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Matthew 5

SUMMARY.--The Beatitudes. The Salt of the Earth. The Light of the World. The Relation of Christ to the World. The Law Not to Be Disregarded. The Law Modified; The Law of Murder; of Adultery; of Divorce; of Oaths; of Retaliation; of Love.

      23, 24. Therefore, if thou bring thy gift to the altar. This springs immediately out of the modification of the law, Thou shalt not kill, which required that there should be no anger with a brother. If about to offer a gift on the altar, and the remembrance comes that a brother hath aught against thee, leave the gift, go and make it right with him, and then offer thy gift. This shows that one guilty of wrongs to his fellow-man cannot offer acceptable worship of God.

      25. Agree with thine adversary quickly. By adversary is meant an opponent in a lawsuit who is supposed to have a just claim, in this case a creditor. Officer. The same as our sheriff. Under all the old laws debt could be punished with imprisonment.

      26. Thou shalt not come out from thence. After the debtor was cast into prison he was held until the debt was paid, and if it were not, he remained in prison until he died. Farthing. A small, insignificant copper coin. The warning against lawsuits is clear, but there is a higher idea still. The Lord would warn us to make everything right before it is too late. Before the judgment there is a chance; after it there is nothing but payment.

      27, 28. Thou shalt not commit adultery. The Jewish rabbins held that a man was guiltless who did not commit the act. Christ, as he always did, lays the laws upon the heart. If it is impure, full of unholy desires, one is guilty. It is our duty to keep the heart pure.

      29. If thy right eye offend thee. The eye that giveth a lustful look. A licentious passion, or anything that tempts to sin, whether thoughts within, friends, or surroundings. Pluck it out. Cast far from you what would lead to sin. It is profitable. Better to suffer deep mortification by self-denial than to be judged worthy of hell. Body. Used for the whole man.

      30. If thy right hand. The same thought as in verse 29 , with a new illustration.

      31, 32. Whosoever shall put away his wife. The divorce laws were very lax among the Jews. A man could put away his wife "for any cause" ( Matt. 19:8 ). Moses directed a legal letter of divorcement ( Deut. 24:1 ). Christ positively forbids divorce except for unchastity. Marriage is a divine institution, and the obligation is for life ( Matt. 19:3-9 Romans 7:1-3 Romans 7:1 1 Cor. 7:10-17 ).

      33. Thou shalt not forswear thyself. (See Lev. 19:12 and Num. 25:2 .) The Jews held that this only prohibited swearing falsely and by the name of God.

      34, 35. Swear not at all. Christ does not forbid judicial oaths. Note, (1) God sometimes swears by himself ( Genesis 22:16 Genesis 22:17 ); (2) Jesus made oath before the Sanhedrim ( Matt. 26:63 ); (3) Paul made oath to the Corinthians ( 2 Cor. 1:23 ). He does forbid all profanity and idle oaths, such as were common among the Jews, and still so defile the mouths of men. Neither by heaven. The Jews held that it was impious to swear by the name of God, but that one could swear "by heaven," "by the earth," "by Jerusalem." One was God's throne, the second his footstool, Jerusalem the city of the Messiah King, all too holy for profanation.

      36. By thy head. Senseless, since the oath could have no meaning. Dr. Thompson (The Land and the Book) says the Orientals are still terribly profane, swearing continually by the head, the beard, the heart, the temple, the church.

      37. Let your speech be, Yea, yea. All foolish appeals are forbidden. A simple statement is all Christ permits. All beyond is evil, "and cometh of evil." Indeed, it makes one doubt the truth of him who has to confirm every assertion by an oath.

      38. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. The law quoted is found in Exod. 21:23-25 and Lev. 24:18-20 Exod. 21:23-25 and Lev. 24:18-20 . Moses intended it to protect person and property by prescribing what punishment the law should inflict. He who took a life should lose his life; he who robbed another of an eye should be punished by the loss of an eye. The Jews perverted it to justify private retaliation.

      39. Resist not evil. Jesus does not forbid the judicial application of the law, but personal revenge, such as was common among the Jews. Instead of turning upon those who injure us, and becoming a party to personal broils, it is the duty of Christians to suffer meekly. Turn to him the other. This must be the Christian spirit, the great law of love, which "endureth all things." This is not a code to be slavishly observed in the letter, but its spirit must always be preserved. See John 18:22 and Acts 23:3 , for the application.

      40. If any man would sue. That is, is about to sue thee. Take thy coat. The inner garment, the tunic or shirt. Cloak. The outer garment, the covering at night. It could not be held by a creditor ( Exod. 22:26-27 ). Better to give it up, too, than to engage in litigation. Many a poor soul has realized this when it was too late, and the lawyers had divided his property. Avoid lawsuits.

      41. Compel thee to go a mile. In those days, when there were no stages, railroad trains, postal lines, or regular means of conveyance, it was common for officers traveling to impress men to assist them on the route. It was a necessary, but oppressive, exaction. Christ directs to yield the service, and double it rather than refuse it. A mile. A Roman word from mille, a thousand. A Roman mile was a thousand paces, 1,520 yards.

      42. Give to him that asketh thee. Palestine swarmed with blind, lepers, and maimed, who were dependent on charity. Turn not away. The Lord does not bid to give to every one, not to loan to every one, for this would not be a blessing, but to have a spirit that will be ready to do so whenever it is right.

      43. Thou shalt love thy neighbor. See Lev. 19:18 . The Jews gave the command a very limited application. For Christ's application, see parable of the Good Samaritan ( Luke 10:30-37 ). It embraces any one so near us as to need and to receive our acts of kindness. Hate thine enemy. A Jewish perversion of the meaning of Deut. 23:6 . It exhibits the spirit of the whole heathen world. Plato praises the Athenians because they hated the Persians more than any of the other Greeks.

      44. I say . . . Love your enemies. The fundamental law of Christ's kingdom. Henceforth love is to be boundless as the ocean. His own earthly life is its perfect application. The enemies are to be conquered by love. See John 3:16 . Love will return blessing for cursing, good will for hating, prayers for evil treatment and persecution. Christ on the cross prayed for his enemies; so did Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

      45. That ye may be children of your Father. We are God's children when we have the spirit of our Father. We are not if we have the spirit of the world. Our Father above sends blessing, the rain, and the sunshine, on the just and the unjust. He loves all, and even sent his son to have a wicked world because he loved ( John 3:16 ).

      46. Do not even the publicans so? The publicans, the gatherers of the Roman tribute, were generally odious, and deemed the scum of the earth, but even they loved those who loved them.

      47. Salute your brethren only. The Jews usually disdained to speak to a Gentile, a publican, or a "sinner," but would salute orthodox Jews. Even the Gentiles, the heathen nations, had enough of love for this. Unless the disciples could love better than the Jews, they would be on a level with publicans and heathen.

      48. Be ye therefore perfect. To carry out fully this great law of love would lift man to the Divine standard of perfection. This must be the aim of life. We have before us as a pattern for the perfect God; we have the Divine perfection embodied in Christ. It will require a constant struggle while in the flesh to come near so high an ideal, but it must be our continual aim. This does not teach such sanctification that we cannot sin, nor that we, here on earth, attain absolute perfection, but we have placed before us, as a model, the perfect ideal, and we will constantly ascend higher by striving to attain it.

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