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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Matthew 5:16

 

 

"Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Adam Clarke Commentary

Let your light so shine - Or more literally, Thus let your light shine, Ουτω λαμψατω το φως . As the sun is lighted up in the firmament of heaven to diffuse its light and heat freely to every inhabitant of the earth; and as the lamp is not set under the bushel, but placed upon the lamp-stand that it may give light to all in the house; Thus let every follower of Christ, and especially every preacher of the Gospel, diffuse the light of heavenly knowledge, and the warmth of Divine love through the whole circle of their acquaintance.

That they may see your good works - It is not sufficient to have light - we must walk in the light, and by the light. Our whole conduct should be a perpetual comment on the doctrine we have received, and a constant exemplification of its power and truth.

And glorify your Father - The following curious saying is found in Bammidbar Rabba, s. 15. "The Israelites said to the holy blessed God, Thou commandest us to light lamps to thee; and yet thou art the, Light of the world, and with thee the light dwelleth. The holy blessed God answered, I do not command this because I need light; but that you may reflect light upon me, as I have illuminated you: - that the people may say, Behold, how the Israelites illustrate him, who illuminates them in the sight of the whole earth." See more in Schoettgen. Real Christians are the children of God - they are partakers of his holy and happy nature: they should ever be concerned for their Father's honor, and endeavor so to recommend him, and his salvation, that others may be prevailed on to come to the light, and walk in it. Then God is said to be glorified, when the glorious power of his grace is manifested in the salvation of men.


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Let your light so shine … - Let your holy life, your pure conversation, and your faithful instructions, be everywhere seen and known. Always, in all societies, in all business, at home and abroad, in prosperity and adversity, let it be seen that you are real Christians.

That they may see your good works - The proper motive to influence us is not simply that we may be seen (compare Matthew 6:1), but it should be that our heavenly Father may be glorified. The Pharisees acted to be seen of men, true Christians act to glorify God, and care little what people may think of them, except as by their conduct others may he brought to honor God, yet they should so live that people may see from their conduct what is the proper nature of their religion.

Glorify your Father - Praise, or honor God, or be led to worship him. Seeing in your lives the excellency of religion, and the power and purity of the gospel, they may be won to be Christians also, and give praise and glory to God for his mercy to a lost world.

We learn here:

1.that religion, if it exists, cannot be concealed.

2.that where it is not manifest in the life, it does not exist.

3.that “professors” of religion, who live like other people, give evidence that they have never been truly converted.

4.that to attempt to conceal or hide our Christian knowledge or experience is to betray our trust, injure the cause of piety, and to render our lives useless. And,

5.that good actions will be seen, and will lead people to honor God. If we have no other way of doing good - if we are poor, and unlearned, and unknown yet we may do good by our lives. No sincere and humble Christian lives in vain. The feeblest light at midnight is of use.

“How far the little candle throws his beams!

So shines a good deed in a naughty world!”


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Bibliography
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Barnes' Notes on the New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/matthew-5.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Let your light so shine before men,.... Here Christ applies the foregoing simile to his disciples, and more fully opens the meaning and design of it. His sense is this; that the light of the Gospel, which he had communicated to them, the spiritual knowledge of the mysteries of grace, which he had favoured them with, were to be openly declared, and made manifest before men. Light was not given merely for their own private use, but for the public good of mankind; and therefore, as they were placed as lights in the world, they were to hold forth, in the most open and conspicuous manner, the word of light and life:

that they may see your good works: meaning their zeal and fervency; their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity; their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, industry, and indefatigableness in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honour of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their example in their lives and conversations:

and glorify your Father which is in heaven; that is, that when the ministration of the Gospel has been blessed, for the illumination of the minds of men, to a thorough conviction of their state; and for their regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and comfort; they may give praise to God, and bless his name for qualifying and sending such Gospel ministers to show unto them the way of salvation; and that the word has been made useful to them for communicating spiritual light, life, joy, and comfort, אבינו שבשמים, "Our and your Father which is in heaven", is a name, appellation, or periphrasis of God, frequently used by Jewish writersF19Vid. Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15. & Yoma, c. 8. sect. 9. ; and is often expressed by Christ in these his sermons on the mount.


Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rightes 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

Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/matthew-5.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven — As nobody lights a lamp only to cover it up, but places it so conspicuously as to give light to all who need light, so Christians, being the light of the world, instead of hiding their light, are so to hold it forth before men that they may see what a life the disciples of Christ lead, and seeing this, may glorify their Father for so redeeming, transforming, and ennobling earth‘s sinful children, and opening to themselves the way to like redemption and transformation.


Copyright Statement
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.

Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

People's New Testament

Even so, let your light shine. Like the city set on a hill, or the lighted lamp on a stand. We are told, 1. To let our light shine. 2. Before men. 3. By good works. 4. That they may glorify the Father in heaven. Christ is the Light; we will shine reflected light if we walk in his light. If we give forth light it will honor God.


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.
Original work done by Ernie Stefanik. First published online in 1996 at The Restoration Movement Pages.

Bibliography
Johnson, Barton W. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "People's New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pnt/matthew-5.html. 1891.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Even so (ουτωςhoutōs). The adverb points backward to the lamp-stand. Thus men are to let their light shine, not to glorify themselves, but “your Father in heaven.” Light shines to see others by, not to call attention to itself.


Copyright Statement
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)

Bibliography
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/matthew-5.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

So shine ( οὕτως )

Often misconceived, as if the meaning were, “Let your light shine in such a way that men may see,” etc. Standing at the beginning of the sentence, it points back to the illustration just used. “So,” even as that lamp just mentioned, let your light shine. Wycliffe has apparently caught this correct sense: So shine your light before men.


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The text of this work is public domain.

Bibliography
Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/matthew-5.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

That they may see - and glorify - That is, that seeing your good works, they may be moved to love and serve God likewise.

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.

Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes

on the Whole Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/matthew-5.html. 1765.

The Fourfold Gospel

Even so let your light shine before men1; that they may see your good works2, and glorify your Father who is in heaven3.

  1. Even so let your light shine before men. The light of the Christian is to shine not ostentatiously, but naturally and unavoidably.

  2. That they may see your good works. It is to shine not only in his teaching or profession, but in such works and actions as unprejudiced men must acknowledge to be real excellencies.

  3. And glorify your Father who is in heaven. Moreover, it must so shine that it shall not win praise for itself, but for him who kindled it. Men do not praise the street lamps which protect them from robbery and assault, but they praise the municipal administration which furnishes the lamps.


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.

Bibliography
J. W. McGarvey and Philip Y. Pendleton. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "The Fourfold Gospel". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tfg/matthew-5.html. Standard Publishing Company, Cincinnati, Ohio. 1914.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16.Let your light shine before men After having taught the apostles that, in consequence of the rank in which they are placed, both their vices and their virtues are better known for a good or bad example, he now enjoins them so to regulate their life, as to excite all to glorify God. That they may see your good works: for, as Paul tells us, believers must,

“provide for honest things, not only in the sight of God,
but also in the sight of men,” (
2 Corinthians 8:21.)

The command, which he gives shortly afterwards, to seek concealment and a retired situation for their good works, (Matthew 6:4,) is intended only to forbid ostentation. In the present instance, he has quite a different object in view, to recommend to them the glory of God alone. Now, if the glory of good works cannot be properly ascribed to God, unless they are traced to him, and unless he is acknowledged to be their only Author, it is evident, that we cannot, without offering an open and gross insult to God, extol free will, as if good works proceeded wholly, or in part, from its power. Again, we must observe, how graciously God deals with us, when he calls the good works ours, the entire praise of which would justly be ascribed to himself.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/matthew-5.html. 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIAN LIFE

‘Ye are the light of the world.… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.’

Matthew 5:14; Matthew 5:16

These words contain, in an image at once as simple and as beautiful as Nature could supply, a description of Christianity, and of the manner in which it diffuses itself.

I. God uses human agency.—For the conversion of the world to Himself God uses human agency. When the Almighty was preparing this material world, He said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light.’ But when the Son of God came into the world He selected human agents. ‘Ye are the light of the world.’ This was spoken to men very slightly armed either with intellectual or political power. Hence not only the wise and the great, but all of whatever capabilities who come within range of His light, have, by that very fact, had given them the power and laid upon them the responsibility of shining for God. We may not look with apathy upon the evil which is in the world, as if we were not our brothers’ keepers, and had nothing to do but attend to ourselves. The world is lying in darkness before our eyes, and its conversion depends upon us, and upon such as we are. If ever effected, it must be effected by God’s Spirit indeed, but through man’s agency.

II. Human agents must first receive light.—Our Saviour applies to His disciples an image which, in strictness of speech, only belongs to Himself. He is the light—they only light bearers. The light which they have is His; all which they have they have received. The Light of the World then is waiting to shine in upon and enlighten every mind that begins to be conscious of its darkness, and to desire to be taught of God. Jesus Christ, the light and life, and gladness and joy of the world, is waiting at the heart of every one for the undoing of the bars of prejudice and unbelief; nay, by His Spirit is inviting to, and assisting in, the undoing of these bars, that He may come in with streams of heavenly light.

III. The character and influence of the man who has received light, and so become light.

(a) Light is composed of several distinct rays, the red, the blue, and the yellow, but which, various in themselves, blend into the pure colourless light which is around us. A Christian is not a man who does a right action, or a class of right actions, but who in reliance on Christ acts as He did, and aims at regulating his whole moral nature and blending its discordant elements into one simple desire to please Him.

(b) Further, light cannot fail to be seen. This is its peculiar office. Real Christians, therefore, men and women, who indeed have the light of Christ within them, should be known and seen as lights shining in a dark place; they should be as clear as the stars in the heaven, or the lamps along the road on a dark night; for they are light, and all beside are darkness. And thus it was in earlier days: but in our days and in our land, the surrounding darkness is not so great, and the lights, I fear, not so brilliant. Yet the world is dark around us, and if we are Christ’s we must shine, be seen, and have influence.

(c) Light goes off from the source of light on all sides and in all directions. So from a Christian, light should go forth in all directions and at all times, naturally, not by impulsive emissions, but by regular irradiation.

(d) Light beautifies and gladdens all it falls on. And so wherever the light of Christ’s Gospel shines into the heart of man, and the Holy Spirit makes it to sink in and abide there; whatever that man may have been in character, and whatever he may be in position, it draws out and manifests such beauty of character and gladness of heart, that men cannot fail to see his good works, and glorify his Father which is in heaven.

—Canon Francis Morse.

Illustration

‘It is related that the watchman of the Calais lighthouse was boasting of the brilliancy of his lantern, which can be seen many miles at sea, when a visitor said to him, “What if one of your lights should chance to go out?” “Never,” he replied. “Impossible!” with a sort of consternation at the bare idea. “Sir,” continued he, “yonder, where nothing can be seen by us, there are ships going to every port of the world; if to-night one of my burners were out, within a year would come a letter perhaps from India, perhaps from some place I never heard of, saying, ‘At such a night, at such an hour, your light burned dim; the watchman neglected his post, and vessels were in danger.’ Ah, sir, sometimes in the dark nights in stormy weather, I look out to sea, and feel as if the eye of the whole world were looking at my light. Go out—burn dim—no, never!” The eye of the whole world is indeed upon many of you. God give you grace “to keep your light so shining before men” that they may be guided by it through the manifold dangers of this world into the haven of eternal rest.’


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Church Pulpit Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/matthew-5.html. 1876.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Well may the LORD'S people rejoice, convinced of their interest in him. Luke 10:20; Philippians 3:3. But with respect to the reward the LORD speaks of, let not the Reader for a moment overlook the cause. It is all of grace, not of debt. All on CHRIST'S account, not their own. Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6. And blessed is the example of the Prophets in this particular. Hebrews 11:33 to the end. James 5:10-11. The figures of salt and light are very expressive. CHRIST is the salt of the covenant. Leviticus 2:13; Numbers 18:19 with Mark 9:49. CHRIST is the light of the world. Joh 4. And hence by so much as there is of CHRIST in his redeemed, by so much salt and light is there in the world. And well is it for the world that CHRIST'S seed are in the earth. For without this salt the whole otherwise would be in a state of putrefaction; and without this light the whole would be in a state of darkness. Oh! the blessedness of such a state of the church. Such honor have all his Saints! Philippians 2:15


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Bibliography
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/matthew-5.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Ver. 16. Let your light so shine before men] We use to hang the picture of a dear friend in a conspicuous place, that it may appear we rejoice in it, as an ornament to us: so should we the image of Christ, and his graces. And as pearls, though formed and found in the water, are like the heavens in clearness, so should all, but especially ministers: their faces should shine, as Moses when he came from the mount; their feet should be beautiful, Romans 10:15; their mouths (as heaven in the Revelation) should never open, but some great matter should follow; their lives should be, as one speaketh of Joseph’s life, coelum quoddam lucidissimis virtulum stellis exornatum, a very heaven sparkling with variety of virtues, as with so many bright stars. (Bucholcer.) The high priest of the law came forth to the people in habit more like a god than a man. Os humerosque Deo similis. (Virgil.) And Alexander the Great took him for no less, but fell at his feet, meeting him upon his way to Jerusalem. There are those who hold, that by his linen he was taught purity; by his shash, discretion; by his embroidered coat, heavenly conversation; by his golden bells, sound doctrine; by his ponmgranates, fruitfulness in good works; by his shoulder pieces, patience in bearing other men’s infirmities; by his breastplate, continual care of the Church; by his mitre, a right intention; and by the golden plate upon it, a bold and wise profession of "Holiness to the Lord." The apostle also is exact in forming a minister of the gospel, 1 Timothy 3:2-4 : for he must be, 1. "Blameless" ( αντπιληπτος), such as against whom no just exception can be laid. 2. "Vigilant" ( νηφαλεος), pale and wan again with watching and working. 3. "Sober" ( σωφρων), or temperate, one that can contain his passions, master his own heart, and keep a mean. 4. "Modest" ( κοσμιος), neat and comely in his bodily attire, neither curious nor careless thereof, but venerable in all his behaviour; and one that keepeth a fit decorum in all things. 5. "Hospitable" ( φιλοξενος), and harbourous. Quicquid habent Clerici, pauperum est, saith Jerome. 6. "Able and apt to teach" ( διδακτικος), as Bishop Ridley, Dr Taylor, and Mr Bradford, who preached every Sunday and holiday ordinarily; and as Chrysostom, Origen, and some others, who preached every day in the week. 7. "Not given to wine" ( παροινος), no ale stake, as those drunken priests, the two sons of Aaron, who died by the fire of God, for coming before him with strange fire, Leviticus 10:2-20. "No striker" ( πληκτης), neither with hand nor tongue, to the just grief or disgrace of any. 9. "Not greedy of filthy lucre" ( αισχροκερδης), so as to get gain by evil arts; but honest, plain dealing; and (as it follows in the text) pae tient, or equanimous, easily parting with his right for peace’ sake ( επιεικης, Arist. Ethic. 5. 10), and ever preferring equity before extremity of law. 10. "Not a brawler" ( αμαχος), or connnon barrator, a wrangler, as Ishmael. 11. "Not covetous," not doting on his wealth, or trusting to his wedge. Not without money, but without the love of money. The apostle here distinguisheth, "greedy of filthy lucre" ( αφιλαργυρος), which is in getting, from covetousness, which consists in pinching and saving. 12. "One that ruleth well in his own house," &c. For the children’s faults reflect upon the parents, and the servant’s sin is the master’s shame. Besides, every man is that in religion that he is relatively; and so much true goodness he hath as he showeth at home. 13. "Not a novice" ( νεοφυτος), a young scholar, rude and ungrounded; or a tender young plant in Christianity, as the word signifieth, that may be bent any way, but a well grown oak, stable and steady. 14. Lastly, "he must have a good report of them which are without;" which he cannot but have, if qualified as above said, 1 Timothy 3:7. The same God which did at first put an awe of man in the fiercest creatures, hath stamped in the cruelest hearts an awful respect to his faithful ministers: so as even they that hate them cannot choose but honour them, as Saul did Samuel, Darius Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar the three worthies. Natural conscience cannot but stoop and do homage to God’s image fairly stamped upon the natures and works of his people. So that when men see in such that which is above the ordinary strain and their own expectation, their hearts ache within them many times; and they stand much amazed at the height of their spirits and the majesty that shines in their faces. Either they are convinced, as Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Diocletian, who laid down the empire out of a deep discontent and despair of ever conquering the constancy of Christians by any bloody persecution; or, which is better, they are converted, and seeing such good works, they glorify God our heavenly Father, as Justin Martyr, who confesseth of himself, that by beholding the Christians’ piety in life and patience in death ( ορων δε αφοβους προς θανατον), he gathered their doctrine to be the truth, and glorified God in the day of his visitation. For there is no Christian, saith Athenagoras in his Apology to the Heathens, that is not good, unless he be a hypocrite, and a pretender only to religion. ( ουδεις χριστιανος πονηρος, ει μη υποκρινηται τον λογον.) Vere magnus est Deus Christianorum, said one Calocerius, a heathen, beholding the sufferings of the primitive martyrs. And it is reported of one Cecilia, a virgin, that by her constance and exhortations before and at her martyrdom, four hundred were converted Chrysostom calls good works unanswerable syllogisms, invincible demonstrations to confute and convert pagans. Julian the Apostate could not but confess, Quod Christiana religio propter Christianorum erga omnes beneficentiam propagata est: Christian religion spread by the holiness of those who professed it. Bede mentioneth one Alban, who receiving a poor persecuted Christian into his house, and seeing his holy and devout carriage, was so much affected therewith, as that he became an earnest professor of the faith, and in the end a glorious martyr for the faith.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/matthew-5.html. 1865-1868.

The Popular Commentary by Paul E. Kretzmann

Jesus Himself applies the parable:

v. 16. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

The policy of obscuration, of hiding beliefs and convictions, is often urged by lukewarm Christians, so-called "reasons of prudence and wisdom: gradual accustoming of men to new ideas; deference to the prejudices of good men; avoidance of rupture by premature outspokenness; but generally the true reason is fear of unpleasant consequences to oneself. " To think and act thus is deliberate disloyalty to Christ. Your light, given to you from above, not to be used according to expediency, but to shine; your light, not you, the object being not to make your person prominent, but your Christianity. The Christians, individually and collectively, should perform this task as their steady work. For the light which shall be thrown out from them in every direction, before all men, consists in their good works, the fruits of their regeneration, the proof of their being illuminated by Jesus. These should be seen by the people for a definite reason. All men that come in contact with their works shall be forced to draw conclusions as to the power that inspires them. And so the glory, the honor will be placed where it properly and exclusively belongs, will be given to the Father in heaven. This fact renders the admonition urgent by giving to it its real basis. Faith is the lamp; love is the light; the good works are the illumination. As little as the lamp can pride itself upon its light, so little can the Christians glory in their good works; all glory must be God's.


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Bibliography
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kpc/matthew-5.html. 1921-23.

Sermon Bible Commentary

Matthew 5:16

True religion a Manifestation.

I. It is the design of God that His true servants should show the world around them what they are, and should not only possess faith, love, and the other fruits of the Spirit within their own hearts, but should manifest their religious character to the world, and let it be seen that they are of such and such a temper and will, that they have such and such affections and aims and hopes. It was never intended by God that religion and goodness should be a secret locked up in the heart itself, which none should know but the individual himself, and that it should pass from birth to the grave an unseen treasure. It was intended that goodness should be seen, and that the sight of it should inspirit others. It was intended that the minds of others should be raised, and their affections warmed by the sight of it, that thus every good man should spread a circle of light round him.

II. We are intended by God to be witnesses for Him in the world, to bear witness to the truth of religion, to the power and excellence of the Gospel; and on this account it is necessary that our light and good works should shine before men. The greatest testimony which can be given on behalf of Divine truth is the testimony of our own lives. We are bound, then, to give this testimony, and to give it with the purpose that others should see it.

III. This large and animated Gospel view is opposed to a very favourite corrupt notion of the human heart—viz., that a man may be a true Christian and yet a secret Christian; that he may be a Christian by a mere inward feeling and sentiment which he has cherished through life, without any active manifestation of the principle in his course and standard of life; in a word, that a man may be a true Christian, and yet not a witness to Christianity. This is impossible. The Gospel declares that goodness must be visible, must show itself, must be an object for the minds of those around it to rest on, otherwise that there is no real goodness.

J. B. Mozley, Sermons Parochial and Occasional, p. 212.


The world is in darkness in reference to the highest and most momentous of human interests. Its votaries, indeed, are enlightened enough in all matters pertaining to business or pleasure. But in spiritual things men are in darkness. They do not know God, and though they feel within them the gnawings of a guilty conscience, they know not how that agony may be removed, or how their sins may be forgiven. The Lord Jesus came to dissipate this darkness by revealing God to us, and showing us not only how we may obtain forgiveness, but also how we may attain to His image and become partakers of His nature. Christ is the hidden source of the world's enlightenment; but Christians, united to Him by faith, draw off from Him that influence by which they are enabled, each in his own place and in his own measure, to dispel some portion of the darkness by which they are surrounded.

I. Note, first, the positive injunction that Christians are to do everything in their power to secure that their light shall shine as brightly as possible. This is to be done (1) by the position we take up. A lamp on the floor will not send its rays so widely out as if it were suspended from the ceiling. So the Christian should connect himself with the Church, and should, not only for the sake of his Master, but also for that of the outlying world, accept any place in the company of the faithful to which he may be called. (2) By the character which we form. The influence that a man exerts depends on his character, even as the fragrance of a flower depends on its nature, or the fruit of a tree on its kind. (3) This injunction is to be obeyed by the exertions which we make for the conversion of our fellowmen.

II. Look at the negative side of the injunction, which requires that we remove everything which tends either to hide or to obscure our light, or which so affects it as to make it suggestive of ourselves rather than of God. That means (1) that we should get rid of the undue reserve by which multitudes are characterized, and which keeps their real character from being as powerful an influence for good as otherwise it might have been. (2) This injunction implies that we should avoid all self-display. The purpose of letting our light shine is that God, not ourselves, may be glorified.

W. M. Taylor, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 254.


References: Matthew 5:16.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 31; W. M. Taylor, Three Hundred Outlines of Sermons on the New Testament, p. 6; E. M. Goulburn, Thoughts on Personal Religion, p. 266; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 244; see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiv., p. 578, and vol. xxx., p. 120; B. F. Westcott, Expositor, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 258; J. Keble, Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany, p. 382; H. N. Grimley, The Temple of Humanity and Other Sermons, p. 145.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Sermon Bible Commentary". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/matthew-5.html.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

16. οὕτως] i.e. like a candle on a candlestick—like a city on a hill; not οὕτως, ὅπως, ‘so … that,’ as our English version seems rather to imply. By rendering οὕτως in like manner, the ambiguity will be avoided. See ref., and note there. The sense of this verse is as if it were ὅπως, ἰδόντες ὑμῶν τ. κ. ἔργ. δοξάσωσιν τ. π. … the latter verb, and not the former, carrying the purpose of the action. Thus the praise and glory of a well-lighted and brilliant feast would be given, not to the lights, but to the master of the house; and of a stately city on a hill, not to the buildings, but to those who built them. The whole of this division of our Lord’s sermon is addressed to all His followers, not exclusively to the ministers of his word. All servants of Christ are the salt of the earth, the light of the world (Philippians 2:15). And all that is here said applies to us all. But à fortiori does it apply, in its highest sense, to those who are, among Christians, selected to teach and be examples; who are as it were the towers and pinnacles of the city, not only not hid, but seen far and wide above the rest.


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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hac/matthew-5.html. 1863-1878.

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

Matthew 5:16. οὕτω] like a burning lamp upon its stand.

τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν] the light, of which you are the trusted possessors. This shines before men, if the disciples come forward publicly in their office with fidelity and courage, do not draw back, but spread abroad the gospel boldly and freely.

ὅτως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν, κ. τ. λ.] that they may see the excellent works done by you. These are not their virtues in general, but, in accordance with the whole context from Matthew 5:11, their ministry as faithful to its obligations, their specific works as disciples, which, however, are also of a moral nature.

καὶ δοξάσωσι, κ. τ. λ.] that He has made you fit (2 Corinthians 3:5) to perform such works, they must recognise Him as their author; comp. Matthew 9:8; 1 Peter 2:12. The opposite, Romans 2:24.

τ. πατ. ὑμῶν τ. ἐν τοῖς οὐρ.] see on Matthew 6:9. This designation of God, which Christ gives forth from the fundamental standpoint of His gospel, already presupposes instructions previously given to the disciples upon the point. Observe, moreover, that here it is not ὑμῶν which, as formerly, has the emphasis.


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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hmc/matthew-5.html. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Matthew 5:16. ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, before men) sc. all men.— ὅπως, in order that) The force of this particle does not so much refer to the verb ἴδωσιν (they may see) as to δοξάσωσι (may glorify).— ὑμῶνἔργα, your works) Your works, not yourselves. The light, not the candle.(181)τὸν πατέρα ὑμῶν, your Father) Who has begotten you like unto Himself. In the whole of this address, the Son shows God to us as our Father, and that more richly than all the prophets of old.


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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/matthew-5.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Our Saviour now plainly tells us what he intended by the comparisons before mentioned. Let the light of that doctrine which you receive from me, and the light of your holy conversation, (the latter by the following words seemeth to be here principally intended),

so shine before men, be so evident and apparent unto men,

that they may see your good works; all sorts of good works, whatsoever I have commanded or shall command you; and as I command you, and in obedience to such commands, otherwise they are no good works;

and glorify your Father which is in heaven. You are not in your good actions to aim at yourselves, to be seen of men, as Matthew 6:1, nor merely at doing good to others; good works are to be maintained for necessary uses, Titus 3:14, but having a primary, and principal respect to the glorifying of your Father; for, John 15:8, Herein is my Father glorified, if ye bear much fruit: not that we can add any thing to God’s essential glory, but we may predicate and manifest his glory; which how we can do by good works, if they proceed from mere power and liberty of our own wills, not from his special efficacious grace, is hard to understand. Our Father is said to be in heaven, because, though his essential presence filleth all places, yet he is pleased there, more than any where, to manifest his glory and majesty.


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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/matthew-5.html. 1685.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Shine; let the goodness of your principles be seen in your conduct, that men may be led to honor God, the author of all good. Consistent Christian example is a means of leading men to honor God, and of greatly promoting their highest good.


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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Family Bible New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/matthew-5.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16. Let your light shine — While you indulge no ostentation to win applause for yourself, it is your duty so to manifest the clearness of your good works as that men may honour the Gospel. And glorify your Father — Do nothing to glorify yourself, but everything to get glory to God by honouring the Gospel. The illumination of the candle is not for itself, but for the master whose house it illumines.

Men should not wish their donations to a Church or to a charity to be published, for the reputation of it, but in order that the Gospel should have the credit of it, and that others may be influenced to like liberality by the example.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/matthew-5.html. 1874-1909.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Matthew 5:16. Even Song of Solomon, i.e., like the city on the hill, the candle on the candlestick, not ‘so that they may see,’ as the common version might be understood.

Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works. Not professions or teachings, but what men, with all their prejudices against Christ’s people (Matthew 5:10-12), are forced to acknowledge as real excellences.—The supreme end both of the shining and seeing is added, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. ‘The praise and glory of a well-lighted and brilliant feast would be given, not to the light, but to the master of the house; and of a stately city on a hill, not to the buildings, but to those who built them’ (Alford). The exhortation humbles in order to exalt: all good works, light-giving, purifying and preserving influences, come from God, to whom the glory belongs, but He is ‘your Father.’ This is the first occurrence of the gospel phrase, ‘Father who is in heaven.’ It is taught us by the only begotten Son of God, through whom we become sons of God, who is His Father and our Father. The beatitudes culminated in the promise, ‘for they shall be called sons of God’(Matthew 5:9); the statement of our world to our ‘Father,’ from whom our blessings come, shows us that in the world we may cause position in the world, while leading us above the Him to be glorified. Our true glory is in His glory.


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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/scn/matthew-5.html. 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Matthew 5:16. οὕτω. Do ye as they do in cottage life: apply the parable.— λαμψάτω, let your light shine. Don’t use means to prevent it, turning the rare exception of household practice into the rule, so extinguishing your light, or at least rendering it useless. Cowards can always find plausible excuses for the policy of obscuration—reasons of prudence and wisdom: gradual accustoming of men to new ideas; deference to the prejudices of good men; avoidance of rupture by premature outspokenness; but generally the true reason is fear of unpleasant consequences to oneself. Their conduct Jesus represents as disloyalty to God— ὅπως, etc. The shining of light from the good works of disciples glorifies God the Father in heaven. The hiding of the light means withholding glory. The temptation arises from the fact—a stern law of the moral world it is—that just when most glory is likely to accrue to God, least glory comes to the light-bearer; not glory but dishonour and evil treatment his share. Many are ready enough to let their light shine when honour comes to themselves. But their “light” is not true heaven-kindled light; their works are not καλὰ, noble, heroic, but πονηρὰ (Matthew 7:17), ignoble, worthless, at best of the conventional type in fashion among religious people, and wrought often in a spirit of vanity and ostentation. This is theatrical goodness, which is emphatically not what Jesus wanted. Euthy. Zig. says: οὐ κελεύει θεατρίζειν τὴν ἀρετὴν.

Note that here, for the first time in the Gospel, Christ’s distinctive name for God, “Father,” occurs. It comes in as a thing of course. Does it presuppose previous instruction? (So Meyer.) One might have expected so important a topic as the nature and name of God to have formed the subject of a distinct lesson. But Christ’s method of teaching was not scholastic or formal. He defined terms by discriminating use; Father, e.g., as a name for God, by using it as a motive to noble conduct. The motive suggested throws light on the name. God, we learn, as Father delights in noble conduct; as human fathers find joy in sons who acquit themselves bravely. Jesus may have given formal instruction on the point, but not necessarily. This first use of the title is very significant. It is full, solemn, impressive: your Father, He who is in the heavens; so again in Matthew 5:45. It is suggestive of reasons for faithfulness, reasons of love and reverence. It hints at a reflected glory, the reward of heroism. The noble works which glorify the Father reveal the workers to be sons. The double-sided doctrine of this logion of Jesus is that the divine is revealed by the heroic in human conduct, and that the moral hero is the true son of God. Jesus Himself is the highest illustration of the twofold truth.


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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/matthew-5.html. 1897-1910.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Matthew 5:16. Let your light — The light of that doctrine which you receive from me, and the light of your holy conversation, so shine before men — Be so evident and apparent unto men, that they may see your good works, and glorify, &c. — That is, that seeing your good works they may both praise God for sending such a religion into the world, and also, embracing your faith, may imitate your holy example, or may be moved to love and serve God as you do, and thereby to glorify him. Here then our Lord tells us, in plain words, what he intended by the comparison before mentioned.


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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/matthew-5.html. 1857.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

so = thus.

that = so that.


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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/matthew-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. As nobody lights a lamp only to cover it up, but places it so conspicuously as to give light to all who need light, so Christians, being the light of the world, instead of hiding their light, are so to hold it forth before men that they may see what a life the disciples of Christ lead, and seeing this, may glorify their Father for so redeeming, transforming, and ennobling earth's sinful children, and opening to themselves the way to like redemption and transformation.

Remarks:

(1) All-precious though the doctrines of the Gospel be, since the proper appreciation and cordial reception of them depends upon a previous, preparation of the heart-especially, on the soul's being thoroughly emptied of its own fancied excellences, and made painfully alive to its spiritual necessities-it will be the wisdom of all Christian preachers to imitate the Great Preacher here, in laying first the foundation of this frame.

(2) The theology of the Old Testament, when stripped of its accidents and reduced to its essence, is one with that of the New Testament-it is spiritual; it is evangelical.

(3) The earthly and the heavenly stages of the kingdom of God are essentially one; the former preparing the way for the latter, and opening naturally into it, as the commencing and consummating stages of the same condition. Thus the connection between them far from being arbitrary, is inherent.

(4) How entirely contrary to the spirit and design of Christianity is that monkish seclusion from society and ascetic solitude which, attractive though it be to a morbid spirituality, is just to do the very thing which our Lord here represents us against the nature of the Christian calling, and rendering observance of His injunctions here impossible. If even a lamp is not lighted to be put under a bushel, but placed conspicuously for the very purpose of giving light to all within reach of its rays, how much less is the sun placed in the heavens in order that men on the earth may walk in darkness? Even so, says our Lord, instead of hiding the light of your Christianity from the dark world around you, bring it out into the view of men, on purpose to let them see it. Much more plainly does this come out in the other figure. As salt must come into actual contact with what is to be seasoned by it, so must Christians, instead of standing at a distance from their fellows, come into contact with them, on purpose to communicate to them their own qualities. Nor does our Lord think it necessary to guard against confounding this with the spirit of religious ostentation, of which He treats sufficiently in the following chapter; because what follows is quite enough to prevent any such perversion of His language: "that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" - not 'see how much superior you are to them,' but 'see what an astonishing change He can Work by the Gospel upon men of every class.' Thus, God is deprived of the testimony He expects from His redeemed and transformed people, when, instead of manifesting before their fellows what He has done for their souls, they shut themselves up-whether systematically or otherwise-or habitually retire within themselves. But:

(5) Not by the preaching or publication of mere truths, are Christians to bear down the opposition and effect the conversion of their fellow-men. Not thus is their light to "shine before men." But it is so to shine that men "may see their good works, and (so) glorify their Father which is in heaven." In order words, Father while it is Christianity which is to carry all before it, it is not the Christianity of books, nor even of mere preaching-much less of an empty profession-but the Christianity of life. "YE (whom I have been pronouncing blessed, as possessors of a blessed character) are the light of the world." Yes: It is humility, not as preached, but as practiced; it is contrition, not us depicted, not as inculcated, but as exemplified; it is meekness manifested; it is spiritual aspiration, not as enjoined, but as beheld in men on whose whole carriage may be seen written Excelsior; it is mercy embodied; it is heart-purity in flesh and blood; it is peace incarnate. This many-sided manifestation of a divine life in men, mixing with their fellows, and of like passions with their fellows, is the divinely ordained specific for arresting the progress of human corruption, diffusing health and sweetness through it, and irradiating it with the fructifying and gladdening beams of heavenly light.


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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-5.html. 1871-8.

The Bible Study New Testament

Your light must shine. Christians allow their light to shine by doing good things which honor God in the eyes of people. People are more impressed by what you do, than by what you say.


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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "The Bible Study New Testament". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/matthew-5.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Let your light so shine.—The English form of the sentence is somewhat misleading, or at least ambiguous. It is not simply, Let your light so shine that men may glorify; but, “Thus, like the lamp on its stand, let your light shine. . . .” The motive to publicity is, however, the direct opposite of the temper which led the Pharisee to his ostentatious prayers and almsgiving; not “to be seen of men,” and win their praise, but to win men, through our use of the light which we know to be not our own, to glorify the Giver of the light. We have at least a partial fulfilment of the command in the impression made on the heathen world by the new life of the Church when they confessed, in spite of all prejudices, “See how these Christians love one another.”

Your Father which is in heaven.—The name was in common use among devout Jews, but its first occurrence in our Lord’s teaching deserves to be noted. The thought of God as a Father was that which was to inspire men not only when engaged in prayer (Matthew 6:9), but in the activity of obedience. (See Note on Matthew 6:9.)


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/matthew-5.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
your light
Proverbs 4:18; Isaiah 58:8; 60:1-3; Romans 13:11-14; Ephesians 5:8; Philippians 2:15,16; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 5:6-8; 1 Peter 2:9; 1 John 1:5-7
that
6:1-5,16; 23:5; Acts 9:36; Ephesians 2:10; 1 Timothy 2:10; 5:10,25; 6:18; Titus 2:7,14; 3:4,7,8,14; Hebrews 10:24; 1 Peter 2:12; 3:1,16
and
Isaiah 61:3; John 15:8; 1 Corinthians 14:25; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 1:24; 2 Thessalonians 1:10-12; 1 Peter 2:12; 4:11,14
your Father
45; 6:9; 23:9; Luke 11:2

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/matthew-5.html.

Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible

Matthew 5:16

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

To glorify God is the highest ambition of angels. The brightest seraph before the throne has no higher aim, no greater happiness, than to bring glory to his name. And yet a poor sinner on earth may glorify God as much, and in some way more, than the brightest angel in the courts of eternal bliss. What different views the eyes of God and the eyes of men take of events passing on the earth. What glory is brought to God by all the victories gained by one country over another? I have thought sometimes that a poor old Prayer of Manasseh , or feeble, decrepit woman, lying on a workhouse pallet, fighting with sin, self and Satan, yet enabled amid all to look to the Lord Jesus, and by a word from his lips overcoming death and hell, though when dead thrust into an cheap coffin, to rot in a pauper"s grave, brings more glory to God than all the exploits of Nelson or Wellington, and that such victories are more glorious than those of Waterloo or Trafalgar.

It is true that the parish officers will not proclaim such a victory; nor will bells ring or cannons roar at such exploits; but the God of heaven and earth may get more glory from such a despised creature, than from all the generals and admirals who have ever drawn up armies in battle, or sunk hostile fleets beneath the wave. Truly does the Lord say, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."

It is indeed astonishing that glory should be brought to his great name by what his people do and suffer upon earth; that their feeble attempts to believe, to love, and to hope in him; to speak well of his name; and to adorn his doctrine in their life and conversation, should redound to his honor and praise. Wondrous indeed is it that a poor, insignificant worm, whom perhaps his fellow-mortal will scarcely deign to look at, or passes by with a shrug of contempt, should add glory to the great God that inhabits eternity, before whom the highest angels and brightest seraphs bow with holy adoration!

Well may we say, "What are all the glorious exploits that men are so proud of, compared with the tribute of glory rendered to God by his suffering saints?" You may feel yourself one of the poorest, vilest, neediest worms of earth; and yet if you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with a living faith, hope in his mercy, love his dear name, and in your vocation adorn his doctrine by a godly, consistent life, you are privileged above princes and nobles, yes, even above crowned heads, and all the glory of Prayer of Manasseh , because you are bringing glory to God.

It matters not what may be your station in life. You may be a servant, master, wife, husband, child; your rank and station may be high or low; but whatever it be, still in it you may bring glory to God. If a servant, by obedience, cleanliness, industry, and attention to the directions of your master or mistress. If a master or mistress, by kindness and liberality to your dependents, and doing all that you can to render the yoke of servitude light. There is not a single Christian who may not glorify God, though in worldly circumstances he be, or seem to be, totally insignificant. Glory is brought to God by those who live and walk in his fear, and more sometimes by the poor than by the rich. Only adorn the doctrine of God in all things, and you will bring glory to God in all things.


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Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on Matthew 5:16". Commentary by J.C.Philpot on select texts of the Bible. http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jcp/matthew-5.html.


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