Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 5

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 5

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted.

MATTHEW CHAPTER 5 COMMENTARY

5:1-7:28            The Sermon on the Mount

  • Compare Matthew’s long account of this sermon on the mount with the “Sermon on the Plain” or “Level Place” in Luke 6:17-49[i].

5:3-10   The Beatitudes

  • Here are the popularly called “Be Attitudes.” cf. Luke 6:20-23[ii]
  • I myself would call them the “Severely Lacking in Self-Esteem Attitudes” as the attitudes described here are those which, if not reflecting a lack of “self-esteem” would actually oppose such “self-centered” attitudes and thinking.
  • “[P]oor in Spirit” – Humble, knowing the wretchedness of one’s own condition and inability to do anything about it.
  • “[W]ho mourn” – others-centered rather than self-centered.
  • “[M]eek” – Humble, not self-seeking.
  • “[H]unger and thirst for righteousness” – Seeing one’s own lack of righteousness (certainly a blow to one’s “self-esteem” as opposed to those who are “self-righteous” and so, have a high self-esteem because they are (in their own opinion) worthy.
  • “[M]erciful” – Mercy, an aspect of love, does not seek its own, but the well-being of the other. This is an attitude that is particularly lacking in today’s psychologized and sexualized culture, where every form of sexual perversion and immorality are being pushed as “normal” and “healthy” and “good,” but ultimately harms all the participants and often others beside.  Not much mercy there.
  • “[P]ure in heart” –these be would the ones whose hearts are right before the Lord.
  • “[P]eacemakers” – not prone to anger, violence, or vengeance.
  • “[P]ersecuted for righteousness sake” – not self-preserving, self-seeking.

5:13-16 Walk the Walk – II

  • Do not be the same as the world. If your life is no different from that of the unbelievers around you, what incentive do they have to accept your “faith” in Christ, especially when they see that your “faith” has done nothing for you that they cannot get in/from the world?  If anyone get nothing else from all I have written, I pray that they get this, if Christ has not changed your life, your heart, your outlook and as a consequence, how you live, He is not your Lord nor your Savior.  If He has done those things, show it, live it.
  • See also, “Walk the Walk” at Matthew 3:8[iii]

5:17      Fulfilling the Law

  • The following is taken from the Mt Zion Bible Institute course, The Life of Christ, chapter 4, page 19, and question 5.

“Jesus literally fulfilled all the Old Testament Law in three ways:

1)         He walked in Perfect love of God and people during His entire life on earth.

2)         He lived a sinless life, and

3)         He gave Himself as the one perfect sacrifice for sin (God’s Passover Lamb), so that no more sacrifices were ever needed.

  • It should be noted that in this passage, there is nothing that suggests that Believers under the New Covenant, are under the Old Covenant’s ceremonial law as a means of justification before God. For that matter, not even the Old Testament believers were justified by the “Law,” whether its moral, civil, or ceremonial aspects, but rather, as Paul points out, they were “justified by faith, cf. Romans 4:1ff[iv].

5:19      Placement in the Kingdom

  • In the context given of obeying/disobeying the commandments of God and/or one’s teaching regarding them, the Kingdom of Heaven, in this context therefore, refers to the corporate or visible church of God; such a visible church being comprised of both wheat and tares, saved and unsaved.
  • John MacArthur, in his commentary (MacArthur Study Bible) views this as referring to heaven itself, and salvation. Thus Christians will be rated, placed in heaven, according to their degree of relation to the above – positive or negative – but in no case affecting their salvation itself.

While I agree in general, that there will be different levels of reward in heaven and punishment in hell; (see 10:14-15 and note: Judged Accordingly following.[v])  I believe that his application of that truth to this verse to be misapplied, see previous point above.  This is because the “kingdom of heaven” referred to here is “the kingdom of the Messiah, or in the church which he is about to establish” (So, Albert Barnes, et al.) the kingdom which Jesus described as being not of this earth, though established on it.

This is not to say the MacArthur is completely wrong, he is not wrong in general in pointing out that a Believer’s actions (as contrasted with a professing unbeliever’s) on earth will not affect their being saved; only what reward a Believer will have in heaven.  That however is not the point of this passage.

  • Matthew Henry, in his commentary equates these two classes of people with those members of the visible body/kingdom of God, i.e., the church and their relative positions in the eyes of God, therein. He also implies that those “least” may in fact be lost, even while members of the Church visible, being outside of the Church triumphant.

5:21-48 The Real Meaning of the Laws of God

v.21 – Regarding murder.  Jesus citing the prohibition against murder, Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17, goes on to show that hatred, anger against another person, as opposed to hateful acts committed by that person, is the same as murdering them in one’s heart.  The Apostle John expanded on this when he wrote, “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.”  (1st John 3:10), and, “[whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1st John 3:15).

Vv.23-25 – Jesus speaks of the need/importance of reconciliation.

Vv.27-28 – Regarding adultery, First, Jesus cites the actual law, Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18; then He explains its true application, showing that to “think it” is to “do it.”  Thinking is in fact, a form of action, of doing.  Thus the physical act has its beginnings in the mind or heart.

Vv.31-32 – Jesus set the record straight on God’s view of divorce.

  • First, He cites the Law on procedure – a certificate of divorce must be written and delivered to the other party, cf. Deuteronomy 24:1.
  • Then, to counter the liberal (for men) divorce laws practiced by the scribes and Pharisees (for whom just about anything constituted an “impurity” in the wife, and so, a justification for divorce), He limited divorce to its original intent, cases of sexual immorality.
  • For more on this subject, see: Matthew 19:3-9; 19:4-6; 19:7; 19:8-9 and associated notes following; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24; Ezra 10:3ff and note[vi]; Malachi 2:15-16 and note[vii].

Vv.33-37 – Regarding oaths.  Jesus refers to the law against false oaths, cf. Numbers 30:2, and the practice of many to get around the law by swearing by anything but God.  Jesus points out that the Law was about ensuring honesty and reliability.  That you should not even need to make a vow to be believed.  Your word alone should be known to be reliable.  Compare v.37 with James 5:12.

Vv.38-42 – Regarding vengeance.  Payback.  Jesus says, “Don’t do it.”  Cf. Romans 12:7, 14-21.  Non-resistance to attacks on one’s own person, rights, pride.

  • Note that this is not to say there is no place for vengeance. On the contrary, elsewhere Scripture teaches that vengeance belongs to the Lord (cf. Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrew 10:30), and that this is not a contradiction of God’s laws on retribution/vengeance as given to Moses in Exodus, cf. Exodus 21:12ff.  Jesus is simply saying here that we ourselves are not to seek vengeance.  Vengeance, if it is to be had, is to be left to God’s perfect judgment and justice.
  • Related to the above point, we read that one of the functions of a lawful government is to be the executor of His judgment upon evil-doers, cf. Romans 13:4.

Vv.43-48 – Regarding love.  Jesus addresses the issue of love.  Here the Greek word is ἀγαπάω, Strong’s #25, agapao – to love with agape type love.  He shows how love is to be practiced, to whom it is to be shown (including enemies) and why (because God gave us the example to follow.)

5:31-32 Marriage & Divorce in the Christian Community

  • See topical study on this subject.
  • See notes to 5:21-48 above.

[i] Luke 6:17-49

(17)  And He came down with them and stood on a level place with a crowd of His disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear Him and be healed of their diseases,

(18)  as well as those who were tormented with unclean spirits. And they were healed.

(19)  And the whole multitude sought to touch Him, for power went out from Him and healed them all.

(20)  Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.

(21)  Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.

(22)  Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

(23)  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

(24)  “But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.

(25)  Woe to you who are full, For you shall hunger. Woe to you who laugh now, For you shall mourn and weep.

(26)  Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets.

(27)  “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,

(28)  bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.

(29)  To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either.

(30)  Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back.

(31)  And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

(32)  “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

(33)  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

(34)  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back.

(35)  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.

(36)  Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

(37)  “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.

(38)  Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”

(39)  And He spoke a parable to them: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?

(40)  A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.

(41)  And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye?

(42)  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.

(43)  “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.

(44)  For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush.

(45)  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

(46)  “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?

(47)  Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like:

(48)  He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.

(49)  But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great.”

[ii] Luke 6:20-23

(20)  Then He lifted up His eyes toward His disciples, and said: “Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.

(21)  Blessed are you who hunger now, For you shall be filled.  Blessed are you who weep now, For you shall laugh.

(22)  Blessed are you when men hate you, And when they exclude you, And revile you, and cast out your name as evil, For the Son of Man’s sake.

(23)  Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed your reward is great in heaven, For in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.

[iii] Matthew 3:8

(8)  Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance,

3:8         Walk the Walk

  • “Bear fruit worthy of repentance.”

○              First of all, this is something no one can do on their own.  One bears fruit that conforms to one’s nature.  Just as with natural trees, each bearing its own type of fruit: apple trees bearing apples, orange trees bearing oranges, a good, i.e., healthy tree will bear good fruit and a bad tree, bad fruit.  This is a natural example of a spiritual reality.  The natural, unregenerate man bears the fruit of his fallen sinful nature.  The godly, born-again man bears the fruit of the Spirit.

○              Second.  The above having been said; this is a classic command to, “Walk the walk,” and not just, “talk the talk.”

  • Related to the first point above; it must be understood that this bearing of good or bad fruit is not necessarily saying, in fact does not say, that the unregenerate man does not ever do things that are inherently “good.” Evil men have often been known to do “good things” or perform kind acts, etc.  The problem is that these inherently good deeds/acts, are themselves sin in the eyes of God (cf. Isaiah 64:6  “We have become like one who is unclean, and righteous deeds are like a polluted garment .  We fade like a leaf, and iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”  ESV).

[iv] Romans 4:1-25

(1)  What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?

(2)  For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

(3)  For what does the Scripture say? “ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

(4)  Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.

(5)  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,

(6)  just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:

(7)  “BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS ARE FORGIVEN, AND WHOSE SINS ARE COVERED;

(8)  BLESSED IS THE MAN TO WHOM THE LORD SHALL NOT IMPUTE SIN.”

(9)  Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.

(10)  How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.

(11)  And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,

(12)  and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.

(13)  For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.

(14)  For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,

(15)  because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.

(16)  Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all

(17)  (as it is written, “I HAVE MADE YOU A FATHER OF MANY NATIONS”) in the presence of Him whom he believed–God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;

(18)  who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “SO SHALL YOUR DESCENDANTS BE.”

(19)  And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.

(20)  He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,

(21)  and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

(22)  And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

(23)  Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,

(24)  but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,

(25)  who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

[v] Matthew 10:14-15

(14)  And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.

(15)  Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

Judged Accordingly

  • Jesus teaches that there are different levels of condemnation in hell. Elsewhere, He teaches the parallel concept of judgment being according to one’s works.

Compare: Matthew 11:21-24; Romans 2:5-6; 2 Corinthians 11:15.

[vi] Ezra 10:3ff

(3)  Now therefore, let us make a covenant with our God to put away all these wives and those who have been born to them, according to the advice of my master and of those who tremble at the commandment of our God; and let it be done according to the law.

(4)  Arise, for this matter is your responsibility. We also are with you. Be of good courage, and do it.”

(5)  Then Ezra arose, and made the leaders of the priests, the Levites, and all Israel swear an oath that they would do according to this word. So they swore an oath.

(6)  Then Ezra rose up from before the house of God, and went into the chamber of Jehohanan the son of Eliashib; and when he came there, he ate no bread and drank no water, for he mourned because of the guilt of those from the captivity.

(7)  And they issued a proclamation throughout Judah and Jerusalem to all the descendants of the captivity, that they must gather at Jerusalem,

(8)  and that whoever would not come within three days, according to the instructions of the leaders and elders, all his property would be confiscated, and he himself would be separated from the assembly of those from the captivity.

(9)  So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain.

(10)  Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel.

(11)  Now therefore, make confession to the LORD God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.”

(12)  Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.

Divorce!

The men of Israel, recognizing their sin in having taken “pagan wives” (verse 2) now want to remedy the problem by a radical solution.  They propose to Ezra, a covenant with God to put away, divorce their pagan wives and children.

Though the Bible faithfully records this event, I do not believe their solution was according to God’s will.  I believe it was simply sinful men trying to get right with God according to their own understanding.  Did they succeed?  Only God knows.  Was their choice the best, or even the right one?  No, I don’t believe so.  But one must recognize that their understanding of God and His nature was still limited.  Jesus the fulfillment of the Law has not yet come.

Jesus teaches that Moses allowed divorces “because of the hardness” of men’s hearts, but that it was never God’s plan.

See Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-10; 1st Corinthians 7:2-24 for the New Testament teachings on Divorce and Malachi 2:16 for God’s attitude towards it.

[vii] Malachi 2:15-16

(5)  “My covenant was with him, one of life and peace, And I gave them to him that he might fear Me; So he feared Me And was reverent before My name.

(6)  The law of truth was in his mouth, And injustice was not found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and equity, And turned many away from iniquity.

Divorce!

God is pro-marriage.  He hates divorce.  It doesn’t get any plainer than that.

God equates divorce with violence.

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