Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 5:19

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Church;   Doctrines;   Instruction;   Judaism;   Law;   Minister, Christian;   Obedience;   Religion;   Teachers;   Temptation;   Wicked (People);   Thompson Chain Reference - False;   Greatness, God's;   Honour-Dishonour;   Leaders;   Religious;   Teacher, Divine;   True Greatness;   The Topic Concordance - Disobedience;   Heaven/the Heavens;   Kingdom of God;   Obedience;   Teaching;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Law of God, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Law;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Command, Commandment;   Kingdom of God;   Law;   Law of Christ;   Righteousness;   Sanctification;   Sin;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Hutchinsonians;   Love, Brotherly;   Means of Grace;   Quakers;   Reconciliation;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Decalogue;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - James, the General Epistle of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Custodian;   Eye;   Law, Ten Commandments, Torah;   Matthew, the Gospel of;   Sermon on the Mount;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Christianity;   Law;   Mss;   Perfection;   Savour;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Commandments;   Common Life;   Divorce (2);   Doctrines;   Fulfilment;   Gospel (2);   Gospels (Uncanonical);   Greatness;   Ideas (Leading);   Israel, Israelite;   James Epistle of;   Judgment;   Law;   Law (2);   Lawlessness;   Lord's Supper. (I.);   Manliness;   Matthew, Gospel According to;   Moses;   Nationality;   Oaths;   Old Testament (I. Christ as Fulfilment of);   Perfection (Human);   Prophecy Prophet Prophetess;   Righteous, Righteousness;   Sanctify, Sanctification;   Saying and Doing;   Teaching of Jesus;   Tithe;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Pharisees;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Break;   Commandment, the New;   Great;   Inspiration;   Law in the New Testament;   Quotations, New Testament;   Sermon on the Mount, the;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Jesus of Nazareth;   New Testament;  
Devotionals:
Chip Shots from the Ruff of Life - Devotion for December 4;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Whosoever - shall break one of these least commandments - The Pharisees were remarkable for making a distinction between weightier and lighter matters in the law, and between what has been called, in a corrupt part of the Christian Church, mortal and venial sins. See on Matthew 22:36; (note).

Whosoever shall break. What an awful consideration is this! He who, by his mode of acting, speaking, or explaining the words of God, sets the holy precept aside, or explains away its force and meaning, shall be called least - shall have no place in the kingdom of Christ here, nor in the kingdom of glory above. That this is the meaning of these words is evident enough from the following verse.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Whosoever therefore shall break - Shall violate or disobey.

One of these least commandments - The Pharisees, it is probable, divided the precepts of the law into lesser and greater, teaching that they who violated the former were guilty of a trivial offence only. See Matthew 23:23. Christ teaches that in his kingdom they who make this distinction, or who taught that any laws of God might be violated with impunity, should be called least; while they should be held in high regard who observed all the laws of God without distinction.

Shall be called least - That is, shall be least. See Matthew 5:9. The meaning of this passage seems to be this: in the kingdom of heaven, that is, in the kingdom of the Messiah, or in the church which he is about to establish (see the notes at Matthew 3:2), he that breaks the least of these commandments shall be in no esteem, or shall not be regarded as a proper religious teacher. The Pharisees, by dividing the law into greater and lesser precepts, made no small part of it void by their traditions and divisions, Matthew 23:23; Matthew 15:3-6. Jesus says that in his kingdom all this vain division and tradition would cease. Such divisions and distinctions would be a small matter. He that attempted it should be the least of all. People would be engaged in yielding obedience to all the law of God without any such vain distinctions.

Shall be called great - He that teaches that all the law of God is binding, and that the whole of it should be obeyed, without attempting to specify what is most important, shall be a teacher worthy of his office, and shall be called great. Hence, we learn:

1.that all the law of God is binding on Christians. Compare James 2:10.

2.that all the commands of God should be preached, in their proper place, by Christian ministers.

3.that they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of his kingdom. And,

4.that true piety has respect to all the commandments of God. Compare Psalm 119:6.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-5.html. 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Matthew 5:19

Break one of these least commandments.

The perilous harmfulness of little sins

Man is set free from the curse of the law, but not from its authority.

I. Let us consider these minor violations of the moral law as they are considered in relation to the lawgiver himself. The least commandment has the same authority as the greatest. Little sins will soon acquire all the gigantic proportions of the greatest. It is no paradox to say, that little sins are peculiarly offending in the sight of God, because they are little; in other words, because we run the risk of offending Him for what on our own showing we care very little about, and from which we only expect an insignificant return. It would aggravate the venality of a Judge that the bribe was so paltry. The least sin is aggravated by the small degree of temptation by which it is accompanied.

II. The awful danger of these little sins in regard to ourselves. Little sins leave men hardly conscious float they have broken God’s law; great sins stir up piercing thoughts. See the peril of little sins, as they are sure to draw greater ones after them. It is fool’s sport to play with firebrands. The multiplication of little sins show how we need the merit of an infinite atonement. (D. Moore, M. A.)

We learn

I. That all the law of God is binding on Christians (James 2:10).

II. That all the commands of God should be preached in their proper place by Christian ministers.

III. That they who pretend that there are any laws of God so small that they need not obey them, are unworthy of His kingdom.

IV. That true piety has respect to all the commands of God, and keeps them (Psalms 119:64). (Dr. A. Barnes.)

I. Christ does not hereby authorise us to suppose any of His commandments to be little. The meaning is-anything contained under or included in them, though seemingly small to us; as anger, scornful speaking, and reviling is the sin of murder.

II. As little in it, as he accounts of them; that is nothing; they shall be excluded.

A little sin indicative of a carnal disposition

That an act in itself inconsiderable, may indicate the existing state of feeling, as clearly as one that is more palpable. As the motion of a leaf shows the quarter from which the wind blows as certainly as the agitated branches of an oak, so you may gather any one’s dislike, though he does not strike you, or abuse you, or attempt insidiously to destroy your reputation. Only let him receive you with coldness, and his disaffection is as indisputable as if it were manifest in angry assault … Is it not evident that the man who has brought himself to the perpetration of one fraud, has broken down the only security against the perpetration of a score, lie who can be the oppressor of a few, wants only the means to become the despot of an empire. (C. Williams.)

Avoid the least sin

If we would save the big ship, let us stop the small leak. If we would save the palace from flames, let us put out the spark. (Newman Hall.)

The great evil and danger of little sins

I. What is meant by the “least commandment.” It must not be understood as if one commandment were less necessary to be obeyed than another; God’s commands are all alike necessary.

1. They are all enjoined by the same authority.

2. They are all necessary to be performed in order to eternal life. But when Christ speaks of the least commandment, He alludes

II. What is meant by “being least in the kingdom of heaven.” Either the kingdom of grace, the Church, heaven. Little sins carry great guilt and bring heavy condemnation.

1. This appears in that the least sin is a most high affront and provocation of the great God.

2. It is a violation of a holy and strict law.

3. What a complicated evil every sin is, that the commission of the least makes you guilty of the greatest.

4. The authority of the great God seems more to be despised by the commission of small sins than by the commission of great.

5. Little sins do greatly deface the image of God in the soul. In curious pictures, a little scratch is a great deformity.

6. Little sins have in them ordinarily of temptation, and therefore more of wilfulness.

7. Little sins do maintain the trade and course of sinning.

III. The evil and danger of little sins hath been made apparent: I shall add farther proofs of their aggravated guilt.

1. Little sins usually are the destroying sins.

2. Small sins-what they want in weight, usually make up in number. A ship may have a heavy burden of sands, as well as of millstones; and may be as soon sunk with them.

3. It is very difficult to convince men of the great evil and danger of little sins.

4. The allowance of the least sin is a certain sign of a rotten heart.

5. Little sins usually make way for the vilest.

6. Little sins are the greatest provocations; murder is a reproach to all; unbelief does not provoke public scandal.

7. Damnation for little sins will be most intolerable-here for such little sins!

IV. Application:

1. If little sins have so much danger, what shall we think of great impieties?

2. Then behold a fearful shipwreck of all the hopes of formalists.

3. What absolute need we stand in of Christ.

4. What cause we have to bemoan and humble ourselves before God.

5. Pray for a tender conscience.

6. Keep alive reverent thoughts of God.

7. Get a more thorough sense of the spirituality of the law. (Bp. Hopkins.)

Little sins accumulate

The devil cannot expect always to receive such returns of great and crying impieties: but yet, when he keeps the stock of corruption going, and drives on the trade of sinning by lesser sins, believe it, corruption will be on the thriving hand, and you may grow rich in guilt, and treasure up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath, by adding those that you call little sins unto the heap. (Bp. Hopkins.)

Great advancement made in sin by little stages

If Satan prevails with us to go with him one step out of our way, we axe in danger to stop nowhere till we come to the height of all profaneness: he will make us take a second, and a third, and so to travel on to destruction; for each of these is but one step: the last step of sin is but one step, as well as the first; and if the devil prevail with us to take one step, why should he not prevail with us to take the last step as well as the first step, seeing it is but one? Your second sin no more exceeds your first, than your first doth your duty; and so of the rest. (Bp. Hopkins.)

Little sins are often united with great, which together sweep the soul to destruction

As you see in rivers, the natural course of them tends to the sea; but the tide, joining with them, makes the current run the swifter and the more forcibly: so is it with sin. Little sins are the natural stream of a man’s life; that do of themselves tend hell-ward, and are of themselves enough to carry the soul down silently and calmly to destruction: but, when greater and grosser sins join with them, they make a violent tide, that hurries the soul away with a more swift and rampant motion down to hell, than little sins would or could do of themselves. (Bp. Hopkins.)

The need of a sensitive conscience

A tender conscience is like the apple of a man’s eye: the least dust that gets into it afflicts it. (Bp. Hopkins.)

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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Matthew 5:19". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/matthew-5.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

In this verse, Christ plainly refers to his own commandments with the strong warning that men are under obligations to heed and observe the laws he gives. Today, there are some who speak of certain Scriptures as "mere command"! But Christ made his commandments to be of overwhelming importance and set forth the principle that "the least" of his commandments was to be received and honored with infinite respect and obedience.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
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Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments,.... Which are to be understood not of the beatitudes in the preceding verses, for these were not delivered by Christ under the form of commandments; nor of any of the peculiar commands of Christ under the Gospel dispensation; but of the precepts of the law, of which some were comparatively lesser than others; and might be said to be broke, loosed, or dissolved, as the word here used signifies, when men acted contrary to them.

And shall teach men so; not only teach them by their example to break the commandments, but by express orders: for however gross and absurd this may seem to be, that there should be any such teachers, and they should have any hearers, yet such there were among the Jews; and our Lord here manifestly strikes at them: for notwithstanding the great and excellent things they say of the law, yet they tell us, that the doctors of the sanhedrim had power to root anything out of the law; to loose or make void any of its commands, for a time, excepting in the case of idolatry; and so might any true prophet, or wise man; which they pretend is sometimes necessary for the glory of God, and the good of men; and they are to be heard and obeyed, when they say, transgress anyone of all the commands which are in the lawF8T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 79. 1. & 89. 2. & 90. 2. . Maimonides saysF9Hilch. Memarim, c. 2. sect. 4. , that the sanhedrim had power, when it was convenient, for the time present, to make void an affirmative command, and to transgress a negative one, in order to return many to their religion; or to deliver many of the Israelites from stumbling at other things, they may do whatsoever the present time makes necessary: for so, adds he, the former wise men say, a man may profane one sabbath, in order to keep many sabbaths. And elsewhereF11Hilch. Yesode Hattorah, c. 9. sect. 3. he affirms,

"if a prophet, whom we know to be a prophet, should order us לעבור על אחת מכל מצות, "to transgress anyone of the commands", which are mentioned in the law, or many commands, whether light or heavy, for a time, we are ordered to hearken to him; and so we learn from the former wise men, by tradition, that in everything a prophet shall say to thee עבור על דברי תורה, "transgress the words of the law", as Elias on Mount Carmel, hear him, except in the case of idolatry.'

And another of their writers saysF12Bartenora in, Misn. Beracot, c. 9. sect. 5. ,

"it is lawful sometimes to make void the law, and to do that which appears to be forbidden.'

Nay, they evenF13T. Hicros. Sheviith, fol. 35. 1. say, that if a Gentile should bid an Israelite transgress anyone of the commands mentioned in the law, excepting idolatry, adultery, and murder, he may transgress with impunity, provided it is done privately. You see what reason Christ had to express himself in the manner he does, and that with resentment, saying,

he shall be called, or be

the least in the kingdom of heaven; meaning either the church of God, where he shall have neither a name, nor place; he shall not be in the least esteemed, but shall be cast out as a worthless man; or the ultimate state of happiness and glory, in the other world, where he shall not enter, as is said in the next verse; but, on the other hand,

whosoever shall do and teach; whose doctrine and conversation, principles and practices agree together; who both teach obedience to the law, and perform it themselves: where again he glances at the masters in Israel, and tacitly reproves them who said, but did not; taught the people what they themselves did not practise; and so were unworthy of the honour, which he that both teaches and does shall have: for

the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven; he shall be highly esteemed of in the church here, and be honoured hereafter in the world to come. The Jews have a saying somewhat like this;

"he that lessens himself for the words of the law in this world, נעשה גדול, "he shall become great" in the world to comeF14T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 85. 2. ,'

or days of the Messiah.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

4 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the h least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

(4) He begins with the true expounding of the Law, and sets it against the old (but yet false) teachings of the scribes: He is in no way abolishing the least commandment of his Father.

(h) He shall have no place in the Church.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/matthew-5.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Whosoever therefore shall break — rather, “dissolve,” “annul,” or “make invalid.”

one of these least commandments — an expression equivalent to “one of the least of these commandments.”

and shall teach men so — referring to the Pharisees and their teaching, as is plain from Matthew 5:20, but of course embracing all similar schools and teaching in the Christian Church.

he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven — As the thing spoken of is not the practical breaking, or disobeying, of the law, but annulling or enervating its obligation by a vicious system of interpretation, and teaching others to do the same; so the thing threatened is not exclusion from heaven, and still less the lowest place in it, but a degraded and contemptuous position in the present stage of the kingdom of God. In other words, they shall be reduced by the retributive providence that overtakes them, to the same condition of dishonor to which, by their system and their teaching, they have brought down those eternal principles of God‘s law.

but whosoever shall do and teach them — whose principles and teaching go to exalt the authority and honor of God‘s law, in its lowest as well as highest requirements.

the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven — shall, by that providence which watches over the honor of God‘s moral administration, be raised to the same position of authority and honor to which they exalt the law.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

Shall break one of the least of these. The Pharisees taught that some commands were more important than others, and that it was a trivial matter to break the smallest commands. The papists still divide sin into {mortal} and {venial}. Christ shows that the spirit of obedience does not seek to make such distinction.

Shall be least. He may get into the kingdom, possibly, but such a spirit will give him a very low spiritual rank.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "People's New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-5.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Shall do and teach (ποιησηι και διδαχηιpoiēsēi kai didaxēi). Jesus puts practice before preaching. The teacher must apply the doctrine to himself before he is qualified to teach others. The scribes and Pharisees were men who “say and do not” (Matthew 23:3), who preach but do not perform. This is Christ‘s test of greatness.

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

One of the least — So accounted by men; and shall teach - Either by word or example; shall be the least - That is, shall have no part therein.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-5.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments1, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven2: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven3.

  1. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments. Disobedience is a habit, and it is not easily laid aside. Hence he that is unfaithful in that which is little will also be unfaithful in that which is great. So also those who were disobedient and reckless under the Jewish dispensation would be inclined to act in like manner in the new, or Christian, dispensation: hence the warning.

  2. And shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Not only shall God call such least, but men also shall eventually do likewise. Those who by a false system of interpretation, or an undue regard for the traditions of men, enervate or annul the obligations of Christ's laws and ordinances, and teach others to do the same, shall be held in low esteem or contempt by the church or kingdom of God as fast as it comes to a knowledge of the truth.

  3. But whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is measured by conscientiousness in reference to its least commandments. Small Christians obey the great commandments, but only the large are careful about the least.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website. These files were made available by Mr. Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.
Bibliographical Information
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The Fourfold Gospel". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-5.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Ver. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments] So the Pharisees called and counted these weightier things of the law in comparison to their tithings, Matthew 23:23, and traditions, Matthew 15:3. They deemed it as great a sin to eat with unwashed hands as to commit fornication. Dicunt Iesuitae quaedam peccata adeo esse in se et per se levia, ut factores, nec sordidos, nec malos, nec impios, nec Deo exosos reddant. (Chemnitius.) But albeit some commandments are greater than some, as those of the first table (in meet comparison) than those of the second; yet that pharisaical diminution of commandments, that idle distinction of sins into gnats and camels, venial and mortal, motes and mountains, is by no means to be admitted. The least sin is contrary to charity, as the least drop of water is to fire. The least missing of the mark is an error as well as the greatest; and both alike for kind though not for degrees. חטאה αυαρτια, a missing of the mark, or swerving from the rule. Hence lesser sins are reproached by the name of the greater; malice is called murder; lustful looks, adultery; sitting at idolatrous feasts (though without all intent of worship), idolatry, 1 Corinthians 10:14. See Job 31:27-28. Disobedience in never so small a matter (as eating a forbidden apple, gathering a few sticks on the sabbath day, looking into or touching the ark) hath been severely punished. Though the matter seem small, yet thy malice and presumption is great, that wilt in so small a thing incur the Lord’s so high displeasure. What could be a less commandment than to abstain from blood? Yet is their obedience herein urged with many words, and that with this reason, as ever they will have God to do anything for them or theirs, Deuteronomy 12:22. The whole law is (say the schoolmen) but one copulative. Any condition not observed forfeits the whole lease; and any commandment not obeyed subjects a man to the curse, Deuteronomy 27:26; Galatians 3:10. And so some one good action hath blessedness ascribed and assured to it, as peacemaking, Matthew 5:9; so he that shall "keep the whole law and yet offend in one point, is guilty of all," James 2:10. When some of the Israelites had broken the fourth commandment, God challengeth them for all, Exodus 16:28. Where, then, will they appear that plead for this Zoar, for that Rimmon?-a merry lie, a petty oath, an idle errand on the Lord’s day, &c. Sick bodies love to be gratified with some little bit that favoureth the disease. But meddle not with the murdering morsels of sin; there will be bitterness in the end. Jonathan had no sooner tasted of the honey with the tip of his rod only, but his head was forfeited. There is a deceitfulness in sin, a lie in these vanities, Hebrews 3:13; John 2:23; "give them an inch, they’ll take an ell." Let the serpent but get in his head, he will shortly wind in his whole body. He plays no small game, but meaneth us much hurt, how modest soever he seemeth to be. It is no less than the kingdom that he seeketh, by his maidenly insinuations, as Adonijah. As therefore we must submit to God, so we must resist the devil, without expostulation, 1 Peter 5:7-9; throw water on the fire of temptation, though but to some smaller sin, and stamp on it too. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth," saith St James. {James 3:5} A little poison in a cup, a little leak in a ship, or breach in a wall, may ruin all. A little wound at the heart and a little sin in the soul may hide God’s face from us, as a cloud, Lamentations 3:44. Therefore as the prophet, when a cloud as big as a man’s hand only appeared, knew that the whole heaven would be overly covered, and willed the king to betake himself to his chariot; so let us to our shelter, for a company comes, as she said, when she bore her son Gad. After Jonathan and his armourbearer came the whole host; and when Delilah had prevailed, came the lords of the Philistines. He that is fallen from the top of a ladder cannot stop at the second round. Every sin hardeneth the heart, and gradually disposeth it to greater offences; as lesser wedges make way for bigger. After Ahaz had made his wicked altar and offered on it, he brought it into the temple; first setting it on the brazen altar, afterwards bringing it into the house, and then, lastly, setting it on the north side of God’s altar, 2 Kings 16:12-14. Withstand sin therefore at first, and live by Solomon’s rule, "Give not water passage, no, not a little." Silence sin as our Saviour did the devil, and suffer it not to solicit thee. If it be importunate, answer it not a word, as Hezekiah would not Rabshakeh; or give it a short and sharp answer, yea, the blue eye that St Paul did ( υπωπαιζω), 1 Corinthians 9:27. Lividum reddo corpus meum. (Aug.) This shall be "no grief unto thee hereafter, nor offence of heart," as she told David; the contrary may, 1 Samuel 25:31. It repented St Austin of his very excuses made to his parents, being a child, and to his schoolmaster, being a boy. He retracts his ironies, because they had the appearance of a lie, because they looked ill-favouredly. (Confess. i. 19; Retract. i. 1.) Bishop Ridley repents of his playing at chess, as wasting too much time. Bradford bewaileth his dulness and unthankfulness. (Acts and Mon.) David’s heart smote him for cutting the lap of Saul’s coat only; and that for none other intent than to clear his own innocence; that in which Saul commended him for his moderation. There are some that would shrink up sin into a narrow scantling, and bring it to this, if they could, that none do evil but they that are in jails. But David approves his sincerity by his respect to all God’s comandments, and hath this commendation, that he did all the wills of God ( θεληματα), Psalms 18:21-22, Acts 13:36. Solomon also bids "count nothing little that God commandeth, but keep God’s precepts as the sight of the eye," Proverbs 7:2. Those venturous spirits, that dare live in any known sin, aspire not to immortality, Philippians 2:12; they shall be least, that is, nothing at all, in the kingdom of heaven.

And teacheth men so] As the Pharisees did, and all the old and modern heresiarchs. In the year 1559 it was maintained by one David George (that arch-heretic) that good works were pernicious and destructory to the soul. Prodiit paradoxon, quod bona opera sint perniciosa ad salutem. (Bucholc. Ind. Chron.) The Anabaptists and Socinians have broached many doctrines of devils, not fit to be once named among Christians. The Pneumatomachi of old set forth a base book of the Trinity, under St Cyprian’s name, and sold it at a very cheap rate, that the poorest might be able to reach it and read it, as Ruffinus complaineth. In those primitive times, those capital heresies (concerning the Trinity and Christ’s incarnation) were so generally held, that it was a witty thing then to be a right believer, as Erasmus phraseth it, Ingeniosa res fuit, esse Christianum. All the world, in a manner, was turned Arian, as St Jerome hath it, Ingemuit orbis, et miratus est se factum esse. (Arianum.) Orosius telleth us that the Goths, being desirous to be instructed in the Christian religion, requested of Valens the emperor to send them some to preach the faith unto them. He being himself an Arian, sent them Arian doctors, who set up that heresy among them. By the just judgment of God, therefore, the same Valens being overthrown in the battle by the Goths, was also burnt by them in a poor cottage, whither he had fled for shelter. Iusto itaque Dei iudicio Valens a Gothis crematus est, quorum ille animis pestiferum errorum virus in fuderat. (Tertullian.) Heretics have an art of Pythanology, whereby they cunningly insinuate into men’s affections, and many times persuade before they teach, as it is said of the Valentinians. It was therefore well and wisely done of Placilla the empress, when her husband Theodosius, senior, desired to confer with Eunomius, she earnestly dissuaded him; lest being perverted by his speeches, he might fall into his heresy. (Sozom. vii. 6, 7.)

Shall be least in the kingdom of heaven] That is, nothing at all there; as Matthew 20:16. Either of these two sins here mentioned exclude out of heaven; how much more both? If single sinners that break God’s commandments, and no more, shall be damned, those that teach men so shall be doubly damned: if God will be avenged on the former seven-fold, surely he will on the latter seventy-fold seven-fold. When the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies shall be gathered together (toward the end of the world) to make war against Christ, the multitude shall be slain with the sword, the poor seduced people that were carried along, many of them (as those two hundred that followed Absalom out of Jerusalem) in the simplicity of their hearts, and understood not the matter, shall have an easier judgment, 2 Samuel 15:11. But the beast was taken, and the false prophet, and were both cast alive (not slain with the sword, and so cast to the infernal vultures to be devoured by them as a prey; but cast alive), that they may feel those most exquisite pains, into a lake of fire burning with brimstone, Revelation 19:20-21, wherewith they are encompassed, as fish cast into a pond are with water. {a}

But whosoever shall do, and teach them] First do, and thereby prove what that good, holy, and acceptable will of God is, Romans 12:2; and then teach others what himself hath felt and found good by experience. Come, and I will tell you what God hath done for my soul. "Come, children, hearken unto me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners shall be converted unto thee," Psalms 66:16; Psalms 34:11; Psalms 51:13. Charity is no churl, Psalms 32:8; but cries, I would to God that all that hear me this day were as I am. Andrew calleth Simon; and Philip, Nathanael; the Samaritaness, her neighbours; and those good souls, one another, Hosea 6:1. The love of Christ constrained the apostles, 2 Corinthians 5:11; they could not but speak the things they had heard and felt; as little as the holy Virgin could conceal the joy she had conceived upon the conception of God her Saviour. They could not but be as busy in building staircases for heaven as these Pharisees were in digging descents to hell. Blind guides they were of the blind, and both fell into the ditch, but the guides fell undermost. By corrupt teachers Satan catcheth men, as a cunning fisher by one fish catcheth another, that he may feed upon both. Here they corrupted the law by their false glosses, as our Saviour sets forth. But where they kept Moses’ chair warm, sat close and said sooth; all that they bid you observe, that observe and do, saith he, Matthew 23:2-3; for a bad man may cry a good commodity, and a stinking breath sound a trumpet with great commendation. Balaam, Satan’s boggey man, may be (for the time) Christ’s spokesman, and preach profitably to others, though himself be a castaway, 1 Corinthians 9:27; as water, when it hath cleansed other things, is cast into the sink. Hear such therefore, saith our Saviour, but do not after their works, for they say and do not; they speak by the talent, but work by the ounce; their tongues are larger than their hands; their lives give the lie to their lips; {b} they shun the way themselves (with that priest and Levite) which they showed to others, when mercy should be showed to the wounded man. Out of their own mouths therefore will God condemn them; and it is a fearful thing to fall into the punishing hands of the living God. As for those burning and shining lights, that have Urim and Thummim, bells and pomegranates, trumpets of sound doctrine in one hand and lamps of good life in the other, as Gideon’s soldiers; they shall be great in the kingdom of heaven. He that holdeth them in his right hand here, Revelation 1:20, shall set them at his right hand hereafter, and give them to hear, as Ezekiel did, the noise "of a great rushing, saying, Blessed be the glory of the Lord," Ezekiel 3:12.

{a} Dirissimum exitii genus quo hiatu prae reliquis devovebuntur. Parcus.

{b} Odi homines ignava opera, philosophia, sententia. Ennius. συναδοντων μεν τοις εργοις αποδεκτεον, διαφωνουντων δε λογους υποληπτεον. Arist.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-5.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

In the meantime all men should know:

v. 19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Here is a conclusion. Since the above is Christ's view, He is bound to take His stand with reference to the transgressors of that rule. He that dissolves, abrogates, sets aside even those commandments that seem small and of little import, he that disregards as much as one of the little horns or hooks, whose presence or absence may, indeed, change the meaning of an entire passage, falls under Christ's sentence of condemnation, he is declared to be the least in the kingdom of heaven. The sincerity of his convictions will not be accepted as an excuse, and his fault will only be made greater by his extending the false opinion he holds by means of teaching. He shall be called the least, he shall be rejected in this kingdom, he shall be excluded from its glories. On the other hand, he that teaches in entire conformity with the Old Testament, that preaches not only the Gospel, but the Law in its great purpose of preparing the hearts, that keeps silence with regard to nothing, that does not add thereto nor take therefrom, he shall have a great name in the kingdom of heaven, he shall receive the reward of faithfulness. For this teaching is essential in educating men as to the true righteousness of life, in holding up before the Christians a proper rule of conduct.

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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-5.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Matthew 5:19

I. There are two instincts implanted by God in the soul as seeds out of which our spiritual life is to grow; one of these is the instinct of duty, the other is the instinct of love. Throughout the New Testament we are taught that of these two the instinct of love is the greater. The instinct of duty, when it conies to its full strength, thinks first of that great law which governs all the universe, the law of holiness and justice. The instinct of love ever turns its eyes not so much on the law as on the Lawgiver, not on holiness but on God. We constantly make all sorts of allowances for those who show underneath their faults a heart susceptible of real love, the love of God and of Christ. For we know that there are a life and a genial heat in the instinct of love which can work miracles on the soul, and change the man into a new creature.

II. All this is plain enough. But the text, so far from saying that the commandments are of no consequence in comparison with the spirit which rules our life—so far from telling us that if we give our hearts to God all faults and neglects of duty are trifles hardly to be thought of—declares that neglect of even the least commandment lowers a man's rank in the kingdom of heaven. Whatever may be the value of love, duty has still its place, and must not be lightly thrust aside. The fact is, that if duty be not so holy a power as love, yet as long as we remain here we need the strength of duty as much as we do the fire of love. If we compare our characters to our bodies, duty corresponds to the bones, love to the veins, and nerves, and vital organs. Without duty our character becomes weak, loose, inconsistent, and soon degenerates or even perishes for want of orderliness and self-control. Without love our character is a dead skeleton—with all the framework of a living creature, but without the life.

III. Love is higher than duty, just as it is more excellent to worship God than to hold fast by a rule, however excellent that rule may be. But the reason is that love in reality contains duty in itself. Love is duty and something more. If the instinct of love is ever to reach its true perfection, it must absorb the instinct of duty into itself, and make the sense of duty stronger and deeper and keener, and the obedience more careful and more inflexible.

Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 35.


The Perilous Harmfulness of Little Sins.

I. Consider the minor violations of the moral law, as they are considered in relation to the Lawgiver Himself. It seems no paradox to say that little sins are peculiarly offending in the sight of God because they are little; in other words, because we run the risk of offending Him for what, upon our own showing, we care very little about, or which we only expect to yield us a very small and insignificant return. Your little sin sets God at defiance as much as a great one, ignores His authority as much, contradicts His will as much as any violation of the prohibition to murder or to blaspheme; in fact, says, in regard to this one commandment, "God shall not reign over me." We reason so in other things. It would aggravate the venality of a judge that the bribe was so very paltry for which he sullied the purity of his ermine; and we feel that we could more easily have excused the profaneness of Esau, if it had not been that for one morsel of meat he was willing to sell his birthright.

II. Notice next the awful danger of little sins in regard to ourselves; the pernicious effect they must have upon religious character, and the certainty that the least of them, if not renounced, will be large enough to bar us out from the kingdom of heaven. Thus, one effect of the practice we are condemning is, that it maintains and keeps up a habit of sinning, making us so awfully familiar with moral disobedience that all our moral perceptions become blinded, and we forget what an infinite evil sin is. Little ones are sure to draw greater ones after them. With little sins Satan has not much to do, but as the habit of yielding to them gets forward, and a bias towards evil is found to be taking deeper root, he finds something to work upon, and then his advances are cautious, stealthy, alluring us on to greater encroachments upon the law of God by little and little, carefully concealing from us at the beginning what he proposes our end shall be. The yoke of sin must fit itself to the shoulder gradually; conscience must accustom itself to use a sliding and shifting scale of evil; the beginning of sin is "as when one letteth out water."

D. Moore, Penny Pulpit, No. 3,107.

Reference: Matthew 5:19.—Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, 1st series, p. 145.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/matthew-5.html.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

To evidence yet farther, that the moral law is a perfect rule of life, our Saviour tells his disciples, that if any of them did either by their doctrine or practice, make void any one of the least of God's commands, either by allowing themselves in the omission of any kmown duty, or in the commission of any known din, they shall never enter into the kingdom of God.

Learn, That such a professor of Christianity as allows himself in the least voluntary transgression, either of omission or commission, and encourages other by his example to do the like, is certainly in a state of damnation.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/matthew-5.html. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

19.] There is little difficulty in this verse, if we consider it in connexion with the verse preceding, to which it is bound by the οὖν and the τούτων, and with the following, to which the γάρ unites it. Bearing this in mind, we see (1) that λύσῃ, on account of what follows in Matthew 5:20 and after, must be taken in the higher sense, as referring to the spirit and not the letter: whosoever shall break (have broken), in the sense presently to be laid down. (2) That τῶν ἐντ. τούτ. τῶν ἐλ. refers to ἰῶτα ἓν ἢ μία κεραία above, and means one of those minute commands which seem as insignificant, in comparison with the greater, as the ἰῶτα and κεραία in comparison with great portions of writing. (3) That ἐλάχιστος κληθ. does not mean ‘shall be excluded from,’ inasmuch as the question is not of keeping or not keeping the commandments of God in a legal sense, but of appreciating, and causing others to appreciate, the import and weight of even the most insignificant parts of God’s revelation of Himself to man; and rather therefore applies to teachers than to Christians in general, though to them also through the λύσῃ and ποιήσῃ. (4) That no deduction can be drawn from these words binding the Jewish law, or any part of it, as such, upon Christians. That this is so, is plainly shewn by what follows, where our Lord proceeds to pour upon the letter of the law the fuller light of the spirit of the Gospel: thus lifting and expanding (not destroying) every jot and tittle of that precursory dispensation into its full meaning in the life and practice of the Christian; who, by the indwelling of the divine Teacher, God’s Holy Spirit, is led into all truth and purity. (5) That these words of our Lord are decisive against such persons, whether ancient or modern, as would set aside the Old Testament as without significance, or inconsistent with the New. See the preceding note, and the Book of Common Prayer, Article vii.

ἐλάχιστος is in direct allusion to ἐλαχίστων; but it can hardly be said (De Wette, Tholuck) that, because there is no article, it means ‘one of the least’ (ein geringster), for the article is often omitted after an appellative verb. μέγας rests on different grounds; being positive, and in its nature generic. See ch. Matthew 11:11; Matthew 18:1-4.

On κληθήσεται, see note on Matthew 5:9. Observe the conditional aorists, λύσῃ, ποιήσῃ, διδάξῃ, combined with the indic. fut. κληθήσεται,—and thus necessitating the keeping the times distinct. The time indicated by κληθήσεται is one when the λῦσαι, ποιῆσαι, διδάξαι, shall be things of the past—belonging to a course of responsibility over and done with.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-5.html. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae

DISCOURSE: 1298

THE DANGER OF LITTLE SINS

Matthew 5:19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

IT must be confessed, that amongst those who profess a high regard for the Gospel, there are some who speak of it in terms, which, to say the least, have an antinomian and licentious aspect. In their zeal against self-righteousness, they are apt to represent the law as altogether abolished: knowing that we are no longer under the law as a covenant, they express themselves as if we were freed from it also as a rule of life. But we must never forget that the Gospel is a “doctrine according to godliness;” and that “the law, so far from being made void through faith, is established by it.” In the words preceding the text, our blessed Lord had said, that “he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them: and in the words before us, he teaches us to infer from thence the undiminished authority of the sacred code.

To elucidate his assertions, we observe,

I. That the commandments of God are universally to be obeyed—

It is certain that some commandments are of more importance than others—

[There can be no doubt but that the moral precepts, which are founded in our relation to God and to each other, are of more importance than the positive institutions, which are founded only in the sovereign will of God. Our Lord himself, comparing the divine institution of paying tithes with the exercise of judgment, mercy, and faith, calls the latter “the weightier matters of the law:” though at the same time he determines, “These ought ye to have done; and not to leave the other undone.”

The positive institutions may even be set aside, if they interfere with our discharge of moral duties. A strict observance of the Sabbath is enjoined: but, if a work of necessity or of mercy demand our attention, we are at liberty to engage in it, notwithstanding we thereby violate the sacred rest of the Sabbath: for God has said, “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.”

Indeed, even in the moral law itself, there is a difference between the duties of the first and of the second table; those which relate to God being more important than those which relate to man. Hence our Lord says, that “to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, is the first and great commandment.”]

But the authority on which every one of them stands is the same—

[God is the great lawgiver: and whatever his command be, it is, as long as it is in force, binding upon all to whom it is given. We are no more at liberty to abrogate one than to set aside another. If we allowedly violate any one of them, we do, in effect, violate them all [Note: James 2:10-11.]. If any two be absolutely incompatible, the positive precept, as I have observed, gives way, and ceases for the time to be a command. So if two moral precepts such as that of obeying a parent, and of obeying God, be irreconcileable, obedience to God is then of superior and paramount obligation. God himself has assigned limits to man’s authority, beyond which we are not commanded to obey him. Man cannot dispense with any of the divine commandments: they can be repealed by that authority only which first established them. Neither in theory nor in practice are we at liberty to make them void: we must both “do” them ourselves, “and teach” the observance of them to others. We must not add any thing to them, nor take any thing from them. The injunctions which God has given us on this head are strict and solemn [Note: Proverbs 30:5-6. Deuteronomy 12:22.]: and, if we presume to violate them, it is at the peril of our souls [Note: Revelation 22:18-19. Deuteronomy 27:26.].]

It is intimated that some will both “do and teach” them: which leads us to observe,

II. That an unreserved respect for all of them is characteristic of the true Christian—

Ungodly men have but little reverence for the divine commands—

[The Pharisees of old laid a far greater stress on ceremonial than on moral duties; on “washing pots and cups,” than on cleansing the heart: and they actually made void some of the commandments by their traditions [Note: Matthew 23:25-28; Matthew 15:3-6.]. The Papists do the same at this day, denying the sacramental cup to the laity, commanding the consecrated wafer to be worshipped, and granting pardons and indulgences to those who are able to pay for them. Would to God that there were no such impieties among Protestants also! It is true, we do not acknowledge any power in the Pope to dispense with the laws of God: but we take the power into our own hands, and deal as freely with the commands of God as ever the Pope himself can do. One commandment is deemed uncertain, another unreasonable, another unnecessary; and all are reduced to the standard which we ourselves approve. As for the penalties with which they are enforced, “we puff at them,” and assure both ourselves and others that they shall never be executed.]

But the true Christian dares not thus to insult his God—

[It is his habit to “tremble at the word [Note: Isaiah 66:2.].” When once he hears, “Thus saith the Lord,” his mouth is shut; and he sets himself immediately to obey the divine command. Instead of complaining that “any commandment is grievous [Note: 1 John 5:3.],” he loves the whole law; he accounts it “holy, and just, and good.” He would not have any part of it lowered in its demands on any account [Note: Psalms 119:128.]. His desire is rather to have his soul “cast into the very mould of the Gospel [Note: Romans 6:17. the Greek.],” and to be transformed perfectly into the image of his God. His prayer is, “Let my heart be sound in thy statutes, that I be not ashamed [Note: Psalms 119:80.]:” let me “stand perfect and complete in all the will of God [Note: Colossians 4:12. 2 Corinthians 7:1.]” — — —]

The Christian’s disposition towards the commands of God ought to be cultivated by every one of us, since it is certain—

III. That on such a respect for them depends our everlasting happiness—

Nothing less than this will suffice to prove our sincerity—

[It is allowed, without any great difficulty, that heinous violations of God’s law will affect our eternal state: but smaller transgressions are considered as of but little consequence. But this does not accord with our Lord’s assertions in the text. There we are told that the breach of one single law will be fatal, yea, though it be the least of all the commandments of God. We are not to understand that the unintentional and unallowed defects in our obedience will prove fatal to us: for who then could be saved? but any evil which we allow and justify, or, as the text expresses it, which we “do and teach,” will certainly exclude us from the kingdom of heaven. The text might seem to import that such conduct would only diminish the degree of our happiness in heaven: but our Lord elsewhere warns us, that it will entirely exclude us from heaven; and that our only alternative is, either to part with sin altogether, or to suffer the penalty of sin, eternal death [Note: Matthew 18:8-9.].]

But where obedience is unreserved, it will receive a glorious recompence from God—

[That there is no merit in our obedience, is allowed: but that our obedience shall receive a reward of grace, every page of the inspired volume declares — — — The more perfect our conformity to God’s law, and the more energetic our maintenance of its authority have been, the higher testimonies of God’s approbation we shall most assuredly receive; and our exaltation in heaven shall be proportionably “great.” Peculiar sanctity and zeal may subject us to reproach from men; but it will meet with honour from God: for he has said, “Them that honour me, I will honour.”]

Learn then from hence the importance of,

1. A renewed heart—

[The unregenerate heart “neither is, nor can be subject to God’s law [Note: Romans 8:7.].” We “must be born again,” and be “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” before we can truly say, “I delight to do thy will, O God; yea, thy law is within my heart [Note: Psalms 40:8.].” — — — Let us then seek to be made “new creatures in Christ Jesus.” Then shall we be prepared both to “do” the commandments ourselves, and to “teach” them to those around us.]

2. A faithful ministry—

[Many, in fact, say unto their ministers, “Prophesy not unto us right things; prophesy unto us smooth things; prophesy deceits [Note: Isaiah 30:10.].” But to what purpose would it be to comply with their wishes? In what could such ministrations end? “If the blind lead the blind, must they not both fall into the ditch?” On the contrary, if we “do” the whole revealed will of God, as far as we are enabled, “and teach” it faithfully unto others, we have reason to hope that we shall have many to be “our joy and crown of rejoicing” in the last day. Instead of complaining, then, that your minister is too strict either in his life or preaching, be thankful that you have a minister, who desires to live for no other purpose than “to save himself and them that hear him.”]

3. A pure conscience—

[“Who can understand his errors?” says David; “O cleanse thou me from my secret faults.” Truly it is no easy thing to be a Christian. Let us examine carefully whether there be not some secret unsubdued lust within us, some worm at the root of our gourd. If there be, woe unto us; “Except we repent, we shall surely perish.” If our heart condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things: but if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence towards God [Note: 1 John 3:20-21.].” “Then shall we not be ashamed, when we have respect unto all his commandments [Note: Psalms 119:6.].”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 5:19. Conclusion from Matthew 5:18. On ὃς ἐάν with the conjunctive of the aorist, denoting that which was probably to happen in the future (the contingent futurum exactum), see Winer, p. 287 f. [E. T. 385]; Kühner, II. 2, p. 929; ἐάν for ἄν, see Winer, p. 291 [E. T. 3–90].

λύσῃ] like καταλῦσαι, Matthew 5:17;(403) Fritzsche and Arnoldi (after Castalio, Beza, Wolf, and others): transgressus fuerit, on account of the ποιήσῃ in the opposition; comp. also Ritschl, p. 40. But this ποιήσῃ partly forms a very appropriate antithesis to the λύσῃ in our sense, which, after καταλῦσαι in Matthew 5:17, would be abandoned only from arbitrariness; partly there is by no means wanting between λύειν and διδάσκειν an appropriate, i.e. a climactic, distinction (they shall declare it to be of no authority, and teach accordingly); partly it is not credible that Jesus should have declared that the transgressor of the law was ἐλάχιστον ἐν τῇ βας. τ. οὐρανῶν, see Matthew 11:11. Doing ( ποιήσῃ) and teaching ( διδάξῃ) refer, as a matter of course, without it being necessary to supply any object besides the general word “is” (translated: whosoever shall have done and taught it), to that which is required in the smallest commandment, and that in the sense of the πλήρωσις, Matthew 5:17.

τῶν ἐντολῶν τούτων τῶν ἐλαχίστων] τούτων points back to what is designated by ἰῶτα and κεραία in Matthew 5:18, not forwards to Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:28 (Bengel); ἐλαχίστων refers, therefore, not to the Pharisaic distinctions between great and small commandments (see especially, Wetstein, p. 295 f.), but to what Jesus Himself had just designated as ἰῶτα and κεραία, those precepts which in reality are the least important. They stand, however, in accordance with the πλήρωσις of the law, in essential organic connection with the ideal contents of the whole, and can therefore be so little regarded as having no authority, that rather he who does this ( λύσῃ), and teaches others to act in this manner ( διδάξῃ), will obtain only one of the lowest places (one of the lowest grades of dignity and happiness) in the kingdom of the Messiah. He is not to be excluded (as Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Calovius, Wolf, Bengel, and others have misinterpreted the meaning of ἐλάχ. κληθ.), because his antinomianism is not a principle, not directed against the law as such, but only against individual precepts of the law, which in themselves are small, and whose importance as a whole he does not recognise.(404) Comp. 1 Corinthians 3:15.

Note the correlation of τῶν ἐλαχίστωνἐλάχιστοςμέγας.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 5:19. αύσῃ, shall break) The antithetical word to this is ποιήσῃ, shall do, which occurs further on in this verse. The Scribes, who thought themselves “great,” were in the habit of breaking them. The same verb, λύω, occurs in John 7:23; John 10:35.— τούτων, of these) those, namely, which follow in Matthew 5:22; Matthew 5:28, etc.— τῶν ἐλαχίστων, of the least) These precepts, “Thou shalt not kill,” etc., are not essentially the least, for in them the whole law is contained. But they are so only inasmuch as, when rightly explained, they regulate even the most subtile affections and emotions of the soul, and the slightest movements of the tongue, and thus, when compared with other precepts, appear to men to be the least.— ἐλάχιστος, least) Referring to the preceding ἐλαχίστων. An instance of Ploce.(191) As we treat the Word of God, so does God treat us; see John 17:6; John 17:11; Revelation 3:10. “A little” signifies “almost nothing,” whence “the least” comes to mean “none at all” (for they considered anger, for instance, as of no consequence whatever); cf. in Matthew 5:20, “ye shall not enter.” ἐλάχιστος; has a different force in this passage from that which μικρότερος (the least) “in the kingdom of heaven” has in ch. Matthew 11:11.— ἐν τῂ βασιλείᾳ τὼν οὐρανῶν, in the kingdom of heaven) which cannot endure the presence of the unrighteous.— ποιήσῃ καὶ διδάξῃ, shall do and teach) The same order of words occurs in Acts 1:1.— ποιήσῃ, shall do them, sc. all; for it is not lawful to break or neglect even one of them.— οὗτος, this man, he) A pronoun used emphatically. Comp. with this use of οὗτος, ch. Matthew 7:21 (Latin Version(192)); Luke 9:24; John 7:18.— μέγας, great) All the commandments are of great account to him, especially in their full compass(193) (see Matthew 5:18); therefore he shall be called great.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-5.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Whosoever shall in his practice violate but one of the commandments of God, which the Pharisees judge of the least, and which possible are so compared with others, and shall teach men that they may do as he doth, making such false interpretations of the law as may warrant such a practice, he shall be accounted of the least value and esteem in the church of God, and shall never come into the kingdom of glory: but he who shall strictly and uniformly obey all the commandments, and teach others to do the like by his doctrine and example, that man shall have a great renown and reputation in the church, which is the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and shall have a great reward in the kingdom of glory hereafter.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-5.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

малейшим наречетсявеликим наречется Человек, не следующий в своей жизни Слову Божьему или учащий этому других, «малейшим» будет назван в Царствии Небесном (см. пояснение к Иак.2:10). Определение положения человека в Царстве Небесном находится всецело во власти Бога (ср. Мф.20:23). Иисус провозглашает, что Он не будет считаться с теми, кто не считался с Его Словом. Верующие, которые не послушны Божьим законам, не доверяют им или принижают их, не остаются безнаказанными (см. пояснение к 2Кор. 5:10). Тот факт, что нарушители, будучи назваными «малейшими», все же остаются в Царстве, показывает, что Иисус не говорит о потере спасения. Тот же, кто сам соблюдает и правильно научает Божьему Слову, «великим» будет назван в Божьем Царстве. Иисус снова подчеркивает два аспекта: учение и дела. Жители Царства должны утверждать каждую часть Божьего закона как в своем учении, так и в своей жизни.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/matthew-5.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Least commandments; least, as compared with others. No precept of God’s law may be set aside on the ground of its comparative unimportance; for the least disobedience to any command of God is highly offensive to him, while obedience in all things is his delight.

The least; of the least repute as a teacher, because both by his example and his doctring he dishonors God’s law.

Great; worthy of honor as a teacher, because he honors the law by obeying it and teaching others to obey it.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-5.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

19.Whosoever — Our Lord farther shows his reverence for the law by guarding its least requirement with highest penalties. These least commandments — Contained in the Old Testament. Teach men so — As many of you may have feared that I or my disciples were about to do, in the new kingdom. Our Lord therefore is here laying down principles affecting the teachers whom he is to send forth. Shall teach men so — If to violate, with purpose, a known law of God is a dangerous sin, how much deeper the danger of teaching others to sin! Least — Many of the best commentators understand this as signifying that he shall be excluded. Yet such, surely, is not its exact meaning. Clearly to be least IN the kingdom of heaven is far less than shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Our Lord’s phrase here is adopted by him for the purpose of the antithesis — the violator of the least shall himself be least. Such mercy is shown to the case of erring man, in whom mistake may mingle in the interpretation of God’s laws, even when he would be a wise teacher, that our Lord uses a sentence which may imply, and yet does not absolutely express, exclusion. Such a man’s reward is terribly cut down; he is scarce if at all saved. Nothing but a state of repentance for all sin, known or unknown, can avail him. Great — The true observer and teacher of the law in its completeness shall be a star of brightest lustre in the firmament of heaven. Our Lord here clearly illustrates the truth of different degrees of future reward.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-5.html. 1874-1909.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

The Jewish rabbis had graded the Old Testament commands according to which they believed were more authoritative and which less, the heavy and the light. [Note: M"Neile, p59.] Jesus corrected this view. He taught that all were equally authoritative. He warned His hearers against following their leaders" practice. Greatness in His kingdom depended on maintaining a high view of Scripture. This verse distinguishes different ranks within the messianic kingdom. Some individuals will have a higher standing than others. Everyone will not be equal. Notice that there will be people in the kingdom whose view of Scripture will not be the same before they enter the kingdom. All will be righteous, but their obedience to and attitude toward Scripture will vary.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/matthew-5.html. 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 5:19. An application of the truth just announced.

Whosoever, therefore, because of this permanent character of the law.

Shall break, or at any time may break, one of these least commandments, the smallest part of this law, or, in the wider sense, of this revelation which God has made, and shall teach men so, by example or precept, shall be called, recognized as, least in the kingdom of heaven, in the new dispensation He was proclaiming. Such are not excluded, because not opposing the law as a whole, but only some of its minutiae. ‘Least’ may allude to the Jewish distinction between great and small commandments, a distinction revived by the Romanists, but which cannot exist in God’s law. The positive declaration which follows corresponds. The subsequent part of the chapter, especially the next verse, shows that our Lord does not command a strict observance of the letter of the ceremonial law. He there condemns those most scrupulous on these points. The fulfilment and the keeping of the law here required are explained by the fuller light shed upon it by the Saviour’s exposition.

He shall be called great. ‘He’ is emphatic here.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-5.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 5:19. , etc.: pointing to a natural inference from what goes before. Christ’s view being such as indicated, He must so judge of the setter aside of any laws however small. When a religious system has lasted long, and is wearing towards its decline and fall, there are always such men. The Baptist was in some respects such a man. He seems to have totally neglected the temple worship and sacred festivals. He shared the prophetic disgust at formalism. Note now what Christ’s judgment about such really is. A scribe or Pharisee would regard a breaker of even the least commandments as a miscreant. Jesus simply calls him the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. He takes for granted that he is an earnest man, with a passion for righteousness, which is the key to his iconoclastic conduct. He recognises him therefore as possessing real moral worth, but, in virtue of his impatient radical-reformer temper, not great, only little in the scale of true moral values, in spite of his earnestness in action and sincerity in teaching. John the Baptist was possibly in His mind, or some others not known to us from the Gospels.— , etc. We know now who is least: who is great? The man who does and teaches to do all the commands great and small; great not named but understood— . Jesus has in view O. T. saints, the piety reflected in the Psalter, where the great ethical laws and the precepts respecting ritual are both alike respected, and men in His own time living in their spirit. In such was a sweetness and graciousness, akin to the Kingdom as He conceived it, lacking in the character of the hot-headed law-breaker. The geniality of Jesus made Him value these sweet saintly souls.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-5.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Matthew 5:19. Whosoever therefore shall break — Shall himself transgress in his practice, or pervert and weaken by his doctrine, one of these least commandments, and teach men so — Shall direct or encourage men to do the same, or shall teach them, either by word or example, that the obligation of these commands is dissolved; he shall be called — Or, shall be accounted one of the least, and unworthiest members in the kingdom of heaven — Or, Church of the Messiah, and shall soon be entirely cut off from it, as unfit for so holy a society, and shall have no part in the church triumphant. “There is in the text a figure, which the rhetoricians call μειωσις, diminution, often elegantly used to convey a strong idea. Thus, Galatians 5:21, They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God, that is, shall be severely punished.” — Macknight. But whosoever shall do and teach them, &c. — Whosoever shall himself carefully practise these precepts of the law, and other parts of the divine word, and shall inculcate their universal obligation, shall be greatly rewarded.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-5.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

He shall be called; i.e. (by a frequent Hebrew idiom) he shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven; that is, according to St. Augustine he shall not be there at all; for none but the great in sanctity and virtue shall find admittance into heaven. (Witham) --- Do not then imitate the Scribes and Pharisees, who content themselves with instructing other in the precepts of the law, without practising them themselves, or if they observe the letter, neglect the spirit of the law, performing what it ordain, not to please God, but to satisfy their vanity. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/matthew-5.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Whosoever = every one that (with Greek. an. Supposing the case). See note on "Till", Matthew 5:18. Note the Figure of speech Anaphora (App-6).

these least = these shortest. Referring not to what men might thus distinguish, but to the difference made by the Lord between the whole Law and its minutiae.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Whosoever therefore shall break, [ lusee (Greek #3089)] - rather, 'dissolve,' 'annul,' or 'make invalid,' --

One of these least commandments - an expression equivalent to 'one of the least of these commandments' --

And shall teach men so - referring to the Pharisees and their teaching, as is plan from the next verse, but of And shall teach men so - referring to the Pharisees and their teaching, as is plan from the next verse, but of course embracing all similar schools and teaching in the Christian Church --

He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. As the thing spoken of is not the practical breaking, or disobeying, of the law, but annulling, or enervating its obligation by a vicious system of interpretation, and teaching others to do the same; so the thing threatened is not exclusion from heaven, and still less the lowest place in it, but a degraded and contemptuous position in the present stage of the kingdom of God. In other words, 'they shall be reduced, by the retributive providence that overtakes them, to the same condition of dishonour to which, by their system and their teaching, they have brought down those eternal principles of God's law.'

But whosoever shall do and teach them - whose principles and teaching go to exalt the authority and honour of God's law, in its lowest as well highest requirements --

The same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven - `shall, by that providence which watches over the honour of God's moral administration, be raised to the same position of authority and honour to which they exalt the law.'

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

19. Whoever disobeys. The Jews taught that some commands were more important, and that some were “small” and unimportant. They also taught that if you kept one commandment perfectly, you would be given credit for all the rest. James 2:10 shows this to be false. Christ shows that all commands are equally important [God’s commands]. Will be least. He may be allowed to enter the Kingdom, but he will not receive honor.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-5.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(19) Shall break one of these least commandments.—The words seem at first to imply that even the ceremonial law was to be binding in its full extent upon Christ’s disciples. The usage of the time, however, confined the word to the moral laws of God (as in Sirach 32:23-24), and throughout the New Testament it is never used in any other sense, with the possible exception of Hebrews 7:5; Hebrews 7:16 (comp. especially Romans 13:9; 1 Corinthians 7:19). And the context, which proceeds at once to deal with moral laws and does not touch on ceremonial, is in accordance with this meaning. The “least commandments,” then, are those which seemed trivial, yet were really great—the control of thoughts, desires, words, as compared with the apparently greater commands that dealt with acts. The reference to “teaching” shows that our Lord was speaking to His disciples, as the future instructors of mankind, and the obvious import of His words is that they were to raise, not lower, the standard of righteousness which had been recognised previously.

Shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven.—The consequence of tampering with the great laws of duty, or the least laws, which are practically great, is described in terms at once severe and gentle; gentle, because the sentence, where the guilt is not wilful, or is repented of, is not one of absolute exclusion from the kingdom; severe in so far as being the “least” in that kingdom, the object of pity or sorrow to others, involved a severe humiliation to those who aimed at being the highest. To that condemnation many in every age of the Church have been liable, the Anthiomian fanatic and the Jesuit casuist standing so far on the same footing.

Whosoever shall do and teach.—Here again the teaching work of the disciples is prominent. The combination is in this case even more significant than in the other. Not right doing only, still less right teaching only, but both together, made up the ideal of the preacher’s work.

Great.—Not “greatest.” The avoidance of the latter word, interpreted by the later teaching of, would seem to have been deliberate. Men might aim at a positive standard of the greatness of the true teacher and the true worker, but the conscious aim at being “greatest” was self-frustrating. That honour belonged to him only who was all unconscious that he had any claim to it.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-5.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
shall break
Deuteronomy 27:26; Psalms 119:6,128; Galatians 3:10-13; James 2:10,11
these
23:23; Deuteronomy 12:32; Luke 11:42
shall teach
15:3-6; 23:16-22; Malachi 2:8,9; Romans 3:8; 6:1,15; 1 Timothy 6:3,4; Revelation 2:14,15,20
the least
11:11; 1 Samuel 2:30
do
28:20; Acts 1:1; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14-24; Philippians 3:17,18; 4:8,9; 1 Thessalonians 2:10-12; 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:11,12; 6:11; Titus 2:8-10; 3:8
great
19:28; 20:26; Daniel 12:3; Luke 1:15; 9:48; 22:24-26; 1 Peter 5:4
Reciprocal: Genesis 26:5 - GeneralExodus 24:12 - that thou;  Leviticus 20:8 - And ye;  1 Kings 16:2 - hast made my people;  Ezra 7:10 - to do it;  Psalm 119:34 - I shall;  Matthew 3:2 - for;  Matthew 18:1 - in;  Matthew 19:21 - If;  Matthew 22:36 - GeneralMark 12:28 - Which;  Romans 8:7 - for it;  1 Corinthians 7:19 - but;  Titus 2:12 - live

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-5.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

The commandments of the law will not be in force in the kingdom of heaven. The thought is that a man who would break the least of these commandments while they are in force shows the wrong attitude toward divine law. Such a person would not rank very high in the kingdom of heaven after it has been set up.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/matthew-5.html. 1952.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

19.Whoever then shall break Christ here speaks expressly of the commandments of life, or the ten words, which all the children of God ought to take as the rule of their life. He therefore declares, that they are false and deceitful teachers, who do not restrain their disciples within obedience to the law, and that they are unworthy to occupy a place in the Church, who weaken, in the slightest degree, the authority of the law; and, on the other hand, that they are honest and faithful ministers of God, who recommend, both by word and by example, the keeping of the law. The least commandments is an expression used in accommodation to the judgment of men: for though they have not all the same weight, (but, when they are compared together, some are less than others,) yet we are not at liberty to think any thing small, on which the heavenly Legislator has been pleased to issue a command. For what sacrilege is it to treat contemptuously any thing which has proceeded from his sacred mouth? This is to sink his majesty to the rank of creatures. Accordingly, when our Lord calls them little commandments, it is a sort of concession. He shall be called the least This is an allusion to what he had just said about the commandments: but the meaning is obvious. Those who shall pour contempt on the doctrine of the law, or on a single syllable of it, will be rejected as the lowest of men. (384)

The kingdom of heaven means the renovation of the Church, or the prosperous condition of the Church, such as was then beginning to appear by the preaching of the Gospel. In this sense, Christ tells us, that he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John,” (Luke 7:28.) The meaning of that phrase is, that God, restoring the world by the hand of his Son, has completely established his kingdom. Christ declares that, when his Church shall have been renewed, no teachers must be admitted to it, but those who are faithful expounders of the law, and who labor to maintain its doctrine entire. But it is asked, were not ceremonies among the commandments of God, the least of which we are now required to observe? I answer, We must look to the design and object of the Legislator. God enjoined ceremonies, that their outward use might be temporal, and their meaning eternal. That man does not break ceremonies, who omits what is shadowy, but retains their effect. But if Christ banishes from his kingdom all who accustom men to any contempt of the law how monstrous must be their stupidity, who are not ashamed to remit, by a sacrilegious indulgence, what God strictly demands, and, under the pretense of venial sin, to overthrow the righteousness of the law. (385) Again, we must observe the description he gives of good and holy teachers: that not only by words, but chiefly by the example of life, they exhort (386) men to keep the law.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:19". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-5.html. 1840-57.