Discussion Questions & Answers for the Gospel of Matthew
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Teacher’s Note: This is probably better broken into two lessons.
****=Ask this question before having someone read the verse(s).
The Sixth Commandment (Murder)
****According to Jesus, it is not enough that we not murder. What else does God require (5:21-22)? See also Matthew 15:19, James 1:20. God also requires that we not be angry with others (this is an underlying sin that leads to murder; it is a heart condition). In short, desires are as important as deeds. It is not enough simply not to do a sin; we must also not wish to do it.
Heart Issue. We judge but outward appearance, but God can judge the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7 states that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” Your heart is the real you, deep down inside.
ESV Matthew 15:19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.
Application: Jesus is exacting a much greater requirement for righteousness than merely a surface reading of the Law of Moses would yield. This is why it is impossible for a person to earn righteousness by keeping the Law. There is no one who can say he has never experienced the forbidden desire for wrong things (Barclay, p. 137).
It is possible to be a model, law-abiding citizen and be as guilty of murder as a condemned murderer on death row.
Jesus began by saying “you have heard that it was said” (5:21). Where was this about murder actually said? See Exodus 20:13. Perhaps Jesus made reference to the sixth commandment (of the Ten Commandments).
ESV Exodus 20:13 You shall not murder.
Fact of History: After Adam and Eve’s disobedience in Eden, man’s first recorded crime was homicide (Cain killed Able). Ever since then, murder has been a constant in human history.
Joke: Why did Cain kill his brother? Because he was Able.
Word Study: “Angry” (5:22) is from the root orgé, which in general refers to a long-lived anger, a nursed grudge, a brooding anger that does not die. In contrast, thumos (basis for “thermos”) tends to refer to hot heat anger, a flashing anger that is short-lived (like the flame of burning straw).
ESV James 1:20 . . . the anger (orgé) of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.
What does “Raca” mean and who was the Sanhedrin (5:22)? Raca is an Aramaic term of contempt and disgust (Hendriksen, p. 297). It is hard to translate. The ESV renders it “insults.” It literally means “empty” as in “air head” or “dim wit.”
The Sanhedrin was the supreme Jewish court of justice and as such was an extra-biblical institution (as was the synagogue system). The word Sanhedrin is actually Greek in origin (sun = “together” and hedra = “seat”) and was used in secular Greek to refer to the senate’s of Carthage, Sparta and Rome (ISBE, BibleWorks).
What does “fool” mean (5:22)? From moros (basis for “moron”), “dull” or “stupid.”
In 5:22, what is the point of the contrast between the words Raca and fool? Jesus is saying that since even the Sanhedrin would judge a man temporally for calling someone Raca, then realize that God will judge a man eternally for calling someone a fool.
There are different types of communication: verbal (words), tone of voice, nonverbal, facial expressions, etc. Calling someone a “fool” is obviously a verbal type of communication.
Mere name calling is not the problem here (5:22). What is the real problem? See 1 John 3:15. Underlying anger, a deep seated disgust or spirit of contempt that leads to bitter words is really murder committed in the heart (Hendriksen, p. 297).
ESV 1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
What is down in the well comes up in the bucket! Tip over a pitcher and whatever is inside will pour out. James 3:8 says, “no man can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”
Jesus said that “the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his treasure brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of his treasure brings forth what is evil” (Mt 12:34b-35).
What is hell (5:22)? See 2 Chronicles 28:3, 2 Kings 23:10, Revelation 22:15. From geenna (basis for Gehenna), originally the name of a defiled valley (Hinnom) SW of Jerusalem where children were sacrificed (2Ch 28:3, 2Ki 23:10). In Jesus’ day, trash was burned there (“the fire of hell”); it was kind of a public incinerator. There was always fire burning there with smoke in the air. Figuratively it came to refer to the eternal abode of the unrighteous.
Westminster Larger Catechism. Question 29 asks: “What are the punishments of sin in the world to come? Answer: The punishments of sin in the world to come are everlasting separation from the comfortable presence of God, and most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire forever.”
ESV Revelation 22:15 Outside (of the New Jerusalem) are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
ESV Ephesians 4:26 Be angry (orgizo) and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger . . .
How can 5:21-22 be reconciled with Ephesians 4:26? Obviously, not all anger is sinful. There is such a thing as righteous anger (such as when Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple).
What is the root cause of unrighteous anger in the heart? Lou Priolo, in The Heart of Anger, suggests that it stems from idolatry. We begin to delight in some object (or objective) more than we delight in the Lord (such as a job, career, another person, car, money, home, travel, pleasure, popularity, free time, power, etc.) and when we don’t get to fulfill our delight, we respond in unrighteous anger.
Be careful, for Jeremiah 17:9 states that the “heart is deceitful above all things.” We can easily deceive ourselves!
1. What happened that provoked me to anger (what circumstances)? This will help determine if the anger is righteous or unrighteous.
2. What did I want/desire/long for when I became angry? (“Why”). This question deals with motives, passions, desires, affections.
3. What does God (through the Bible) say about what I wanted when I became angry? Hebrews 4:12 states that God’s Word is “able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
4. What should I have wanted more than my own selfish/idolatrous desires?
Example: A child becomes angry and takes the test: 1. Mom told me to do my school work. 2. I wanted to play computer games. 3. The Bible says, “Obey your parents in the Lord.” 4. I should have wanted to delight in God, God’s Word, to please God, to worship God by obeying my parents.
“Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart”
****What is a higher priority than worship (5:23-24)? Attempting to be reconciled with an offended brother.
Why is being reconciled with an offended brother a higher priority than worship (5:23-24)? We cannot be right with God until we are right with men. For instance, Peter wrote that a husband's prayers will be hindered if he does not live with his wife in an understanding way.
Pronoun Shift. In 5:21-22 Jesus said “anyone.” Now in 5:23-24 it becomes “you.” It gets very personal; Jesus begins tightening the thumb screws.
In this example, who is mad at whom? It is not that you are mad at him, but rather he is mad at you.
Upon whose shoulders does the burden for reconciliation rest (5:23-24)? In this example, with the one who allegedly did the offending.
The picture here (5:23-24), of course, is that of the Old Testament sacrificial system. What would the modern equivalent to this look like? Many have applied it to the setting of the Lord’s Supper, or to a making a financial offering to/through the church or to a general time of worship.
What is the first word in this paragraph (5:23-24)? It is “therefore.”
What is the therefore (5:23) there for? It is a hinge that links us back to 5:21-22 (about murder and anger).
How does 5:23-24 logically follow 5:21-22? What is the connection? See 1 John 4:20. Jesus is teaching on the importance of having a right heart condition. We are not to be angry with a brother. This is so important, that if you ever hear of a brother having something against you, for his sake you should go to him and attempt to resolve the issue.
ESV 1 John 4:20 If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.
How did Jesus show the importance of attempting reconciliation right away (immediacy)? In his example the man left his offering at the altar to go make peace; afterwards he came back.
****How does Jesus further show the urgency of trying to be reconciled to others (5:25-26)? The illustration is that of a man being summoned to court to face a trial, a judge and potentially being forced compliance with his decision. Jesus thus said, “settle matters quickly” (5:25).
What do you think the court and judge represent (5:25-26)? Perhaps judgment day and God the Father.
Not only does 5:25-26 show immediacy, but what else does it show the importance of? It shows the importance of at least trying to be reconciled to the accusing brother.
The Seventh Commandment (Adultery), Part A
****Why is adultery of the heart such a serious matter (5:27-30)? Because heart adultery will make us as liable to hell as physical adultery. Anger and sexual lust are two of the most powerful influences on mankind (MacArthur, p. 300).
Example: Peter Abelard, a twelfth-century French theologian, lived a godly life for many years. He fell in love with a young woman (Heloise) and got her pregnant. They married, but damaging rumors began to circulate and, to save his career more harm, she entered a convent. Her uncle, angry at Abelard over all that happened, hired hit men to castrate him. Abelard himself then joined a monastery (MacArthur, p. 301). And it all started in Abelard’s heart.
Jesus began with the usual statement, “You have heard that it was said.” Where was “Do not commit adultery” actually stated? Exodus 20:14.
ESV Exodus 20:14 "You shall not commit adultery.”
Jesus, of course, is not challenging the statement, “You shall not commit adultery.” On the contrary, He is expanding on it, deepening it, showing its true, fuller meaning/intent/import.
What did Jesus say in 5:29-30 that must have really gotten their attention? The bit about gouging out an eye or cutting off a hand.
What is the point of 5:29-30? That sin must be dealt with very seriously. Necessary, radical steps must be taken if necessary. It must be put to death, not toyed with. The obscene book must be destroyed, the pornographic picture burned, the disturbing film thrown away, the inappropriate social contact ended, the addictive habit terminated, the off-limit web site resisted by accountability, not going to the beach with scanty swimsuits, etc. (Hendriksen, p. 303).
Word Study. “Causes you to sin” (5:29-30), from one Greek verb, skandalizo “to put a snare in the way” (basis for scandalize, scandal). The noun form, skandalon, originally referred to the trigger in an animal trap that bait was put on (the bait-stick). Thus it can to mean anything that causes a man’s destruction (Barclay, p. 148). Example: See a mouse trap.
Do you think Jesus meant literally that we should gouge out an eye or cut off a hand (5:29-30)? Why? See Job 31:1, Romans 13:14. Some have taken this literally. For instance, the early church leader Origin read this very passage and had himself castrated (MacArthur, p. 301). However, it is hyperbole. Based on the examples and teachings of the rest of Scripture, Jesus did not mean it literally. If a person took out his right eye, he could still look with his left. The eye and hand symbolize occasions of stumbling (Hendriksen, p. 303). However, it does serve a shock value to illustrate the seriousness of sin and the need for a righteousness that is outside of ourselves. We must take drastic action to remove whatever tempts us.
ESV Romans 13:14 . . . put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
ESV Job 31:1 "I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin”
Arthur Pink: “...if lustful looking be so grievous a sin, then those who dress and expose themselves with desires to be looked at and lusted after . . . are not less, but even more guilty. In this matter it is only too often the case that men sin, but women tempt them so to do. How great, then, must be the guilt of the great majority of the modern misses who deliberately seek to arouse the sexual passions of our young men. And how much greater still is the guilt of most of their mothers for allowing them to become lascivious temptresses” (MacArthur, p. 303).
What practical steps can a person take to help resist temptation? Turn the computer screen toward the doorway (so others can see what you are looking at), get an internet program that sends a report to a chosen friend of all the web sites you have visited (Covenant Eyes), do not go places alone with a person of the opposite sex that you are not married to (if you are married), do not go alone inside the home of a person of the opposite gender, have a chaperone, do not buy or look at pornography, etc.
What does 5:27-30 teach us about weighing the present life in light of eternity? This present life is not all there is. We are destined for eternity. Nothing, no matter how precious it seems (eye or hand) should be allowed to doom our destiny (Hendriksen, p. 303).
Secondary Application: Jesus’ teaching about our thought life surely must have driven some people to despair. This is good if it persuades such a person to turn to Christ to help rather than self reliance (see 5:20).
The Seventh Commandment (Adultery Due to Divorce), Part B
****What shocking statement did Jesus make about divorce (5:31-32)? That marriage following divorce is often adultery. Some of the Jews of Jesus’ day had such lax standards regarding divorce that Jesus’ words must have come as quite a shock. Indeed, that His words are shocking today is an indictment of our own decayed society!
Who was Jesus quoting in 5:31? See Deuteronomy 24:1-4. It is based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (“finds something indecent about her . . . he writes her a certificate of divorce.”). Some of the Jews of Jesus’ day interpreted Moses very loosely, focusing on the exception (the certificate) as all that was necessary for a lawful divorce (NBD, p, 745). Jesus focused on the principle, that husband and wife are to remain one, separated normally only by death (Hendriksen, p. 305).
In Deuteronomy 24:1, what did Moses originally mean by “indecent” (“uncleanness” in KJV)? No one knows exactly what this refers to since it is not explained. Since death was the penalty for adultery, it was something short of that. Liberal Jews interpreted it to mean anything that displeased the husband. However, given the high view of marriage that the Lord presents throughout the Scripture, this must have referred to some indecency on the wife’s part that was just shy of adultery (right up to the line without crossing it).
According to Jesus, there is only one legitimate reason for remarriage after divorce. What is that reason (5:32)? The NIV says “marital unfaithfulness.” The ESV has “sexual immorality.” The NAS has “unchastity.” The KJV has “fornication.”
What is marital unfaithfulness (5:32)? See 1 Corinthians 5:1, 6:13b-20, 7:1-2. The Greek is porneia (basis for pornography); it refers to any type of illicit sexual activity (adultery, fornication, prostitution, homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, etc; (BAGD, p. 693).
ESV 1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife.
ESV 1 Corinthians 6:13b-20 The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
Historical Example: God divorced the northern kingdom of Israel on the grounds of spiritual adultery (Jer 3:8).
ESV Jeremiah 3:8 She (Judah) saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore.
Interesting: What is the relationship between the words adult, adultery and adulterated? Adult and adultery are unrelated words. Adult is from the Latin past participle adultus, “grown up, mature.” The actual verb is adolescere (an adolescent is in the process of maturing). Adultery and adulterated is from the Latin adulterare and means “to corrupt.”
Under the Law of Moses, what was the penalty for adultery (De 22:22)? It was a capital offense. The innocent partner was obviously free to remarry because he/she was quickly widowed! Under the Romans, however, the Jews rarely practiced this (in Roman society affairs were quite the norm). Jesus allowed for the innocent spouse to remarry despite the fact that the guilty spouse was still alive (not executed).
What is the literary purpose of the frustratingly short paragraph (5:31-32)? It is a divine speed-bump. Have you ever driven along and not see a speed bump until you hit it? It can be quite jarring. So too Jesus intended his words to have a jarring effect, to get people’s attention, to make them think (and think hard) about what they were doing. Marriage is very serious. Divorce is very serious. Adultery is very serious.
How does this paragraph (5:31-32) relate back to the previous one (5:27-30)? This paragraph is really just a continuation of the previous statement about adultery (5:27-30). This new paragraph deals with adultery via divorce and remarriage. Actually, two of the Ten Commandments deal with the sanctity of marriage. The seventh commandment forbids adultery. The tenth commandment forbids coveting your neighbor’s wife (the underlying act that leads to adultery).
According to 5:32, if a sinful man divorces his wife for some reason other than unfaithfulness and she later remarries, is she an adulteress? Based on the way the English reads, yes. Not only that, but the man who marries her commits adultery! This is most troubling, for in this case she would be an “innocent” victim. She became divorced due to the hard-heartedness of her sinful husband. Yet she is also an adulteress!
Why, in 5:32, did Jesus not refer to the sinful man who divorced his wife as the adulterer when he remarried, rather than to the innocent woman as the adulteress when she remarried? See Matthew 19:9. My thought is that he said this for its shock value. It is obvious that the sinful husband commits adultery when he remarries, but the socking news is that the “innocent” wife does too when she remarried. Jesus did round it out later in Matthew 19:9.
ESV Matthew 19:9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."
For the sake of some clarity, let us factor in some other Scriptures on this difficult issue:
Who knows of an Old Testament historical situation where divorce was actually mandatory on a wholesale basis for God’s people? In Ezra 9-10, when returning exile had married pagan wives.
Bumpers stickers declare that hate is not a family value. According to Malachi 2:16 there is something related to the family that God hates: NAS Malachi 2:16 "For I hate divorce," says the LORD, the God of Israel. Why do you think that God hates divorce?
****According to Matthew 19:3-12, why did Moses permit men to divorce their wives? 19:8. Moses did not “command” it; he merely tried to regulate it.
ESV Matthew 19:8 “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.
What did the disciples mean in Matthew 19:10 (“it is better not to marry”)? They were shocked at the permanence of marriage (evidently they had held a more liberal position).
The epistles are expanded, inspired commentaries on the short sayings of Jesus. Turn over to 1 Corinthians 7.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10a, what did Paul mean by, “not I, but the Lord”? This information is from Jesus’ teachings while on earth.
In 1 Corinthians 7:12a, what did Paul mean by, “I, not the Lord”? That is information is from Paul and not something Jesus said while on earth. However, what Paul said is equally inspired as what Jesus said since the Holy Spirit led Paul to write it and all Scripture is inspired by God.
I knew a guy once who really loved coffee. One morning his wife made him a pot of coffee that was simply awful. He looked at her and said, “Honey, these are grounds for divorce.” What grounds for divorce and remarriage seem to be given in 1 Corinthians 7:10-16? Abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Jesus did not deal with this exception when he was on earth, but He did later through Paul and the teachings of the Holy Spirit.
How was Jesus’ audience (Mt 5) different from Paul’s audience (1Co 7)? Jesus was speaking to Jews who knew the Law of Moses. Paul was writing to Gentiles, recent converts, who previously had no relationship to God’s Law.
Overall context: In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is writing to people in various states of marriage or singleness. The two types of marriages are Christian couples where each spouse is a believer and then mixed marriages (a believer and a nonbeliever). The three types of singes are virgin singles, divorced singles and widowed singles.
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, how did Paul describe the women who had separated from her husband? As “unmarried”, from agamos; a means “no” and gamos means “wedding.” In this context it clearly means either divorced or separated.
Based on 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, can a Christian wife leave her Christian husband? She must not separate from her husband.
Based on 1 Corinthians 7:11, if she does leave, is she liable to church discipline merely for leaving him? Though she should not leave, she is not liable to discipline merely for leaving.
Based on 1 Corinthians 7:11, if she does leave, can she remarry someone else? No; if she does she would be liable to discipline.
To whom was Paul writing back in 1 Corinthians 7:8? To unmarried (agamos, divorced) and to widows (two different types of singles).
To whom was Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 7:10? Christian married couples.
To whom was Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 7:12? To married couples with a mixed marriage.
Skip ahead. To whom was Paul writing in 1 Corinthians 7:25? Virgins (singles never married), from parthenos.
In 1 Corinthians 7:34 Paul refers to an unmarried woman and to a virgin. What is the difference? See 7:11. Paul uses the word unmarried to mean divorced (or separated) and virgin to refer to never married.
In 1 Corinthians 7:27-28, what is the difference between the words married, unmarried and virgin? Married people have a spouse, unmarried people are divorced and virgins have never been married.
Watch this: Based on 1 Corinthians 7:28, is it in all cases a sin for a divorced person (“unmarried”) to remarry? Obviously not for he wrote, “if you marry, you have not sinned.”
What if a person was divorced before becoming a Christian, is he free to remarry? See 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 17-24, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
First, in Christ he is a new creation (2Co 5:17). Shall we hold a man responsible for the things he did before conversion?
Second, the whole issue of 1 Corinthians 7 is what to do with regard to marriage now that a person has been born again (see 7:17-24). Though Paul clearly upholds singleness as the ideal, he allows for marriage so as to help deal with immorality (7:2) and clearly the “unmarried” and permitted to marry.
Finally, one purpose of marriage is found in 7:9 (“it is better to marry than to burn with passion”). Marriage is God’s provision for God-given desires; it is better than spending your whole life fighting off the temptation of immorality.
What can we conclude about anger from Matthew 5:21-26?
What can we conclude about adultery from Matthew 5:27-30?
Is Jesus’ teaching on divorce (5:31-32) applicable only to His day and irrelevant to ours? Why?
Even though Jesus’ teaching on divorce in Matthew 5 is very clear, why must we also study Paul’s commentary in Jesus’ teaching (1Co 7)?
Advance Study Questions. If you send out the study questions in advance, then those exact same questions should be covered when you teach to give the brethren feedback and to encourage them to study the Scriptures at home during the week.