SECTION 2: THE PROCLAIMATION OF JESUS THE KING
THE LAW AND THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW
JESUS FULFILLS THE LAW
Scripture To Consider:
“Do not think that I 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 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:
In setting forth the righteousness required of His true followers, Jesus naturally explained, first of all, the relation in which this righteousness stands, that is, to the demands of the law as delivered by Moses and the prophets. The general principle is that Jesus came not to amend nor to repeal or abolish the law, but to rightly interpret it and Himself to realize its demands both in His own experience and increasingly in the experience of His followers.
Jesus also explained, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Jesus regards this moral law as changeless and eternal. According to Jesus, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle [small grammatical marks] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled [or accomplished].”
In other words, in Christ’s kingdom apparent positions as Jesus calls least and great in the future kingdom will depend upon the attitude one has toward the law, both in their proclaiming it to others and in a person observing it for themselves. The highest place will be assigned to him or her who shall do, keep, and teach its commandments according to Jesus and Matthew 5.19; unless we attempt to alter or neglect His Word. That is indeed something to consider.
More specifically still, Jesus contrasts the righteousness He requires with that which was manifested by the scribes and Pharisees. For them it was a matter of external observance, of form, or of pretense. Jesus insists that it must be a matter of the heart, of motive, and of desire, as well as of external performance. Above all it must be a righteousness which regards the will of God and seeks to please Him, in contrast with actions which are designed to secure the approval of men.
One who manifests a mere formal righteousness will be excluded from the kingdom according to Jesus and Matthew 5.20; “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.” And so, the question should be, does our righteousness exceed the external only appearing self-righteousness of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day? Does our righteousness exceed the proud self-righteousness of many so-called religious leaders in our own 21st century generation? According to Jesus it must!
More Scripture To Consider:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder,’ and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother [or sister] without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother [or sister], ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire.”
“Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother [or sister] has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother [or sister], and then come and offer your gift. Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5.21-26
Something Else To Consider:
Jesus suggests five illustrations of His interpretation of the law as contrasted with the false interpretations of the scribes and Pharisees, who were concerned merely with external acts. Jesus traces every deed to the underlying motive and thought. The first illustration is taken from the law against murder. The Pharisee might suppose that he had not broken the sixth commandment if his hands were not red with the blood of his brother or sister; but Jesus declared that the anger itself is a breach of this commandment, for if allowed to express itself in action it would finally result in murder.
Jesus suggests three expressions of this evil and proposes for each an increasing severity of punishment. He who is angry with his brother or sister is declared to be in danger of condemnation by the local court. He or she who’s ill will is expressed in slander and contempt will be made to answer before the supreme council; but he or she who’s anger expresses itself in open abuse and in charges of blasphemous ungodliness toward God shall be in danger of the sufferings of hell.
So serious is this offense that if one remembers, even in the hour of worship, that he or she has given occasion to his or her brother or sister for such a feeling against himself or herself, even at the risk of apparent irreverence he or she should leave the place of worship and seek reconciliation. Then he or she can come, and worship with acceptance before God. Nor is there any time to be lost, for opportunities are fleeting. If anyone delays, according to Jesus, it may be too late, and he or she will be compelled to bear the utmost penalty unless we attempt to alter or neglect His Word.
Thus, Jesus seriously warns His true followers against the perils of anger. Thus, perfect is the fulfillment of the law against murder which He requires. Therefore, could it honestly be said of us, that we have spiritually murdered anyone recently according to Jesus? And if so, God has made a way of escaping our guilt, shame, and just punishment, in and through Jesus Christ. The ultimate decision to avail ourselves of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and His reconciliation process, rests with us!
More Scripture To Consider:
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And if your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.”
“And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. Furthermore, it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” Matthew 5.27-32
Something More To Consider:
Jesus applies the same reasoning in reference to the seventh Old Testament commandment. He declares that it is broken not merely by a sinful act but by every impure desire. He warns against allowing any occasion for evil thought. No matter how great the sacrifice involved, one must put out of his or her life all that might cause one to be tempted needlessly; anything that might endanger the purity of his or her soul. If necessary, even that which is as precious as the right eye, or as the right hand, must be sacrificed.
According to Jesus, it is far better, “…that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” And yet, we must put things in proper perspective. Is Jesus advocating bodily mutilation? Of course, He is not! Jesus understands that whatever our right eye sees, our left eye can also. He is fully aware that whatever our right hand can accomplish, our left hand can also. Jesus is attempting to establish in our minds a most graphic image of the eternal devastation of sin, any sin, if left in a state of nor being forgiven and by not being dealt with either individually or corporately as the body of Christ.
Also, according to Jesus, it is far more expedient, “…if you bring your gift to the altar [place of worship], and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” In other words, a straight line is not always the shortest distance when we desire to worship the Lord with a clear conscience!
A Few Final Words:
And finally, according to Jesus, it is far more important for us to understand, “…that unless your righteousness exceeds [or goes beyond] the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” In other words, for many who refuse the above-mentioned warning of the devastation of unconfessed sin and neglect to heed the divine instruction revealing the appropriate path of forgiveness, and whose righteousness is nothing more than self-righteousness, this earth is as close to heaven as they will ever get.
And, for those who humbly obey all of the above-mentioned biblical warnings of Jesus, this earth is as close to hell as they will ever get. Therefore, choose your final eternal destination wisely!
It is true, we can argue these things we are considering in this in-depth study of the gospel of Matthew, but the spiritual bottom line is in the end, according to Jesus, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Therefore, we conclude with Amen, so be it!
Our Father in heaven, thank You for helping us to better understand the difference between the Law of God and the Spirit of the Law of God. Teach us Father to fully understand and to agree with the biblical record that Jesus, the Word of God, has come to fulfill the Law of God. Teach us to learn this lesson of a lifetime. In Him Always, Amen!