Monday, October 19, 2015

IT HAS BEEN SAID—BUT I SAY

Sermon on the Mount (pt 13)

Jesus took the opportunity of His ministry to seemingly countermand almost everything the Jews had been taught.

In this particular section, the contradictions of the Old Law come right on the heels of His declaration
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
(Matt. 5:17-20)

No less than six times in the remaining sections of chapter five, Jesus says “You have heard…but I say.” The very nature of the conjunction “but” is that of a contradiction.

So, what exactly was Jesus contradicting?
  • V. 21—Thou shalt not kill (Ex. 20:13) 
  • V. 27—Thou shalt not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14)
  • V. 31—Give a written divorce (Dt. 24:1) 
  • V.33—Don’t swear falsely (Lev. 19:12) 
  • V. 38—An eye for an eye (Ex. 21:24) 
  • V. 43—Hate your enemy (drawn from Dt. 23:6)

Some of these are direct quotes from the Torah, while others are taken from the Torah and given an interpretation or application.

These are some of the things the Jews grew up with under the scribes and Pharisees who were intent on “keeping the righteousness of the law.” We know, of course, that this degenerated into a legalism that no one was able to observe. It allowed the leaders of the people to keep them under bondage, while they themselves appeared to be righteous.

As one reads these apparent contradictions, it becomes obvious that rather than a contradiction, He is actually making it more stringent than originally thought. He takes the meaning of the command deeper to deal with the heart rather than the head.

For instance, it is easy for most of us to obey the command to not kill. But how many of us are able to take it to the next level and not get angry?

It is easy for most men to not bed down with another woman when he is married, but how many of us are able to control our eyes in the face of the lasciviousness so rampant today?

In each of these situations—and the many others He spoke about during His ministry—He takes away the easy legalist approach and goes straight to the heart. For the heart of man is the issue—not his actions.

Actions come from the heart. (Pro. 23:7; Pro. 4:23; Matt. 12:34)

It is only as we begin to see and understand this level of “keeping the law” that we can see the depth of Jesus’ statement
“For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed [the righteousness] of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 5:20)

Then Jesus delivers the knockout punch that has befuddled, bamboozled, and bewildered believers for a few decades now, ever since the Dispensational theology of John Nelson Darby (18 November 1800 – 29 April 1882) gained ascendency within the church.

Not only does He say that we must be more righteous than a Pharisee, but He also declares that we are to be
“…therefore perfect, even as (y)our heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48)

In my experience, that verse cannot be brought up without someone immediately saying, “Nobody’s perfect.”

Why?
Why bring that up as soon as the verse is quoted?
The statement implies that Jesus didn’t know what He was saying, or what He was calling us to.

Then there are those who think they have it figured out and smugly point out, “The word ‘perfect’ there actually means ‘mature,’” as if that gets us off the hook of what Jesus said.

Okay.
I’ll buy that.
I will substitute “mature” for “perfect.”
“Be ye therefore mature, as your heavenly Father is mature.”

QUESTION: How mature is God?


That is the level of maturity to which we are to rise.

Somehow, I don’t see that as ameliorating the quandary.

Can we not see that Jesus is calling us to a place higher than is attainable through our own efforts?

His entire ‘sermon’ thus far has been doing that, yet
“…the people were astonished at his doctrine, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:28b-29)

People respond favorably to being given an impossibly high standard by someone who loves them.

His very presence among them let them know there was something greater than what they had been brought up on in their synagogues.

The only possible effect of saying “Nobody’s perfect” is to dilute the Word of God in order to keep people in bondage to the flesh and take away all hope of ever attaining to “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

Saints, there has got to be a place in our hearts where we come to the Word of God with humility in our hearts and say, “Lord, I don’t understand this verse, but I believe it. Please show me Your intent.”

It is extremely difficult to try to reconcile seemingly opposing verses of Scripture—especially when we allow someone to say, “Yeah, but what about this verse?” 

Do not allow yourself to fall into the trap of contradicting the Word with the Word.

Learn first “What this means” (Matt. 12:7), and then you will be able to understand its seemingly opposite or contradicting statement.

Jesus is bringing this understanding to the common people on the mountainside in this little discourse. They could only hear a statement, followed by the next, and then try to remember what they had heard.

We have the advantage of having it written out for us so that we may return to it time and again to meditate upon its majesty.

Jesus essentially claims, “You have heard those who claim to represent me say ‘thus and so,’ but I say…”

He continues to contradict even today.


Are you listening?
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