Do Not Think I Have Come To Abolish the Law

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Standard;Mt 5:17-20 – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophet's; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, nor a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Tongues were likely wagging about Jesus. He taught as one with authority, but  His teachings didn't match up with what had become accepted as biblical truth. He mingled with sinners, touched lepers and  healed on the Sabbath. Was He sent from God with a new set of Laws, a new set of ideas about how to live?

Jesus, sets the record straight in short order here. Telling His disciples to not even think about it. He says, “don't think that I have come to abolish the Law, on the contrary I have come to fulfill it!” I think the church could be reminded of this again, especially since we have also drifted away from the original intent of many of God's Laws.  

I mean how far have we drifted from “Be fruitful and multiply?” How far have we drifted from God's plan for sexuality? How far have we drifted from God's plan for the sanctity of life? The sanctity of marriage?

I think and really, I hope and pray that this “drift” will become painfully obvious to us as we go through the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. We could use a little more conviction of sin in the church, and a lot less self-justification. A little more of “Scripture interpreting Scripture. A little more “Thus saith the Lord!”

Let's first of all, talk a little bit about His reference to the Law and the Prophets. The Old Testament is divided into two parts here by Jesus.

The first part He calls the Law. ( the first five books sometimes referred to as the Pentateuch or the Torah) These first five books of the Old Testament were written by Moses and interestingly, were the only books accepted as the Bible by the Samaritans. In Jn 8:48, the Jews referred to Jesus rather sneeringly as a Samaritan,

“Are we not right in saying that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?”

Are we not right in saying that you don't even hold to the rest of the Bible? The inference being that He did not hold to the rest of the Old Testament and that would therefore disqualify Him as a teacher.

Well, that inference is cleared up here as Jesus mentions the “Law and the Prophets.” The Prophets were considered to be the rest of the Old Testament. So Jesus was basically stating that He accepted all the Old Testament as Holy writ. The same Old Testament that we use today.

We would do well to do the same in the church today. 2 Tim 3:16, ought to be planted firmly in our hearts:

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  

The Holy Spirit chose the words of Scripture very carefully, every one of them,  the tiniest iota and dot are placed in such a way that truth can be revealed with His help.  And again, I think we will see that the church has gotten pretty sloppy with the Word of God and many times would just as soon continue with what has evolved through man's interpretation of Scripture. rather than what is truly taught by Jesus. We will see this as we keep going through the Sermon on the Mount.

So Jesus did not come to annul or destroy the Old Testament as if it were some inferior work. No! He came to fulfill it! The Old Testament is like one of those paint by number paintings, and Jesus came to complete the picture. His entire mission is embraced in this one word.....fulfill. No more can be added.

He fulfilled all righteousness in that every requirement in the Word of God concerning man was met by Him. For example, He was circumcised on the eighth day. Are you kidding me? God needed to submit to circumcision? Yes! It was part of fulfilling the Law!

The Word of God says circumcision is necessary for salvation.  Ge 17:14 "And the uncircumcised male child, who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant."

So do we need to be circumcised? No! If we have received Christ, we receive what was done by Him and to Him. The Word of God also tells us that we need to be baptized in order to be saved. Well what about all the Old Testament children and people who knew nothing of baptism? Well, if they had faith in the coming Messiah, all that was done to Christ was received by them.

That's why when John questioned the necessity of baptizing Jesus, Jesus replied, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus met all of God's requirements for salvation. For all people for all time.

So can we skip baptism? Of course not. We live in the age of baptism, the age of going and baptizing. It's what he told us to do.

He obeyed the commandments perfectly, and not just the outward observance of the Ten Commandments, but the original intent of the Law as originally placed in the hearts of men.  

Jesus not only fulfilled the required rituals, and obedience to God's moral Law but also fulfilled all that was foreshadowed of Him in the Old Testament writings. And not only that, but fulfilling many of the prophecies of the Old Testament and we can be sure that He will fulfill all that has not been fulfilled as related to the end times.  

Every claim of the Law  is satisfied in Him, and every condemnation of the Law was executed upon Him. “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us.” (Gal 3:13,”

Every prophetic promise will be fulfilled in Him and by Him. (For all the promises of God find their yes in Him.” ( 1 Cor 1:20)

In a sense, the Old Testament is a beautiful empty cup. Jesus fills the cup. Dare we say that this was the cup He prayed about in Gethsemane? When the cup is finally filled by all that was said about Jesus the end will come.   Jesus does not add to or detract from the teachings of the Old Testament....He merely fills in the original meanings.

And the Good News of course is that any righteousness of ours, rests on Him alone,  it's mot what we do, it's what He has done, because only He was able to fulfill all the requirements of the Law, and when we receive Christ in our baptism, the Bible says we “put Him on, and consequently His righteousness”  “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal 3:27)

That means as long as you continue in the faith, God looks at you and sees the righteousness of Jesus. He fulfilled it all for you!

And that's the only way our righteousness can exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees....through baptism and saving faith in Jesus. Through putting Him on and keeping Him on through faith.

Oh, well then if Jesus is my righteousness, why should I bother with trying to obey God's Word? That's a fair question. It was answered in an earlier beatitude. Remember these beatitudes mark the character of the true Christian, the one who has faith. And the beatitude of verse 6 says,  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.  

If you don't have a genuine desire to live righteously, you need to examine where you are in your faith. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”

In verse 19 we have the word “therefore.”  Which is a way of saying, “Because not one iota or dot  of the Law or Prophets has been abolished,  believers  need to rightly handle these words.

Prophecy is out of our hands. We can't “will” anything as it concerns prophecy. But we can and must seek to treasure God's commands. That's our part. The moral commands of the Old Testament with their full meaning given in the New Testament are to be kept, and as we have told you many times before the word “kept,” means to be treasured.  

Therefore whoever relaxes or loosens even the least of these righteous standards and teaches others to do the same is in trouble.  

What kind of trouble are those in who loosen up the commands of God?  There is great disagreement here on what it means to be “called least in the kingdom of heaven.”  Some say it means that such persons  will not be in the kingdom of heaven. Others say they will still make heaven, but their degree of glory will be severely limited.

I am inclined to believe that Jesus is speaking of how such a person is viewed in the spiritual realm in the here and now.  I say that because Lenski, in his commentary renders this passage, “least in the kingdom of the heavens.....plural.  Heavens speaks of the powers of the air, principalities, spiritual forces. Good and bad.

And so I believe that “least” speaks of dwindling spiritual influence.  

So we are in a sense talking about real spiritual impact. From God's  perspective these teachers are the least helpful for kingdom purposes, from the devil's perspective these teachers are the least of their threats.

But those who do not diminish His Law but teach the fullness of the Law and seeks to obey these commands, they have the greatest spiritual impact for good and at the same time are regarded as the greatest threats  by the evil one.

How does that play out? It plays out in spiritual warfare doesn't it? Those who keep insisting that Jesus is the only way and His Word is the only truth, and demonstrate their belief by “doing” these commands, and teach others in the same manner,  will experience warfare from the evil one. They will be persecuted, for they are considered “great,” threats.

But never forget, if you teach and do these things that God considers you great too, and He that is in you is greater than he who is in the world! Stick to your guns! No matter what “least and great” means here....shoot for greatness. If it's not important Jesus wouldn't have included it here.

One thing I do know,  it is not good to be on the receiving end of God's “woes” and “ Isa 10:1 "Woe to those who decree unrighteous decrees, Who write misfortune, Which they have prescribed
And the other thing we know is the conclusion that Jesus draws from all of this. If we want to enter heaven, if we want eternal life, our righteousness must be greater than the Pharisees. Our adherence to the Law must go deeper. It must become a heart issue rather than an external show.

And though we must strive to teach the  “filled” up commands of Christ and seek to do them, we know that we will fall short. That doesn't mean we throw up our hands and say, “boys will be boys,” We don't ignore the commands or twist them to make them easier, so that God's grace can abound. No! The apostle paul says in Romans! Rather we call upon Jesus.

We have received  His robe of righteousness at baptism. Having received all His righteousness, we then  daily seek to wear that robe, keeping  it on through faith and keeping it clean through confession and repentance.  This  faith is marked by a continual seeking and hungering after His righteousness and a godly sorrow when we fall short.

There can be no “self” in our righteousness as there was in the Pharisees, it must be all the righteousness of Jesus.  

So what have we learned today? I hope we have learned that the Word of God is just that. It is not to be added to or subtracted from. Every single word is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Every single word is important.  Beware ofaccepted practices of the church that are not scriptural. Be prepared to repent (to think differently) about these practices.

Secondly, to seek to relax God's commandments to fit our theology and actions, or to seek to influence others to relax them is to invite woe. It is to shoot for inferiority.

Finally, our only hope to gain heaven is to be found in Christ, He alone fulfilled all the righteous requirements of  the Law. This righteousness is imputed to us in baptism and sustained as we exercise faith by yielding  to the Holy Spirit who creates a true hunger and thirst for righteousness in our souls.

Are there areas in your life in which you have sought to loosen the force of God's commands. May the Holy Spirit convict us of our wrongdoings, so that we may confess them and receive God's promised forgiveness and cleansing from all unrighteousness. That we may move up the ladder from least towards greatness in His kingdom.