Matthew 5:17-28


    Immanuel Baptist Church – April 29, 2018



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In the game of chess the best and most successful players

are those who study

the moves that won chess games

for famous players in the past.


When it comes to football, the best and most successful coaches

are those who study

how games were won and lost in the past.


During the Second World WarAdolf Hitler

sent the most powerful army in the world at that time

to invade Russia.

But he met with total failure—a complete disaster—

because he ignored the advice of his top generals

who had studied why Napoleon failed

in a similar invasion 150 years earlier.

Those generals—the German army’s High Command—

had studied how battles were won and lost

down through history.

But Hitler was self-confident, proud and arrogant,

so he ignored them, and lost the war.


The point I’m making

is that history is important—

whether it is in the game of chess, in football, or in war.


And the same is true in the personal lives

of each one of us.


If we just take life as it comes,

and deal with each new challenge

as we think best at the moment,

we’re like a chess player

who hasn’t studied the winning moves;

we’re like a football coach

who hasn’t studied how games are won and lost;

we’re like the commander of an army

who hasn’t studied military history.


But our God has blessed us

by having written down in the Old Testament

a detailed account

of human success and human failure

from the very beginning.

And he’s given us in the New Testament

the winning moves

that will make us successful,

not just right now in our day-to-day lives,

but also secure in our future.

Approaching life without knowing the Bible

makes us like chess players

who lose in the opening moves

because our opponent knows the history of winning moves,

and we don’t.


Approaching life without knowing the Old and New Testaments

makes us like a football coach

whose team never makes it to the playoffs,

because other teams know the winning moves,

and we don’t.


Approaching life without knowing the history in the Bible

makes us like a military commander

who suffers defeat on the battlefield,

because other the other side

has studied the history of warfare

and we haven’t.


The Old Testament explains where the human race came from

and why we humans are so messed up—

why we lead troubled lives,

and why we have troubled families.


It explains how we inherited these problems—

the same problems you and I face every day—

how we inherited these problems

from our first parents, Adam and Eve,

who got tricked into listening to an evil trickster,

instead of listening to God.


All of us are descended

from Adam and Eve.


And their children and grandchildren

mostly had messed-up lives,

as we would expect from a dysfunctional family.


The Old Testament traces each family line

down through human history.


The human family tree in the Book of Genesis

tells us who the various Arab nations descended from,

and how that set the stage for today’s events,

including the Arab-Israeli conflict,

and the current war in Syria.


Genesis tells us how the Europeans descended

from Japheth and his seven sons—

including how people in Spain and Portugal

descended through Japheth’s son Javan

and his grandson Tarshish.


It tells who the peoples

of Africa and the Middle East descended from:

Ham, and his four sons,

Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan—

and which nations descended from which son.


And the Old Testament explains

how all these nations went astray.


They went astray in the same way that people today go astray.

So, we can learn from what the Bible says about them.


They all forgot what their parents and grandparents

told them about God.


Instead, they made idols of silver and gold,

of wood and stone.

And they bowed down to those idols and worshiped them.


And they behaved badly

in every way that people today behave badly

when they don’t know God.


Eventually, God spoke to a man of faith,

who we know today as Abraham.

And God promised to give the land of Canaan

to certain of Abraham’s offspring.

God repeated that promise

to Abraham’s son Isaac,

and to Isaac’s son Jacob—

whose name God changed to Israel.


Israel’s offspring became slaves in Egypt.


And when their numbers grew to the tens of thousands,

God sent Moses

to tell Egypt’s ruler Pharaoh, “Let my people go!”


After they were released from slavery in Egypt,

and began the trek to the Promised Land,

God gave them a set of laws to obey.


In Deuteronomy, Chapter 4,[  OPEN  ]

we read about how those laws set Israel apart

from all the other nations.


These laws—given through Moses—

would keep the Israelites on the straight and narrow.

These laws would keep the Jews from being led astray

by the surrounding people who practiced idolatry.


The laws would also protect them from harm.

The laws included regulations that would protect them

from food-borne diseases,

and from communicable diseases.


In Deuteronomy, Chapter 4, beginning with Verse 5,

Moses summarized it this way:   He said,


5 See, I have taught you decrees and laws

as the Lord my God commanded me,

so that you may follow them

in the land you are entering to take possession of it.

6 Observe them carefully,

for this will show your wisdom and understanding

to the nations,

who will hear about all these decrees and say,

"Surely this great nation

is a wise and understanding people."


And then in Verse 8,

8 And what other nation is so great

as to have such righteous decrees and laws

as this body of laws I am setting before you today?


So, that is the Law

that Jesus referred to

in the Responsive Reading we read a moment ago


As we read, in Matthew, Chapter 5,

beginning at Verse 17, he said,


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 I tell you the truth,

until heaven and earth disappear,

not the smallest letter,

not the least stroke of a pen,

will by any means disappear from the Law

until everything is accomplished.

19 Anyone who breaks

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 practices and teaches these commands

will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


As he said, Jesus did not abolish the Law.

But he did fulfill it.

He said the Law would not pass away

until it was fulfilled—until everything was accomplished.


And then he did fulfill the Law

and accomplished everything

by dying on the cross as the Lamb of God

that takes away the sin of the world.


In Colossians, Chapter 2, the Apostle Paul explains

that we were all condemned by the Law.

No one could perfectly keep the Law of Moses,

so we were all condemned by it, as sinners.

In Colossians 2, beginning at Verse 13, Paul wrote,


13 When you were dead in your sins

and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature,

God made you alive with Christ.

He forgave us all our sins,

14 having canceled the written code,  --the Law

with its regulations,

that was against us and that stood opposed to us;

he took it away,

nailing it to the cross.


And continuing in Verses 16 and 17 , he explained

that the Law’s Kosher diet

was not binding on Christians.

The Law’s Sabbaths and Jewish holidays

were not binding on Christians.    He wrote,


16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you

by what you eat or drink,

or with regard to a religious festival,

a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.


Way back in the Old Testament

God told the prophet Jeremiah[  OPEN  ]

that he was going to replace that old Law covenant

with a new arrangement.

The Law of Moses would be replaced

with an unwritten Law of Christ—

put into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.


It’s found in Jeremiah, Chapter 31, beginning with Verse 31.

There God says,

31 "The time is coming," declares the Lord ,

"when I will make a new covenant

with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.

32 It will not be like the covenant

I made with their forefathers

when I took them by the hand

to lead them out of Egypt,

because they broke my covenant,

though I was a husband to them, " declares the Lord .

33 "This is the covenant I will make

with the house of Israel after that time,"

declares the Lord .

"I will put my law in their minds

and write it on their hearts.

I will be their God, and they will be my people.

34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,

or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord ,' because they will all know me,

from the least of them to the greatest,"

declares the Lord.

"For I will forgive their wickedness

and will remember their sins no more."


And that is the New Covenant

that Jesus set up

at the Last Supper with his disciples.

As we read each month

when we celebrate Communion,   Luke 22:20 tells us

“In the same way, after the supper

he took the cup, saying,

‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood,

which is poured out for you.’”


As God told Jeremiah,

that New Covenant brings forgiveness of our sins.

And it brings us into a closer, personal relationship with God

as he puts his Spirit into our hearts.


God also told Jeremiah

he would replace the written Laws of Moses

and instead,


"I will put my law in their minds

and write it on their hearts.


So, Jesus did not leave us WITHOUT law.

And that is what we find

as we continue our reading for this morning.


If we look at what Jesus said there at Matthew 5:20,

we’ll see that the New Covenant Laws—the Laws of Christ—

are actually stricter than the Old Testament Laws.


There at Matthew 5:20, Jesus said,

20 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.


Wow, that sounds hard!

The Pharisees were the strictest sect of Judaism,

and they applied the strictest interpretation of the Law.


Jesus says our righteousness must exceed theirs.


But that’s because the Pharisees

were just following rules and regulations.


But Jesus puts his law in our hearts and in our minds.


Our Lord came to earth with authority to make changes—

to replace the Old Covenant with his New Covenant.


The Ten Commandments were part of the Old Covenant.

And one of those Ten Commandments was,

“You shall not kill”  or  “You shall not murder.”


But, in Matthew 5:21, Jesus said,

21 "You have heard that it was said

to the people long ago,

'Do not murder,

and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'

22 But I tell you

that anyone who is angry with his brother

will be subject to judgment.

Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,

'is answerable to the Sanhedrin.

But anyone who says, 'You fool!'

will be in danger of the fire of hell.


So, under the old Law Covenant,

you could be angry with your brother.

You could curse him with a nasty expression like, “Raca,”

which the translators aren’t quite sure how to put into English.

You could despise your brother and call him a “fool.”


As long as you didn’t actually murder him,

you were okay under the old Law.


But Jesus says, NO—don’t even be angry with your brother.

Christ’s law is stricter.


He continues at Matthew 5:23,


23 "Therefore,

if you are offering your gift at the altar

and there remember

that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your gift there in front of the altar.

First go and be reconciled to your brother;

then come and offer your gift.


He doesn’t even want your tithes and offerings

if you’re angry with your brother.

Go, make peace, first,

and then come back with your tithes and offerings.


In fact, it’s not just your brother

that Jesus wants you to be at peace with.

In Matthew 5:25, he goes on to say,


25 "Settle matters quickly with your adversary

who is taking you to court.

Do it while you are still with him on the way,

or he may hand you over to the judge,

and the judge may hand you over to the officer,

and you may be thrown into prison.

26 I tell you the truth,

you will not get out

until you have paid the last penny.


So, rather than fight it out in court,

Jesus tells us to make peace—

to settle things out of court, if possible.

He wants us to live by a higher standard.


But now, in Verse 27, it gets really tough.


He’s talking about another of the Ten Commandments.


And again, he has authority

to tighten up this commandment, too,

to make it even stricter.

In Verse 27, Jesus says,


27 "You have heard that it was said,

'Do not commit adultery.'

28 But I tell you

that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully

has already committed adultery with her in his heart.


Now, he isn’t talking here about a fleeting thought

that involuntarily enters your mind for a moment.


Some other translations say,

“anyone who stares at a woman with lust”

“everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her”

“everyone who is looking at a woman

in order to indulge his sexual passion for her”


And this is why pornography is so evil and harmful.

And there is an epidemic of pornography today,

that even affects Christians.


Pornography involves the kind of intentional staring

and intentional lusting

that Jesus is talking about here.


He wants us, not only to abstain from adultery,

which can ruin marriages and break up families,

but also to keep ourselves from pornography,

that likewise ruins marriages and breaks up families.


Pornography is an addiction.

It is very difficult to give up.


But, in Matthew Chapter 5,

continuing beyond where we left off

in our Responsive Reading,

 our Lord Jesus says we MUST give up

the things that interfere with

our relationship with him.


In Matthew, beginning at Verse 29,

he tells us we need to give up

even something as hard to give up

as our right eye or our right hand.

He says,


29 If your right eye causes you to sin,

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.


Now, he’s not talking about literally gouging out an eye,

but rather giving up something

that’s very hard to give up.

If we’re addicted to pornography,

and we gouge out our right eye,

our addiction will bring us back to the pornography

and we’ll just keep lusting after it

with our left eye.

The thing we need to give up

is the sinful practice itself.


He goes on in Verse 30,

to show that we MUST give it up,

even if it is very difficult for us.


30 And if your right 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 go into hell.


And then Jesus goes on

to talk about another very difficult topic,

where he again lays down a stricter standard

than the Old Testament Law.


31 "It has been said,

'Anyone who divorces his wife

must give her a certificate of divorce.'

32 But I tell you

that anyone who divorces his wife,

except for marital unfaithfulness,

causes her to become an adulteress,

and anyone who marries the divorced woman

commits adultery.


Our secular laws today

allow for divorce on any grounds,

or no grounds at all:  “No fault divorce,” they call it.

But that’s not God’s standard.


Now this isn’t a reason to feel hopeless and to despair

if we’ve gone through a divorce

at some point in our lives.

God is merciful,

and our sins are covered by the blood of Christ,

shed on the cross for us.

Jesus was even merciful to that Samaritan woman at the well

who had had six husbands.


But we have Jesus’ words here

to guide our steps,

and to help us to do the right thing

in the future,

to the best of our ability.


Our Lord continues in Verse 33 to say,

33 "Again, you have heard

that it was said to the people long ago,

'Do not break your oath,

but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.'

34 But I tell you,

Do not swear at all:

either by heaven, for it is God's throne;

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 swear by your head,

for you cannot make even one hair white or black.

37 Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,'

and your 'No,' 'No';

anything beyond this comes from the evil one.


Our Lord continues, in each of these areas, to give us

a higher standard to live up to

than the Old Testament Law.

In Verse 38 he says,


38 "You have heard that it was said,

'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'

39 But I tell you,

Do not resist an evil person.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek,

turn to him the other also.

40 And if someone wants to sue you

and take your tunic,

let him have your cloak as well.

41 If someone forces you to go one mile,

go with him two miles.

42 Give to the one who asks you,

and do not turn away

from the one who wants to borrow from you.


43 "You have heard that it was said,

'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'

44 But I tell you:

Love your enemies

and pray for those who persecute you,

45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

46 If you love those who love you,

what reward will you get?

Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

47 And if you greet only your brothers,

what are you doing more than others?

Do not even pagans do that?

48 Be perfect, therefore,

as your heavenly Father is perfect.


This is a very, very high standard

that our Lord is putting before us.

He wants us to be perfect,

as our heavenly Father is perfect.


When we eventually reach perfection in heaven,

we won’t need any laws to restrain us.


1 Timothy 1:9-10 says,

“Law is made not for the righteous

but for lawbreakers and rebels,

the ungodly and sinful,

the unholy and irreligious;

for those who kill their fathers or mothers,

for murderers, for adulterers and perverts,

for slave traders and liars and perjurers . . .”


And that’s what we’re like in our sinfulness.

That’s why we need laws.


The only way we can ever hope to live up to God’s high standard

is to rely on the Holy Spirit

who Jesus gives

to all who turn to him as Lord and Savior.

The Holy Spirit can help us break free

from strong addictions

and from entanglements with sin—

even those that are harder to give up

than giving up our right eye or our right hand.


Still, we won’t reach perfection in this lifetime.


But, as we read earlier at Jeremiah 31:34,

the New Covenant that Jesus set up

includes this promise from God:

"For I will forgive their wickedness

and will remember their sins no more."


The Apostle John sums it up,

in his first letter—First John.


At 1st John, beginning at Chapter 1, Verse 8, he writes,

8 If we claim to be without sin,

we deceive ourselves

and the truth is not in us.

9 If we confess our sins,

he is faithful and just

and will forgive us our sins

and purify us from all unrighteousness.


God knows how sinful we are.

But, if we confess our sins to God,

he will forgive us.

And he keeps working on us,

to bring us to perfection.

It’s a long, slow process,

but he’s working on each one of us

to help us grow up as children of God.

Someday we will shine brightly in the heavens—

completely free from sin.


But our job now is to put faith in Christ

to save us from our sins,

and to follow him as our Lord and Master,

as he leads us in the way that we should go.