Matthew: Jesus’ Teachings: The Righteousness Of Believers

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:17

5:17-20 The Old Testament: Fulfillment And Standard

  • 5:17-18 Jesus did not come to destroy the Old Testament—law or the prophets. Not even the smallest part (one jot or one title) will pass from the law until all be fulfilled. Jesus came to fulfill it—He isn’t going to abolish the Old Testament as something evil, but He is bringing it to completion because it will have been fulfilled—Jesus ushers in something better. Even so, the Old Testament remains the Word of God and should be held in high esteem as such. Its application is what is going to change.
  • 5:19 Believers are to teach and obey the Bible and will be ranked in the kingdom of God according to it. If we break one of these least commandments and teach others to do the same then we will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. If we obey and teach others to do the same then we will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
  • 5:20a The Scribes and Pharisees turned the obedience of the commandments of the Old Testament into outward obedience and disregarded inward obedience. Jesus tells His disciples that unless their righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, which means complete external and internal obedience, then they will never be able to enter in the kingdom of heaven. Many upheld these two groups of people as righteous because of their outward display of “righteousness,” but inwardly they weren’t righteous at all. They taught things from the Scriptures that were never intended. Thus, Jesus was saying, “If you aren’t as good as these people, who you think are good, but aren’t good at all, then you can’t enter the kingdom of heaven.” There is a higher standard than these outwardly religious people. Jesus is going to explain in the next few verses.

5:21-48 The Law: Outward And Inward Disobedience

  • 5:21-26 Don’t murder—actually, don’t even be angry with your brother. As Jews, they were taught not to murder. But Jesus points to the inward obedience that the Jewish teachers left off. He teaches that whoever is even angry with his brother is in danger of the judgement. The attitude or motivation that leads to murder is anger or hatred. We insult others (raca, fool) because of our anger and hate towards them. These have the same penalty as murder. With this correct understanding, Jesus teaches us how we are to deal with interpersonal relationships. When we remember someone has something against us, then we should do everything possible to seek reconciliation with them. Otherwise it could have disastrous consequences. Question: Are you quick to seek reconciliation in all your relationships, or do you let anger and hatred lead you to sin against them?
    Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17; 1 John 4:20
  • 5:27-30 Don’t commit adultery—actually, don’t even lust after the other sex. As Jews, they were taught not to commit adultery. But Jesus teaches that whoever looks at others and lusts has committed adultery with that person already in their heart. God created sexual acts and thoughts to be enjoyed within the marriage relationship only (not masturbation with pornography). Men struggle with this more often than women, but God is against using either sex for sexual exploitation. Jesus uses a metaphor that means refusing to repent of our sins—especially our lustful sins—might bring us temporary pleasure, but we will loose our soul in hell. Question: Are you doing whatever necessary to control your lust, or are you allowing your lustful passions to lead you to commit inward adultery?
    Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18
  • 5:31-32 Don’t divorce without a writing of divorcement—actually, don’t divorce at all unless it’s for fornication. As Jews, they were taught they could get divorced as long as they gave their spouse a writing of divorcement. But they wrongly applied the Old Testament law so that they could divorce for any reason they wanted. Jesus correctly teaches that we shouldn’t get divorced unless our spouse commits fornication. If we get divorced outside this reason, then we are causing our spouse to commit adultery and the person who remarries her to commit adultery. Question: Are we desiring to wrongly divorce our spouse, or are we committed to the life long commitment that God intended?
    Deuteronomy 24:1-4
  • 5:33-37 Don’t make oaths you can’t keep—actually, don’t make oaths at all, just keep your word all the time. As Jews, they were taught to keep their oaths. But Jesus says we should always be telling the truth, not only when we are under oath. We make an oath to let others know that we are “telling the truth”. But that doesn’t give us permission to be deceptive when we don’t make an oath or use the oath to deceive people. If we are not truthful, aren’t our intentions then evil? Question: Are we honest or deceptive?
    Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21, 23; James 5:12
  • 5:38-42 Don’t seek revenge greater than the offense—actually, don’t seek revenge at all, instead respond with good. As Jews, they were taught “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” as the way to seek retribution. But it was meant to limit retribution, not cause it, therefore Jesus tells us not to oppose the one who is evil but to respond with good. In personal matters, when others offend us, embarrass us, take advantage of us, violate our rights or liberty, then we are to respond with good not evil. We are to give up our personal rights for the benefit of others. Question: Are we responding with goodness when others do us wrong, or do we seek equal revenge?
    Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21
  • 5:43-48a Don’t love your enemies, just your neighbors—actually, love your neighbors and your enemies. As Jews, they were taught to “love their neighbors” but they also added “hate your enemies” even though the Scriptures didn’t. We are to respond to those who wrong us with blessing, good and prayer. When we do this we are acting like our Father, who loves His enemies. The standard is to be perfect like God. Questions: Are we only loving those who love us, or are we also loving our enemies—those who do us wrong?
    Leviticus 19:18; Proverbs 25:21
  • 5:20b, 48b Jesus’ standard for righteousness is summed up in this verse: perfection. We are to be perfect just like God in heaven, otherwise we can’t enter the kingdom of heaven. After reviewing these laws—including their outward and inward meanings—we realize that we are not perfect. Thankfully, Jesus is perfect and He met this standard on our behalf and grants His perfect righteousness to anyone who has faith in Him. As believers, we desire to live up to these six standards (reconciliation, purity, commitment, integrity, self-denial, love)—from the inside out—not as a means of salvation but as a reflection of who we are: children of God.
    James 2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:21

Review Questions

  • Did Jesus come to destroy the Old Testament? Why?
  • Are the Scribes and Pharisees righteous? Why?
  • How was Jesus’ explanations of the laws different from the Jews?
  • What is Jesus’ standard for righteousness?
  • How can we be made righteous and live out these commands?

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