3. Law and Grace, 5:1-7:29

iv] Piety - almsgiving, prayer and fasting


Matthew's account of the Sermon on the Mount continues with instruction on practicing personal piety, v1, almsgiving, v2-4, prayer, v5-15, and finally fasting, v16-18.


Pure religion and undefiled is only found in the purity of Christ, but at the same time we are bound to strive to be what we are in him.


i] Context: See 5:1-10.


ii] Structure: Almsgiving, prayer and fasting:

General exhortation, v1;

Do not do righteous deeds for the affirmation of others.

Almsgiving, v1-4:

Negative instructions, v2;

Positive instructions, v3-4.

Prayer, v5-15:

Negative instructions, v5;

Positive instructions, v6.

In secret, v6;

Meaningful prayer, v7-8

Example - The Lord's Prayer, v9-13.

A note on forgiving others, v14-15.

Fasting, v16-18:

Negative instructions, v16;

Positive instructions, v17-18.


iii] Interpretation:

In the passage before us Matthew investigates the three key practices of Jewish piety: almsgiving, prayer and fasting. These are defined as acts of righteousness, which in the context means acts of piety (although possibly "acts of righteousness" in v1 may specifically refer to "almsgiving"). Jesus expected his disciples to continue with these expressions of Jewish piety, but taught that they only have worth when done as a service to God. Piety is valueless in itself, and more so when done "before men, to be seen by them", ie., as an "instrument of pride and self-seeking", Cox.


The Righteousness that exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees: As detailed in the notes on chapter 5, Jesus expounds God's law in the terms of radical perfection; it is a law which transcends the law of the Sinai covenant, a law which demands a righteousness exceeding that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus "fulfills" the law, he completes the law, revealing God's law in all its perfection. As such, the sermon reminds us that apart from Christ we are lost, for the perfection demanded of God's law is beyond any human effort, except that of Christ. Christ's new law undermines any claim to self righteousness, for who can "be perfect .... as your heavenly Father is perfect", Matt.5:48? So, the Sermon on the Mount forces us to recognize that we have built our life on sand and so face disaster; we have heard God's perfect law, but have failed to do it. Gladly, Christ has done it and in his righteousness, on his rock, we can stand secure in that awful day.

In chapter 6 exceeding righteousness continues to be used as an instrument to expose sin. Jesus does this by laying bare our tendency toward hollow religiosity. Who can claim not to display their piety in front of their fellow believers? Yet, more seems to be at play. The ethical function of the law, that of guiding the Christian life, seems more evident. The law serves both functions, often both together, so when it comes to personal piety, we rest on the purity of Christ, but at the same time we strive to be what we are in him.

The move from the exceeding righteousness of the law to the issue of piety, may be the first step in Matthew's answer to the problem posed by the impossible requirements of the law. By drawing together sayings of Jesus on the issue of piety, Matthew is indicating that the answer to the problem lies with a personal relationship with God, rather than a striving for perfection.


iv] Synoptics:

The passage is unique to Matthew, best viewed as taken from the oral tradition available to him rather than a product of his own imagination (redactional).


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

Text - 6:1

i] Practicing personal piety, v1. When Jesus calls on his disciples not to "make a show of your religion", NEB, he is telling them to "do what is right" (in the piety department), he is telling them not to seek the praise/reward of others. It's fairly obvious that Jesus is drawing on the practice of the so called "righteous", the self-righteous, the churchies of his day, the most prominent being the Pharisees. Their piety serves as the model of what not to do.

de "-" but/and. Variant reading, transitional, indicating a step in the narrative / argument; "now, moving on, make certain ...."

prosecete (prosecw) pres. imp. "be careful" - watch out, beware, take heed. Constant carefulness is required; "give careful attention to", Morris.

mh poiein (poiew) pres. inf. "not to do" - not to do = demonstrate. The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what they should give care to; "that you not do = make a public performance of your goodness", Barclay

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - [the righteousness] of you. The genitive is possessive.

thn dikaiosunhn (h) "acts of righteousness" - the righteousness. Accusative direct object of the infinitive "to do." Here "acts of piety, religious duty, devotions.....", but it can also be rendered "to do what is right", cf. 1Jn.2:29, ie. Jesus may well be concerned with the substance (doing with is right) rather than the outward form (outward acts of piety). In the LXX the word is often rendered "alms", which, given the context, may be the sense here.

emprosqen + gen. "before [men]" - Local, expressing space, "in the presence of"; "to perform your good works publicly", Berkeley.

proV to + inf. "-" - toward = with the aim. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose; "in order to be seen."

autoiV dat. pro. "by them" - [to be seen] by them. The dative is instrumental, expressing agency.

ei de mh ge "if you do" - but if indeed not = otherwise [you have no reward]. A construction common to Luke; usually ei de mh in Mark. Expressing a "hypothetical result", "what would happen if the preceding statement were true", Culy, namely, "you would have no reward from your Father in heaven."

para + dat. "from" - with [the farther of you]. Local, expressing space, "in the sight of, in the presence of", or probably better, association, "you will have no reward with your Father who is in heaven", Morris.

tw/ dat. art. "[in heaven]" - the one [in heaven]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in the heavens" into an attributive modifier, limiting "Father"; "your Father who is in heaven", ESV, or simply "your heavenly Father", Berkeley.


ii] Instructions on almsgiving, v2-4. Almsgiving, as with the other two acts of piety, is a particularly Jewish religious practice. Note how Jesus makes the same four points with all three acts of piety:

don't do them to gain the praise of others;

ignore this warning and all we get is the praise of others;

piety is best performed in secret;

what is performed in secret receives God's reward.

Special festivals were proclaimed by the sounding of trumpets and so this was a good time to make a show of generosity toward the poor. Jesus expects his disciples to give alms, but not "as the hypocrites." There are different degrees of hypocrisy. We can act to fool others, fool ourselves, or fool ourselves and others. With each we get the reward we deserve, sometimes even high praise, although not from God. The right motive for alms-giving is compassion; such stems from the heart and is for the recipient's benefit, irrespective of the onlookers. As for the reward, perfect righteousness is always rewarded, although only one person has ever received the reward for selfless compassion. As the line from the B grade movie The Henderson Monster put it, "even our most noble motivations cannot tolerate close inspection."

oun "so" - therefore. Inferential, establishing a logical connection.

oJtan + subj. "when" - Introducing a temporal clause, indefinite future; "whenever".

poih/V (poiew) pres. subj. "you give" - you do. do alms = give alms. Singular "thou". Jesus is making the point that an act of piety can easily be polluted by an outward show undertaken to gain the applause / admiration of others. These words provide guidance to disciples on how to be something of what we are in Christ.

elehmosunhn (h) "alms" - Accusative direct object of the verb "to do." One of the key acts of piety for a Jew.

mh salpishV (salpizw) aor. subj. "do not announce it with trumpets" - do not trumpet [before you]. Subjunctive of prohibition. Possibly figurative, "don't blow your own trumpet." May refer to the trumpet-shaped offertory receptacles in the temple. Carson argues for the sounding of trumpets on feast days when large crowds could witness the alms-giving of the devout.

w{sper "as" - like. Comparative conjunction serving to introduce a comparative clause; "as the hypocrites do."

oiJ uJpokritai (hV) "the hypocrites" - actors who play a role throughout life, hypocrites [do]. Nominative subject of the verb "to do." They may fool others by pretending goodness when they are evil, but they will also fool themselves if they believe that their actions are done for God's sake.

en + dat. "in [the synagogues]" - Local, expressing space.

o{pwV + subj. "to be [honored]" - that [they may be honored]. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose; "[in order] to win popular applause", Barclay.

uJpo + gen. "by [men]" - Instrumental, expressing agency, as NIV.

amhn legw "I tell [you] the truth" - truly I say. A statement used by Jesus to reinforce what he is about to say.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object.

apecousin (apecw) pres. "they have received [their reward] in full" - they are obtaining in full [the reward of them]. The hypocrite receives the praise of those they desire praise from, and so have received their reward in full.


de "but" - but/and. Transitional, probably adversative, serving to contrast the behavior of believers with that of the hypocrites. Note the emphatic sou, "you".

poiountoV ( poiew) gen. pres. part. "when you give [to the needy]" - doing [alms]. Genitive absolute participle serving to introduce a temporal clause. The point is simple enough, charity should not be done outwardly for the praise of others.

mh gnwtw (ginwskw) aor. imp. "do not let [your left hand] know" - do not let know [the left hand of you what the right hand of you does]. Possibly a proverbial saying used to reinforce secrecy. "Christian giving is to be marked by self-sacrifice and self-forgetfulness, not by self-congratulation", Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount. Thank you John for this impossible ideal! Jesus can rightly set ideals, preachers should the resist the temptation!


o{pwV + subj. "so that [your giving may be]" - that [the alms of you may be]. This construction usually expresses purpose, "in order that", or hypothetical result, "so that." Note that the genitive sou, "of you", is usually viewed as verbal, subjective, "the alms give by you."

en + dat. "in [secret]" - The preposition here is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of the giving.

kai "then" - and. Coordinative; "and".

sou gen. pro. "your [Father]" - [the father] of you. The genitive is adjectival, relational. An important theological truth.

o blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "who sees [what is done in secret]" - the one seeing [in secret]. The participle may be treated as adjectival, but better as a substantive introducing a noun clause standing in apposition to "Father".

apodwsei (apodidwmi) fut. "will reward" - will repay, give back, reward. The meaning here is "pay back", Bonnard; "do this and this will follow", Beyer. There is reward in the Christian life, but it is a truth held in tension (as are many truths, eg., God's sovereignty and human freewill). In principle "God notices what his children do and responds to it", Morris. Yet, "the person who looks for reward, and who calculates that it is due to him, does not receive it; the person whose only motive is love, and who never thinks that he has deserved any reward, does, in fact, receive it", Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew.

soi dat. pro. "you" - Dative of indirect object.


iii] Instructions on prayer, v5-15. a) Prayer, v5-6. Jesus makes the same four points as noted above. The focus of his criticism is again on hypocrisy; that state where the outward act of piety does not represent the true state of the inward self. Jesus is not arguing for a particular stance in prayer, nor a particular place. He simply exposes our corrupt motivations by identifying our tendency to spend more time praying in public than in private.

oJtan + subj. "when [you pray]" - [and] whenever [you pray]. This construction introduces a temporal clause, indefinite time; "whenever". Possibly referring to the three daily hours of prayer.

ouk esesqe (eimi) fut. "do not be" - The future tense serves here as an imperative.

wJV "like" - as, like [the hypocrites]. Serving to introduce a comparative clause.

oJti "for" - Possibly introducing a causal clause, "because", as NIV, so Gundry, but probably better taken as introducing a epexegetic noun clause that defines the actions of the hypocrites which a disciple should not emulate; "when you pray, you must not take the hypocrites for your model, men who, when they wish to engage in prayer, love to take up their stand in the synagogues ..... their purpose being to attract the notice of their fellow men", Cassirer.

filousin (filew) pres. "they love" - Here in the sense of hooked on the drug of the praise of others, ie., a durative present tense.

proseucesqai (proseucomai) pres. inf. "to pray" - The infinitive introduces an object clause / dependent statement of cause expressing what the hypocrites (those "whose religion consists of ostentatious play-acting", Barclay) "love" to do. "They love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at street-corners so that people may see them at it", Phillips.

eJstwteV (iJsthmi) perf. part. "standing" - having been standing. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner of their praying; standing in synagogues ...." Standing, at this time, was the normal position for prayer.

en + dat. "in ... on ..." - in [the synagogues and] on [the corners of the streets]. Local, expressing space.

o{pwV + subj. "to [be seen]" - that [they may be seen]. This construction introduces a final clause expressing purpose.

toiV anqrwpoiV dat. "by men" - by men [truly I say to you, they have the reward of them]. The dative is instrumental. Note that the genitive pronoun autwn, "of them", is usually classified as verbal, objective; the reward for their behavior has already been bestowed on them, namely, the praise of their associates.


de "but" - but/and [you]. Transitional, adversative, "but"; "instead of this", Cassirer. Note the emphatic use of the pronoun su, "you"; "but you, when you pray."

oJtan + subj. "when [you pray]" - Introducing an indefinite temporal clause; "whenever".

to tamieion (on) "room" - [enter into] the store room, inner room [of you]. Public prayer is not forbidden. The point is that personal prayer should done privately with God, not publicly to gain the attention and therefore, the accolades of others. "Prayer does not exist where man's aim is self-promotion", Filson.

kleisaV (kleiw) aor. part. "close [the door]" - [and] having shut [the door of you]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the imperative verb "pray [to your Father]", as NIV, although possibly adverbial, temporal; "and when thou hast shut the door", AV.

tw/ patri (hr roV) "to [your] Father" - [pray] to the father [of you]. We might expect proV + acc., "toward [the Father]", or even a genitive "of the Father", objective?, but here dative, indirect object (ie., the Father receives the content of the prayer), or interest (the prayer is for the Father).

tw/ dat. art. "who [is unseen]" - the one [in the secret place]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in secret" into an attributive modifier limiting "Father". Not so much in the sense that God exists in a secret place, eg., heaven, but that even in a secret place chosen for prayer, even there God is present, cf. Nolland.

oJ blepwn (blepw) pres. part. "who sees" - [and the father of you] the one seeing. The participle may serve to introduce a noun clause standing in apposition to "Father", although probably better treated as adjectival, attributive, limiting "Father"; "your Father who sees in secret", ESV.

en "in [secret]" - in [the hidden place]. Expressing space. God is found in the secret places.

soi dat. pro. "[will reward] you" - [will give back] to you. Dative of indirect object / interest.


b) Meaningful prayer, v7-8. With regard repetitious prayer, even though Jesus uses the word "pagans", his focus is still on Israel. Such prayer is pagan-like because pagan religion rests on incantation and repetition. Repetition is unnecessary for a father who knows the needs of his family and teaches them to ask in confidence and trust, cf., Hill. Of course, Jesus is not denouncing long prayers or repetition as such, rather length or repetition, as a divine arm-bending exercise, is unnecessary.

proseucomenoi (prosercomai) pres. part. "when you pray" - [but] praying. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV.

mh battalognshte (battalogew) aor. subj. "do not keep on babbling" - do not utter empty words. Subjunctive of prohibition. Possibly a reference to heathen incantations, or flowery repetitious requests.

w{sper "like" - as, like [the gentiles]. Here introducing a comparative clause.

gar "for" - More reason than cause, here explaining the reason for their babbling, namely, they think "that they will be heard for their many words", ESV.

oJti "-" - [they think] that. Introducing a dependent statement of perception expressing what the pagans / Gentiles think.

en + dat. "because of" - in [the wordiness of them they will be heard]. The NIV, as with Barclay, etc., take the preposition here as causal, "because of", although instrumental, "by, with", is more likely; "they think that by using many words they will be heard", NJB.


oun "-" - therefore. Drawing a logical conclusion / inferential.

mh ... oJmoiwqhte (oJmoiow) aor. pas. subj. "do not be like" - Subjunctive of prohibition, ie., "don't pray as they do using flowery blah, blah, blahs." Obviously repetition in itself is not prohibited, cf. 26:39-44, nor length, Lk.6:12, but rather the notion that repetition and/or length will somehow bend the will of God.

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - Dative of direct object after the verb "make like", used without wJV, "like".

gar "for" - Introducing a causal clause explaining why believers don't need to use pagan babble in prayer, "because your Father knows your needs before you ask him."

w|n gen. rel. pro. "what [you need]" - [the father of you knows] of what things [you have need]. This pronoun introduces a relative clause. The genitive is adjectival, limiting the knowledge which the Father knows, so epexegetic, specifying what the Father knows. As Morris points out, given that God knows what we need before we ask, we pray, "not to inform the Father on matters of which he is ignorant, but to worship him." Christians pray "to alert themselves to seek Him, to exercise their faith by meditating upon His promises, unburdening their cares by lifting themselves into His bosom and finally to testify that from Him alone, all good for themselves and for others is hoped and asked", Calvin.

pro tou + inf. "before [you ask him]" - This preposition with the genitive articular infinitive serves to introduce a temporal clause, antecedent time, "before".


c) The Lord's prayer, v9-13. It would seem that, at this point, Jesus gives his disciples a model prayer (ou{twV "thus, so, in this way" = "how you should pray") rather than a prayer for constant repetition - although its constant repetition is by no means barred. The prayer takes a liturgical forms, a form which has shaped the worship of the Christian church. It has a threefold structure: i] address; ii] petition - a) intercession for God's person and will - that his name be honored, his kingdom come and his will be done; b) supplication for self - for daily bread, forgiveness and protection from the evil one; (iii] doxology - here left open ended). The petitions are clearly matters of God's intended purpose and as such are according to his will, ie., the petitions consist of those things which we may rightly ask of God in the full knowledge that we will receive what we have asked. There are, of course, other matters which are according to God's will (scriptural propositions that apply to all people in ages) that may rightly be included in this form of prayer, although it should be noted that the usual list of suspects (health, wealth and happiness) is missing, and rightly so. Not that we can't pray for uncle Fred's bunions, but only to testify that from Him alone, all good for ourselves and others is hoped and asked.

The verbs in the prayer are aorist, serving to express aspect rather than time, although as a matter of form, the aorist is most often used in prayers. Note in particular the aorist subjunctive mh eisenegkh/V, "lead [us] not", serving as a subjunctive of prohibition, which along with alla, "but", forms a counterpoint construction, "not this ....... but that." See v13.

ou{twV oun "This, then is how" - therefore, [you pray] thus. The modal adverb ou{twV, "in this manner", "implies that what follows is more an example of how to pray instead of a formula to be mechanically repeated", D&A. The conjunction oun, "therefore", is inferential, drawing a logical conclusion from the instruction not to babble on in prayer, which conclusion is supplied by the Lord's model prayer, v7-8. "In this manner, therefore, you are to pray."

uJmeiV "you" - Nominative subject of the verb "to pray." Not including Jesus, as the prayer is for his disciples.

pater (pathr, pathroV) voc. "Father" - daddy. Vocative. An intimate term, although not frivolous, ie., "dad" would not be appropriate.

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Local, expressing space; "who lives in heaven / rules over heaven."

aJgiasqhtw (aJgiazw) aor. pas. imp. "hallowed" - make sacred. Here not of making God holy, but that he be regarded, recognized as holy; "may your name be held in reverence", Barclay.

onoma (a atoV) "name" - the name [of you]. Nominative subject of the verb "to make sacred." The name of God is God himself; a person is not separate from their name.


hJ basileia (a) "[your] kingdom" - [let come] the kingdom [of you]. Nominative subject of the imperative "let come." The dynamic rule / reign of God over his people, with its attendant blessings, as promised in the covenant and realized in Christ; "the eternal order into which it is our duty and privilege to enter", Cox. See "kingdom of heaven", 3:2.

elqatw (ercomai) aor. imp. "come" - The aorist, being punctiliar, implies a singular act, although in terms of now / not yet. "Let the kingdom (of God) come for us, burst in upon us, dawn, be inaugurated / realized."

qelhma (a atoV) "will" - [let be done] the will, desire [of you]. Nominative subject of the imperative "let be done." Missing from the Lukan version. Possibly God's righteous requirements, but more likely his intrusion into human history to gather a people to himself (a kingdom) by grace through faith. "The prayer looks for the perfect accomplishment of what God wills", Morris.

epi + gen. "on [earth]" - [as in heaven also] upon [earth]. Spacial.

kai "-" - This conjunction is sometimes used in comparative constructions, as here, wJV, "as [it is done in heaven]", kai, so, thus, in this manner (= ou{twV) [upon earth]", cf. BDF 453:1.

wJV "as" - as, like. Comparative. "Whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth", Ps.135:6. God's intentions are fulfilled, both in heaven and earth, and thus may rightly be prayed for. It is usually assumed that God's will has been fulfilled in heaven and that the prayer is asking that His intentions may also be fulfilled on earth, so "on earth as it is in heaven." I had an ongoing debate with a friend over some 20 years, a friend now with the Lord, over whether Satan's rebellion has stained heaven as well as earth. I contended that the rebellion is primarily found in the spiritual domain and that it has spilled over into the created order. From the created order, through Christ and the new creation, the spiritual domain is restored, thus "both in heaven and earth", D&A. My friend was never convinced because he was looking for peace in heaven, not a continuation of spiritual warfare. Both of us will soon be privy to the mystery.

en + dat. "in [heaven]" - Local, expressing space.


doV (didwmi) aor. imp. "give" - Note punctiliar aorist.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - to us. Dative of indirect object / interest.

shmeron adv. "today" - Temporal adverb. Luke uses a distributive construction kaq hJmeran, "day by day."

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [bread] of us. The genitive is adjectival, idiomatic, "the bread which is pomised us."

ton epiousion adj. "daily" - the next day, daily. Accusative complement of the direct object "bread" standing in a double accusative construction. The meaning of this word is unclear since its usage is rare. D&A list the four favored meanings, often devised by derivation:

• "[give us today the bread] necessary or needful for existence", "my needful bread", Allen, "the bread we need", Mounce, epi ousia. A similar sense may possibly derive from the Aramaic, "the bread of our necessity"; "give us each day sufficient bread", Beare;

• "for the current day, today, daily", epi thn ousa;

• "that which belongs to it, that comes to it", epienai.

• "for the coming or following day" = today (morning prayer), tomorrow (evening prayer), possibly just "give us our bread day by day", hJ epiousa;

Most commentators opt for the last option, D&A, Morris, Nolland, Luz, Carson ("give us today the food we need"), Blomberg ("the next day's provision of life's essentials"), McNeile, France ("daily provision"), Schnackenburg, ... with some suggesting the possibility that "the bread of tomorrow" requires an eschatological interpretation, namely, a prayer that "asks for the present realization of the blessing of the eschaton", Hagner, "the nourishment of the Messianic banquet", Hill.

ton arton (oV) "bread" - the food. Accusative direct object of the imperative verb "to give". It is important to note that this, the first request for ourselves in the Lord's prayer, sits with our requests for God's name to be honored, his kingdom to come, and his will to be done. So, it is likely that the request is for those resources that can aid us in the honoring of God's name and in working to realize his kingdom and his will. Instructions concerning prayer in the scriptures are limited to those things God has promised to give us when requested, therefore it is highly unlikely that Jesus is telling us to pray for the provision of our daily sustenance when there is no promise for the daily provision of food for believers. So, this request is for the provision of manna during our wilderness journey to the promised land, a request for the necessary resources for our service to the Lord. Such resources cannot be defined, since they depend on the particular circumstances of the service we perform within the sovereign will of God. The requirements for this service are known to God, but may well not be known to us. In fact, our list of needs is likely to bear little resemblance to God's list. "Give us the resources necessary to achieve your will."


afeV (afihmi) aor. imp. "forgive" - [and] remit, forgive, let go, pardon. Remove guilt. Clearly again a prayer request that is according to God's will and therefore granted. Some argue that the request is for eschatological forgiveness, but now / not yet probably applies.

hJmin dat. pro. "us" - to us. Dative of interest, advantage; "for us."

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - of us. The genitive may be taken as adjectival, possessive, or verbal, subjective.

ta ofeilhmata (a atoV) "debts" - debt, what is owed, shortcomings = sins, transgressions. Accusative direct object of the imperative verb "to forgive." Luke has "sins" and it is most likely Matthew has used "debts" as a term for sins. It is not used in the sense of money owed to others. The word is rare, but is used by Paul in the sense of debt / obligation in Rom.4:4.

wJV "as" - as, like. Comparative. The exact sense here of this comparative conjunction has prompted numerous interpretations, cf. Matthew's expansion of this qualification, v14-15:

• Most commentators take the view that our willingness to forgive is a condition for God's forgiveness; "pardon can only be given to those who are prepared to bestow it themselves", Cox, "though God prefers the coinage of mercy, he will deal with us in the coinage with which we have chosen to deal with others", Nolland, so also D&A, France. This is qualified by taking the condition "as an aspiration rather than a limitation, or none of us would be forgiven", Morris. Still, "mere good intentions are not enough", Schweizer.

• Still in the terms of a condition, Gundry states that "forgiveness of others demonstrates sincerity in asking forgiveness from God." Moule, in As we forgive, defines the condition as a necessary capacity to enable the reception of divine forgiveness. Divine forgiveness depends on "adopting an attitude which makes forgiveness possible.... Real repentance, as contrasted with a merely self-regarding remorse, is certainly a sin qua non of receiving forgiveness - an indispensable condition." So also Carson, Stott.

• The clause may serve to remind us that we can't perfectly forgive and that therefore, our only hope lies in God's forgiveness / mercy. An awareness of our own incapacity to act mercifully is a necessary prerequisite for the reception of God's mercy. This is surely the point of the parable of the unforgiving servant, not that we should be merciful, but that like the unforgiving servant, we are anything but merciful. None-the-less, it seems far too subtle that Jesus would, at this point, use the law to expose sin and so motivate a desire for mercy;

• The clause may possibly serve to test our acceptance of God's forgiveness. A forgiven person is inclined to forgive, not perfectly, but inclined none-the-less. If we are without mercy then this may indicate that we have yet to receive God's mercy;

• Of course, Jesus may be referring here, not to a condition, but a reverse consequence; the forgiven person forgives. Again, it is not a matter of perfection, but rather of inclination. We forgive, not perfectly, but we forgive because Jesus first forgave us. Luz (see also Hagner and Beare) heads in this direction, giving afhkamen a perfect sense rather than aorist (see below) and so viewing God's action of forgiveness as prior to the forgiving of the forgiven. The principle of God's prior grace operative in his children is well established in the scriptures such that here the causal / consecutive link is probably to be viewed in reverse, namely, a person forgives because they are forgiven / as a result of being forgiven. This interpretation has much to commend it. See v14 below;

• I personally favor the view that wJV here introduces a concrete example, so serving to promote a "how much more" idea, cf., the parable of the midnight guest. If even the most selfish person can forgive the failings of others sometimes, we can only but imagine how much more God can forgive. Our limited efforts serve to highlight God's perfect forgiveness; "forgive us our failings Lord, given that even we can sometimes forgive the failings of others." The wJV could also be causal, although such a usage is rare; "because even we ......"

hJmeiV pro. "we" - [also] we. Emphatic use of the pronoun.

kai "also" - Possibly adjunctive, as NIV, but it may well be ascensive here; "even we."

afhkamen (afihmi) aor. "have forgiven" - Punctiliar aorist. In Luke's version of the prayer he uses a present tense, obviously durative; "as we keep on forgiving." "As we also herewith forgive our debtors", Jeremias, taking the aorist as an attempted rendition of the Aramaic perfect with performative force.

hJmwn gen. pro. "our" - [the debtors] of us. The genitive is usually viewed here as verbal, objective; "as we forgive those who owe anything to us", Phillips.

toiV afeiletaiV (hV ou) dat. "debtors" - the debtors. Dative of interest, advantage, "for the debtors."


mh eisenegkh/V (eisferw) aor. subj. "lead [us] not" - [and] do not lead into, bring [us]. A subjunctive of prohibition. Possibly reflective in meaning, "do not let us be brought into / fall victim to ....", but the stronger sense is more likely; "do not submit us to ...", Barclay.

eiV "into" - Here expressing goal / end view.

peirasmon (oV) "temptation" - temptation, testing. The first clause of the sixth prayer item, "do not bring us into temptation", has prompted numerous interpretations. The last suggested interpretation is most likely the intended sense, although it is not widely accepted:

• Given that it is unlikely that Jesus is instructing us to pray that we not be led into temptation, since he has promised that we will constantly face temptation, the request may be that we don't succumb to temptation or that the temptation be limited and a way of escape provided;

• Many suggest that the word means "test" rather than "tempt." There are numerous times of testing, just as in the sense of temptation above. So, Jesus may be instructing us to pray that we do not confront a situation (a test, trial) that overwhelms our faith and thus our salvation. Such a prayer is supported by the scriptural promise of the Shepherd's eternal protection;

• Some suggest that the test is the time of trial, the tribulation of the last day, but the word is not used of the tribulation. The NEB implies this meaning in its "do not bring us to the test." New versions of the Lord's Prayer push toward a similar eschatological meaning, eg., "save us from the time of trial." Most people, faced with this new line to the Lord's Prayer, are left floundering as to its meaning.

• The word "temptation", of being led into a situation of evil where we end up being abandoned by God, is probably the intended sense of peirasmon. . Of course, God would not do such a thing, which fact is drawn out in the counterpoint construction mh ..... alla, "not ....... but ...." - "don't do that (subjunctive of prohibition) [and we know that you wouldn't], but do this." In English this idea my be better expressed "rather than that ...... this"; "rather than being caught up in temptation, loss and ultimate destruction, keep us safe from the evil one's snare." The retention of the translation "temptation" brings us closer to the truth than "testing".

alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "not .... but ....."; See above.

rJusai (rJuomai) aor. imp. "deliver" - deliver, spare, rescue. The meaning will depend on how we have understood the first clause. For example, if we face testing then we are asking for protection, but if we face the tribulation then we are asking for rescue.

apo + gen. "from" - Expressing separation; "away from."

tou ponhrou (oV) "the evil one" - This can be masculine or neuter, "the evil one" or "evil". "The evil one" fits best.


d) A note on forgiving others, v14-15. Matthew has stitched this independent saying to the Lord's prayer in order to exegete the qualification on forgiveness, "as we also have forgiven our debtors." A similar saying is found in Mk.11:25. The word ofeilhma, "debt", v12, is more explicit with the use of paraptwma, "trespass, transgression, sin." It seems likely that the saying represents a further example of Jesus' "completion / fulfillment" of the law in establishing a need for righteousness which exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees. The prime purpose of Jesus' ideals is to expose sin and thus the need for a righteousness that is apart from the Law, ie., an eschatological purpose. There has only ever been one truly merciful person, and on the day of judgment we would be well advised to stand behind him. The secondary function of Jesus' ideals is to guide the Christian life, ie., an ethical purpose. The saying dramatically exposes the absurd notion that a believer can with one hand receive divine mercy, but with the other deny it. As is always the case with Biblical ethics, the issue is one of orientation, not perfection. So, the saying counters the idea that Jesus, in the Lord's prayer, is saying "forgive us our debts just like we also have forgiven our debtors." To pray that prayer is to seal our damnation. I am lost if God's forgiveness of me is in any way related to my pathetic capacity to forgive those who have hurt me, or hurt those I care for. I well remember a brother explaining how he was hurt by another boy at school. He told me how he had forgiven him, but how he had never forgotten what he had done, and for that very reason went on to tell me the story. Thankfully God remembers not our sins; such is His forgiveness.

gar "for" - More reason than cause, explaining the qualification of v12.

ean + subj. "if [you forgive]" - Introducing a conditional clause, 3rd. class, where the condition has the possibility of coming true; "if, as may be the case, .... then ....."

toiV anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "men" - Dative of interest, advantage; "for men."

paraptwmata (a atoV) "when they sin against you" - the sins, transgressions, trespasses [of them]. Accusative direct object of the verb "to forgive."

uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - The genitive is relational.

oJ ouranioV adj. "heavenly" - "Heavenly Father", rather than "Father in heaven", v9.

kai "also" - [will forgive] also. Adjunctive.

uJmin dat. pro. "you" - Dative of interest, advantage; "forgive for you".


de "but" - but/and. Transitional, here adversative / contrastive.


iv] Instructions on fasting, v16-18. Fasting. Again, the four points are repeated. Fasting provides an excellent opportunity to gain a reputation for piety. The best way to eliminate this hypocrisy is to fast in secret. In Jewish piety it was used in association with confession, or some special prayer need, and was taken into the Christian faith by Jewish believers as an expression of self-discipline, 1Cor.9:24-27, Phil.3:19, 1Pet.4:3. Jesus obviously assumes his disciples will fast after his departure, Matt.9:14-17. Making a show of their piety, that's the problem. It seems unlikely that fasting is being linked to prayer as if it facilitates prayer in some way, although this view is widely held, see Hendriksen. Fasting is enjoined in scripture, but at the same time "God does not delight in sackcloth and ashes, but in the fast which looses the bonds of wickedness", D&A, cf. Isa.58, Jer.4:12, Zech.7:5-7. So, freshen up; use some oil to brighten the face.

de "-" - but/and. Here transitional, indicating a step in the narrative / argument.

oJtan + subj. "when" - whenever. This construction introduces an indefinite temporal clause, future time; "whenever you are fasting", Zerwick.

nhsteuhte (nhsteuw) aor. subj. "you fast" - Although fasting is only commanded for the day of Atonement, it did develop during the exile and was later expanded by the Pharisees as a spiritual exercise. Jesus does not condemn fasting itself; making a show of it is the problem.

mh ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "do not look" - do not become. Functioning as the verb to-be. It is often held that the negation mh prohibits habitual action, but this is no longer widely held to be true. "Don't look like miserable play-actors", Phillips.

akuqrwpoi adj. "somber" - [as the] gloomy, sad [hypocrites]. Possibly unwashed, unshaven and ashed, again for the purpose of show.

wJV "as" - as, like. Here introducing a comparative clause.

gar "for" - because [they disfigure the faces of them]. Probably introducing an emphatic clause supporting the first, and therefore left untranslated; "When you fast ..... Dear me, they actually deliberately ash their faces ..." Possibly explanatory; "for men such as these disfigure their faces so as to be seen by their fellow men to be fasting", Cassirer.

o{pwV + subj. "to [show]" - that [they may appear (ie., intransitive rather than the passive, "to be revealed")]. This construction usually forms a final clause expressing purpose; "in order that they may appear."

toiV anqrwpoiV (oV) "men" - [as ones fasting] to the men. Dative of direct object after the verb "to appear to."

nhsteuonteV (nhsteuw) pres. part. "they are fasting" - the ones fasting. Being nominative, the participle probably serves as the complement of the subject uJpokritai, "hypocrites", in a double nominative construction; "that they (the hypocrites) may appear as the ones fasting to men." See Olmstead. Note how most translators just deal with the participle as if it introduces an object clause / dependent statement of perception, eg., Barclay, "so that no one will be able to see that they are fasting", ie., Barclay treats the verb fainw as passive, and the participle as if accusative, "so as to reveal to men that they are fasting", as NIV. The point is clear enough.

amhn legw umin "I tell you the truth" - truly i say to you. Used to underline the following statement.

autwn gen. pro. "their [reward in full]" - [they have the reward] of them. The genitive is possessive. Their reward is the praise of men, and that alone.


de "but" - but/and [you]. Transitional, here adversative / contrastive, as NIV.

nhsteuwn (nhsteuw) pres. part. "when you fast" - fasting. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal, as NIV. Obviously Jesus assumes that his disciples will fast from time to time. His major concern is the motive behind the fast and therefore gives instructions which serve to shape the fast as something done between the disciple and God.

aleiyai (aleifomai) aor. imp. "put oil on" - anoint [the head of you and wash the face of you]. Not normally done during a time of fasting.


o{pwV ... fanhV toiV anqrwpoiV "so that it will [not] be obvious to others that you are fasting" - See v16; "that you may look to men as if you were not fasting at all", Barclay.

mh ...... alla "not ...... but only" - Counterpoint construction.

tw/ parti (hr hroV) "to [your] Father" - that you may appear as the one fasting to the father. Dative of direct object after the assumed verb "to appear."

sou gen. "your" - of you. The genitive is relational.

tw/ dat. "who [is unseen]" - the one [in the hidden place]. The article serves as an adjectivizer turning the prepositional phrase "in secret" into an attributive modifier, limiting "Father", as NIV; "Father who is in secret", ESV.

oJ bletwn (plepw) pres. part. "who sees" - [and the father of you] the one seeing. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "Father"; "the Father who sees in secret."

en + dat. "what is done in [secret]" - in [the secret place]. Local; expressing space.

apodwsei (apodidwmi) fut. "will reward" - will give back.

soi dat. pro. "you" - to you. Dative of indirect object / interest.


Matthew Introduction



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