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Bible Studies For Life

Transformed In My Worship                     Session 1                     5 JUNE 16

MATT 6:1 Jesus begins this commentary on daily Christian living by starting with a strong warning. The Greek is best read “righteousness.” A Christian is to be righteous. (Rom 12:2 RSV) "Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Eph 4:24 RSV) "and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." Thus to do right actions just “to be seen by men” is not God’s definition of righteousness. The concept of rewards is wrong to some commentators, but Jesus used the word seven times in our lesson verses. He spoke of rewards many other places. Paul is quite clear in (1 Cor 3:14-15 RSV) "If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. {15} If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire."

Rewards have always been a major motivator of people. It is obviously a management principle started by God with Adam and Eve. What people cannot appreciate is how there can be a difference in life-styles for saved people on New Earth and still have (Rev 21:4 RSV) "he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away."" Along with no envy, we just have to say there will be rewards and leave it to God. Note that Jesus is most serious that it is not good to have “no rewards” from the Father.  Christians are to seek to please the Father. (Heb 11:6 RSV)  "And without faith it is impossible to please him. For whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him." (2 John 1:8 RSV) "Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward."

MATT 6:2 To the Jews alms-giving was the greatest act of righteousness. But Jesus called them (Greek) play-actors because they did this good thing for the wrong reasons. The phrase “sound a trumpet” probably doesn’t mean a literal trumpet. A. T. Robertson reported that no actual evidence for a Jew using a trumpet for this purpose. So Jesus was probably using another hyperbole. It may mean a loud voice when giving alms so people around the giver will turn to see the giver in action.

MATT 6:3-4 Instead of considering what anyone else will say, the only one to please is the Father. Those who do it for people “have their reward” already. “Have” in Greek here means they really have what they are to get in rewards already as paid in full. But those who do it unto God do it in a secret manner to benefit people. But the Father “sees in secret” and rewards as He chooses. In all of these verses “openly” is not in the Greek. Thus the reward may not happen in this life-time any more than a sinner’s punishment may not be in his/her life-time. Yet most Christians want and expect “openly” to be true here and now. This doesn’t mean no one might not know, but that it is not to be done with advertisement to gain self-recognition. (1 Cor 3:11-12 RSV) "For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. {12} Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw."

MATT 6:5 Next to alms-giving, prayer was vital to the Jew in order to be righteous. The Jews had formal times of prayer at 9 a.m., noon, and 3 p.m. Many would make sure they were in a public place at those times since a Jew was supposed to stop and pray no matter what they were doing or where they were. In a real sense these were not prayers but dialogs of a play. The Greek for “love” here is philo or brotherly love. Jesus does not forbid public prayer if it is prayer. What is real prayer? It is a communications with the Father. (Mat 6:9-15 RSV) "Pray then like this: Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. {10} Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. {11} Give us this day our daily bread; {12} And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors; {13} And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil. {14} For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; {15} but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

MATT 6:6 As before, they already had their full reward. People want this verse to say Jesus means for Christians to pray only in secret and private in a literal closed room. This is not His meaning. Paul said to (1 Th 5:17 RSV) "pray constantly," which one cannot do only from a specific location. Thus Jesus is using this only as an emphasis that wherever you pray, do it to the Father and not for others. Pray as if you were in a closet. Then the Father will reward as He sees fit. Again “openly” is not in the Greek.

MATT 6:7 Most religions think repetition impresses and even wakes their gods so they will have their wishes granted. Note (Acts 19:34 RSV) "But when they recognized that he was a Jew, for about two hours they all with one voice cried out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!"" Hindus used pray wheels, drums, etc. to wave prayers at their gods. But all this is vain and empty and useless actions. These people really “think” or believe that this will work. They have faith in all they do.

MATT 6:8 But the Father wants a rational conversation. After all, the Father knows even better than you do what you “need.” Even so, he still wants us to come to him as a Father. After all, we are independent freewill creations after the likeness of the Trinity. The content of our prayer is to reflect this. Yet we need help from the Trinity to do so. (Rom 8:26-27 RSV) "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. {27} And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God." Thus there are right and wrong ways to prayer. Jesus said (Mat 18:19 RSV) "Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven." This seems to write Christians a blank check on prayer answers. However, this verse cannot be taken out of the context of (John 16:24 RSV) "Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full." (John 14:13-14 RSV) "Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son; {14} if you ask anything in my name, I will do it." Just what does it means to “ask in my name”? It means in keeping with His nature and will and work. What is the work of Jesus? (John 6:29 RSV) "Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."" (John 17:4 RSV) "I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do;"

MATT 6:16 The Mosaic law called for only one annual fast, this being on the Day of Atonement. (Lev 16:30 RSV) "for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to cleanse you; from all your sins you shall be clean before the LORD." The rabbis had added many other fasts by Jesus’ day. Sometimes Jesus fasted on these add-on days. The early churches often fasted. (Acts 13:2 RSV) "While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."" The issue again is the motive and methods used. Fasting had become an important way to seemly physically show how righteous one was. So they put on play-makeup and became made-up actors. They would put ashes (i.e. grease paint) on their faces and wear old clothes.

MATT 6:17-18 Jesus set himself over against this practice when it is none for display of self. Instead, the Christian faster is supposed to appear normal. No one should be able to know by looking that the Christian is fasting. The idea is a secret fast. True fasting is a matter of the heart. With the correct motive, fasting is a spiritually rewarding experience. Again “openly” is not in the best Greek.

            It is also important to note that in verses 2, 5-6, and 16 Jesus used the specific Greek word for “When” which is hotan. This word never refers to clock time but always conditions (time). Thus all these acts are to be done when our inner condition calls for them.

 

Marvin Ganote, Hobbs Study Class, Adult Teacher. ganotemd@outlook.com Home Page: http://dma1.org/~ganotemd/lesson.htm