Lesson 87—October 25, 2015
Audio commentary by David Daniel
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-48
Lesson Goal: To learn how God’s amazing love enables us to love others in an amazing God-honoring way.
Introduction: Jesus once again contrasts the false righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees with the true righteousness of God. He now contrasts the love demonstrated by the scribes and Pharisees with the love of God.
Nowhere had God’s standard been so corrupted as in the way the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees viewed themselves in relation to others. Nowhere was it more evident that they lacked the humility, mourning over their own sin, meekness, yearning for true righteousness, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking spirit that are to belong to God’s kingdom citizens (Matthew 5:3-16) (MacArthur).
In verse 43, Jesus is calling attention to a perversion of the Scriptures by the scribes, who, along with the Pharisees, had become skilled masters in perverting the Scriptures and Law by what they omitted and by what they added. We see this in today’s lesson. Omitted from Leviticus 19:18 were the words “as yourself.”
The Pharisees and scribes would have intentionally left “as yourself” out of their traditions and teaching, for this would have been impossible for them to do. John MacArthur writes:
It simply was inconceivable that they should care for any other person as much as they cared for themselves. The scribes and Pharisees knew how well they loved themselves. They loved to be honored, praised, and respected (Matthew 6:2, 5, 16) and believed they deserved it. The Pharisee who thanked God that he was “not like other people” (Luke 18:11) was typical of most Pharisees.
• Through our attitudes, actions and behavior, do we ever present ourselves to be above others?
The scribes and Pharisees made another error in their interpretation and traditions. They minimized the meaning of the word “neighbor.” To them, this word meant only those people of their own preference, own acceptance, and own approval.
• How are we sometimes like the scribes and Pharisees in our definition of neighbor?
• What do we sometimes do or think when someone dresses, talks or looks different than us?
• How restrictive are we, followers of Jesus, in our hearts concerning our understanding of who is our neighbor?
• If one of our Life Focus classes knows of a need in someone’s life, but refuses to help because the person is not in “our class,” how have we defined our neighbor?
(V43) Again Jesus begins by calling attention to the Old Testament: “You have heard that it was said….” But in His introductory remarks, along with the words of the Old Testament, He references the words of rabbinic tradition. “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” “You shall love your neighbor” is found throughout the pages of Scripture. This truth is deeply rooted in the Old Testament (see Leviticus 19:18), but continues to grow and bloom in the New Testament. While no Bible verse explicitly says, “Hate your enemy,” the Pharisees may have reinterpreted some of the Old Testament passages about hatred for God’s enemies. “Hate your enemies” had become more of a rabbinic teaching and tradition than a true biblical word. In Jesus’ day, the average Jew had difficulty knowing the Holy Scriptures and God’s true law, because of how it had been interpreted and applied by the scribes and Pharisees.
Leviticus 19:18 sums up the law of Israel. However, as The Believer’s Study Bible tells us, the rabbis had misinterpreted the meaning and corrupted this Scripture by adding “and hate your enemy.” By tampering with Scripture, they intended to define their neighbors to include only Jews and to exclude Samaritans and Gentiles.
Please read Luke 10:25-37.
• What question led to Jesus’ response of the parable?
Jesus is helping us to understand God’s great love. As His followers, we are to demonstrate His love to others. The scribes and Pharisees were so self-righteous and self-centered they created scriptural, interpretational, traditional loopholes to excuse themselves from loving and helping others. We are to demonstrate God’s love to all people.
William Hendriksen puts it this way, as he writes of Jesus:
All around him were those walls and fences. He came for the very purpose of bursting those barriers, so that love—pure, warm, divine, infinite—would be able to flow straight down from the heart of God, hence from his own marvelous heart, into the hearts of men. His love overlapped all the boundaries of race, nationality, party, age, sex…. When He said “But I say to you love your enemies,” He was saying something that probably never before had been said so succinctly, positively and forcefully.
(V44) When Jesus said, “But I say to you…,” He was once again demonstrating and teaching with the authority of God. He was not speaking with any perversion created by tradition, legalism or self-promoting righteousness. Jesus teaches His followers that our example of love does not come from the religious orthodoxy exemplified by the scribes and Pharisees, but our example is the manner in which God loves. We are to be examples of God’s love, even to those who persecute us and spitefully use us. We are to pray and show the love of God to all people.
(V45) Christ’s followers are to show the love of their Father. We have been born again into God’s family, and we are to be like our heavenly Father, as we show forth His love. We must remember that God shows His love, pouring out His providential care, upon all as He sends the sunshine and the rain.
• Why is God’s love so amazing? Please meditate on this question then prayerfully answer.
• On what basis do we pick and choose the people we love?
• On what basis does God love us?
• Do we ever think we deserve God’s love?
(VV46-48) Followers of Jesus are made by Holy Spirit power to be different than the world. Our hearts are to be different—pure, holy, hungry and thirsty for righteousness; our actions are to be different—meek, peacemakers, salt and light; our attitudes are to be different—merciful, poor in spirit, mourning.
Our love for others is a reflection of our Heavenly Father’s love. In verse 48, Jesus is challenging His followers to grow perfect in obedience (meaning completeness, maturity) to the Lord and His commands. The Greek word teleios means to reach an intended end or completion.
In order to live out the words of Jesus, we, His followers, must be dependent upon a power greater than our own. We must be dependent on a strength greater than our own. Praise God He has provided both our power and our strength!