The New Covenant Believer and True Righteousness

by Spiros Zodhiates

(This month we conclude a comparison of Matthews Gospel with the other Synoptic Gospels, taken from Dr. Zodhiates Introduction to the Gospel of Matthew.)

Matthew twice quotes a verse from the Old Testament (Hos. 6:6)  which anticipates the qualitative distinction between the Old and New Covenants: I will have mercy, and not sacrifice (9:13 and 12:7, cf. Heb. 10:5,8). Inner righteousness is not ritual. Accordingly, the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:17:27) is not so much an intensification as it is the true spirit of the Law. The hypocrite may hammer his physical body into chastity, but the pure in heart deplores the thought of adultery.

This explains Matthews frequent use of the noun righteousness (dikaios?ne), six times clustered into four chapters (3:15; 5:6,10,20; 6:33; 21:32), while Luke uses it but once (1:75), John twice (16:8,10), and Mark not at all. Entire sections committed to the Kingdom righteousness of Gods people are found only in Matthew:

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Being salt and light in the earth (5:1316);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Complying with the least commandment (5:1719);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Exceeding the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees (5:20);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Repelling the very thoughts of murder, adultery, divorce, anger without cause, humiliation of others (5:2132);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Refusing to use superficial vows (5:3337);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Exalting grace over justice (5:3848);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Abstaining from ostentatious alms giving and prayers (6:113);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Adopting a forgiving heart (6:14, 15);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Avoiding pretentious fasts (6:1618);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Repenting from anxiety over earthly treasures and the need for food and clothing (6:1934);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Conforming to correct protocol for treating a sinning brother (18:1525, Matthew alone);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Rejecting titles like Rabbi (23:8), Father (23:9), Master (or Leader; 23:10);

<![if !supportLists]>         <![endif]>Humbly serving rather than despotically ruling over others (20:25-26; 23:11).

Jesus fulfill[s] all righteousness (3:15, Matthew alone), even paying taxes to avoid offense (17:2427, Matthew only). Whereas Luke quotes Jesus as saying, But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you (Luke 12:31), Matthew inserts and his righteousness as an object ritual-minded Jews might overlook (6:33). The Lords disciple thirst[s] after righteousness (5:6) but is persecuted for it (5:11). Believers must persevere (10:5,6,23,4042; 15:23-24; 17:2427; 25:3146) in their confession of Christ before men (10:32-33), in prayer (4:2; 6:1618; 9:14-15; 26:3146, 6975), and in good works (5:1316). At the end of the age, the righteous will shine forth . . . in the kingdom of their Father (13:43 nasb).

True righteousness originates in the heart, not in the peripherals of action (5:8,28; 11:29; 13:15; 18:35); it is not ostentatious (6:1-18; 23:1336) or meritorious (20:116); it rejects titles (23:8-10); it humbles itself (18:4; 23:12); it becomes like a child (18:3; 23:11), is meek, trusting, and serving (5:5; 11:29; 20:2028; 21:5); and it surpasses the ritualism of scribes and Pharisees (5:20; 19:1012). All these characteristics reflect the content of two commands which sum up the requirements of all commands: loving God and loving neighbors as ourselves (22:40).

Forgiveness is not optional righteousness. Only in Matthew do we find the Lord warning disciples who fix limits on forgiveness: Even so will My heavenly Father do to you if you do not from your heart forgive your brother his sins (a.t.; 18:35). The threat? And his lord was angry and delivered him to the tormentors until he paid all that was owed him (a.t.; 18:34).

Matthew particularly emphasizes discipleship which includes not only learning (13:1315,19,23,51,52; 27:57; 28:19), but also obeying (21:6,2832; 28:20) and following Jesus lead (4:22; 8:1,22,23; 10:38). Disciples teach Christs law (13:52; 28:20); they heal and cast out demons (10:1); and they evangelize (10:23)to the Jew first (10:6) as Jesus did (15:24).

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

From The Gospel of Matthewan Exegetical Commentary

©2004 by Spiros Zodhiates

Published by AMG Publishers

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

<![if !supportEmptyParas]> <![endif]>

2011 Disciple 155x50 2011 AMG 155x50
Disciple Banner Ad