“Emmanuel’s Ethics, Part 1” – Matthew 5:21-26

January 18th, 2015

Matthew 5:21-26

“Emmanuel’s Ethics – Pt 1”


Service Orientation: There will never be peace on earth until we deal with the murderous thoughts that come from an unregenerate heart.  Jesus reveals the spirit of the law concerning murder and the lengths we should be willing to go to avoid  breaking it.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.                                                                                                                        —   Matthew 15:18-19


Background Information:

  • Conformity to the law must not be thought of in terms of actions only. Thoughts, motives and desires are equally important.  The law of God is concerned as much with what leads to the action as it is with the action itself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 191)
  • Have you ever wondered why Jesus selected these OT commands out of the hundreds he could have selected on which to comment? It is because of what binds them all together–love toward others!  These are all relational commands.  If you murder someone, it is obviously unloving, but so too is having a sexual relationship outside of marriage, getting a quick and easy divorce, making false oaths, or wronging someone every time he or she wrongs you.  Kingdom righteousness puts on love, which “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pt 4:8).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 132)
  • Jesus is not criticizing the OT but the understanding of the OT many of his hearers adopted. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 148)
  • Jesus gives two illustrations exposing the seriousness of anger, the first in a setting of temple worship (vv. 23-24, which implies a pre-70 setting), and the second in a judicial setting (vv. 25-26). The first concerns a brother; the second an adversary.  Remarkably neither illustration deals with “your” anger but with “your” offense that has prompted the brother’s or the adversary’s rancor.  Some take this as a sign that vv. 23-26 represent displaced, independent logia.  Yet the connection with vv. 21-22 is very powerful.  We are more likely to remember when we have something against others than when we have done something to offend others.  And if we are truly concerned about our anger and hate, we shall be no less concerned when we engender them in others.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 149-50)
  • (v. 21) He does not say, “it is written,” but, “It was said.” In view of his emphasis on the written nature of the law of God in verse 18 (where he speaks of letters and strokes of the pen), Jesus is not referring here to texts in Scripture, but to the traditional teaching of the rabbis.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 81)
  • (v. 21) The single Greek verb erreth. Now this was not the word which Jesus used when quoting Scripture.  When he introduced a biblical quotation, both verb and tense were different, namely gegraptai (perfect, “it stands written”), not erreth  (aorist, “it was said”).  So in the six antitheses what Jesus was contradicting was not Scripture but tradition, not God’s word which they had “read” but the oral instruction which was given “to the men of old” and which they too had “heard” since the scribes continued to give it in the synagogues.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 77)
  • (v. 22) The verb here used (NIV angry) is orgizesthai. In Greek there are two words for anger.  There is thumos, which was described as being like the flame which comes from dried straw.  It is the anger which quickly blazes up and which just as quickly dies down.  It is an anger which rises speedily and which just as speedily passes.  There is org, which was described as anger become inveterate.  It is the long-lived anger; it is the anger of the man who nurses his wrath to keep it warm; it is the anger over which a person broods, and which he will not allow to die.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 138)
  • (v. 22) The rabbis used the word “Raca” (translated, “you fool” or “idiot”) to excommunicate people; common people used it as an insult. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 93)
  • (v. 22) Mōros (fool) means “stupid” or “dull” and is the term from which we get moron. (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 295)
  • (v. 22) The word translated “hell” is Gehenna. The name derived from the Valley of Hinnom, south of Jerusalem, where children had been sacrificed by fire to the pagan god Molech (see 2 Kgs 23:10; 2 Chr 28:3; Jer 7:31; 32:35).  Later, during the reign of good king Josiah, the valley had become the city’s garbage dump where fire burned constantly to destroy the garbage and the worms infesting it.  Gehenna, hell, is the place of “fire that shall never be quenched” (Mk 9:43, 45, 47-48 NKJV) prepared for the devil, his angels, and all those who do not know Christ (25:41; Rv 20:9-10).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 93)
  • (v. 22) There is a suggestion that He is saying something like this: “I who am speaking to you am the very One who was responsible for the law of Moses; it was I who gave it to Moses, and it is I alone, therefore, who can truly interpret it.” You see, He does not hesitate here to claim for Himself a unique authority; He claims to speak as God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 187)
  • (v. 23) There is an important change here from the (second person) plural to the singular, a change retained in the A.V. (From “you” to “thou”) and in the translation as given above from “you,” in “You have heard” and in “But I say to you,” to “you,” in “Therefore if, while you, etc.”). modern English translations, in making no provision for this transition from the plural to the singular, lose something of the vividness of the original.  When the change is recognized it gets to be clear that Jesus is becoming very personal now.  He is addressing each individual in particular.  Let each man examine his own heart.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 299)
  • (v. 25) Under Roman law, the plaintiff went with the defendant to court. On the way, they could settle matters however they wished.  But once a legal verdict was reached, it stood.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 95)
  • (v. 25) Roman law provided that a plaintiff could bring the accused with him to face the judge. The two themselves could settle the matter on the way but not after the court became involved.  If a man had wronged an opponent at law (indicating that the issue was headed for court) he should make friends quickly, that is, settle the account with his opponent before he had to face judgment.  The sequence of going from the judge to the officer to prison shows the typical procedure in dealing with a guilty person.  To avoid judgment and prison he had to pay the last cent (a small Roman coin) owed.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 298)


The question to be answered is . . . Why does Jesus make such a big deal out of name calling and broken relationships?


Answer:  Jesus is showing us just how precious each person is in His sight as His image bearers.  In fact, Jesus teaches that there is a direct correlation of our relationship to God and people.


The Phrase for the Day Is . . . Sanctity of life


What is Jesus trying to clarify concerning the sixth commandment DO NOT COMMIT MURDER?

I-  Any planned or performed attack on the sanctity, value or dignity of life is the root of murder (and certainly not love) in God’s sight. (Mt 5:21-22; see also: Gn 9:6; Ex 20:13; 21:12-14; Lv 24:17; Nm 35:30-31; Dt 5:17; 1 Sm 16:7; 1 Chr 28:9; Prv 12:1; 14:1; 15:7; 16:2; Mt 12:34; 15:18-19; Mk 7:21-22; Lk 6:45; Rom 13:9-10; 1 Cor 4:4-5; Ja 4:1-5; 1 Jn 3:15)


To hate, to feel bitter, to have this unpleasant, unkind feeling of resentment towards a person without a cause is murder.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 197)


There are ways in which men can be destroyed short of murder.  We can destroy a man’s reputation, we can shake somebody else’s confidence in him by whispering criticism or by deliberate fault finding.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 197)


The cultural environment for a human holocaust is present whenever any society can be misled into defining individuals as less than human and therefore devoid of value and respect. (William Brennan)  (Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 29)


Either life is always and in all circumstances sacred, or intrinsically of no account; it is inconceivable that it should be in some cases the one, and in some the other.  (Malcom Muggeridge) (Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 34)


For Jesus, to kill with a knife, or to engage in character assassination through anger, or to belittle another by calling him “fool” is part and parcel of the same spiritual sickness.  Clearly, he does not mean that it makes no difference whether we gossip or stab, but he does mean that both activities reveal the same animosity of heart to our neighbors.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 82-3)


Killing does not only mean destroying life physically, it means still more trying to destroy the spirit and the soul, destroying the person in any shape or form.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 197)


The Aramaic term raca was current in Jesus’ day to express contempt for someone and to mark out him or her as contemptible.  It may have originated from the sound one makes to collect spittle from the throat in order to spit.  In anger I want to hurt you.  In contempt, I don’t care whether you are hurt or not.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 151)


Men are like steel.  When they lose their temper, they lose their worth — Chuck Norris


It is all too true that a long association with Christ and his Word and his church can foster the feeling that one is a spiritual Brahman–looking down on the rest of empty-headed, foolish humanity.  Such smugness makes the words fool, nitwit, and idiot as natural as breathing.  Believers must purge themselves of any thought of superiority.  If there is anyone who ought to know who they are and what is within them, it is believers.  Furthermore, we must never devaluate others.  No one is worthless.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 102)


According to rabbinic tradition, and to the beliefs of most cultures and religions, murder is strictly limited to the act of physically taking another person’s life.  Jesus had already warned that God’s righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees (v. 20).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 291-2)


There are times when men are fools.  Jesus said so himself (Mt 23:17; Lk 12:20).  And Scripture teaches us to recognize that (Ps 14:1; 49:10; Prv 1:7, 22, 32).  Jesus does not have that stubborn rebellion against God in mind here, but the deliberate belittling of someone’s person because of the animosity and hatred of our own heart, and the desire to have mastery over them.  That is murder.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 83)


How do you avoid this?  See our sin for what it really is.

You know the place where Jesus says, “you’ve heard it said, ‘Thou shalt not murder.’  But, I say, ‘If you call someone a fool , if you call someone, ‘Raca’, (which means no one), if you slander, if you accuse, if you swell with anger, if you try to defame that person, you are also guilt of judgment.

Do you realize what Jesus is saying?  He is saying slander is not a subheading under lying.  It is a subheading under murder.

How is it possible for the Nazis to kill the Jews?  Well, they were able to kill the Jews because for many years they called them “no ones”.  They looked down on them.  They thought of these people as sort of sub-me until they could kill them.

Jesus says, “When you are able to assume any position of moral superiority to condemn people, to write them off, to give up on them, to demonize them; that is the seed of murder.  It is murder.”   (Tim Keller message, “Communication”)


Slander is the sin of those who meet in corners and gather in little groups and pass out confidential tidbits of information which destroy the good name of those not present to defend themselves.  (Alistair Begg sermon, “Saying No to Slander”)


The term used has to do with criminal killing, and from many accounts and teachings in Scripture it is clear that capital punishment, just warfare, accidental homicide, and self-defense are excluded.  The commandment is against the intentional killing of another human being for purely personal reasons, whatever those reasons might be.   (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 290)


Heidelberg Catechsim:

What does God require in the sixth commandment?

That neither in thoughts, nor words, nor gestures, much less in deeds, I dishonour, hate, wound, or kill my neighbour, by myself or by another: but that I lay aside all desire of revenge:  also, that I hurt not myself, nor willfully expose myself to any danger.  Wherefore also the magistrate is armed with the sword, to prevent murder.

But this commandment seems only to speak of murder?

In forbidding murder, God teaches us, that he abhors the causes thereof, such as envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge; and that he accounts all these as murder.


In the spirit of the Pharisees, they wrongly assume that they can retain clean hands by ruining someone’s reputation with a word, under the cover of “getting at the truth.”

How very careful we need to be with our spirits and the tongues that give expression to them!  No wonder the NT gives clear teaching about controlling what we say (Mt 12:34; 15:18; Eph 4:29; Jas 3:1-12).  Our words are the index of our true spiritual condition.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 83)


Jesus is not saying here that the thought is as bad as the deed.  He’s saying that the thought is the deed.  The moment you thought it and meditated on it, God saw you pull out the sword and murder the person.  (Bob Yandian, Salt & Light, The Sermon on the Mount, 39)


Suppose a man wants to kill his enemy but is stopped by some unexpected circumstance.  Is he innocent just because he didn’t get a chance to follow through on his desire?  Suppose he is too cowardly to kill but would like to do it.  Or suppose he is just afraid of getting caught.  What if he only hates his enemy?  Or insults him?  Is he still innocent of breaking this commandment?  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 88)


Jesus is saying here that not only is human life so important that we ought never to murder, but also we are to work to promote the safety, welfare, and sanctity of life.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 108)


As long as the Pharisees and scribes did not actually murder a man they thought they had kept the law perfectly.  But they were missing the whole point and spirit of the law, which is not merely that I should literally not commit murder, but that my attitude towards my fellow men should be a right and loving one.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 190)


The ultimate purpose of the law is not merely to prevent our doing certain things that are wrong; its real object is to lead us positively, not only to do that which is right, but also to love it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 191)


Alas, there are still people who seem to think of holiness and sanctification in this purely mechanical manner.  They think that, as long as they are not guilty of drinking, gambling or going to theaters and cinemas, all is well.  Their attitude is purely negative.  It does not seem to matter if you are jealous, envious and spiteful.  The fact that you are full of the pride of life seems to be of no account as long as you do not do certain things.  That was the whole trouble with the scribes and Pharisees who perverted the law of God by regarding it purely in a negative manner.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 191)


I must not actually commit murder, and I must not say these unkind things against people.  I must put a guard upon my lips; though the thought is there I must not say it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 199)


The young woman says, “I must kill this innocent unborn child to save my womanhood.”  The young gangster says, “I must kill an innocent stranger so I can prove my manhood.”  Mrs. Clinton says the first is a right and the second an outrage.  Yet both exhibit the same ruthlessly self-regarding passion.   (Alan Keyes; Our Character, Our Future, 34)


Abortions, “mercy killing,” using a woman or child to gratify sexual needs, active homosexuality—these are hardly new tendencies.  What is new is that in Western Judeo-Christian culture none of these things were considered acceptable behavior until we convinced ourselves that we are qualitatively no different from a community of over achieving amoebas.  Slowly society has been conditioned, and is continuing to be conditioned, to tolerate, accept, and even value such “modernity.” …Underneath its scientific facade, the doctrines of the evolutionary world view demand that the strong survive, the weak must move aside, and that ultimately none of it matters much.  (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 122)


  1. Everett Koop, M.D., formerly the Surgeon General, states that during his 35-plus years of practicing medicine, “Never once did a case come across my practice where abortion was necessary to save a mother’s life.” (Charles Swindoll; Sanctity of Life, 23)


The real question today is not when human life begins, but What is the value of human life?  The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother’s body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being.  The real questions for him and for all of us is whether that tiny human life has a God-given right to be protected by the law—the same right we have.  (Ronald Reagan;  Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 22)


Nowhere do the plain words of the Constitution even hint at a “right” so sweeping as to permit abortion up to the time the child is ready to be born.  Yet that is what the Court ruled.  (Ronald Reagan;  Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 16)


Abraham Lincoln recognized that we could not survive as a free land when some men could decide that others were not fit to be free and should therefore be slaves.   Likewise, we cannot survive as a free nation when some men decide that others are not fit to live and should be abandoned to abortion or infanticide.  My administration is dedicated to the preservation of America as a free land, and there is no cause more important for preserving that freedom than affirming the transcendent right to life of all human beings, the right without which no other rights have meaning. (Ronald Reagan;  Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, 38)


“(Abortion) is really a war against the child, and I hate the killing of the innocent child, murder by the mother herself.  And if we accept that the mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?…Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love one another but to use any violence to get what they want.  This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.”  (Mother Teresa, February 3, 1994,  National Prayer Breakfast at the Hilton Hotel Washington D.C.)


II-  If you know of any behavior that has disrupted righteous relations with another we must act immediately and extravagantly to try and reconcile the breach in the relationship.  (Mt 5:23-26; see also: Ps 4:4; 34:16; 145:18;  Prv 15:29; 17:14; 28:9; Isa 1:10-15; Rom 12:18-21; 1 Cor 6:1-7; Eph 4:26, 31-32; Col 3:8-13; Heb 12:14-15; Ja 1:19-20; 4:1-6; 5:16)


Heidelberg Catechism:

Question 107.  But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner mentioned above?

Answer: No:  for when God forbids envy, hatred, and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.


No matter how long you nurse a grudge, it won’t get better. — Barbara Johnson


“If you are in church, in the middle of a service of worship, and you suddenly remember that your brother has a grievance against you, leave church at once and put it right.  Do not wait till the service has ended.  Seek out your brother and ask his forgiveness.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 86)


This saying, presumably uttered in Galilee, thus envisages a worshiper who has traveled some eighty miles to Jerusalem with his “offering” (probably a sacrificial animal), who then leaves the animal in the temple while he makes a journey of a week or more to Galilee and back again in order to effect a reconciliation with his offended brother or sister before he dares to present his offering.  The improbability of the scenario emphasizes Jesus’ point, that the importance of right relationships demands decisive action.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 203)


The holier we become, the more anger we shall feel against sin.  But we must never, I repeat, feel anger against the sinner.  We must never feel angry with a person as such; we must draw a distinction between the person himself and what he does.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 199)


Jesus himself was angry when he cleared the temple (Jn 2:13-22).  He was angry with those who assailed him for healing on the Sabbath (Mk 3:5 uses the word “anger”).  And in Mt 23:17 he called the Pharisees “blind fools.”  So we conclude that there is a place for anger.  Jesus was angry at sin and injustice, but he never became angry at personal insult or affront.  Peter says that when Jesus was dying, “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats.  Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pt 2:23).  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 101)


The question may be asked, “Does the burden rest on me alone, not at all on the person who opposes me?”  Or, wording it differently, “Granted that I am the sinner–so at least my opponent views me–is it not his duty to forgive?”  The answer is given in such passages as Mt 6:12, 14; 18:21-35.  These same passages also imply that when I have done all in my power to bring about a reconciliation, and the opponent still refuses to be fair, and where necessary to be forgiving, the guilt will rest on himself alone.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 301-2)


Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody’s power and is not easy.”  ― Aristotle


Jesus endorses just war, capital punishment and the harsh, reputation killing rebuke of the religious leaders of His day because He sees in all of these a promotion of unrighteousness and ungodliness that demands the assassination of those things preventing God’s will from being done here on earth as it is in heaven.  — Pastor Keith


“A study of the concordance will show that there are more references in Scripture to the anger, fury, and wrath of God, more than there are to His love and tenderness.  (A. W. Pink , The Attributes of God, 75)


The person who’s not angry at evil lacks enthusiasm for good.


Anger is the fluid that love bleeds when you cut it.  (C. S. Lewis; Letter to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, 97)


Indeed there is a place for burning with anger at sin and injustice.  Our problem is that we burn with indignation and anger, not at sin and injustice, but at offense to ourselves.  In none of the cases in which Jesus became angry was his personal ego wrapped up in the issue.  More telling yet, when he was unjustly arrested, unfairly tried, illegally beaten, contemptuously spit upon, crucified, mocked, when in fact he had every reason for his ego to be involved, then, as Peter says, “He did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats” (1 Pt 2:23).  From his parched lips came forth rather those gracious words, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34).  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 44)


Anger’s the anesthetic of the mind.  (C. S. Lewis; Poems, “Five Sonnets (1)” 125)


Two men are on their way to court to settle a dispute between them.  They are still arguing on the way!  Jesus says the two men should settle the matter now, before they are in the courtroom with the judge.  It may be costly to settle it now; it will certainly be humbling.  But if it continues, one man may find himself in prison and unable to get out until he has paid the last penny (5:26).  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 85)


This does not apply to killing animals (Gn 9:3), defending one’s home (Ex 22:2), accidental killings (Dt 19:5), the execution of murderers by the state (Gn 9:6), or involvement with one’s nation in certain types of war.  It does apply, however, to self-murder (i.e., suicide), accessory to murder (2 Sm 12:9), or those who have responsibility to punish known murderers but fail to do so (1 Kgs 21:19).  Penalty for murder was death; it was not reducible to any lesser sentence (Nm 35:31).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 242)


The pictures are different: one is taken from church, the other from the law court.  One concerns a “brother” (23) and the other an enemy (25).  But in both cases the basic situation is the same (somebody has a grievance against us) and the basic lesson is the same (the necessity of immediate, urgent action).  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 86)


The term agree here means “come to terms.”  You may not agree with him, but come to terms with him.  Don’t argue with him.  If he wants to argue with you, love him and pray for him (Rom 12:18).  You don’t have to back down on your beliefs to come to terms.  (Bob Yandian, Salt & Light, The Sermon on the Mount, 43)


Both the case against abortion and the case for capital punishment are based upon the biblical principle of the sanctity of life.  God instituted capital punishment because the life of a human being is sacred.  If someone willfully, maliciously, and with malice aforethought kills someone, the killer has slaughtered a creature who bears the image of God.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 109)


GENERAL NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF:  A professional soldier understands that war means killing people, war means maiming people, war means families left without fathers and mothers.  All you have to do is hold your first dying soldier in your arms, and have that terribly futile feeling that his life is flowing out and you can’t do a anything about it; then you understand the horror of war.   Any soldier worth his salt should be antiwar.   And still there are things worth fighting for.


A little kid can be cute when he does something wrong or evil.  But adults must NEVER allow that child to think that that evil or wrong behavior is acceptable.  Otherwise they will continue to do that behavior well into their adult years when it is not longer cute but a felony.


Our anger must only be against sin; we must never feel angry with the sinner, but only full of sorrow and compassion for him.  “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil,” says the Psalmist.  We should feel a sense of anger as we view sin, hypocrisy, unrighteousness, and everything that is evil.  That is the way, of course, in which we fulfill the injunction of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians:  “Be ye angry, and sin not.”  The two things are not incompatible at all.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 198-9)


God hates evil.  God’s anger is displayed against it, and His wrath will be poured out upon it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 199)


If we are at any time angry, it should be to awaken the offender to repentance, and prevent his doing so again; to clear ourselves (2 Cor 7:11), and to give warning to others.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 58)


Sin has consequences and that, if you want to avoid the consequences, you must confess and make right the sin as soon as you are able.  In this sense the Lord Jesus Christ was only saying in different words what Paul later said to the Ephesians: “In your anger do not sin:  Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Eph 4:26), and he was recognizing the great principle stated in the twelfth chapter of Hebrews:  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy;…and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many” (Heb 12:14-15).  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 95)


But we don’t ponder how much his anger is also a function of his love and goodness.  The Bible tells us that God loves everything he has made.  That’s one of the reasons he’s angry at what’s going on in his creation; he is angry at anything or anyone that is destroying the people and world he loves.  His capacity for love is so much greater than ours–and the cumulative extent of evil in the world is so vast–that the word wrath doesn’t really do justice to how God rightly feels when he looks at the world.  So it makes no sense to say, “I don’t want a wrathful God, I want a loving God.”  If God is loving and good, he must be angry at evil–angry enough to do something about it.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 177)


One evening, a woman in the front row raised her hand and said, ‘Dr. Barnhouse, I attend a church where the pastor doesn’t believe in the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection or the Bible.  What should I do?’  Those who were there said that Dr. Barnhouse took off his glasses, smiled and, in total seriousness, said, ‘Madam, you should pray that he die.’  Then, Dr. Barnhouse put his glasses back on and went to the next question.  (Steve Brown; Living Free, 53)


III-  Jesus makes a direct correlation of our relationship to God and those created in His image.  (Mt 5:23-24; see also: Lv 19:18; 1 Sm 15:22; Ps 66:18; Prv 14:31; 15:7; Isa 1:15-17; 58:1-9;Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8; Mt 10:39-42; 22:36-40; 25:31-46; Rom 13:9-10; 1 Cor 6:7; 1 Pt 3:7; 1 Jn 3:10-17; 4:20-21)


Some of us have been spiritually dry because we have been offensive to others.  May we covenant now to confess our sins to those whom we have offended.  Then the heavens will open again.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 104)


We should never look with contempt on any man for whom Christ died.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 140)


The penalty was death for the killer, and the reason for its severe punishment was that man is made in God’s image.  To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 290)


The fact that men and women have been created in the image of God (Gn 1:26-27; 9:6) lies behind this prohibition.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 242)


The breach between man and God could not be healed until the breach between man and man was healed.  If a man was making a sin-offering, for instance, to atone for a theft, the offering was held to be completely unavailing until the thing stolen had been restored; and, if it was discovered that the thing had not been restored, then the sacrifice had to be destroyed as unclean and burned outside the Temple.  The Jews were quite clear that a man had to do his utmost to put things right himself before he could be right with God.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 142)


Love for God and for fellow believers is more important than gifts brought to the altar (Isa 1:11; Hos 6:6; Mic 6:6-8).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 94)


It’s not the words that put us in jeopardy of hellfire.  We could think a lot worse names than “you fool” to call people.  It’s the attitude.  By calling someone a fool, you write that person off as worthless, a zero, nothing, nobody.

And what is the problem with that?  That worthless nobody (in your judgment) is someone made in the image of God.  If God’s image is a fool, doesn’t that make God a fool too?  Next time you write someone off, think about whom you’re really talking about.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 92)


The striking feature of the first antithesis is its emphasis on the dignity of the human being created in the image of God.  Not only are we not to take the physical life of a human, but we are not to do anything that demeans a person’s dignity.  C. S. Lewis referred to this as the “weight of glory” in one of his most profound sermons, calling for us to pattern our lives so that we promote our neighbor’s glory.  “The load or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.”  (C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, 14-15)  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 259-60)


The proposal that a man with a grudge should quit his worship, even to leaving his gift before the altar, is not any depreciation of worship; it is rather the exaltation of worship.  For God sees the inmost motive, and must be worshiped in truth–worship being the crowning act of life; and a heart harried by grudges cannot offer any wholeness of adoration.  (George Buttrick, The Interpreter’s Bible, Vol. 7, 296)


True worship is not enhanced by better music, better prayers, better architecture, or even better preaching.  True worship is enhanced by better relationships between those who come to worship. Worship may be improved by our staying away from church until we have made things right with those with whom we know our relationship is strained or broken.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 297)


It is impossible for God to have any dealings with sin and iniquity.  He is of such a pure countenance that He cannot even look upon it.  According to our Lord the matter is so vital that you must even interrupt your prayer, you must, as it were, even keep God waiting.  Go and put it right, He says; you cannot be right with God until you put yourself right with man.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 201)


You must do it at once; delay not a moment, for that is your position.  This is just His way of saying that we must always remember our relationship to God.  We must not only think in terms of our brother whom we are offending, or with whom there is something wrong, we must always think of ourselves before God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 202)


The one thing we have to avoid above everything else in our Christian lives is this fatal tendency to live the Christian life apart from a direct, living, and true relationship to God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 192)


IV-  To fail to heed Jesus’ command is to condemn oneself to hell.  (Mt 5:23-26; see also: Ps 37:8; Mt 6:12-15; 18:21-35; Mk 11:25; Rom 1:18-32)


Jesus insists that the gravest thing of all is to destroy a man’s reputation and to take his good name away.  No punishment is too severe for the malicious tale-bearer, or the gossip over the teacups which murders people’s reputations.  Such conduct, in the most literal sense, is a hell-deserving sin.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 141)


Jesus is probably not placing these sins on a scale of seriousness in the kingdom of God; he is simply stressing vividly that they are far more serious than most of us assume.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 84)


So Jesus says that he who destroys his brother’s name and reputation is liable to the severest judgment of all, the judgment of the fire of Gehenna.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 140)


“Hell” (geënna) will be referred to again in 5:29-30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33 as the place of final destruction of the wicked; its use in this sense is well attested in Jewish apocalyptic literature.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 202)


Bitterness is the most visible symptom of the stronghold of cold love.  To deal with cold love, we must repent and forgive the one who hurt us.  Painful experiences are allowed by God to teach us how to love our enemies.  If we still have unforgiveness toward someone, we have failed this test.  Fortunately, it was just a test, not a final exam.  We actually need to thank God for the opportunity to grow in divine love.  Thank Him that your whole life is not being swallowed up in bitterness and resentment.  Millions of souls are swept off into eternal judgment every day without any hope of escaping from embitterment, but you have been given God’s answer for your pain.  God gives you a way out:  love!   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 68-9)


“For as he thinks within himself,” says the Bible, “so he is.”  In other words, people who entertain bitter thoughts and exhibit an angry attitude toward their enemies often become bitter and angry people.  They become a hostage to their own hate.  They don’t hold a grudge as much as the grudge holds them in its claws. (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 12)


“If the God of life does not respond to the culture of death (21st century western civilization – abortion) with judgment, then God is not god.   If God does not honor the blood of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham , the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.

But, you may object: Is not the God of the Bible forgiving?

He is!  But, the unrepentant refuse forgiveness.  Forgiveness being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received.  How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive, except unforgiveness; nothing to judge but judgementalism; nothing lacking but self-esteem?  How can a Pharisee or a pop-psychologist be saved?

But, you might object:  Is not the God of the Bible compassionate?

He is!   But, He is not compassionate to Molech and Baal and Ashtoreth, and to the Canaanites who do their work who cause their children to pass through the fire.  Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice, the god of your demands, the god of your religious preferences.  But, not the God of the Bible.  Read the Book.  Look at the data. (Peter Kreeft lecture, “Culture War”)


Because of America’s sinfulness …. “If God doesn’t judge America, He’s going to have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”    (Billy Graham)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:   What should we do in light of what Jesus is telling us?

  1. Confess you are a murderer. (Lk 15:17-21; Ja 5:16; 1 Jn 1:8-9)


Do we commit murder?  Yes–by this definition.  We lose our temper.  We harbor grudges.  We gossip.  We kill by neglect, spite, and jealousy.  And we would learn that we actually do worse things than these if only we could see our hearts as God is able to see them.  It is no accident that even in our own speech such things sometimes are termed character assassination, or that we speak of destroying a person by words.  This is literally true, and we do it.  Jesus says, we are not to be that way as Christians.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 93)


But now Jesus attacks such self-confidence by charging that no one is truly innocent of murder, because the first step in murder is anger.  The anger that lies behind murder–anger which many people think is not really a sin–is one of the worst of sins.  To one degree or another, it makes all men would-be murderers.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 291)


“To belittle is to be little”


Jesus is saying that the law against murder prohibits actual murder but also potential murder.  In other words, what is prohibited is not only the actual killing of a human being but those things that represent potential destruction of a human being.  In the case of abortion, some say, there is no destruction of actual human life but only of potential human life.  I believe it is the actual destruction of an actual life.  At the very minimum a growing embryo is moving from potentiality to actuality, and to destroy it is to destroy a potential life.  If Jesus says you can go to hell for the potential destruction of an actual life, it is much more serious to be involved in the actual destruction of a potential life.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 109)


  1. As much as it is possible provide restitution. (Ex 21:30-36; 22:1-4; Lv 24:18; Prv 6:30-31; Lk 19:1-10; Rom 12:18-21; 1 Cor 6:1-7)


Reconciliation must precede worship.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 296)


Settle the breach between you and your brother before you try to settle the breach between you and God.  Not to do that is to be a hypocrite by asking for forgiveness without repenting.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 297)


Not only are we not to harbor murder and evil thoughts in our heart against another; but the commandment not to kill really means we should take positive steps to put ourselves right with our brother.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 199)


“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  It is a hard statement to accept.  In fact, it is an impossible statement if the heart of man is unchanged.  But God will change the heart if the life is surrendered to Jesus Christ for transformation.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 96)


We live in a culture in which we are superficial in our relationships.  Image is everything.  But with God the opposite is the case.  Image is nothing.  What is in the heart is everything.


As the story of Zachaeus hyperbolically states, repentance entails for them paying back “four times as much” and giving half of their possession to the poor (Lk 19:8).  A genuine repentance of the oppressors will lead to the “injustice” of superabundant restitution, which seeks to offset the injustice of the original violation.  (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, 118)


  1. Deal with murderous thoughts immediately. (Eph 4:26-31; Col 3:8; Ja 1:19; 1 Pt 2:1)


The time for reconciliation, just as the time for salvation, is always now.  Tomorrow is often too late.  We are not to allow bitterness, anger, hatred, or any other sin to keep us separated from other people, whoever they are.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 298)


The word resentment expresses what happens if the cycle goes uninterrupted.  It means, literally, “to feel again”:  resentment clings to the past, relives it over and over, picks each fresh scab so that the wound never heals.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 97)


Resentment is when you let your hurt become hate.  Resentment is when you allow what is eating you to eat you up.  Resentment is when you poke, stoke, feed, and fan the fire, stirring the flames and reliving the pain.

Resentment is the deliberate decision to nurse the offense until it becomes a black, furry, growling grudge.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 100)


The high-minded man does not bear grudges, for it is not the mark of a great soul to remember injuries, but to forget them.  —Aristotle


The best exercise for good relationships is bending over backward.  —Barbara Johnson


It’s wise to remember that anger is just one letter short of danger.  —Sam Ewing


The Pharisees read this law and, not having literally murdered anyone, felt righteous.  Yet they were angry enough with Jesus that they would soon plot his death, though they would not do the dirty work themselves.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 92)


““Remorse for what?  You people have done everything in the world to me.  Doesn’t that give me equal right?”   —Charles Manson


I lose my temper, but it’s all over in a minute,” said the student.  “So is the hydrogen bomb,” I replied.  “But think of the damage it produces!” —George Sweeting  (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 264)


“Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” ― Mark Twain


“Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” ― Gautama Buddha


Anger is the wind that blows out the light of the brain.


The wind of anger blows out the lamp of intelligence.  —Barbara Johnson


What is the state of your heart?  How do you react to things that happen?  Do you find yourself flaring into a raging temper when a person has done something to you?  Or do you sometimes feel anger against a person who really has done nothing to you at all?  These are the things that matter.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 199)


I was once told by an attorney that he could not accept the Christian faith because he didn’t believe in the idea of the innocent suffering for the guilty.  I responded by deliberately expressing sorrow that he would never have any close friends or a happy marriage.  He reacted that he wasn’t talking about marriage or friendships!  But I pointed out that since he was not perfect, he would make mistakes, and only if his spouse or his friends would suffer for his mistakes and continue to love and accept him would he be able to enjoy meaningful relationships.  For the first time he saw that the principle of the innocent suffering for the guilty is central to human relationships as well as to our relationship with God. (Myron S. Augsburger; The Christ-Shaped Conscience, 31)


  1. Pray for God to transform your heart/mind. (Prv 4:23; 13:9-10; Rom 12:1-2; 2 Cor 5:17-21; Ja 3:13-18; 1 Pt 1:22; 1 Jn 3:19-21)


That God is first of all concerned about what men are like on the inside is a central truth of both testaments.  A good outward act is validated before God only when it honestly represents what is on the inside.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 284)


As you examine yourself before you go to bed, you do not just ask yourself if you have committed murder or adultery, or whether you have been guilty of this or that, and if you have not, thank God that all is well.  No.  You ask yourself rather, “Has God been supreme in my life today?  Have I lived to the glory and the honor of God?  Do I know Him better?  Have I a zeal for His honor and glory?  Has there been anything in me that has been unlike Christ–thoughts, imaginations, desires, impulses?”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 192)


True Christian morality must arise from the heart; and, as a result of this, no one but God (who controls the heart) can provide it.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 92)


God’s primary concern has always been for inner purity, not simply outward compliance.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 285)


Jesus is emphasizing one central lesson, namely, that the root of evil lies in the heart, where love must be substituted for hatred and indifference, and sincerity for hypocrisy and selfishness.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 298)


He who angers you, controls you!


To some extent every man is a split personality.  There is part of him which is attracted to good, and part of him which is attracted to evil.  So long as a man is like that, an inner battle is going on inside him.  One voice is inciting him to take the forbidden thing; the other voice is forbidding him to take it.

Plato likened the soul to a charioteer whose task it was to drive two horses.  The one horse was gentle and biddable and obedient to the reins and to the word of command; the other horse was wild and untamed and rebellious.  The name of the one horse was reason; the name of the other was passion.  Life is always a conflict between the demands of the passions and the control of the reason.  The reason is the leash which keeps the passions in check.  But, a leash may snap at any time.  Self-control may be for a moment off its guard–and then what may happen?  So long as there is the inner tension, this inner conflict, life must be insecure.  In such circumstances there can be no such thing as safety.  The only way to safety, Jesus said, is to eradicate the desire for the forbidden thing for ever.  Then and then alone life is safe.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 136-7)


The OT everywhere teaches that under certain circumstances offerings are not acceptable to God (Gn 4:5; 1 Sm 15:22; Isa 1:11; Jer 6:20; Amos 5:22; Mic 6:6, to mention a few of a much longer series of passages).  The gift derives its value from the heart of the giver (Mk 12:41-44; Lk 21:1-4; Heb 11:4; cf. Jn 3:16!).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 300)


It is the heart that must be right.  It is the inner disposition that must be one of love toward all others.  That is the only way to fulfill the sixth commandment.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 301)


Worship Point:  Worship the God Who has placed such a high value on His creatures that He would be willing to send His Son to die for their salvation, redemption and life.


Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.  — Thomas a’Kempis.


Gospel Application:  The Gospel demonstrates God’s great love for people.  Being born again begins the process by which we are able to become like Jesus and likewise display high regard for the dignity and sanctity of human life.


All creatures kill — there seems to be no exception.  But of the whole list man is the only one that kills for fun; he is the only one that kills in malice, the only one that kills for revenge.  — Mark Twain


It would be great if people never got angry at someone for doing something they’ve done themselves.  — Rodney Dangerfield in Esquire


Spiritual Challenge:  Be taught by the Word of God and led by the Spirit of God to see people as God sees them.


We must always be very careful, therefore, lest we do with the Sermon on the Mount what the Pharisees and the scribes had been doing with the old moral law.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 192)



Quotes to Note:

Sometimes we get involved in a legitimate issue and discern, perhaps with accuracy, the right and the wrong of the matter.  However, in pushing the right side, our own egos get so bound up with the issues that in our view opponents are not only in the wrong but attacking us.  When we react with anger, we may deceive ourselves into thinking we are defending the truth and the right, when deep down we are more concerned with defending ourselves.  (D. A. Carson, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, 45)


Among Jesus’ most amazing departures from traditional teaching were His insistence that tradition and Scripture were in conflict and that inner righteousness, not outward form, is the central and necessary characteristic of a right relationship to God.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 286)


The law is not an end in itself.  Its deeper purpose goes beyond purifying the lives of God’s people.  Its supreme purpose is to glorify God Himself.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 287)


That does not mean of course that the letter does not matter; but it does mean that we must put the spirit before it and interpret the letter according to the spirit.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 190)


Do not murder” — God: Exodus 20:13



the Cure

for Murder



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