Graduate student in mathematics at the University of Iowa who also gets excited about theology
User since 2013
Alexander's published pages
view all (2 total)
God's common grace to sinners and our emulation thereof
Matthew 5:43-48
Jesus seems to think that what it means to be a son is to reflect the father.
Published April 15th, 2017
Share / Groups / About Author
Main point summary
Main point summary
Be like your Father, God, who shows kindness to all, even to those who do not deserve it. That is, you must be perfect as he is perfect.
Matthew 5:43-48
f “You have heard that it was said,
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη·
g ‘You shall love your neighbor
Ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου
and hate your enemy.’
καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.
But I say to you,
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν,
i Love your enemies
ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ⸀ ὑμῶν
and j pray for those who persecute you,
καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ ⸀ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·
k so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
ὅπως γένησθε υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ⸀ ἐν οὐρανοῖς,
For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,
ὅτι τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς
and l sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ἀδίκους.
m For if you love those who love you,
ἐὰν γὰρ ἀγαπήσητε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς,
what reward do you have?
τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε;
Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι ⸂ τὸ αὐτὸ ⸃ ποιοῦσιν;
And if you greet only your brothers, 1
καὶ ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ⸀ ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον,
what more are you doing than others?
τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε;
Do not even n the Gentiles do the same?
οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ ⸀ ἐθνικοὶ ⸂ τὸ αὐτὸ ⸃ ποιοῦσιν;
o You therefore must be p perfect,
Ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι
q as your heavenly Father is perfect.
⸀ ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ ⸀ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν.
4/8/17 & 4/10/17 Matthew 5:43-48 What's happened so far? Well, there's the geneaology of Jesus in Matthew 1, followed by his birth and some of the events surrounding (Herod seeking to kill him). Then John the Baptist shows up in Matthew 3 and Jesus has himself baptized by him. Then a lot happens in Matthew 4: Jesus is tempted by Satan, begins his ministry, calls the first disciples (Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John), and then starts ministering to great crowds in all Galilee. Then, finally, getting to Matthew 5, Jesus goes up on the mountain (which exact mountain I am not sure), and when he sat down, his disciples (not necessarily the crowds) came to him. And he opened his mouth, and taught them what is recorded in Matthew 5. A bigger context to consider than just the book of Matthew and the life of Jesus so far is the entire Law. And he has spent all of Matthew 5 so far, starting in verse 17, all the way up to this text giving fresh (but not new) teaching on the Law. "You have heard that it was said," he says in this text, "'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" He's quoting from Leviticus 19:18. The people were commanded to love their neighbors. But where is the command to hate one's enemy in the Old Testament? There is none. But one who is immature of understanding might read some of the imprecatory psalms or the commands from God to go to war with the pagan nations as license to hate one's enemy. And perhaps some of the Rabbis of Jesus's day were teaching hatred of one's enemies (i.e., those pagan and domineering Romans). But that, Jesus knows, is not what the Law teaches. And in fact, the incarnate Word says to them, "Love your enemies", or much more strongly in the Greek, "ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν". That word ἐχθροὺς included connotations of hosility, of military combat. Your ἐχθρός was more than just a personal rival, they were, as the translation implies, your full-blown enemy ; it is understood in the term that they might even be someone who wished to kill you. It should therefore shock us all the more when Jesus commands us to love them ( ἀγαπᾶτε) using the same word that Jesus uses to describe his love for us. Interestingly, it is also the same word that Paul uses in commanding husbands to love their wives ( Eph 5:25 ). It is worth noting that Jesus does not say, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" in negation of the command, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." He did not come to abolish the Law, as he says in the beginning of his teachings on the Law in the sermon on the Mount, "For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18, cf. v. 17). If Jesus is saying this to us about our enemies, then why do we not follow the command to love people who are less than our enemies? Do we love (action word) our rivals at work or school, or do we secretly wish them evil and fantasize about their downfall? Do strive for racial and ethnic harmony with those who are different from us, or are we content to passively maintain preexisting barriers, to their detriment? Are we consistently reaching out to, being a light for, and serving the lostest of the lost in our communities and spheres of influence, or are we content to let them die in their sins? What about the people God has placed directly next to us that sometimes might feel like an enemy - perhaps a roommate, spouse, kids, officemate, or neighbors - do we show them a self-sacrificial "I'll meet you not just half-way but all-the-way" kind of love? Jesus is also commanding in this text that we pray for those who persecute us. The command is predicated upon the assumption that there are those who persecute us. And indeed, persecution, even during the pre-Christian Jewish times of the 1st century, was inescapable; they were under Roman occupation. When they first heard this, the disciples probably thought of the Romans. They would have had so many pushbacks to following this command, but my guess is that they nevertheless obeyed (since so many of their persecutors did eventually convert to Christianity, including one of their greatest persecutors, Saul). Why therefore do we pray so little for those who perhaps do not persecute us outright, but are nonetheless hostile to Christianity? This leads us to perhaps what is the crux of the text. These commands are given with then a purpose clause, "so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven". I do not believe that Jesus is saying we can effectually decide for ourselves whether we are sons of God based on our actions in following these commands; that would be unbiblical (1 John 3:1-2). Rather, Jesus has a very strong view of sonship insofar as what it means to be a son is to reflect the father. So he is calling those who are sons to act as sons. He wants their works to align with and conform to their being, their nature. Now, how does Jesus describe this Father we have in heaven? First, that "he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good". Notice that the sun is " his sun" (emphasis added). Jesus could have used the word "the", but chose to use the word "his" to demonstrate (at very least implicitly) that God is owner over all his creation, ratifying Genesis 1 and 2. Also, notice that Jesus says God makes his sun rise. How little do we stop and think that it is God who causes the sun to rise each morning! I for one am prone to buy into the naturalistic lie that everything in the universe is ultimately governed by physical laws, when in reality the laws themselves are subordinate to the word of God. Jesus is the one upholding the universe by the word of his power (Heb 1:3); the fundamental forces are secondary. So too the rotation of our planet and its revolution around the sun are subordinate to what God wishes. The sun rises each morning, not just because the earth is going around the sun in a certain direction, but ultimately because God causes it to be so. Now more to the point of the text, God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good. God declared the sun to be good (Gen 1:16-18), and so by causing the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, God is giving good to both bad people and to good people. He could make it darkness for the wicked and give light to the righteous, as he did in Egypt during the plague of darkness (see Exodus 10:21-23), but in demonstration of common grace, he gives light to all, even the most wicked, so that they are without excuse. Second, he "sends rain on the just and on the unjust". Rain can be either good or bad, but I think it is good rain that Jesus is referring to here. In particular, rain is very good for crops, which the hearers would have understood, being a less developed and more agrarian people than we are today. God sends rain both to the just and to the unjust; both will then have crops and thus, food to eat and sell. By sending rain, he is providing (in advance) for people's needs. Jesus is here telling us that God the Father is our Provider, and not only ours, but also by common grace, the Provider for everyone on this planet. Third, Jesus tells us that our heavenly Father is perfect (v. 48). This is the most abstract he gets in the passage, IMO. The word that he uses for "perfect" is τέλειός, which (you guessed it) is related to τέλο ς; it has connotations of having reached one's final end or goal, absolutely complete in what it was intended to be. Is this not who God is, yet never not perfectly complete in what he intended himself to be, from eternity past? And yet, it is also what Jesus is calling us into. He wants us to be complete(d), to be perfect, as God is in himself now, has been, and always will be, perfect.
Disclaimer: The opinions and conclusions expressed on this page are those of the author and may or may not accord with the positions of Biblearc or Bethlehem College & Seminary.