Skip to main content

Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew

 
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:17-20, NKJV.

Herein Jesus identifies Himself as the fulfillment of the law. He also presents something of a riddle: He declares that whoever breaks even one small portion of the law shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven. In saying this, He implies that such a person may be within the kingdom of heaven despite his/her crime, but in the following verse He declares that one’s righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, who are blameless according to the law, in order for one to enter the kingdom of heaven. He then compares the letter of the law with the true spirit thereof, and, in so doing, clearly illustrates that the Pharisees’ “righteousness” does not even begin to approach God’s standard:

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire,” Matt. 5:21-22.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” Matt. 5:28-28.

“Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery,” Matt. 5:31-32.
The point being made is that corrupt man is incapable of truly fulfilling God’s law or remotely approaching His perfect standard. Man cannot attain true righteousness through works: this is the whole premise of Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and the explanation behind His previous statement: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” The LORD God demands perfection; the scribes and Pharisees aspired to an external, superficial perfection through the law, but could never overcome the natural imperfection of the human spirit. Indeed, Jesus illustrates through His descriptions of the complexity and deeper meanings of the law, that even that outward perfection is virtually unattainable for mortal man. Nevertheless, such is the lofty standard the LORD God sets for us. The closing statement of Jesus in this chapter is: “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt.5:48)—far be it from us to perceive this as a commandment, as if we could, by our own might, be made perfect just as God is perfect! No, indeed! Rather, our Lord herein sets the tone for His redeeming work—for in His blood and by the Holy Spirit we are made perfect, and the law is fulfilled.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Reflections on the New Testament: Mark
“And He said to them, ‘Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?’” Mark 4:13, NKJV.
It is essential that we, as Christians, understand the Word of the Lord in its entirety—it is essential that we continually learn. We are not to feed solely on the milk of the Word, for then we are but moderately strengthened; we are not familiar with the full context and implications and are therefore incapable of accurate application. Rather, we must proceed to the meat of the Word, and pursue a full and accurate understanding of “all the parables.” The Lord has fully equipped us for this task—He has sent us the Helper and opened the avenue of prayer. We are without excuse. Jesus’ question to His disciples in Mark 4:13 has the tone of a reprimand, as though He genuinely expected His disciples to have understood the parable and was rather disappointed that they did not. It is as though He said to them: “Children, you ought t…
Reflections on the New Testament: Matthew
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from you Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let you left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly,” Matt. 6:1-4, NKJV.
Why does the Lord urge us to such secrecy in this regard? In essence, because the righteousness of the children of God is not attained by works, but by the grace of God. The children of God must understand this and be humbled before God and man as mere servants—from this understanding shall inevitably come the good works the Lord desires. Not a vain attempt to prove to G…
Notes on Romans
“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them),” Romans 2:12-15, NKJV.
“For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God,” Romans 2:28-29, NKJV.
The physical realm is ever a veil over our minds and a web of deception; God would have us know the Spirit of reality, the true being, and not m…