Select Arcings on Matthew
Fulfill your role as a son of God, receive the reward of becoming a son of God, and reflect God's character by loving your enemies.
Published January 5th, 2017; Updated February 10th, 2017
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Matthew 5:43–48
Matthew 5:43–48
Matthew 5:43-48
You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy."
Ἠκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη• ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.
But I say to you,
ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν•
love your enemy
ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν
and pray for those who persecute you,
καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς,
so that you should be sons of your Father who is in heaven ,
ὅπως γένησθε υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς ,
for he raises the sun upon evil [people] and good [people]
ὅτι τὸν ἥλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς
and rains upon righteous [people] and unrighteous [people].
καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ἀδίκους.
For if you should love those who love you,
ἐὰν γὰρ ἀγαπήσητε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς,
what reward do you have?
τίνα μισθὸν ἔχετε;
Do the tax collectors not also do this?
οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ τελῶναι τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν;
And if you should love your brothers alone,
καὶ ἐὰν ἀσπάσησθε τοὺς ἀδελφοὺς ὑμῶν μόνον,
what more do you do [than others]?
τί περισσὸν ποιεῖτε;
Do the Gentiles not also do this?
οὐχὶ καὶ οἱ ἐθνικοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσιν;
Therefore be perfect
ἔσεσθε οὖν ὑμεῖς τέλειοι
as your Father who is in heaven is perfect .
ὡς ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν ὁ οὐράνιος τέλειός ἐστιν .
(43–45c) What Jesus commands (44a–b) is twofold: love your enemies and pray for your persecutor . Rather than loving only your neighbor, Jesus says that you must love both your neighbor and your enemy ( Ac -Pur). The intended result (Ac- Pur ) is that those who love in such manner will become sons of God. I take the phrase "sons of your Father who is in heaven" to refer to both salvation and function. In other words, to become a son of the Father is to be spiritually reborn (Jn 3:3) and justified by faith alone (Rom 5:1). Additionally, it operate in a manner like the Father—namely, loving enemies despite the fact that they are enemies . Being a son of the Father is a part of what it means to image God. We will see this more clearly in v. 48a–b: "Therefore be perfect as ( i.e., in the same manner) your Father who is in heaven is perfect." And the implication is: where there is no love and prayer for enemies, there are no sons of God. To say it another way, if you are a Christian then you will love and pray for your enemies because Christians are a sons of God. Christians are those who reflect the true character of their heavenly father. Again, in this context, that means loving your enemies—an incredibly difficult task. The reason (G) Jesus commands this (45b) is utterly God-centered: " For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (ESV). Since God himself is impartial regarding his temporal blessings on the evil and the good, believers accordingly must be impartial in their love towards others—friends and adversaries alike. To say it another way, God's loving* disposition towards mankind in common grace is the ground for our impartial love toward both our neighbors and our enemies. (46a–47c) The reason (G) behind all of this is twofold. I have rearranged them into commands: (1) S eek the reward that comes with loving both your neighbor and enemy (46a–c) and (2) D o more than the Gentiles in order to be distinct in comparison (47a–c) Let's take these two one at a time. First, implied for those who only love only their allies (If-Th) is no reward. Even non-believing tax collectors know that this is right (46c). Therefore, implied in the question is the command: " Seek the reward of loving your enemies!" What is the reward? I take the reward to be the becoming sons of the father in heaven. Notice the logic: Love your enemies so that you may become sons of the father (43–45a). If you don't love your enemies, you don't have a reward (46a–b), but if you do it results in becoming a son of God (45a) and you also have a reward (46a–b). What reward could surpass that of becoming "sons of your father who is in heaven" (eternal life)? Therefore, I see the reward as becoming a child of God—which is the free gift of God (Rom 6:23). Though conditional, this does not teach us that salvation is earned or merit-based . Rather the reward of loving your enemies is the fruit-bearing witness of God's free gift of salvation in the lives of those who believe. Second, those who love their brothers only (47a–c) do not meet the expectations of what being a son calls for. Even the Gentiles (non-believers) know that this is right. But true virtue lies in distinction: godly distinction— sonship . Jesus is saying "Fulfill your role (function) as a son and receive the reward of sonship! Love your enemies also, for even your Father shows them love!" (45b–c). (48–b) Therefore, in light of Jesus's command to love enemies because God loves them with temporal blessings, the concept of sonship and functionality comes full circle with the inference ( ∴ ) "be perfect, as (ὡς) your father who is in heaven is perfect. " In light of Jesus's prior command (43–45c) and implied command (46a–47c) is one final command: be perfect as God is perfect. The word for "perfect" is τέλειός, which here refers to one who is "fully developed in a moral sense" (BDAG, 996). Thus one could rightly say, be perfectly mature (by loving your enemies) as your father— who loves his enemies yet still lavishes on them an abundance of grace (see Ezek 16:6 and Rom 5:10 for the fullest expression of such love! )—is perfect. In essence, the saying "Like father, Like son" bears witness to a reality in those who are called "sons of your father who is in heaven." When we love our enemies, we prove that we are sons of God and thus reflect the glorious character of God who loves his enemies despite the fact that they are real enemies . * [I think the love here is not saving faith love (1 Jn 4:19), but rather a common grace that he lavishes impartially upon all creation— for the evil and the unrighteous will not be given eternal life (1 Cor 6:19).]
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.