And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same (Matt. 5:47)?
Jesus, in this verse, in the context of verses 44 through 48, is saying to us that we are to be different. The Christian is to be different than the non-Christian. We are to love our enemies (v. 44), not just our friends. And here in verses 46 and 47, He says that if we love and greet our brethren only, what good is that? Everyone does that. Rather, we are to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect (v. 48). And we can do that because we are His children (v. 45).
I have been blogging from the book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Today I will relay briefly what he says on this text. Lloyd-Jones starts out by bringing to us Christ’s command that we are to be perfect, even as our Father is perfect. And we may discern that this command seems impossible; but yet, at the same time, by the very fact that we are commanded to be such, implies that it is possible. It is impossible to the natural man, but very possible for the Christian man, the spiritual man.
Why is that so? What makes the Christian so different? So unique? So powerful? It has to be because we are the children of our Father in heaven, and because we have in us the characteristics of God Himself. We have in our new nature things that are never found in the non-Christian.
Here, from Lloyd-Jones’ book, are nine unique qualities that the true Christian has in contrast to the non-Christian.
1. In His attitude toward the law. The natural man may observe the law and be moral in his behavior, but he never goes beyond it. The Christian is more concerned with the spirit than with mere obedience. And he always delights in the law of God in his inner self.
2. His attitude toward morality. The natural man’s attitude about morality is generally negative in that he is focused on not doing certain things. In contrast, the Christian’s attitude is more positive; he hungers and thirsts to be righteous like God.
3. His attitude toward sin. The natural man thinks of sin in terms of things that are done or not done. The Christian is more interested in his heart—whether he is right with God or not.
4. His attitude toward himself. The natural man admits his sin, but he will never morn over it. Yet the Christian is always sorry for his sin.
5. His attitude toward other sinners. The natural man may regard others with tolerance and pity. But the Christian goes beyond that and sees them as victims of sin and held captive by Satan.
6. His view of God. The natural man may see God as someone to be obeyed and feared. But the Christian loves God because he has come to know Him.
7. His motive for a living. The natural man may desire to do good, but generally like to keep a record of it. The true Christian gives without counting the cost and does it sacrificially.
8. How he faces trials. The natural man may face trials without complaining, and powers through them with an iron will. But the Christian deep down knows that all things work together for good to them that love God. And he even rejoices in trials.
9. His attitude toward his enemies. The natural man may know how to resist striking or expressing anger toward his enemies, but he cannot love them. The Christian, however, by the Spirit of God, can indeed love his enemies genuinely, and even pray for them.
So, we see that the Christian is unique and different than the natural man. He is different because of what God has done in his heart and life. He has made him a new person with a new nature. He indeed has been changed by the work of the gospel; and he understands the gospel: that he is utterly sinful, but that God sent His only Son to die for our sins, and thus bring His forgiveness to us, and a new life. And we live now with hope for a bright future. And His Spirit lives in us, filling us, teaching us His will, even guiding us along the way. And He, from day to day empowers us to love all the people we meet and have dealings with, even our enemies.