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The Sermon on the Mount
“Jesus, the Law, and Believers”
As we proceed in our study of the Bible and Jesus’ teaching it’s important to understand His authority and His relationship to the Old Testament Scriptures.
In our study tonight we’ll see that Jesus neither abolishes nor cancels out of the Old Testament. Rather, what’s we’ll see is that He corrects misinterpretations by presenting the passages’ true meaning. So let’s read our passage.
Read Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus begins by saying,
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17 NKJV)
Right off the bat Jesus is makes it clear that He wants to remove any and all doubt or potential misunderstanding that may arise over what He has been teaching. Jesus doesn’t want there to be any fuzziness in this regard.
He’s saying that He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. The word, “destroy,” here means to tear down, abolish, annual, or to make invalid. So in the beginning of His ministry Jesus denies that His purpose or mission was to abolish or to invalidate the Holy Scriptures; rather His mission and purpose was to fulfill them.
What I’ve found sad is that many Christians today are trying to do the exact opposite. You hear it in statements like, “That’s the Old Testament.” This has been used in doctrines like the giving of the tithe, fasting, or anything that we don’t like or don’t want to do.
But there exists a basic principle of interpretation that states if a custom or law no longer applies given the culture one lives in, it becomes imperative to find the principles behind it so it can be transferred.
This is especially true when it comes to the Bible and our understanding of the New Testament in relation to the Old Testament.
Here’s one that’ll wet your whistle and we’ll look more fully at this in a couple of weeks. The Law states that a person who commits adultery was to be put to death, Leviticus 20:10.
Today, in our country at least, we don’t put people to death for adultery. How then are we to reconcile this Law of God?
What was the principle behind the law that we can transfer? Let me present this, if the person who committed adultery was put to death, what this would do would free the innocent spouse from the marriage, because that is what death does, it would allow for remarriage.
Therefore, since we don’t put people to death, and since the New Testament says divorce for marital infidelity was permissible, what this effectively does is frees the innocent spouse.
I know this opens up a can of worms without a fuller understanding, but you’re just going to have to wait until this part of Jesus’ sermon.
Jesus didn’t come to invalidate the law; rather He came to fulfill it. Jesus came not to annul the Old Testament Scriptures, rather to bring them to their intended goal, to it’s intended meaning regarding their Messianic fulfillment.
This idea can best be illustrated in the following six interpretations Jesus gives. It’s a common statement Jesus makes. He starts out by saying, “You have heard that it was said,” but then He says, “But I say to you.”
Jesus is giving us the fulfillment. The Law and the Prophets, and the whole of the Old Testament is being brought to completion in Jesus.
Look at how the Apostle Paul brings this out.
“Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Paul is saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of both doctrine and their Old Testament observances.
First is looking at what we eat and drink, or the dietary laws, or what is and isn’t permissible to eat.
In the New Testament Peter had a vision where all kinds of unclean animals as listed in the Law as unclean. These were presented before Him and God tells him to eat. But Peter said no because he had always kept the dietary law.
But God replied, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15 NIV)
Now, while God’s ultimate purpose was to get Peter to go to the Gentiles and present the gospel message, because Jews considered the Gentiles as ‘unclean,’ the implications are clear that God was repealing the dietary laws.
So, whether someone wants to keep the dietary law or not, this is not something a person is to be judged upon, because its fulfillment is found in Christ, which is seen in what Jesus said about Himself.
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51 NIV)
“Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13 NIV)
And so Jesus was the ultimate fulfillment and our ultimate nourishment.
In regards to the holy days and Sabbath, Jesus fulfilled the first four feasts of Israel, and will be the ultimate fulfillment of the last three. Let’s take a look at this.
1st Feast – Passover: Jesus died on Passover and He was the Passover Lamb, as John the Baptist described Him as being the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, John 1:29.
2nd Feast – Unleavened Bread: Jesus, who was without sin, which is being unleavened represents, and it was on this feast day that Jesus was placed in the tomb.
3rd Feast – First Fruits: Jesus, whom Paul calls the first fruits from the dead, 1 Corinthians 15:23, was raised to life on this feast day.
4th Feast – Pentecost: It was on this feast day that the Holy Spirit descended and the church, the body of Christ, was formed, Acts 2:1-4.
5th Feast – Trumpets: It will be at the “trump of God” that the dead in Christ shall rise, as well as those who are alive and believe in Jesus at that time. This is often viewed as the Rapture.
6th Feast – Yom Kippur/Day of Atonement: It will be upon this day that Jesus will step down upon the Mount of Olives and redeem all of Israel back unto Himself, which was the purpose of this feast day.
7th Feast – Tabernacles: This is the only feast that will be kept during the millennial reign of Christ, as He dwells upon the earth as the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Of the Sabbath Day, the day of rest, Jesus said,
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NKJV)
The writer of Hebrews says,
“Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it.” (Hebrews 4:1 NKJV)
Whether someone wants to keep the Sabbath or these holy days is not something that should divide the church, nor should anyone be judged based upon their observance, and that’s because Jesus fulfilled them. They are completed through Jesus.
In his letter to the Colossian church, Paul said that these things are shadows of things to come. Now a shadow doesn’t have within itself any substance, but it does reveal that there’s something real by the shadow that’s cast.
Paul’s saying that Jesus is the substance, the reality, which the law is but a dim reflection of.
But not only does Jesus fulfill the teaching and observances of the Old Testament, but also prophesy. From Jesus’ conception to His resurrection, there were over 300 prophecies and foreshadows from the Old Testament that have been fulfilled in Him.
Now, the chances that one man could fulfill these prophecies are beyond calculations, or even probabilities. Peter Stoner, a mathematician, took just eight of these prophecies as calculated that for one man to fulfill all eight would be akin to filling up the whole state of Texas two feet high with silver dollars, blindfolding a man and letting him wander through the state, and the chances of that person picking the one silver dollar that was marked on the first attempt would be the same as one person fulfilling eight of these prophecies.
And Jesus fulfilled over 300
And so Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it, to bring it to completion.
Now let’s continue and look at verse 18
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:18 NKJV)
A jot represents the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and a tittle is a tiny hook in the Hebrew language distinguishing one letter from another. Basically a tittle is the smallest stroke in the Hebrew language.
Jesus is making an overstatement, a hyperbole if you would, in order to drive home the point presented in verse 17, that the law, the whole of the Old Testament is to be preserved. This point is further developed in His statement, “till heaven and earth pass away.” In other words, the Old Testament Scriptures are valid until the end of the age when all will be fulfilled.
And so, until the end, until the creation of the new heaven and earth, the whole of the Scriptures will be in force.
As I viewed these last two verses, what strikes me is Jesus’ assessment of the reliability of the Scriptures, both the Old and New Testaments. Consider for a moment the Bible.
And here’s the kicker, over all these years and by all these different writers, writing in all these various locations and in all these different writing styles and languages, there remains complete harmony between them all. And there has never been another book, religious or not, that has been written that can boast of this sort of harmony, not even those written in the same generation.
The Bible is one single unfolding story of God’s salvation and redemption of the human race.
The Bible’s uniqueness is also seen in the it has been translated into 2,200 languages and counting, which is over one-third of the world’s known languages and has reached over 90 percent of the world’s population. No other book even comes close.
Consider its survival. Even though it continued to be copied due to the perishable materials it was written upon, it has never diminished in style or correctness from the oldest existing manuscripts. Further, while people, nations, and religions have tried to ban the Bible, it has never disappeared, and remains flourishing even in countries that are hostile to its message.
Jesus goes on to say that obedience is therefore required
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19 NKJV)
Our reward, while based upon faith is also based upon obedience. But it goes beyond just keeping them, we should also be teaching them as well.
Jesus in the Great Commission says that while we are to go make disciples, in the making of them we’re to be teaching them to observe what He has taught, that is, we are not only to obey them, but teach others to obey them as well.
“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20 NKJV)
For those who break the Law, however, and teach others to do the same, they’ll be called least in the kingdom of Heaven. Note, it doesn’t say that they won’t enter. Entrance into heaven is based upon grace through faith, and not of works, Ephesians 2:8-9. Instead for those who break the law and teach others to do so there will be a loss of rewards.
Jesus goes on to make this clear about our entrance. He said,
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:20 NKJV)
Jesus is saying that if our trust is in ourselves, that is, in our own righteousness or righteous works, then it better exceed the Scribes and Pharisees.
The religious leaders of that day strained to keep every letter of the law, even to the point of tithing a tenth part of their spices, Matthew 23:23-24.
Now Jesus never said that they got into heaven on their own righteousness, or the keeping of the law. How then can our righteousness exceed theirs and if theirs doesn’t do it, then what will – The righteousness of Christ.
You see heaven isn’t based upon righteousness by degree; rather it’s based upon a deeper righteousness of the heart, not our heart, because our heart the Bible says is desperately wicked and deceitful, Jeremiah 17:9.
The righteousness that matters is the righteousness of Christ imputed unto all those who believe.
“I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.” (Philippians 3:8b-9 NKJV)
The Pharisees were interested in external obedience and making their lives conforming to the letter of the law, but the righteousness that pleases God is not outward, but the righteousness that comes from within.
To the prophet Samuel the Lord said,
“The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b NKJV)
It’s heart righteousness, just as God foretold it would be with the institution of the New Covenant. God said that it wasn’t going to be like the covenant He made with Moses, where the law was written to tablets of stone, a covenant they broke time and time again, but rather it would be new covenant, where the same laws would be written on our hearts, and placed within our minds.
And so Jesus came to fulfill the Law, and that the Law was fulfilled in Him, and if anyone wants heaven as their reward they need to follow what God’s word says, and since it says that only faith in Jesus saves, that is who we need to believe in and follow.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study