Olsen Park Church of Christ

The “New Man” of Matthew Five

Introduction.  The apostle Paul in both Ephesians 4:24 & Colossians 3:10 speaks of the Christian life as something in which one “puts off the old man” and “puts on the new man.”  He is not speaking of a literal incarnation (or reincarnation) but the spiritual transformation that followers of Christ gives themselves over to that changes their behavior and attitudes.  Some years ago, when I was studying some early Christian commentary on Jesus’ teachings in the Matthew five, I was struck, as never before by the fact that Jesus (although He doesn’t use the terms “new man” or “old man” in Matthew five ) sets down in this chapter the very foundational teachings that Paul refers to (through the Holy Spirit) as putting on the “new man.”  This morning I’d like for us to think about the very profound and extraordinary teachings which Jesus lays before us and calls upon us carry out in Matthew chapter five.

      The text that I want us to focus on comes near the beginning of the most complete text of any of Jesus’ lessons that the Holy Spirit has preserved for us—the “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 5-7).  This lesson itself is divided into sections and sub-sections, during which Jesus shifts focus, changes topic and offers new and challenging teachings.  The texts that I want us to consider begin with some teachings about how His followers are to be different from the world (Matthew 5:13-14)—and concludes when Jesus returns to this same theme (Matthew 5:44-48).

I.  Light & Salt:  Introduction of the Theme  (Matthew 5:13-20).

A.  Christians are to demonstrate a behavior that contrasts with the darkness and “unseasoned” (or corrupting) nature of the world. (5:13-14).

1.  Light illuminates and contrasts with darkness.

2.  Salt seasons and preserves food to prevent rot and decay. 

B.  Witnessing this behavior is to influence others to glorify God (5:16).  While we are not to focus on doing things to be seen by man, we are to act in the hopes of influencing those around us to “glorify God.”

C.  Jesus followers are to demonstrate a righteousness that is superior to the religious (5:20).  Imagine the individual that in your heart you admire as the best example you can imagine of being a Christian.  He or she may seem to do “everything” right.  He or she never seem to have a word misspoken, a bad deed that must be turned from, or a spiritual “hair out of place.”  Imagine Jesus saying to you, your righteousness must “surpass” (Gr.  perisseuo, “to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure” (Strong) that person’s righteousness.

1.  Scribes and Pharisees.  We look down on the Scribes and Pharisees because of Christ’s rebukes but in their day they were the models of religious piety.  The Pharisees very name probably came from Hebrew and Aramaic words meaning “those who have been set apart” (Encyclopaedia Biblica). Jesus may use a word play here.  The word for “surpass” is spelled very similar to the word for Pharisee.  Jesus says in essence, his followers must “out-Pharisee the Pharisees.”

II. Behavior of this New Man (Matthew 5:21-44).  Jesus proceeds to lay out seven principles of behavior that are to be new, different, and extraordinary.  We might be tempted to use the term “un-natural,” but we could only use this term with clarification.  These principles call on us to act in ways that are different from the “nature” of the ordinary man.  That is not to say, like the Calvinist—that man’s “nature” is sinful.  We all have appetites and tendencies that have lawful avenues of fulfillment and unlawful avenues.  Jesus calls on us not to take the “ordinary” route but to live in a way that is EXTR-ordinary (i.e. it surpasses or exceeds others).  We are to…

A.  Maintain restrained anger and restrained speech that comes from anger (5:21-22).  Most people in the world consider themselves good people if they have not committed those extreme behaviors that our world considers criminal.  Jesus says we must rise above that low standard.

1.  We must not be angry without a cause.  We shouldn’t just be cranky, bitter, and resentful.

2.  We must not speak disparaging of others.  To say “you fool” is an insult to the Maker of the person.  It fails to look at the person as a soul for whom Christ died.  Illustration: Imagine that I had created some invention.  You see it and you say “that’s stupid!”  You have insulted me!  cf. Jude 8,9  This applies to others, but...

•  What about family?  •  What about brethren?

B.  “Something against you”—Preserve our own innocence (5:23,24).  Note: Here it is not what you have against another but what another has against you (whether it is right or wrong).

1.  Christians are to do what they can to make things right.

2.  Only then can we worship acceptably.

C.  “Agree quickly” Accept blame (5:25a).  Rather than haggling, arguing and justifying ourselves — agree with an adversary.  There is something disarming about the person who will not defend, justify, excuse, or exalt himself.  Self protection often doesn’t work (5:25b-26).  Self-Protection reflects a narrow view of only temporal things.

1.  Compare (1 Cor. 6:6-8).  Even among those who can and should accept our rebuke it is better to accept wrong than to do wrong in defending ourselves.

D.  Tame the heart and the sin is averted (5:27-28).  The heart is the root.  This calls on us to look at life different than the worldly man.  This is an example of a contrast that might seem “un-natural.”  God made men and women to be attracted to one another.  Yet, Jesus is not talking here about the realization that “that is an attractive woman” or “that is an attractive man.”  Rather He is the kind of contemplation upon the form and bearing of another person that produces stimulation.  The Christian only has the right to direct such contemplation towards his or her mate!

1.  If married, the lustful person is betraying his or her mate.

2.  If unmarried, the lustful person is stealing what is not his, coveting what may be another’s and viewing only the temporal, material aspect of another human being.  Illustration:  We have all seen the covetous behavior of the ungodly.  We see people gawking, staring, and stealing glances.  How can it be that a Christian who does this could then turn around and try to teach that person about Spiritual matters?

·         This is a very personal part of our makeup.  It can be very hard to control or give up.  Look at Jesus comparison.  (5:29,30).  This is the “surpassing righteousness.” It is difficult, but we won’t see heaven without it!

E.  Let your word stand alone (5:31-37).  Circumstance, changes, and externals must not determine whether we keep our word.  Consider these two sections together: Marriage and oaths.  How materially minded is it for a person to say to themselves (vs. 35) “my word is binding only if I swear by Jerusalem (but not otherwise)!”  Children say: “I didn’t promise” or “I crossed my fingers.” The world says “I didn’t sign a contract!” or “It wasn’t notarized!”  Jesus says if you say it, do it!

1.  Applied to marriage.  What do we say in a marriage ceremony?  “Till death do us part”—“Sickness and in health”—“before God and these witnesses”— “until death do us part”  Then what does the world do?  They say, “They changed!”—“We have grown apart”—“They are not the same person I married” (Yes, but you promised that however they changed you would keep your word!)  Jesus calls us in marriage in speech to “surpass” the world—if we say it we do it!  What conditions should apply?  If the Lord wills (James 4:13-15; 5:12).

F.  Decline personal vengeance (5:38-42).  With regard to 1) Abuse of yourself (5:39).  Early Christian commentary connected this with vs. 48 “turn to him the other cheek also and thou shalt be perfect” (Didache, 1.4). 2) Abuse of your things (5:40).  3) Use of yourself (5:41).  Roman soldiers had the right to compel a common person to carry their burden for mile.  Jesus says don’t just do one mile but go two!  4) Use of your things (5:42).  Early Christian writer adds the comment on vs. 42  “for the Father’s will is that we give to all from the gifts we have received.”  The writer then goes on to say that the one who gives generously, without refusal becomes “innocent” in the matter, but he warns the one who asks with no true need that he will be judged for such (Didache, 1. 5).  When bodily harm is inflicted give yourself to it willingly (5:39). “Resist” Gr. anthisemi “lit. to stand against”  “to set one’s self against, to withstand”

            Have you ever really thought about the literal aspect of this teaching? Imagine someone hitting our cheek or stealing our coat.  Illustration. We all are built with a self-preservation response.  We flee or defend ourselves.  My older brother once spent the night at my cousin’s house.  At night when my brother got us to use the restroom my cousin hid in the dark of an open doorway and jumped out at him to scare him.  Without thinking, my brother responded defensively and knocked my cousin to the ground!  Jesus says don’t take the impulsive, response that only looks at material self-preservation.  Look at the bigger picture!

            It is very tempting when we read these texts to instantly rationalize them away, and consider all the scenarios in which a different course is appropriate.  While there may be times in which a different course is authorized—we must not allow ourselves to miss the force of these teaching.  Jesus shows that light and salt, those with “surpassing” righteousness, those who are sons of the Father, who are “perfect” (complete) demonstrate a behavior that is extraordinary.  Behavior like Jesus (1 Peter 2:19-24).

G.  Extraordinary attitudes towards the one who does us wrong or causes us injury.  (5:43,44)  Why are we to act this way?  That brings us back to the theme...

III. Theme Restated (Matthew 5:45-48).  Jesus returns to the contrast that must exist between the world and His people.  We note in this text: 1) God does good to all, (5:45);  2) Even the ungodly love the loveable (5:46);  3)  Christ’s people “do more” (5:47); 4. Christ’s people are to be “perfect” — the way man was intended to be – the way God is (5:48).  “Perfect” ≠ flawless; but complete.   

  1.  Early Christian commentary offers an interesting note here on “love your enemy.”  It suggests,  “For your part, love those that hate you, and you will have no enemy” (Didache, 1.3).
  2.  Certainly there may be those who treat us as enemies, but as far as we are concerned we must strive to hold everyone, not as an enemy but a soul for whom Christ died.  Sometimes this can change the behavior of an enemy to the degree that they become a friend. 

Kyle Pope 2010

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