Summary: Lesson 13
To this point in the Lord’s sermon He has taken us through the Beatitudes where we learned that genuine salvation begins when we realize our poorness of spirit and spiritual bankruptcy before God. At that point we begin to mourn over our sinfulness. This mourning leads to a meek humbling of one’s self in the sight of the Saviour. Then the sinner begins to hunger and thirst for a righteousness that can only be found in a right relationship with Jesus Christ, they turn to Him in faith and repentance, and receive a free and full pardon from their sin.
Having experienced the joy and spiritual satisfaction of having their sins forgiven, and having tasted of the justifying righteousness of Christ, the saved now begin to hunger and thirst for a righteousness that is sanctifying. They now desire to be everything that the Lord would have them to be. As they grow and mature in their walk with the Lord they become merciful, they develop a pureness of heart, and strive to live in peace with those around them without compromising their beliefs. It is at this point that they discover that not everyone appreciates those who try to live what they say they believe and persecution becomes a reality to them. But they also learn that those who remain faithful to the Lord during times of persecution will be greatly rewarded.
Next the Lord explains the true function of Christians in this world. They are to be salt and light.
The next phase of His teaching dealt with His relationship to Law. This was important because those to whom He was speaking were Jews who had been taught the Law all of their lives. In His sermon, the Lord explained that His intention was not to annul, abolish, or destroy the Law, but rather to fulfill it. Jesus ended His discussion concerning His relationship to the Law by saying to those present "That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."
In the verses presently under consideration, the Lord begins to explain more clearly, using various illustrations, the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and what it takes to exceed it.
I. A FALSE INTERPRETATION
We must keep in mind that Jesus was not setting His teaching against that of the Old Testament. Instead, He was referring to the faulty interpretation that the scribes and Pharisees had given to it. Had Jesus been contradicting the Old Testament, He would have been contradicting the very Scriptures He had authored.
In ancient times people did not have multiple copies of the Bible as we do today. Their understanding of the Scriptures was primarily gleaned from what they heard the scribes and Pharisees teach and what they saw them practice. They relied heavily upon these men to read and interpret the law of God. The problem with this system was that the religious leaders did not always expound the exact meaning of the text. Beginning in verse 21, Jesus expounds the true meaning of what was set forth in the Old Testament.