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Matthew 5 – Boundless Bible Challenge

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

– Matthew 5:16

Chapter 5 begins the first of five discourses that Jesus gives in the Gospel of Matthew.  These sermons comprise the bulk of Jesus’ teaching in the gospel.  The first discourse we will observe is called the Sermon on the Mount and took place on a mountain near Capernaum.  This sermon is covered in chapters 5, 6, and 7.  Jesus takes on the sitting posture of a Rabbi and begins to teach them what a disciple should be.

are commonly known as the “Beatitudes” which means that they are “blessed sayings”.  This list of blessings gives us a framework for what a disciple looks like.  Each attribute comes with a blessing.  These blessings may not be fulfilled during our current lifetime, but they most certainly will be fulfilled in God’s future kingdom.  These are not pick-and-choose attributes, but should be evident in the life of every disciple.  They are not easy to follow, but they are still important.  A good exercise is to read each beatitude and examine yourself to see if that attribute is evident in your life.  If it is not, or if it is something you need to increase in, discover ways in which you can put it into practice.

Jesus switches from describing what disciples are to what disciples do.  In , Jesus uses the image of salt to describe how disciples act.  Salt is used to enhance our food.  In Jesus’ time, most of the salt came from the Dead Sea and had impurities that caused it to lose some of its flavor.  This describes how we must act: if we do not use the spiritual gifts that God has given us – if we neglect making God’s purposes our purposes – we become useless.  Our purpose as disciples of Jesus Christ is to live in the way God has called us, but if we do not do this, we are not obedient to God and have lost our purpose.

Jesus also uses the metaphor of light to describe what disciples do ().  One of the purposes of a disciple is to spread the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection and the salvation possible only through him.  We reflect Jesus, who is the light, and share that light with others.  It is futile for us to hide our light because light has a purpose – to illuminate the darkness.  We reflect Jesus’ light through what we do and how we act.  It shows others that there is something different about us.

In , Jesus says that he did not come to remove the Old Testament Law but to fulfill it.  The religious leaders thought that Jesus was distorting the Law in what he taught during his ministry, but he was, in fact, showing the error of their outward-lived faith.  Jesus holds his disciples, including us, to a higher standard than the Law.  Instead of following empty, outward rituals, he examines the intentions of the heart.  Those who do not follow Christ’s commands, as says, will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  In each of the next sections of the chapter, Jesus quotes a command from the Old Testament Law and then gives further instructions.  His purpose is to show that it is not just outward actions that fall under the judgment of God, but also our inward intentions.

In , Jesus teaches on the subject of anger.  He equates murder with quarreling and dissent amongst people.  Jesus even says that anger is deserving of the fire of hell.  This consequence seems steep – after all, we have all had times when we have been angry with something or someone.  There is a difference between sinful anger and righteous anger.  When Jesus cleansed the temple in , he did so out of righteous anger.  He was angry because the money-changers were using the temple for the wrong reasons.  As says, we can be angry so long as it is not in a sinful manner.  Anger becomes sin when our anger is specifically against a person when they have committed no moral wrong.  The money-changers committed moral wrong by what they did, but little disputes between people can harbor sinful anger.  Jesus says in that reconciliation is to be the action of a disciple instead of quarreling and disputing.

In , Jesus warns people about the dangers of lust.  Lust is damaging to a disciple because it causes adulterous thoughts and intentions to invade the heart.  Such thoughts can easily become temptations which lead to real-life actions and consequences.  Jesus says that it would be better for us to gouge out an eye or cut off a hand than to lust.  Obviously Jesus did not literally expect his disciples to dismember themselves every time they lust, but he shows the gravity of such thoughts.  It is clear that lust is a perversion of the intimacy that God grants to a man and woman in marriage.

Just as lust can be damaging to that God-given intimacy, so too can that intimacy be damaged by divorce.  Divorce is difficult for families and the church body.  When sexual infidelity occurs, divorce is sometimes the consequence.  In , Jesus explains why divorce is detrimental – because a husband and wife have entered together in a one flesh union by God, man should not seek to separate what God has ordained.  To do so is to violate the union that God has brought together.  The reason why divorce is permitted in the case of sexual immorality is because the adulterer has already violated the one flesh union.  It is important to maintain fidelity between a husband and wife in a sacred one flesh union.

Jesus teaches that disciples should not make oaths with others ().  Oaths can be harmful because, as fallible human beings, we can easily break our promises.  What Jesus says in is that the integrity and reputation of a disciple should be so high that we should not need to make any sort of oath.  Our integrity is our oath and we should be trusted to deliver on whatever we promise to others.

We often think that the “punishment should fit the crime” – we seek justice for wrongs done against us.  Jesus, however, says that disciples are to have a higher standard ().  Instead of seeking justice, we are to show the love of Christ by being merciful, gracious, and generous.  This is completely counter-cultural.  In a world of individualism, rights, and self-preservation, we seek to be treated fairly and honestly.  Anything less of that is considered worthy of punishment or a lawsuit.  Instead, we must continue to reflect the light of Christ by showing his love to others in every manner possible.  If God held to the “eye for eye, tooth for tooth” concept, we would all be in trouble.  We have violated God’s commands and have been disobedient to him.  We deserve his wrath and punishment, but he has extended grace and mercy to us.  We should do the same to others ().

Finally, Jesus teaches on how we are to treat those who have wronged us or hate us ().  We are to love them just as God loves us.  In , Jesus says that God does not show partiality when sending sunshine or rain to people – he sends both to the just and unjust.  So, too, we should not withhold our love – the love that we receive from God – from those who have mistreated us.  If we only love those who love us, we are not expressing the same love that our master, Jesus Christ, shares with the whole world.  Our ultimate standard that we are held to is the perfection of the Father.  We must strive to be perfect as he is perfect.

Jesus is painting a picture of what a disciple looks like.  We may not all look exactly like this…yet.  We cannot follow all these commands on our own strength, but we must rely on Christ to help us and grow us into his disciples.

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“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.  He said to them, ‘It is written, “My house shall be called a house of prayer,” but you make it a den of robbers.'”
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.”
“First be reconciled to your brother…”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, ‘Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?’ He said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.’  The disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.'”
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
“Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
“…as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
“For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
About the author
Blake Fewell
Blake Fewell is a Salvation Army Lieutenant serving as the Corps Officer in Marion, IN. He grew up in Rockford, IL attending The Salvation Army all his life. Blake is passionate about Salvation Army theology and ministry. Other passions include running, brass band music, social media, reading, writing, and preaching. He holds a Bachelor's degree in systematic theology from the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, IL and is working towards his Master's degree at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, IL.