Matthew Five

by Dr. Henry M. Morris

(taken from the Defender's Study Bible)

Matthew 5:1 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:

his disciples. The Sermon on the Mount, as the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5, 6, 7 have been called, was directed only to “His disciples,” not to the “multitudes.” In a sense, this was during a transitional period between the Mosaic economy (or dispensation) in Israel and the Christian economy which applied to both Jew and Gentiles. In all economies, however, one's eternal salvation is based on faith in the Word of God and His work of redemption, not on obedience to moral laws. Such laws are guidelines for happiness in this world and rewards in the future world for those who are regenerate believers. The disciples were believers, and the Sermon on the Mount should be understood essentially in this light.

Matthew 5:2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying,

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed. The word “blessed” essentially means “happy.” These nine beatitudes thus constitute the believer's guidelines, as it were, for the pursuit of (true) happiness. The qualities and attributes here enumerated are diametrically opposite to what the ungodly would prescribe for worldly happiness.

poor. On another occasion, Jesus said, simply: “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Thus material poverty can actually be a greater blessing to the believer than riches, as he learns to draw more and more on his heavenly resources. Note also Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 109:21-27; James 2:5.

Matthew 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.

mourn. The sorrow of godly people is in contrast with “the sorrow of the world” (2 Corinthians 7:10) and may be the result of spiritual enemies (Psalm 55:1-6) or personal affliction (Psalm 102:1-11). True and lasting comfort is promised to all God's people who mourn (Isaiah 61:3).

Matthew 5:5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

inherit the earth. Note Psalm 37:9, where it is promised that “those that wait upon the Lord … shall inherit the earth” See also Psalm 37:22, 29, 34. Also note that “he that feareth the Lord … shall inherit the earth” (Psalm 25:12-13).

the meek. In the Bible, “meekness” is not the same as “weakness.” Rather, meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and was one of the characteristics of Christ (Matthew 11:29). According to Psalm 37:34, the meek who inherit the earth are synonymous with those who “wait on the Lord, and keep His way.”

Matthew 5:6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

peacemakers. Jesus did not say: “Blessed are the pacifists,” but rather, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” meaning those who make peace. This is the first occurrence of “peace” in the New Testament, and this verse has special significance since Jesus is the only real Peacemaker. It was He who “made peace with the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). Before there can be peace between man and man, there must be peace between man and God. Since His blood has reconciled God to man, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). His disciples, therefore, can best be peacemakers themselves by urging men to “be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

Matthew 5:10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

they which are persecuted. It seems anomalous to call persecution a blessing, but this is the thrust of many Scriptures (2 Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:50, 52; Luke 6:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; 1 Peter 4:16; etc.). It is indicated here by Jesus, of course, that such suffering should be “for righteousness' sake” and “for my sake” (Matthew 5:11), not for foolishness' sake.

Matthew 5:11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Matthew 5:12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

Matthew 5:13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

set on a hill. Christ very likely was thinking of the six cities of refuge provided in Israel (Numbers 35:15), all of which were cities set on a hill, so that they could be seen for miles around, thus expediting their sighting by anyone seeking refuge in them (see also Joshua 20:7-8). They could be seen even at night by their watchfires. In a sense, believers should also be lights in a dark world.

Matthew 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

not come to destroy. The Lord Jesus, by His own word, did not destroy the law of God; thus it is still operable. He did, however, alone of all men, obey it perfectly. He fulfilled all its demands and requirements, which no other man or woman could ever do. Consequently, He alone can redeem us from “the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13).

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

one jot or one tittle. The “jot” and “tittle” were the smallest letter and a mark which distinguished two letters in the Hebrew words of the Old Testament. Thus, not only the words, but even the letters are divinely inspired, in the original autographs of the Scriptures.

Matthew 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

least in the kingdom. We “in the kingdom” are held accountable (especially when we teach others), for believing and obeying all God's commands. There are no insignificant or non-inspired statements in the Bible.

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:

Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.

Raca. The word raca is an Aramaic expression of contempt, something like our English “stupid idiot!” Such an insult to a fellow believer in the Jewish economy might warrant being charged, before the council of the Sanhedrin, with slander.

Thou fool. This is even a greater insult. The Greek is the word from which we get our English word “moron,” but it also conveys an implication of rebellion. For a believer to call a brother a “rebellious moron” would be so out of character as to imply that the one using such language might not even be a true believer.

hell. “Hell” is gehenna, in the Greek, the place of everlasting fire. Almost certainly it refers to the ultimate lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), not to the great pit in the center of the earth known as hades (this word is also commonly translated “hell”—e.g., Matthew 11:23), where the spirits of the unsaved are confined as they await the final judgment. Note the divine principle implied in this verse of degrees of punishment.

Matthew 5:23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;

Matthew 5:24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.

Matthew 5:25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.

Matthew 5:26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

farthing. The English coin was a fourth of a penny—hence the “fourth-ing,” the smallest coin of all, except for the “mite” (see Mark 12:42).

Matthew 5:27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

Matthew 5:28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

Matthew 5:29 And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:30 And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Matthew 5:31 It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement:

divorcement. On divorce and remarriage, see note on Matthew 19:9 and note on 1 Corinthians 7:15.

Matthew 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.

Matthew 5:33 Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:

Matthew 5:34 But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne:

Matthew 5:35 Nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King.

Matthew 5:36 Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.

Matthew 5:37 But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.

your communication. Even the use of so-called “minced oaths” or supposed mild euphemisms for profane or vulgar words “cometh of evil”—that is, literally, “is from the evil one.” On the high standards of true Christian speech, see note on Ephesians 5:4 and note on Colossians 4:6.

Matthew 5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

Matthew 5:39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Matthew 5:40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

Matthew 5:41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

Matthew 5:42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

Matthew 5:43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Love your enemies. We cannot learn to love our enemies unless we have enemies! This sermon to His disciples (see note on Matthew 5:1) simply assumes that, in living and witnessing for their Lord, they would inevitably have enemies, and so shall we (John 15:18-21).

Matthew 5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Matthew 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

Matthew 5:47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

perfect. Jesus knew no believer could be sinlessly perfect (note, e.g., Matthew 6:14-15) in this life. Nevertheless, this must be the standard and the goal—not for gaining salvation but for living the Christian life. The word “perfect” also can be understood as “complete” or “fully mature,” but this state is no more attainable than sinless perfection—in fact, they are really the same. We do have such a standing in Christ, and we should perpetually seek to fulfill this standard by God's help.

is perfect. God created a perfect world (Genesis 1:31); His word is also “perfect, converting the soul” (Psalm 19:7); “His work is perfect, … without iniquity” (Deuteronomy 32:4); “His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30); and we are exhorted to “prove what is that … perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).