LEAST IN THE KINGDOM
GREAT IN THE KINGDOM
SUNDAY MAY 12, 2019
Scripture To Consider:
“Do not think that I [Jesus] came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle [small grammatical mark] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5.17-20
Something To Consider:
One of the reasons Jesus came to planet earth was for the purpose of fulfilling the Law and the Prophets. He had already challenged His listeners to search the Scriptures, for in them, in the Old Testament Law and Prophets, He was the One that was distinctly pointed to and prophesied of coming to establish the long awaited and much anticipated kingdom of heaven on earth.
Therefore, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.” Rather, He confirmed the eternal relevancy and true importance of the Word of God, including every jot and every tittle, or every comma and every period. In other words, the Word of God, all of the Word of God, will be fulfilled prior to the destruction of the heavens and the earth.
Therefore, until then, according to Hebrews 4.12; “The Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” And we can rest assured that all prophecy concerning end time events will be perfectly fulfilled according to the biblical record.
Something Else To Consider:
Once fulfilled the Word of God will remain eternal as always, in and through the person of Jesus Christ. For Jesus, the Word of God is eternal! Jesus, who was once thought of as least in the kingdom by many, has become greatest in the kingdom. Where does that leave us as believers, as followers of Jesus, as leaders in His kingdom? Will we become one of the least in the kingdom of heaven, or great in the kingdom of heaven?
Our spiritual outcome as it pertains to the kingdom of heaven, according to Jesus, depends upon our breaking the least of God’s commandments, or our doing and teaching others to obey them. To many at first glance this concept that Jesus has presented in the Sermon on the Mount, appears to represent faith by works. But Jesus never contradicted Himself or His Word. He is simply warning of the danger and consequences associated with breaking the least of the law. Let us therefore be teachers of His law and not breakers of His law.
Let us be as the man, woman, or young person of Psalm 1, who is found by Jesus meditating upon the law or the Word of God both day and night. And if we do we will gain the spiritual insight to not be found walking in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standing in the path of sinners, nor sitting in the seat of the scornful. But rather, let us be found delighting in the law or in the Word of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God come to earth in the flesh, full of glory and full of grace!
Something More To Consider:
And yet, Jesus revealed the human impossibility of our becoming greatest in the kingdom without full faith alone in His far reaching and far exceeding righteousness. “For I [Jesus] say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus was and is positively declaring that no one’s self-righteousness will win them a reservation in the kingdom of heaven. The prophet Isaiah writing in chapter 64 in a prayer to God declared, “You are indeed angry, for we [all] have sinned, in these ways we continue; and we need to be saved.” Isaiah continued his heart’s cry to the Lord by stating in Isaiah 64.6, “But we [all humankind] we are all an unclean thing, and our righteousness [self-righteousness] are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”
All who gain access into the kingdom of heaven will do so only in and through the reward of the righteousness of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Only in our death to self and our taking up our own cross and following after Jesus and His revealed biblical example, will we ever be able to put on His righteousness which in all points exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees of every generation including this possible last 21st century generation.
Where does that leave the majority of Christendom who appear to place either too much value or not enough value upon works or deeds of righteousness? There must be a balance struck if we are to be found by Jesus having the righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees. We must not allow any religious system to attempt to convince us that righteous works leads us to salvation. When in fact it is our being forgiven of our sin and being promised that our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed, that produces the fruit of the Spirit in the form of righteous works and deeds.
A Few Final Words:
James the step brother of Jesus unfolds the truth for us concerning faith with and without works in James 2.14-18. “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he [or she] has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him [or her]? If a brother or sister [in the faith] is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit.”
James makes an excellent point that is impossible to argue against. And so, he continued, “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” Our lives if true born-again believers imitating Jesus Christ, will produce fruit of the Spirit of which righteous works are included.
James, who appears did not believe in Jesus when Jesus was alive, which made him among the least in the kingdom of heaven; finished his letter by further spiritual instruction, by stating, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth [truth of the Word of God as did James], and someone turns him [or her] back [from darkness to the light], let him [or her] know that he [or her] who turns a sinner from the error of his [or her] way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.”
Therefore, James knew firsthand what it meant to have wandered from the truth in not believing in Jesus. He also knew firsthand what it meant as a sinner to be turned from the error of his way. James knew what it meant to be considered both least and greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And therefore, he chose to teach others the truth and to attempt to turn others including himself if need be from the error of disbelieving the preserved written Word of God.
Greatness in the kingdom of heaven is gained through our surrender to Christ’s sacrifice and His command to do and teach others the same. “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men [women and young people] so, shall be called least in the kingdom; but whoever does and teaches them, he [or she] shall be called great in the kingdom.”
Our Father in heaven, grant to us by faith the righteousness of Jesus, which exceeds the righteousness of any restrictive religion. In Him Always, Amen!