Life-Study of Matthewby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
The teaching and preaching concerning the kingdom of the heavens began with repentance (3:2; 4:17). Repentance means a change of mind. Hence, the kingdom begins with our mind. From our mind, it proceeds to our spirit (5:3). We need to repent in our mind and to be poor in our spirit. Following this, we must be pure in heart in order to see God (5:8). The mind, the spirit, and the heart are the three major aspects of our inner being. If we put 4:17 together with 5:3-12, we see a number of items related to the kingdom of the heavens. The first three, as we have seen, are the mind, the spirit, and the heart. Next we need to have a normal, proper, uplifted emotion. This is seen in the matter of mourning (5:4), which comes from our adjusted emotion. We also need to be meek, which requires a strong, normal, proper will. The hunger and thirst for righteousness spoken of in 5:6 is a matter of a pure and proper desire. We must desire this righteousness for the kingdom. Being merciful to others involves our attitude (5:7). Our attitude toward others must be one of mercy. If we have a proper emotion, will, desire, and attitude, we shall be able to make peace with others. Thus, our whole being—our mind, spirit, heart, emotion, will, desire, and attitude—needs to be exercised for the kingdom life. When we have all these virtues, we are qualified to be persecuted. If you do not have these, you will not be able to withstand persecution. Eventually, those who are qualified by having all these virtues will be not only persecuted for righteousness, but reproached for Christ. This is the nature of the kingdom people.
Each of the nine blessings in 5:3-12 has a reward. For example, if you are poor in spirit, the kingdom of the heavens is yours. This is a reward. If you mourn, you will be comforted, and if you are meek, you will inherit the earth. Thus, comfort and the earth are also rewards. According to verse 12, the reward is great for those who are persecuted and reproached for the sake of Christ. It is difficult to give a name to this reward. If we are reproached, persecuted, evil-spoken of, for the sake of Christ, our reward in the heavens is great, so great that it is beyond our understanding. Hebrews 13:13 and 1 Peter 4:14 both speak of being reproached for the sake of Christ. Hebrews 13:13 says, “Let us therefore go forth unto Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach.” First Peter 4:14 says, “If you are reproached in the name of Christ, you are blessed.” This matter of reproach is also spoken of in Romans 15:3. There is a great reward awaiting those who are reproached for the sake of Christ. We need to be the kingdom people with the nature revealed in these verses. Then we shall be able to bear the reproach for Christ.
In this message we come to the third section of the King’s word on the mountain, 5:17-48, which concerns the law of the people of the kingdom of the heavens. The constitution of the heavenly kingdom must certainly cover the matter of law. Prior to the time of the Lord Jesus, the children of Israel had the law of Moses. They also had the prophets. Prophecy is always a help to the law. When the people are weak in fulfilling the law, there is the need for the prophets to come in to strengthen them to keep the law. Thus, the fulfillment of the law needs the strengthening through the prophets. Therefore, in the Old Testament there were the law and the prophets. This is the reason the Lord spoke of the law and the prophets in verse 17.
Verse 17 says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” To fulfill the law here means three things: that Christ has kept the law on the positive side; that through His substitutionary death on the cross Christ has fulfilled the requirement of the law on the negative side; and that Christ complements the old law by His new law in this section, as continually expressed by the word, “But I say to you” (vv. 22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).
Concerning the law, there are two aspects: the commandments of the law and the principle of the law. The commandments of the law are fulfilled and complemented by the Lord’s coming, whereas the principle of the law is replaced by the principle of faith according to God’s New Testament economy.
Before Christ came, there was the law with the strengthening through the prophets. Why then was there still the need for the law of the kingdom of the heavens? The reason is that the demands of the old law were not high enough. The requirements of the old law were not complete. Take the example of murder. The old law commanded us not to murder (Exo. 20:13), but it did not say a word about anger. If you killed someone, you would be condemned by the law of Moses. But no matter how angry you were with someone, as long as you did not murder, you would not be condemned by Moses’ law. Here we see the shortage, the incompleteness, of the old law. However the requirement of the law of the kingdom of the heavens is much higher than that of the law of Moses. According to the law of the kingdom of the heavens, we are forbidden to be angry with our brothers. In verses 21 and 22 the Lord said, “You have heard that it was said to the ancients, You shall not murder, and whoever murders shall be liable to the judgment. But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to the judgment.” Hence, the law of the kingdom of the heavens is higher than the law of the old dispensation.
Another illustration of this is the law concerning adultery. The old law forbade the committing of adultery, but the new law forbids looking at a woman to lust after her (vv. 27-28). Thus, the basic principle of the law of the kingdom of the heavens is that it is higher than the old law. We do not annul the old law; we complement it to make it higher. For this reason, the Lord Jesus said that He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
Many Christians do not adequately understand the meaning of the word “fulfill” in verse 17. Through many years of study, observation, and experience, we have come to see that the word “fulfill” in this verse means three things.
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