Michael Boling – Jesus Upholding the Authority of Scripture (Matthew 5:17-20)

SermonOnTheMount

(This article was my recent contribution to the Servants of Grace series on the Sermon on the Mount. To read the rest of the articles in this series, please visit Servants of Grace.)

Matthew 5:17-20 – Complete Jewish Bible, “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah — not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these mitzvot and teaches others to do so will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!”

The Torah/Law is a much maligned and misunderstood term. Some teach the law was nailed to the cross. Many others are confused as to what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:17-20 as they have been taught for some time to distance themselves from the law. Are either approaches just mentioned in keeping with what Jesus is saying to us in Matthew 5:17-20?

The first item of note is the declaration by Jesus that He did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. In most translations this is stated as the “Law and the Prophets”, which is often the source of confusion. Given the popular teaching that we have been saved from the law or that the law is a burden and source of death to those who dare to follow it, it is no wonder Matthew 5:17-20 can be so confusing for some. The phrase “Torah (Law) and the Prophets” is a reference to the Old Testament. Jesus starts off by noting He did not come to do away with the front half of the Bible, meaning His arrival on the scene was not meant to overthrow or subvert the Old Testament.

Jesus continues explaining that He came to complete the Law and the Prophets. The word translated as fulfill is the Greek verb plēroō which has a variety of meanings depending on context. The appropriate meaning to be applied to Matthew 5:17 is that of “to fulfill, i.e. to cause God’s will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God’s promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfillment”. Jesus is the focus of the promise of redemption found throughout Scripture. As the promised Messiah, He is the locus of the movement of redemptive history. He came to do what we could not, namely to perfectly obey God’s commands and to serve as the perfect atoning sacrifice for sin.

A lot of ink gets spilled regarding the idea of complete. Some suggest this word means that all of the Old Testament Law becomes irrelevant as the cross ushered in a new era of grace. Such a position is difficult to support given that Jesus also notes in Matthew 5:18 something of great importance – “until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened.” Two important markers are noted by Jesus here with the first being heaven and earth passing away and the second that of everything happening that must happen. Last time I checked, the current heaven and earth has not yet passed away to be replaced with the redeemed creation promised to us.

The second marker refers to everything happening that must happen. Some believe this statement refers to the Cross given the idea that the Law was done away with there. In order to understand what Jesus is saying here, we need to look at how the rest of Scripture explains this point. The Apostle Paul in Romans 3:31 explains, “Do we then make void the Law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the Law.” Scripture often makes the comparison between the wicked and the righteous with the wicked being those who pursue lawlessness and the righteous as those who embrace God’s commands. By definition, being without law is lawlessness. Since lawlessness is a hallmark of the wicked, as God’s people, we should be the one’s who love God’s Law and seek to abide by the teaching of Scripture through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus was so specific about the continued need for God’s commands in the life of the believer that He stated not a single yud (jot) or a stroke (tittle) will pass from the Torah until everything that must happen has happened. Martyn Lloyd-Jones aptly comments, “There is nothing smaller than these, the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet and the smallest point in the smallest letter.”[1] This means not a single element of the Law and the Prophets will pass away until all is fulfilled, until we reach that point in salvation history when sin and death are dealt that eternal blow and we once again return to that which was lost in the beginning, eternity in the presence of God.

As we move along further in this passage, Jesus further defines the purpose of God’s law. He declares that whoever disobeys even the least of these mitzvot (God’s commands and precepts) and those who teach others to disobey will be called least in the Kingdom of God. Does this mean we are to obey every single one of the 613 commandments found in the Mosaic Law? Some look at this passage and make such an assumption resulting in the incorrect interpretation that somehow the Law must have been nailed to the cross. The truth of the matter is not all 613 commandments were for everyone. Many of these laws were related specifically to matters of the priesthood, some were for women, with many others geared directly for matters of that day and time. One reason Matthew 5:17-20 is misunderstood is because often times we fail to understand the broader storyline of Scripture and isolate this passage from the rest of the Scriptures.

Jesus notes the Law and the Prophets will not pass away, not even the smallest letter or word separation until everything has happened that must happen. We also know that apart from the Law there is nothing but lawlessness. So what is Jesus saying here in Matthew 5:17-20? He is noting the authority of God’s Word from beginning to end. Lloyd-Jones once again sheds salient light on this issue, noting:

“But above all, here is this pronouncement by the Son of God himself, in which he says that he has not come to supersede the Old Testament, the law and the prophets…He regarded it all as the Word of God and finally authoritative. And you and I, if we are to be true followers of Him and believers in Him, are to do the same. The moment you begin to question the authority of the Old Testament, you are of necessity questioning the authority of the Son of God himself, and you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty.”[2]

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day often added to the Word of God (the Law and the Prophets), elevating the traditions of man to a place of authority, furthermore, teaching those traditions as authoritative to the people. Thus their righteousness was based not on obedience to the commands of God, but an incorrect mixture of man-made tradition and God’s Word. It is no wonder Jesus chastised them for teaching something other than the Law and the Prophets.

The lesson that can be gleaned from Matthew 5:17-20 is that all of God’s Word remains valid as the source of authority. As Christians, we would do well to abide by His commands. Moreover, God’s Law is something to embrace as it defines for His people what it means to love God and to others. We continue to live in a sinful world. In order to understand what sin is all about and what living righteously means, we have to continually refer to the pages of Scripture as the gold standard. As noted by A. W. Pink, “Christ’s setting his seal upon the inviolable authority of the Law intimates its perfections: every part of it is needed by us, every sentence evidences its Divine authorship, every precept calls for our loving obedience.”[3]

References:
[1] Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids: Wm B Eerdmans, 1976), 162.
[2] Ibid., 164.
[3] A. W. Pink, Sermon on the Mount (Lafeyette: Sovereign Grace Publishers, 2001), 54.

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Dave Jenkins – Broussard, Gay Marriage and “Tolerance”

The other day, Chris Broussard, a sports commenter on ESPN, stated he believed homosexuality was sinful. The fact that on national TV a well-known sports commentator stated this is surprising in a good way. Chris says he is a Christian and believes pre-marital sex and homosexuality are wrong and I commend him in this. The attack he is under right now from the very media he is a part of to include the pushback from popular culture isn’t surprising. Given the Supreme Court is set to weigh in with its opinion on the issue of gay marriage, all of this has me thinking, “How should Christians handle the homosexual issue?

On the surface of it as Christians we believe homosexuality is wrong because God created marriage between one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) (Genesis 2). God created Adam to be the leader in the home and Eve to be his helpmate (Genesis 2-3). God also says homosexuality is an abomination (Lev. 18:22) and He gives people over to their passions (Romans 1). All of that is pretty clear from Scripture, namely what God thinks of homosexuality and gay marriage. With that said, here is where it gets much more complicated.

Our culture wants us to believe that it is tolerant and yet is it really? It’s okay for someone to “come out of the closet” but it’s not okay for a Christian (Broussard or others) to come out and voice their opinion even if it’s done pleasantly and not pointed at the person. To me, this seems like a double standard. For one person it’s okay to say what they believe, but for the other it’s not okay. It’s this double-speak and the direction our country is going that concerns and alarms me.

Christians are called to rightly divide the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15). We are called to speak the Truth in love (1 Peter 3:15). When Christians act in accordance with what the Bible teaches they are acting consistently in relation to what they believe. Yet, here’s the rub with our popular culture. Christians are often accused of being hypocrites, bigoted, and more and yet when we act consistently with what we believe and speak out against certain hot-button issues, it is we who are “intolerant”, misguided and religious fanatics. If a child misbehaves what happens? They get sent to their room, told why they did something wrong, and so on. If an adult acts like a child what happens? Nothing, they just look like a fool. I honestly believe many adults act more like children. We don’t allow for other people to speak and when they do speak we “censor” what they say to make it more palatable for ourselves to bear. Is it any wonder why many in our culture look to Oprah, TV preachers, and pop culture for sources of Truth instead of looking to what the Bible or those who actually believe and preach what the Word of God has to say?

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Dave Jenkins – A Powerful Apologetic: Formed by Grace and Truth

John 1:16-17, “For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

In these verses it is not the Baptist but the Evangelist who is speaking. To understand what is being stated, it is necessary to note the message of verse 14 is being elaborated on by John, namely the declaration of the fullness of Christ. John expounds on and substantiates this truth by adding that he and all other believers with him had experienced the blessed fruits of this fullness. Specifically, they had received grace upon grace from that infinite fullness. The meaning of verse 16 is that believers are constantly receiving grace in the place of grace. Our manifestation of the unmerited favor of God in Christ is hardly gone when another one arrives, hence grace upon grace.

Verse 14 points out that the only begotten One is characterized by a fullness of grace and truth, a concept repeated in verse 17, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).

There was nothing wrong with the law, moral or ceremonial. It had been given by God through Moses. It was preparatory in character, it revealed man’s lost condition, and it foreshadowed his deliverance from sin through Christ. But there were two things which the law did not nor was intended to supply: 1) grace so that transgressors could be pardoned and helped in time of need and 2) truth, i.e., the reality to which all the types pointed such as the sacrificial system contained in the Mosaic Law. Christ, by His atoning work, furnished what the Law could not. He merited grace and he fulfilled the types. Interesting to note is that while the Law “was given,” grace and truth “came” through the Person and work of Him, who is here for the first time in the Fourth Gospel, called by His full name, Jesus Christ.

One of the most difficult things about the Christian life and particularly about apologetics is the balance of authority and gentleness necessary to actually do apologetics in the manner Scripture requires. It is easy to move too far to one side or the other. We can become so excited about the authority that we have in the truth that God has given to us that our only goal is to speak unwisely. Such zeal may be anything but meek and gentle. It can communicate that the truth that we have is ours because of who we are, rather than because of what Christ has done on our behalf.

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Dave Jenkins – Effective Evangelism

Effective evangelism begins and ends with understanding who Jesus is and what He has done in His death, burial and resurrection. The content of the Gospel provides the fuel and motivation for why Christian’s are to engage in evangelism. Jesus sends forth His disciple’s with the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit to make disciples of all the nations.

In the Gospels, there are several snapshots that one could look at in order to learn how Jesus ministered to people. One of my favorite Gospel accounts is John 4. In John 4 Jesus goes out of his way to meet a Samaritan woman at the well. As the woman encounters Jesus, He uses questions designed to expose her need for Himself. In the course of the conversation, the woman learns that the One talking with her is none other than Jesus Christ, the Promise Messiah (John 4:25-29). Effective evangelism begins with meeting people where they are in order to share with them the Life-giving Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ—His life, death, burial and resurrection.

The story of the woman at the well also illustrates that the one engaging in evangelism ought not to see oneself as better than others (John 4:27). Christians are often accused of being “holier than thou” but Jesus ministers His grace to the woman at the well regardless of who she was or what she had done. In the end the woman was confronted by the reality of who Jesus is and her life was so radically changed that she went back to her town, and called people to “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29) and “They went out of the town and were coming to him.” (John 4:30). Jesus had such an impact on the woman that she eagerly went to share the news among the townspeople whom she had previously avoided because of her reputation. Her witness and candor regarding her own life so impressed them that the came to see Jesus for themselves.

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Dave Jenkins – Reading and Studying the Bible (Part 3)

Introduction

In part one of spending quality time in the Word of God we learned about hearing God’s Word, reading God’s Word and studying God’s Word. In part two we learned about about memorizing God’s Word. In today’s post we will focus on meditating on the Word of God. Many people both inside and outside the Church are confused about what meditation is. Some think its emptying their minds or something else. Today, we will learn to meditate on the Word of God, and the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Meditating on God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

Meditation in today’s culture is most identified as non-Christian systems of thought than with biblical Christianity. Even among Christians, the practice of meditation is often closely associated with yoga, transcendental meditation, relaxation therapy, or the New Age Movement. As a result of this many Christians are uncomfortable with the whole topic of meditation and suspicious of those who engage in it. Christians must remember that meditation is commanded by God and modeled by the godly in Scripture.

The kind of meditation encouraged in Scripture differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which one empties their mind, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to create one’s reality. Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of one’s God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is one’s servant to help one meditate on things that are true (Philippians 4:8). Instead of attempting to create one’s reality through visualization Christians link meditation with prayer to God and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes. Meditation is the deep thinking on truths and scriptural realities as revealed in Scripture for the purposes of understanding, application and prayer. Meditation goes beyond hearing, reading, studying and even memorizing as a means of taking in God’s Word.

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Sarah Flashing – A Gracious Defense: How Do You Do It?

Campus debates, academic conferences, scholarly journals—these are some of the places where apologetics is engaged by the Church’s well-equipped defenders. These contexts lend to the structured, sophisticated arguments that have the power to persuade the most determined atheist and unsure agnostic, but are also useful in local coffee shops, family dinner tables and local school board meetings. We are called to give an answer for the hope within wherever we find the truth of God’s word being challenged, wherever Christianity is under assault, whenever Christians are persecuted for their allegiance to Jesus.

“yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” (1 Peter 3:15-16 ESV)

It’s easy to forget the second half of the charter verse for apologetics ministry. Our defense of the faith is to not only be true and reasonable, but gracious and kind.

How we give an answer isn’t ancillary to the nature of our defense, though sometimes it seems that aspect of Peter’s charge is missed or ignored. The nature of our interaction is as important as the meat of the answer because it is difficult for those on the receiving end to separate the message from the messenger. I believe this is what motivates Peter to write that we take on the moral aspects of the gospel in giving an answer. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to give expression to the “hope within” if it manifests in the form of aggression or hostility. This establishes a contradiction between God’s love and the requirement of his followers to love others which, ultimately, undermines any otherwise reasonable defense of the faith. If not motivated by a love for God and for others, it will be quickly known.

With gentleness and respect—it would seem there is no other way to present the truth of Christianity to the unconverted because the gospel cannot be understood apart from grace in the first place. So, with every bit of caution and courage, our answers should be presented in such a way that our personal integrity is unharmed and God not held responsible for our words in the minds of the unregenerate.

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Dave Jenkins – Conclusion to the Reading and Studying the Bible Series

Introduction

In part one of spending quality time in the Word of God we learned about hearing God’s Word, reading God’s Word and studying God’s Word. In part two we learned about about memorizing God’s Word. In part three we learned about meditating on the Word of God. To conclude this series, we will briefly consider how to apply God’s Word to one’s life.

Applying God’s Word- Benefits and Methods

The Bible promises the blessing of God on those who apply the Word of God to one’s daily life. The classic New Covenant statement on the value of integrating the spiritual with the concrete is James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Pithy and powerful is Jesus’ similar statement in John 13:17, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”

These verses teach that there can be a delusion in hearing God’s Word. Without minimizing the sufficiency of Scripture nor the power of the Holy Spirit to work through even the most casual brush with the Bible, we can frequently be deluded about Scripture’s impact on our lives. According to James, we can experience God’s truth so powerfully that what the Lord wants us to do becomes as plain as our face in the morning mirror. If we do not apply the truth as we meet it, we delude ourselves by thinking we have gained practical value, regardless of how wonderful the experience of discovering the truth has been. The one who will be blessed in what he does is the one who does what Scripture says.

For someone to be blessed in what he does is the equivalent of the promises of blessing, success and prosperity given in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:1-3 to those who meditate on God’s Word. That’s because meditation should ultimately lead to application. When God instructed Joshua to meditate on His word day and night, He told him the purpose for meditating was “so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.” The promise “then you will be prosperous and successful” would be fulfilled, not as the result of meditation only, but as God’s blessing upon meditation-forged application.

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Dave Jenkins – The Gospel, Connecticut, and the Great Commission

The tragedy in Connecticut struck a national nerve today as children were harmed and families were left scarred in the wake of the murder of innocent victims. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen these kinds of tragedies happen, and it won’t be the last.

The fact, is we live in a sin-stricken world that is in love with itself. The moral decay of our civilization is well-documented– from the change on American’s views on gay marriage to a whole host of other issues. The fact is we are not improving in our world—we are falling more in love with our ideas of what is right and wrong from our own worldview instead of accepting what is right and wrong from God’s Word. Some people think they are above God’s Word, but the fact is they are not above it and will never be. The Word of God reigns supreme over the mind of men, because God is sovereign over mankind even when he thinks that he is supreme over the Creator.

Let me make it clear—even as I write this article, tears are streaming down my face. I am heartbroken tonight for the children, mothers and fathers lost, but I’m hopeful because of the Gospel. While many people are focusing on the “fiscal” cliff in the United States, and every other event that is going on—as a country we are completely missing the point. It is not programs or budgets that will save this country—it is the Gospel.
As a country we have long over-indulged and gloried in ourselves rather than in our Creator who blessed us, and has used this country for the sake of His glory among the nations for the purpose of spreading His Gospel. The sad truth is that in our country many people are more concerned with programs and budgets than with the moral decay of our churches and our country.

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Dave Jenkins – A Biblical Approach to the Gosnell Verdict

justice-and-mercy-300x225 Recently, I’ve written quite a lot on the Gosnell case. In my opinion it’s one of the watershed cases of our generation as it has opened many people’s eyes to include myself regarding the horror of abortion. Before this case I believed abortion was wrong but I was mostly silent on the issue other than writing a few articles on it. I now see that even this silence may give the impression that I am not against abortion. I firmly believe pro-choice is no choice except under the most extreme case where a woman’s life may be ended. Even in that situation there are precautions such as a C-section that can avoid that from ever happening. With that said, I am one hundred percent against abortion. This case has caused me to think a lot about this issue as a whole and now that Gosnell’s verdict has come down, I want to offer a word of caution for my fellow brothers and sisters.

As Christian’s we should NOT rejoice over the Gosnell verdict. Christians can rejoice that the process of justice was meted out as the sword given by God was delivered. Yet, I fear many Christians will see this as an opportunity to cheer that Gosnell may be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his earthly life in jail. The reality is Kermit Gosnell is locked in a prison already. There is no way a born again Christian could ever commit the kind of atrocities he committed, and as far as I know he hasn’t claimed Christian faith. There are several reasons why I think Christians should pray for Gosnell.

First, Christians were once enemies but are now friends of God. Christians were once rebels and yet now are saints. Christians were once under the wrath of God but now rejoice because of all Jesus has done in His death, burial and resurrection. A Christian who rejoices over the potential death sentence of a sinner lost in his/her sin has failed to grasp the horror of hell. Hell is a place of eternal and unending punishment, so to rejoice over even just punishment of sinners is wrong. Yes, we can praise God for His justice because He is absolutely holy and He establishes and maintains the means by which that justice is meted out. Also, those who pass judgment on others in whatever sphere will be held accountable by God for how they meted out that justice. Even so, I fear many Christians may use this as an opportunity to point fingers and cast judgment. Rather than doing that, I pray we weep for Gosnell, intercede for Gosnell, and pray God will save Gosnell from the prison of his sin.

Second, any Christian who might be tempted to rejoice over this verdict needs to remember that you were once an enemy of God. That fundamental fact ought to stop you from jeering and cheering, instead leading you to repentance and to pray and intercede for Gosnell. Many people cheered when Bin Laden died because of the horrors he committed. If you are going to speak out against Gosnell and yet withhold mercy towards him, that demonstrates you not only do not understand mercy but also you do not understand the biblical worldview you claim as a supporter of life to adhere to. It is not enough to just be pro-life. We need to ground our thinking on the Word of God and let the Word dictate not just what we say but how we say it.

Finally, to cheer and jeer for Gosnell is to miss the point entirely. Gosnell will not be an isolated case there are other abortion clinics and doctors who have done the same thing. They may or may not be exposed here on earth but their deeds will be laid bare before the Judgment of God’s Throne when He opens up the books to judge the Living and the Dead. Here is the key to approaching this issue biblically: If you say you believe in the judgment seat of God then why are you going to cheer and jeer for those who are going to perish in their sins? Do you honestly believe that is what God wants in the first place? Do you believe Christ is able to save and that hell is eternal punishment and separation from God? Do you believe God is all powerful and able to save through His Gospel? If you answered yes to those questions, then instead of cheers and jeers, fall on your knees in repentance, pray for Gosnell and other sinners like him who are locked in a prison not bound by walls but one that will be a place of unending, unrelenting punishment. Pray and intercede for sinners but don’t cheer and jeer when justice is meted out. While you are praying, ask God to give you boldness to share His Word through the Holy Spirit. Ask God to use you as a vessel to point people to the Savior who saves all types of sinners from sin and grants them new life, new desires, and new affections to the glory of God.

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