1 You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. 2 You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice. 3 You shall not show partiality to a poor man in his dispute (Exodus 23:1–3, NKJV).
We are not under the Law of Moses since God took it “out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Col. 2:14). Still, our hope is strengthened by learning patience and comfort from what was written to Israel (Rom. 15:4). So it is with today’s passage. God said to Israel, “You shall be holy men to Me” (Exod. 22:31). Therefore, God commanded Israel to (1) Be honest (Exod. 23:1). Do not circulate a false report against your neighbor. Do not join the wicked in bearing unrighteous testimony against others. Spreading falsehoods by gossip, backbiting, or other forms of slander is not holy conduct (Eph. 4:24-25). (2) Be just (Exod. 23:2). Stand firmly against the peer pressure of the mob that twists justice and calls evil good and good evil (Isa. 5:20). Treat everyone with fairness. Holiness leads us to treat others as we wish to be treated (Matt. 7:12). (3) Be impartial (Exod. 23:3). Settling disputes requires impartiality. Like Israel, we should not let circumstances (poor, rich, etc.) sway our decisions about right and wrong or how we treat others (James 2:1-4). Impartiality is a mark of holiness made possible by being honest and just. This triplet, honesty, justice, and impartiality would serve Israel well in loving their neighbors as themselves. Even so, may we be honest, just, and impartial, patiently securing our hope by being holy in all our conduct (1 Pet. 1:15-16).
1 I will love You, O Lord, my strength. 2 The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. 3 I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies (Psalm 18:1–3, NKJV).
David fixed his eyes entirely upon Jehovah as his strength, rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, and stronghold against his enemies. David was pursued by Saul and others who wished to kill him. God alone had the power to save David from all his enemies. And so, David praised the Lord for His salvation. Even so, the Lord Jesus Christ is mighty to save us from our enemies (the devil, sin, and death, Heb. 2:14-15). We have been redeemed to God by His blood (Rev. 5:9). God’s love, mercy, and grace are “poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior,” justifying us by grace to become heirs of the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7). Like David, these divine blessings solicit our responses of faith and joyful praise. Consider David’s faith. (1) I will love the Lord (v. 1). Loving God means we humbly keep His commands (John 14:15; 1 John 5:3). Loving God means we hear and obey His word given by the Son (Heb. 1:2; John 13:20). (2) I will trust the Lord (v. 2). We can put our faith and dependency in none greater than Jesus Christ. He “will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5, 6). Be careful not to drift away from Him (Heb. 2:1; 3:12-14; 4:11). (3) I will call upon the Lord (v. 3). Christians’ appeals do not go unanswered (Heb. 4:15-16; 1 John 5:14-15). God, who saves us in Christ, is worthy of all praise (Rev. 4:11; 5:8-14).
32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him (Mark 12:32–34, NKJV).
The scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians continually tried to ensnare Jesus with His words (Luke 11:53-54). They utterly failed. After witnessing one such occasion, this scribe acknowledged the truth Jesus spoke and applied it to loving God and others. He was beginning to grasp the Savior’s teaching. Jesus said he was near the kingdom. Christians should guard against being like the scribes and others by seeking loopholes in Christ’s word. Our hearts should be noble and receptive toward God’s truth, not obstinate and combative (Luke 8:15). This text also teaches us we cannot excuse the ill-treatment of others with religious offerings and sacrifices. Deeds of spiritual piety do not conceal inward hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matt. 23:27-28). Jesus laid down His life because He loved the Father and every one of us. We are called to God and others as He has loved us (1 John 3:16; 4:10-11). Remember, “we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16).
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. 31 But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here (John 14:30–31, NKJV).
Jesus was about to be arrested, tried, and condemned to death by crucifixion. We marvel at God’s love for us by which He “gave His only begotten Son” for the redemption of sinners (John 3:16; 1 John 3:16; 4:8-10). Today’s passage adds another element to God’s love for us; the Son’s love for the Father. Jesus’s death on the cross was not only the great expression of divine love for humanity but also the great expression of His obedient love for His Father (Rom. 5:8; John 6:38; 10:18). Christ’s love for the Father compelled Him to do the Father’s will, becoming “obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8). His sacrificial, selfless obedience makes Him the Exemplar of love. You see, previously in today’s passage, Jesus had told His apostles, “If you love Me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Jesus holds His disciples to the same standard He followed; to express our love for Him through faithful obedience. We ought not to view obedience as a legalistic approach to discipleship but as love’s full measure of devotion. As John wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). It is no wonder that Jesus saves those who obey Him (Heb. 5:8-9). Today and hereafter, “arise, let us go from here” and in love obey the Father and the Son.
22 Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (Acts 2:22–24, NKJV).
Nothing takes God by surprise, especially not the death of Jesus. God is eternal and declares “the end from the beginning…saying, ‘My counsel shall stand’” (Isa. 46:10). His foreknowledge compels trustful obedience to Him and not carved images. God’s prophet recorded God’s purposeful foreknowledge, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them” (Isa. 42:9). Jesus was delivered to death “by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” (v. 23). From eternity past, God planned to save sinners by sacrificing His Son (Eph. 1:4-7). His prophets foretold a suffering Servant whom God would crown with glory and honor (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The sacrifice of Jesus fully expressed God’s love and grace toward us sinners (1 John 4:10; Rom. 5:6-11). Following His resurrection, Jesus said everything in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms concerning Him was fulfilled (Luke 24:44-45; Acts 13:32-33). The apostles witnessed these things and preached the good news of salvation to the world (Luke 24:46-49; Acts 1:8). God planned to save us from sin. Now, He calls on us to believe and obey His Son to receive the gift He planned and fulfilled (Acts 2:36-41; 4:12; Heb. 5:8-9).
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, NKJV).
Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, which included preaching the gospel of the kingdom (of which His sermon on the mount is typical, Matt. 5:17-19; 4:23; 5:1). In Matthew 5:20-48, He contrasted the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus did far more than just teaching Jews how to be faithful Jews. He taught Jews (and subsequently, Gentiles, Matt. 28:18-20) how to be “perfect” (complete) as citizens of the kingdom, His church. Today’s verse speaks explicitly to the nature of our love toward others, whether friend and foe (Matt. 5:43-47). In the Scriptures, the word “perfect” (teleios) means “complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.)” (G5046). The Father is complete in every respect, including His love (Matt. 5:45). He is the ultimate example for His children’s character and conduct. Would you please notice we must choose to “be perfect” like the Father? Jesus calls us to willingly choose to be like the Father in word and deed toward (1) Our brother (Matt. 5:21-26), (2) Lust (Matt. 5:27-30), (3) One’s spouse (Matt. 5:31-32), (4) Our integrity (Matt. 5:33-37), (5) Retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42), and (6) Our love of others (Matt. 5:43-47). May we devote ourselves daily to this worthy endeavor.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43–44, NKJV).”
The Law of Moses did not say, “Hate your enemy.” The scribes and Pharisees omitted “as yourself” when teaching its command to “love your neighbor.” (They also had trouble identifying their neighbor, Luke 10:29-37). Jesus had already warned against hate and its judgment in this sermon (Matt. 5:21-26). Now, He corrects the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” by teaching the very essence of love. Love shows goodwill toward its enemies as well as toward those with whom it agrees (Matt. 5:46-47). This comprehensive and selfless trait of love is the embodiment of God’s love for all humanity (Matt. 5:45). We cannot claim to be a child of God and hate our enemy. Love is “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill” (Wm. Barclay). We must not allow the world to define love for us. God is love, and in love, He gave His Son for us when we were His enemies in our sin (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8, 10). Love does not overlook sin, truth, and justice. At the same time, love refuses to be driven by hateful motives and vengeful conduct toward its abusers (Matt. 5:38-42). The perfecting of our character “as your Father in heaven is perfect” includes loving everyone like God (Matt. 5:48; 1 John 4:20).
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up (1 Corinthians 13:4, NKJV).
Love is enduringly patient. Instead of being short-fused, love is kind while being “long-spirited” (longsuffering) toward another. Truly, God has displayed love’s longsuffering toward us over and over. Even now, while God commands all to repent, He tarries with “longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9; Acts 17:30). When we grasp the nature of God’s longsuffering love, it moves us to obey His command to repent: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Rom. 2:4)?” We must not deceive ourselves into thinking God’s love is so longsuffering that He does not judge and punish unrepented sin. God does not condone and reward sin; that is not genuine love. God’s love has made provisions for the redemption of sinners in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:8-11). The gospel calls sinners to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 3:14-21). What loving-kindness God shows us in Christ; He yearns for our salvation. In longsuffering, God continues to plead with sinners through Christ’s gospel to repent and be saved (Acts 2:37-41). May we show this kind of love to one another (John 13:34-35). Kind, longsuffering love opens doors of opportunity to serve each other, strengthen one another, and help save some.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NKJV).
The love of Christ compels us, driving us forward to do the will of God. His love compels us to live no longer for ourselves but Christ. When confronted with whether or not to obey the will of the Lord, Christians should not say, “Well, I have to do it” (as though it is a burden to follow Jesus, 1 John 5:3). We ought to say, “I will” because of Christ’s love for us. Paul beautifully described the conversion of thought and life from sinful self-interest to selflessly serving Christ. He said, “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 “died for all” when we were dead in sin (v. 14; Rom. 5:8). The selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ compels us to live for Him and love as He loves us. That means we will “walk in love” and sacrifice ourselves for others as He did (Eph. 5:2). It means husbands will sacrificially love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). It means Christians will love one another with sacrificial, humble service (John 13:1-17, 34-35). Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:12-14). We know how Jesus loved us. It compels us to lay down our lives for Him and do whatever He commands.
20 And he answered and said to Him, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” 21 Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” 22 But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:20–22, NKJV).
Jesus loved the rich young ruler with a love we are to imitate (John 13:34-35; 1 John 4:11). The world distorts love into something that bears little if any resemblance to the authentic. Consider how Jesus loved this young man and set it as a marker for how you love others. (1) Jesus’s love meant He wanted the man to have eternal life (Matt. 19:16-17). We ought to have an earnest desire for the salvation of lost souls. (2) Jesus’s love meant He told the man what he needed to hear and do. The man kept God’s law, but he lacked one thing (v. 21). We must not hesitate to tell people everything they need to hear about inheriting eternal life (Acts 20:27). (3) Jesus’s love did not immediately save the man. God loves the whole world, but sinners must respond to it to be saved (John 3:14-21). (4) Jesus’s love did not change His message when the man went away. We do not change the gospel message for the sake of larger crowds and pleasing the people. That only results in churches filled with unconverted souls (Acts 5:11-14). Love acts in the best interest of its object, not to please itself. That is how Jesus loved the young man, and how He loves us. May we follow His example (Eph. 5:1-2).