Matthew 5:21-26

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’

22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.

23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.

26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

you shall not murder (v.21) — Exodus 20:13

angry (v.22) — some early manuscripts have “lightly angry” — even remote displeasure is against the law

raca (v.22) = vain fellow, empty head

council — the Sanhedrin (there is probably a progression in this verse from judgment (the law courts) to the council (the Sanhedrin) to hell fire

you fool (v.22) = stupid, moron

hell (v.22) — The term hell (Greek geenna) is Gehenna, which was the hellenized form of the name of the Valley of Hinnom at Jerusalem in which fires were constantly burning to consume the refuse of the city. — King James Bible Commentary, page 1177

It will be so [v.22], no doubt, when the kingdom will be come into the earth; swift judgment will overtake the offender. But the words lay bare the heart and show the impossibility of man to stand before God, who judges the heart, in their own righteousness. — Gaebelein, page 126

Gaebelein has a take on verses 25 and 26 that I didn’t see in any other commentary.

The words [vs. 25-26] contain an allegorical exhortation to Israel. Israel were the adversaries of Him who had come, and treated the royal Person in their midst as an adversary. They did not agree with Him and have been put into the prison (nationally) under punishment till the last farthing is paid. The Lord will perform His whole work (punitive) upon Mount Zion and on Jerusalem (Isaiah 10:12), and then it will be “that her warfare is ended” or … (Isaiah 40:2), “her punishment is accepted,” and “her iniquity is pardoned and she hath received of the Lord’s hand double (in blessing) for all her sins.” Thus explained, these words fit in the whole. — Gaebelein, page 128.

In case after case our Lord quotes the Law of Moses, or the general teaching about the Law and then sets an even higher standard, judging the very motives of the heart.

Clearly, then, “the fullness of the time,” referred to by Paul in Galatians 3:13 and 4:4-5, had not yet come, for rather than redeeming His hearers from what Paul calls “the curse of the law,” our Lord made His precepts and prohibitions even more searching and binding. And this for a very good reason. It was meant to impress further upon men their depraved condition and the impossibility of their rendering perfect obedience to God — hence their deep need of a Savior. As with the Law, the Sermon on the Mount taught its greatest lesson historically, It demonstrated that man needs Christ, not first as a king to reign over him and show him a felicitous way of life, but as a Savior to pay the penalty for his sins and deliver him from the judgment to come. 

We freely concede to the preachers of the “social gospel” that the Sermon on the Mount teaches good government, good human relations, and good conduct in general, but it does not deal with the utter impossibility of fallen man achieving this goal, human nature being what it is. The time for this had not yet come.

But will human nature ever change? Will such happy relations as described in the Sermon on the Mount ever actually exist? Yes, they will, when Christ returns to earth to reign.

It is in connection with the coming Messianic kingdom that the “new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” will be fulfilled (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Ezekiel 36:24-28). According to the terms of this covenant God says to His erring people:  “And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:27). — Stam, pages 21-23.

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