Category Archives: Believer’s Study Bible

APRIL 14 – GENERALLY, WE PRAY ONLY AS WELL AS WE LIVE

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.

PSALM 66:18

Prayer at its best is the expression of the total life, for all things else being equal, our prayers are only as powerful as our lives.

In the long pull, we pray only as well as we live!

Some prayers are like a fire escape, used only in times of critical emergency—never very enjoyable, but used as a way of terrified escape from disaster. They do not represent the regular life of the one who offers them; rather, they are the unusual and uncommon acts of the spiritual amateur.

Most of us in moments of stress have wished that we had lived so that prayer would not be so unnatural to us and have regretted that we had not cultivated prayer to the point where it would be as easy and as natural as breathing.

No Christian wants to live his whole life on an emergency level. As we go on into God we shall see excellency of the life of constant communion where all thoughts and acts are prayers, and the entire life becomes one holy sacrifice of prayer and worship!

To pray effectively it is required of us that there be no unblessed areas in our lives, no parts of the mind or soul that are not inhabited by the Spirit, no impure desires allowed to live within us, no disparity between our prayers and our conduct.

Undoubtedly the redemption in Christ Jesus has sufficient moral power to enable us to live in a state of purity and love, where our whole life will be a prayer![1]


66:18 If I had considered evil in my heart The psalmist asserts that if he had been living an unrepentant, sinful life—or desired sin—then God would not have heard him (Prov 28:9). However, because he was innocent, God heard his cries and delivered him (see Psa 17:3–7).[2]


66:18 “Regard” means here “to look with favor upon” or “plan.” The believer must take the same attitude toward sin which God takes. A clear conscience, i.e., one devoid of a desire for sin, is necessary for effectual prayer (cf. Is. 59:2; Heb. 10:22; 1 John 3:21).[3]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ps 66:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[3] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Ps 66:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 12 – Leaving No Cause

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed.

1 Peter 3:15

 

It’s not likely, but according to the apostle Peter, there is a remote possibility that you may suffer for being righteous. Indeed, many Christians suffered for their obedience to Christ in the early church, but others suffered for their disobedience. When a Christian disobeys God’s Word, the world senses a greater justification and freedom for hostility. Even godly Christians should not be surprised or afraid when the world treats them with hostility.

A passion for goodness is no guarantee against persecution. Doing good only reduces the likelihood of it. No one did more good than Jesus, yet a hostile world eventually killed Him. Nevertheless, your life should be above reproach so critics will have no justification for any accusations against you.[1]


A Devotion to Christ

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, (3:15a)

Here the apostle again alludes to Isaiah 8:13, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts” (kjv). When believers sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts, they affirm their submission to His control, instruction, and guidance. In so doing they also declare and submit to God’s sovereign majesty (cf. Deut. 4:35; 32:4; 1 Kings 8:27; Pss. 90:2; 92:15; 99:9; 145:3, 5; Isa. 43:10; Rom. 8:28; 11:33) and demonstrate that they fear only Him (Josh. 24:22–24; Pss. 22:23; 27:1; 34:9; 111:10; 119:46, 63; Prov. 14:26; Matt. 4:10).

Sanctify (hagiasate) means “to set apart,” or “consecrate.” But in this context it also connotes giving the primary place of adoration, exaltation, and worship to Christ. Believers who sanctify Christ set Him apart from all others as the sole object of their love, reverence, loyalty, and obedience (cf. Rom. 13:14; Phil. 2:5–11; 3:14; Col. 3:4; 2 Peter 1:10–11). They recognize His perfection (Heb. 7:26–28), magnify His glory (Acts 7:55–56; cf. Rev. 1:12–18), extol His pre-eminence (Col. 1:18), and submit themselves to His will (Mark 3:35; Rom. 12:2; Eph. 6:6; Heb. 10:36; 1 John 2:17), with the understanding that sometimes that submission includes suffering.

This honoring of Christ as Lord is not external, but in the hearts of true worshipers—even when they must face unjust suffering. That submission to and trust in the perfect purposes of the sovereign Lord yields courage, boldness, and fortitude to triumph through the most adverse situations.

A Readiness to Defend the Faith

always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; (3:15b)

It is not just endurance through the blessing of suffering that believers are to submit to; there is also the opportunity to defend the truth when they are being persecuted. Christians must be ready to make a defense of the faith. The Greek term for defense (apologia) is the word from which the English terms apology and apologetics derive. It often means a formal defense in a judicial courtroom (cf. Acts 25:16; 2 Tim. 4:16), but Paul also used the word informally to denote his ability to answer those who questioned him (Phil. 1:16). Always indicates believers’ need for constant preparedness and readiness to respond, whether in a formal courtroom or informally, to everyone who asks them to give an account for why they live and believe the way they do. Account is simply logos, “word,” or “message,” and it calls saints to be able at the time someone asks (present tense) to give the right words in response to questions about the gospel.

The gospel is identified as the hope that is in believers. Hope is synonymous with the Christian faith because the motive for believers’ embracing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is their anticipation of escaping hell and entering eternal glory (cf. Acts 26:6; Eph. 1:18; 4:4; Col. 1:23; Heb. 10:23). Thus hope becomes the focal point of any rational explanation believers should be able to provide regarding their salvation. (For further insights into the meaning of hope, see the discussion of 1:3 in chapter 2 of this volume.)

The believer’s defense of this hope before the unbeliever who asks must be firm and uncompromising, but at the same time conveyed with gentleness and reverence. Gentleness refers to meekness or humility, not in the sense of weakness but in the sense of not being dominant or overbearing (cf. Eph. 4:15, “speaking the truth in love”). The Lord Himself was characterized by this virtue, as was Paul: “Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1a).

Reverence expresses devotion to God, a deep regard for His truth, and even respect for the person listening (Col. 4:6; 2 Tim. 2:24–26).

Christians who cannot present a biblically clear explanation of their faith (cf. 1 Thess. 5:19–22; 1 John 2:14) will be insecure when strongly challenged by unbelievers (cf. Eph. 4:14–15). In some cases that insecurity can undermine their assurance of salvation. The world’s attacks can overwhelm those who have not “put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thess. 5:8; cf. Eph. 6:10–17).[2]


3:15 In the last part of verse 14 and in this verse, Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:12b, 13, which says: “Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” Someone has said, “We fear God so little because we fear man so much.”

The Isaiah passage speaks of The Lord of hosts as the One to be reverenced. Quoting it, Peter by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says, sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.

To reverence the Lord means to make Him the Sovereign of our lives. All we do and say should be in His will, for His pleasure, and for His glory. The lordship of Christ should dominate every area of our lives—our possessions, our occupation, our library, our marriage, our spare time—nothing can be excluded.

Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. This applies primarily to times when Christians are being persecuted because of their faith. The consciousness of the presence of the Lord Christ should impart a holy boldness and inspire the believer to witness a good confession.

The verse is also applicable to everyday life. People often ask us questions which quite naturally open the door to speak to them about the Lord. We should be ready to tell them what great things the Lord has done for us. This witnessing should be done in either case with gentleness and reverence. There should be no trace of harshness, bitterness or flippancy when we speak of our Savior and Lord.[3]


3:15 sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. The meaning is “set apart in your hearts Christ as Lord.” The heart is the sanctuary in which He prefers to be worshiped. Live in submissive communion with the Lord Jesus, loving and obeying Him—and you have nothing to fear. always being ready to make a defense. The Eng. word “apologetics” comes from the Gr. word here translated “defense.” Peter is using the word in an informal sense (cf. Php 1:16, 17) and is insisting that the believer must understand what he believes and why one is a Christian, and then be able to articulate one’s beliefs humbly, thoughtfully, reasonably, and biblically. the hope that is in you. Salvation with its anticipation of eternal glory.[4]


3:15 “Sanctify” means “set apart.” Having established a special dwelling for God in the heart, the Christian ought to be ready always to give an answer to those who seek a reason for his hope. The word “defense” is apologia (Gk.), from which the English word “apology” is derived. However, closer to the intent of Greek thought is the idea of Christian “apologetics,” an organized, thoughtful defense of the faith. The believer’s task is to know well the truths of the faith and to prepare to present them in a persuasive fashion.[5]


3:15 sanctify the Lord God: Believers should acknowledge the eternal holiness of Christ by revering Him as the Lord of the universe who is in control of all things. to give a defense: Peter assumes that the Christian faith will be falsely accused. He therefore encourages Christians to have rational answers to respond to those false accusations. Meekness is the same term translated gentle in v. 4. Meekness is not weakness. Scripture indicates that both Moses and Christ were meek men; however, they were certainly not weak men. Fear implies a high degree of reverence or respect.[6]


3:15. In their hearts Christians are to set apart Christ as Lord. Alexander Maclaren wrote, “Only he who can say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life’ can go on to say, ‘Of whom shall I be afraid?’ ” (Expositions of Holy Scriptures, 16:42) Christians should overcome fear by sanctifying (hagiasate, “make separate from others”) Christ as their Lord (kyrion). As a result Christians should always be prepared (hetoimoi, “ready”; cf. 1:5) to give … the reason (apologian, the “defense” which a defendant makes before a judge; cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16) for their hope in Christ. Such an oral defense should be consistent with one’s “set-apart” conduct.[7]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 117). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter (pp. 200–202). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 2271). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (1 Pe 3:15). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., 1 Pe 3:15). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1685). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

[7] Raymer, R. M. (1985). 1 Peter. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 850). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

April 11 – The Unjust Conspiracy

“The chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death.”

Matthew 26:59

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The only evidence of guilt against Jesus was man–made and contrived.

The essence of the Jews’ ancient legal system is found in the Lord’s words to Moses and Israel: “You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial” (Deut. 16:19). Therefore, it is truly amazing to consider what twisted measures the Jewish leaders resorted to in their trial of Jesus.

The Council, or Sanhedrin, was authorized to judge only those cases in which charges already had been brought. But in Jesus’ case, with no formal charges yet made and with the Jews’ rush to judgment, the Council had to act illegally as a prosecuting body to keep the chief priests’ murder plot moving forward.

As the sinless Son of God, Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing. Therefore, the only way for the Jews to convict Him was to obtain false testimony against Him. And to do that, the leaders had to pervert the very heart of their judicial system and endorse the words of liars.

But the Jews quickly found it was not easy even to manipulate and assemble false charges. As is so often the case with liars, what they testified to was not only false but inconsistent. Mark’s Gospel notes that even the two witnesses’ more usable charges about Jesus and the destruction of the temple were not consistent (14:57–59).

It is one of the strongest affirmations in the Bible to Christ’s moral and spiritual perfection that not a single human witness could make an accusation that would convict Him of a crime. After all the desperate maneuvering by the Jews to come up with even the flimsiest testimony against the Lord, He stood innocent of any violation of God’s moral or spiritual law. Instead, it is the unjust, hateful group of men that will one day stand before God condemned for their sinful actions in falsely accusing the Savior.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer: Pray for wisdom and integrity in the judges who make decisions in today’s courtrooms.

For Further Study: Read Deuteronomy 16:18–20 and 19:15–20. How do these passages show that Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin was based on wrong principles (list several factors)?[1]


The chief priests are mentioned separately probably because they were the primary instigators of Jesus’ arrest (see v. 47). But as Matthew makes clear, the whole Council, or Sanhedrin, was present.

The Council was empowered to act only as judge and jury in a legal proceeding. They could not instigate charges but could only adjudicate cases that were brought before them. But because they as yet had no formal charge against Jesus, they were forced to illegally act also as prosecutor in order to carry out their predetermined plan to convict and execute Him. Consequently, they kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death.

Because Jesus was innocent of any wrongdoing, the only possible way to convict Him would be on the basis of false testimony. His accusers would have to be liars. Because the Council was so controlled by satanic hatred of Jesus, they now were willing to do whatever was necessary to condemn Him, even if that meant violating every biblical and rabbinical rule of justice. To accomplish their wicked conspiracy they found themselves perverting the very heart of the Sanhedrin’s purpose, stated earlier in this chapter: “to save, not destroy, life.” Their purpose now, however, was not to discover the truth about Jesus and certainly not to save His life. Their single, compelling desire was to put Him to death.[2]


If there was but one central Sanhedrin (see above), it was composed of three groups: leading priests (see comments at 21:23), teachers of the law, and elders. It had seventy members plus the high priest, but a mere twenty-three made a quorum. The “whole Sanhedrin” need not mean that everyone was present (cf. Lk 23:50–51) but only that the Sanhedrin as a body was involved. We do not know what proportion of the seventy came from constituent groups or whether the proportion had to be preserved in the quorum.

Many equate this meeting of the Sanhedrin with the one at daybreak described by Luke (22:66–71). But Matthew seems to make a distinction between the two (cf. 27:12). Perhaps the later meeting was in the temple precincts (the usual place) and was more fully attended; if so, Luke may well be conflating the proceedings.

Matthew says the Sanhedrin was looking “for false evidence” (pseudomartyria, v. 59, GK 6019) and obtained it from “false witnesses” (pseudomartyres, v. 60). It is unlikely this means that the Sanhedrin sought liars only; if so, why not simply fabricate the evidence? Rather, the Sanhedrin, already convinced of Jesus’ guilt, went through the motions of securing evidence against him. When people hate, they readily accept false witness; and the Sanhedrin eventually heard and believed just about what it wanted. Matthew knew that Jesus was not guilty and could not be, so he describes the evidence as “false.”[3]


26:59 the whole Council. See note on Jn 3:1. The great Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel, consisting of 71 members, presided over by the High-Priest. They met daily in the temple to hold court, except on the Sabbath and other holy days. Technically, they did not have the power to administer capital punishment (Jn 18:31), but in the case of Stephen, for example, this was no deterrent to his stoning (cf. Ac 6:12–14; 7:58–60). Roman governors evidently sometimes ignored such incidents as a matter of political expediency. In Jesus’ case, the men who were trying Him were the same ones who had conspired against Him (cf. Jn 11:47–50).[4]


26:59 The whole Council (“Sanhedrin”) need not denote all 70 members but may just indicate those hastily assembled in the middle of the night (23 members made a quorum). “Sanhedrin” (Gk. synedrion) could refer either to a local Jewish tribunal (e.g., “council,” 5:22; “courts,” 10:17) or, as here, to the supreme ecclesiastical court (“Council”) of the Jews, centered in Jerusalem. The Romans were ultimately in control of all judicial proceedings but allowed their subjects some freedom to try their own cases.[5]


26:59 Jewish tradition maintains that Ezra established a synod of teachers, known as the hakeneseth hagedolah (Heb.), which functioned to adapt and develop the oral tradition (cf. 15:2) to meet contemporary needs. They constituted the channel through which the knowledge of the Torah was transmitted. On this theory, when the Great Assembly ceased sometime in the third century b.c., the Sanhedrin (sunedrion, Heb.) arose to deliberate community concerns in Judea. According to Josephus, it was known as the gerousia (Gk.), “Council,” during the Seleucid period (198–167 b.c.) and Sanhedrin, “Court,” during the Roman occupation. It consisted of 71 members, including the acting high priest, who presided over the other 70 members from two parties, the Sadducees and Pharisees (26:3, 57; Mark 14:53; 15:1; Luke 22:66). Former high priests, the acting high priest, scribes, possibly members of the more privileged families from which the high priests were selected, and the elders (i.e., tribal and family representatives of the people and the priesthood) also served. During the Roman period, many local courts existed because the Romans permitted the Jews to handle many of their own domestic and religious matters. At least three judges made up the local courts which convened on the second and third days of the week. Courts in large towns had 23 members, the number needed to decide cases of capital punishment. The Sanhedrin constituted the Jewish supreme court and met in the temple area each day, except on holy days and on Sabbaths. Sanhedrins existed in several communities of Judea during the rule of the Roman procurators (a.d. 6–66). The Jerusalem Sanhedrin, however, exercised considerable authority, which varied with different monarchs. Herod the Great tried to limit its powers, but under the Roman procurators its powers extended to free regulation of religious matters and controlled regulation of civil matters. Beginning with the rule of Archelaus (4 b.c.-a.d. 6), the powers of the Sanhedrin were evidently limited to Judea, since it could not exercise authority over Jesus when He was in Galilee. After the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70, the Sanhedrin was abolished. During its existence, it had direct authority over its own police force and could order arrests (26:47; Mark 14:43), and in capital cases had the power of life and death, provided that the Roman governor gave his consent. His judgment, however, usually complied with the Sanhedrin’s demands. The Sanhedrin also heard charges of blasphemy (26:57ff.; John 19:7), transgression of the Law of Moses (Acts 22–24), and false doctrine (Acts 4). Members sat facing one another in a semicircle. Two clerks of the court, one at each end, stood to record votes of condemnation and of acquittal. Condemnation required a two-thirds majority; acquittal, a simple majority. In cases involving capital punishment, arguments for acquittal were presented first, then those for condemnation. Acquittal could be declared on the day of the trial, but condemnation awaited the following day. Disciples of the scribes attended the courts, sat in front, and argued in favor of acquittal, but not for condemnation. Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin (26:59; John 11:47), but due to His not being granted the benefit of the doubt which usually lay with the accused, the legality of His trial has been the subject of great deliberation.[6]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 26:59). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 619). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 26:59). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1883). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 26:59). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 9 – THE CHRISTIAN: CITIZEN OF HEAVEN LIVING ON EARTH

And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.

DANIEL 12:3

Let a man become enamored of Eternal Wisdom and set his heart to win her and he takes on himself a full-time, all-engaging pursuit! Thereafter his whole life will be filled with seekings and findings, self-repudiations, tough disciplines and daily dyings as he is being crucified unto the world and the world unto him.

The regenerated man has been inwardly separated from society as Israel was separated from Egypt at the crossing of the Red Sea. The Christian is a man of heaven temporarily living on earth. Though in spirit divided from the race of fallen men he must yet in the flesh live among them. In many things he is like them but in others he differs so radically from them that they cannot but see and resent it.

From the days of Cain and Abel the man of earth has punished the man of heaven for being different. The long history of persecution and martyrdom confirms this.

But, we must not get the impression that the Christian life is one of continuous conflict, one unbroken irritating struggle against the world, the flesh and the devil.

A thousand times no!

The heart that learns to die with Christ soon knows the blessed experience of rising with Him, and all the world’s persecutions cannot still the high note of holy joy that springs up in the soul that has become the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit![1]


3 The righteous are described as “wise” (Heb. maśkilîm; v. 3a). The parallel expression, “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), further describes “those who are wise” (cf. Baldwin, 205). The “wise” were introduced previously as those who “will instruct many” (11:33). These wise or righteous Jews are similar to the “righteous servant” of Isaiah who will “justify many” by his knowledge (Isa 53:11). Collins (Daniel, 393) outlines the two different views on how the “wise” make “many” righteous: either by their propitiatory death as martyrs (cf. Lacocque, 230) or by their teaching, meaning “instruction rather than martyrdom is the means of justification.” Clearly the latter understanding is more likely given the context of chs. 10–12, but more important is Baldwin’s observation, 205, that “there is only one source of righteousness—God himself” (cf. Da 9:7, 14). No doubt Daniel and those belonging to his group (or the teachers among them) are included among “those who are wise” (cf. Longman, 284).

As in the case with “the wise” (v. 3a) and “those who lead many to righteousness” (v. 3b), the phrases “like the brightness of the heavens” (v. 3a) and “like the stars” (v. 3b) should be understood as parallel synonymous expressions (cf. Miller, 319). Collins (Daniel, 393) connects the exaltation of the wise with the exaltation of the servant who acts wisely; “he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted” (Isa 52:13). Lucas, 295, finds an allusion to the motif of the wise shining like celestial bodies in “dew of light” mentioned in connection with those who will rise from the dead in Isaiah’s “little apocalypse” (Isa 26:19).

Both Lacocque, 244–45, and Collins (Daniel, 393–94) take the promise to mean that the wise will become angels in the next life, based on the influence of Hellenistic beliefs and later intertestamental apocalyptic literature (e.g., 1 En 104:2–6). Goldingay, 308, and Longman, 284, however, caution against pressing the language of an obvious metaphor too literally. Seow, 188–89, aptly calls attention to the reversal of destiny between the humiliation of those who attempt to ascend to the stars (cf. 8:10; 11:36–37) and the vindication of those who act wisely (v. 3).[2]


12:3 have insight. Those having true knowledge, by faith in God’s Word, not only leaders (as 11:33), but others (11:35; 12:10). To “shine” in glory is a privilege of all the saved (cf. the principle in 1Th 2:12; 1Pe 5:10). Any who influence others for righteousness shine like stars in varying capacities of light as their reward (as in 1Co 3:8). The faithfulness of the believer’s witness will determine one’s eternal capacity to reflect God’s glory.[3]


12:3 The brightness looks forward to the brightness in the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:22–27; 22:5).[4]


12:3 Amid the dark, agonizing days of tribulation predicted in Daniel, here is a promise of refreshing relief. Out of that great period of depression and in every period of history, those possessing the wisdom of God shine as the brightness of the firmament, especially those whose lives are given to the task of turning men to righteousness. These will glow like the stars for eternity.[5]


12:3 the ones having insight See Dan 11:33 and note. The Hebrew phrase referring to wise men”) sounds similar to the language in Isa 52:13. This makes the connection between the resurrected servant here and the resurrected Servant in Isa 53:10 more explicit.

the ones providing justice for the many In Dan 11:33, wise men are said to give understanding. Here, they turn many to righteousness. The two concepts are related and demonstrate how indispensable these teachers were—particularly in times of crisis. In addition to instructing, they modeled peace and hope for deliverance (see 11:33–35). The description of those who lead people to righteousness in this verse echoes language about the righteous servant from Isa 53:11—solidifying the relationship between these passages[6]


12:3 The wise not only understand salvation themselves (2 Tim. 3:15), they also turn many others to the way of righteousness.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Hill, A. E. (2008). Daniel. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Daniel–Malachi (Revised Edition) (Vol. 8, pp. 206–207). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Da 12:3). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1617). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Da 12:3). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[6] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Da 12:3). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[7] Radmacher, E. D., Allen, R. B., & House, H. W. (1999). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible commentary (p. 1023). Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers.

APRIL 6 – PLAY WITH YOUR LITTLE BALL

It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.

—Isaiah 40:22

I don’t know where heaven is. I read that the people in the space program shot a gold-plated arrow sixty-some thousand miles into the air, and some are wondering if it might not be reaching heaven at last. I have to smile at that, because God does not dwell in space; space is nothing to God. The great infinite heart of God gathers up into Himself all space.

Our space program is like a baby playing with a rubber ball in Wrigley Field. He can’t do anything but bat it around and crawl after it. If he bats it away two feet, he squeals with delight as if he hit a home run. But way out there, 400 feet long, stretches the field. It takes a strong man to knock a ball over the fence.

When man sends up his little arrow, and it reaches the moon and goes into orbit round it, he boasts about it for years to come. Go on, little boy, play with your rubber ball. But the great God who carries the universe in His heart smiles. He is not impressed. He is calling mankind to Himself, to His holiness, beauty, love, mercy and goodness. He has come to reconcile us and call us back. AOG193

It’s so easy, Lord, for us to think too highly of our worldly intellect. Help me to see You anew in all Your glory, that I might see my comparative smallness and my need for You. Amen. [1]


22 The reference to “the circle of the earth” is unique, but see the somewhat similar phrases of Job 26:10; Proverbs 8:27. The expression probably refers to the horizon, although we cannot be certain. Oswalt (in loc.) thinks it more likely that the reference is to the vault of the heavens (Job 22:14). Watts (in loc.) mentions some variants in the LXX MSS.[2]


40:22 sits above the circle of the earth. The word “circle” is applicable to the spherical form of the earth, above which He sits. This implies that God upholds and maintains His creation on a continuing basis (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). As He looks down, men seem like insects to the One who has stretched and spread out the universal heavens.[3]


40:22 the circle of the earth. Either the bowl-like sky over the earth (Job 22:14) or the outer horizon encircling the earth (Job 26:10). stretches out the heavens like a curtain. A number of passages (Job 9:8; Ps. 104:2; Isa. 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 51:13; Jer. 10:12; 51:15; Zech. 12:1) use this image (with a verb that means to “pitch” or “stretch out” a tent, cf. Gen. 12:8; 26:25; 33:19; 35:21; Judg. 4:11) to stress that God alone fashioned the heavens and the earth, and prepared them as a place for habitation (to dwell in).[4]


40:22 the circle of the earth Likely refers to the ancient Hebrew idea of a dome or vault over the earth (Gen 1:6–7). The poetic reference also occurs in Job 22:14 and Prov 8:27 with reference to God’s creative power.

the one who stretches out the heavens like a veil See Psa 104:2; Job 9:8. Isaiah makes extensive use of poetic traditions about creation found in Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.[5]


40:22 circle. This is either the horizon, or the hemisphere of the sky over the earth.

tent. God’s creation is compared to a tent He has pitched (42:5; 44:24; 51:13; Ps. 18:11; 19:4).[6]


40:22 “Circle of the earth” refers to the horizon and views God as seated majestically above the earth, looking down.[7]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Grogan, G. W. (2008). Isaiah. In T. Longman III, Garland David E. (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Proverbs–Isaiah (Revised Edition) (Vol. 6, p. 727). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Is 40:22). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[4] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1311). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[5] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Is 40:22). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[6] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1007). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[7] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Is 40:22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

APRIL 4 – THE IMMANENCE OF GOD

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.

—Jeremiah 23:24

God is immanent, which means you don’t have to go distances to find God. He is in everything. He is right here.

God is above all things, beneath all things, outside of all things and inside of all things. God is above, but He’s not pushed up. He’s beneath, but He’s not pressed down. He’s outside, but He’s not excluded. He’s inside, but He’s not confined. God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside of all things filling. That is the immanence of God.

God doesn’t travel to get anywhere. We may say in prayer, “Oh God, come and help us,” because we mean it in a psychological way. But actually God doesn’t have to “come” to help us because there isn’t any place where God is not. AOG022

What an encouragement, Lord, to know that You are here with me as I seek to meet with You. Give me a clear sense of Your presence, both now and as I move through the day. Amen. [1]


23:23, 24 These verses underscore the transcendence and the imminence of God. Yahweh is not a God “at hand” or near, a local man-made deity whose domain and wisdom are limited. He is not unaware of the actions of His creatures and they are not able to hide from Him. He is not confined to a shrine or temple as are the pagan deities. He is omnipotent (all-powerful), omnipresent (present everywhere), and omniscient (all-knowing). Yahweh has the power to see even that which is hidden (v. 24). These false prophets were not operating unknown to God.[2]


[1] Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Je 23:23). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 2 – Happiness Is . . .

“Blessed are the poor in spirit … those who mourn … the gentle … those who hunger and thirst for righteousness … the merciful … the pure in heart … the peacemakers … [and] those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness” (Matt. 5:3–10).

✧✧✧

By the world’s standards, Christ’s definition of happiness is shocking and contradictory!

A quiz in a popular magazine characterized happy people as those who enjoy other people but aren’t self-sacrificing, who refuse to participate in negative feelings or emotions, and who have a sense of accomplishment based on their own self-sufficiency.

But Jesus described happy people quite differently. In fact, He characterized them as spiritual beggars who realize they have no resources in themselves. He said they are meek rather than proud, mournful over their sin, self-sacrificing, and willing to endure persecution to reconcile men to God.

By the world’s standards, that sounds more like misery than happiness! But the people of the world don’t understand that what is often thought of as misery is actually the key to happiness.

Follow the Lord’s progression of thought: true happiness begins with being “poor in spirit” (v. 3). That means you have a right attitude toward sin, which leads you to “mourn” over it (v. 4). Mourning over sin produces a meekness that leads to hungering and thirsting for righteousness (vv. 5–6), which results in mercy, purity of heart, and a peaceable spirit (vv. 7–9)—attitudes that bring true happiness.

When you display those attitudes, you can expect to be insulted, persecuted, and unjustly accused (vv. 10–11) because your life will be an irritating rebuke to worldly people. But despite the persecution, you can “rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great” (v. 12).

You are one of God’s lights in a sin-darkened world (v. 14), and while most people will reject Christ, others will be drawn to Him by the testimony of your life. Be faithful to Him today, so He can use you that way.

✧✧✧

Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the grace He gives you, enabling you to have Beatitude attitudes. ✧ Ask Him to make you a bright light in someone’s life today.

For Further Study: Read 1 Peter 2:19–23. ✧ How did Jesus respond to persecution? ✧ How should you respond?[1]


5:3–11 The first four Beatitudes, or “blessed sayings,” portray the ideal heart condition of kingdom citizens; the latter five present the actions resulting from this attitude of heart. Together they emphasize being and living rather than doing, so that the kingdom citizen responds instinctively to various situations as they arise. They revolutionize accepted priorities and the world’s standard of blessedness. The Beatitudes, so designated because of the form of the statement, “Blessed are,” describe the character traits of those accepted as citizens of the kingdom of God and set forth both the present and future blessings of those whose lives portray these virtues. They describe different experiences and attitudes of one person, rather than eight or nine different categories of people.[2]


5:3 Blessed. This means more than the emotional state represented by the word “happy.” It includes spiritual well-being, having the approval of God, and thus a happier destiny (Ps. 1).

poor in spirit. Those with the greater spiritual need are more likely to perceive their need and depend on God alone and not their own goodness. Paul notes the same principle in Rom. 9:30, 31. The parallel in Luke 6:20 omits “in spirit.” This has led many to suppose Jesus primarily spoke of the materially poor. Material poverty and recognition of spiritual need often go together (Ps. 9:18 note), but the two kinds of poverty are not identical.

5:4 those who mourn. The context indicates that these are mourning over sin and evil, especially their own, and over the failure of mankind to give proper glory to God.

5:5 the meek. This beatitude resembles and is perhaps based on Ps. 37:11. The meekness in view is spiritual meekness, an attitude of humility and submission to God. Our pattern for meekness is Jesus (the same Greek word is translated “gentle” in 11:29), who submits to the will of His Father.

inherit the earth. The ultimate fulfillment of the promise to Abraham, whom Paul calls “heir of the world” (Rom. 4:13; cf. Heb. 11:16).

5:6 hunger … for righteousness. Those who seek God’s righteousness receive what they desire, not those who are confident of their own righteousness.

5:8 they shall see God. Because God is a spirit, His divine essence is invisible (Col. 1:15; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16). Nevertheless, believers will “see” God through the insight of faith, and Jesus assured His disciples that in seeing Him they had “seen the Father” (John 14:9). In the glorified state, God’s children will “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

5:9 peacemakers. Spiritual peace, not the cessation of physical violence between nations, is in view. Although the term is usually understood to mean those who help others find peace with God, this peace can also be understood as those who have made their own peace with God and are called His children. The principle is extended in vv. 44, 45—the children of God make peace, even with their enemies.[3]


5:3 Blessed The Greek word used here, makarios (meaning “happy” or “fortunate), often indicates someone who is favored by God.

poor in spirit Refers to those in Jesus’ day who recognize and bear their desperate plight, and who long for God’s restoration through the Messiah.

kingdom of heaven The crowd was already familiar with this terminology through John the Baptist’s proclamation; they anticipated a time of restoration. See note on Matt 3:2.

The Kingdom of God: Already but Not Yet

5:4 the ones who mourn Could refer to those who mourn for Israel and for their plight within its present conditions (e.g., Roman occupation, what seems like a lack of God’s presence, impoverishment). Alternatively, it could refer to those who mourn over their personal sin or are currently enduring difficult times.

because they will be comforted Those who mourn for the unfulfilled condition of Israel will be comforted when the kingdom is fulfilled. In the new kingdom, God’s new covenant will restore what had been lost due to violations of the old covenant.

5:5 the meek Refers to someone who is humble or gentle. The meek do not seek gain for themselves; instead, they hope in the Lord.

they will inherit the earth A reference to Psa 37:11, which foretells the destruction of evildoers (compare Rev 21), so that those who hope in Yahweh will live in peace.

5:6 ones who hunger and thirst for righteousness A metaphor for moral uprightness. This may be an allusion to Psa 37:12–17 (compare note on Matt 5:5), which speaks of a time when oppressors will be no more. This line expresses a deep desire both for personal righteousness and for a world characterized by God’s righteousness (or justice).

This phrase has no exact ot parallel, but Job 15:16 contains the reverse: “one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water.” It implies that those who observe God’s commandments should do so not out of resignation, but out of a fundamental desire. Due to widespread poverty, many of those listening to Jesus were probably hungry and thirsty in a literal sense.

5:7 Blessed are the merciful God rewards those who imitate His goodness and mercy. This beatitude has the same emphasis as the others: God’s kingdom is breaking in upon the world. When it does, God will show mercy to those who have been merciful to others.

5:8 pure in heart Possibly an allusion to Psa 18:26. This beatitude uses the terminology of ritual purity and cleanness, which would have been common in Judaism.

At this time, the law—with its ritual precepts—was still in effect. But Jesus’ original audience likely would have made no distinction between having a heart pure from sin and being a person who is ritually pure according to the law. This parallels Jesus’ emphasis on God being concerned about the spiritual state of a person, not just their outward, religious purity (compare Matt 15:11).

they will see God Likely an allusion to the temple entrance liturgy of Psa 24:3–4. The idea being that they will witness God’s entrance.

The law forbade anyone who was unclean from entering the holy place; in Exod 33:20, God declares that none shall see Him and live. Even the prophet Isaiah—calling himself a man of unclean lips—feared for his life when he saw only a vision of Yahweh (Isa 6). The law’s call for purity allowed Jews to hope that, if they could be wholly cleansed, they would finally be able to see God. Jesus here promises this outcome; He implies that God’s people will be able to attain it.

5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers Jewish literature of the time valued those who worked for peace. For instance, 2 Enoch reads “Blessed is one who gives peace and love” (52:11).

sons of God Those whose lives reflect the ethics of Jesus will be clearly identified as children of God (see Rom 8:14 and note).

5:10–12 These three verses address persecution and likely reflect the situation of those who first read Matthew’s Gospel (which may explain why the theme receives such extensive treatment). Later in the narrative, Jesus encounters each form of persecution recorded here and suffers the same fate as many ot prophets (see Matt 23:29–37).[4]

5:3–12 The Beatitudes all begin with “Blessed are …” They are called “beatitudes” from Latin beatus, “blessed, happy” (but see note on v. 3). These short statements summarize the essence of the Sermon on the Mount.

5:3 Blessed. More than a temporary or circumstantial feeling of happiness, this is a state of well-being in relationship to God that belongs to those who respond to Jesus’ ministry. The poor in spirit are those who recognize they are in need of God’s help. theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It belongs to those who confess their spiritual bankruptcy. On a contrast with the first seven beatitudes, see note on 23:13–36.

Jesus’ Five Discourses

The authoritative message of the Messiah (Sermon on the Mount)

 

chs. 5–7

 

The authoritative mission of the Messiah’s messengers

 

ch. 10

 

The mysteries of the messianic kingdom revealed in parables

 

ch. 13

 

The community of the Messiah revealed

 

chs. 18–20

 

The delay, return, and judgment of the Messiah (Olivet Discourse)

 

chs. 24–25

 

5:4 those who mourn. The spiritual, emotional, or financial loss resulting from sin should lead to mourning and a longing for God’s forgiveness and healing (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10).

5:5 The meek are the “gentle” (cf. 11:29), those who do not assert themselves over others in order to further their own agendas in their own strength, but who will nonetheless inherit the earth because they trust in God to direct the outcome of events. Cf. Ps. 37:11.

5:6 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness recognize that God is the ultimate source of real righteousness, so they long for his righteous character to be evident in people’s lives on earth. They shall be satisfied by responding to his invitation to be in relationship with him.

5:7 The kindness and forgiveness that the merciful show to others will also be shown to them.

5:8 The pure in heart are those whose pursuit of purity and uprightness affects every area of life. they shall see God. Note the ultimate fulfillment in Rev. 22:4; cf. note on John 1:18. In contrast to Jewish traditions that overemphasized external ritual purity, Jesus taught that purity of heart was most important (cf. note on Matt. 5:28).

5:9 peacemakers. Those who promote God’s messianic peace (Hb. shalom, total well-being both personally and communally) will receive the ultimate reward of being called sons of God (see note on Gal. 3:26) as they reflect the character of their heavenly Father.

5:10 Those who are persecuted are those who have been wrongly treated because of their faith. God is pleased when his people show that they value him above everything in the world, and this happens when they courageously remain faithful amid opposition for righteousness’ sake.[5]


5:3 Blessed. The word lit. means “happy, fortunate, blissful.” Here it speaks of more than a surface emotion. Jesus was describing the divinely-bestowed well-being that belongs only to the faithful. The Beatitudes demonstrate that the way to heavenly blessedness is antithetical to the worldly path normally followed in pursuit of happiness. The worldly idea is that happiness is found in riches, merriment, abundance, leisure, and such things. The real truth is the very opposite. The Beatitudes give Jesus’ description of the character of true faith. poor in spirit. The opposite of self-sufficiency. This speaks of the deep humility of recognizing one’s utter spiritual bankruptcy apart from God. It describes those who are acutely conscious of their own lostness and hopelessness apart from divine grace (cf. 9:12; Lk 18:13). See note on 19:17. theirs is the kingdom of heaven. See note on 3:2. Notice that the truth of salvation by grace is clearly presupposed in this opening verse of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was teaching that the kingdom is a gracious gift to those who sense their own poverty of spirit.

5:4 those who mourn. This speaks of mourning over sin, the godly sorrow that produces repentance leading to salvation without regret (2Co 7:10). The “comfort” is the comfort of forgiveness and salvation (cf. Is 40:1, 2).

5:5 the gentle. Gentleness or meekness is the opposite of being out of control. It is not weakness, but supreme self-control empowered by the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:23). The statement that the meek “shall inherit the earth” is quoted from Ps 37:11.

5:6 hunger and thirst for righteousness. This is the opposite of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. It speaks of those who seek God’s righteousness rather than attempting to establish a righteousness of their own (Ro 10:3; Php 3:9). What they seek will fill them, i.e., it will satisfy their hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God.

5:7 they shall receive mercy. The converse is also true. Cf. Jas 2:13.

5:8 see God. Not only with the perception of faith, but in the glory of heaven. Cf. Heb 12:14; Rev 22:3, 4.

5:9 peacemakers. See vv. 44, 45 for more on this quality.

5:10 persecuted. Cf. Jas 5:10, 11; 1Pe 4:12–14. See note on Lk 6:22.[6]


5:3–10 The good life (cf. Lk. 6:20–22). The discourse begins with a rounded portrait of the true disciple in the form of eight ‘beatitudes’. Neither blessed nor ‘happy’ adequately translates makarios, which is rather a term of congratulation and recommendation. These qualities are to be envied and emulated; they make up ‘the good life’. Each is followed by a reason, pointing out that no-one will be the loser by following this way of life, however unpromising it may appear in the short term. The rewards are at the level of spiritual experience and relationship with God rather than of material recompense. The key phrase, which opens and concludes the series, is theirs is the kingdom of heaven. This refers to the people who acknowledge God as their King and who may, therefore, confidently look forward to the fulfilment of his purpose in their lives.

Lk. 6:20–22 offers only four beatitudes, balanced by four ‘woes’. They are phrased in the second person and focus on the material and social condition of the disciples, rather than on the spiritual qualities set out here.

Notes. 3 Poor in spirit suggests the OT theme of the ‘poor’ or ‘meek’, the oppressed people of God who, nonetheless, trust in him for deliverance. This and the next verse echo Is. 61:1–2, while v 5 draws on Ps. 37:11, another passage which contrasts the ‘meek’ with the ‘wicked’.[7]


5:3 This first blessing is pronounced on the poor in spirit. This does not refer to natural disposition, but to one’s deliberate choice and discipline. The poor in spirit are those who acknowledge their own helplessness and rely on God’s omnipotence. They sense their spiritual need and find it supplied in the Lord. The kingdom of heaven, where self-sufficiency is no virtue and self-exaltation is a vice, belongs to such people.

5:4 Those who mourn are blessed; a day of comfort awaits them. This does not refer to mourning because of the vicissitudes of life. It is the sorrow which one experiences because of fellowship with the Lord Jesus. It is an active sharing of the world’s hurt and sin with Jesus. Therefore, it includes, not only sorrow for one’s own sin, but also sorrow because of the world’s appalling condition, it’s rejection of the Savior, and the doom of those who refuse His mercy. These mourners shall be comforted in the coming day when “God shall wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Rev. 21:4). Believers do all their mourning in this life; for unbelievers, today’s grief is only a foretaste of eternal sorrow.

5:5 A third blessing is pronounced on the meek: they shall inherit the earth. By nature these people might be volatile, temperamental, and gruff. But by purposefully taking Christ’s spirit on them, they become meek or gentle (compare Matthew 11:29). Meekness implies acceptance of one’s lowly position. The meek person is gentle and mild in his own cause, though he may be a lion in God’s cause or in defending others.

The meek do not now inherit the earth; rather they inherit abuse and dispossession. But they will literally inherit the earth when Christ, the King, reigns for a thousand years in peace and prosperity.

5:6 Next, a blessing is pronounced on those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: they are promised satisfaction. These people have a passion for righteousness in their own lives; they long to see honesty, integrity, and justice in society; they look for practical holiness in the church. Like the people of whom Gamaliel Bradford wrote, they have “a thirst no earthly stream can satisfy, a hunger that must feed on Christ or die.” These people will be abundantly satisfied in Christ’s coming kingdom: they shall be filled, for righteousness will reign and corruption will give way to the highest moral standards.

5:7 In our Lord’s kingdom, the merciful are blessed … for they shall obtain mercy. To be merciful means to be actively compassionate. In one sense it means to withhold punishment from offenders who deserve it. In a wider sense it means to help others in need who cannot help themselves. God showed mercy in sparing us from the judgment which our sins deserved and in demonstrating kindness to us through the saving work of Christ. We imitate God when we have compassion.

The merciful shall obtain mercy. Here, Jesus is not referring to the mercy of salvation which God gives to a believing sinner; that mercy is not dependent on a person’s being merciful—it is a free, unconditional gift. Rather the Lord is speaking of the daily mercy needed for Christian living and of mercy in that future day when one’s works will be reviewed (1 Cor. 3:12–15). If one has not been merciful, that person will not receive mercy; that is, one’s rewards will decrease accordingly.

5:8 The pure in heart are given the assurance that they shall see God. A pure-hearted person is one whose motives are unmixed, whose thoughts are holy, whose conscience is clean. The expression they shall see God may be understood in several ways. First, the pure in heart see God now through fellowship in the Word and the Spirit. Second, they sometimes have a supernatural appearance, or vision, of the Lord presented to them. Third, they shall see God in the Person of Jesus when He comes again. Fourth, they shall see God in eternity.

5:9 A blessing is pronounced on the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God. Notice that the Lord is not speaking about people with a peaceful disposition or those who love peace. He is referring to those who actively intervene to make peace. The natural approach is to watch strife from the sidelines. The divine approach is to take positive action toward creating peace, even if it means taking abuse and invective.

Peacemakers are called sons of God. This is not how they become sons of God—that can only happen by receiving Jesus Christ as Savior (John 1:12). By making peace, believers manifest themselves as sons of God, and God will one day acknowledge them as people who bear the family likeness.

5:10 The next beatitude deals with those who are persecuted, not for their own wrongdoings, but for righteousness’ sake. The kingdom of heaven is promised to those believers who suffer for doing right. Their integrity condemns the ungodly world and brings out its hostility. People hate a righteous life because it exposes their own unrighteousness.[8]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 105). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 5:3–11). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[3] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1367). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[4] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 5:3–12). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[5] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1827–1828). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[6] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 5:3–10). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[7] France, R. T. (1994). Matthew. In D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer, & G. J. Wenham (Eds.), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed., p. 910). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.

[8] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1216–1217). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

April 1 – Jesus and the Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.—Matt. 5:18

Jesus’ teachings are not only unqualifiedly authoritative (“truly I say to you”), they are permanent. He implicitly equated His words of instruction with God’s eternal Word: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). As such, Jesus’ words are on a par with the Old Testament and are timeless.

In view of that reality, how foolish of us ever to wonder about the relevancy of God’s Word for us. The Bible is God’s eternal Word, and even though completed nearly two millennia ago, it has much to say to us today. Scripture is and always has been “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

Jesus reveals that the permanence of God’s Word extends to the smallest letters and the smallest parts of printed letters—neither will be erased or modified.

No other statement by the Lord more clearly states His absolute confidence in the enduring nature and inerrant quality of the Bible. It is God’s own Spirit-inspired Word, down to every single word, letter, and part of letter.

ASK YOURSELF

Not necessarily by time percentages, to what extent does the Word factor into your usual day? When and why do you turn to its wisdom and instruction? What have you found to be the best ways to keep the Scriptures alive and active within you?[1]


Christ and the Law—Part 2: The Permanence of Scripture

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. (5:18)

The honest Jew of Jesus’ day knew he could not fulfill all the requirements of the Mosaic law, and that he could not even keep all the traditions developed over the years by the rabbis and scribes. Many hoped the Messiah would bring God’s standards down to a level they could manage.

But as indicated in previous chapters,Jesus made it clear in His first major sermon that God’s true standard was even higher than the traditions, and that, as the Messiah, He had not come to diminish the law in the least bit, but to uphold and fulfill it in every detail.

By introducing His statement with truly I say to you, Jesus confirmed the special importance of what He was about to say. Amēn (truly) was a term of strong, intense affirmation. Jesus was saying, “I say this to you absolutely, without qualification and with the fullest authority.”

His teaching not only was absolute but was permanent. Until heaven and earth pass away represents the end of time as we know it, the end of earthly history. As God’s Word, the law would outlast the universe, which someday will cease to exist. “The present heavens and earth by His word are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:7; cf. v. 10). Even the psalmist knew that “Of old Thou didst found the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Ps. 102:25–26). Isaiah said, “Lift up your eyes to the sky, then look to the earth beneath; for the sky will vanish like smoke, and the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die in like manner, but My righteousness shall not wane” (Isa. 51:6; cf. 34:4; Rev. 6:13–14).

Jesus equated His own words with the Word of God: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). What was true of the law, in its fullest meaning as the Old Testament, was also true of Jesus’ teaching. It is timeless.

It is incredibly foolish to ask, “What does the Bible, a two-thousand-year-old book, have to say to us today?” The Bible is the eternal Word of the eternal God. It “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). It has long preceded and will long outlast every person who questions its validity and relevancy.

Not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, Jesus continued. The smallest letter translates the word iōta, the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet. To Jesus’ Jewish hearers it would have represented the yodh, the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, which looks something like an apostrophe. A stroke (keraia) literally means “little horn” and refers to the small marks that help distinguish one Hebrew letter from another. It was a small extension of a letter similar to a serif in modern typefaces.

In other words, not only will the smallest letter not be erased, but even the smallest part of a letter will not be erased from the Law. Not even the tiniest, seemingly most insignificant, part of God’s Word will be removed or modified until all is accomplished.

As discussed in the last chapter, Jesus brought to completion all the judicial and ceremonial law and certain parts of the moral law, such as Sabbath observance. But God’s basic moral law, centered in the Ten Commandments, is still every bit as valid today as when God gave it to Moses at Sinai. During His earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus fulfilled many of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Others, such as the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, would be fulfilled in later New Testament times. Still other prophecies, both of the Old and New Testaments, are yet to be fulfilled. But without the smallest exception, every commandment, every prophecy, every figure and symbol and type would be accomplished.

No other statement made by our Lord more clearly states His absolute contention that Scripture is verbally inerrant, totally without error in the original form in which God gave it. That is, Scripture is God’s own Word not only down to every single written word, but down to every letter and the smallest part of every letter.

“Fulfill” in verse 17 has the idea of completion, of filling up. Accomplished (from ginomai) has the similar meaning of becoming or taking place. Arthur Pink comments, “Everything in the Law must be fulfilled [or accomplished]: not only its prefigurations and prophecies, but its precepts and penalty: fulfilled, first, personally and vicariously, by and upon the Surety; fulfilled, second and evangelically, in and by His people; and fulfilled, third, in the doom of the wicked, who shall experience its awful curse forever and ever. Instead of Christ’s being opposed to the law of God, He came here to magnify it and render it honourable. … And rather than His teachings being subversive thereof, they confirmed and enforced it” (An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1950], p. 57).

Jesus referred to the Old Testament at least sixty-four times, and always as authoritative truth. In the course of defending His messiahship and divinity before the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35).

When the Sadducees tried to trip Him up by asking which of seven successive husbands would be a woman’s husband in the resurrection, that is in heaven, He replied, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures, or the power of God” (Matt. 22:29). The question itself was foolish, He said, because its very premise was wrong, “For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven” (v. 30). He then went on to correct the Sadducees’ view of resurrection, in which they did not believe. “But regarding the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (vv. 31–32).

In that confrontation with the Sadducees, Jesus’ whole argument is based on a single verb tense. In the book of Exodus, which He was here quoting, God told Moses that He is, not was, “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (3:6). Hundreds of years after those patriarchs had died, the Lord was still their God. Obviously those men were still alive. God’s Word is therefore authoritative not only down to the smallest part of every letter, but also to the grammatical forms of every word. Because Scripture itself is without error, when it is believed and obeyed it will save us from error.

Over and over again, Jesus confirmed the accuracy and the authenticity of the Old Testament. He confirmed the standard of marriage that God established in the Garden of Eden (Matt. 19:4), the murder of Abel (Luke 11:51), Noah and the flood (Matt. 24:38–39), Abraham and his faith (John 8:56), Sodom, Lot, and Lot’s wife (Luke 17:29), the call of Moses (Mark 12:26), the manna from heaven (John 6:31, 58), and the bronze serpent (John 3:14).

Jesus also made clear that Scripture was given to lead men to salvation. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Abraham told the rich man that if his brothers, whom he hoped to save from hell, “do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). In other words, they had God’s Word, which was sufficient to bring them to God and to salvation-if they would believe it.

Jesus also used Scripture in His own defense. When He was tempted by Satan in the wilderness at the outset of His ministry, Jesus countered each temptation with quotations from Deuteronomy (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10; cf. Deut. 8:3; 6:16, 13). He could have challenged the devil in the power and authority of new words spoken simply for that occasion. But in quoting the Scriptures, He testified to their divine origin and authority.

I heard a preacher once say, “The one thing I’ve learned is that when you get into the pulpit you’ve got to somehow communicate without using the Bible, because the Bible turns people off. I’ve spent a long time developing the ability to communicate to people without ever using the Bible. I started out in my ministry saying this verse says this and this verse says that, and I finally realized that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Now I say it in my own way and people will accept it.”

What that preacher said is true. Many people today are very much turned off by the Bible. But men’s being turned off by God’s Word is hardly a new phenomenon. It has been turning off unbelievers for thousands of years. Many people today, just as in Jesus’ day-and in the days of Moses and of the prophets-would much rather hear the opinions of men than the Word of God. But those opinions cannot lead them to the truth or to salvation. Opinions that do not square with Scripture will often leave men superficially contented and satisfied, but they will also leave them in darkness and sin.

Shortly after His temptation, Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth “on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.’ And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:16–21; cf. Isa. 61:1).

The Lord used Scripture’s authority to establish His own. When John the Baptist sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else? … Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them” (Matt. 11:3–5). In that reply Jesus again referred to the same passage from Isaiah which predicted the Messiah and His work.

When He cleansed the Temple on returning to Jerusalem for the last time, Jesus defended His action on the basis of Scripture. “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den” (Mark 11:17).

It is impossible to accept Christ’s authority without accepting Scripture’s authority, and vice versa. They stand together. To accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to accept what He taught about Scripture as binding. To be a kingdom citizen is to accept what the King says about God’s Word. To have a kingdom character and a kingdom testimony is to obey the King’s manifesto, the Scriptures. Scripture’s authority is Christ’s authority, and to obey the Lord is to obey His Word. “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God” (John 8:47). To trust in Christ is to say of Him as Peter did, “You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

If the Old Testament contains any errors we must conclude one of two things about Jesus Christ. One possibility is that He was ignorant of those errors, in which case He was not omniscient and was therefore not God. The other possibility is that He knew of the errors but denied them, in which case He would have been a liar and a hypocrite, and therefore not holy God.

If not a single letter or stroke or tense of God’s Word is going to pass away, we first should receive it for what it is, “the word implanted, which is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21). We should receive it because of the infinite majesty of the Author and His authoritative statements about it. We should receive it because of the price that God paid to get it to us, and because it is the standard of truth, joy, blessing, and salvation. And we should receive it because not to receive it brings judgment.

Second, we are called to honor God’s Word. “How sweet are Thy words to my taste!” said the psalmist, “Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (Ps. 119:103). Charles Spurgeon said, “They called George Fox a Quaker. Why? Because when he spoke he would quake exceedingly through the force of the truth he so thoroughly apprehended.” He went on to say, “It were better to break stones on a road than to be a preacher, unless God had given the Holy Spirit to sustain him. The heart and soul of a man who speaks for God will know no ease, for he hears in his ears that warning admonition, ‘If the watchman warned them not, they perished, but their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.’ Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be moderated, to be shaped, to be toned down to the fancies and fashions of the hour? God forbid us if we ever alter His Word.”

Martin Luther never feared men, but when he stood up to preach he often felt his knees knock together under a sense of great responsibility to be true to the Word of God.

Third, we should obey God’s Word. We should be diligent to present ourselves approved to God as workmen who do “not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Like Jeremiah, we should find God’s words and eat them (Jer. 15:16), and “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” us (Col. 3:16).

Fourth, we must defend God’s Word. We are to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Like Jude, we should fight for the integrity, purity, and authority of Scripture. Spurgeon said, “The everlasting gospel is worth preaching even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowds from a pulpit of flames. The truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for and they are worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy, to bear reproach for the sake of the faith. It is an honor of which I feel myself to be unworthy, and yet most truly I can say the words of our hymn, ‘Shall I to soothe the unholy throng, soften Thy truths and smooth my tongue to gain earth’s gilded toys, or flee the cross endured my God by Thee?’ ”

Finally, we live to proclaim God’s Word. Says Spurgeon again, “I cannot speak out my whole heart on this theme which is so dear to me, but I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message, especially to repeat such a word as this: ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.’ Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press, but everywhere let this be your great motive and warrant. You preach the gospel because the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”[2]


18 “I tell you the truth” signals that the statement to follow is of the utmost importance (see Notes). In Greek it is connected to the preceding verse by an explanatory “for” (gar): v. 18 further explains and confirms the truth of v. 17. The “jot” (KJV) has become “the smallest letter” (NIV). This is almost certainly correct, for it refers to the letter י (yôd), the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The “tittle” (NIV, “least stroke of a pen,” keraia, GK 3037) has been variously interpreted: it is the Hebrew letter ו (wāw) (so G. Schwarz, “ἱῶτα ἕν ἣ μία κεραία [Matthäus 5:18],” ZNW 66 [1975]: 268–69) or the small stroke that distinguishes several pairs of Hebrew letters (e.g., כ/ב; ר/ד; ך/ד) (so Filson, Lenski, Allen) or a purely ornamental stroke, a “crown” (Tasker, Schniewind, Schweizer; but cf. NIDNTT, 3:182); or it forms a hendiadys with “jot,” referring to the smallest part of the smallest letter (Lachs, “Textual Observations,” 106–8). In any event, Jesus here upholds the authority of the OT Scriptures right down to the “least stroke of a pen.” His is the highest possible view of the OT.

Verses 17–18 do not wrestle abstractly with OT authority but with the nature, extent, and duration of its validity and continuity. The nature of these has been set forth in v. 17. The reference to “jot and tittle” establishes its extent. It will not do to reduce the reference to moral law, or to the law as a whole but not necessarily its parts, or to God’s will in some general sense. “Law” almost certainly refers to the entire OT Scriptures, not just the Pentateuch or moral law (note the parallel in v. 17).

That leaves the duration of the OT’s authority. The two “until” clauses answer this. The first—“until heaven and earth disappear”—simply means “until the end of the age”: i.e., not quite “never” (contra Meier, Law and History, 61), but “never, as long as the present world order persists.” The second—“until everything is accomplished”—is more difficult. Some take it to be equivalent to the first (cf. Sand, Gesetz und die Propheten, 36–39). But it is more subtle than that. The word panta (“all things” or “everything”) has no antecedent. Contrary to Sand (p. 38), Hill, Bultmann (History of the Synoptic Tradition, 138, 405), and Grundmann, the word cannot very easily refer to all the demands of the Law that must be “accomplished,” because (1) “Law” almost certainly refers here to all Scripture and not just its commands—but even if that were not so, v. 17 has shown that even imperatival law is prophetic; (2) the word genētai (“is accomplished,” GK 1181) must here be rendered “happens,” “comes to pass” (i.e., “is accomplished” in that sense, not in the sense of obeying a law; cf. Meier, Law and History, 53–54; Banks, Jesus and the Law, 215ff.).

Hence panta (“everything”) is best understood to refer to everything in the Law considered under the Law’s prophetic function—namely, until all these things have taken place as prophesied. This is not simply pointing to the cross (Davies, Christian Origins, 60ff.), nor simply to the end of the age (Schniewind). The parallel with 24:34–35 is not that close, since in the latter case, the events are specified. Verse 18d simply means the entire divine purpose prophesied in Scripture must take place; not one jot or tittle will fail of its fulfillment. A similar point is made in 11:13. Thus the first “until” clause focuses strictly on the duration of OT authority, but the second returns to considering its nature. It reveals God’s redemptive purposes and points to their fulfillment, their “accomplishment,” in Jesus and the eschatological kingdom he is now introducing and will one day consummate (cf. Gibbs).

Meier (Law and History) ably establishes the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus as the pivotal event in Matthew’s presentation of salvation history. Before it Jesus’ disciples are restricted to Israel (10:5–6); after it they are to go everywhere. Similarly, the precise form of the Mosaic law may change with the crucial redemptive events to which it points. For that which prophesies is in some sense taken up in and transcended by the fulfillment of the prophecy. Meier has grasped and explained this redemptive-historical structure better than most commentators. He may, however, have gone too far in interpreting v. 18 d too narrowly as a reference to the cross and the resurrection.[3]


He clearly insisted that not one jot or one tittle would pass from the law until it was completely fulfilled. The jot, or yod, is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; the tittle is a small mark or projection that serves to distinguish one letter from another, much as the bottom stroke of a capital E distinguishes it from a capital F. Jesus believed in the literal inspiration of the Bible, even in what might seem small unimportant details. Nothing in Scripture, even the smallest stroke, is without significance.

It is important to notice that Jesus did not say that the law would never pass away. He said it would not pass away till all was fulfilled. This distinction has ramifications for the believer today, and since the believer’s relation to the law is rather complicated, we are going to take time to summarize the Bible’s teaching on this subject.[4]


5:18 until heaven and earth pass away … until all is accomplished. Here Christ was affirming the utter inerrancy and absolute authority of the OT as the Word of God—down to the smallest stroke or letter. Again (see note on v. 17), this suggests that the NT should not be seen as supplanting and abrogating the OT, but as fulfilling and explicating it. For example, all the ceremonial requirements of the Mosaic law were fulfilled in Christ and are no longer to be observed by Christians (Col 2:16, 17). Yet not the smallest letter or stroke is thereby erased; the underlying truths of those Scriptures remain—and in fact the mysteries behind them are now revealed in the brighter light of the gospel. smallest letter or stroke. The phrase “smallest letter” refers to the smallest Heb. letter, the yohd, which is a meager stroke of the pen, like an accent mark or an apostrophe. The “stroke” is a tiny extension on a Heb. letter, like the serif in modern typefaces.[5]


5:18 until heaven and earth pass away. Jesus confirms the full authority of the OT as Scripture for all time (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15–16), even down to the smallest components of the written text: the iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (or the yod of the Hb. alphabet) and the dot likely refers to a tiny stroke or a part of a letter used to differentiate between Hebrew letters. pass from the Law. The OT remains an authoritative compendium of divine testimony and teaching, within which some elements (such as sacrifices and other ceremonial laws) predicted or foreshadowed events that would be accomplished in Jesus’ ministry (see notes on Gal. 4:10; 5:1) and so are not now models for Christian behavior. Until all is accomplished points to Jesus’ fulfillment of specific OT hopes, partly through his earthly life, death, and resurrection, and then more fully after his second coming.[6]


5:18 will pass away All of the law was important to Jesus (compare v. 17).

Following the destruction of the temple in ad 70, many parts of the law—such as the sacrifices—were no longer able to be fulfilled. Faithful Jews expressed their fidelity to the law by upholding the spirit of its teachings, which is summed up toward the end of Jesus’ sermon (see 7:12 and note). Gentiles, or non-Jews, who came to compose the majority of the Church, were excluded from keeping the law based on the decision of Acts 15:1–21.[7]


5:18 dot. A tiny extension on certain letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

until all is accomplished. The full manifestation of God’s kingdom (chs. 24; 25) for which believers are to pray (6:10).[8]


5:17, 18 This refers to the entire O.T. revelation and the righteousness required by it. It introduces Jesus’ uncompromising acceptance of the authority of the O.T. as God’s Word (vv. 17–19). Verse 18 reflects the extent of inspiration of the Torah or Law, here a reference to the O.T. Jesus argues that not a “jot” or “tittle” shall pass from the Law. “Jot” is a reference to the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, the yodh (“$H1”). “Tittle” refers to a small extension on a Hebrew letter which differentiates it from another letter. For example, the Hebrew beth (“$H2”) differs from the Hebrew kaph (“$H3”) only by a small extension of the beth at the lower right-hand extremity of the letter. This minuteness of detail makes clear Jesus’ view of the thoroughness of inspiration. He rejects the righteousness of the Pharisees and scribes, which is reflected in their interpretations of the Law (vv. 17–48) as well as in their actual practice of righteousness (6:1–18). The righteousness demanded by the kingdom of God is a righteousness of the heart, which was envisioned by the Law and the Prophets (vv. 17–48). The practice of it is related to others (6:1–4), to God (6:5–15), and to oneself (6:16–18). Jesus’ insistence upon the authority of His own teaching as equally binding (v. 20) means that He speaks with the authority of God just as did the O.T. prophets. Jesus’ interpretation of the Law is antithetical to that of the Pharisees, who charged Jesus with destroying the Law, a charge answered in vv. 17–20. He also warned Antinomians, those who construe liberty as license, that freedom from legalism does not mean freedom from the law (vv. 18–20). The word for “law” is the Greek nomos, which is analogous to the Hebrew word torah, translated “law,” and meaning “teaching” or “direction.” Torah referred to the oral law, later codified in the Mishnah (c. a.d. 200), or to the gemara (Heb., “completion”), the interpretations of the Mishnah by the rabbis from a.d. 200–500 (cf. 15:2). It could also designate the Pentateuch, the whole O.T., the Ten Commandments, or simply instruction, teaching, or divine revelation. The law became so exalted by the rabbis in Judaism that it became the explanation and justification of Israel’s existence. However, at the heart of O.T. religion was the covenant and not the law, which was only a standard of obedience necessary for the preservation of the covenant relationship. In postexilic Israel, obedience to the law is the necessary condition to become a member of God’s people; hence it becomes more central than covenant in the religion of Judaism. Verses 21–48 illustrate what Jesus meant by fulfilling the Law, and they demonstrate the difference between the righteousness demanded of citizens of God’s kingdom (v. 48) and the righteousness of the scribes. Jesus appears to set His teachings in opposition to the law in these verses. Regarding anger (vv. 21–26), lust (vv. 27–30), divorce (vv. 31, 32), oaths (vv. 33–37), personal revenge (vv. 38–42), and love for enemies (vv. 43–48), however, Jesus, as the ultimate interpreter, brings out the real intent of the Mosaic Law as opposed to the legalistic interpretations and false inferences of the scribes (cf. 7:29; 23:28). What Jesus meant by “fulfill” (v. 17) may be deduced from these verses in conjunction with His total message and life. He fulfilled the Law by (1) full obedience to it; (2) submitting to the condemnation brought by the Law against transgressors, whose place He took (20:28); (3) stressing His messianic authority as equal to it; (4) proving erroneous the false inferences made from it by the scribes; (5) living up to the standard of righteousness demanded by the Law; (6) fulfilling predictions regarding the Messiah; (7) stressing the ethical and moral rather than the ritual demands of the Law; and (8) viewing His messianic mission as the means whereby the righteousness of the kingdom might be fulfilled and thus mediated through His own Person and mission.[9]


[1] MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 100). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 260–266). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, pp. 177–178). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[4] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1218). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 5:18). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (pp. 1828–1829). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[7] Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Mt 5:18). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[8] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2005). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (p. 1368). Orlando, FL; Lake Mary, FL: Ligonier Ministries.

[9] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 5:17). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.