Summary: Jesus up the ante when he tells his disciples that the Law i to be tesy-ted in their own conscience rather than just that which can be proved in a Court of Law
Jesus and the OT
I am amazed how little time Christians devote to study the Old Testament – yet for Jesus it was “THE SCRIPTURE”
He said not a jot or tittle of the Law would pass away – so we would do well to study it closely.
Many Christians think that as Jesus came to fulfil the Law and the Prophets – and so we can now ignore them.
I disagree - at least with regard to God's Moral Law.
And the Moral Law can be summed up by the Ten Commandments.
Yet with regard to the Moral Law of God, Jesus raised the standards in the New Testament.
In the Old Testament, observation of the Law could be measured in a Court of Law.
If you committed murder – if you committed adultery – if you took God’s Name in vain – this could be tested in Court.
However in the New Testament, Jesus tells us that the keeping of God’s Moral Law has to be discerned by our conscience.
For example in our Gospel reading this morning Jesus said:
21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.
There are basically three types of OT LAW
1. THE MORAL LAW
2. THE CEREMONIAL LAW and
3. THE CIVIL LAW
1. The Moral Law
The Moral Law tells us about God’s character.
These never change, just as God himself never changes
They tell us what God likes and dislikes.
The Ten Commandments for example are MORAL LAW.
Jesus summed up the requirements of God’s Moral Law by applying two great principles.
The first is from Deuteronomy 6:5 -
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might."
The second is from Leviticus 19:18 -
"Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself."
2. The Ceremonial Law
The Ceremonial laws all prefigured Jesus’ death on the Cross. They related to the services of the sanctuary, the offering of sacrifices, and the priestly ministration.
Every sacred festival foreshadowed a saving event in the redemption of the world.
That why we no longer need to sacrifice a Lamb at Passover.
The Ceremonial Law has been fulfilled in Jesus.
3. The Civil Law
Every country has a civil Law and Israel was no different
So to Israel as a nation were given laws in the OT governing how justice was administered.
They were for a place (Israel) and a time – that is they were the law of the land in those days)
Unlike the Ceremonial Laws, which were wholly symbolic in nature, the Civil Laws were not abolished by the death of Christ.
Rather they do not apply to us as we are not in the Land of Israel.
We therefore no longer need to observe the CEREMONIAL LAW (as was settled in the First Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15) nor the CIVIL LAW (as we are not Jews living in Israel).
However Christians STILL need to observe the MORAL LAW OF GOD.
St Paul the great Champion of grace himself says this about God’s moral law
He writes in Romans 6
1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer.
Paul is talking about the Moral Law of God here.
Jesus took the Old Testament seriously and I think as Christians we need to do so too
But how do we avoid simply getting bogged done in legalism
After all in order to avoid breaking the ten Commandments the Pharisees had fenced the 10 Commandments around with more severe rules.
Jesus had no quarrel with the OT – The Law and the Prophets.
But he did have a quarrel with the fence around the 10 Commandments.
Michael Green writes this:
Jesus “is totally against the externalism induced by the enormous legislative superstructure which the Scribes and Pharisees had erected as a fence for the law.
Much of this legalism was contained in oral pronouncements, readily memorized in middle Eastern countries, where writing was not very common. But even now we can see how vast and how repressive it was.
In the third century AD some of it was codified in the MISHNAH, which runs into some 800 pages in English,
And then commentaries emerged to explain the Mishnah. These were known as TALMUDS. There are twelve printed volumes of the Jerusalem TALMUD and sixty of the Babylonian TALMUD.”
(The Message of Matthew – Michael Green p93)