Mat 5:21-48; Take the Time to Understand the Spirit of God’s Laws.

Class Outline:

Wednesday June 19th 2024

Augustine [Imperfect pastor, Know It All, p. 103]

“Anyone who thinks that he has understood the divine scriptures or any part of them, but cannot by his understanding build up his love of God and neighbor, has not yet succeeded in understanding them.”


Sermon on the Mount, looking at 5:21 and onward, broadly, can be broken into 3 parts:

The spirit of the law (chapter 5).

Spirit of fellowship with God (chapter 6).

Spirit of righteousness (chapter 7).


The Pharisees and scribes distorted the Hebrew Bible. The Lord is responding to their distortion and correcting it.


The first thing we must consider is the formula which He uses:

“You have heard that it was said by those of old time.” (tois archaois = by the old ones).


Our Lord is really showing the true teaching of the law, over and against the false representation of it made by the Pharisees and scribes. He actually slips in “and hate your enemy” in vs. 43. They have all heard that, but no one has “read” it, for it is not in the law.


So think of the phrase “You have heard it said,” vs. “You have read.”


The result was that what these people thought of as the law in in reality not the law itself, but a representation of it given by the interpretations and traditions which had been added to the law during the centuries, and thus it was essential that these people should be given a true account of what the law really did say and teach (us as well).

Jesus then gives us the extraordinary statement: “I say unto you.” This is a crucial statement regarding His person and authority. He does not hesitate to [click in] set Himself up as the authority.


The natural man likes to be given a definite list then he feels that, as long as he conforms to the things stated in the list, all is well. But that is not possible with the gospel; that is not possible at all in the kingdom of God.


The Christian, in a sense, is a man who is always walking on a kind of knife’s edge. He has no se regulations; instead he applies this central principle to every situation that may arise.


First, it is the spirit of the law that matters most, not the letter only. The word of God is alive. It was not meant to be mechanical, but living. The letter without the spirit of the law becomes dry and mechanical and religious. It makes Christians fools because they cannot face a person or a situation that lies outside of their letters.


Different situations call for different actions, while the spirit of all of those possible actions can be exactly the same - love of your neighbor.


Second (very close to the first): Conformity to the law must not be thought of in terms of actions only. Thoughts, motives, and desires are equally important. The law of God is concerned as much with what leads to the action as it is with the action itself. The action matters, but not on its own, alone and mechanical.


Third: the law must be thought of not only in a negative manner, but also positively. It is meant not only to prevent our doing certain things that are wrong; its real object is to lead us positively, and that, not only to do what it right but to love doing so.


Fourth: the purpose of the law as expounded by Christ is not to keep us in a state of obedience to oppressive rules, but to promote the free development of our spiritual character.


1JO 5:1-4


If we think that the commandments of the Lord cramp our style or are narrow and restrict us, it means that we have not understood them. The good soil hears the word and understands it (there are years of many things in that “and”).


2CO 3:17

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty


Fifth: The laws of God and all the principles, spirit, and ethics, must never be thought of as ends in themselves, but as vehicles by which we come to know God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


1JO 2:3-6


Some have tried to come to know God academically and without conformity to God’s will and commandments. Everyone who has attempted this has failed.