Matthew 5:17-20 is our text again for tonight. As we come to this really rich and magnificent text there is just too much to learn. In Matthew 5, we are studying this great and magnificent, first sermon that the Lord Jesus gives us in the New Testament.
"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 a jot, not a tittle, 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.”
Liberal theology has for years argued that the Bible is not inspired by God, but that it is just a religious man commenting on his experience with God as he sees it, but that we cannot really trust that it is God Himself.
Another attack on the Bible today comes from those who say that what really defines truth is experience, so they interpret the Bible by their experience. Still another attack comes along and says, "The Bible is just not enough by itself; we need to add philosophy, psychology and human wisdom," so the Bible is constantly attacked from all sides.
But we as Christians have the number one reason why we can trust it absolutely, and it is because Jesus said that it is absolute truth and that overrides everything. Jesus said that the Old Testament didn't lie, and that not one jot or tittle would ever pass from it until all was fulfilled, and that should be good enough proof for all of us.
So here, at the very beginning of Jesus' ministry, early in His Sermon on the Mount, He gives His view of the Old Testament, the law of God, the Scripture. And we’ll see that it even carries on to His view of the New Testament.
Jesus was different than the other teachers in Israel. He didn't preach and teach like the scribes and Pharisees did; He was meek and humble and they were proud. He did not follow rabbinic traditions, whereas they meticulously observed the rabbinic traditions. He preached grace and mercy, and all they preached was law and judgment.
Jesus spoke with absolute authority and didn't have to always be quoting some rabbinical source. He befriended outcasts and sinners, while the other religious leaders turned their back on them. He was never concerned with outward regulations; He was always concerned with the heart.
Jesus is preaching about His Kingdom here, He is announcing that He is the King, and that is also Matthew's purpose in the whole gospel of Matthew. He has told us about the birth of the King, the prophecies fulfilled by the King, and about the victory of the King over Satan in His temptation.
Jesus begins by establishing the character of those allowed in His Kingdom. First of all, it's internal (verses 3-12). Then it becomes external as the testimony of Christians goes out (verses 13-16) and He says that we are salt and light so that this internal character will be manifested externally in the world.
Then Jesus says that living in His Kingdom is a matter of obedience to God's law (verses 17-20). And this is true until this day. We cannot manifest the true virtue of Kingdom children unless we are committed to the absolute authority of the Word of God.
The problem in the world today is that the church itself doesn't live separated from the world very well. We don't have a believable testimony because we don't abide by the righteous standards that God has given us. If we were people with character, like the Beatitudes talked about, then people would recognize us as the salt and the light of the world.
We learned last week that Jesus fulfilled the entire Law and that includes the judiciary, the ceremonial and the moral law. He was the perfect example of the Law in every part of His life. But as Jesus said in verse 20, we have to be more righteous then the best of Israel if we want to go to heaven.
So let us study the Law more in depth. Do you realize that the moral law is behind everything? Behind the judicial law and ceremonial law is the moral law of God. Those are standards of right and wrong in terms of behavior and attitude. The moral law is an expression of God's character.
To help people to understand the moral law, God developed in Israel, the ceremonial law, to help them focus on the correct ways to worship Him. And He developed the judicial law to help them focus on the judicial part of His character.
The judicial Law has passed away since Christ was rejected by Israel, so this has been set aside for the time being. The ceremonial Law also has passed away since Christ became the final sacrifice that we see pictured throughout the Old Testament. But there are still elements in all those categories – judicial, ceremonial, and moral – that we still practice now.
For example, God's judicial standard for marriage hasn't changed. God still desires honesty and purity among those that are married. God still desires monogamy and not polygamy. God still has the same feeling toward marriage, remarriage, divorce, and those things. In other words, when some factor of Israel's judicial law touched a timeless, divine principle, it still goes on, even today.
Take the ceremonial law: we don't kill oxen, goats, lambs and turtledoves, but did you know that we still do some of the ceremonies that Israel did? Israel used to praise God, and we do that too. Israel used to pray to God, and we did that tonight. Israel used to sing songs, and we do that. Israel had a choir and musical instruments, and we have all of that right now.
Now, just as there are elements of the judicial law and elements of the ceremonial worship of Israel that are still around, we should not be shocked if the opposite also occurs. There is an element which was part of the moral law which is not around anymore. If God can leave a part of some, He can also cancel parts of others.
I believe the Sabbath has passed away. Why? It is the one of the Ten Commandments never repeated in the New Testament; every other one is repeated in the New Testament. We also know that the early church met on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. This happened because the Sabbath had been fulfilled by Jesus.
Remember, the commandment said, "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy." But the Jews interpreted that wrong. The idea was not to refrain from work; the idea was to be holy. Do you see that? In the Sabbath law, God was not saying, "Please don't work," or else everyone who takes Saturday off is fulfilling God's law. No, the idea was being holy.
Do you know that when Jesus died on the cross and the moment you put your faith in Him, instantly, you were made holy? The Spirit of God took up residence in you and something happens in the New Testament that never happened in the Old Testament. At that moment the righteousness of Christ is instantly imputed to you.
Now do you see the point? The Sabbath was a picture; and finally when Jesus came it became a relationship. When you believe, you enter into Jesus Christ, you enter into Sabbath. From then on, 24 hours a day, all your life, you are fulfilling the law of the Sabbath; you are made holy.
So why do we worship on Sunday? Because we celebrate the Resurrection; the Lord rose from the dead on the first day, and that's how the early church did it, so that's how we're doing it. But frankly, it wouldn't make a bit of difference if we met on any other day.
So some factors in the judicial, ceremonial and moral law have changed because of the coming of Christ; He fulfilled many things, but some are yet to be fulfilled. Some of the prophecies haven't been fulfilled yet, have they? Some are still future.
But He says in verse 18, "Not one jot or tittle will pass from the law until every single bit of it is fulfilled." He says this, "Till heaven and earth pass." Someday the universe will pass out of its present existence; the Bible is clear about that. At that time, we'll enter the new Heaven and new Earth, and won't need a Bible anymore, because we'll be living righteousness, won't we?
In Hebrew, there is a letter called 'yodh' and it is similar to an apostrophe. A yodh is the smallest letter. In the Greek language, it's the little tiny iota. So what He's saying is, "Not the tiniest Hebrew letter or Greek letter will pass from this law until it is all fulfilled."
Is the bible still God's authoritative Word for us? Of course! Jesus fulfilled part of it, but God's moral law has never been set aside, and it will all be there until it's fulfilled and Heaven and Earth pass away. Conversely, Heaven and Earth won't pass away until every single element in this Book is fulfilled.
As you study the Bible, you see how Jesus supported the authenticity of Scripture. Sixty-four times, He referred to the Old Testament always as authoritative. He said in John 10:35, "Scripture cannot be broken." Jesus equated His words with the Word of God as being absolutely authoritative and divine.
Some scholars say the Old Testament is full of myths; but do you know that Jesus confirmed the Old Testament truths again and again? He confirmed the identities of Adam and Eve. Jesus confirmed the Creation account and the standard of marriage as God designed it in the Garden in Matthew 19. He authenticated the murder of Abel in Luke 11:51.
Jesus corroborated and confirmed Noah and the flood in Matthew 24:37-39. He confirmed Abraham and his faith in John 8. He confirmed Sodom and Lot in Luke 17:28-30. He confirmed the call and the Law of Moses in Mark 12:26-27. He confirmed the manna from heaven in John 6:31-32. He confirmed the raised serpent in John 3:14, etc. etc.
So we believe in the Old Testament because, in His very words, Jesus depended on it. He placed His own words as divine words, an equivalent of Scripture, thereby guaranteeing their divinity as well. He confirmed the events of the Old Testament.
Jesus also believed that Scripture would free men from error. In Mark 12:24 He said, "Do you not err because you don't know the Scriptures?" In other words, our Lord depended on the present tense in the Hebrew language for an interpretation of an I AM statement. Jesus said that everything in the Old Testament was true as it was recorded.
By the way, in Matthew 4, He even used Scripture in His own defense. When Satan came to Him three times and tempted Him in three different areas, each time Jesus answered by saying, "It is written." He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 6:3. He didn't have to quote the Old Testament; He could have made up new verses. But He was teaching us a pattern of how to deal with temptation: by using Scripture.
You know what Jesus did the first time He ever gave a sermon in His own town? He didn't do anything but read Isaiah 61:1-2 and sat down, and they were totally amazed. The Word of God was so powerful. Some time later in His ministry, John the Baptist's disciples came to Him in Matthew 11 and asked Him, "Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?" So He quoted Isaiah all over again to them. He depended on the Scriptures.
When He went in to cleanse the temple in Mark 11, He did it in the authority of the Old Testament Scripture by saying, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” When He went to die on the cross, He did it because the Old Testament Scripture said He had to die.
The point is this: if you're going to accept Jesus Christ and believe that He's God, you'd better listen to what He says about the Bible. What He says about it is that it's binding on you and you'd better live according to its principles. If you want to be a Kingdom citizen and have Kingdom character and give a Kingdom testimony, you'll have to obey the declaration of the King.
One day, the disciples were there with Jesus and the crowd had left. In John 6:67-68 we read that He asked them if they, too, would go away. Peter said to Him, "To whom shall we go? Only You have the words of eternal life." Do you also believe that?
You are bombarded in this world with all different kinds of human and devilish theories. What are you going to do? More importantly what is God calling us to do after hearing these verses? Here are five things that we need to do right here and now in Denver, CO.
First, believe the Word. We have to believe it because of the infinite majesty of the author, because of Christ's authoritative statements about it, and because of the price God paid to get it to you. We should believe because it's the only standard of truth, joy, salvation, and blessing, and we'd better receive it because not to receive it will bring judgment.
Secondly, honor it. God says in Psalm 138:2, "I have exalted above all things My Word and My Name." Psalm 119:103 says, "How sweet are Thy words." Do you have an attitude of love and honor toward this Book, or do you always resist it? Is it always threatening you, or do you lovingly submit to its words?
Thirdly, study it. 2 Timothy 2:15 says, "Be diligent to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth." Jeremiah 15:16 says, "Your words were found, and I ate them." Take it in and make it your own, allowing it, as Colossians 3:16 says, "to dwell in you richly."
Fourthly, defend it. Jude 3 says, "Earnestly contend for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints." We should defend the faith and fight for the integrity of the Word of God and its authority against the onslaughts of those in the world who seek to undermine it.
Lastly, proclaim it. 2 Timothy 4:2 says, "Preach the Word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” Wherever you are, let this be your great command and motivate you to preach the Gospel to whomever you meet, because the Lord has spoken it.