Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Matthew 5:17-20

“Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…” (RSV)

Jesus taught that there are three eternal destinies:

1. Least in the Kingdom
2. Great in the Kingdom
3. Never in the Kingdom.

In the rest of chapter five Jesus teaches how He fulfills the Law. He fulfilled the Law by going back to motives--hate, lust, and love. The Spirit of the Law is never less than the letter of the Law; it is always more. The Pharisees were living the letter only and would not make the Kingdom at all. Others who objected to the letter of the law relaxed the letter of the law and made it less would be least in the Kingdom.

Christians today think that these are the two choices: keeping the letter and relaxing the letter. This country abounds with legalist doers and teachers. It also abounds with those who react to legalism, who become relaxed doers and teachers. That seems to be a poor choice: “not in the Kingdom” and “least in the Kingdom.”

“Whoever keeps them and teaches others to do so” means following Jesus’ fulfilled law. Here is one of His examples:

You have heard that it was said: “You shall not commit adultery.” I, however, say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with an impure intention, has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27, 28 RSV)

Being great in the Kingdom means following seriously, from the heart, the fulfilled law as taught by Jesus in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 and the rest of the Gospels.

Probably the majority of Christians are relaxers of the law. It is very easy to become a “relaxer of the law.” First we look at the letter of the law, “You shall not commit adultery,” and say, “to observe that would be Old Testament Legalism.” Then we look at the fulfilled law:

“anyone who looks at a woman with an impure intention, has already committed adultery with her in his heart”

and say, “that is nice idealism, but it is not realism. If I tried to observe that I would be riddled with guilt.” By relaxing both the literal and the higher motive, we leave a wide open door for violating the moral law in thoughts and action. An increasing number of Christians find themselves in serious sexual sin because of this. The person who has been redeemed by the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus should have no difficulty believing His teaching and getting the power from Him to obey that same teaching.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

No comments: