Saturday, February 17, 2024

2024.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 5:43–48

Read Matthew 5:43–48

Questions from the Scripture text: What have they heard (Matthew 5:43)? What was said? Who says different (Matthew 5:44)? Especially with respect to whom—what are His disciples to do to their enemies? What to those who curse them? What to those who hate them? What for those who spitefully use them and persecute them? What would this show them to be (Matthew 5:45)? Of Whom? Whose is the sun? Upon whom does He make it to rise? Upon whom does He send life-giving rain? What point does He make about loving those who love them in Matthew 5:46? And what point about greeting only friends (Matthew 5:47)? Why must they come to a maturity and fullness of righteousness that leaves nothing out (Matthew 5:48)? 

What piece of reflecting our Father’s character must not be missing in the children of God? Matthew 5:43–48 prepares us for the morning sermon on the Lord’s Day. In these six verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that sons of the heavenly Father must be like Him in loving their enemies.

Coming at the conclusion to this section of the sermon, it seems that most scribes taught (or, at least, most Jews took away from the teaching) the statement in Matthew 5:43 as a summary of biblical teaching. Not only had the scribes justified a vindictive spirit (Matthew 5:38), they had justified outright hatred of enemies (Matthew 5:43). 

The morality that comes from God says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and, love your neighbor as yourself” (cf. Matthew 22:37–40). But this statement left off “as yourself,” not doing justice even to the neighbor. And it added “hate your enemy.” Could this be a twisting of Psalm 139:21–22? It is difficult to find a text that could be the source of their teaching, and the difficulty indicates just how twisted this was.

But what if God had done this to all of His enemies? There would be no redeemed at all. There would be no children who were now learning to call Him Father. The language in Matthew 5:45a is really new with the Lord Jesus. The Jews viewed themselves as children of Abraham (cf. Matthew 3:9; John 8:33). They did not have grounds, apart from union with Christ, to think of themselves individually as sons of a heavenly Father. How great is the love of God, Who makes His enemies into sons, at the cost of the humiliation and atoning crucifixion of His only-begotten Son!

And not only has God taken to Himself enemies as sons, but He even continues to pour out goodness even on those who are still enemies. The sun is His (!) sun, and He makes it to rise upon them—giving light and warmth and life, and marking for them each new day that they don’t deserve. And He makes His life-giving, refreshing rain to fall upon them as well.

God’s adoption makes a difference. He makes children by giving them life, uniting them to His Son through faith, and indwelling them with His Spirit. Could it really be that this makes no difference between them and others? We must not read His Word like the scribes did—affirming and excusing an approach to morality that the rest of the world could agree with it. No, we must read it as from our Father and seeking to make us to be more like our Father.

Christ, of course, is the perfect example of all that He commands in Matthew 5:44. We were His enemies, and He loved us and died for us (cf. Romans 5:6–10). His law commanded us to do good to those who hate us (Exodus 23:4–5). His psalter modeled prayer for those who condemn us (cf. Psalm 35:11–14; Psalm 109:4). And He is, again, the clearest example of this (cf. Luke 23:34), and produces it in those whom He redeems (cf. Acts 7:60; Romans 10:1).

As long as our hearts do not go out to those who are enemies, curse us, hate us, and abuse us, there will be something missing from our godly character. There will be a gap in the family resemblance to our heavenly Father. But, if Christ has made us sons of God (cf. Matthew 5:9), then we must come into the fullness of reflecting the fullness of our heavenly Father’s moral character (Matthew 5:48). God grant us, in His Son, by His Spirit, to love even our enemies and so show the difference that the triune God makes in our lives.

What enemies do you find it hardest to love? How could you be able to love them? Why must you grow to love them? What would this loving of them look like? Who has loved you this way? How does loving your enemies also serve Him?

Sample prayer:  Our gracious God and our heavenly Father, thank You for taking us to be Your children through the sacrifice of Your only-begotten Son. Grant that by Your Spirit, we would act as Your Children, in conformity with Your Son, by loving our enemies as well, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP109A “God of My Praise” or TPH464 “The Beatitudes”

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