Matthew 5 :17-20
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus takes and an abrupt change here in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has explained to us in the Beatitudes in the first 12 verses which revealed the heart that God wants to give His disciples. Then Jesus continued on in verses 13 through 16 to describe the effect that true disciples have on this world. They become salt and light to those around them. But, then Jesus makes this abrupt change in verse 17 to address what He knows the disciples are thinking. This is why Jesus began by saying, “Think not.” So He's concerned about what they are thinking in their minds about Him, and about His ultimate purpose. Is this message that He has laid out in the Beatitudes, is this a new message, a message that is contrary to the law of God? Therefore, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Here in these few words Jesus is really trying to get and head off an issue that he knows is in the minds of the disciples.
You must understand that there was a great controversy as Jesus began his ministry. There was a controversy in the people's mind about this who this man was and what He taught. There was a controversy among those in the religious establishment of the Pharisees and Sadducees as you read the Gospels. In John 7:12 it says, “There was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, 'He is good'; others said, 'No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.'” So many thought that Jesus was a really a good guy, He was a straight shooter as far as He taught from the Word of God. But, others thought he was a deceiver because of what he taught. John 9:16 explains, “Therefore some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, because he does not keep the Sabbath.' Others said, 'How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?' And there was a division among them.” And so this was the thinking of the people of Christ's day. So, Jesus is trying to head off this issue in the minds of the disciples.
Therefore, what do you think about Christ? Is He a deceiver or the Son of God? Remember, Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). The disciples responded with some of the views of the people of that time, and then Peter came up with this statement, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus acknowledged to Peter, you got it, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father which is in heaven.” So, Jesus was constantly addressing what are they thinking and what was their view of Him. Was He against the law or is He for the law? Was He teaching correctly concerning God's word or not? That's the issue Jesus is addressing in this text. He boldly confronts the issue. “Do not think that I have come to destroy the law and the prophets,'' He said, “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Jesus explains that He has come to fulfill the law.
Throughout the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained what the true intent of the law was, and how He would fulfill it. Look ahead to verse 21, Jesus teaches, “You've heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders shall be in danger of the judgment.” Then He goes on to teach the true intent of this commandment, which was very different from the view of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Jesus taught that the true intent of God when He gave the law was that men should obey these commands from the heart. To obey this command to not murder meant that you must first deal with the hatred and anger in your heart. Jesus made this clear when He said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment” (Matt. 5:22). He also said in verse 27, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.'” The original intent of this commandment was to keep you from lusting in your heart for someone (Matt. 5:28). Adultery will always begin in the heart. So, Jesus is trying to explain the correct intent of the law. These were revolutionary teachings that made people stop and think, Is He correct?
Why did people think that Jesus was out to destroy the law? It was very simple, He didn't keep the Sabbath the way the Pharisees kept it. He didn't follow the external traditions as the Pharisees did. He spent time with sinners that He was trying to reach. Remember, one of the questions that came up during Christ’s ministry was, why don't your disciples wash their hands and go through the ritual cleansing process that the Pharisees do? Why don’t your disciples follow our tradition? Jesus explained to them why they did not and the true intention of the law each time. So, there was this constant question because of the way Jesus was living, and the way he was teaching. Jesus clarified the issue with them. Was it disobedience to the law, or was it disobedience to the tradition of the elders? Which was it? It was the latter. Jesus did not contradict the law, He contradicted the tradition of the elders. He made this very clear. Let me read to you Mark 7 verses 6-9, this is what Jesus said to the Pharisees where He identified the real issue that He wanted to show. It says, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.'” Remember, I already explained to you this is the intent of the Sermon on the Mount is to get at the heart of the disciples. However, this was not where the Pharisees put all of their attention. He also said, “But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men for laying aside the commandment of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and, many other such things you do. All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.”
So, this is the issue Jesus was trying to address, “I have not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it.” Paul also declared that the law was holy, just, and good. Paul made that clear in Romans 7:12. However, he also taught in Colossians 2:8 that the traditions of men were not good, and would actually rob a believer of their true inheritance in Christ. So, it is clear that Jesus was against the tradition of the Pharisees, not against the law of God.
Next, let’s consider how Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Remember, Jesus said that He came not to destroy but to fulfill. How does He fulfill the law?
It is important to understand that there are four aspects to the law. There is the ceremonial law, the civil law, the moral law of God, and there is a prophetic element to the law of God. Jesus either has fulfilled or will fulfill each aspect of the law. Some of the prophetic element of the ceremonial law has been fulfilled, and the rest will be fulfilled in His Second Coming, but all will be fulfilled! Consider that Jesus fulfilled some of the feast days in His first coming such as Passover. In 1st Corinthians 5:7, it declares, “For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us.” So Christ fulfilled the ceremony of the Passover by becoming the Passover Lamb, and being put to death. When? He was put to death at the Passover, so that the disciples would clearly understand what Jesus was accomplishing for them. This act was also a fulfillment of a part of the ceremonial law. He has also fulfilled the feast of first fruits, becoming the first fruits from of those who would rise from the dead. Paul explains in 1st Corinthians 15:20, “But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” So, Jesus fulfilled these ceremonies that prophetically spoke of Him. He will fulfill the remaining ceremonial law in His Second Coming such as the feast of Tabernacles. But, that's another study for a future time.
Jesus fulfilled the civil law and the moral law by obeying the law completely. Remember, Jesus asked the Pharisees in John 8:46, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” Think about it, no one in this room could ever make that assertion. Anybody that lives with you knows that you are a sinner and that you are not perfect. Yet, Jesus could make this point that He had never broken the moral or civil law ever. Do you realize that much of our civil law today is based on the Biblical moral law? However, it's not based solely on Biblical civil law, because much of the civil law was only for the nation Israel and the Jews. But, Jesus fulfilled the civil law and He fulfilled the moral law. He fulfilled the moral and civil law by fulfilling the penalty of that moral law when He died for the sins of the world. So, he fulfilled every aspect of the law. I would encourage you to also read Acts 3:18 and Acts 13:29 which affirm this fact.
How did Jesus fulfill the prophetic element within the law? Many people don't even realize that there are multitudes of prophecies all through the first five books of Moses. One of the most important prophecies that He fulfilled is found in Deuteronomy 18:18. There God said to Moses, “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren, and I will put my words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him” We know that this is a prophecy concerning the Messiah, because this was one of the questions the people asked John the Baptist. They asked in John 1:19; 21, “Who are you?... Are you the Prophet?” John said, “No.” He confessed emphatically in John 1:20, “I am not the Christ.” Then John the Baptist also said in John 1:26-27, “There stands One among you whom you do not know. It is He who, coming after me, is preferred before me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose.” So, clearly people understood this prophecy to refer to the Messiah. Jesus was that ultimate Prophet that was like Moses that was to come and to instruct the people. Jesus thus fulfilled all aspects of the law.
In addition, Jesus said that nothing in the law will fail till all is fulfilled. He said here in Matthew 5:18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Now what are a jot and a tittle? This is important, because Jesus is using an example of hyperbole to make his point. A jot was the smallest Hebrew letter of the alphabet. The tittle was a small accent mark that they would place above the Hebrew letters. Where you place that accent mark would change the meaning of the word. So, Jesus is saying not the smallest letter, not the smallest accent mark will be changed till everything is fulfilled. Now, I believe that that is one of the most powerful statements that Jesus has ever made. And it's a statement that you should put your faith and your hope in His Word. You should have assurance in the faithfulness of God’s Word. Jesus said it another way in Luke 16:17, “It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” He is saying that everything that I have said will come to pass. Not one I have promised will fail. Think about it, our planet is revolving in our solar system, rotating around the sun. Then our solar system is within the Milky Way galaxy rotating through the heavens. Jesus said it easier for all of that to stop than for one word that I have spoken to fail. Note, He is declaring with absolute certainty that not one word, one letter, one ascent mark would fail. Jesus means what He says!
So, do you put your complete faith in God's word that all will come to pass? Are you living your life like you believe it? Or, do you think, Well, I hope He really meant that? I hope it comes to pass? I am not sure, but I hope? I want to encourage you today that you need to put your confidence in the word of God. God has declared it. It will not fail. When you come to God in prayer with this confidence, I'm telling you, there is a big difference in the way you pray. You will have incredible confidence and boldness to petition Him. Or, you will question His promises in your mind as you pray. It all depends on whether you believe the statement that Jesus made here.
If the law is to be fulfilled in every respect – if it is fulfilled ceremonially, civilly, morally and prophetically, then the law is a good thing. Many times I meet people who look at the law as being something. They say, “Oh, I don’t want to have anything to do with the law.” However, the Scripture says the law is very good. It's good, it's holy, it's just, and it will never pass away. In first Timothy 1:8 through 10, there Paul says, “For we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully.” Therefore, the law is a very good thing, if we use it in a lawful way. There are many in the church who use the law in an unlawful way, trying to obtain their salvation by keeping the law. They use the law in a legalistic way. People will state, “I have done this and that and this is what gives me access into the Kingdom.” But, this is an unlawful use of the law that God never intended. The law was not given for a righteous man or to make one righteous, but to show someone that they were unrighteous and in need of a savior. Paul goes on to say, “Knowing this: that the law was not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless for an insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers murders and murderers of mothers, for men slayers, for fornicators, for sodomites [which refers to homosexuals], for kidnappers for liars and for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.”
So what was the intent of the law? It is for those that are not walking with the Lord. It is to show those who are breaking the law – look what you have done – you are under its judgment. What the law does is it drives a person to Christ. In Galatians Paul said that the law of God was intended to be a schoolmaster or a tutor that drives a person to Christ. The law shows a person that they are guilty before God. It reveals to a person that they have broken His law. Therefore, when you meet someone who says to you, “I am really a good person,” you must take them to the law. This is the simplest way to address this deception in anyone’s mind. Just ask them, “Have you ever lied?” If they reply, “Well, yeah.” What does that make you? Their reply should be, “A liar.” Then ask them, “Have you ever stolen anything?” Tell them, what does that make you? Their answer should be, “A thief.” Then ask them if they have ever lusted in their heart?” When they answer yes, tell them that they have broken God’s commandment dealing with adultery. So, do you see my point? When you take anybody to the law, they will always come away agreeing with you that they have broken God’s law – they have broken every one of His laws. That means every one of us in this room have all broken His law.
However, for a righteous man or woman, someone who has come to faith in Christ, they don't need the law. Why? They already see the truth that they have broken His law and have come to their Savior for His forgiveness. Then He fulfills the righteous requirement of the law in them. We will get to that point later in this study.
Now, let’s look at verse 19. This passage is a very difficult to understand. However, it's a passage that you must understand. Jesus declares, “Whoever therefore breaks one of these least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Clearly, Jesus draws a contrast here between those who do and teach His commandments correctly, versus those who do and teach His commandments incorrectly. First, who is Jesus referring to? Primarily this statement is referring to the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of the day. These religious leaders did what was contrary to the law of God, and they taught people to do the same. By teaching their traditions, they were rejecting the Commandments of God. In Matthew 15 verse 3, Jesus asked these leaders, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your traditions?” This was a direct attack at these individuals which revealed that this is no lightweight issue. He was telling them that they were doing what was contrary to the law, and they were teaching men to do that which was contrary to the law. He was saying this was not acceptable. What is important is that we do and teach what is correct. This is something that I am concerned about, and have been all through my ministry, and which the leaders of this church are concerned about. Are we setting up traditions that are contrary to the word of God, which frustrate God's will and purpose? There are plenty of churches that set up their rules and regulations that they demand people fulfill, which are not according to the Scriptures. In other words, they are doing exactly what the Pharisees were doing. So, it is essential that we consider what we are doing and teaching, and whether it is correct and biblical. You should also be concerned about this in your own life.
This statement of Jesus also can address those in the church today who are hyper-legalistic, or those who I would call - hyper-grace-oriented. These are the two extremes in the church today. You have some Christian churches that establish their rules and regulations. If you do this, and you do that, then this is what gains you entrance into the membership of our church, and entrance into the kingdom of God. Then on the other extreme you have people who say you can do whatever you please, you can break any commandment of God, and there is grace to cover it. No matter how evil a person behaves – God’s grace covers it and you still get into the kingdom. I have heard these two extremes throughout my ministry. Both of these issues are addressed by this passage. There are cult groups today that take the grace of God and turn it into a license to sin. In Jude 1:4, he warned the people not to take the grace of God and turn it into a cloak of lasciviousness. In other words, in Jude’s day the teachers were saying, “Do whatever you please, sin as much as you want, grace will cover it.” I remember I had a guy in the early years of my ministry who came up to me one day and said, “Steve, do you really understand the grace of God? I said, “Well, I think I do. It's a pretty gracious thing that God has done, to forgive me.” Then this guy went on to tell me that I could basically do whatever I wanted to do, and that I should enjoy myself. God’s grace would cover it all. I said, “You have an incorrect view of the grace of God. Grace does not give me the freedom to sin; grace gives me the power and freedom not to sin.” Paul was very clear about balancing these issues of grace versus works. He was very clear about turning people away from hyper legalism. It is essential that you keep that balance. Let me read to you a passage where Paul makes gives this perfect balance: In Titus chapter 3 verses seven and eight Paul says, “Having been justified by His grace we have become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to constantly or affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.” Notice that Paul makes the connection between receiving grace and because of that grace maintaining good works. If you have truly been justified by His grace, you have become an heir of eternal life. This justification by faith should cause you to maintain good works. Now, if you reverse that order and someone says, “You have to do these things to obtain God’s grace and favor.” That is putting the cart before the horse. That is backwards. Grace is what enables you to change anything in your life. Grace is not some allowance to get you to get out of having to change or do good works. Grace doesn’t excuse you from change or good works, not at all. Grace enables good works.
Note that Paul said, “I want you to affirm this constantly.” It is an essential message that must be communicated constantly. If you communicate this balance of grace of God to others, then you will be great in the kingdom. So, do you walk in grace? Do you do you teach a correct balance upon grace? That is not just my responsibility, but yours as well. What do you teach your children? What do you teach your friends when they ask you about the responsibilities of one who has received grace? Do you explain the balance? This is very important!
The third point I would like to make concerning this passage is in verse 20. Jesus tells His disciples that their righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. How could this ever be done? I am quite confident that when Jesus said these words to the disciples, I would bet you that the disciples shivered inside. They probably thought to themselves, “Is that even possible to be more righteous than those guys? How can this be?” Because the scribes and Pharisees were hyper-legalistic, and were meticulous about keeping every part of the law, but only externally. They were interested in all of the rules and regulations of each ceremony in a legalistic way. However, Jesus later explained that the Pharisees had missed the weightier matters of the law. They had spent their time with minute details of the law, but forgot what true righteousness was, what love was all about, and how important mercy was to have toward one another. They had missed what was really important. So, when Jesus said, “your righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees, or you can’t enter the kingdom.” The disciples sat up and took notice. That's a very serious issue. I want to make sure I enter the kingdom of heaven. I hope you also want to make sure you enter the kingdom too. Have you ever asked yourself, “Do I have righteousness that will allow me into heaven?” How do you know if you do?
If you want to enter into heaven your righteousness must first be genuine. Genuine righteousness is different than righteousness which is just for show. Remember what Jesus called the Pharisees? He called them hypocrites. Why? They did their righteousness to be seen by men. Notice in Matthew chapter 6 and verses one and two. Jesus warned, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your father in heaven. Therefore, when you do with charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the street, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” Notice also in Matthew 23 verse 13. Jesus said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” So Jesus is making it very clear to these religious leaders that they are in serious trouble and they will not inherit the kingdom of God. Why? Because they are being hypocritical and not genuine. Their righteousness was only for show. How do you know what is genuine righteousness?
Second, if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven your righteousness must inward and from the heart. Jesus made this statement to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 verses 25 and 26. He said, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” So, how can you have true righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees? Well, it must to be something that is inside and not something that's just external. It can’t be righteousness that follows some external legal code. Your righteousness must be something that is from the heart.
Now I have mentioned this point to you several times, and I must mention it again. Go back to Matthew 5 verse 8. Remember, this was the centerpiece of the Beatitudes. What does it say? “Blessed are the pure in heart.” The heart is what Jesus is after. The Sermon on the Mount is a message that wants to change your, not just give you some new legal code. You've got to remember this, because we are going to come back to this point over and over again. Why is this so important? Because there are people who take the Sermon on the Mount and they make it a legal code. They make this sermon a bunch of external rules that you keep without any understanding that God is after a heart attitude that is changed. For example, they take Jesus instruction to turn the other cheek. They ask, how many times do I have to turn the other check, once, twice, or three times? No, Jesus is talking about a heart that doesn’t hate and want retaliation. He's after my heart. We will get to that in our next few studies. But, these instructions are all dealing with issues of the heart. These men inwardly were full of extortion and self-indulgence. That revealed the fact that it was not genuine righteousness. Jesus said, “First cleanse the inside of the cup.” What's He referring to? He's talking about your heart. First get your heart right. So, how do you do that? In First John 1:9 He declared, “If you confess your sins He is faithful and just to forgive you, and to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.” He wants to cleanse you from the inside out. How? It's very simple. All you do is confess your sins, acknowledge that He is your Savior, and be forgiven. And you can obtain this right heart and righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
The last truth I would like to cover with you is how you can possess this true righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. I have just explained to you that this righteousness is something that must be genuine and from the heart. But, how do you get genuine righteousness? This question is essential to answer if you want to enter the kingdom.
This true and genuine righteousness that God wants to give you must be received by faith and not achieved by works. Please take note; this righteous according to God can only be received. How do you know this for sure? One of my favorite passages in all of scripture is Romans 5:17. There Paul said, “For if by one man's offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.” So Paul tells us here how we can reign in life as a Christian. The word reign in this verse means to reign as a victor, king, or to completely govern or control. Paul is telling you how to find victory in your life, to control yourself, and how to experience that victorious Christian life. Notice, he tells you it is found in these two things, receiving abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness. He does not say you must achieve grace, but receive grace. This word receive is also in the present tense which means that you must continually receive God’s abundant grace if you want to reign victoriously in the Christian life. Then He goes on to say and the gift of righteousness. So God’s genuine righteousness is a gift. A gift is something that you don't achieve; it's something that you receive. You can't do enough good things to deserve this gift, because you are constantly falling short of God’s wishes. This is what Paul teaches in Romans 3:23. So, God’s righteousness is something that you just simply receive by faith. Faith is what obtains this true righteousness into the heart. How do we know that faith is the key? In Romans 9:31 and 32, is where Paul explains why those of his countrymen did not obtain the righteousness of God. He said, “But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained the righteousness of the law.” Why? “Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.” There are many that look at the Scripture today, and they stumble at the very same stumbling stone. They are trying to find some legal code to follow, that will give them righteousness before God. Then they find a church that lays out a legal code for them to follow and they think, I have attained, I have achieved. In reality, they have just become a modern day Pharisee. They have stumble at the same stumbling stone that the Jews did. Therefore, you must seek God’s righteousness by faith alone. That is the only way this genuine righteousness can be possessed by you. You must declare in your heart to God, “Lord, I believe what You have said about me. I am a sinner. I believe that you died for me. I believe that if I ask, it shall be given, and so I'm asking right now in faith. Will You come in and take over my life, and fill me with your Spirit and change me.” All this is done by faith. This is what allows you to obtain this true righteousness.
Second, this genuine righteousness that is received by faith as a gift will result in your life by a positive righteousness that is seen in your behavior. Negative righteousness is another one of the problems in church today. What is negative righteousness? It is when a Christian focuses on what they don't do, instead of what they should do. I believe that positive righteousness is the focus of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is attempting to teach the disciples the difference between a negative righteousness and a positive righteousness. Let me just show you this contrasting message in the Sermon on the Mount. In fact, this will be part of our next study. In verse 21, notice the words, “you shall not.” “You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not murder.” Jesus reminds them about one of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament law. Then Jesus gives them the correct understanding of this commandments intent and meaning. He tells them if they don’t want to murder someone they must seek to reconcile with people that have offended them (verses 23-25). Then Jesus said in verse 27. “You have heard that it was said to those of old, you shall not commit adultery.” Then He tells them if you don’t want to commit adultery, you need to positively deal with the lust in your heart – see verses 28-29. It is interesting that if you turn to the end of this chapter, Jesus ends with the statement “you shall” (verse 42 and verse 48). He doesn’t end with “you shall not.” He says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Now, before you say to yourself, “That counts me out. I can't do that.” Oh yes, you can! This word perfect literally means to be mature, or full-grown in integrity and virtue. In other words, Jesus is encouraging them to grow into the integrity and virtue that is in God Himself. Just as your Father is of full age and mature in virtue and integrity so you need to be too. That is exactly what the New Testament teaches. Paul said that we are to be conformed into what? Are you to be conformed into the image of your pastor, your spouse, or your earthy father or mother? No. You are to be conformed into the image of Christ. This will be a daily growth experience into this image. I am to grow into the character, integrity, and virtue of who Christ is. That must be the process you are focused on each and every day. I look at it this way - I am not what I used to be, but I am not yet what I need to be. I need to be more like Him.
Let me show you the positive righteousness that Christ encouraged in some other places in Scripture. In Matthew 22 verses 37 through 40, notice that Jesus said, “You shall.” - “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Jesus gives a positive command concerning what the Disciples should be focused on in their lives. Christ is teaching the same thing here in the Sermon on the Mount. Everything hangs on the law and the prophets. Jesus is telling them that He has come to fulfill the Law and the prophets, and the fulfillment of the positive righteousness of God is to love.
In Romans 13 verses 9 and 10, Paul also revealed that he understood the difference between negative and positive righteousness. He declared, “For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this thing saying namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Why does he contrast these commandments in this way? Notice verse 10, “Because love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” You see, if I have the true righteousness that is of the heart, which comes by faith as a gift through grace, then I am going to be focused on love - on loving the Lord, and loving my neighbor. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. Love fulfills the law.
Now, let me quote one last passage which sums up all that I have said to you. In Romans 8 verses 3 and 4, Paul says, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh”… For what reason? “That the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Where is the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled? “In us.” In other words, those who are walking in and yielding to the Holy Spirit are going to experience God fulfilling inside of you this inner righteousness. Now if you walk in the Holy Spirit, what is the fruit of the Spirit? It is Love! Jesus fulfilled the law and He will come and fulfill righteous requirement inside of you by the power of the Holy Spirit. That is what Romans 8 is all about. It is about how the Holy Spirit getting a hold of your life, and how He transforms you. How He changes your heart, He changes your thinking, and He causes you to walk in the Spirit. This is what the Christian life is all about. This is the simplicity of how all this takes place. Paul said in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Why is this the result of the Spirit inside of you? You are being transformed inside. He is changing you from the inside out. He is fulfilling in you the righteous requirement of the law, which is love. Remember the context of this sermon. You have come to Him in poverty of spirit. You know you are empty and poverty stricken spiritually. You have mourned for your sin. You are hungry and thirsty inside for righteousness - true righteousness. He fills you with the love of God by the Holy Spirit who lives in you. The transformation is under way. Let him do all that He intends to do.
Let's go to the Lord - Father, we thank You that You are the One who is fulfilling Your good work inside of us. Lord, I pray for my brothers and sisters that are there trying to achieve something that You want them to simply receive. I pray that You would open their heart to see that striving by their own effort to achieve your righteousness is a lost cause. You want to give to them as a gift by your grace Your righteousness. You want to do Your transforming work in them by your Holy Spirit. Father, I pray that you would bring that revelation to every heart that is listening and praying with me right now. Your grace is sufficient to change us and to transform us. Grace is not to give us an excuse for sin, but You give grace and power to overcome our sins. Lord, I pray that You empower each of us at this very moment. Work within Your people - Thank You, Father.