Beginning in verse 21 of Mat 5, Jesus begins a teaching on the meaning of obedience to the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments can be divided in half, the first five having to do with righteousness toward God, and the second five having to do with righteousness toward one’s fellow man. This division is inferred also by the teaching of Jesus, that the greatest commandment is to love God, and that the second which is like it, is to love one’s neighbor (Mat 22:34-40). The first five commandments teach us what loving God looks like, in summary form, and the second five teach us what loving our neighbor looks like, in summary form. Jesus begins His teaching in the middle, with the Commandments having to do with men, beginning with the first of them, Do not commit murder.
(The commandment is not, Do not kill. It is, Do not commit murder. There are instances in Torah where killing another person is commanded, for example when a capital offense has been committed. If the command was, Do not kill, then the Torah would be contradicting itself, and that, we know, God does not do. We have to continue searching in our understanding until the Scriptures harmonize, because the Scriptures are true, and truth cannot contradict itself and remain true. If we have an understanding that puts Scripture in contradiction with other Scripture, then our understanding is faulty somewhere, and we need to keep digging until the Scripture harmonizes. By the way, understanding that the commandment is Do not commit murder, and not, Do not kill, should answer the question for the church, on whether God allows His people to serve in the military (YES) and whether capital punishment for certain crimes is moral (YES).)
Essentially, what Jesus teaches us in the rest of chapter 5, is that outward obedience to the Ten Commandments is not enough – it is not obedience, if the action does not proceed from the heart. Obedience is a matter of the heart, and not of just doing or not doing the commanded thing. Not only is Jesus not teaching that the Law has been abolished, but He just raised the bar of what constitutes obedience to the Law to a very much higher standard.
The final verse of chapter 5 summarizes His point: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” A person cannot read Jesus’ actual words and believe that He taught that obedience to the Law is now a thing of the past — it is just the opposite. His standard is perfect obedience.
We have all fallen short of the glory of God and His standard, perfect obedience. He has extended grace and forgiveness toward us and our violations of Torah. Therefore let us rejoice, and not despise His grace, but out of love express our gratitude by obeying Him from the heart, which can only happen by the transformation of our heart of stone, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And let us extend grace toward the flaws in our fellow human beings. 🙂