September 4, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Thursday after the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 56, 2 Sam. 18:19, 2 Cor. 8:1-15
Evening – Psalm 66, Matthew 5:38

Commentary, Matthew 5:38-48

Our Lord, still in the Sermon on the Mount, continues to teach about the full meaning of the Law of God.  His point is that an outward conformity is not enough.  God requires a clean heart and a right spirit (Ps. 51:10), not mere mechanical avoidance of wicked deeds.  In other words, God requires holiness, and Jesus is showing that the point of the Commandments of God is holiness.

He turns to the words of Exodus 21:24, which requires punishment for men who injure a pregnant woman.  The words occur again in Deuteronomy 19:21, where they address those who intentionally cause financial or physical injury, or attempt to use the power of the government and courts to cause financial or physical injury to innocent people.  The meaning in these verses is that the same injury a person caused or intended to cause, is to be inflicted upon him by the court.  “[L]ife shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” That is the court’s job.  That is the government’s job.  It is God’s servant, ordained by Him to protect the rights and property of innocent people by punishing those who would injure them.  But the individual person is not bound to do as the government and courts are.  The individual person is free to have mercy, to pardon, even to love his enemies.  The intent of God’s law, as it applies to interpersonal relationships, requires mercy, pardon, and love, even for enemies. 

No person, then, has met the requirements of the law by just not causing more hurt to an offender than the law requires. The full “spirit of the law” requires him to cultivate generous, forgiving, and loving actions and attitudes, even toward those who do him evil.  Christ illustrates this with real life examples.  Turn the other cheek, “let him have thy cloke also.” Go the second mile.  “Love your enemies.”  This is the real meaning of the law.

It is obvious, then, that no mere human has ever fully kept the law.  Our best efforts have come far short of its real demands and meaning.  Therefore, no mere human being can ever claim to deserve a place in Heaven, or fellowship with God on the basis of his works.  Rather than being commended to God’s favour by obeying the law, all are condemned by their lack of obedience.   The standard, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect,” is for us an impossible standard.