Monday, November 25, 2019

Brogden's Books

A famous preacher once said that the eye never tires of seeing something new. While new books by new authors can be valuable sources of insight and encouragement, we are poorer if we neglect the saints who went before us, when persecution was a constant threat.

Brogden’s Books is my humble effort to bring some older works back to life, in modern English and style, for the 21st century reader. These books will cover a variety of topics, doctrines, and periods in history - in paper, Kindle, and ePub formats.

Please check back from time to time to see what’s new - from the old, dead guys who faced many of the same issues we do, and have far fewer tools to work with while researching and writing.

Pick up and read!

Here are the first three books offered:


The History of the Sabbath, Peter Heylyn: https://www.amazon.com/History-Sabbath-Peter-Heylyn/dp/0998655929

Gospel Blessedness of the New Covenant, Thomas Collier: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0998655910

Ill News From New England, John Clark: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0998655937

This book isn't old and the author ain't quite dead :-) https://www.amazon.com/Captive-Word-God-Particular-Perspective/dp/194569811X

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Man in Romans 7


The Man in Romans 7

In order to rightly understand what Paul taught in the latter part of Romans 7, we need to understand how he described two groups of people earlier in this epistle.

In Rom 3 & 4, Paul is teaching his kinsmen of the flesh why being Jewish is not enough, how children of promise are true Jews. In Rom 5:1-5 he is teaching - again - how those Jewish Christians were reconciled to God: righteous in faith, rejoicing in Christ and our afflictions, grounded in love, and possessed by the Holy Spirit.

In what follows in chapter 5 is an ongoing contrast between unconverted Jews and converted Jews, with an abbreviated history of sin - contrasting the first and last Adams. Throughout this chapter, the redeemed are described as righteous, justified, full of grace, saved from wrath, reconciled to God, having eternal life. The unconverted are described as helpless, ungodly, enemies of God, dead in sin, under judgment, condemned. Quite a difference - worth noting.

Chapter 6 is a continuation of Paul's argument from the previous chapters, where he encourages the redeemed Jews (this is still his primary audience) are exhorted to walk in grace, not sin. These people are called dead to sin, joined with Christ, crucified with Christ, free from sin, alive to God, under grace, slaves of obedience and righteousness. He tells them - and us - not to let sin reign in our mortal bodies, for, he says, "sin will not rule over you because you are not under law but under grace." (vs 14) We have new fruit resulting in sanctification and eternal life; we have a new master, grace - no longer slaves to master sin.

The unconverted man in Romans 6 has everything in common with his counterpart in chapter 5; he is in bondage and domination of sin, a slave to sin, ruled by death, obedient to sin, unrighteous, and ruled by sin; under law. This man is obedient to sin, under law not grace, a slave to sin - leading to death, weak in the flesh, morally impure, lawless, producing the fruit of death. Sin is his master, not grace.

The contrast between the unconverted sinner and the redeemed sinner is striking and it's consistent: the one man is fleshly and full of sin, under the law and breaking the law; the other man is full of the Holy Spirit, rejoicing in all things, dead to sin and the law, producing good fruit unto eternal life.

A couple of observations: contextually, Paul has been describing his kinsmen of the flesh. The man in Romans 7 is a Jew, even though all people can identify with the spiritual struggle portrayed. The pious Jew  would see God's law, instructions, Scriptures as good and holy even while he would be unable to comply with them.

When we then read about the man in Romans 7:13-24, who does he sound like? Let's look at a list:

vs 13: dead, sinful
vs 14: of flesh, sold into sin's power
vs 15 & 16: double minded
vs 17: full of sin
vs 18: no ability to do good
vs 19 -21: captive to evil
vs 22: he agrees, he knows the law of God is good
vs 23: he is a prisoner of sin
vs 24: he is a wretched man

While you and I see some of our Christian life in what Paul wrote about in this passage, it's clear that this man has nothing in common with the redeemed man Paul described in chapter 5 & 6; but he has everything in common with the unconverted man in those chapters.  The context of the epistle indicates Paul is describing a Jew, not a Gentile, and a Jew that is struggling under a law he knows is good but without the ability to obey from the heart and produce good fruit unto eternal life. The man in Romans 7 does not have the Holy Spirit, but he is of the flesh, captive to evil, a slave to sin, producing fruit unto death.

The change to present tense does not mandate the view that Paul has changed course and began talking about himself as a Christian. It may very well be nothing more than a literary device to make the plight of the man all the more gripping. He is in a very dangerous condition! Present tense does not mandate the view that this man is Paul as a Christian. The description of the man and the larger context of the epistle provide a more sure guide to interpret this passage.

As with all Scripture, we learn from this passage. But we have no more reason to insert ourselves into this passage than we do with Jeremiah 29:11.

If you disagree with this assessment, fine. I do not intend to argue about it here.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Romans 2 Teaches New Covenant Theology


Romans 2:12-16 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

(Note: what follows is not a complete exegesis of this passage; it is focused review of the stated topic.)

A casual read of this paragraph has caused many to get confused about Paul’s use of the term “the law;” it requires careful thought and analysis of what he is saying here and what is revealed elsewhere. Much of Paul’s use of “the law” is clearly meant to refer to the Mosaic Covenant and the Law of Moses. Those without the law are Gentiles: everyone who was not a Jew in Paul’s day, and includes all people in all ages who were not part of national Israel. It was clearly Paul’s kinsmen of the flesh who had “the law” in this paragraph.

Lost Gentiles are not without a law; God’s universal law convicts them of certain truths. We in the New Covenant are not without law; but we are not within the Law of Moses.

James gives the same counsel as Paul: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25) We see reference to a different law than that of Moses; one that is given to the church, not national Israel. He picks this up again in chapter two, My brothers, do not show favoritism as you hold on to the faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ. (James 2:1) Indeed, if you keep the royal law prescribed in the Scripture, Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well. But if you show favoritism, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. (James 2:8-9) This phrase, love your neighbor as yourself, is the second great command, taken from Lev 19:18. It is the other side of the coin which also conveys the greatest command: You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, cited from Deuteronomy 6:5. On these two commands, neither taken from the Decalogue, hang the Law and the prophets – all the scripture then in hands of man. This shows us that while the Law of Moses is not our master, certain truths that apply to all of God’s people are found in his books. Jesus draws out two and declares them to be supreme to the Old Covenant, the essence of the New Covenant – love for God and one another; love as defined and portrayed in the Bible, not as our culture as deceitfully defined it these past few centuries.

Paul clarifies this in his letter to the Galatians, wherein he gives another term for the perfect law, the law of liberty, the royal law. These are not different laws we must figure out, they are different terms for the same divine concept, in simplicity for those in Christ, contrasted to the endlessly complex scheme developed by the nation of Israel. The New Covenant is contrasted with the Old Covenant in several places, the most familiar one being in Hebrews 8 where the old covenant is described as obsolete and ready to vanish. In Galatians 4 the old covenant is described as earthly Jerusalem and represents slavery while the new covenant is heavenly new Jerusalem wherein lies liberty. We, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise, children of the free woman. And our apostle gives us clear counsel on how to keep this law. Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2) This is the love of God expressed in the body of Christ – we love Him by loving one another, and this is an example of biblical love – confronting a brother caught in sin. Not exactly what the world presents as love, is it?

While only the redeemed truly love God, even we are unable to love Him with all that is within us, as the first commandment requires. In the age to come, unstained and not tempted by sin, we will be able to fulfill this law. We can, however, love one another because Christ first loved us. This must be a deliberate focus as our fleshly desires will work against us. There can be no fatalistic “let go and let God” into our lives for He tells us to work out our own salvation (here meaning the present tense “being saved” that characterizes our daily walk) with fear and trembling. As one preacher put it years ago, “The path of least resistance makes both man and rivers crooked.” Seek after the Lord – He will make your pathway straight!

You will hear simple rules such as “if it’s not repeated in the NT it applies” and its corollary, “if it’s not repealed by the NT it applies.” These are easy to remember but not at all accurate. Tithing is seen before the Mosaic Covenant and required during it, including those Jews who lived in last century of that covenant, during Paul’s time. Such activity is taken note of the NT but not once is tithing taught by word or example as a New Covenant rule. Without understanding the rule of covenants, one cannot comprehend what rules apply. As Martin Luther summed it up, we follow Christ Jesus, not Moses – and Moses stands with us, accusing those who think their feeble attempts at keeping the Law of Moses will merit favor with YHWH (John 5:45).

The ancient preacher agrees with his New Testament brothers. He gave this advice as the sum of all he had written: The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Jesus said the same thing: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’  Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’  And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”  (Matthew 25:31-46)

Note these tangible actions of loving one another in Christ. This is fulfilling the law of Christ, the law of liberty, the royal law – the focus being on truly loving one another within the body of Christ in response to being loved by Him. This is the same thing Paul, James, and Peter have taught.

After feeding the five thousand, many followed after Him because He fed them. Seek after the food that leads to eternal life, He told them. They then asked Him What must we do to be doing the works of God? (John 6:29) Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”  This is the law of Christ – believe in Him, love Him, love one another.

Many Christians are struggling to keep the Law of Moses, having a faulty guide for interpreting Scripture. The right view of man and his need of Christ, with the biblical record of the faithfulness and sufficiency of Christ Jesus will provide the guardrails we need to keep from thinking the heavy yoke of the Old Covenant is ours. Acts 15:10 has Peter rebuking Jewish Christians who taught this: Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? Jesus, on the other hand, said Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

There is an old covenant, and old law, and a heavy yoke that was given on stone tablets to a people with stone hearts who worshipped in a stone temple. There is a new covenant with an easy yoke, a spiritual law written on tablets of flesh, given to people with hearts of flesh who worship as a spiritual temple; our Savior bids us find our rest in Him.

All will be made plain on the day of judgment, when God brings this age to its end.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Better than Passover



This evening, we will compare and contrast the Lord’s Supper with the Passover given to national Israel. So many things given to the Old Covenant people point to partial or final fulfillment in what has been given to New Covenant people - they are there to teach about and point us to Christ. They are intended to give us a richer understanding of how the Bible fits all things together and has a deeper meaning than a superficial read can provide.

The Lord's Supper is given to God's people in the New Covenant as the sign of that covenant (Luke 22:19-20), just as the weekly Sabbath was given to God's people in the Mosaic Covenant as the sign of that covenant (Exod. 31:12-18; Ezek. 20:11-20). In Ex 31, national Israel was commanded to keep the weekly Sabbath for it was a sign between Him and them. In 1 Cor 11 we are told that the Lord’s Supper is a declaration of His victorious death, whereby He conquered sin on our behalf. While the sign of the Old Covenant could be seen and practiced by anyone, the sign of the New Covenant cannot be understood or practiced by anyone unless they have been born again by God.

The Lord's Supper is connected to the last Passover (Matt 26:17-30), observed in conjunction with weekly fellowship meal (Acts 2:42; 20:7) Just as the Passover meal signified the passing-over of the angel of death, so the Lord’s Supper signifies the passing through death of our Savior.

The first Passover anticipated the redemption of ethnic Israel from the bondage of Egypt (Deut 16:1). The first Lord’s Supper anticipated the redemption of spiritual Israel from the bondage of sin (1 Cor 11:23-26). The annual Passover reminded ethnic Israel of the freedom from Egypt their God had given them. The regular observance of the Lord’s Supper reminds spiritual Israel of the freedom from sin their Savior has given them.

The Passover was the covenant meal of the Old Covenant (Ex 12:17). The Lord’s Supper is the covenant meal of the New Covenant. The Passover was a mostly bitter meal, reminding the Jews of their time of want and the faithful provision of their God. The Lord’s Supper was usually observed after a fellowship meal, reminding the children of God of His provision of food for the body and the soul and the faithfulness of the One Who said He would return.

The Passover was observed with family or close friends within the covenant community (Exod 12:43-49). The Lord’s Supper is observed with all who are in Christ, within the local fellowship of saints.

The Old Covenant required observance of certain religious rites for membership: make circumcision, weekly rest from work, the Passover, occasional monthly and annual feast days. Faith in God, belief in the promised seed was not required for membership – only observance of a few religious rites. Those who fail to observe these rites were cut off from the covenant community. This is termed “formalism” and it is a sign of dead religion and must be guarded against within the local fellowship of saints.

The New Covenant requires the application of one truth: you must be born again by the Spirit of God; you must be circumcised of the heart, done without human hands (Col 2:11). Faith in the promised seed is required for membership – no one can enter the wedding feast of the Lamb without the required clothes (Matt 22:12) – the righteousness of Christ! Failure to participate in the fellowship of the saints and the observation of the Lord's Supper neglect the care of their own souls and could be cut off from the New Covenant community until such time repentance might be granted.

Jewish parents used the Passover to teach their children about YHWH and their physical redemption. Christian parents should use the Lord’s Supper to teach their children about the redemptive death of Jesus and the need to believe on Him to be delivered from sin. Belief in God and the promised seed was not a requirement to eat the Passover. Belief on the promised Seed is a requirement to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Great teaching opportunity.

If people did not prepare for the initial Passover as directed, they would die (Ex 12:12-13). If Christians take the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner, they may die (1 Cor 11:27-30). This is the most graphic reminder that only believers are permitted to take this ordinance seriously. As the people in the Old Covenant taught their children about the need for YHWH's redemption from Egypt and His faithful provision thereof, so parents in the New Covenant should teach their children about their need for redemption from sin and Jesus' faithful provision to save. Both ordinances given the New Covenant community are great teaching opportunities for those who have not been brought near by the blood of Christ; and they are great teaching opportunities for all who have been redeemed, as we each need to be reminded of what He has done on our behalf, lest we drift into thinking little of sin and of His payment for it.

See Luke 24:35 – He opened their eyes when He broke the bread. He vanished from their presence after opening their eyes of faith. This served the same purpose for these two as His ascension does for all the saints - He departed from this world to send the Spirit as we learn to walk by faith and not by sight. Pagan religions require a god they can see and handle, because they walk by sight and not faith.

Paul tells us that Jesus was our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7), showing us the Passover is not a continuing observance, but a ceremonial shadow or type that pointed God’s people to the promised seed who would save His people from their sin. The Lord’s Supper has connections to the Passover but is itself the sign of a better covenant (Luke 22:20 & Hebrews 8:6).

Jesus is our (believers’) Passover (1 Cor 5:7): Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast permeates the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch. You are indeed unleavened, for Christ our Passover has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us observe the feast, not with old yeast or with the yeast of malice and evil but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. The call is to remember our need of salvation, the spiritual application of the temporal redemption given national Israel on their first Passover. No room for boasting within the New Covenant except for the cross of Christ. We are called to not tolerate the mixing of Old Covenant bondage or unbelievers (those infected with malice and evil) within the body of Christ; but welcome only those who are possessed by sincerity and truth.

This ordinance belongs exclusively to the gospel age, being typified in several Old Testament passages, such as when Melchizedek brought wine and bread to refresh Abram and his warriors who had just defeated several pagan kings (Genesis 14:17-20). Even so, we who are born again by the will of God are immediately at war with our flesh, the system of the world and its present ruler. Christ gives us spiritual nourishment with this simple symbol, the bread and wine of the Lord's Supper, of His victory over sin and death and hell and Satan. 'Tis a far, far better respite than what Melchizedek gave Abram. We see another reference to this church ordinance in Proverbs 9:1-6, as lady wisdom bids God's people come to the table she has set, bread and wine, for refreshment and refuge from lure of the culture which wars against our souls.

And read the prophet Isaiah on this topic: On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” (Isaiah 25:6-9)

This is the message of the Lord's Table: “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

This is just one aspect of how the OT points to spiritual things. Think about how rich the entire OT is in its revelation of Christ; that was the Scripture from which Jesus and the apostles preached the gospel to the first century world.

While the Bible does not explicitly command us on the frequency, we do see a narrative showing it was an important part of their weekly gatherings, some 30 to 40 years after Pentacost. Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight (Acts 20:7). One author (Terrance O’Hare) observed: “Most commentators agree that this was a Sunday evening meeting, at a recurring gathering of Christians on the first day of the week following their normal activities and work. [Note: this was before Christianity was legal and before Sunday was a regular day off for workers.] They came together in order to break bread. This does not mean that preaching was secondary, but when they came together, they purposed to commune in the symbolism of the covenant meal as the Lord had commended and as the apostles has established by tradition." We should no more neglect the Lord’s Supper than the Israelites did their Passover.

While Scripture does not tell us how frequently to observe this ordinance, it does command us to take it, revealing that it is nourishing to our souls, enhances our fellowship. This puts a new light on this question about frequency; perhaps the question for some should be, why don't we take this ordinance more frequently? The commonly discussed down-side to observing this ordinance regularly is that it can (they often mean will) become routine, dull, meaningless. That was my first thought when I served in a church that took the Lord’s Table weekly. My time at that church showed me that, properly handled, the weekly observance of this ordinance is not routine, dull, or meaningless. If Christ be rightly presented, if we are put in our place of coming to Him with gratitude, in humility, aware of our not-yet status of being conformed to Him, then this simple ordinance is what God intended it to be, bringing glory to the Father through the Son and building up His people spiritually.

The beloved Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, declared, “Shame on the Christian Church that she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread, and showing forth the death of Christ til He comes.” Throughout the history of the church, weekly observance of the Lord's Supper has been the traditional practice, ably supported by the Word of God.

The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10:16)

When we take the cup of the Lord's Supper, we should remember the cup of wrath He took on our behalf. The cup we hold is a symbol of the glorious benefit of being redeemed by His sacrifice, so we thank our God for His grace while we also soberly remember the price that was paid. No small price; He drank the cup of wrath and shed His blood to secure our redemption. As we drink the cup of His peace, the New Covenant, we do drink vicariously the cup of wrath. When we eat the bread or cracker, which is broken in remembrance of His atoning death, we participate vicariously in the death He died. This is why Paul said Galatians 2:19-20: For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. This is what is real – our spiritual life. It is what is eternal.

Whenever we take this ordinance, let us seek out those within this fellowship whom we have sinned against or who has sinned against us and seek true reconciliation as the Lord's Supper represents unity that can only exist by those indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Warnings to the Saints - Luke 12:1-12


Warnings to the Saints, Luke 12:1-12


In a sermon from Hebrews 12, Martyn Lloyd-Jones advised us to not go the Bible only for comfort. Go to the Bible expecting God to confront you and argue against false belief and false peace. David wrote as much in Psalm 119:75 I know, LORD, that Your judgments are just and that You have afflicted me fairly. Our passage today is such a place. The focus of this passage is warning the saints against errors; Luke did not make a record here of how to be saved; these warnings are not given to those outside the family of God. The warnings build up the doctrine of the humility of the saints, reminding us in Whom our sufficiency lies. The video hymn was selected to put this fact in front of us: “Why was I made to hear Thy voice, And enter while there's room; When thousands make a wretched choice, And rather starve than come?” The only answer is God’s sovereign choice; we deserve nothing good from Him.

In last week's sermon we learned about the hypocrisy of the false, external religion, which could be summed up as, "Do what I say, not as I do" as shown in Luke 11:46 - And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers. That exchange with the religious leaders caused a stir and many people clamored to see more from this prophet we confronted the Jewish leaders, but Jesus wanted to use the lesson to teach His close disciples something deeper.

1. Warning against hypocrisy. Luke 12:1 In the meantime, when so many thousands of the people had gathered together that they were trampling one another, he began to say to his disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.

As we have been seeing in our walk through Luke’s gospel, there were often large crowds following after Jesus. As we sometimes read about in our news, in large crowds it’s not uncommon for people to knock others down and trample one another. This is the common disregard for fellow man that is displayed in the perceived anonymity of a large mob. Jesus does not address this crowd in this scene – He turned to His close disciples and warned them about the hypocrisy of the Jewish religious leaders. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees was their self-righteousness. Recall the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector: one prayed publicly, in superficial terms; the other humbly cried out for mercy, knowing he needed mercy. This problem is ours as well – we tend to think of ourselves too highly and think of sin too lightly. Self-righteous church-folk are modern Pharisees: comfortable in their traditions and not wanting to be confronted with the truth of God's Word.

Perhaps this is why our prayer life is superficial, virtually overwhelmed with physical concerns – about many who are not even part of this fellowship. Do we spend our time and attention praying and asking for prayers about physical to crowd out the nagging suspicion that we need the grace of God today, to be broken over our own sin? When we pray together, how seldom do we pray for, or ask for prayers, about spiritual matters, for the salvation of loved ones? Physical matters are not unimportant, but they are secondary. If our souls be unhealthy, that is far more critical than our physical bodies. “If your eye offend you, For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” Stark teaching such as this is meant to show us how the spiritual is more important than the physical.

In Matt 16 we see His close disciples in a boat with Jesus, as He warns them about the leaven of the Pharisees. They thought He was griping about the fact they had not thought to bring any bread on the trip. Those closest to Him while He walked this earth had trouble understanding the danger of the false teaching among them – doctrines they were taught from their youth, things they had taken as truth all their lives. Just as countless Baptists do, having been brought up in “church-life” and “knowing” what is true. How much of what we know is mere tradition, just as it was with the Pharisees? In our passage Jesus accuses the Pharisees of hypocrisy – claiming to be someone you ain’t and leading others astray with false doctrines. This is a common problem in our day, as we can be deceived and not know it. This is why we are to examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith; this means to make sure we are resting in the finished work of Christ, not trusting in our works. This is why God gives us to one another in the local fellowship so we can live together to the degree we can know one another well. This is important, as we learn in the next piece of our text.

2. Second Warning against hypocrisy. Verses 2&3 There is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered, nothing hidden that won’t be made known. Therefore, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in an ear in private rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops.

A hypocrite who is not self-deceived will say one thing in public and another in the quiet darkness he shares with a very few. We all think we can get away with stuff (we don’t call it sin) and there’s no harm or foul if we don’t get caught. Perhaps the most common example of this is seen in how we drive. I can drive 5 MPH over the speed limit and be safe. Most of the time you can travel 10 MPH over the speed limit and not be pulled over. As long as you aren’t stopped for speeding, no problem! Yet we are otherwise very much in favor of laws – against murder, robbery, and such. Yet God has said, 1 Peter 2:13-15 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good. For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. Ya gotta love Peter’s pen – it is God’s will we silence foolish people by doing good. We don't earn God's approval by obedience, but we have no excuse for disobedience to God or to human authorities, because they are established by God.

Here's another example of hypocrisy. There's a TV show: The Secret Lives of the Super Rich. It shows the outrageously expensive stuff that owns them, trying to make viewers envious. But the news reports show us real world glimpses into some of the debauchery super rich and powerful people engage in. While many witnesses die and these wealthy, powerful people escape the nation's court system, there is a Judge Who sees all and has perfect justice. We might think these people are like the white-washed cups Dexter mentioned last Sunday, full of indescribable wickedness. In fact, those who claim to be reconciled to God and rely on their own efforts to please Him are MORE wicked than reprobates who make no such claims. Such was the standing of the prideful Pharisees. All will be fully revealed on the day Christ Jesus returns to judge the nations; everything done in secret will be made known; every private whisper proclaimed publicly. We need to live as though we believe this.

John 3:19-21 - And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.  But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God. This is Jesus' commentary on man's natural condition: loving his sin and the darkness that hides it from other men; failing to rightly fear God, from Whom NOTHING is hidden. This is the leaven of the Pharisees from every era - hypocrisy and no fear of God. Such should not be so among us!

3. Warning against fear of man. Verses 4-7 “And I say to you, My friends, don’t fear those who kill the body, and after that can do nothing more. But I will show you the One to fear: Fear Him who has authority to throw people into hell after death. Yes, I say to you, this is the One to fear! Arent five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten in God’s sight. Indeed, the hairs of your head are all counted. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows! 

If we're honest, we all fear something or someone, just as we all worship something or someone. An author wrote, years ago: There is a God Who is and there is a god we want. They are not the same! The God Who is knows all things and, by His hand of providence, controls all things. He throws unrepentant sinners into hell - they don't choose that destination. Fear Him - not as His enemies do, but as the angels do.

Angels get no mercy or forgiveness for sin; this is why they long to look into these things - how the gospel was preached by ancient prophets for the benefit of those who would come much later (1 Peter 1:10-12). A third of the angelic realm was thrown down from heaven because they rebelled against God. No second chance, no forgiveness; only a fearful expectation of fierce judgment and a fury of fire that will consume His enemies. That same warning of judgment is given to men who continually trample the grace of God (Heb 10:26-27), which ought to give each of us reason to examine ourselves – do we truly trust in Christ?

Since God knows of every bird that falls, knows every hair on our heads; how can we live as though He doesn't know every sin we commit in word, thought, or deed? To fear God means we live in recognition of Who He is – almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful, creator, sustainer, and judge. Since we all stumble in many ways, it is double foolish to think we don’t need one another if we are to walk obedient fear of God. He calls us together, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:12-16)

So with men who can make our lives miserable, we must remember the One Who was made miserable for us. We can fear man and what he can do or we can fear God and what He can do. If we fear man, there is no refuge from God; if we fear God, He is our refuge from man.

4. Warning against shrinking back. Verses 8-10 “And I say to you, anyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God, but whoever denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

This is closely tied to our previous point. One aspect of fearing man is we would be fearful of proclaiming Christ. In our day, so many people have grown up “in church” that they think they are Christian by default. Many know nothing about the Bible, care nothing for things of God or His people – yet claim to love Jesus, despite their gross ignorance of Him. These people are difficult to evangelize because we fear upsetting them. We must bear in mind: it is not our call to convert people or convince people; our calling is to proclaim Him. The word “acknowledge” (used in the ESV) means to confess (as in the KJV and ASB) or profess. It is to be known as His and make His excellencies known, trusting the Holy Spirit to do what only He can do – save wretched sinners.

Jesus Goes out of His way here to establish an important truth: The Christian God, the true God, is triune. The common view in national Israel was that God was one and only one. This is one of the stumbling blocks they had in accepting Jesus as the Son. Also, they had very little understanding of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is pulling back the veil a little to show them God as He is. In these three verses Jesus establishes the personhood of all three members of the trinity. The Son confesses His people to God the Father and declares that, while all manner of sin can be forgiven, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not. Each of the members of the God-head are jealous for one another. The Son proclaimed the Father in His ministry (John 12:49-50 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.”). The Father glorified the Son (Matthew 17:5 “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”). The Holy Spirit also glorifies the Son (John 16:14 He [the Holy Spirit] will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. And in our text, Jesus declares that everything spoken against Him can be forgiven, but blasphemy of the Spirit will not. The Holy Spirit’s role is to convict the world of sin and guide and teach the people of God about the Lord Jesus. He does not seek His own glory. So the Son stands up for the Spirit.

What is, then, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Luke 11:14-18: Now He was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon came out, the man who had been mute, spoke, and the crowds were amazed. But some of them said, “He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons!” And others, as a test, were demanding of Him a sign from heaven. Knowing their thoughts, He told them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls. If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say I drive out demons by Beelzebul.

It's not merely speaking against the Holy Spirit that Jesus was warning against; it is ascribing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit. It may be because the Spirit does not testify about Himself that the Son has made it all the more vital that we know the role of the Holy Spirit and honor and worship Him as God.

We are herein warned to not grow complacent about declaring Christ to the world and to be careful to honor God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit.

5. Encouragement to Trust God. Verses 11 & 12 Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.”

Again, we see a strong connection with the previous verses: do not fear man; fear God. Here we get a word of encouragement, of comfort. Previously we were told to fear God because He has the power to throw people into hell. Here we are told to trust God (do not worry about those people!) because the Spirit of God will give us the message. This was fulfilled for Paul, as he wrote in 2 Timothy 4:16-17 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. When Paul first came under attack, no men came to his aid. Note this – he did not blame them! His trust was in God and it was God Who gave him the gospel message to fully proclaim the glories of Christ so all could hear.

The context here is explicitly Jewish; this word was spoken directly to His fellow Jews. The application is universal, as we see throughout Scripture that the world will hate the saints and we will be persecuted. The point is not the historical context of synagogues and the intricacies of the Jewish theocracy; the point is to not be concerned about man, including what they think of us. The natural man cannot comprehend why we have the priorities we do; the gospel that is their only hope is foolishness in their eyes. We cannot save them, and keeping quiet so they don’t think us fools is something we’ve been warned not to do.

Trust God (all three persons) to be your wisdom in every circumstance in which you are tested. We are not to trust in our own wisdom or skill when preaching or teaching nor when being attacked on main street for believing on Christ Jesus. Confess Christ as Lord, profess Him as the Savior of sinners. Be consistent, in your prayers and in your public speech: Jesus Christ is Lord and King, come to Him all who are weary!

Application. John came out of the wilderness preaching judgment on his fellow Jews, telling these vipers to repent and flee the wrath to come. He warned them not to put stock in their fleshly lineage, as YHWH is able to raise up children of Abraham from rocks. In the Kingdom he announced, neither having Abraham as your father nor having Christians as your parents grants one entrance. The ax was being laid to the root, as every tree not bearing fruit would be cut down and burned.

After a short sermon, the people wondered if John was the Christ. He told them that water baptism was not the point, but baptism with the Holy Spirit by the Christ was. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.

So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.

Good news for sinners is not news that comforts them in their sin. The good news from God rebukes the self-righteous man, warns him to flee the wrath of God, and confronts him with the glorious truth of the true Christ.

If you seek to make sinner comfortable, you are aligned with the hypocrites. If you seek to present the glorious Christ, warning people to believe on Him, to repent of their sin, and flee to Him, you are aligned with the humble servants of God. We preach Christ crucified, not a program or a building. Seek to please Him - for He has the keys to eternal life.

Remember David, a man beloved by God. Jumped into horrendous sin with both feet. Was blinded by his own lust. Took what was not his, violated who he took, killed her husband. Yet he was not abandoned by the God who had set His unchanging love upon him. The faithful One sent a man to love David unto the truth. After Nathan confronted David, he wrote Psalm 51, in which we see a contrite man, broken over his sin, pleading with God to have mercy on him, to blot out his sin, wash him, create a clean heart and renew a right spirit in him. He cried out for God to Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.

This is the confidence we can have IF we have been born from above by the Spirit of the living God.

That video hymn, written by Isaac Watts around 1700, ends with this prayer to God: “Pity the nations, O our God! Constrain the earth to come; Send Thy victorious Word abroad, And bring the strangers home. We long to see Thy churches full, That all the chosen race May with one voice, and heart, and soul, Sing Thy redeeming grace.” That should be the constant desire of our hearts – may the Lord give His desire to see all of His chosen ones saved and the willingness to declare His gospel to every creature.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Better Than Moses


Better than Moses, Matt 5:17ff


(Note: the audio has bits that are not in the notes.)

The Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5 - 7 in Matthew's gospel. The context is shortly after His temptation and the very beginning of His public ministry. Large crowds had begun to follow Him. Matthew 5:1-2 When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. Then He began to teach them. "Disciples" in this setting refers to the large crowds that followed Jesus from time to time; these people were not His 12 that we read of later.

After telling them about the characteristics of the people in His kingdom (the beatitudes, salt and light, city on a hill), Jesus abruptly shifts gears. He begins to transition into His main point: He is not just a prophet, He is greater than the greatest prophet YHWH had ever raised up. Here’s how He is compared in Hebrews 3:5-6 Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s household, as a testimony to what would be said in the future. But Christ was faithful as a Son over His household. And we are that household if we hold on to the courage and the confidence of our hope. To be that household mean we are sons. Paul tells us we are no longer servants but sons of God; and since we are sons, we are heirs (Gal 4:7). What a contrast! Moses is described as faithful servant; Jesus is termed the faithful Son over the household of God. And we are sons of God through faith in Christ. This is the hinge-point of the Sermon on the Mount: Jesus unveiling Himself to pious Jews who desired to see the Messiah.

Matthew 5:17-20 (HCSB) “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so 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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."

I. Jesus said He did not come to destroy the Law OR the Prophets. The phrase "the Law AND the Prophets" is a normal reference to the entire collection of Scripture known to the Jews, our "Old Testament." Jesus used a different phrasing, as if to separate Moses from the rest of the leaders of national Israel. This is to heighten the contrast between Moses and Christ.

Jesus was speaking to Jews, their lives were ruled by Moses' Law. Jesus is the fulfillment of every type portrayed in the Old Covenant - whether prophet, priest, judge, or king. The Law of Moses and all the prophets pointed to the promised Seed. He is the fulfillment of all of them. He was born under the law (Gal 4:4). He completed His work of redemption (John 19:30). He came to fulfill all righteousness (Matt 3:15). He blotted out the written ordinance (Col 2:14). Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all who believe (Rom 10:4). In Christ we have been brought near to God by the blood of Christ; He tore down the wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile, abolishing the law of commandments (this clearly refers to the Mosaic Law) (Eph 2:12-15). This word, abolish, does not mean the law was removed from Scripture, as if it no longer exists. As covenant law between God and national Israel, that which kept them separate from other nations, it was abolished; the Mosaic Covenant and its law were brought to their planned end by the redemptive work of Christ. He did not come to destroy it, but to bring about its predetermined end. By His redemptive work, the Law was fulfilled - for the promised seed had met every requirement of that Law.

But some say the Law of Moses is still in effect, why? A friend of mine used to say that humans are hard-wired for works righteousness; we naturally love to show off how good we are, at least in our own eyes. This is a dangerous way to live and it’s deadly theology. Paul dealt with folks who were drifting into this perspective in Galatia. Galatians 3:2-3 I only want to learn this from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Not only cannot you not begin your Christian life by law-keeping, you cannot complete it by law-keeping!

In the ditch on the other side of the road, there are some who care not enough about the Word of God that they are willing to unhinge the Law and the Prophets from Christian life. I heard one fellow Baptist say he would be happy if the Ten Commandments were thrown in the trash. Paul tells us the Law of Moses served a purpose - not to bring about righteousness but to show the power of sin. This makes the need of imputed righteousness all the more clear. The Law of Moses was given as guardian for national Israel to keep them as the people of God who were to bring the promised Seed to fruition. Once Christ came, that law ceased to function as Israel's guardian. But as Scripture, it is useful for edification, if used properly: not to be thrown away nor imposed a legal requirement that binds us.

Not only was the Law fulfilled, the prophets were. How were the Prophets of the OT fulfilled? One example – Isaiah. When he was sent by YHWH, it was to preach to Israel. Isaiah 6:9-10 Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed. Listen to Jesus Mark 4:10-12 When He was alone with the Twelve, those who were around Him asked Him about the parables. He answered them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those outside, everything comes in parables so that they may look and look, yet not perceive; they may listen and listen, yet not understand; otherwise, they might turn back— and be forgiven.” Jesus is the greater prophet Who brought salvation to His people, not everyone.

As every prophet, judge, priest, and king given to national Israel failed to bring about righteousness to that people, the only prophet capable of bestowing righteousness to His people came in the person of Jesus. And He is the prophet, high priest, judge of all flesh, and King of kings! Fred Zaspel has commented, "The old law was not "full" in itself; it had a forward look. It anticipated a "fulfilling" which in Christ's teaching finally came to perfect realization." This applies to the Law and to the prophets.

II. Verse 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Only two verses in, and we have some of the most controversial things to look at! Note the strange construction of this sentence: Until heaven and earth pass away, nothing will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. Which phrase controls the continuation of the Mosaic Law? Does the first phrase, about heaven and earth, refer to the end of this age? The last phrase, all things being accomplished; does that refer to the redemptive work of Christ?

Charles John Ellicott's commentary is one of the few that does not get bogged down on the “smallest stroke” of the law; he reviews these descriptive phrases. He thought the first phrase was intended to reinforce the unchangeable nature of God's Word. We can be sure that every letter of Scripture will be available to God's people until the end of the age. In the age to come we will see Him as He is - the living Word - and we will be with Him forever. Ellicott saw the last phrase referring to the redemptive work of Christ. Most commentators maintain that Jesus was referring to His work of redemption AND His judgment of all flesh at the end of the age. Some claim that refers to Jesus' fulfilling the law. All three views can be supported, but not completely. The latter view, referring to everything Christ does before the end of the age, is aligned with the first phrase, emphasizing the security of the written Word until the living Word returns.

Here's what we can conclude: The Old Testament cannot be unhinged from our studies. But the New Covenant, brought about by the work of Jesus, has ended the Old Covenant, breaking the bonds of the ministry of death and changing how those laws apply to His New Covenant people. By rightly understanding our status in the New Covenant, we can determine how to apply OT teaching and which laws from the old do not apply at all - that is "rightly dividing the Word," by viewing all of Scripture through the lens of Christ Jesus and His redemptive work. We know Moses accuses those who put their hopes in him; he pointed to One Who was greater than himself (John 5:45-46), just as John the baptizer did. When Jesus comes the second time, He will judge the nations, gather His people, and make all things new. And the living Word will be among His people and the written Word will have fulfilled its purpose.

III. Matthew 5:19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so 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. Here's the question we must answer: what are “these commands” to which Jesus refers? Again, Fred Zaspel is helpful.

First, it could be taken very literally to mean that throughout this age the church should continue to observe every detail of the Mosaic law. But given the teaching that is capsulized in the book of Hebrews, few Christians would want to go this far. Second, it could be taken to mean that the moral law in general and/or the decalogue in particular should continue to be observed throughout this age. This is the standard Reformed position. But it would be difficult to understand "these least commandments" as a reference to this "weightier" aspect of the law! Further, it introduces a literary division of the law which is extraneous to the passage: it is every last "jot and tittle" that is in view _ not just the 10 words.

I would add that breaking the least of the Mosaic laws meant you had broken the whole Law (Jas 2:10) and breaking one of those “moral laws” carved on the tablets of stone would get you put to death by stoning (Deut 17:2-7). How would it make sense to say whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom if the penalty for doing so was death – for those in the kingdom? Another small thing – Jesus referred to “these commands,” not “the commandments” which is the normal way biblical writers refer to the Decalogue.

If Jesus wasn’t referring to the entire Mosaic Law or the Decalogue, what’s left? There are two more possibilities. Either Jesus is speaking of how the Law of Moses was fulfilled in Him OR He was pointing forward to the balance of His sermon. I going to assert that Jesus meant to draw attention to the balance of His sermon – all the more so because of verse 20, which was designed to be provocative: For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

IV. Who are the least and greatest in the kingdom that Jesus mentioned? Those who break the least of the commands are least and those keep all are the greatest. In Matthew 23 Jesus pronounces a series of woes on the religious leaders; verse 23 in that chapter is relevant: Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faith. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Here we see the error of dissecting God’s law and doing (while teaching others to follow) some but breaking others. Jesus says in His kingdom, those who do such things are least (if anyone is in the kingdom he has been born from above by the Spirit of God). If we claim that we can divide up the Law of Moses into three categories and ignore two of them while claiming the third to be binding on the saints – are we not doing the same thing for which Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees? If we teach people to love God but don’t teach or model how to love our neighbor, are we not doing the same thing for which Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees? If we do, we are the least in the kingdom.

Contrary wise – who is the greatest? He who practices and teaches ALL that Christ has commanded. The Great Commission – make disciples, teaching them ALL I have commanded you. The first and greatest commandment – love God with ALL your heart, ALL your soul, ALL our strength, and ALL your mind. Weep and wail because you cannot do these; but rejoice if you are in Christ, for He alone is able. Who is greatest in the kingdom? None but Jesus! Not you, not mot me, not Moses. None of us should ever think we can meet that requirement, even as we strive to do so.

To enter the kingdom one must possess more righteousness than the Scribes and Pharisees. If we are not categorically better than them in law-keeping and discipling, how can we enter the kingdom? That is the question these first century Jews faced; it’s the question that faces anyone who reads the Scriptures. Every Jew considered these two groups of people to be the most religious people on the planet; that meant they were very righteous. No human could be more righteous than the Pharisees and Scribes – unless he possessed an alien righteousness. How can this be? That is the right question. This is why we must be born again, for only the imputed righteousness of Christ can enable us to enter the kingdom of Heaven. Let him who boasts, boast only in the Lord!

V. The Greater Prophet. Having given them a brief summation of the characteristics of His kingdom people (verses 1-16), He then told the crowd what kingdom life looks like – concluding with establishing Himself as more righteous than their religious leaders. In verse 21 through the end of the chapter, Jesus asserts His position as the greater prophet, making 6 “You have heard it said … But I say unto you” statements. How do we read these and what difference does it make? There are three ways this passage has been interpreted.

a.) Many reformers, people who build under the cover of the WCF or the 1689, claim Jesus is giving the "thick reading" of the TEN COMMANDMENTS, telling His audience what Moses really meant. You will search in vain for anything in the Old Testament indicating this. These reformers want this to be the case because their confessions assert the Law of Moses as the way of sanctification. But Jesus is not Moses' interpreter and Paul would say to these people, Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now going to be made complete by the flesh? Also from Gal 3: For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” He is not an interpreter of Moses - He is the greater prophet Moses spoke of in Deuteronomy 18:18.

b.) Some folks, including some Reformed folk and those who hold to the "New Perspectives of Paul," claim Jesus is addressing the erroneous way the first century Pharisees taught the Law of Moses. This theory doesn't work for the same reason the first doesn’t: because every "you have heard it said" comment by Jesus is a direct quote from the Law of Moses. There is no mention or hint of Him addressing the myriad errors of the Pharisees in this passage – He simply quotes Moses.

In at least two of the six contrasts, Jesus explicitly does not teach the "true meaning" of Moses' Law nor does He build upon it. In speaking about divorce He throws out the liberal provisions of the Mosaic Law and imposes a far more restrictive rule. John Reisinger observed that “Moses allowed for divorce for uncleanness; but he mandated death for adultery (Deut 22:22). When Christ gives his new law that allow for divorce only in the case of adultery, he overturns the law that mandates death for adultery.” In His discussion of "an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth" Jesus says His people are not to resist evildoers; as Paul would say in 1 Cor 5, within the brotherhood we are to embrace being defrauded rather than take a brother to a civil court. The Old Covenant law provided for retribution; the New Covenant command is to suffer harm rather than vengeance – for vengeance belongs to YHWH.

Neither of these two teachings can be reconciled to the Mosaic Law. Jesus was not merely interpreting Moses; He was not merely correcting the Pharisees. If correcting the Pharisees was Jesus' intention, He would have likely said something like we read in Mark 7:10-11 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)." In this passage, He contrasts the Law of Moses with the traditions of man which make the Word of God void; in the Sermon on the Mount, He contrasts the Law of Moses with His Law. What was He doing? Jesus was giving new law from this greater prophet Who is the new law-giver.

c.) The right way is to see Jesus explaining the nature of His kingdom. First century Jews were looking for a renewal of earthly Jerusalem in all its glory; Jesus was announcing the soon coming of spiritual Israel and how it differs from earthly Israel; He was announcing Himself as Moses' greater prophet. A.T. Robertson, early 20th century Baptist, said, "Jesus now assumes a tone of superiority over the Mosaic regulations." It may be hard to fathom, but Jews and Samaritans in Jesus' day were convinced that being physically related to Abraham and doing your best (in your own eyes) to keep Moses' Law was good enough. That law given to guard a mostly unbelieving people is not suited for a people ruled by the Holy Spirit living within them. Rather than looking to a written code, we look to the Savior, Who is the righteousness of God. All we have need of is provided by our union with Christ; nothing we have need of is available outside that union.

In his book on this passage of Scripture, But I Say Unto You, John Reisinger observed, "In the Sermon on the Mount, the new lawgiver contrasts his teaching, based on the gracious covenant he established, with the teaching of Moses, based on a covenant of law." He further commented, "He (Jesus) replaces Moses in exactly the same way he replaces Aaron." New prophet, priesthood, and a New Covenant which, by necessity, brought about a change in law. There is no absence of law in the New Covenant, there is a new law with a new purpose, given by a new law-giver.

Summary. The Sermon on the Mount ends with Jesus asserting His Words are what men need to submit to and obey. This is why I believe Jesus was pointing forward, to the balance of His sermon when He mentioned the “least of these commands.” No mention of the Mosaic Law for sanctification, but the words of this prophet. And the people, Jews, were astonished.

Matthew 7:24-29 Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!” When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes. We read that nothing would pass from the Law of Moses until heaven and earth pass away; Jesus would later say, Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away. The Law of Moses was for a time and place; the words of Christ are eternal.

Jesus is the new lawgiver for life in the New Covenant; He is not merely a greater teacher of what Moses was given. Many teach we are to look to Christ for salvation but look to Moses for sanctification. The first century Jews believed the law of Moses was “the great guarantee of holy living and sanctification.” Paul taught them they who were in Christ were no longer under the law but under grace (Rom 6:14). He went on in chapter 7 to explain how they were to walk: Romans 7:4-6 Therefore, my brothers, you also were put to death in relation to the law through the crucified body of the Messiah, so that you may belong to anotherto Him who was raised from the deadthat we may bear fruit for God. For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions operated through the law in every part of us and bore fruit for death. But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law. Jews had been under the heavy yoke of Moses’ Law. By faith in Christ, they died to the law and, having been set free (if Christ has set you free you are free indeed!) they are to serve in the NEW WAY of the Spirit and not in the OLD letter of the law.

This is the instruction for us, though we never were under Moses’ Law, we were a law unto ourselves (Rom 2:14). And while we lived in the flesh, our sinful passions worked in us just as they did in those Jews Paul was addressing. And verse 6 was written for us, just as it was for those Jewish Christians Paul was addressing, even though different laws were at work: But now we have been released from the law, since we have died to what held us, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old letter of the law. Learn from all of Scripture as you seek to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord. But do not shrink back and seek safety in law – look unto Christ daily and His Spirit will equip and guide you to do what is pleasing in His sight. The greater prophet has come, and He alone is our safe refuge.