Monday, November 24, 2008

Jesus's Commands - Matthew 5:17-20

You might notice that I did a little back tracking today. Quite unintentionally, I began to read from verse 17 in chapter 5 instead of starting at verse 27. To think I almost missed one of Jesus' commands! Before you read any further go to your Bible and read Matthew 5:17-20. Did you find the command I almost missed?

Verse 17 says "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them."

I know there are some non-Christians who would (and do) have a field day with this command. On the flip side, as we shall see, there are Christians who do as well. It is a matter of interpretation.

Before I go further I would like to say this. There are those who say that the interpretation of Scripture depends on the individual. In some Christian circles it is popular for people in a Bible study to go around their little group telling each other "what this verse means to me" and never really get anywhere to discerning what the passage they are studying truly says.

I come from the belief that there is truth and there is non-truth. There is very little (if any) information that lies within the middle. As it is, most of society has bought into the idea of relativism in some form or another. So it is hard for them to see this "truth".

The fact is, when the authors of Scripture wrote, they had a specific meaning in mind. As a result any given passage has one interpretation, but may have many applications. What I mean by this is there cannot be two or more ways to interpret a Scripture. It has one meaning which can then be applied to different situations.

Now I am not saying I have the correct interpretation. Interpreting Scripture is a life long process. I do, however, try to approach Scripture with honesty and a hunger and thirst for the truth it contains. I do not want to ever come to Scripture with a preconceived notion. Can I completely get away from doing this? Absolutely not, but just knowing where my preconceptions are helps me in my endeavor to be honest with the message Scripture presents.

Sorry for the rabbit trail. I just thought it important to consider especially in light of the passage I am looking at today.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets."

Why would Jesus issue such a command? My only thought is that there were those who might have been tempted to give over to this type of thinking. Why? The entire Sermon on the Mount seems to go against the grain of contemporary thought concerning Scripture (the Law and the Prophets). Jesus says some pretty radical things such as the entertaining of hate filled thoughts towards another being as bad as murder or lust being as bad as adultery. It would seem that on a surface level Jesus was taking these commands to a new extreme when in reality he was causing people to look inward instead of outward as the Pharisees were so keen on doing.

In today's age it is easy to go to another conclusion. Jesus died for our sins and therefore has done away with the law of the Old Testament. Some have even taken this to an extreme justifying their immoral actions.

We need to be real careful in our understanding of what Jesus did. Jesus didn't come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He was the only human being who could perfectly abide by it. Through his actions he showed us that the legalism of the Pharisees was wrong. They had created man made laws that surrounded God's laws in an attempt to protect themselves from breaking his law, but they missed the point entirely.

Jesus's interpretation of the law was the most correct, being that he was its author. Obedience of the law is not found in outward adherence, but obedience is motivated by an inward attitude. Obedience of the law comes naturally to those who love God and love man.

Christians who truly love God and love man will not find it difficult to obey God's law. In fact, just as Jesus himself taught, we will find ourselves going above and beyond what was written so long ago. Again, we need to be careful of how we view what Jesus did. The law is not gone. It is still here, but true obedience doesn't come from trying to carefully observe it. True obedience comes through love, but love can be extremely hard sometimes. This is why we are in constant need of Jesus's help and guidance.

Before I end I said that non-Christians would have a field day with this verse. It could be pointed out that since Jesus said the law would never pass away we Christians are in constant disobedience of it. Doesn't it say not to eat certain foods? Doesn't it say to stone disobedient teenagers? Doesn't it say to wear certain kinds of clothes? How do we get around this?

We as Christians are no longer bound to the law. What does that mean? The law says that if a person who doesn't follow it breaks any part of it then they deserve to die. All of humanity, whether you want to accept it or not, has broken God's law. No one is innocent, that is except Jesus. It was his intention from the very beginning to rescue us from this debt. Because he was the perfect man he was able to take our debts and cancel them. This doesn't mean he did away with the law. The law still serves the purpose of showing people they are separated from God. Those who do not accept Jesus' gift are still bound by it. So it is not gone, but we as Christians are no longer bound to it. We follow a higher law now. That law is love, which brings us back full circle.

Go love God and go love others. Allow your inner attitude to motivate your obedience. Don't worry about trying to decide which laws you should follow and which ones you shouldn't. Do the one that Jesus commanded. LOVE!!!!!

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