Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount
" 'Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 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 5:17, 18, NKJV).
On Sabbath's entry our lesson gives us an overview of the Sermon of the Mount and state there objective. Let us read,
When most people think about the Sermon on the Mount, they automatically think of "the Beatitudes" (Matt. 5:1–12). However, the Sermon on the Mount actually covers three chapters that have been divided into four sections. The Beatitudes comprise only the first section. In the second, Jesus compares Christians to light and salt (Matt. 5:13–16). The third, Matthew 5:17–48, is where Jesus gives us a new and deeper perspective on the law. And then there is the final and longest section, Matthew 6:1–7:23, in which Jesus provides clear teaching on Christian behavior. The whole talk ends with the parable of the wise and foolish builders (Matt. 7:24–27), which stresses the importance of obedience to what God calls us to do.
This week we will investigate the third section, Matthew 5:17–48 (which theologians call the antitheses, cases in which sharp contrasts are presented), to see what it teaches us about the law.
The last sentence shows us what the premise and bias of our author: the Law is the Ten Commandments. This is a premise we disproved two weeks ago (See http://sabbathschoolinsights.blogspot.com/2014/04/christs-and-law-of-moses.html). We concluded that the keeping of the Law is loving: God above all else and your neighbor as yourself. It is laying down your life for them (1 John 3: 16). It is living for them, at the expense of your own life. This can only happen when God writes this principle in our heart. This is God's covenant promise to us. We read in Jeremiah,
Jer 31:33 But 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.
This is the Gospel: good news. Through the Holy Spirit Christ dwells in us, and while in us He rewires our minds and hearts to be more like His mind; in only we allow Him. Hebrews 11 gives us a list of those who have allowed God to do this work in them. This is to be an encouragement to us.
What we call the beatitudes are promises made to those who exhibit nine specific attributes of those who truly follow Christ. This proves that God "…is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11: 6). Christ is establishing a contrast between what HE is and stands for and with the leaders of the church are about. He does not ignore or forsake those who suffer. The reason He lets them suffer is twofold. First, is to develop a righteous and loving character in the sufferer, and second, is that through the development and exhibition of this loving character others may be encouraged to trust God also. His light shining through those who trust Him disperses the darkness of Sin in the world. The light not only lets us know that we are sinners, but that God is love. Salt gives flavor, preserves, and melts ice cold hearts.
So, Christ continues to establish the contrast: "you have heard it say…, but I say…" Remember who Christ is talking to. He is talking to a people that believe that by obeying a myriad of ordinances from oral tradition as originated by well-known elders. They believed that following these rules would lead to obedience of the larger rules. Christ showed them that outward behavior was not enough. What is cherished in the heart is Sin also. We are born with it. We inherit it. And, only God can fix it. Can a lustful man truly have grounds for divorce from an unfaithful wife, when he in his heart he has been unfaithful also?
Christ continues by giving practical applications of how the life of a person who lives by faith will look like. Still in contrast to the religious leaders of the day. Christ finishes the sermon warning the people to beware false prophets. He says that by the fruit you will know them. Do not let their apparent zeal and piety fool you. Many claim to be His, but are not (Matthew 7: 21). This may be the brother sharing the pew with you, or the elder or the Pastor. God may be using you to be light and salt in their life.