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.
20 O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— 21 by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20–21, NKJV)
Avoiding irreverent and fruitless discussions that destroy souls is achieved by diligently guarding and following “the words of faith” and “the good doctrine” – the gospel (1 Tim. 4:6). So said Paul in his closing exhortation to Timothy. He draws upon the nature of truth (concepts sorely need today, too) to steel Timothy for the work of preaching the word (2 Tim. 4:1-5). We also must be grounded in the traits of divinely revealed truth, lest we stray from the faith and lose our souls. By definition, truth is not profane and worldly. It is not the product of human feelings or experiences (Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). It is the revelation of God’s mind, recorded in inspired Scripture (1 Cor. 2:6-13; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Truth is not idle, nor is it the empty chatter of those who are “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Truth is not vacillating; it is absolute. Truth is definable and knowable (Jno. 8:31-32; Eph. 3:3-4). Truth does not contradict itself; it harmonizes (Rom. 3:3-4; Psa. 119:160). Grace and the eternal inheritance are obtained in truth, not in things “falsely called knowledge” (Acts 20:32). “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).
10 When He had called the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear and understand: 11 Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:10–11, NKJV)
When moral and religious disagreements arise we may demand that others hear and understand us. No doubt, good communication skills (like careful listening) are essential to resolving tensions. Yet, there is something even more crucial and fundamental to harmonious resolution. We must listen to Jesus, understand His word, and follow Him. How do I do this? First, I must believe that God speaks to me through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2 says God does). Many Scriptures confirm Jesus speaks to me and you through the inspired words of His apostles and prophets (Jno. 16:8-15; 1 Cor. 2:6-13; 14:37; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:20-21). I must listen to their writings, or I are not listening to Jesus (Jno. 13:20). Secondly, I must commit myself to the principle that God’s word is true (Jno. 17:17; Rom. 3:4). I must yield my will to His on “all things that pertain to life and godliness” to partake of His promises and nature (2 Pet. 1:3-4). Thirdly, I must agree that I can understand the Scriptures. As Jesus exhorted the multitude to comprehend His words, so also we are commanded to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17). Fourthly, I must follow the word of Jesus (Lk. 6:46). Instead of demanding others focus on understanding me when tensions arise, I should focus on hearing, understanding, and following Jesus.
And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15, NKJV)
From heads of state to lowly peasants, pleas for peace are heard around the world. God, in the gospel of Christ, has sent the world a message of real and lasting peace; a peace that is formed between God and sinners. Peace requires at least two things. First, removal of the adversarial conflict must occur. The fighting must end. Paul draws from the prophet Nahum, who saw the feet of the messenger who announced that God was about to remove brutal Assyria from the scene; God judged and destroyed the adversary (Nahum 1:12-15). Even so, sin has put us at war with God. The oppressive yoke of sin must be broken in order for peace with God to exist. The enemy of sin was defeated at the cross of Jesus. Secondly, sin’s conflict must be replaced with the tranquility of divine fellowship. Even so, Paul calls upon Isaiah 52:7, as Isaiah spoke of the beautiful feet that proclaim salvation to Zion, because, “Your God reigns.” The gospel of Jesus Christ offers forgiveness, replacing alienation with peaceful harmony between God and those who are saved in the Son. What beautiful news of peace we proclaim!
5 Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, “In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” (Matthew 4:5–7)
The devil is a master manipulator. Appealing to pride, he tempted Jesus to put God to the test to see if He would keep His word. But, Jesus refused his enticement. The devil quoted Scripture, but he left out an important part of the passage (Psa. 91:11-12). Jesus was indeed the Son of God, and God did indeed promise His protective care. But Satan left out a statement that would have exposed his temptation: “To keep you in all your ways” (Psa. 91:11). Jesus knew God would protect Him as He did the Father’s will, but, not if His way was against God’s way. So, Jesus exposed Satan’s unholy use of God’s word and refused to put God to the test. As Jesus quotes Scripture here he teaches us an important lesson: God’s word harmonizes. The devil twists the Scriptures. You can resist sin’s temptation by knowing the Scriptures and by handling them carefully.