Gospel Wednesday | Mark 9

GWWelcome back as we continue working through the Gospel According to Mark. Two weeks ago we covered Mark 8, where we saw Jesus directly rebuked the Pharisees for demanding a sign from Him despite having rejected Him and the signs that had already testified of Him. Their demand for a special sign demonstrated their wickedness, it flowed directly from their unbelief, and He called them on it. We also saw Jesus feed the multitudes again, this time really driving home who He is… and Peter confessed Jesus as the Christ.

Today, we’ll resume reading, beginning in Chapter 9 of the Gospel According to Mark.

Mark 9:1-13 (ESV) | The Transfiguration

And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.” And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus,“Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean. And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt? But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

Here, for a moment, Peter, James, and John got to see Jesus in His Glory. They saw Elijah and Moses speaking with Jesus (these 2 represented the Law and the Prophets) for they pointed to Him. The Kingdom of God had come to fulfill the Promise of Salvation. Understandably, the disciples couldn’t quite put a handle on what they were witnessing and made some poor attempts at capturing the moment to preserve it… but the Voice of the Lord God spoke to them and what did He say? “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” Jesus wanted them to start understanding why He came and what He needed to do. I can’t qualify this statement with any hard facts, but I tend to think that whenever the disciples heard Jesus speak of raising from the dead, they probably assumed He meant sometime way out in the future.

Mark 9:14-29 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with an Unclean Spirit

And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him,“‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

This is a tough passage for me, because I’ve been through so many bad sermons on it. Let’s focus on the clear, and leave the less clear for discussions with your pastor. What is clear here is the father lacked faith. He hedged his request not by “if you are willing” but by “if you can”. Jesus rebukes the mans lack of faith and the man repents, but notice in the repentance he makes a powerful statement, help my unbelief! It is God who gives us faith, by His Grace. Jesus saves us from the Kingdom of darkness. As for the last statement, what is clear is that what took place was nothing short of a miracle of God upon the boy. Much ink has been spilled in trying to parse out and dissect what Jesus really meant here, but I’m going to leave it now with the point that it is God who saves, and we should pray. I encourage you to seek out your pastor for more teaching on this point.

Mark 9:30-32 (ESV) | Jesus Again Foretells Death, Resurrection

They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them,“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

Jesus is preparing His sheep for what was coming, and they were confused yet afraid to ask.

Mark 9:33-37 (ESV) | Who Is the Greatest?

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them,“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”

It’s good to see the humanity of these Apostles. Like kids, they got into a squabble over their relative greatness. We all do it. Jesus calls them out on it, and instructs them… and us… on what is most important.

Mark 9:38-41 (ESV) | Anyone Not Against Us Is for Us

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us. For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means lose his reward.

Jesus isn’t making a blanket philosophical statement like the easily refutable “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”… the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a singular road, a singular Way to God. EVERYONE who is not for the Gospel of Jesus Christ is against us, because all who are not of Christ are against Him, for the world hates Him. This verse should in no way be used to stifle Biblical discernment or the rebuke of false teachers, false doctrine, or spirits of error.

Mark 9:42-50 (ESV) | Temptations to Sin

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

This is about false teaching. I hadn’t noticed it before, but this time reading through this text the words (emphasis mine) who believe in me really jumped off the screen at me. We deal with our own hearts tempting us to sin on a regular basis… woe to the one who tempts believers to sin. I think this particular warning is particularly aimed at the false teacher or one who engages in false doctrines. Jesus is speaking figuratively here regarding the cutting off of hands/feet/eyes since even doing so literally will not address the sin of the heart. From an individual perspective, it’s about dying to self, so that we might live in the Spirit. The references to being salted with fire is often explained as a reference to the Old Testament sacrifices, that they were salted before being offered up at the altar. In the New Covenant it’s the work of the Holy Spirit in us, salting us, and burning away sins and transgressions.

I’d like to offer up another way of reading it, but this is just me sharing my thoughts and I have yet to find a commentary that confirms this reading: I think this also points to church discipline if we read this not as an individual’s body but the local Church body. Reflecting back to the danger of leading those who believe in Christ away from Him, those within the Body of Christ who are preaching falsely and causing division by preaching falsely ought to be cut away rather than send the whole body to hell. I’m borrowing heavily from Paul’s treatment of the subject of rebuking and silencing false teachers as well as excommunicating unrepentant sinners so that they might repent, be forgiven, and restored.

Regarding the loss of saltiness, that isn’t something we can fix, because becoming salt wasn’t our doing in the first place. I think this is reflected in Hebrews 5-6 discussion of apostasy. Jesus ends with an encouragement to be salty and at peace with the Body of Christ. I think the encouragement of being salty is to trust in the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit as He keeps us in Christ Jesus.

Conclusion

Until next week, spend time in the Written Word of God and do not forsake the gathering of the saints, hearing of the Preached Word… both Law and Gospel.

Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will,working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

DiM | “Impossible” by Building 429

Today is “Discernment in Music” (DiM) day here at Faithful Stewardship (2 Corinthians 10:4-6 (ESV)).

May 07, 2015. Today we’ll be taking a look at “Impossible” by Building 429 which is currently being praised for having broken some airplay records.

Provident Label Group pop/rock band Building 429 has officially broken a radio record. Their brand new single, “Impossible”, received an astounding 95 radio adds on add date, making this an all time first for the band. This is also the highest number of adds its first week ever for a Provident Label Group artist. This radio feat hasn’t been achieved since “Free To Be Me” by Fancesca Battistelli in 2008.

“Everyone has that story of when something out of the ordinary happened in their career,” shares Andrew Patton, VP of Promotions, Provident Label Group. “The minute I heard ‘Impossible’ I knew it could be one of those moments. And as exciting as this record-breaking add date has been, I’m looking forward to even more exciting things ahead with this song and with Building 429.”

The GRAMMY-nominated and Dove Award-winning band debuted “Impossible” during the WinterJam Tour this past winter and spring playing to a record-breaking 600,000 fans over 47 dates. “Impossible” is the first single from their upcoming album slated to release September 25th. [ref CCMMagazine.com]

Since this song has yet to appear on the Top20 chart we currently use for DiM Tuesday, I thought we’d take a look at it today. With this much promotion behind this thing, it is only a matter of time before it appears on our charts. Is this song worthy of so much attention? No. This song is a fraudulent promise based on proof-text, vision-casting, and word-of-faith theology. This is going to be another long post, because we are addressing a major theological error. Making promises on God’s behalf, that He did not promise is blasphemy. It is one thing to have a “vision” or a “dream” of what YOU would like to see happen in your life, but quite another to claim that the vision or dream is from God. Dangerous, even. Let’s discuss this.

Official VEVO Lyric Video

Lyrics (via KLOVE)

Impossible
by Building 429

You got a vision
You got a dream
But it feels a million miles away
You got your passion
You got to believe
That this is why you were made

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

We can rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

And nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there’s no such thing as impossible

We’re never given the spirit of fear
Only the power of love
We’ll keep on running and not grow weak
His strength is more than enough

It takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to see
I said it takes a little time
Takes a little time
It takes a little time to believe

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

That nothing is unreachable
When we trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible
Impossible

There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing
There is no such, no such thing as impossible

Rise above the typical
And be anything but usual
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible

Nothing is unreachable
When you trust the God of miracles
We know
We know
We know
That there is no such thing as impossible
Publishing: © 2014 Sony/ATV Tree Publishing / Havery Publishing / Jord A Lil Music (BMI) / Sony/ATV Timber Publishing / Not Just Another Song Publishing (SESAC) All rights admin. by Sony/ATV.
Writer(s): Jason Roy, Chuck Butler, Casey Brown

Discussion

Well, folks, what we have here is a Vision-Casting / Word-of-Faith anthem of empty promise cloaked in what seems to be truth (truism). This could very well be a CTT post. The phrase “with God all things are possible” occurs several times in the New Testament. When isolated, pulled from its context, it gives the notion that “nothing is impossible for God” is a valid ultimate truth. However, this isn’t the case. This isn’t a mathematical equation or Greek philosophy of possibility, the realm of possibility is defined by God. He has clearly stated certain things are impossible, such that we might have full assurance in His Promise.

Hebrews 6:13-20 (ESV) | The Certainty of God’s Promise

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, 14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

All Scripture is God-Breathed. Some take this Truth to mean that if you can find any phrase in the Bible and apply a meaning to it, then it is infallible. That’s not how it works. You see, God’s Word is defined by God’s Word. One cannot simply pluck out a phrase from the Scriptures and apply it in whichever way seems beneficial and expect God to honor it. This song’s assertion that as long as you believe in God your “vision” or “dreams” will all come true is complete bunk. Let’s do a quick survey of the Scriptures to flesh out the limits of “possibility” for mankind.

With Man it is Impossible

Let’s look at what Jesus was teaching when He said, but with God all things are possible.

Mark 10:23-27 (ESV)

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

Matthew 19:23-26 (ESV)

23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Luke 18:24-27 (ESV)

24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said,“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

Salvation. It is impossible for man to save himself. Salvation is a work of God, so that no one should boast (Eph 2:1-10 ESV).  It is also impossible for man to please God without faith.

Hebrews 11:5-7 (ESV)

By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

Now, let’s look at what Scripture tells us of the nature of man after the fall. Let’s look back to the days of Noah.

Genesis 6:5-8 (ESV)

The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

God chose to spare Noah to keep His promise to Adam and Eve, and He cannot lie. Nevertheless, all mankind is wicked and sinful. In fact, dead in their sins and trespasses (Eph 2). God spoke to Noah, and Noah believed God and became an heir of righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11). Notice, we are using the New Testament to better understand the Old. Noah didn’t merit God’s favor, it was for His sake, for His Name’s sake alone that God spared Noah. We know this because Scripture has made it clear, but it can also be inferred from what took place after Noah.

Genesis 11:1-9 (ESV) | The Tower of Babel

11 Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth.

Where they seeking after God? No. Were they seeking to honor God? No. They sought to make a name for themselves in the heavens, and that was only the beginning of what they would do. Salvation is impossible for them, we know this. They are dead in sins and trespasses. They do not yet have the Law, this is before the Abrahamic Covenant. Without God, it is impossible for man to do the right thing, to be righteous. Righteousness requires faith, and that faith comes from God. We aren’t “born with it”. Faith comes to us through hearing the Words of Christ. When God spoke to men, they were afforded an opportunity for faith, as we see articulated in Hebrews 11. Even Adam, who saw all of Creation in its perfection, and knew God, was expected to obey His word by faith, that he was not to eat of the fruit of that one tree. Adam lacked faith, and so he sinned, and by one man’s sin, death entered the earth. Only God could provide a way of atonement sufficient for man’s salvation. The Law was temporary, a guardian for the people of the Promise, until Christ could come and establish a New Covenant with mankind.

Hebrews 10:1-14 (ESV) | Christ’s Sacrifice Once for All

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
    but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
    you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God,13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

And Now that We’ve Been Saved…

Okay, but once we’ve been saved by Grace through Faith, can’t we assume all things are possible for us? Is the promise of Salvation temporal or eternal? Who decides what miracle God is going to perform, man or God? Who decided to part the Red Sea, Moses or God? God did. He led Moses to that place, to that shore, and He instructed Moses to act, and He parted the Red Sea, and He saved Israel with His Mighty Hand, and He destroyed Pharaoh’s army when He closed the sea on them. Indeed, nothing is impossible with God… for He is the one who is Sovereign over all of Creation. This goes back to Soli Deo Gloria: to God Alone be the Glory.

You see, the biggest problem with this song that invalidates all of it, is that it begins not with a Promise that God’s Word makes; rather, it begins with the dreams/ideas/visions of mankind, the listener. Bruce Jenner has a vision of being a woman… that’s not God’s Will for him. Mankind will manipulate language, biology, chemistry, and religion to reinforce the illusion that it is possible for him to become a woman… but that simply isn’t possible. Man doesn’t have that power, and never will.

What About the Faith of a Mustard Seed

Let’s take a look at His teaching on faith.

Matthew 17:14-20 (ESV) | Jesus Heals a Boy with a Demon

14 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.

Is faith an emotion to be stirred up or some heightened state of consciousness to be reached through meditation or asceticism? No. Faith comes by hearing the Word of Christ. This isn’t a question of quantity of faith, but on the object of their faith. The Scripture doesn’t specify where their doubt had crept in, just that if they had the faith of a mustard seed to believe the Word of God they could do the Will of God by His Grace through Faith. With man, it is impossible to cast out demons… it is also impossible to walk on water. Let us look there for a moment because that is where I’m drawing some of my conclusions for this understanding.

Matthew 14:28-32 (ESV)

28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

By faith Peter walked on water in obedience to Jesus’s call. Yes, Peter prayed the Lord to issue the command, as we should pray for those things which are impossible with men. Jesus did issue the command, and Peter walked by faith… until he doubted. Notice the rebuke, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? 

Does scripture record anyone else walking on the water after this? No. The point was not to promise Christians water-walking powers, but to point to the deity of Christ. Does scripture (or history) record anyone literally commanding a mountain to be moved and it moving by faith? No. The point is to rest in the Word of God by Faith. Jesus came to set the captives free from the Kingdom of darkness, by faith. There is no worthy opponent or impediment to the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not even demon possession. The Word of God is mightier than any 2-edged sword, preach the Word, say to the mountain “be moved” that the Name of the Lord will be lifted up in praise. Let us not cheapen this truth with false gospels of prosperity or worse, turning the bible into some sort of spell book. The Apostle Paul faced many hardships, trials, tribulation, and was mightily used of God to spread the Gospel and build up His Church among the Gentiles. Notice the introduction of his letter to the Romans.

Romans 1:1-17 (ESV) | The Righteous Shall Live by Faith

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ,

To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you 10 always in my prayers, asking that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— 12 that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine. 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles. 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. 15 So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Amen. In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 6:1-24

bibleLast week we looked at Jesus’ teaching of the Law as it pertains to how we deal with one another in Matthew 5:31-42, further demonstrating the depth of our depravity and transgression. While many might find this section somewhat less punishing than the first portion, this section was not easy. In Verses 43 through 48, we Jesus transitioning out of the clarification of the Law regarding sins and into more of how we are to serve the Lord (Worship) lawfully. What does it mean to serve God according to the Law. While the Law does reveal sin, it also points us to how we are to serve God. The first point of this transition is in dispelling the notion that we are allowed to hate our enemy or vindicate ourselves for mistreatment. We are to love our neighbors & our enemies. This is still Law, as He made clear in the last verse, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:48)“. I am not, therefore I am sinful and desperately in need of Salvation. This is the work of the Law, to bring us to repentance. In this life, we will not graduate from this lesson… we must always bear fruit of repentance, until the Day of Christ’s Return. He is Faithful.

Worship in Spirit and in Truth

Matthew 6:1-24 (ESV)

Giving to the Needy

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Practicing your righteousness is an act of worship to God. God works are done in worship to God, for they are only possible by His Grace through Faith (which He gave you by His Word). God decides how you are to receive your reward. If you’ve determined in your heart that you use the occasion of your worship to draw attention to yourself, then Jesus says quite plainly that you will have no reward from your Father in Heaven. Your reward will be limited to the recognition of men that you sought, and you may not even get that (because man is sinful). In verse 2, Jesus presents giving to the needy as an example, but His first statement covers all practices of righteousness, of good works.

In our day here in the US, those who give to 501(c)(3) Non Profit organizations (among whom Churches are included… for now) get a tax credit for their donation. Are you giving to these organizations as a form of worship to God (for doing good works)? or are you giving so that your donations might be recognized and rewarded by the Government, other organizations, or so that people might regard you (or your organization) with esteem? Is the organization the needy, or do they serve the needy, and if so to what degree is your donation to them serving the needy? I leave these questions between you and God the Holy Spirit to discern for yourselves. We aren’t talking about whether or not you are sinning, that has already been covered, we are talking about the quality of your Worship and Service to God the Father in Heaven. If you’ve done it to be recognized by men, you’ve received your reward. If your worship is for God’s glory, He will reward you as He sees fit… and His rewards are always better. Soli Deo Gloria is an excellent guideline here, too.

But this isn’t just about giving money, or food, or clothing, or shelter, etc… How about extending grace or mercy or forgiveness to your brother or sister in Christ? Neighbor? Enemy? All good works, all practices of righteousness… being ever mindful of our own sin, even in our attempt to practice righteousness. The praise and worship band on Sunday morning… if they are performing so that they might be honored by the congregation, has received the reward for their service. The individual in the Congregation who belts out their best singing hoping to be noticed by those around him/her, has received his/her reward. I’ve been guilty of both errors of worship, so I’m not wildly inventing these examples, nor am I “calling YOU out, specifically”. That was pure confession on my part… though I am confident that we all are tempted in similar ways.

One final example before we move on… if you’ve “taken the high road” in a situation, do so in secret so that your Father in Heaven might reward you. Don’t throw that away by announcing how you decided to “take the high road” in the matter.

Matthew 6 | The Lord’s Prayer

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this:

“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Prayer is an act of Worship. Prayer is a gift from God, one of the means of Grace as recognized in traditional confessions (both Reformed and Wesleyan). Jesus, our Lord and Savior, is teaching us how to pray here. An active Prayer life is essential to Faithful Stewardship of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and it comes up often. I do not pray as often as I should, and repent for my lack of prayer often. If you’d like to read more on this topic, we discussed this lesson in Matthew on Prayer here and here. For our purposes here today, I want to highlight its position within the greater context of prayer as a form of worship, and the humility, repentance, and God honoring focus we are to maintain. Do you have a speech impediment? An odd/weak/distracting voice? Limited Scriptural knowledge? None of these disqualifies you for prayer. You pray, to God the Father, and rest assured by faith that He hears you. Don’t dress up your prayer to impress those who might hear. Don’t use prayer as an occasion to lecture the congregation. When it’s time to pray, pray to God. Teach your little ones to pray. I try to teach my children prayer before and after our family prayer time. I try to avoid interrupting any prayer with teaching… though sometimes a quick rebuke for foolishness in prayer is necessary (they are ages 3 and 5 after all).

Fasting

16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Fasting is first and foremost an act of worship. It is a humbling of ourselves before God. It is a proper response to a rebuke and judgement (2 Samuel 12; Jonah 3) as well as a means of supplication for the Lord to intervene (Esther 4:12-17) in a situation. However, fasting is one of those areas where seeking attention for your piety is a major temptation. Our flesh is sinful, and it throws tantrums (you may not remember your behavior as a toddler… ask your parents) when it doesn’t get its way. Breaking your fast, or cheating on your fast aren’t the only pitfalls. Moaning and groaning about your fast is a pitfall, one that Jesus addresses here. Note: fasting isn’t a means of gaining leverage over God, either. God’s sovereignty is immutable. Fasting is a form of worship, not a magic trick to getting your way with God.

Lay Up Treasures in Heaven

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.

Jesus returns to the concept of reward. Yes, we are promised a great reward in Christ Jesus… but you don’t want to trade heavenly reward for temporal ones (I’m looking at you, prosperity preachers). Nowhere are we promised riches and happiness here on earth. Our Promise is kept in Heaven.

1 Peter 1:3-9 (ESV) | Born Again to a Living Hope
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Peter’s introduction in his letter echos Jesus’s statement, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also“. Now, while Jesus was giving this sermon, they probably didn’t fully get it… but by the time Peter is writing this letter, the Apostles understood and taught it.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 beginning in verse 25 and work through more of Jesus’ teaching of good works. We’ll see more elements of the Gospel being opened up in His sermon here, so I look forward to that. Jesus will continue preaching the Law, but we’ll see Him also offering comfort, the kind that can only be received by faith. Let us close in a word of prayer from the Apostle Paul:

Ephesians 3:14-21 (ESV) | Prayer for Spiritual Strength
14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:31-48

bibleLast week we looked at the tough teaching of the Law of God delivered by Jesus at the Sermon on the Mount. We noted that while these were new teachings to those present, Jesus wasn’t completely inventing things whole-cloth, that Moses commended his hearers to love the Lord their God with all of their heart, soul, and might. God’s Law was neither being changed nor was it being abolished by Jesus; rather, it was being fully proclaimed in concert with the preaching of Jesus, “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. Today, we’ll pick up in verse 31 and cover some of the second table of the Law (sins we commit against God by committing them against our neighbor).

Matthew 5:31-48 (ESV)

Divorce

31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

This is a tough passage for our culture, but not nearly as tough as it was in that day. The penalty under the Mosaic Covenant for adultery was death. Leviticus 20:10 (ESV), “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” We saw last week that a man is guilty of the sin of Adultery if he looks at woman with lust in his heart. That’s serious. Now we see, though, that the act of divorce sets up the man and woman for adultery. The caveat given is often misapplied to suggest that adultery excuses the sin of divorce. It doesn’t. Jesus is merely saying that the act of adultery is adultery and divorce in that case doesn’t add the sin of adultery, it was already there. How do I know that? First because I followed the language, but also because the last line doesn’t have a caveat. A man who has not known any woman but marries a divorced woman commits adultery because she has been with another man. No caveat of “unless her divorce is approved by means of her ex-husband’s adultery” can be found. Jesus will teach on marriage and divorce again later in Chapter 19. Is there ever a case where divorce isn’t a sin? No. Okay, but it’s a lesser sin if it was the result of infidelity of the spouse, right? Did Jesus present the sin of lustful desires in the heart compared to committing the act? No and no. Remember, Jesus is preaching the Law here… He IS the Gospel in the flesh for He came to fulfill the Law by laying down His life as the last and perfect sacrifice on the cross. Only in Christ can we find the forgiveness of sin… all sin. All sin is death. Only the Death of Jesus Christ on the Cross satisfies the Wrath of God in Just punishment for our sin. That there is forgiveness for sin, does not mean that sin was not committed. Jesus didn’t abolish the Law, He fulfilled it and paid the penalty on our behalf. Here, Jesus was addressing those who thought they were sinless by not physically committing the act of adultery or by securing a certificate of divorce and marrying someone else. They were wrong and they were not sinless. These days, we see some abuse this verse in a different direction, by treating divorce as the unpardonable sin. If there is no forgiveness available for divorce, then there is none available for lustful thoughts in the heart. In Christ, we have the Only forgiveness of our sins… and in Christ there is no condemnation.

Matthew 5 | Oaths

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

Again, tough. Jesus is tying the breaking of any oath as blasphemous, and blasphemy is punishable by death. Again, we see that all sin leads to death, such is the nature of the Law. The scribes and Pharisees are rebuked harshly later in Chapter 23, because they had added to the Law their own traditions… and they did so falsely. Understand, dear Christian, that our post-modernist relativism doesn’t save us here… we don’t get to wiggle out by redefining what an oath is or a promise or a contract. Jesus breaks it down to, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” Anything beyond yes or no comes from evil. Let’s look at the Law that was given to Moses regarding this.

Leviticus 19:11-12 (ESV) 11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. 12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord.

Swearing falsely by God’s name is blasphemy. Please move beyond the elementary understanding of using the Lord’s name as a curse word being blasphemy. It’s so much more than that. If you say, “I swear to God” that such and such is true, and it turns out to be false, you’ve lied AND you’ve blasphemed. If you say, “I swear to God I will do [such and such]” and you don’t do it, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. If you say “The Lord told me” and what you’ve said isn’t of God, you’ve lied AND blasphemed. We’ve minimized blasphemy in our culture, even in the Church, in much the same way we’ve minimized sexual immorality, in that we only seem to take notice when something Obvious has happened (scandal in the media). This is the Law, and its purpose is to identify sin. There is no muting it, or avoiding it. Praise be to God the Father for providing His Son, Jesus Christ as the only Atonement for our sin.

Matthew 5 | Retaliation

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

So, under the Mosaic Covenant, authority was given to Moses and the Levites to sit as judges over Israel. There are provisions in the Law and guidelines for administering punishment for breaking the Law.

Leviticus 24:17-22 (ESV) | An Eye for an Eye 17 “Whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death. 18 Whoever takes an animal’s life shall make it good, life for life. 19 If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, 20 fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; whatever injury he has given a person shall be given to him.21 Whoever kills an animal shall make it good, and whoever kills a person shall be put to death. 22 You shall have the same rule for the sojourner and for the native, for I am the Lord your God.”

At His Resurrection, Jesus will be taking up the punitive authority unto Himself, as He is the promised Messiah, the Prophet who was to come to whom all must listen as the ultimate Judge. The Book of Hebrews lays this out very well when it refers to Jesus as the Great High Priest. The world governments maintain their authority granted to them by God (Romans 13:1-7), and Christ establishes His Church on the foundation of His Apostles. Christ holds the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18), so we (the Church) do not have authority to put anyone to death for sin. For now, the world retains that authority and will eventually use it against us, persecuting us in the Tribulation. We who have been granted eternal life by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus dare not exact revenge or retaliate in the temporal against those who sin against us. Rather, we are to forgive others as we have been (and are being) forgiven. We’ll see Jesus expand on this next week when He teaches us how to Pray.

Matthew 5 | Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus seems to be returning to Leviticus 19 here, but it seems that He’s addressing a false interpretation of this passage, possibly from the Pharisees. I say that because of the times where Jesus answers the question of the “Greatest Commandment” and when He was asked to define “neighbor”.

Leviticus 19:17-18 (ESV) 17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. 18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

Again, the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” is the Law. We also see here what we covered last week, that Jesus isn’t adding anything to the Law but clarity. Hate is the sin of murder. The Law of the Lord is perfect… and we are all sinners. Apart from Christ, we are nothing and can do nothing. The Law holds everyone equally condemned. The Grace of God is that He sent His son, Jesus to fulfill the Law, live a sinless… SINLESS life and then present Himself as the perfect sacrifice, the pure and spotless Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Until next week…

We will pick up in Chapter 6 and work through Jesus’ explanation of Worship. Jesus preached the Law, and did so with Authority for He is God. It cuts to the heart of man, and holds us all equally dependent upon His Grace and Mercy. The Law of the Lord humbles us into a right understanding of who we are. Jesus is now transitioning into teaching what proper Worship looks like. I look forward to next week’s study, should the Lord tarry.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus, Jorge

Gospel Wednesday | Matthew 5:13-30

bibleLast week we looked at the introduction to Jesus’ sermon on the mount, the portion generally known as the Beatitudes. This week we will start digging into the meat of this sermon. The Sermon on the mount is rich with theology and clarity of the Law. Jesus is preaching repentance here, and He is preaching the Law to convict those present (and us) of our sins. That is the purpose of the Law. Jesus IS the Gospel, He is the Messiah, the Lamb of God sent to take away the sins of the world. Jesus preaches the Law and presents Himself as the remedy, for He will lay His life down to bear the wrath of God in our place, so that by His Blood we might be saved. This sermon is going to take a few weeks for us to work through.

Matthew 5:13-30 (ESV)

Matthew 5:13 (ESV) | Salt

13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

In our culture, we generally hear “experts” telling us that we consume too much salt and how it’s not good for you. That is because we are an over-indulgent society. We would be remiss to view this passage from our secular perspective on salt. Salt is vital for our survival. Check out the intro to this website discussing the History of Salt:

As far back as 6050 BC, salt has been an important and integral part of the world’s history, as it has been interwoven into the daily lives of countless historic civilizations. Used as a part of Egyptian religious offerings and valuable trade between the Phoenicians and their Mediterranean empire, salt and history have been inextricably intertwined for millennia, with great importance placed on salt by many different races and cultures of people. Even today, the history of salt touches our daily lives. The word “salary” was derived from the word “salt.” Salt was highly valued and its production was legally restricted in ancient times, so it was historically used as a method of trade and currency. The word “salad” also originated from “salt,” and began with the early Romans salting their leafy greens and vegetables. Undeniably, the history of salt is both broad ranging and unique, leaving its indelible mark in cultures across the globe.

There is no mistaking salt. Saltiness is one of the 5 flavors or tastes (salt, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami) our tongues were designed to identify. The value of Salt isn’t in its taste; rather, it is in its preservative and medicinal qualities. Salt that has lost its taste isn’t salt… it’s remaining impurities. If you went out to a salt bed (like the Dead Sea) and scooped up a bunch of it in a bucket and filled it with water to overflowing… the salt would dissolve and run out and whatever was left behind wouldn’t be salt. It would be whatever else you scooped up with the salt. It would have no purpose other than being thrown out and trampled under foot. What is it that makes us Salt of the Earth? Faith. For the Jews hearing this sermon, it would have been Faith in the Word of God (Hebrews 11), in His Promise. Israel… Jerusalem… had lost its saltiness. Jesus, we’ll see throughout the Gospel Accounts, holds the Religious leaders, the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Lawyers accountable for their poor stewardship over God’s Chosen Ones, Israel. Now they have a problem… Jesus asked the question, “how shall its saltiness be restored”? There is nothing that the salt can do to regain its own saltiness. There is nothing man can do to make himself right with God. Praise be to Our Lord and Savior that Jesus came to do just that on our behalf… make a way, the only way, for us to be made right with God.

Matthew 5:14-16 (ESV) | Light

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Here, Jesus is declaring that His audience is the light of the world. As such, they cannot be hidden. The world will see them. Jesus is charging them to shine before others that they might see their good works and in so seeing give glory to God (Soli Deo Gloria). Two things I’d like to highlight here… the first being that good works are to point others to God, not us. Our good works are not of us or by us nor for us; rather, they are by Him, working in us, for His Glory. The second is that similar to the salt analogy, a lamp doesn’t light itself. It required oil and a flame. God provides both. We don’t do anything to make ourselves valuable salt, nor do we light our lamps. To God be the Glory.

Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) | Christ Came to Fulfill the Law

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. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Just when the people listening might have expected Jesus to drop the good news (Gospel, Evangel) of why He came, He derails that thought here in verse 17. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the Law. Prophecy pointed to a son of David who would usher in a New Kingdom and a New Covenant. Jesus did all of that, but He didn’t do it by abolishing the Law or the Prophets. He fulfilled them… all of them. So great, God fulfilled God’s law, how is that good news? He laid down His life to bear the full wrath of God as punishment for our sin. He doesn’t get there yet, but that’s where He is headed… it is what the Law requires and what the Prophets recorded of Him. Praise God. Don’t let verse 20 trip you up. Jesus is not indicating that the Pharisees were righteous. They weren’t. They were dead in their sin and trespasses… and they were completely unaware of how desperately they were in need of a Savior. I think it is important to jump ahead a bit to Matthew 23:1-3 (ESV) for some clarity here:

Matthew 23 (ESV) | Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees
1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, 2 “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, 3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice…

Here, in Matthew 5, Jesus sets up His teaching of the Law by absolutely destroying what had become a false measure of righteousness. The Pharisees, the scribes, the chief priests, they had all set themselves up as the epitome, the standard of what it means to keep the Law of Moses. They expected the Messiah to arrive and congratulate them for their righteousness… they didn’t expect the rebuke, nor did they humble themselves to repent of their sin… for they did not recognize their sin. Jesus is about to preach the Law in a way that had once been preached long ago… but had not been taught for some time. I’m referring to Deuteronomy 6, the chapter following the reiteration of the 10 Commandments of the Law, where God makes perfectly clear what it the Greatest commandment.

Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (ESV) 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

From the time Israel was given the Law, it was to be written on their hearts. It wasn’t only to be physically obeyed/observed, but Israel was to love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and might. The Pharisees had lost sight of this, and under their blinded guidance had led Israel astray. Sure they had large phylacteries a literally bound the law on their foreheads and hands… but inside they were dead, as were we all before the Grace of God stirred our hearts to saving Faith in Christ Jesus. Jesus wasn’t calling His hearers to greater outward works than the Pharisees… He was calling them to a righteousness they couldn’t do on their own, a righteousness that will only come by His blood. Let us look at how this plays out in the first 2 Laws Jesus preaches.

Matthew 5:21-26 (ESV) | Anger

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

Jesus first tackles anger and the commandment, “You shall not murder”. Clearly, the act of murder is a crime (liable to judgement), but Jesus takes it further to indicate that anger with a brother is also liable to judgement. Our society tries to make some murders even more odious by labeling it a “hate crime”. Interestingly enough, what Jesus is doing here is making Anger a Murderous crime… the sin is in the heart of man, not just in his actions. Jesus also makes it a point for us to make things right with our brothers before presenting ourselves before God. This last portion causes my mind to leap forward to the Lord’s Prayer (forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors) but it also ties back to the Salt and Light introduction we read previously, as well as the beatitude of “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matt 5:9)“.

Matthew 5:27-30 (ESV) | Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

There is harm in looking, for lust is the sin of adultery in the heart. Idolatry (idol worship) is also the sin of adultery. Following through with the physical sin was punishable by death… just as murders was, and Jesus here is saying that those who look upon a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery, is equally guilty of the sin by reason of the heart. Quite the blow to those hearing this teaching. Take every sin of sexual immorality listed in Deuteronomy 22:13-30 and apply what Jesus is teaching to them. The sin of lustful intent in the mere looking carries the same weight as the act. Who then is righteous? None but Christ. The Law is hard, and its purpose is to reveal our sinfulness and unrighteousness… how unworthy we are of God.

2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (ESV)
20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Why did Jesus begin with these 2? Jesus will work through all of the major areas of the Law so the “why” of which ones are recorded first here in the Gospel According to Matthew may not be a major issue. However, I do find it interesting that the first account of sin after the Fall is that of Cain murdering Abel, Genesis 4. Notice also, that in the account, Cain’s anger is highlighted and God addresses Cain regarding his anger, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it. (Gen 4:6-7 ESV)” Cain goes on to murder his brother, Abel. The “doing well” wasn’t in “not committing murder”, it was in offering an acceptable sacrifice to God.

After this account we get a list of the generations from Adam to Noah in Chapter 5, and in Chapter 6 notice how we are introduced to the wickedness of man.

Genesis 6:1-5 (ESV) | Increasing Corruption on Earth
1 When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, 2 the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. 3 Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” 4 The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. 5 The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

There was lust and lawlessness, and every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The heart of sinful, fallen man is wicked and it is from there that we sin. This is a very hard teaching… the Law kills. That’s its purpose. It is to break us, our will, our self-righteousness so that we might humble ourselves and repent from sin and turn to Christ’s finished work on the cross for our forgiveness, so that His righteousness will be extended toward us in Jesus’ Name.

Until next week…

We will pick up in verse 31 and work through Jesus’ expansion of the social laws. Having decimated our picture of man’s righteousness, Jesus is going to work through how God intends for us to conduct our lives in accordance with the Law, knowing full well that apart from God’s Grace we’d all be liable to judgement and destruction.

Romans 15:5-6 (ESV) 5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In Christ Jesus,
Jorge