CHAPTER V (CONTINUE)
The Middle Galilean Period (Continue)
In this part, we are looking at the second and third of the ten divisions of the Sermon on the Mount.
B. Moral Standards: Matt. 5:17-48; Lk. 6:27-36. The scribes and Pharisees were very meticulous in observing the Law of Moses outwardly. Paul had been a Pharisee and he could say that he was blameless in its observance (Phil. 3:4-6), but this observance produced only self-righteousness. To enter the Kingdom one must have a better righteousness than that. It must be an inward righteousness.
As long as a man did not actually commit adultery, the Mosaic Law on sex could not touch him, even though he may have lived daily with a burning desire for another man’s wife. But according to the higher law which Christ enunciated, such a man was an adulterer before God. In vs. 28, “whosoever looketh on a woman,” looketh is in the present tense and therefore has the idea of continuous action, “keeps on looking and lusting after her.” When Jesus spoke these words the people of Israel were still under the dispensation of Law, as borne out by the fact that Jesus spoke of bringing their gifts to the altar (vs. 23-26).
Jesus quoted from two of the Ten Commandments which deal with the foundations of society: “Thou shalt not kill,” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and explained how the fulfillment depended upon the inner condition of purity of the heart.
He next quoted two laws which have a very wide application in the inner-relationships of men. One deals with truth and the other with justice. Lev. 19:12 is first quoted: “Thou shalt not forswear thyself,” that is “Thou shalt not swear falsely, but perform unto the Lord thine oaths.” But Jesus says, “Swear not at all . . . let what you say be a plain yes or no. Anything more than this has a taint of evil.” If a man has to swear an oath to prove he is telling the truth, it may well be doubted that he is trustworthy.
Jesus next quoted Ex. 21:24, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” This is strict justice, but Jesus tempers justice with mercy. He tells His disciples to give to others more than they deserve. Instead of love your neighbor and hate your enemy, Jesus says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”
We believe Jesus was speaking metaphorically when He spoke of cutting off one’s hand or foot or other bodily member. God forbad actual mutilation of the human body, and besides such mutilation would be equivalent to suicide, for one would probably bleed to death. There are those who believe that Jesus intended this instruction to be carried out literally, but if so, we have no record of anyone obeying the command. Nor do we believe Jesus intended that His disciples give away all they possessed to anybody for any reason. Even Jesus under certain circumstances did not turn the other cheek (cf. John 18:23). We are sure Jesus did not mean that if a robber entered the house of a disciple he should gladly give him all of his worldly possessions and permit his loved ones to be sexually abused and then give him a kiss of brotherly love and send him on his way rejoicing.
When Jesus spoke of a person having a beam or a big log in his eye, we understand He was using hyperbole, for how could one get the whole trunk of a tree in his eye? Paul likewise tells us to “mortify, that is, put to death our bodily members which are upon the earth” (Col. 3:5). Do we take this literally, or do we understand it to mean that since we were crucified and put to death together with Christ, we are therefore to reckon ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God?
One needs only to read Rom. 12:17-13:10 to see that Paul gives almost identical instructions to members of the Body of Christ as Jesus gave to His Kingdom disciples. Listen to just a few of his Words: “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head… Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”
Notice how Luke renders Matt. 5:45-48 in Lk. 6:32-36. Luke says, “If ye love them that love you, or do good to them that do good to you, or lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?” The Greek reads: “What grace is there in that?” We have previously pointed out the seeming influence of Paul upon Luke’s writing, and here we see it again.
C. Righteous Acts: Matt. 6:1-18. The word translated “alms” in vs. 1 should read “righteous acts.” Alms, Prayer and Fasting are here included as righteous acts.
Alms: Alms is a word which comes from the Anglo-Saxon, a word having the same meaning as eleemosynary, which is a transliteration of the Greek word used in our text. It is derived from the word mercy and means showing mercy or compassionateness. God can reward only that which is done from the heart and for His glory. A man might give all of his money to feed the poor, and if he did it to promote his own prestige, Jesus says whatever prestige he received would be his full reward. This same principle holds for any kind of so-called humanitarian or religious good works (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1-3).
Prayer: The Lord’s Prayer, which might better be called the Disciple’s Prayer, is related also in Luke 11:1-4, but on an entirely different occasion. The prayer was doubtless intended to be a sample or model for prayer: not a prayer to be memorized and repeated word for word, over and over again. Jesus warned against using vain repetitions in prayer. When God has answered our requests we do not continue to ask for that thing. If He has supplied not only our bread for today but for a week or month in advance, we should thank Him for the supply; not continue to petition Him. There is progressive revelation concerning prayer which must also be considered. It should be noted that the “Our Father” prayer makes no mention of the name of Jesus. Toward the end of Jesus’ ministry He gave further instructions for prayer. He said, “Hitherto (that is, up to the present time) have ye asked nothing in my name.” Now, He says: “Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you,” (John 16:23,24). Asking in His name means to ask in His behalf, or for His sake. It is easy to end a prayer with the words, “in Jesus’ Name” without having analyzed whether the petition is really for the glory of Christ. With these introductory thoughts in mind, let us look at each element of the prayer.
“Our Father, which art in heaven.” Many Jews could not have ‘prayed this prayer, for Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the Devil,” (Jn. 8:44). It is most important to recognize the fact that the disciples were children of God, both as far as the prayer is concerned and as far as the following context is concerned. Otherwise we may become confused on the matter of the security of the believer. All prayer should begin with praise and worship of God.
“Hallowed be thy name.” The word “hallow” means to be holy, to sanctify, to make a person or thing the opposite of common. God’s name stands for God Himself. That is why God commanded that we should not take His name in vain, or lower His name to the base and commonplace things of this world. This is a petition, which means that the one praying is asking for God’s name to be hallowed in his own personal life.
“Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” These two requests are very closely tied together, for when the Kingdom comes God’s will shall be done in earth as it is done in heaven. This request is another evidence that the Kingdom in the Gospel accounts is the yet future Messianic Kingdom which shall be established here upon the earth. As we have seen, the Kingdom was near at hand but it had not yet come. It is a strange anomaly that many Christians who do not believe that Jesus will ever come back to establish a Kingdom on earth, often pray this prayer for the coming of the Kingdom, even in public service or at their churches. Even though Israel rejected Him and had Him crucified, He prayed for their forgiveness and a new opportunity was given them in the early chapters of Acts to repent, but they again rejected Him and the Kingdom establishment was postponed until God’s hitherto secret purpose concerning the Church is fulfilled.
“Give us this day our daily bread.” There has been much controversy over the exact meaning of the word translated “daily.” We have already commented on the inconsistency of praying for that which we already have. However, there are millions of hungry people in the world who could consistently pray such a prayer. But to place the prayer in its proper context of the coming Millennial Kingdom which will be preceded by the Great Tribulation, this request takes on added meaning. We know that when the Beast comes to power in that day no man will be permitted to buy or sell unless he has submitted to the Beast and received his mark in his right hand or upon his forehead, (Rev. 13:17). We can well imagine the awful plight of the godly Jewish remnant in that day, and how they will have to pray in earnest this prayer for daily bread. While we believe the prayer will have special significance for Israel in the time of Jacob’s trouble, it is surely a legitimate prayer for God’s people at any time in a state of emergency. Some understand the word “bread” to refer to spiritual, rather than physical sustenance. Christ is the Bread that came down from heaven (Jn. 6:33). “Bread” also relate to basic needs as it is wrong to pray for luxurious things we do not actually need.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” Often this verse is placed in contrast to Eph. 4:32, where we are told to forgive one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven us. It is said that in the Kingdom order one had to forgive others in order to be forgiven by God; whereas today we are to forgive others because we have been forgiven. We do not think this distinction is justifiable. In the prayer as recorded by Luke this request reads: “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.” Besides this, the tense of the verb “forgive” in Matthew should be rendered as a perfect, and practically all of the other English versions render the Matthew passage: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The forgiveness in this passage is the Father’s forgiveness of His child, and not the once for all judicial forgiveness which one receives when he becomes a child of God. We will have more to say on this point when commenting on the verses which follow the prayer.
“And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” Here we must stop and ask whether God ever leads any one into temptation? Does not James state: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man,” (Jas. 1:13). The solution to the problem lies in the proper understanding of the word translated “temptation.” This word does not necessarily mean a solicitation to sin. The word means a trial or test of any kind. Notice how the word is used in the following passages. When Jesus asked Philip, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these (5,000) may eat?” we read that Jesus said this “to prove him.” Here Jesus was testing Philip’s faith; not tempting him to sin (John 6:5,6). When the Jewish leaders tried to trap Jesus with the question of whether it was lawful to give tribute to Caesar or not, Jesus answered: “Why tempt ye me?” (Lk. 20:23). Jesus surely did not mean that these Jews were tempting Him to commit sin. They were putting Him on trial. When Peter at the council in Jerusalem asked: “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10), it is evident that he did not mean that they were tempting God to sin. When we read, “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac,” (Heb. 11:17), we understand that the word in this context means that God was testing or trying Abraham’s faith: not that He was tempting him to sin.
Also the word “lead” us not into temptation has in it the connotation of seducing or enticing to sin. The Greek word means “to bring into.” The American Standard version translates it: “And bring us not into temptation.” Today’s English version has it, “Do not bring us to hard testing.” The New English Bible reads, “And do not bring us to the test.”
While it is true that God never tempts any one to sin, He does sometimes bring us into situations where our faith is sorely tested, and in such situations there is the possibility of yielding to temptation to choose our own way and thus transgress God’s way. But James is quick to point out that “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,” (Jas. 1:14). It is not God who entices us to evil, but our own sinful lusts. Thus, this petition is to keep us out of situations in which it would be beyond our strength to keep from sinning. We cannot live in such a world as ours without confronting tests and temptations to evil daily, but we have the promise that “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it,” (1 Cor. 10:13).
The negative part of the petition is, “Don’t bring us into severe tests.” The positive part is, “But deliver us from evil,” or as many translate, “Deliver us from the evil one.” Satan is ever on the job of enticing people to sin, but in the coming Tribulation period when he is cast out of heaven into the earth, we read, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time,” (Rev. 12:9-12). Since the primary interpretation of this prayer belongs to the Kingdom disciples who are destined to go through the Tribulation, we can see the special significance of praying to be delivered from the evil one.
“For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” This final statement is omitted from the prayer as given in Lk. 11, and it is also omitted from certain of the Greek manuscripts of the prayer in Matthew. Most modern English versions also omit it. Whether these words were spoken by Jesus or added later by a scribe to complete the prayer we may not be sure, but the ascription of power and glory to the Father is true.
After giving the prayer to the disciples, Jesus continues to speak of forgiveness. He says: “But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Does this mean that one who does not forgive his fellow man will lose his salvation? or that one who does forgive, as in the previous verse, will gain salvation by forgiving? It is a serious mistake to equate forgiveness with salvation, since forgiveness is only one of the many facets of salvation. It is also a mistake to equate the Father’s forgiveness of His child with the judicial forgiveness of the sinner at the moment of salvation. When one is saved the judicial penalty is forgiven once for all. After one becomes a child of God he still has the possibility of sinning, and such sin has to be dealt with, either by the child of God or by the Father. If the child confesses it to the Father, it is forgiven, (1 John 1:9). If the child does not confess it, then the Father must settle the matter, and He does this through judging the sin Himself and this results in chastening of some kind. Paul says, “If we would judge ourselves (confess our sins), we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world” (1 Cor. 11:31,32). Always remember, that a child of God will not lose his salvation but sin and bad works may impact his rewards.
An analogy might help at this point. A man may break into a store and steal merchandise. He is arrested and brought before the judge. He receives a penalty of punishment for a certain period of time in jail. On the other hand, a child may steal some money from his father’s purse. What does the father do? Take the child to court and have him sent to jail? Of course not. The father knows what his son has done and he waits to see if he will recognize that he has done wrong and will come and own up to what he has done. Until the son confesses his wrong there is a strained relation on the part of the son to the father. But if the son does not come voluntarily to set matters right, then the father must take the matter in hand and administer some kind of chastisement. The sin of a Christian is just as sinful, if not more so, than that of the unsaved person, but God deals differently with the sin of the unsaved and that of those who are His beloved children.
Fasting: Fasting has never been commanded by God, but when it is done the same rule applies as in the case of almsgiving and prayer. It should be done in secret before God and not before man. It is perhaps one of the most difficult things a minister of the Word has to contend with, when he receives the praise of his fellow-Christians, to give all of the glory to God and not to feel a little pride in what he has done.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)
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