Summary: Lesson 3 in a series. Jesus’s relationship to the Law and how it teaches us about righteousness.
Quick Sermons for Permanent Fixes Lesson 3
Fix Your Righteousness
The word “Law” or “rules” probably makes you feel a little confined. When I think of rules I think of the principle in West Virginia last week that essentially banned Valentine’s at his school He refused all deliveries of candy or flowers because he said it would disrupt school. Not even the faculty or the secretaries were allowed to receive gifts. The media dubbed him the Grinch that stole Valentine’s Day. Somehow that cold and inflexible idea is communicated with the simple word Law. The Psalmist David had a very different concept of Law. He spoke about God’s Law and said, “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for life. . . They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.” Psalm 19:7-10. This is the view that Jesus brings to the Old Testament Law in Matthew 5:17-20. Turn there if you would. In the time of Jesus the Pharisees were the controlling authority. They determined what was right and wrong. They had 613 commands regarding the keeping of they law. Then they wrote a commentary on these commands and made that binding, too! They argued about what the law meant when it said you couldn’t work on the Sabbath. They said that if you untied a knot using two hands, it was work. If it only required one hand it was ok. If you carried food, that was work, unless the food was less than one dried fig or was for a meal to be eaten immediately. If you wrote more than two letters together in permanent ink, that was work. You could, however, write all you want in the dust or in something erasable. Even today, the orthodox Jew will not call an elevator on the Sabbath because that is work. He can ride it, but he cannot summon it. That seems rather minuscule to us. I bet the Pharisees would have thought Valentine’s day disrupted school, too.
We have our own set of rules that run our lives. Perhaps political correctness has made you scared to say anything for fear of offending someone. Perhaps you have a boss or teacher who demands perfection, maybe you demand perfection from yourself, but we all have a set of man made rules that we live by. If we satisfy them, then we are “good.” The Bile would use the term righteous for that.
Jesus attacks these rules and reminds us that what God thinks of us and whether or not we live by His rules is what’s really important. Being righteous before God is all that truly counts. If you have your Bibles open to Matthew 5, I’ll start reading in verse 17.
“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. 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. 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.”
Too many times we come before God and we want a quick fix. We look for a religious checklist. What do I need to do to be right? Stay away from this, be sure and do that and everything will be fine. But Jesus doesn’t allow us to make quick fixes to our righteousness. We don’t have checklist Christianity. Instead, he calls us to permanently fix our righteousness by making our hearts righteous.
There are three things that we need to see this morning from this passage – I want us to notice the Law, the lifestyle, and the location. Look for those as we study this passage.
In the first two verses, Jesus is dealing with the Law and His relationship to it. The first thing Jesus says is that he didn’t come to destroy or abolish the law. That’s an interesting thing to me. Someone must have thought he came to abolish the law. They didn’t ask him if he came to break the law – lots of people broke the law. They wanted to know if he came to destroy the law. That implies that Jesus had the power to destroy the law. Many broke the law but only the lawgiver could abolish the law. It’s almost as if Jesus says, “I am not going to abolish the law or the prophets, and I’ll tell you why in just a minute, but that’s a good question.” Jesus says, in John 10:35 that Scripture can never be broken. The law reflects God’s heart. God does not change and the Old Testament still shows us God. It is just as inspired as the New Testament. In fact, most of the verses we think of regarding inspiration were written about the Old Testament. When Paul told Timothy, All Scripture is inspired, (2 Tim 3:16) he was speaking of the Old Testament. Now we can see that God was providing more Scripture for us, but when Paul wrote that there was no New Testament. When Peter said that Scripture was written by holy men who spoke as the Spirit moved them, he was speaking of the Old Testament prophets (2 Peter 1:21). I find it interesting that when the early church had a Bible study with someone to lead them to Christ, all they had was the Old Testament. How would you like to do evangelistic work that way?