For the last two weeks we have talked about how Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, said that the Law would be applied in the kingdom of God. He said that He didn't come to do away with it but to fulfill it.
"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. For 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. 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. Matthew 5:17-19 ESV
He said that the citizens of the Kingdom had to do a better job of it than the religious leaders who taught the law did.
For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 ESV
Now this doesn't mean that our righteousness is based on our keeping the law, which we should try to do, but our relationship with Christ will give us the desire and the Holy Spirit in us gives us the ability to keep it.
Our righteousness before God isn’t established through out own actions; it is based upon our faith in Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the law for us.
Romans 10:4 CEV But Christ makes the Law no longer necessary for those who become acceptable to God by faith.
Galatians 5:4-5 CEV And if you try to please God by obeying the Law, you have cut yourself off from Christ and his gift of undeserved grace. But the Spirit makes us sure God will accept us because of our faith in Christ.
The Law makes man aware of the defects of his nature, character, or being. By virtue of what he is, man acts as he does. The Law makes man aware that he is not what he ought to be.
Romans 5:20-21 CEV The Law came, so that the full power of sin could be seen. Yet where sin was powerful, God's gift of undeserved grace was even more powerful. Sin ruled by means of death. But God's gift of grace now rules, and God has accepted us because of Jesus Christ our Lord. This means that we will have eternal life.
Example of Park Street Church in Boston.
Pastor Daniel Harrell convinced 19 members of his congregation to join him in an experiment in “living Levitically,” despite the drastic changes they had to make in their daily living. The group grew out their beards, kept kosher, cleaned their homes meticulously, observed the Sabbath, and even stopped wearing clothes made from blended materials. One of the few exceptions to the experiment was animal sacrifice, as the group intended not to break any U.S. laws while observing the ceremonial ones.
The group found it absolutely impossible to obey every tenet. But the Park Street Church says that wasn’t the point. Seeing firsthand that they couldn’t perfectly fulfill the law, they realized the need for grace in a whole new way. As Romans 5:20 explains it, “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.”
Could it be that, in ignoring Leviticus as a whole, we forget how awesome grace is? True, not every ceremonial law (washing your feet? Wearing blended materials?) is also a moral law. But God still told the Israelites to keep it as his law. Reading about the church’s example reminded me of a couple things:
First, God’s people are supposed to be set apart. The Israelites were supposed to look different, act different, worship different, and spend their time in different ways than the nations around them. It was an integral part of their calling as God’s people. The manifestations aren’t quite the same, but Christians have the same calling today. We are to be different from the world.
Second, we aren’t set apart enough. As Park Street Church rediscovered, the law points out our insufficiencies. Even if the law were just a set of external rules, we still couldn’t keep them perfectly. We just can’t measure up to following the law or Christ’s example.
Third, only in Christ can we find rest from the law and a new identity that really sets us apart. The writer of Hebrews notes that the law is “only a shadow of the good things that are coming.”
Hebrews 10:1-2, 4 ESV For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
And yes, the law is a good thing – it makes us realize how much Christ had to atone for on our behalf. Not only that, God has adopted us as sons and daughters through Christ to really set us apart. And then he gives us the grace to live it. Sure, we’ll still fall, and that will remind us to run to grace. But the power of the law is gone through Christ.
So last week we started talking about about Jesus’ discourse on how our obedience should be better than the Pharisees. We started with discussion about anger which can lead to, in the most extreme case too murder.
Matthew 5:21-22 ESV "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire.
Which is really a condition of the heart.
Matthew 5:27-28 ESV "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
This week we'll continue with Jesus’ take on living by the by spirit as well as the letter of the law.
Matthew 5:31-32 ESV "It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
Here's the background for Jesus saying this;
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 ESV "When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man's wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then her former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord . And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance.
Because the hearts of the people had become hardened to God's ideal plan for marriage, God wanted to establish this law to finalize divorce. There were two schools of thought in regards to the law.
(1) This major belief was held by most scribes and Pharisees. They interpreted “indecency”, "uncleanness" as meaning anything that was not pleasing to the man. This deprived the woman of her rights as the man could not be divorced against his will.
(2) The other belief was that this law referred to moral "uncleanness." Jesus is claiming that there should only be one cause for divorce, and even that was pardenable.
Matthew 12:31 ESV Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
John 8:1-11 ESV but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." ]]
According to the letter of the law she should have been put to death.
Now this doesn't mean that we can use the grace of God to cover our own sinfulness.
1 Peter 2:16 ESV Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.
Romans 6:1-2 ESV What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
SPEAKING THE TRUTH
"Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, Matthew 5:33-34 ESV
"You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. Exodus 20:7 ESV
God said we shouldn't take the name of the Lord in vain This made an oath binding, and one had to abide by what he had said.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16 ESV
To bear false witness is to lie. So often we lie to ourselves, to others, and to God. This leads to distrust, so that man has to swear to affirm that he is telling the truth.
You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord Leviticus 19:12 ESV
This doesn't mean that we cannot take an oath.
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Matthew 26:63 ESV
God wants us to be trustworthy.
O Lord , who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor, nor takes up a reproach against his friend; in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord ; who swears to his own hurt and does not change; who does not put out his money at interest and does not take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved.Psalms 15:1-5 ESV
God gave the law to prevent chaos and for our own benefit.
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord , and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. Psalms 1:1-3 ESV
OUR PERSONAL RIGHTS DON'T RETALIATE
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matthew 5:38-42 ESV
These verses need to be taken in context. If they seem unreasonable, then we are missing the point.
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' Matthew 5:38 ESV
The scribes and Pharisees were incorrectly teaching the people that this was a personal duty to retaliate, but the law really said to leave that to God.
Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.' Deuteronomy 32:35 ESV
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19 ESV
This was originally given to instruct judges in how they should make their decisions and mete out judgement The decisions should be in proportion to the crime.
"When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman's husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Exodus 21:22-25 ESV
Back to Jesus’ sermon
But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. Matthew 5:39-40 ESV
We're not to seek to get even in a personal way with the one who has wronged us.This infers the blow to be one of insult, not one of physical injury. We're to be able to take insults.
If it's physical, we can seek justice by going to the proper authorities.
Luke 18:3-5 ESV And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, 'Give me justice against my adversary.' For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, 'Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'"
What about self defense?
The proper use of self-defense has to do with wisdom, understanding, and tact. In Luke 22:36, Jesus tells His disciples, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Jesus knew that now was the time when His followers would be threatened, and He upheld their right to self-defense.
Exodus 22 gives some clues about God’s attitude toward self-defense:
“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed; but if it happens after sunrise, the defender is guilty of bloodshed” (Exodus 22:2–3).
Two basic principles taught in this text are the right to own private property and the right to defend that property. The full exercise of the right to self-defense, however, depended on the situation. No one should be too quick to use deadly force against another, even someone who means to do him harm. If someone was set upon by a thief in the middle of the night and, in the confusion of the moment the would-be thief was killed, the Law did not charge the homeowner with murder. But, if the thief was caught in the house during the day, when the homeowner was unlikely to be awoken from sleep, then the Law forbade the killing of the thief. Essentially, the Law said that homeowners shouldn’t be quick to kill or attack thieves in their home. Both situations could be considered self-defense, but deadly force was expected to be a last resort, used only in the event of a panicked “surprise attack” scenario where the homeowner is likely to be confused and disoriented. In the case of a nighttime attack, the Law granted the homeowner the benefit of the doubt that, apart from the darkness and confusion of the attack, he would not intentionally use lethal force against a thief. Even in the case of self-defense against a thief, a godly person was expected to try to restrain the assailant rather than immediately resort to killing him.
Some situations may call for self-defense, but not retaliation in kind. The context of Jesus’ command is His teaching against the idea of “eye for eye, and tooth for tooth”. Our self-defense is not a vengeful reaction to an offense.
The Bible never forbids self-defense, and believers are allowed to defend themselves and their families. But the fact that we are permitted to defend ourselves does not necessarily mean we must do so in every situation. Knowing God’s heart through reading His Word and relying on “the wisdom that comes from heaven” will help us know how to best respond in situations that might call for self-defense.
We should be just as quick to forgive as to defend ourselves.
Matthew 5:41-42 ESVAnd if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
A Roman soldier by law could compel a man to carry the soldier's gear for a mile. We should be courteous, considerate, and helpful.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Then Jesus’ goes into a radical concept of loving your enemies.
Matthew 5:43-48 ESV "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The Old Testament taught that we should love our neighbor, but nowhere does it say to hate your enemies, so that is an obvious Pharisees add on.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." Exodus 20:17 ESV
"'And you shall not covet your neighbor's wife. And you shall not desire your neighbor's house, his field, or his male servant, or his female servant, his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's.' Deuteronomy 5:21 ESV
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.God doesn't bestow special blessings through nature on Christians. God is good and rich unto all. Matthew 5:44-45 ESV
That's God's common grace. God also grants grace in delaying judgement on mankind giving them a chance to accept His gift of eternal life.
2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV) The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
The kindness or favor God give to all mankind, believer or not.
How is it possible to love your enemies?
Matthew 19:26 ESV But Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
The Holy Spirit
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:16-18, 20-22, 24 ESV
We'll be different from the people in the world. We'll be Christlike and our actions will show that we're children of our heavenly Father.
We don't have the right to get even. We can defend ourselves but we are to forgive not get even.
For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:21-23 ESV
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Romans 12:19 ESV
The last verse in chapter is God's ideal requirement for man.
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48 ESV
I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Philippians 3:14-15 ESV