Saturday, 6 August 2022

Friday, 22 July 2022

You Have Heard It Said… Matthew 5 21-48


In this section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the above saying 5x:

“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ Matthew 5:21

From the Cottage

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’; Matthew 5:27

“Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, ‘ YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.’ Matthew 5:33

“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ Matthew 5:38

“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ Matthew 5:43

The form of the sentences

·        The Formula (You have heard it said)

·        The quotation (from the Law)

·        The commentary

This would possibly be the same form that rabbis used when discoursing.  (I need to check this up).  Even if it isn’t the case modern Bible commentaries follow this type of format.  The quotation and then naturally with the commentary.

The grammar

In the root ‘to hear’ and ‘to say’ are both in the aorist and plural.   He was speaking to his disciples and not just one disciple.   In the saying ‘you have heard it said’, the main verbs are in the aorist or passive aorist.  It seems to be a formula that introduces something very important from the Law.

General description of the formula ‘You have heard that it was said’. 

In every verse of this found here in Matthew the grammar is the same.  This is understandable as it is just the flow of the Gospel story.

 And I say to you…

I found this interesting and it validates what I said earlier about the form of speech Jesus used was a traditional rabbinic ways of speaking about the Law and explanations:

“the second half of the comparison used by Jesus, ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, “but I say to you” (in all six antitheses: vv 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, and 44), involves an authority that is alien to the spirit of the rabbis—especially, of course, where the new interpretation seems to stand in tension with the direct statement of Scripture. The rabbis, who never would pit their views against Scripture, preferred to support differing interpretations by appealing to other earlier representatives of the rabbinic tradition. Jesus’ remarkable use of the “but I say to you” formula is to be explained by his identity as the messianic bringer of the kingdom (Hengel points out that the element “to you,” which gives each antithesis the tonality of a kerygmatic statement, is lacking in the rabbinic parallels [TRu 52 (1987) 376]). It is the Messiah’s interpretation of the Torah that is finally authoritative.”

From Hagner, D. A. (1993). Matthew 1–13 (Vol. 33A, pp. 111–113). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

Our Lord as the Messiah and the King of Israel relied on his own authority.  There would have been many interpretations but for the disciple it is the Lord’s understanding of it that counts as it is the true understanding (Trinitarian revelation). Jesus did not do what these Rabbis did by finding earlier quotes from past teachers.  Our Lord as the second Person of the Trinity had the correct interpretation through divine access to the original and deeper spiritual meaning.

What is our Lord doing?

In each section after he says ‘You have heard it said’ he then quotes from the First five books of the Law.   It is interesting that there is only five.  My question is, did Matthew choose 5 as symbolic of the five books of Moses.  I don’t know the answer to that. 

Our Lord is taking examples from the Law and giving it a twist that brings out the real meaning behind each saying through ‘but I say to you’.  We have seen that the beatitudes are mainly spiritual and hence our lord is taking us deeper into the text and how it ought to be interpreted.  Perhaps using our Lords method, we could also build on this for ethical decisions. 

In a scientific way our Lord is taking the moral object and then having interrogated through the beatitudes, he explains the meaning to us.

Let’s now look at the first saying in more detail:

21 “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’

22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.

23 Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.

25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent. Matthew 5:21-26

The law from the 10 commandments is very basic.  If one murders, one is guilty before the law courts.  This is the same as in British Law or any Western Law. Murder is murder.  However, our Lord brings out some steps in this law.  We can see them

·        Anger with the brother = guilty before the court!

·        Saying ‘good for nothing’ to one’s brother= guilty before the Supreme court!

·        Whoever says ‘You fool’= guilty enough to go into the fiery Hell

Why such strong sayings from our Lords mouth?

God is the giver of the law.  It is God who is the Creator of the universe.  Our Lord then takes us into the Second Temple Institution (before it was destroyed in AD 70). Jesus says:

Therefore, if you are presenting your offering at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,”

We know what the two great commandments are, loving God and loving our neighbour. We cannot love God if we do not love our brother.  This is an impossibility.   God will not accept anything less.  These are standards that would test any religious and non-religious institution to its limits.

Jesus our Lord continues by saying:

“25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

26 Truly I say to you, you will not come out of there until you have paid up the last cent.”

Hmm when I look at the context, I ask myself who this ‘opponent’ is.  I feel that the opponent here would be God.  I also feel that the prison would be hell.  This is a prison with no key because the price cannot be paid.

In a sense we are all prisoners locked up in our sin but what is impossible with us is not impossible with God.  Christ died on the cross so that we could be released from this prison. 

So, then Matthew seems to emphasise close relationships whereas Luke seems to emphasis Judgement

“Christ Divides Men

49 “I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is accomplished! 51 Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; 52 for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. 53 They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

54 And He was also saying to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming,’ and so it turns out. 55 And when you see a south wind blowing, you say, ‘It will be a hot day,’ and it turns out that way. 56 You hypocrites! You know how to analyze the appearance of the earth and the sky, but why do you not analyze this present time?

57 “And why do you not even on your own initiative judge what is right? 58 For while you are going with your opponent to appear before the magistrate, on your way there make an effort to settle with him, so that he may not drag you before the judge, and the judge turn you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into prison. 59 I say to you, you will not get out of there until you have paid the very last cent.” Luke 12:49-59” (NASB)


The kingdom of God is Here and with the eyes of faith we know that the next time our Lord comes will be a time of reckoning and judgement. 

What have we learned?


1.     We need to love our neighbour.

2.     We need to keep in step with our Lord’s sayings and be ready to forgive

3.     We shouldn’t hold grudges and sort things out while we still can.


1.     Hate has dire consequences

2.     If we do not forgive, we should expect the same from God

3.     Holding grudges pulls us down and away from the Kingdom of God


Following in the steps of Christ in our strength is impossible.  But Jesus died on the cross for us and in Him our election is sure through the gift of faith and its fruit of good works.  Pertaining to salvation it has all been done by God.

·        God came down to earth in the incarnation

·        Christ is the High priest who mediates for us

·        Christ is the sacrifice for us

·        Christ by the Holy Spirit brings us into the Trinitarian life through the resurrection of Christ.

All we need to do is confess him as our Lord and believe that God the Father by the Holy Spirit raised him from the dead.  We in our strength can do nothing to please God.  After we have been saved good works flow from gratitude for what He has done for us.  By faith gratitude flows by remembering our neighbour whoever our neighbour might be.





Thursday, 21 July 2022

‘Autonomy Hits the big time and Duty was put on the backburner’ What does this mean for Society?


Autonomous reason hit the big time now people wanted to put Jesus Christ onto the back burner.  This really did happen as the traditional doctrine of the atonement and allied subjects were replaced by the logic of reason. In fact, no religious tradition has escaped unfazed with the march of the new ideas.  The adventure of secularism in some ways has paved the way to more freedoms but on the other hand it has let loose old-time boundaries in Science, Ethics and Aesthetics.   In some cases, we have lost parts of our humanity through data.  We are not people anymore.  We are in fact data.  If we are out of work and want to make a claim, we need to show a number.  If we are ill, we have to show a number.  Even if we are dead numbers are still used. 

Let us not be a lonely rider.


Science on its own (with the wrong type of ethics and aesthetics) can be cold as it is the driver behind a lot of advances in our society. Yes, on the one hand we have more so called ‘rights’ but on the other hand we have lost our individuality and are more like a person inside a Picasso art piece.

In some of these theories, Man wants himself to be autonomous from anything outside of himself this includes morality. Man, thinks can make his own decisions and make good decisions about ethics.

However, there are many arguments, On the contrary, I mean:

·         who made the nuclear bomb?

·         Who made the wars?

·         What about deaths and pestilences?

Human autonomy also has serious problems when it comes to ethics and I think it is refreshing that we have the Master Theologian Herman Bavinck 150 years later, after he wrote this book that went into some library somewhere and only was discovered recently that he can give us fresh advice about how we ought to live as Christians.

The 10 Commandments are not a dead subject, and it never has been.  As I said earlier in one of my other blogs on in Matthew's gospel, that even though the ceremonial law was done away with the moral law is always there the two Commandments love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind and soul, and strength and its parallel on the horizontal line love your neighbor as yourself are the summing up of the 10 Commandments.  Herman, Bavinck does us a favour when he goes through each of these 10 commandments, explaining to us what it actually means, explaining to us how the Christian man by faith is supposed to live this life.  Autonomy doesn't work.  It's only through freedom in obedience that works that gives us a true ethic that can actually protect our neighbour as well as ourselves. 

I bought a book while the Late Lord Sacks was alive and, in that book, he explains to us that we went from ‘We’ to ‘Me’, ‘I’.  (Morality; John Sacks; page 77) Obviously, the rot in society set in a long time ago.  We know exactly when this malaise set into our society.  One of the big philosophical ideas was done by the work of Kant with his categorical imperative.  There is a section in my late professor’s book from KCL (Colin E. Gunton; The One the Three and the Many; pages 114-119) As Gunton says the big problem today is that in culture; science, ethics and aesthetics have been ripped apart!   Herman Bavinck was warning us about these things over a 150 years ago. 

As Herman Bavinck is closer to the time of these so-called great ideas in Western Culture it is very helpful to go down Memory Lane.  Obviously, I take a Trinitarian position, but I think Bavinck’s Ethics Book 2 speaks to Western Culture now in the 21st century!  Even if you do not believe in God or hold another view, you have to agree that something is seriously wrong in Western Culture.  We have forgotten how to be truly human and to be a real person.  Perhaps through John Sacks, Colin E. Gunton and Herman Bavinck, they can help us to find our way in a broken society. Anyhow as you can see, I have received my second volume of Ethics by Herman Bavinck so I will be focusing on his writings.

So, we can pick up where we left off.  In the last blog we are reminded that ‘Duty’ presupposes ‘Law’.  This then become a minefield in the scholarly world.   We proved this in our last blog.  Herman Bavinck also proved to us that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfil it.  This raises all sort of questions for the Christian. Some theologians put all the emphasis on Gospel and go as far to say that the Old Testament has been superseded (Heresy).  Others put all the emphasis on law at the expense of our Christian freedom in Christ.  Before Herman Bavinck even looks at the 10 commandments he goes into the minutest details of precepts and councils and adiaphora.  

·         What we have to do (precepts)

·         What we ought to do (counsels)

·         The area of actions that are outside of ethics such as touching one’s beard. (adiaphora)

·         Do duties collide?

(The above are found in volume 2; Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck chapters 13 and 14; pages 1-89)

This has been a minefield since the Reformation including Protestants and Roman Catholics.  I am just mentioning this, but I will not go into detail because it isn’t such a hot issue for ordinary Christian believers.  I am more interested in the nitty gritty of why the 10 commandments are important to the Christian community.  There is indeed a relationship between the law and the Gospel, but it would be nice to understand why this relationship is so important.  For Reformed Christians they hold a tension that it is by faith through our Trinitarian God that we are saved and because we are indebted to what our Lord Jesus did for us the fruit of this is good works (loving in a practical manner our fellow human neighbour no matter who they are.) the list above are underpinning questions Bavinck answers before he goes into the 10 commandments proper from page 119. 


Our society has become more individual based and our relationship to one another is not emphasized as much as it ought to be.  In the newspapers I read recently that Boris the prime minister should have gone to a Cobra meeting (to do with the heat wave) but instead he was a British fighter jet enjoying a once in a lifetime experience before he stops being prime minister.  We all have to make moral choices and perhaps it is sometimes a good thing to reflect on the relationship of the Gospel to the law.  As Christians we know that decisions, we make here will determine what happens in the eschaton on Judgement Day. 

I would go a stage further and say that no matter what our background; Do we not have a duty to our neighbour as they have a duty to us.  What should have Boris done? Should he have gone for a joy ride or spent time thinking about human lives?  What moral choices do you make on a day-to-day basis, where you live and who you spend your time with? (Friend and family)

Whatever we believe we are under some natural law (the law of nature).  For Christians the natural law goes back to the creation of Adam and Even.  If you do not accept this story, you still are under the natural law (the law of nature) because you are a natural being.

These first two chapters I have to say have been a rather dry subject (but necessary for any theologian).  After the ‘collision of duties’ and the ‘classification of ‘duties’ we will find ourselves in part A ‘No Other Gods, no images.’  I am getting excited about this as we return to our Creator and find out what he expects of us.






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