20. Sermon on the Mount 5

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20)

Introduction
Jesus Christ did not teach the novelties of a new religion, though those who rejected Him always claimed that He did. The religionists of that day had a “form of godliness, but [denied] the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). They knew nothing of worshipping God “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24). Some think that He came to show man an easier way to Heaven, but such a view is groundless.

I am not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets
Yes, the ceremonial laws relating to sacrifices and service in the temple have been done away with. From Christ’s sacrifice onwards there was no further need for ritualistic laws. Those who tried to make it part of Christianity were reprimanded by Peter, “Why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). Jesus succeeded in “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Colossians 2:14).

The moral law, enforced by the prophets, is what Christ is speaking of here. This law is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. None of these laws are revoked in Biblical Christianity. Our human circumstances might change, but God’s law never does.

The Lord fulfilled the law, by obeying it and teaching it. He declared that every part of it is true and that man is responsible for keeping it. Our religion is not new; it is that which God intended at the very beginning. It is as old as Creation, and proceeds from the time Adam “became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7). The law was added because man fell from grace, and the prophets declared its meaning.

Not one jot or tittle will pass from the Law
No matter how insignificant it might seem, nothing of the law can be disannulled. God’s word of authority is applicable for all generations. The Gospel message is therefore no contradiction of the Law. Instead of passing away it establishes the Gospel as God’s perfect plan for all men. The Law points man to the Gospel, while the Gospel leads him to a more exact fulfilling of the Law. Paul tells us that “the righteousness of the law [is] fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4). This is in full agreement with God’s intentions … “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:33).Therefore the Gospel has not superseded the commands of God.

Even the least commandment
There have always been those who teach that the Law has been done away with. They are not followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. Who do they think they are to argue with the Son of God? God’s demand is entire obedience; therefore we cannot modify His word to suit our circumstances. There is no place for even a little transgression of the law. Do you really what to be “least in the Kingdom of Heaven”? 

Yes, it is “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8), but that you can sidestep holiness on your way to Heaven. Those who obey and teach the law will be “great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Righteousness that exceeds
If we are no better than the ungodly religious leaders of our day, then there is no hope for us. These men make a profession out of religion. They are zealous over things that don’t matter, yet see no need to believe the truth. They are full of self-righteousness because they think their ceremonies and rituals amount to something with God. Jesus declared the religionists of that day to be a company of hypocrites, for they “Trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). 

We should not measure ourselves by their standards and doctrines; instead we must live according to God’s word. There is no place in Heaven for such as this. No wonder the Lord requires that our righteousness exceed theirs. Our righteousness is that which comes by faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22).

Conclusion
The religious practices and notions of others should mean nothing to the Bible-believing Christian. We do not have them, but Christ, as our example. It is our duty to know the word of God by searching the Scriptures and obeying His commands. Let us not be content to “keep the whole law, and offend in one point” (James 2:10), rather let us utterly abhor all false ways (Psalm 119:128). Remember, without Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5). Go higher and deeper than common religion by letting your religion be that of the heart. Be athirst for God, even the Living God, and long to have His likeness, and be satisfied with nothing else but that (Psalm 42:2; 84:2; 17:15).

15 May 1739

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