Lesson 36: The Sermon on the Mount (#4, "fulfilled")
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome to lesson #36. To get started let's read Matt. 5:13-16. This immediately follows the beatitudes that we covered last time. Have you got it? Let's read! "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that Is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it grivet light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men,that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." O.K. back up to v.13. Who is YE in this verse? Jesus said: ye are...salt; ye are...light (v.14). So, who is YE? If you will do a quick review of the beatitudes; notice that Jesus started off in a rather vague way in v.3 with the poor in spirit and THEIRS is the kingdom of heaven. Then he moved to "THEY" and finally to "YE" and "YOU" in v.11-12. So, finally as a natural conclusion to the beatitudes, in v.13, Jesus began to discuss those who HAVE and POSSESS the qualities mentioned in the beatitudes above. "Ye are the salt of the earth..." What does it mean to be the salt of the earth? Salt in that day was a very valuable product and had many constructive uses. But, that quality of salt that Jesus was alluding to here was most likely it's preservative quality, or it's pickling power, so-to-speak. It prevented decay, deterioration and adulteration. A quality that every Christian should have in a spiritual way. The world, society in general and common decency itself is PRESERVED by people who have those blessed attitudes. These things have a GREAT stabilizing effect upon our old world. Thus, the poor in spirit, they that mourn because of sin, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peace makers, even though they may be persecuted; these people preserve the value and worth of society very much like salt had the capability of preserving and pickling fish from the Sea of Galilee that they were familiar with. But, if a society should lose those stabilizing characteristics; it is THEN thenceforth good for nothing. That society shall be cast out and trodden under the foot of men.
Then, the second metaphor "ye are the light of the world:" is comprehended a little more easily. Light here has reference to knowledge, wisdom, understanding and truth. The contrast is darkness, ignorance degradation and error. Thus, God's people illuminate, clarify and brighten the pathway of life. V.15-16 extol and encourage these spiritual qualities. To let your light shine simply means to give an honest life of service and let your influence fall where it may. Obviously, this does NOT mean to spotlight your virtuous characteristics by flashing them in someone else's eyes. Therefore, we must neither hide our influence; NOR give it that sanctimonious pretense of look-how-holy-I-am. One of the reasons that Jesus came down so hard on the Pharisees was simply that they were interested ONLY in the public image of themselves. They did not follow the same scruples in their private life. Thus, they were hypocrites; an accusation that Jesus made on several occasions. But, those in Jesus' kingdom must be concerned about both the public AND private aspect of their life.
O.K. in v.17 the thought shifts and the next four verses (v.17-18-19-20) introduce the next section which consumes the rest of chapter 5. So, let's read v.17-20 with a keen eye. Are you ready? "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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. 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. 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."
These four verses are commonly misunderstood and misused. They deserve more than our usual attention. We want to get a clear perspective. So, put some brain cells into this discussion. V.17 is a clarification of Jesus' purpose. Focus in on v.17. Jesus said, I DID NOT COME FOR THIS; but, i.e. on the other side of the coin, I CAME FOR THIS. Now, let me ask you: what did Jesus come FOR and what did Jesus NOT COME FOR? V.17 is one sentence. Surely, we can clearly understand that much! Why did Jesus inject this clarification of purpose at this point in his speech? Back up just a minute! Think through what Jesus has said and who he said it to. What was the complaint and defense of the Pharisees who were opposing Jesus? IT IS NOT LAWFUL to do thus and so on the sabbath day. Thus, they were saying in effect that Jesus was trying to destroy the law, i.e. the law of Moses, sometimes called the 10 commandment law. And, we are talking about the law that was in effect, THEN, at that time. Thus, in introducing the next phase of his speech, Jesus took time out to explain very cautiously, his relationship to the law of Moses. Jesus said, "Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets." The word law here has reference to the first five books of the O.T. where the law of Moses is found. The word "prophets" (plural) has reference to the last part of the O.T. So, these two words together, in effect, simply describe the O.T. So, the first half of that sentence is equivalent to saying that Jesus came NOT to destroy the O.T. Now we're not talking about the book or the scrolls as such; but what was taught there and what it stood for. Look at it close! In the second part of that sentence Jesus repeated again, "I am NOT come to destroy, but to..." [to what?] "to FULFIL."
Now, I mentioned before that some of my religious friends who want to hang on the O.T. and mix it with the N.T. with a sort of blend-it-to-suit-you, mentality. They read the first half of that sentence and say: "AH HA!" Jesus DID NOT destroy the law OR the prophets; then, they immediately jump to the conclusion the Mosaic Law is, therefore, still in effect. And they appeal to the fact that Jesus said this. But, my friend, they missed the point. First of all, they missed the last part of the sentence completely. It just went up in smoke. So, the next step is, of course, you call their attention to that word "fulfil." They'll smile and say YES! THAT'S RIGHT, Jesus fulfilled, so the Mosaic Law is still in force!! YA! YA! But, like I said they missed it 180 degrees. It's one of the hardest passages to teach, I believe, in the whole N.T. The big reason is, THEY REALLY THINK it teaches what they want to hear. So, they really don't analyze; they just assume. Now, let's don't assume anything, O.K.?
Let me ask you a question, do you remember Matthew's fulfillment doctrine, as we called it? I knew we were going to run into this; so, I tried to prep you, you see. Now, if you just come in here and scoop up v.17 and spread it across the wild-blue-yonder and disregard the context; it at first sounds the way they want to interpret it. But, remember/ context - context - context! Let's get it in context. What does it mean to fulfill? Jesus said he came to FULFIL the law and Jesus said he came to FULFIL the prophets. Now, how could he do that? Every few verses, Matthew would say THIS WAS DONE THAT IT MIGHT BE FULFILLED which was written by thus-and-so prophet. We said before, Matthew, knew the O.T. like the back of his hand. Now, what did Matthew MEAN when he said something was a fulfillment? You might check Matt. 1:22, 2:15, 2:17, 2:23, 4:14. What did Matthew mean? He meant, of course, that this fact or this happening was prophesied, or foretold, or predicted centuries before. And, now, it finally came to pass, came to be, and happened EXACTLY the way it was predicted. Thus, when it came to pass, that prophecy was fulfilled. Now, let me ask you; HOW, could Jesus fulfill the law and the prophets? Got any ideas? Well, what did the law and the prophets say? Did they say, they would last for ever and be in force for ever? NO! Let me illustrate the point! In Deut. 18:18 Moses said, "the lord said unto me...I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not harken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him." You see, the messiah was predicted over and over in the O.T. and when the messiah came, God would give a new law and new commandments. Now, listen to it from the prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, the days cometh, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that Imade with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt..." i.e. the 10 commandment law. (Jer. 31:31-32). You see, the Jews should have seen in Jesus, the messiah, the termination of the law of Moses as it's logical fulfillment. In other words, the law of Moses had built into it a sort of self-destruct clause, which predicted and mandated this change. When the Christ came there would be a new covenant given. The Lord said in Jeremiah, that new covenant would NOT be like the old covenant, i.e. it would NOT be like the 10 commandment law. So, when Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets; THAT was the logical termination of that law. So, what Jesus said was: that He did not come to destroy or remove the law prematurely. But, Jesus would bring the law to its logical termination by fulfilling the very statements of the law itself. Do you get it? Jesus came to fulfil! But, that doesn't mean the law continued after the time of Christ. Notice that, that change had not taken place when Jesus made this statement in v.17. He said, I AM COME TO FULFIL. He DID NOT say the termination had taken place at that moment. In other words, the fulfillment was not THEN complete. Now, I apologize, if you think I'm over doing this; but, it's such a critical point to understanding the rest of the four gospels, that you need to get the point settled in your own mind, now. Or, that which follows in the sermon on the mount; will NOT come through in its proper context. As Ihave pointed out, this was predicted in the Law, this was predicted by the prophets, I have give you an example; but, let me add this, it is also taught in the N.T., more than once. But, I would like for you to consider just one, Gal. 3:16-19. Please turn to that scripture and read that passage. In Gal. 3:16, Christ is referred to as the "seed" of Abraham. The last phrase in that verse says: "thy seed, which is Christ." Now, get that registered up stairs: Christ is the seed! Now, look at v.19, "Wherefore then serveth the law? [question mark! The very question we are considering] It was added because of transgressions, till [T-I-L-L, Till WHAT?] till the seed should come to whom the promise was made..." So, it's taught in the Law, it's taught in the prophets, it's taught in the N.T. So, what else can be said?
Now, look a v.18! Jesus reassured His listeners it would be just as we have said: "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." That statement was simply the Greek way of saying that NOT ONE dotting of the "i" or one crossing of the "t" would PASS FROM THE LAW. In other words, it would be fulfilled to the letter. Jesus was assuring and re-assuring the Jews and Pharisees, that no premature changes, amendments, deletions, in any form, whatsoever, would occur until the law was brought to completion by the very words of the law and the very words of the prophets themselves. THEN, it would be fulfilled, i.e. it would all be fulfilled as one unit...All of it! That doesn't mean it continues today, you see. It means just the opposite. Look at the word "till", T-I-L-L, near the end of v.18. Jesus didn't say the law would not be removed. He said it wouldn't take place TILL all be fulfilled. You get it?
Alright, v.19, focus in "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." Now, when Jesus mentions commandments in this verse, the natural inclination is to assume that Jesus is talking about the 10 commandments, then in effect. But, that's NOT the case. You see, in the two verses up above; Jesus made reference to the fulfillment of the law and prophets, i.e. bringing them to their natural and logical conclusion. Then, he makes reference to that which SHALL follow, you see. The word SHALL, with reference to the future, occurs in that sentence (v.19) five times. Check it out! The commandments that Jesus here makes reference to are THESE commandments. Take a look at that word THESE. He's talking about the beatitudes and the things that Jesus is getting ready to introduce. You see, THESE commandments are going to be: IN THE KINGDOM. That phrase, IN THE KINGDOM is used twice in this sentence. Check me on that! What did Jesus teach, Matt. 4:17? The kingdom of heaven IS AT HAND. Future! You see, that's Matthew's summary of what Jesus is teaching here in the sermon on the mount. So, you must think in terms of what Jesus is here teaching in the sermon on the mount; under that heading and under that outline and under that category, you see.
Alright, v.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." You see, the subject is ENTERING the kingdom. And, this verse is a WARNING; to those who would enter the kingdom. You see, a good citizen in Christ's kingdom would seek to uphold and teach it's laws. A good citizen would never break, degrade or negate Jesus' laws. You see, Jesus is saying in effect; that the scribes and Pharisees failed in this respect. They did not honor and respect the laws of heaven as God's authority. They said they did; but in practice it was not so. Thus, Jesus said that those that ENTER THE KINGDOM must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. They MUST BE good citizens in both practice and teaching.
Now, I know, we've spent 20 minutes on 8 verses. But, I trust it's been worth it. Remember, we said Jesus is introducing that which follows. The rest of ch.5 is a contrast between the Law of Moses and Christ's Law that would and did replace the Law of Moses. So, have a good day.