What does Matthew 5:45 mean?
ESV: so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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.
NIV: that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
NASB: so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
CSB: so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
NLT: In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
KJV: That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
God loves everyone in the world, both the good people and those who are evil. How do we know that? Jesus offers one bit of evidence: God causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on everyone, no matter who they are or what they are guilty of. God is the provider, and He provides good in this way and countless other ways to all people.
Jesus has commanded His disciples to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them (Matthew 5:43–44). Now He gives one reason for doing so: this is to imitate God the Father, as earthly sons imitate their fathers. Jesus describes imitating the Father as a way to become one of His Sons.
Theologians refer to God's goodness to everyone, no matter who they are, as "common grace." Jesus has described His disciples as the "light of the world" (Matthew 5:14–16). God is the source of the light in His people. Born-again believers are the tools with which He distributes His light into the spiritual darkness of the world. One of the ways God shows His light through us is when believers love their enemies the way God loves them.
The big picture in this is that nobody is beyond God's redemption by grace through faith in Christ. Believers attract people to faith in Christ when they give good in exchange for evil, and when they pray for those who bring them pain.
Matthew 5:43–48 continues Jesus' teaching on love and humility, a part of the Sermon on the Mount. After commanding believers not to seek revenge in the face of insults, Jesus expands the idea of love to include one's enemies. Human beings naturally struggle with the idea of passively accepting persecution. We naturally recoil at the idea of expressing active love—in our deeds, not necessarily in our emotions—for those who hate and attack us. However, loving those who love you is easy; God's standards are higher.
The Sermon on the Mount contains some of Jesus' most challenging teaching. It begins with the unlikely blessings of the Beatitudes. Jesus' disciples must do good works in order to be a powerful influence: as the salt of the earth and light of the world. The superficial righteousness of the Pharisees is not good enough to earn heaven. Sins of the heart, such as angry insults and intentional lust, are worthy of hell just as much as adultery and murder. Easy divorce and deceptive oaths are forbidden. Believers should not seek revenge. Instead, God intends us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. In short, we should strive to be perfect, as God is perfect.
Matthew 5 follows Matthew's description of the enormous crowds that were following Jesus (Matthew 4:25). One day, Jesus sits down on a hill to teach them, in an address we now call the Sermon on the Mount. He describes as blessed those who are poor in spirit, who mourn, and who are persecuted. Christ also explains how God's standards of righteousness go far beyond behaviors and speech; they also include our thoughts and attitudes. Meeting God's standards means perfection. Chapter 6 continues this sermon, with more examples of Jesus clarifying God's intent for godly living.
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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