A Righteous Life

Text: Matthew 5:13-48

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave instructions for the life of a disciple. In our text, He described the life of a disciple as a righteous life. The previous lesson touched on righteousness. Again, righteousness is to be right by God’s standard, not man’s. This lesson will expand on that point.

Example to Others (Matthew 5:13-16)

  • Salt of the earth – preservative; not that the more righteous people there are, the longer God will delay judgment (Acts 17:31); rather, by living righteously, we are preserving what is good and right on the earth
  • Light of the world – shows the way (Psalm 119:105); we will be different (Philippians 2:15-16); by our actions we will highlight the contrast between right and wrong (John 3:19-20)
  • City set on a hill – highly visible; emphasizing our example; also a position of strength (Proverbs 18:10); we live righteously because we trust in God to save us
  • Our righteousness should be visible to others (v. 16) – we are to be an example to others in all that we do

Emphasis on the Importance of Law (Matthew 5:17-19)

  • Many in the religious world have a misunderstanding when it comes to law and our following Christ – they believe we must obey the “spirit” of the law rather than the “letter” of the law; purpose over details
  • However, what we see in these verses is a respect for law – even the “letter” of the law; God expects us to be careful in our handling of His word (2 Timothy 2:15; cf. Matthew 22:31-33)
  • We know that the old law has since been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14) – but remember Jesus’ purpose in this sermon was to show what a disciple is to be like; Christ’s disciples are to respect God’s word enough that we care about following even the details

Exceed the Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20)

  • These were the religious elites – Jesus’ point is that those who seem religious are not our standard; we follow Christ, not other men (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)
  • The scribes and Pharisees focused on the “letter” of the law to the exclusion of the “spirit” of the law – as we have seen, the “letter” of the law is important (Matthew 5:17-19); but we cannot neglect the purpose behind the law (cf. Matthew 23:23); we are not to look to God’s word to find “loopholes” to justify our behavior (Matthew 15:3-6)

Explaining the “Spirit” of the Law (Matthew 5:21-47)

  • Murder was condemned (Matthew 5:21; cf. Exodus 20:13) – but anger is not justified as long as one does not murder (Galatians 5:20; 1 John 3:15)
  • Adultery was condemned (Matthew 5:27; cf. Exodus 20:14) – but lust is not justified as long as one does not commit adultery (James 1:14-15; Job 31:1)
  • Divorce was condemned (Matthew 5:31; cf. Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6) – disregarding one’s marriage vows was not justified as long as one met the “legal” requirements (Deuteronomy 24:1-4; Matthew 19:7-8); marriage must be honored (Hebrews 13:4)
  • Making false vows was condemned (Matthew 5:33; cf. Leviticus 19:12) – but dishonesty was not justified as long as one did not make a “vow” (Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9)
  • Punishments for crimes was necessary (Matthew 5:38; cf. Leviticus 24:17-20) – but taking one’s own revenge was not justified (Romans 12:19)
  • Loving one’s neighbor was commanded (Matthew 5:43; cf. Leviticus 19:18) – but hating one’s enemy was not justified as long as one still loved his neighbor (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

Strive to Be Perfect Like God (Matthew 5:48)

  • At the end of this section, Jesus gave the goal – be like God
  • Obviously, we will never be sinlessly perfect (Romans 3:23) – but we strive for this
  • How we do it – practice righteousness (1 John 3:7); respect God and His word enough that we follow the “letter” and the “spirit” of the law


  • The life of a disciple is a righteous life – we must conform to God’s standard, not man’s
  • Strive to be like God and let your light shine before men

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