You Have Heard it was Said,…

…But I Say Unto You!


Dr. John Hoole – April 24, 2016



Most people who are familiar with the Bible would agree that Matthew 5-7, often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, contain some of the most memorable sayings in the world.  Most people, even some that are non-religious, are aware of some of the beatitudes.  another well-known phrase is the golden rule Do unto others as you would have them do to you [7:12].


This most famous “sermon” in the world also has become one of the most misunderstood and abused.  Some people used the phrase, “Judge not that you be not judged,” taken from the beginning of chap. 7, to “prove” that we never can judge anyone at any time.  Never mind that on another occasion, Christ said in John 7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”


And the illustration of the wide and narrow roads are totally disregarded in order to believe that almost all people go to heaven when they die.  That completely counters Christ’s words, “narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it”  [Matthew 7:14].


Matthew 5:20-22 NKJV


20     For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

21     "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.'

22     But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.


We covered Verse 20 when looking more closely at the righteousness of the Pharisees.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ addresses a wide range of topics.  Few topics are discussed more than once by Him.  But the subject of “Righteousness” is one of the central topics of the sermon.  We have already seen it 3 times in the first half of Chapter 5.  We will visit it again in Chapter 6.


In Matthew 23, Christ tells us about the righteousness of the Pharisees.  In verse 28 of that chapter, Christ says the scribes and Pharisees “appeared righteous” outwardly.  Appearance before others was very important to the Scribes and Pharisees.


You can see that in Mark 2:16-17 NKJV


16     And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?"

17     When Jesus heard it, He said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."


Jesus is speaking to the scribes and Pharisees who thought they were righteous by not eating and drinking with publicans and sinners.  What they thought constituted righteousness was 180 degrees from what Jesus taught.


Titus 3:5 NKJV


5       Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit,




In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus teaches us that true righteousness is a matter of the heart.  What good are tithing, fasting and outwards obedience to rules and regulations, if the heart is proud, critical, and condemning?


One’s conduct must be based upon one’s character.  1 Samuel 16:7 reads:..For man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart


Proverbs 4:23   (NKJV) adds:


23  Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it spring the issues of life.


The scribes and Pharisees were religious in order to get the approval and praise of man.  But the true Christian has a greater motive than that -- he lives for the approval and praise of God.  After all, if true righteousness is a matter of the heart, and only God can see the heart, then only God can give the reward.  Revelation 2:23 states,  “I am he which searcheth the minds and hearts.”


Jesus reserved His strongest criticism for religious people who used their spiritual reputation to get social attention and honors.  To such religionists Jesus said, “Woe to you Pharisees!  For you love the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces” (Luke 11:43).  Then, speaking to His disciples, He said of the Pharisees, “All their works they do to be seen by men.” (Matthew 23:5).


Jesus warns us in Matthew 6 not to “do righteousness” – whether it be giving, fasting, or praying –  in order to be seen of men.  He says, “Live your life before the eye of God, not the eyes of men.  Your Father sees in secret, and that is sufficient.  If you live for the praise of men, you have your reward.”


Look at Matthew 6 for a moment.


Matthew 6:1, 5, 16   (NKJV)


1,  [Speaking of Alms] "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.


5   [Speaking of Prayer] "And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.


16  [Speaking of Fasting] “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.


From the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus focuses on the internal, -- on what men and women are like in their minds and hearts.  So, when we come to verse 21 through the end of chapter 5, Christ gives us six illustrations of what he had said up to this point.  These are very practical and He brings them down to where we actually live.


He says it is not just the outward act of homicide that is wrong but hatred and anger in one’s heart is equally murderous.  It’s not just the physical act of adultery which is sinful, but he that looks and lusts (desires) after a woman has already committed adultery in his heart -- and so on!


Contrary to the external, superficial, and hypocritical righteousness that typified the scribes and Pharisees, the righteousness God requires of his followers is first of all internal.  If it does not exist in the heart, it does not exist at all.


Though it may have been long forgotten or neglected by most Jews of Jesus’ day, that truth was presented to them throughout the Old Testament.


Solomon prayed, in 1 Kings 8:39 (NASB)….


Hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling place, and forgive and act and render to each according to all his ways, whose heart Thou knowest for Thou alone dost know the hearts of all the sons of men.


In David’s last words to Solomon he said,


         As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. (1Chronincles 28:9 - NASB)


Hanani the prophet reminded King Asa,


         For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His  (2 Chronicles 16:8 NASB).


Proverbs 16:2 tells us,


         All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives.


That God is first of all concerned about what men are like on the inside is a central truth of both Old and New Testaments.  A good outward act is validated before God only when it honestly represents what is on the inside.


In the last Book of the Bible the Lord warns the church at Thyatira, I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds  (Revelation 2:23 NKJV).


Correct external behavior pleases Him when it corresponds to correct internal attitudes and motives.  The presumed good deeds of the proud scribes and self-glorying Pharisees did not come from the heart attitudes Jesus says must be exemplified by the Citizens of His kingdom.  Namely:  poverty of spirit, mourning over sin, gentleness, hunger and thirst for righteousness and so on.


When Jesus said, in Matthew 5:20, that the righteousness of his followers must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, He was making a very radical statement, because in Jesus’ day, the people looked at the scribes and Pharisees as people who epitomized the very thought of righteousness.  How could anyone have a righteousness surpassing theirs.


And yet, by the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has them eating His words out of the palm of His hand.  After He had finished his sermon, it is recorded:


Matthew 7:28-29 NKJV


28     And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching,

29     for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.


The reason He could get people to be awed by what He said and follow Him wherever He went, was because He used parables and illustrations that were conveyed in common language and spoke to situations that the people all understood.  What He said wasn’t hyperbolic, or esoteric, or secretive.  Rather, He was very practical and instructive.


And so, for the rest of chapter 5, He used six illustrations to teach us about the nature of the righteousness that surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees.  They deal with the specific subjects of 1) murder, 2) sexual sin, 3) divorce, 4) speaking the truth, 5) retaliation, and 6) loving others.


These sections are known in some circles as the six antitheses, .so called because each begins with the formula “You have heard it was said…” followed by “But I say unto you……”.


Matthew 5:21-22 (KJV), "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill…But I say unto you…"

Matthew 5:27-28, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you…"

Matthew 5:31-32, "It hath been said, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a writing of divorcement: But I say unto you…"

Matthew 5:33-34, "Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: But I say unto you…"

Matthew 5:38-39, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you…"

Matthew 5:43-44, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you…"



Matthew 5:21-22  (NKJV)


21       "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.

22       "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire.




Matthew 5:21 KJV – Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,…


Matthew 5:21-22  (NKJV) – You have heard that it was said to those of old,…


Matthew 5:21 NIV – You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,…


Matthew 5:21 NASU – You have heard that the ancients were told,…


Matthew 5:21 ESV – You have heard that it was said to those of old,…


Matthew 5:21 CJB – You have heard that our fathers were told,…


There are a couple of literary expressions that we find frequently in Scripture that are idiomatic -- that is, they were standard forms of expression - idioms - that the Jewish people used, that have clear and precise references but which are not always clear to us in the English language.  One of the more difficult things to translate from language to language are the idioms.


One of the idiomatic phrases that Jesus used was “You have heard it said.”  Another idiom in Scripture used often by Jesus is one that you will all recognize -- They are the words, “It is written.”


“It is written” does not simply refer to a statement that appears in print somewhere.  But rather, the “it is written” formula, to the Jew, meant that something had been written in a specific place -- namely, in the Scripture.  So when the Jew said “It is written,” it would be the same thing as for us to say, “The Bible says.”


When Jesus says, “You have heard it said to those of old,” that also has a specific reference.  It was a reference to what is called the Talmud/Mishna which was the oral tradition of the Rabbis.  or the Jews, not only did you have the sacred Hebrew Scriptures (Tanakh), but you also had the rabbinic interpretation of the Scriptures, which interpretation was passed on generation to generation through spoken transmission.


And among particularly the Pharisees, this oral tradition became elevated to a level equal to the authority of Scripture.  You will remember how Jesus rebuked them for substituting the traditions of men for the Law of God.  The traditions which they often substituted for the Law were the oral traditions.


Now why is this significant?  If Jesus was referring to what Moses had commanded in the old law itself, likely a different wording would have been used.  For example, at other times, when Jesus definitely was referring to what the law actually said, He made such statements as “It is written,” as He does in Matthew 4:4,7,10.  He also sued the phrase, Moses commanded, in Matthew 8:4.  I have choses these passages because they are from the chapter directly before and after the Sermon on the Mount.


There are some very good affirmations from Scripture that He is not referring to the Old Testament when he is saying, “You have heard it was said to those of old.”  In these six illustrations, our Lord uses words that could not have come out of the Law.


For instance, in Verse 21, it says, “You shall not murder, and whoever does murder will be in danger of the judgment.”  The phrase, and whoever does murder will be in danger of the judgment,” is not found anywhere in the Old Testament.  Likewise, when Jesus stated, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, He could not have been quoting from the old law.  The Old Testament never tells people to hate their enemies.


This is important because when you see Jesus challenging Jewish tradition in the New Testament, He never challenges what is written.  He does, however, challenge the way the Biblical text had been handled and distorted in the oral tradition.


So, when He speaks here, He says “You have heard it said in days of old, You shall not murder.” what Jesus is doing is criticizing the rabbinic, pharisaical understanding of the Law of God.




So, where are we in our discovery of the Sermon on the Mount?  Most of what we have discussed thus far are statements of facts, or promises of blessings.  The Beatitudes in Verses 3-12 depict various character qualities Christ  wants to see in His followers.  As I have stated, they all reflect an inner righteousness.


But Christ does not let us isolate ourselves from the rest of the world with these qualities.  He follows them up with two practical ways we can influence our world.  You have heard me, in previous lessons, state that when Christ says you are the Salt of the Earth and the Light of the World, those were not command, but statements of fact.  If you belong to Christ, you are the salt and light this world needs.


In fact, through verse 20 of chapter 5, we only read one commandment.


Matthew 5:16 NKJV


16     Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.


The wording of this command conveys a sense of urgency.  LET your light SHINE – Do it now!  God’s commandments always include His enablement.  You cannot let your light shine in the natural strength of your and my fallen flesh.  You and I need supernatural power that is provided as we rely on the Holy Spirit.


Then, in verse 20, Christ indicates strongly that in our acts of letting our light shine, our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees for our Father to receive glory from your “good works.”


The six segments that fill the remaining 28 verses of Matthew 5 serve at least two purposes.


1.  To teach what righteousness looks like that surpasses the Scribes and Pharisees.


          2.  To describe the righteousness when lived out in the power of the Spirit gives a proper response to our heavenly Father.


We need to keep this command to “Let your light shine,” as we study each segment.  In each of the six situations, I ask myself: “Do my attitudes and actions in this area of my life give others I meet a proper opinion of my Father who is in heaven?”


As we proceed, we need to remind ourselves that Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.  And Verse 19 tells us that whether we break it or keep it, and whether we encourage others to break it or keep it, is an indication of our true spiritual condition.  It may serve as an evaluation tool in the kingdom of God, but it is not the standard for entrance into the Kingdom.  Entrance into the Kingdom come from having a righteousness that exceeds the Scribes and Pharisees (verse 20).  If it does not, we will “not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”


I don’t think it is an accident that the early chapters in the gospel of Matthew in many ways shows comparability and fulfillment of the Exodus account.


Just as Moses was commanded by God to bring forth Israel out of Egypt, that Jesus, as told in Matthew 2:15, is the “Son of God called out of Egypt.”


Like the Israelites passing through the Red Sea, Matthew 3 depicts Christ coming though the waters of baptism.


The Israelites were tested in the wilderness.     Matthew 4:1-11 finds Jesus being tested in the wilderness.


The Israelites received the Law at Mount Sinai.  Likewise, Matthew 5:1 tells us that on a mountain, Jesus expounds that Law correctly.


Yes, Christ came to fulfill the Law.