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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 5:17-20 ESV]
We like to do. Constant activity is a characteristic of the modern Western Church which has activities and programs for everyone, every age, every disposition, every need and want. Then, to legitimize the activity, we throw in a little Bible study or a few verses and a devotional and are quite satisfied with our progress and tell everyone God is smiling on us and what we do. “It’s a God thing.”
We cannot read Jesus’ words and honestly believe doing is enough. Jesus expects us to be a citizen of His kingdom from the eternal core of who we are to the last ounce of concentrated, responsible effort.
Jesus demands those who are His act according to His expectations, while examining their motivation so they are in line with His. He has spent the last 16 verses giving His expectations, showing us what it means to be a citizen of His kingdom. He tells us how the world, which hates Him, will react to those who are His as they are changed into His likeness and image. His likeness is characterized by righteousness and truth and more, and He places us throughout the world as evidence of His person, His authority, His character, His grace.
In these verses, I believe we are seeing the foundation for what He has just stated and what He will state. Living for God is not meticulously following His written laws or demanding others do so. God gave the Law, the precepts found in the books written by Moses, for a specific reason. God’s reason was not to give those who are His the ability to justify themselves before Him by keeping the Law. They could never do this. Only one sin is needed to bring God’s wrath and label the person a criminal, one who violates the Law of God.
Is not the Law a teacher, a means used by God to show man his sin and convince all the sentence and punishment for sin is just?
Paul’s argument in Romans 7 is simple. God’s Law identified covetousness as sin while revealing and exposing every covetous desire. God’s statement “you will not covet” was not a command to do something any are capable of doing, but a statement revealing man’s utter inability, our total depravity. Still, Paul’s argument does not discount the Law as a teacher.
Ultimately, those hidden in Christ, covered by His blood in death, are released from the sentence of death demanded by the Giver of the Law because of His resurrection.
Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the Law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. [Romans 7:4-6 ESV]
Paul continued to covet. Christ still saves. From the time Paul was redeemed God began changing him, building into him the characteristics he would carry for eternity. These characteristics conform to God’s character upon which the Mosaic Law is based.
A lawyer, one of those who knew the Law, asked Jesus a question to trap Him, to make Him slip and contradict Himself and the Law. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” [Matthew 22:36 ESV]. Jesus, who is the Law, quotes from Deuteronomy 6:5 and then Leviticus 19:18, verses from the depths of the Law. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” [Matthew 22:37-39 ESV]. These two statements are not hidden. In Luke 10:29 the Lawyer tries to qualify his question. For those in the world having such an answer allows them to keep the letter of the Law without being held accountable to the substance of the Law. “And who is my neighbor?” the Lawyer asked. What do you think his intent was in asking this question? Jesus proceeds to tell the parable of the good Samaritian.
Why did God give us the Law? Why did He reveal it to Israel and make it such an integral part of their culture? Why is the Law included in the canon of Scripture? God revealed the Law so those He loves would be driven to Him seeking His grace. Grace does not trump Law, doing away with it, or gutting it’s righteous requirements. Grace reveals the full extent to which God is willing to go to bring those He loves into His presence. It would seen the measure of our spiritual maturity is seen in the depth of love we have for both God and our neighbor.
On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets. [Matthew 22:40 ESV]