Fulfilling the Law
January 26, 2014
Topic: Sermon Passage: Matthew 5:17–5:48
“FULFILLING the LAW”
The BEATITUDES are the BEST-KNOWN part of the SERMON on the MOUNT, but in a sense, they only provide an INTRODUCTION, DESCRIBING the KIND of PEOPLE that the REST of the sermon is for.
FOLLOWING the Beatitudes, Jesus CONTINUES His sermon with a CLARIFICATION concerning His TEACHING: v.17.
The FEAR of the PHARISEES was that Jesus had come to do just that: to ABOLISH (destroy) the Law.
After all, He taught WITH authority, rather than FROM authorities.
But, rather than ABOLISHING the Law & the Prophets, Jesus had come to FULFILL them; to bring them to their INTENDED GOAL.
The LAW, the books of Genesis through Deuteronomy, was examined with minute THOROUGHNESS by the Jews.
In their search, they discovered that there were 613 COMMANDMENTS in this part of the Bible (248 positive & 365 negative) - & this, of course, only served to stimulate the LEGALISTIC bent of the Pharisees.
Jesus, though, had already been teaching His followers about GRACE – what place, then, did the LAW now have?
More importantly, in what way had Jesus come to FULFILL rather than ABOLISH the Old Testament (which is what “the Law or the Prophets” refers to)? In 3 primary ways:
He came to fulfill the MORAL DEMANDS of the Law. He did so by His PERFECT RIGHTEOUSNESS
He came to fulfill the JUDICIAL DEMANDS of the Law. He did this by way of the CROSS.
He came to fulfill the CEREMONIAL DEMANDS of the Law. This also was accomplished at the CROSS, as SACRIFICE was at the heart of all OT worship. By His sacrifice, Jesus brought ALL OTHER sacrifices to an end.
For these reasons, Christ is described in Rom. 10:4 as “the end of the law.”
This is why NONE of the OT can be rightly UNDERSTOOD until it is viewed in light of the PERSON & MINISTRY of JESUS CHRIST.
V.18 – “I came” means that Jesus came to this earth on a SPECIAL MISSION, & that was to see to the ACCOMPLISHMENT of the law.
He insists that not even the SMALLEST part of the OT – the JOTS & TITTLES – would be lost until it was ALL fulfilled.
“Truly, I say to you” was a phrase used by NO OTHER TEACHER but Jesus, & He used it 31 times in Matthew.
The PROPHETS tended to say, “thus saith the Lord,” while JESUS would say, “But I say to you.”
In reality, it was OTHERS who have sought to UNDERMINE or ABOLISH the Word of God, in 3 basic ways:
By appealing to TRADITION. This was exemplified by the PHARISEES, who were the all-time EXPERTS at this.
But, as Baptists, we believe in the Protestant doctrine of sola Scriptura, or SCRIPTURE ALONE - & so, whenever our TRADITIONS are in CONFLICT with the scripture, then the SCRIPTURE must PREVAIL.
By elevating REASON above REVELATION. LIBERALISM has always assumed that, whenever what they consider to be RIGHT is in DISAGREEMENT with the scripture, then the SCRIPTURE must be WRONG.
But “the Bible is not a collection of men’s religious ideas but God’s revelation of divine truth, its teachings are not speculations to be judged but truths to be believed; its commands are not suggestions to be considered but requirements to be followed.” (John MacArthur)
By rejecting the Bible’s SUFFICIENCY. Is the BIBLE ADEQUATE for the work of the CHURCH TODAY?
Is it adequate for EVANGELISM, or must we rely on SIGNS & WONDERS, or ENTERTAINMENT?
Is it adequate for our GROWTH in GODLINESS, or must we rely on SELF-HELP programs & COUNSELING instead?
Is it adequate for the IMPACT we need to make on SOCIETY, or must we turn to POLITICAL ACTION instead?
V.19 – there is something WORSE in God’s sight than OUR OWN compromise or rejection of the truth, & that is when we INFLUENCE OTHERS to do the same.
V.20 – “I tell you” means that Jesus is about to make a PROFOUND & SURPRISING statement.
The PHARISEES had an altogether DIFFERENT CONCEPT of RIGHTEOUSNESS than Jesus did, as the following verses will make clear.
He proceeds to tell His listeners that the PHARISEES’ way is the WRONG way. If they want to ENTER the Kingdom of Heaven, then they must come by a DIFFERENT way – HIS way.
From verse 21 to the end of the chapter, Jesus explains what a RIGHTEOUSNESS that “exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” LOOKS like.
The CONTRASTS that Jesus will present are not between what the OT taught vs. what Jesus taught; but rather, what the PHARISEES taught vs. the teachings of Jesus.
It is critical for us to understand, then, that Jesus is not REJECTING the OT, but the DISTORTED understanding of it that had developed through the centuries.
Jesus takes 6 important OT laws & interprets them according to the ATTITUDES & INTENTIONS of the HEART, & not merely the EXTERNAL ACTION of the Pharisees.
The Pharisees had a hard time appreciating & understanding MOTIVES & ATTITUDES. Matt. 23:25 (NASB): “You clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.”
Remember also: Jesus’ INTERPRETATION of the Law is EXCEEDED by His AUTHORITY over it, & His FULFILLMENT of it.
He begins with:
MURDER (the 6th commandment).
V.21 – “You have heard” – most of Jesus’ listeners had not actually READ the Law; they had only HEARD an interpretation of it.
V.22 – not only is MURDER wrong; the ANGER that may sometimes LEADS to murder is ALSO wrong, & a VIOLATION of GOD’S LAW.
WHY? Because God requires an INNER RIGHTEOUSNESS – in fact, He requires a PERFECT righteousness! V.48.
Thankfully, the One who DEMANDS perfect righteousness also PROVIDES perfect righteousness: Rom. 3:21-22a.
Vs.23-24 – the ANGRY person cannot give God ACCEPTABLE WORSHIP without an effort for RECONCILIATION.
Vs.25-26 – those who DO NOT seek reconciliation must accept the PENALTY of being unreconciled. The point: we must deal DECISIVELY with SIN.
ADULTERY (the 7th commandment).
Vs.27-28 – Jesus makes clear that He is speaking of ALL SEXUAL sin, not merely among those are MARRIED.
Vs.29-30 – obviously, these commands are not to be taken LITERALLY! (the early church father Origen had himself CASTRATED in response to these verses)
The point: GET RID OF WHATEVER is TEMPTING you to sin. DRASTIC MEASURES must be taken to avoid SEXUAL SIN.
DIVORCE: Deut. 24:1-4.
The GREAT PROBLEM in Jesus’ day was the EASE in which MEN could obtain a DIVORCE. “What God had provided as reluctant permission had turned into a legal right.” (MacArthur)
Vs.31-32 – a DIVORCED WOMAN would be COMPELLED to REMARRY, because otherwise she could probably not SURVIVE – but, in doing so, her FIRST husband has made her an ADULTRESS.
Jesus makes clear that GOD HATES DIVORCE. He sets a HIGH STANDARD of MARRIAGE for BOTH SEXES. (In Matt. 19, Jesus goes more fully into the subject of divorce.)
Numb. 30:2: “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
Vs.33-37 – simply put, followers of Jesus Christ must be characterized by INTEGRITY; therefore, you can TRUST what they SAY.
Warren Wiersbe: “Jesus taught that our conversation should be so honest, and our character so true, that we would not need ‘crutches’ to get people to believe us.”
If I am a TRUTHFUL person, I don’t need an OATH to BACK-UP what I say. My WORD is SUFFICIENT.
Literally speaking, followers of Jesus are to go the EXTRA MILE in dealing with those who MISTREAT them.
Not only are we to not seek RETALIATION; we are to seek to DO GOOD for those who mistreat us!
LOVE For ENEMIES
Lev. 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
But the average JEW of Jesus’ day did not consider a GENTILE to be his NEIGHBOR.
Vs.43-47 – “it is never enough that believers do the good that unbelievers do; always it is necessary that they do more.” (Leon Morris)
The CONCLUSION: “Be perfect:” v.48.
With this commandment, Jesus shows that God’s LAW always pointed to PERFECTION.
Obviously, PERFECTION is IMPOSSIBLE! But GODLINESS is ATTAINABLE.
James Montgomery Boice: “It is true that we will never be perfect in this life, but the perfections outlined in this sermon are still those for which we should aim and that we should increasingly attain by God’s grace and power in our lives.”
Followers of Christ, then, can KNOW that, if they SEEK that perfection, God will HONOR them in their effort.
With such a GOAL, there is ALWAYS something in the Christian life for us to SHOOT FOR!
PERFECTION is IMPOSSIBLE – “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matt. 19:26b)
We can be ASSURED, then, that God will provide the POWER to accomplish what He has DEMANDED.
J. Oswald Sanders: “The Master expects from His disciples such conduct as can be explained only in terms of the supernatural.”
Gal. 2:16: “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”
WHAT must we DO, then? The ONLY thing we can do: TRUST in JESUS CHRIST, the FULFILLMENT of the LAW.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)