Christ and the Law Matt. 5:17
August 31, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:17–5:`7
The Law Unchangeable
Matt. 5:17 - 20 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20“For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
I approached this passage thinking we'd be able to get through it in one session but as my study progressed it became evident that 2 parts would be better I think.
So this week I want to look at the Old Testament and try to show you how Jesus fulfils - all of it. Then next week I want to look more from the perspective of what this means to us. How this applies to us.
I'm painfully aware that this is foundational to everything I believe about the Word of God. And I only get one shot at it. We'll move on from here, but I want my one shot to be a good one. I've been praying for that. This bit of the Sermon on the mount is a game changer.
Let me preface with the admission that this is the most difficult passage of scripture that we have attempted, in Matthew, so far. There are others that are challenging also of course, but this one is right up there. It raises questions that smarter men than me have grappled with for centuries.
When I graduated from the 6th grade, my parents gave me a lovely little King James bible of high quality with onion skin pages and very small type. In the inscription my father wrote;
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2Tim 2:15
We've all heard the story about how Paul made his living as a tent-maker and how important it was in his profession to make the best use of the animal skins by wisely dividing them up and placing them in the finished tent in order to get the most quality for the least price in skins.
Paul carried that idea over to the interpretation of scripture. Do a good job of triage. It takes some wisdom and diligence, and some skill to rightly divide the word of truth. Effort. Work.
How do you divide this passage up? What do you do with this? What is our resposibility to the Old Testament? How do you categorize it? Is it important to us? Do we treat it any differently than the New Testament? Is it less binding on us?
Where you land on this will tell me much about your philosophy of living the christian life.
Too tight here, and you will lean towards legalism.
Too loose here, and you will lean towards libertine-ism.
I've seen both. This is a tightrope, and it is as I've already said, ground zero for many many important truths that can wander off in bad directions, if the foundation right here, is not sound.
So, I beg you to put your thinking caps on and track with me for some minutes of what I hope will be depth in rightly dividing this foundational truth.
17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Do not think . .
Sometimes my boss tells me this. He means 'at your paygrade, you don't get to weigh in on this problem' He's not interested in what I think.
That's not what Jesus is saying here. He wants us to think. But He wants us to think rightly! He is saying, to think this, is to be wrong.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets
Could He have said it any plainer. And yet it is common teaching in evangelical circles and beyond, that Jesus did just that.
Raise your hand if you've heard some teacher dismissively say "We're not under law, we're under grace."
You're saying, yeah, I've heard that. It was the apostle Paul. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace. Ro. 6:14
I pray that before we're finished the Lord will help me harmonize these two truths.
The problem is that teachers, well meaning and otherwise, wander all over the place here. Grace saves us from the Law's effect. But grace never diminishes the Law, as if it were simply replaced.
Do not think that I came to abolish
The word means to render to no effect. To decimate, destroy. Dismiss the law.
I don't know if classrooms have chalkboards and erasers any more. You could fill an entire chalk board with stuff, and then come along with the eraser and wipe it all away. That's this word, abolish.
That's what the people were hoping He would do. The law as it was understood in Jesus day had become hopelessly encumbered with meaningless traditions.
Scribes would argue about what constitutes carrying a load (which is work) on the sabbath day. If a tailer forgot a needle stuck in his cap and went out on the sabbath, he was guilty of work on the sabbath.
You could pick up your baby on the sabbath, ladies, but if the baby was teething and had something in it's mouth, then it was carrying a burden and you were guilty of defiling the sabbath. Rediculous, to us.
They would argue endlessly on these kinds of minutia and the traditions were both bizarre and burdensome. They hoped for a messiah that would abolish the Law.
There was some cause for belief that he might. In Jeremiah 31:33 it says; "This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
Would Jesus be that messiah that releases them from the odious burden of the Law?
He says Do Not Think that I came to abolish the Law.
We're not so different today. We don't want to harmonize Law and Grace. It hurts our brains. So we pick our favorite, Grace, and are dismissive of Law.
Most evangelical christians cannot give you an answer on what authority the Law of God has over them. They'll flee to a mis-understanding of what Paul said. Not under Law. Under Grace. Law is nullified to me.
Dispensationalism has done some damage here too. There are all kinds of wild and crazy theory's. We can dismiss what Jesus said in the entire sermon on the mount because He was preaching the kingdom to jews and we're something fundamentally different. We're the church. Kings X on anything that Jesus said to Jews.
OK, let's dive in. 17“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
The fact that He stated what He's talking about in this fashion tips us off. Look quickly at Luke 24:27. The story of the road to Emmaus. Jesus opens up the entire Bible up to that point. What we would call the Old Testament.
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
So Jesus here, in the sermon on the mount, is talking about the whole word of God, given up until that point. All of the old testament.
And then he says something remarkable. I did not come to abolish but to fulfill
In Hebrews 10:7 it says; "THEN I SAID, 'BEHOLD, I HAVE COME (IN THE SCROLL OF THE BOOK IT IS WRITTEN OF ME) TO DO YOUR WILL, O GOD.'"
. . . in the scroll of the book, it is written of me . . .
There is a sense that you can find the presence of the Lord Jesus in every book of the old testament. It's all about Him. It is His Story.
So, in what sense does He fulfil it. Well, to begin with, Matthew has said, over and over, this happened, that this might be fulfilled. How often so far in Matthews gospel have we heard that. It's constant, right. You can go back to chapter 1 and Matthew says that over and over and over.
Fulfilled prophecy. Hundreds of them. Some are not yet fulfilled, but will be when He comes again. The story is about Him taking back this earth from Satan.
I've got so much I want to say, and it's jumbled in my mind. My fear is I won't get it all presented in logical sequence that makes sense. So, if you're going to check out, don't do it now. Listen for a couple of minutes right here.
I want to look at how Jesus completely fulfils all of the old testament scripture, from Genesis (Moses) to Malachi (the prophets) and everything in between.
Look with me at Deuteronomy 4:12 - 14 "Then the LORD spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form-- only a voice. 13"So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, that is, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone. 14"The LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that you might perform them in the land where you are going over to possess it.
If you look closely there, we can divide the entire Law up into 3 categories.
Ten commandments. Moral law
Judgements. National law, civil law, if you will
Statutes Ceremonial law, their prescribed worship.
Israel was set apart from all other nations because God revealed His law to them. His moral law is the foundation of civilizations. His National law made them uniquely His. His ceremonial law was a giant picture of how He would redeem them once for all, in His Son.
While other nations were casting their babies into the fire to appease some kind of angry god, Israel became the roots of every truly civilized people on earth.
Jesus said He came to fulfil the Law. The book. Let's think about how he did that. Next week we'll think deeply about what authority the book has over us.
Jesus fulfilled the moral law fully and completely, without sin. No man has ever done that except one.
Israel was the unfaithful son. They didn't keep the law. Jesus was the faithful son. He kept the law in every point. Perfectly.
Do you remember the story of the good samaritan. Luke 10 The young man asks what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus says, how does the law read to you. The young man answered; …27And he answered, "YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND; AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 28And He said to him, "You have answered correctly; DO THIS AND YOU WILL LIVE."
And that's a true statement, except, no one can do it. The formula for life is to keep God's law. But James tells us; 2:10
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.
Yes, the law can save you. Keep them all. Perfectly. Never sin. And we are mired hopelessly in sin from our birth forward. We need someone who has fulfilled the moral law to give us His righteousness, and take on Him, our sin.
Jesus fulfilled the moral Law. He did it for us.
But He also fulfilled the other 2 categories of Law in the old testament.
Every element of Jewish worship that God gave to His people Israel is in some way a picture of the coming death of messiah.
From Isaac asking Abraham, where is the sacrificial lamb, to John stating, behold the Lamb of God, and all the blood of animals that flowed in-between, all of it is complete, in Jesus, at Calvary.
After Jesus died on the cross, the partition in the temple was rent in 2. The jewish religion was finished. Fulfilled. Access to the Holy of Holies, granted. In Jesus.
Jesus is the completion of the ceremonial law. All of the types, are complete, in Him. No more washings for temporary cleaness need to take place. We are cleansed in Him. No more animal blood needs to be spilled. Ever. His blood was spilled, once for all.
Perhaps some day I'll gather courage and we'll have a run at the book of Hebrews. That book is difficult, and it has several themes all running at the same time, but one of them is this idea that all of the ceremonies, are finished, once for all, in Jesus.
He fulfilled, in His death, once for all, the ceremonial law. Done.
Then at the same time, when darkness came over the land, when Jesus died, at that cross, Israel was finished. As a nation. Over.
We can look with 20-20 hindsight vision at Daniels 9:24-27 prophecy. 70 weeks of years. Messiah is cut off at the 69th week. When that happens, God sets Israel aside, for a time. We're living in that time. The church age.
Don't mis-understand. God has preserved them as a nation, and Jacob still has seven years of history to live out. But the clock stopped at the cross for Israel, until the church is removed, and they begin their 7 years of tribulation.
National law, that made Israel distinct among the nations around them, was fulfilled at the cross, until the tribulation period begins. Israel ceased to be a nation the day they put Jesus to death. The national law was finished. Fulfilled in their shattered Messiah.
So that brings us full circle back to what Jesus said there on the mountain. He didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfil.
Let's ask the hard questions, right here. How do we, the church, 2,000 years later, relate to the old testament? How much of it is binding on us? How do we interpret it?
Remember that Paul, in Acts 20 says this; 26“Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27“For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. And this; 31“Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. 32“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Our point of reference is the New Testament. But Paul here says he spent 3 years teaching these folks what? The scriptures. The old testament.
And he says it is the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified
The old testament was the Bible for the first century saints. The ones that turned the world upside down.
Let's look again at the 3 categories of God's law.
The moral law is still binding. It still has the power to send people to hell. It has not changed one iota (hebrew dot) since God gave it.
The law is my friend. It showed me myself, in a mirror, and the person I looked at, was bankrupt. It drove me to the Saviour.
David said, Oh! how I love thy Law! And we understand that. We love it because it shows us the perfection of it's author, and it shows us the unworthiness of ourselves.
It is a mirror of the Glory of God and a mirror of the lostness of our fallen lives. It drives us to the one who WAS able to fulfil it. All of it. And He offers that righteousness to US.
Then, think about the National Law that made Israel God's unique people.
It isn't binding on us. It was for Israel. Not us.
How often have you been driving along and seen one of those billboards with 2Chron. 7:14 on it. If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
There are truth's about God's patience and grace in there that might cross over to us in the USA, but that promise was made to national Israel. It isn't ours.
When Jesus died on the cross, that door was slammed shut. That's not our promise. I get tired of seeing it. Fulfilled at the cross. National Israel, gone, until God deals with them in the tribulation.
There is so much wisdom for us in the Israel's National law. If we are wise, we can often look beyond the nuts and bolts that were Israels to the wisdom behind it, and we can principalize the text. The nuts and bolts may not be binding on us, but the principal behind it may be wisdom we can use.
Think about people who have animals that attack and harm other innocent people. You can find council and wisdom in the Old Testament that deals with problems like that. Free for the taking. But not ours.
We are a parallel people. We are not Israel.
Think about the tithe. God required 2 different 10% tithes of his people Israel, plus all the rules about Jubilee, and food left in the corners of fields for the poor. In total, the Israelites were giving between 23 and 27% of their income to the different tithes that kept their worship going, their temple taxes, and it kept their government going.
That isn't for us. Tithes and offerings. If you're a legalist and you want to tithe, kick it up to 23%. You always see Tithes and offerings together. Those two words travel together. Tithes were required, just like our taxes. Offerings were from the heart. They were connected to love of God.
We should look at their example and think, I better pay my taxes, and I had better think about the love offering above and beyond my tax bill, that I'm going to give to God.
Ceremonial law. Totally fulfilled at the cross. Every picture. It's over. We worship on resurrection day, not the Sabbath.
It's beautiful to look at and study, but it isn't for the church. It is fulfilled in Christ. Yes, we need to study and understand all of the types. All of the pictures. Complete on the cross, but it has no binding power on us.
So, with these truths at our disposal, we can confidently go the the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets, and ask ourselves, how am I going to rightly divide this. How was this completed in Jesus.
Is it moral law? If it is, it STILL is. God's moral requirements are the same for us as they were for Israel.
Is it national law? Civil law? IF it is, what wisdom is behind it that I can apply to my situation now.
Do you realize that liability insurance we pay for on our homes and cars is based in Israels Civil law? Restitution.
Is it ceremonial law? How does the picture being performed in the ceremony get it's completion in the Cross. Can we ever think of the cross of Jesus, too much?
The ceremonial law is like walking through an art museum with all the masterpieces on the walls for us to enjoy. We should visit often. And we should weep for joy over our sins being carried away, forever, complete, on that cross. Once for all.
We don't need a river of blood coming out of the temple in Jerusalem as the animals get continually slaughtered to temporarily cover our sins. Jesus accomplished redemption, forgiveness of sins, once for all, at the cross, and then He rose from the grave and ascended into Heaven.
Next week, I want to look at how Jesus viewed - The Book - and how that translates back to us now.
More in The Gospel of Matthew
March 26, 2017The Authority and Commission of Jesus Mt. 28:16 - 20
March 19, 2017Jesus IS Alive! The Tomb is Empty Mt. 28: 1 - 15
March 12, 2017The Burial of Jesus Mt. 27:55 - 66 pt. 2