Christ Fulfills the Law…
Before I begin, I must confess this is one segment of scripture that I really have to work on because it goes against my nature.
I am much more like the disciples who wanted to call fire down from heaven and consumed their enemies, but then I am reminded that except for the grace of God and the influence of Christ’ love, the Bible and the Holy Spirit has had upon my life, I could very easily be right over there with them, in total rebellion, outside of God’s will.
The truth is for all of us, we don’t know what we don’t know until we are taught!
We actually have to work on these principles, in order that they may be applied to our life; and as it says in Philippians 2:5, each day we must put on the mind of Christ.
“I don’t believe that the big men, the politicians and the capitalists alone are guilty of the war.
Oh, no, the little man is just as keen, otherwise the people of the world would have risen in revolt long ago!
There is an urge and rage in people to destroy, to kill, to murder, and until all mankind, without exception, undergoes a great change, wars will be waged, everything that has been built up, cultivated and grown, will be destroyed and disfigured, after which mankind will have to begin all over again.”
— Anne Frank
The first of Jesus’ five discourses in Matthew, the Sermon on the Mount was a discourse on kingdom living.
This sermon described the kind of righteousness He expected of His followers.
This righteousness surpasses’ the legalistic religion of the Pharisees and must be lived so as to impact the world.
5:17–48 Some say Jesus was nothing more than a good teacher who wanted people to love each other.
But Jesus was and is the Son of God.
Jesus did command us to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:39); He also taught how to do that, through a wide range of complex personal and moral issues.
In this section of the Sermon on the Mount, some of Jesus’ statements sound extreme (for example, Matt. 5:22, 30, 37, 39–42), and several are easy to misinterpret.
Understanding this passage begins by realizing that Jesus’ references to “the Law” and “the Prophets” (5:17) were references to the Old Testament’s moral teaching.
Those Scriptures were to govern the moral conduct and character of His Jewish listeners.
Unfortunately, the people had not heard the true words of the Law and the prophets.
They had instead learned a heavily doctored version of the Old Testament’s teachings.
Their rabbis often stressed the letter of the Law rather than its spirit.
At times they favored their own traditions over God’s actual teaching (12:9–12; 15:1–9).
Sometimes they twisted the Law to fit their own agendas (19:3–8).
No wonder Jesus labeled these teachers as hypocrites and warned people not to follow their example (23:1–36).
This background helps to explain a phrase that Jesus repeats in His sermon:
“You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you” (5:21, 22, 27, 28, 33, 34, 38, 39, 43, 44).
Jesus spoke with integrity and authority about murder (5:21–26), adultery (5:27–32), vows and oaths (5:33–37), vengeance (5:38–42), and love and hate (5:43–47).
He began His remarks with an appeal to fulfill the Law (5:17–20) and concluded with a challenge to act as the Father would act (5:48).
We should not blunt the challenges these words present.
We should, instead, be careful to interpret them as Jesus intended: as a correction of mistaken understandings of Old Testament law and as a true expression of His kingdom values.
5:38 God’s purpose behind this law was an expression of mercy.
The law was given to judges and said, in effect, “Make the punishment fit the crime.”
It was not a guide for personal revenge (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:19, 20; Deuteronomy 19:21).
These laws were given to limit vengeance and help the court administer punishment that was neither too strict nor too lenient.
Some people, however, were using this phrase to justify their vendettas against others.
People still try to excuse their acts of revenge by saying, “I was just doing to him what he did to me.”
5:38-42 When we are wronged, often our first reaction is to get even.
Instead, Jesus said we should do good to those who wrong us!
Our desire should not be to keep score but to love and forgive.
This is not natural—it is supernatural.
Only God can give us the strength to love as He does.
Instead of planning vengeance, pray for those who hurt you.
For Verse 41 We find a reference to the custom of forced service in transport by a king’s courier who could demand the service of others to carry out the king’s business.
To refuse was an unpardonable offense to the king (Mt. 27:32; Mk. 15:21).
5:39-44 To many Jews of Jesus’ day, these statements were offensive.
Any Messiah who would turn the other cheek was not the military leader they wanted to lead a revolt against Rome.
Since they were under Roman oppression, they wanted retaliation against their enemies, whom they hated.
But Jesus suggested a new, radical response to injustice:
Instead of demanding rights, give them up freely!
According to Jesus, it is more important to give justice and mercy than to receive it.
5:43, 44 By telling us not to retaliate, Jesus keeps us from taking the law into our own hands.
By loving and praying for our enemies, we can overcome evil with good.
The Pharisees interpreted Leviticus 19:18 as teaching that they should love only those who love in return, and Psalms 139:19-22 and 140:9-11 as meaning that they should hate their enemies.
But Jesus says we are to love our enemies.
If you love your enemies and treat them well, you will truly show that Jesus is Lord of your life.
This is possible only for those who give themselves fully to God, because only He can deliver people from natural selfishness.
We must trust the Holy Spirit to help us show love to those for whom we may not feel love.
5:48 How can we be perfect?
(1) In character: In this life we cannot be flawless, but we can aspire to be as much like Christ as possible.
(2) In holiness: Like the Pharisees, we are to separate ourselves from the world’s sinful values. But unlike the Pharisees, we are to be devoted to God’s desires rather than our own and carry His love and mercy into the world.
(3) In maturity: We can’t achieve Christlike character and holy living all at once, but we must grow toward maturity and wholeness.
Just as we expect different behavior from a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, so God expects different behavior from us, depending on our stage of spiritual development.
(4) In love: We can seek to love others as completely as God loves us.
We can be perfect if our behavior is appropriate for our maturity level—perfect, yet with much room to grow.
Our tendency to sin must never deter us from striving to be more like Christ.
Christ calls all of His disciples to excel, to rise above mediocrity, and to mature in every area, becoming like Him.
Those who strive to become perfect will one day be perfect, even as Christ is perfect (1 John 3:2, 3).
From Max Lucado’s LifeLessons:
Jesus gave this sermon (chapters 5—7) on a hillside near the town of Capernaum.
Matthew presented four other great discourses of Jesus (chapters 10; 13; 18; 24, 25).
Jesus did not come to destroy the law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets, but to fulfill what they said.
Jesus told us to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect.
Sacred delight is good news coming through the back door of your heart.
It’s what you’d always dreamed but never expected.
It’s the too-good-to-be-true coming true.
It’s having God as your pinch-hitter, your lawyer, your dad, your biggest fan, and your best friend.
God on your side, in your heart, out in front, and protecting your back.
It’s hope where you least expected it: a flower in life’s sidewalk.
It is sacred because only God can grant it.
It is a delight because it thrills.
Since it is sacred, it can’t be stolen. And since it is delightful, it can’t be predicted.
It was this gladness that danced through the Red Sea.
It was this joy that blew the trumpet at Jericho.
It was this secret that made Mary sing.
It was this surprise that put the springtime into Easter morning. . . . It is this sacred delight that Jesus promises in the Sermon on the Mount.
Nine times He promises it. And He promises it to an unlikely crowd:
“The poor in spirit . . . Those who mourn . . . The meek . . . Those who hunger and thirst . . . The merciful . . . The pure in heart . . . The peacemakers . . . The persecuted . . . ”
It is to this band of pilgrims that God promises a special blessing. A heavenly joy. A sacred delight.
(From The Applause of Heaven by Max Lucado)
How are you fulfilling Jesus’ command to be perfect before God?
Do you fall short by lying, lusting, cheating, coveting, or gossiping?
When you battle one of these temptations, instead of giving in, pray, sing a worshipful song, or think of a memorized verse.
Praise God instead of giving in.
From Faith to Faith
PROTECTED BY LOVE
by Kenneth Copeland
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”
— Matthew 5:44-45
Love your enemies…turn the other cheek…to most people that sounds like a pretty weak way to handle someone who’s causing them trouble.
But, the truth is, it’s the most powerful way there is.
It’s the way Jesus did it—and His way never fails.
Do you remember when Jesus went back to Nazareth and the religious folks were angry with Him and wanted to push Him off a cliff?
He just walked right past them, and no one could lay a finger on Him.
Another time they decided to stone Him, and He didn’t retaliate that time either. He just walked off. No one could touch Him.
When Jesus walked through that crowd, He wasn’t afraid. He knew they couldn’t hurt Him because He was walking in the love of God.
When Jesus said to turn the other cheek, He didn’t mean for you to stand there and have your brains beaten out.
He meant for you to stand there in love and in faith believing that the protecting power of God that accompanies that love would keep you safe.
He meant for a man to swing at you and not be able to hit you!
The story of Nicky Cruz as recorded in David Wilkerson’s book, The Cross and the Switchblade, is a perfect example of that.
Nicky was reputed to be the most ruthless gang leader of his time. Yet, when David Wilkerson stood in front of him, telling him about Jesus, Nicky was totally unable to hurt him.
He thrust his knife at David several times. But every time he did, David just said,
“Nicky, you can cut me into a thousand pieces and every piece will still say, ‘I love you and God loves you.'”
Because of love, Nicky couldn’t get his knife close enough to David to hurt him. A supernatural force always stopped it short.
“But I don’t have that kind of love!”
Yes, you do. Romans 5:5 tells us that the love of God is shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit.
All you have to do is make the decision to be motivated by that love rather than your own human feelings.
My friend, love never fails! You don’t have to be afraid of failure anymore.
In fact, you don’t have to be afraid of anything. If you’re walking in the love of God, you’re living the most powerful kind of life there is.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:38-48
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