Matthew 5

Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

Righteousness in the new covenant is the state of being right with God. We are not made right with God by keeping the laws or passing some test. We are made righteous through the sacrificial death of Jesus the Righteous (Rom. 5:18-19, 2 Cor. 5:21).

In context, Jesus is saying, “Some of you are frustrated by your inability to overcome sin. You’ve tried hard but you keep failing. The good news is that I am the answer to your prayers. Through my one act of righteousness, many will be made righteous (Rom. 5:18). I have come to set you free from sin. I am the Righteous Branch foretold by the prophets. In union with me, you will be righteous and bear my righteous fruit (Php. 1:11).”

See entry for Righteousness.

Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Mercy is showing compassion towards those in need. Mercy is one facet of God’s grace (Heb. 4:16). Just as God is rich in grace (Eph. 1:7, 2:7, Jas. 4:6), he is rich in mercy (Luke 1:58, Eph. 2:4, Jas. 5:11, 1 Pet. 1:3). He is the God of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10) and the Father of all mercies (2 Cor. 1:3). See entry for Mercy.

Matthew 5:8

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

God. Most of the time when Jesus spoke about God, he called him Father (see entry for Luke 2:49). But when speaking to those under law, as he did in the Sermon on the Mount, he typically called him God (theos; Matt. 5:9, 34, 6:30, 33).

Matthew 5:16

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Your Father. The Almighty Creator wants you to relate to him as your loving Father.

When Jesus prayed, “Righteous Father… I have made your name known to them” (John 17:25-26), he was referring to the name of Father. Jesus is in the business of revealing the Father (see entry for Luke 2:49). And when Jesus prayed, “Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:28), he was saying, “May you be known as Father.”

The Bible has many names for God, but Jesus gave us the best name of all: “Abba, Father” (see entry for Mark 14:36). Abba is not the name of a distant and mysterious God. Abba is your heavenly Father who cares for you and knows your needs (Matt. 6:31–32). Abba Father is the name of God who loves you as much as he loves Jesus (see entry for John 17:23).

Jesus refers to God as Father seventeen times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:16, 45, 48, 6:1, 4, 6 (twice) 8, 9, 14, 15, 18 (twice), 26, 32, 7:11, 21).

Matthew 5:17

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.

(a) I did not come to abolish. The Jews were worried that Jesus was anti-law or that he had come to abolish their beloved law. “That’s not why I’m here,” said Jesus. “I did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it.” On the cross, Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law on our behalf.

(b) The Law refers to the Law of Moses, the commandments, ordinances, punishments, and ceremonial observances given to the nation of Israel through Moses (Jos. 8:31). This law is sometimes referred to as the law of commandments (Eph. 2:15) or the law of the Jews (Acts 25:8). See entry for The Law.

Matthew 5:18

“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

Heaven and earth. Some believe the “heaven and earth” phrase refers to the temple, the earthly habitat of the heavenly God. If so, Jesus is prophesying its destruction, an event which came to pass in AD70 long after he had fulfilled the law.

Alternatively, Jesus is employing a figure of speech as in, “heaven and earth are more likely to pass away that my words fail to come true.” The takeaway is the same in either case. “You can trust what I’m saying – I’m here to fulfil the law.”

(b) The Law; see previous verse.

Matthew 5:20

“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

(a) Your righteousness. Jesus and the epistle writers drew a line between our righteousness (Matt. 6:1, Luke 18:9, Rom. 9:31, 10:3) and the righteousness that comes from God (see entry for Matt. 6:33).

(b) The scribes and Pharisees. In contrast with the affluent Sadducees, the scribes and Pharisees were recognized as devout keepers of the law. In Jewish society, they were the standard-setters and the most righteous religious people in town. Yet even their good performance was not enough to qualify them for the kingdom of heaven. In God’s eyes, no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10). We all need to seek first and receive the righteousness that comes from God (Matt. 6:33).

Matthew 5:45

so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

(a) So that you may be sons. When we are so full of the Father’s love that we can even love those who hate us, we reveal ourselves to be his children.

(b) Your Father; see entry for Matt. 5:16.

(c) The righteous are those who have been made right with God by receiving, through faith, the free gift of righteousness. See entry for Righteousness.

Matthew 5:48

“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

(a) Be perfect means “be whole, complete, or lacking nothing.” (The original word for perfect (telios) means complete.) Jesus was saying the same thing as the apostles when they said “be holy” (see entry for 1 Pet. 1:15).

A legalistic mindset interprets Christ’s words as a call to perfect obedience, but that is fruit off the wrong tree. The context is love. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:44–45). When we live in connection with the true Source of Life and Love, we are fully human and fully sons of God (1 John 4:12). This is what we were created for. “In this way, love is made complete (or perfected) among us” (1 John 4:17).

(b) Your heavenly Father is perfect in the sense that he is unbroken, undamaged, unfallen, completely complete and entire within himself. He is the indivisible One, wholly self-sufficient, and the picture of perfection. In short, he is holy. See entry for Holiness.

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