Matthew 5:16 MEANING

Matthew 5:16
(16) Let your light so shine.--The English form of the sentence is somewhat misleading, or at least ambiguous. It is not simply, Let your light so shine that men may glorify; but, "Thus, like the lamp on its stand, let your light shine. . . ." The motive to publicity is, however, the direct opposite of the temper which led the Pharisee to his ostentatious prayers and almsgiving; not "to be seen of men," and win their praise, but to win men, through our use of the light which we know to be not our own, to glorify the Giver of the light. We have at least a partial fulfilment of the command in the impression made on the heathen world by the new life of the Church when they confessed, in spite of all prejudices, "See how these Christians love one another."

Your Father which is in heaven.--The name was in common use among devout Jews, but its first occurrence in our Lord's teaching deserves to be noted. The thought of God as a Father was that which was to inspire men not only when engaged in prayer (Matthew 6:9), but in the activity of obedience. (See Note on Matthew 6:9.)

Verse 16. - Matthew only. Let your light so shine; even so let your light shine (Revised Version); οὕτως λαμψὰτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν. The Revised Version (cf. Rheims) does away with the misinterpretation suggested by the Authorized Version, "so that," for οὕτως refers solely to the method of shining spoken of in ver. 15, "like a burning lamp upon its stand" (Meyer). Our Lord has here no thought of effort in shining, such as may improve the brightness of the light given, or of illuminating others, but of not concealing what light the disciples have. (For a similar οὕτως, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24.) Yet remember, "A lamp for one is a lamp for a hundred" (Talm. Bab., 'Sabb.,' 122a) and "Adam was the lamp of the world" (Talm. Jeremiah, 'Sabb.,' 2:4 - a play on Proverbs 20:27). Your light. Either genitive of apposition, the light which you are (Achelis), cf. ver. 14; or genitive of possession, the light of which you are the trusted possessors (Meyer, Weiss). The latter is preferable, as the disciples have, in ver. 15, been compared to the lamp, i.e. the light-bearer. Before men (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων). More than ἐνώπιον, "in presence of," for the position of the lamp "in front of" the people is what our Lord is here emphasizing (cf. John 12:37). That they may see your good works (u(mw = n τὰ καλὰ ἔργα). Your. Three times in this verse. Our Lord lays stress on personal possession of light, personal action, personal relationship and origin. Good works; i.e. of your lives generally (Weiss-Meyer), not ministerially (Mever). "Noble works, works which by their generous and attractive character win the natural admiration of men" (Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 10:24). And glorify. This is actually done in ch. 9:8; 15:31. St. Peter's language (1 Peter 2:12) is probably due to a reminiscence of our Lord's words. Your Father which is in heaven. The Fatherhood of God is here predicated in a special sense of the disciples, in the same way as the Fatherhood of God is, in the Old Testament, always connected with his covenant relation to his people as a nation (cf. Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4; Deuteronomy 32:6). Our Lord here is not thinking of the original relation of God to being and especially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the Divine image (ὁ πατήρ), but of the relation into which the disciples have entered through the revelation of God in Christ; cf. further Bishop Westcott, on John 4:21 (Add. Note) and on 1 John 1:2 (Add. Note); also Weiss, 'Life,' 2:348. The phrase, which occurs here for the first time in St. Matthew (but cf. ver. 9, note), henceforth occurs frequently, becoming of great importance for this Gospel (cf. vers. 45, 48; Matthew 6:1, 9, etc.).

5:13-16 Ye are the salt of the earth. Mankind, lying in ignorance and wickedness, were as a vast heap, ready to putrify; but Christ sent forth his disciples, by their lives and doctrines to season it with knowledge and grace. If they are not such as they should be, they are as salt that has lost its savour. If a man can take up the profession of Christ, and yet remain graceless, no other doctrine, no other means, can make him profitable. Our light must shine, by doing such good works as men may see. What is between God and our souls, must be kept to ourselves; but that which is of itself open to the sight of men, we must study to make suitable to our profession, and praiseworthy. We must aim at the glory of God.Let your light so shine before men,.... Here Christ applies the foregoing simile to his disciples, and more fully opens the meaning and design of it. His sense is this; that the light of the Gospel, which he had communicated to them, the spiritual knowledge of the mysteries of grace, which he had favoured them with, were to be openly declared, and made manifest before men. Light was not given merely for their own private use, but for the public good of mankind; and therefore, as they were placed as lights in the world, they were to hold forth, in the most open and conspicuous manner, the word of light and life:

that they may see your good works: meaning their zeal and fervency; their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity; their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, industry, and indefatigableness in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honour of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their example in their lives and conversations:

and glorify your Father which is in heaven; that is, that when the ministration of the Gospel has been blessed, for the illumination of the minds of men, to a thorough conviction of their state; and for their regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and comfort; they may give praise to God, and bless his name for qualifying and sending such Gospel ministers to show unto them the way of salvation; and that the word has been made useful to them for communicating spiritual light, life, joy, and comfort, , "Our and your Father which is in heaven", is a name, appellation, or periphrasis of God, frequently used by Jewish writers (s); and is often expressed by Christ in these his sermons on the mount.

(s) Vid. Misn. Sota, c. 9. sect. 15. & Yoma, c. 8. sect. 9.

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