitude of the relationship God desires to have with His people. The Apostle Paul says in relation to God and marriage: - For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.
This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:31,32).
When we enter into the marriage covenant, we need to be aware of the sanctity of this relationship and guard it fervently. We are to put away those things that could hinder it; the lust of the eyes and the flesh. If your lust is leading you toward other women (or men), cut it off, and you won’t find yourself putting your hand where it does not belong.
Jesus tells us in the next verse what the spiritual consequences of divorce are. –
But I say to you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causes her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 5:32).
The marriage union is sacred. God sees the husband and wife as one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Whatever God has joined together, let not man put asunder (Matthew 19:6). This is talking about a marriage between believers. The only grounds for divorce among believers is fornication, unfaithfulness. And even then, if a spouse is repentant and wants to remain in the marriage, then we are to practice forgiveness as God requires. Otherwise, God does not recognize divorce, and that is why a man or woman who has divorced without Biblical grounds is still considered married in God’s eyes and any remarriage is adultery.
The Apostle Paul reiterates Jesus’ teaching on the subject. -
And to the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband:
But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife (I Corinthians 7:10-11).
If a separation is necessary for whatever reason, they are to remain married. If a believer is abandoned by an unbelieving spouse, they are free to remarry and it is not adultery (I Corinthians 7:15).
Paul counsels, Are you loosed from a wife? Seek not a wife. But and if you marry, you have not sinned; (I Cor. 7:27,28). Paul would not contradict Jesus’ statement concerning remarriage as adultery. The apostle is referring to believers who were married prior to their conversion. Once we have received Jesus our past is erased and we can walk confidently forward into a new beginning.
If a believer has divorced without Biblical grounds and commits adultery through remarriage, in this case – If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).
We can see the beauty of repentance and the value of it in our relationship with the Lord. The believer who sins is still saved, and we may suffer the loss of rewards at the judgment, but the recognition of our sin, and our sincere repentance before the Lord, restores our relationship with Him.
Jesus responds to His disciple’s reactions to His teaching on marriage by telling them that it is better to remain chaste and single, than enter into marriage and later divorce (Matthew 19: 9-12).
As we have been shown through these verses, God sees the marriage union as a sacred and permanent union between a man and woman, and likens that relationship between Himself and His people. Christians who enter into marriage with this same perspective have a much better chance of having their marriages last “until death do us part.”
We can see how “agree with your adversary quickly” (Matthew 5:25) can apply to our marriage relationships. If your adversary is your spouse, practicing humility with each other is important in order to ward off being brought before a judge and the resulting consequences. All sin has consequences and God’s instructions are designed to protect us from the pain and heartache the sin of divorce can cause.
We all have to stand before the judgment seat of Christ where our works in this life will be tried by spiritual fire (I Corinthians 3:13-15). We will reap what we have sown or not sown in this life, so it behooves us to come humbly before our God and avail ourselves of the blessings of heartfelt repentance.
Again, you have heard that it has been said by them of old time, You shall not forswear yourself, but shall perform to the Lord your oaths: (Matthew 5:33).
Jesus is referring to the law found in Numbers and Deuteronomy. - If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth (Numbers 30:2).
When you shall vow a vow unto the LORD your God, you shall not be slack to pay it: for the LORD your God will surely require it of you; and it would be sin in you (Deuteronomy 23:21).
It’s interesting that Jesus begins talking about the seriousness of making a vow before the Lord, right after His discussion on marriage. Breaking a vow is sin. However, in these verses, Jesus is referring to the Jew’s religious practice of making vows.
But I say to you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne (Matthew 5:34).
The Lord is fully aware of the frailties of human flesh. Moses warned that if you make a vow to the Lord, you better well keep it or it is sin. Therefore, Jesus tells us that it is better not to make a vow at all. Don’t swear by heaven, you are standing upon little clay feet before the God of the universe. Be careful with what you declare before Him, He demands that you keep what your ego is professing.
Nor by the earth; for it is His footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King (Matthew 5:35).
These were common objects to swear by in Jesus’ day. He is showing His audience that each of these things is holy and not to be used in the custom of oath making.
Neither shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black (Matthew 5:36).
Even swearing by something as unholy as your own head is rebuked. Jesus is saying that we are powerless to change with our words what is only in God’s power to change. Therefore He is showing us our frailties in relation to the imagined power we have to perform things that are beyond the scope of our natural abilities. He wants us to be aware of our limitations and not make grandiose promises to God that we will not be able to keep, for that is sin.
So before you make a vow to God to give Him half your salary if He gets you your dream job, make sure you don’t make promises to God you probably are not going to honor.
But let your communication be, yes, yes; no, no: for whatsoever is more than these comes of evil (Matthew 5:37).
We are to recognize our frailties in being able to perform what we vow before God, and keep your promises to a simple, yes or no. “Yes, I can do this,” or “No, I cannot promise what I may not be able to keep.”
You have heard that it has been said, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’: (Matthew 5:38).
This Old Testament law that Jesus is quoting was actually intended to be a deterrent. If you harm someone, you will be harmed in return. Therefore, don’t harm anyone, and you will be protected from receiving the consequences of your actions. Violence begets violence.
This command is often misinterpreted to be an excuse to get revenge for a wrong doing. If you are harmed, then you have the right to retaliate on the other “eye” so to speak. Jesus cuts through the misinterpretations and shows us what God intended this command to mean.
But I say to you, that you resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also (Matthew 5:39).
Jesus is eliminating the retaliation factor. A child of God should not harbor a spirit of revenge, which is also a spirit of unforgiveness that God says that He will reject if we approach Him with a heart that is contaminated in this manner. We are not to avenge ourselves and take matters into our own
hands. God is the avenger of His people (Deuteronomy 32:35). He wants us to be wise in how we respond to offences and be harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16). It takes a great deal of spiritual strength and dependence upon the Lord to resist the natural, carnal response to strike back when we have been insulted or injured. It is actually a sign of weakness to retaliate in our flesh. It takes a strong, confident person to not succumb to the same state of spiritual weakness as your opponent.
God wants us to show the world that His people operate on a different level, one that is far superior to those who have not risen above their baser instincts. God wants us to operate on a level far higher than that of the average jungle predator.
To accomplish this amazing spiritual feat, we must have our minds firmly planted in the heavenly realm. Earth is not our home. We are called to live on a much higher plane. Whatever happens to us here, does not matter. We walk above the physical waters of this life with Jesus. We can do this when we recognize the difference between being led by the flesh, and being led by the Holy Spirit. When we submit to the leading of the Spirit, we will not indulge the canal responses of the mind and flesh. This takes discipline, a concentrated effort and willingness to submit to Jesus and allow Him to operate through us, for without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).
God dwells with the humble and it is His power that gives us the strength to turn the other cheek when we have been wronged.
Jesus continues to instruct us along the same lines.
And if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your cloak also (Matthew 5: 40).
This is yet another illustration of “Love your enemies.”
Jesus wants us to show the world something different as a witness to others. This in turn verifies the reality of God. We don’t respond to offences as any normal human being would. We are not normal, we are being conformed by the Holy Spirit into spiritual beings like Jesus who functioned on another level. If someone takes our goods in a lawsuit, that means you have lost and don’t resist or demand your rights. Kill your covetousness and let them have more than they have asked for as a witness. We are not to exhibit anger in these situations, but kindness. Again, it is impossible for us to respond in this matter until we are fully controlled by the Holy Spirit which should be our goal, for with God all things are possible.
And whosoever shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two (Matthew 5:41).
When you are dealing with a contrary person, comply with a smile and go beyond what he has required of you. The behavior God wants you to express, is designed to be a witness for Jesus who is alive in you and causes you to behave in ways that are contrary to basic human nature. This glorifies God and is intended to pave the way and prepare the groundwork for evangelism to the people around you. God wants them to see the reality of your faith. He wants them to see that Jesus gives you the supernatural ability to offer a smile in the face of adversity, and love in the presence of evil. However, we are never to comply with anyone who is trying to get us to do things that are contrary to God’s word.
Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you turn not away (Matthew 5:42).
Don’t ever let a spirit of covetousness or self-preservation hinder your witness. Reflect God’s generosity with your own. Don’t worry about being used or not getting what you lent to someone be returned. God is perfectly capable of restoring whatever you have lost because you were operating in obedience to His word. We are to give in a spirit of love and wanting to meet the needs of others without expecting anything in return (Luke 6:30).
The Lord summarizes the principles He has previously taught us in the following verses. –
You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy (Matthew 5:43).
Here Jesus is addressing a deviation that had been adapted from Moses’ original commandments. Moses commanded God’s people to love their neighbors. It was assumed that it was okay to hate everyone else that was not one of their neighbors. This is one reason why Jesus was asked, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29).
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; (Matthew 5:44).
A messianic Jewess who was imprisoned in one of the Nazi concentration camps, realized from her previous studies of Jesus’ words, that she was to love and pray for her enemies. She was obedient to put her faith into practice and she loved and prayed for them, even though her tormentors eventually caused her death. She truly exemplified what Jesus describes as a child of God. – From “The Last Jew of Rotterdam by Earnest Cassutto.”
That you may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).
Both the wicked and the just are subject to the same weather conditions from God, good and bad. It’s how we react to those circumstances that designates a true child of God.
When we experience some of those adverse circumstances we need to remember that God “tests the righteous” (Psalm 11:5) to see how we will respond in times of testing. This is only for our growth and rewards. For the unjust, those same instances of bad weather can also be used to soften a rebellious heart and be instrumental in bringing someone to salvation in Jesus.
For if you love them which love you, what reward have you? do not even the publicans the same? (Matthew 5:46).
A publican, the tax collector, in Jesus’ day, was much hated by the people. The publicans weren’t known to be very honest and many times extracted more from the people as was necessary in order to line their own pockets.
We need to understand that God loves our enemies, He loves the hated tax collector and desires for them to be saved. He loves everyone and if we are to be like our Father, we must love them, too.
When was the last time you prayed for the tax collectors that work for your government?
And if you salute your brethren only, what do you do more than others? do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:47).
Again; God wants your behavior to stand apart from those who do not know Jesus. Because He resides in you, you can get out of the way and let Him respond through you so they can find Him, too. He wants the world to see something different in you. He wants them to see Jesus in you, so that hopefully others will come to a saving knowledge of that One who puts that smile on your face through all the rain that is falling so they can ask, “Why are you smiling through all these storms and rain?” Hope puts that smile on our faces, also trust. When we have allowed God to create His security in us, then that security enables us to take the risks of being vulnerable to others.
You be therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
The word perfect is actually referring to a state of spiritual maturity. Our Father is the epitome of spiritual maturity. And as any Father desires for his children, God wants us to grow up into the things that make us spiritually mature reflections of the Divine Parent who is raising us.
God isn’t asking us to do or be something that is not attainable. What Jesus is describing here in His sermon, are behavior patterns that are possible to achieve under the grace that He has brought us in the New Covenant. This has nothing to do with our salvation which is a completed act when we receive Jesus. But our spiritual development is the natural fruit of a genuine relationship with God. The desire to be like Jesus is the “high calling” that the Apostle Paul is striving for (Philippians 3:14). That high calling is what the first century church believed to be the goal of the Christian life. It is what being a disciple of Jesus is all about, and sadly this emphasis has been neglected in many of our modern day churches.
The people He addressed in this sermon may have been experiencing a great deal of inadequacy at the time when they were being confronted with an even higher standard than that which had been conveyed to them to them by their religious leaders who were merely reciters of the law. The principles that the law conveyed had been overlooked by focusing on the letter of it and not the spirit, which Jesus had so aptly revealed.
He was speaking in a dispensation that would soon be replaced by the prophesied new one that His death and resurrection would instigate.
Through faith in His atonement for our sins, a believer receives the Holy Spirit and we are not alone in our attempts to walk in the footsteps of our Lord.
We can look back upon those first words of this Sermon on the Mount and recognize again that the Lord was describing a reformation of character that only His Holy Spirit is capable of producing in a believer’s yielded heart. In turn, the transformed character that has been slowly transitioned from pride to meekness, thus enables a believer to exhibit to the world the behavior that makes them stand out as children of God.
I reiterate; it is not something we can accomplish in our flesh, or through our own efforts apart from the Holy Spirit. It is something that God wants to accomplish through us – if only we will desire it and let Him have His perfect will in our lives.
What blocks us from achieving that goal of true submission to God and Christ-likeness, so that it is His work in us and not our own? Jesus continues to reveal the answer in the upcoming chapters that contain His remarkable words of wisdom to His disciples.
PART TWO - MATTHEW CHAPTER SIX
Copyright 2020 by H.D. Shively
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