<< Previous | Index | Next >>"THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT" The Swearing Of Oaths (Mt 5:33-37) INTRODUCTION 1. We have examined the teachings of Jesus concerning murder, adultery, and divorce 2. Now, as we consider verses 33-37 of Matthew 5, we find Jesus dealing with the swearing of oaths 3. We will look at what Jesus taught from the viewpoint of four questions... [The first is: "What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing of oaths?"] I. THE TEACHING OF THE LAW A. THREE PASSAGES MAKE VERY CLEAR THE TEACHING OF LAW CONCERNING THE SWEARING OF OATHS OR VOWS... 1. "And you shall not swear by My name falsely, nor shall you profane the name of your God; I am the LORD." - Lev 19:12 2. "If a man vows a vow to the LORD, or swears an oath to bind himself by some agreement, he shall not break his word; he shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth." - Num 30:2 3. "When you make a vow to the LORD your God, you shall not delay to pay it; for the LORD your God will surely require it of you, and it would be sin to you." - Deu 23:21 B. IN EACH CASE, THE EMPHASIS WAS ON TRUTHFULNESS & FAITHFULNESS 1. A person must be truthful when he swears an oath; he must truly mean it 2. He must also be faithful in keeping the oath; he must carry out his word C. THIS EMPHASIS ON TRUTHFULNESS "IN THE HEART" WAS STRESSED BY THE PSALMS AND PROPHETS AS WELL 1. In the Psalms we read: a. "LORD, who may abide in your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? "He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart;" - Ps 15:1-2 b. "Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? "He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully." - Ps 24:3-4 2. The Prophets often bemoaned the lack of truth in the heart: a. "Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem; See now and know; And seek in her open places If you can find a man, If there is anyone who executes judgment, Who seeks the truth, And I will pardon her. "Though they say, 'As the LORD lives,' Surely they swear falsely." - Jer 5:1-2 b. "Hear the word of the LORD, You children of Israel, For the LORD brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land: 'There is no truth or mercy Or knowledge of God in the land. By swearing and lying, Killing and stealing and committing adultery, They break all restraint, With bloodshed upon bloodshed.'" - Ho 4:1-2 [So the teaching of the Law was clear: Vows to the Lord should be kept, and truthfulness in all things was expected. Our second question is this: "How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the Law?"] II. THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION A. FROM JESUS' COMMENTS IN VERSES 34-36, IT APPEARS THE EMPHASIS HAD SHIFTED... 1. FROM truthfulness in all things 2. TO honoring only those vows sworn "to the Lord" B. SO THAT IN APPLICATION, VOWS MADE NOT "TO THE LORD" WERE NOT AS BINDING... 1. That the Jews had made such arbitrary distinctions between their vows is seen in Mt 23:16-19 2. Because of this distinction, daily conversations were often spiced with meaningless oaths to make impressions; for example: a. "I swear by heaven" b. "I swear by the throne of God" c. "I swear...by the earth...by Jerusalem...by the altar...by the temple...by my head..." [By shifting the emphasis from TRUTHFULNESS to honoring only those vows made TO THE LORD, the Jews in their application of the Law justified the use of meaningless vows. This leads to our third question: "What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the Law concerning oaths?"] III. THE TEACHING OF JESUS A. HE EXPOSED THEIR HYPOCRISY IN MAKING ARBITRARY DISTINCTIONS... 1. Mt 23:20-22 clearly shows that when one swears by... a. the temple b. the throne of God c. heaven ...he is swearing by the LORD also 2. Mt 5:34-36 likewise teaches that one cannot swear by these things without involving God a. Heaven is the throne of God b. Earth is His footstool c. Only God can change our hair color (without the use of dyes) 3. THEREFORE, ANY OATH IS AN OATH "TO THE LORD"! B. INSTEAD OF MAKING SUCH OATHS, JESUS ENJOINED A PRACTICE IN HARMONY WITH THE LAW CONCERNING "TRUTHFULNESS IN THE HEART"... 1. Let your "yes" mean "yes" 2. Let your "no" mean "no" -- Any more than this is evil, and would be contrary to speaking "truth in his heart" Ps 15:1-2 [In exposing the hypocritical distinctions made by the scribes and Pharisees in their oaths, and in commanding us to speak simply and truthfully, the words of Jesus have led many to ask our fourth and final question: "Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court?"] IV. MAKING OATHS IN JUDICIAL MATTERS A. ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT OF CHRISTIANS SWEARING OATHS UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS... 1. Both Jesus and James qualified their statements concerning oaths a. Mt 5:34 - "swear not at all" is immediately qualified by Jesus to refer to flippant and hypocritical oaths commonly voiced by the people b. Ja 5:12 - the command "do not swear" is also qualified by James to refer to the same kind of meaningless oaths 2. Also, consider the following points: a. God has sworn an oath to us - He 6:16-18 b. Jesus was willing to answer under oath before the Sanhedrin court - Mt 26:63-64 c. Paul made solemn oaths in his epistles - 2 Co 1:23; Ga 1:20 d. An angel of God swore an oath - Re 10:5-7 B. IN LIGHT OF THESE ARGUMENTS... 1. Some believe that Jesus and James were only condemning the flippant, profane and hypocritical oaths... a. Used to make impressions b. Used to spice daily conversations ...but were never intended to be kept 2. And that the EXCEPTION to not swearing oaths can be: a. Solemn oaths made in judicial circumstances b. Those oaths on occasions of solemn religious importance (as in the case of Paul) C. MANY PREFER TO TAKE THE "SAFE" COURSE... 1. In other words, to "swear not at all" 2. Fortunately, in this country we are allowed the option to "confidently affirm" in judicial matters -- But we should not judge those brethren who themselves solemnly and honestly "swear oaths" in judicial circumstances CONCLUSION 1. Again we see that the "righteousness of the kingdom" exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees a. Whereas they would often spice their statements with vows and oaths in order to be believed. b. Citizens of the kingdom are to be so truthful that their simple "yes" means "yes" and their "no" means "no" 2. So truthful and trustworthy are the disciples of Christ to be, it would not be necessary for them to swear oaths or have to say "I promise" to be trusted 3. Can this be said of us? a. Can others "bank" on our words? b. When we say we will do something, is it as good as done? Our next study examines the teaching of Jesus concerning vengeance...<< Previous | Index | Next >>
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