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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings.

Reflective Bible Study.

Flashback Episode — A Higher Standard: Matthew 5:21-37

Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on Episode: Year in Matthew – Episode 8: Part way through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus elevates the standard of the law to be much broader than what we might realize, but this is only after He has offered us a solution to this impossible dilemma. Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here. Read the transcript: As Jesus continues His famous Sermon on the Mount that we find in Matthew’s gospel, He comes to one of the most challenging parts of His message. In our passage for this episode, Jesus elevates what we might believe the standard of the law is to be significantly higher. In essence, Jesus takes God’s law and Moses’ law and reframes these two laws to be a much higher standard than what we might believe, and if someone believes they have fulfilled the law as written, it would be a great stretch to believe they have fulfilled the law as Jesus describes it in this passage. Let’s read what Jesus describes, and unpack the big truth it teaches. The portion of Jesus’ sermon we will focus on is found in Matthew, chapter 5, and we will read it from the New International Version. Starting in verse 21, Jesus continued preaching, saying: 21 “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. 27 “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. 33 “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. In this passage, Jesus takes what we might consider to be the standard of the law, and He elevates it. Where we might think of committing murder or cursing someone as being subject to being judged, Jesus tells us that being angry with someone, or calling someone a fool is actually much closer to the line of breaking the law. Jesus challenges us that we should be right with others first before we will be right with God. He challenges us in this way when He tells those present to leave their gift at the altar and go reconcile a relationship before offering our gifts to God. In this way, our relationships with one another become a reflection of our relationship with God. We are also challenged to get along with others and to live uprightly. If we have a disagreement with someone, we should work to make things right, and we should do this before the issue becomes an issue in the court system. When a matter comes before a court, we give up control to a third party, and this third party might find us guilty when we believe we are innocent. Jesus tells us that the standard for adultery isn’t the act of adultery, but the thoughts and the lust that precedes the action. Jesus doesn’t minimize the sin in the act of adultery; He challenges us with the truth that lustful thoughts are equally bad. In one of the more challenging parts of Jesus’ message, He challenges us with the idea that it is better to physically cut a part of our body away than to let that part of our body sin and cost us our salvation. While some people don’t think Jesus meant what He says here, I wonder if we truly took this teaching to heart whether we would be so lenient towards sin. Jesus challenges us to purge sin from our lives, because sin in our lives has the power to cause us to lose our salvation! Also in this passage, Jesus elevates the status of marriage to being a life-long, through-thick-and-thin commitment. Jesus describes in this message that adultery is the only spiritually valid reason for divorce. While I don’t know if Jesus would exclude other abuses for being valid reasons for divorce, I know at least in my own mind, I would consider any form of abuse as grounds for divorce. I also know and recommend that avoiding marriage is better if there is any doubt about a potential spouse in a person’s mind. Another place in the gospels describes Jesus telling His followers that it is better that they don’t marry if they cannot accept Jesus’ teaching on marriage. The last challenge in this portion of Jesus’ sermon elevates the significance of our word vs. making oaths. In an interesting comparison, Jesus challenges us to keep our word, regardless of how it was said. When we live to the standard we speak, then there is no reason to swear oaths, or to make vows. We should live to the standard of our words and our agreements, and not distinguish between promises that can be broken vs. promises that must be kept. This entire section of teaching is very challenging because it elevates the law to a much higher standard than simply the letter of the law, and this makes God’s law virtually impossible to keep 100%. However, if you remember in our last episode, where we focused on a statement Jesus makes right before this, you’ll remember that Jesus tells those present that He came to fulfill the law. We break the law Jesus describes in this passage, but He came so that we can have salvation when we turn away from our sin. Breaking the law condemns us to death, and Jesus offers to take the death we deserve and give us the life He deserved. We shouldn’t continue to sin, but we should resolve to turn away from our sins as a way to say Thank You to Jesus for the gift He purchased for us on the cross! As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with: As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first and place Him first in your life. Accept Jesus and the gift He offers to us and resolve to thank Jesus for His gift by turning away from sin. Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself. While pastors, speakers, authors, or even podcasters can give you things to think about, take what you learn and filter it through what God teaches you through His Word. God is interested in a personal relationship with you and personal prayer and study is how to grow a personal relationship with God. And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him! Listen to this episode and/or subscribe on

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