Understanding the Fifth Chapter of Matthew is a basic requirement of any theonomist. Men a lot smarter and with a better command of the scriptures than I have addressed the chapter, including
- Rushdoony (The Sermon on the Mount, book, audio files, and PDFs)
- North (Priorities & Dominion: an Economic Commentary on Matthew, intro, intro2, PDF)
- Bahnsen (Theonomy in Christian Ethics, kindle, hardcover, paperback)
Bahnsen (By This Standard, intro, PDF )
Bahnsen (No Other Standard, intro, PDF))
That being noted, I will be basically treading in their footsteps as I review Matthew 5 here, and quoting from them liberally. Not a lot of unique or original thought from me.
Matthew 5:1-11, ESV
Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Time were hard for God’s people in Israel, as they were under both pagan external oppressors and religious internal oppressors. Christ explicitly taught that they would be victorious, on earth – “they shall inherit the earth” – and in heaven “for your reward is great in heaven”.
Tough times for covenant-keepers had arrived. But it would be a temporary thing: both the Romans and the Sanhedrin would be dust in time.
None of this, in any way, invalidates the law. It does place inheritance (point 5 of the covenantal structure) at the beginning of the sermon. To review the structure of the covenant, using Gary North’s outline in Christian Economics in 15 words (NO PAYWALL)
I will use the five-point biblical covenant to structure the book. The generic covenantal structure is as follows: God, man, law, sanctions, and time. It applies as follows:
1. Transcendence/presence of God
The acronym is THEOS, the Greek word for God.
Switching over to Rushdoony, from his work The Sermon on the Mount (italics in the original):
Our Lord, seeing the multitudes, went up into the mountain; this mountain is not identified for us, but our Lord’s act does give us an identification. God gave the law through Moses on Mount Sinai (Ex. 19), from Mount Ebal, the curse of God upon disobedience to His law was pronounced, and, from Mount Gerizim, His blessing upon faithfulness was declared (Deut. 27:11–28:68). All three mountains are recalled in the Sermon on the Mount, which begins with the blessings of the Beatitudes, and ends with the judgment and curse upon the house not built upon the Rock, Jesus Christ (Matt. 7:26–27). That accursed and fallen house is unbelieving Judah and Israel.
Jesus came preaching the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:15). He gathered to Himself almost at once twelve disciples; many more followed Him, but He singled out twelve for the inner company. Even as Moses delivered the law to the twelve tribes of Israel, so our Lord renews the law, and develops its inward implications (Matt. 5:21–48) in speaking to the twelve. However, while this renewed covenant, with its renewed affirmation of the law (Matt. 5:17–20) is with the twelve, the multitudes of Judea heard Him at the same time (Matt: 7:28–29). The covenant made by Jesus Christ is new, because it is with a new people, the new church or assembly of God’s first-born (Heb. 12:22–24), but it is the same covenant with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Israel; the same tree of life is the life of the covenant, but new branches are grafted into it, and the dead branches are pruned out (Rom. 11:17–24). The tree of life, Jesus Christ, is the center and life of the New Jerusalem, God’s Kingdom and city, in every age (Rev. 22:1–2).
This new covenant thus renews the law, because a covenant is a law-treaty, but, at the same time, an act of grace from the superior to the lesser. Because the triune God gives His covenant law to man, an act of grace, man must in gratitude and faithfulness keep that law. To depart from the covenant law and grace is to be accursed.
Our Lord in the Beatitudes therefore describes the covenant man, the man of grace who is therefore the man of law. These are the blessed.
The blessed are first of all defined as “the poor in spirit.” Edgar J. Goodspeed very ably paraphrases this as “those who feel their spiritual need.” These are they who know that they are not autonomous men, not gods (Gen. 3:5), but sinners. It is not the Kingdom of Men they want, but God’s reign and Kingdom. They reject man’s way and the tempter’s plan (Gen. 3:1–5) and want in all of their being the Lord’s reign in their lives, and the triumph of His law-word.
These too are they who mourn (pentheo) as they see their sin and the world’s apostasy. They rejoice in the Lord’s salvation, but the world’s rebellion against Christ the King is a manifest grief to them. The Kingdom of God or Heaven belongs to all such, and the Lord is their comfort. (Because of the Hebraic fearfulness of any vain use of God’s Name, Matthew substitutes “Heaven” for “God” in speaking of the Kingdom.)
Covenant men are God’s blessed meek (praos). In origin, meek referred to a gentled horse, one broken to harness or saddle and made useful. Emphatically, the word meek does not mean mousy or timid before men, but useful to the Lord, and harnessed to His service and law-word. If the word and Spirit of God bind us and guide us, we are the blessed meek. It is the blessed meek who shall inherit the earth (Ps. 37:11, 22) and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. For covenant men to conquer the world for Christ (Matt. 28:18–20), it requires of them this kind of character, meekness, being harnessed to the word of God and tamed and gentled by the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for meek was seen by Pindar as a royal virtue.1 As against the servile virtues the world requires, the covenant man is marked by royal virtues. The slave has certain virtues which are a product of his servility, whereas covenant man, who is a prophet, priest, and king, has royal virtues.
Covenant men, as kings in Christ, are concerned with righteousness or justice; more, they hunger and thirst for it. These are the men who shall inherit the earth; their hunger and thirst after righteousness is not the desire of a slave for justice, but the active work of a king to establish it. Hence, they shall be filled or satisfied. The word translated as filled is chortazo, to feed to satiation; it comes from chortos, a garden or pasture. There is thus a hint here of entering a garden of satisfaction, a new Garden of Eden, the new creation.
Covenant men, the blessed, are also described as merciful, eleos. Mercy is God’s prerogative and power, a royal and divine virtue, and we exercise it in faithfulness to His law-word as kings in Christ. Those who proclaim and manifest the grace and mercy of God also receive His mercy.
All such are the pure in heart. The word pure is katharos, as in the English catharsis. They are pure because they have been cleansed by the blood of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Their purity is not of themselves: it is Christ’s work. By their sanctification, or growth in holiness, covenant men “put off” the old man, and “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:22–24; Col. 3:9–10). “They shall see God.” This is the ultimate joy and privilege: it is to see and know the triune God. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” our Lord declares (John 14:9).
These are the peacemakers; they are called the children of God. To be God’s children is to be princes, royalty, by the adoption of grace. Peacemaking in antiquity was a royal act of power. The peace of the land depended upon the king. So too the peace of the earth depends upon God’s princes of grace. If they are faithful to their royal calling, they proclaim and bring in the King, Jesus Christ, for “this man shall be the peace” (Micah 5:5). By His atonement, He makes peace between God and man, and by His law-word, He sets forth the life of peace in Him.
Covenant man has a reward here and now in Christ, and in the inheritance of the earth, and in heaven (Matt. 5:12). He is also a part of the wars of the Lord, not as the Lord’s enemy, but as the Lord’s man. As a result, he will be persecuted for righteousness’ sake. He may be killed for the Lord’s sake (Rom. 8:36). His enemies, however, earn Hell for their works, but covenant man gains heaven and the new creation.
He may be reviled or abused, and spoken falsely of, for Christ’s sake, but he will gain from his Lord the joyful word, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21). Therefore, even under persecution, he must “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad” (Matt. 5:12).
Not every believer is persecuted, but every true believer is blessed. Our Lord does not conceal the fact of the battle, nor the cost thereof, but the overriding and dominating pronouncement is summed up in the word blessed.
To depart from God’s covenant grace and law is to be accursed; to be faithful is to be blessed. Hence, these verses are called the beatitudes. A beatitude is supreme blessedness, felicity, or happiness. Failure to stress this fact is to pervert Scripture. The covenant is a blessing; the law is a blessing; grace is a blessing; the Lord’s salvation is a blessing. True, in a world of sin, the bearers of God’s grace will suffer from the hostilities of the world against God, but our Lord declares plainly: “In the world ye shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer: I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
1. M. R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament (MacDill, FL: MacDonald Publishing Company; reprint of 1888 edition), 29.
Now, turning over to North’s Priorities & Dominion: an Economic Commentary on Matthew (footnotes kept, italics & bold subtitle kept):
B. Under God, Over the Creation
Matthew 5:5 is an extension of the dominion covenant: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26–28).5 Man was created by God to extend His kingdom on earth. Man is God’s agent in history. He is under God and over the creation.
Matthew 5:5 should not be interpreted in terms of a personality trait. It is not a statement that identifies a group of people who share this trait as those best equipped to run the world. Biblical meekness is a matter of law. The people who will inherit the earth are those who acknowledge themselves as subordinates to God and His law, and who use their knowledge of His law to subdue the earth to God’s glory. Biblical meekness is correctly understood in relation to Jesus Christ: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matt. 11:29).6 Just as Christ acknowledged His subordination to God the Father, so are we to take Christ’s yoke and imitate Him. Our position as covenantal subordinates to a sovereign God is supposed to create in us an appropriate sense of inner peace: “But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (I Pet. 3:4).
Jesus was not meek when He twice used a whip to drive the moneychangers out of the temple area, at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:15) and at the end (Matt. 21:12). There was nothing meek about His use of pejorative language against His opponents: hypocrites (Matt. 15:7), whited sepulchres (Matt. 23:27), serpents, generation of vipers (Matt. 23:33), thieves (Mark 11:17), sons of the devil (John 8:44). Jesus’ rhetoric was inflammatory. He did not hold back verbally in His rejection of the rabbis’ authority over Him. On what basis could He have lawfully used such language against the religious rulers of Israel? Only on the basis of His office as the judge of Israel. He was in authority over them because He obeyed His Father perfectly. When they tried to silence Him, He spoke out in public. When they told Him to speak, He remained silent (Matt. 27:12). He was not meek before them; He was a thorn in their flesh, challenging their ethics and their willingness to teach the truth about the Bible.
5. Gary North, Sovereignty and Dominion: An Economic Commentary on Genesis (Dallas, Georgia: Point Five Press, 2012), chaps. 3, 4.
6. Chapter 25.
We should follow the example of Christ.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
The denominations and the church hierarchy has utterly despised the Law of God: and so naturally, God has cast them out to be trampled under the feet of contemptuous men.
And the same for all individuals who despise God’s Law. Individual souls to hate God’s Law, not just dying and dead churches who hate God’s Law.
Christians may not hide the Law and the Testimony inscribed on our hearts. We must have the the good works and godly lives demanded of us by God be seen before others, so our Father in heaven gets the glory.
Returning to North’s Priorities & Dominion: an Economic Commentary on Matthew (bold subtitle kept):
The theocentric focus of this passage [Matthew 5:13] is God’s sanctions: point four of the biblical covenant.1 “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev. 2:13). This is point two of the biblical covenant.
A. Salt and Sanctions
Salt is an aspect of covenant sanctions. Salt is a two-fold sanction: positive (flavor) and negative (permanent destruction). The parallel passage in Mark is even more terrifyingly explicit: “And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. For every one shall be salted with fire, and every sacrifice shall be salted with salt. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his saltness, wherewith will ye season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another” (Mark 9:47–50). Jesus here referred back to the offerings of the temple (Lev. 2:13).
Salt confirmed the Old Covenant: “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee” (Num. 18:19). How did salt confirm the Old Covenant? By being present in the burnt offerings, which were negative sanctions applied to dead animals rather than dead men. The salt provided savor; God then consumed these sacrifices. The imagery is that of a God who delights in the burning flesh of the damned. This is harsh imagery, which modern man rejects. Jesus did not reject it. To it He added the worm that refuses to die.
There is no question that salt in the Old Covenant was a testimony to God’s covenant. It testified to the negative sanctions and the positive sanctions. The sanctions were positive for covenant-keepers, negative for covenant-breakers.
Jesus contrasted savory salt with tasteless salt. Tasteless salt is good for nothing but to be trodden down by men. It once was a source of savor; it becomes a means of destruction, just as it was in the ancient world. Salt was used to destroy the land’s productivity: “And Abimelech fought against the city all that day; and he took the city, and slew the people that was therein, and beat down the city, and sowed it with salt” (Jud. 9:45). In this sense, salt was a negative sanction of a covenant.
1. Ray R. Sutton, That You May Prosper: Dominion By Covenant, 2nd ed. (Tyler, Texas: Institute for Christian Economics,  1992), ch. 4. Gary North, Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory, 5th ed. (Powder Springs, Georgia: American Vision, 2010), ch. 4.
But note how Jesus extended the power of the Law. He made it explicit that it is no longer good enough to merely not do evil (…if it ever was…): we MUST do good.
Again, to North’s Priorities & Dominion: an Economic Commentary on Matthew (italics & footnotes kept):
God brings negative sanctions against those who do evil in His name. But these verses indicate that more is required than merely avoiding evil. It is not sufficient to do no evil in God’s name. Covenant-keepers must do good works. They must bring positive sanctions in history. To fail to do this is the judicial equivalent of doing evil. There is no neutrality. There are no neutral acts. This is the message of Matthew 25, which describes the final judgment.
“Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:41–46).
4. Good Works and Salvation
Then do good works save men? Absolutely. Without good works, men cannot enter heaven. Then is salvation by good works? Absolutely. James was explicit in this regard. “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:18–24).
The theological question is this: What is the source of these good works? The New Testament’s answer is clear: the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the Mosaic law perfectly. God imputes— declares judicially—Christ’s comprehensive and representative good works to covenant-keepers at the moment of their conversion. As surely as Adam’s sin is imputed judicially by God to all men who are devoid of saving grace,9 so is Christ’s righteousness imputed to covenant-keepers. The doctrine of imputation holds for both groups: covenant-breakers and covenant-keepers.10 For covenant-keepers, this is the doctrine of definitive sanctification. Covenant-keepers are told to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12). This is the doctrine of progressive sanctification. The Sermon on the Mount is a guide to working out this salvation.
Saving faith in Christ is faith in the saving works of Christ. This is why theological liberalism cannot save. The liberal asserts his faith in Jesus, called the Christ, but this Christ is said to be an imperfect man who did not serve as man’s judicial representative before God. He was a great moral teacher, we are told, but He was not fundamentally different from what we are. He was not perfect, just as we are not perfect. He was evolving, just as we are. Liberal faith is judicial nonsense. Faith in a Christ who was not a perfect sacrifice on God’s altar does not save man from God’s eternal wrath. Faith in a blemished sacrifice does not save anyone. It is faith without works—Christ’s perfect works. Christ is the vine; His people are the branches (John 15). The perfection of the vine is the source of the branches’ fruit. There is consistency between vine and fruit. The goodness of the fruit testifies publicly to the perfection of the vine. Bad fruit testifies to an imperfect vine, which is false testimony. This is why God the Father brings negative sanctions in history and eternity against those who testify falsely about the moral character of His Son.
D. Good Words, Good Works
“Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6). The imagery of salt as something positive is retained in this passage. There must be consistency between word and deed. Good words must not be refuted by bad works. The issue of consistency is basic to the Sermon on the Mount. This is not logical consistency; it is ethical consistency. Verbal testimony is confirmed by visible testimony. This is why salt must not lose its savor, and candles must not be hidden under baskets.
The works of Jesus confirmed His words. Consider the miracles of feeding and healing. He brought positive sanctions into the lives of those who could not buy them. Some of these sanctions were not available at any price. The magnitude of His words were confirmed by the magnitude of His works.
“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men (Matt. 9:2–8).”
Covenant-keepers are to imitate Christ. While only rarely can they perform miracles of healing, they can offer acts of healing at no price to the recipients. Like Jesus, they can bring healing to those who can- not afford to pay. Again, Matthew 25 is the model:
“And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:33–40).”
Jesus’ works confirmed His words. His words alone could have condemned all mankind, but He offered saving words, and these required saving works. The covenant has sanctions. These sanctions are historical. Jesus brought positive sanctions and occasional negative sanctions to confirm His words. The negative sanction against the fig tree was representative of what would come upon Israel in a generation.
“And he left them, and went out of the city into Bethany; and he lodged there. Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matt. 21:17–22).”
There is a tendency among Protestants to separate good works from good words. This is partially the result of a deep and abiding antinomianism: Christianity as a covenant with neither law nor sanctions. It is partially the result of a doctrine of Christ’s salvation that ignores the imputation of His perfect works to covenant-keepers. The result of such a truncated doctrine of the covenant is salt without savor, i.e., positive confession without positive sanctions. God brings comprehensive negative sanctions against hypocritical faith. “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:20). Dead faith is publicly buried by a living God.
9. John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian & Reformed,  1992).
10. John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1955), pp. 124–25.
Points to all those dying churches, right across the West, be they Catholic or Protestant or Orthodox.
(Tidbit: only about 1% of Russian Orthodox ever attend church. The dying Protestants and Catholics are not as close to the grave as the Orthodox!
Best to get out of the plague zone, though, in any case. The Holy Spirit of the Living God does not stick around contemptuous and lawless churches, that will not obey The Father, will not respect His Son, and will not uphold His Law-Word.)
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous rules. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to your word! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your rules. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law. The wicked have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your precepts. Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
To return to Matthew 5:17-20
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Is it even possible for Jesus to more strongly affirm the validity and power of His Law-Word? What else could he say?
Naturally, He is the one who fulfilled the law, that no one ever did. He is the New Adam, the pure root that we can be grafted on.
We must do the commandments and teach them as well, to be called great in the Kingdom of heaven. If we mix and subordinate the Law of God to the traditions of men, like the scribes and the Pharisees, “you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
(Never mind the curses that come when we utterly ignore and dismiss the Law of God as the church hierarchy has done! Note that the secular state merely follows in the abominable footsteps of the accursed, shrinking, and irrelevant clergy and religious institutions.)
The Law is inscribed in our hearts, and our minds filled with the Holy Spirit, so that we can fulfil and obey God’s standard of righteousness. Not fling them aside in favour of the ideas of a man who detests God’s Law – and, therefore, detests the Lawgiver.
Switching over to Rushdoony, from his work The Sermon on the Mount (italics in the original):
The meaning of salt here is thus preservation. A sinful and corrupt world will rapidly decay and collapse unless the Christian element therein acts as the agent of preservation. Apart from them, society and the state are readily and quickly corrupt; only the Christians can prevent the radical deterioration of society and civil government. If they fail to work as the pre-serving agent, the Lord decrees that they shall “be trodden under foot of men.” Christians must either preserve their society from destruction or become themselves a particular target of destruction.
Christians, however, are more than a preserving agent: they are “the light of the world.” Proverbs 4:18 tells us that “the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day,” whereas “The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” (Prov. 4:19). But there is more. Our Lord declares Himself to be the light of the world (John 8:12; 12:35). As members of His Body, we share in that light. The light we receive we are to shine before men. Light must not be hid: this would be a violation of the meaning of light.
“A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” The reference is clearly to Jerusalem, and also to any other city set on a hill. It is highly visible, and the lights of that city, even its lamps and candles, reveal its presence clearly. Christ’s congregation is to be a city set on a hill.
The church is called to be salt and light, or else “to be trodden under foot of men.” Here is a warning to all antinomians.
The same point is made more emphatically and directly in verses 17–20. Biblical blessedness is inseparable from the covenant law. Lest anyone assume that Christ has come to destroy the law, He says emphatically, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” The law is God’s law; Christ is God’s Son; He does not come to destroy God’s righteousness or justice, but to destroy the power of sin and death. To make Christ the destroyer of the law is to do the work of Satan.
The word fulfil in Matt. 5:17 is pleroma (pleroo). This word, when used with reference to time, can mean that the time or era spoken of has come to pass, and, in this sense, is ended. In other usage, it means to fill and to keep full. To illustrate, Paul uses this word, in Philippians 1:9-11:
9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;
10. That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
The word pleroo is used in v. 11, translated here as filled. Paul calls on the Christians of Philippi to grow in love and knowledge, and to be “filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ.” It would be nonsense to say that Paul means that, having attained salvation, they are now dead to love, knowledge, and righteousness (or, law, justice) through Christ. It is equally nonsense to say that Christ declares that He has come, not to destroy the law, but to end it and put it aside! Indeed, our Lord goes on to warn against any lessening of the force of the law. This, however, has been no barrier to dispensationalists, beginning with the Jesuits and on through their heir, Scofield.
Our Lord goes on to say that not one jot or tittle of the law shall pass away, or pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Now we have another word used for fulfilled, ginomai, related to gennao, beget; ginomai means to be begotten, to be born. When John 1:18 speaks of Jesus Christ as the “only-begotten” Son, the word is monogenes. Our Lord is not talking about the death of the law, but its true beginning in Him, and in His new humanity, His covenant people. A stronger affirmation of the validity of the law could hardly be made.
Our Lord then declares who the evil ones are: first, any who break even the least of the laws of God, and second and worse, any and all who teach His people, or anyone, to break these laws, even the least of them, shall be called “least in the kingdom of heaven.” Thus, while an antinomian may possibly be saved, he is singled out as the lowest in the category of the redeemed. Our Lord does not say anywhere that this requirement to teach His law ends with His cross. It is a fanciful rewriting of Scripture to say so. Paul cannot be cited for justification, because he rejects such a thought: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Rom. 3:31). When Paul speaks, in Romans 8:4, of the requirements of the law being fulfilled in us who are saved, he uses the word ginomai, begotten.
Third, those who obey and teach the law, “the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Clearly, law-keeping is a sign of covenant grace. When James says that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26), he is restating what our Lord and St. Paul both say.
Finally, our Lord makes clear that none can enter into the kingdom of heaven unless their righteousness “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.” The false righteousness of the Pharisees replaced God’s law with man-made laws, with the traditions of men (Matt. 15:1–9). All such have no place in God’s Kingdom, whatever their church rank may be. This sentence makes clear that what our Lord means in Matthew 5:19 is not a full-blown antinomianism, but a rejection of “one of these least commandments.” The teachers and followers who are least in the Kingdom of Heaven are people who obey most of the law but set aside some as “trifling” or relatively unimportant to obey. Any other interpretation does violation to our Lord’s words.
One final note: the word translated in Matt. 5:17 as “destroy” means literally to loosen down or dissolve. Our Lord did not come to loosen the force of the law but to create a new humanity which could live faithfully in terms of God’s righteousness
I will repeat this part from Rushdoony:
The teachers and followers who are least in the Kingdom of Heaven are people who obey most of the law but set aside some as “trifling” or relatively unimportant to obey.
There is no other standard, but the standard – the Law, ALL of it! – that God laid down for ALL His people.
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds,” then he adds,“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Now, returning to Matthew 5:21-48
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 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. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Note that none of this weakens or limits the law. All of Christ’s words here expand and strengthen the Law, not only covering our actions but our thoughts and intentions as well.
Once more, to North’s Priorities & Dominion: an Economic Commentary on Matthew (italics & footnotes kept):
C. Love Your Enemies
The New Covenant reaffirms an Old Covenant requirement: to love our enemies. This love is judicial: showing mercy and justice. God’s common grace toward all men is to be revealed by covenant-keepers’ general love for all men. God sends sunshine and rain in due season to all men. This is merciful. Covenant-keepers are to pray for all men. God does good to all men through nature. He proposes to do good to all men through His people. In the same way that nature no longer plays favorites in the New Covenant, so covenant-keepers are not to play favorites. They must do good to all men.
This does not mean that covenant-keepers are required to subsidize evil. They are to visit prisoners; they are not to smuggle in tools for their escape. They are to help specific poor people; they are not to give wealth away indiscriminately to every poor man, irrespective of how he became poor. They are not to give alms to drunkards who will use the money to buy more alcohol. They are to give alms to rescue missions that feed and preach to street people who are alcoholics.
The love shown to our enemies is the same kind of love that God shows to us. God provides everyone with sunshine and rain in due season. The enemy here is not a criminal. He is merely an adversary of the individual Christian. He is not a destroyer who uses his skills to prey upon the weak. He is an opponent. God shows mercy in history to His opponents; His people should do the same for their opponents.
When God’s people do this, they extend God’s common grace. God uses them in a way analogous to how He uses nature: as a means of revealing God’s grace in history. By this grace, God brings some to repentance and others to everlasting destruction. Good works heap coals of fire on some heads and soul-transforming blessings on other heads. We cannot know in advance which effect our love and good works will have. Even if we did know, we should obey God’s law anyway. He knows which people will respond to His common grace by repenting and which will worship other gods, including man. Yet He still sends rain and sunshine in due season.
By showing love to all men, covenant-keepers set themselves apart from other men. Their universal love makes them seem different. Lost men ask: “Why?” Peter wrote:
“But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ. For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing. For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison (I Pet. 3:14–19).”
One of the most effective yet little known ministries in the United States is the Kairos prison ministry.10 […]
D. Program for a Captive People
The context of the Sermon on the Mount is important: Roman domination. Covenant-breakers were in control. For most societies, this has been the case throughout history. The ethical principles in the Sermon on the Mount are universal, but they are most appropriate for those in judicial bondage. Loving one’s enemies is not a widely shared ethical principle among captive peoples. Conquerors cannot readily understand it; neither can revolutionaries.
Jesus was telling His listeners that they were captives of sin. This is the universal form of captivity among men. “Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). The Greek word for “servant” can also be trans- lated “slave,” and in this passage, it should be. The way out of slavery is grace. It begins with God’s common grace to all men. Without this, life would be impossible. Then He shows special grace. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). His people are a means of common grace. They are also a means of special grace. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
Common grace is shown to all men by God through nature. Covenant-breakers take God’s common grace for granted. They see it as only what they deserve. But common grace shown by enemies, they do not take for granted. They are moved to ask: “Why?” This question can serve as a first step to a correct answer. There are two possible correct answers: (1) “God loves me and has a wonderful plan for my life”; (2) “God hates me and has a horrible plan for my life.” Nebuchadnezzar discovered the first answer (Dan. 4). Judas discovered the second answer. “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Luke 22:22).
10. kairosprisonministry.org (accessed January 16, 2021).
We are a captive people… at the moment.
But the occupying oppressors are temporary phenomena. The future does not ride with confused, delusional, willfully evil people who destroy their futures in their denial of objective reality and objective law.
The faster and deeper we repent, the more serious we get on the question of obedience, the sooner we will be free of the wicked.