Daily Devotional

February 25, 2021

Daybreak: Matthew 5:17-48

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

A missionary to China, Jonathan Goforth, was searching for the secret to revival. In his studying, he came across a statement by evangelist Charles Finney, who said that it was useless for Christians to expect revival by simply asking for it without bothering to fulfill the laws that govern spiritual blessing. As soon as Goforth read those words, he said, “If Finney is right, then I am going to find out what these laws are and obey them, no matter what it costs.” The very first law he discovered was the one he was not prepared to obey — that it was necessary for reconciliation to take place before God could bless. Goforth realized that he needed to be reconciled with a fellow missionary with whom he had differed. He initially hesitated, but found that God bound him to that law until he would obey. When he did as God’s Word commanded, the clouds burst and revival flooded his life and everyone he touched.

Like Jonathan Goforth, it is easy for us to want God to bless our lives and to work through us. However, it may not be nearly so easy to allow God to work on us until we are qualified for Him to use us. We cannot change the motives of our hearts — that must be done by God when we submit to Him and ask Him to do the work in us. Obedience, on the other hand, is something we do ourselves. We make the choices whether to follow God’s directions or not. 

Our focus verse, along with the rest of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, is filled with practical instruction. Sometimes we might be tempted to overlook how it applies to our own lives. Yet, if we allow God to show us where we need to come up, He will help us settle differences with others, agree with our adversaries quickly, turn the other cheek, and follow His other commands. 

Is there something in your life that God wants you to correct? Take action and obey God today. Then see how He will revive and bless your soul!

Background

Having laid the foundation for His Sermon on the Mount through the summary statement of the Beatitudes, in today’s text Jesus proceeded to show the superiority of His message to that of the Law of Moses. Jesus made it clear that He did not come to contradict or remove the old Law. He came as the righteousness of God in human flesh. He came not only with instruction in doing righteousness, but also with the ability to give mankind the power to be righteous. 

In addition, He reminded His listeners of what the Law said, but He also took it one step further into the heart and disposition. The Law was exacting in what it required. However, the teachings of Jesus are infinitely more exacting, because they deal with our nature and character. He taught that His followers must not only do righteously, but must “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” to enter Heaven. We must be righteous in spirit, heart, and disposition. Without a miracle in the heart of man, the instructions of Christ’s message here are absolutely impossible to carry out. 

Many times in this text, Jesus revealed the depth of the righteousness God requires in the human heart. Jesus was the fulfillment of the righteousness God requires. Therefore, He alone became the door through which all men must pass to enter into true righteousness. Our only hope of having the righteousness that is revealed in this text carried out in our lives, is to partake of Christ’s nature.

In verses 21 through 48, Jesus gives a series of six teachings illustrating the differences between the Law and the inner attitudes of the heart that are desired by God. These were:

  • The law regarding murder contrasted to the inner attitude of no anger (verses 21-26)
  • The law regarding adultery contrasted to the inner attitude of no lust (verses 27-30)
  • The law regarding divorce contrasted to the inner attitude of commitment (verses 31-32)
  • The law regarding oath-taking contrasted to the inner attitude of speaking the truth (verses 33-37)
  • The law regarding retaliation contrasted to the inner attitude of forgiveness (verses 38-42)
  • The law regarding hatred of an enemy contrasted to the inner attitude of love for an enemy (verses 43-48)

These examples reveal how true Christian character operates. Rather than following a set of commandments to regulate behavior, man can have his inner nature changed so that right actions are the natural response that spring from the heart. God requires a high standard of holiness, but He gives the power to live as He commands.

There was much debate over who Jesus was. In the crowds who heard Him speak, there was often a mixture of those who rejected and those who believed Him. Today, too, those who come in contact with His message must choose whether to accept or reject the heart change He offers.

Amplified Outline

(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II.   The proclamations of the King
      D.   The message of the King
            2.   The relationship of the King to the Law 
                  a.   To fulfill, not abolish (5:17-20)
                  b.   Repudiation of Pharisaic interpretation of the Law (5:21-48)
                        (1)   Murder (5:21-26)
                        (2)   Adultery (5:27-30)
                        (3)   Divorce (5:31-32)
                        (4)   Vows (5:33-37)
                        (5)   Retaliation (5:38-42)
                        (6)   Love (5:43-48)

A Closer Look

  1. What did Jesus say a person should do if he knows someone has something against him?
     
  2. Referring to verses 29-30 of our text, what might be some things that would offend or hinder us? 
     
  3. In what way did Jesus mean that we should be “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”?
     
  4. What steps can we take to develop a hunger for righteousness?

Conclusion

Christ did not come and sacrifice Himself to make us better people. He came that we might die with Him, so His life will shine unhindered through us to reach a dying world. 

Reference Materials