This is the sermon for Sunday, December 4th, 2011.
Unless noted all Scripture from the ESV.
Matthew part 14
The great Rabbi’s sermon part 5
The Law: not abolished, but fulfilled.
Matthew 5:17-20 – 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
We are looking right now at Matthew Chapters 5-7; which is typically called, “The sermon on the mount.” But in reality let’s remember that the audience listening to Jesus’ teaching is the first century Jews. So that is why I’m calling Chapter 5 of our study in Matthew, “The great Rabbi’s sermon.” He is teaching Jews who think that they are keeping the Law; but He’s going showing them through this sermon that they really haven’t.
Jesus will be accused at least six times of not keeping the Law in the Gospel narratives. As we shall see, Jesus didn’t have issues with the Law; but with the Jewish leadership’s interpretation of it. He says some powerful statements within our text this morning concerning the Law. Let’s begin to unpack it.
Jesus Christ came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.
Matthew 5:17-18 – 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
Let’s look at this statement.
Contrary to what the Pharisees said, Jesus had a love for the Law. He loved it because it pointed to His coming.
Let’s do some word study.
Abolish is the Greek word, καταλυο (kat-al-oo’-o). It means, “to dissolve, disunite; to destroy, demolish; to overthrow i.e. render vain, deprive of success, bring to naught; to subvert, overthrow.”
The Pharisees had the people under their thumbs, using the Law as a bully whip to whip the common folk into shape.
Jesus came along to show how the Law and the Prophets pointed to Him, thereby angering the Pharisees. So they accused Him of trying to overthrow the Law.
The MacArthur Study Bible states, “Jesus was neither giving a new law or modifying the old, but rather explaining the true significance of the moral content of Moses’ law and the rest of the Old Testament.”
Jesus explains He came to fulfill the Law.
Fulfill is the Greek word πλεροο (play-ro’-o). It means, “to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full; to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally.”
Just like Jesus came and fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament; He also fulfilled the Law in all it said and represented. He fulfilled the moral law by keeping it perfectly. He fulfilled the ceremonial portion of the law by fulfilling what all the symbols represented. He fulfilled the judicial aspect of the law by being the one who represented God’s perfect justice.
Not one aspect of the Law will cease until it’s all fulfilled.
The smallest stroke of a pen will not fade away, nor is meaningless; but it points to Christ and His finished work for our Salvation on the cross.
Jesus was the substance of what the Law revealed; the problem was the Jews were only interested in the shadow of the Law.
Colossians 2:16-17 – 16Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.
Many people within our churches also look at the shadow; this is called legalism. They want to focus on what people should and shouldn’t do, instead of focusing on what has already been accomplished for us by Jesus.
The Law was never meant to be watered down in order for people to keep it; but taught to its complete fullness.
Matthew 5:19 – Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees made the Law impossible to keep for the common Jew; on the other hand they eased the burden on themselves.
This is why Jesus says what He says in verse 20. They would relax the burden on the Law on themselves, in my opinion because the Pharisees knew they couldn’t keep it.
It doesn’t matter if it is the big commandment of “do not murder,” or a much smaller commandment; God’s commands are not meant to be relaxed or watered down, but to point to our need of a Savior.
Unfortunately, many do this within our churches today. They will relax the Law when it comes to themselves, but make huge demands on others.
The fact is, none of us can keep the Law perfectly, we need a Savior who has done that job in our place – and that is what we have in Jesus Christ.
If you try to live by the Law in order to please God, then you must live it with a perfect righteousness.
Matthew 5:20 – For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Here is where legalism breaks apart.
In order for it to work, you must obey absolutely perfectly. In Jesus’ time that meant that your self righteousness had to exceed the self righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. To the common Jew, this put them in a hopeless position.
This puts all those who try to keep the Law to please God in a hopeless position as well.
Our righteousness must not only exceed the common persons, but it must exceed all of our “holy, great” teachers of our day. It must be a perfect righteousness, and all of us fall way short of that.
But thanks be to God, Jesus came.
He not only taught the law perfectly and lived it perfectly, but He became the perfect sacrifice in our place so that His righteousness becomes our own.
In other words, God is pleased with us, not based on our self righteous works, but based on the perfect righteous work of Jesus Christ that has been placed in our account.
Jesus did not come to annul the Law, but to fulfill it. He has fulfilled every aspect of the Law. As Christians, we approach our Holy God and Father through the perfect work and person of Jesus Christ. And when we do, He accepts us and is pleased with us.