Summary: OUTLINE: The Letter of the Law (Do Not Commit Murder) The Spirit of the Law (Anger and Hatred are the Root of Murder) The Application of the Law (Seek Peace with Others)
The Letter and the Spirit: Murder
There is a famous quote about the Bible which has been attributed to everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Mark Twain. The quote is this: “It’s not the parts of the Bible I do not understand that worry me, it’s the parts I do understand but do not want to do.”
I wanted to begin my mentioning this quote this morning because we are about to embark upon the meat of the Sermon on the Mount wherein Jesus will be correcting the many misunderstandings of the Jewish teachers.
He will say, “You have heard it said... but I say to you”
Throughout this, He will say some things which may possibly be hard to hear.
But the reality is that they are hard to hear not because they are hard to understand, but because many of them are simply hard to obey.
They require putting away of the flesh and total dependence upon the spirit.
I pray that in the weeks to come that we will see that Christ is here outlining the ethic of the Kingdom; one wherein believers operate in the spirit and not as slaves to the flesh.
READ: Matthew 5:21-26
In the book of Romans the apostle Paul makes a point about the Law of Godwhich is very important to our study today.
Romans 2:29 “But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.”
In this passage, Paul makes a distinction between the “letter” of the law and the “spirit” of the Law.
This idea of understanding law as both having a literal application and a foundational backing (or spirit) has been discussed down through the ages, and it is often a big debate in interpreting laws; it often inspires great disagreement when discussing how laws are supposed to function within a society.
The question becomes, are we obligated to the letter of the law only, or the spirit with which it was intended?
Now, I mention the apostle Paul because this idea of the “Letter and Spirit” of the law is often attributed to him, since he used that language in Romans.
However, before Paul ever wrote one word on this subject, Jesus had already demonstrated this principle in the Sermon on the Mount.
In our text today, Jesus begins a series of teachings wherein He will be demonstrating that the teachers of His day had become masters of the “Letter” of the Law, but that they had abandoned the “Spirit” of the Law, thus they were not properly “Applying” the Law.
The Letter of the Law (Do Not Commit Murder)
The Spirit of the Law (Anger and Hatred are the Root of Murder)
The Application of the Law (Seek Peace with Others)
I. The Letter of the Law - Do Not Commit Murder
Matthew 5:21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.”
Now, it is important to point out at this point that this is a true statement:
The Law forbids murder.
But, why is murder so evil to begin with?
Some may think this is an inane question.
Why is murder bad?
Because people are hurt in the process.
Because people have to go through pain and suffering.
Because it inflicts injury upon the victim and emotional turmoil on the victim’s families.
Murder is bad because through it people’s lives are cut short.
Everyone knows why murder is bad!
Well, everyone knows why murder is bad from our perspective; and from our perspective it is pretty bad. Few things really ever compare to it.
But the Bible tells us that there is more to murder than just the injury it causes the victim.
God has specifically pointed out murder as a heinous sin because of the nature of human life.
There is an inherent sanctity of human life which is different than all other life in the world.
Consider the command given to Noah when he came down out of the ark.
Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”
According to genesis 9, why is human life valuable?
Because mankind is made in the image of God.
We bear the imago dei, and as a result to indiscriminately kill a human being is to demonstrate a lack of reverence for the Creator of that human being.
NOTE: In recent times, people from the “animal rights” movement have tried to equate animal life with human life.
QUOTE: “Many animal-rights activists dismiss any distinctions between humans and animals as “speciesism.” Princeton professor, Peter Singer, defines this as “a prejudice” that favors “the interests of the members of one’s own species . . . against those members of other species.” (http://www.christianpost.com/news/equating-animals-with-humans-31539/)