Saturday, August 27, 2016

Judging Others

Jesus:  1Do not judge (criticize, condemn) others, and you will not be judged (criticized, condemned). 2 For you will be treated (judged) as you treat (judge) others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you cannot see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log (sin) in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

6 Do not waste what is holy (sacred matters) on people who are unholy. Do not throw your pearls to pigs (swine)! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

7 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.8 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.

12 Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence (sums up) of all that is taught in the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:1-12 (NLT)

Possibly, Matthew 7:1 is the most quoted verse of the Bible:  “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, RSV). Many other Scripture passages also speak against hypocritically judging and condemning others (see e.g., Luke 6:37-38, 41-42; Romans 2:1; Romans 14:4, 10-13; 1 Corinthians 4:5; James 4:11-12). Yet, many people quote such sacred Scripture passages as Matthew 7:1 to support their sinful lifestyles and personal freedoms.

However, Matthew 7 does not forbid judging others. The Holy Scriptures also taught that when one sins against God and God’s Word, faithful believers in Christ should seek to gently and firmly restore the erring brother or sister to God’s righteous path (Matthew 18:15-20; see also Galatians 6:1-5). What Jesus rebukes is hypocritical and inappropriate judging of others that views oneself as better than others do (Matthew 7:1-5; see also Galatians 6:1-5). Jesus’ teaching condemns judging hypocritically or self-righteously. In other words, Jesus denounces judgmental actions when we judge and criticize others weaknesses and sins while ignoring the greater sin and wickedness in ourselves (Matthew 7:3-5; see also Romans 2:3).

Jesus wants everyone to FIRST self-examine their personal lives and lifestyles for sinfulness before judging others (see Matthew 7:2-5). Matthew 7:1-5 teaches that we must not judge or condemn others of their sinful actions while ignoring our personal sinful and wickedness (Matthew 7:3-5; see also John 7:24; Galatians 6:1; Hebrews 3:12). Such actions are hypocritical and self-righteous. The first principle of judgment is that we begin with self-judgment of any and all lifestyles choices that dishonor God, such as pride, corruption, jealousy, gossip, dishonesty, murder, strife, trickery, and hatred (see e.g., Romans 1:18-32). Prayerful self-examination is essential in the Christian life.

God wants everyone to abstain from sin and sinful desires (see e.g., Ephesians 5:3-7). If we have sinned in our lives, and we try to judge others, we are hypocrites! The Pharisees were guilty of hypocritical behavior as they judged and criticized others’ sins to make ourselves look good. The Pharisees did not acknowledge their sins. Jesus denounced such self-righteous action (see e.g., Luke 18:9-14). Believers in Christ should judge themselves first so that they can help others. If believers do not honestly confess and acknowledge their personal sins, then God will also judge them. God is the final Judge of all (James 4:11-12) for only God can see our hearts (see e.g., 1 Samuel 16:7; 1 Chronicles 28:9)!

Jesus wants people to lovely, patiently, and humbly care for others, including keeping others from the destruction of sin and wickedness (see also James 5:20). God has graciously given believers in Jesus “holy things” of the Lord, and we must handle God’s Word with care (2 Corinthians 4:7). Love for others means humbly correcting others and not ignoring the sins of others. Thus, Matthew 7:1 and Matthew 18:15-20 taught together means that faithful believers in Christ could make moral judgments about the lives of others. Jesus knows that God wants clean hands and pure heart from everyone (see Psalm 24:4). One day, the true and living God will judge the world, and we will reap what we have sown (Galatians 6:7-8). Everyone will stand before the judgment seat of God and must give an accounting of their lives to God and His Son, Jesus (Romans 14:4, 10-13; 2 Corinthians 5:10). Thus, Jesus wants believers are to be merciful, forgiving, and slow to judge (Matthew 7:1-5). Yet, believers are also to be wise and discern those who continually reject the gracious and loving nature of God and God’s Word, so they can move on to others in need of God’s correcting grace and forgiveness (Matthew 7:6; see also Proverbs 9:7-10; Proverbs 23:9; Matthew 10:14).

Finally, Jesus knows that God’s people cannot “do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” without persistently seeking our Heavenly Father’s gracious help and guidance (Matthew 7:7-8). Only God can judge perfectly. Therefore, we must pray and seek His wisdom and direction (James 1:5). Our good God gives good gifts to all who persistently ask and seek Him (Matthew 7:9-11).

In summary, Jesus closes this section with the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule summarizes the Law and Prophets, taken together the Old Testament. According to Jesus, the entire Old Testament can be summarized in a nutshell:  So whatever you wish that others would do to you, also do to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV). This summary statement is another way of saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (see also Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:43-46; Matthew 22:39; Romans 12:17-19). The person who practices the Golden Rule refuses to harm others but to help and encourage others in the holy Word of God. If we want God’s best for ourselves, we must “do to others whatever you would like them to do to you” (Matthew 7:12, NLT).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Seeking God

Jesus:  19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money (riches, possession, or whatever is trusted in).”

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious (worried) about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious (worried) can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious (worrying) about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious (worry), saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles (unbelievers, heathens) seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But SEEK FIRST (aim and strive after) the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (live righteously), and all these things will be added to you (God will give you everything you need). 34 Therefore do not be anxious (worry) about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself (take one day at a time). Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:19-34 (ESV)

Jesus’ focus with this teaching from the Sermon on the Mount is wholehearted devotion to God and practicing righteousness (good deeds) in the world. In other words, Jesus wants God to be our Master and not money (Matthew 6:24). Jesus wanted everyone to live solely for the honor and glory of God while trusting Him for all our daily needs (Matthew 6:8). Only God provides our secure and everlasting treasure. The Holy Scriptures repeatedly teaches that God will provide all that we need (Matthew 6:8, 32-33; see also Psalm 23:1; Psalm 34:9-10; Philippians 4:19). God is loving, faithful, and good (see e.g., Exodus 34:6-7; Psalm 145:9; Nahum 1:7), and He graciously gives us all things we NEED if we will ask in faith (Matthew 7:11; see also Romans 8:32).

Thus, Jesus teaches that believers must not fret and worry about “What shall we eat, what shall we drink, or what shall we wear?” because our good Heavenly Father knows all our daily needs (Matthew 6:31-32; see also Philippians 4:5-7). In other words, Jesus wants wholehearted faith in God and not worrying and fretting (Matthew 6:25-34; see also 1 Peter 5:7). Our worrying and fear demonstrate our lack of faith and trust in God. Jesus calls everyone to live not focused on material treasures and comforts of life but to live focused on wholeheartedly loving and obeying God and living righteous (good) lives (Matthew 6:33; see also Matthew 5:6, 10, 20; Matthew 6:1). Seeking God and living righteously (good) must be at the center of our lives. We can safely trust in God.

Nevertheless, these verses do not mean God wants everyone to live passive, inactive, and irresponsible lives while doing nothing to care for ourselves and others (2 Thessalonians 3:6-12). God wants His people to be diligent and hard workers as they provide for themselves, their families, and others in need (see e.g., Proverbs 10:4; Ephesians 4:28; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12).

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Jesus' Teaching

Jesus:  21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’ 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone, you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell. 23 So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. 25 When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely will not be free again until you have paid the last penny. 27 You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 31 You have heard the law that says, ‘A man can divorce his wife by merely giving her a written notice of divorce.’ 32 But I say that a man who divorces his wife, unless she has been unfaithful, causes her to commit adultery. And anyone who marries a divorced woman also commits adultery. 33 You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’ 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is His footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you cannot turn one hair white or black. 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I will not.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one. 38 You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and do not turn away from those who want to borrow. 43 You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:21-48 (NLT)

Starting with Matthew 5:21, Jesus begins His explanation of the Law and the Prophets. The reminder of Matthew 5 (verses 21 through 48) contains a series of Jesus’ teaching, each introduced by the words, “You have heard that it was said . . . . But I say” (see Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). Jesus corrects not the Old Testament, but the misunderstanding of the Old Testament taught by the scribes and Pharisees. As Jesus stated in Matthew 5:17, “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” (Matthew 5:17, NIV). Beginning with Matthew 5:21, Jesus contrasts His correct teaching to the erroneous teaching of the scribes and Pharisees about the Old Testament. Sadly, the scribes and Pharisees ignored God’s written commands to obey their rules and traditions (Matthew 15:1-9; see also Mark 7:8-13).

First, Jesus explains the righteous meaning of the Sixth and Seventh Commandments, prohibiting murder and adultery. According to Jesus, it is not enough if we externally avoid murdering and committing adultery (Matthew 5:21, 27, quoting Exodus 20:13-14; Deuteronomy 5:17-18). We must also avoid even the inward thoughts about murder and adultery (Matthew 5:22-26, 28-30). According to the living Word of God, Jesus teaches that inward lustful thoughts and simmering anger are not marks of true heart purity. Jesus teaches that God desires our peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation with others as well as sexually pure hearts and minds (see Matthew 5:8-9).

As to self-mutilation, Jesus is using hyperbole (or exaggeration) to indicate that whatever it takes to keep oneself in the way of righteousness and truth is worth our great sacrifice. This calls for self-discipline. Sin interrupts our fellowship with God. Jesus does not want anyone to walk continually in sin, evil, and wickedness (see 1 John 3:4-10; 1 John 5:18; 3 John 11). Instead, Jesus wants everyone to tame his or her inward heart desires, lusts, and corruptions and calls everyone too inward heart purity. Jesus knew that inward holiness was not easy; therefore, He promised to send His followers the Helper (Holy Spirit) to help us live pure daily (see John chapters 14 through 16). 

As to swearing of vows and oaths, Jesus teaches that God demands our whole truth and honesty in all daily dealings with ourselves and with others (see e.g., Exodus 20:16; Deuteronomy 5:20; Leviticus 19:11-12; Colossians 3:9). In all our dealings, our words must be our bond. Swearing oaths and making vows for the purpose of deception is altogether evil (see Matthew 23:16-22). Your “yes” must mean “yes” and your “no” must mean “no” (Matthew 5:37; see also James 5:12).

Furthermore, the scribes and Pharisees had twisted and abused the Old Testament principle of lex talionis, the “law of retaliation.” The Old Testament contained the principle of justice, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth” to prescribe and apportion punishment to fit the crime: no more and no less (see Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21). However, in the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, this Old Testament principle became a justification for a vindictive and retaliatory spirit. In the view of the scribes and Pharisees, God permitted retaliation whenever one suffered a wrong – paying back offenders for the wrongs they deserved. However, Jesus corrected the scribes and Pharisees’ vindictive teaching and returned to God’s original purpose of forgiveness, mercy, and generosity towards others (Matthew 5:39-42; Matthew 7:12; see also Romans 12:14-21; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Peter 3:9). Jesus did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered (see Isaiah 53:7). Instead, Jesus left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly (Luke 23:34).

Final example of the scribes and Pharisees’ twisting of the Law and Prophets concerned the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 5:43-48; see also Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39). Sadly, the scribes and Pharisees had corrupted the Old Testament laws to allow people to hate their enemies. However, Jesus taught that we must “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44; see also Luke 6:27-28). Peacemakers are children of God (see Matthew 5:9, 45). Jesus explained that God wants all people to love one another – friend and enemies (Matthew 5:44; see also Matthew 22:39; John 13:34-35; John 15:12).

As the living Word of God (John 1:1-5, 14), Jesus clarifies the true meaning of the Law and the Prophet and exposes the false righteousness and teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees. According to the scribes and Pharisees, an external righteousness will suffice because their righteousness was hypocritical, impure, and false to hide their internal greed, extortion, and self-indulgence (see Matthew 23:1-3, 13, 23-28). Sadly, the scribes and Pharisees focused on outward rituals, traditions, and ceremonies while neglecting the weightier matters of the Law and Prophets – justice, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, and faith (Matthew 23:23-24; see also Micah 6:6-8). However, Jesus taught that God desires a righteousness that starts from the inside one’s heart, moves outward, and bears good fruit (Matthew 12:33-35; Matthew 15:17-20; see also Mark 7:14-15, 18-23; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 2:10). 

In summary, followers of Jesus are law-keepers in that they keep the Law and the Prophet not so that they may be justified before God but in order live in ways that please God and shows their wholehearted love and gratitude for Him – heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:37; see also Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Psalm 119:1). Jesus wants everyone to be perfect (holy) and imitate the ways of our heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48; see also Leviticus 19:2; Ephesians 5:1-2; 1 Peter 1:15-16). Jesus wants every to be like God the Father and conformed to His image (kindness, compassion, forgiveness, patience, and faithfulness) (see Ephesians 5:1-2; see also Exodus 34:6-7). The character of God is the true standard of righteousness in His Kingdom (Matthew 5:3-10).

6 The LORD passed in front of Moses and said, “I am the LORD. The LORD is a God who shows mercy, who is kind, who does not become angry quickly, who has great love and faithfulness 7 and is kind to thousands of people. The LORD forgives people for evil, for sin, and for turning against Him, but He does not forget to punish guilty people. He will punish not only the guilty people, but also their children, their grandchildren, their great-grandchildren, and their great-great-grandchildren.” Exodus 34:6-7 (NCV)

ESV Study Bible, English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008).
Zondervan NIV Study Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).

Monday, August 1, 2016

True Righteousness

Jesus:  17 “Do not misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the Law of Moses or the writings of the Prophets. No, I came to accomplish (fulfill) their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved (fulfilled). 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law (scribes) and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” Matthew 5:17-20 (NLT)

Matthew 5:17 begins the main body of the Sermon on the Mount. Many Biblical scholars believe that Matthew 5:20 is the key or most important verse of the Sermon on the Mount: “For 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” (Matthew 5:20, NIV). The main theme of the Sermon on the Mount is true righteousness.

During Jesus’ time and even today, many religious leaders had an artificial and external righteousness of the Law of Moses. The true righteousness God desires and Jesus described begins internally, in the heart with love, faith, and obedience to God and love and mercy toward one another (see e.g., Genesis 15:6; Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 6:4-6; Leviticus 19:18, 34; 1 Samuel 15:22-23; Psalms 40:6-8; Psalm 51:10, 16-17; Proverbs 21:3; Isaiah 1:11-17; Jeremiah 7:21-23; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8; Matthew 22:34-40). Wholehearted love for God and love for one another summarizes the entire Old Testament Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:34-40; see also Matthew 7:12; Luke 10:25-28; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:13-14; James 2:8). True righteousness works from the inside out because it first begins with a repentant heart and then produces good fruit (Matthew 3:2, 8-10; Matthew 21:32, 43; see also Jeremiah 31:31-34; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 8:8-12). Thus, the actual conduct of Jesus’ followers does in fact “exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20, KJV; see also James 2:14-26).

The Pharisees and scribes of Jesus’ day were concerned about the minute details of their external conduct and religious rituals (see e.g. Matthew 15:1-2; Matthew 23:1-4), but they neglected the important matter of internal (heart) character – justice, mercy, compassion, truth, peace, humility and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23-24; see also Jeremiah 5:1; Micah 6:6-8; Zechariah 7:9; Matthew 12:7; Luke 11:42). True righteousness flows out of an obedient and loving heart for God (see Matthew 12:34; Matthew 15:18-19). This common theme runs throughout the entire Sermon on the Mount, and that theme is true righteousness (Matthew 5:1-Matthew 7:29).

People have many beliefs and ideas about Jesus, but it is important that we do not believe that Jesus has come to abolish or end the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17; see also Romans 3:31; Romans 10:4). During Jesus’ day, the Pharisees and the other religious establishment charged Jesus with disobeying the Law (see e.g., Matthew 12:1-2, 9-14). Even today, many people continue to believe that the New Testament teaching on salvation by grace mean they can ignore and disobey the Law and the Prophets. In other words, many saved people believe that obedience to the Law and Prophets are of little to no consequence. True, the Holy Scriptures teaches that we are saved by God’s glorious grace and not by our works (see e.g., Ephesians 2:5, 8-9; Romans 3:20-28). Jesus’ teaching on the Law and the Prophets from Sermon on the Mount plainly teaches that those who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19). As Jesus concludes the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus states unequivocally that those who enter the Kingdom of Heaven are those who faithfully do the will of God (Matthew 7:21, 24-27; see also Matthew 12:50; James 1:22; 1 John 3:7-8; 1 John 5:18). In fact, Jesus rejects those who continually practices lawlessness and disobedience against God and His Word (Matthew 7:23; see also 1 John 5:18). Therefore, obedience to the Holy Scriptures is central to the teaching of Jesus and the Christian life. All Scripture is important to God and profitable for wisdom, good works, righteousness, and salvation (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17). Jesus is the living Word of God (John 1:1-5, 14), and His life fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (Luke 24:27, 44-47).

Some Old Testament laws were clearly set aside in the New Testament. Examples are the ceremonial laws of animal sacrifice (e.g., see Hebrews 9:1-10:18), and the dietary laws of ritual cleanliness (e.g. see Matthew 15:1-20; Mark 7:19; Acts 10). Likewise, the Old Testament Levitical priesthood, after the order of Aaron, is replaced by the New Testament priesthood of Jesus Christ, after the order of Melchizedek (see Hebrews 6:13-8:13). Also, the Old Testament covenant sign of circumcision is replaced by the New Testament sign of baptism (Matthew 28:19; see also Acts 2:38; Acts 15:1-35; Galatians 2:11-21; Galatians 5:2-4; Colossians 2:11-12). Also, the civil penalties of the Sinai covenant (that is, the penalties to be applied by Israel's human government for the violations of law) do not seem to be binding in the New Testament. Jesus speaks of divorce being permitted in cases of adultery, whereas the Law of Moses prescribed death for the adulterer (see Leviticus 20:10), and so divorce would have been automatic, complete and final. At the same time, however, it is equally clear that much of the Old Testament Law is carried over into the New Testament without change. For example, the laws against idolatry, murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and coveting, etc. The Ten Commandments may conveniently serve as a summary of these Laws.

Clearly, Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount: “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” (Matthew 5:17, NIV). In the case of the ceremonial laws such as animal sacrifice and the shedding of blood, Jesus’ sacrificial death fulfilled these Old Testament laws and rituals. Similarly, the dietary laws represented moral cleanliness in the Old Testament. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws of clean and uncleanness by declaring everyone righteous and morally clean when they wholehearted accepted and believed in His sacrificial life, death, and resurrection (see Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:21-28; Romans 5:1-2). Furthermore, Jesus fulfilled the moral laws by fully obeying God and God’s Word when tempted and tested by evil in the solidary wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11; see also Hebrews 4:15). For Jesus, the Law and the Prophets were not set aside or abolished but had to be kept and obeyed in every way. The Law and the Prophets are not arbitrary but an expression of God’s own love and character. For the entire Law and the Prophets can be summed up in love, and God is love (Matthew 22:34-40; see also Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 4:16). Hence, the Law and the Prophets express the very nature of love and thus the very nature and character of God (Exodus 34:5-7; see also Numbers 14:18; Psalm 86:15; Psalm 108:4; Nehemiah 9:17; James 5:11). As Jesus’ followers, true righteousness seeks to obey the very nature and character of God – mercy, compassion, peace, kindness, truth, and faithfulness (Exodus 34:6-7; see also Galatians 5:22-23). These internal qualities are the righteous requirements that fulfill the Law and the Prophets.

In summary, Jesus’ life and teaching called the people back to the original messages of the Old Testament Law and the Prophets that taught heartfelt love and obedience to God and love and mercy towards others are more important than legalistic observance, ceremonies, and rituals (Romans 13:8-10). True righteousness and even perfection come when we wholeheartedly love God and love all people, both good and evil (Matthew 5:48; see also Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 6:36).

34 But when the Pharisees heard that He (Jesus) had silenced the Sadducees with His reply, they met together to question Him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap Him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the Law of Moses?” 37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire Law and all the demands of the Prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:34-40 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005).
Ross, Mark E. Let’s Study Matthew (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2009).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).