Matthew 5:21-25
Mat 5:21 (KJB)
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
Jesus addressed the crowd here by stating “ye have heard” and that was because there was much illiteracy and also there may have been those who did not speak Hebrew. They would have heard this teaching coming from one of their teachers who would be expounding the ten commandments. (Exo 20:13 KJV) Thou shalt not kill. If one violated this commandment, then they would be in danger of the final judgment and would be cast into hell. At this time those who committed murder would have to be handed over to the court for judgment. There were also smaller courts of 23 men in larger towns where the male population would be more than 120. The old time here must have been referring to the time of Moses when God gave him the commandments. (Lev 24:17 KJV) And he that killeth any man shall surely be put to death. If the death of a man was considered intentional, then that person would pay with their own life. (Gen 9:6 KJV) Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. If the death of a man was unintentional, then coming before the court and delving into all the specifics of the case, would bring that to the surface and this would carry a different penalty.
Mat 5:22 (KJB)
But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
Raca - Fool, empty head, or senseless man
Here Jesus goes from the physical sin of murder to the inward sin of murder. He speaks about a person who becomes angry with a brother without any cause, will be in danger of the judgment. This is because anger that is unchecked in a person can lead to an outward act of hostility toward another leading up to the sin of murder. There is such a thing as anger that will have a cause such as anger at sin. The sin of anger without a cause could be jealousy of another and that jealousy could escalate beyond the inward denigration of a brother. Then Jesus states that if you say to your brother “thou fool,” it can put you in danger of hell’s fire. Now Jesus does not deal with the physical sin of murder but the inward sin of hating and despising another. If a person is saved, the Holy Spirit can remove all of those hateful feelings but if a person is not saved, they will be judged for the sins of the heart, dying in their sins. Jesus is emphasizing the fact that sins of the heart are as destructive to an individual as the physical outward acts of sin can be.
Mat 5:23 (KJB)
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Jesus continues in His homily concerning the fact that there may be an unresolved dispute between the one bringing the gift to the altar and another person. If they are making an offering and realize that there is someone who has something against them, then they need to resolve it before they continue the offering. The altar represented the place where forgiveness and reconciliation between God and man took place.
Mat 5:24 (KJB)
Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Instead of continuing on with the offering, they are to leave the offering right at the altar and then go to the person and be reconciled to them. (Rom 12:18 KJV) If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. The same situation exists with us today. We are to be reconciled unto anyone who may have anything against us. However, we cannot be responsible for the actions of others if we have tried sincerely to make amends for doing something wrong and they reject our attempts. We are to use all means to reconcile, even if it means that we suffer loss. Once reconciliation has been accomplished, then the gift can be offered at the altar without a guilty conscience.
Mat 5:25 (KJB)
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
According to Roman law, anyone having any type of dispute with another had the right to have the matter adjudicated before a judge. The wisdom in this verse is that the one who is guilty, and the guilty party will always know it is them even if the outside shows differently, they need to try and settle the matter on the way to the court and once this has been accomplished, then the charges are dismissed. If the guilty party does not do this, then they are in danger of having the charges confirmed and if there is a prison sentence for their crime, then they will go to prison.
Now there is a great spiritual lesson in this verse. The adversary is the law of God and every human being has broken the law of God meaning that everyone who appears at the Great White Throne judgment will be cast into eternal hell, which is represented by the prison. The way we agree with the adversary is to become saved through the Lord Jesus Christ who fulfilled all the righteous demands of God’s Holy Law. Then the righteousness of Christ is imputed to the believer and they will never have to stand for their sins because Christ paid the penalty in full.