Mat 5:21   Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
Mat 5:22   but I say unto you, that every one who is angry with his brother shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the hell of fire.
Mat 5:23   If therefore thou art offering thy gift at the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee,
Mat 5:24   leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way, first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Mat 5:25   Agree with thine adversary quickly, while thou art with him in the way; lest haply the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
Mat 5:26   Verily I say unto thee, thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou have paid the last farthing.

 

“Be reconciled”—Matt. 5.21-26

The King and the Kingdom of Heaven, CFP, 44-48, by Watchman Nee

vv.21-22 The judgment in verse 22 is of the same kind as the judgment in verse 21. Though it is not the judgment of the Jewish court, it nonetheless proceeds from the preliminary judgment given at the city gate to the judgment of the council until it finally reaches the very judgment of God. These words are spoken to Christians. Due to the fact that those who stood before Him at that moment were Jews, the Lord naturally used expressions with a Jewish background.

“Angry” is a boiling up within. Mark records that our Lord got angry. The Bible has not taught that all angers will be judged. It only states that some angers offend brethren as well as God. The verse “Be ye angry, and sin not; let not the sun go down upon your wrath” in Ephesians 4.26 is suggesting for us not to be angry to the extent of sinning nor to be controlled by anger. Also, there is a time limit to any anger: one ought to control his temper.

Why equate anger with killing? Because frequently it is only our position or physical environment or ethical teaching that keeps us from actually killing; but the thought of killing is already conceived in our heart.

Since judgment is mentioned here, how can we say that Christians will not be judged at all? We cannot agree with some people who advocate the theory of no judgment for Christians. The word “brother” is used here and the demands are high here—all indications that these words are not addressed to non-believers.

The Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, and the Brethren follow the thought of John Calvin, who promoted the teaching that salvation is predestinated and that therefore all who are saved will never perish. On the other hand, the Methodists and some of the Pentecostals follow the teaching of Arminius, who stressed the position that man has a free will. Seeing from the Bible that many Christians do fall or have fallen, the Arminians today uphold the view that Christians may yet perish.

Though Calvin seems to have gained the upper hand in his exalting of God, it must also be said that Arminius has his ground too. I do not believe we should overturn a concept which seems to have less scriptural support (the Arminian) with a concept that apparently has more scriptural support (the Calvinistic). On the contrary, we should put all the Scriptures together and let the Scriptures themselves decide all issues.

“They shall never perish,” says the Lord (John 10.28). Eternity exists before the creation of the heavens and the earth, and it extends beyond the events of the book of Revelation. In between these two is the temporary period which can also be called time. Between creation and the events of the book of Revelation Christians may receive punishment during this period. In 2 Corinthians 5 we read: “we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (v.10). Some will receive bad recompense. If this is not punishment, what is it? Likewise, Luke 12 states: “And that servant, who knew his lord’s will, and made not ready, nor did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes; but he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom they commit much, of him will they ask the more” (vv.47-48). The beating is before the judgment seat. It incurs not only the loss of reward but also the possibility of being beaten. With regard to the words “suffer loss” in 1 Corinthians 3.15 someone has said that any loss without the inflicting of suffering cannot be reckoned as the suffering of loss. The consequence of “abide not” is to “cast them into the fire” (John 15.6). This without a doubt speaks of punishment. Revelation 2.11 declares: “He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death”; in other words, he who does not overcome will be hurt of the second death. Who shall reign with Christ for a thousand years? The answer: “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: over these the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev. 20.6).

According to the original rendering of John 10.28, “they shall never perish” should be translated “in no wise shall they perish for ever"*—in other words, if believers should sin and fail to repent, they will suffer temporarily what the unbelievers will suffer eternally.

Purgatory as promoted by the Roman Catholic Church commences, in its view, at the time of death; and indulgence is promised by the Church through the Mass and other means. To this thought we vigorously object. Nevertheless, we cannot use heresy, either, to oppose the fact that Christians may receive punishment. We can only rely on the Scriptures to prove that the Matthew passage before us has reference to the judgment-seat of Christ.

*See The Englishman’s Greek New Testament with Interlinear Translation (London, Samuel Bagster and Sons, Ltd., 3rd ed., n.d.).—Translator

One sister in the Lord has said it well: Sin in an unbeliever is sin, but so too is sin in a believer sin.

Robert Govett translates “raca” in verse 22 as “useless”; others, as “stupid” or “worthless”. “Moreh” (v.22 mg.) is probably Syrian, and it is more appropriate to translate it as “rebel”. Judging by the context, calling a brother “raca” is a deeper reaction than getting angry with a brother, and the judgment of scolding a brother by using the term moreh is stronger than all, even to the extent of placing oneself “in danger of the hell of fire”. Hence the meaning of moreh must be weightier than that of raca. If racy means stupid, moreh, according to G. H. Pember, should mean rebel.

The very mentioning of the hell of fire here indicates that Christians may not escape judgment. This situation cannot be applied to unbelievers, for they do not go to hell just because they denounce people.

v.23 This is not offering sacrifice, but offering gifts. Offering sacrifice is for the sake of sin; offering gifts is to please God, an action completely dissociated from sin. “Hath aught against thee” shows that the person has done something wrong.

v.24 The demand here is several times stronger than what is required in the Old Testament. Not only the person and the gift must be right, even the spiritual condition must equally be right. It should also be pointed out that when the Lord spoke these words, ceremonial law had not yet been abrogated; so that in using the words “offering thy gifts at the altar” He gave His hearers some local background.

v.25 The “adversary” is the plaintiff. The word itself implies that there is something against you. “In the way” means that there is still opportunity for you to be reconciled before you appear before the judge.

Three reasons why you should be reconciled with your adversary quickly are:

(1) Perhaps he may die and you will never have the chance to be reconciled with him.

(2) Perhaps you may die and so you cannot be reconciled to him.

(3) Perhaps the Lord may come back, and likewise you will have no opportunity to be reconciled with your adversary.

If you have done anything wrong against someone and have not made it right, his sigh or cry will prevent your prayer from reaching God. The voice of Abel made Cain restless.

“The judge” points to the Lord; “the officer” points to the angel; “prison” is where freedom is deprived you and where darkness prevails.

Those who are “cast into prison” shall not live gloriously as does that group of people who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. However, this is not a being permanently cast into prison. It merely indicates the possibility of Christians being judged.

v.26 Since sooner or later the debt must be repaid, why not pay it today? “Come out” —This will happen in the age to come, which is the millennial age. This is called forgiveness in the age to come, which is the millennial age. This is called forgiveness in the age to come.