"THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW" The Swearing Of Oaths (5:33-37) INTRODUCTION 1. Are you a man or woman of your word? a. When you say "yes" or "no", do people take it as "gospel" (i.e., truth)? b. Are you someone whose word is questioned, unless confirmed with an oath? 2. In His sermon on the mount, Jesus dealt with the issue of swearing oaths... a. In which He set a high standard for His disciples to follow b. A standard that exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, and exceeds the standard followed by many people today 3. In this lesson, "The Swearing Of Oaths", we shall consider what Jesus taught from the viewpoint of four questions: a. What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing of oaths? b. How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the Law? c. What did Jesus teach in response to this abuse of the Law concerning oaths? d. Did Jesus forbid even those oaths made in court? [To answer the first question, "What did the Law of Moses actually teach concerning the swearing of oaths?", let's take a moment to consider...] I. THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE SWEARING OF OATHS A. THREE PASSAGES MAKE VERY CLEAR THE TEACHING OF THE LAW... 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." - Deut 23:21 B. THE EMPHASIS WAS ON TRUTHFULNESS AND 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 - Ps 15:1-2; 24:3-4 2. The Prophets often bemoaned the lack of truth in the heart - Jer 5:1-2; Hos 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. This leads to our second question: "How had the Jews, and in particular the Scribes and Pharisees, traditionally interpreted and applied the Law?"] II. THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION AND APPLICATION A. IT APPEARS THE EMPHASIS HAD SHIFTED... 1. FROM truthfulness in all things 2. TO honoring only those vows sworn "to the Lord" -- As implied by Jesus comments in Mt 5:34-36 B. IN APPLICATION, ONLY VOWS "TO THE LORD" WERE 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; e.g.,: 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 Pharisees in their application of the Law justified the use of meaningless vows. Now 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 THE HYPOCRISY IN SUCH ARBITRARY DISTINCTIONS... 1. Mt 23:20-22 clearly shows that when one swears by... a. "the temple" b. "the throne of God" ...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) -- Therefore, any oath is an oath "to the Lord"! B. HE ENJOINED "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 SWEARING JUDICIAL OATHS... 1. Both Jesus and James qualified their statements concerning oaths a. Mt 5:34ff - "swear not at all" is immediately qualified by Jesus to refer to flippant and hypocritical oaths commonly voiced by the people b. Jm 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 - 2Co 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 understand Jesus and James to condemn only 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. Therefore 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. I 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" -- But I would not judge brethren who themselves solemnly and honestly "swear oaths" in judicial circumstances CONCLUSION 1. The righteousness of the kingdom is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees... a. They would often spice their statements with vows and oaths in order to be believed... b. Christians are to be so truthful, their "yes" means "yes" and their "no" means "no" -- 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" in order to be trusted 2. Can this be said of us, when people know that we are Christians? a. Can others "bank" on our words? b. When we say we will do something, is it as good as done? May the words of our Lord remind us that even our speech reflects either honor or dishonor upon the God we serve!