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"You are the salt of the earth . . . You are the light of the world."
(Matthew 5:13, 14)

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Believers Are Salt and Light

Mat 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
Mat 5:14 "You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.
Mat 5:15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house.
Mat 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Christ Fulfills the Law

Mat 5:17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Mat 5:18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
Mat 5:19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Mat 5:20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

NSRV & Believer's Study Bible (BSB) Notes

[Mat 5:13] (vv. 13-16) The power of the kingdom citizen is in his difference from the world, just as salt is different from that into which it is placed. Salt also acts to preserve, and the kingdom citizen must act to preserve the world from corruption and to save it from condemnation (cf. Lev. 2:13). As the "light of the world," a subject of the kingdom is to witness to his faith through personal example and manifest the light by his testimony and actions.

[Mat 5:17] (vv. 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. "Tittle" refers to a small extension on a Hebrew letter which differentiates it from another letter. For example, the Hebrew beth differs from the Hebrew kaph 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.

NSRV & Believer's Study Bible (BSB) Notes

Readings for the week of February 16th
Sixth Sunday after Epiphany
First: Deuteronomy 30: 15-20
Psalm 119: 1-8
Second: 1 Corinthians 3: 1-9
Gospel: Matthew 5: 21-37

 

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