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My Food = God’s Will ~ John 4:5-42

Introduction:

                 We recently read of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, wherein a private, deeply theological discussion resulted in a new understanding of spiritual life. Jesus told Nicodemus something that seemed absurd. He said, “you must be born again.” Today we see a similar discussion with someone who was a social counterpart to the Pharisee. She was a Samaritan, a race that the Jews looked down on as having no claim on their God. She seems to be an outcast in her own community since she came by herself to draw water from the community well. In biblical lands drawing water and chatting at the well was the social highpoint of a woman’s day. In this woman’s own village, she was ostracized and marked off as immoral; an unmarried woman living openly with the fifth in a series of men. She was confronted with an absurd suggestion too. As Jesus and this Samaritan woman talked, she tried to turn the conversation to theology (John 4:19-26). So, Jesus said, “How would you like some living water? I can give you water that will never leave you thirsty.”

A changed attitude leads to a changed nature.

               As with Nicodemus, Jesus quickly established the fact that God sees humanity with eyes of Grace. What we do, good or bad, is not the basis of our relationship with God. Jesus desires that we focus on what God is willing to do for us. Imagine how it sounded to hear that the Son of God was willing to “give” what could not be earned.  In both conversations, the gift Jesus promised eternal life, welling up and supplying every need by its freshening springs. Despite the similarities, there are differences in the way Jesus unveiled grace to these two people. To Nicodemus, Jesus stressed the fact that all stand condemned before God. Nicodemus took pride in his keeping of the Law and did not recognize his need for God’s grace, but the woman at the well knew she was a sinner. Jesus did not mention man’s lost condition to her; she already knew. Besides, she quickly learned that Jesus knew too, and he was still ready to offer her a gift. He told her the good news that the Father seeks persons to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23).

                Nicodemus needed to see himself as a sinner to understand grace, while the woman needed to see herself as a person of worth and value. In which way to you go to God? Do you lack the humility needed to be born again? Do you feel so unworthy that you would resist even a sip of Grace? What if God finds us worthy of love despite our sin? What if God loves you enough to say, “stop taking yourself so seriously!” God values us enough to actively seek us, to welcome us into intimacy, and to rejoice in our worship. Only someone like the Samaritan woman can understand what it means to be wanted and cared for when not even she could see anything of value in her!

My Food is to Do the Father’s Will

              Both conversations serve as illustrations of how Jesus did the work of evangelization. It is a work that Jesus expects us to do too. The story we’re observing also includes this expectation. When Jesus told his disciples that he was hungry anymore it was because of his excitement about the Samaritan response to his good news. Jesus was probably watching the approach of Samaritan people even as he told his disciples to forget about dinner for a while.

              Jesus’ friends seem to have been more focused on their stomachs than the Joy of their master. If they had been more perceptive they would have seen the people who had heard the testimony of the woman coming from the city. The Samaritans wanted to know more about this Jew who can change lives, and before he leaves. They saw the potential the Apostles overlooked – they believed that Jesus is the Savior of the World and they received eternal life. (John 4:39-42)

              What if we would lift our vision beyond the horizon? We might see with the eyes of faith. We would see the Spirit preparing a people to praise God. Close your eyes. Do you see them? “Moved with compassion” when He saw the multitude, He likened them to harassed and scattered sheep without a shepherd (Matthew 9:36). “The harvest is plentiful – but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). Though limited by his humanity, Jesus did all he could to help them. Jesus told His disciples to ask “the Lord of the harvest” to send out workers into His harvest field (Matthew 9:38). Jesus asks that we concentrate on helping people find the answers they need. Each gathering of believers must call upon its members to shepherd and love the lost sheep and lead them to God.

Reaping and Sowing is the Church’s Business

              Reaping and Sowing is the Church’s Business. Feeding ourselves is not as important as feeding the hungry and lost. Seeing that evangelization – giving away the good news, is a central theme of the New Testament, and we’ve seen it plainly in today’s text. It is essential to salvation and to the life of the Church. The desire to join in the harvest is definitive in that it shows which local churches are healthy and which are not. It is as essential to a church’s spiritual well-being as healthy food is to the human body. When a church loses its evangelistic vision, it is at a low ebb spiritually. The Lord promised imperishability for the Church, saying Hell could not stand against it. However, that does not guarantee the survival of every local church.  The Church is the Body of Christ. If the Body does not obey the Head is it really part of the Body? Jesus said if your eye cause you to sin, cut it out. Would he not do the same to a proud, sinful part of His Body?

              While it is true that for some crops, it takes four months after planting for the plants to be ready to harvest, that is not necessarily true of the spiritual harvest. There are those who are ready to respond to the truth and spirit right now, like this Samaritan woman was. We need to be aware that God is working on people throughout the world – rich people, poor people, successful people, unsuccessful people, Jewish people and non-Jewish people – revealing truth to them, preparing them for the truth about Jesus and the salvation he can provide. We need to share the Good News even with people who might not seem to be ideal candidates for salvation. We must remember that the true work of evangelization is still done by Christ, the Lord of the harvest, and through the Holy Spirit.

              Once she’d heard the good news she left the jar of water. Like the Samaritan woman, we must rearrange our priorities so that we are engaged in evangelization regularly. We must open your eyes and look at the fields because they are ripe for harvest. Try looking for opportunities to witness to all kinds of people, even those who seem unlikely. Look to different races, people from a different social, economic or educational backgrounds. Count no one out, like the apostles did in Samaria. True worshipers must do so in spirit and in truth. The woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?”

            Telling others about Christ isn’t always easy. There will be insults and rejection. We must always know that God will be pleased, so we can be pleased to serve God. If we are so fortunate as to see the harvest running toward Jesus, like it did that day, we can share in his joy.

Faith Saves

READ: Romans 5:12-19 (1750 ~ NIV)

Paul’s letter to the Romans is best understood by recognizing that there was a significant Jewish population in Rome. Paul was keenly aware that they were residents of a modern, cosmopolitan society. He understood that Roman-secular reason was the dominant ethos. In today’s reading the Apostle anticipates the logical questions that will be asked by his readers: Questions like, “How does this doctrine of justification by faith relate to our history? Paul, you say that this doctrine is witnessed to by the Law and the Prophets. Well, what about Abraham?”
Paul explained how Abraham was saved. Abraham was called “our father,” referring primarily to the Jews’ natural and physical descent from Abraham. But in Romans 4:11, Abraham was also called “the father of all who believe,” meaning, all who have trusted Christ (Gal. 3:1-18). Paul stated Abraham’s salvation experience was like ours.
Abraham was justified by faith, not works (vv. 1-8). Paul observed the experience of Abraham as recorded in Genesis 15. He knew that Abraham had defeated the kings (Gen. 14) and was wondering if they would return to fight again. God appeared to him and assured him that He was his shield and “exceeding great reward.” But the thing that Abraham wanted most was a son and heir. God had promised him a son, but the promise had not been fulfilled. God told him to look at the stars. God promised; and Abraham believed God’s promise. The Hebrew word translated believed means “to say amen.” God gave a promise, and Abraham responded with “Amen!” It was this faith that was counted for righteousness. Abraham believed in God’s character.
He was justified by grace, not Law (vv. 9-17). The Jews put their faith in circumcision and the Law. If a Jew was to become righteous before God, he would have to be circumcised and obey the Law. Paul said in Romans 2:12-29 that there should be a circumcision of the heart, and inward obedience to the Law.
Abraham was right with God even when he was uncircumcised. Basically, Abraham was a Gentile. Abraham was ninety-nine years old when he was circumcised (Gen. 17:23-27). This was more than fourteen years after the events in Genesis 15. The conclusion is obvious: circumcision had nothing to do with his justification.
Abraham was justified before the Law was given. He was justified by believing God’s promise, not by obeying the Law, since God’s Law came much later through Moses. God’s promise to Abraham came through God’s grace. Abraham did not earn it. Justification comes when the sinner believes God’s promise, not because they obey His Law. The Law was not given to save humanity, but to show the need for salvation (Rom. 4:15).
In effect, Abraham was justified by the power of the Resurrection, not human effort (vv. 18-25). These verses are an expansion of one phrase in Romans 4:17 (MSG) We call Abraham “father” not because he got God’s attention by living like a saint, but because God made something out of Abraham when he was a nobody. Isn’t that what we’ve always read in Scripture, God saying to Abraham, “I set you up as father of many peoples”? Abraham was first named “father” and then became a father because he dared to trust God to do what only God could do: raise the dead to life, with a word make something out of nothing. Paul realized that Abraham’s vitality was a kind of resurrection from the dead; and then he related it to the resurrection of Christ.
Using Paul’s logic, we can guess that God delayed the arrival of a son was meant to illustrate the unnatural, regeneration of vitality so that a son could be born – As far as their abilities to conceive and carry a child was concerned, Abraham and Sarah were as good as dead.
Therefore, God waits until the sinner is “dead” and unable to help themselves before God releases saving power. When Abraham admitted he was “dead” God’s power went to work in his body. It is when the lost sinner confesses she/he is spiritually dead and unable to help her/himself that God can save her/him.
The Gospel is “the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16) because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Romans 4:24 and Romans 10:9-10 parallel each other. Jesus was “delivered up to die because our offenses, and was raised up because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25, literal translation). This means that the resurrection of Christ is the proof that God accepted Christ’s sacrifice, and that now sinners can be justified without God violating God’s own Law or contradicting God’s own nature.

For eighteen years Dr. Harry Ironside was pastor of the Moody Church in Chicago. Once he told of visiting a Sunday School class while on vacation. The teacher asked, “How were people saved in Old Testament times?”
After a pause, one man replied, “By keeping the Law.”
“That’s right,” said the teacher.
But Dr. Ironside interrupted: “My Bible says that by the deeds of the Law shall no flesh be justified.”
The teacher was a bit embarrassed, so he said, “Well, does somebody else have an idea?”
Another student replied, “They were saved by bringing sacrifices to God.”
“Yes, that’s right!” the teacher said, and tried to go on with the lesson.
But Dr. Ironside interrupted, “My Bible says that the blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin.”
By this time the unprepared teacher was sure the visitor knew more about the Bible than he did, so he said, “Well, you tell us how people were saved in the Old Testament!”
And Dr. Ironside explained that they were saved by faith—the same way people are saved today! Twenty-one times in Hebrews 11 you find the same words “by faith.”

If you are a Jew, you are a child of Abraham physically; but are you a child of Abraham spiritually? Abraham is the father of all who believe on Jesus Christ and are justified by faith. If you are a Gentile, you can never be a natural descendant of Abraham; but you can be one of his spiritual descendants. Abraham “believed God and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

 

Expository Dictionary of Bible Words (Zondervan).
The Teacher’s Commentary.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

Just Jesus

READ: Romans 5:12-19 

Introduction
How is it that God to saved sinful humanity through Jesus? We understand that somehow the Son of God took our place on the cross, but how was such a substitution possible?
Today’s reading is the centerpiece of the letter to the Romans. Let’s read it again in Eugene Peterson’s excellent “The Message” translation of the Bible. But, before we do, let’s try to look for some key points. Notice the repetition of the word one. It appears eleven times. The critical point is the identification with Adam and with Christ. Also, watch for the word reign in our NIV, it’s more generally alluded to by Peterson, in terms like sovereignty. Paul described two men, Adam and Jesus, reigning over a kingdom. Note that through Jesus Christ we have gained vastly more than was ever lost in Adam.


Now Read from The Message Translation (MSG)
12 You know the story of how Adam landed us in the dilemma we’re in—first sin, then death, and no one exempt from either sin or death. 13 That sin disturbed relations with God in everything and everyone, but the extent of the disturbance was not clear until God spelled it out in detail to Moses. So death, this huge abyss separating us from God, dominated the landscape from Adam to Moses. 14 Even those who didn’t sin precisely as Adam did by disobeying a specific command of God still had to experience this termination of life, this separation from God. But Adam, who got us into this, also points ahead to the One who will get us out of it. 15 Yet the rescuing gift is not exactly parallel to the death-dealing sin. If one man’s sin put crowds of people at the dead-end abyss of separation from God, just think what God’s gift poured through one man, Jesus Christ, will do! 16 There’s no comparison between that death-dealing sin and this generous, life-giving gift. The verdict on that one sin was the death sentence; the verdict on the many sins that followed was this wonderful life sentence. 17 If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides? 18 Here it is in a nutshell: Just as one person did it wrong and got us in all this trouble with sin and death, another person did it right and got us out of it. But more than just getting us out of trouble, he got us into life! 19 One man said no to God and put many people in the wrong; one man said yes to God and put many in the right.

 

Adam reigned over the old creation but then he sinned and lost his kingdom. Because of Adam and Eve we and all of humanity is worthy of condemnation and death. Christ came to be the King of a new Creation (2 Cor. 5:17). Christ’s obedience on the cross ushered in righteousness and justification for us all. The Lord Jesus reversed the harm of Adam’s sin and accomplished “much more” by making the way for us the sons and daughters of God.

 

Is God Fair?
“Was it fair for God to condemn the whole world just because of one man’s disobedience?” Well, it was fair; and wise and gracious. Think about it for moment. Even if God had tested each human being separately, the outcome would have been the same: disobedience. Why can we be sure of that? Look at the world around you – examine your own life. It’s impossible to say whether God intended for Adam to fall, but God had a plan. In fact, the backup plan was magnificent and majestic. God graciously gave the highest of Creation the ability to choose the lowest depravity, so that one man’s choice would define the baseline for all. Condemning the humanity through Adam led to the salvation of humanity through Jesus Christ. We are descendants of Adam so Christ’s redemption of Adam saves us too. As Paul says in Romans 5:12-14, we know that all flesh dies because of disobeying the Law of God. Even though there was no Law from Adam to Moses, people still died. That’s because a general result results from a general cause. What is that cause? The disobedience of Adam. After Adam sinned, he eventually died and so did his descendants (Gen. 5).

Our human nature is the same as Adam’s. However, the fallen angels cannot be saved because they are not of a race like humanity. They sinned individually and were judged individually. There can be no representative to take their judgment for them and save them. But because you and I were lost in Adam, our tribal head (Heb. 7:9-10), we can be saved in Christ, the Head of the new creation. God’s plan was both gracious and wise. (Satan and those who joined him in rebellion against God 2 Peter 2:4; Isaiah 14:12-14; Rev. 12:3-4; Jude 1:6; Rev. 12:9) In Romans 5:14, Paul argued that men did not die “from Adam to Moses” for the same reason that Adam died—breaking a revealed law of God—for the Law had not yet been given. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Because sin was reigning in men’s lives (Rom. 5:21), death was also reigning (Rom. 5:14, 17).

Compare and Contrast
Adam’s offense is contrasted with Christ’s free gift (v. 15). Because of Adam’s trespass, many died; because of Christ’s obedience the grace of God abounds to many bringing life. The word “many” (literally “the many”) means the same as “all men” in Romans 5:12 and 18. Note the “much more”; for the grace of Christ brings not only physical life, but also spiritual life and abundant life. Christ did conquer death and one day will raise the bodies of all who have died “in Christ.” If He stopped there, He would only reverse the effects of Adam’s sin; but He went on to do “much more.” He gives eternal life abundantly to all who trust Him (John 10:10). (BE Series)

The effect of Adam’s sin is contrasted with the effect of Christ’s obedience (v. 16). Adam’s sin brought judgment and condemnation; but Christ’s work on the cross brings justification. When Adam sinned, he was declared unrighteous and condemned. When a sinner trusts Christ, he is justified—declared righteous in Christ.

Law and grace are contrasted next in verses 20-21. Grace was not an addition to God’s plan; grace was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning. God dealt with Adam and Eve in grace; God dealt with the patriarchs in grace; and God dealt with the nation of Israel in grace. God gave the Law through Moses, not to replace His grace, but to reveal the need for grace. The Law was temporary, but grace is eternal.

But as the Law made man’s sins increase, God’s grace abounded even more. God’s grace was more than adequate to deal with man’s sins. Even though sin and death still reign in this world, God’s grace is also reigning through the righteousness of Christ. Though we are now Christians our bodies are still subject to death. The old nature still tempts us to sin; but in Christ we can “reign in life anyway. We are part of the gracious kingdom of Christ.

In Romans 5:14, Adam is called “the figure of Him that was to come.” Adam was a type, or picture, of Jesus Christ. Adam came from the earth, but Jesus is the Lord from heaven (1 Cor. 15:47). Adam was tested in a Garden, surrounded by beauty and love; Jesus was tempted in a wilderness, and He died on a cruel cross surrounded by hatred and ugliness. Adam was a thief, and was cast out of Paradise; but Jesus Christ turned to a thief and said, “Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). The Old Testament is “the book of the generations of Adam” (Gen. 5:1) and it ends with “a curse” (Mal. 4:6). The New Testament is “The book of the generation of Jesus Christ” (Matt. 1:1) and it ends with “no more curse” (Rev. 22:3).

You cannot help being “in Adam,” for this came by your first birth over which you had no control. But you can help staying “in Adam,” for you can experience a second birth—a new birth from above—that will put you “in Christ.” Perhaps that is why Jesus said, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.

Eyewitnesses of His Majesty

Read Matthew 17:1-9

When I imagine this scene, it’s a little like science fiction. Whenever there is a breach between our reality and God’s presence outside of it I picture a “portal.” In science fiction, it is a doorway that connects two distant locations separated by space-time. Something like Stargate, C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe, or Dr. Who’s police box come to mind. I’ve been convinced of the efficacy in referring to time as the space-time continuum – meaning that time, as we experience it is relative to the space in which we experience it. “What!” You may say, “does that have to do with the Bible, Jesus and the transfiguration?” Well, everything. I’ll probably lose some of you, but I’ll risk it by saying that I believe it is more likely that Moses witnessed a portal in space-time when he saw a bush that seemed to be on fire, but not consumed. I believe it was a portal in space-time through which the shepherds witnessed the angels of heaven heralding the birth of Christ. I think it’s what happened on the mount of the Transfiguration. To fully understand the “I am” that Moses met so long ago we must realize that it was only a long time ago to us. To God it just happened, it is happening, it will happen.

When I imagine the scene, we’ve just read about it’s easy to picture the terror on the faces of the apostles. I see the portal opening in front of Jesus blasting him with heaven’s glory like brilliant back-lighting in a concert or show. Jesus became a silhouette, and then he became the light! The three persons of the Trinity were reunited in the way they were before the incarnation. Jesus’ divine nature is fully visible on earth. I wonder if Peter was mentioned because he was the only one looking. I’d probably be like James and John then, hiding and crippled by amazement and fright. Brave Peter observed as Jesus not only communed with his Father and Spirit, but with Moses and Elijah. I wonder if those men were experiencing the event as they climbed to their mountaintop encounters with God? Could this event have been happening simultaneously from different places in space-time? It’s awesome to wonder about it all. In today’s Old Testament reading Moses walked into the cloud on Mount Sinai, into the presence of God. Could he have walked into the cloud and onto the Mount of the Transfiguration where he witnessed God’s glory and three men he’d never seen before? (Exodus 24:12-18) I wonder if Elijah “. . . out, and [stood] on the mountain before the Lord” and saw God’s glory and three men he’d never seen before? (1 Kings 19:11-18) It’s amazing to realize that the One who created all that is, though entirely apart from it, can manipulate Creation, even the hidden things as He wills.

Peter’s desire to put up booths or tents wasn’t foolish, but it was misguided. He seems to have reasoned that he was witnessing the coming of the Messiah into his fullness of glory and therefore the beginning of his reign. Perhaps Peter figured that God would dwell there in a similar way as God once dwelt in the tent of meeting with Moses. Peter would later realize what the real meaning of the experience was and the true way that God would stay on earth – in the Body of Christ. Therefore, this story helps us better understand who Jesus is. Ultimately that’s what Peter got out of the experience, since he later said, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

The Lectionary seems to have cooperated nicely with the Spirt in that this reading falls on the Sunday before we begin the season of Lent. This coming Wednesday, the season of fasting and humble preparation for the observance of Jesus’ passion and resurrection will start. The Bible readings will methodically drive us toward Jerusalem again. We’ll experience the story of our redemption again. We’ll eventually go back to the Garden of Gethsemane where we will witness the inverse of today’s reading. Today Peter, James, and John saw the fullness of Jesus, the Son’s relationship with the Father and Spirit. At Gethsemane Jesus will call out to Peter, James, and John as he suffers the fullest separation from the Father and Spirt as he takes the enormous burden of our Sin upon his shoulders. Jesus will sweat blood and descend to depths that are the total antithesis of the height to which he ascended in the Transfiguration. Peter, James, and John will not respond as they did on the mountaintop – They will sleep. Given the clarity of which Peter spoke of the Transfiguration experience later in his life, it isn’t hard to imagine the depth of his sorrow, grief after failing to support Jesus and even denying him.

What then, do we do with this story? God the Father’s final three words were: “Listen to Jesus.” In that monumental event, God revealed that command to all who were present and when it was all over Jesus remained. Jesus has said, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one come to the Father EXCEPT by me” (John 14:6). Moses who gave the Law was not the Way. Elijah, of whom the New Testament speaks more often than of any other Old Testament prophet, who worked miracles rivaled only by Jesus’ was not the Way. Jesus is the Way. Remember how in Matthew 10 Jesus sent the apostles out with power to do the same sort of miracles and preached the same kind of Word? Jesus also sends us out. Remember how in Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.”? He was talking to us. How do we know this? When He had said this, He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22) This same Spirit is available to us today. Imagine for a moment that Christ has revealed His divine nature to us on the mountaintop and now, like the apostles, He sends us with His authority and power to do His will. If that’s the case, then why are we often afraid of opinions, criticism, government, and otherworldly powers? Are we like Peter, James, and John who, having witnessed His divine authority and grace, sleep (maybe pretend) when He calls out to us?

As you enter the Lenten season, please spend time in quiet prayer and fasting. Seek the Lord, and you will find Him. Having confessed your sin before God and repenting of it, accept the gift of justification through Christ. Having done so then repent of your lack of zeal. Ask God to enliven the Spirit in you so that you can go with God’s power and authority to a community filled with people who need to see God and their best chance is you. Seeing you trust God’s grace when all seems lost; loving unconditionally; being forgiven and forgiving; filled with joy and peace, and loving God with all heart, mind, and soul, even as you love our neighbor will make God and God’s love real. You don’t have to be ashamed of what you’ve been taught to believe. That’s what Peter seems to have said by declaring that the prophets were right – maybe because at least two of them witnessed it with Peter and his friends.  

You Have Heard it Said

[This is the last time the Lectionary will take us to the Lake and to the Sermon on the Mount for a while. Next week will be the last Sunday before the season of Lent begins. It will be marked by the story of the Transfiguration of Jesus.]

READ: Matthew 5:38-48

Introduction: You’ll recall the last few weeks we’ve realized Jesus wasn’t doing away with the Law, but fulfilling it and simplifying it – and making it harder to maintain. Jesus has led us through the deconstruction of a humanistic buildup on the framework given through Moses and left us with a need for foundation repair. It begins with humbling ourselves; grieving our sin and letting our ego die even as we trust that we will be comforted during the surrender and fear. We must earnestly seek rightness with God by asking God for mercy and then open ourselves to a total transformation so we can be true daughters and sons of God who would rather suffer than reject God in any way. Let that be a sign for the World to see. Today, Jesus ratchets up the tension even more. He is asking us to do something that would clearly demonstrate our soul’s transformation.

Retaliation (vv. 38-42; Lev. 24:19-22). The original law was just in that it kept people from imposing a larger price than the offense deserved. It also removed the justification for revenge. Nevertheless, Jesus replaced the law with a new attitude. He said to suffer the loss rather than cause another to suffer.

To “turn the other cheek,” one must withstand the insult which requires faith and love. It also means there will be pain. The Sermon on the Mount is about a soul-shift. The mercy we’ve received is supposed to be reflected in others. Loving like our Lord makes one vulnerable, but she/he will be comforted. One is also strengthened because the Spirit builds up the Christian’s character (sanctification). Violence, whatever form it takes, whether physical, psychological, social, etc. is born of weakness, not strength. Bitter frustration causes fits of rage. It takes great inner strength to love, forgive, and suffer hurt. Spiritual weakness leads to self-centeredness and an urgent need to protect oneself from any kind of pain.

Love of enemies (vv. 43-48; Lev. 19:17-18). The old Law does not teach hatred toward enemies. Read Exodus 23:4-5 for a good example. Jesus identified enemies as those who curse us, hate us, and exploit us selfishly. Christian love is a decision more that it is a feeling. It is an act of obedience to love our enemies. The Lord loved us when we were enemies [cursing God, hating God, and exploiting God selfishly] (Rom. 5:10). Besides, it’s easier to love those who curse you when you’ve been praying for them.

Jesus said this love is a mark of maturity, proving that we are sons and daughters God, and not little children. Matthew 5:45 suggests that love creates a climate of blessings so that our enemies may become our friends. Love is like the sunshine and rain that the Father sends so graciously. It speaks volumes to observers. The Lord desires for us to live in such a way that they will see the good that we do and give glory to God.

“Turn the other cheek” always? It is true that Jesus said to turn the other cheek in Matthew 5:38-42. However, many scholars do not believe pacifism (or nonresistance) is the essential point of His teaching in this passage. These scholars do not believe Jesus was teaching to “turn the other cheek” in virtually all circumstances. Even Christ did not literally turn the other cheek when smitten by a member of the Sanhedrin (see John 18:22-23).

The backdrop to this teaching is that the Jews considered it an insult to be hit in the face, much in the same way that we would interpret someone spitting in our face. Bible scholar R. C. Sproul comments: “What’s interesting about the expression is that Jesus specifically mentions the right side of the face [Matthew 5:39]…If I hit you on your right cheek, the most normal way would be if I did it with the back of my right hand…To the best of our knowledge of the Hebrew language, that expression is a Jewish idiom that describes an insult, similar to the way challenges to duels in the days of King Arthur were made by a backhand slap to the right cheek of your opponent.”

The principle taught in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:38-42 would thus seem to be that Christians should not retaliate when insulted or slandered (see also Romans 12:17-21). Such insults do not threaten a Christian’s personal safety. The question of rendering insult for insult, however, is a far cry from defending oneself against a mugger or a rapist. The Complete Book of Bible Answers, by Ron Rhodes

The word perfect in Matthew 5:48 does not imply sinlessly perfect, for that is impossible in this life (though it is a good goal to strive for). It suggests completeness, maturity, as the sons of God. The Father loves His enemies and seeks to make them His children, and we should assist Him!

Wesleyan “Perfect Love.”

The United Methodist Book of Discipline (para. 62), includes the following statement:

Entire sanctification is a state of perfect love, righteousness and true holiness which every regenerate believer may obtain by being delivered from the power of sin, by loving God with all the heart, soul, mind and strength, and by loving one’s neighbor as one’s self. Through faith in Jesus Christ, this gracious gift may be received in this life both gradually and instantaneously and should be sought earnestly by every child of God.

John Wesley believed that Christ’s death on the cross made it possible not only for sinners to be saved by grace but, indeed, for them to be saved to the uttermost. Entire sanctification was restoration to the image of God, being made perfect in love toward God and neighbor.

It is thus that we wait for entire sanctification; for a full salvation from all our sins, from pride, self-will, anger, unbelief; or, as the Apostle expresses it, “go on unto perfection.” But what is perfection? The word has various senses: Here it means perfect love. It is love excluding sin; love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love “rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks.” [Sermon 43–The Scripture Way of Salvation]

“Well, but what more than this can be implied in entire sanctification?” It does not imply any new kind of holiness: Let no man imagine this. From the moment we are justified, till we give up our spirits to God, love is the fulfilling of the law; of the whole evangelical law, which took the place of the Adamic law when the first promise of “the seed of the woman” was made. Love is the sum of Christian sanctification; it is the one kind of holiness, which is found, only in various degrees, in the believers who are distinguished by St. John into “little children, young men, and fathers.” The difference between one and the other properly lies in the degree of love. And herein there is as great difference in the spiritual, as in the natural sense, between fathers, young men, and babes. [Sermon 83–On Patience]

Entire sanctification, or Christian perfection, is neither more nor less than pure love; love expelling sin, and governing both the heart and life of a child of God. The Refiner’s fire purges out all that are contrary to love, and that many times by a pleasing smart. Leave all this to Him that does all things well, and that loves you better than you do yourself. [Letters to Mr. Walter Churchey, of Brecon]

Every one that believes is sanctified, whatever else he has or has not. In other words, no man is sanctified till he believes: Every man when he believes is sanctified. [Sermon 43]