SERMON NOTES: Matthew 5:33-37

Jesus continues to show us what the peaceful and good reign of his kingdom looks like. Jesus does this as he shows us his kingdom’s values contrasted with the dark kingdom’s values. We see this explicitly in the dark kingdom’s push for external lawfulness in what can be seen while living lawlessly on the inside.

Remember, Jesus’ big idea is Matthew 5:20, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus is calling us to be salty lights that testify to the truth of God and his word because salt that has lost its saltiness and light that has been covered up is no good.

Jesus wants us to live in a manner that puts his kingdom on display so that others may see the good works produced by new and transformed hearts so that those who are not followers of Jesus might have the opportunity to turn to Jesus and be transformed and glorify God with us. (See Matthew 5:16)

Today, Jesus addresses what truthful speech looks like so that our speech can be salty and full of light.

In first century Judaism, these guys had in the Mishnah (a commentary on all the “what abouts”), a whole separate hierarchy of laws on oaths. The commentary on oaths is called the “Shebuoth”. 

These “what about” rules allowed a person to escape their oaths and promises if they “swore” by heaven, the earth, Jerusalem, and even their own heads because they viewed these as inferior objects that somehow allowed them wiggle room to bypass their word. 

NOTE: By swearing Jesus means taking oaths whose truthfulness is backed by the credibility of what one is swearing by. He’s not talking about the use of 4 letter words. 

The law is not against vows or oaths. The law put the correct parameters on the use of language in regard to keeping our word to God and man. These instructions were meant to be warnings that would prompt us to keep our word. 

Remember, the law is not our enemy nor is it inferior. Jesus said that not one of the smallest letters of it will pass away until all is accomplished. 

The problem is the manipulation of the law to use it to rebel against God. 

Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21 all give instruction on not swearing falsely and thus not keeping our word as well as encouragement to fulfill one’s word quickly. 

The law’s instructions are not about how to make good oaths, rather they are warnings to be a people of our word. That is the intent. 

“…what the scribes and Pharisees did with these texts was devise a number of “escape clauses from binding oaths.” If you made an oath by Jerusalem or Heaven and earth or even the hairs on your head, you could break that commitment. It was only if you said, “I swear to God” that the oath was binding.” – Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth, ed. R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 140.

The effort to take what is written clearly and miss the point is epic for those who are focused on how to bypass the law’s intent.

In doing this these folks have constructed a thick veneer of external righteousness that covers up the internal lawlessness and rebellion against God. Thus, you may hear me at times say, “idolatry with a Christian t-shirt on it”. This is an epic example of idolatry wearing a Christian t-shirt.

What does Jesus teach us about our speech and truthfulness?

  1. Again, Jesus reminds us that he is God and has the authority to speak to the intent of his word written in the law. 5:33-34
    1. “You have heard it said…But I tell you.”
      1. Again, we can never miss that Jesus places himself in the place of being either God or a liar, or a crazy person. 
      2. In doing this, Jesus contrasts Edenic perfection with what sin has done to men and women and relationships and created order.
        1. Jesus wants us to learn how to live life now like life in Eden. 
        2. We should be able to see and mourn what sin has done as Jesus contrasts his kingdom with the dark kingdom. 
      3. If you have not believed in Jesus and followed him by faith, believe today!
  2. Jesus tells us not to take an oath at all by the truthless standards taught from outside of the Bible. 5:34-36
    1. The whole point of an oath was to place a binder on one’s responsibility to obey God and keep their word, and these guys turned them into degrees of breakability. 
    2. The idea that we can place degrees of breakability on our word is not only impossible as God sees it, it’s assumptive theology and an indicator that our word is garbage anyway. 
    3. Listen to Jesus’ holy and frustrated condemnation of this practice:
      1. Matthew 23:16-22 (CSB) 16 “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the temple, it means nothing. But whoever takes an oath by the gold of the temple is bound by his oath.’ 17 Blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that sanctified the gold? 18 Also, ‘Whoever takes an oath by the altar, it means nothing; but whoever takes an oath by the gift that is on it is bound by his oath.’ 19 Blind people! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that sanctifies the gift? 20 Therefore, the one who takes an oath by the altar takes an oath by it and by everything on it. 21 The one who takes an oath by the temple takes an oath by it and by him who dwells in it. 22 And the one who takes an oath by heaven takes an oath by God’s throne and by him who sits on it.
      2. Jesus calls the religious leaders and those who listen to them, blind and foolish.
        1. Note that he does not call the sin blind and foolish. That should be obvious.
          1. Jesus calls those who teach and practice this sin blind and foolish. 
          2. This is hard, and yet it is what sin does to people, and Jesus does not hide this fact from us so that we can see that the wages of sin is death, not just a divine side-eye.
            1. Rebellion against God puts us at odds with God not just our actions. Us. 
            2. Sin not only affects the air around us and affects others; sin makes the sinner into a dark shell of themselves.
              1. Sin’s effects make the sinner what they worship in their sin and themselves an object of God’s reckoning. 
            3. Sin. Never. Pays. Off. 
  3. Jesus tells us that our integrity should be such that our “yes” or our “no” means exactly “yes” or “no”. 5:37a
    1. This was the whole intent of the law. 
    2. The oath was a way for the speaker to ensure they would keep their word and thus preserve their reputation with truthful speech. 
    3. Simply put, let “yes” mean exactly that.
      1. Let “no” mean exactly that. 
  4. Jesus tells us that any effort to add to our simple “yes” or “no” is rooted in Satanic forces. 5:37b
    1. Here Jesus places the struggle to speak truthfully in the realm of spiritual warfare.
    2. Jesus takes us back to the garden when Eve was caught in a battle over what is true.
      1. Adam and Eve knew God’s word, and conversation with the enemy clouded the clear truth and started them down a path to death that was paved with untruth. 
      2. Eve spoke an untruth about God as she parroted back to Adam what Satan has implanted in her ear about what God said. 
      3. Eve’s untruthful words are the first lies that a human spoke, and they came directly from Satan through the means of an image bearer of God. 
      4. Jesus said that Satan is a liar and the father of lies.
        1. John 8:44 (CSB) 44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.
        2. As we strive for the kingdom of God, we are engaging in real spiritual warfare. 
        3. As we strive for God honoring speech, we are engaged in spiritual conflict.
          1. There is a real tug and pull of dark forces that resist the rhythms of the kingdom of God.
            1. Satan is the ultimate idigenous operator. He knows how to work inside a culture.
              1. Where we live where there is a bias against unseen supernatural forces in favor of material and rational things.
                1. So, Satan doesn’t speak out loud and manifest himself in fear/power struggles. 
              2. Satan works predominantly here in rational thoughts and ideas that quietly work against the kingdom of God. (NOTE: this is not a static rule but a general rule of observation)
        4. When we have to back our word with oaths that we believe give authenticity to our word, we are in a precarious place of being seduced by evil that intends on hurting us and trying to hinder the kingdom of God.
          1. Genesis 4:7 (CSB) If you do what is right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”
          2. Satan likes to whisper in our ear as he did to Eve, and we must recognize it and rule over it.
            1. How?
              1. If the thought is contrary to God’s word, it’s from Satan.
              2. If you don’t know God’s word, you’re in deep trouble.
              3. Psalms 119:11 (CSB) 11 I have treasured your word in my heart so that I may not sin against you.

    Application: What do we do with Jesus’ instruction?

    1. Repent and believe the gospel of the kingdom if you have not done so. 
    2. Be like this: “Jesus’ followers should be people whose words are so characterized by integrity that others need no formal assurance of their truthfulness in order to trust them.” – Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 112.
      1. This means that we double down on speaking the truth of God’s word with no “superlative” to lend authenticity or to justify.
        1. We let the words speak for themselves. 
      2. When we wander into vain territory where we need to swear by something greater than ourselves, we should clue in that it’s time to come back to the light and pay attention to the dark spiritual forces at work at that moment. 
    3. Pay attention to the spiritual warfare that is raging around us and inside of us against us.
      1. Be aware of your heart’s inclination when you speak and any desire to bolster a simple yes or no, and ask “why”. 
      2. Be aware of thoughts and ideas that contradict what you know in the Bible and ask where they are coming from. 
      3. Be aware of your emotional state which is intimately tied to your spiritual state.
        1. These two are so interconnected that we dare not try and separate them. 
        2. Is there darkness? What is the source?
          1. Work this out with the Holy Spirit in prayer and with someone in your RL group or a fellow church member you trust. 
      4. Slow down and pay attention to the moments of the day and how it is affecting our inner speech and outer speech.
        1. Ask some questions.
          1. How do I feel about God and his kingdom?
          2. How am I currently feeling?
          3. Why am I reacting like the way I am at the moment?
          4. Is this current situation and my speech and reaction me, someone else, other forces, or the situation?
          5. What is true?
          6. What needs to be my response, if anything?
      5. Try not to react whimsically. Discern and respond with the fruit of the Spirit to all situations.
        1. Other than real emergencies, there is not much we need to rush. 
      6. Take thoughts and ideas captive to make them obey Jesus and his kingdom by either flushing them or refining them to the place they match God’s word. 
      7. Put on God’s armor.
        1. Ephesians 6:10-18 (CSB) 10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by his vast strength. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. 13 For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, 15 and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. 16 In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit—which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints.
          1. Truth
          2. Righteousness
          3. Readiness
          4. Faith
          5. Salvation
          6. Bible
            1. Put all these on with prayer. 

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