Sermon Passage: Matthew 5:45
“that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Jesus calls His disciples to a new level of righteousness in the Sermon on the Mount. All they have known is the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. “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” (Matthew 5:20). This new level is not a righteousness man can develop or eventually achieve. It is a righteousness that must be present, or we cannot cross the threshold of the kingdom.
Jesus gave six illustrations concerning this righteousness. He based His authority in each illustration upon “But I say to you!” The strength is the helpless Man filled with the Spirit, Jesus, the One living the reality of each illustration. No other argument is needed. If anyone wants to cry, “This is an impossibility for man,” Jesus disputes this claim by His Person. He is a helpless Man filled with His Father. He is the first Kingdom person!
However, in the sixth illustration, Jesus adds strength to His challenge, “love your enemies . . . and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). The purpose of Jesus’ challenge is “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). These two things are linked. No one can love their enemies without being a son of the Father in heaven, and no one can be a son of the Father in heaven without loving their enemies. Being a son and loving enemies is the heart of the Father. Being a son and loving enemies come from the Father’s DNA; His appetite brings the reality of each! We dare not claim God as our Father while we hate our enemies; we dare not claim to love our enemies if we are not sons of our Father! Although the link between the two is secure, neither causes the other. Both are a product of something beyond us.
Jesus explains and highlights the truth in His next statement. The cause is, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).
Sovereignty of His Nature
The beginning Greek word “hoti,” translated “for,” is a causal subordinate clause, which expresses the cause of the related verbal action. Jesus stated the imperative of “love your enemies.” The purpose is the expression of being “sons of your Father in heaven.” But the reality is that no one is adequate to accomplish either of these things. I am incapable of loving my enemy as I am equally incapable of making myself a son of God. The hopelessness of this situation is in my helplessness. We are back to the premise of the Sermon on the Mount. I am helpless at the core of my being. I am created by God to be dependent, not independent. The poverty of my inner spirit convinces me of my helplessness (Matthew 5:3). I must embrace my helplessness and be embraced by it. Jesus likened helplessness to grief (Matthew 5:4). As I am overwhelmed by grief in the death of a loved one, my helplessness must envelop me. I must always be aware of my helplessness, live within its boundaries, consistently acknowledge its reality, which will allow Jesus to fill me with His comfort.
In my inadequacy to love my enemies, I must experience the sovereign nature of God. How does God respond to those who rebel against Him? We must not take the word “enemies” (echthros) casually. Jesus used it in the sense of a person who hates another and wishes him injury. It is not feelings of dislike but contains the intention of harm. The Greek word comes from the word group of “hate,” “hostility,” or “enmity,” the opposite of the “loved one,” or “beloved.” How does God feel or respond to His enemy? He responds to them the exact way that He responds to His beloved. There is no difference. If this is true of extreme opposites, it must be valid for all that is contained in-between these extremes!
The Sermon on the Mount is the greatest sermon Jesus ever preached. He expressed it in heated preaching, sermonizing outlandish commands of love. He based it on the love of God, but the saying does not make it true. How do I know what God is like? Jesus goes to the fundamental experiences of nature. In His illustration of God’s heart, He points to the unquestioned sovereignty of God’s nature. God, who is the Creator of all things, is in charge of nature’s expression. He decides to respond to the “beloved” and the “enemy” in the same manner regarding the crucial issue of sunshine and rain. The driving force of His nature will not allow Him to withhold from His enemy what He freely gives to His “beloved!”
God’s manner of response to the “beloved” and the “enemy” is His appetite (motive). His sovereign nature hungers for everyone’s best. In His sovereignty, there is nothing or no one beyond Him causing His response. This is who He is! His nature, which is His appetite, drives Him. He can respond in no other way. To deny this, we must alter the makeup of God’s nature and produce a god of our choosing. God responds to the vilest sinner in the same way He responds to the most righteous saint. He makes no distinction between them!
If this is true in nature’s underlying fundamentals, what is true in redemption’s fundamentals in the spiritual realm? It is the heart and definition of “grace.” God does not pick and choose those He will forgive based on their worthiness. He does not allow talent, success, merit, or achievements to determine His response. He does not decide to be closer to some than to others because He likes them more. All He wants for those we consider the best He aggressively wants for those we consider the worst. He does not distinguish between “the evil” and “the good.” Nor does He make adjustments between “the just” and “the unjust” based upon who He is!
It is not hard to fathom this to be true of God. But what is unreal is that this can be true of me. Everything true about God’s heart can become true about my heart. The only feasible means for such a reality is the merger between my helplessness and God’s sovereign nature. Can I be filled with Him?
Significance of His Ownership
The sovereignty of God is an ownership sovereignty. Jesus said, “His sun.” “His” is a genitive pronoun showing the relationship between the subject and the “sun.” The relationship is possession due to creation. God began His revelation by saying, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The first ingredient of creative activity is “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Genesis 1:3).
Though we do not have a complete understanding, it is easy to grasp the relationship between the sun and God. In the Book of Revelation, there is a reference to Jerusalem not needing the sun. “The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light” (Revelation 21:23). Is there a correlation between God using the physical sun to display light in our world and the glory of His indwelling presence using us to shine His light to all individuals?
It is not feasible that the sun would act against its nature and refuse to shine. Science gives us the details of the sun’s chemical structure and the reason it provides light continually. Jesus said, “Is this not true with God?” Does not the nature of God’s loving heart demand His love for the saint and the sinner alike? Would not the structure of God’s nature have to be altered for this love not to be extended?
If God created and owns the sun, does not His nature dictate the shining of its light? How much more is this true of you if you are His? The only possibility for you not to love your enemies is to reject God’s ownership of your life. Perhaps we struggle with issues and questions already settled. Am I going to love my enemies? If you belong to Him, you have resolved this question. Your helplessness filled with His nature in the merger will love your enemies. Will I forgive those who offend me? If you belong to Him and are an expression of His nature, forgiveness is automatic. All six of Jesus’ illustrations rest on this ownership.
Although creation is a strong argument for His ownership of our lives, is not His redemption even greater? Does He not have a right to “own” my life twice? Once through creation and again that He brought me back from the lost. Am I not His? “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). If, in my helplessness, I am possessed, owned, by His Spirit, will I not demonstrate His nature? If His sun shines on the evil and the good, how much more my merging with His heart will shine His love on the evil and good? His ownership demands and causes such love! I must surrender every hesitation or deviation from the expression of God’s love to His ownership of my life. I am His!
Steadfastness of His Righteousness!
Jesus described the sovereign ownership of God as the steadfast actions from His heart. This means His sovereignty is righteous in nature. Jesus said, “for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). The two main verbs in this statement are “makes rise” (anatello) and “sends rain” (brecho). Each verb is in the indicative mood, meaning a simple statement of fact without argument. Each is in the present tense, a state of being without any sense of completion or end, continuing to happen. God does not weary in this well-doing. Evil does not push Him to His limit, changing His pattern of action. The consistency of His nature’s expression is steadfast!
This flares in the face of my childhood teachings. Although God may be merciful and full of grace now, beware of the coming day when His coffers of wrath are full, and He brings judgment on His world. Does not this statement of Jesus demand a new view of such suggestions? God will not shift in His treatment of good and evil, just and unjust. The sovereignty of God is an eternal righteous expression!
The Father does not respond or determine His action by what someone else does or does not do. He is sovereign. His heart determines His response; He does not react to the actions of others. God’s nature determines His actions. Therefore, He always allows it to rain on the just and on the unjust and the sun to shine on the good and evil ones. The world’s evil does not affect His righteousness. We are not this way, but He is! “If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The Trinity God cannot give expression to anything other than His character and nature!
The self-centered nature of humanity finds “love your enemies” impossible in a continual manner. There will be times when it appears such love is being expressed, setting hatred aside for self-benefit, but allowing the sun to shine on good and evil is simply not going to happen. Thus, the premise of the Sermon on the Mount becomes paramount in understanding Jesus. We are helpless. We have proved His point repeatedly. We are not able to allow constant love to flow to our enemy; our response to his evil and unjust treatment flows from our selfish nature. Our enemy determines our actions.
We must merge with the nature of God. We must allow God to cleanse our self-centered motive; the hungering heart of God must become our appetite. The desires of God must drive us. Once my heart and His heart become one, will I not cease to respond to the evil around me? Will the driving force of my life not be the expression of His passion? His consistency will become my consistency!
Sharing of His Heart
Now we come full circle in the truth of the Sermon on the Mount. We must share His heart. The new level to which Jesus calls us is to experience the nature of God. His sovereignty wills a heart involvement with you and me, the intent of all six illustrations, but particularly this last one. It is a focus on the motive of the individual. How do you feel about your enemies? How do you feel about those who persecute you? We must all hang our heads in shame, knowing we do not love our enemies. At best, we offer ritual prayers for those who persecute us. How can we ever do better?
The nature of God revealed in the physical world around us demonstrates His holiness. Indeed, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). He has not invited us into oneness with His attributes. We are not encouraged to be God, for this has been our persistent problem. In our helplessness, we ignore who we are and act in cocky arrogance as one who is lord. We have responded as Simon, the sorcerer (Acts 8:18-19). We would buy or earn God’s power and use it for our benefit. From the beginning, Jesus has proposed our helplessness in all six illustrations, sealing His proposal. We are incapable of entering the Kingdom of God because we cannot meet the standard necessary. What is the answer? We must share His heart!
God has not invited us to participate in His omnipresence. The angelic host does not share this quality, nor is it ever proposed for us. The Trinity God never suggests we should share His omniscience. The all-knowing ability belongs only to God. Even in heaven, we will not achieve such knowledge. God has not invited us to share in His omnipotence, a power beyond our comprehension or ability to manage. He has not given us a power that would destroy us!
However, Trinity God has cracked Himself open at the core of His oneness and invited us into an intimate relationship with His heart. He offers His nature to us! No one could have invented such an idea. No world religion even comes close to such a radical concept. God, who is love (agape), has invited us to be filled with His nature, which is love (agape). It is self-sacrificing, self-giving, selfless love. He never thinks about Himself. Without hesitation, He allows it to rain on the just and the unjust and shines His sun on the good and on the evil. He hangs on a cross and cries, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). When we were without strength and incapable of meeting His standard, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6). He not only opens His nature to us, He aggressively pulls us, wooing us to His heart. He is the relentless Lover of the universe who will not let you go. He wants to share His nature, heart, and all He is in Christ with you. A simple response of “yes” will be enough. Please be His!