Matthew 5:21 – 48

Matthew 5:21-48 (ESV)

21 “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.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’
34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God,
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 take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.
37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “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 and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is an interesting passage.

What exactly is Jesus doing here?

This seems to be a key passage concerning the place of the Law.

There are several different ways of looking at this.

  • Jesus is giving commentary on the Law of Moses.

  • Jesus is taking the Law of Moses one step further.

  • Jesus is replacing the Law of Moses with the Law of Christ.

How do you understand this passage, especially in light of the whole of Scripture?


6 thoughts on “Matthew 5:21 – 48

  1. Also, Jesus is teaching us (as my husband preached on it) to nip all of these things in the bud before they turn into full-blown sin in the physical realm and we have to suffer the physical and spiritual punishment for that full-blown physical sin (doing them in your heart is still sin, of course — and it is to be nipped in the bud while still sin in the heart before it goes farther and we are actually doing it in the flesh). Hope that makes sense. Mary R.

    Berean Wife Reply:


    It makes perfect sense to me. 🙂 The price is greater and it is more likely to affect others when we allow a sin to grow to maturity.

    How does your husband view this passage? As Commentary, taking the Law one step further, or actually changing the laws into the upcoming new covenant?

    Berean Wife

  2. Well, let’s see…he does not see it as taking it one step further in the sense of making things stricter and harder on people than the O.T. He sees the difference in that in the O.T., the Law dealt with the effects of gross sin already committed (punishment by stoning, for instance), whereas he sees Jesus taking it all the way back to where sin starts, in the heart, and commands nipping it in the bud at the heart level, before it gets to the physical level, thereby avoiding the consequences (death by stoning for adultery or murder) in the first place.

    The Law dealt with the consequences of sin already committed — and the punishments required for it.

    Jesus didn’t take it farther, the way my husband sees it — but rather, like all of the things Jesus taught about, He took it all the way back to the beginning — stop it before it gets so serious. Repent of sin while it is still only in the heart, before you actually do it in the flesh and reap the consequences.

    Jesus is concerned about us and doesn’t want us to allow sin to get so full-blown that we have to suffer all kinds of consequences. Nip it in the bud.

    I’m repeating myself because I’m not very articulate.

    My husband does not see the laws as changed for an upcoming new covenant. The new covenant deals more with the heart as the beginning of things (whether faith, or sin) rather than dealing with things starting in the flesh, like the old covenant tends to do a lot. True faith in the heart produces good fruit; nipping sin while it is still in the heart will also produce good fruit and certainly a happier life in this world.

    So, my husband sees Jesus as taking things back (“…from the beginning it was not so…”) rather than taking them further (making them harder or stricter). But, I suppose you could call it “taking it further.” Probably the same difference.

    Many Christians see this as Jesus being stricter than the law (“You thought THAT was hard…wait till you hear this!”), but Jesus is really trying to make life easier for us by commanding us to abort sin while it is still in the heart so that we don’t have to deal with the physical and spiritual consequences of full blown sins like adultery and murder, etc.

    Learning about the Lord’s love and concern for us throughout these lessons has been heart-warming!

    Berean Wife Reply:


    Thanks for sharing that. That is interesting.

    That would seem to also fit with the thought that the Law of Moses was for a physical group of people (Israel) dealing with physical fleshly sins and having physical consequences. The Law of Christ is for a spiritual group of people (the Church) dealing with spiritual sins and having spiritual consequences.

    In some ways the Law of Christ is much harder but unlike the Israelites we are blessed with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us.

    “Nipping it in the bud” works well for sin and for raising children. 🙂

    I have learned so much studying the Law and it has been so interesting. Nothing like what I’ve heard before in sermons. :0

    Berean Wife

    P.S. Our first service is in the morning, so exciting!

  3. Yes, BW, that is the difference — the O.T. people did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit like we do.

    You can see the compassion of Jesus in these Scripture verses, as He encourages us to nip all of these sins in the bud before we have to deal with the consequences.

    Some Christians see Jesus as being “harder” than the O.T. laws because they equate sin in the heart with sin in the flesh (actually doing it). I hear Christians say, “Thinking it is the same as doing it!” Well, no, it’s not the same as doing it, although doing it in the heart is still sin.

    If not stopped here, unfortunately, it won’t be long before we are actually doing it, if the circumstances are right and the opportunity presents itself. Why? Because we’ve “rehearsed” it in our hearts and minds first, over and over again.maryr.

    Berean Wife Reply:


    You are correct about the progression of sin. Sounds like pure Scripture. 🙂

    James 1:14-15 (ESV)
    14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
    15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

    We aren’t as appreciative of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives as we should be.

    Berean Wife

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