The Old and the
and reconciliation (21-26)
and self-sacrifice (38-42)
Hatred and love
accomplished, righteousness, but I tell you, be perfect.
1. Each topic
begins with quotation of the old law, “you have heard that it was said” or the
like, and is followed by the new principle: “But I tell you….” In all topics
except one, the Lord Jesus also gave further instructions and applications.
2. Higher moral
standard that rises above the common expectation of people.
Emphasis on the spirit of
loving God and men from the heart rather than a superficial observance.
1. The Scriptures
(see 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Lk 16:16; Jn 1:45; Acts 13:15; Rom 3:21).
2. Jesus Christ
came to fulfill the requirements of the law perfectly, so that the requirements
can also be met in those who obey and trust him (Rom 8:3,4).
The Law and the Prophets all point to the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21; Gal
3:24). Therefore, the true spirit of the Law and the Prophets can only be
understood in light of Christ and His teachings.
3a. The righteousness of the Pharisees refers to the careful
keeping of God’s law, right down to the letters. But such practice has often
been turned into a mere outward observance.
Pharisees’ careful observance of the Scriptures was good, but not good enough.
The Lord demands something more. He wants us to also keep the spirit of God’s
commands from the heart.
4. Our heavenly
Father will not forgive us if we do not forgive our brothers from our heart
(6:14,15; 18:35). Our offering will also be
unacceptable to God.
5a. Literally gouging out our eyes and cutting off our hands
would not guarantee a sinless life.
5b. The Lord
teaches us to be radical in dealing with sin. Only the
“violent” may lay hold of God’s kingdom (Mt 11:12). Paul uses similar
language when he exhorts us to put to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13;
Gal 5:24). We need to turn away from sin, even if it involves drastic changes
in our thoughts and lifestyle, and even if it means denying our desires in
order to deal with our weak spots.
6a. Be truthful.
6b. While an oath was meant to be a solemn declaration and sign
of trustworthiness, it was often misused as a means to make up for the lack of
personal integrity. So the Lord teaches us to be truthful in our words instead
of relying on oaths to make us credible.
7. The command of
our Lord is to be truthful and not call upon heaven, earth, or our heads to
boost our credibility. The Lord Jesus himself testified under oath (26:63,64); Paul also claimed that God was his witness (Rom 1:9;
2Cor 1:23; 1Thess 2:5,10; Phil 1:8). As long as we are not using the oath to
cover up any untruthfulness, we do not need to refuse to testify under oath.
8a. Instead of
retribution, we should repay evil with good (Prov
8b. Concession is
not a sign of weakness but leaving room for God to carry out His justice (Rom
12:19-21). Furthermore, loving those who have wronged us is the way to overcome
evil and win over our enemies.
9. The command
does not say “be as perfect as the heavenly Father,” since no one can ever be
as perfect as God (Mk 10:18). But the imperative “be perfect” sets a direction
and goal for us to aim for (The word “perfect” is from telos,
meaning “end, goal, limit”). Just as we are to be holy as God is holy (Lev
11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7; 1Pet 1:16), we are to be perfect
as God is perfect. We ought to imitate our heavenly Father in every way rather
than just settling for mere compliance to the regulations of the law. As a
conclusion to the subject of loving our enemies, the Lord requires us to be
perfect in our love just as God is perfect in His love.