This Bible Study is part of the "The Gospel of Matthew" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series
So we are not to just "talk the talk." as they say. We are to "walk the walk." We are to live by every Word of God. We are to let Christ's character shine out from us in the way we treat one another, and in the way we worship, serve and obey God and walk with Him. Here in these verses the Son of God is telling us what to do.
This Roderick C. Meredith speaking for the Living Church of God.
We have been going through the book of Matthew. I had the opportunity to teach the Harmony of the Gospels for about thirty years at Ambassador College and I am glad to be able to pick up this series here in an Internet presentation, hoping I can give you at least the highlights of the very Truth,, verse by verse, through the book of Matthew, similar to what we did at Ambassador College. I am going to hit the high spots more than every single verse, but I will try to get the meaning to you very, very clearly. So, open your Bibles. Go get a Bible if you have one. I think you will get a deeper understanding of the teachings of Jesus Christ than perhaps you have ever had—going through it almost verse by verse.
We are in the book of Matthew chapter 5, in what is called the Sermon on the Mount. This is one of the most marvelous, really tremendous and wonderful parts of the Bible. Matthew 5, in fact, is almost like a miniature Bible in describing Christian living.
If you remember, last time we got into chapter five and got into the beatitudes, the blessings, where Christ said "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled" (Matt. 5:6). If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, God is going to bless you. Righteousness is defined back in Psalm 119:172 as keeping God's commandments. And certainly that is what righteousness is; it tells us how to walk with God, how to love God, how to love our neighbor—God's law, God's commandments.
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
So we are not to just "talk the talk." as they say. We are to "walk the walk." We are to live by every Word of God. We are to let Christ's character shine out from us in the way we treat one another, and in the way we worship, serve and obey God and walk with Him. Here in these verses the Son of God is telling us what to do. This is a passage the entire Christian world, except for a few Church of God people. Jesus said:
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill."
As certain commentaries admit, the word "fulfill" means "to do" or "to fill up." Christ did "fill it up." He did "fill to the full." He did set us an example that we should follow—as 1 Peter 2:21 tells us. We are to follow Christ's example. He is the light. He did show us how to live.
"For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle [one little tiny part of the Law of God] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled."
It is all going to have to be fulfilled in those who continue to live because the wages of sin is death. Those who do not obey God's law are not going to be around. Jesus said, through His Apostle John, sin is the transgression of the Law (1 John 3:4). And of course sin is breaking this Law—and the wages, the reward, for that sin is death. So all those who continue living are going to have to keep this Law. It is going to be fulfilled. And it is going to be fulfilled, not just because Christ did it, but because we do it and because He does it through us.
A lot of ministers in the world will say you can't keep the Law. And that is true; I can't keep God's spiritual law of and by myself, and neither can you. But Christ in us can keep that Law, and He will. And I repeat over and over my favorite verse, which answers all those questions. Many other parts of the Bible tell us the same thing, but in Galatians 2:20 the Apostle Paul said: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live [not the old self, not the ego—that is the Greek word used there for I], but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Christ lives in us if we surrender, if we are baptized, if we receive the Holy Spirit after REAL repentance and baptism and giving our lives to God. Then He will begin to live His life in us. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever" as it tells us back in Hebrews 13:8. He is the same. He will live the same life in us that He lived 1,900 years ago.
"Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments…"
Remember that word, "WHOEVER" Christ is not saying "just Him or His disciples." Jesus did not "do it all" for us. He gave His LIFE for us; gave His shed blood to reconcile us. But after that, He does it THROUGH us! We have to walk this way. We have to keep God's commandments! WE have to learn to grow in grace and knowledge and reflect Christ's character.
"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…"
Which commandment do you think is the least?
"…but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
And very frankly, other parts of the New Testament show us we won't even be in the Kingdom of heaven if we continue to break those commandments. We are going to have to repent of that.
"…but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Please understand. If you do and teach the commandments of God—the Ten Commandments, the way of God—you will be called "great" in the Kingdom of God. Where does that leave all of those Protestant ministers with all of their tricky arguments, trying to do away with and destroy, in effect, the Law of God? That is awful! They will not break that law. That law will break them. That law will break anyone who tries to do away with it. It is a living, moving law, just like the law of gravity. You cannot do away with it one way or another.
"For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."
So your righteousness has to go above just the letter of the law. And of course the Pharisees did not even keep that perfectly, as Jesus showed elsewhere. They added all kinds of human traditions and then they broke the traditions and their law.
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder [and that is true; you better not murder], and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause…"
When you just start getting angry, you have this feeling of bitterness. Sometimes you may be bitter against people, perhaps people of another race who you try to put down like dogs and treat cheaply. Some men treat women cheaply. God says you will pay for that. And frankly, the wages of sin is death. You are not to do that. You are not to have bitter or selfish or rotten feelings toward others.
"…shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' ["a cursed wretch" as it can be translated] shall be in danger of the council [in other words the Sanhedrin, which could pronounce the death penalty]. But whoever says, 'You fool!' ["completely worthless" or "idiot" as the expression can mean] shall be in danger of hell fire ["Gehenna" is the Greek word is here, meaning the "lake of fire"]."
You are in danger of the lake of fire if you look down with disdain on any other human being, because all human beings are made in the image of God. Every one of us is made in God's image—to be God's child, to be God's son, to bear God's name forever. Even the spirit of murder is sin. That is what Jesus is showing—that such disdain, such hate, such looking down upon is wrong!
"Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
Don't come before God with some offer, some prayer or anything until you get right with your brother—until you forgive one another. Unless you forgive others, God will not forgive you.
"Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison."
Stay out of worldly courts if you possibly can. Often you will get your shirt taken right off of you with legal fees and everything else. Learn to make peace with your neighbor.
"Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'"
That's right! You are not ever, ever to commit adultery. Marriage is a picture of Christ and the Church. It should teach us everlasting love, kindness and loyalty—loyalty to God and loyalty to our mate in the covenant that we made when we were married. If we violate that covenant we are violating something fundamental that God set in motion. What God has bound together, let not man put asunder, Jesus said—and you are not to put that asunder by committing adultery.
"But I say to you [here comes Jesus MAGNIFYING God's Law again, making it more full, more complete] I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."
If a man even starts looking on a woman and mentally undressing her, mentally lusting for her, that's wrong. Yet we know that this entire Western society, particularly here in the United States, is full of this lust. All of our TV shows, especially the ads, constantly picture half-naked or almost totally naked women, to sell everything from toothpicks to motorboats. That's the way it is—you know that. The whole society is geared toward creating lust—and that is wrong. This society has to be spanked, chastened by the great God. God is going to intervene, but you individually can come out of that. You have to learn not to look on a woman to lust after her. And for women, the same applies. My wife and I have kidded sometimes in the past about the command that the Sabbath was made for man. That, of course, means you women don't have to keep it, right? That's ridiculous! God is talking about mankind. So all these laws apply to all of us. You are not to look after another person and lust for him or her—that is sin, breaking the great Law of Almighty God.
"If your right eye [any part of you] causes you to sin [if your television habit causes you to lust, CUT IT OFF!—GET RID OF IT, whatever it is], pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell."
He is saying to be ready to give up whatever it is that is near to you. He is not saying to mutilate your body—this was an expression in the Hebrew. My wife is as dear to me as my right arm; this does not mean I should cut my right arm off—that would not help my wife. But association with friends who are wrong and are sinful-friends who are cursing, telling dirty jokes, are wild—cut off that association if it causes you to sin, if it causes you to turn away from God. If watching television does that, either cut it way back or cut it off. Stop going to so many movies. Stop getting involved in whatever it is that causes you to water down the way of God in your life.
"Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.'"
That is what the ancient Jews allowed.
"But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality…"
The original Greek word here is pornea, meaning sexual intercourse before marriage or gross immorality after marriage—continuing in a pattern of sin. You could put away your mate for reasons like that, Jesus said.
"…whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
Once a man or a woman gets used to marriage, he or she is probably going to go get another mate later on. And we see that in the United States—the gross immorality in our society, caused by people who leave their mate and then go sleeping around. They are already used to it, so they just keep right on. We understand that. Jesus understood that. He spoke very clearly.
"…causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery."
That is a POWERFUL thing! We don't follow that in our society today—do we? That is powerful—and we have to learn the sanctity of marriage and OBEY this command. How hard it is! But we have to obey it with the help of Almighty God.
"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.'"
Men used to be allowed to swear, but with the Holy Spirit now helping us, giving us strength, we should not swear to bind ourselves by an oath.
"But I say to you, do not swear AT ALL: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King."
Have you ever heard someone say "Oh Jerusalem"? Why would they do that? It is almost like the devil puts it in their mind to use that city, most of them have never been to, know nothing about, but somehow they will use that in an oath. Satan the Devil tries to get us to just blow our top, to say self-willed things. Jesus said that we should not do that.
"Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one."
It is from Satan the devil. My friends, if you are called into a court of this world and they ask "Will you solemnly swear?" you should say, "No, sir; I will affirm". In the United States, and I believe Canada also, we are allowed to do that. We can affirm; we should not swear. Learn not to swear and learn not to turn aside from God. The living Jesus Christ clearly explains in His Word this wonderful way of life. We are not to lust, not to hate; we are to love all human beings, to make peace with all human beings and to keep the law of God—the law which tells us HOW to love God and HOW to love our neighbor.
I am going to stop right here in this section about swearing, and we will continue explaining this marvelous Sermon on the Mount next time.
This is Roderick C. Meredith for the Living Church of God.