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).
We must never lose sight of the premise of the Sermon on the Mount. The sermon opens with the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12). “Merger” is the fundamental truth that profoundly echoes throughout the remainder of the sermon. The merger is the “poor in spirit” with “shall be comforted.” The helplessness of man is merged with the resource of God, combining God’s nature with our nature forming a new creature. Together we become “the Kingdom of God.” God decided not to be the Kingdom on His own; we are incapable of being the Kingdom on our own. In Christ we become the person God destines us to be. What an opportunity!
Jesus describes the life of the Kingdom person as “exceeding righteousness.” This righteousness exceeds the righteousness within the boundaries of the old covenant, “the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20). Jesus gave six illustrations to help us comprehend this thought. Every arena of life is covered and highlighted in these six examples. The first five are not the same as the final sixth. The biblical principle of our physical life as the platform for the demonstration of our spiritual life is clearly explained in the first five illustrations, each beginning with a physical activity.
The first illustration is “You shall not murder” (Matthew 5:21-26), an old covenant standard. “You shall not commit adultery” begins the second illustration (Matthew 5:27-30). The third speaks of marriage and “a certificate of divorce” (Matthew 5:31-32). The act of “swearing falsely” involving God in an oath becomes the physical act of the fourth illustration (Matthew 5:33-37). The fifth illustration, “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38-42) concerns the standard of fairness involving revenge or justice.
In each of these five illustrations the pattern is to examine the source causing the physical responses. Jesus internalizes man’s response as an expression of his inner appetite. The solution to this problem is not that we change or manage our outward expression, but that we encounter the nature of God. When we acknowledge and embrace our helplessness, we become open to God invading our nature with His nature. We must express God’s nature, His appetite, in our life’s acts. Expressing His nature flows from the merger between God and man, the new creature called the Kingdom.
Although the sixth illustration in no way contradicts this premise, it does not begin with an outward activity. Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy’” (Matthew 5:43). Each of the other illustrations reveal that we are needy in the motive of our lives. Jesus seems to say in this final illustration that we start with our inner motive. Have we learned His lesson? We must not defend our outward actions as fair and necessary, but go beyond the physical circumstances and look at the cause. Instead of saying, “I did the right thing” can we look at our appetite? Do we have the appetite of God? Can we cease to be rule oriented to become heart oriented? Is God’s purpose for us more than correct physical activity? He desires that we want what He wants! He really wants sons!
Jesus said, “That you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45). This phrase begins with the Greek word “hopos,” translated “that,” a purpose clause. “Hopos” is a purpose conjunction indicating the goal or aim of the action denoted by the word, phrase, or clause to which is it joined. It is only in the New Testament with the subjunctive verb indicating the final purpose, “to the end that” or “in order that.” Therefore, “love your enemies, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” is intertwined with the premise of the Sermon on the Mount. The motive of God’s nature, an appetite of love merging with the core of human life, is for birthing us as “sons of your Father in heaven.”
The appetite of God is necessary for God to fulfill His purpose in your life. In light of the context of the first five illustrations, Jesus does not suggest a new rule. He does not propose the act of loving our enemies will put us in the position of being sons of God. He presents an impossibility; we are incapable of loving our enemies. Therefore, we must merge with God’s nature to becomes sons of God who will love their enemies. This act of love is an expression of the appetite or hunger of God. We give expression to His nature.
The necessity of merging with God’s nature is engrained in the proposition. We cannot be sons of God without loving our enemies; we cannot love our enemies without being sons of God. In times past the question was asked, “What would Jesus do?” The error of such a pursuit is in the suggestion of “doing.” Loving your enemies is not a discipline that allows a person to declare forgiveness for the enemy; it is a reality of investment in forgiving the enemy. To forgive my enemy I must be involved in his or her life, which allows them to experience my forgiveness.
In the fifth illustration (Matthew 5:38-42), Jesus gives four proposals regarding this involvement. When your enemy insults you (Matthew 5:39), you are to turn the other cheek, which invites interaction with him, allowing him to experience your forgiveness. The enemy who wants to sue you will never know the nature of God unless you express your love for him by giving him your cloak also (Matthew 5:40). The person who demands you go with him one mile will only know the love of God if you go with him the second mile (Matthew 5:41). Can the person who takes advantage of you experience God’s nature through your embrace of his selfish act (Matthew 5:42)?
There is no human who can learn, develop, or manufacture God’s expression of love. We only receive it from being “sons of your Father in heaven.” We must love our enemies; loving our enemies is birthed in us by God’s nature as sons who love our enemies. The necessity of merging with God’s nature is engrained in Jesus’ proposal. When we focus on the merger between us and God, that merger is the necessary expression of love in our relationships. We are never without our helplessness! We must embrace it.
Jesus said the purpose is “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” The main verb in this statement is translated “may be.” It is the Greek word “ginomai,” which means “to become.” It has to do with entering or assuming a certain state or condition. Since it is in the subjunctive mood, it indicates it may be conditional; it is possible. It is dependent upon the nature of the Father who enables us to express His love to our enemies.
The Greek word “ginomai” focuses on origin or coming into existence. This verb is a middle deponent (adjective of a verb) indicated by the closing form “mai.” This means the verb is middle in form because there exists no active form for a particular principle part in Hellenistic Greek, but whose meaning is active. Therefore, we must treat this verb as being in the active voice. In the context of our passage, this means that our response to the Father’s appetite of love for His enemies expands and nurtures within us the state of being a son. As every son matures in the knowledge and ways of his father so we are more and more embracing His nature. He is “fathering” us in His appetite! The issue is our response!
The verb “ginomai” is in the aorist tense. There is nothing like it in the English language. It is a tense that does not focus on “when” the action of the verb occurs, but focuses on the occurrence. The nurturing of the Father in our lives does not happen in the past or future. We live in the constant occurrence of the Father’s nature spurring us into His likeness. His appetite hungers to love His enemies; as we respond to this appetite we become more like Him. We are nurtured by the Trinity God!
There are passages throughout the Scriptures that highlight this process in Jesus. At the age of twelve He submitted to His parents. He lived in Nazareth until the beginning of His ministry at age thirty. Luke records, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52). Was He not a boy who was nurtured by the nature of God in His son position? The writer of Hebrews relates insight into the life of Jesus. All Bible scholars agree he was obedient in the Garden of Gethsemane. The author writes, “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8). They were not saying that Jesus went from disobedience to obedience. It is clear He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). However, as Jesus faced the cross in the garden, He entered into a new circumstance that required additional response. This response to His Father nurtured Him in His position as son. He gave total expression to love your enemies!
The love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) ends with this concept. The qualities of God’s loving nature are expressed vividly in this chapter. “Love suffers long, and is kind; loves does not envy; loves does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Paul climaxes with the wonder of a child becoming a man. We must put away childish things. He pictures this as moving from seeing in a mirror dimly to encountering face to face. He contrasts this wonder as “Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (I Corinthians 13:12). Is this not the wonder of the Father’s nurture? He fathers us into His image. We are more and more becoming an expression of His nature; we hunger for that which He hungers! We have His appetite. We respond to His desires, and He shapes us into His likeness! This is our destiny!
“That you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45) is the purpose clause as stated by Jesus. The focus of the purpose is “sons,” a predicate nominative. This means that “sons” follows the verb and relates to the subject of the clause in equal manner. Therefore, “sons” and “you” are equated; they are the same. The Greek word “huios” is translated “sons.” It is used 379 times in the New Testament, and is only spoken of as related to man. It is contrasted with “nothos,” which is an illegitimate son (Hebrews 12:8).
“Huios” is the strongest imagery used in the New Testament for the new creature, the Kingdom person. It relays the picture of the merging of the Father’s nature with the son. The son possesses his distinct personality from the father, but the DNA of the father formed and shaped him. It not only pictures the forming of the person but also the nurturing aspect already discussed. It depicts a relationship unlike any other. It is beyond the idea of “brother,” “servant,” or “employee,” and highlights a unique love connection between the two. We are “sons!”
John begins his Gospel account with a presentation of this intimate connection. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God,” (John 1:12, 13). Notice the explosion of these words, “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is,” (1 John 3:1, 2). Paul echoes this cry, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14-16).
Again, we must remind you that this merger is the premise of the Sermon on the Mount. The merger of His nature with our poverty stricken nature creates a new creature. This new creation is the new species of humanity called “sons of God.” There never has been, nor will there ever be anyone like these men merged with God. They think like the Father, feel like the Father, have the appetite of the Father, share the desires of the Father, and are nurtured by the Father. They are “sons!” There is no greater privilege; this is the destiny of our creation.
Jesus placed the position of being a son in a special context or atmosphere, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” In light of the merger, the premise of the Sermon on the Mount, why would He place the essence of the Father in heaven? Why did He not picture the Father as in the spirit of our being or in our hearts? “Your Father in heaven” is a pattern of reference for the sermon and is repeated throughout.
Jesus introduced this phrase in the “Function of the Kingdom.” We are to let our light shine “that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Jesus repeats the phrase again at the close of the sixth illustration as the climax. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Mathew 5:48). Charitable deeds are judged and rewarded according to “your Father in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). As Jesus instructs us to pray, “Therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven” (Mathew 6:9). He establishes a link between what happens in heaven with what happens on earth (Matthew 6:10). The treasures we cling to must be “treasures in heaven” (Matthew 6:20). When He discussed worry, He reasoned in the generosity of “your heavenly Father” (Matthew 6:26, 32). Jesus exclaims the goodness of “your Father who is in heaven” for His children (Matthew 7:11). Jesus urges us to do “the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Due to the frequency of Jesus’ use of this phrase, we must view our position as sons in light of “your Father in heaven.”
What is the significance of “your Father who is in heaven”? “Heaven” is a reference to authority regarding that which has power over humans and lies beyond their control. The idea of “below” and the things that are located there are defined in distinction or contrasted to “above.” God and heaven belong together. Heaven shares in the inherent power of God, His authority. “Heaven” represents the sovereignty of God.
“Sons” are under the nurturing control and power of God. Whatever is going on in the Father must happen in the son! By the definition of being birthed as a son we must come under the authority of His appetite. This is the loving nature of the Father who without hesitation “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 son does not dictate to the Father. God’s nature and motive, his appetite, become the driving force of life.
Our greatest concern for the church movement in this hour is the reversal of this reality. Everyone embraces the greatness of being children of God. We sing the idea of being sons of God in our songs and repeat it in our sermons. But what kind of sons do we think we are? Have we become four year old children whining for a hot dog? Are we children who do not want to go to bed at night? Have we become self-centered in our sonship? Does our prayer life reflect a focus on ourselves and our comfort? We desire to use the gifts of the Spirit for our benefit. I should never get sick; I should never have a trial; I should always be successful; I should never have a financial difficulty. All my enemies should receive the wrath of God; I should not because I am a son.
Being a son without any problems is contrasted with the son who comes to the Father in his work clothes. He wants to be a part of the Father’s enterprise, and what the Father wants becomes the son’s agenda. If a cross is needed to accomplishment the Father’s heart the son will volunteer. The son is under the controlling appetite of the Father not the whims of his own self-will. He has the perspective of the Father, longs for the things of the Father, thinks like the Father, and expresses the desires of the Father.
The picture of “sons of your Father in heaven” isbeautiful but it is imagery. The reality is that if you do not love your enemy you do not qualify as a son. This is not a rule that must be kept or a criterion to achieve. It is a quality of the Father’s nature now sourcing your life. If you do not hunger for this, then you do not have the Father’s appetite. This is the nature that is the atmosphere or position of a son. If we say we are a son but yet a prodigal, we admit our appetite is not His. We love the pig pen not the righteousness of the Father. This will nullify our sonship. We have squandered our right of inheritance.
We are not to obsess on rules to obey; we have a nature of possession. Let us focus on Jesus; let us go after His nature; let us seek Him with our whole heart! In the fulness of Jesus’ presence we dwell as sons!