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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Sermon on the Mount, Day 13 of 40: The Law and the Prophets

Matthew 5: 17-20
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks 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.

In Matthew 15:1-3 Jesus is accused by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law of breaking traditions and the law (hand washing).  This accusation is made again in Luke 6:1-4 (harvesting grain on the Sabbath).  Yet He seems to support the Jewish law in these verses.  In Jesus' day the word "Law" had come to mean several things.  It could have meant the 10 commandments, the first five Old Testament books (the Pentateuch), the whole of Old Testament scripture, or it could have meant the Scribal Law.  Scholars feel that the last option is the likeliest interpretation of the word "Law" since it was the most common use of the word.

Scribal law was an interpretation of the 10 commandments, the Pentateuch, and other Old Testament scriptures.  Scribes interpreted how the various laws and traditions were to be applied to everyday life.  If the law did not explicitly speak to a situation, the scribes spoke to what was inferred by the law.  Religion soon became filled with rules and regulations, from tying knots to taking a walk.  Serving God became a matter of keeping thousands of these legalistic "laws".

Jesus, then, saw Himself as the fulfillment of the law, who came into the world to show the world the true meaning of the law.  The law is fulfilled when we love God and allow that love to lead us in our speech, in our thoughts, and in our actions; when we come to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  In Romans 13:8-10, Paul wrote, "Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law."(see also James 2:8).

Love such as this cannot be found in the practice of legalism (the religion of the Pharisees and scribes), but can only be given by the Holy Spirit to those who have been transformed by the love of God.  Love is not something we do but is the fruit of our relationship with Christ.

Tomorrow we will study anger.

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