Matthew 5:18-20

Matthew 5:18-20

Adat Hatikvah Shabbat School Matthew 5 April 28, 2001

Matthew 5:18-20 – Do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets… The following scene from the film “A Man for All Seasons” might in some ways help illuminate the importance of the Law.

Young lawyer: The man is bad you should arrest him. Moore: There is no law against being bad. Young Lawyer: Yes there is, God’s law. Moore: Than let God arrest him. Wife: While you talk he is going. Moore: And go he should, if he were the devil himself, until he broke the law. Young Lawyer: So, you would give the devil himself the benefit of law?

Moore: Yes, what would you do? Cut down the law to go after the devil? Young Lawyer: Yes I would. I would cut down every law in England to do that. Moore: And when the last law was down and the devil turned around on you, where would you hide with all the laws being flat?

This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast, man’s laws not God’s, and if you cut them down, and you are just the kind of man who would do it, Do you think you could stand upright against the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake.

What is the Law? – The term “law” must be defined in each individual context. Sometimes the term “law” refers to the entire Old Covenant or Tenach (Romans 2:17). More often the context limits the term to the Law of Moses (Ezra 3:2). Occasionally the law refers to specific stipulations of the Mosaic covenant (Leviticus 14:54). In the Old Covenant the law was divided into three principal types. First, there were civil laws intended for Israel as a nation at that particular time.

These laws are not impart to us wisdom and insight but are not binding upon the various nations of the world today. They were given to the children of Israel to govern their daily affairs by these civil laws. These laws would include the law of a slave (Exodus 21:1-11), laws of restitution (Exodus 22:1-15), laws concerning social and moral injustice (Exodus 22:16-23:9), and instructions for conquest of the land (Exodus 23:20-33). The second type of law was ceremonial law. These included observances of holy days, sabbatical years, clean and unclean foods and regulations concerning clothing and agriculture.

Also included in the ceremonial law were the particulars for offering sacrifices. They demonstrate the Holiness of God and the need to approach God in His appointed way. Messiah fulfilled the ceremonial law by His death, offering Himself up as the supreme and eternal sacrifice and imputing to us His righteousness. In Romans 6 Paul taught that when we believed in the Messiah we died with Him.

In Romans 7:5-6 Paul explains that a person who is dead is no longer subject to the Law for righteousness, for our righteousness is found in our husband, the Lord. Paul taught that “Messiah was the end of the law for everyone who is justified by faith” (Romans 10:4). But the Law still holds men who are alive to this world in check. The third type of law in the Old Covenant was the moral law.

This is most clearly and succinctly exemplified in the Ten Commandments listed in Exodus 20 and reiterated in Deuteronomy 5. The principles of every one of these commandments have been restated in the New Covenant with the exception of the stipulation to keep the Sabbath day and for the believer the Sabbath is everyday in a spiritual sense but in the physical world that we live in we need a physical Sabbath.

The Purpose of the Law – The law of God is perfect, but it is weak. It was not able to change man but it laid down the objective standard of righteousness, a standard that never changes. It has always been and will always be wrong to lie, cheat, steal, covet or commit adultery. The law demonstrates God’s desire that Israel sanctify herself to the Lord (set herself apart from the ways of the world).

The law is governmental for the people of Israel, providing maxims of order and priority. The law is a restrainer, preventing men from following their evil inclinations, and a guide to the standards that brings man peace with himself. Finally, the law is a revelation from God concerning His nature, the sinfulness of man and the grace of the coming Messiah. The law could not justify a man or cancel out his past sins (Romans 3:28). The law could not regenerate a man, that is, it could not make spiritually dead men live.

This can only be done by the Ruach Ha Kodesh, The Holy Spirit (John 3:3-7). Lastly, the law could not purify or sanctify men in the sense of making man’s heart good. For this work of justification, regeneration and sanctification of the individual would be the work of God and God alone. Many believe that the Law is the overriding theme of the Older Testament. We must never lose sight that Grace abounds even more. Noah, and multitudes of others in the Older Testament found Grace in the sight of the Lord.

There also is evident God’s immutable law in the New Covenant. Jesus said “He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21). Some believe that the Law could not be kept and therefore is fatally flawed, but there were some who fully kept the Law (Luke 1:6), this was made possible because of the sacrificial system for atonement. God is always the same, and we find evidence of Law in the New Testament and Grace in the Older. James has clearly told us that faith and works (commandments) are merely two sides of the same coin. (James 2:26)

The believer and the Law – Is the believer today under Law? We have stated that the believer today is not under either the ceremonial law or the civil law of Moses for our righteousness. As believers we are no longer under the moral law of Moses as a “system”. The moral law of Moses contained injunctions as well as penalties. If believers today were under that system, the penalty for disobedience to parents would be stoning. The penalty for adultery would likewise be death. Believers today are not under that system.

If the believer is free from the law, why does the New Covenant contain laws? If the believer’s life is merely based on a love relationship to Messiah Jesus, what then is the relationship between love and law? The answer is that even love itself is in constant need of definite and detailed guidance.

Because our children love us, we don’t cease to command them. We do not say, “My children love me, that is enough; let them do whatever they want.” And while men may love their fellow man and earnestly desire their country’s good, nevertheless, society creates laws, which compels them to obey. It does not trust the general principles of brotherhood or patriotism to do all that is required.

And though in the believer’s life it may be true that love is the fulfillment of the entire law, we still need the directing finger and the guiding voice to say, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” Here is the relationship between love and law in the New Covenant. Believers, Jews and non-Jews, are not under Mosaic law. They walk by faith also. The motivating mainspring for this new law (Jeremiah 31:31-33, 2 Corinthians 5:14) is the love of the Messiah Jesus.

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