New Defender's Study Bible Notes
5:1 his disciples. The Sermon on the Mount, as the teachings of Christ in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 have been called, was directed only to “His disciples,” not to the “multitudes.” In a sense, this was during a transitional period between the Mosaic economy (or dispensation) in Israel and the Christian economy which applied to both Jew and Gentiles. In all economies, however, one’s eternal salvation is based on faith in the Word of God and His work of redemption, not on obedience to moral laws. Such laws are guidelines for happiness in this world and rewards in the future world for those who are regenerate believers. The disciples were believers, and the Sermon on the Mount should be understood essentially in this light.
5:3 Blessed. The word “blessed” essentially means “happy.” These nine beatitudes thus constitute the believer’s guidelines, as it were, for the pursuit of (true) happiness. The qualities and attributes here enumerated are diametrically opposite to what the ungodly would prescribe for worldly happiness.
5:3 poor. On another occasion, Jesus said, simply: “Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20). Thus material poverty can actually be a greater blessing to the believer than riches, as he learns to draw more and more on his heavenly resources. Note also Isaiah 66:2, Psalm 109:21-27; James 2:5.
5:4 mourn. The sorrow of godly people is in contrast with “the sorrow of the world” (II Corinthians 7:10) and may be the result of spiritual enemies (Psalm 55:1-6) or personal affliction (Psalm 102:1-11). True and lasting comfort is promised to all God’s people who mourn (Isaiah 61:3).
5:5 the meek. In the Bible, “meekness” is not the same as “weakness.” Rather, meekness is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and was one of the characteristics of Christ (Matthew 11:29). According to Psalm 37:34, the meek who inherit the earth are synonymous with those who “wait on the LORD, and keep His way.”
5:9 peacemakers. Jesus did not say: “Blessed are the pacifists,” but rather, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” meaning those who make peace. This is the first occurrence of “peace” in the New Testament, and this verse has special significance since Jesus is the only real Peacemaker. It was He who “made peace with the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20). Before there can be peace between man and man, there must be peace between man and God. Since His blood has reconciled God to man, “we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). His disciples, therefore, can best be peacemakers themselves by urging men to “be ye reconciled to God” (II Corinthians 5:20).
5:10 they which are persecuted. It seems anomalous to call persecution a blessing, but this is the thrust of many Scriptures (II Corinthians 4:17; Philippians 1:29; Acts 13:50,52; Luke 6:22; II Timothy 2:12; I Peter 4:16; etc.). It is indicated here by Jesus, of course, that such suffering should be “for righteousness’ sake” and “for my sake” (Matthew 5:11), not for foolishness’ sake.
5:14 set on a hill. Christ very likely was thinking of the six cities of refuge provided in Israel (Numbers 35:15), all of which were cities set on a hill, so that they could be seen for miles around, thus expediting their sighting by anyone seeking refuge in them (see also Joshua 20:7-8). They could be seen even at night by their watchfires. In a sense, believers should also be lights in a dark world.
5:17 not come to destroy. The Lord Jesus, by His own word, did not destroy the law of God; thus it is still operable. He did, however, alone of all men, obey it perfectly. He fulfilled all its demands and requirements, which no other man or woman could ever do. Consequently, He alone can redeem us from “the curse of the law” (Galatians 3:13).
5:18 one jot or one tittle. The “jot” and “tittle” were the smallest letter and a mark which distinguished two letters in the Hebrew words of the Old Testament. Thus, not only the words, but even the letters are divinely inspired, in the original autographs of the Scriptures.
5:19 least in the kingdom. We “in the kingdom” are held accountable (especially when we teach others), for believing and obeying all God’s commands. There are no insignificant or non-inspired statements in the Bible.
5:22 Raca. The word raca is an Aramaic expression of contempt, something like our English “stupid idiot!” Such an insult to a fellow believer in the Jewish economy might warrant being charged, before the council of the Sanhedrin, with slander.
5:22 Thou fool. This is even a greater insult. The Greek is the word from which we get our English word “moron,” but it also conveys an implication of rebellion. For a believer to call a brother a “rebellious moron” would be so out of character as to imply that the one using such language might not even be a true believer.
5:22 hell. “Hell” is gehenna, in the Greek, the place of everlasting fire. Almost certainly it refers to the ultimate lake of fire (Revelation 20:15), not to the great pit in the center of the earth known as hades (this word is also commonly translated “hell”—e.g., Matthew 11:23), where the spirits of the unsaved are confined as they await the final judgment. Note the divine principle implied in this verse of degrees of punishment.
5:26 farthing. The English coin was a fourth of a penny—hence the “fourth-ing,” the smallest coin of all, except for the “mite” (see Mark 12:42).
5:31 divorcement. On divorce and remarriage, see notes on Matthew 19:9 and I Corinthians 7:15.
5:37 your communication. Even the use of so-called “minced oaths” or supposed mild euphemisms for profane or vulgar words “cometh of evil”—that is, literally, “is from the evil one.” On the high standards of true Christian speech, see notes on Ephesians 5:4 and Colossians 4:6.
5:44 Love your enemies. We cannot learn to love our enemies unless we have enemies! This sermon to His disciples (see note on Matthew 5:1) simply assumes that, in living and witnessing for their Lord, they would inevitably have enemies, and so shall we (John 15:18-21).
5:48 perfect. Jesus knew no believer could be sinlessly perfect (note, e.g., Matthew 6:14-15) in this life. Nevertheless, this must be the standard and the goal—not for gaining salvation but for living the Christian life. The word “perfect” also can be understood as “complete” or “fully mature,” but this state is no more attainable than sinless perfection—in fact, they are really the same. We do have such a standing in Christ, and we should perpetually seek to fulfill this standard by God’s help.