The “New Man” of Matthew Five
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).
are to demonstrate a behavior that contrasts with the darkness and “unseasoned”
(or corrupting) nature of the world. (5:13-14).
illuminates and contrasts with darkness.
seasons and preserves food to prevent rot and decay.
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.”
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…
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?
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
are to do what they can to make things right.
2. Only then
can we worship acceptably.
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
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.
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
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
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.
- 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).
- 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.