Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Law Remains In Effect

Matthew 5:17-26

“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18)

Over the years the Jews had developed different schools of interpreting and administering the Old Testament law.  During Herod’s reign. Hillel and his followers had proposed that some of the laws be modified to fit modern conditions so they would be more palatable to the Sadducees and Romans without offending traditional Jews.  Many Jews were hoping Jesus would approve further changes to make the law more compatible with the current conditions. 

Jesus was very specific in his statement.  His coming did not change the importance of the law at all.  As long as the present world and universe exist, the laws would not change at all.  This is in direct contradiction of the popular belief today that the Old Testament Law no longer applies.

“Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19-20)

Because they believe the law is no longer applicable, many today believe it is okay to ignore the laws commands.  They accept homosexuality or other prohibited behavior and condemn those who oppose it as unchristian.   Jesus said anyone who broke even the least important of those laws and encouraged others to do so was to be considered unqualified to teach or lead and as not deserving respect.  On the other hand. Those who live in accordance with them were to receive great respect.  Even following the modified interpretations of the Law the Pharisees and scribes used would not be good enough to get one into heaven.

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)

While the law could only deal with overt actions such as killing a person, entrance into heaven required a far higher standard.  Just disrespecting a person enough to call him dumb deserves punishment by the court and to call him an idiot implied one was so far from right as to be in danger of going to hell.   It focused on the attitude, not just the actions.

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.   Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matthew 5:23-26)

Instead of allowing resentments to simmer and lead to the wrong attitude Jesus said we should go work thing out before we even came to the Lord about them.  I Peter 3:7 warns that conflict between husband and wife interferes with our relationship to God.  “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”  I Corinthians 3:3 makes it clear conflict with other Christians indicates an improper relationship with God.  “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”

Jesus said it is better to work things out even at a loss to one’s self, than to hold out for what you want, because ultimately you will have to make it good anyway.  In I Corinthians 6:7-8 Paul says, Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Wwhy do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren.”

Jesus then proceeds to give other examples where just meeting the law does not measure up to God’s standard, but clearly if you are breaking the law, you are outside the boundaries.  Romans 3:20 declares, Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”  All the Law can do is show us when we’ve gone too far, it cannot save us.  Never the less, it is still valuable for showing what the boundaries are.  It can never control our thoughts and attitudes. 

You can’t legislate righteousness because it isn’t possible to control people’s attitudes and thoughts by passing laws.  That is essentially what Paul said in Galatians 3:20, that the reason why christ had to come was because it wasn't possible to give a law that would make people right. You can, however, set limits on what will be accepted, and that is what moral codes and laws are about.  Attempts to legislate righteousness focus attention on keeping laws, rather than on having a right attitude toward people.   


  1. I am confused about how we don't follow some of the law given by God in the Old Testament, if the law still exists. We don't have to make sacrifices or celebrate festivals, which he said were lasting ordinances... and we can wear cloth made of two different materials, and we eat 'unclean' animals, and we gather firewood on Sunday (which God had someone put to death for - which also confuses me). How was it decided which laws could be ignored and which ones couldn't?

  2. According to Romans 10:4, the law no longer affects believers. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Christ;s righteousness has been imputed to them and they are counted as having fulfilled it. As a result they have become citizens of heaven rather than of earth.

    The unbelieving have not accepted his righteousness and are depending on their own. They are still citizens of earth. As a result, they still have to fulfill all of it, according to James 2:10. "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.".

    An american citizen is obligated to keep all the laws of the United States including reporting all his income to the IRS, A citizen of another country visiting the US does not have to report any of his income except what he earns here. He is obligated to obey traffic laws or laws regarding other peoples rights however. It is much the same for us a Christians living in the world.