The Sermon on the Mount is an incredibly important teaching from Jesus about life in the Kingdom. Jesus began the sermon with the Beatitudes which describe the character of a disciple. Jesus used salt and light to help explain the function of a disciple in culture. The rest of the sermon describes the specifics of the lifestyle of a Kingdom follower. But before Jesus began to lay out the lifestyle of His followers, He had to set the record straight about His relationship to the Old Testament. People accused Jesus of not adhering to or honoring the Old Testament, so He addressed the issue in Matthew 5:17-20 (the Message);
17-18 “Don’t suppose for a minute that I have come to demolish the Scriptures—either God’s Law or the Prophets. I’m not here to demolish but to complete. I am going to put it all together, pull it all together in a vast panorama. God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.
19-20 “Trivialize even the smallest item in God’s Law and you will only have trivialized yourself. But take it seriously, show the way for others, and you will find honor in the kingdom. Unless you do far better than the Pharisees in the matters of right living, you won’t know the first thing about entering the kingdom.
The Authority of the Old Testament
Jesus is the essence of the Old Testament- 5:17. Jesus called the Old Testament “The Law and the Prophets.”
Jesus said, “I have not come to abolish the Old Testament, I have come to fulfill it.” Jesus promised that everything He spoke and taught would be in agreement with the Old Testament.
To fulfill means to carry out or complete. Jesus is the essence of scripture. Everything in the law and in the prophets culminates in Jesus. His life and teaching don’t abolish the Old Testament, rather it gives the Old Testament authority and completes it. We can never fully understand Christ without an understanding of the Old Testament.
- Ceremonial law- reminds us we are unclean without Jesus’ blood.
- Sacrificial law- reminds us we need a perfect sacrifice, found only in Jesus.
- Moral law- reminds us we cannot stand up to the moral law of God without help, the supernatural help of Jesus.
- Judicial law- reminds us God is about justice and mercy, and Jesus said His mercy is new to us each day.
The purpose of the law is to lead us to Jesus. Galatians 3:24 says that the law “was put in charge to lead us to Christ.” The Greek word for “put in charge” is pedagogos. In Roman culture, a pedagogos was a servant hired by a wealthy family to make sure their son got to school and received his education. A pedagogos was basically a nanny. The Old Testament functions as a nanny to lead us to Christ. Through our inability to obey the law, we realize our desperate need for Jesus “that we might be justified by faith.” This is the concept behind Jesus’ comment in 5:17-20.
The Old Testament will always be authoritative- 5:18.
It will be authoritative until the end of time. Jesus states that not even the smallest markings in the Old Testament like the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t” will be discarded until the ultimate fulfillment of all things at His second coming. So, what is our relationship to the law? We have been relieved of the burden of the law (or the condemnation that it brings). The literal Greek translation of Colossians 2:14 reads, “Having canceled out the certificate of our indebtedness with its regulations against us, standing opposed to us; He took it away nailing it to the cross.” Jesus did not nail the Old Testament to the cross, He nailed the guilt of its regulations. We are under a covenant of grace, not law. Law is not the basis of salvation; it is the basis of living as defined by Jesus. The law is descriptive, not prescriptive. The Old Testament is still authoritative today. The Old Testament was the Bible of the early church, and for us to question the authority of the Old Testament is to question the authority of Jesus.
No one can perfectly follow the law- 5:19-20.
The religious leaders believed that righteousness was attained through obedience to the law. Jesus addressed this issue in verses 19-20. “If you can obey the law and teach others to obey the law you will be great in the Kingdom, but if you do not obey the law and teach others to disobey the law, you will be the least in the Kingdom. You must be better at keeping the law than your religious leaders if you are to obtain righteousness through the law.” Here is the sticking point: no one can perfectly obey and teach others to obey the law. It is impossible! Therefore, if we are declared righteous through obedience to the law, then no one is righteous. No person will enter the Kingdom through keeping the law. The law leads us to a place where we realize that we must have Jesus to have righteousness. That is why Jesus fulfilled the law.
Interpretation of the Law-
Jesus is the essence of the law, and He upheld the authority of the Old Testament. However, He adamantly opposed the Pharisees’ interpretation of it. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for four ways they misused scripture:
External religion is more important than purity of heart. They focused on actions instead of heart change. Love is the motive behind religion. Pure motives of the heart produce external obedience.
Ceremony is more important than moral living. They perverted the law to make their way of life easier. Jesus gave several examples of their perversion of God’s law in the rest of Matthew 5. They used the ceremony as a cover for rationalizing their own sin.
Tradition is more important than people. The Pharisees were more concerned with details than principles. They were willing to hurt people to maintain traditions that furthered their agenda.
Self is more important than others. The Pharisees worshipped themselves and their religious system. They were more concerned about conserving their comfort and power than bringing others to God. Jesus called them “pretty corpses.” They were spiritually dead on the inside. They were not a part of the Kingdom. In the rest of Matthew 5, Jesus contrasts the Pharisees’ view of the law with the heart of the Kingdom. Scripture was not written to cement externals; it was written to first transform our hearts, and then to mold our minds. Jesus is concerned with function; the Pharisees were blinded from the function by their forms.
Heavenly Father, I thank you that as a believer, I have been given authority to enjoy the Kingdom of God. I realize what an awesome privilege to use the authority to rise above the control of satan’s plans. I recognize more each day as I spend time in Your Word of who I am in Christ. I thank you that I have been brought out of the bondage of darkness and each day, as I renew my mind to Your truth, I am translated into the reality of Your Kingdom. Therefore, I believe right, think right, and walk in a greater understanding of your Word. I am dominated by the truth of Your Word. Lies that have held me captive for so long have no more power over me!
In Jesus’ name, Amen
EMIC Groups Pastor