A Manual For Discipleship

 

Disciples – You Must Exceed Religion

 

We have seen what a disciple is and how one becomes a disciple in the Beatitudes (5:1-12). We have also seen the practical application of the disciple in terms of being slat and light (5:13-16). Now Jesus builds on this understanding of discipleship by calling the disciple to exceed religion. This is a major emphasis in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Disciples – You Must Exceed Religion

 

Matthew 5:20 - “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  [1]

This verse is the key to the Sermon on the Mount. This verse separates the spiritual from the sanctimonious, the word of God in the Spirit from the legalistically human interpretation of it. It distinguishes having a relationship with God as opposed to working toward God religiously. A disciple’s relationship with the Lord must exceed the pharisaical religious system of tradition.

Jesus is dealing with a major issue and problem here. You see the Pharisees were top of the line religious people; if you want to know what a religious person is like, look at the Pharisees. They strained and manipulated their way around God’s Law so they could at least appear to keep it. But the problem was that they were all show, they were all outward and what was on the inside was dead. Jesus said it like this:

  • Matthew 23:25-28 - “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.26 “Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.28 “Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”  [2]

Jesus is teaching that this kind of outward show religion was totally useless because it didn’t get to the heart of the problem. This reality was and is essential for the disciple to grasp. Jesus wants our hearts, not just our bodies or what’s on the outside. How important is this? When Jesus uses the word “unless,” (Greek EAN ME) he means that this is a requirement for entry into the kingdom of heaven. A disciple must exceed religious understanding of God.

What does it mean to “exceed” something? The word “exceed” is a translation of the Greek term PERISSEUO (Strong’s #4052) and means, ““to be over and above, over a certain number or measure, to abound, exceed,”[3] “to superabound (in quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous; . . .to cause to superabound or excel: (make, more) abound, (have, have more) abundance (be more) abundant, be the better, enough and to spare, exceed, excel, increase, be left, redound, remain (over and above).” [4] Jesus couldn’t have used a stronger word to make His point. Disciple, your righteousness must be far and away greater than that of religious Pharisees.

How can this happen? The KJV Bible Commentary makes the following pertinent comment:

“The significance of this is seen in the fact that the Jews of Jesus’ day considered these people to be the most religious in all Israel. However, their religion was merely an outward show of self-righteousness. What the Savior demands is a kind of righteousness that is so godly that it cannot be the product of human effort but must be the gift of God. This righteousness Christ would establish in His life and death would be made available as God’s free gift. This is the righteousness that would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees.”[5]

What is “Righteousness”?

What is the “righteousness” that Jesus is referring to? The word “righteousness,” is a translation of the Greek term DIKAIOSUNE (Strong’s #1343) and according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary, refers to, “the character or quality of being right or just”; it was formerly spelled “rightwiseness,” which clearly expresses the meaning.”  [6] When the New Testament uses this term to describe God, it refers to the inherent righteous nature of God. When used to regarding believers, it refers to two aspects of righteousness.

First, the believer has imputed righteousness  “in Christ” received through faith in Christ.  Imputed righteousness is a quality righteousness, that legal right standing we are given before God whereby our sins are forgiven and we are justified before God’s judgment seat. We see this in the following verse:

  • Isaiah 61:10 – “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”  [7]
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”  [8]
  • Philippians 3:9 – “and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”  [9]

Second, the believer has imparted righteousness, or actual rightwiseness in life. This is the character of righteousness in life practically worked out by faith. We see this in the following verses:

  • Hebrews 11:33 – “who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,”  [10]
  • 1 John 2:29 – “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”  [11]

That God’s righteousness is not only something that is imputed is seen in the book of Romans where the two aspects of righteousness are connected:

  • Romans 13:14 – “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”  [12]

Indeed, this superabundant righteousness that Jesus refers to comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is calling the disciple to a higher calling, a calling to see the spirit of the word not just the letter of it. The Beatitudes key us into the means by which the disciple can heed this higher calling, that is, through the Spirit of God working in the disciple of God through faith in Christ. Later in the New Testament we see that this righteousness comes through faith in Christ and the saving work of God in us. Verses that testify to this work of God in the disciple are:

  • Ephesians 4:20-24 – “But you have not so learned Christ,21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus:22 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts,23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.”  [13]
  • Philippians 3:8-9 – “Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ9 and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith;”  [14]
  • 1 John 2:29 – “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him.”  [15]

The Sermon on the Mount is something that is worked out in the heart of a disciple and overflows into their lives. The disciple must follow the Lord with not only his head, but with his heart as well. The Pharisee of Jesus’ day had intellectualized God’s law and related to it with his head but left his heart out of the equation. The Sermon on the Mount explains not only the nature of discipleship, but also how discipleship exceeds religion. In what ways does the discipleship Jesus teaches exceed religion? Let’s see.

A Disciple Depends On The Word Of God – A Religious Pharisee Depends on Human Tradition

Matthew 5:17-19 - “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.18 “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  [16]

Jesus here shows His devotion to and fulfillment of the word of God, “the Law or the Prophets” (5:17). The Law consisted of a moral, judicial and ceremonial aspect. The moral law refers to the Ten Commandments. The judicial law refers to the judgments stipulated for judges to oversee civil and community laws. The ceremonial law refers to the offerings and sacrificial system of atonement. The prophets refer to the Old Testament prophetic books.  Jesus is the fulfillment of the “prophets” in that he fulfilled the approximately 300 prophecies of the Old Testament prophets. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law in that He fulfilled the aim of the ceremonial aspect of the Old Testament Law. The ceremonial law with all of its sacrificial system of offerings was meant to bear witness to the atonement of Jesus Christ (John 1:29; Hebrews 9-10; 1 Peter 1:17-19).

The Law and the Disciple

If Jesus “did not come to destroy but to fulfill,” the Law, what role does the Law of God play in the life of the New Testament disciple? While the ceremonial aspect of the Law becomes obsolete in Christ (Hebrews 8-10), there is an aspect of the Law that is important for the disciple to consider.

The purpose of the Law (the Ten Commandments primarily) is to lead us to Christ, as Paul was inspired to relate when he wrote:

  • Galatians 3:24 – “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”  [17]

The primary purpose of the Law of God is to lead people to Jesus Christ. The Law does this by revealing people’s hopeless sinful state under the Law. People can’t keep the Law in their own strength and that condemns the sinner to spiritual death, it puts them under a curse. Again Paul writes:

  • Galatians 3:10-12 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”  [18]

In this state of sin under the Law God reveals the way out through faith in Christ:

  • Galatians 3:12-14 – “Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”  [19]

Jesus is the only way of escape from the curse of sin under the Law and that revelation is how the Law leads people to Christ where they can be justified by faith.

But after a person is saved does the Law of God matter anymore?  Yes indeed it does! Remember what Jesus said:

  • Matthew 5:19 - “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” 

There are teachers who teach that once a person is saved the Law of God has no more pertinence or import to the believer. Such people are called “antinomian” or opposed to Law. Those who teach that the Law can be discarded and broken after one has been saved are referred to by Jesus as “least in the kingdom of heaven.” Those who do the Law and teach the Law will be called “great in the kingdom of heaven.” Are we waxing legalistic? No, not at all, the truth of the matter is that whether you are an unbeliever or believer you cannot keep the law in your own strength. But it is just as true that whether you are an unbeliever or believer you cannot ignore God’s Law. Which of the Ten Commandments would you disregard? Do you want to worship gods other than The God? (Exodus 20:3). Would you like to make carved images and bow and serve them even though God says He is a “jealous God”? (Exodus 20:4-6; the Roman Catholic Church has indeed removed this commandment from their Bibles). Would you like to take the Lord’s name in vain? (Exodus 20:7). Disregard the Sabbath Day? (Exodus 20:8-11). Dishonor your parents? (Exodus 20:12). Murder? (Exodus 20:13) Commit adultery? (Exodus 20:14). Steal? (Exodus 20:15). Bear false witness? (Exodus 20:16). Covet your neighbor’s wife and as well as other things? (Exodus 20:17). Which of these commandments would you like to break? Before you answer, think, which of these commandments would you like broken against you? No, the disciple does not disregard the Law of God; but the disciple does not also relate to the Law of God and try to keep it in his or her own strength. That is the key; if we are not to disregard the Law of God, how can we keep it?

The disciple keeps the Law of God in the power of the love of God that is poured into his or her heart by the Spirit of God. In Romans 5 the apostle Paul writes:

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [20]

Upon receiving Jesus Christ as Savior by faith, God pours out His love (AGAPAO) into the heart of the believer by the Spirit. And it is this love that enables the believer to keep the Law of God as Paul later writes:

  • Romans 13:8-10 – “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”  [21]

If you think about it, if we live in the love of God, we wouldn’t think of breaking any of the Laws of God. Living in love means we love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Matthew 22:37; Mark 12:30). If you love with God’s love you’d never dishonor your parents, murder, bear false witness, or covet your neighbor’s wife. You see, God enables the believer to keep the Law by faith in Him; if we trust God to work in and through us, He will see that the love in us will keep in step with the Law of His love.

We don’t earn or buy God’s love by keeping the commandments; we get to experience it fully. And this will not be a chore or burden to us. The apostle John wrote:

  • 1 John 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”  [22]

Keeping the Law by faith is not a chore but is the way we experience the love of God. Keeping the Law of God is not a have to thing; it’s a get to thing. Because we have the love of God in us, we can experience it fully by keeping it in the power God provides. It’s really a matter of the heart and Jesus will continue to teach us about the heart as we continue.  Disciple, don’t disregard the Law of God, enjoy it in His love.

The Enduring Nature of the Word

Not only is Jesus devoted to the fulfillment of God’s word, He testifies to the enduring nature of God’s word when He says, ““For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”(5:18). This is the testimony of the Scriptures themselves, which state:

  • Psalm 119:89-90,152 – “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.90 Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You established the earth, and it abides. . . 152 Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.”  [23]
  • 1 Peter 1:22-25 – “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart,23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,24 because “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away,25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  [24]

In his book Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell writes the following about the enduring nature of God’s word:

“The Bible has withstood vicious attacks of its enemies as no other boo, Many have tried to burn it, ban it and outlaw it from the days of Roman emperors to present day Communist-dominated countries.

Sidney Collett in All About the Bible says, ‘Voltaire, the noted French infidel who died in 1778, said that in one hundred years from his time Christianity would be swept from existence and passed into history. But what has happened? Voltaire has passed into history, while the circulation of the Bible continues to increase in almost all parts of the world, carrying blessing wherever it goes. . . . Concerning the boast of Voltaire on the extinction of Christianity and the Bible in 100 years, Geisler and Nix point out that ‘only fifty years after his death the Geneva Bible Society used his press and house to produce stacks of Bibles.’ WHAT AN IRONY OF HISTORY!” [25]

The Bible is the word of God and He will protect it from all assailants. Critics come and go, but the Bible isn’t going anywhere, it stands firm, it stands the test of time.  Disciple, you can depend on the word of God.

 

Jesus therefore, emphasizes the importance of maintaining the integrity of Scripture. The Bible warns against the misuse and manipulation of the word of God when it states:

 

  • Psalm 119:104,128 – “Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way.128 Therefore all Your precepts concerning all things I consider to be right; I hate every false way.”  [26]
  • Proverbs 30:6 – “Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.”  [27]
  • Jeremiah 23:28-29 - “The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the Lord.29 “Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”  [28]
  • Jeremiah 26:2 - “Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the court of the Lord’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah, which come to worship in the Lord’s house, all the words that I command you to speak to them. Do not diminish a word.”  [29]
  • Revelation 22:18-19 – “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book;19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”  [30]

Jesus came to fulfill not destroy the word of God and proclaimed the enduring nature of God’s word as well as warned against manipulating the word of God in any way.

But the religious Pharisees misused and manipulated the word of God to their advantage. Jesus addressed this when he stated:

  • Mark 7:5-13 – “Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashed hands?”6 He answered and said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 1 ‘This people honors Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me.7 And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’8 “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”9 He said to them, All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.10 “For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’11 “But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is Corban”—’ (that is, a gift to God),12 “then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother,13 “making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”   [31]

Manmade tradition or writings should never supercede the authority of the word of God. To allow such to happen results in people being cheated of the truth of God. Later in the New Testament the apostle Paul reiterates and emphasizes this when he is inspired to write:

  • Colossians 2:8  – “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.”  [32]

When the church or the disciple turns to traditions, philosophies (or psychologies) that are rooted in human origin, they are polluting what God calls holy. God’s word with God’s power is sufficient for life as the Bible says:

  • 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  [33]
  • 2 Peter 1:3-4 – “as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”  [34]

Disciple, don’t dilute or pollute God’s word, depend on God’s word, not the traditions of men.

A Disciple Depends on Spiritual Insight – A Religious Pharisee Depends on Human Wisdom

Matthew 5:22,28,32,34,39,44 -  “But I say to you . . . .”  [35]

The words of Jesus, “But I say to you . .  .” show us that a disciple depends on his or her relationship with Jesus to receive spiritual insight. The apostle Paul who writes describes this dependence:

  • 1 Corinthians 2:6-14 – “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory,8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.9 But as it is written:  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”10 But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God.11 For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”  [36] (Emphasis added.)

By relying on the Spirit the disciple is able to experience the “but I say to you,” spoken by Jesus to the first disciples. Knowing the truth of the Bible is not merely an academic pursuit, it is an insight received from the Spirit (See also John 14:25; 16:13).

The religious Pharisee relies on their human wisdom to interpret the Bible. Relying on human wisdom can result in tragedy as the Scripture states:

  • Proverbs 14:12 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”  [37]
  • Proverbs 16:25 – “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”  [38]
  • Proverbs 12:15 – “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But he who heeds counsel is wise.”  [39]

A fool is a person who fails to factor God into their life equation. It is foolish to approach the word of God without seeking understanding for the Author. It was the foolish dependent upon their own wisdom and understanding that led the religious to crucify the Lord of glory, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 2:8).

There is a related issue here of attitude toward the word of God and it’s application. The disciple who depends upon the Spirit to give them insight will have a heart to fulfill the entirety of God’s word. The disciple wants to do more, or as much as they can in terms of keeping and living God’s word. The religious Pharisee on the other hand has a mindset that is always looking to do as little as possible and only what is required. The mindset of the religious Pharisee is, how much do I have to do to be acceptable; how much can I get away with. What mindset are you? Which are you inclined to feel?

Disciple, depend on the Spirit to gain insight from God’s word.

The Disciple Is Concerned With Reconciliation  – The Religious Pharisee Is Concerned With Ritual

Matthew 5:21-26 - “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’22 “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.23 “Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,24 “leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.25 “Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.26 “Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.”  [40]

The religious Pharisee felt that as long as they didn’t kill anybody they were fulfilling the law of God (5:21). Jesus said that wasn’t enough for a disciple. A disciple must be concerned with reconciling hearts not just with heatless ceremony and ritual. Therefore, a disciple should take into account what they feel and think inwardly in their heart (5:22). Not only that, but the disciple should take into account what someone else may have against them. In other words, the disciple initiates reconciliation (5:23-26). The religious Pharisaical way is self-centered; the way of a disciple is other-centered. Jesus is saying that ritual and ceremony are meaningless if you leave a known irreconciled situation in place without trying to have it worked out. You can’t worship with an outstanding reconciliation problem existing. Any ritual that does not affect relationships, (whether they be with God or people) is dead and useless ritual.

What if a person refuses to be reconciled with me?

Now, what if you go and try to be reconciled to your brother or sister, and they refuse to reconcile with you? If you have made a good faith effort, you are freed from obligation.  The Bible says this will be characteristic of the Last Days mentality of people. Paul was inspired to write:

  • 2 Timothy 3:1-5 – “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” [41]

The priority is that there is forgiveness in your heart. You can only effect your own heart by confession and repentance, you cannot cause another person to confess and repent of their sin. In Romans it clarifies this by saying:

  • Romans 12:17-21 – “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.20 Therefore 1 “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  [42]

The phrase, “as much as depends on you,” implies that we need to make every effort to reconcile with others. It’s a hard and difficult thing when we desire to be reconciled and make every effort to do so, but our efforts fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. The Psalmist apparently knew this feeling when he was inspired to write:

  • Psalm 120:5-7 – “Woe is me, that I dwell in Meshech, That I dwell among the tents of Kedar!6 My soul has dwelt too long With one who hates peace.7 I am for peace; But when I speak, they are for war.”  [43]

In Romans 12 it tells us that we should not strike out in frustration when others refuse reconciliation but entrust them to God and “overcome evil with good.” Reconciliation is a work of God in the heart. Disciple, be reconciled in heart.

A Disciple Deals Drastically To Eliminate Sin- A Religious Pharisee Looks For Loopholes To Indulge In Sin

Matthew 5:27-32 - “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.29 “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.30 “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’32 “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.”  [44]

Again Jesus moves beyond consideration of mere outward actions to the higher ground of inner heart condition. Jesus is constantly bringing us to consider our hearts and minds. He says that merely not committing the outward sin of adultery is not enough to assure righteousness. Whether or not two people break the bond of marriage outwardly (which is what adultery is) is not the only issue, the deeper issue is are you having a love affair with another in your heart and mind (5:27-28).

The heart of humankind is the root of all sinful problems. Throughout the Bible God points out this problem as exemplified by the prophet Jeremiah who wrote:

  • Jeremiah 4:14 – “O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?”  [45]

But the cleansing of a heart is not something a person can do on their own. No amount of therapy or talk or reasoning can clean a heart, only god can clean a heart. This is because the heart is deceitful and man is unable to no the truth about his or her own heart. Again in Jeremiah it states:

  • Jeremiah 17:9-10 - The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?10 I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.”  [46]

 So serious is this problem of sin in the heart that Jesus uses literally eye-popping metaphor to make His point when He says:

  • Matthew 5:29-30 - “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.30 “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”  [47]

Now put down the scalpels and butcher knives disciples, Jesus is not endorsing Islamic-like practices of literally cutting off appendages; Jesus is saying that sin in the heart requires drastic action. What form might that drastic action take?

Disciple deal drastically with sin in your heart by first surrendering to God and asking Him to search your heart. In the Psalms it states:

  • Psalm 139:23-24 – “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties;24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.”  [48]

The instrument or spiritual scalpel which God uses to search our hearts is His word as it states in the book of Hebrews:

  • Hebrews 4:12 – “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”  [49]

Next, Disciple, deal drastically with sin in your heart by reckoning by faith to forsake your wicked thoughts and receive the forgiveness of God. In Isaiah it states: -

  • Isaiah 55:7 – “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.”  [50]

The only proper response to God’s disclosure of sin in our heart is to “forsake” that sin. This may require drastic action. The disciple may need to change their way of life. You may have to fast watching TV or at least monitor closely the programming you expose yourself to. You may have to watch where you go and what you do so as not to put yourself in a tempting or compromising situation that will rekindle old evil thought. You may have to give up old friends. You may have to change jobs or schools. Read what Paul writes about taking drastic action against sin in our hearts:

  • Ephesians 5:1-21 – “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.3 But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints;4 neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.5 For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.7 Therefore do not be partakers with them.8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light9 (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth),10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.14 Therefore He says: 1 “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise,16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit,19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.”  [51]

All of this is accomplished by the Spirit enabling the disciple to reckon him or herself dead to sin by faith. This is an act of faith and trust in God to do it in the disciple. Paul writes in his inspired letter to the Romans:

  • Romans 6:11-14 – “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”  [52]

Don’t allow the wicked thoughts to have the double negative effect of driving you away from God, away form the only One who can help you. Come to the Lord and forsake your wicked thoughts. Run to God for help disciple and trust him to do His work in you.

Lastly, Disciple, deal drastically with the sin in your heart by maintaining spiritual heart purity in the Spirit. This is done by realizing that God’s word is designed to accomplish this purpose in our lives and that the disciple needs to daily and even moment-by-moment seek the Spirit’s application and empowerment of the word in their lives. Paul wrote to young pastor Timothy:

  • 1 Timothy 1:5 – “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,”  [53]

But this is not a work in the disciple’s own strength; it is a work of God in the disciple. There is a spiritual war going on and our weapons are not fleshly or human, they are spiritual. The Bible tells us that we are to take every thought captive in Christ:

  • 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 – “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,”  [54]

Disciple, deal drastically with sin in your heart by relying on the Lord Jesus Christ for help.

The religious Pharisee has just the opposite attitude and mindset here. As Jesus states in Matthew 5:31-32, the religionists over time had used God’s commandment pertaining to divorce to indulge their fleshly desires and lusts. Pastor Chuck Smith comments here:

“Under the law, God declared that if a man found uncleanness in his wife, he could give her a writing of divorcement. And divorce for the man was very easy. All he had to do is write it on a piece of paper, “I divorce you” and hand it to her. With the Bedouins it’s even easier yet. He doesn’t have to write it, he can just say, “I divorce you, I divorce you, and I divorce you.” Three times, it’s final, out of the tent. Women don’t really have any rights in that society. . . .

And so if you find an uncleanness… but you see, it didn’t define the uncleanness, and so they began to define what uncleanness meant. And there were two basic schools; one that said, moral uncleanness. When you marry her, you discover that she wasn’t a virgin, then you could divorce her. . . . The other was, uncleanness is she doesn’t fix you breakfast like you like. She doesn’t bake the bread like you like it. Or any little trivial thing. You can say, “Oh, I’m just tired of you.” I find in you an uncleanness and he’d write her. The main thing, write her that bill of divorcement. You had to do that. Write the bill of divorcement. They were very exacting on that.”  [55]

Jesus denounces the casual use of divorce and says it leads to greater sin. Later in Matthew Jesus elaborates on how the Pharisees used the law to get their own way. He said:

  • Matthew 19:3-9 – “The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’5 “and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?6 “So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.9 “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”     [56]

The religious Pharisee uses God’s word to his or her own end, they manipulate it to get their own way. We will discuss divorce itself later in our study of Matthew, but suffice it to say that divorce is usually preceded and carried out with a great deal of “self” involved.

A Disciple’s Word Is Their Bond – A Religious Pharisee Is Bound By Their Words

Matthew 5:33-37 - “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’34 “But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne;35 “nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.36 “Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black.37 “But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’  ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.” [57]

Jesus is teaching that a person should be honest and trustworthy; they shouldn’t have a reputation where they need to prove their truthfulness because of past inconsistencies, betrayals or falsehoods. A disciple is a man or woman of their word. The truthfulness of a person’s word indicates the condition of their heart; pure and truthful words proceed from a pure and truthful heart; impure words and falsehoods proceed from an impure heart. Jesus stated as such on two different occasions when He taught:

  • Matthew 12:33-37 - “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.34 “Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.35 “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.36 “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.37 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”   [58]
  • Matthew 15:18-20 - “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man.19 “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.20 “These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man.”   [59]

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs it says a lot about the words we speak, below are a few wise words about the words we use:

  • Proverbs 10:19-20 – “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little.”  [60]
  • Proverbs 12:17-19,22 – “He who speaks truth declares righteousness, But a false witness, deceit.18 There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.19 The truthful lip shall be established forever, But a lying tongue is but for a moment.22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.”  [61]
  • Proverbs 13:2 – “A man shall eat well by the fruit of his mouth, But the soul of the unfaithful feeds on violence.”  [62]
  • Proverbs 15:3-4,28 – “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, Keeping watch on the evil and the good.4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, But perverseness in it breaks the spirit.28 The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.”  [63]
  • Proverbs 17:27-28 – “He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.28 Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.”  [64]
  • Proverbs 18:7,21 – “A fool’s mouth is his destruction, And his lips are the snare of his soul.21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue, And those who love it will eat its fruit.”  [65]
  • Proverbs 21:23 – “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.”  [66]
  • Proverbs 22:11-12 – “He who loves purity of heart And has grace on his lips, The king will be his friend.12 The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, But He overthrows the words of the faithless.”  [67]

The apostle Paul states that what we say and the decisions we make are to be led by the Spirit of God. Words said haphazardly and decisions that vacillate reveal the flesh is being relied upon. When people speak in half-truths and a misleading way, they are doing so in their flesh or sinful nature. Paul is inspired to say:

  • 2 Corinthians 1:17-20 – “Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No.19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes.20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” [68]

In another of Paul’s epistles he is inspired by God to share a description of the proper words that flow from a right heart when he states:

  • Ephesians 4:15,25,29-32 – “but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— . . . 25 Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. . . . 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.”  [69]

Falsehoods “grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” as Paul says above. The words the disciple uses and says are important and should be Spirit-filled words of truth spoken in love. That is the way of a disciple. A religious Pharisee on the other hand was known to speak degrees of truth, or partial falsehoods, half-truths. The Pharisee had broken their word or bent it so often that they have to rely on persuasive promises and oaths to instill confidence that their words will be reliable this time. Pastor Chuck Smith states here:

“What Jesus is basically saying is you shouldn’t have to take an oath to affirm what you’re saying is true. It is only because you probably are not a person of your word that people want you to take an oath. Now taking oaths, swearing by God, I’ll do it or whatever, was a common thing, or I swear by the gold in the temple or I swear by Jerusalem or I swear by heaven, I swear by my boy scouts’ honor, or by my grandmother, or whatever, and they would take oaths, … But the only reason why a person would feel it necessary to say “I swear by the Bible” is that he really isn’t a person of his word. And Jesus said, be a person of your word, don’t have to take oaths, don’t confirm what you say, just when you say yes, mean yes; when you say no, mean no. Be a person of your word.”  [70]

A disciple is, a religious Pharisee is not. The KJV Bible Commentary makes the following comment about the Pharisees of Jesus’ day:

“By the time of Christ, the Jews had developed an elaborate system of oath-taking, which often formed the basis of actual lying. For example, one might swear that he had told the truth according to the dome of the Temple, while another might swear by the gold on the dome of the Temple! In other words, there were stages of truth and thus also of falsehood within the system of taking oaths. In our time this custom is found in phrases such as: “I swear by God,” “cross my heart and hope to die,” or “on my mother’s grave.”  [71]

The lack of truth and reliability found in the Pharisees is also an attribute of false teachers. The apostle Paul speaks of false teachers in the last days who are less than honest and use people for their own gain. Paul speaking of false teachers says:

  • Romans 16:17-18 – “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.”  [72]
  • 1 Timothy 6:4-5 –  [The false teacher] “he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions,5 useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself.”  [73]
  • 2 Timothy 3:6-9 – “For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts,7 always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.8 Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith;9 but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was.”  [74]
  • Titus 1:10-16 – “For there are many insubordinate, both idle talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision,11 whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain.12 One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”13 This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith,14 not giving heed to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth.15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.16 They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.”  [75]

Peter also spoke of false teachers when he said:

  • 2 Peter 2:1-3 – “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.”  [76]

The Pharisee speaks in half-truths, Disciples speak the truth in love.

A Disciple Sacrifices Humbly to Save Souls – A Religious Pharisee Is Proud About Their Possessions

Matthew 5:38-42 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.41 “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.42 “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”  [77]

Under the law it literally was eye for eye, tooth for tooth (Exodus 2:24). Tit for tat in other words. The religious way was to get your pound of flesh from anyone who offended you. Jesus didn’t believe necessarily in the necessity of an equal exchange of reparations. There was a higher priority. To be slapped on “your right cheek” was an affront to one’s pride. But Jesus said the disciple was under a higher law. The disciple was not to “resist” or fight with a person out of pride, because they had been offended. Rather, the disciple needs to “turn the other to him also,” or trust God for defense (5:38-39). Under Roman law a Roman soldier on the march could order a person to carry his equipment for one mile. This was offensive and intrusive to the Jews who steamed at the thought of submitting to Roman rule of any kind. Jesus said the disciple should look to go beyond what is asked of him even if it was from and enemy (5:40-41). This would be totally unacceptable to the proud religious Pharisee. But Jesus is showing us a higher priority and the heart of the disciple, a heart that will subordinate his or her own welfare for the sake of God’s will to be done and a soul be saved through witness.

This point is made by Pastor Chuck Smith who states:

“In the extra mile, you’ll have the opportunity of witnessing. He’ll wonder what in the world are you doing going the extra mile, how come? How often in reaching out to help someone does it open a glorious opportunity to witness? I find this is true in the highway. See someone in distress, stop to help them. That’s so unusual, they’ll want to know why in the world you stopped. That gives you a chance to witness about your love for Jesus Christ, and your concern for others and your love for others because of your love for Him. Whoever is in trouble, he is your brother, he is the one that you are to reach out and help.”  [78]

Disciple Be Ready For Injustice

Jesus is also making another point as well in these words, the disciple does not depend on society but on God for justice. In our day and age of the lawsuit with the scales of justice tipped heavily in favor of tolerance, immorality, and subjective truth, the disciple must be ready to live by the higher standard of God. In our human legal systems “justice” can often be bought and the outcome of a trial depends on the cost of the attorneys. The disciple is to trust God when coming up against injustice. The point here is expounded well by the KJV Bible commentary which states:

“Why would Jesus make such a statement? Certainly these words were spoken to remind those who would be His disciples not to expect divine justice from an unregenerate society. All justice ultimately is in the hand and heart of God. As long as human governments prevail, justice will be limited by man’s finite abilities. The disciples of the kingdom are to look to the King Himself for ultimate vindication. The practical application of this truth is that the believer should not attempt to justify himself or inflict vengeance even through legal means. He is to place his total confidence in the ultimate sovereignty of God over the affairs of his life.”  [79]

The disciple must rely upon God. The psalmist states this when it is written:

  • Psalm 94:20-23 – “Shall the throne of iniquity, which devises evil by law, Have fellowship with You?21 They gather together against the life of the righteous, And condemn innocent blood.22 But the Lord has been my defense, And my God the rock of my refuge.23 He has brought on them their own iniquity, And shall cut them off in their own wickedness; The Lord our God shall cut them off.”  [80]

Disciple, rely on God for justice and be willing to experience injustice for the sake of saving souls.

A Disciple Loves With Unlimited Agape Love – A Religious Pharisee Has Limited Love

Matthew 5:43-47 - “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,45 “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”  [81]

Herein is the pinnacle of this section of the Sermon on the Mount, love. Jesus refers to Leviticus 19:18. The “love” that Jesus speaks of here is a translation  of the Greek term AGAPAO (Strong’s #25). The term AGAPAO is derived from a Classical Greek meaning which refers to the love a mother has for their child. Another word for love in the Greek language is ERAO and is derived from the Greek word used to describe the love of a child that is totally self-centered. Eros and Agapao are therefore contrasted, one is a totally taking in nature, and the other is totally giving in nature. A mother’s love is something that is unbreakable. A child can have grown up to a serial killer and killed a myriad of people and been convicted beyond all doubt and sentenced to death, but the mother of that villain will fight for his or her release, or at least to save them from execution no matter what. That mother will never stop loving her child no matter what they turn out to be. That’s AGAPAO love, a love that never stops, a love that is unconditional, that ‘s the kind of love Jesus wants His disciples to have.

One of the most familiar verses in the Bible speaks of God’s love and really encapsulates what love is all about. In John’s Gospel it states:

  • John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  [82]

Based on this verse love is defined by giving, love gives. Some people think that “love” is spelled L-O-V-E, but in reality God’s AGAPAO love is spelled G-I-V-E. Love gives away from itself, it is actually an act of moving away form self and therefore is instrumental in the crucifixion of the flesh. Jesus act of giving Himself on the cross is the supreme act of love in eternity, the act from which all other love gains it’s true meaning. Paul was inspired to put it this way:

  • Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  [83]

Notice the personal nature of this love, “who loved me and gave Himself for me.”  Christ gave Himself on the cross for individuals, not just a hoard of faceless sinners, He “gave Himself for ME”! Our acts of love cannot be general but they must be particular and focused. WE must take the time to love personally those around us, even our enemies. That is the way of God’s AGAPAO love.

The Pharisee’s love is limited to only loving those who love them. The Pharisee’s brand of love is not spelled G-I-V-E, but it is spelled, T-A-K-E, it is infantile and self-centered, it is self-serving. This kind of “love” is really not love at all but just another expression of selfishness. This is not love at all because it depends upon reciprocation or love received from another. That love is limited. Jesus on the other hand rebuked this kind of love when He said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” (5:46-47; see also Luke 6:27-36). Love that is of God is not rooted in a what’s-in-it-for-me mindset. No, the love of a disciple is to be unlimited and unconditional.

Paul wrote:

  • Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  [84]

God “demonstrates” His love to us and we ought to live in that love. The apostle Paul’s comments about his life show us that we are to follow this example:

  • Romans 12:14,20-21 – “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  [85]
  • 1 Corinthians 4:12-13 – “And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure;13 being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.”  [86]

Agapao love can only come from a heart that has been worked on by God. It is God who pours out that love into us:

 

  • Romans 5:5 – “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  [87]

You can’t read this and then take it as a formula to be applied to your life in your own strength. You just won’t be able to do it. Agapao love comes from God and only the Spirit working in and through a person can manifest such love in life.

Disciple, don’t let your love be limited, love your neighbor and your enemies, love everyone! This is the key to spiritual maturity as a disciple.

In The Grace of Giving,  Stephen Olford tells of a Baptist pastor during the American Revolution, Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to oppose and humiliate the pastor. One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor.

"No, Peter," General Washington said. "I cannot grant you the life of your friend."

"My friend!" exclaimed the old preacher. "He's the bitterest enemy I have."

"What?" cried Washington. "You've walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in different light. I'll grant your pardon." And he did.

Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata--no longer an enemy but a friend.  [88]

A Disciple is Mature Spiritually – A Religious Pharisee is Immature Religiously

Matthew 5:48 - “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”  [89]

This is a much misinterpreted and misunderstood verse. In what sense can the disciple be “perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect”? The word “perfect” is a translation of the Greek term TELEIOS (Strong’s #5048). This term occurs 24 times in the New Testament and is used to mean, “make perfect - 12, perfect - 4, finish -  4, fulfil - 2, be perfect - 1, consecrate - 1.” [90] There is a sense in which God is absolutely perfect, without flaw and totally sufficient and in this sense no human can ever match God’s perfection. In this sense the disciple is driven to depend upon God for all that he or she lacks in being completed. But in the sense that God is completely all that He is and ever meant Himself to be, the disciple can be completely all that God purposes him or her to be. In this sense the idea is that the disciple is, “to bring to an end by completing or perfecting,”[91] finish the course, put into place that which is lacking in view of Jesus’ teaching. Jesus is calling the disciple to come to maturity. The disciple is mature in their faith, the religious Pharisee is not. The disciple is mature and made complete as he or she goes to the next level of, “but I say to you . . .”

The Process of Perfection

The apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the process of being perfected when he was inspired to write:

  • 2 Corinthians 7:1 – “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”  [92]

Paul’s use of the word, “perfecting,” implies and ongoing process, a developmental aspect, a maturing spiritual process (TELEIOSIS Strong’s #5050 – Present/Active/Participle). We gain further insight and explanation from comments by Paul in his letter to the Philippians where he states:

  • Philippians 3:12-15 – “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.13 Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.15 Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind; and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal even this to you.”  [93]

In this portion of scripture from Paul’s Philippians letter we see that he laid no claims to having been made perfect already, but he clearly teaches that there was work to do in his life and he intended to “press on” to it’s completion or perfection (Philippians 3:12). But interestingly, later in this same passage Paul makes a statement that seems to contradict what he has just said when he writes, “Therefore let us, as many as ARE MATURE” (emphasis added). The word  “mature” here is translated from the same Greek root term which was translated “perfect” earlier (Greek TELEIOS –Strong’s #5046). The King James Version translates Philippians 3:15, “Let us therefore, as many as be perfect . . . .”  Therefore, in what sense can it be said some “are perfect”?

The disciple can be perfect or complete in terms of their intent, but will not be perfected in their content until they are in heaven. The disciple can be “mature,”  or “perfect,” in terms of their desire to be perfect and their surrender to God to work in them to continue the process of making them perfect. Those who “are mature,” or “be perfect,” are those who realize they are not perfect and by faith need to “press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” The disciple looks back on the content of the Sermon on the Mount and sees there is work to do in having Jesus’ teaching manifested in their lives.

Perfected In God’s Love

Held in its context, the perfection spoken of here by Jesus in Matthew 5:48, particularly pertains to the love of God. Therefore, Just as God loves all people, so the disciple should love all people. Indeed the love of God working in and through the disciple is that which perfects or brings him or her on to spiritual maturity. When someone came to Jesus asking Him what the greatest commandments were He spoke of love and said:

  • Matthew 22:36-40 - “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”37 Jesus said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’38 “This is the first and great commandment.39 “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’40 “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” [94]

And we also know about the nature of this love from our earlier comments on verses 43-47. The love spoken of here, the love of God is unlimited love offered to everyone and anyone.

That God’s love working in and through the disciple is the measure of “perfection” or spiritual maturity is also supported by  Paul’s inspired words to the Colossian church where he writes:

  • Colossians 3:12-14 – “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering;13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” [95]

To the extent that a disciple is able and willing to love everyone, including enemies, that disciple shows the extent of God’s perfection of him or her.

Therefore, Disciple, be perfect in God’s love.

The State of Christian Perfection or Christian Maturity

We need to investigate a bit further on this entire idea of perfection or spiritual maturity. In Paul’s letter to the Galatians he makes the following statement:

 

  • Galatians 5:5-6 – “For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.”  [96]

When Paul refers to, “neither circumcision or uncircumcision,” he is saying that outward religious rituals or shows are not where it’s at with Jesus. But what matters most with Jesus is ‘faith working through love.” And that faith works through love only, “through the Spirit.” That really is what perfection or spiritual maturity is for the disciple, it’s FAITH WORKING THROUGH LOVE IN THE SPIRIT. This is the objective and goal of the disciple, faith working through love by way of the enabling of the Holy Spirit. The disciple trusts God to empower him or her to love with God’s love (Romans 5:5).

In Eighteenth century England a great revival swept that country that saw not only thousands come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior, but also thousands who sought to follow Jesus as disciples. One of the most prominent men in this movement of God was John Wesley who was a man of one book, the Bible, (though he was well read in many areas). Wesley taught about holiness of heart and the perfection or spiritual maturity of believers in this life. In his book A Plain Account of Christina Perfection, Wesley writes the following about “love”:

 

“It were well you should be thoroughly sensible of this, - the heaven of heavens is love. There is nothing higher in religion; there is, in effect, nothing else; if you look for anything but more love, you are looking wide of the mark, you are getting out of the royal way. And when you are asking others, ‘Have you received this or that blessing?’ If you mean anything but more love, you mean wrong; you are leading them out of the way, and putting them upon a false scent. Settle it then in your heart, that from the moment God has saved you from all sin, you are to aim at nothing more, but more of that love described in the thirteenth chapter of the Corinthians. You can go no higher than this, till you are carried into Abraham’s bosom.” [97]

 

Disciple, be perfect in the love of God.

 

Conclusion

William Gladstone, years ago, in announcing the death of Princess Alice to the House of Commons in England, told a touching story about the nature of love.

The little daughter of the Princess was seriously ill with diphtheria. The doctors told the princess not to kiss her little daughter and endanger her life by breathing the child's breath. Once when the child was struggling to breathe, the mother, forgetting herself entirely, took the little one into her arms to keep her from choking to death. Rasping and struggling for her life, the child said, "Momma, kiss me!" Without thinking of herself the mother tenderly kissed her daughter. She got diphtheria and some days thereafter she went to be forever with the Lord. Real love forgets self. Real love knows no danger. Real love doesn't count the cost. The Bible says, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." [98]

Love gives, and turns it’s back on self. Jesus said, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” It’s a matter of the heart; it’s a matter of love; how is your heart disciple? How is your love? Does your heart belong to Jesus, or are you simply putting on a show? What kind of love do you live in? Do you rely on God’s word or the traditions of men? Do you initiate reconciliation with others? How is your thought-life? Can your word be counted on? Are you humble or proud? Do you love everyone? Disciple let God make you perfect, as He is perfect, in His love.

 



[1]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[2]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[3]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[4]James Strong, New Strong’s dictionary of Hebrew and Greek words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[5]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[6]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[7]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[8]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[9]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[10]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[11]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[12]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[13]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[14]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[15]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[16]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[17]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[18]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[19]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[20]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[21]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[22]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[23]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[24]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[25] Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Pub.) 1979. p. 20

[26]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[27]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[28]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[29]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[30]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[31]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[32]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[33]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[34]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[35]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[36]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[37]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[38]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[39]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[40]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[41]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[42]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[43]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[44]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[45]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[46]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[47]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[48]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[49]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[50]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[51]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[52]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[53]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[54]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[55] Chuck Smith, Word For Today audiotape #8004 (P.O. Box 8000 Costa Mesa. CA 92628)

[56]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[57]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[58]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[59]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[60]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[61]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[62]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[63]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[64]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[65]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[66]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[67]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[68]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[69]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[70] Chuck Smith, Ibid.

[71]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[72]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[73]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[74]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[75]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[76]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[77]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[78] Chuck Smith Ibid.

[79]Jerry Falwell, executive editor; Edward E. Hinson and Michael Kroll Woodrow, general editors, KJV Bible commentary [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1994.

[80]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[81]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[82]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[83]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[84]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[85]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[86]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[87]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[88] Lynn Jost. http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/love_of_enemies.htm

[89]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[90]Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

[91]W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Vine’s complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1996.

[92]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[93]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[94]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[95]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[96]The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

[97] John Wesley, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, (Kansas City, MI: Beacon Hill Press of KC) 1966. p. 99

[98] http://www.sermonillustrations.com/a-z/l/love_sacrificial.htm