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Oct 05

Jesus and the Law – Matthew 5:17-20

moses_receiving_lawIn previous posts, we have been looking at the teachings of Jesus regarding the character and blessedness of the citizens of His kingdom (Matt 5:3-12).  In the following verses (Matt 5:13-16), Jesus spoke of the influence Christians should have on the world; We are the salt of the earth (we must have both a seasoning and preserving effect) and the light of the world (reflecting the light of the Son as the moon reflects the Sun).  Today, we want to consider Jesus and the Law (Matt 5:17-20).

Obviously, some misunderstood His teachings and developed a false impression regarding His relationship to the Law and the prophets.  (We need to remember that the Law Jesus was referring to here was the Law of Moses and not the Law of Christ, which had not been ratified yet by His shed blood.)  Was it His intent to destroy the Law and the prophets?  Were His teachings contradictory to theirs?  Jesus clarifies His intent in today’s text.

In Matt 5:17, Jesus said emphatically, “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”  Within the pages of the Old Testament, there are over 330 prophecies concerning the Christ, not counting all of the many types and shadows.  The law and the prophets foretold not only of the coming Messiah (Deut 18:15-19), but also the establishment of the Kingdom (Dan 2:44) and of the New Covenant (Jer 31:31-34).

One of the most amazing of these prophecies can be found in Isaiah 53:1-12.  Isaiah depicts Jesus as the Suffering Servant Who would give His life in atonement for sinful humanity.  Jesus died so that prophecy might be fulfilled (Lk 24:46-48).  Truly, Jesus did not come to “destroy the law”.  He came to “fulfill” it.

He further taught that the Law (of Moses) must be observed strictly (Matt 5:18-19) and would continue until the Jesus had fulfilled it and established the New Law.  The New Covenant was ratified, established, and characterized by better promises and a new priesthood with Jesus as High Priest (Heb 8:6-13; Heb 7:11-14; Heb 10:1-4).

In our final verse (Matt 5:20), Jesus said that our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.  The scribes and Pharisees had begun supplanting the written Word of God with their oral teachings and traditions.  They were making void the parts of the Law they did not like through their personal interpretations and commentary.  Jesus said their righteousness must EXCEED their righteousness – they must strictly observe the Law without exception.

The same principle applies to Christians today.  Although we live under the New Law (of Christ) today, we must reverence that law and observe it strictly as well.  Today’s religious world is no different from the one that existed in Matthew 5.  Religious leaders still “spin” scriptures they don’t like with their own private interpretations.  For instance, a particular passage in the Bible does not match up with their political or moral viewpoint so they tell us “that is not what it really means”.

Baptism is the perfect example.  Those who do not want to believe that baptism is essential to salvation will tell us that Mark 16:16 is not in some of the original manuscripts or, that Acts 2:38 really means we are baptized because our sins have been remitted, and not for the remission of sins (as the passage plainly states).  Mk 16:16 and Acts 2:38 don’t fit into their “grace only” and “faith only” theologies (expressions that aren’t found in the Bible) , so they dismiss these passages.

When false teachers do this they are imitating the practice of the scribes and Pharisees.  Our righteousness exceeds their righteousness when we submit to God’s Word – No ifs, ands, or buts.

People often think that God is okay with the minimum.  They believe that He only requires technical, minimal compliance.  Our spiritual objective needs to be more than to just “get by” (Matt 16:24).  Jesus is telling us that our whole hearts have to be in it. This was required under the Law of Moses (Deut 6:4-7; Isa 29:13-14).  God has required a complete and total effort in every covenant He has made with man (Matt 22:37-38).  Our love for God is demonstrated by our obedience (Jn 14:15; Jn 14:21; ,Jn 14:23).

Please accept our invitation to worship and serve God with us.

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