Summary: Up until now in our series we've covered the beatitudes and being salt and light. Today I'll be talking about the law. That was OT stuff; we're NT Christians so why do we need to pay attention to the law? As Christians what's our relation to the law?
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part six)
Up until now in our series we've covered topics that were somewhat familiar and perhaps more practically applicable than what we'll be looking at today. Today I'll be talking about the law. If you've read through the OT, there may be two sections you breeze through-genealogies and sections on the law. You may not focus very much on the law because you feel that was for the Jewish people, not Christians. That was OT stuff; we're NT Christians so why do we need to pay attention to the law? As Christians what's our relation to the law?
1) Jesus didn't come to abolish, but fulfill (17).
Matt. 5:17, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."
When you read this verse you have two questions. The first one is: what does he mean? When Jesus says, 'the law and the prophets', he's basically saying the whole OT. It was commonly referred to as the law and the prophets.
To abolish means to do away with or get rid of. Jesus is saying, 'don't think my intention is to remove or replace the scriptures. My purpose is to uphold them, teach them and fulfill them'.
One of the synonyms for fulfill is satisfy. That's what Jesus came to do-satisfy the requirements of the law as well as satisfy the prophecies made about the coming Messiah.
The law required payments and penalties for breaking it. When people sinned they had to make sacrifices to make it right. Jesus came as the final sacrifice for sins; satisfying God's requirements. When we trust in Christ for salvation, that satisfaction is transferred to us and we no longer have to pay the penalty for our sin.
When Jesus died on the cross he said, "it is finished". What was finished? Meeting the requirements of the law. Gal. 3:13 says that Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us when he was crucified. Jesus delivered us from the curse of the consequences from being a lawbreaker because he kept the law perfectly and was the final sacrifice for sin.
The other question Matt. 5:17 prompts is: why would Jesus need to say this? One reason is because his teaching was radical and unprecedented. So in some regards it may have sounded like he was countering the law. But what he countered was the lack of knowledge or understanding about the law which stemmed from the religious leaders who either twisted it or added to it or focused more heavily on all their non-biblical traditions.
The next passage in Matthew starts with Jesus saying, "You have heard that it was said"; to which he follows up with "but...". This continues throughout the sermon on the mount. Jesus saying but wasn't to counter the law, but to expound on it.
Some of the things Jesus mentions after the, "you have heard it said" were commandments from God, like 'do not murder' and 'do not commit adultery'. However, some were not commands from God, like 6:43, "you have heard that it was said, 'love your neighbor and hate your enemy'". 'Love your neighbor' is a command of God, but 'hate your enemy' is not. Yet this was the teaching the people received.
It's understood there are 613 OT laws, 365 negative commands (don't do this) and 248 positive ones (do this). By the time Christ came the Pharisees had made many additions and traditions to the existing law. This produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness. Since the true essence of the law had not been correctly explained or taught, Jesus came to clarify and explain what the laws meant as God intended them.
In doing so, at times it may have seemed like he was going against the law, like in the case of the woman caught in adultery where the religious leaders tried to trap him. But Jesus was bringing the law back to what it was in the beginning before it became inadequately represented in the present day.
He wanted the people to hear the truth and understand the true nature of God's law and his grace. Grace was not something the Pharisees focused on. Their focus was the law and its consequences without implementing God's Spirit of patience, understanding, mercy, and forgiveness.
And with that the people could easily develop a view of God as a tyrant who was there to punish the lawbreaker. So Jesus came to represent the fullness of God. But as Jesus taught about love, grace and mercy, it may have seemed like he was going against the essence of the disciplinary law. But that wasn't the case.