Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:21-26. Today, we continue our journey through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As we work through the text today, and every Sunday for that matter, it is important for us to remember that every passage has context; meaning that the Bible is not to be read as random unconnected statements of facts, but that we must read it as it flows from one passage to the next. Today that is doubly true, because we are looking at a portion of text that is within a singular Sermon and it flows out of a statement that Jesus just made. So with that said, let us look read our scripture, pray and then exposit it.
- Matthew 5:21-26 – “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Jesus then goes on to say that for us to get into heaven our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. As we saw last Sunday, this creates a problem for us, because Romans 3:10 tells us that, “None is righteous, no not one.” Therefore, we lack righteousness, yet we need righteousness to get into God's Kingdom. As I said, Jesus proclaims that he fulfills the law, therefore He is righteous. Therefore Jesus has what we need, righteousness. And the good news is that Jesus will give us His righteousness, and the way we receive it is through faith in Him.
- Romans 4:5 – “And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, “
- Genesis 15:6 – “And [Abraham] believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.”
Having said that, the religious leaders during the times of Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, had made a mess of this age old truth. Instead of placing the focus on faith in God, they put the emphasis on faith in good works. And Jesus was calling them out during the Sermon on the Mount when he said:
- Matthew 5:20 – “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
In the days of Jesus, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and not many people could read Hebrew because the language of the day was Aramaic. In addition few people had copies of the Old Testament. If you were a commoner, people like you and me, the way you would know the Bible was through teachers. They would orally tell you what the Bible said, but they wouldn't just read it to you, they would teach it. This is why Jesus said, “You have heard…” You can see this same pattern through the rest of Matthew 5, “You have heard, you have heard, you have heard.” What Jesus is referring to is the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The people couldn’t check to see for themselves what the Bible said, they had to trust the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. They were the ones who were in charge. The problem with the people not having Bibles is that you cannot trust humanity. As I stated, the scribes and the Pharisees had a made a mess out of God’s Word. They had placed themselves, not under God’s Word, but over it. They manipulated it, changed it, added to it, and subtracted from it and then they went out and taught the people. As you can imagine, Jesus was not happy with them. In fact, Jesus eventually pronounces judgment on them in Matthew 23.
- Matthew 23:13 – “"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. 15 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.”
Never trust a person or a Church who doesn’t encourage you to check their teaching against God’s Word. If a Pastor or Priest or some other religious leader tells you to let them worry about what the Bible says, run away as fast as you can. If Sunday morning is all about rituals, and going through the motions and God’s Word is not preeminent, then welcome to Satan’s playground. For Satan loves to twist and distort what God’s Word truly says. He did it in the Garden, he did it in the days of Jesus and he is doing it today, and the main way he does it is by turning our eyes from God and to ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus is rebuking through the rest of Matthew, Chapter 5.
The Scribes and Pharisees had turned God’s law into something it was never meant to be. The Scribes and the Pharisees turned God’s Law into a list of things that you did externally in order to earn your way into heaven. They turned God’s law into a mechanical process, teaching that as long as you jumped through the right hoops, you would be accepted by God.
Jesus comes and blows the roof off of Satan’s house, and he starts with what we see as the “sinful” human act Murder.
- Matthew 5:21 – “"You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”
- Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder.”
- Numbers 35:30 – “If anyone kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the evidence of witnesses.”
Behind this teaching of the Pharisees is a different spirit, or intent, then what God intended. The spirit behind the Scribes and the Pharisees was to instruct that you could be good enough to get into heaven, all you had to do was obey externally. This is what we call works based salvation, that your ability to get into heaven rests in your own hands. Jesus comes to reeducate the people and the way he does it is important. Look at verse 22.
- Matthew 5:22 – “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment”
- Deuteronomy 4:2 – “You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.”
- Proverbs 30:5-6 – “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. 6 Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.”
And what does the Author of the law say about murder?
- Matthew 5:22 - “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire. “
How many times have you heard people say that they are going to heaven because they are a good person? When they say this they are thinking like a Pharisee and Scribe. They believe because they have not violated any major civil laws, they are “good.” Because they have never actually acted out their anger by ending someone else's life, the believe that they are good enough to get to heaven. This is just not true. For your thoughts towards another person is enough evidence to make you liable to the hell of fire.
The issue is not the level of the offense. The issue is, and has always been, your heart. Think about sickness and symptoms. Symptoms do not determine sickness. Symptoms point to the reality of our sickness. Physical murder is a symptom that you are a sinner, but so is insulting someone. They are symptoms of the same sickness..sin.
To end, Jesus then says this:
- Matthew 5:23-26 - “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Do you know what? God detests this form of hallow religion. He is not a God that will be mocked.
- Matthew 15:7-9 - “You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 "'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'"
What the people needed was Jesus Christ. For what stands in the middle of liable to the hell of fire and loving obedience is Jesus. For when we accept Christ in our lives, and His spirit comes and dwells in our hearts, we no longer go through the motions, we live out faith. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey and we lay down our offering and we go and reconcile ourselves to our brothers. The only way we can do this is by Christ in us.
If you are sitting here today at Cornerstone Church and you call yourself a Christian, and there is someone out there that you have sinfully angered, and you think that you being here is the answer, then you don't get it. Sitting in these chairs doesn't save you. Christ saves you. And those who have been saved by Christ, live to reconcile. Reconciliation is your spiritual DNA. So stop fooling yourself, and make things right with your brother, before it is too late.