Matthew 5:17-48 (Laws and Principles of the Kingdom)

I. Video..

A. Title. Jesus: Sermon On The Mount.

B. Data. Jesus Film.

II. Introduction. (Mathew Chapter 5). Dr. John F. Walvoord (A.B., M.A., Th. B., Th. M., Th. D., D.D., Litt. D., 1910-2002). The laws and principles of the Kingdom.

 In Matthew 5:17-48, the details of the moral principles of the kingdom are outlined, and the following subjects are mentioned: the relation of the law of the kingdom to the Mosaic law and the prophets (vv. 17-19); the righteousness of the kingdom as compared to the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (vv. 20-32); laws relating to perjury (vv. 33-37); laws relating to injustice and unfair advantage (vv. 38-42); and laws relating to enemies (vv. 43-48).

In introducing the laws of the kingdom, Jesus paid full respect to the Mosaic law. He declared that He had not come to destroy it or replace it, but to fulfill it. Although the Mosaic law, as a dispensation, was to end at the cross, its moral and spiritual implications were to be fulfilled in later dispensations, including the kingdom. While it is not accurate to say that the kingdom period, when Christ reigns on earth, will be under the Mosaic law, any more than the present age of grace is, it is obvious that the future kingdom is more legal in its government as directed by an absolute Ruler, who rules with a rod of iron (Rev 19:15). Jesus called, however, for a righteousness which would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were attempting to fulfill the letter of the law, but were actually breaking the spirit of the law. They not only fell far short of the Mosaic law but fell even shorter of the law of the kingdom. Just as Jesus was to fulfill the law Himself, so His disciples also would share in the fulfillment of the law of righteousness.

According to Jesus, not one jot, that is, the smallest Hebrew letter, yod, or one tittle, that is, the smallest part of a letter that would change the meaning, would be left unfulfilled. Clearly, Jesus upheld the inerrancy of the Scriptures in their entirety, not simply their moral sense. The kingdom rule which He was presenting had the highest moral standards, and His disciples were expected to obey.

The morality of the kingdom, in many respects, was to exceed that of the Law of Moses. Beginning with Matthew 5:21, He brought up case after case where morality in the kingdom is more precise and exacting than their customary interpretation of the Mosaic law. Whereas Moses said they should not commit murder, in the kingdom it was wrong to be angry with a brother without cause. One who called his brother Raca, or “empty headed” (i.e., a numbskull), would be in danger of the Sanhedrin. Even worse would be to call him a fool, which would place him in danger of eternal punishment, literally, the fire of Gehenna. While this does not necessarily mean that a person who carelessly calls another a fool today is in danger of hell, it involves an attitude of superior wisdom which does not take into consideration the sinful state of everyone who is saved. The order of reference in verse 22 is climactic, but all is contrasted to murder in verse 21.

In keeping with this, if one would bring a gift to the altar of God and would there remember that he had something against a brother, Jesus exhorted him to leave the gift in order to be reconciled to his brother and then to return to offer the gift. The series of exhortations, beginning in verse 20, is addressed to the second person, making it direct exhortation.

Expanding the problem of reconciliation to a brother, in verses 25 and 26, He took up the matter of an honest debt which must be cared for, lest the debtor be hauled into court and imprisoned until the last farthing is paid. The adversary of verse 25 is certainly not the devil, as Morgan suggests, but an ordinary human creditor. The point is that God demands perfect righteousness and what we owe a brother, we owe God.

Proceeding from matters which offend a brother, or debts which are owed a brother, He then took up the matter of adultery and lust and its relationship to divorce. In contrast to the law which forbade adultery, Jesus charged that anyone looking on a woman in lust had already committed adultery. He charged them that if their right eye offend, they should pluck it out, or if their right hand offend, it should be cut off. There is no scriptural support that Jesus meant that lust would be conquered by doing this literally, as there still would be the left eye and the left hand, but rather that the severity of the sin required severe self-judgment. If the choice were to lose a member or to be cast into the eternal damnation of Gehenna, obviously it would be better to be maimed.

With this as a background, He contrasted divorce in the kingdom to divorce in the Mosaic law. In the Old Testament, it was comparatively easy to secure divorce. According to Deuteronomy 24:1, a woman no longer in favor with her husband could be given a bill of divorcement and sent away. If in the meantime, however, she married another, she was under no circumstances to return to her first husband, indicating that the divorce was real and final. In the kingdom, the only justifiable cause is that of fornication, or unfaithfulness. Although the matter of divorce in the teaching of Jesus is subject to various interpretations, the tenor of this passage is to recognize divorce as real and final when there is fornication after the marriage relationship has been established. This was more strict than the Mosaic law but less strict than an absolute prohibition of divorce.

In the kingdom, it was not only true that they should not perjure themselves by failing to perform their oath, which was prohibited in the Mosaic law (Numbers 30:2), but in the kingdom they were not to swear at all, especially in view of man’s limited ability to fulfill his oath. Accordingly, he could say yes or no, but he could not pledge beyond this. This indicates care should be used in giving solemn promises but should not be construed as completely prohibiting entering into a pledge or a promise in this age.

Again, the kingdom standards are in contrast to the Mosaic law with its demand for an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Those in the kingdom were exhorted not to resist evil, but if smitten on the right cheek, they were to turn the other also. This principle was further expanded by the instruction that if a man be sued at law, he should allow his adversary not only to take his coat or tunic but his cloak or robe also; if compelled to go a mile, he should volunteer to go two; and should give to those that borrow and not turn them away. In the millennial kingdom, such high standards could be literally enforced.

It is not clear whether Jesus expected immediate compliance. Jesus Himself was unresisting as He went to the cross. Paul, however, claimed his rights as a Roman citizen when falsely accused. The principle should probably be construed as being illustrated here but not applicable to every conceivable situation. What might work with the King present in the millennial kingdom might not work in the mystery form of the kingdom with the King absent.

Although some might deduce from the principles of the kingdom expounded here that the Bible supports pacifism, most interpreters would not draw this conclusion. In dealing with publicans, John the Baptist instructed them not to abuse their power (Luk3 13-14). Jesus here was not trying to give hard and fast principles that are applicable under all circumstances, but was stating the ideals which govern His kingdom.

The principle that our acts should be by unselfish love is clear. This is brought out in the closing passage of Matthew 5, where, in contrast to the law, which exhorted men to love their neighbor but permitted them to hate their enemy, Jesus laid down the principle that citizens of His kingdom should love their enemies, bless those that curse them, do good to those that hate them, and pray for those who persecute them. In this, they would emulate the love of God, which causes His sun to shine upon both the evil and the good and sends rain both for the just and unjust. He pointed out that even the world, with its tax collectors, rewards those that reward them and greets those that greet them. Morgan notes love is “the principle of life that crowns everything,” and that love is the guiding principle of this entire chapter The standard of conduct in all areas should be God’s attitude of love.

Chapter 5 concludes with the exhortation to be perfect, as God the Father in heaven is perfect. Perfection here refers to uprightness and sincerity of character with the thought of maturity in godliness or attaining the goal of conformity to the character of God. While sinless perfection is impossible, godliness, in its biblical concept, is attainable.

III. Key Verse Examinations.  Ryrie Study Bible, 1986, Dr. Charles C. Ryrie, Th. M., Th. D., Ph. D., Litt. D., 1925-20

5:18. “smallest letter of stroke.” The smallest Hebrew letter is “youdh,” which looks like an apostrophe (‘). A “stroke” is a very small extension or protrusion on several Hebrew letters, which distinguish these from similar ones (like, in English, and R from a P). The Lord’s point is that every letter of every word  of the OT is vital and will  be fulfilled. 

5:20. “your righteousness.” We may understand this as “your practice of religion.” The Pharisees’ righteousness was external; it should be internal. 

5:22. “good for nothing,” or “empty head.” “fiery hell.”  The word translated “hell” is “Geenna,” or “Gehenna,” a place in the valley of Hinnom where human sacrifices had been offered (cf. Jer 7:31) and where the continuous burning of rubbish made it an apt illustration of the lake of fire (Mark 9:44, James 3:6, Rev 20:14).

5:28. The lustful desire in one’s heart can lead to the sinful act.

5:29-30. This is strong language, used to emphasize the comparison; i.e., sin is so dangerous because it leads to external condemnation, that it would be better to lose hands or eyes temporarily than to lose life eternally.

5:32. “except for the reason of unchastity.” It is disallowed except for unchastity, which may mean, (1) adultery, (2), unfaithfulness during the period of betrothal, or (3) marriage between relatives (Lev 18). 

5:33-37. “MAKE FALSE VOWS, ” or perjure yourself. (Oaths taken in the name of the Lord were binding, and perjury was strongly condemned in the law (Ex 20:7, Lev 19:12; Deu 19:16-19). Every oath contained an affirmation or promise, and an appeal to God as the omniscient punisher of  falsehoods, which made the oath binding. Thus we find phrases like “as the Lord lives.” (1 Sam 14:39). The emphasis on the sanctity of oaths led to the feeling that ordinary phrasing need not be truthful or binding. Jesus, however, taught (v 37) that we should say, and mean, yes or no, and never equivocate. 

5:38. See Ex 21:24. The “lex talionis” (law of retaliation) did provide for the ending of feuds, but Christ showed another way to do the same (vs 39-42). See note on Lev 24:20.

5:40. “shirt.” An undergarment. “coat.” An outer garment. 

5:43. “LOVE THY NEIGHBOR. See Lev 19:16-18.

5:44. A new teaching, found nowhere in the OT. 

5:48. “perfect.” Not without sin,but mature and complete in the likeness of God. 

IV. Matthew’s significance to the Jews. J. Dwight Pentecost (Th. B., Th., D., 1915-2014) Things To Come, p 140.

The Gospel of Matthew is the Gospel which presents the Lord Jesus Christ as Yahweh’s King and Israel’s Messiah. It unfolds the presentation of the Messiah to Israel. 

More than any other of the Gospels, Matthew’s is allied with the Hebrew Scriptures in theme and tone; their subjects are its subjects, the Messiah, Israel, the Law, the Kingdom, Prophecy. Jewish ideas and terms characterize the whole record. Its witness would not have impressed either the Roman, for whom Mark wrote, or the Greek for whom Luke wrote, but to Jews its significance would be inescapable.

This fact is borne out by the numerous references to the Son of David (1:1, 20; 9:27, etc); to the fulfillment of prophecy (1:22; 2:5, etc.),to Jewish customs (15:1-2; 27:62), to the Mosaic Law (5:17-19 etc.), to the Sabbath (12:1-2, etc.), and to the holy city and the holy place (4:5:, 24:15; 27:53). Christ is related to prophecy throughout. This will have important bearing on the meaning of the term “kingdom of heaven.”

V.  My Bucket List shows the references that I consult, of theologians and printed resources, whenever I write an article that will be posted. Please go to the Pages of my site to find my Bucket List.

VI. My Websites To Follow . Eternity Book Prep Thy Kingdom Come


Author: Equipping

You may contact me by emailing me on my site's email address, as follows: The Church is the Church, and Israel is Israel. The Church did not replace Israel, and is not spiritual Israel. In the New Testament, “church” and “Israel” are mentioned as being separate entities. In the New Testament “church” is mentioned 112 times; Israel is mentioned 79 times; both are mentioned as being separate entities The Kingdom “has not yet come,” and will not come until the Jewish bloodline of Israel accepts God’s chosen king (Deuteronomy 17:15), which will take place at the end of the Tribulation when the nation of Israel faces decimation and calls on Messiah, Christ, in faith, to save them (Zechariah 12:10). Individual salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), and comes through Christ (John 14:6). Things are discussed in this website that relate to God’s creation, from “eternity to eternity,” and all that is addressed within those parameters. Consider Isaiah 43:13, “Even from eternity I am He, And there is no one who can rescue from My hand; I act, and who can reverse it?” The Moody Study Bible adds a comment: “God is the ruler of all, and there is nothing that can stand against Him. His will is irresistible. The Bible Knowledge Commentary adds this thought: “No one can reverse what God puts into action or thwart His plans.” The articles that are found in this site may relate to anything that is found in the Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22.21, as well as anything else that may relate to the Bible..

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