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But I say unto you . . .
Matthew 5:17-48 

 

In last week's text, Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus taught His disciples about their revolutionary mission. They were, and we are to infiltrate society with the gospel message. Our behavior is to be so radically different that we preserve and enlighten our culture and in doing so, bring glory to God. 

This week we are looking at a lengthy text. In Matthew 5:17-48, Jesus makes a central point and illustrates it with 6 applications. In the previous text, Jesus gave instruction to guide our behavior, in this text, He gives instruction that goes to the heart of a Believer's character.

Some readers of this portion of scripture object to it because Jesus sets a standard so high that it is impossible to reach. But if you will carefully listen to the text, you will detect a pattern. Though the text is lengthy, I am going to take time to read it all today. Please listen prayerfully to the words of our Lord.

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. [18] "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. [19] "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, 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. [20] "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

[21] "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' [22] "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever shall say to his brother, 'Raca,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever shall say, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell. [23] "If therefore you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your offering there before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. [25] "Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, in order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. [26] "Truly I say to you, you shall not come out of there, until you have paid up the last cent. 

[27] "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; [28] but I say to you, that everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart. [29] "And if your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. [30] "And if your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off, and throw it from you; for it is better for you that one of the parts of your body perish, than for your whole body to go into hell. [31] "And it was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce'; [32] but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the cause of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 

[33] "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULfiLL YOUR VOWS TO THE Lord.' [34] "But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, [35] or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. [36] "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. [37] "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is of evil. 

[38] "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' [39] "But I say to you, do not resist him who is evil; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also. [40] "And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. [41] "And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two. [42] "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. 

[43] "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' [44] "But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you [45] in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. [46] "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same? [47] "And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. 
 

Have you ever heard someone downplay a scriptural command because it is in the Old Testament? I've heard it a million times, especially when it comes to God's command for people to tithe.

Is the Old Testament outdated? What about the Ten Commandments? Are they still in effect for today?

Jesus begins this section of His sermon with a statement that should set this record straight. He said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." Further He says that anyone that tries to annul the smallest law will be the least in the Kingdom.

Jesus makes six applications of what He says. Notice that in each case, He expounds on how the Old Testament command applies to those He calls to His revolutionary way of life.

Also, please notice the kind of authority He uses. His phrase "But I say unto you" sets Himself up as THE authority. He doesn't need to cite others, what He says is authoritative because of who He is!

The ancients said, don't commit murder, but Jesus said not to become angry with a person or call them names. Instead, Jesus taught his followers to approach people who are angry with them and try to become reconciled. Not only do Jesus' followers have to take responsibility for their anger, but they have to be concerned about the anger of others.

Wow! Not murdering is one thing, but controlling one's anger and not contributing to the anger of others is another thing entirely.

The Old Testament also said not to commit adultery, but Jesus said, don't even lust after another person, then he uses extreme examples to say that true disciples even remove themselves from the opportunity to lust.

Concerning divorce, Jesus expanded the current ethic of giving a woman a certificate of divorce so she could remarry to the command not to divorce unless there is cause-"unchastity."

Everybody knows that a person shouldn't make false vows, but Jesus says not to make oaths at all. An honest person doesn't have to swear by anything, she just says "yes or no" and her credibility is evident to everyone and she is easily believed.

The Old Testament was clear that retribution could not exceed damages. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Jesus says not to take vengeance at all, instead, He said to do good. He said to turn the other cheek and go the second mile.

Everyone had heard that they should love their neighbor and hate their enemy. Again, a sense of balance is present in that way of thinking. But Jesus said we must love our enemies too.

Jesus takes each case to the ultimate extreme of conduct that is only possible if a person has the highest character. In essence, Jesus is calling his followers to a radical lifestyle. We cannot be satisfied with doing what is expected of us or living decent lives. Someone who follows in Jesus' steps must go beyond trying to be good people. He calls us to be godly people. Men and women of character. He is not asking us to do the "right thing." Jesus commands us to do more than what is expected-more that what is right.

Impact Preaching: A Case for the
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