These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 5:17-26 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary
I. Christ came to fulfill the law (17-20)
II. God sees the anger in our hearts (21-26)
I. Christ came to fulfill the law (17-20)
What does it mean to a abolish the Law/Prophets?
What does the Prophets refer to here?
Why might someone think that Jesus came to abolish them?
In what way or ways did Jesus fulfill the Law and the Prophets?
Can you describe the process of how the Bible was passed down to us? Old Testament? New Testament? How would you answer someone who says that the “Bible has changed many times. We cannot trust the current version.”
What can we see here about Jesus’ attitude toward the Old Testament?
What does verse 19 mean?
What kind of commandments do people tend to “relax” these days? What is the opposite of “relaxing” commandments? How can we find the right balance?
How can someone have righteousness that exceeds the scribes/Pharisees?
Matthew 24:35 – Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will endure forever.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 – We impart spiritual truths in spiritual words.
2 Peter 1:21 – The men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:3-4 – God’s promises are magnificent and as such will all come true.
2 Peter 3:16 – Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scritpure.
Verse by Verse Commentary
- Verse 17 – Jesus had a completely different kind of ministry than the Pharisees. His teaching was different. And His lifestyle was different. He didn’t observe many of traditions and rules which they did, since many of them were man-made. The result was that some people were accusing him (either out loud or in their hearts) of abolishing the Law and the Prophets. The Law refers to the first five books of the Bible written by Moses. The Prophets refers to the major and minor prophetical books at the end of the New Testament. The Law is the beginning of the Old Testament and the Prophets is the end. So it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus is telling them He is not doing away with the Old Testament Scriptures. He is not replacing them. And He is not pronouncing them useless. Instead He was coming to fulfill the Law. From John 1 we learn that Jesus is the very Word of God. He embodies what it means to perfectly obey God’s law. There could be debate on what exactly it meant not to work on the Sabbath. There could be debate on how to balance honoring parents with honoring God. There could be misunderstanding or disagreement on the right view of anger. Jesus’ showed us a perfect example of exactly what it will look like if someone follows God’s law. He showed us that Sabbath is a day for serving God and not blind rules keeping. He showed us what it means to put God first when He died on the cross and yet without forsaking His responsibility to His mother when He asked John to take care of her. He showed us that righteous anger toward those who dishonor God is acceptable. Only someone who perfectly fulfilled all the requirements of the law could be an acceptable sacrifice for sin just as a sheep offered as a sacrifice had to be without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19).
- Verse 18 – In this verse we see Jesus’ great respect for God’s Word. The Bible is and has been under attack for centuries. There are many views and explanations for the Bible. In the academic world they teach that the Bible was the natural work of natural men. They are said to have gathered material from what others wrote previously and edited those materials, which were then edited further by future generations. These people say that there is nothing supernatural about the Bible and therefore it is not inerrant. Others believe that the moral ideas in the Bible are inspired by God, but the history or the science or the details are flawed. Since we are Christians and believe in Jesus, it is natural to ask the question, “What did Jesus believe about the Old Testament?” The answer in this verse is clear. He believed it was true and accurate down to the smallest letter and stroke. The word He used in Greek is “iota,” which refers to the ninth Greek letter, which is also the smallest. See for example: “ᾼ ᾳ ῌ ῃ ῼ ῳ.” The iota is the small dot under each of the other letters. Jesus therefore affirms the inspiration and accuracy of the Old Testament Scriptures down the very smallest detail and indeed even including the letters in the words. In addition, He affirms that the Scriptures will remain relevant and in effect until the end of this world. In so doing, He makes it clear that truth doesn’t change. And God’s promises will not fail. A changing culture with declining moral standards does not negate God’s Word. A different modern day perspective toward social issues like divorce or homosexuality or fornication does not alter in any way God’s standards or teachings on these issues. Jesus had a very high view of Scripture, recognizing that it is truth and does not change. His high view of Scripture meant that He studied it faithfully and memorized large parts of it as seen by the fact that He often quotes even obscure sections of it. We see this same love for Scripture even when Jesus was 12 years old by the fact that He was in the temple teaching others. What would a person today do if he had a high view of Scripture?
- Defending Scripture from attack – If you seek to share the good news and disciple others you will inevitably face questions from people who do not believe in the inspiration of Scripture. They will attack the fact that it is inspired of God. Or they will seek to point out what they believe are contradictions. Or they will say that the Bible has changed over the years. Or they will say how can we believe it when there are so many versions? So consider and answer the following questions:
- Why do you believe the Bible is inspired by God? Do you have any evidences of this?
- How can you explain the fact that there are so many versions? If it is God’s Word, shouldn’t there only be one version?
- Can you describe the process of how the Bible was passed down to us? Old Testament? New Testament?
- How would you answer someone who says that the “Bible has changed many times. We cannot trust the current version.”
- Why did God replace the Old Bible with the New Bible (a question I sometimes get when people misunderstand what Old and New Testaments are).
- Verse 19 – Here we see again Jesus’ affirmation of the truth of God’s Word. He gives a powerful warning to those who would disregard the commands in the Bible. Every command and teaching in the Bible should be respected and obeyed. Knowing that the Bible is truth should motivate us to have the same attitude toward it that Ezra did in Ezra 7:10, “For Ezra devoted himself to the study and observance of the Law of the LORD, and to teaching its decrees and laws in Israel.” Are you devoting yourself to studying it? How can you devote yourself to studying it more? Are you devoting yourself to obeying it? How could you devote yourself to obeying it more? Are you devoting yourself to teaching it? How could you devote yourself to teaching it more?
- God sees the anger in our hearts (21-26)
What contrast is Jesus making? Is His way easier or harder than than what they were used to?
What does this passage show us about God’s standards? What does he look at in addition to our behavior?
Is there ever a time when we should be angry? If so, what kind of situations?
How is “righteous anger” different than what Jesus is referencing here?
Can you think of a recent time when you were wrongly angry with someone? Would anyone like to share? What did you do about it? Who can stand before God in light of this very high standard?
What principle do we learn from verses 23-24? What does this passage tell us about the importance of relationships and unity? How does disunity/broken relationships/anger hurt our relationship with and worship of God? How can you apply this principle?
How does verse 25 relate to the previous verses (reconciliation)? What might an accused person tend to do on the eve of his trial (justify himself and make his best case?) If you are accused by a spouse or co-worker, what is your natural response? Instead, in light of this verse, what should you do?
Ephesians 4:26-27 – Be angry and do not sin.
James 1:19-20 – Man’s anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
Proverbs 29:11 – A fool gives full vent his spirit, but a wise person holds it back.
Proverbs 19:11 – It is one’s glory to overlook an offense.
Ecclesiastes 7:9 – Be not quick in your spirit to become angry.
Proverbs 15:18 – A hot tempered man stirs up strife.
Matthew 18:15 – If a brother sins against you go…you have gained a brother.
Hebrews 12:14 – Strive for peace with everyone.
1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, keep loving one another earnestly. Love covers a multitude of sins.
Verse by Verse Commentary
- Verse 20 – To us this does not come as a surprise because we have read a lot in the Bible about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. But put yourself into the shoes of Jesus’ listeners. They were raised up to believe that the Pharisees were the most spiritual, the most religious, and the most holy people. They were proper and well groomed and their clothing was proper and clean. The Pharisees were dignified and well educated. At any time they could recite a wonderful greeting and blessing to share with neighbors or passers by on the road. Experts in knowledge of the Scriptures, they could recite long sections of the Old Testament. Ask them virtually any question about those Scriptures and they would be sure to give a complete and very convincing sounding answer. You would never hear them answer, “I don’t know,” to a question. Virtually everyone in society recognized that they were indeed the most righteous and most religious people. But now Jesus says that their righteousness is not enough. He says that you would have to be more righteous than them to enter heaven. How would the crowds have felt? They would have been shocked. Beyond that, they would have felt hopeless. If even the Pharisees couldn’t make it, what hope did they have? And in the coming verses Jesus goes even further to show that no one can possibly meet God’s standards. In fact, I believe that is Jesus’ point. I believe He wanted them to come to the realization that they were completely hopeless to achieve this standard on their own and for that knowledge to motivate them to turn to God and beg for help.
- In verses 21-24 we learn many important lessons:
- God looks at and judges our thoughts, not only our actions and behavior.
- The type of anger mentioned in this passage is anger toward a brother. It is the type of anger that causes a person to throw out insults toward that person. Therefore it is clear that this is not righteous anger toward sin, but a self-centered anger.
- Getting angry with others in our hearts (even if you don’t say anything out loud) already condemns you before God. How can you prevent yourself from getting angry? Did any of you get angry with others recently? When and why? What did you do about it?
- Serving God goes far deeper than simply following the rules such as making sacrifices (for the Jews at that time) or going to church (for us now.) God desires obedience not sacrifice. God desires for us to serve Him through our words and actions toward others. We don’t serve God in a vacu
- Relationships are very important and we should place a high priority on maintaining healthy and unified relationships with brothers/sisters in Christ. This even takes priority over doing spiritual/religious activities. Is there any brother or sister in Christ that has an issue with you or vice-versa? If you can think of any disunity between you and others, you must solve it and reconcile. How?
- Sin breaks our relationships with others. But when these are broken it also affects our relationship with God. How can a husband and wife stand side by side with each other at church and pray and worship if they have problems with each other? The answer is that they can stand there and do it, but if their hearts aren’t right it will negatively impact everything else from their worship time to their prayer time to even what they can get out of the sermon. See 1 Peter 3:7, which tells us that a husband’s prayers are hindered when he doesn’t love his wife.
- Verse 25 – Solve things as soon as possible when you have a conflict with others. Reconcile with that person. Small disputes can escalate until the two parties are so upset with each other that one sues the other. When we are accused our immediate, fleshly reaction is to defend ourselves and attack the person who accused us. In the case of a lawsuit, our reaction would be to defend ourselves in court and make the best case that we can. Jesus says it is far better not to let that case ever make it to court. In other words it is far better to reconcile and make peace by solving the problem before it escalates to the point where a judge needs to intervene. Simply put, be a peacemaker and reconcile instead of defending yourselves.
More to come soon
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