Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
9) Matthew 5 - Anger
Verses 21-48 are illustrations how Jesus' disciple may rise higher than the piety of these Jewish scholars. But there
is by no means agreement among the commentaries regarding Jesus' purpose for giving these illustrations.
The most logical view is to reveal true righteousness compared to the legal righteousness of the Pharisees. In this
view, He proceeds to contrast the old time views of morality, as represented in the true teaching of the Mosaic Law,
with the true righteousness as represented in His message. Jesus does not contradict Moses or correct God or
cause one of the minutest points of the Law to fall. Jesus' contrast, indicated in the phrase "but I say unto you,"
means, "Do not suppose that all of righteousness is bound up in Moses' Law and interpreted by the prophets. For
real righteousness is a much higher standard, a more far-reaching ethic than that dictated by God to Moses.
God still hates murder, adultery, divorce, false swearing and partiality, but there is more to what constitutes sin than
just that. Moses' Law could not possibly touch the actual disposition of the heart like the searching judgments I am
about to announce. True righteousness not only fulfills the requirements of Moses and the prophets to the limit of
their intended meaning, but also excels them so that you will be able to see revealed the perfections of the very
character of God Himself, (Matthew 5:48). The standard that Jesus presents condemns sin in those wicked hearts
(their true motives) which never emerge as visible deeds. Jesus wants to show that a man is not truly pure until he
never desires to do a forbidden thing.
Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard both from your parents (Luke 6:6-9) and from the public reading of the Law and
prophets (Acts 15:21) that it was said by God through Moses and the prophets. Jesus is citing the Law as spoken
by the ancients. Thou shall not kill (Exodus 20:13) - This precept covered only murder with malice, not just any form
of killing, since capital punishment was handed out to the murderer. Nor was this command a prohibition of war,
since God deputized Israel to execute His justice upon many wicked nations (Deuteronomy 7, Deuteronomy
(Deuteronomy 28) Whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. This is no scribal or traditional
interpretation as some assume, but a quite correct summation of several laws, since, historically, the judgment of a
local court had to decide the acquittal or death sentence (Exodus 21:12-14, Leviticus 24:17 and 21).
Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you: see, Matthew 5:20 "Jesus' Purpose." Jesus rises above the authority of the
scribes and Pharisees who could only cite some ancient Jewish scholar, or at best, Moses himself, to verify the
orthodoxy of their teachings. Jesus' word surpasses that of the greatest Lawgiver of the ages.
In danger of the judgment, council, hell of fire. These three tribunals, before which a man is liable to render account
1) The local municipal court made up of the town elders (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Deuteronomy 19:11-13, Numbers
35:15-32, Joshua 10:1-9, 2nd Chronicles 19:4-7).
2) The Sanhedrin, or Supreme Court, which heard cases in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 17:9-13, Deuteronomy
19:15-21, 2nd Chronicles 19:8-11).
3) God's fiery hell. He is the only One who can destroy soul and body in Gehenna (Matthew 10:28, Luke 12:4-5).
Gehenna is a word with a terrible history, being the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew "Ge-Hinnom" or "valley of
Hinnom" (2nd Kings 23:10, 2nd Chronicles 28:3, 2nd Chronicles 33:6, Jeremiah 7:31-32, Jeremiah 19:1-13). By the
time of the New Testament era, the phrase had come to mean "the place of final, eternal punishment." (Matthew
5:29-30, Matthew 10:28, Matthew 18:9, Matthew 23:15 and 33, Mark 3:43 and 45 and 47, Mark 9:47-48, Luke 12:5,
Why appeal to these three? Probably He is speaking ironically and satirizing the method of all law. It is impossible
for any human court to execute judgments based upon the sinful heart's motives, such as selfish anger which is
allowed to boil slowly in one's heart. What court on earth could call witnesses to testify regarding a man's very
thoughts that never product specific acts which the Law has defined to be sin?
Even the Mosaic Law condemned hatred (Numbers 35:20-21, Leviticus 19:14 and 17, Deuteronomy 19:4-13,
Deuteronomy 25:3). But as will be seen from these passages, the hater could not be touched until he committed
Because men cannot rightly judge motivation, it becomes obvious that Jesus regards God as the only qualified
judge before whose court men must stand.
Jesus' purpose in mentioning three kinds of negative human passion is not to distinguish greater and lesser sins
and clarify their respective punishments with a view to making better lawyers of His disciples. He does not exhaust
the list of all possible angry outbursts which would represent the various possible infractions of the law. Instead, He
uses the language familiar to His day, giving three examples that will show that all forms of hatred are sinful because
they are out of harmony with His spirit.
But how can the conscientious person tell the difference between holy and unholy anger? Look to the purpose of
the anger in question:
1) What is its origin?
b) Desire to injure the object of the anger?
c) Enraged selfishness?
d) Love of righteousness?
e) Hatred for sin?
f) Zeal for the honor of God and His kingdom?
g) Seek the injury of the person?
h) Seek only the good of him against whom the anger is directed?