Category: Sermon on the Mount

Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Knowing Their Fruit Part II: Signs of True Believers and Teachers

Last time we talked about signs of false believers/false prophets/false teachers. This week we will look at sings of true believers/teachers.

1st Let’s remember our text:

Matthew 7:15-23

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’

 

Since false believers are a little harder to identify, we needed more signs by which to identify them but true believers require fewer signs to verify the truth of the claim. I want to remind you, before we continue, that in evaluating the truth claims of a believer, we are looking for the evidence to be there. The quantity, in the beginning, is not as important as this is a starting point for discipleship and fellowship. If you look at verse 19, you will notice that there is not an adjective of quantity there. It says every tree that does not produce good fruit as opposed to saying every tree that does not produce a large quantity of fruit and that brings me to my point; you identify a true believer in the fact that there is fruit present. Just like a literal vine or tree, disciples at various stages of maturity will produce various levels of fruit.

With that truth in mind, I want us to look at some of the fruits that we will see in the life of a believer.

Let’s start with a brief comment on verse 21: Lord, Lord. The doubling of a name was an address of intimacy (Gen. 22:11; 1 Sam. 3:10; 2 Sam. 18:33; Luke 22:31). It is not claims or feelings of intimacy with Jesus that matter, nor is it simply good works, even miraculous ones; only doing the will of the Father matters. Genuine intimacy with the Father means knowing God and being known by God (1 Cor. 8:2, 3). Today we are looking at signs of knowing God and being known by Him, the intimacy of a Father/Child relationship instead of the cold relationship of Judge and Accused.

Peter tells us that the true and mature believer will be growing in faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. “If these qualities are yours and are increasing,” he says, “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-8).

A true believer obeys the teachings of Jesus and does the will of the Father. Only those who do the will of the Father are received into heaven. The question that needs to be addressed here is: “What is the will of the Father?” Faith and belief in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, are the only answers. Willing and eager obedience is the hallmark of someone who has truly come to faith in Christ. They obey, not because they want to earn God’s favor, but because they feel delighted about already having received it. (Charles Stanley)

 

They do not neglect the local church (This is, perhaps, the most important because of the central role the local church plays in the life of the believer.) Hebrews 10:25 25 And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

 

In both the Old and New Testaments, the necessity of setting aside a day each week to acknowledge God’s importance in our lives is not only stressed but commanded (Ex. 20:8). Jesus who is Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) was faithful to the Sabbath law and was regularly found in the House of God during His earthly walk (Luke 4:16). If the Son of God felt the need to attend a house of worship regularly, we, His followers, should do no less. The Sabbath as an Old Testament tradition gives way in the New Testament to gathering for worship on the first day of the week as a commemoration of Jesus’ resurrection. The day, however, is not the essential; the gathering together is.

 

I would like to quote Tim Challies, at length:

The local church should matter to us because it matters to God. The church is Jesus’ body on earth (see Ephesians 1:22-23) and it is made up of all kinds of people from all walks of life. “Together we represent Christ here on earth through our local body of believers. Therefore, the church is central to the purposes of God and is of benefit to the world around us—even today in our increasingly hostile culture.” The church exists for God’s glory and showcases it in a unique way. “The church is built for Jesus, by Jesus, and on Jesus. It is simply unthinkable then to separate Jesus from the local church. If the gospel is the diamond in the great salvific plan of God, then the church is the clasp that supports it, holds it up, and shows it in its greatest light for the world to see.” If it matters so much to God, it needs to matter to us just as much.

The local church is where the believer grows. It is primarily in the local church that Christians learn doctrine, receive reproof, and train in righteousness (see Ephesians 4:11-13). The local church provides opportunities for growth that are available nowhere else. Very often people will turn up on our doorstep having heard the gospel through some para-church ministry. Yet they almost always have large gaps in their biblical knowledge and Christian behavior. Without a local church committed to patiently teaching and training them, these people will flounder indefinitely.” We all need a local church if we are to become like Christ.

The local church is the place where believers must submit themselves to spiritual authority. Many people from many walks of life struggle with issues of authority, though this problem is especially prevalent in the schemes of Scotland. Mez says, “they will not accept criticism or input from anybody they regard as an authority figure.” This attitude needs to be dealt with immediately. God calls Christians to submit to spiritual authority within the local church (see Hebrews 13:17). All believers are called by God to put themselves under the care and oversight of elders. “A culture that despises any kind of authority needs to see healthy models of leadership and submission. And the place for people to see this modeled is in the local church.”

The local church is the best place for spiritual accountability. We have probably all encountered people who believed they were called to ministry or who even carried out some kind of ministry even though their lives were a mess. This happens where people do not have proper spiritual accountability. “All Christians need the spiritual accountability and discipline that being a member of the local church brings. It stops us from drifting. It offers a context for encouragement and rebuke. It provides a community to stir one another on to love and good deeds.”

The local church is the place from which discipline is biblically administered. The task of disciplining disobedient or unruly Christians belongs to the local church. This is a difficult task but one given specifically to the church as a means to show the deepest love and concern for the spiritual care of believers (Matthew 18:15-17). Discipline belongs to the church as one of its important functions. {https://www.challies.com/articles/why-the-local-church-really-matters/}

 

They love God’s truth and His word. The 119th Psalm is full of the glories of the word of God, often called the Law of the Lord. Without breaking down each one, I want to share 8 verses with you that reflect the attitude of the true believer toward the word of God.

Psalm 119:47-48

I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.

Psalm 119:97

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.

Psalm 119:113

I hate those who are double-minded, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:127

Therefore, I love Your commandments above gold, yes, above fine gold.

Psalm 119:140

Your word is very pure, Therefore Your servant loves it.

Psalm 119:159

Consider how I love Your precepts; Revive me, O LORD, according to Your lovingkindness.

Psalm 119:163

I hate and despise falsehood, But I love Your law.

Psalm 119:167

My soul keeps Your testimonies, And I love them exceedingly.

 

Perhaps the best teaching I have encountered, on loving the word of God, comes from Dr. R.C. Sproul:

 

My Duty to Read the Word

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my duty to read it. Just as we give presents because we love someone, and they open it in reciprocal love and gratitude, so too has God shown His love for His people by giving us the gift of His Word. As the psalmist said, “He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rules to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules” (Ps. 147:19–20).

 

My Delight to Receive It

I am to love God by loving His Word. Therefore, it is my delight to receive it. Again, think about receiving a present. The word present is just another way of saying “gift.” And what does the word gift mean? It means an act of grace—that a person gives you something not because you deserve it, but because they decided to express their love.

 

Ten times in the great Psalm 119 we read of the psalmist praising the Lord for receiving the Lord’s Word, saying he “delights” in the Word (Ps. 119:1416243547707792143174). Why? Because the Word is the living Word of the Lord to us, His people. The psalmist also describes his delight in the Word in comparison to other delightful things. He compares the Word to gold and silver, saying in verse 72, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (cf. v. 127). He compares the Word to honey, saying in verse 103, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Elsewhere in Scripture, we read of the Word being compared to other things such as these. The Word is compared to a sword that defends against spiritual enemies (Eph. 6:17). The Word is compared to a lamp that guides us (Ps. 119:105). The Word is compared to milk that nourishes our souls (1 Peter 2:2).

 

If you love God, it is your duty to read the Word and your delight to receive it as the very Word of the true and living God.

 

They show evidence of the Fruit of the Spirit. Ultimately the Fruit of the Spirit is a love of Christ and His Word. I am not talking about the kind of casual affection that many in the world have toward Jesus. There are many who have affection for Jesus as long as He is fixing their problems, or they love Him when He teaches us how to right socioeconomic and racial injustices. Some love Him as a great moral teacher and sage; to them He is some kind of life coach or some other nonsense. When I am referring to loving Jesus, though, I am talking about the kind of affection a bond servant would have for a master. Let me show you what I mean. Turn to Exodus 21. We will look at verses 4-6. In their historical context this is primarily referring to an indentured servant who is given a wife and has a family during his time of service. That being said, it does set the pattern for the bondservant in the Old Testament and this would be the implied reference of the Apostles when they referred to themselves as the bondservants of Christ.

 

Exodus 21:4-6

“If his master gave him a wife while he was a slave and they had sons or daughters, then only the man will be free in the seventh year, but his wife and children will still belong to his master. But the slave may declare, ‘I love my master, my wife, and my children. I don’t want to go free.’ If he does this, his master must present him before God. Then his master must take him to the door or doorpost and publicly pierce his ear with an awl. After that, the slave will serve his master for life.

 

We also need, for a moment, to take our attention to Galatians chapter 5. Galatians chapter 5 and verses 22 and 23.

 

22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

 

I want to say, again, it is possible to have varying degrees of these fruits in your life. A variance in the amount of fruit that you have does not indicate a lack of salvation but it most certainly indicates different levels of maturity.

 

Beloved, a major mistake that we make is to look at the quantity of fruit and ask if a person is saved but this is the wrong question. In evaluating the fruit, we are looking at maturity not salvation. The presence of the fruit is the proof of the salvation and the quantity of the fruit is the evidence of maturity.

 

Look back to the Beatitudes and remember that they are an example of what a life hidden in Christ, that is a Christian life that is producing fruits of repentance looks like. A life producing fruit is poor in spirit, showing mercy to other sinners, helping them to make peace with God, growing in grace and having a pure heart. These are the fruits of a life that has turned its back on sin and instead bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus and embraced Him as Redeemer and King.

 

They teach what accords with sound doctrine. (Titus 2:1) I do not want to make a plug for my book or anyone else’s but I do want to point something out to you…Every true believer and every true teacher of the Word has some level of Theology and the are building on it daily. As Dr. White points out, every Christian is called to know God and that is theology of which sound doctrine is a nickname. The one who claims to teach God’s word will have a sound theology rooted in the Bible and glorifying of Christ. We may approach that theology through the lens of Dispensationalism (as I do) or Covenant Theology (as many of my friends do) but in the end, what you are looking for is a Theology that exalts Christ as Divine Son, truly God and truly man, Lord of the Church, and soon coming King.

 

Many churches will utilize the Ancient Creeds as part of their worship service so as to help their members to have an understanding of historical Christian orthodoxy. Other churches will recite one of the major Protestant Catechisms such as the London Baptist Confession, the Belgic Confession or the Heidelberg Catechism as a way to help the membership to learn their faith. While both are excellent ideas, their presence or lack thereof does not make a church true or false. The point, rather, is that a true teacher will have a strong, Christ centered theology that they will share with the membership.

 

In parting, let me leave you with the words of the Nicene Creed, on of the oldest and simplest theological statements ever written…

 

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

 

Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets.

 

And I believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.

 

Knowing Their Fruit Part One: Signs of False Prophets and Other Apostates

Knowing Their Fruit Part One: Signs of False Prophets and Other Apostates

Text: Matthew 7:15-23

15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.

 

1st, a question: what is a false prophet? A false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends. The Old Testament proscribed death for such a person although, now in the Age of Grace, that penalty is no longer carried out.

There are a number of people, today, who claim to speak for God; they fill pulpits every Sunday and preach to tens of thousands of people who blindly follow their lead, in effect they are the wolf in the house. There are many wolves in the house, these alleged teachers who intentionally teach heresy which attempts to rob Christ of the glory due Him.

There are a number of terms that we can use: false prophet, apostate, false teacher. As we explore the truth of Scripture, it is important to recognize the marks of an apostate, a person who at one time knew and maybe even taught the truths of the Bible but walked away. Jude, the Lord’s youngest human brother, points out several signs of an apostate.

I would like to add one sign to what Jude provides; a false prophet does not teach the Bible. They may teach things that sound like the Bible and they might even use passages of Scripture, but, relying on people’s ignorance of the Bible they teach strange doctrines.

Ungodly (v. 4)
When the New Testament writers say that a person is ungodly, it does not simply mean that the person does not know God, it also means that the do not have character that is consistent with the revealed Person and Nature of God.

Morally perverted (v. 4)
In the NIV, promiscuity is translated as license to commit immorality. Among other things these apostates teach that there is no need to struggle to overcome sin. The Greek word rendered as contend, or contend earnestly (NKV, NASB) is agonizomai from which we derive the word agonize. Because our sinful nature will not easily be transformed into Christlikeness, it can seem agonizing, at times to give up that sin in order to be more like Christ.

Many, many apostates teach instead that God will give you all the things you want: health, wealth, posessions, influence, etc and all you have to do is “sow the best offering that you can” without any call to true repentence or humility. These ignore the command of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). One of these so called teachers has even gone so far as to say that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is a messenger of Satan.

In truth, you do not even have to teach grace as license to sin however you please to turn grace into license, all you have to do is refuse to teach the truth of God’s grace, that it saves you from sin and its power not simply that it saves you from hell. And just in case you were going to object and say that such things are not perverted, the definition of perverse is something that is contrary to the generally accepted standard or practice. Since the Bible is our standard, anything contradicting the Bible or anything taught in the pulpit that does not match Scripture is, by definition, perverted.

Deny Christ (v. 4)
Ultimately, this leads to a denial of Christ; the Jesus taught and embraced by the apostates simply is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Defile the flesh (v.7& 8)
As we are seeing today, apostates defile the flesh in ungodly and unbiblical ways. Some of my evangelical brethren will immediately point to homosexuality but what about other sins: drunkenness, gluttony (I think I have only heard one sermon on gluttony in 25 years), fornication, domestic violence (yes the Bible actually addresses this topic which I have never in my life heard addressed in the pulpit).

Defiling the flesh refers primarily to sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18) which is a sin against one’s own body. Remember that Jude’s oldest half-brother, the Lord Jesus Himself, even went so far as to equate contemplating the sin with the actual sin itself (Matthew 5:27-28). When is the last time you heard a sermon about sexual lust (lust of the flesh), greed (lust of the eyes), or counteracting the boastful pride of life by being poor in spirit.

Rebellious (v. 8)
By not teaching what the Bible actually says, these apostates live in and encourage rebellion in others. A pastor once told me that 1% out of submission is equal to being 100% in rebellion against God. To deny a doctrine, the reality of hell for example (Rob Bell) and to teach that denial to others is absolute rebellion against God. To refuse to yield to the Authority of Scripture is to refuse to yield to the Author. They go hand in hand; authority entails submission.

Revile angels (v. 8)
This is a mark against many Pentecostals if I ever saw one. Growing up Pentecostal, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pastors “bind” satan or command him to do this or that; both of which are patently absurd. If Michael, the highest angel (archangel means chief angel) dares not speak against the devil, what in the world possesses a “Christian” to do so?

Ignorant (v. 8)
The behavior we have discussed so far demonstrates and absolute willful ignorance of both the Things of God and His Person. To know Him as He is is to submit to Him.

Having vain ideas (vs. 8-10)
Continuing with the idea of ignorance, apostates have vain/foolish ideas. Word of Faith teachers, for example, tell you that you can name and claim your promise from Scripture and activate a response from God based on your faith. This is hubris and is no different than the idea of “binding satan.” I have heard them justify this nonsense by saying all the promises of God are yea and amen. That is only half the truth and is therefore not the truth. All of God’s promises are yea and amen but only in so far as to the person(s) they apply to. I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you is a very true promise but it only applies to the Nation of Israel for that is whom God made the promise to.

It is utter vanity and foolishness to presume anything upon Him Who sits upon the Throne

Self-destruction (v. 10)
What is the natural end result of apostasy? Self-destruction. God does not have to directly do anything to these, all He has to do is say to them, “thy will be done” and step aside. How many ministries have been damaged and even destroyed by ministers who thought they could get away with this or that? I would list names but that is impractical.

I can say from personal experience, getting your own way can be deadly, to your soul as well as your body. After all there is a way which seems right unto a man and the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25)

Grumblers (v. 16) Fault finders (v. 16) Self seeking (v. 16) Arrogant speakers (v. 16) Flatterers (v. 16)
I will deal with all of these together: they are person centric and reflect the oldest sin in the book, pride. Pride is that sin which caused Lucifer to lose his place in heaven and it will do you the same favor. Pride looks at another, finds his/her deficiency and then exalts self because you don’t have that particular deficiency. It causes one to puff up and think of oneself more than he/she really is. Pride, the oldest known sin, is the truest and surest mark of the apostate. No matter what other signs you see, the Christian that demonstrates pride is on treacherous ground and in real danger of going where one does not want to be, apostasy.

Mockers (v. 18)
2 Peter 3:4, They will say where is the promise of His coming. I would add to that, they will say things like no serious Christian believes in Hell or, no loving, tolerant Christian rejects gays, or they will dismiss the creation account as a myth/a metaphor. Mark it out, every single apostate has some passage or doctrine that he does not like and by dismissing it, they make a mockery of God…for now.  What they forget it that even if they don’t believe in a Great White Throne Judgment, they have an appointment there and the works that will judge them worthy of condemnation are being written daily.

Cause division (v. 19) Worldly minded, Without the Spirit (v. 19)

Apostates cause division in the church because they are worldly minded and they are worldly minded because they do not have the Holy Spirit and they do not have the Holy Spirit because they are worldly minded.

It’s a vicious cycle once you walk away from the truth of Scripture and only the Holy Spirit can bring you back.

I promised I would name names, and here they are. These are just a few of the False Teachers that no Christian should listen to  (in no particular order): Andy Stanley, Christine Cain, Steven Furtick, Paula White, Juanita Bynum, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Priscilla Shirer, Jory Micah, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Beth Moore, Andrew Wommack, Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Paul & Jan Crouch, . There are a host of others. I would recommend this site: http://www.so4j.com/false-teachers

Now that we know what to look for in a false teacher, next week we will look at the marks of genuine faith, specifically with a recap of the Beatitudes.

 

Choosing the Right Path (Matthew 7:13-14)

Choosing the Right Path (Matthew 7:13-14)

This week’s lesson gives me pause; it gives me pause because in order to proclaim the truth of this text, I am going to have to say some rather hard things and those hard things are going to offend many. Please know that what I will say needs to be said and that it does not mean that I do not care about you. Quite the opposite actually, I am saying these things because I love you and I am concerned for your soul. Our text for this week is Matthew Chapter 7 and verses 13 & 14.

Jesus uses the metaphor of a gate and a road. The Narrow Way and the Strait Gate is the Gospel. The Broad Way and the Wide Gate are every other form of religion on the planet.

I have said before, the Mormons have a Jesus, the Catholics have a Jesus, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have one too and so does the crowd that embraces Positive Confession (also called word of faith). It is not enough that you have a Jesus. It is not even enough that you worship a Jesus. It has to be the Jesus in the Bible, otherwise your worship is an exercise in uselessness.

You will often hear it said that “all religions teach the same thing.”  Let me tell you that with a single exception, Christianity, that is a true statement as they will all teach you how to die in your sins and spend eternity in Hell. I do not make that statement without fear and trembling but it is true. All religions apart from Christianity will teach you how to die in your sins and go to Hell.

I am sad to say that many in the American Church, most in fact, are on the broad way that leads to damnation; they are on that path and probably don’t even know it. The “Church” is so ignorant of the Bible that many Christians probably cannot even tell you what the Gospel is, which is scary because it it the Gospel that defines our Christianity. That really is the point of the text; at the end of your life, you need to be sure that you have believed the Gospel if you expect to go to Heaven. I am going to clarify what that Gospel is, when we talk about the narrow way, but I want to spend some time talking about the broad way and what the Gospel is not.

There is a way that seems right; it seems good, seems God pleasing, sounds like Christianity but it is not, its final end is destruction and death. Two different passages in Proverbs state, outright, that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction and death. (Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25). Beloved, it is indeed very possible to think you are a Christian and not be. You can go to church every Sunday and say all the right sounding words, sing all the songs, put plenty of money in the collection plate and still end up in Hell. Why? By believing a false gospel.

The Lord’s youngest brother, Judah (Jude for thse that wish to use the Gentile form of his name) teaches that certain men have crept in unaware. Let’s look at verse 4 of his powerful epistle. Jude 4 (NIV) For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.”

I am not a big fan of lists i.e. 3 ways to have a better marriage, 7 steps to more fulfilling devotional time, 4 steps to keep your kids from _______ fill in the blank, but I do want to give you five things that the Gospel is not because it helps to know what a thing is not if you want to identify what it is.

License. The Gospel is not license to sin. The charge of turning the Gospel into license to live however we please is often used as an attack against the Doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints. All true believers will endure to the end their lives. We will still sin because the flesh wars with our new nature, however, no true Christian will ever teach that you can live however you please and still go to heaven when you die.

 

We hold to the Baptist Faith and Message; here is what it has to say: All real believers endure to the end. Their continuance in well-doing is the mark which distinguishes them from mere professors. A special Providence cares for them, and they are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

 

John 10:28-29; 2 Timothy 2:19; 1 John 2:19; 1 Corinthians 11:32; Romans 8:30; 9:11,16; Romans 5:9-10; Matthew 26:70-75.

 

Will Christians still sin? Yes. Will they seek it out just because “they can?” Certainly not.

On “Christian TV” The Gospel, by and large, is not found on what passes for Christian TV.  This point is in parallel with another I will make in a minute but what you see on most of Christian TV has more to do with pagan mysticism and witchcraft than it does with anything scriptural. You will hear “pastors” on “Christian TV” talk about speaking things into the way you want them to be, you will hear about how you can claim promises in the Bible that aren’t even remotely connected to you and that isn’t event the worst of it. The alleged pastors on TV will make promises like “God wants you to have great health, money, possessions, and influence.” I think Job, Peter, and Paul might disagree. There has even been documentation of one of the TV “pastors” saying that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is from Satan, never mind the fact that Jesus Himself is the one who said to deny yourself (Matthew 16:24 and Luke 9:23). These things are not the gospel.

 

Activism: The Gospel is not social activism. We have begun to see a resurgence of the “social gospel” and, while its goals may be admirable, they are more concerned with politics rather than the Gospel. Social Gospel was a religious social-reform movement prominent in the United States from about 1870 to 1920 and as I said, we are seeing a resurgence of this idea today. Advocates of the movement interpret the Kingdom of God as requiring social as well as individual salvation and sought the betterment of industrialized society through application of the biblical principles of charity and justice. Labor reforms—including abolition of child labor, a shorter workweek, a living wage, and factory regulation—constituted the Social Gospel’s most prominent concerns. During the 1930s many of these ideals were realized through the rise of organized labor and the legislation of the New Deal by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

 

The Biblical Gospel does address some of those issues, but resolving social problems is not the goal of the gospel. The goal of the Gospel is your redemption from sin and your being conformed to the image of Christ.

 

Walking and Aisle and Praying a Prayer is not part of the Gospel. There is a troublesome tendency to promote an idea called decisional regeneration, which is a patently unscriptural notion. More times than I can count, I have heard a pastor say, “the Bible says that if you pray this prayer and mean it in your heart, you will be saved from your sins.” Except that the Bible does not actually say that.

 

Yes, confession is part of the Gospel. The Greek word that we render confession is homolegao which literally means to say the same thing. Say the same thing as what? When you homolegao you essentially agree and say the same thing about sin and about Christ that God says and that is an integral part of the Gospel, but walking down an aisle at church and repeating a prayer the pastor told you to pray is neither repenting nor confessing. Now to be sure, there are some that do this that are actually converted but they are few and far between. Jesus’ call was always, “Follow me.” That is a call to discipleship and a lifetime of serving Him.

 

About you. The Gospel is not about you. The Gospel is entirely about God’s glory in redeeming sinners. As Jonathan Edwards pointed out, “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” I have heard people say that Jesus loved you so much that He would rather die than spend eternity without you. I could vomit. Heaven is entirely, totally, 100%, utterly about Jesus and His glory. Heaven was created for Him, He is its centerpiece, and His Gospel is about the glory He receives from saving sinners.

 

Voddie Baucham once mentioned that the concept and images (which by the way are sinful-2nd commandment) of Jesus that we have in the American Church today is of this sissified needy Jesus who looks more like a shampoo model than a rugged Galilean carpenter. Both of us are disgusted by that idea. Jesus doesn’t need you- He is the absolute Sovereign of the universe and also the God who created everything- He is in no need of you and you need to realize that a day is coming when He is going to break you. If you do not break yourself and submit to His lordship while you walk this earth, you will be broken at the Great White Throne.

 

So then what is the Gospel?

 

Exclusive/The Narrow Way. In John 14:6 Jesus declares that He is the way, the truth, and the life and he further declares that no one comes to the Father except through Him. There is no other option. So many times, I hear someone say, “why should there be only one way to Heaven?” and like Dr. Sproul, my answer is, “why should there be any way at all?” Sin is so offensive to the holiness of God, such an affront to His nature that if He killed every sinner in their sleep, no one could say a thing about it because it would be perfectly just. Since God is the King of Heaven, He alone gets to decide who gets an audience with Him and under what terms that audience is granted. Here is what you need to understand…Anyone can answer the Gospel Invitation as God commands all men to repent (Acts 17:30) but not everyone will. God knew who would respond when He set the terms of salvation and He called them “Mine elect”. Physically, it is not hard to respond to the Gospel- your knee was designed to bend in just the right spot to kneel before the Throne but it is pride, the oldest and, perhaps, strongest of sins that will not permit the knee to bow.

 

The Gospel is The Message of Redemption from Sin. There is a common aid to understanding the Gospel called the “Romans Road to Salvation” that I find most useful and many of you will be familiar with these verses.

  • Because of our sin, we are separated from God. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
  • The Penalty for our sin is death. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
  • The penalty for our sin was paid by Jesus Christ! But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
  • If we repent of our sin, then confess and trust Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved from our sins! For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Romans 10:13) …if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9,10)

 

The Gospel is All About God’s Glory.  In the Greek Text, Ephesians 1:3-14 is one gigantic sentence and it points out that God has predestined a people to adoption as sons and has appointed them unto adoption to the praise of His glory.

 

Let’s also read Romans 9:22–24

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?”

God’s treatment of the “vessels of wrath” shows us divine glory because this treatment manifests His justice. The elect will see the Lord justly condemn the impenitent, and so they will more clearly see His attributes of justice and righteousness, thereby receiving a fuller revelation of His character and thus His glory.

 

Now turn to Isaiah 42. Verses 1-7 speak of God’s work of redemption, His freeing of captives and giving sight to the spiritually blind. God alone will receive the glory in our salvation, for salvation is a manifestation of His glory. His omnipotence, His mercy, His love, and His holiness are in a sense all summed up in His glory, and all of these attributes are on display in His work of salvation.

 

 

Offered to All; Sufficient Only for Those Who Respond

Acts 17:30 “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” All men are called to repent but not all respond. Those who do not respond to the Gospel call to turn from sin have no atonement. On one hand it is sad that the impenitent will be punished for eternity for their sins and on the other, God is glorified in the vindication of His holiness.

 

Those who have responded to the Gospel call, will glorify God, in Heaven, for all eternity in response to His mercy in saving them.

 

 

How can I respond? What if I’m not elect? I run into the 2nd question so frequently that I cannot believe it. If you want to know if you are elect, here is how you tell…Do you want to respond to the call to turn from sin and be saved? Do you desire to be saved from your sin? Do you desire Christ? Would you leave behind your sin and live for His glory? Will you, empowered by the Holy Spirit, take up your cross and follow Christ?  If yes, be comforted that these are marks of election.

 

If you would respond to the Gospel, here is how…Confess that you are a sinner and need Christ’s righteousness. Confess He is Lord. Believe that Christ was raised from the dead.

 

Once you have done that, find a Bible teaching church and begin the process of discipleship. Your new pastor will help you to grow into the image of Christ.

 

Final Thoughts

 

As our time together draws to a close, I want to restate the Gospel for you and I will give you 4 words to ponder in your heart today, with a brief explanation of each. Maybe you have been part of a church for a long time and have never heard the real Gospel before. Maybe you never responded to the Gospel call, well today is the day of Salvation. Let me give you the Gospel one more time. You can respond today.

 

  1. God. God is the creator of all things (Gen. 1:1). He is perfectly holy, worthy of all worship, and will punish sin (1 John 1:5, Rev. 4:11, Rom. 2:5-8).
  2. Man. All people, though created good, have become sinful by nature (Gen. 1:26-28, Ps. 51:5, Rom. 3:23). From birth, all people are alienated from God, hostile to God, and subject to the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3).
  3. Christ. Jesus Christ, who is fully God and fully man, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to bear God’s wrath in the place of all who would believe in him, and rose from the grave in order to give his people eternal life (John 1:1, 1 Tim. 2:5, Heb. 7:26, Rom. 3:21-26, 2 Cor. 5:21, 1 Cor. 15:20-22).
  4. Response. God calls everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and trust in Christ in order to be saved (Mark 1:15, Acts 20:21, Rom. 10:9-10).

 

On Judging

On Judging

Perhaps no text of Scripture is more widely abused than our text this morning. It is one that I would wager that every person in America can quote, and in King James at that. Say it with me, “Judge not, that ye be not judged…”

Matthew 7:1-6 NLT

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye. “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

 

Almost every time that I hear someone quote this passage it is coming from someone who has just been told something is sinful. In fact, it seems to be the popular response to the concept of sin. Another popular response is to say, “Only God can judge me.” Well, you are correct and I can guarantee you that He will, either at the Bema Seat of Christ or the Great White Throne.

 

Now, we have spent the past 4 months going through the Sermon on the Mount and there has been one overarching theme thus far, self-righteous religion vs saving faith. That being the case, we probably need to ask the question, “what kind of judging was Jesus talking about?” Well let’s look at an example. Turn, in your Bibles, to a very familiar parable that Jesus told, Luke chapter 18. We see the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Luke 18 and let’s pick it up at verse 9,

 

Then Jesus told this story to some who had great confidence in their own righteousness and scorned everyone else: 10 “Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! 12 I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ 14 I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

Just look at the Pharisee’s words. They drip with self-righteousness. They drip with self-righteousness. I repeated it for emphasis. I can relate to the Pharisee, maybe you can too. It is easy to live a basically moral life and think of yourself as better than others. It is this kind of hypocritical judgment that the world responds to and throws this judgment back in the faces of Christians and it is this hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ is warning against.

 

Some background thoughts from John MacArthur, “Unrighteous and unmerciful judgment is forbidden first of all because it manifests a wrong view of God. With the phrase lest you be judged, Jesus reminds the scribes and Pharisees that they are not the final court. To judge another person’s motives or to curse to condemnation is to play God. “For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22). During the millennial kingdom Christ will share some of that judgment with us (Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 6:2; etc.), but until that time we blaspheme God whenever we take upon ourselves the role of judge. “Who are you to judge the servant of another?” Paul asks. “To his own master he stands or falls” (Rom. 14:4). Paul was little concerned about how other people judged him, and was not even concerned about how he judged himself. “I am conscious of nothing against myself,” he says, “yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord” (1 Cor. 4:3-4).

 

Except as they may be continually teaching false doctrine or following standards that are clearly unscriptural, we are never to judge a person’s ministry, teaching, or life—and certainly not his motives—by a self-styled standard. “Do not speak against one another,” James warns us. “He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12). Such evil judgment is blasphemous, because it sets a man up as God—and there is only one true Judge.

 

Whenever we assign people to condemnation without mercy because they do not do something the way we think it ought to be done or because we believe their motives are wrong, we pass judgment that only God is qualified to make.

 

I want to digress for a moments and to take that few minutes to dig into Greek a little bit. The word that is translated at judge is krino. This is verb which means to judge/determine/esteem/call into question. It has two derivatives that merit some remarks, diakrino and anakrino.

 

Diakrino means to separate, make a distinction, doubt, discriminate, to prefer and anakrino means to investigate/evaluate/make a determination.

 

When used in the NT diakrino is used in reference to doubt (Matthew 21:21, Mark 11:23), in reference to a dispute (Acts 11:12) and in judging and showing partiality (James 2:4).

 

Anakrino, however, is what I want to focus on this morning.

 

In Luke 23:14, anakrino is used to describe Pilate’s examination of Jesus.

Anakrino comes up in Acts chapter 4 and specifically Acts 4:9 when the Apostles appear before the Sanhedrin

In 1 Corinthians 4:3-5, Paul sets the standard for us. He appeals to the Lord’s judgment rather than man’s

Here are some more references for your personal study. Acts 12:19 Acts 17:11 Acts 24:8 Acts 28:18 1 Corinthians 2:14 1 Corinthians 2:15 1 Corinthians 9:3 1 Corinthians 10:25 1 Corinthians 10:27 1 Corinthians 14:24

 

Let’s turn back to this mornings text…

So many Christians use Matthew 7:1 as a proof text to suggest that we should never pass any judgment of any kind and I can understand how they would come to that conclusion. In our culture, we seem to have an 11th commandment, “Thou shalt be nice and never make anyone feel bad.” The trouble is that concept is not biblical.

As I alluded to earlier, the kind of judgment that Jesus is talking about is self-righteous criticism, and especially hypocritical judgmentalism. Did you ever hear this sentence, “I don’t go to church because it’s full of hypocrites?” You hear that sentence becasue the church is just as guilty of misunderstanding and incorrectly applying this passage of Scripture as the world.

So what exactly is Jesus talking about here? I don’t like to give lists but I am going to do so today. I want to suggest three lessons from this passage…

  1. Know the right kind of judgment to make. The first judgment you need to make is whether or not a person is a fellow believer or if they are someone who needs the Gospel. Jesus gave us at least two examples of how to arrive at this conclusion. Later in Matthew 7, He tells us we will know fellow believers by their fruit (verse 16). Notice that no mention is made of how much fruit, just that it is there. Why? Every fellow disciple you meet will have different levels of maturity and thus, they will have different amounts of fruit. Because of that, we have John 13:35, “By this will all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one for another.” This is the first-fruit of our conversion. We love fellow believers just as we love Christ and His word.
  2. Don’t be a hypocrite.Verses 3-5 of our text, “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eyewhen you have a log in your own?How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

 

Let me put that in a little more modern context…Don’t lecture someone about stealing while cheating on your taxes or taking home office supplies. Don’t lecture someone about healthy living while gorging on fried chicken and cupcakes. Don’t bash the homosexual while using pornography. Don’t oppose capital punishment while being pro-choice on abortion.

 Nothing is a bigger turn off to the world than when we lecture someone hypocritically. I am not saying that you should never rebuke a sinner; what I am saying is that you should be sure that there is tangible evidence of your own progression in conforming to Christ before you do. Let me phrase that another way: We are called to make disciples and part of that process is mentorship. When you talk to another about their sin, it is imperative that you know what the Bible says about the particular sin that you are discussing.

Discipleship is all about relationships and you cannot hide whether or not you are truly interested in another person’s spiritual well being or not. When you talk about sin with others, and you should do so regularly, it is important to come from a position of a relationship with the person. That does not mean that you should not share your faith with a stranger but you need to quickly develop a relationship with them.

  1. The self-righteous will turn on you so don’t be surprised when they do. Verse 6, “Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy.Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

I face more opposition from inside what is allegedly the Church than I do from the world. I preach against sin, and I am called harsh and judgmental. I preach against the Word of Faith movement and I am called narrow minded and a legalist. I preach Cessationism because it is biblical and I am told that I deny the Spirit’s power. Ironically enough, I do those things, not to deny His power but because of it. Because His love for His people flows through me, as a minister, I preach the Bible. If I really love you, how could I do otherwise?

 

Do I really believe that the self-righteous will turn on you? Well, just look at what they did to Jesus. He was not one of them. He was full of the Holy Spirit, of the Scripture and so was full of power and they turned it into a murderous rage. Do you really think it will go any better for you? Think again; the servant is not greater than his Master (Matthew 10:24, John 13:16, John 15:20). At my secular job, most of my colleagues do not use my name, if they even know it. To them, I am “that preacher person,” which they meant as a pejorative but I try to turn it into a badge of honor.

 

At the very least, you are going to be slandered for your faith. That ought to sound familiar to you; we have heard it before. Matthew 5:11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers.”

So what does it all mean?

Our text is not prohibiting making any kind of decisions; it isn’t even prohibiting discerning. The point Jesus is making is that when you deal with another person, we are not to make rash judgments and we are not to make judgments that only God is qualified to make. Make a decision about whether or not you need to share the Gospel with them; even make a decision on your relationship with them but always be sure that your judgments are Gospel centered and geared toward the spiritual well being and growth of the person you find yourself judging.

Fasting, Having True Treasures, and Whom Will Ye Serve

Fasting, Having True Treasures, and Whom Will Ye Serve

Following His discourse on prayer, Jesus returns His attention to contrasting the self-righteousness of dead religion with the true righteousness of saving faith. We come first to fasting. Notice that in our text, fasting is expected.

16 “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face 18 so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

“After the digression on prayer, the third example of religious observance is presented with the same structure and the same key words as vv. 2-4, 5-6 (see on vv. 2-4). Fasting was a prominent element in Jewish religious life, both at statutory times (Day of Atonement, and other prescribed fasts with historical significance) and occasionally, either by corporate or individual decision (see ‘Fasting’, NBD, p. 373). Strict Pharisees fasted at least twice a week (Luke 18:12), and made sure that others knew it. Disfigure (aphanizō)is literally ‘make invisible’ (it is translated ‘consume’ in vv. 19-20), a vivid expression for making unrecognizable, either by covering the head or by smearing with ash and dirt. In contrast, the disciple who fasts must look quite normal, clean and happy (anointing with oil was a common cosmetic, not necessarily a sign of special celebration: to put on a show of exceptional gaiety would be as ostentatious as the ‘hypocrites’!). Jesus assumes that fasting will continue to be practised among his disciples, as indeed it was, after his death (see further on 9:14-15; cf. Acts 13:2-3; 14:23).
Tyndale Commentaries – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.”

If Christians are expected to fast, and we are, why do we fast? What is the goal of our fasting?

Isaiah 58:6-8 “Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free
And break every yoke? “Is it not to divide your bread [c]with the hungry And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? “Then your light will break out like the dawn,
And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you;
The glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

We are taken back to our earlier thought that Christians are expected to do t’zedakah (acts of righteousness) and that the motivation behind these good works is what the Lord is judging.  I have seen many churches call for a fast and put up a sign-up sheet, in public, for the individual to list his/her name and what they are giving up during this time of fasting. Beyond that scores of “Christians” fast for Lent and make a point of telling others what they are giving up for Lent. What’s the point? At that juncture you have received your reward.

It is expected that we will fast as part of our self denial. The other part of that self denial is that no one knows we are fasting. We are fasting to bring the flesh (in this case our literal body) into subjection to the will of God the Father (1 Corinthians 9:27)

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21 for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Do not store up…but store up may be rephrased as “Do not give priority to this, but give priority to that.” It can also be translated “stop storing up.” This passage does not mean that it is sinful to have such assets as insurance, retirement plans, and savings accounts. After all, parents are to save for their children (see Prov. 13:22; 2 Cor. 12:14).

The point, as illustrated in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible’s notes, is this: “Materialism may be God’s greatest rival competing for the allegiance of human hearts, not the least because constantly striving to secure one’s life via possessions produces anxiety. These verses set up the fundamental contrast; vv. 25-34 tell those committed to God not to worry about the basics of physical life. Far from promising prosperity, the NT calls believers to give generously from any surplus (2 Cor 8:13-15) and assumes fellow believers will come to their aid should they become needy by giving away too much.”

When teaching on this passage, a number of pastors have misquoted another passage to try and illustrate a point that Jesus is not making. They will say, butchering 1 Timothy 6:10, that money is the root of all evil. That is not what Paul said. 1 Timothy 6:10 actually says “ For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

Money is amoral because it is nothing more than an instrument and can only do what its holder intends. If a righteous man has a $100-dollar bill and uses it to by food and goods for a brother in need, then his money is righteous. If the wicked has a $100-dollar bill and spends it on liquor and loose women then his money is unrighteous. It’s a barometer, really. If your heart is truly converted, you will do righteous things with the finances God has given you and if it is not converted you will not. This does not mean to imply that you are wrong to enjoy your money but you do need to remember that, for the Christian, there is only so much fortune that you need and the rest is a stewardship granted that you, on Christ’s behalf, might minister to others.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

“The light of the body is associated with the eye. The concept here is based on the ancient idea that the eyes were the windows through which light entered the body. If the eyes were in good condition the body could receive such light. Jesus, using this language metaphorically, affirms that if a man’s spiritual sight is healthy and his affections directed toward heavenly treasure, his whole personality will be without blemish. The phrase if . . . thine eye be single indicates devotion to one purpose. The “single eye” refers to a single, fixed vision or goal. The phrase if thine eye be evil refers to either disease or deception of vision. The “evil eye” is not something mysterious or devilish, but rather a deceptive vision that causes the viewer to mistake the identity of an object. The mistake in this context is the darkening of the mind and thus how great is that darkness!” ~KJV Study Bible

From Rabbi Sturn in the Complete Jewish Study Bible:

6:22–23 “The eye is the lamp of the body.” Yeshua quotes a common proverb and comments on it. “If you are generous” is added by the translator, because in Judaism “having a good eye” (an ‘ayin tovah) means being generous or looking at people positively. “Having a bad eye” (an ‘ayin ra’ah) means being stingy or having a negative outlook toward others. See “The Good Eye and the Evil Eye,”

In reality, what Jesus is saying, here, is quite simple: If you are focused on glorifying God, you will do things that God does, especially tending to those in desperate need and if you are focused on self, you won’t. There really are only two religions on the planet: the one that glorifies Christ and by consequence the Father and the one that glorifies self.

FB Meyer: “What is in our inner life which answers to the eye of the body? Some have said that it is the intellect; others the heart. But it is truer to say that it is the inner purpose and intention of the soul.

When our physical eye is in an unhealthy condition, the image is doubled and blurred. To use a common expression, it has a squint, such as affected the noble face of Edward Irving, the noted English clergyman. We are told that as a babe he was laid in a wooden cradle, in the side of which was a small hole through which he watched what was going on. This distorted his vision through life. So we may look two ways at once.

The endeavor to serve God and mammon, to stand well with both worlds, to lay up treasures on earth and at the same time be rich toward God, is a spiritual squint. John Bunyan tells of Mr. Facing-Both-Ways, who kept one eye on heaven and the other on earth; who sincerely professed one thing and sincerely did another. He tried to cheat God and Devil, but in the end cheated only himself and his neighbors.”

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

Serve (Gk. douleuō) indicates the work of a slave, not an employee. Since a slave is the sole property of one master, he must give the master exclusive service. A disciple’s loyalties cannot be divided because they will make opposing demands.

“This kind of spiritual double vision causes one to believe he can serve two masters. Total loyalty to God cannot be divided between Him and loyalty to one’s material possessions. A master (Gr. kurios) is a lord or an owner. That God claims total lordship over His own is obvious in this passage. Therefore, Jesus rightly proclaimed, Ye cannot serve God and mammon. The term mammon is derived from the Aramaic term for possessions or wealth. Jesus is not condemning money or possessions in and of themselves, but the improper attitude of enslavement toward wealth.” ~KJV Study Bible

So where are we going with this? Tell me if this sounds familiar… Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

There was not a Jew alive and listening to Jesus who would have missed His allusion to the 10th Commandment. To covet is to wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others desire to have their possessions. Covetousness is the ultimate form of self-indulgence; it does not just say, “I want this” but instead says “I want this and I have every right to have it and if you disagree you are wrong.”

The entire point of the Sermon on the Mount, and it is a point we are going to see a few more times, is self denial. Modern religion says “look at me.” In other words, look at all the great stuff I am doing. Can I tell you something? (I am going to use some shocking language here so be warned.) Isaiah 64:6 “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Now that was the polite way to say it. Here is what that text actually says “We are all like one who is unclean, all our so-called righteous acts are like a menstrual rag in your sight. We all wither like a leaf; our sins carry us away like the wind. ”

That language is shocking to be sure but the fact remains that apart from saving grace, all our good works are disgusting and an affront to God. Self-righteousness stems from pride and I cannot think of one thing in the Scripture that God hates more than pride. Pride was the cause of Lucifer’s fall (Isaiah 7) and it was ultimately the source of man’s fall as well. Pride claims to know more and better than God and its sole aim is to rob Him of the glory that He is due.

Pause for a moment and consider these Word of Faith preachers that tell you that you can name it and claim it, that you are little gods, that you can speak things into the way you desire them to be. THESE PEOPLE HATE GOD AND IN THE ARROGANCE OF THEIR PRIDE DARE TO STAND IN A PULPIT AND PERVERT GOD’S WORD. It would be better on Judgment Day to be the devil himself than to be a word of faith teacher.

“Our hearts are desperately proud. If there is one sin which God hates more than another, and more sets Himself against, it is the sin of pride. Like a weed upon a dung-heap, pride grows more profusely in some soils, especially when well fertilized by rank, riches, praise, flattery, our own ignorance, and the ignorance of others. We all inherit pride from our fallen ancestor Adam, who got it from Satan, that “king over all the children of pride.” Those, perhaps, who think they possess the least pride, and view themselves with wonderful self-admiration as the humblest of mortals, may have more pride than those who feel and confess it. It may only be more deeply hidden in the dark recesses of their carnal mind.”
– J.C. Philpot

Let me put the question to you this way: Whom will ye serve? You are going to serve someone. Will you serve the strange gods in the land or will you bow your knee to YHWH and his Christ (Joshua 24:15)? The wages of your servitude are eternal. Do be sure you have made the right choice.

The Model Prayer

The Model Prayer

Text: Matthew 6:9-13

“In fewer than seventy words we find a masterpiece of the infinite mind of God, who alone could compress every conceivable element of true prayer into such a brief and simple form—a form that even a young child can understand but the most mature believer cannot fully comprehend.

Another indication of the prayer’s divine comprehensiveness is seen in the seemingly endless schemes by which it can be outlined. When outlined from the perspective of our relationship to God, we see: Our Father showing the father/child relationship; hallowed be Thy name, the deity/worshiper; Thy kingdom come, the sovereign/subject; Thy will be done, the master/servant; give us this day our daily bread, the benefactor/beneficiary; forgive us our debts, the Savior/sinner; and do not lead us into temptation, the guide/pilgrim.” ~ John MacArthur

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

Our Father…This is a model for corporate prayer but it is also an intimate prayer. It would have been absolutely scandalous for the the Jews of Jesus’ day to refer to God as father; the term speaks of a special relationship, no more are we ruler and subject but, instead, we are father and sons.

From the Baptist Faith and Message: God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace. He is all powerful, all knowing, all loving, and all wise. God is Father in truth to those who become children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. He is fatherly in His attitude toward all men.

Genesis 1:12:7Exodus 3:146:2-315:11ff.; 20:1ff.; Leviticus 22:2Deuteronomy 6:432:61 Chronicles 29:10Psalm 19:1-3Isaiah 43:3,1564:8Jeremiah 10:1017:13Matthew 6:9ff.; 7:1123:928:19Mark 1:9-11John 4:245:2614:6-1317:1-8Acts 1:7Romans 8:14-151 Corinthians 8:6Galatians 4:6Ephesians 4:6Colossians 1:151 Timothy 1:17Hebrews 11:612:91 Peter 1:171 John 5:7

Hallowed be Thy Name In Isaiah 6, we see the Seraphim shielding their eyes as they attend the Throne of the living God and calling out in an antiphonal chorus, Holy, Holy, Holy. In the Hebrew language, repeating something three times is a superlative. Jesus takes us immediately from our newfound intimacy with God the Father to a reminder that He, like His Name, is ineffably holy.

Word Wealth: Qadosh Qadosh is rendered into English as sacred/holy. It is derivative of qodesh which is rendered as apartness/sacredness. Thayer teaches us that to be holy is to be set apart, unapproachable.

God’s Name is very special, and set apart. It is so unique, so sacred, so apart from this world that, even today, we write LORD in the English Bible instead of the actual name. We have the privilege to use that name but instead we most often refer to Him by His title, God, as opposed to addressing Him by Name. Is it wrong to address our Lord and our God by His Name, YHWH? No, but it must never be done lightly. In Christ we have the privilege that no other people, in history, have ever been given, to have relationship with the Creator as both father and friend. Much like Abraham of old, we are friends of God because of His grace.

Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

From the Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible

“The kingdom of God (also called “the kingdom of heaven,” “the kingdom of Christ,” “the kingdom of the LORD,” “the kingdom,” and so forth) undergirds the teaching of the entire Bible. The Scriptures reveal God using a number of metaphors, but the primary imagery that Biblical writers used for God was that of a divine king (1Sa 8:7). Alongside the basic conviction that God is the supreme King is the belief that he reigns over creation as his kingdom (Ps 47:1-9; 83:18; Da 4:25-26; 5:21). In this general sense, then, God has always been the sovereign King who rules in heaven over all things (Ps 103:19; 113:5; Mt 5:34; Ep 1:20; Col 1:16; Heb 12:2; Rev 7:15).

At the same time, the Biblical concept of the kingdom of God also takes on a special sense. Jesus described this narrower sense of the kingdom of God in this way: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:10). God’s holiness and glory in his heavenly throne room are so overwhelming that all creatures there honor him with unqualified, voluntary service. On Earth, however, creatures rebel and refuse to acknowledge God as King, and evil kingdoms rise up to oppose his kingdom. The hope that Scripture presents from cover to cover is that this disparity between the heavenly throne room and the earth will one day be eliminated (1Ch 16:31). God will judge the wicked and bring the redeemed humanity into a new creation (Isa 65; Zec 14). When this transformation takes place, only God’s kingdom will stand, and voluntary obedience to him will extend to the ends of the earth, as it does now in heaven (1Ch 16:31; Ps 97:1-2).

The New Testament teaches that the final worldwide stage of the kingdom of God began with the incarnation of Christ. He and John the Baptist announced the good news that the kingdom was at hand (Mt 3:2; 4:17; Mk 1:15). But contrary to common Jewish expectations, Jesus and his apostles explained that the worldwide reign of God on Earth would not come suddenly in all of its fullness. Instead, Christ inaugurated this final stage of the kingdom in his earthly ministry (Mt 2:2; 4:23; 9:35; 27:11; Mk 15:2; Lk 16:16; 23:3; Jn 18:37); it continues today in the church (Mt 24:14; Ro 14:16-17; 1Co 4:19-20; Col 4:11) and will reach its ultimate end when Christ returns in glory (1Co 15:50-58; Rev 11:15). When that day finally comes, the will of God will be done throughout the earth just as it is now done in heaven.” 

Give us this day our daily bread.

When Jesus spoke of bread, He meant real bread, as in the sense of daily provisions. Early theologians allegorized this, because they couldn’t imagine Jesus speaking about an everyday thing like bread in such a majestic prayer like this. So they thought bread referred to communion, the Lord’s Supper. Some have thought it referred to Jesus Himself as the bread of life. Others have thought it speaks of the Word of God as our daily bread. Calvin rightly said of such interpretations which fail to see God’s interest in everyday things, “This is exceedingly absurd.” God does care about everyday things, and we should pray about them. (Guzik)

“The prayer is for our needs, not our greeds. It is for one day at a time, reflecting the precarious lifestyle of many first-century workers who were paid one day at a time and for whom a few days’ illness could spell tragedy.” (Carson)

This echoes Proverbs 30:8-9

“Give me neither poverty nor riches Feed me with the food allotted to me;  Lest I be full and deny You, And say, “Who is the Lord?” Or lest I be poor and steal, And profane the name of my God.”

We are dependent upon the Lord for the daily provision for our needs. In truth, our need is no different than the Children of Israel in the Wilderness and their need for daily manna and quail. (Exodus 16).

In this petition of the Model Prayer, we are not approaching God as beggars but we are approaching Him in grateful recognition that He is the source of all the good things we have.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.

Debts…debtors… Other translations have forgive us our trespasses or forgive us our sins.

“Debts represents the regular Aramaic term for sin, which literally denoted money debt, here put literally into Greek (Luke has the more ordinary term for ‘sins’, but retains the idea of debt in the second clause). The thought is of sins in general, as the explanation in vv. 14-15, using the very general term trespass (literally ‘false step’, i.e. wrongdoing), makes clear. Have forgiven seems clearly to be the correct text in Matthew, though many MSS have substituted the present tense (used by Luke) to avoid the implication that God’s forgiving us depends on our prior forgiveness of others. In fact, the Aramaic perfect, which probably lies behind Matthew’s aorist tense, could be used with a present sense (‘as herewith we forgive our debtors’, Jeremias, NTT, p. 201), so that Luke’s present is more idiomatically correct, Matthew’s aorist more ‘Semitic’. The point lies not in the time-sequence, but, as vv. 14-15 will explain, in the insincerity of a prayer for forgiveness from an unforgiving disciple.”
Tyndale Commentaries – Matthew.

I tell you assuredly, that we who are forgiven will also forgive others. That does not necessarily mean that it will be easy. There are people in my life that I have found to be hard to forgive, sometimes because they have no desire to have the relationship restored and sometimes because they continue to wound over and over again. In the Model Prayer, Jesus reminds us that all need a redeemer and that being shown grace results in showing grace to others.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil

Jesus was led of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4). Let us be clear, though, that God is NOT and never will be the tempter.

Temptation literally means a test, not always a solicitation to do evil. God has promised to keep us from any testing that is greater than what we can handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).

“God, while he does not ‘tempt’ men to do evil (James 1:13), does allow his children to pass through periods of testing. But disciples, aware of their weakness, should not desire such testing, and should pray to be spared exposure to such situations in which they are vulnerable.” (France)

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2) We do not look for testing/trials/temptations but they do come.

In praying deliver us from evil, we remember that God, who has permitted the testing has made an avenue of deliverance for us and will guide us through the temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

John Wesley: “Whenever we are tempted, O thou that helpest our infirmities, suffer us not to enter into temptation; to be overcome or suffer loss thereby; but make a way for us to escape, so that we may be more than conquerors, through thy love, over sin and all the consequences of it. Now the principal desire of a Christian’s heart being the glory of God,  Matthew 6:9-10 and all he wants for himself or his brethren being the daily bread of soul and body, (or the support of life, animal and spiritual,) pardon of sin, and deliverance from the power of it and of the devil,  Matthew 6:11-13 there is nothing beside that a Christian can wish for; therefore this prayer comprehends all his desires. Eternal life is the certain consequence, or rather completion of holiness. For thine is the kingdom – The sovereign right of all things that are or ever were created: The power – the executive power, whereby thou governest all things in thy everlasting kingdom: And the glory – The praise due from every creature, for thy power, and all thy wondrous works, and the mightiness of thy kingdom, which endureth through all ages, even for ever and ever. It is observable, that though the doxology, as well as the petitions of this prayer, is threefold, and is directed to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost distinctly, yet is the whole fully applicable both to every person, and to the ever – blessed and undivided trinity.  Luke 11:2 .”

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

“There is some dispute as to whether this doxology is in the original manuscript Matthew wrote or was added in later by a scribe. Most modern Biblical scholars believe this line was a later addition.” (Guzik)

“It is variously written in several MSS., and omitted by most of the fathers, both Greek and Latin. As the doxology is at least very ancient, and was in use among the Jews, as well as all the other petitions of this excellent prayer, it should not, in my opinion, be left out of the text, merely because some MSS. have omitted it, and it has been variously written in others.” (Clarke)

Notwithstanding dispute among scholars about this doxology, it is valuable for us. All true prayer and worship gives to God that which He alone is due: The Kingdom, The Power, and The Glory. All glory and praise is due to God and to ascribe that to Him is the privilege of the Redeemed.

 

Holiness and Works

Holiness and Works

Text: Matthew 6:1-4

As chapter 6 opens, we see Jesus giving us instructions for our good works. The term in Hebrew is tzedakah, which literally means acts of righteousness. In this case, Jesus is speaking about our almsgiving, which by the time of NT Judaism was the meaning of Acts of Tzedakah.

“The ‘righteousness which exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees’ (5:20) is to be seen not only in a new radical approach to the legal and ethical questions which concerned the scribes (5:21-48), but in a new attitude to the scrupulous religious observance which was the hallmark of the Pharisees (6:1-18). The new attitude consists not in a repudiation of the main aspects of Jewish piety, but in an avoidance of ostentation in their performance. Religious observance is to be directed towards God, not to gaining the approval of men.”

Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

6:1 practice … righteousness. This verse introduces the discussion of three acts of righteousness: (1) giving (vv. 2–4), (2) praying (vv. 5–15) and (3) fasting (vv. 16–18).

Jesus did not prohibit public acts of righteousness, but He warned that the motivation for such acts is more important than the bare fact of performing them. All such deeds must be done for God’s glory, not human reputation. Those who seek human acclaim when performing good works will receive no heavenly reward. In verses 2-18, Jesus supplies general principles for performing righteous acts.

James would later say, Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you. (James 1:27).  At the risk of belaboring the point, the concern here is the heart, in other words your mind, will/volition, and emotions.  I have said, several times, that the entire purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to destroy any sense of self righteousness that we might have and instead put the focus back onto the heart and what a heart full of the Holy Spirit looks like.
6:2-4 The words whenever you give assume that disciples will regularly assist needy people. The prohibition don’t sound a trumpet stems from the fact that the offering chests in the temple were trumpet-shaped with a wide opening where coins were deposited and a winding, ever-narrower funnel that, at its narrowest point, exits into the chest. This arrangement prevented thieves from sticking their hands into the chest. Thus, “sounding the trumpet” is likely a reference to tossing coins noisily into the trumpet-shaped coffer and thereby calling attention to one’s generosity. Jesus described such conduct as hypocritical and we can well see how Jesus, as the Divine Son of God, would consider this to be hypocritical; causing the loud sound of tossing a denarius or other coins into the chest would be nakedly self serving in its intent to gather attention.

The word hypocrites (Gk hupocrites) originally referred to actors who performed in Greek or Roman theaters. The hypocrites to whom Jesus referred are spiritual actors who pretend to have piety in order to win human approval. The instructions about the left hand and the right hand prohibit a person from celebrating their own acts of righteousness. Give liberally, but never dwell on the fact that you do so.

As believers, we need to realize that we are naked before God and that all of our thoughts/emotions/attitudes are laid bare before Him. Therefore, why we do a thing is as important as the actual deed itself. Any “good works” that we do for any other reason than God’s glory robs Him, or rather, attempts to rob Him of that which is due Him.

 

Holiness and works ARE connected, but not in the way most people think; we do works because righteousness has been imputed to us not so that it might be.

 

3 questions to consider when doing righteous works: 1. Why am I doing this deed? 2. How does this act glorify Christ? 3. Is there an opportunity to share the Gospel through what I am doing?

 

In the remainder of our time together, I am going to wade barefoot into a cactus patch…

 

There is a propensity among many Christians to focus on what may be known as the social gospel. Certain academics claim that this movement is in decline but I vigorously disagree. Before we get into that, let me explain what I mean by the social gospel.

 

The Social Gospel is a movement in North American Protestantism which applied Christian ethics to social problems, especially issues of social justice such as economic inequality, poverty, alcoholism, crime, racial tensions, slums, unclean environment, child labor, inadequate labor unions, poor schools, and the danger of war. It is argued, by some, to have peaked in the early-20th-century United States and Canada. However, an observant person would notice that it is alive and well in the United States today. Theologically, the Social Gospel adherents seek to operationalize the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:10): “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. This tends to lend itself to the post-millennialist position; that is, they tend believe the Second Coming can not happen until humankind rid itself of social evils by human effort. This, unfortunately, leads to churches being overly involved in politics, particularly on the “liberal” end of the political spectrum.

 

This begs the question, “Is there a social justice aspect in the Bible?” Of course there is a social justice aspect in the Bible. God is always concerned with justice because He Himself embodies and defines it. We need to remember that we can have all the social programs we want but if the people we are commanded to minister to end up in Hell, we have not done justice. Justice must have its origin in the Gospel message; without it all you really have is welfare, not justice.

 

As Christians, we do need to be concerned with ministering to the world. There are two verses that I want to bring to our attention:

 

Micah 6:8 (NKJV)  He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?

 

Hosea 6:6 ESV For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

 

It is most excellent, and I would dare say, pleasing to God to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves; we saw that from the Apostle James. However, when we do these acts of righteousness, there is a propensity for 2 errors, self righteousness and judgmentalism.  Have you noticed that self righteousness keeps coming up? That is because it is the foundation for assuming Heaven is deserved. It is clearly very easy to fall into the trap of self righteousness because of the works we do. The other trap is being judgmental. We have a tendency to compare ourselves to others in terms of what we are doing for God and then use our level of activity as a barometer against which to judge others.

 

Note that this exactly the problem the Pharisees had, which is why Jesus refers to them as hypocrites. There is no issue with doing acts of mercy, there isn’t even an issue with those acts being seen, sometimes, to spur others on to do more themselves. It is the heart behind the actions that houses the issue. Why are you doing your good deed? Is it because you want to be made holy or is it because you know you have imputed righteousness and you are following the lead of your Lord? That, Beloved, is what we are getting at here; the Lord is destroying any sense of self righteousness that we might have so that we approach life in pursuit of holiness.

Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Swearing, Getting Even, & Love: What the Law Really Demands

Text: Matthew 5:33-48

 

Teaching about Vows

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not swear falsely”: The scribes and Pharisees had twisted the law You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain (Exodus 20:7) to permit taking virtually every other name in a false oath. Now, a false oath is not one where an unforeseen circumstance prevents you from fulfilling your oath; it is an oath that you never intended to keep in the first place. Even today, we have people give oaths that they never intend to keep and one of the most common issues that the courts have to decide is that of a breach of contract and in certain industries, a breach of your fiduciary, or good faith obligation, is grounds for loss of license, loss of job, and potentially even jail. Clearly our oaths are important.

 

So why the prohibition against taking oaths? Do not swear at all: Jesus reminds us that God is part of every oath anyway; if you swear by heavenearthJerusalem, or even your head, you swear by God – and your oath must be honored. But let your “Yes” be “Yes”: Having to swear or make oaths betrays the weakness of your word. It demonstrates that there is not enough weight in your own character to confirm your words.

Some have taken this word of Jesus as more than an emphasis on truth-telling and honesty as an absolute prohibition of all oaths. This is at best misguided and at worst ignorance of scripture because oaths are permitted under certain circumstances, as long as they are neither abused or used as a cover for deception.

  • God Himself swears oaths:Hebrews 6:13 and Luke 1:73.
  • Jesus spoke under oath in a court:Matthew 26:63-64.
  • Paul made oaths:Romans 1:9, 2 Corinthians 1:23, Galatians 1:20, 2 Thessalonians 2:5.

“The truly good man will never need to take an oath; the truth of his sayings and the reality of his promises need no such guarantee. But the fact that oaths are still sometimes necessary is the proof that men are not good men and that this is not a good world.” (Barclay)

Oaths and vows were not only permitted but, in certain circumstances, commanded in the Old Testament (Number 5:19.). Discussions of the relative validity of different forms of oath and vow occupied the Rabbis to the extent of filling several tractates of the Mishnah. But an oath is needed only if a person’s word alone is unreliable; it is an admission of failure in truthfulness. Of course we know that people lie because of the sinful flesh. Jesus therefore goes behind the whole structure of legislation on oaths to the ideal which it has replaced. The passage, while on the surface concerned with oaths, is actually on truthfulness, focusing on v. 37 rather than v. 34a (Jeremias, NTT, p. 220). As with divorce, the accommodating legislation, both in the Old Testament and in later Judaism, is bypassed to return to the ideal which makes it unnecessary.

“33. The two clauses summarize Old Testament teaching rather than quote it explicitly. You shall not swear falsely echoes Leviticus 19:12 (Exodus 20:7 may also be in mind); you shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn takes up the teaching of Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21; Psalm 50:14; Ecclesiastes 5:4. All these last are concerned with vows, but Numbers 30:2 mentions oaths as parallel, and the distinction between oaths and vows was generally not kept clear (see Davies, p. 240). The Old Testament thus prohibited both false oaths and unfulfilled oaths or vows.

34-36. Jesus’ total rejection of oaths (not … at all) is not paralleled even by the Qumran literature, strict as it was on this issue (Davies, pp. 241-244), and contrasts starkly with the Rabbinic casuistry which he goes on to expose in these verses (cf. 23:16-22). That this ideal should not be taken as a rigid rule, e.g. with reference to oaths in court, is suggested by Jesus’ own response when the High Priest ‘put him on oath’ (26:63-64), and by occasional ‘oaths’ in the New Testament (2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20; cf. 1 Thess. 5:27); even God can use an oath (Heb. 6:13-17). But Jesus goes on to repudiate the use of ‘second-class’ oaths which avoid the name of God (and therefore are not binding). First they do not in fact exclude God, as heaven, earth and Jerusalem are all inseparably linked with God (as Jesus shows by references to Isa. 66:1 and Ps. 48:2 (v. 3, Heb.), and even your head is God’s creation and under his control. And secondly, as v. 37 shows, they should be unnecessary.

  1. 37. Simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ is literally ‘Yes yes, no no’. The repetition is not a new formula, but a Semitic way of indicating that ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ are to be used (alone) on each occasion. (‘two two’ in Mark 6:7 for ‘two at a time’.) James 5:12, which is clearly based on this passage, has correctly interpreted the meaning: ‘Let your yes be yes and your no be no.’ All words are binding, and the Christian’s word should need no buttressing. Any addition comes from evil, or the evil one: The Greek genitive ponērou could be either masculine or neuter, here as often; it makes little difference to the general sense whether the need for safeguards against falsehood is traced to the wickedness of the world in general or to the ‘Father of lies’.”

Tyndale Commentaries – Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.

 

 

So, in accordance with the Old Testament standard, we are to swear by no other name but God’s—not by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Appealing to heaven, earth, Jerusalem, and other such things was considered by most Jews to make their oaths less binding. Those were grand and great things, things that gave an aura of power, importance, and veracity to what was said or promised in their name. But because those things were far less than God, they made oaths given in their names far less binding than an oath made in His name. Still less binding would be an oath made merely by your head.

 

Any oath sworn is binding and should not be entered into lightly. How you deal with oaths and promises are a good indicator of your character.

 

 

Teaching about Revenge

The Mosaic law did teach an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24). But over time religious teachers moved this command out of its proper sphere (a principle limiting retribution for the civil government) and put it in the wrong sphere (as an obligation in personal relationships). Retribution for a wrong done to you is no more obligated than a pancake breakfast. Like a pancake breakfast, vindication and retribution are nice but if you do not receive it, you need not be disappointed.

 

But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also: Here, Jesus presents the fullness of the eye for an eye law, and how its idea of limiting revenge extends into the principle of accepting certain evils against one’s self. Many times, I have heard the somewhat cliche comment, “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.” There is truth in that, though. A desire for retribution invariably leads to destruction.

 

Even today, in parts of the world, slapping the face and especially what we call backhanding a person is a horrible insult. When a person insults us (slaps you on the right cheek), we want to give them back what they gave to us, plus more. Jesus said we should patiently bear such insults and offences, and not resist an evil person who insults us this way. Instead, we trust God to defend us. (Deuteronomy 32:35)

It is wrong to think Jesus means evil should never be resisted. Jesus demonstrated with His life that evil should and must be resisted, such as when He turned tables in the temple. “Jesus is here saying that the true Christian has learned to resent no insult and to seek retaliation for no slight.” (Barclay) When we think how Jesus Himself as insulted and spoken against (as a glutton, a drunk, an illegitimate child, a blasphemer, a madman, and so forth) we see how He lived this principle Himself.

 

Remember that in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is giving us a correct understanding of the Law so…

 

It is wrong to think that Jesus means a physical attack cannot be resisted or defended against. When Jesus speaks of a slap on your right cheek, it was culturally understood as a deep insult, not a physical attack. Jesus does not mean that if someone hits across the right side of our head with a baseball bat, we should allow them to then hit the left side. “If a right-handed person strikes someone’s right cheek, presumably it is a slap by the back of the hand, probably considered more insulting than a slap by the open palm.” (Carson) 2 Corinthians 11:20 probably has in mind this kind of “insult slap.”

 

It is also wrong to think Jesus means that there is no place for punishment or retribution in society. Jesus here speaks to personal relationships, and not to the proper functions of government in restraining evil (Romans 13:1-4). I must turn my cheek when I am personally insulted, but the government has a responsibility to restrain the evil man from physical assault.

 

If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also: Under the Law of Moses, the outer cloak could not be taken from someone (Exodus 22:26; Deuteronomy 24:13).

“Jesus’ disciples, if sued for their tunics, far from seeking satisfaction, will gladly part with what they may legally keep.” (Carson)

“Yet even in a country where justice can be had, we are not to resort to law for every personal wrong. We should rather endure to be put upon than be forever crying out, ‘I’ll bring an action.’” (Spurgeon)

Whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two: Positively, we are told to take command of evil impositions by making a deliberate choice to give more than we are required. At that time, Judea was under Roman military occupation. Under military law, any Roman soldier might command a Jew to carry his soldier’s pack for one mile – but only one mile. Jesus here says, “Go beyond the one mile required by law and give another mile out of a free choice of love.” This is how we transform an attempt to manipulate us into a free act of love.

 

“The Jews fiercely resented such impositions, and Jesus’ choice of this example deliberately dissociates him from militant nationalists. Rather than resisting, or even resenting, the disciple should volunteer for a further mile.” (France)”

“The old said, ‘insist on your own right, and loving your neighbor, hate your enemy, and so secure your safety.’ The new says, ‘suffer wrong, and lavish your love on all.” (Morgan)

I know good and well how hard it is not to return wrong for wrong. I am half Italian and, the joke among many of my kinsmen, is that getting even is the family business. It is tough to turn the other cheek, very tough indeed.

 

This idea of turning the other cheek takes me to research I was doing for this sermon and arriving at Lamentations 3:30. I would like to consider some things my colleague, Rev. Matt Bassford had to say

 

“That aside, the truly interesting translation in Lamentations 3:30 in the NLT is “turn the other cheek”.  This is certainly an interpretive reading, but the passage that it’s interpreting isn’t Lamentations 3:30.  Instead, it’s interpreting Matthew 5:39.  In fact, the NLT uses language from Matthew 5:39 to translate Lamentations 3:30, even though the latter is hundreds of years older.  It makes this choice to imply that Jesus in Matthew 5:39 is quoting Lamentations 3:30.

 

If indeed Jesus is citing Lamentations 3:30 as a signpost to an Old-Testament context and speaking to an angry Jewish audience that is considering rebellion against Rome, that dramatically changes the meaning of “turn the other cheek.”  The context of Lamentations 3:30 is clearly about how the defeated Jews ought to behave after Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem in 589 BC.  Here’s Jeremiah’s prescription:

 

It is good for a man that he should bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone and be silent since He has laid it on him. Let him put his mouth in the dust, perhaps there is hope. Let him give his cheek to the smiter, let him be filled with reproach.  For the Lord will not reject forever, for if He causes grief, Then He will have compassion according to His abundant loving kindness. 

 

(Lamentations 3:27-32 NASB)

 

In other words, Jeremiah is saying to the Jews of his day, “You’re in this fix because you sinned and God punished you.  In these circumstances, rather than fighting back, you should submit to your oppressors until God rescues you in His compassion.”

 

It makes perfect sense for Jesus to be saying exactly the same thing to the Jews of His day.  Like the Jews of Jeremiah’s time, first-century Jews were suffering under the boot of the oppressor, albeit a Roman rather than a Babylonian overlord.  In using Lamentations 3, Jesus is arguing that the Romans are over the Jews because of divine punishment for Jewish sins.  The Jews need to solve their Roman problem not by rebelling against their conquerors (because fighting against God’s will is pointless) but by repairing their relationship with God—doing everything else that Jesus tells them to do in the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Once the Jewish nation is righteous, God will deliver them from the Romans.  Until then, they need to meekly submit to the oppression that they brought on themselves.  Note that this reading dovetails with Matthew 5:41 (the “second mile” text) which is also about Roman-Jewish relations.

 

If this reading is correct, Matthew 5:39 is not a general call to personal pacifism.  Instead, just as Christians in the seven churches would have understood Revelation 4 in the light of Isaiah 6 and Ezekiel 1, Jesus’ Jewish audience would have understood “turn the other cheek” in the light of Lamentations 3, as a primarily political rather than personal instruction.

 

This is not the way you treat the robber who breaks into your house in the middle of the night.  This is the way you treat the Roman soldier who abuses and oppresses you.  The point is not that violence is wrong per se, even in self-defense.  It is that violence is wrong when the object of your violence is somebody whom God has set over you.  Rebellion, not self-defense, is the spiritual problem.”

 

Like Matt, I find myself saying this is very, very different from the way that I’ve ever read Matthew 5:39 before. I’ve always only heard it relating to personal insult but I can most definitely see the case for it also being a rebuke to people who don’t want to submit to judgment.

 

 

Give to him who asks of you: The only limit to this kind of sacrifice is the limit that love itself will impose. It isn’t loving to give in to someone’s manipulation without our transforming it into a free act of love. It isn’t always loving to give or to not resist.

Teaching about Love for Enemies

 

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”: The Mosaic Law commanded you shall love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). Yet some teachers in the days of Jesus added an opposite – and evil – misapplication: an equal obligation to hate your enemy. “They generally looked upon all the uncircumcised as not their neighbors, but their enemies, whom the precept did not oblige them to love.” (Poole)

 

But I say to you, love your enemies: Instead, Jesus reminds that in the sense God means it, all people are our neighbors, even our enemies. To truly fulfill this law, we must loveblessdo good and pray for our enemies – not only our friends. Most people have no idea how truly scandalous this idea is. Revenge comes naturally to us but vengeance is the Lord’s (Deuteronomy 32:35) but to show love and grace is to demonstrate the Holy Spirit working in us.

 

Jesus understood we will have enemies (it goes hand in hand with John 16:33, In the world ye shall have tribulation), yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy our enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.

 

That you may be sons of your Father in heaven: In doing this, we are imitating God, who shows love towards His enemies, by sending rain on the just and on the unjust.

“You see our Lord Jesus Christ’s philosophy of nature. He believed in the immediate presence and working of God. As the great Son of God he had a very sensitive perception of the presence of his Father in all the scenes around him, and hence he calls the sun God’s sun- ‘He maketh his sun to rise.’” (Spurgeon)

“As though he did not regard human character at all, God bids his sun shine on good and bad. As though he did not know that any men were vile, he bids the shower descend on just and unjust. Yet he does know, for he is no blind deity. He does know; and he knows when his sun shines on yonder miser’s acres that it is bringing forth a harvest for a churl. He does it deliberately. When the rain is falling yonder upon the oppressor’s crops, he knows that the oppressor will be the richer for it, and means that he should be; he is doing nothing by mistake and nothing without a purpose.” (Spurgeon)

“What does God say to us when he acts thus? I believe that he says this: ‘This is the day of free grace; this is the time of mercy.’ The hour for judgment is not yet, when he will separate between the good and the bad; when he will mount the judgment seat and award different portions to the righteous and to the wicked.” (Spurgeon)

This is an example – that we also are to love our enemies and bless them if we can. In doing so, we show ourselves to sons of our Father in heaven. “We are made sons by regeneration, through faith in the Son; but we are called to make our calling and election sure – to approve and vindicate our right to that sacred name. We can only do this by showing in word and act that the divine life and principles animate us.” (Meyer)

For if you love those who love you, what reward have you: What do you do more than the sinner? We should regard it as no matter of virtue if we merely return the love that is given to us.

 

Remember, Jesus here taught the character of the citizens of His kingdom. We should expect that character to be different from the character seen in the world. There are many good reasons why more should be expected from Christians than others:

  • They claim to have something that others do not have; they claim to be renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They do in fact have something that others do not have; they are in fact renewed, repentant, and redeemed by Jesus Christ.
  • They have a power that others do not have; they can do all things through Christ who strengthens them.
  • They have the Spirit of God dwelling within them.
  • They have a better future than others do.

Therefore, you shall be perfect: If a man could live the way Jesus has told us to in this chapter, he would truly be perfect.

  • He would never hate, slander or speak evil of another person.
  • He would never lust in his heart or mind, and not covet anything.
  • He would never make a false oath, and always be completely truthful.
  • He would let God defend his personal rights, and not take it upon himself to defend those rights.
  • He would always love his neighbors, and even his enemies.

 

Do you see? Do you get it? The Law demands, “Be perfect.” It must demand this because the Law testifies to God’s holiness and God’s holiness demands our perfection. We cannot, however, be perfect. That has been the entire point of the Sermon on the Mount thus far. You, on your own, cannot be perfect. However, you can, through the power of the Holy Spirit living in you, fulfill the law.

 

So many people get it wrong: they over emphasize the law or they over emphasize grace and liberty and miss the point of the Law, to point us to Christ. The Law shows us our sin and it must condemn for without that condemnation we would never seek a savior. The Law, beloved, is itself a Means of Grace because it is how God ordained us to seek a savior, in fleeing to Christ our sweet savior from Law’s damnation.

Anger: Where Murder Begins

Anger: Where Murder Begins

Text: Matthew 5:21-26
 
The first thing we need to understand, here, is that Jesus is not overturning the Law nor is He altering it in any way. When He references what the people had heard, He is referencing the teachings of the Scribes and Pharisees.
 
 
We said, last week, that Jesus gives the correct understanding and application of the Mosaic Law and, in this first lesson on the Law, He wastes no time getting to the heart of the matter, literally.
 
 
“Jesus goes behind the act of murder itself to declare that the anger and hatred which give rise to it, though not capable of being examined in a human court, are no less culpable in the sight of God. The continued validity of the sixth commandment is assumed, but a legalistic interpretation which restricts its application to the literal act alone is rejected.” —Tyndale New Testament Commentaries – Matthew.
 
 
You see, the actual act of murder, the killing itself, is the end result of the sin. In order to develop that more, shall we turn to the Epistle of James.
James 1:13-16
“13 And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.”
 
James is not referencing the death from murder, like our primary text talks about. Instead, he is talking about the worst kind of death, spiritual death and that death is eternal. Let us turn back to our text and learn from the Holy Spirit.
James points out that you cannot be tempted except that you desire the thing in the first place. Logically, then, we see that unrighteous anger is rooted in the desire to destroy another person. This may seem a little extreme but we really need to process the fact that Jesus is intent on our understanding that no matter how “perfect” that we might believe we are, absent grace we find ourselves hopelessly devoid of any real chance at Heaven. I don’t want to take us too far down a rabbit trail, but in this lesson, Jesus is illustrating the doctrine of Total Depravity.
5:21 “You have heard that our fathers were told.” Jesus begins his detailed “filling” of the Torah (v. 17) with one of the Ten Commandments, implicitly alluding to this underlying ground for all obedience to God. In Judaism, the citation of a Scripture text implies the whole context: in this case, all Ten Commandments, not merely the quoted words.
The phrase “The ancients were told” could also be rendered “the ancients told, or said.” In the first instance the implication would be that the ancients were told by God, in which case Jesus would be referring to God’s revealed Word. The ancients. For Him to contradict God’s Word in any way would be totally out of the question in view of verses 17-19. In the second rendering the implication is that the ideas the ancients taught were primarily of their own devising. That must be the correct approach.
Jesus customarily referred to the Scriptures by such phrases as “Moses commanded,” “the prophet Isaiah said,” “it is written,” and such. Here His words are much more general and therefore cannot refer directly to the Old Testament. Jesus shows that, even in regard to the specific biblical commands against murder and adultery, their tradition was at variance with the Holy Scripture, which reveals that God’s primary concern has always been for inner purity, not simply outward compliance.
 
The rabbis of past generations were often called the “fathers of antiquity,” or “the men of long ago,” and it is to them that “the ancients” (vv. 21, 33) refers. Jesus was contrasting His teaching—and the true teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures themselves—with the Jewish written and oral traditions that had accumulated over the previous several hundred years and that had so terribly perverted God’s revelation.
In his Institutes (Library of Christian Classics, vol. 1, p. 372), John Calvin wrote,
“Let us agree that through the law man’s life is molded not only to outward honesty but to inward and spiritual righteousness. Although no one can deny this, very few duly note it. This happens because they do not look to the Lawgiver by whose character the nature of the law is to be appraised. If some king by edict forbids fornication, murder or theft, I admit that a man who does not commit such acts will not be bound by the penalty. That is because the mortal lawgiver’s jurisdiction extends only to the outward political order. But God, whose eye nothing escapes and who is concerned not so much with outward appearance as with purity of heart, forbids not only fornication, murder and theft but lust, anger, hatred, coveting and deceit. For since He is a spiritual Lawgiver, He speaks not less to the soul than He does to the body.”
 
Among Jesus’ most amazing departures from what would be considered traditional teaching were His insistence that tradition and Scripture were in conflict and that inner righteousness, not outward form, is the central and necessary characteristic of a right relationship to God. (Side note, this is one of the major problems that we, as Baptists have with Rome: The Roman Church elevates tradition as equal to the very words of Scripture and Jesus makes clear that tradition is not ever equal to the Scripture.) We will spend the remainder of our time, today, looking at that very concept.
“5:21-48 Six times Jesus contrasts traditional interpretations of OT texts or themes with his understanding of their meaning and application. In five of the six antitheses, he also prescribes proactive, positive action as an antidote to what is prohibited. Presumably similar action is implied in the remaining instance (to prevent divorce) as well.”–DA Carson
 
Looking at this, we see that Jesus corrects six misinterpretations or, as we referenced last week, “abolishing of the Law.”
5:21 murder. The sixth commandment (Exodus 20:13) prohibits the taking of another human life. Now, the KJV renders this as, “Thou shalt not kill.” So does this mean that all killing is wrong? No; the verb refers to all killing except in war, capital punishment, or self-defense. Jesus’ assertion internalizes the command so that one who harbors rage or spews out spiteful words is also guilty of sin and its consequences (v. 22). The matter is so serious that one should leave a worship service, if necessary, to be “reconciled” (v. 24) to a fellow believer and “settle matters” (v. 25) if at all possible.
5:22 angry. The dangerous and destructive effect of human anger is likewise stressed throughout Scripture (Proverbs 20:2; 22:3; 29:22; 2 Corinthians 12:20; Galatians 5:20; Ephesians 4:31; Colossians 3:8; James 1:20). Anger typically entails a desire to damage or destroy the other person, either in some personal way or literally in the form of murder (Matthew 5:21 and James 4:1–2).
The scribes and Pharisees said that a person who referred to another as Raca, meaning “empty head,” was in danger of being sued for libel before the council (The Sanhedrin). To bring this into more modern terms, Raca would have the modern connation of calling someone an idiot or jackass. So am I saying that calling someone an idiot is as severe as murdering them? I’m afraid so. Calling someone a fool or an idiot is closely related to anger, in that it represents a destructive attack on one’s character and identity. This attack on the person, made in God’s image, is so fundamentally horrible, that the Lord equates it with murdering them.
Notice:

 

  • Jesus exposes the essence of the scribes’ heresy. To them, the law was really only a matter of external performance, never the heart. Jesus brings the law back to the matters of the heart. “The supervision of the Kingdom does not begin by arresting a criminal with blood-red hands; it arrests the man in whom the murder spirit is just born.” (Morgan)

 

 

 

  • We should emphasize that Jesus is not saying that anger is as bad as murder. It is profoundly morally confused to think that someone who shouts at another person in anger has sinned as badly as someone who murders another person in anger. Jesus emphasized that the law condemns both, without saying that the law says they are the same things. The laws of the people could only deal with the outward act of murder, but Jesus declared that His followers understood that God’s morality addressed not only the end but also the beginning of murder.

 

 

 

  • Barclay, commenting on the specific ancient Greek word translated angry: “So Jesus forbids forever the anger which broods, the anger which will not forget, the anger which refuses to be pacified, the anger which seeks revenge.”
  • “The words ‘without cause’ probably reflect an early and widespread softening of Jesus’ strong teaching. Their absence does not itself prove there is no exception.” (Carson)

 

 
Note that the very first murder was the result of Cain’s anger that God did not accept his sacrifice, which, incidentally, was made in defiance of God’s revelation. (Genesis 4:1-17)
The first specific prohibition of murder is found in Genesis, in God’s instructions to Noah: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man” (9:6). Here the penalty for murder and the reason for its seriousness are given. The penalty was death for the killer, and the reason for such severe punishment was that man is made in God’s image. To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God. This assault, Jesus teaches, begins in the heart.
I may beat a dead horse a little but I really want to drive this home: By beginning with the prohibition against murder and showing its true nature, Jesus utterly destroys any illusion that we might have of our own self-righteousness. Consider that there is not a person alive who can claim to have never been angry without cause and there is not person alive who can say that they have never called a person an idiot or stupid.
 
From John MacArthur
“Here Jesus begins to specifically point up the inadequacy of the righteousness in which the scribes, Pharisees, and many others trusted. Because their view of righteousness was external, their view of themselves was complimentary. But Jesus shatters that complacent self-righteousness by beginning with the accusation that a person is guilty of murder even if he is angry with, hates, curses, or maligns another person. In a statement that may have shocked His hearers more than anything He had yet said, Jesus declares that a person guilty of anger is guilty of murder and deserves a murderer’s punishment.”
Do I mean to say that a person who is angry without cause is in danger of hell? I’m afraid so. Remember that we have to have better righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees in order to see Heaven.
So what do we do about the fact that sin lurks in the heart and waits to destroy? We repent and we pursue reconciliation. Repentance is the English rendering of metanoeo and it means to change your mind or change your thinking. So in repentance we change our thinking about ourselves and our righteousness and we agree with God that we are totally depraved and helpless to do anything about it. As a result we come to Jesus because He is our only hope of being restored into a relationship with the Father.
I want you to understand that repentance and the subsequent request for pardon is sufficient to spare you a place among the damned. However, repenting and asking for pardon does not restore your relationship. Looking at verses 23-25 in our text, we can see how important reconciliation is; it is so important that God Himself, in the person of the Lord Jesus, commands us to cease worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person we have sinned against. Do you understand how radical that is? Stop worshipping and go to be reconciled to the person you have sinned against! This statement takes everything you know about worship and sets it on its head.
In other lessons, I have referenced Micah 6:8, but I want to show that verse, along with the previous two verses to help you understand. (This is perhaps the quintessential OT passage on God’s expectations in worship.)
Micah  6:6-8
What can we bring to the Lord? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves? Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins? No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.
 
Turn also to Hosea chapter six. Reading verse six, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.
 
If you will remember our earlier lesson, the whole of the Torah is to love God and love your neighbor, so reconciliation with another party is vital. Now, I need to point out that reconciliation is not always possible. There are times when the other party is so wounded that they are not able to reconcile with you and there may be times when one of the two parties is so steeped in sin that reconciliation is not possible.
 
In summary we have this quote: “Jesus is kind. His aim is to reach into our hearts, grab that anger and that ‘murder in miniature,’ and then pull it out and lead us to a place of reconciliation.” – Jim Salladin
Jesus and the Law

Jesus and the Law

Text Matthew 5:17-18

 

This week, we are interacting with a topic of fundamental importance: the relationship of not only Jesus Christ but also the Christian to the Law.

 

“It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Sabbath-day requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Christ did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23-25; Ephesians 2:15).” — Got Questions Ministries

 

We need to start by understanding a few important ideas. Often times, we refer to the section of the Bible called the Torah as the Law; it is not. Torah, literally, means teaching. The mitzvot are the commandments/law and these are found in the Torah. Looking at this passage, we need to ask 2 questions, 1. Is the Law still in force for Christians? 2. What is the point/goal of the Law?

 

As Christians we see what is called a tripartite (3-parts) division of the Law: Moral, Ceremonial, and Civil. The Civil Laws are enjoined upon national Israel and are technically still in force today since Israel is a nation. There is not, currently, a Temple in Israel, so the Civil Law is not abolished but it is certainly on hold. That brings us to the Moral Laws in the Old Testament. Is it still in force for the Christian? Yes, and I would like to develop that idea a little this morning.

 

First, we need to understand the goal of the Law. “The Greek word, τέλος (telos), can be interpreted in the following ways: “end”, “purpose”, “goal”, “to set out for a definite point”… This word τέλος was used by Greek thinkers such as Aristotle and was also used in the New Testament by Paul, the author of the book of Romans. Paul states in Romans 10:4 that the Messiah is the τέλος of the Torah. The Messiah is the goal, the purpose, the end, and the definite point which the Torah was moving towards.”–One for Israel

“The author of Hebrews argues the Law was never a goal in and of itself, but rather it prescribed a system of worship that was divinely intended to point people to the Messiah. He writes about the tabernacle,

“By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation” (Heb 9:8–10; see also 10:1).”–One for Israel

Jesus clearly states that He came to fulfil the Law but what does this mean? Understanding this phrase is central to a proper understanding of the relationship of the Law to a Christian. Let’s look at 1st Century Judaism for a moment.

It is correct to state that the focus of all the rabbis teaching was the Law. For the rabbis, the “Law” consisted not only of the Written Law, but of the Oral Law as well. The Written Law was the Torah, or the five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), that God gave to Israel at Sinai. In addition to this written revelation, Moses also received, according to the rabbis, additional commandments or instructions that were communicated orally. These additional commandments were designated by the rabbis as the Oral Law. You might have noticed that, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus frequently says, “You have heard it said…” and this is what is called the Oral Law.

 

“Fulfill the Law” as a Rabbinic Idiom 

“It will help us greatly to know that the phrase “fulfill the Torah” is a rabbinic idiom that is still in use even today. The word we read as “law” is torah in Hebrew, and its main sense is teaching, guidance and instruction, rather than legal regulation. It is God’s instructions for living, and because of God’s great authority, it demands obedience and therefore takes on the sense of “law.” The Torah is often understood to mean the first five books of the Bible, but also refers to the Scriptures in general. In Jesus’ time, and among Jews today, this is a very positive thing – that the God who made us would give us instructions for how to live. The rabbis made it their goal to understand these instructions fully and teach people how to live by it.

The translation of “to fulfill” is lekayem in Hebrew (le-KAI-yem), which means to uphold or establish, as well as to fulfill, complete or accomplish. David Bivin has pointed out that the phrase “fulfill the Law” is often used as an idiom to mean to properly interpret the Torah so that people can obey it as God really intends. The word “abolish” was likely either levatel, to nullify, or la’akor, to uproot, which meant to undermine the Torah by misinterpreting it. For example, the law against adultery could be interpreted as specifically against cheating on one’s spouse, but not about pornography. When Jesus declared that lust also was a violation of the commandment, he was clarifying the true intent of that law, so in rabbinic parlance he was “fulfilling the Law.” In contrast, if a pastor told his congregation that watching x-rated videos was fine, he would be “abolishing the Law” – causing them to not live as God wants them to live. “–ourrabbijesus.com

There is so much in this concept that it is hard to know where to begin. Obviously, Jesus is going to give us the correct interpretation of the Law; the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount is entirely about a proper understanding of the Law. In another sense, to fulfill the Law can mean to obey it and Jesus fulfills the Law by perfect obedience to it.

In the context of Matthew 5:17, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Christ came “…not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). Christ fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10, 13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.

 

There is a school of thought that suggests that “abolish” means to teach someone to misinterpret the Law. I can see that point and tend toward agreement with it. Clearly, from His own words, we can see that Jesus is not abrogating the whole law. (Matthew 5:18)

Without reading too far ahead, I want to share a quote from Jesus and a very similar quote from Hillel the Elder, a contemporary of Jesus that I think will set the tone for the remainder of our lesson.

According to Jewish tradition, a student asked Hillel the Elder to teach him the whole Torah and Hillel replied, “That which is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole of the Torah; The rest is commentary. Go forth and study.”

 

Matthew 22:36-40 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

 

Paul talks about the Law of Christ and I want to spend a few minutes on that because the Law of Christ is the correct interpretation of the entire Torah.

From Got Questions:

Question: “What is the law of Christ?”

Answer: Galatians 6:2 states, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (emphasis added). What exactly is the law of Christ, and how is it fulfilled by carrying each other’s burdens? While the law of Christ is also mentioned in 1 Corinthians 9:21, the Bible nowhere specifically defines what precisely is the law of Christ. However, most Bible teachers understand the law of Christ to be what Christ stated were the greatest commandments in Mark 12:28–31, “‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’”

The law of Christ, then, is to love God with all of our being and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In Mark 12:32–33, the scribe who asked Jesus the question responds with, “To love Him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” In this, Jesus and the scribe agreed that those two commands are the core of the entire Old Testament Law. All of the Old Testament Law can be placed in the categories of “loving God” or “loving your neighbor.”

Various New Testament scriptures state that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Law, bringing it to completion and conclusion (Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:23–25; Ephesians 2:15). In place of the Old Testament Law, Christians are to obey the law of Christ. Rather than trying to remember the over 600 individual commandments in the Old Testament Law, Christians are simply to focus on loving God and loving others. If Christians would truly and wholeheartedly obey those two commands, we would be fulfilling everything that God requires of us.

Christ freed us from the bondage of the hundreds of commands in the Old Testament Law and instead calls on us to love. First John 4:7–8 declares, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” First John 5:3 continues, “This is love for God: to obey His commands. And His commands are not burdensome.”

Some use the fact that we are not under the Old Testament Law as an excuse to sin. (This insidious and heretical doctrine is known as antinomianism.) The apostle Paul addresses this very issue in Romans. “What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (Romans 6:15). For the follower of Christ, the avoidance of sin is to be accomplished out of love for God and love for others. Love is to be our motivation. When we recognize the value of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, our response is to be love, gratitude, and obedience. When we understand the sacrifice Jesus made for us and others, our response is to be to follow His example in expressing love to others. Our motivation for overcoming sin should be love, not a desire to legalistically obey a series of commandments. We are to obey the law of Christ because we love Him, not so that we can check off a list of commands that we successfully obeyed.

So what is the relationship of Christ to the Law?  Once again, I turn to notes from one of my favorite Baptists, John Piper.

 

The law was kept perfectly by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness; Christ is. The ultimate goal of the law is that we would look to Christ, not law-keeping, for our righteousness. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4) When we note that Christ is the end of the Law, He is, as I said earlier, the telos or point of the Law. Paul refers to the Law as our school master (Galatians 3:24). The mitzvot/law is glorious because it shows the holiness of the Lord and points us toward Christ.

 

 

  1. The blood sacrifices ceased because Christ fulfilled all that they were pointing toward. He was the final, unrepeatable sacrifice for sins.Hebrews 9:12, “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

 

 

  1. The priesthood that stood between worshiper and God has ceased. Hebrews 7:23–24, “The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.”

 

“You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ … But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:5-9).

Old Testament priests were chosen by God, not self-appointed; and they were chosen for a purpose: to serve God with their lives by offering up sacrifices. The priesthood served as a picture or “type” of the coming ministry of Jesus Christ–a picture that was then no longer needed once His sacrifice on the cross was completed. When the thick temple veil that covered the doorway to the Holy of Holies was torn in two by God at the time of Christ’s death (Matthew 27:51), God was indicating that the Old Testament priesthood was no longer necessary. Now people could come directly to God through the great High Priest, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14-16). There are now no earthly mediators between God and man as existed in the Old Testament priesthood (1 Timothy 2:5).

 

 

  1. The physical temple has ceased to be the geographic center of worship. Now, Christ himself is the center of worship. He is the “place,” the “tent,” and the “temple” where we meet God. Therefore, Christianity has no geographic center, no Mecca, no Jerusalem.John 4:2123, “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. . . . But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth.’” John 2:1921, “‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ . . . He [Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body.” Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my [Jesus’s] name, there am I among them.”

 

Since the Holy Spirit now indwells all believers, a temple is no longer necessary.

 

  1. The food laws that set Israel apart from the nations have been fulfilled and ended in Christ.Mark 7:18–19, “[Jesus] said to them, . . . ‘Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him?’ . . . (Thus he declared all foods clean.)”

 

  1. The establishment of civil law on the basis of an ethnically rooted people, who are ruled directly by God, has ceased. The people of God are no longer a unified political body or an ethnic group or a nation-state, but are exiles and sojourners among all ethnic groups and all states. Therefore, God’s will for states is not taken directly from the Old Testament theocratic order, but should now be re-established from place to place and from time to time by means that correspond to God’s sovereign rule over all peoples, and that correspond to the fact that genuine obedience, rooted as it is in faith in Christ, cannot be coerced by law. The state is therefore grounded in God, but not expressive of God’s immediate rule.Romans 13:1, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” John 18:36, “My [Jesus’s] kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting.”

Ultimately, Christ completes the Law and, as we will see in the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, He gives the proper understanding of the Law.

Let’s turn our attention to verse 20 in our final minutes together.

“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

How is that supposed to happen? The Pharisees were fastidious about keeping the Law. Look at what the Apostle Paul said about his time as a Pharisee, “as touching the Law, a Pharisee…As touching the righteousness which is in the Law, blameless.” (Philippians 3:5-6). The Pharisees considered themselves to be perfect and, in fact, they were as close to perfect as you could get BUT there was still that pesky pride that got them.

Think back a couple weeks to our lesson on the Beatitudes. Does this sound familiar, “God blesses those who are poor and recognize their dependence upon Him.?” This is what Jesus is talking about. If it were possible for a person to keep all 613 of the commands in the Old Testament, you would still be guaranteed a spot in Hell if you thought that obedience was going to do anything for your standing with God. For our righteousness to exceed that of the Pharisees means that we come to God with nothing but an outstretched hand begging mercy.

The idea of being a beggar is offensive to most of us in our society. We hear about “self made millionaires,” doctors, lawyers, civic activists etc. But the truth of the matter is, no one is truly self made. The Sovereign of the Universe has orchestrated events in their favor. All throughout our time together, we are going to see Jesus butting heads with the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law and we will notice that it is very hard to come to the Lord when you are “perfect in every way.”

The better righteousness that Jesus is talking about is Imputed Righteousness. Now this is a legal term, as well it should be for we are judged before the Law. Even having come to Christ, the Law testifies against us that we are sinners. However, when we have knelt before the Lordship of Christ and repented of our sins, God the Father imputes or rather assigns the righteousness of Christ unto us. Having been judged in our stead, at Calvary, Christ’s righteousness grants us access to the Father. This is what Jesus meant when He talked about our righteousness being better than the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. When you stand before God, He will either account Christ’s righteousness to you and welcome you home to Heaven or He will look at your own righteousness and will justly damn you for all eternity. You need to make sure that you have made the right choice and bowed the knee to the Lordship of Christ and repented of your sin.

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