Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:25-34

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to Worship. How we are to be about good works, prayer, and fasting. Jesus commands His audience not to lay up treasures for themselves on earth. Our focus is NOT to be earthly prosperity, for it is temporary. Instead, our focus is to be on treasures in Heaven. Over the past several weeks as we’ve studied Matthew, it should be abundantly clear that any notion of pleasing God by keeping the Law is futile and presumptuous. No man born in sin has a hope of maintaining the righteousness of God by avoiding sin. Jesus begins transitioning into more and more Gospel preaching. We know that before the cross, a veil remained over their understanding, and even His own disciples failed to grasp the full Gospel until after Jesus revealed Himself to them after the resurrection.

It isn’t up to You

As we close out Matthew Chapter 6, we see Jesus offering encouragement to those who are being killed by the work of the Law on their hearts. Everyone who heard His words were dead in sins and trespasses and were being shown their sin in the authoritative preaching of the Law by the very Word of God made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV) | Do Not Be Anxious

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Therefore… Therefore what? Well, they were totally, and utterly sinful men, completely separated from and unworthy of God. They were told to worship God in secret, not looking to men for recognition and not even looking to God for earthly reward; rather, they were to worship God laying up treasures in Heaven. They have no power on their own to affect their daily lives, and they were not to focus on earthly vindication, riches, or the praise of men. Therefore, do not be anxious about your life. The Gospel side of the “you are powerless” coin is that you serve a God who is able, where you are not. He is mighty in your weakness. His Goodness makes everything else evil by comparison. King Solomon was wisest man to live, and was blessed with all manner of earthly riches. Let’s look at one of his Psalms.

Psalm 127  (ESV) | Unless the Lord Builds the House

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.
Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

God gives His beloved sleep. God watches over His people, not because they’ve earned it, but because He Loves them. And because He loved us, God sent His Son to pay the penalty of our sin, so that by His blood, we might be reconciled to Him.

Until Next Week…

I will be doing some traveling next week, but I hope to have posts ready up to Gospel Wednesday, where we will close out the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapter 7 and skip ahead the following week to Christ’s finished work on the cross leading into Easter weekend.

Romans 15:13 (ESV)

13 May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:1-24

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to how we deal with one another in Matthew 5:31-42, further demonstrating the depth of our depravity and transgression. While many might find this section somewhat less punishing than the first portion, this section was not easy. In Verses 43 through 48, we Jesus transitioning out of the clarification of the Law regarding sins and into more of how we are to serve the Lord (Worship) lawfully. What does it mean to serve God according to the Law. While the Law does reveal sin, it also points us to how we are to serve God. The first point of this transition is in dispelling the notion that we are allowed to hate our enemy or vindicate ourselves for mistreatment. We are to love our neighbors & our enemies. This is still Law, as He made clear in the last verse, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)“. I am not, therefore I am sinful and desperately in need of Salvation. This is the work of the Law, to bring us to repentance. In this life, we will not graduate from this lesson… we must always bear fruit of repentance, until the Day of Christ’s Return. He is Faithful.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Matthew 6:1-24 (ESV)

Giving to the Needy

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Practicing your righteousness is an act of worship to God. God works are done in worship to God, for they are only possible by His Grace through Faith (which He gave you by His Word). God decides how you are to receive your reward. If you’ve determined in your heart that you use the occasion of your worship to draw attention to yourself, then Jesus says quite plainly that you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Your reward will be limited to the recognition of men that you sought, and you may not even get that (because man is sinful). In verse 2, Jesus presents giving to the needy as an example, but His first statement covers all practices of righteousness, of good works.

In our day here in the US, those who give to 501(c)(3) Non Profit organizations (among whom Churches are included… for now) get a tax credit for their donation. Are you giving to these organizations as a form of worship to God (for doing good works)? or are you giving so that your donations might be recognized and rewarded by the Government, other organizations, or so that people might regard you (or your organization) with esteem? Is the organization the needy, or do they serve the needy, and if so to what degree is your donation to them serving the needy? I leave these questions between you and God the Holy Spirit to discern for yourselves. We aren’t talking about whether or not you are sinning, that has already been covered, we are talking about the quality of your Worship and Service to God the Father in Heaven. If you’ve done it to be recognized by men, you’ve received your reward. If your worship is for God’s glory, He will reward you as He sees fit… and His rewards are always better. Soli Deo Gloria is an excellent guideline here, too.

But this isn’t just about giving money, or food, or clothing, or shelter, etc… How about extending grace or mercy or forgiveness to your brother or sister in Christ? Neighbor? Enemy? All good works, all practices of righteousness… being ever mindful of our own sin, even in our attempt to practice righteousness. The praise and worship band on Sunday morning… if they are performing so that they might be honored by the congregation, has received the reward for their service. The individual in the Congregation who belts out their best singing hoping to be noticed by those around him/her, has received his/her reward. I’ve been guilty of both errors of worship, so I’m not wildly inventing these examples, nor am I “calling YOU out, specifically”. That was pure confession on my part… though I am confident that we all are tempted in similar ways.

One final example before we move on… if you’ve “taken the high road” in a situation, do so in secret so that your Father in Heaven might reward you. Don’t throw that away by announcing how you decided to “take the high road” in the matter.

Matthew 6 | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Prayer is an act of Worship. Prayer is a gift from God, one of the means of Grace as recognized in traditional confessions (both Reformed and Wesleyan). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is teaching us how to pray here. An active Prayer life is essential to Faithful Stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it comes up often. I do not pray as often as I should, and repent for my lack of prayer often. If you’d like to read more on this topic, we discussed this lesson in Matthew on Prayer here and here. For our purposes here today, I want to highlight its position within the greater context of prayer as a form of worship, and the humility, repentance, and God honoring focus we are to maintain. Do you have a speech impediment? An odd/weak/distracting voice? Limited Scriptural knowledge? None of these disqualifies you for prayer. You pray, to God the Father, and rest assured by faith that He hears you. Don’t dress up your prayer to impress those who might hear. Don’t use prayer as an occasion to lecture the congregation. When it’s time to pray, pray to God. Teach your little ones to pray. I try to teach my children prayer before and after our family prayer time. I try to avoid interrupting any prayer with teaching… though sometimes a quick rebuke for foolishness in prayer is necessary (they are ages 3 and 5 after all).

Fasting

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship. It is a humbling of ourselves before God. It is a proper response to a rebuke and judgement (2 Samuel 12; Jonah 3) as well as a means of supplication for the Lord to intervene (Esther 4:12-17) in a situation. However, fasting is one of those areas where seeking attention for your piety is a major temptation. Our flesh is sinful, and it throws tantrums (you may not remember your behavior as a toddler… ask your parents) when it doesn’t get its way. Breaking your fast, or cheating on your fast aren’t the only pitfalls. Moaning and groaning about your fast is a pitfall, one that Jesus addresses here. Note: fasting isn’t a means of gaining leverage over God, either. God’s sovereignty is immutable. Fasting is a form of worship, not a magic trick to getting your way with God.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Jesus returns to the concept of reward. Yes, we are promised a great reward in Christ Jesus… but you don’t want to trade heavenly reward for temporal ones (I’m looking at you, prosperity preachers). Nowhere are we promised riches and happiness here on earth. Our Promise is kept in Heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter’s introduction in his letter echos Jesus’s statement, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also“. Now, while Jesus was giving this sermon, they probably didn’t fully get it… but by the time Peter is writing this letter, the Apostles understood and taught it.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 beginning in verse 25 and work through more of Jesus’ teaching of good works. We’ll see more elements of the Gospel being opened up in His sermon here, so I look forward to that. Jesus will continue preaching the Law, but we’ll see Him also offering comfort, the kind that can only be received by faith. Let us close in a word of prayer from the Apostle Paul:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:31-48

bibleLast week we looked at the tough teaching of the Law of God delivered by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. We noted that while these were new teachings to those present, Jesus wasn’t completely inventing things whole-cloth, that Moses commended his hearers to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and might. God’s Law was neither being changed nor was it being abolished by Jesus; rather, it was being fully proclaimed in concert with the preaching of Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Today, we’ll pick up in verse 31 and cover some of the second table of the Law (sins we commit against God by committing them against our neighbor).

Matthew 5:31-48 (ESV)

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

This is a tough passage for our culture, but not nearly as tough as it was in that day. The penalty under the Mosaic Covenant for adultery was death. Leviticus 20:10 (ESV), “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” We saw last week that a man is guilty of the sin of Adultery if he looks at woman with lust in his heart. That’s serious. Now we see, though, that the act of divorce sets up the man and woman for adultery. The caveat given is often misapplied to suggest that adultery excuses the sin of divorce. It doesn’t. Jesus is merely saying that the act of adultery is adultery and divorce in that case doesn’t add the sin of adultery, it was already there. How do I know that? First because I followed the language, but also because the last line doesn’t have a caveat. A man who has not known any woman but marries a divorced woman commits adultery because she has been with another man. No caveat of “unless her divorce is approved by means of her ex-husband’s adultery” can be found. Jesus will teach on marriage and divorce again later in Chapter 19. Is there ever a case where divorce isn’t a sin? No. Okay, but it’s a lesser sin if it was the result of infidelity of the spouse, right? Did Jesus present the sin of lustful desires in the heart compared to committing the act? No and no. Remember, Jesus is preaching the Law here… He IS the Gospel in the flesh for He came to fulfill the Law by laying down His life as the last and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the forgiveness of sin… all sin. All sin is death. Only the Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross satisfies the Wrath of God in Just punishment for our sin. That there is forgiveness for sin, does not mean that sin was not committed. Jesus didn’t abolish the Law, He fulfilled it and paid the penalty on our behalf. Here, Jesus was addressing those who thought they were sinless by not physically committing the act of adultery or by securing a certificate of divorce and marrying someone else. They were wrong and they were not sinless. These days, we see some abuse this verse in a different direction, by treating divorce as the unpardonable sin. If there is no forgiveness available for divorce, then there is none available for lustful thoughts in the heart. In Christ, we have the Only forgiveness of our sins… and in Christ there is no condemnation.

Matthew 5 | Oaths

33 “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.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Again, tough. Jesus is tying the breaking of any oath as blasphemous, and blasphemy is punishable by death. Again, we see that all sin leads to death, such is the nature of the Law. The scribes and Pharisees are rebuked harshly later in Chapter 23, because they had added to the Law their own traditions… and they did so falsely. Understand, dear Christian, that our post-modernist relativism doesn’t save us here… we don’t get to wiggle out by redefining what an oath is or a promise or a contract. Jesus breaks it down to, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Anything beyond yes or no comes from evil. Let’s look at the Law that was given to Moses regarding this.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (ESV) 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Swearing falsely by God’s name is blasphemy. Please move beyond the elementary understanding of using the Lord’s name as a curse word being blasphemy. It’s so much more than that. If you say, “I swear to God” that such and such is true, and it turns out to be false, you’ve lied AND you’ve blasphemed. If you say, “I swear to God I will do [such and such]” and you don’t do it, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. If you say “The Lord told me” and what you’ve said isn’t of God, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. We’ve minimized blasphemy in our culture, even in the Church, in much the same way we’ve minimized sexual immorality, in that we only seem to take notice when something Obvious has happened (scandal in the media). This is the Law, and its purpose is to identify sin. There is no muting it, or avoiding it. Praise be to God the Father for providing His Son, Jesus Christ as the only Atonement for our sin.

Matthew 5 | Retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.39 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. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

So, under the Mosaic Covenant, authority was given to Moses and the Levites to sit as judges over Israel. There are provisions in the Law and guidelines for administering punishment for breaking the Law.

Leviticus 24:17-22 (ESV) | An Eye for an Eye 17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.”

At His Resurrection, Jesus will be taking up the punitive authority unto Himself, as He is the promised Messiah, the Prophet who was to come to whom all must listen as the ultimate Judge. The Book of Hebrews lays this out very well when it refers to Jesus as the Great High Priest. The world governments maintain their authority granted to them by God (Romans 13:1-7), and Christ establishes His Church on the foundation of His Apostles. Christ holds the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18), so we (the Church) do not have authority to put anyone to death for sin. For now, the world retains that authority and will eventually use it against us, persecuting us in the Tribulation. We who have been granted eternal life by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus dare not exact revenge or retaliate in the temporal against those who sin against us. Rather, we are to forgive others as we have been (and are being) forgiven. We’ll see Jesus expand on this next week when He teaches us how to Pray.

Matthew 5 | Love Your Enemies

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 and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus seems to be returning to Leviticus 19 here, but it seems that He’s addressing a false interpretation of this passage, possibly from the Pharisees. I say that because of the times where Jesus answers the question of the “Greatest Commandment” and when He was asked to define “neighbor”.

Leviticus 19:17-18 (ESV) 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Again, the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the Law. We also see here what we covered last week, that Jesus isn’t adding anything to the Law but clarity. Hate is the sin of murder. The Law of the Lord is perfect… and we are all sinners. Apart from Christ, we are nothing and can do nothing. The Law holds everyone equally condemned. The Grace of God is that He sent His son, Jesus to fulfill the Law, live a sinless… SINLESS life and then present Himself as the perfect sacrifice, the pure and spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 and work through Jesus’ explanation of Worship. Jesus preached the Law, and did so with Authority for He is God. It cuts to the heart of man, and holds us all equally dependent upon His Grace and Mercy. The Law of the Lord humbles us into a right understanding of who we are. Jesus is now transitioning into teaching what proper Worship looks like. I look forward to next week’s study, should the Lord tarry.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus, Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:13-30

bibleLast week we looked at the introduction to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, the portion generally known as the Beatitudes. This week we will start digging into the meat of this sermon. The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.

Matthew 5:13-30 (ESV)

Matthew 5:13 (ESV) | Salt

13 “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.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.

In our culture, we generally hear “experts” telling us that we consume too much salt and how it’s not good for you. That is because we are an over-indulgent society. We would be remiss to view this passage from our secular perspective on salt. Salt is vital for our survival. Check out the intro to this website discussing the History of Salt:

As far back as 6050 BC, salt has been an important and integral part of the world’s history, as it has been interwoven into the daily lives of countless historic civilizations. Used as a part of Egyptian religious offerings and valuable trade between the Phoenicians and their Mediterranean empire, salt and history have been inextricably intertwined for millennia, with great importance placed on salt by many different races and cultures of people. Even today, the history of salt touches our daily lives. The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times, so it was historically used as a method of trade and currency. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables. Undeniably, the history of salt is both broad ranging and unique, leaving its indelible mark in cultures across the globe.

There is no mistaking salt. Saltiness is one of the 5 flavors or tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) our tongues were designed to identify. The value of Salt isn’t in its taste; rather, it is in its preservative and medicinal qualities. Salt that has lost its taste isn’t salt… it’s remaining impurities. If you went out to a salt bed (like the Dead Sea) and scooped up a bunch of it in a bucket and filled it with water to overflowing… the salt would dissolve and run out and whatever was left behind wouldn’t be salt. It would be whatever else you scooped up with the salt. It would have no purpose other than being thrown out and trampled under foot. What is it that makes us Salt of the Earth? Faith. For the Jews hearing this sermon, it would have been Faith in the Word of God (Hebrews 11), in His Promise. Israel… Jerusalem… had lost its saltiness. Jesus, we’ll see throughout the Gospel Accounts, holds the Religious leaders, the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers accountable for their poor stewardship over God’s Chosen Ones, Israel. Now they have a problem… Jesus asked the question, “how shall its saltiness be restored”? There is nothing that the salt can do to regain its own saltiness. There is nothing man can do to make himself right with God. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior that Jesus came to do just that on our behalf… make a way, the only way, for us to be made right with God.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.

Here, Jesus is declaring that His audience is the light of the world. As such, they cannot be hidden. The world will see them. Jesus is charging them to shine before others that they might see their good works and in so seeing give glory to God (Soli Deo Gloria). Two things I’d like to highlight here… the first being that good works are to point others to God, not us. Our good works are not of us or by us nor for us; rather, they are by Him, working in us, for His Glory. The second is that similar to the salt analogy, a lamp doesn’t light itself. It required oil and a flame. God provides both. We don’t do anything to make ourselves valuable salt, nor do we light our lamps. To God be the Glory.

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) | Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

17 “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. 18 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. 19 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. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just when the people listening might have expected Jesus to drop the good news (Gospel, Evangel) of why He came, He derails that thought here in verse 17. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law. Prophecy pointed to a son of David who would usher in a New Kingdom and a New Covenant. Jesus did all of that, but He didn’t do it by abolishing the Law or the Prophets. He fulfilled them… all of them. So great, God fulfilled God’s law, how is that good news? He laid down His life to bear the full wrath of God as punishment for our sin. He doesn’t get there yet, but that’s where He is headed… it is what the Law requires and what the Prophets recorded of Him. Praise God. Don’t let verse 20 trip you up. Jesus is not indicating that the Pharisees were righteous. They weren’t. They were dead in their sin and trespasses… and they were completely unaware of how desperately they were in need of a Savior. I think it is important to jump ahead a bit to Matthew 23:1-3 (ESV) for some clarity here:

Matthew 23 (ESV) | Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice…

Here, in Matthew 5, Jesus sets up His teaching of the Law by absolutely destroying what had become a false measure of righteousness. The Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, they had all set themselves up as the epitome, the standard of what it means to keep the Law of Moses. They expected the Messiah to arrive and congratulate them for their righteousness… they didn’t expect the rebuke, nor did they humble themselves to repent of their sin… for they did not recognize their sin. Jesus is about to preach the Law in a way that had once been preached long ago… but had not been taught for some time. I’m referring to Deuteronomy 6, the chapter following the reiteration of the 10 Commandments of the Law, where God makes perfectly clear what it the Greatest commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

From the time Israel was given the Law, it was to be written on their hearts. It wasn’t only to be physically obeyed/observed, but Israel was to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and might. The Pharisees had lost sight of this, and under their blinded guidance had led Israel astray. Sure they had large phylacteries a literally bound the law on their foreheads and hands… but inside they were dead, as were we all before the Grace of God stirred our hearts to saving Faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus wasn’t calling His hearers to greater outward works than the Pharisees… He was calling them to a righteousness they couldn’t do on their own, a righteousness that will only come by His blood. Let us look at how this plays out in the first 2 Laws Jesus preaches.

Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV) | Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 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. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 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. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus first tackles anger and the commandment, “You shall not murder”. Clearly, the act of murder is a crime (liable to judgement), but Jesus takes it further to indicate that anger with a brother is also liable to judgement. Our society tries to make some murders even more odious by labeling it a “hate crime”. Interestingly enough, what Jesus is doing here is making Anger a Murderous crime… the sin is in the heart of man, not just in his actions. Jesus also makes it a point for us to make things right with our brothers before presenting ourselves before God. This last portion causes my mind to leap forward to the Lord’s Prayer (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors) but it also ties back to the Salt and Light introduction we read previously, as well as the beatitude of “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt 5:9)“.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 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. 30 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.

There is harm in looking, for lust is the sin of adultery in the heart. Idolatry (idol worship) is also the sin of adultery. Following through with the physical sin was punishable by death… just as murders was, and Jesus here is saying that those who look upon a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery, is equally guilty of the sin by reason of the heart. Quite the blow to those hearing this teaching. Take every sin of sexual immorality listed in Deuteronomy 22:13-30 and apply what Jesus is teaching to them. The sin of lustful intent in the mere looking carries the same weight as the act. Who then is righteous? None but Christ. The Law is hard, and its purpose is to reveal our sinfulness and unrighteousness… how unworthy we are of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (ESV)
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Why did Jesus begin with these 2? Jesus will work through all of the major areas of the Law so the “why” of which ones are recorded first here in the Gospel According to Matthew may not be a major issue. However, I do find it interesting that the first account of sin after the Fall is that of Cain murdering Abel, Genesis 4. Notice also, that in the account, Cain’s anger is highlighted and God addresses Cain regarding his anger, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen 4:6-7 ESV)” Cain goes on to murder his brother, Abel. The “doing well” wasn’t in “not committing murder”, it was in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God.

After this account we get a list of the generations from Adam to Noah in Chapter 5, and in Chapter 6 notice how we are introduced to the wickedness of man.

Genesis 6:1-5 (ESV) | Increasing Corruption on Earth
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

There was lust and lawlessness, and every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The heart of sinful, fallen man is wicked and it is from there that we sin. This is a very hard teaching… the Law kills. That’s its purpose. It is to break us, our will, our self-righteousness so that we might humble ourselves and repent from sin and turn to Christ’s finished work on the cross for our forgiveness, so that His righteousness will be extended toward us in Jesus’ Name.

Until next week…

We will pick up in verse 31 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the social laws. Having decimated our picture of man’s righteousness, Jesus is going to work through how God intends for us to conduct our lives in accordance with the Law, knowing full well that apart from God’s Grace we’d all be liable to judgement and destruction.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:1-12

bibleLast week we looked at the start of Jesus’ ministry in the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 4. This week, we will start looking at the first recorded sermon preached by Jesus, often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount. This isn’t His first sermon, merely the first one recorded in detail by Matthew. We’ve already seen how Jesus traveled throughout the region preaching, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”.

The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.

Matthew 5:1-12 (ESV)

The Sermon on the Mount

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

The Beatitudes

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
“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.
10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Is Jesus preaching something “new” here? Are these completely new and unheard of declarations? No. Remember that everything in the Old Testament points forward to Jesus, in as much as everything in the New Testament points back to the cross and testifies of Jesus who is returning. Let’s pause for a moment and look at each of the Beatitudes and see where these are found in the Law and the Prophets.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

Isaiah 66:1-2 (ESV) | The Humble and Contrite in Spirit
1 Thus says the Lord:
“Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is the place of my rest?
2 All these things my hand has made,
and so all these things came to be,
declares the Lord.
But this is the one to whom I will look:
    he who is humble and contrite in spirit
    and trembles at my word.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted

Isaiah 61:1-4 (ESV) | The Year of the Lord’s Favor
61 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion
 to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
    the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
    the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.
4 They shall build up the ancient ruins;
they shall raise up the former devastations;
they shall repair the ruined cities,
the devastations of many generations.

It’s important to note that in Luke 4, we see Jesus opening up the scroll of Isaiah 61, reading to those present in the synagogue and proclaiming, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” [Luke 4:16-21 (ESV)]. Yes, Jesus is the Word made flesh, and He is preaching from God’s Word already revealed to Israel. Moses and the Prophets wrote about Jesus, and now Jesus is teaching about Himself from the Law and the Prophets.

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth

Psalm 37:5-11 (ESV)
Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
7 Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
over the man who carries out evil devices!
8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
9 For the evildoers shall be cut off,
   but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.
10 In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11 But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.

The crowd gathered, because Israel longed for the Salvation of the Lord. Jesus is preaching to them that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He is now preaching of who He is, and that the meek shall inherit the land, the earth.

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

Isaiah 55:1-2 (ESV) | The Compassion of the Lord
55 “Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
    and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy

Proverbs 19:17 (ESV)
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.

This is a theme Jesus will expand upon greatly in his harsh rebuke of the Pharisees for their lack of mercy and compassion upon those whom they were supposed to shepherd (the Children of Israel). We see it included into the Lord’s Prayer when He taught the Disciples to pray, “and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors (Matt 6:12)”.

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

Psalm 24:1-6 (ESV) | The King of Glory
A Psalm of David.
1 The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof,
the world and those who dwell therein,
2 for he has founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
3 Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
    who does not lift up his soul to what is false
    and does not swear deceitfully.
He will receive blessing from the Lord
    and righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 Such is the generation of those who seek him,
 who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God

Exodus 23:4-5 (ESV)
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.

This section finds itself in an interesting spot. Most of the laws are bout not cheating someone, not breaking any of the laws and statutes of the Lord, but here, God specifically points out how we are to treat our enemy and one who hates us. Interesting. I find this to be an excellent example of being a peacemaker under the Law. Most commentaries I’ve read on this passage interpret this passage spiritually, that repentance and faith in Jesus grants us peace with God and we are adopted into the Kingdom of light and we become the sons of God, heirs and joint-heirs with Christ. I agree, as far as looking forward in the Gospel goes. I just wanted to demonstrate how this is anchored in the Law.

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.

The remaining beatitudes are more of a summary and conclusion of this portion. Notice Jesus aligns those who are persecuted on Jesus’ account with the prophets who were martyred before Christ. True to form, we see the Law being preached and its conclusion is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In this case, He is pointing to Himself… He’s right there teaching His disciples and the crowds that had surrounded them.

Until next week…

We will pick up in verse 13 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the Law from that which man can perform outwardly down to the root of sin that lies within the very heart of man, in the flesh. Jesus preached the Law… and part of the reason He sent God the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their sin.  We do the Church a disservice when when we stop preaching the Gospel to believers, and we do a disservice to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the World when we skip or gloss over the Law when preaching the Gospel to unbelievers. Until then, spend time in the Word of God, pray for understanding, repent and be forgiven in the Name of Jesus.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge