What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.43-48?

“Loving Your Enemies: Proof of Divine Sonship”

Matthew 5:43-48

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.43-48?

Matthew 5. Recently, someone said that after listening to a message on the Sermon on the Mount, they came away depressed! I said to them, “You should be!” If you are lost without Christ, that is the way these passages are designed, to expose your lostness! That should be depressing … to the point that it makes you flee to the only Joy there is, Jesus Christ. If you are a citizen in Christ’s kingdom, these passages should convict you.

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Some passages of Scripture are designed to be encouraging, to give joy and confidence in Christ; some passages are designed to cause you to fear God and still others to act as a hammer to break up your hardened hart! We’re in one of these passages in the Sermon on the Mount: breaking up hard hearts.

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The Beatitudes at the first part of chapter 5, hammer us with 8 blows to the heart, causing self-reflection, “Am I in the kingdom? Do I know my poverty of spirit and do I mourn over it?” Next comes two blows: You’re salt and light in this world. Are you salt and light?

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Jesus then proclaims v. 20, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scrupulously religious scribes and Pharisees, you’ll not enter into the kingdom of heaven! And then Jesus pierces us with 6 more arrows to the heart: “you’ve heard it said, but I say to you.” “Well, I haven’t murdered anyone!” Yeah, but that’s man’s kingdom. In Jesus’ kingdom, whoever is angry with someone is guilty enough to go to hell.

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“Well, I’ve always been faithful to my wife!” Again, man’s kingdoms. But in Jesus’ kingdom, the kingdom of the King of kings…whoever looks with lust commits heart adultery and guilty enough for hell and divorce and remarriage is included.

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And you have to be honest in all things and you have to personally sacrifice even for those who would do you harm, never demanding your rights.

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This is Christ’s requirements, this is life in Christ’s kingdom! That’s depressing for those who don’t know Christ in a saving way and convicting for those who do.

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Well, we’ve reached the sixth and “you’ve heard, but I say to you” written on the hammer of God’s word, which once again … it’s designed to smash any self-righteousness that may be left, in verses 43-48.

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Matthew 5:43–48 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

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  1. What They heard: Love whoever your neighbour is, hate enemy (Matt. 5:43)

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    This one is different than the previous five. Unlike the others, Jesus actually includes how the Jews in that day misrepresented what the Old Testament taught.

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    You can see that when Jesus says verse 43 “you shall love your neighbour.” That is a direct quotation from Leviticus 19:18. However, they add “hate your enemy.” That’s why “hate your enemy” is not in all capital letters in the NASB.

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    1. What the OT teaches about loving your neighbour

      You could turn back to Leviticus 19:18 and we’ll discover together what the Old Testament teaches about loving your neighbor. When you get there you could look at the last half of that verse where it says, “you shall love your neighbor” and then you’ll discover what the Jews had forgotten to emphasize. “You shall love your neighbor… as yourself.”

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      Leviticus 19:18 ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

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      This worked itself out very practically when in Deuteronomy 22:1-4, if you see your fellow Israelites ox or sheep straying away, you should take them back to him.

      But our love for others doesn’t stop with those who are like us. Exodus 23:4-5 teaches that we should do the exact same thing toward our enemies! “If you meet your enemy’s ox wandering away, you shall return it to him.”

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      And Proverbs 25:21 if your enemy is hungry you give him food and if he’s thirsty you give him water.

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      The Old Testament actually does teach that God’s people should love their enemies.

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      APP: So you should love others as you love yourself. And by the way, you do love yourself. Ephesians 5:29 says that no man ever hated his own flesh.

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      You put your head on your pillow. You put food into your mouth. You wash your hands and care for your injuries. See, you love yourself! As you show that concern for yourself, you should show that to others. Love your neighbor as yourself.

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      TRANS: Now, how did they get it so wrong? The Jews actual taught as Jesus quotes them there, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy!”

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    2. How they got it wrong: Hate your enemy

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      Old Testament Assumptions

    • Well, think of Joshua and conquering the Promised Land and slaughtering everyone. That doesn’t sound like loving your enemy. They could have taken that as an example of how to treat your enemies.

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      But in conquering the Land of Promise, it was a national judgment from God on wicked people who were committing abominable acts in the name of religion, even murdering their own children. Without repentance, that kind of people God destroys.

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    • Or think of Psalm 137:9 which speaks to the Babylonians who took Israel captive 9 How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones against the rock.

      That doesn’t sound loving. But we have to keep in mind that Babylon went too far in their destruction of Israel according to Zech. 1:15, beyond what God wanted them to do. To wish retaliation was in keeping with the will of God in Jer. 51:24. God desired to punish Babylon for going too far in their destruction of His people.

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      So the Jews during Jesus time could have reasoned among themselves saying, “Well, God wanted us to hate our enemies in the Promised Land and take it over and we even have those imprecatory psalms.”

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      TRANS: So, it’s no wonder “loving your neighbor and hating your enemy’ came up in their actual teachings…

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      Actual Teaching

      In some Qumran documents written by a strict Jewish sect called the Essenes, just the century before Jesus there is written things similar to this 1QS 1:9–10: ‘Love the sons of light … and hate all the sons of darkness.’ And there are some other references as well. So, you can see they clearly lowered the bar of Scripture.

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      They lowered the bar:

      And we know they lowered the bar because when Jesus quoted what they had heard, it simply said, “love your neighbor.” But Leviticus 19:18, says love your neighbor as yourself. They had took out “as yourself.” And that is the bar: “as yourself.” You can’t just lower the bar.

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      ILL: When I was in school, I ran track and field. But I never did the high jump. The world record high jump is 8ft. 1/4 inch by a Cuban athlete who’s name I won’t try to pronounce. When it was his turn to jump that height, if he had just walked up to the bar and simply lowered it and then walked over it, that would be cheating.

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      EXP: But that is exactly what the Jews had done with God’s word. They took out “as yourself” and so they just lowered the bar of what it means to love properly! What this would mean is that they allowed themselves to love even their fellow Israelites less them themselves.

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      APP: It would look like this: I give myself the biggest bowl of ice cream, and I give my friend a not as big of a bowl of ice cream! But I still loved them, but just not as much as as myself.

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      TRANS: Not only did the Jews teach that you can give a smaller bowl of ice cream to someone else … you don’t have to love someone as yourself…, they further limited who qualifies for the smaller bowl of ice cream.

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      Limiting who is loved: You can ‘hate your enemy.’ You don’t even have to give a bowl of ice cream to your enemy!

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      So what it came down to for them was “the other person’s relationship to me tells me if I should love them.” However they view me, determines if I love them. If they mistreat me, then I’m allowed to mistreat them.

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      APP: So, it would look like this: I give myself the biggest bowl of ice cream, I give my fellow Jew a smaller-but-good-enough bowl of ice cream, but I don’t give a Gentile a bowl of ice cream, at all. Hate your enemy.

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      APP: How often are Christians like this? All the time! And this is in your heart! Do you realize that? When you even think about giving someone else the bigger bowl of ice cream, there is something in you that says, “No, take the bigger bowl for yourself! Don’t you know you’re missing out!?” And that’s even for those whom you supposedly love the most!

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      APP: There is something so twisted in you, that you’re more likely to hurt those whom you supposedly love the most, your family. You don’t hurt anyone like you hurt your family! If you blow up in anger, it’s usually not at your pastor, or even your friends or coworkers, but at those closest to you, your family. How twisted are we?!

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      TRANS: If we can’t love our family like ourselves, how far are we then from Jesus’ teaching beginning in vv. 44?

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  2. What Jesus teaches: Love your enemy (5:44-48)

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Matthew 5:44 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

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But you can’t even love your family like yourself! You get the bigger bowl! I’m just a looking out for number 1! If you’re yelling at your neighbors … those closest to you, your family members, are you really going to love those outside of your family or church, let alone will you love your enemies!

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EXP (v.44): So, verse 44, we’re to love and pray for even our enemies. As Jesus says elsewhere…

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Luke 6:27–28 27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

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In our Western culture that’s been heavily influenced by Christianity over the centuries, you say, “No one really mistreats me.” That’s right, and perhaps that’s a good thing because you even have a hard time loving those who love you!

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But if you think about it, you have a hard time loving those who give you the cold shoulder … you have a hard time loving those who don’t look like you, who don’t dress like you do, or who aren’t the same age as you.

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Or maybe you view those in high office as your enemy. How should you respond to them? Pray for them! Like Stephen did when he was being stoned to death…

Acts 7:60 60 …“Lord, do not hold this sin against them!”

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TRANS: We’re to love our enemies and pray for those who would even persecute us and seek to do us harm because we follow Christ. Why is that?

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  1. v.45 Purpose: to demonstrate you are children of God

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    The reason is to demonstrate that we are children of God.

Matthew 5:45 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

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  • Explanation: God loves His enemies

Since God loves His enemies by sending them rain and sun…

If you love your enemies by even praying for them.

You would thereby show yourself to be a child of God.

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One proof that you are a child of God is that you love your enemies. So, the other person’s relationship to you doesn’t tell you if you should love them or not. But it’s your relationship to God that tells you whether you should love them or not! Like father like son! Since God loves His enemies, His children will too!

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TRANS: How does God love His enemies?

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Sun and Rain

He sends His own sun and rain on them!

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ILL: For you farmers this summer, God isn’t just going to send rain on your crops and not your neighbour’s crops…or He isn’t just going to send His sun on your gardens and not your neighbour’s gardens … those neighbour’s of yours who curse God or who use His name blasphemously when there is no sun or rain. No, He sends the sun and rain on His enemies’ land too!

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ARG: God is good to His enemies, the unrighteous. How else could Asaph say in

Psalm 73:3 3 For I was envious of the arrogant as I saw the prosperity of the wicked.

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The wicked are prospering! And Job says…

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Job 21:7–13 7 “Why do the wicked still live, Continue on, also become very powerful? 8 “[The descendants of the wicked] are established with them in their sight, And their offspring before their eyes, 9 [The wicked’s] houses are safe from fear, And the rod of God is not on them. 10 “His ox mates without fail; His cow calves and does not abort. 11 “They send forth their little ones like the flock, And their children skip about. 12 “They sing to the timbrel and harp And rejoice at the sound of the flute. 13 “They spend their days in prosperity…

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Why is that? Why is it that the wicked dance about and are full of happiness?

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Jeremiah 12:1 1 …Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?

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ANS: God is good to His enemies!

You love your enemies so that you can prove yourself to be children of God … because God loves His enemies by sending rain and sun on them! If you are a child of God, you’ll love your enemies too.

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  1. v.46 Reason #1: No reward to love those who love you
  2. v.47 Reason #2: You’re not doing more than others

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    But if you just love those who love you, you’re no better then the most despised of society!

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Matthew 5:46–47 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

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To love those who love you or greet only your brothers, you’re not worthy of reward since you’re not doing anything more than even the most despised in Jewish society do, like the tax collectors or anyone who isn’t a Jew, the Gentiles. What more are you doing than the most despised in society? Nothing!

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If you simply love those who love you, then you’re no better than the ones who get the cops called on them because they are drunk and fighting, or you’re just like the ones who shoot heroin and then beat their spouse or belittle their kids. That’s you in the sight of God. Even those kinds of people love those who love them. If you fail to love your enemies, even tax collectors love other tax collectors or pimps love other pimps, there is no reward for them…and none for you if you only love like they do.

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So, it’s not enough to love like people who are outside Christ’s kingdom. No, we must have a righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.

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APP: So if you put moral lost people in a church, who would you expect them to love? Those that love them back, those that look like them, those that they get along with. You would therefore expect a church with lost people in it to be cliquish … and to look down on “them” for how they dress, not greeting certain people because well, I’m just not like them! Power groups would be holding onto power rather than loving the next generation. They can’t even love those in the church, let alone enemies.

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What that means is that we have many churches today whose members are not proving themselves to be children of God. And folks, there is only one other option. Either you’re a child of God or a child of the devil. And your love will give you away.

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No problem then, v. 48, just be … “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

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“Ok, we’ll just do that!” But wait a second … I recognize I do have a hard time loving those who love me … and who love me most! My family and all of you! You know, come to think of it, I’m not perfect… I’m far from perfect. I keep failing! Wait…. I can’t do this! I know I’m broken inside and in me dwells no good thing. What about you?

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Matthew 5.43-48?

I have trouble loving my family the way I should, loving my friends the way that I should, even though I’m called on to love my enemies.

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To leave us with hope, let’s consider this… God is no hypocrite; He practices what He preaches. He loves His enemies too. He has enemies, did you know that?

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We are to love enemies, that shows that we’re God’s children. How? Because God loves His enemies. God has enemies: the unrighteous! Those who are in sin therefore are enemies of God.

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Philippians 3:18 teaches that there are those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ… Colossians 1:21 that before someone comes to Christ and before they are delivered from their sins, they are hostile in mind (hateful toward God, is the idea) engaged in evil deeds.

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James 4:4 teaches that friendship with the world system of rebellion against God, of which we are all a part except God does a work, friendship with the world is hostility toward God, making yourself out to be an enemy of God.

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And Ephesians 2:3 says that because of our sins before Christ, we are by nature children of wrath…. In other words, because you have been an enemy of God, you deserve the wrath of God.

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But God loves His enemies! He is no hypocrite! He showed His love by sending His sun on your flowers and gardens, but much more…He showed you His love by sending His beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, through Whose death and resurrection we are delivered from wrath.

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Romans 5:9–10 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

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In other words, God has loved His enemies so much that He gave to His enemies His Son…and He gave His Son to His enemies that they might crucify His Son so that by His death, His enemies could have peace with Him. That’s loving your enemies!

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True disciple of Jesus, let God’s love for His enemies motivate you in your love for them too.

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75 Love of God

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