Studies In

The Sermon on the Mount

                        THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT -- LESSON   SIXTEEN
                                                    "The Law of Love"
                                                     Matthew 5:43-48


I.   This is the last and the climax in a series of five illustrations
      Jesus gives in Matthew 5, showing the difference between the
      righteousness practiced by the scribes and Pharisees under the
      law, and the righteousness he requires under the New Testament.

II.  The command to love all men, whether friend or enemy, is the
      climax of this theme, and of the command to love as Jesus loved.
      (John 13:34).

     A.   To love one's friend and hate one's enemy is the natural thing
            to do.

     B.   In calling upon his disciples to "love your enemies," Jesus
            commands us to do the unnatural:  It is the call of God to the
            holy, the high, the upward way.

     C.   "The most sublime piece of morality ever given to man."  A.

     D.   But this call is not to the impossible--merely to the best way.



     A.   Love thy neighbor:  "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou
            shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy." (43)

          1.   The law of Moses plainly set forth the precept, "Thou
                shalt love thy neighbor as thy self." (Lev. 19:17-19; cf.
                Ex. 23:4,5; Prov. 24:17, 29; 20:22; 25:21, 22).

          2.   Hate for an enemy was not a precept of the law, but an
                unwarranted conclusion drawn by the Jews, including
                some of their most pious men. (Ps.137:8, 9; 139:21, 22; 2
                Kings 13:19; 1 Chron. 20:3).

          3.   The law of Moses prohibited holding a grudge against or
                hating one's neighbor or brother.  But the Jews as a
                nation answered the question, "Who is thy neighbor?"
                selfishly by saying, "Fellow Jews." They regarded all other
                nations as enemies.

          4.   To prevent idolatry, upon entering Canaan, God forbade
                the making of peace with the Canaanite nations (Ex.
                34:11-16; Deut. 23:6.) From this and the wars they waged
                against wicked nations under God's direction, there easily
                and naturally developed, under the operation of the law,
                the wrong sentiment of hating enemies.

     B.   How the scribes and Pharisees perverted the law.

          1.   Though the law nowhere said, "hate thine enemy", this is
                what they said and did.  (cf. Matt. 15:6.)

          2.   The "neighbors" they felt obligated to love were people of
                their own race and nation; the enemies they felt free to
                hate were all others.

     C.   NOTE:  It would be well to remember that to "hate" sometimes
            means simply to love less (Luke 14:26), without necessarily
            holding any bitterness of feeling.  It may be some Jews hated
            only in this way.


     A.   Love your enemies:  "But I say unto, Love your enemies,
            and pray for them that persecute you." (44)

          1.   This appears to many to be an impossible attitude
                "because they understand the word love as here
                expressing the same feeling in all respects which we
                entertain toward a friend or an near kinsman.  But love
                has many shades and degrees.  The exact phase of it
                which is here enjoined is best understood in the light of
                the scriptures.  The parable of the good Samaritan is
                given by Jesus for the express purpose of exemplifying it
                (Luke 10:25-37); his own example in praying on the cross
                for those who crucified him serves the same purpose
                (Luke 23:34); and so does the conduct of David when he
                spared the life of king Saul (1 Sam. 24,26).  The feeling
                which enables us to deal with an enemy as the good
                Samaritan did, as Jesus did, and as David did, is the love
                for our enemies which is here enjoined.  It is by no means
                an impossible feeling." --McGarvey, Commentary on
                Matthew-Mark, p. 60.

          2.   However, it is possible only when Christ comes into our
                heart and soul, making us new, like him.

          3.   It is an attitude of sustained and unbreakable good will
                toward them:  To treat your enemies as God treats his--
                wish them good and do them good.

          4.   "Hating every false way" is the teaching of God (Ps.
                119:104; Prov. 6:16-19; Rom. 12:9; Heb. 1:9), but "desiring
                the good of sinners and praying for persecutors is equally
                so.  Jesus is our best example (Luke 23:34).  Doing this,
                we again imitate the Father who sends material blessings
                on both evil and good--we are worthy children."--Annual
                Lesson Commentary, 1/28/34, p. 37.

     B.   "Pray for them that persecute you." (44b)

          1.   Jesus Christ is our example in this.  (Luke 23:34; Acts

          2.   Jesus teaches that love is universal--if we do not fulfil the
                law in loving our enemies (Rom 13:8-10), "we are sinners
                without reward."

          3.   If we fulfil the law by loving and praying for our enemies,
                we are like God (Luke 6:27,28).

     C.   To be sons:  "That ye may be sons of your Father who is in
            heaven:  for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the
            good, and sendeth rain on the just and unjust." (45)

          1.   He does not say that by this alone one will become a child
                of God.

          2.   The meaning is that in this manner one is transformed
                into the likeness of his Father and thus reflects his

          3.   The attitude of God himself, expressed here, is our best
                interpretation of God's law of love, and it is sufficient
                motivation for the action Jesus herein teaches.

     D.   What reward? "For if ye love them which love you, what
            reward have ye?  do not even the publicans the same?"

          1.   Our example is Christ, not the world.

          2.   If we do not follow Him in this, we are sinners without
                reward, no matter what we profess.

          3.   No praise or reward is due him who loves only those who
                love him; such selfish love is practiced not only by the
                hated publicans, but by nearly all sinners.

     E.   More than others:  "And if ye salute your brethren only,
           what do ye more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles the
           same?" (47)

          1.   The nature of Christ's kingdom is such that the New
                Testament law of righteousness is higher and requires
                more of its citizens for divine acceptance than the
                publicans and Gentiles.

          2.   Having the advantages of (a) a greater Father, (b) a
                better family, (c) a better Teacher and Guide, (d) a
                greater Comforter, (e) more wholesome food, (f) greater
                light, and (g) a brighter hope than others, our
                opportunities and abilities for doing are greater than the

          3.   Only a reprobate will withhold brotherly love. (1 John


       (Christ in us means a new heart, power, life).

     A.   Be Perfect:  "Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your
            heavenly Father is perfect." (48)

          1.   God himself is the source, and our pattern, of perfection.

          2.   In this sense, it is impossible for man to attain the
                standard except through the grace of God which makes
                eternal redemption a reality.

          3.   But the context here indicates that the completeness,
                maturity, or perfection Jesus requires of us is the
                perfection of love in us through the  keeping of God's word
                here taught in helping our enemies. (cf. 1 John 2:5; 4:16-18).  
                It is God's nature and will to help his enemies by
                showing them mercy.  A love therefore which reaches out
                only to one's friends and neighbors is not the perfection
                taught here.

     B.   Embodied in Christ is the perfect pattern of God let's follow
           him that we may become children of God in truth and in deed.

     C.   If we decide to perfect our love toward those we have formerly
           feared would get ahead of us, be preferred over us, criticize
           us, or take what we have (jealousy), then we no longer have to
           live in fear (1 John 2:5; 4:18)
     D.   While we may never reach so high an ideal as is here set
            before us, let us make it our aim throughout life (Phil. 3:7-14).

     E.   "With malice toward none; with charity toward all." --A.
                                                                         -- Charles Crouch

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