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Matthew 5:19 "Whoever * then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever * keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: os ean oun luse (3SAAS) mian ton entolon touton ton elachiston kai didache (3SAAS) outos tous anthropous, elachistos klethesetai (3SFPI) en te basileia ton ouranon; os d' an poiese (3SAAS) kai didache (3SAAS), outos megas klethesetai (3SFPI) en te basileia ton ouranon.
Amplified: Whoever then breaks or does away with or relaxes one of the least [important] of these commandments and teaches men so shall be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven, but he who practices them and teaches others to do so shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
NLT: So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God's laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: This means that whoever now relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men to do the same will himself be called least in Heaven. But whoever teaches and practises them will be called great in the kingdom of Heaven. (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: Whoever therefore shall deprive of authority one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever shall do and teach them, this man shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: 'Whoever therefore may loose one of these commands -- the least -- and may teach men so, least he shall be called in the reign of the heavens, but whoever may do and may teach them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.
|WHOEVER THEN ANNULS ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE COMMANDMENTS, AND SO TEACHES OTHERS, SHALL BE CALLED LEAST IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: hos ean oun luse (3SAAS) mian ton entolon touton ton elachiston kai didache (3SAAS) houtos tous anthropous, elachistos klethesetai (3SFPI) en te basileia ton ouranon (Dt 27:26; Ps 119:6,128; Gal 3:10, 11, 12, 13; Jas 2:10,11) (Mt 23:23; Dt 12:32; Lk 11:42) (Mt 15:3, 4, 5, 6; 23:16-22; Mal 2:8,9; Ro 3:8; 6:1,15; 1Ti 6:3,4; Rev 2:14,15,20) (Mt 11:11; 1Sa 2:30)
Charles Simeon - IT must be confessed, that amongst those who profess a high regard for the Gospel, there are some who speak of it in terms, which, to say the least, have an antinomian and licentious aspect. In their zeal against self-righteousness, they are apt to represent the law as altogether abolished: knowing that we are no longer under the law as a covenant, they express themselves as if we were freed from it also as a rule of life. But we must never forget that the Gospel is a “doctrine according to godliness;” and that “the law, so far from being made void through faith, is established by it.” In the words preceding the text, our blessed Lord had said, that “he came not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfil them: and in the words before us, he teaches us to infer from thence the undiminished authority of the sacred code. (Read the entire sermon - Matthew 5:19 The Danger of Little Sins)
Whoever then - This phrase refers back to what Jesus had just declared regarding the Law. This section emphasizes that God’s law is a reflection of God’s holy, righteous and good character (Ro 7:12) and is therefore changeless and eternal.
Annuls (3089) (luo cf the compound kataluo = abolish, used by Jesus in Mt 5:17 [note]) means to break, set loose, release, dissolve, or even to melt. The idea is that of reducing God's Law to nothing, making it inoperative, in essence by loosing ourselves from its requirements and standards.
Luo - 42x in 29v - Matt 5:19; 16:19; 18:18; 21:2; Mark 1:7; 7:35; 11:2, 4, 5; Luke 3:16; 13:15, 16; 19:30, 31, 33; John 1:27; 2:19; 5:18; 7:23; 10:35; 11:44; Acts 2:24; 7:33; 13:25, 43; 22:30; 27:41; 1 Cor 7:27; Eph 2:14; 2Pe 3:10ff; 1Jn 3:8; Rev 1:5; 5:2; 9:14f; 20:3, 7. The NAS renders luo as annuls(1), break(1), breaking(1), broke down(1), broken(2), broken up(2), destroy(2),destroyed(3), loose(2), loosed(2), putting an end to(1), release(1), released(7), removed(1), take off(1), unbind(1),untie(8), untied(1), untying(4).
Least (1646) (elachistos is the superlative of mikrós = small) means the least, minimal in magnitude, number and quantity. Jesus' point is that in fact some of God's commandments are greater than others, but irregardless they are all holy and all important and are not to be disregarded. Jesus declares that He will hold those in lowest esteem who hold His Word in lowest esteem. There are no insignificant or non-inspired statements in the Bible.
Elaschistos - 14x in 12v - Matt 2:6; 5:19; 25:40, 45; Luke 12:26; 16:10; 19:17; 1 Cor 4:3; 6:2; 15:9; Eph 3:8; Jas 3:4.
Commandments (1785) (entole from en = in, upon + téllo = accomplish, charge) means an injunction or authoritative prescription which stresses the authority of the one commanding.
Entole - 67x in 61v - Matt 5:19; 15:3; 19:17; 22:36, 38, 40; Mark 7:8f; 10:5, 19; 12:28, 31; Luke 1:6; 15:29; 18:20; 23:56; John 10:18; 11:57; 12:49f; 13:34; 14:15, 21; 15:10, 12; Acts 17:15; Rom 7:8ff; 13:9; 1 Cor 7:19; 14:37; Eph 2:15; 6:2; Col 4:10; 1 Tim 6:14; Titus 1:14; Heb 7:5, 16, 18; 9:19; 2 Pet 2:21; 3:2; 1 John 2:3f, 7f; 3:22ff; 4:21; 5:2f; 2 John 1:4ff; Rev 12:17; 14:12 The NAS renders it as least(6), smallest(1), very least(1), very little thing(4), very small(1), very small thing(1). The NAS renders it as command(2), commanded*(1), commandment(38), commandments(23), instructions(1), orders(1),requirement(1).
ISBE has the following article on commandments…
Keeps and teaches - Spurgeon comments on this phrase noting that "It is vain to teach the commandments without first doing them. The doing must always precede the teaching. If a man’s example cannot be safely followed, it will be unsafe to trust his words."
Teaches (1321) (didasko [word study] from dáo= know or teach; English = didactic; see study of related noun didaskalia and the adjective didaktikos) means to provide instruction or information in a formal or informal setting. In the 97 NT uses of didasko the meaning is virtually always to teach or instruct, although the purpose and content of the teaching must be determined from the context. Didasko refers to imparting positive truth. It means to hold discourse with others in order to instruct them.
John MacArthur writes that didasko
How do we know that some of God's laws are "weightier" ("the least of") than others ?
Matthew records the following examples…
What happens to those who reduce the Law (even the least of the commandments) to nothing and teach others to do the same? Will they lose their salvation? Clearly they are those who are in the "kingdom of heaven" and therefore they are believers. So Jesus is not saying one can lose his or her salvation. What He is alluding to, is the fact that one can receive a lesser reward in heaven (cf 1Cor 3:10-15, 2Cor 5:10) based upon how one handles the commandments of God - Do you esteem them highly or take them lightly, as shown by your thoughts, words and deeds? You are no longer under the law (Ro 6:14-note, Gal 5:18-Galatians 5:18 ) under grace and subject to the law of liberty (James 1:25). And yet liberty does not equate with licentiousness (cf Ro 6:1, 2, 3, 4- see notes Romans 6:1; 6:2;6:3; 6:4) (which would be the equivalent of "annulling" the commandments, of not keeping them).
John has a parallel warning in his second epistle writing…
James gives a special warning to those who are formal teachers of God's Word…
BUT WHOEVER KEEPS AND TEACHES THEM, HE SHALL BE CALLED GREAT IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: os d' an poiese (3SAAS) kai didache (3SAAS), houtos megas klethesetai (3SFPI) en te basileia ton ouranon (Mt 28:20; Acts 1:1; Romans 13:8, 9, 10; Galatians 5:14-24; Philippians 3:17,18; 4:8,9; 1Thessalonians 2:10-12; 4:1-7; 1Timothy 4:11,12; 6:11; Titus 2:8-10; 3:8)(Mt 19:28; 20:26; Daniel 12:3; Luke 1:15; 9:48; 22:24, 25, 26; 1Peter 5:4)
But - Don't forget to pause and ponder term of contrast. What is the change of direction? What is the writer contrasting? Why?, etc.
The two ways one can rightly (or wrongly) handle the Word of God are by doing and teaching. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven should live like that is where they are going and should uphold every part of God’s law, both in their living and in their teaching…
At the end of Jesus' great commission, He emphasizes that in going forth and making disciples we are to be…
In his letter to the Roman saints, Paul explained their relationship to the Law instructing them to…
Writing to the saints in Galatia (who were being tempted to keep the Law as a means of being "better Christians" or to make themselves more acceptable to God) Paul reminds them that…
In a parallel passage in Paul's letter to the Thessalonians presents his example of right doing of the Word…
Greatness in the Kingdom of heaven will not be based on one's gifts but upon how one handles the word of God. And although not everyone has a formal teaching gift, every believer teaches in one way or another but the life and their actions.
John MacArthur echoes this thought commenting that "Greatness is not determined by gifts, success, popularity, reputation, or size of ministry-but by a believer’s view of Scripture as revealed in his life and teaching. Jesus’ promise is not simply to great teachers such as Paul or Augustine, Calvin, Luther, Wesley, or Spurgeon. His promise applies to every believer who teaches others to obey God’s Word by faithfully, carefully, and lovingly living by and speaking of that Word. Every believer does not have the gift of teaching the deep doctrines of Scripture, but every believer is called and is able to teach the right attitude toward it. (MacArthur, J: Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
Kingdom (932) (basileia from basileus = a sovereign, king, monarch) denotes sovereignty, royal power, dominion and refers therefore to the territory or people over whom a king rules. The Kingdom of Heaven/God is the sphere in which God is acknowledged as King (In hearts giving Him obedience). In this sense (and as elaborated on below) the Kingdom has a spiritual aspect, a present physical aspect, and a future eternal aspect (beginning with the millennium, cf Mt 25:31,34), all of course depending on the context of the passage in which basileia is found. Paul is careful to remind us that the Kingdom of Heaven/God is not in observance of ordinances, external and material, but in the deeper matters of the heart, which are spiritual and essential (see note Romans 14:17)
See also related discussion on the Kingdom of Heaven
Young's Literal has an interesting literal translation…
Alexander Maclaren writes that
D Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains the kingdom of heaven as follows..
Amplified: For I tell you, unless your righteousness (your uprightness and your right standing with God) is more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven
NLT: "But I warn you—unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can't enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all! (NLT - Tyndale House)
Philips: For I tell you that your goodness must be a far better thing then the goodness of the scribes and Pharisees before you can set foot in the kingdom of Heaven at all! (New Testament in Modern English)
Wuest: For I am saying to you, unless your righteousness excels that of the men learned in the sacred scriptures and that of the Pharisees, not in any case will you enter the kingdom of heaven. (Wuest: Expanded Translation: Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: 'For I say to you, that if your righteousness may not abound above that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye may not enter to the reign of the heavens.
|FOR I SAY TO YOU, THAT UNLESS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SURPASSES THAT OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES: lego (PAI) gar humin hoti ean me perisseuse (3SAAS) humon e dikaiosune pleion ton grammateon kai Pharisaion (Mt 23:2, 3, 4, 5,23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28; Luke 11:39,40,44; 12:1; 16:14,15; 18:10, 11, 12, 13, 14; 20:46,47; Romans 9:30, 31, 32; 10:2,3; 2Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 3:9)
Charles Simeon - IT would be a gratification to many to know the lowest degree of piety that would suffice for their admission into the kingdom of heaven. But to have such a line drawn for us, would be by no means profitable: for it may well be doubted, whether any, who under present circumstances are slothful in their pursuit of holiness, would be quickened by it; and there is reason to fear that the zeal of many would be damped. Information, however, of a nature not very dissimilar, is given us; and it will be found of the highest importance to every child of man. Our blessed Lord has marked out for us a line, that must be passed by all who would be numbered amongst his true disciples. There were certain characters, very numerous among the Jews, characters much contemplated and much admired; these, he tells us, must be surpassed. To equal the most exalted among them will not suffice: our righteousness must exceed theirs, if ever we would enter into the kingdom of heaven. The persons we refer to were the Scribes and Pharisees; the former of whom were the learned teachers and expositors of the law; the latter were a sect who affected peculiar sanctity, and were regarded by the people as the most distinguished patterns of piety and virtue. The two were generally associated together in the Scriptures; because the Scribes, though not necessarily, yet, for the most part, belonged to the sect of the Pharisees: and, so united, they were considered as having all the learning and piety of the nation concentred in them. But, notwithstanding the high estimation in which they were held, our Lord most solemnly affirmed that none of them could, in their present state, be admitted into heaven; and that all who would be counted worthy of that honour, must attain a higher righteousness than theirs.This information, I say, is valuable; because, though it is not so definite as to encourage any to sit down contented with their attainments, it serves as a standard by which we may try our attainments, and a criterion whereby we may judge of our real state. (Read the entire sermon - Matthew 5:20 Evangelic And Pharisaic Righteousness Compared)
Righteousness (1343) (dikaiosune [word study] from dikaios [word study] = being proper or right in the sense of being fully justified being or in accordance with what God requires) is the quality of being upright. In its simplest sense dikaiosune conveys the idea of conformity to a standard or norm. In this sense righteousness is the opposite of hamartia (sin), which is defined as missing of the mark set by God. In this sense righteousness is the opposite of hamartia (sin), which is defined as missing of the mark set by God.
Dikaiosune is rightness of character before God and rightness of actions before men. Righteousness of God could be succinctly stated as all that God is, all that He commands, all that He demands, all that He approves, all that He provides through faith in Christ (Click here to read Pastor Ray Pritchard's interesting analysis of righteousness in the Gospel of Matthew).
Spurgeon comments that "The scribes and Pharisees were supposed to be righteous beyond all others. “Nay,” saith Christ; “you must go beyond them.” They were, after all, superficial, flimsy, pretentious, unreal in their righteousness; and we must have a far nobler character than they ever attained, or we “shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Dwight Pentecost has some helpful insights on this verse writing…
Surpasses (4052) (perisseuo from perissós = abundant) means to superabound, be in excess, to o overflow, to excel or to be in abundance. Perisseuo carries the idea of exceeding the requirements, of overflowing or overdoing. It means to exceed a fixed number of measure, to be left over and above a certain number or measure.
Perisseuo - 39x in 35v - Matt 5:20; 13:12; 14:20; 15:37; 25:29; Mark 12:44; Luke 9:17; 12:15; 15:17; 21:4; John 6:12f; Acts 16:5; Rom 3:7; 5:15; 15:13; 1 Cor 8:8; 14:12; 15:58; 2 Cor 1:5; 3:9; 4:15; 8:2, 7; 9:8, 12; Eph 1:8; Phil 1:9, 26; 4:12, 18; Col 2:7; 1 Thess 3:12; 4:1, 10. The NAS renders perisseuo as abound(8), abounded(1), abounding(1), abundance(3), abundant(1), better(1), cause to abound(1), cause to abound*(1), excel(2), have an abundance(3), have more than enough(1), having abundance(1), increasing(1),lavished(m)(1), left over(4), leftover(1), live in prosperity(1), make abound(1), overflowed(1), overflowing(2),surpasses(1), surplus(2).
Paul a Pharisee explains the righteousness Jesus is referring to…
Writing to the Romans Paul asks…
Guzik illustrates just how fanatical the scribes and Pharisees were with a modern story…
Scribes (1122) (grammateus from grapho = write) is literally a writer. A grammateus includes the ideas of scribe, secretary, and occasionally town-clerk (depending on the context). For the Jews a grammateus was a man learned in the Mosaic law and in sacred writings. In the Septuagint grammateus was frequently used for a political officer who assisted kings or magistrates by keeping written accounts of public acts and occurrences or royal revenues (2Ki 12:10). Their education made them indispensable in many civilizations, as they were needed to keep all military, government, legal, and financial records. The books of Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Chronicles and Esther also indicate something of the beginnings of the movement, whereas Josephus and the NT speak of this group in a more advanced stage of development.
Ezra was referred to as a scribe…
Like Ezra the earliest scribes were found only among the priests and Levites. They recorded, studied, interpreted, and often taught Jewish law. Believing the Babylonian Captivity and Exile had come because of a lack of knowledge of and obedience to the Torah, the Law, the Israelite exiles devoted themselves to the study of the Old Testament. On them fell the duty of multiplying copies of the law and of teaching it to others (Ezra 7:6,10, 11, 12; Nehemiah 8:1,4,9,13)
The scribes became experts in and were considered authorities on the interpretation of the Scriptures during the Inter-testament Period. They preserved the law and were its defenders, especially in the Hellenistic period, when the priesthood had become corrupt. Scribes devoted themselves to the careful study of the text, and laid down rules for transcribing it with the most scrupulous precision. As time passed on the "words of the scribes" were honored above the Law. It was a greater crime to offend against them than against the Law.
Israel had two kinds of scribes, civil and ecclesiastical. The civil scribes functioned somewhat like notaries, and were involved in various governmental duties. Shimshai (Ezra 4:8) was such a scribe. The ecclesiastical scribes devoted their time to study of the Scriptures, and came to be its primary interpreters and articulators. As Jesus explained in Mt 5:21-48, despite their exposure to the Word of Truth, they missed the profound spiritual intent of the Word, specifically God's intent to change and effect our hearts. And they had fooled most of the populace who had a common saying that…
In view of this high regard that Jesus' audience doubtless had for the Scribes and Pharisees, one can imagine the shockwaves produced by His declaration that the only ones who would go to heaven were those whose righteousness greatly surpassed that of the Scribes and Pharisees!
Most of the scribes belonged to the party of the Pharisees, and were "professional students" and became the defenders and authorities regarding the Jewish law, both Scriptural and traditional. The Scribes were often referred to as lawyers because they were entrusted with the administration of the law as judges in the Sanhedrin (cf. Mt 22:35). They were a highly honored, prestigious group among the Jews, who recognized them as the key scholars of religious Judaism. The Scribes gathered around them pupils who they instructed in the Law and they expected their students to revere them beyond even what one would normally give to parents. The pupils were expected to retain the material taught and to transmit it without variation. Scribes were generally conservative and literal in regard to their interpretation of Scripture, but they were also generally legalistic and strict in regard to both the ceremonial (feasts, days, etc) and the moral law. Those of the scribes who were Sadducees were liberal in their interpretation of Scripture, not believing in such things as the resurrection and angels (Acts 23:8). Whether conservative or liberal, however, the scribes of Jesus’ day were alike in their opposition to Him.
Although scribes were the supposed experts in the Law, they like the Pharisees concerned themselves entirely with external observance of the law and tradition and paid little if any attention to heart motives or attitudes. The righteousness practiced by the scribes and Pharisees also fell short of God’s righteousness because it was partial, woefully incomplete. The righteousness practiced by the scribes and Pharisees also fell short of God’s righteousness because it was partial, woefully incomplete. In many ways the scribes and Pharisees were like liberal theologians of our day taking Scriptural terms and redefining them to suit their own human perspectives and philosophy. They reworked biblical teachings, commands, and standards to produce variations in keeping with their own desires and capabilities. They knew they could not be holy in the same way God is holy-and had no desire to be-so they simply changed the meaning of holiness. The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was completely self-centered, produced by their fleshly efforts for the purposes of self-glory. Their practices were designed to accomplish external, showy things about which they could boast and be proud. Their satisfaction came when they received approval and commendation from men not the approval of God!
Scribes in the time of our Lord Jesus, were the primary public teachers of the Jews and were esteemed as the interpreters of Scripture…
Scribes wore long robes and loved pre-eminence
The manner of the scribes' teaching contrasted with that of Christ
Scribes would seat themselves in the chair of Moses…
Scribes annulled the commandments of God for the sake of their own traditions.
Scribes were condemned by Christ for hypocrisy
Scribes were frequently Pharisees and actually defended Paul
Scribes were often offended at out Lord’s conduct and teaching
Scribes tested the Jesus so that they might be able to accuse Him…
The Scribes were active in procuring our Lord’s death
Scribes opposed the disciples teaching about Jesus…
Pharisees (5330) (Pharisaios) is a word that is transliterated from the Hebrew. The Hebrew is apparently derived from parash which in turn is related to the Aramaic word peras signifying to separate, owing to a different manner of life from that of the general public.
The problem with the system of achieving acceptance with God is highlighted in Mark 7 in which Jesus warned His disciples against the doctrine of the Pharisees declaring that
Torrey gives a Scriptural summary of the Pharisees:
Barclay has some interesting historical details about the Pharisees writing that…
YOU SHALL NOT ENTER THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN: ou me eiselthete (2PAAS) eis ten basileian ton ouranon (Mt 3:10; 7:21; 18:5; Mark 10:15,25; Luke 18:17,24,25; John 3:3, 4, 5; Hebrews 12:14; Revelation 21:27)
You shall not enter - "Not" is the double negative (ou me) the strongest way to say "no" in Greek. In short, you won't enter because you have not been born again.
Spurgeon - These are solemn words of warning. God grant that we may have a righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, a righteousness inwrought by the Spirit of God, a righteousness of the heart and of the life!
Near the end of His sermon, Jesus warned that…
In John Nicodemus a member of the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, commented on the fact that many knew He had come from God because of His signs. Jesus got right to the point and…
Kingdom of Heaven (see kingdom of heaven)
Place yourself for a moment in Jesus' audience. You are a Jew and for years you have watched the Scribes and Pharisees meticulously keep the Law (or what you thought was the Law). And you knew that as it was said "if only two men are allowed to enter Heaven, then one will certainly be a teacher of the law and the other a Pharisee." No one else was even considered a viable candidate in comparison! The need to surpass the righteousness of the religious professionals would have come as a total shock.
In Mt 5:21-48, Jesus proceeds to illustrate what He meant by a surpassing righteousness, explaining that the righteousness of the Pharisees was only skin deep. Jesus begin to explain that God's righteousness called for true heart conformity to God's holy Law, not merely external and ceremonial but real and spiritual. Using six illustrations, Jesus explains what true righteousness from a new heart should look like.
No Power (Ro 7:6-note) - I remember seeing a newspaper photograph of three signs nailed to a big oak tree. Their message was obvious. On the top sign were printed the words, "No Trespassing," on the middle one, "No Hunting," and on the bottom, "No Nothing."
The newspaper's accompanying comment read, "'No Trespassing,' 'No Hunting,' well, that's a landowner's prerogative. But 'No Nothing' makes you want to beep your horn, shout out the window--anything to resist a little."
The apostle Paul was very familiar with the urge behind such a response. In Romans 7 he pointed out that the law actually awakens rebellious desires within us (Ro 7:5-note). Being told not to do something excites our sinful nature to express itself.
Our rebellious response to negative rules points out our need for a strong, compelling motivation to do what's right. Paul said that we can go beyond a list of do's and don'ts to a love relationship with Christ Himself (Ro 7:6-note). The law carries with it the sentence of death because of our inability to keep it (Ro 7:10-note). But being united to Christ results in life.
By daily walking and talking with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we can go from "no" power in the law to all power in Him. --M R De Haan II (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)