Sermon Title: “The Authority of Jesus and the Blessings of the Law (Part I)”
Text: Matthew 5:17-20
Sunday, October 21, 2018
Speaker: Pastor Joseph
“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” (Matthew 5:17).
The Idea of the Law/Torah
- When the New Testament writers talk about the law (“nomos”), it is almost always a reference to the Mosaic law, that is the Torah (“tora”).
- Broadly speaking, the Torah refers to God’s instructions and commands to his people, which may include his promises to liberate and bless them, to give them peace, to safeguard from their enemies, etc.
- The Torah also refers to God’s very specific prescriptions and regulations for his people to obey
|FIGURE 1B: WORDS FOR GOD’S COMMANDS|
|Commandment(s)||Gen. 26:5; Exod. 16:28; Deut. 30:10; Josh. 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 17:34; 2 Chron. 19:10; Neh. 9:13|
|Statute(s)||Gen. 26:5; Exod. 18:16; Deut. 4:8; 30:10; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 17:13, 34; 2 Chron. 19:10; 2 Chron. 33:8; Ezra 7:10; Neh. 9:13; Jer. 44:10; Ezek. 43:11|
|Rule(s)||Lev. 26:46: Deut. 4:8; 33:10; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 17:34; 2 Chron. 19:10; 33:8; Ezra 7:10; Ps. 89:30|
|Testimony(ies)||1 Kings 2:3; Jer. 44:23|
FIGURE 1A: VERBS USED FOR OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW
|Keep||Gen. 26:5; Deut. 17:19; 28:58; 31:12; Josh. 22:5; 1 Kings 2:3; 1 Chron. 22:12; Ps. 119:34, 44; Prov. 28:4; 29:18; Jer. 16:11; Ezek. 44:24|
|Walk in||Exod. 16:4; 2 Kings 10:31; Ps. 78:10; Jer. 26:4; 32:23; 44:10; Dan. 9:10|
|Do||Deut. 27:26; 29:29; 31:12; 32:46; Josh. 1:7–8|
u Keep: “because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.” (Gen. 26:5)
u Walk in: “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not” (Ex. 16:4)
u Do: ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ (Deut. 27:26)
|FIGURE 1C: VERBS USED FOR DISOBEDIENCE TO THE LAW|
|Forget||Hos. 4:6; Ps. 119:61, 109, 153|
|Abandon||2 Chron 12:1|
|Forsake||Pss. 89:30; 119:53; Jer. 9:13|
|Rejects||Isa. 5:24; Jer. 6:19; Amos 2:4|
|Do violence to||Ezek. 22:26; Zeph. 3:4|
- Forget: “Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law” (Ps. 119:153)
- Transgress: “All Israel has transgressed your law and turned aside, refusing to obey your voice. And the curse and oath that are written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out upon us, because we have sinned against him” (Dan. 9:11)
- Forsake: “And the Lord says: “Because they have forsaken my law that I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice or walked in accord with it, (Jer. 9:13)
Source: “What Does the Word “Law” Mean in the Bible?” https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/what-does-the-word-law-mean-in-the-bible/
Three Categories of Biblical Laws
***613 laws in the Old Testament
- The Moral Law (Ex. 20:2-17; Deut. 5 :6-21). The moral codes reveal God’s moral demands from his people; the moral law is rooted in God’s own very nature, character, divine attributes, and moral virtues which are served as the moral compass and measuring rod for all human ethical behavior and moral conduct. The basis of the law is God’s self-identity and the historic intervention of God leading to the liberation of his people from Egyptian slavery: Ex. 20:2
- The Ceremonial Law (Lev. 17:11; 6:1-7). “Three stands belonging to the ceremonial law. One has to take note of the tabernacle with its theology of the “tabernacling” God (Ex. 29: 43-46; to tabernacle, sakan, means to dwell) and the theology of uncleanness and purification” (Keiser, Theology of the OT, p. 114). Lev. 17:11 implies that God provides the actual means to deal with human sins and transgressions in the sacrificial system.
- The Civil Law: Keiser writes, “As far as theology is concerned, this aspect of God’s law was a mere application of the moral law to selected parts of the community’s life, especially where tensions were likely to develop in that day. True justice and holiness on the part of the judges and rules was to be measured by the demands of the Decalogue. Accordingly, the civil law illustrated its practice in the various cases or situations which confronted the leadership during the Mosaic era” (Keiser, Theology of the OT, pp. 118-9)
God’s Revelation in History and the Meaning of the Law
- The Nature of God’s revelation is that it is dispensed in various phases, sequences, successive and distinct stages in human or global history.
- God’s revelation came to us through a series of processes within various and different historical narratives, events, and historical trajectories, and within the context of specific societies, cultures, and civilizations (Near Ancient Eastern Civilization and Society, Greco-Roman civilization, Jewish culture and society)
- Biblical writers seem to divide God’s revelation (i.e. “salvation history,” or “redemptive history”) into two broad historical categories and contrasting ages or eras: the age “before Christ,” and the age “after Christ.”
- Salvation history is grounded in the person of God and his plan to redeem his people and to create a new human race in Christ Jesus.
- This redemptive history of God therefore finds its discontinuity and break between the era before Christ and the era after Christ.
- The New Testament writers construe the Mosaic Law within the framework of salvation history and the break between the era before Christ and the era after Christ. In other words, the reinterpret the validity and continuity of the Mosaic Law at the coming of Christ.
- The Torah is not eternal but had a historical beginning: 430 years after the promise of God to Abraham (Gal. 3:17). If the Mosaic law had a beginning; we must assume that it had an end at the coming of Christ, who is the fulfillment of the law—through his life, death, and resurrection—and through the law of the Spirit of grace and love.
- In the New Testament, the Law (Moses) and the Gospel (Jesus) represent two distinct successive periods in God’s redemptive history. If that is so, we must be mindful about the purpose of the law in the new age of salvation, that is, at the coming of Jesus the Messiah. We must also think critically about the relationship between Israel and the Church, Christian and the law, Christian and the Gospel, and the teaching of Moses and the teachings of Jesus.
Some Seemingly Contradictions Between Some Law Passages in the New Testament
- Matthew 5:18-19: Jesus affirms the validity of the law and provides a warning to those who break the law.
- Rom: 3:31: Paul argues for the continuity of the law or its validity in the Christian life.
- 7:12: Paul affirms the godly character of the law and its true purpose.
- James 1:25: James praises the true character of God’s law.
- 10:4a: the same Paul mentions that Christ is the end of the law
- 6:14-15: he also asserts that the modern Christian is not under the law, but under grace.
- 7:12: the author of Hebrews affirms that because Christ introduces a new priesthood and a new covenant, therefore “there must also be a change of the law”
See Douglass Moo, “The Law of Christ as Fulfillment of the Law of Moses: A Modified Lutheran View,” p. 319.
Some Core Principles about the Mosaic Law
- The law of Moses was given within the historical framework of God’s covenant to his people Israel. The very nature of the Mosaic law is covenant law, that means it has a temporary framework: “The law is a temporary framework that prescribed the terms of obedience for the people of God in the Mosaic era” (Moo, p. 344). The Mosaic covenant was to “last for an age” until the inauguration of the better and new covenant (Ezek. 36:24-28) in Christ, between himself and his people, that will last eternally.
- The essence of the Mosaic Law is that divine blessing is contingent upon human obedience.
- The purpose of the Mosaic law was to reveal the character of God to the people of Israel; as a result, God requires of his people to conform to his law, which reflects his will.
- The law provides to them with a sense of guidance and orientation concerning their own behavior, shortcomings, and their constant need to look to God for salvation.
- The law promises rewards upon the people’s obedience to it; rewards include material prosperity, good health, deliverance from their enemies, divine security and protection, and God’s uninterrupted peace (shalom) in their new land.
- God did not give the law through Moses in order they may attain salvation through the law; in other words, the purpose of the law was not to give eternal life, but to lead to obedience to God and to lead the people of God toward sanctification and holiness.
- The one who keeps the law will not inherit the promise of salvation.
- The one who fulfills the law is the one who loves his neighbor because love does not harm to neighbor; hence, according to Paul, love is the fulfillment of the Law (Romans 13:8-10
What the Law Can Do
- The law discloses the character of God (Lev. 11:45)
- The law serves as a supervisor or manager of the people of God, the Israelites (Gal. 3:24): the law as a schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that is a pedagogue, not a teacher, but a babysitter; Christ is the real teacher (Gal. 4:1-7)
- The law functions as a prison cell indicating that we are there in this prison cell because we are all under sin (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7-12; 1:19-22; 2:14-15)
- The law enslaves us (Rom 7:23; 8:2-3; Gal. 3:10-13): “The world is a prisoner of sin” (Moo) (Rom. 3:19-20). It reveals the knowledge of sin, that is the experiential knowledge of transgressing and sinning.
- The law effects divine wrath and anger because of its contribution to the revelation of human sin toward God (Rom. 4:13-15; 6:14)
- For Paul, especially, the central two purposes of the law to the nation of Israel was “guardianship of Israel” and “revelation of sin,” which are limited to the time before the coming of Christ” (Moo)
How does the law point to the character of God?
- We are called not to murder because God created life and of the sanctity of life.
- The sacrificial systems reveal that God hates sin and demands some kind of shedding of blood to compensate for that sin.
- The ceremonial laws and food laws prohibit certain things to do such as certain food not too eat because they are “unholy,” which could serve as a pattern to separate the people of God and to set apart the manner God himself is holy.
What the Law Cannot Do
- The law cannot save us because of sin (Deut. 27:26; Gal. 3:10-12)
- The law is unable to justify us or redeem us from sin (Romans 7:1-14)
- The righteousness of God is revealed apart from the law, the witness of the law (Rom. 3:21)
- God did where the law has failed us; God sent his own sin to fulfill the demands of the law (Rom. 8:1-4)
- The Law does not grant us the Spirit of the Promise nor has it distributed to believers in Christ the fruit and promises of the Spirt; the Spirit of Promise is from Christ who is given to believers through grace as a gift.
Jesus and the Law
- The beatitudes of Christ (Matthew 5:3-12) intend to transcend the Law itself; they are given to us as moral virtues associated with the Kingdom of God (Kingdom Ethics)
- Matthew 5:18: Jesus affirms that it was not the purpose of the Law to have an eternal value and validity, but “to last only until the consummation of the Age” (Seifrid)
- “In bringing the consummation of the age into the present, Jesus brings the fulfillment of the Law into the present time (5:17)” (Sefrid).
- “This fulfillment of the Law includes the cross, which is already anticipated in Jesus’ words here, just as it is in his prediction that his disciples will be persecuted on account of him (Mt 5:10-11)” (Seifrid).
- According to Moo, “The entire Mosaic law comes to fulfillment in Christ, and this fulfillment means that this law is no longer a direct and immediate source of, or judge of, the conduct of God’s people. Christian behavior, rather, is now guided directed by “the law of Christ.” “This “law” does not consist of legal prescriptions and ordinances, but of the teaching and example of Jesus and the apostles, the central demand of love, and the guiding influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit” (Moo, The Law, the Gospel, and the Modern Christian Life, p. 343)
- In the Gospels, it is often portrayed that Jesus challenges the various oral interpretations of the Law by the Jewish religious figures and theologians. As a result, he is depicted in conflict with their understanding and purpose of the Law, especially in regard to Sabbath laws, food laws, temple laws. He opposed the legal interpretation of the Pharisees and the ritual piety of the Sadducees,
- Jesus did not oppose the law nor contradicts it but clarified its original intent and true application in the life of people. Jesus promotes the adherence of the law to people (i.e. divorce, Matthew 5:31ff/ Luke 16:18/Matthew 19:3-9/Mark 10:2-12) and pronounce blessings upon those who walk according to the law of God (Matthew 19:16-30/Mark 10:17-31/Luke 18:18-30)
- Jesus saw himself as sovereign over the Mosaic law, a new Law-Giver, like Moses.