It has been awhile since I have posted anything. The next part of Matthew Chapter 5 we will be studying is a little more difficult to understand and I want to be able to portray Jesus’ words in the right way. I hope that you will get a better understanding of what Jesus was talking about.
Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus starts out by clearing up some things about why he came. The purpose of God writing the law to the Israelites in the first place was to help people love God with all their hearts and minds. Over time, the law became misquoted and misapplied. Many of the religious leaders during Jesus’ time were taking the law and making it into a bunch of rules and regulations they had to keep in order to earn their way to God. Jesus came to bring the law back to it’s original purpose. Romans 5:20 says, “God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant.” Jesus came to offer us that grace that is unmerited. And thank God it doesn’t stop there. Romans 5:21 gives us hope, “So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In the Old Testament there were 3 categories of law. Ceremonial, Civil and Moral. (Life Application Study Bible)
- Ceremonial Law – related specifically to Israel’s worship. Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws therefore were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial law, the principles behind them – to worship and love a holy God – still apply. Jesus was often accused by the Pharisees of violating ceremonial law.
- Civil Law – applied to daily living in Israel. Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time and setting, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
- Moral Law – (such as 10 commandments) – this is the direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience. The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely.
Jesus is the picture and the fulfillment of all of these laws. The moral law is still in force for believers and is to be obeyed by the Spirit and under grace. Jesus fulfilled the Ceremonial law as our ultimate sacrifice. We no longer have to offer up animal sacrifices for our sins because Christ became the lamb slain for our sins. (Can I get an Amen?)
So is the Law wrong? What was its purpose? Paul explains in Romans 7:7, “Well then, am I suggesting that the law of God is sinful? Of course not! In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, ‘You must not covet.'” Clearly the law was given to God’s people to show that they were sinful but that they might not sin. Matthew Henry defines the law in this way, “There is no way of coming to that knowledge of sin, which is necessary to repentance, and therefore to peace and pardon, but by trying our hearts and lives by the law.” The commandments were made to be obeyed just as explained and fulfilled by Jesus’ life and his teachings (Guzik).
So why would Jesus compare our righteousness to the Pharisees? The Pharisees were Jewish religious leaders and they believed in keeping Law of Moses along with the Torah. These men were all about the obeying of laws than the change of the heart. They believed that if they obeyed all of God’s laws, they could earn their way to heaven. Their lives were based on self-righteousness rather than God’s righteousness. When Jesus started his ministry, they were in direct opposition to his teachings and miracles. They could not see that Jesus was there to fulfill the law. Jesus is saying that you may be doing all the right things to prove and show on the outside that you are righteous, but if you are not allowing God to change your heart, how are you better than the Pharisees? Spurgeon puts it this way, “The scribes and Pharisees were supposed to be righteous beyond all others. “Nay,” saith Christ; ‘you must go beyond them.’ They were, after all, superficial, flimsy, pretentious, unreal in their righteousness; and we must have a far nobler character than they ever attained, or we ‘shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.'”
Let’s start being true children of God. Allow him to change your heart. This is the very reason Jesus came; to give us a way to love and serve him without all the legalism. This is my prayer for you and myself – Psalm 119:34, “Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”