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Summary: Imagine a commentary on the Old Testament by Jesus Christ. It would be the best, and we have one in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s begin to understand the intent of the law by its author. Let’s look at murder, adultery and bearing false witness in Matthew 5:21-37.

Imagine a commentary on the Old Testament by Jesus Christ. It would be the best, and we have one in the Sermon on the Mount. Let’s begin to understand the intent of the law by its author. Let’s look at murder, adultery and bearing false witness in Matthew 5:21-37.

Murder

Matthew 5:21-26 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

Jesus angrily turned over the money-changers’ tables (Matthew 21:12-13), and was angry with the Pharisees’ hard hearts (Mark 3:1-5) without sin (Ephesians 4:26-27). Unrighteous anger (Proverbs 15:18) is discerned by what comes out of our mouths, hate words, verbal abuse. The opposite is valuing human life.

Obeying just the letter of the law misses its purpose, love. Jesus encouraged us to reconcile with enemies if possible, or at least find some kind of agreement quickly, lest the whole matter go to an unjust court and we lose everything. The opposite of murder is reconcile or settle.

Adultery

Matthew 5:27-32 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

The letter of a law leaves loopholes as long as the specific forbidden act is not done. Jesus addressed the principle. As anger can lead to murder, lust can lead to adultery. Exaggerating to make the point, Jesus suggested self-mutilation, a sin. He meant: take drastic steps to avoid adultery.

Is all divorce a sin? Jesus’ exception is “porneia.” Louw-Nida defines that as sexual immorality of any kind. The Friberg Lexicon defines it as every kind of extramarital, unlawful, or unnatural sexual intercourse. Jesus is stricter than we are, but the general principle is: easy divorce is not God’s way.

Bearing False Witness

Matthew 5:33-37 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 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 swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.”

Rather than make rash promises that we may not be able to keep, God inspired James, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.’" (James 4:15) Foolish and superstitious oaths don’t guarantee truth. Simply answer yes or no.

Ever felt like you are never good enough? Let’s face it! We’ve all been verbally abusive, lustful and broken promises. But it doesn’t end there. Take it to God. It’s over, forgiven! Don’t live in the failures of the past, but in the forgiven life of the people of Christ.

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