Jesus and the Unchangeable Law Matt. 5:18-20
September 5, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew
Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:18–5:20
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.
Let's talk about world view. Let's define a world view as a foundational set of ideas that define who we are, and even how we react to data.
I was thinking along these lines the other day and drew up a little chart about how different opposing world views react to each other.
So, let's call the first one judeo-christian ethic conservative. These are folks who believe that God made everything and not only that, He made the rules. Thus the rules are absolute. You shall not kill. You shall not steal. You shall not lie. You shall not commit adultery. Honor your father and your mother. Do not covet your neighbor's property. etc.
If you dis-agree with me, hey, they aren't my rules, they're God's. He'll judge you, not me. I might pray for you. I'll continue to respect you and be kind to you. The worst case scenario is I might shake the dust off my feet and move on.
The next group of people, we'll name liberal tolerance truth-is-relative secularism.
These folks have jettisoned any interest or belief in God. Thus they are free from any "authority", and right and wrong become relative problems. There is no base line possible. Everything is relative and morality is open for discussion. A free-for-all if you will. Anything goes.
You quickly learn that in their brand the tolerance that they tout so often is only a tolerance for wickedness. They are very intolerant of anyone who may dis-agree or hold to higher moral standards based in historic religion, especially the dreaded judeo-christian brand of morality. They hate the very idea of a God who would have authority over men.
If you dis-agree with them they will demonize and exclude you. They will try to pass laws to silence you. The intolerance of tolerance.
The third group of people we will call Islam.
If you dis-agree with them, they kill you.
So, who's winning these days? Well, from my viewpoint, the old so-called "moral majority" has passed into oblivion in the last 20 years. In our land, the secularists are totally in the drivers seat.
Even in politics, the conservative brand has realised that to gain lost ground, it has to get out of the morality business, jettison anything that speaks of good and evil, anything based in judeo - christian ethic, and concentrate on fiscal solutions.
Then, the tolerance folks have swung the door wide for Islam, because, well, they're tolerant. Islam and tolerance have a common enemy. God.
It's interesting to watch the liberals in the news media. Islam will cut some journalists head off, and the liberals cannot find the word evil in their available categories. They removed that word from their vocabulary. Bizarre.
The passage of scripture that we'll look at this morning is ground zero for this debate of absolute authority. An authority that is above and beyond men. It begins in God and is outside the scope of men.
The bottom line for that kind of authority is that it must be contained in revelation that is inspired and given as direct revelation from the God who created the universe. Innerant revelation.
In absolute-ism, if it's an ism, sin is well defined. The family is intact. There are mom's and dad's and kids. Kids learn from a young age that lieing is sin. Stealing is sin. Not obeying parents is sin. There is a God in heaven who repays for sin. You see where I'm going.
Let's look at what Jesus had to say about the basis for such a system.
17“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.
Last week we looked with some depth at Vs. 17. Different categories of scripture and how Jesus fulfils - all of it. If you missed that, I'd encourage you to have me send along the manuscript because it is the foundation we're going to build on today.
We explained that the word abolish means to erase. Just like cleaning off a chalkboard with an eraser. Jesus is talking about all of the God breathed scripture, and he says, that isn't going to happen. It isn't going away. It's being fulfilled.
I keep going back to the illustration given to us in Luke's gospel. It just has every element of what I want to teach, as an example.
Luke 4:16 And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. 17And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book and found the place where it was written,
18“THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED,
19TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”
20And He closed the book, gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
There is so much right here to learn about how Jesus approached scripture.
He says, Today! this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.
The word he uses for scripture is the same word Paul uses when he tells Timothy, All scripture is God Breathed.
So, looking back we can say, with confidence, in that room, that day, there were some present who were set free from Satan's kingdom, and joyously brought into God's kingdom.
That's what the scripture defines. And Jesus says, it was fulfilled, in that day, in the hearing of some of the listeners present.
Jesus is a literalist. Do you realize, if he'd read the next half dozen hebrew words from Isaiah's scripture, He could not have made the statement that He did.
The very next words are these; And the day of vengeance of our God;
Talk about rightly dividing the word of truth! Jesus stopped on the exact word that he needed to stop at. No one knew it then, but we have 20-20 hindsight now. Between the words Jesus spoke, release of captives, favorable year of our Lord, and the next words about vengeance, 2000 years have elapsed.
How did Jesus know that? The church age has filled the gap between two sentences in Isaiah for 2000 years. If Jesus had not stopped exactly where He did, you could throw your Bibles away.
And so you get a sense of not only how Jesus fulfils the scriptures, but also the pin point accuracy that He achieves in doing so. He'll fulfil the part about vengeance of our God, also. But it will happen in His perfect timing, with 2000 years in the middle.
That should give us pause when we look at Vs. 18 this morning.
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.
OK, we need the kings english here. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Other Bible authors, like the writers of the Psalms, looked at what God had inspired them to say, and added; Amen. This is a true statement. Amen.
Jesus is the only one with the authority to begin His sentence with Amen.
At the transition from the sermon on the mount, just these few words about the teaching of Jesus. 7:28 When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; 29for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
Jesus speaks with the authority of author, not commentator. He wrote the book, and He speaks from that vantage. Here is what it means. Period. He begins His sentence with Amen. Truly.
For verily I say unto you If you were in the audience that day, let me give you a perspective on what those words meant to the hearers. This is the Word of God. Hear it. Amen, I say unto you.
Nobody talked like that. Nobody. In fact, the reason the leaders of the jews were plotting to kill Him, is because He Talked Like That. Nobody could say that, unless they were above the Law as the one who is it's author.
We miss that in 2014. The hearers that day, GOT it, and it says they were astonished!
Then He says, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
I'll come back to heaven and earth passing away. First, the point He is making. Not only is the Word of God not passing away, but it's accuracy to the smallest hebrew point, will remain unchanged.
Jots and tittles. The hebrew yod which became greek iota is the tiniest letter in their alphabet. Like our letter i. And a tittle is the tiny stroke that can give, for instance, a verb a tense, that changes the entire meaning and direction of a writing.
Past, present, future, singular, plural, noun or verb or adjective. All of these could be swung in other directions by a tittle or a yod. And Jesus says, none of these are going to pass away.
That should give you some confidence in what we call transmission. Transmission is how these writings got to us. We don't have any of the original documents. (And that's a good thing, because the catholic church would worship the papyrus.)
But here, Jesus seems to be saying, not only, it is written, but it isn't going to change.
I believe God himself has been present in the preservation of these texts. And everything that the scholars find continues to bear that out.
I bought an enlarger years ago from a man south of Los Angeles, and when I went to pick it up, it was interesting that the reason he had it was not photographic, but technological.
Him and his brother had been given the opportunity to go and photograph the dead sea scrolls. The window of opportunity was such that it was a somewhat unfriendly government, and the window would open and close and never be repeated.
At that moment in history, and interestingly to me at least as a technician, the pinnacle of reproduction was Kodak 8X10 inch film called technical pan. (He still had some boxes of it which I bought) It is grainless. Microscopic grain and the reproducing capacity of graphic arts lenses in the 1980's and that particular film is sort of like the SR-71 airplane. It's a pinnacle that will never be repeated.
So these brothers took 8X10 photographic equiment and made perfect reproductions of those scrolls.
Now before those scrolls were found, the oldest copies of Isaiah were 1100 years newer. The dead sea scrolls go all the way back to 300+ years before Jesus walked in galilee.
What's fascinating to me is that I asked the man who made the photographs if my New American Standard is trustworthy and he said it is absolutely identical (as a translation is possible to be) to the texts found at the dead sea. And they were identical to the codex receptus that had been used until the older documents were found.
Fascinating stuff. And I think God takes an active roll. When Jesus says one jot or tittle isn't going to go away, that's exactly what He meant.
Consider something else. Technologically, since the men made those photographic reproductions of those scrolls, the digital revolution has happened. Since I think of things as a technician, here's what that means. We have a silver oxide copy of those documents that is archival. That silver on the film strata, stored properly, can last almost as long as the papyrus did.
Digital goes poof, and it's gone. (I just remembered to do a 'save' when I typed that.) If the ISIS or the ISIL decide to blow up the papyrus copies of Isaiah, we have an archival copy on film that can last a thousand years.
Was the fact that the window of opportunity to make those copies corresponded with technology that was at it's pinnacle, and has real archival permanence, just a whim, or was God in that? The reason the enlarger became available to me, is because technology had changed and they weren't going to record on 8X10 film any more. Spooky.
So we have confidence in transmission. The jots and tittles are still right where God breathed them. And that's why we take the time to dig into the original languages and study verb tenses and parallel uses of words.
The Book is ground zero. God breathed these words that you are holding in your hands this morning. That should make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. This book should be your most precious possession. God said this stuff. It has absolute authority over us.
The Book is also ground zero when it comes to Satan.
What are the first recorded words of Satan? Hath God said . . . ? Are those jots and tittles really in the right places? Let's rearrange them a little.
His attack against this book is relentless. Relentless! And always the same. Does it really say that? Are you sure?
So along comes science, and enlightenment, and modern learning. And the people with the long hair, the folks high up in the know of education and learning say, it's just an ancient book, full of errors, and you can't possibly be serious that you believe what it says! Really?? You believe this ancient stuff written by goat herds with yellow teeth, half of them missing?
It's just Satan, in a very thin disguise, saying; "Hath God said...?" Really. You believe this stuff?
And the evangelical scholarship are constantly trying to close the gap between so-called higher learning, and evangelicalism. They like that look. They like the long robes. The scarlet and royal blue robes of learning with the funny little hats. We dig that look. We like it so much we'll do almost anything to be "accepted" in that club.
So, in order to be included in the "vestments" club we'll start playing weasel word games with the authority and inspiration of scripture. And what happens is, in order to wear the vestments, we have to give in to the pressure and say, well, science and higher learning have shown us that the Bible has errors.
It just goes on relentlessly.
Well, who do you believe. Jesus said not one jot, not one tittle, will move from it's place before heaven and earth vanish away.
Here is my position. And I have all the status and position of any of the goat herds missing teeth. I say if science and higher learning have found a seeming discrepancy with what is written here, they need to get to work and figure out where they went wrong. Because Jesus says it's intact, and that it will stay intact until heaven flee's away and earth is un-created.
You say, Is it going to go away then? When heaven and earth vanish, is this book going to go out of fashion finally, then?
Jesus clarifies even that. In the Olivet discourse, talking about these future things, listen again to what the Lord of the Universes says about this book we hold in our hands.
Mt. 24:33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
The jots and the tittles will last even beyond this universe.
I thank God for my simple mind. This seems so cut and dried to me.
In March next year I'm going to a summit conference on the innerancy of this Book. A line will be drawn in the sand, I suppose, and not so much with people outside the the camp of those who would claim to identify themselves as christians, but inside that camp.
The evangelical church is desperate to find room for all of the sins du jour, of the world we live in. We don't want to get cross-wise with that second group that I defined at the beginning. The tolerant folk.
The reason is, we're this close to writing laws that will defy the word of God and the consciences of christian people. We'll call it laws against hate.
We've already done that with so-called reproductive rights. The right of any woman to murder her unborn child. That ground is already breached, and even though the supreme court ruled in our favor, states like California are already overflowing that boundary.
And you know what's next. Somehow we have to make laws that will punish people who dare to even think that Sodomite marriage is wrong.
How do we find common ground with THAT?
Well the folks who are honest, understand that the Bible says what it says, whether anyone likes it or not, so the common ground can only come from one possibility.
The Bible is wrong. That's it, it's just wrong. Well meaning, and a nice old book with lots of nice and perhaps useful ideas, but it's impossibly wrong when it makes statements regarding the morality of how people choose to have their sexual fulfilment.
So the modern evangelical church is using weasel language to say, well, the Bible is inspired when it talks about the cross and redemption, but where it crosses with modern science, and modern science has convinced us that homosexuality is in the genetic code somewhere, so that means that part was written by goat herds who didn't know any better.
Science, which has degraded to mean anything anyone wants it to mean, trumps the Bible. And innerancy is defined by anybody's science. And with innerancy goes authority. And the Bible becomes a toothless old book that growls from time to time, but no one's afraid of it any more. We've got it safely in it's cage, and anyway, what's the old Lion going to do? Gum you to death?
So here's the bottom line. Either the Book has authority over men, or men have authority over the book. What's it going to be?
That's what liberalism and higher learning always do. They place themselves in a higher authority than the book, and they decide what stays in and what gets kicked out. There's nothing new under the sun. That's exactly what Satan did in the garden of eden.
In light of that, Jesus said; 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.
Here's my chance at greatness, folks. This is so easy. Maybe it won't be easy for much longer. But during my watch, if God allows, this church is going to stand firm against all of the onslaughts of Satan in all of their weasly forms.
Jesus takes an impossibly High View of this book, and challenges us to do the same.
God breathed. Authoritative. Innerant. Binding on us. We need to learn it, and we need to live it.
When I was little, I would offer the excuse, "I didn't know that was wrong" and my excellent mother would teach us, Ignorance is no excuse for the law. Ignorance is no excuse for the law. We need to know this book.
Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments
This is exactly what happens when liberal christianity and evagelicalism and anyone else whatever their title put themselves over the book to decide what gets to stay, and what has to go.
As soon as you say science, or higher criticism, or whatever excuse you use, is correct, and the word of God is in error, you have annuled scripture at that point.
You think the virgin birth is inconvenient to believe? Annul it. And with it goes the entire possibility of redemtion from sin. And that's how it works.
Jesus here affirms that the commandments have rank. Some are weightier. Some are strawy. Some are more important than others.
In Mt. 23:23 Jesus will say; "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.
See the ranking there. Tithing grains of cummin is light. Justice and Mercy and Love of God are heavy. Jesus says, do them both!
And that's the perfect transition into the final verse in this section.
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.
If they weren't astonished before because of the authority with which He spoke, now He's got their attention.
If the Pharisees and the scribes righteousness isn't good enough, they ain't nobody goin' to heaven. Now you're just talkin' crazy Jesus. It was an outlandish thing to say, as far as these folks were concerned.
They figured the Pharisees would probably get called up first so they could help the Godhead decide who else should be able to come. The pharisee's thought God should consult them on matters of righteousness.
If you look ahead at the next section of this sermon of Jesus, you will see that He is going to expand on the real meaning of the commandments in such a way that the Pharisees, and the scribes, and all the rest of the hearers will come face to face with their spiritual bankruptness.
6 times He is going to say, "You have heard that it was said" or some variation of that formula. And 6 times He is going to go way beyond the outward showy phony "keeping" of the commandments, straight for the heart.
In Matthew 23:27 He will say; "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.
They were outward show. Inside they were more foul than the people that they held sway over.
Beat a man within a breath of life and death, and as long as he recovers, you didn't commit murder. It's all outward. Jesus says if you're even angry, you're guilty of murder already.
Divorce your wife and cause her to commit adultery but they were spotless. Clean as the wind driven snow. Until Jesus comes along and says, if you look at a woman with lust inside you, hidden as it is, and you're guilty of adultery.
They were all about the outward show, and Jesus is going to bore a hole through them and show them how foul and disgusting the man inside the whitewashed tomb really is.
It was an impossible standard both for the scribes and the Pharisees, and everyone else. But the common folks would look toward heaven and beat their breasts and say Have mercy on me, a sinner. The Pharisees would plot to kill Him.
The things Jesus said were astonishing! Completely different from anything they'd ever heard before.
To the most bankrupt people in their society, He would pronounce, "Your sins are forgiven." "Neither do I condemn thee. Go now, and sin no more." But to the most righteous He would say, "You are of your father, the Devil."
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