Matthew 5




The Beatitudes (5:1-12)

(Luke 6:20-23)

1-2 Here begins the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which Matthew records in Chapters 5-7. Here Jesus sets forth how we ought to live. He spoke on this occasion mainly to His twelve disciples, but others listened also and were amazed at His teaching (Matthew 7:28).

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit. This is Jesus’ first recorded teaching, and it is perhaps His most important teaching of all. Because without being poor in spirit, no one can enter the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN. The world teaches that in order to be blessed, one must be powerful, rich, self-sufficient. But this is a great mistake (see Luke 6:24 and comment). Jesus teaches that to be truly blessed one must first become poor (Luke 6:20). In order to be rich in things of the Spirit, one must become poor in things of the flesh.

To be “poor in spirit” means to empty oneself. Before we can be filled with God’s blessings, we must first be emptied. Every man is by nature filled with selfishness and pride. This is called our “old man” or old self (Romans 6:6). Jesus first condemns our old sinful self, and then He saves those who are poor in spirit. Therefore, to be poor in spirit also means that we confess we are worthy of condemnation. It means that we confess that we are dead in … transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1).

Therefore, right from the beginning we must understand that it is impossible to live the Christian life and to follow the teaching of Jesus by our own strength. We are unworthy; we are condemned; we are dead. If we think we are worthy, if we think that we can follow Christ by our own strength, then we are not being poor in spirit.

Anyone who is not poor in spirit has not met God. If we truly know God, we will become poor in spirit. God is so great, so powerful, so holy, so good, that once we know Him we will consider ourselves poor and wretched by comparison.

To be poor in spirit does not mean to be shy or fearful. To be poor in spirit is not a natural quality; it is a spiritual quality. Indeed, all these beatitudes mentioned in verses 3-10 represent spiritual qualities. To be poor in spirit means to be inwardly humble. Many people say with their lips: “I am weak, I can do nothing,” but in their hearts they don’t believe it. They only say it as an excuse for doing nothing for God. They only pretend to be humble.

God accepts only those who truly humble themselves before Him. God said: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and to revive the heart of the contrite” (Isaiah 57:15). God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34; 1 Peter 5:5).

Peter, Jesus’ chief disciple, was by nature a bold and confident man. But when He first recognized who Jesus was, he fell on his knees and exclaimed, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). The great Apostle Paul was also a man who was poor in spirit (see 1 Corinthians 2:1-5; 2 Corinthians 3:5; 4:7; Philippians 3:7-9). And finally Jesus Himself, even though He was God, became poor in spirit for our sakes (see Philippians 2:5-8 and comment).

Therefore, let us remember that in God’s sight we have nothing to boast about. We cannot boast of our caste, our name, our education, our skill, our wealth. All these things are worthless and vain. We can bring nothing to God. We can only come to God as empty earthen vessels. As we come to Him, let us pray that in His mercy He might fill us with spiritual blessings. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (1 Peter 5:6).

4 Blessed are those who mourn. The word “blessed” means “happy.” So Jesus is saying: “Happy are those who mourn.”

Jesus’ teaching is the opposite of the world’s teaching. The world says, “Don’t mourn. Escape from sorrow. Seek happiness.” But Jesus says: “In order to be truly happy, one must first mourn.”

What does Jesus mean when He says that we must mourn? His meaning is this: we must mourn for our sins. He is talking about spiritual sorrow, not worldly sorrow. Before we can receive the joy of SALVATION, we must first mourn for our sin. Such mourning leads to repentance. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death (2 Corinthians 7:10).

How often do we mourn for our sin? We usually do not mourn; instead, we call our sins “mistakes.” But God calls them sins. Until we begin to look at our sins in the same way God looks at them, we will not truly repent.

Those who mourn will be comforted. When we repent of our sins, Christ will comfort us. We look at ourselves and mourn. We look at Christ and find hope and peace and joy. Without sorrow there can be no joy. Without true repentance, there can be no salvation.

5 Blessed are the meek. Again, this is the opposite of the world’s teaching. The world says: “If you want to inherit the earth, get money, get power, get fame. Be strong, be proud. Put yourself forward.” But Jesus says the opposite: “Be meek.” Only the meek will inherit the earth.

Worldly men cannot understand the teaching of Christ. They cannot understand Christians. Our principles are completely different from the principles of the world. It is not possible for those who belong to the world to be of one mind with those who belong to Christ.

The first beatitude, being poor in spirit, means to be humble before God. This third beatitude, meekness, means to be humble before men. That is even more difficult. When God calls us sinners, we can accept it. But if our neighbor calls us a sinner, that is more difficult to accept.

Jesus gave us an example of meekness. He said, “… learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). This meekness or gentleness is not a natural quality; it is a spiritual quality. It can come only from the Holy Spirit. It is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:23). Only when we are born anew of the Spirit and receive a new spiritual nature can we possess true meekness (see John 3:3,5 and comment).

Some people think that to be meek means to be weak. But this is not true. A truly meek person is spiritually strong in the Lord.

How can a person become meek? First he must become poor in spirit (verse 3). Then he must mourn for his unworthiness and sin (verse 4). Then he must place his FAITH in Jesus. When a person does that, the Holy Spirit will enter him and make him new (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Spirit will give him a spirit of meekness.

There are five signs of meekness. First, a meek person does not seek his own rights, his own advantage. Second, a meek person does not become offended and hurt when another person wrongs him. A meek person doesn’t care about his honor. He doesn’t try to defend himself, to make excuses, to hide his sins. Third, a meek person never tries to take revenge (see Romans 12:19; 1 Peter 2:19-23 and comments). Fourth, a meek person is always willing to learn. And fifth, a meek person does not try to have his own way. He does not seek his own will. He submits to the will of God and to the will of others (Ephesians 5:21). He gives his life and all that he has to God; he keeps nothing for himself.

And when a person gives up everything to God, what does he get? The earth! Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. This is what Paul meant when he said he was sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything (2 Corinthians 6:10). If we are children of God, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).

What earth shall we inherit? The new earth in the kingdom of heaven (Revelation 21:1-4). This present earth and all the proud people who oppose God’s will shall pass away (1 John 2:17). Only the meek will be left to inherit the new earth in the kingdom of heaven (Psalm 37:10-11). For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).

6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for RIGHTEOUSNESS. Men of the world hunger for pleasure and happiness, but they are not satisfied. If a man seeks for happiness he will not find it. But if a man seeks first for righteousness, he will find both righteousness and true happiness. He will be filled. He will be fully satisfied.

Men hunger for happiness but remain unhappy. Why? Because of sin. In order to become free from unhappiness, one must become free from sin. That is, one must become RIGHTEOUS.

Many Christians, even, do not understand this teaching. Such Christians seek for joy, peace, spiritual power, and other blessings; they hunger and thirst for these things. But Jesus said, “Hunger for righteousness first of all, and then all these other things shall be given” (see Matthew 6:33).

To be righteous means to be holy, to be near God, to be like Christ, to be filled with the Holy Spirit. In order to be righteous we must be free of sin, because sin separates us from God and blocks the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives (see Ephesians 4:30 and comment).

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. A person who hasn’t eaten for three days hungers for food. Our hunger for righteousness must be like that. If we hunger a little, God will give us a little. If we hunger much, God will give us much. If we come to God hungry, He has promised to fill us. Jesus said, “… whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). As soon as we come to Jesus hungering for righteousness, He will give it. And to give us righteousness is essentially the same thing as to give us salvation. We become righteous in God’s eyes through faith in Christ (see Romans 5:1; Galatians 2:1516 and comments). We are no longer under condemnation (see Romans 8:1; General Article: Way of Salvation).

We must keep on hungering for righteousness. As we continue to hunger, God will continue to fill us. We shall become more and more holy; we shall manifest more and more of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another (John 1:16). Christ’s desire is that we be filled to the measure of the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19).

A question arises here: How righteous must we be in order to be justified by God, to be saved? The answer is: We must be 100 percent righteous. Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect” (verse 48). People say two opposite things about salvation. Some say it is easy to obtain salvation; others say it is impossible. Both statements are true! It is impossible to obtain salvation by our own righteousness, by our own effort. But it is easy to obtain salvation, because through faith in Christ we receive Christ’s own righteousness. And because of His righteousness, because of His sacrifice for our sins, we obtain salvation (see Mark 10:45 and comment). There is only one thing we must do to obtain the righteousness of Christ: We must hunger for it.

Let us do nothing that will reduce our hunger for righteousness. Let us not partake in worldly pleasures that distract our minds and hearts from seeking God. If we eat sweets before a meal, what happens to our appetite? It is decreased. Sweets are not evil in themselves, but if they decrease our appetite for real food, they do us harm. Worldly “sweets” are the same; they reduce our hunger for God and for righteousness (see Luke 6:25 and comment). Rather, we must increase our appetite for righteousness by reading God’s word, by fellowship with other believers, and by prayer. We must continually pray for righteousness. Because without righteousness we cannot stand before God. Without righteousness, we cannot be saved.

7 Blessed are the merciful. These eight beatitudes do not describe what we should do; rather they describe what we should be. First we must “be”; then we can “do.” First we must be Christians; then we can act like Christians. We are Christians by God’s GRACE; it is a gift of God. Having become Christians, having become sons of God, we receive through the Holy Spirit the power to lead a Christian life and to obey Jesus’ commands. Without having Christ’s Holy Spirit within us, we could never follow these teachings. In the same way, through the working of the Holy Spirit within us, we must first be merciful in our hearts; then we shall be able to show mercy in our actions. Mercy, or kindness, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). Without the Holy Spirit we cannot be truly merciful.

True mercy always manifests itself in acts of mercy. Acts of mercy are the proof of our mercy, just as obedience to Christ is the proof of our faith (see James 2:17 and comment). If we do not show mercy, we are not merciful. To be merciful and to show mercy must always go together. To be a Christian and to act like a Christian must always go together. Those who do not act like Christians outwardly cannot be true Christians inwardly.22 And those who are not true Christians inwardly will not be able to act like Christians outwardly.23 What we are and what we do cannot be separated.

To show mercy does not mean that we ignore someone’s sin. That is worldly mercy. God never ignores sin. He cannot tolerate even the smallest sin—the kind of sin we like to call a “mistake.” He punishes every sin, and the punishment is the death sentence.

This is why Christ, when He took our sins upon Himself, had to die. This is how great God’s mercy is toward us, that in order to save us He gave His own Son to die in our place.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. If we show mercy to others, God will show mercy to us. If we do not show mercy to others, God will not show mercy to us (see Matthew 6:14-15).

First, God shows mercy to man. Not one of us could have been saved without God’s mercy. While we were still sinners, God forgave us and saved us (Romans 5:8). While we were still unmerciful, God showed us mercy. However, after we become Christians, we must begin showing mercy to others. We received forgiveness from God even though we did not deserve forgiveness. In the same way, we must forgive others even though they do not deserve it. If we do not show mercy to others, God will take away His mercy from us (see Matthew 18:23-35). And, some say, if God takes away His mercy, He takes away our salvation. For if God stops forgiving us, how shall we be saved? (See General Article: Can We Lose Our Salvation?)

The greatest example of mercy is Jesus Himself. In order to show mercy to us, He died for us. He even forgave the men who crucified Him (Luke 23:34). In the same way, Stephen, the first Christian to be killed because of his faith, forgave his killers (Acts 7:60). When our neighbor sins against us, let us remember the example of Jesus and Stephen.

If we do not forgive others, God’s Holy Spirit is not in us. And if the Holy Spirit is not in us, we do not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). If we want to remain in God’s mercy, we must continue to be merciful to others, that is to forgive them. On the day of judgment, when we must all stand before God, we shall surely need mercy. And on that day, if we have shown mercy to others, God will show mercy to us.

8 Blessed are the pure in heart. In God’s sight our heart is most important. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He looks to see if our hearts are pure.

First, to be pure in heart means to have a single mind. We must not be double-minded (Psalm 86:11; James 1:7-8).

Second, to be pure in heart means to be holy, without sin, without love of self. The person who is pure in heart loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the greatest commandment (see Mark 12:30 and comment).

Only those who are pure in heart, that is, who are holy, will see God (Hebrews 12:14). In order to enter the kingdom of God (kingdom of heaven), we must be holy. But to be holy, we need God’s help. King David wrote in Psalm 51:10: Create in me a pure heart, O God. Only by God’s Holy Spirit living in us can our hearts be made pure.

If we come to God, poor in spirit (verse 3) and hungering for righteousness (verse 6), He will purify our hearts. If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us (James 4:8). He will prepare our hearts so that we might be able to enter His presence. God will carry to completion the work He has begun in us (see Philippians 1:6 and comment). The main work of salvation is done by God, but we must do our part (see Philippians 2:12-13 and comment). James tells us: Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:8). We must flee from sin; we must resist the devil (James 4:7). We must put to death the works of our sinful nature (see Romans 6:12; 8:13; Colossians 3:5 and comments). These things we ourselves must do; this is our part in our salvation.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers. The peacemakers mentioned here are those who make PEACE between man and God. Many people call themselves “peacemakers,” such as presidents, kings, prime ministers. They talk about peace; they make peace treaties. But in the world there is no peace. There is no peace because of man’s sin. Worldly peacemakers try to make peace by covering over sin, by trying to make arrangements with evil men. But the true spiritual peacemakers try to remove the injustice, the pain, the sin that is in the world. They help men find peace with God. This is true peace.

To be a peacemaker, we must first find peace with God ourselves. We can only find peace through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1). To find true peace we must be like those described in these beatitudes: we must be poor in spirit, meek, hungry for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart (verses 3-8). All of these beatitudes go together. We cannot have one quality without the others.

How do we make peace? We make peace by loving our neighbor as ourselves (see Mark 12:31 and comment). Love is the main weapon of the peacemaker. Paul wrote: If your enemy is hungry, feed him (Romans 12:20). Jesus said: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (verses 44-45). Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (see John 1:12; Galatians 3:26; 4:7 and comments).

The greatest peacemaker was Jesus (Ephesians 2:17; Colossians 1:19-20). He said to His disciples, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). Jesus has sent us to be peacemakers. We are ambassadors for Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:20 and comment).

However, we must not forget another truth. On another occasion Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). Jesus not only came to reconcile men with God. He also came to separate the good from the evil. He will be the judge on the day of judgment (Matthew 25:31-32; John 5:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Jesus brings peace to those who turn to God in faith; but He brings the sword of judgment to those who refuse to obey and worship God.

Christ came to earth as a peacemaker. Yet He suffered and was killed by His enemies. In the same way, we too, even though we are peacemakers, will suffer opposition and persecution from the enemies of Christ (2 Timothy 3:12). Jesus said, “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:20). We cannot make peace with those that oppose Christ.

10 Blessed are those who are persecuted (see 1 Peter 3:14; 4:14). Like the poor in spirit in verse 3, theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Men are persecuted for many reasons, such as sin, foolishness, bad habits. But only those persecuted because of righteousness are blessed.

Sometimes we bring trouble on ourselves unnecessarily. We think we are righteous, but in fact we are suffering because of our mistakes or lack of knowledge. Let us be certain that what we are doing will bring honor to God. Only if we suffer for bringing honor to God will we be blessed.

According to the New Testament, we must suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). If we do not suffer some kind of persecution, we are probably not living for God’s glory. If we love God, the world will hate us (John 15:18-19). Worldly men24 will always oppose righteous men. Righteous men, that is, those who have received Christ’s righteousness, are like lights in the darkness. Worldly men hate the light, because the light exposes their evil deeds (John 3:20).

Many worldly men are called “righteous,” “honorable,” “excellent” by other worldly men. But this is worldly talk. Such men are not persecuted by the world; they belong to the world. They receive honor from the world. They have their reward (see Luke 6:26 and comment). The truly righteous person is not of the world; he is a citizen of the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, worldly men persecute him.

11-12 When He had finished describing the eight beatitudes, Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “Blessed are you …”.Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” If we suffer because of Christ, we will be blessed.

Therefore, let each follower of Christ be prepared to suffer insults, slander, and persecution. And when it comes, what must the believer do? Rejoice and be glad (see Acts 5:40-41). We shall be counted with the prophets of the Old Testament, who also suffered persecution (2 Chronicles 36:15-16). We shall have the honor of sharing in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10).

What do we usually do when someone wrongs us? We get angry. We oppose that person. We seek revenge. But Jesus says we are not to do that.

Therefore, we hide our anger inside. We remain inwardly bitter and angry. But Jesus says that is also wrong.

Since anger is wrong, we try to hide our anger even from ourselves. As a result, we become depressed, hurt, discouraged. But that is not right either. When someone wrongs us or persecutes us because of Christ, there is only one thing Jesus tells us to do: rejoice. Rejoice and be glad.

No one naturally rejoices when trouble comes to him. Only one who has the Holy Spirit within him can rejoice in persecution. Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). God allows persecution to come upon us to test whether we are being led by the Holy Spirit, to test our faith (1 Peter 1:6-7). If we respond to persecution with anger or depression, then we know that we are not filled with the Holy Spirit.

When an orange or grape or some other fruit is squeezed, juice comes out. When we are “squeezed” by persecution, what kind of juice flows out from us? The bitter juice of anger? Or the sweet juice of joy, which comes from the Holy Spirit within us?

Why rejoice? Because great is your reward in heaven (verse 12). How great is our reward? It is so great that it cannot be measured. Our reward is the kingdom of heaven itself (verse 10). Our reward is to live in that kingdom, to see God (verse 8), to be sons of God (verse 9). Paul wrote: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 4:17).

God is a loving heavenly Father, and all who believe in Christ are His children. God wants to reward us. He wants us to share His glory. God is not obliged to reward us; rather, He chooses to do so according to His own will. He rewards us because of His love for us.

We are God’s children. It is our duty to obey our Father. It is our duty to be people such as are described in these eight beatitudes. If we, through the Holy Spirit, possess these eight qualities described in verses 3-10, then we shall be truly blessed.


Salt and Light (5:13-16)

(Mark 14:21; Luke 14:33)

13 Christians are the salt of the earth. Salt purifies. Salt preserves. Salt prevents decay. If you put salt on meat, it can be kept for months without refrigeration and it will not spoil.

The world is like meat. It is decaying. There is evil in the world. Men disobey God. They become spiritually decayed, like bad meat. Again and again the Jewish nation disobeyed God, and God sent prophets to call the Jews to repentance. The prophets were like salt. The people that heeded their words were purified and cleansed. We Christians are called to be salt, like the prophets of the Old Testament.25

Salt has another quality: it is very salty. A tiny amount of salt has a big effect. A little pinch of salt can make a large amount of water salty. Salt makes a difference. Salt is effective. We Christians must be like salt; we must make a difference in the world. We must change the “taste” of the world, just as salt changes the taste of water. And from the eight beatitudes listed in verses 3-10, we can see what the “taste” of a Christian should be.

We must ask ourselves: “Do we taste like salt? Do we taste different from the world around us?” If we lose our taste, we are worthless. We are false Christians. According to Luke 14:35, savorless salt isn’t even good for manure.26 It is good for nothing. So it is with savorless Christians, that is, Christians who do not have the Holy Spirit. If a Christian does not have the Holy Spirit, there is no way he can become “tasty,” or “salty” (see Mark 9:50 and comment). Our taste comes from the Holy Spirit.

Many people talk about progress. All countries want progress. But what kind of “progress” is needed? Christian progress. More than roads and factories and conveniences, people need God. They need peace, love, forgiveness, salvation. In other words, they need spiritual salt. Each Christian is like a grain of salt. It is only believers in Christ who can bring about true progress, spiritual progress. But we can only do so if we remain salty.

14-15 Christians are not only salt; they are also the light of the world. It is the Holy Spirit in us that gives light; the light is Christ’s light, not our own. We are lights because Christ was light (see John 8:12).

The world is in darkness, the darkness of sin, ignorance, and separation from God. We, too, were once darkness, but now are light (Ephesians 5:8; Philippians 2:15).

We are lights to show men and women the way to God, the way to salvation. We shine forth our light by our witness, by our example, both in word and in deed. The eight qualities mentioned in verses 3-10 and the eight fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) are like lights.

Our behavior must be different from the behavior of other people, just as light is different from darkness. And others must be able to see our light. Our church must be like a city on a hill (verse 14).

Only if people follow our light (the light of Christ) will they find salvation. They can only escape from darkness by following our light. God sent Christ into the world to save men and women (John 3:17). And as God sent Christ, so Christ sends us (John 17:18; 20:21). Therefore, let us not hide our light. Just as saltless salt is useless, so is light useless that is hid under a bowl. A Christian whose light does not shine is a useless Christian. He is like a fruit tree that bears no fruit (John 15:5-6). No taste. No light. No fruit. Such a person cannot be a true Christian.

Let us constantly ask ourselves: “Is my light shining? Is there oil in my lamp—the oil of the Holy Spirit?” Without the Holy Spirit, our light cannot shine. Oil gets used up. We need to keep adding oil to our lamps every day. We need to remain filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).

16 How can others know if we have the Holy Spirit? They can see our good deeds. Our light is manifest by good deeds. But our light must glorify God, not ourselves. The purpose of our light, of our good deeds, is not to gain praise for ourselves, but to gain praise for God. Remember, the light is not our own. The light is God’s Holy Spirit within us. In everything we must give Him all the glory.


The Fulfillment of the Law (5:17-20)

17 Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets—that is, the teachings of the Old Testament.27 He came to fulfill them. He came to fulfill both the law and the writings of the prophets.

How did Jesus fulfill the law? By obeying it fully. The Jews did not accept Jesus. They accused Him of breaking the Jewish law. But their charge was false. It was they who broke the law; they followed it outwardly, but not in their hearts. Jesus showed that the law must be followed not only in outward action, but also in inward attitude.

How did Jesus fulfill the words of the Old Testament prophets? In this way: all their prophecies about the Messiah, the Savior, were fulfilled in His own life. The prophets prophesied that Jesus would die for men’s sins. He would take the punishment for their sins (see Isaiah 53:5-6; Mark 10:45 and comment). Christ would make His life a guilt offering (Leviticus 5:14-16; Isaiah 53:10); that is, He would lay down His life for us in order to take away our guilt. All this came true when Jesus died on the cross. Christ offered Himself as the final sacrifice for sin; no other sacrifice is needed. Through His death all who believe in Him will escape punishment and receive salvation. In this way Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament.

18 Nothing will disappear from the law until everything is accomplished—that is, until everything written in the Old Testament about Jesus is accomplished. Before Jesus’ death and resurrection, the entire law was in effect. But after Jesus died and rose from the dead, part of the law became unnecessary. That part didn’t “disappear”; it merely ceased to be in effect. The part of the law no longer in effect is the “ceremonial” part of the law. The Jewish law included many regulations about sacrifices and the removal of guilt, and about purifying oneself from sin. These rules are no longer necessary, because Christ has now come and removed our sin and guilt (see Colossians 2:13-14; Hebrews 8:12-13 and comments).

19 Do Christians have to obey any of the law? Yes, they do. They must obey the main commandments of the law, the so-called “moral law.” These main commandments that make up the moral law have not been canceled; we must obey them.

Back in the time of Moses, God made a COVENANT with the Jews in which He said to them that if they obeyed His law He would protect them and be their God (Exodus 19:5-6). God wrote His law on two tablets of stone (Exodus 31:18). But when God sent Christ into the world, He made a new covenant28 with men. God said: “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts” (Jeremiah 31:3133; Hebrews 8:8-10). “I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 8:12).

Now, through the Holy Spirit, God gives us help in obeying His commandments. We are not free of the “moral law.” Christ did not come to abolish the law; He came to give us the power to obey it.

The “moral law” is that part of the Jewish law that deals with our daily behavior. The moral law includes such commands as the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17), and the commandments to love God and to love our neighbor (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18; Mark 12:29-31). Indeed, the two great commandments to love God and neighbor are the summation of the entire law (Matthew 22:40; Galatians 5:14). The Apostle Paul wrote that love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:10). If we obey the two great commandments fully, we have obeyed the entire law.

Therefore, in this verse 19, when Matthew writes the words “command” or “commandment,” we must understand that he is talking about the “moral law,” not the “ceremonial law.” We must obey all the commands of the moral law, both great and small, and we must teach others to do likewise.

20 The Pharisees and teachers of the law were the most religious of the Jews. The Pharisees were the strictest Jewish sect, and the teachers of the law knew the most about all the rules that had to be obeyed. How could anyone be more righteous than the Pharisees and the teachers of the law?

Jesus’ meaning was this: Outwardly these Jewish leaders appeared righteous, but inwardly they were not. They obeyed the law outwardly so that men would praise them (Luke16:14-15). They followed the little rules, but neglected the important ones (see Matthew 23:23-24; Luke 11:42). They forgot that God doesn’t look on man’s outer appearance but on his heart. The hearts of the Pharisees and Jewish teachers were far from God; their hearts were cold. They had no love, mercy, humility. They were deceiving others; they were hypocrites.

They were also deceiving themselves. They were putting confidence in their own righteousness. They said to themselves: “We are good and holy. We are not like other men” (see Luke 18:9-14). They thought, “God will accept us.” But in thinking this they were making a great mistake. In God’s sight their “righteousness” was false.

That is why Jesus taught that unless our righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven; that is, we will not gain salvation. No one can ever enter heaven by his or her own righteousness. We are not saved by man’s righteousness ; we are saved only by Christ’s righteousness. We are not saved by our own effort and work; we are saved only by Christ’s work, that is, His sacrifice for us. We are not saved because we are worthy. We are saved only by God’s grace (see Galatians 2:15-16; Ephesians 2:8-9 and comments).

Because we have received such grace from God, we must live lives pleasing to God. If we have received the Holy Spirit, we will manifest the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Matthew5:3-10; Galatians 5:2223). If we do not manifest the Spirit’s fruit, the Spirit is not in us. And if the Spirit is not in us, we are not of Christ (Romans 8:9). We are not true Christians. We are not saved.

Let every person examine himself.


Murder (5:21-26)

(Luke 12:57-59)

21 In the remainder of Chapter 5, Jesus gives six examples of the teaching of the Jewish leaders. Then following each example, Jesus gives His own teaching. The Jews’ teaching concerned man’s outward behavior. Jesus’ teaching concerned man’s heart. He taught that we must not only follow the law literally; we must also follow the spirit of the law, that is, the inner meaning of the law.

The law said, “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13). Its outward meaning is: “You shall not kill the body.”

22 Jesus showed that there was a deeper meaning in that command. He said, “Do not desire to kill.” That is, we must not hate another person, we must not desire to harm or hurt another person. In God’s sight that is like killing him. We must not despise and condemn and insult another person. That is the same as killing his honor, his reputation.

Raca was an Aramaic word meaning “silly” or “dumb.” The Sanhedrin was the main Jewish governing body. It also was like a court. Someone who insulted another person could be brought before the Sanhedrin.

According to Jesus’ teaching, to say “You fool” was even worse. To say “You fool” to someone is to have complete contempt for that person. A person who does this is in danger of going to hell.

This teaching does not mean that we must never correct or rebuke anyone. Those in authority, such as parents, teachers, and pastors, must correct and discipline those under them. If our brother sins against us, we must tell him (Matthew 18:15). But we must never despise or hate a person. If someone does something foolish, we can call his work foolish, but we must not call him a fool.

Men do foolish things. It is foolish to disobey God. It is foolish to reject Christ. It is foolish to love this world. It was foolish for the Pharisees and teachers of the law to trust in their own righteousness. In Matthew Chapter 23, Jesus severely rebuked them for doing so. Yet at the same time, He loved them. He had come to die for them. He told them the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Paul wrote: Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently (Galatians 6:1). When we rebuke another person, our purpose must be to restore that person, and we must do it in love, not in anger. We must be angry with the sin, but not with the sinner. Paul said, In your anger do not sin (Ephesians 4:26). We must be angry with sin because God is angry with sin (Romans 1:18). But we must not get angry with the sinner. If we do, we ourselves will be sinning; we too will be subject to JUDGMENT, God’s final judgment.

23-24 Not only must we not murder, not only must we not be angry with our brother or despise him, but we also must not let any personal disagreement or misunderstanding remain between us. We must remove the bad spirit between us and replace it with the spirit of love and forgiveness. We must do this before offering our gift at the alter.29

Jesus’ meaning is this: Before we come to God to worship and pray and offer gifts, we must confess and remove sinful feelings against our brother. If we have wronged our brother in any way, we must first make that right. If we have an unforgiving spirit toward our brother, we must first forgive him (see Mark 11:25). Only then will God accept our offerings and hear our prayers. In Psalm 66:18 it is written: If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. To treat our brother without love, or even to think unloving thoughts, is a sin. Before we come to worship, pray, and offer gifts to God, we must first remove the sin in our hearts (see 1 Samuel 15:22; Hosea 6:6; Mark 12:33 and comment).

25-26 The judge in verse 25 is God. God demands that we pay up to the last penny; that is, He demands that we obey every command. And one of His main commands is to love our neighbor and even to love our enemy (verse 44). Let us examine our hearts. Is there anyone we do not love?

At any time we could die, and then we will have to stand before the great Judge. What will we say to Him? “I have believed; I have worshiped and offered sacrifices; I have given money; I have done much work for the church.” But then what will the Judge say to us? He will say: “How is your heart? Is your heart pure? Why is there anger in your heart? Why have you not loved your brother? Why have you not forgiven him? You may not enter my kingdom.” Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).


Adultery (5:27-30)

(Matthew 18:8-9; Mark 9:43-48)

27-28 Like the command not to murder (verse 21), the command not to commit adultery is one of the ten commandments of the Old Testament (Exodus 20:14). But Jesus taught that the desire to commit murder or adultery is as bad as actually doing it. He taught that sin begins in the heart (see Matthew 15:19). Many people obey most of the ten commandments outwardly, but in their hearts they have sinful desires. For example, many people can say, “I have obeyed the first nine commandments”; but they cannot say, “I have obeyed the tenth commandment: You shall not covet” (Exodus 20:17). To “covet” means to desire something unlawful. It means to desire to sin. To “covet” your neighbor’s wife is the same as to desire to commit adultery with her. Sin is not only outward action; it is also unlawful and selfish desire.

All men are sinners (Romans 3:10). Men’s hearts are filled with evil desires. The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure (Jeremiah 17:9). All men deserve the death sentence because of sin. We cannot save ourselves. That is why Jesus had to die for us. In order to save us, it was necessary for an innocent and sinless man to take our punishment. God cannot stand sin. He is completely holy (1 John 1:5). He must punish sin; therefore, He punished Jesus in our place. It was because of our sin that Jesus came to earth.

Therefore, when we preach the Gospel we must begin with man’s sin and with man’s condemnation because of sin. This is how the preaching in the New Testament began—“Repent” (see Mark 1:4,15; Acts 2:38). No one can be saved unless he first realizes that he is a sinner who needs salvation. We must confess the sin in our heart. We must confess not only big sins, but little sins as well. We must confess not only sinful actions, but also sinful thoughts and desires. And when we have confessed and repented, God will forgive and cleanse us (see 1 John 1:9 and comment). He will give us a new mind and a new heart through the Holy Spirit.

This teaching is not only for non-Christians; it is also for Christians. We continually need to confess our sins and to renew our minds (Romans 12:2). Satan is continually trying to lead us into sin. He is trying to quench the Holy Spirit in us (1 Thessalonians 5:19). He is trying to make our hearts lukewarm, cold. We must continually remain filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The Spirit will show us our hidden sins, and give us a repentant and humble mind. Only when we have repented of our sins and been cleansed will the Holy Spirit be able to fully work in our lives.

29-30 Outward sins like adultery are only the outward signs of a “diseased” or sinful heart. The disease is in our heart.

Sin is like an infection, or a cancer. To cure an infection, the doctor must drain out the pus, that is, the sin. To cure a cancer, the doctor must cut it out. In the same way, we must “cut out” the sin in our life.

How? First we must confess and repent. Then we must flee from sin (2 Timothy 2:22). We must give up all things that lead us into temptation to sin. We must stay away from any activity or any person that stirs up sinful desires in our hearts. We must resist the first beginnings of sinful desire. Even though something is in itself good and lawful, if it leads us into temptation we must give it up. For example, to earn money is good. But if we begin to love money more than God, then money is leading us into sin (1 Timothy 6:10). If we begin to love anything more than God or Jesus,30 we are sinning. And if we continue to sin in this way, we shall not enter into heaven. This is why Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). If we love anything more than Jesus, we are not worthy of Him (see Matthew 10:37).

If there is anything in our life that we love more than Jesus—parents, children, money, our “right eye,” our “right hand”—let us give it up. The Apostle Paul said, … if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live (Romans 8:13). By the help of the Holy Spirit, we must “put to death” our sinful deeds and desires. Then we shall be able to enter the kingdom of heaven.

In verse 29, the right eye represents the medium or means by which evil desires enter our mind. In verse 30, the right hand represents any member of our body by which a sin is carried out (see Mark 9:4348 and comment). If our eye or hand is leading us into sin, it would be much better to give up our eye or hand than to lose our soul.


Divorce (5:31-32)

(Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18)

31 See Mark 10:3-4; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 and comments.

32 See Mark 10:11-12 and comment.


Oaths (5:33-37)

33 According to the Old Testament law, anyone who made an oath was obliged to keep it (Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21).

34-35 However, the Jews of Jesus’ time considered that any oath which didn’t mention God’s name did not need to be kept. Therefore, in order to avoid having to fulfill their oaths, the Jews didn’t use God’s name in their oaths. Rather they swore by heaven, or by the earth, or by Jerusalem. But in doing this, they were deceiving themselves. Because all these things—heaven, earth, and Jerusalem—belong to God. Heaven is God’s throne, and the earth is His footstool (Isaiah 66:1; Acts 7:49). To swear by these things was the same as swearing by God Himself.

Jesus taught that we shouldn’t swear at all. It is unnecessary. All oaths must be kept, no matter what name we swear by. So there is no need for swearing.

36 The Jews sometimes swore “by their head.” But that also was vain. There is no point in swearing by anything belonging to man. Man has no final power to guarantee an oath. He can’t even change the color of his hair.

37 When we say “Yes,” let us mean “yes.” When we say “No,” let us mean “no.” There is no need to swear. We must obey the ninth commandment: You shall not give false testimony (Exodus 20:16). People often swear in order to hide the fact that they are lying. If we are telling the truth, there is no need to add any oath. Oaths are tricks of the evil one, that is, the devil (see James 5:12 and comment).

Jesus didn’t mean that we should not swear in court. When Jesus Himself was on trial, the high priest asked Him under oath if He was the Christ, and Jesus answered him (Matthew 26:63-64). But in this section, Jesus is talking about personal relationships, not official proceedings. In our personal dealings we must not make oaths.


An Eye for an Eye (5:38-42)

(Luke 6:29-30)

38 Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth was an Old Testament rule that prohibited taking excessive revenge (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21). But the rule was written only for judges and government officials. The purpose of the rule was to prevent a judge from giving a punishment that was greater than the crime.

39 The Jewish leaders in Jesus’ time gave a wrong meaning to this rule. They taught that the rule allowed ordinary Jews to take revenge for personal injuries. But Jesus said, “Do not take personal revenge. Do not resist an evil person.

We must understand Jesus’ meaning. It is necessary for judges and police officers to resist evil persons. It is necessary for administrators of an organization to punish an employee who breaks a rule. It is necessary for teachers to discipline their students. We all must accept the punishment and discipline of those in authority (see Romans 13:15; 1 Peter 2:13-14 and comments).

In this section, Jesus is only dealing with personal matters. If we are personally wronged by another person, we must not take our own revenge on that person. Rather, following Jesus’ example, we must forgive him (Luke 23:34).

Do not resist an evil person. The meaning of this saying is very deep. It means that we must love our enemy (verse 44), we must be merciful and meek. We must not defend ourselves. We must not seek our own advantage.

No matter what kind of personal wrong we receive, we must never take revenge. Instead, we must be prepared to accept further wrong. If someone strikes us, we must let him strike us a second time. If someone insults us, we are not to defend ourselves; rather, we should suffer it quietly (1 Peter 2:19-21). God will defend us; He will avenge us (Proverbs 24:29; Romans 12:19). We can trust Him to judge righteously (1 Peter 2:23).

However, Jesus does not say that we must “turn our other cheek” in every situation. If a drunken man strikes us, we may defend ourselves. When an officer struck Jesus at His trial, Jesus didn’t turn His other cheek (John 18:19-23). Jesus opposed the officer. The officer was dishonoring God. The trial was illegal. Jesus was not trying to defend His own honor; He was defending God’s honor. We must always defend God’s honor in appropriate ways; we must always oppose those who oppose God. But let us make sure it is really God’s honor that we are defending, and not our own.

40 Here Jesus gives a second example. According to Jewish law, if a man could not pay a debt, he had to give his inner garment in place of the money he owed. But he did not have to give his outer cloak (Exodus 22:26-27). But Jesus taught, “Give more than is necessary. Give more than the law requires. Do not try to keep things for yourself, even if the law says you can.”

41 In Jesus’ time, Israel and most of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea were under the control of the Roman Empire. Israel was a colony. According to Roman law, a Roman soldier could demand a resident of a colony to carry his baggage as far as one mile. Then the soldier was supposed to find another man to carry his things for the next mile.

Jesus taught that if a Roman soldier forced someone to go one mile, that man should happily go with the soldier an extra mile. We must be willing to do more than our duty. Worldly men do only their duty. Christians must be ready to do more, so that our light might shine among men.

42 Give to the one who asks you. What does Jesus mean here? Must we always give what people ask for? No (see Acts 3:6). We must not give liquor to a drunk person. We must not give matches to a small child. We must not give to a beggar who is able to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Jesus’ meaning is this: We must always give to those whose need is greater than ours. Our money, our property is not our own; it is God’s. We are only stewards of our possessions. We must never say, “This is my house. These are my clothes.” That is wrong; these things belong to God. He is merely giving us the use of them. And so, when we meet someone in need, we must give what we have to him (see 1 John 3:17-18).

In this section, Jesus is not giving us new laws to follow; He is teaching us to be new people. He is telling us to be different from worldly men. He is teaching us to be unselfish, to live for others more than for ourselves. He is teaching us to deny ourselves. He said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself” (see Mark 8:34 and comment).

How can we deny ourselves? First, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. No worldly person can ever deny himself; only a person who has the Holy Spirit can do that.

Then we must recognize the selfishness in our lives. Almost everything natural man does is motivated by selfishness—that is, by self-interest, or self-love. What we do, we do for ourselves. Whenever we feel hurt, it is usually because of selfishness. When we get angry, it is usually because of selfishness. Man’s selfish nature is the cause of all the sin and unhappiness in the world. Because of selfishness, man is separated from God. Christ came to deliver us from selfishness and reconcile us to God. Christ died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them (2 Corinthians 5:15).

The man born again by Christ’s Holy Spirit does not live for himself; he lives for Christ. Such a man happily “turns the other cheek,” gives up his outer garment, and walks two miles, four miles, ten miles. Such a man gives freely to those in need, and does not think of himself.

To what extent do we live according to these teachings of Christ? Let each person examine himself.


Love for Enemies (5:43-48)

(Luke 6:27-28,32-36)

43 The Jewish leaders said: “Love your neighbor but hate your enemy.” They taught that only other Jews should be considered “neighbors.” They did not consider non-Jews to be neighbors; instead, they despised non-Jews.

Jesus taught that anyone in need is our “neighbor” (Luke 10:29-37). That means that all people are our neighbors, because all people are in need in some way, either spiritually or materially. Therefore, when Jesus said, “Love your neighbor,” He was teaching that we must love all people.

But here a question arises. In the Old Testament much is written about punishing the enemies of Israel. (One example is found in 1 Samuel 15:1-3.) Even Jesus showed great anger towards the Pharisees in Matthew Chapter 23, especially in verse 33. He drove people out of the temple who were changing money and selling animals to be sacrificed (Mark 11:15-16; John 2:1315). How can Jesus teach us to love our enemies when the Bible talks so much about opposing our enemies?

44 The answer is this: We must love our personal enemies, that is, those who have wronged us personally. But we must oppose and rebuke God’s enemies. God will sometimes use us to punish His enemies. But even though we must oppose such an enemy of God for God’s sake, we must continue to love that enemy personally. We must hate the sin and love the sinner.

45 Jesus said that we must be sons of our Father in heaven. Not only that, He also said that we should be like our heavenly Father (verse 48). God shows love to His enemies; therefore, we should do likewise. God gives sun and rain to both the wicked and the righteous. God sent Jesus to die for sinners. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). God did not love us according to our worth or according to our behavior. He loved us fully even though we were His enemies. In the same way, we also must love other men.

Why did God show such love to sinful men—to His enemies? Because God is love (1 John 4:16). God is the source of all true spiritual love (see 1 John 4:7-9). For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

How can we show this love to our enemies? Jesus gave the answer in Luke 6:27-28. He said: “… do good to those who hate you, bless those that curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” If we do this, how great will our witness be! How bright will be our light! In what other religion is such teaching found? (see 1 Peter 3:9).

Is it possible to obey such commands? Yes, by the help of the Holy Spirit within us. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, prayed for those who were killing him (Acts 7:59-60). We, too, must love in this way, or else we will be disobeying Christ’s command. But remember, Jesus never gives a command without also giving us the help and strength to fulfill it. He will give us His love through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). If we do not obey, it is our fault.

46-47 In these verses Jesus teaches that if we do not love our enemies, there will be no difference between us and worldly men. We need to ask ourselves: “Are we different from non-believers? Are we different from worldly men?” Think: most men do not commit adultery, do not murder. Most men do their duty, help their neighbor, give to the poor, loan to their friends. Jesus asks us: “How are you different from that?”

We can be different only if we follow Jesus’ teaching. The world says, “Do not do evil work”; Jesus says, “Do not have evil thoughts.” The world says, “Do not murder”; Jesus says, “Do not be angry.” The world says, “Do not take excessive revenge”; Jesus says, “Take no revenge at all.” The world says, “Love your friends”; Jesus says, “Love your enemies.” Jesus asks us today: “… what are you doing more than others?

48 Finally Jesus gives us the most difficult command of all: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In the corresponding verse in Luke, Jesus says: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

God is our Father. Because we are His children we must act like His children. We must be different from others; we must be light in the darkness. We must be the salt of the world. God is not the Father of all men; He is the Father only of those who believe in Jesus (John 1:12). He is the Creator of all men, but He is only a Father to those who follow Jesus. And because we are His children, we must be perfect as He is perfect.

How is this possible? How can we love as God loves, and be merciful as God is merciful? It is possible because God has poured out His love upon us through His Holy Spirit (see Romans 5:5). Through the Holy Spirit all things are possible. Paul said: I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13). Paul also said: And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19). God will especially meet all our spiritual needs. Whatever we lack, He is ready to give (Matthew 7:7,11).

On the day of judgment, God will ask each one of us: “Why did you not love your enemies as I loved you at first? Why did you not forgive your debtors, as I forgave you? Why did you not do more than your duty? Why did you not do more than worldly men?” On that day what answer will we give?

Friends, let us not be ashamed on that day. Let us seek, through the Holy Spirit, to be like Jesus. Let us hunger for God’s righteousness. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Though in this life we can never be as perfect as our heavenly Father, to be so must always be our foremost goal.