Be Perfect – The Meaning of Matthew 5:43-48

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[43] “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ [44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, [45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. [46] For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? [47] And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? [48] You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Meaning of Matthew 5:43-48:

Jesus’ authoritative teaching on love for one’s enemies corrects the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father.

Why do I say this is the author’s intended meaning of this passage?

First, “Jesus’ authoritative teaching” reflects “But I say to you” (44). The content of what he says takes up the most space and unifies the passage, so it is the Subject of the passage. That content concerns “love for one’s enemies.” Jesus gives an imperative on loving enemies (44b), with a reasoning related to sonship before the Father (45), and two examples of wrongly reciprocating love and greetings (46-47).

Second, “corrects” reflects the contrast between what the disciples have been taught and believe to be right and what Jesus now teaches. “Corrects” is what Jesus is doing within the entire passage. His “authoritative teaching” is correcting.

Third, “the disciples’ practice from reciprocation of sinners to imitation of the Father” concerns the remainder of the passage. There were some in the listening crowd who were returning love only to those who demonstrated love toward them, and not toward those who did not. Similarly, there were those in the crowd of listeners who greeted only their fellow Jewish brethren and ignored the Gentiles with their greetings. Those are practices of reciprocation: I will give to you only if and what you give to me. Reciprocation concerns justice, i.e., “I will give you what is fair, what is equal, what you are deserving based on your treatment of me or status in life, and no more.” Any “tax collector” and any “Gentile” – both for whom the first century Jewish people had great disdain – could reciprocate, and did so. So any Jewish listener in the crowd was not being righteous by reciprocating, but was acting no better than any thieving tax-collector or any other non-Jew.

However, Jesus intends for citizens of the kingdom of God to be like our heavenly Father—to imitate his works and not the practices of sinners. Unlike the listeners, tax collectors, and Gentiles, the Father does something vastly different than reciprocating. He gives the sun (and all of its benefits) to people who are evil before him. If he gave the sun as reciprocation, no one would get sunlight, heat, or all of the other benefits of the sun! In the same way, the Lord gives rain to people unrighteous in his sight in the same measure that he gives it to people who stand righteous before him. When it comes to sun and rain, the Lord does not give better treatment to his followers than he does to his haters.

What do such actions by the Father show? They show love toward the sinful; his love toward the good and just is assumed.

So then what is “perfect?” To be perfect is to show love – the Father’s love – to those underserving of your love rather than responding to people on the basis of what a just treatment of their behavior or status toward you would deserve. To do so is to be a son of the Heavenly Father (and to do otherwise is to be like a first century Jewish tax collector and Gentile). To be perfect, is to prioritize love over justice in your personal treatment of people.

So this is a passage that calls us to act with mercy and grace toward all. Go pour out sun and rain on those you deem undeserving of such love, even as the Father is doing for each of us this very moment. The cross of Christ and his resurrection from the dead provide the Son and the reign of God for us, in mercy, at the cost of justice poured out on Christ instead of us.

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I talk more on the above theory and method of interpretation employed above in Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition (Moody 2020).

Say It! A New Book on African American Expository Preaching

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51Axxyb6DML._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Say It! Celebrating Expository Preaching in the African American Tradition  (Moody Publishers, 2020) argues that Biblical Exposition is most dynamic when coupled with the African American preaching tradition. Charlie Dates, Romell Williams, George Parks, Jr., Terry D. Streeter and a cast of pastors and preaching professors collaborate to demonstrate the power of exposition in the cradle of the Black pulpit. The contributors in the volume give examples of African American Biblical exposition in every section of the OT and NT. They also explain how to preach from narrative, poetical, prophetic, epistolary, and apocalyptic genres throughout the Scriptures. This important and powerful resource celebrates the faithful, biblical preaching of African Americans that is so often overlooked because it’s stylistically different than the style of most white preachers. Appropriate for training associate ministers or use as a textbook in homiletics, Say It! will give the preacher what is needed to speak to real life from every page of the Book! Look for its release in February of 2020 or pre-order now

CONTENTS

PREFACE:  The Treasure and Potential of African American Preaching

— CHARLIE DATES —

INTRODUCTION: The Joining of the African American and Exposition

— ERIC C. REDMOND —

PART 1:
Black Preaching and Black Hermeneutic—A Background for Biblical Exposition

  1. African American Exposition Rooted in a Biblical Hermeneutic

WINFRED NEELY

  1. A Ladder, An Ark, and A King: The Challenge of Old Testament Exposition

ERIC C. REDMOND

  1. Contextual Considerations in a Tension-Filled New Testament Text

ERNEST GRAY

PART 2:
Biblical Exposition of the Old Testament

  1. Enough Is Enough: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Pentateuch Book—Deuteronomy 1:1–8

GEORGE PARKS, JR.

  1. Take Your Mountain: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Historical Book—Joshua 14:6–15

ERIC C. REDMOND

  1. Holla if You Hear Me: The Mission of Worship: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Poetical Book—Psalm 96

ERIC MASON

  1. The Ministry of Vision: Expository Preaching from an Old Testament Prophetic Book (Mainly Poetical) —Habakkuk 2:1–4

TERRY D. STREETER

  1. His Word Works: Expository Preaching from an OT Prophetic Book (Mainly Narrative) —Jonah 3

CHARLIE P. DATES

PART 3:
Biblical Exposition of the New Testament

  1. Who is this Man? Expository Preaching from the Gospel and Acts—Mark 5

ROMMEL WILLIAMS

  1. Have You Got Good Religion? Expository Preaching from a New Testament Epistle—James 1:26–27

PAUL FELIX

  1. Waiting for a Wedding: Expository Preaching from the Apocalypse—Revelation 21

EDWARD COPELAND

CONCLUSION

  1. A Case for a Regular Diet of Preaching through a Biblical Book

ERIC C. REDMOND

Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love, by Tom Tarrants

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fullsizeoutput_19f8I am grateful for the publication of Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love by my friend Tom Tarrants, past Director of the C. S. Lewis Institute. My endorsement is below (although I think the publishers shortened the statement for the final publication):

Consumed by Hate, Redeemed by Love reveals how easily a political ideology can grow into a radical, extreme, life-taking worldview, all the while masquerading for some supposed form of a “Christian” faith. Yet, as Tarrant’s story shows, the hollowness of a racist, anti-semite, civilly-polarizing philosophy is no match for the even more radical, life-altering power of the truth of the authentic Christian gospel message. The admonitions contained within Tarrant’s autobiography have the potential to move believers around the world to repair many fissures of societies divided by race, creed, gender, and religion. This is a powerful story!

Christianity Today did a piece on Tom’s story. His story is for such a time as this. Get a copy.

Good vs. Bad Preaching: Meaning vs. Significance

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(Above: Pastor Terry D. Streeter, Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church, Washington, DC, captured while proclaiming the meaning of the text with clarity, cultural sensitivity, redemptive-historical theology, and relevancy to the present and future Christian walk.)

 

A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance. The meaningof the text in view is most important in preaching. We will not be rewarded in glory for style apart from faithfulness to say what Godis saying in the passage (cf. 2 Tim. 4:1-4).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am affirming that style is important, but it is not everything, and it is not the priority of preaching. What Godis saying in/from a passage throughus should not bore, yet neither should it be hidden behind our own “truths” or eloquence (cf. 1 Cor. 2:1-5).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that we need to prioritize understanding of the text over keeping up with contemporary events and news stories. If we prioritize understanding the text, we will prepare our people to be ahead of the news and contemporary events, for they will be grounded in the voice of God—the decree of God (cf. Acts 20:32).

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying that application is most “relevant” when it flows from the subject of the text—God’svoice in the text (aka “the central idea of the text;” see the examples of preaching application from the meaning of the word by John the Baptist [Luke 3:3-14], and Peter [Acts 1:15-26, 2:14-41]). When Jesus served in his earthly ministry, he preached the “good newsof the kingdom of God,” and afterward he comforted, rebuked, further instructed, received, or healed people who were listening to him. The acts of compassion and truth did not contradict the gospel; they displayed the power of the gospel of the kingdom.

When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am saying, too, that if, long ago, gospel preachers had provided sustained expositions of the meaning of the passages of the entirety of books within the Major and Minor Prophets, we would have given churches in America much of the knowledge of God needed to address American social injustices as part of the meaningof scripture – as the voice of God– without seeing any conflict with Redemptive History’s presentation of the gospel. But in trying to be both “relevant” and “Gospel-centered” apart from the meaning of the text, all parties – both anti-Social Justice Warriors (SJWs) and those described by the anti-SJWs as so-called “SJWs” – have lost much of the power of God’svoice to combat the unrighteousness that leaves racism, sexism, and bigotry in its wake.

I find the words of Phyllis Wheatley upon the death of George Whitefield to have significance towhat I am saying about, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” when she writes of him that he preached,

Ye preachers, take him for your joyful theme;

“Take him my dear Americans, he said,

“Be your complaints on his kind bosom laid:

“Take him, ye Africans, he longs for you,

“Impartial Saviour is his title due:

“Wash’d in the fountain of redeeming blood,

“You shall be sons, and kings, and priests to God”

– “On the Death of George Whitefield,” by Phillis Wheatley

On the distinction between “meaning” and “significance,” see E. D. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967). When I say, “A major difference between good and bad preaching stems from distinguishing meaningand significance,” I am encouraging preachers to find that the meaningof Hirsch’s work still has significanceto faithful proclamation of the word of God, despite decades of movement of many away from Hirsch’s original thesis – that many including Hirsch himself.

Steady On: Hebrews Preaching Series Sermons

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Sermon Photo 2019

I am grateful for the opportunities to preach various messages from Hebrews in our church’s current sermon series, “Steady On:”

A Great Priest for Weak People — Hebrews 4:14-16

The Superior Priesthood for Times of Distress — Hebrews 5:1-10

Maturing Past Apostasy to Assurance — Hebrews 5:11-6:12

Prepare Me A Body — Hebrews 10:1-18

Prepare Me a Body,” Bob Hurd

Getting to the Present of God Together — Hebrews 10:19-25

Steady On

 

Is God Ever Ashamed of My Depression?

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Is God ever ashamed of my depression?

To speak of the Lord Jesus being “ashamed” of you is to suggest that there might be something you are doing that is displeasing or embarrassing to God, or that you are not living up to God’s standard by intentional choice. Clinically speaking, depression comes about not so much by our choices, but by factors such as our genetics. Depression sometimes runs in families. Biochemistry, personality, and environmental factors also may contribute to depression. These are all things we do not choose.

The Bible gives us an example of a depressed individual. The writer of Psalm 88 begins the psalm confessing, “Day and night I cry out to you” (v. 1), and he ends the psalm saying, “Darkness is my closest friend” (v. 18). Throughout the psalm, he declares that he is “overwhelmed with troubles” (v. 3), “without strength” (v. 4), his “eyes are dim with grief” (v. 9), and he has “terrors” and “despair” (v. 15). Yet we can’t say that God disapproves of the state of the psalmist. Instead, the Lord had the words composed into a song and placed into the book of Psalms by the collaborative efforts of the Sons of Korah and Heman the Ezrahite, songwriters and leaders of music in ancient Israel (1 Chron. 25:1–6; Pss. 42, 44–49, 84–85).

When Israel sang this psalm in worship, they expressed the feelings of depression. The Lord brought these words for us as part of the inspired Word of God—as part of His speaking to us.

Read the rest here. Get a free subscription here.

Also: MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and MA in Counseling Psychology @ MTS-Chicago.

Anticipating Avengers: Endgame with an Analysis of Avengers: Infinity War

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I am looking forward to Avengers: Endgame with excitement. I am eager to see how the decade-long Avengers’ series comes to a close, including how the Avengers will defeat Thanos, return those killed by him, and exalt the heroics of Captain Marvel. I want to see how the Hulk redeems himself, if James Rhodes (War Machine) will regain the use of his legs, and how Wakanda will factor into the victory of the Avengers.

However, I am not looking forward to what I anticipate to be another movie explicitly directed against Christian belief and practice. That is, if the previous movie scoffs at Thanos’ election doctrine and practice, and the defeat of Thanos is the key to avenging the earth and the entire universe, then the Avengers will have to dispose of Thanos and his form of “mercy.” In short, the Avengers will have to dispose of “god.” In fact, I anticipate they will have to kill him.

It is sad that the writers of the Avengers’ series misunderstand the glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the love communicated by his salvation, and the richness of his mercy. God the Son partakes in human flesh because we lack innate righteousness and need his righteousness in order to enjoy God, not because we enjoy starving on an overpopulated planet.

I have attached my brief analysis of Avengers: Infinity War, offering my thoughts about the movie’s critique of the doctrine of election. The analysis helps explain why I anticipate further denigration of the Christian faith in this movie — a denigration far worse than the belittling of elect pilots and drivers being raptured out of cars and helicopters.

0002 Avengers Infinity War Analysis

#endgame

 

Election and Grace All Over Scripture

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After preaching through Heb. 2:10-18 this past Sunday, a friend from our congregation said encouragingly, “You manage to see election in every passage.” In the message, I mentioned that “the offspring of Abraham” did not refer to ethnic Jewish believers only, but to those who are Abraham’s offspring by faith. The blessings in this passage come to the offspring of Abraham uniquely.

I replied to my friend by saying, “That’s because election is everywhere in Scripture. It is important to see election because election is about the grace of God. If we do not embrace election, we embrace doing salvation by our own work.” My friend agreed enthusiastically. 

I am grateful to Pastor Gerald Hiestand for providing me opportunities to stand in his stead at Calvary Memorial Church. I am grateful for a people who respond to the word in meekness.

2 Chronicles in March Edition of Today in the Word

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3jMb0K3BQDuTfYT+2QMDMAExperiencing teaching and preaching through 2 Chronicles as a series is not common for many believers. I polled one of my classes of 240 students from all over the US and the world and not one of them had sat under a sermon series through 2 Chronicles. Yet some of the richest stories breathed out by God’s mouth are found therein–stories equally as important as the rest of Scripture for us to live out the whole counsel of God.

Kindly, Today in the Word invited me to contribute to their May 2019 devotional readings for 2 Chronicles. I tried to center the readings around the unifying subject for each passage. I am grateful for opportunities like this that come by being part of the team and family at Moody Bible Institute.

You can read a digital copy of the issue at the link above.