Sermon Notes for 6th Sunday after Trinity (The Law, then and Now), 27 July 2014 Anno Domini
Sixth Sunday after Trinity
O GOD, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 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. 19 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. 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. 21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: 22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24 Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25 Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. 26 Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing. (Matt 5:17-26)
How does the Law of God apply to us as Christians today? Has it been ruled null and void and a thing of the past – perhaps uttered by a changeable God who acts dispensationally from one generation to the next? Is the Law binding today as before? I refer not to the ordinances of administration of Moses, but to those Laws laid down by God – are they no longer of any weight and moment?
It may surprise some, after years on end of false indoctrination, that God has not suspended nor nullified His Moral Law. It is just as binding today as it ever was. Before the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, there was no way for man to satisfy the Law of God in the perfect obedience which that Law requires. “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Yes, Jesus fulfilled, or satisfied, the demands of the Law, but that does not mean that He suspended or cancelled them. They still remain inviolate. The modern proponents of “easy-believism” would have us believe that we are free to live in any way we please if we only give lip service to a faith in Jesus Christ. Lip service will not satisfy the Law of obedience – only the received Blood of Christ can substitute for the blood sacrifice required of each of us for our sins.
While it is true that OUR obedience to the Law cannot save, the perfect obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ DID save us so that we have a perfect righteousness in the eyes of the Father by that IMPUTED righteousness we enjoy in Christ. The Law clearly says that all have sinned – that there are NONE righteous – and the “wages of sin is death.” So how have we escaped the certain penalty of death levied against us? By that substitutionary death of Christ upon the cross to all who receive Christ as Redeemer, Lord, and Savior. The terms of the Law were satisfied in Him. In this way, Jesus saved us by, and through, the Law. Since we have been pardoned and justified under the Law, does that mean that we should go out and fragrantly disregard the Law and teach others to do so? God forbid! We should obey God’s Moral Law to our best capacity, but when we fail, we have an advocate with the Father who stands at the ready to intercede on our behalf – Jesus Christ! No part of the Law of God has been declared null and void. In times past, it was engraved on Tables of unyielding Stone, but now it is written in the soft sinews of our hearts with an instrument of love. That which we love, we can in no wise disregard. “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Psalms 119:97) Love fulfills the requirement of the Law in Christ: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 13:10) If God’s Law were no longer in force, why would Paul make such a claim?
“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.” We do not teach disobedience to God’s Law though some apostate churches (I need not name them) do so with seeming impunity. We do not teach our children that God’s Commandments were nailed to the cross lest we provoke the ire of God against us. It is important, however, to point out that it is not our own obedience to God’s Law that keeps us from the fires of Hell, but the righteousness of Christ whose righteousness is imputed to those who are the Elect.
All religions of the world, except Christianity, are works based religions. Islam is strictly legalistic. Buddhism requires much meditation in order to become part of the great universal self (whatever that is), and Hinduism requires the adherent to satisfy the whims of many, many different gods and goddesses.
But the religion of Christ is not works based. It is not what you DO that will gain heaven. It is what you have believed and accepted, through Grace that will get you there.
Our own personal conduct will never be righteous enough to spend eternity in the presence of a Holy God. Men and governments have proven time and again to be incapable of a sustaining righteousness.
“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.” The scribes and Pharisees attempted to keep the letter of the law. This they attributed to righteousness, however, their hearts were dark with envy, power, and intrigue. Their righteousness was not of a good character, but of the outward appearance. True righteousness springs from a heart devoted to God and full of love for Him and His Creatures. Our righteous works are nothing apart from our love in Christ. Of our own strength, we could never attain to the righteousness of God. The righteousness of a Christian is not his own, but is the imputed righteousness of Christ which makes him righteous before God.
Christ is now about to a stricter interpretation of the law than previously considered or understood: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” This penalty of the law is still in force as are all the other Commandments of God, however, Christ adds a new dimension: “But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” First note the authority with which Christ speaks as the Judge and Lawgiver! He explains the deeper application of the law:
It is the heart that is judged and not the outward appearance. Only God can see the deep chambers of our hearts. Even we, ourselves, are often oblivious to what evil lurks in our heart – but God sees and He knows the means by which our hearts can be made clean and righteous. Our intent to kill is the same as the action itself in the eyes of God. Hate in our hearts is synonymous with murder! Christ provides three examples of progressive judgmental authority:
1) the judgment (lowest and first level of judgment at the time in Jewish courts).
2) the Council which was the Sanhedrin which sat at Jerusalem, and
3) Hell fire relates to the valley of Hinnom, a valley in which the Jews in time past had sacrificed their sons and daughters to the fiery arms of Molech by placing them in his red-hot arms until they fell into the hot fire beneath the idle. God has warned not to allow our children to pass through the fire to Molech. In later days, some records indicate that a continual fire was allowed to burn in this valley to consume the waste and carrion of Jerusalem. This reference by Christ to hell fire represents the final and full judgment of the wicked.
“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Therefore, or in view of, the previous statement, Christ issues this serious counsel. There is not room in the heart for both hate and love, for righteousness and unrighteousness. Therefore, when you give your alms to God, or His creatures, do so with a clear conscience. If any man has a grievance against you, settle that first, and then go with your gift to the altar. It is much more possible to be reconciled to God when we are reconciled to our neighbors.
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” Be prompt to settle disputes with others before they escalate into more serious offences. This applies as well to the confession of sins. Do not go to bed on your anger, and confess promptly to God your sins lest you perish prematurely and have no resort but hell. Confession removes walls between a man and heaven, and it is a continual process. Failure to confess a forgotten sin will not necessarily condemn a person to hell, but it will obscure our vision and service to God.
Many Christians may forget that, since sins are freely forgiven, that there remains a scar which our sins may cause. David suffered the death of Bathsheba’s firstborn because of sin. Our sins hurt ones we love, and even after God has forgiven them, the image of hurt remains.
“Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.” Here Christ is revealing that, though there may exist a wrong between man and man; there is always a third and higher authority than any earthly court of law, involved. God will exact a penalty for all sin. “The wages of sin is death.” This would be a terminal indictment against man were it not for the sentence which follows: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)
So, if the wages of sin is death, and we have ALL sinned, how may we pay the sin debt? We cannot! But Someone else did! Jesus Christ died in our stead on the cross for us to pay the debt we owe. “1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)
Have you fled to Christ as your Ark in the time of trouble, friend?
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. AMEN.