Matthew 5:17-20 Part 4

The Apostle Peter says that the prophets spoke by the Spirit of Christ.And it is this same Holy Spirit Who facilitates our living in Christ Ė and His living in us Ė through faith.There is this real, and eternal, unity of Christ and His people.Jesus was raised from the dead by the Spirit of God, and it is this same Spirit Who raises us from the death of condemnation and separation from God.

And it is this same Spirit of God Who spoke the Law to Moses.And Jesus confirmed that Law and established it when He said,

ďYou must not think that I came to abrogate (annul, destroy, disband) the Law or the prophets.I did not come to abrogate, but to fulfill.Ē

The Lord Jesus was the very embodiment, the Word of God incarnate, the embodiment of the Law and the prophets.He confirmed and established it, and He kept it perfectly as our substitute Lawkeeper and example.And He exegeted it fully in certain circumstances.And he referred to it as authoritative, and stated that obedience to it is required of all men in order to love Him.

And the mystical union of Christ and His brothers after Him, who have been adopted and joined to Him as Joint Heirs, produces a love for, and a joy and delight in, Godís Holy Law.The principle work of the Spirit of Christ is to produce faith in Christís people Ė a faith which so unites us to Christ that we become, as Paul says in the letter to the EphesianChurch, bone of His bone and flesh and His flesh.He is the head and we are His body.And we are ďsealedĒ with the Holy Spirit of promise, and taught by Him to be the imitator of the One in Whose body we live.

We are taught to have His character and to live by His words.And the Spirit leads us to Him, and always in conjunction with the Word of Truth, for Christ is the fullness of the Word of Truth!The Spirit of Christ is powerful to enlighten and powerful to quicken and powerful to convict, and powerful to motivate His people, through the Words of Christ Ė into the body of Christ!For in His body is eternal Shabbat Ė rest Ė and all the gifts which the Spirit conveys to us.They come from nowhere else except from Christ!Living in union with Him is the goal and object and focal point of the Spiritís work in us.And that includes obedience to His Holy Law.

And Jesus says, here in the text, that Heaven and Earth would pass away before even one mark of the Law would be annulled!The Word of God made flesh is the fullness of the Law and the Prophets Ė and doing away with any of it would be destroying the very person of God!The Word isnít separate from God, itís His nature!

And those who profess to live in Christ, and, at the same time, feel free to dismiss His holiness and perfections, and think that the Spirit of Christ speaks outside His Own Word in the Law and the prophets, ought to consider, again, who their real advocate is before the Throne of Almighty God!Because, more than likely, thereís a deceiver there pleading their case!

The primary work of Christís Spirit is to bond us to Christ, and to promote faith in Him, and to convey to us, through the glory and richness of Christ!Men donít receive a spirit of revelation, we receive the Spirit of adoption, whereby we become sons of God, in union with His Only Begotten Son, and joint heirs with Him!Romans eight.And it is there, in the body of Christ, that His Spirit pours into our hearts the love of God.Romans five.And He purges us of worldly uncleanness, consecrating us, as temples, holy to God.First Corinthians five.

And all of this work by the Spirit of Christ is that which was promised by God in Jeremiah thirty-one, where God said that He would pour out His Spirit on all flesh Ė that is, flesh everywhere, the Gentile nations Ė and that He would put the Law into our minds and write it on our hearts.

Now, that doesnít mean a computer ďin-loadĒ of all of the data in the written text.Neither does it mean some generalized ethical conception!What it means is this:Jesus Christ is described by Paul as the second Adam Ė and life-giving Spirit!And life in Him is life like Him!In Him we are endowed with His character, and His perfections Ė as Peter says, we participate in the Divine Nature Ė thereby escaping the worldís corruption!

And among all the wonders of the nature of the Spirit of Christ, is a love for and a delight in, and an obedience to, the Law of God!So, it is an inevitability that those living in Him would seek to love God and please God by imitating the Sonís behavior Ė obedience to His Father!Obedience to the Law is put into our minds and written on our hearts!The death and darkness of rebellion and depravity is replaced by the light of the Life-giving Spirit of Christ!

And thatís why Jesus uses the strongest language in the Greek text to confirm and establish the abiding validity of the Law and the prophets.And thatís why He says that if one of us should conclude that the least significant Law of God was null and void, and taught others to do the same, that our Kingdom standing would be violently affected!Thereís no place in the glorious body of Jesus Christ for lawless rebellion against the moral nature of God!

Now, no one is denying our remaining sinful nature and our moral ineptitude!And the grace of God in Christ toward us is our sole hope!But, as Paul said, God forbid that we should conclude from that, that we are free then to be lawless!One canít argue against the Holy Law of God by beginning with our inability to keep it!We must begin with the plain words of Jesus when He said that every stroke of the Law abides as long as Godís creation abides!Which is forever!

With all these things brought back to our minds again, we need to continue where we left off last time.We had seen last Lordís Day, that there are two kinds of Law inherent in Godís Law-Word:The Ceremonial Law system Ė which anticipates the coming of the Messiah; and the Moral Law - which legislates the requirement of all men to imitate the character of God Ė to have His morality!

And we touched on some examples of how the Ceremonial Law is now kept in its fullness by Christ and kept by Godís people as we live our lives in the fullness of Christ.This morning I want to give you a couple of examples of Godís morality, as it might be applied to twentieth century civilization.

And, while doing that, we are to keep in mind that the Law is comprehensively summarized in the Commandment to love our neighbors; and it is also summarily comprehended in the Ten Commandments in a slightly more definitive form.And, still further, keeping in mind that our Lord, right after He made these statements in the text for this morning, began to teach the full meaning of some of the Law Ė in opposition to the interpretations and traditions of the Pharisees!

But, letís look at examples of Godís moral Law as it may be applied many centuries after being given to the nation of Israel in the desert of Sinai.The one example which is used so often, and which makes such a clear point, is found in Deuteronomy twenty-two, verse eight.ďWhen you build a new house, then you shall make a railing for your roof, that you bring not blood upon your house, if anyone fall from there.Ē

Obviously, this law is moral in content, and it was spoken in a civil context.And it was spoken to a people who, in their time, used their roofs in many ways similar to the use of the ground floor.The roof expanded the floor space and usefulness of the house!And the full intent of the Law was for Godís people to love their neighbors and their families enough to protect them from injury and death from falling!

It is also obvious that, in the twentieth century in America, it isnít customary to have half of our floor space on top of our houses Ė out in the open.And therefore it would be pharisaical legalism for us to put a railing up there because the Bible says so, if no one was ever going to use it!Thatís the letter of the Law rather than the fullness of the Law!

And because we have a pitched roof, and because we donít entertain on our roof, and because we donít need a rail on our roof, doesnít mean that this law has been abrogated Ė or annulled Ė or torn away and discarded.May it never be!Rather it has been confirmed and established in the Word Incarnate!For one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law until everything has been completed!

Well, then, how is it kept by us if we donít entertain up there?Well, the essence of this Law from God, as I said before, is to love oneís neighbor by protecting him, insomuch as it is possible, from sustaining injury or even death!So, if you have a private swimming pool, you fence it from all public access unless thereís adult supervision.If youíre an apartment building owner, you rail the upper landings and patios and steps.If thereís a great hole in the ground on your property, you fill it in or cover it up.If youíre an employer, you make sure that all safety precautions are instituted by your company and observed by all employees.

And letís not get the idea that these things are common sense measures, or that weíre protecting ourselves from lawsuits Ė the motive for doing the Word, rather than just being hearers, is love for God and love for neighbor!This is the crown jewel in the Christian life!To do Godís Law out of love for Him, and because we love our neighbor enough to be submissive to God's Law on his behalf.

By the way, the verse just before this one concerning the roof railing, here in Deuteronomy twenty-two, says that you shall not take a female bird and its eggs.If you take the eggs, then let the mother bird go.Now, this is a very important Law which God has given us, although it was considered the least of the Law by the ancient Pharisees.And although we donít do a very good job right now with environmental issues, we do have laws in the civil code having to do with these moral issues!And the issue, in this case, is continuity of species which God has diversely set on this planet.And if we kill female animals and birds and fish, especially in their peak reproductive season, then many offspring die from lack of care, and that bloodline is cut off forever.

And, although they donít give Godís Word the credit, at least the civil authorities have seen the need Ė just from natural revelation Ė to do a godly thing by protecting the females and their young of every species.To not do it is a sin against God and His creation.

And I want us to see, this morning, that all of these things are moral issues Ė whether itís murder and theft and adultery, from the Ten Commandments Ė or an act against civil order.Itís still moral!Drunk and disorderly conduct is a civil offense, and itís a moral issue!The control of transmittable disease is a civil matter, and a moral issue!The way government does business is a civil matter, and a moral issue!And the Law of God speaks to every perversity and every depravity in the blackness of menís hearts!

Let me just read a little bit of something for you.When this part of the world was just being settled by reformed Christians for the first time, they fully intended that the civil government of the new world was to be the direct application of Godís Holy Law-Word!And this is just a few excerpts from the constitution of New England in 1641:

(Read excerpts from chapters one, two, three, seven, and eight)

Now, thatís just, as I said, a little bit from the Law of New England.And this is for the civil government of the country!And it was for a civil government begun thee thousand two hundred years after the Law was given to Moses!

Well I just wanted you to hear some of that so that you know that we donít stand alone in believing what Jesus said.You donít have to go on the defensive because of ridicule when others say thatís not applicable in todayís society.The truth is that we need it more now than ever before.

The ceremonial Law Ė the Moral Law.One anticipates the Messiah; the other describes His moral perfections.And He is the fullness of it all.

And lastly, the Law of the King has a number of purposes and effects.And I need to mention them, since some references to the Law might be confusing if seen outside their proper context.

First, as Iíve already said, the Law is the transcript of Godís Holiness.And it lays down the stipulation for fellowship with Him.In Christ this stipulation is satisfied.And when that union takes place, we are required to grow up into His Holy stature as Law-keepers.

Secondly, the Law defines what rebellion against God is.By defining righteousness, the Law also defines iniquity.You see, where there is no Law, there is no sin.And, hence, no salvation!And no Christianity!So the Law of God Ė His morality Ė His perfections, required the coming of Christ!If there had been no morality, there would have been no sin.And no need for Him.So the Law defines righteousness Ė and so defines sin.

Thirdly, the Law convicts people of sin and exposes our infractions of the Law.The writer to the Hebrews said that it is able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.It is a living oracle, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, and joints and marrow.

Fourthly, the Law also exposes the true character of sin, because sin takes hold of the Law and induces transgression and rebellion.Paul says, in Romans five, that sin is aroused by the Law.The Law provokes sin!And he says, in First Corinthians fifteen, that the very power of sin is the Law.We have to remember, when reading verses like this, that the Scripture says that the Law is holy and good.It does not cause death Ė it condemns to death because of sin.Sin destroy the way of life intended by the Law.And since the Law cannot restore the sinner, its judicial function is to condemn.But a manís sin cause his death.

The next function of Godís Law is the fact that it shuts up all men under sin and seals off any escape to life for them in their own strength.So says Paul in Galatians three.He says,

ďIt stands written that accursed is everyone who does not continue in all things having been written in the Law-book to do them.Ē

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But, then, for point six, Paul says that because the Law condemns men for their sin, it operates as a tutor to lead them to Christ, Who is the only One Who can release them from sin's bondage and punishment.And while thinking of this we must also remember that the Gospel operates in the same manner.It condemns men for their sin, and it demands forgiveness through Christ Jesus.

Seventh, the Law restrains evil.And in that context, Paul can even say, in First Timothy one, that the Law was made for the lawless and not for the righteous!So even if it doesnít serve as a guide for sanctification in the lives of lawless people, it holds down the rampage of sin Ė especially when the prescribed penalties are administered.(lawfully)

And, lastly, the Law provides a pattern of truth and moral perfection which serves as a guide to sanctification of believers.In this regard Calvin says:

ď... Here is the best instrument for them to learn more thoroughly each day the nature of the Lordís will to which they aspire, and to confirm them in the understanding of it... by frequent meditation on it to be aroused to obedience, be strengthened in it, and be drawn back from the slippery path of transgression....Ē

And, in that same sense, the writer of the Proverbs says, in chapter six verse twenty-three:

ďThe Commandment is a Lamp, and the Law is light; and reproofs for discipline are the way of life.Ē

So, the Scriptures uphold the absolute integrity of Godís Law, and its abiding validity for as long as creation is here.But manís sinfulness causes his own death.And before regeneration by the Spirit of Christ, the Law is a dead letter of condemnation written on exterior tablets of stone.Next Lordís Day we begin Jesusí Own application of the full intent of the Law in contrast to specific instances of Pharisaical religion.

And now as we come to the table of our Lord, letís see that communion is a sacrament for the community of Godís people, in which lawful people remember the Person and work of Jesus Christ our Savior!

Upon examination of our standing before God in Christ, we gather together, as repentant sinners, to participate in His gracious covenant sign.We are priests in our own right Ė in Him our High Priest; and there is nothing, or no one, who stands between us and Him.This community covenant is ours; and, through it, we receive all the gracious benefits of His body.

So, having examined yourselves, and having confessed your sin, and having repented in the Name of Jesus Christ, receive now the elements which our Lord Himself gave us to signify His body and His blood.