Summary: Last week we looked at what Jesus meant when he said he did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it. Today, we'll look at vs. 19-20 that talk about obedience and righteousness.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part seven)
Last week we looked at what Jesus meant when he said he did not come to abolish the law but fulfill it. He taught things that the people hadn't heard before. It would be easy to think he was introducing a brand new teaching that was separate from the scriptures but that wasn't the case. He came to uphold and promote them. He came to clarify and explain them since they had been misrepresented by the religious leaders.
They had made accusations against Jesus that he was trying to go against the law so Jesus needed to counter what was being said about him. He wanted people to believe him. That wouldn't be easy since the religious leaders were looked at as God's representatives and since the commoners didn't have access to the scriptures, they took everything the religious leaders taught as truth. But some would be convinced that what Jesus said and did was not against God or his laws.
Jesus went on to say that the law would remain until everything was accomplished. Jesus accomplished the requirements of the law regarding the sacrifices for sin as well as accomplishing the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah. However, the moral law remains as a standard for all people. The command for us to love God and our neighbor will never be fulfilled until the end of time.
Plus, the law remains for those who reject Christ as they will be judged by it and found guilty of breaking it since no one is able to keep it. The law shows us what God's requirements are but it cannot give us the power to keep them. Therefore we needed a savior. Jesus lived his life in obedience to the law and was therefore an acceptable sacrifice for us.
When we are baptized into Christ we are no longer held under the curse of the law. Jesus did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves. "The law is the light that reveals how dirty the room is and Jesus is the broom that sweeps it clean." Today, we'll look at vs. 19-20 that talk about obedience and righteousness.
1) Obeying the law (19).
Matthew 5:19, "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus is communicating that following all of God's commands are important. In Matthew 28 Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations, teaching them to obey everything I commanded you. Everything Jesus commanded is important just like everything God commanded is important.
This helps to support Jesus' claim in vs. 17 that he didn't come to do away with any of it, but to fulfill all of it. Jesus kept the fullness of the law as God had given it; not as the scribes and Pharisees had warped it, added to it and neglected the weightier matters of it.
Matt. 23:23, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."
"More important". Jesus makes it clear that some commands are more important than others. However, none are to be neglected. We can have a similar problem today. We might consider some commands to be important while others are trivial. Do not steal, do not murder, do not commit adultery-big deal. Swearing, lying, coveting-not as serious. Remembering the Sabbath-not a big deal.
We can have the tendency to be obedient to the easier commands but minimize the importance of the harder ones to follow. And we like to pick and choose, focusing on the teachings that matter most to us and disregarding the ones we'd rather not deal with. I don't recall the bible giving us that leeway. Although the law describes varying consequences depending on the offense, that doesn't mean they're not all important.
But Paul said we're not under law, but under grace. So why do we have to obey the law? Paul did say that in Romans 6:14 but then he follows that up with vs. 15, "What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!"
Being under grace means we will not be judged as a lawbreaker but will receive mercy and grace because of Christ's sacrifice. But that doesn't give us a license to sin; we don't have the freedom to break God's commands without consequence. We may not be obligated to follow certain aspects of the law, but we are still obligated to follow the moral law.