38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:38–39, NKJV).”
The scribes and Pharisees perverted the Law’s stated penalty against crime by turning it into their justification to return in kind when personally wronged (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The Law’s just punishment became their excuse to retaliate against others out of personal vengeance. Thus, they misapplied the Law’s prescribed treatment of wrong-doers while ignoring the Law also said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Lev. 19:18).” Jesus rejected their manipulation of the Law of God to claim personal retaliation. The righteousness of the kingdom compels us to do the following: (1) Be generous when others mistreat us (do not resist, turn the other cheek, relinquish instead of litigating, go the extra mile, and “give to him who asks,” Matt. 5:39-42). (2) Help those who seek our assistance (“from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away,” Matt. 5:42). Our righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). So, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11). Love your neighbors instead of retaliating against them. Be a peacemaker, and be blessed as a child of God (Matt. 5:9).
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one (Matthew 5:33–37, NKJV).”
Citizens of the kingdom of heaven are people of integrity. They keep their word. The Jews had invented ingenious ways to circumvent honesty while still claiming to be honest. They thought they could swear by the temple and free themselves from their pledge. But, they said an oath made by the temple’s gold obliged one to keep it (Matt. 23:16). Jesus said they were blind fools for making such false oaths (Matt. 26:17, 18-22). It is intriguing and pertinent that today’s passage (that emphasizes the integrity of keeping one’s word) immediately follows Christ’s declaration of the sanctity of marriage (Matt. 5:31-32). The marriage vow is for life (“until death we do part”), and yet too many break their vow and think they are freed from their obligation made to and before God (Matt. 19:6; Rom. 7:2-3). The Christian’s word is trustworthy and dependable in all matters. Playing word games to evade the truth and our moral responsibility makes us no different from the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). Let your word be your bond. People notice, and so does the Lord (Matt. 5:13-16; 1 Pet. 2:12; Ps. 15:4).
31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery (Matthew 5:31–32, NKJV).”
God created, arranged, and sanctified marriage for man and woman (Gen. 2:21-25). Over time, people failed to honor marriage by introducing all kinds of corruption that defiled this holy union, including polygamy (Gen. 4:19), homosexuality (Gen. 19:5), adultery (2 Sam. 11:2-4), and divorce (Mal. 2:13-16). God restrained man’s cheapened disregard for marriage through the Law of Moses, placing restrictions on plural wives, divorce, and remarriage (Exod. 21:10; Deut. 21:15-17; 24:1-4). Yet, in the days of Christ, marriage continued to be minimized as a relationship easily discarded and replaced with a legal document (Matt. 5:31; 19:7-8). Jesus applied His authority over marriage, affirming its sanctity and exclusivity. The person who divorces his (or her) spouse for “any reason except sexual immorality (fornication) bears responsibility for the sin of separating what God joined, and the future sin remarriage produces (Matt. 5:32; 19:6). Only the reason of sexual immorality (fornication) suffices to put away a spouse without causing her to commit adultery through remarriage (Matt. 5:32). And, the person who marries one who has been divorced (put away) also commits adultery (Matt. 19:9). Jesus calls on everyone to honor marriage as God gave it instead of dishonoring it and losing our souls (Heb. 13:4).
27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27–28, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to get to the heart of the matter when identifying and turning away from sin. Of course, adultery remains a sin as it was under the Law of Moses (Exod. 20:14; Rom. 13:9). Even the first covenant called on Israel to love the Lord God with all their heart (Deut. 6:5). Jesus drills down to the root of this (and every) sin; the heart’s desires and impulses (1 John 2:15-17). Lustful looks at a woman are adultery in the heart, and so is the act. The heart is the source of sin. Sin lurks in the recesses of the heart’s desires, emotions, and motives (Gen. 4:7; Matt. 15:19-20). God’s word has the power to pierce the heart and reach its thoughts and intents (Heb. 4:12). By doing so, it convicts us of our sins and calls us to repent (change our heart, Acts 2:37-38; 26:20). Jesus vividly described the severity of repentance: “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell (Matt. 5:29–30).” Jesus will forgive our sins when we repent (Acts 17:30; Matt. 11:28-30). And drastic steps are necessary to repent to avoid sin’s eternal punishment.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
“Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down” (Daniel 4:37, NKJV).
Nebuchadnezzar was driven from his throne over Babylon to live as a wild animal because of his pride that praised his accomplishments while ignoring God (Dan. 4:22-33). Instead of praising the Most High God, who “rules in the kingdoms of men,” the king praised himself and his majesty (Dan. 4:25, 28-31). God has not abdicated His rule over the nations (Ps. 22:28; Acts 17:26). Those in power who honor the true and living God are blessed; those who pridefully dishonor Him face inevitable defeat (Ps. 33:10-22). “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect” (Ps. 33:10). And, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Ps. 33:12). Nebuchadnezzar learned God’s “works are truth, and His ways justice” (Dan. 4:37). God calls national leaders and all the earth’s inhabitants to humble themselves before Him. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” is true of individuals and nations (Prov. 16:18). Daniel’s counsel to the Babylonian king remains relevant: “Break off your sins by being righteous, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps there may be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Dan. 4:27).
26 And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: 27 They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. 28 Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; 29 but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. 30 Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26–30, NKJV).
In this context, the “days of the Son of Man” text points toward the time of God’s judgment against the sinful nation Israel (Luke 17:37; 21:20-22; Matt. 24:28). While Christ’s disciples in Judea would be ready to “flee to the mountains” because of the signs He gave them, most would be unprepared as they went about their daily lives (Matt. 24:15-16). As it was in the Lord’s judgment against Jerusalem, the final “day of the Lord” will be unexpected (1 Thess. 5:1-3; 2 Pet. 3:10). We must prepare for the return of the Lord (Matt. 25:1-13). Judgment comes without warning. “Holy conduct and godliness” describes those who are ready for His return and the judgment that follows (2 Pet. 3:11). Likewise, the gospel call to salvation and holy living prepares us for judgment (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 9:27; 2 Cor. 5:10). Are you ready? Judgment comes without warning, and only those who are prepared will be saved. “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt. 25:13).
Jesus answered them and said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled” (John 6:26, NKJV).
People follow Jesus for many reasons. Jesus addressed people in today’s passage who followed Him for the wrong reason. The day before, Jesus had miraculously fed thousands (John 6:1-13). Some saw this sign and said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” (John 6:14). However, they wanted to take Him by force and make Him king. Jesus withdrew from them because that was not His will (John 6:15). They had a distorted view of the kingdom. Their reason for following Jesus was incorrect. The next day others followed Jesus because of the food they had eaten. God does not accept selfish reasons for following His Son. Jesus said we must “deny ourselves” to follow Him (Luke 9:23). Why are you following Jesus? Are you trying to follow Christ half-heartedly or to please someone else instead of God? Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus is the bread of God who gives eternal life to the world (John 6:33, 35). But we must yield ourselves to Christ’s will and, in faith, follow His word to have that life (John 6:44-45, 51, 63, 68).
14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to wise men; judge for yourselves what I say (1 Corinthians 10:14–15, NKJV).
Many idols live in the hearts of men and women. Some are apparent, from the nearly 394-foot-tall Buddha in Japan, the 65-foot-tall Shiva in India, to the millions of shrines honoring local gods around the globe. Other idols are not as visible. Hidden in hearts, people carry these false gods like Israel took their little idols in the wilderness (Amos 5:25-26). Anything elevated to a place of honor and devotion above the only true God is an idol, a false god (Isa. 40:18-20; Jer. 10:1-11; Rom. 1:22-23). For example, greed for material possessions and power over others is a false god. Covetousness is idolatry (Col. 3:5). Wise people judge idols are “useless things” and turn away from them (Acts 14:15-17). The gospel calls us to turn “to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thess. 1:9). Only the true God lives and forgives (Acts 17:22-31; 26:17-20). Carving idols of wood, stone, metal, or in the recesses of our hearts is futile and foolish (Isa. 44:9-20). Flee idolatry. The gospel plea is to repent of sin against the living God, put your faith in Him, and obey the word of His Son Jesus Christ. Salvation is only possible in Jesus (Acts 4:12).
9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. 10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:9–10, NKJV).
God calls sinners into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” by the gospel (2 Thess. 2:13). As Jesus said, “It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (John 6:45). We must understand and accept that fellowship with the Lord Jesus is not based on our desire, definitions, and declarations. Nothing less than the writings of Christ’s apostles form the basis of fellowship with God. John declared this in 1 John 1:3-4, “that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full” (1 John 1:3-4). Fellowship with God must first exist before God approves fellowship with others (2 John 9-11). Simply put, we do not validate our fellowship with God; God does with His truth. When we practice the truth, we walk in the light in fellowship with God (1 John 1:5-7). God-approved unity exists among Christians when we are in fellowship with God (1 Cor. 1:9-10).