This morning I’m reading Matthew chapter 5. Beginning in verse 17, Jesus addresses His PURPOSE. Some of the people who were listening to His teachings and following Him were misunderstanding Him…apparently they were interpreting His progressiveness as license to ignore God’s Law. He clears-up the confusion, and introduces a little more to chew on, as was His teaching style…
17“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. 18For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
I like how Jesus teaches. In this section, He strips away the legitimacy of both extreme views….licentiousness and legalism. Licentiousness is the belief that God doesn’t really care about our moral beliefs & behaviors so we “have license” to do whatever the hell we want. He clearly knocks this off the shelf. Legalism is the belief that our acceptance before God is dependent upon the perfection of our doctrinal beliefs & outward practices. He exposes this fallacy in a more more nuanced fashion by noting the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law, who in that time were the ultimate pious-rule-followers. So…what’s the point?
God is concerned with our hearts…aka our motives & values & desires. The following wise words are from the study notes below verse 20 in my Bible:
“Jesus was saying that His listeners needed a different kind of obedience altogether (out of love for God), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ obedience (which was mere legal compliance). Our obedience must 1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves, 2) be God-centered, not self-centered, 3) be based on reverence for God, not approval from people, and 4) go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles behind the law.”