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THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS
Swear Not at All
Victor M. Eskew
A. When people study the Bible, they often lift portions of verses from their context in an attempt to prove a point (e.g., judging, Matt. 7:1).
B. In our study today, this is often done. In Matthew 5:34, Jesus says: “But I say unto you, Swear not at all…”
1. These words are lifted from a five verse context.
2. Some believe and teach that it is wrong to take an oath in a court of law promising to tell the truth.
C. At set of questions:
1. In this section of the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus contrasting New Testament teaching with Old Testament teaching?
2. Or, is Jesus seeking to correct the rabbinical interpretations of the Law of Moses.
a. I believe that He is seeking to correct the teachings of the religious leaders of His day concerning the Law.
b. Matthew 5:17-20
1. Think not that I am come to destroy the law
2. Whosoever shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven…
3. “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
D. Jesus then proceeds to give illustrations of His statement.
1. Each illustration begins with the words: “Ye have heard that is was said…”
2. He corrects the teaching and begins the correction with: “But I say unto you...”
I. FORSWEARING CONDEMNED (Matt. 5:33)
Again, ye have heard that it hath been said, by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths.
A. The Jews knew and the leaders taught that the Old Testament authorized oaths.
1. Deuteronomy 6:13
Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God, and serve him, and shalt sware by his name.
2. Leviticus 19:12
And ye shall not swear by my name falsely; neither shalt thou profane the name of thy God: I am the Lord.
B. If an oath was made in the name of Jehovah, it was to be performed.
C. Forswearing involves perjury.
a. Epi – against orkas – an oath
b. To undo one’s swearing (Vine’s)
c. To swear falsely
2. The Jews plainly taught: “Thou shalt not forswear thyself.”
3. To break an oath said “in the name of God” was a serious offense.
II. FAULTY SWEARING CONFRONTED (Matt. 5:34-36)
But I say unto you, Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God’s throne: nor by the earth; for it is his footstool: neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King. Neither shalt thou swear by thy head, because thou canst not make one hair white or black.
A. Jesus knew of a whole different category of oaths taught by the rabbis. “…that while the Jews professedly adhered to the law, they had introduced a number of oaths in common conver-sation, and oaths which they by no means considered binding” (e-sword, Barnes).
B. These oaths were witnessed or attested to by things other than God: heaven, earth, Jerusalem, or one’s physical head.
1. “It was customary and usual among them to swear by the creatures. ‘If any swear by heaven, by earth, by the sun, etc., although the mind of the swearer be, under these words, to swear by Him who created them, yet this is not an oath. Or, if any swear by some of the prophets, or by some of the books of the Scripture, although the sense of the swearer be to swear by Him that sent that prophet, or that gave that book, nevertheless, this is not an oath. Maimonides.” (as quoted by Clarke, e-sword).
2. “If any adjure another by heaven or earth, he is not guilty. Talmud” (as quoted by Clarke, e-sword).
C. With regard to these types of oaths, Jesus commands: “Swear not at all.”
1. They would swear by these things.
a. Knowing what they were saying is not true.
b. Knowing that they would not perform the oath.
c. Peter (Matt. 26:74).
Then began he to curse and swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew.
1) Peter swore knowing that he knew Jesus.
2) He swore with a common swearing done by all Jews. This swearing was not considered binding.
a. They could swear by these things and there was no penalty for a failure to follow through.
b. These oaths became common place and used often. The Jews swore so much that the dread and the obligation of an oath were utterly lost in it (e-sword, Clarke).
D. Jesus shows the ridiculousness of their casual and meaningless swearing.
1. All of the things they swore by were closely connected to God.
a. “…to trifle with these things was a species of trifling with God” (e-sword, Barnes).
b. They were treating things created by God and connected to God with disrespect and irreverence.
2. The list given by Jesus.
a. Heaven: It is God’s throne (Matt. 23:22).
And he that shall swear by heaven, sweareth by the throne of God, and by him that sitteth in heaven.
b. Earth: it is his footstool
1) Since the earth is created by God, it belongs to Him.
2) To swear by it, it the same as swearing by God.
c. Jerusalem: it is the city of the great King
1) Jerusalem is the city where God put His name (I Kings 11:36).
2) To swear by it is to swear by God.
d. Head: for thou canst make one hair white or black
1) God is in control of the human body. It is His creation.
2) To swear by one’s head it to swear by God.
3. Rather than swearing by things that involved God, He counsels them to swear not at all.
a. Their swearing was meaningless.
b. Their swearing really connected them to God.
c. Their swearing really brought them into condemnation.
III. FAITHFUL COMMUNICATION (Matt. 5:37)
But let your conversation be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.
1. Strong (3056): something said
2. Thayer: of speech, a word, uttered by a living voice…what someone has said.
3. Vine: a word, that which is spoken
B. Clarke: “That is, a positive affirmation, or negative, according to your knowledge of the matter concerning which you are called to testify. Do not equivocate; mean what you assert, and adhere to your assertion” (e-sword).
C. More than just truthful affirmation or negatives come from evil, that is, “proceeds from an evil disposition or purpose” (Barnes, e-sword).
1. Profane swearing comes from a depraved heart.
2. No man is believed any sooner conversation because he swears to a thing.
3. It is no mark of a Christian, or, a gentleman to swear.
4. Profaners do no one any good.
5. God will not hold the profane swearer guiltless.
B. Our Savior here evidently had no reference to judicial oaths, or oaths taken in a court of justice. It was merely the foolish and wicked habit of swearing in private conversation; of swearing on every occasion and by everything that he condemned” (Barnes, e-sword).
1. Jesus did not refuse an oath in a court of law (Matt. 26:63-64).
2. Paul called God to his witness (Rom. 1:9; 9:1; Gal. 1:20; Heb. 6:16).
3. Christ did not repeal the oaths prescribed in the Law of Moses (Exo. 22:11; Lev. 5:1; Deut. 29:12, 14).