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Matthew 5

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Verses 1-12

Mat 5:1-12

Section II.
Christ’s Disciples and His Moral Law, Matthew 5:1-48

J.W. McGarvey

Sermon on the Mount

The Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12

1. when he was set.—Throughout the ministry of Jesus we find a remarkable absence of action and attitude in the delivery of his public addresses. The apostles were not regardless of these aids to oratory, but Jesus usually delivered his addresses, as on the present occasion, in a sitting posture. (Comp. Luke 4:20; Luke 5:3.)

2. the poor in spirit.—By the poor in spirit are meant those who are sensible of spiritual destitution, and who long for a better spiritual state. The kingdom of heaven is theirs because they are the class who seek it, and who, when once admitted, abide in it.

5. the meek.—Meekness is opposed to arrogance. The arrogant grasp after dominion and power; but the meek will inherit the earth. They will inherit it in two ways: First, they shall enjoy it more fully while in it; Second, they shall finally, in the membership of a triumphant church, have possession and control of it. Possibly, the Savior also alludes to the final possession by the saints of the new earth.

4. they that mourn.—Not all that mourn—for "the sorrow of the world worketh death" (2 Corinthians 7:10)—but those who mourn in reference to sin. "They shall be comforted" because now there is at ample provision made for pardon. Perhaps we should also include in the reference those righteous persons who mourn over the follies and perversities of men, and who sigh under the bereavements of life; they shall be comforted as Lazarus was when received into Abraham’s bosom.

6. hunger and thirst.—Hunger and thirst being our most imperious appetites, to "hunger and thirst after righteousness" is to feel the most intense desire to obtain it Under a heathen religion, and even under Judaism, such a desire could not be fully satisfied; but under the rich provisions of the kingdom of Christ it may be; and the promise is that it shall be. (Comp. Romans 8:3-4; Hebrews 7:11; Hebrews 7:19; Hebrews 7:25.) The promise is realized in part by the actual attainment of a higher degree of righteous living, and in part by the perfect forgiveness of our sins.

7. the merciful.—Mercy, strictly defined, has reference to the forgiveness of offenses; and in this it is distinguished from pity. The merciful are blessed because they shall obtain mercy; that is, as they are merciful to others, God will be merciful to them. (Comp. Matthew 6:14-15.)

8. the pure in heart.—Purity of heart is freedom from evil desires and purposes. All human purity is only comparative, but it may exist in a very eminent degree. The pure in heart shall see God by faith, as a source of enjoyment on earth, and shall see him face to face in heaven. (Comp. 1 John 3:2.)

9. the peacemakers.—No particular class of peacemakers is designated. The term includes all who make peace between men, whether as individuals or as communities. It includes even those who worthily endeavor to make peace though they fail of success. They shall be "called the children of God," because they are like God, whose supreme purpose it is to secure "peace on earth and goodwill among men." (Luke 2:14.)

10. persecuted for righteousness.—To be persecuted for righteousness’ sake is to be persecuted, not merely because you are righteous, but because of righteous acts which are offensive to the persecutors. In the lips of the persecutor himself his severe dealing is always because of some wrong with which he charges you. It is when the thing charged as wrong is actually right that the persecution is for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven belongs to those thus persecuted, because it is the righteousness required by the laws of that kingdom which causes the persecution, and because, on the other hand, the persecution binds the persecuted still more closely to the kingdom for which they suffer.

11, 12. revile you.—This beatitude is chiefly an amplification of the preceding. Here we have persecution mentioned again, which refers to suffering in property and person, and, in addition to it, the reviling and evil speaking by which one suffers in reputation. We are to "rejoice and be exceeding glad" under this annoyance for the two reasons, that our reward is great in heaven, and that such suffering puts us into companionship with the heroic prophets of the olden time. To be of that goodly company is a great reward on earth; while the promised reward in heaven exceeds all conception. In requiring us to rejoice and be glad under such circumstances, Jesus makes a heavy draft on our capability; but it is a draft in the direction of our own happiness, and one to which some men have been able to respond. (See Acts 5:41.)

General Remarks on the Beatitudes

The reader should observe that the first seven of these beatitudes have reference to traits of character or states of mind, viz: poverty of spirit, meekness, mourning for sin, desire for righteousness, mercifulness, purity of heart, peacemaking; while the last two have reference to external circumstances.

It should also be observed that most of them are paradoxical. The world’s conception of the man who is superlatively blessed has always been the reverse of what is here taught. The doctrine was new and strange, not only to the heathen world, but even to the most cultivated students of the Mosaic law; yet those who have received the fullness of grace that is in Christ, have learned to realize the unquestionable truth of all these maxims.

We are not to understand that a man who possesses any one of the enumerated traits of character, and is void of the others, will enjoy the corresponding blessing; that, for example, the peacemaker shall be called a child of God, though neither merciful nor pure in heart; but, rather, that the seven specifications are to be found in a single person—thus making up the perfect character who shall receive in their fullness all of the specified blessings. It is impossible to imagine a character more admirable. On the other hand, if we imagine a man the opposite of all this—proud in spirit, arrogant in demeanor, taking pleasure in sin, despising righteousness, unmerciful foul at heart, and a disturber of the peace—we have the utmost extreme of the cursedness to which sin can bring down a human being

The Beatitudes - Matthew 5:1-12

Open It

1. What are some ways people typically try to find happiness or fulfillment in life?

2. What person (living or dead) do you respect most? Why?

Explore It

3. What was the setting for this sermon? (Matthew 5:1)

4. Who was Jesus addressing? (Matthew 5:1-2)

5. According to Jesus, what is the reward for those who are poor in spirit? (Matthew 5:3)

6. Why are those who mourn blessed? (Matthew 5:4)

7. What is the reward for those who are meek? (Matthew 5:5)

8. What can those who hunger and thirst for righteousness expect? (Matthew 5:6)

9. What does God promise to those who are merciful? (Matthew 5:7)

10. According to this passage, who will see God? (Matthew 5:8)

11. Why are peacemakers blessed? (Matthew 5:9)

12. What does the future hold for those who are persecuted because of righteousness? (Matthew 5:10)

13. What unexpected command is given to Christians who are insulted, hassled, and lied about? (Matthew 5:11-12)

14. What people in history have endured nasty persecution? (Matthew 5:12)

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15. How does it pay in the present to walk with God?

16. What do you think it means to be poor in spirit?

17. What does it mean to be meek?

18. How would a person behave if he or she were hungering and thirsting after righteousness?

19. What are some examples of showing mercy?

20. How does society’s list of admirable virtues compare and contrast with these kingdom virtues?

21. How (if at all) does the promise of future blessing affect us in the present?

22. Which of these promises means the most to you today? Why?

23. What is the most common type of persecution that you face?

24. What peacemaking responses work well at diffusing hostility?

Apply It

25. What realistic steps can you take this week to make you hungrier and thirstier for righteousness?

26. What can you do this week to encourage a friend who is under fire due to his or her stand for the Lord?

Verses 13-16

Mat 5:13-16

Relation of the Disciples to the World, Matthew 5:13-16

J.W. McGarvey

13. salt of the earth.—Salt being chiefly used to preserve animal flesh, the metaphor here employed means that the disciples sustain a similar relation to human society—the physical earth being put by metonymy for its inhabitants. They keep back the world from that complete moral corruption which would require its destruction. There was not salt enough in the antediluvian world, nor in the city of Sodom, nor in the tribes of Canaan, to save them.

if the salt have lost.—In the expression, "if the salt have lost its savor," the reference is to the persons represented by salt. If they have lost the qualities which make them the salt of the earth, wherewith, it is demanded, shall the earth be salted? They are then good for nothing, as salt would be if it had no saltness.

14. the light of the world.—As light dispels darkness from the world, and enables men to see how to journey and labor, so the disciples, by their good works, their teaching, and their example, dispel ignorance and prejudice, and enable men to see the way of eternal life. In this way they are the light of the world.

city set on a hill.—There is here a tacit comparison of the disciples as a body to a city situated on a hill—the point of comparison being the fact that it can not be hid. The Church has ever occupied such a position. Neither her beauties nor her blemishes can be concealed. Her constant aim should be to present as few as possible of the one, and as many as possible of the other.

15. a candle.—Properly, a lamp. Candles were not known till after the time of Christ. Having indicated by the symbol of a city on a hill the prominent position of the Church, Jesus now gives the reason why it was to be placed in such a position. Being intended as the light of the world, it is placed, like a lamp on the lampstand, in a position whence its light may shine abroad.

under a bushel.—The original word here rendered bushel (μδιος) is the name of a measure which held about a peck. Instead of the incorrect rendering, bushel, it would have been better to use the generic term measure.

16. Let your light so shine.—No ostentatious display of piety or righteousness is here enjoined, but the natural and unavoidable force of a good example, and the intended influence of our actions on the world. We are to studiously pursue such a line of conduct in the presence of the world as will induce them to glorify God.

Salt and Light - Matthew 5:13-16

Open It

1. What is your favorite spice?

2. What is it about darkness that frightens people?

3. Why do people commit crimes and evil acts under cover of darkness?

4. What are the top five moral problems our country is facing?

Explore It

5. To what valuable substance did Jesus compare His disciples? (Matthew 5:13)

6. What is an essential characteristic of salt? (Matthew 5:13)

7. How did Jesus imply that a Christian’s positive influence can wane or disappear? (Matthew 5:13)

8. What happens to salt that loses its flavor? (Matthew 5:13)

9. To what did Jesus compare His followers? (Matthew 5:14)

10. How are we like light? (Matthew 5:14)

11. What are improper and proper uses for a lamp? (Matthew 5:15)

12. What use of a lamp teaches us about living? How? (Matthew 5:15)

13. According to Jesus, how exactly are Christians to be like lamps? (Matthew 5:16)

14. What kind of behavior should other people see Christians exhibiting? (Matthew 5:16)

15. If believers live as they are supposed to live, how will others respond toward God? (Matthew 5:16)

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16. What did Jesus mean when He called His followers salt?

17. What sort of effect does salt have on food?

18. How do salty things affect us?

19. How can a Christian lose his or her saltiness?

20. What does it mean to "let your light shine"?

21. How might a believer hide his or her light?

22. What is the effect of bright light in a dark place?

23. What does light reveal?

24. What specific behaviors mark the life-style of a salty, shining Christian?

25. In light of your gifts, abilities, and interests, what specific problem in our world can you counteract as a representative of Christ?

Apply It

26. What phone calls or letters would you be willing to make or write this week in order to be salt and light in a decaying, dark world?

27. To whom in your neighborhood, family, or workplace can you be salt and light this week?

28. How can you be salt and light to the people God has placed in your life?

Verses 17-20

Mat 5:17-20

General Statement about the Law, Matthew 5:17-20

J.W. McGarvey

17. Think not.—The remark, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets." is prefatory to what follows in this section of the sermon, and it was intended to prevent a misconstruction of some things about to be said in apparent opposition to the law.

destroy the law.—The term destroy is here used in antithesis, not with perpetuate, but with fulfill. To destroy the law would be more than to abrogate it, for it was both a system of statutes designed for the ends of government, and a system of types foreshadowing the kingdom of Christ. To destroy it, therefore, would be both to abrogate its statutes and to prevent the fulfillment of its types. The former Jesus eventually did; the latter he did not. As regards the prophets, the only way to destroy them would be to prevent the fulfillment of the predictions contained in them. Instead of coming to destroy either the law or the prophets, Jesus came to fulfill all the types of the former and all the unfulfilled predictions of the latter. He fulfilled them partly in his own person, and partly by his administration of the affairs of his kingdom. The latter part of the process is still going on, and will be until the end of the world. Jesus also fulfilled the law in the sense of maintaining sinless obedience to it; but this is not the fulfillment to which the text refers.

18. one jot or tittle.—The words jot and tittle, both of which mean something very small, represent, in the original, yod, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; or iota, the smallest in the Greek alphabet; and keraia, a turn in the stroke of the pen, by which some letters were distinguished from others. That not a jot or tittle was to pass from the law until all was fulfilled, means that the law should remain in full force until the fulfillment above described.

19. least in the kingdom.—The man who would break what he considered the small commandments of God, under one dispensation, would be proportionately disobedient under a better dispensation; for habits of disobedience once formed are not easily laid aside. For this reason obedience or disobedience while under the law was an index to what a man would be under Christ. The text shows that the relative greatness of persons in the kingdom of heaven is measured by their conscientiousness in reference to the least commandments. To the great commandments, as men classify them, even very small Christians may be obedient; but it requires the most tender conscience to be always scrupulous about the least commandments.

20. righteousness of scribes and Pharisees.—The scribes, and Pharisees were models of righteousness, both in their own estimation and in that of the people. "When the disciples were told, therefore, that unless their own righteousness should excel that of the scribes and Pharisees, they would not be admitted into the kingdom, it gave them a lofty conception of the righteousness which would be required. The disciples here addressed were those who, when the kingdom was first set up, were its citizens. The righteousness in question was to be attained by them before entering the kingdom; but such would not necessarily be the case with candidates for admission subsequent to that time. Still, the text indicates that all within the kingdom shall attain to such righteousness as a condition of remaining in it.

The Fulfillment of the Law - Matthew 5:17-20

Open It

1. What is the worst rule or law you’ve ever been aware of?

2. When in your life did you feel closest to God?

Explore It

3. What rumor was apparently being spread about Jesus and His view of the Old Testament? (Matthew 5:17)

4. What did Jesus say was His goal with regard to the Law and the Prophets? (Matthew 5:17)

5. How much of the Law did Jesus say would be fulfilled or accomplished? (Matthew 5:18)

6. According to Jesus, what cataclysmic event would have to happen before God’s Word could be invalidated in even a tiny way? (Matthew 5:18)

7. What two things result in one being called least in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 5:19)

8. What happens if a person lives a good life and breaks only minor commandments of God? (Matthew 5:19)

9. What warning was given to those who would encourage others to disregard the Word of God? (Matthew 5:19)

10. Who is considered great in the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 5:19)

11. To what groups of religious leaders did Jesus make reference? (Matthew 5:20)

12. What degree of righteousness is necessary for entrance into the kingdom of heaven? (Matthew 5:20)

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13. How trustworthy are the words of Scripture?

14. Why did Jesus talk about the righteousness of the Pharisees in this context?

15. In discussing sin, why did Jesus make a point of saying, "one of the least of these commandments"?

16. What are some ways we occasionally encourage each other to bend or break God’s rules?

17. What level of reverence and submission do you think most people have toward the Bible?

18. What does it mean to "practice" the commandments of God?

19. What are some ways to teach others about the righteousness of God?

20. What good can we do to be acceptable to God?

21. Why is it difficult for us to practice what we preach?

22. What ideals are most difficult for you to uphold?

Apply It

23. When and how this week can you consult the Bible for guidance on how to live?

24. What should you do in the near future about someone who tends to "drag you down"?

25. What command of God will you commit to memory this week?

Verses 21-26

Mat 5:21-26

The Law against Murder, Matthew 5:21-26

J.W. McGarvey

21. said by them of old time.—The reference is to the sixth commandment. It was said to them of old time, rather than by them. To them is a better rendering, both here and in Matthew 5:27 and Matthew 5:33.

danger of the judgment.—Not the final judgment of the world, but the tribunal established by the law of Moses in each city for the trial of murderers and other criminals. (See Deuteronomy 16:18.) Every manslayer was tried before this tribunal, and either put to death or confined in the city of refuge.

22. whosoever is angry.—Jesus goes back of the murderous act, and forbids the anger and the reproachful words which always precede it and are likely to lead to it. The council mentioned is the supreme court provided for by the law of Moses (Deuteronomy 17:8-13), and represented in the days of Jesus by the Sanhedrim. The difference be-between it and "the judgment" was, not that it could inflict penalties which the judgment could not—for either could inflict the death penalty—but that the council was the more august tribunal, and the more dreaded. The thought is, that to call a brother raca (empty) was a more fearful sin than to be angry with him. The reader will observe that the words "without a cause" are omitted from the Greek text on very high authority.

in danger of hell fire.—Here the climax is reached—the climax of sin in saying "Thou fool," and the climax of punishment in hell fire. Jesus here passes entirely away from the reference to Jewish courts and punishments, and speaks of the final punishment of the wicked. The valley of Hinnom was a deep, narrow valley southeast of Jerusalem, and lying immediately to the south of Mount Zion. The Greek word gehenna is first found applied to it in the Septuagint translation of Joshua 18:16. (For the history of the valley see the following passages of Scripture: Joshua 15:8; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 7:31; Jeremiah 19:1-5; 2 Kings 23:10-14; 2 Chronicles 34:4-5.) The only fire certainly known to have been kindled there was the fire in which children were sacrificed to the god Moloch. This worship was entirely destroyed by King Josiah, who polluted the entire valley, so as to make it an unfit place for even heathen worship. There is not the slightest authentic evidence that in the days of Jesus any fire was kept burning there; nor is there any evidence at all that casting a criminal into fire there was ever employed by the Jews as a punishment. It was the fire of idolatrous worship in the offering of human sacrifice which had given the valley its bad notoriety. This caused it to be associated in the mind of the Jews with sin and suffering, and led to the application of its name, in the Greek form of it, to the place of final and eternal punishment. When the conception of such a place was formed it was necessary to give it a name, and there was no word in the Jewish language more appropriate for the purpose than the name of this hideous valley.

23, 24. leave there thy gift.—Having forbidden anger and evil speech toward a brother, Jesus here teaches the proper course to be pursued when we have committed an offense, and a brother has something against us. The offender is commanded to go and be reconciled to his brother, by making, of course, the proper amends; and he is to allow no other duty, not even the offering of a gift to God, to take precedence of this duty. If remembrance of the offense is brought to the mind after the gift has been already brought to the altar, the duty of reparation must even then be attended to first. This places on very high ground a duty which is often totally neglected. It shows that no offering which we can make to God is acceptable while we are conscious of an uncompensated wrong to a fellow-man.

25. Agree with thine adversary.—In this brief allegory one is supposed to have an adversary at law who has a just cause against him, and who will certainly gain a verdict when the case comes into court. He is advised to agree with this adversary; that is, to make reparation to him in advance of the trial and to prevent a trial. Jesus still has in his mind the preceding case of one who has given offense to his brother. Every such one is going to the final judgment, and will there be condemned unless he now becomes reconciled to his brother.

26. till thou hast paid.—There is allusion here to imprisonment for debt. In such a case the debtor was held until the debt was paid, either by himself or some friend. If it were not paid at all, he remained in prison until he died. In the case which this is made to represent, the offender will have let pass all opportunity to make reparation, and no friend can make it for him; therefore the last farthing never will be paid, and he must remain a prisoner forever.

Murder - Matthew 5:21-26

Open It

1. When do you tend to get angry?

2. Why do people murder each other over trivial matters—a parking space, a cigarette lighter, a crude remark?

3. If you were given full governmental authority and resources, how would you go about reducing the amount of violent crime in this country?

Explore It

4. What age-old prohibition was Jesus addressing in this context? (Matthew 5:21)

5. What was the penalty for violators of this law? (Matthew 5:21)

6. How did Jesus explain the meaning of the law against murder? (Matthew 5:22)

7. According to Jesus, what kind of name-calling made one answerable to the Sanhedrin? (Matthew 5:22)

8. What kind of angry name-calling puts one in eternal danger? (Matthew 5:22)

9. How did Jesus describe hell? (Matthew 5:23)

10. What sort of realization did Jesus say should interrupt our worship? (Matthew 5:23)

11. If a person becomes aware of a relational problem, how quickly should he or she act? (Matthew 5:24)

12. What should be a believer’s goal in strained or shattered relationships? (Matthew 5:24)

13. When is it best to settle disputes? (Matthew 5:25)

14. Where is it best to settle disputes? (Matthew 5:25)

15. What bad consequences can occur if a dispute escalates into a full-blown court battle? (Matthew 5:25-26)

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16. Why did Jesus zero in on the emotions behind our violent actions?

17. What modern-day equivalents to "Raca" do we level at others?

18. What attitudes and emotions tend to lead to name-calling?

19. Which of our religious activities would be closely akin to "offering your gifts at the altar"?

20. According to Jesus, how do problems in our relationships with others affect our relationship with God?

21. Why is it necessary to get things right with people before we come to worship God?

22. Why is it preferable for Christians to quietly resolve their differences rather than battle over them publicly?

23. How might Christians be encouraged to reconcile with each other before coming to a Communion service?

Apply It

24. What relational conflict do you need to straighten out today?

25. How can you help yourself remember this week to keep your anger under control?

Verses 27-32

Mat 5:27-32

The Law against Adultery, Matthew 5:27-30

J.W. McGarvey

27, 28. whosoever looketh.—Here, as in the reference to murder, Jesus goes behind the act which alone is mentioned in the Mosaic law, and legislates against the look and the feeling which might lead to the act. That which is condemned is not a look of admiration or of affection, but a look of lust. He cuts off the enormous evil of adultery at its lowest root; for he who allows not himself to look upon a woman with a lustful feeling will never commit the act of adultery.

29, 30. right eye offend thee.—Knowing the intensity and universality of the passion against which he is here legislating, Jesus supports his precept by the most powerful incentive to obedience. The imagined pleasure of indulgence is confronted with the final and eternal consequences in hell, while the self-denial which refuses to indulge is stimulated by the promise of eternal life. As it is better to be deprived of all the pleasure and advantage of the right eye or the right hand during life and then enter into eternal life, rather than enjoy these and then be cast into hell, so in reference to the pleasures of lust. Better never to taste these pleasures at all than, having enjoyed them to the full, to be finally cast into hell. The Greek word (σκανδαλιζω) rendered offend is derived from another (σκανδαλον) which means the trigger of a snare or trap. Primarily, then, it means to ensnare; and this term well expresses the meaning in this and several other places, such as, Matthew 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-47; Luke 17:2; 1 Corinthians 8:13. But that which, like a trap catching a man’s foot, causes surprise and pain, always gives offense; hence the secondary meaning of the term, which is to offend. (See Matthew 11:6; Matthew 15:12; Matthew 17:27.)

into hell.—The term gehenna, here rendered hell, as it always is, designates the place of punishment for those who allow themselves to be ensnared. There was no such punishment as being "cast into the valley of Hinnom;" therefore the reference must be, as above (Matthew 5:22), to the final place of torment. (Comp. Mark 9:43.)

Adultery - Matthew 5:27-30

Open It

1. How is marriage commonly portrayed in the media?

2. What evidence have you seen that sexual standards have declined over the last ten years?

3. What are some danger signs that a marriage is in trouble?

Explore It

4. What commandment was Jesus interpreting? (Matthew 5:27)

5. How did Jesus explain the meaning of adultery? (Matthew 5:28)

6. How does adultery start? (Matthew 5:28)

7. When does looking at someone become inappropriate? (Matthew 5:28)

8. What did Jesus suggest we do with a sinning eye? Why? (Matthew 5:29)

9. Why did Jesus make this radical statement about eyes? (Matthew 5:29)

10. Where does sin ultimately lead if it is not dealt with? (Matthew 5:29-30)

11. What did Jesus recommend for a sinning hand? Why? (Matthew 5:30)

12. What was the rationale behind this graphic comment about hands? (Matthew 5:30)

13. Why are our moral choices important? (Matthew 5:30)

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14. Why is adultery common in our society?

15. Why are people willing to commit adultery?

16. Why are people willing to harbor lust in their hearts?

17. What are the devastating effects of adultery?

18. What does it mean to gouge out a habit for lust or to cut off a sinful practice?

19. How does pornography feed the problem of adultery?

20. What is wrong with the argument, "It’s OK to look as long as you don’t touch"?

21. How might you respond to the popular claim that sexual fantasies are healthy and should be encouraged?

22. What would you say to a friend in a bad marriage who was contemplating an affair?

23. What does it mean to dress modestly?

24. What changes do you need to make in your reading or viewing habits to avoid temptations to lust?

Apply It

25. What three steps can you take this week to insulate your marriage against affairs?

26. In what situations is it important for you to dress modestly this week?

The Law of Divorce, Matthew 5:31-32

J.W. McGarvey

32. saving for the cause.—It is perfectly clear that Jesus here prohibits divorce except for the single cause of fornication. For this cause it is implied that divorce may rightly take place. The fornication may be either that which takes place after marriage, or that which takes place before marriage—the husband being ignorant of it at the time of marriage. In no part of the New Testament is there any relaxation of the law here given. Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15, contains no such relaxation, but merely furnishes directions for a Christian woman who, contrary to the law here given, is abandoned by her heathen husband.

causes her.—A woman, when divorced by her husband, naturally seeks a second marriage, if for no other reason than to vindicate herself from the imputation cast on her by the divorce. The second husband, in accepting her hand, pronounces against the act of the first husband. But her second marriage is adultery, and her first husband, by divorcing her, indirectly causes her to commit this crime.

whosoever shall marry her.—The second marriage of the divorced woman is pronounced adultery both on her part and on that of her new husband; that is, her marriage while her first husband still lives. (See Romans 7:2.) Whether the man who puts away his wife because of fornication, or the woman who leaves her husband for the same crime, is at liberty to marry again, is not made so clear. It is clearly implied, however, that the marriage bond is broken; and it is almost universally conceded by commentators and moralists that the innocent party to such a divorce can marry again. This subject is mentioned again in the following places Matthew 19:3-9; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-16; 1 Corinthians 7:39.

It is much to be regretted that in many Protestant countries the civil authorities have practically set aside this law of Christ by allowing divorce and remarriage for a variety of causes. No man who respects the authority of Christ can take advantage of such legislation.

Divorce - Matthew 5:31-32

Open It

1. What commitments do adults commonly make?

2. What commitments do adults sometimes break?

3. What causes people to break their commitments?

Explore It

4. Why did Jesus need to say this about marriage and divorce? (Matthew 5:31-32)

5. What is the best way to think about marriage and divorce? (Matthew 5:31-32)

6. Who is guilty of adultery? (Matthew 5:31-32)

7. What does God want us to do when we feel tempted to divorce a partner? (Matthew 5:31-32)

8. According to Jesus, what is the only acceptable reason for divorce? (Matthew 5:32)

9. When can a person divorce his or her partner? (Matthew 5:32)

10. When can a person not divorce his or her partner? (Matthew 5:32)

11. How can adultery affect a marriage commitment? (Matthew 5:32)

12. Why did Jesus give an exception to His "no divorce" command? (Matthew 5:32)

13. What conditions are placed on divorce? (Matthew 5:32)

14. In what way does a person who divorces a partner "cause" the other to commit adultery? (Matthew 5:32)

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15. In what way can adultery damage a marriage?

16. Why is it important to try to hold a marriage together?

17. In what ways can divorce hurt people?

18. Why do people get divorced?

19. Why do people commit adultery?

20. What enables people to stay faithful to their partners?

21. What can people do to strengthen their marriage?

22. In what ways can people show respect for marriage?

23. What causes people to get divorced?

24. For what reasons do people get divorced?

25. On what or whom can a Christian depend to help him or her solve marriage problems?

26. What can a person do when his or her marriage is in trouble?

Apply It

27. What can you do this week to strengthen your marriage or the marriage of a friend?

28. How can you show respect for marriage this week?

29. What can you do today or tomorrow to lessen the likelihood of ever getting divorced?

Verses 33-42

Mat 5:33-42

The Law of Oaths, Matthew 5:33-37

J.W. McGarvey

33-36. But I say unto you.—In this paragraph, as in the one next preceding on divorce, and in the one next following on retaliation, Jesus takes away liberties which had been granted by the law of Moses, and imposes on his disciples restrictions not known before. The precept of the law, "Thou shalt not forswear thyself" (commit perjury), "but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths, is unchangeably right and proper. It is not repealed by Jesus, but the unlimited privilege of making oaths, which it implies, is taken away.

Swear not at all.—The only oath authorized by the law of Moses was one taken in the name of God. (Deuteronomy 6:13.) The oaths which Jesus here proceeds to prohibit—"by heaven," "by the earth," "by Jerusalem," "by thy head"—were all unauthorized by the law. Moreover, it was taught by the scribes that these oaths, and all others which did not include the name of God, had not the binding force of an oath. The universal prohibition, "Swear not at all," is distributed by the specification of these four forms of oaths, and is, therefore most strictly interpreted as including only such oaths. Jesus surely did not intend to abolish now, in advance of the general abrogation of the law, those statutes of Moses which allowed, and in some instances required, the administration of an oath. (See Exodus 22:11; Numbers 5:19.) What we style the judicial oaths of the law of Moses, then, were not included in the prohibition. This conclusion is also reached when we interpret the prohibition in the light of authoritative examples. God himself, "because he could swear by no greater, swore by himself" in confirming the promise to Abraham (Hebrews 6:13); and he did the same in declaring the priesthood of Christ. (Hebrews 7:21.) Jesus answered to an oath before the Sanhedrim—Caiaphas administering the oath in the form: "I adjure thee by the living God." (Matthew 26:63.) Paul also made oath to the Corinthian Church, saying: "I call upon God as a witness on my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet to Corinth." (2 Corinthians 1:23. See, also, Romans 1:9; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 15:31; Revelation 10:5-6.) We conclude, then, that judicial oaths, and oaths taken in the name of God on occasions of solemn religious importance, are not included in the prohibition; but as these are the only exceptions found in the Scriptures, we conclude that all other oaths are forbidden. All of these remarks apply with the same force to the parallel passage in James 5:12. For the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees on the subject see Matthew 23:16-22, and notes thereon. for it is God’s throne.—Swear-ing by any person or thing is either to invoke the power thereof, or to pledge our own power in reference to it. To swear by heaven, by the earth, by Jerusalem (verse 35), or by your own head, conveys the latter idea. The Savior shows in each case that the idea is an absurd one, and thus exposes the folly of such oaths. As heaven is God’s throne, the earth his footstool, and Jerusalem the city of the great King, the man who made oath had no control over these; and over his own head he had so little that he could not make one hair white or black.

37. your communication shall be.—Instead of an oath for confirmation on ordinary occasions, Jesus enjoins a simple affirmation or denial—"Yea, yea; Nay, nay." The reason given is, that "whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." It comes of evil because it arises either from a want of veracity on the part of he person taking the oath, or from a suspicion of this on the part of him who exacts it. James gives another reason: "Lest ye fall into condemnation." (James 5:12.) Frequent and unnecessary swearing naturally diminishes men’s respect for an oath, and increases to this extent their liability to fall into condemnation by swearing falsely.

Oaths - Matthew 5:33-37

Open It

1. Persons in what occupations (for example, ministers, insurance agents, lawyers, car salesmen, and politicians) are often distrusted for what they say?

2. How do you determine if someone is telling the truth?

Explore It

3. What ancient teaching did Jesus bring up? (Matthew 5:33)

4. What oaths did Jesus’ audience consider especially important to keep? (Matthew 5:33)

5. How did Jesus update the ancient proverb about oaths? (Matthew 5:34)

6. What exceptions did Jesus permit in vow making? (Matthew 5:34)

7. Why was it inappropriate to swear by heaven? (Matthew 5:34)

8. Why was it inappropriate to swear by earth? (Matthew 5:35)

9. According to Jesus, why shouldn’t people swear by Jerusalem? (Matthew 5:35)

10. Why not swear by one’s own head? (Matthew 5:36)

11. How should believers respond to questions? (Matthew 5:37)

12. What’s wrong with swearing oaths? (Matthew 5:37)

Get It

13. How much does swearing on a Bible guarantee that a legal witness will tell the truth?

14. Why do we swear?

15. In what situations do people typically swear?

16. What are some ways that our society takes the name of God lightly or frivolously?

17. What statements of assurance ("Trust me," "Would I lie to you?" "I really mean it this time," etc.) do you hear most often?

18. How does lying in the name of God affect the reputation of God?

19. How should we respond when people try to get us to make promises or extra assurances?

20. What does it imply when people don’t take you at your word?

Apply It

21. What steps can you take this week to become known as a person who keeps his or her word?

22. What unfulfilled promise have you made in the last week that you need to carry out today?

The Law against Retaliation, Matthew 5:38-42

J.W. McGarvey

38. An eye for an eye.—It was never the law of God that he whose tooth or eye was knocked out should proceed, without judge or jury, to knock out the tooth or eye of his assailant; but in every case of maiming under the Mosaic law the guilty party was regularly tried in the courts, and the penalty was inflicted by the officers of the law. (See Deuteronomy 19:17-21; Exodus 21:22-25.) The injured party was not required to prosecute, but was at liberty, if he saw proper to show mercy by declining to do so (Comp. Leviticus 19:18.)

39. resist not evil.—This prohibition must be understood in the light of the context. Evil, in one sense, is to be resisted with all our might, and without cessation; but the reference here is to evil treatment at the hand of a neighbor, as when he knocks out your eye or your tooth. While the law of Moses allowed the injured party to seek revenge, Jesus prohibits his disciples from taking the advantage of this law.

39-42. whosoever shall smite thee.—Under the general precept, "Resist not evil," we here have three specifications. The first, which requires that when smitten on one cheek we shall turn the other, is best illustrated by the Savior’s own conduct. When smitten in the presence of the high priest, he mildly remarked: "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you smite me?" (John 18:22-23.) If we imitate his example we will meet the requirements of his precept. The second specification (Matthew 5:40) supposes a man sued at the law, and his coat (the inner garment of the Jew) unjustly taken from him. He is told to let the oppressor have also his mantle, which was the outer garment, and more valuable. Under the law it was forbidden to keep a poor man’s garment from him through the night, even when it was taken as a pledge (Exodus 22:26-27); therefore the case here supposed is one of extreme oppression. The lesson taught can not be less than this: that even the most unjust and extreme exactions by forms of law are to be endured without seeking revenge. The third specification (Matthew 5:41) supposes a man impressed by a government official to go a mile. The custom alluded is said to have originated with Cyrus, king of Persia, and it empowered a government courier to impress both men and horses to help him forward. The exercise of this power by the Romans was exceedingly distasteful to the Jews, and this circumstance gave especial pertinency to the Savior’s mention of it. (See Herodotus viii. 98; Xen. Cyrop. viii. 6, 17; Josephus, Ant. xiii. 2, 3.) The command, "Go with him two," requires a cheerful compliance with the demands of a tyrannical government. The specifications about giving and lending (Matthew 5:42) do not strictly belong to the precept, "Resist not evil," but they constitute a further extension of the benevolent disposition which this precept requires. No lending was provided for by the law of Moses except for benevolent purposes, for no interest was allowed, and all debts were canceled every seventh year The giving and lending referred to, then, are limited to cases of real want, and the amount given or loaned is to be regulated accordingly. Giving or lending to the encouragement of vice or indolence can not, of course, be here included.

An Eye for an Eye - Matthew 5:38-42

Open It

1. Why are movies about vengeance or vigilante justice so popular?

2. What is appealing about revenge?

Explore It

3. To what familiar saying was Jesus referring in this context? (Matthew 5:38)

4. What did the ancients require if a person put out someone else’s eye? (Matthew 5:38)

5. What was the judgment for knocking out another’s tooth? (Matthew 5:38)

6. How did Jesus say we should respond to people who do us evil? (Matthew 5:39)

7. What should we do to protect our rights and possessions? (Matthew 5:39)

8. What should be the Christian’s response to physical violence? (Matthew 5:39)

9. What should a person do if someone else sues him or her? (Matthew 5:40)

10. What should a person do if someone else forces him or her to "go one mile"? (Matthew 5:41)

11. How should followers of Christ deal with those who ask them for things? (Matthew 5:42)

12. What is the proper response to a request to borrow something? (Matthew 5:42)

Get It

13. What are the drawbacks to an "eye for eye" mentality?

14. Where do we draw the line between our rights and our responsibility to be forgiving and patient?

15. What is the rationale behind Jesus’ idea that love overcomes evil?

16. How can doing good change a bad situation?

17. How should we respond to violent attacks?

18. When are we responsible to stop an evil person from committing violent acts?

19. What advice would you give to the little kid who is constantly being bullied at school?

20. What do you think would happen if Christians followed these principles to the letter?

21. What items would you find difficult to loan out or give away?

22. In what ways have you been seeking vengeance or an opportunity to pay someone back for a wrong done to you?

23. What grudge or personal vendetta do you need to lay aside?

Apply It

24. What prayer will help you forgive some wrong you’ve had difficulty letting go of?

25. What act of kindness or reconciliation could you perform by next weekend to help "bury the hatchet"?

Verses 43-48

Mat 5:43-48

The Law of Love, Matthew 5:43-48

J.W. McGarvey

43. hate thine enemy.—"Love your neighbor as yourself" was an express precept of the law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18), while the sentiment "Hate thine enemy" is not found in the law as a precept. But the Jews were forbidden by law to make peace with the Canaanites (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 23:6), and the bloody wars which by God’s own command they frequently waged against their enemies inevitably taught them to hate them. This was the feeling of their most pious men, and it found utterance even in their devotional hymns; e. g. Psalms 139:21-22. It is a true representation of the law, therefore, in its practical working, that it taught hatred of one’s enemies. This is one of the evils of the Jewish dispensation, which, like the privilege of divorce at will, was to endure but for a time.

44. love your enemies.—To love an enemy, has appeared to many persons impossible, because they understand the word love as here expressing the same feeling in all respects which we entertain toward a friend or a near kinsman. But love has many shades and degrees. The exact phase of it which is here enjoined is best understood in the light of examples. The parable of the good Samaritan is given by Jesus for the express purpose of exemplifying it (Luke 10:25-37); his own example in praying on the cross for those who crucified him serves the same purpose (Luke 23:34); and so does the conduct of David when he spared the life of Saul (1 Samuel 24, 26.) The feeling which enables us to deal with an enemy as the good Samaritan did, as Jesus did, and as David did, is the love for our enemies which is here enjoined. It is by no means an impossible feeling.

45-47. that ye may be.—Two reasons are here given why we should obey the preceding precept: First, that we may be children of our Father in heaven, which means that we may be like him; and second, that we may be unlike the publicans and the heathen. As even the publicans and the heathen love those who love them, and salute those who salute them, if we do no more than that we are no better in respect to the law of love than they. We are rather to be like God, who causes his sun to shine on the evil as on the good, and sends his rain on the just as on the unjust.

publicans—A word of Latin origin, designating those who hired themselves to the Roman government as collectors of the Roman tax. The fact that the Jews were a conquered people paying tax to a foreign power, made the tax itself odious, and equally odious the men through whom it was extorted from them. These men were regarded in the double aspect of oppressors and traitors. The odium thus attached to the office prevented men who had any regard for the good opinion of their countrymen from accepting it, and left it in the hands of those who had no self-respect and no reputation. They generally deserved the contempt with which they were regarded. They were justly accused of extortion (Luke 3:13), and of false accusation for the sake of gain. (Luke 19:8.) In the other provinces of the empire they were held in no better repute than in Judea, for Cicero pronounces their business "the basest of all means of livelihood." (De Officiis i. 42.)

48. Be perfect.—The command, Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, makes the moral perfection of God our model. It is, of course, impossible for man to attain to this perfection; yet anything short of it is short of what we ought to be. While man can not attain to so much, God can not require less; for to require less would imply satisfaction with that which is imperfect, and this would be inconsistent with the character of God. To require this is to keep man forever reminded of his inferiority, and, at the same time, to keep him forever struggling for a nearer approach to his model. The requirement is eminently wise and good.

[See the argument of the entire sermon at the end of § 5.]

Love for Enemies - Matthew 5:43-48

Open It

1. What TV character is most despicable to you? Why?

2. What underlying emotions and attitudes create cliques or cause divisions between groups of people?

3. What character quality more than any other says to the world, "This person is a Christian"?

Explore It

4. What ancient rule of life did Jesus challenge here? (Matthew 5:43)

5. How did Jesus say we ought to treat our enemies? (Matthew 5:44)

6. What did Jesus say we ought to do for those who persecute us? (Matthew 5:44)

7. Why did Jesus suggest modifying this universally accepted law? (Matthew 5:45)

8. How does God treat evil and good people in the same way? (Matthew 5:45)

9. How does God treat righteous and unrighteous people equally? (Matthew 5:45)

10. What type of people did Jesus cite as loving those who love them? (Matthew 5:46)

11. What does God think of us when we love those who love us? (Matthew 5:46)

12. Why is friendliness to friends and relatives not considered exceptional behavior? (Matthew 5:47)

13. What kinds of people are mentioned as greeting only their brothers? (Matthew 5:47)

14. What exceptional standard did Christ give us? (Matthew 5:48)

15. Who has set an example for us? How? (Matthew 5:48)

Get It

16. If our holy God is able to exhibit grace and mercy to everyone, why is it difficult for us to be like Him?

17. What does it mean for us to be perfect?

18. How is it possible for us to love our enemies?

19. What would have to happen in your heart in order for you to be able to pray for an enemy?

20. What might praying for your enemy change?

21. In what ways does a loving spirit demonstrate that we are God’s people?

Apply It

22. What are some specific ways you can show love today to someone whom you dislike?

23. For which of your "enemies" will you pray every day this week?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Matthew 5". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/matthew-5.html.
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