Commitment

You have all witnessed words something like this: A minister says, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God and these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.” The the couple speak: “I, M—, take you, N—, to be my wedded wife, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful husband in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.” and, “I, N—, take you, M—, to be my wedded husband, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be your loving and faithful wife in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.” And then you hear: “By virtue of the authority committed unto me as a minister of the church of Jesus Christ, I now pronounce you husband and wife, according to the ordinance of God and the law of the State, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” That ought to be the beginning of a life-long commitment to being together. But, as Jesus points out in Matthew 5:31–32, too often that is not the case.

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Purity in Christ

If your trust is in Christ, you are united to him by faith. You have died with him and been raised with him. You are a new creation. Does that mean that you have conquered temptation and can check off the Seventh Commandment as one that you have kept? Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 5:27–30. How can you be pure in Christ in an impure world? How can you be pure in Christ when you struggle with purity in your own heart?

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Anger and Reconciliation

“You shall not murder.” Have you unlawfully shot, stabbed, or bludgeoned anyone to death? If not, can you say that you’ve kept this commandment? Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:21–26.

Beware of anger! Listen to Jesus. His language is strong, contrasting what you heard and what he says. Is he doing away with a commandment here? No. that would contradict what he said about not abolishing but fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. His expansion on the sins of murder and adultery would be pointless if he were removing what God had commanded. Notice that Jesus does not use the way he sometimes introduces quotes from Scripture, “It is written.” Rather, he says, “You have heard.” Here, and in the other examples in this chapter, he quotes a commandment of God—and along with it the explanation or application made by rabbinic leaders, which sometimes limited or blunted what God said. In each case, instead of relaxing what God says, he sharpens it. He gets to the heart of the commandment and to the attitude behind it. His, “But I say” is an authoritative claim, see Matthew 7:28–29. He is telling you, as his disciples, what he, the Messianic King, expects of his subjects. How do you live in the new era which his coming has introduced? “The fulfillment of the law, like the fulfillment of the prophets, while presupposing and reaffirming its divine truth and authority, predicates the dawn of a new era. The law and the prophets do not produce their own fulfillment. It is the presence of Christ alone which accomplishes this end, and this fact, in the light of Matthew’s total witness to Christ, clearly involves new divine action and speech. The fulfillment of the law and the prophets represents not a mere repetition or reiteration of the old revelation, but the announcement of the appearance of the age to which the old age looked forward.” (pp. 197–198). “No hint is given of a relaxing of the authority of the law; on the contrary he indicates that the demands of God are more comprehensive and more exacting than men had supposed.” (p. 199). (Ned B. Stonehouse, The Witness of Matthew and Mark to Christ).

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Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

How do you answer someone who says, “The 10 Commandments have nothing to do with the life of a Christian”? What does Jesus say about the Law in Matthew 5:17–20?

How important are the Law and the Prophets? Jesus does not abolish the Law. Jesus may have made this remark because he was accused of doing away with the Law. Later in this Gospel we see him reacting strongly against the additional burdens that the scribes and Pharisees had added to the Law. But, as we will see, what Jesus opposes is not the Law of God, but the human additions to it.

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Salt and Light

What does it mean to let your light shine before men? The song, “This little light of mine,” gives one impression. In Matthew 5:11–16 we see a richer, more powerful, and brighter picture.

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