MATTHEW Chapter 5:17-30
There are scores of churches that resound with absolute conviction, certainty and joy that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, apart from the Law – that we are free from the Law and solely under God’s abounding grace! And so it is, just as Paul described:
14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.
And again in Galatians:
20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.
21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.
So then the Christian no longer need to concern himself with the Law of God because the Law of God is done and over for the church, right?
Well . . . yes and no . . .
*~Again, we return to the Mount where the King is delivering His sermon, having completed the Beatitudes and the Similitudes, the LORD then addresses this issue of Law:
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Once more we need to remind ourselves that we are in the Gospel of Matthew, not Mark or Luke or John, and that the themes of these respective Gospel accounts address different people groups and reveals different aspects of the Messiah and His ministry.
Of Matthew’s account this the Message of the Messiah to Israel regarding the kingdom that was promised to her under the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7; Psalm 89). Indeed, this is Holy Scripture and applicable for the Christian for all of its spiritual truth, yet this does not abrogate the essential purpose of Matthew’s Gospel – a presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Messiah to and for the people of Israel.
In that Kingdom of Israel, the Kingdom of David, the Kingdom of heaven that will be manifest at the time when the King is revealed and establishes His kingdom for the thousand years over Israel (commonly known as the Millennium), these edicts and principles as set forth by the LORD Jesus Christ will be entirely in force and operating, so long as this Earth remains and likewise the stars above (note vs. 18 in our current text of Matthew) i.e. at the close of the Millennium.
We know that this planet and the entire universe for that matter will one day be dissolved and “the elements will melt with fervent heat” (Isaiah 65:17; 66:22; 2 Pet. 3:13; also 2 Pet. 3:10, 12) and once these old things are gone, replaced with “all things new” then the Law will have fulfilled its purpose, and what exactly that is, we shall soon see.
Time for a bit of word study in the Greek – let’s find out what these certain words mean in the original; words like “destroy” and “fulfil” in regards to “the law”:
The word “destroy” in the Greek is katalyo, and it means “to loosen down (disintegrate), i.e. (by implication) to demolish (literally or figuratively), to halt for the night – destroy, dissolve, be the guest, lodge, come to naught, overthrow, throw down, the overthrowing of institutions, forms of government, laws; to deprive of force, abrogate, discard, to halt for the night [with the implication of beginning one’s journey again in the morning].”
Let us understand that these various shades of meaning of the word “destroy” will not find realization “until all be fulfilled” and it’s only when all is fulfilled that the heavens and earth will be allowed by God to pass away!
Any who would not honor the Law of God will not be honored by God, but these shall be called “least” in the Kingdom of heaven and by the same token, those who obey the law and teach others to do so, shall be the most highly honored by God! Again, we can see the fulfillment of these things transpiring once the King arrives and His kingdom – with His Holy Law, established in Israel and in the world at large, under the magnificent ruler-ship of the LORD Jesus Christ, Y’shua ha Meshiach Nagid.
The other word we want to consider is “fulfil” (sic); pleroo in the Greek which means “to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: - accomplish, after (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply. To cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally, to render full, to complete, filled to the top so that nothing shall be wanting, to full measure, fill to the brim; to consummate; a number to make complete in every particular, to render perfect, to carry into effect, bring to realization, realize: of matters of duty, to perform, execute; of sayings, promises, prophecies, to bring to pass, ratify, accomplish; to cause God’s will (as made known in the Law) to be obeyed as it should be and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment.”
The LORD Jesus Christ stated, that He came not to destroy the Law but to fulfill the Law and considering what these words mean in their original language, this will help us greatly to understand what He was saying, and we shall examine the Scriptures to further this study and our own comprehension (and LORD willing, our apprehension!) of these awesome and deep truths!
Why was the Law of God given to Israel, and in a more general application – to the people of this world? Paul reveals this to us in 1st Timothy:
1 TIMOTHY 1:9
9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers.
The Holy Law of God reveals to us our own spiritual condition: that of abject poverty, unrighteousness, sinfulness and spiritual impurity (Rom. 3:20; 7:13-14; Heb. 10:1), and it can do nothing to restore, cure or heal our hearts of sinfulness, because they are incurable (“desperately wicked” as it states in Jer. 17:9).
However, there is one Man who was (and is) perfectly righteous, sinless and possesses absolute spiritual purity, and He – and only He – can and did fulfill (replace this word “fulfill” with the descriptive definitions of this word in the Greek to full appreciate the LORD’s ability to fulfill) the righteous requirements of the Law; He who is the “King of Righteousness” (Heb. 1:8; 7:1-2, 15-17; Psalm 110), the LORD Jesus Christ.
Since we are powerless to obey the Law to perfection, as Christ did, His vicarious death for our sins, that is, His substitutionary death on the cross as He bore the sins of all humanity upon Him and the judgment for those sins by the Father were done away with; then the righteousness that is inherent in Christ Jesus was imputed to us who express faith in His finished work on the cross (2 Cor. 5:21) – this insurmountably awesome deed was accomplished and proven effective by the resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead (1 Cor. 15:14-23).
2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
There are two “Laws” mentioned here: “the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” and also “the law of sin and death”. By the first we are able to live in righteousness granted by Christ, and fulfill the holiness and righteousness required by the Law but ONLY by the power of the Spirit! The Law of God as given by Moses the Lawgiver, which is holy, was in a sense weak because it provided no means whatsoever whereby we could present ourselves as righteous before God; it could only reveal our own sinfulness.
This was the same problem that Israel dealt with in the Old Testament, for according to the Mosaic Covenant (Deut. 28), they would enjoy the blessings of God in the land of Israel and all that this entails, if only they were obedient to the Law.
Yet because they were not (and could not), the Mosaic Covenant was broken, and this brought about God’s judgment, and thus the need for a new covenant (or testament) that would be established not on obedience to the Law (which came by Moses) but by faith, such as that which was displayed by Abraham (who found acceptance by God because of such faith, 400 years before the giving of the Law; Gal. 3:16-22):
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:
32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith theLORD:
33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Thus this new covenant will succeed where the old one ‘failed’ – at least in the sense of its ability to bring in righteousness employable by the people of Israel, because God Himself will write His Law “in their inward parts” and as well as the Law, so too will God bring to His people His indwelling Spirit:
26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.
28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God.
Once born of the Spirit of God in this manner, Israel shall indeed “walk in [God’s] statutes” and “keep [His] judgments and do them” when once the Messiah returns and establishes His kingdom, just as the church is now able to follow and obey the commands of the LORD Jesus Christ because we are now that “holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9) which enabled by God’s Spirit to do so!
Here is some helpful commentary from Scofield’s notes that brings a greater and clearer scope of understanding to our present text:
“Christ's relation to the law of Moses may be thus summarized:
(1) He was made under the law: Galatians 4:4.
(2) He lived in perfect obedience to the law: John 8:46; Matthew 17:5; 1 Peter 2:21-23.
(3) He was a minister of the law to the Jews, clearing it from rabbinical sophistries, enforcing it in all its pitiless severity upon those who professed to obey it (e.g.): Luke 10:25-37 but confirming the promises made to the fathers under the Mosaic Covenant: Romans 15:8.
(4) He fulfilled the types of the law by His holy life and sacrificial death: Hebrews 9:11-26.
(5) He bore, vicariously, the curse of the law that the Abrahamic Covenant might avail all who believe: Galatians 3:13-14.
(6) He brought out by His redemption all who believes from the place of servants under the law into the place of sons: Galatians 4:1-7.
(7) He mediated by His blood the New Covenant of assurance and grace in which all believers stand: Romans 5:2; Hebrews 8:6-13 so establishing the "law of Christ" Galatians 6:2 with its precepts of higher exaltation made possible by the indwelling Spirit.”
In a connotative sense “the Law” refers not just to the Mosaic Law as the LORD gave to him on Mt. Sinai, but to the general revelation of the Word of God through the LORD’s holy prophets (Ps. 19:7-8; see also Ps. 119 and note such words as "law, precepts, ordinances, statutes" etc).
In this sense, the Christian is to observe the Law in that the truth of God’s Word is revealed for our learning – and obeying; yet this is not something that procures salvation: this is still obtained by the grace of God through the shed blood of the LORD Jesus Christ. This is something that we observe and obey as a result of our salvation and in our God-given ability to “walk in the Spirit” and “in truth” and in “righteousness”. See Gal. 5:16; 2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4; Romans 8:3-5.
Continuing in our study then, let’s pick up in verse 20 and on:
20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
21 Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.
I’m quite certain that those that heard these statements from the mouth of the LORD must have been stunned to hear them. Everyone regarded the Pharisees (and the scribes) as those ‘super-saints’ who made it their business to study and obey the Law 24/7, and yet here was the Messiah telling them that their righteousness must exceed theirs!
How could such a thing be possible? Precisely as we have examined just now – the righteousness of the people couldn’t be of the lesser quality of these religious hypocrites or even of those few who sincerely tried to live up to the Law, but by that righteousness which is of the LORD Himself:
No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD.
This is the proof text that reveals religion for all of its weakness and inabilities in transforming a person from sinner to saint, from unrighteous to righteous, from ungodly character to godly – only the LORD Himself can do such miracles and bring eternal transformation that literally makes us new people (beginning with our hearts, then minds, and one day, our bodies!).
Religion will always appeal to man’s own abilities and work to achieve a right position before Deity, and the Pharisees likewise mangled the Law of God which judges the heart, to mere religious externalism, just as our LORD addresses in these verses.
Note He speaks to the people saying, “You have heard that it has been said” (vs. 21, 27) and “it hath been said” (vs. 31, 33, 38, 43); most people in those days didn’t know how to read, much less able to read Hebrew which is what the Torah was written in (similar to the time of the Dark Ages when the Bible was only written in Latin [Bibles written in any common language, they destroyed] – the language only understood and read by Roman Catholic priests and scholars). Thus any learning from the Scriptures was from what they were told that the Scriptures said (and not at all necessarily what it really said) or they were given oral traditions, which in those days were esteemed as more authoritative than the Scriptures themselves (There are those who are extreme in their Calvinism that seem to have a higher regard for their revered teachers, and study and quote them more so than the Word of God).
So these religious leaders felt that as long as they were obedient to the Law in any overt action or deed or refraining from those that were unlawful, they were in right standing with God. Its often said today, “I’m not that bad of a sinner; it’s not like I killed anybody,” and yet the LORD addresses the matters of the heart, where sin is conceived in a sinner: Are you “…angry with [your] brother without a cause…”
Note the terms “judgment day” and “hell fire” which if understood in context, carries with them no sense whatsoever of allegory or mere metaphor. If one reads in a straightforward manner, the reality of such things may be clearly understood.
See Matthew 25:31-32; 2 Pet. 2:9; 3:7; 1 John 4:17; Jude 1:14-15; Rev. 20:12.
Universalism is a false doctrine that is gaining ground; and its tenets state that no one is going to hell or be judged and therefore condemned, but rather, every one will (eventually) be saved. However this is against the whole counsel of Scripture; here is the first in a series of articles entitled CHRIST’s COURT – SOON IN SESSION where we deal with this and related issues on TTUF.
23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.
25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.
26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.
I think we’ve all heard the saying, “I love God so much! It’s those Christians that I can’t stand!” and yet the LORD had admonished us through the apostle John that we cannot truly claim to love the LORD unless there is evidence in our lives of love for the brethren:
1 JOHN 4:19-21
19 We love him, because he first loved us.
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
Our relationships with one another are of profound importance to the LORD! Even so much that if we are ready to surrender a sacrificial gift to Him, yet there is a saint somewhere that has something against us, something that we have done or said that offended them and caused a breach between us – we are not to let such things lie, but deal with them and seek reconciliation before we proceed in our offerings to the LORD.
This is something we do well to consider when we make our tithes and offerings to the LORD as well as times during communion when we ought to search our hearts and repent of anything sinful. The fundamental doctrine of communion was recently covered by a good brother in the LORD (and one that I regularly fellowship with at church), Kyle Peart. Here is his teaching on Communion on TTUF.
We ought to maintain a humble heart, not proud or arrogant, displaying belligerent characteristics, but conciliatory for those we might consider our adversaries; particularly where we may be at fault in owing something to another. If we will not see to reconciliation of debts and wrongs owed to others now, we can be assured we will answer for them in eternity, where – without Christ as the Advocate, there will be no dismissal of the case against us.
From Jamison, Fausset and Brown we have further commentary:
“25. Agree with thine adversary--thine opponent in a matter cognizable by law.
quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him--"to the magistrate," as in Luke 12:58 .
lest at any time--here, rather, "lest at all," or simply "lest."
the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge--having pronounced thee in the wrong.
deliver thee to the officer--the official whose business it is to see the sentence carried into effect.
“26. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, fill thou hast paid the uttermost farthing--a fractional Roman coin, worth about half a cent. That our Lord meant here merely to give a piece of prudential advice to his hearers, to keep out of the hands of the law and its officials by settling all disputes with one another privately, is not for a moment to be supposed, though there are critics of a school low enough to suggest this.
“The concluding words--"Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out," &c.--manifestly show that though the language is drawn from human disputes and legal procedure, He is dealing with a higher than any human quarrel, a higher than any human tribunal, a higher than any human and temporal sentence. In this view of the words--in which nearly all critics worthy of the name agree--the spirit of them may be thus expressed:
"In expounding the sixth commandment, I have spoken of offenses between man and man; reminding you that the offender has another party to deal with besides him whom he has wronged on earth, and assuring you that all worship offered to the Searcher of hearts by one who knows that a brother has just cause of complaint against him, and yet takes no steps to remove it, is vain:
But I cannot pass from this subject without reminding you of One whose cause of complaint against you is far more deadly than any that man can have against man: and since with that Adversary you are already on the way to judgment, it will be your wisdom to make up the quarrel without delay, lest sentence of condemnation be pronounced upon you, and then will execution straightway follow, from the effects of which you shall never escape as long as any remnant of the offense remains unexpiated."
“It will be observed that as the principle on which we are to "agree" with this "Adversary" is not here specified, and the precise nature of the retribution that is to light upon the despisers of this warning is not to be gathered from the mere use of the word "prison"; so, the remedilessness of the punishment is not in so many words expressed, and still less is its actual cessation taught. The language on all these points is designedly general; but it may safely be said that the unending duration of future punishment --elsewhere so clearly and awfully expressed by our Lord Himself, as in Matthew 5:29-30 , and Mark 9:43, 48 -- is the only doctrine with which His language here quite naturally and fully accords. (Compare Matthew 18:30, 34).”
27 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
29 And if thy right eye offends thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
30 And if thy right hand offends thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Again the LORD compares the external nature of religious prohibitions against adultery, with the spiritual reality of the heart of humanity and the lusts and sinful temptations such is heir to. It’s quite significant that by looking, this invites lusting, and lusting in one’s heart reveals a sinful nature which will inevitably, given time and opportunity lead to sin, and death; judgment and hell.
On the issue of sin and it’s deadly ability to seduce with people that have that accompanying nature, have a look at this article FROM the MIND of FIRE:
SIX LETHAL LEVELS OF SIN
Consider the following: sin is so devastating in its causes and effects, and the results of engaging in it, that it took no one less than the Son of God (not an angel or a cherub or a specially created being for the purpose of redemption) – God made flesh – to end its deadly power over us! If we think we can hold out and battle against sin in our own strength, we are only deceiving ourselves.
This is why we must be radical in dealing with sin; we cannot afford to ‘play with it’ and entertain it for a while. We must be ruthless in ridding it from our lives, and that by the power of God’s Spirit Who alone can grant us the spiritual resolve to do so.
If our possessions, precious though they may seem to us – even our right eye or our right hand – causes us to sin, we should eradicate them from our lives rather than allow them their place and thus cause us to fall into their pernicious flames of destruction. As indicated in the FMF article above, this doesn’t mean that we should start gouging out eyes and hacking off hands, because obviously we can just as well sin with our left eye and hand. Our bodies aren’t the issue, it’s the sin nature that rules them. One could never find spiritual victory in slicing and dicing off parts of the body any more than tattooing Scripture verses on them!
What must be destroyed is our sin nature, and this is accomplished ultimately by the Cross when once we are delivered by these “bodies of death” when its ruling nature of depravity is no more. Until that time, we who are born of God’s Spirit are no longer ruled by such, though we may submit to that base nature by having a will to do so. We have two options: either walk in the Spirit (of God) or walk in the flesh (of our sinful nature). By identifying with the Cross of Christ, we can “reckon” or take into account that by faith in God’s Word we are dead with Christ, dead to the draw and impulses of sin, and share new life by His resurrection to live in victory over sin’s power (Rom. 6:10-12)!
16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
Please read the following chapter in its entirety: Romans 6:1-23.
Once again, the LORD makes a reference to perishing and hell; where the LORD repeats Himself in such a manner, we do well to pay close attention, for when it comes to heaven and hell, life and death – we are ‘playing for keeps’ here!
As I often say to people, “there are no exit signs in hell”. For an article on the doctrinal truth of the existence of hell, please refer to the previously mentioned article CHRIST’S COURT – SOON IN SESSION; enclosed in that article is a link, the article of which is entitled AS SURE AS HELL.
However, the length of this article is such that I must make my own exit now! And we shall resume and complete Chapter Five of Matthew in the next study!