people believe that the way to become sons of God is "to do
justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God"
(Micah 6:8). At first sight, the part of our verse in Matthew 5:45 might
seem to confirm this interpretation. However, taking it in context, it
actually gives us:
The Reason for this Love 5:45
5:45 "That ye may be the sons of your Father who
is in heaven, for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and
sendeth rain on the just and unjust"
This cannot refer to the way to become sons of
God, for Paul says in Galatians 3:26, "For ye are all the sons of
God by faith in Christ Jesus." Therefore, Jesus, in Matthew 5,
must be referring to the way of manifesting that sonship. The
remainder of the verse illustrates what we should imitate from the
character of Godís impartial actions to all men. Our Heavenly Father
manifests His providential care to all His creatures. This providence
extends to a lot more than sunshine and rain, but these day by day
evidences of His grace are part of the "riches of his goodness and
forbearance and long-suffering" which are often not appreciated
by the lost world, "not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth
thee to repentance" (Romans 2:4).
The Requirements of this Love 5:46-48
5:46 "For if ye love them who love you, what
reward have ye? Do not even the tax collectors the same?"
Tax collectors, the telonai, were employed by the
Roman government to collect the tele, which were the customs
charges. After they received enough to satisfy the governmentís
percentage, any additional taxes were kept as salary. Naturally, much
extortion and oppression of their fellow Jews was practiced. Thus, to love
only those who love you, was no better than the attitude of these renegade
Jews. You cannot show that you are sons of God having such an attitude!
5:47 "And if you greet your brethren only, what
do ye more than others? Do not even the heathen also?"
To greet a brother meant to salute him, from aspadzomai.
Thayer remarks, "A salutation was made not merely by a slight gesture
and a few words, but generally by embracing and kissing" (Thayerís
Greek Lexicon, p. 81). This was common among the Jews, as well as heathen
with heathen, so Jesus reminds His listeners that if they salute only
brother Jews, they are no better than the heathen. Again, this is a way of
manifesting the love of God, not the method of obtaining it.
5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, as your Father,
who is in heaven, is perfect."
Obviously, sinless perfection is impossible until we get
to heaven. Even the Apostle Paul confessed, "Not as though I had
already attained, either were already perfect" (Philippians
3:12), but in that same chapter he refers to "as many as be
perfect" (Philippians 3:15). In both verses the words are from teleios.
The problem is solved by recalling that there are different usages of the
same word. For example, the New King James Version translates it, "Not
that I have already attained or am already perfected . . .
Therefore, as many of us as are mature."
What is the usage here in Matthew 5:48? In context, the
subject has been, "except your righteousness exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into
the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:20). In the matter of
manifesting divine love (5:43-48) the whole emphasis is on the proper
interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 instead of the misinterpretation
of subtracting from or adding to the Scripture, as the Pharisees taught
and practiced. The conclusion: Be perfect as God is perfect; have this as
your goal, that is, to manifest yourselves as true sons of God. Lukeís
emphasis is, "Be ye therefore merciful as your Father is merciful"
(Luke 6:36). Peterís emphasis is, "But as he who hath called you
is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of life, Because it is written, Be ye
holy for I am holy" (I Peter 1:15-16). Johnís emphasis is,
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another .
. . If we love one another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected
in us" (I John 4:11-12). In case someone might think these are
new ideas, let him read the following Old Testament passages: Psalm 136:1
"O give thanks unto the LORD, for he is good; for his mercy
endureth forever;" Leviticus 11:44 "For I am the LORD
your God; ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy,
for I am holy;" Jeremiah 31:3 "The LORD hath appeared of
old unto me saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love;"
Deuteronomy 18:13 "Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God."
The standards of Jesus Christ, offering Himself as the
Messiah/King, are the eternal standards of God; mercy, holiness, love,
perfection. As He is all of these and more, in His perfection, so be
"imitators of God, as dear children" (Ephesians 5:1) Be
assured, this will show that your righteousness exceed the
self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and, "In the
fullness of time," this will be true of all who enter the
earthly, Messianic Kingdom! (For a complete, verse-by-verse commentary on
Matthew, contact TFigart@prodigy.net).