The Gospel of Matthew: Anger. Part One.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22 ESV)

Beginning with today’s text, Jesus begins an extended treatise involving six practical examples of godly living. If an individual is truly converted by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, the following scenarios provide ample ways to prove such a conversion exists. True conversion results in true obedience.

There is a recurring refrain that Jesus used. It was, ““You have heard that it was said”…” But I say to you” (vs. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 45). Jesus was not altering the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, He was invoking His own authoritative clarification and application of the biblical commands. In contrast to the rabbinical teachings, Jesus claimed His own divine authority.

The first example involved the subject of murder (Ex. 20:13). Murder (φονεύω; phoneuo) in this context is a future, active indicative verb. It means to kill someone with premeditation of intent and malice ((Matt. 5:21; 19:18; 23:31, 35; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; James 2:11; 4:2; 5:6). Whoever does such an act is liable for judgment. Murder then, as now, was/is a capital offense or crime.

However, Jesus went beyond the act and addressed the attitude behind such violent behavior. He explained that anger and insulting language towards another individual created in God’s image is just as wrong. Jesus taught that the angry attitude was as bad as the act.

Jesus’ warning extended to even insulting language.” Furthermore, becoming angry and assuming a position of superiority over another by calling him a derogatory name (such as the Aram. Raca or You fool!) demonstrates sinfulness of the heart. A person with such a sinful heart obviously is a sinner and therefore is headed for the fire of hell (“hell” is lit., “Gehenna”; cf. Matt. 5:29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 7 of the 11 references to Gehenna are in Matt.). “Gehenna” means valley of Hinnom, the valley south of Jerusalem where a continually burning fire consumed the city refuse. This became an apt name for the eternal punishment of the wicked,” explains Dr. John Walvoord.

Have you ever been angry with someone? Have you ever insulted anyone? I’m sure we can recall when people have been angry and insulted us. However, the questions posed are about our anger and sinful language. Confess these sins in light of the probing and convicting truth of Scripture.

Soli deo Gloria!

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