THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In the last few lessons in our series, we have examined the first 32 verses of Matthew 5. In this lesson, we begin our study with verse 33 and make our way to the end of the chapter. Please keep in mind that Jesus is correcting what the Pharisees and Scribes had been teaching about certain parts of the Law of Moses and He is giving an accurate explanation of what is meant and takes it to a higher standard as He keeps focusing on the heart and not just the outward work. At times, He pushes beyond the Law of Moses such as with divorce as we looked at last week because as we read in Matthew 19, He goes back to the original marriage law set up by God from the beginning of time. With this thought in mind, let's see what new challenge awaits us as we start reading in:
Matthew 5:33 " Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' †
The Pharisees and Scribes had put their own twist on taking oaths, which I will show in just a minute, but first letís look at some verses that talk about taking oaths.
Leviticus 19:12 'And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
Numbers 30:2 "If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 Do not be rash with your mouth, And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God. For God is in heaven, and you on earth; Therefore let your words be few.† 3 For a dream comes through much activity, And a fool's voice is known by his many words.† 4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed --† 5 Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.
Deuteronomy 10:20 "You shall fear the LORD your God; you shall serve Him, and to Him you shall hold fast, and take oaths in His name.
To swear an oath means you are promising that you are going to do what you said, and when one used God as a reference to this, that person was basically saying that if I break this oath it will be same breaking it with God. To break an oath was a sin as we saw in our verses, but also consider what we read in:
Zechariah 8:17 Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,' Says the LORD."
Notice, God hates false oaths. In other words, those oaths that are not kept. Another verse that has been misapplied by many is:
Exodus 20:7 " You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
All my life I have been told I should take the Lordís name in vain by using cuss a word with His name in it and most who say this think of this verse we just read. However, this verse is not talking about cursing with Godís name in it, it talking about making an oath with God or in His name and then not keeping that oath. Now do not get me wrong, cursing or using Godís name in a derogatory way is still wrong as can be seen from other Scriptures, but this verse is not one of them.
Now letís talk about the problem Jesus was correcting about what these Jews were teaching. The Jews had corrupted the idea of vow taking. They took a creative license and basically would think it would be ok for them to make a promise and break it as long as they did not swear by God Himself. In fact, they even went further than this as we read Jesus rebuke to them in:
Matthew 23:16 "Woe to you, blind guides, who say, 'Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.'† 17 "Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctifies the gold?† 18 "And, 'Whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it.'† 19 "Fools and blind! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift?† 20 "Therefore he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by all things on it.† 21 "He who swears by the temple, swears by it and by Him who dwells in it.† 22 "And he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by Him who sits on it.
This gives us some great insight into what the Pharisees and Scribes were teaching. They thought they had found their loophole in keeping their oaths. Again, they thought it was acceptable to swear an oath by heaven, the altar, or the temple and then break that oath as long as they did not invoke the name of the Lord. However, we also see them putting emphasis on things they should not have because they made swearing by the gold of the temple or the gift for the alter as being an obligation. So, they had it all messed up. Notice what Jesus says next:
Matthew 5:34 "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne;† 35 "nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.† 36 "Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.† 37 "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.†
Some misunderstand what Jesus is teaching here, but if we keep it in context, we can understand exactly what is He is saying. First, He is not saying do not cuss at all, but is talking about making false oaths. Again, other verses teach that cussing is wrong. Second, Jesus is not condemning all oaths, but he is condemning all oaths that are done falsely and done by swearing on other things.
The main point is this, if you say you are going to do something, your word is your bond. You should not be swearing by other things thinking that it will not matter if you break your oath or your promise because it will. This is why Jesus says, let your yes be yes and no be no. As Christians, people and especial our brethren should not have any reason to doubt our words. If we love God and we want to be Christ like, then we should be truthful. If we say we will do something, then we should. If we say we will not do something, then we should not. James teaches this same idea in:
James 5:12 †But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes," be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.
Some have concluded that when you to go court and put your hand on the Bible and swear that you will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth that it is wrong based on the verses we have looked at, but I will show that it is not. However, this is not really a problem today because most if not all court sessions have abandoned the practice of using God or His Word.
I want you to notice two examples of oaths being taken. The first one is Jesus:
Matthew 26:63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!"† 64 Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."
Jesus was on trial by the Jews and the high priest put Jesus under oath, and Jesus answers under oath and does not rebuke them for being put under an oath. Our next example is a little bit different, but it is still calling on God to be his witness. Paul is the one who does this and he does so multiple times, but letís look at one example:
Romans 1:9 †For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,
Consider what David Sain writes about James 5:12:
ďThe conclusion that not all oaths are forbidden is further supported by a study of the Greek from which it is translated, ďany other oathĒ (James 5:12). James used ďallos,Ē meaning another of the same kind. Had he intended to teach that all oaths are wrong, he would have used ďheterosĒ which means another of a ďdifferentĒ kind. Therefore, it is obvious that James intended to say that all oaths of the type specifically under consideration were forbiddenĒ (Getwell Lecturship p. 130).
Think about it this way. If we are not to take any oaths and we take this to the extreme, then none of us could ever take any loans, we could not enter into any agreements with anyone including giving our spouse any guarantees about being with them forever. If these things I just mentioned are not oaths, then what are they? When we think about it, we can see that Jesus nor James is saying do not ever make any kind of oath. Rather, the message is, do not swear by things, but stand on your word and follow through with whatever you say you are going to do because your word is your bond. So, there are no loopholes in breaking vows as the Jews were trying to teach.
Next, Jesus said:
Matthew 5:38 †" You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
We can see this thought in the Old Testament.
Leviticus 24:17 ' Whoever kills any man shall surely be put to death.† 18 'Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, animal for animal.† 19 'If a man causes disfigurement of his neighbor, as he has done, so shall it be done to him --† 20 'fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; as he has caused disfigurement of a man, so shall it be done to him.
This law was put into place to help keep revenge from happening, and it was an improvement over what some would do. For example, if you killed another manís animal, he might kill or take all your animals and kill you. If you knocked out another manís tooth, that man might come back and knock out all your teeth and then kill you and your whole family. So, this Law kept that from happening.
However, the Pharisees and Scribes had turned this law into a revenge quest so they could get revenge with their own hands instead of it being taken care of in an official way. Even the Old Testament teaches against taking revenge against another. Note the following verses:
Leviticus 19:18 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Proverbs 20:22 Do not say, "I will recompense evil"; Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.
Proverbs 24:29 Do not say, "I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work."
The same principle applies to Christians as Paul said:
Romans 12:19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.† 20 Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head."† 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Jesus goes on to emphasize this point as we continue:
Matthew 5:39 "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.†
While these are certainly literal things that we could do, I do not believe that Jesus was giving these as specific things we should do. Instead, these are examples of the kind of spirit we are to have when it comes to dealing with others to make sure that we do not have a vengeful spirit. Jesus demonstrates this well in:
John 18:22 And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, "Do You answer the high priest like that?"† 23 Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?"
†Jesus did not strike Him back or strike him dead as He had the power to do, but He also did not just sit there and do nothing because He questioned him about him hitting Him. So, to turn the other cheek is not saying that we cannot defend ourselves, but that we are not to return evil for evil or have a vengeful mentality.
To show this thought further, I want to use the apostle Paul as a example who followed the example of Christ.
Our first example comes from:
Acts 13:6 Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus,† 7 who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.† 8 But Elymas the sorcerer (for so his name is translated) withstood them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.† 9 Then Saul, who also is called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him† 10 and said, "O full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?† 11 "And now, indeed, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you shall be blind, not seeing the sun for a time." And immediately a dark mist fell on him, and he went around seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
Saul did not just roll over and play dead and allow this sorcerer to walk all over him. No, he struck Him blind by the power of God.
Second, when it came to using the rights Paul had available, he used them as we see in:
Acts 22:25 And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who stood by, "Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?"
He also did the following after being beaten and imprisoned:
Acts 16:36 So the keeper of the prison reported these words to Paul, saying, "The magistrates have sent to let you go. Now therefore depart, and go in peace."† 37 But Paul said to them, "They have beaten us openly, uncondemned Romans, and have thrown us into prison. And now do they put us out secretly? No indeed! Let them come themselves and get us out."† 38 And the officers told these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans.† 39 Then they came and pleaded with them and brought them out, and asked them to depart from the city.
More examples could be given, but these examples show that Jesus is not saying that you cannot defend yourself or that you cannot use your lawful rights to help your cause. So, Jesus is teaching against having the spirit of revenge.
Letís take a quick look at the three examples Jesus gives:
Matthew 5:40 "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.† 41 "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.† 42 "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
The point is this. If someone is going to take your stuff donít allow any of it to cause you to be vengeful. As I have been saying this is all talking about the attitude you have about all this. I really like verse 41 because it summarizes what Jesus is talking about in His sermon. Under Roman law, a soldier could force a Jew to carry his baggage for one mile and then the Jews could say I will carry it no more.
The principle Jesus is talking about is being willing to do more than just follow the law. In other words donít just go through the motions, be willing to go the second mile with joy because of your love for God. It is not about just keeping the law, it is about loving God and allowing that love to motivate you to keep the law. It is having the attitude that †there is nothing I will not do to glorify God.
Some try to abuse verse 42 especially the ones wanting a loan, but this is talking about those who ask you who are legitimately in need. It is not saying that we should not exercise any judgment whatsoever about someone coming up and asking us for money because the Bible also tells us to be good stewards. Notice what Paul says in:
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat.† 11 For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies.† 12 Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.† 13 But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good.
There are always going to be those who can work but refuse to because they would rather live off of others, which a mentality that seems to be growing in our country. So, Jesus doesn't expect us to just hand out money to everyone that asks, but the person who is truly in need should not be neglected by us. We have a Christian duty to do this. As Paul said in:
Ephesians 4:28 Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.
Next Jesus says:
Matthew 5:43 " You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
The first part of this command was correct, but the Pharisees and Scribes had added the second part because notice what the Law of Moses actually said:
Leviticus 19:18 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Then Jesus says:
Matthew 5:44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,† 45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Jesus is showing that the Pharisees and Scribes are wrong. You do not love your neighbor and hate your enemy, you love your neighbor and your enemy. I want to point out a few things about the Greek word behind our word love. First, let's take a look a definition of it:
Friberg: especially of love as based on evaluation and choice, a matter of will and action
Louw-Nida: have love for someone or something, based on sincere appreciation and high regard†
BDAG: to have a warm regard for and interest in another, cherish, have affection for, love
This word has a wide range of uses, and it can mean that you are going to have the best intentions for another. Let me show just a few verses in which this same word love is used:
Matthew 22:37 Jesus said to him, " 'You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.'
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son
John 10:17 "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.
John 14:15 " If you love Me, keep My commandments.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
These verses are just a few examples of how our Greek word for love can be applied. However, in the context that Jesus uses this idea of love, He is saying that we should have the same love and goodwill as God does in that He allows the blessing of rain to benefit the righteous and the wicked. As John 3:16 says, God loved the world, which is all of us good and bad, but we are not all in fellowship with Him. His love motivated Him to send His Son to the earth for us and it caused Him to have our best interest at heart, which is the same kind of love we are to have for our enemies. While we will not love them affectionately like we do our spouse, we are not supposed to hate them, and we should treat them as a potential soul that can be saved for God.
We are to pray for them even though they might persecute and curse us. When we love our enemies, we are truly children of God because this is the kind of love and compassion that God has for all of us in the world. God went the second mile for us. So, we should go the second mile for others.
Matthew 5:46 "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?† 47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
It is easy to love those you care about and do good for them, but those of the world do the same. Jesus holds us to a higher standard and wants us to love and do good to those outside of our families and friends. No, it is not easy to do, but as Christians we must learn to have this attitude.
Finally, Jesus says:
Matthew 5:48 †"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Many times this verse is misunderstood. It is not saying that we can be perfect that is sin free in all aspects of life. In context, is talking about us using the Father as our example to follow when it comes to love. When we can learn to love our neighbors and our enemies, we can have the complete/mature love our Father wants us to have. While we as Christians should continue to strive for perfection in all aspects of our lives by keeping sin away and always doing the right thing, we are not Jesus. This does not mean that we are doomed to sin, but that we have a long battle before us as we continue to fight the good fight of faith. But in the end, we can know with certainty that if we do fight the good fight of faith, with God on our side, we will spend eternity in heaven.