“Emmanuel’s Agenda, Part 2” – Matthew 5:17-20

January 11th, 2015

Matthew 5:17-20

(See also: Rom 3:19-26; Gal 3:19-25; Phil 3:4b-10)

“Emmanuel’s Agenda – Pt 2”


Service Orientation: Jesus embraced a much higher view of the authority, infallibility (incapable of error), and inerrancy (without error) of the Old Testament than we can imagine.  As Jesus followers, we should strive to have that same regard.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. — Romans 10:17


Background Information:

  • Verses 17-20 teach the foundation for the inner qualities of the Beatitudes and for functioning as God’s salt and light. That foundation is God’s Word, the only standard of righteousness and of truth.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 252)
  • Mt 5:17-20 serves as the interpretive key to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount. Therefore, understanding this particular section of the sermon is critical for understanding the sermon as a whole.  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 94)
  • The method of starting with basic principles is something we see here as our Lord goes on to deal with this question of righteousness. He does so by laying down in this paragraph two categorical propositions.  In the first, in verses 17 and 18, He says that everything He is going to teach is in absolute harmony with the entire teaching of the OT Scriptures.  There is nothing in this teaching which in any way contradicts them.

The second proposition, which He lays down in verses 19 and 20, is that this teaching of His which is in such harmony with the OT is in complete disharmony with, and an utter contradiction of, the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 158)

  • (v. 17) Jesus’ warning, do not think, indicates that most, if not all, of His hearers had a wrong conception about His teaching. Most traditionalistic Jews considered the rabbinic instructions to be the proper interpretations of the law of Moses, and they concluded that, because Jesus did not scrupulously follow those traditions, He obviously was doing away with the law or relegating it to minor importance.  Because Jesus swept away the traditions of washings, special tithes, extreme Sabbath observance, and such things, the people thought He was thereby overthrowing God’s law.  From the outset, therefore, Jesus wanted to disabuse His hearers of any misconceptions about His view of Scripture.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 253)
  • (v. 17) “I have come,” said Jesus. This indicates that he was fully conscious of his Messianic mission, and in close connection with it, of his pre-existence.  This doctrine of pre-existence is therefore not peculiar to John (1:1-14; 3:17; 5:36, 43; 6:38; 8:58; 16:28; 18:37) and Paul (2 Cor 8:9; Gal 4:4, 5; Eph 4:9, 10; Phil 2:5 ff.; etc.).  Though not as abundantly it is nevertheless taught clearly also in the Synoptics (Mt 5:17; Lk 12:49; 19:10).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 290)
  • (v. 17) Katalu (abolish) means to utterly overthrow or destroy, and is the same word used of the destruction of the Temple (Mt 24:2; 26:61; etc.) and of the death of the physical body (2 Cor 5:1).  The basic idea is to tear down and smash to the ground, to obliterate completely.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 253)
  • (v. 17) Matthew is the only Gospel writer to include Jesus’ statement that He had not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;…but to fulfill them (5:17). (Roger L. Hahn, Matthew: A Commentary for Bible Students, 88)
  • (v. 17) The Jews of Jesus’ day could refer to the Scriptures as “the Law and the Prophets” (7:12; 11:14; 22:40; Lk 16:16; Jn 1:45; Acts 13:15; 28:23; Rom 3:21); “the Law…, the Prophets, and the Psalms” (Lk 24:44); or just “Law” (5:18; Jn 10:34; 12:34; 15:25; 1 Cor 14:21); the divisions were not yet stereotyped. (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 142)
  • (v. 17) The Jews used the expression The Law in four different ways. (i) They used it to mean the Ten Commandments.  (ii) They used it to mean the first five books of the Bible.  That part of the Bible which is known as the Pentateuch–which literally means The Five Rolls–was to the Jew The Law par excellence and was to them by far the most important part of the Bible.  (iii) They used the phrase The Law and the prophets to mean the whole of Scripture; they used it as a comprehensive description of what we would call the whole OT.  (iv) They used it to mean the Oral or the Scribal Law.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 127)
  • (v. 17) The real meaning of the word “fulfill” is to carry out, to fulfill in the sense of giving full obedience to it, literally carrying out everything that has been said and stated in the law and in the prophets. (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 162)
  • (v. 18) In the NT the word Amen, as an adverbial accusative, combines the ideas of truthfulness and solemnity. (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 290)
  • (v. 18) In some cases we read, “Truly, truly I say to you…” The translation comes from the Hebrew word for “truth,” which in Aramaic is rendered by the term amēn.  When the people of God say “amen” after the preacher preaches or after a prayer is made, they are saying, “That is true,” or, “So let it be.”  Jesus, however, begins His pronouncements with the word “amen.”  In doing so He is saying, “This truth that I am about to say to you is absolutely certain.”  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 104)
  • (v. 18) “Until heaven and earth pass away” is a conventional way (cf. our “until hell freezes”) of saying for all practical purposes, “never” (cf. Jer 31:35-36; 33:20-21, 25-26; Job 14:12; also positively Ps 72:5, 7, 17), and the repetition of the verb “pass away” links the law closely with heaven and earth as being equally permanent; in 24:35 Jesus’ own words are stated to be more permanent than heaven and earth. (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 185)
  • (v. 19) The rabbis recognized a distinction between “light” and “weighty OT commandments and advocated obedience to both. Light commandments are those such as the requirement to tithe on produce (cf. Lv 27:30; Dt 14:22), while weighty commandments are those such as profaning the name of God or the Sabbath or matters of social justice (Ex 20:2-8; Mic 6:8).  Rabbi Simlai stated that “613 commandments were revealed to Moses at Sinai, 365 being prohibitions equal in number to the solar days of the year, and 248 being commands corresponding in number to the parts of the human body.”  (Clinton E. Arnold, Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Vol 1, 37)
  • Jesus grew up and spent his ministry among the most religious Jews in the world. Galileans were known for their great reverence for Scripture and their passionate desire to be faithful to it in every aspect of daily life.  The people of Galilee knew Scripture by memory, debated its application with enthusiasm, loved God with all their heart, soul and strength (Dt 6:5), and trained their children to do the same.  Their great desire to follow God translated into vibrant religious communities whose synagogues echoed with debated and discussions about keeping the Torah.  As a result, Galilee produced more famous rabbis than any other region in the world. (Ray Vanderlaan; The Dust of the Rabbi: Discovery Guide, 63)
  • 1. The “ceremonial law” related specifically to Israel’s worship (see Lv 1:2-3, for example).  Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws, therefore, were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection.  While we need not follow all these ceremonial laws, the principles behind them–to worship and love a holy God–still apply.  The Pharisees often accused Jesus of violating ceremonial law.

(v. 18) “I tell you the truth” signals that the statement to follow is of the utmost importance.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 145)

  1. The “civil “law” applied to daily living in Israel (see Dt 24:10-11, for example). Because modern society and culture differ so radically from that time and setting, we need not keep all of these guidelines specifically.  However, the principles behind the commands are timeless and should guide our conduct.  Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
  2. The “moral law” (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God; thus, it requires strict obedience (see Ex 20:13, for example). The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today.  Jesus obeyed the moral law completely and expects his followers to do the same.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 89)
  • In verse 20 Jesus gives his “thesis statement” for all that follows in the Sermon on the Mount: “For I say to you [literal translation], unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”  Then in verse 48 he ends this section by saying, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

I know these verses are a bit tricky, but not as tricky as you might think.  The basic message of verses 20-48 is:  don’t act like the scribes and Pharisees; but instead act like God.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 131)


Bible Older Testament = Law and the Prophets = Scriptures


The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus taking such a hard line against His opponents in regard to the authority of the Older Testament (Scriptures)?


Answer: Because Jesus Himself was so controversial and His teaching so radical that many who heard Him thought He was abolishing or diminishing the authority of the Scriptures (OT).   In the coming verses Jesus effectively demonstrates just how wrong they were and how severe is their misunderstanding both of the message of the Scriptures (OT) as well as their understanding of Jesus’ upholding of the authority of Scripture.


Again and again Jesus broke what the Jews called the Law.  He did not observe the handwashings that the Law laid down; he healed sick people on the Sabbath, although the Law forbade such healings; he was in fact condemned and crucified as a law-breaker; and yet here he seems to speak of the Law with a veneration and reverence that no Rabbi or Pharisee could exceed.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 126-7)


. . . . the authority of the Bible is no longer recognized.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones Revival, 14)


The Word for the Day is . . . Fulfill


What is Jesus’ position on the Law and the Prophets (OT)?:

I-  Jesus did not come to abolish the Scriptures but to joyfully fulfill them.  (5:17; see also: Isa 42:21; Mt 3:15; 11:1-6; 26:56; 27:24; Mk 15:14; Lk 2:39; 4:16-21; 18:31; 23:47; 24:13-27, 44-49; Jn 1:1-14, 45; 8:46; 10:37; 15:10; 19:6, 30; Acts 6:11-14; 13:15-41; 21:21, 28; 28:23; Rom 8:1-4; 2 Cor 1:20)


Don’t ever imagine that Jesus could or would abolish or abrogate the Word.  Jesus is the Word.


The meaning for “fulfill” has been taken three ways: (1) to accomplish or obey the OT laws; (2) to bring out the full meaning of the law and prophecy, showing how Christ is the fulfillment of all to which they pointed; (3) to bring the OT law and promises to their destined end or intended completion.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 86)


He fulfilled the Law historically by becoming man, so that its prophecies could find fulfillment in Him; vicariously, in His life of perfect obedience to its demands; and sacrificially, by His perfect atoning sacrifice.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 30)


Jesus fulfilled the OT by being its fulfillment.  He did not simply teach it fully and exemplify it fully–He was it fully.  He did not come simply to teach righteousness and to model righteousness; He came as divine righteousness.  What He said and what He did reflected who He is.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 256)


From Gn 1:1 through Mal 4:6, the OT is Jesus Christ.  It was inspired by Christ, it points to Christ, and it is fulfilled by Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 258)


Who does Jesus think he is?  It is one thing to claim, as he does in verse 18, that the Law will pass away once “all is accomplished,” but it’s quite another thing to say, as he does here in verse 17, “I have…come…to fulfill them.”  Jesus is saying, “All the promises of God–like my passion and death, the engrafting of the Gentiles, etc.–find their yes,” to borrow from Paul’s language, “in me” (cf. 2 Cor 1:20).  What a stupendous claim!  For Jesus to claim to be the inerrant expositor of the Word who has come to tell everyone what the Law really teaches is one highly controversial claim.  But to also claim to be the absolute embodiment of God’s greatest promises is more than a bit blasphemous if it’s not true.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 129)


This means that the Bible is about Jesus and that he is its fulfillment in all ways.  He fulfills the moral law by his obedience, the prophecies by the specifics of life, and the sacrificial system by his once-and-for-all atonement.  This is a part of what Paul means in Rom 10:4 when he calls Christ “the end of the law.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 81)


None of what Jesus is saying and doing is abolishing any word, letter, or mark that has been written.  He is not relaxing or teaching anyone to relax any of God’s commands.  Rather, he is living out and teaching others to live out those very rules.  And while he has been or will be dining with sinners, talking with women, healing on the Sabbath, and even overturning the greedy and racist moneychangers’ tables in the temple, none of those things are aberrations of God’s Word, as the scribes and Pharisees think.  Instead those actions accord with the Law’s highest principles.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 128)


It would have been bold if Jesus said, “I have come to adhere perfectly, as no man has ever done, to the Law,” or if he said, “I have come to give the best and final authoritative teaching on the Law.”  Both of those would have been enough for the religious crowd first to scratch their heads and then to rend their garments.  But to say what Jesus actually said will get one crucified.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 128)


The Pharisees accused Jesus of “abolishing” the law.  But, in fact, they were the ones who were abolishing it.  Their traditional interpretations of the law weakened its power to search the motives of men’s hearts.  It was only in the exposition of Jesus (in Mt 5:21-48, for example) that the real power of God’s law could be felt.  Jesus did not weaken the law.  On the contrary, he let it out of the cage in which the Pharisees had imprisoned it, allowing it to pounce on our secret thoughts and motives, and tear to pieces our bland assumption that we are able to keep it in our own strength.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 71-2)


Christ, therefore, now declares, that his doctrine is so far from being at variance with the law, that it agrees perfectly with the law and the prophets, and not only so, but brings the complete fulfillment of them.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 275)


One of the ways in which the law has to be fulfilled is that its punishment of sin must be carried out.  This punishment is death, and that was why He died.  The law must be fulfilled.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 168)


Jesus, then, as he begins to set forth “the righteousness of the kingdom,” immediately dismisses the charge of his enemies that he is a proclaimer of novelties, and shows that his ministry was not in collision with the OT but in harmony with it; in fact, that without him the OT was incomplete, unfulfilled.  Peter, too, on Pentecost interpreted the strange things that were transpiring round about him as a fulfillment of prophecy (Acts 2).  And Paul also links the new with the old, making clear that his doctrine of justification by grace through faith was not something altogether new but was firmly rooted in OT teaching (Rom 3:21; chap. 4; 7:7 f.; chaps. 9-11; Gal 3:6-22; 4:21-31; etc.).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 288)


He fulfilled the Law by dying on the cross and satisfying the demands of the Law against those who would believe on him.  The entire sacrificial system in OT times pointed to him.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 93)


I believe that without being grossly misleading, there is only one sense in which we can say that Jesus fulfilled the law.  He fulfilled the law by dying on the cross and thereby satisfying forever the demands of the law against those who would believe on him.  All other views of Christ’s fulfilling the law are misleading in terms of this great purpose, even though they may be quite true in themselves.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 79)


In Mt 5:17, Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  In this statement, Jesus used technical rabbinic terminology.  Abolish meant to interpret Scripture so that it would not be obeyed as God desired.  Fulfill meant to interpret Scripture so it would be obeyed as God intended.  So when Jesus used these terms, his audience would have heard him say, “I did not come to misinterpret the Scripture so you would not keep it correctly.  I came to interpret it so that you will know how to keep it correctly.”  (Ray Vanderlaan, In the Dust of the Rabbi Discovery Guide, 29)


Jesus’ authority has been established by his Word and his power.  The Scriptures are explicit about his authority (note the relationship of authority with each of the following):  he has authority to teach (Mt 7:29; Mk 1:22, 27; Lk 4:32); to exorcise (Mt 8:28-34; 9:1-8; Mk 1:23-27; Lk 4:35-36); to heal (Mt 8:1-17; 12:15, 16; Mk 1:29-34; Lk 4:38-31); to forgive (Mt 9:2-8; Mk 2:3-12; Lk 5:18-26; cf. Ps 103:3); to judge (Jn 5:27; 17:2); to give life (Jn 10:28; 17:2); to empower (Mt 28:18-20).  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: Luke, Vol. One, 152)


II-  Jesus taught that it is impossible for the immutable, indestructible, unchanging Word of God to be abolished.  (5:18; see also: Nm 23:19; Ps 102:25-27; Mal 3:6; Lk 16:16-17; Jas 1:17; Heb 1:12; 6:17-18; 13:8)


No other statement made by our Lord more clearly states His absolute contention that Scripture is verbally inerrant, totally without error in the original form in which God gave it.  That is, Scripture is God’s own Word not only down to every single written word, but down to every letter and the smallest part of every letter.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 262)


The first proposition is that God’s law is absolute; it can never be changed, not even modified to the slightest extent.  It is absolute and eternal.  Its demands are permanent, and can never be abrogated or reduced “till heaven and earth pass.”  That last expression means the end of the age.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 162)


No one has the authority to set aside or alter any of God’s laws.  In addition, teachers have the responsibility to live correctly and to teach correctly so that they do not influence others to break even the smallest law.  Jesus was using hyperbole to make a point and, most likely, was not referring to minutiae of the law for which the Pharisees were contending so scrupulously.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 88)


The name of the wife of Abraham was turned from Sarai to Sarah, and it was the yod that did it: it was that little, silent, insignificant adjunct that turned her into Princess.  (Joseph Parker, The Inner Life of Christ, Studies in Matthew 1-7, 134)


Jesus referred to the OT at least 64 times, and always as authoritative truth.  In the course of defending His messiahship and divinity before the unbelieving Jewish leaders in the Temple, He said, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (Jn 10:35).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 263)


Jesus’ language is compelling.  “The smallest letter” is the Hebrew yod, which looks something like an apostrophe.  There are approximately 66,420 yods in the OT.  “The least stroke” is the Hebrew serif, a tiny extension on some letters that distinguishes them from similar letters.  Not one of the 66,000-plus yods or innumerable little serifs will pass from the Law (which here includes the Law and the Prophets) until “everything is accomplished.”  Our Lord is here teaching the inspiration and immutability of the OT.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 94)


Not until the universe in its present form disappears (Ps 102:25, 26; Isa 34:4; 51:6; Mt 24:35; Rom 8:21; Heb 1:12; 2 Pt 3:7, 10-13; Rv 6:14; 21:1-3) will even the smallest part of the OT that requires fulfillment fail to be fulfilled.  Every type will be exchanged for this antitype.  Every prediction will be verified.  The law’s demand will be fully met.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 291)


Determining rank in the kingdom of heaven is entirely God’s prerogative (cf. Mt 20:23), and Jesus declares that He will hold those in lowest esteem who hold His Word in lowest esteem.  There is no impunity for those who disobey, discredit, or belittle God’s law.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 270)


Paul both kept and taught the full Word of God, and he is therefore among those who will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 271)


Nothing makes ministers more contemptible and base than corrupting the law, Mal 2:8, 11.  Those who extenuate and encourage sin, and discountenance and put contempt upon strictness in religion and serious devotion, are the dregs of the church.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 57)


III-  Jesus taught that we are obligated to fulfill and obey even the least command from God in the Older Testament.  (5:19; see also: Mt 15:3; 19:17; 23:2-3, 23; Lk 16:16-17; Jn 10:37; Rom 10:1-4)


What if I said, “In the Sermon on the Mount, we’re not going to leave out one word.  We’re going to dot every i, we’re going to cross every t.”  That expression means we’re not going to overlook any little part.  Jesus was saying the same thing about the law.  (Bob Yandian, Salt & Light, The Sermon on the Mount, 33)


If we say that we do not believe in the account of the creation, or in Abraham as a person; if we do not believe that the law was given by God to Moses, but think that it was a very clever bit of Jewish legislation produced by a man who was a good leader, and who obviously had certain sound ideas about public health and hygiene–if we say that, we are in fact flatly contradicting everything our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said about Himself, the law, and the prophets.  Everything in the OT, according to Him, is the Word of God.  Not only that, it is all going to stand until it has all been fulfilled.  Every jot and tittle, everything has meaning.  Everything is going to be carried out down to the smallest detail imaginable.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 163-4)


This may refer to degrees of rewards in heaven, but it most likely does not mean rewarding of status in heaven.  Neither breaking (and teaching others to break), nor practicing and teaching even “the least of these commandments” ultimately determines a person’s inclusion in the kingdom of heaven, so Jesus was simply indicating how people who treated the law in those ways would be regarded by God.  Those who treated any part of the law as “least,” and therefore breakable, would themselves be called “least” and presumably, be excluded.  Jesus explained to his disciples, the men who would be responsible to carry on his message, that they must live carefully and teach carefully, not taking God’s will lightly.  Jesus’ followers must respect and obey even the least commandment if they want to accomplish great things for God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 88-9)


IV-  Jesus taught that the righteousness God requires from the Scriptures can only be fulfilled by a righteousness much greater than that exemplified by the Pharisees and teachers of the law.  (5:20; see also: 1 Sm 16:7; Psa 51:1-10; Isa 40:1-2; 51:6; Jer 31:31-34; Ez 11:19-20; 36:25-27; Mt ch 23; Acts 13:39;  Rom 3:19-26; 1 Cor 1:30; Gal 3:19-25; Phil 3:4b-10)


Our righteousness must (1) come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves, (2) be God-centered, not self-centered, (3) be based on reverence for God, not approval from people, and (4) go beyond keeping the law to loving God who gave the law.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 90)


The implied truth of Mt 5:20 is this:  The purpose of God’s law was to show that, to please God and to be worthy of citizenship in His kingdom, more righteousness is required than anyone can possibly have or accomplish in himself.  The purpose of the law was not to show what to do in order to make oneself acceptable, much less to show how good one already is, but to show how utterly sinful and helpless all men are in themselves.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 276)


Jesus’ words were also difficult to accept because he was not saying that in order for a man to get to heaven he must have a slightly higher degree of the same kind of righteousness than the scribes and Pharisees had been accumulating.  The first part of the Sermon should have dispelled any thought of that.  He was saying that if a man was to get to heaven he must somehow have a different and better righteousness than these men were showing.  And this meant that he must turn his back on human goodness altogether and receive instead the freely offered goodness of God.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 86)


At this point Jesus actually named the scribes and the Pharisees directly, and in naming them he brought to an end the false standards of religion and morality that they had so carefully erected.  They thought they were scrupulous in interpreting and obeying the law.  They thought they were righteous.  But Jesus said, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20).  He was saying that God will never be satisfied even with such a supposed high standard of righteousness as theirs.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 85-6)


“The real evil is that we trust in our own power to be righteous and will not lift up our eyes to see what Christ has done for us…”   It is your goodness more than your badness that separates you from God.”  (Martin Luther’s preface to the Galatians)


The Pharisees were content to obey the laws outwardly without humbly looking to God to change their hearts (or attitudes).  Jesus was saying, therefore, that the quality of our righteousness should exceed (abound more than) that of the scribes and Pharisees, who looked pious, but were far from the kingdom of God.  True followers of God know that they cannot do anything to become righteous enough to enter the kingdom of heaven, so they count on God to work his righteousness within them.  Their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees because it rests on a relationship with God.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 90)


Outside of sin itself, the Bible opposes nothing more vehemently than the religion of human achievement.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 275)


Paul recognized that these things were worthless in the sight of a just and holy God.  It was the day on which he met Jesus.  Before this happened he thought that he had attained to righteousness by keeping his conception of God’s law.  Afterward he knew that all this righteousness was as dirty in God’s sight as filthy rags.  He had once said, “As touching the righteousness which is in the law I am blameless.”  He now said, “I am the chief of sinners.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 89)


Human goodness is not good enough for God.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 86)


“Do not imagine,” says our Lord in effect, “that I have come to make things easier by reducing the demands of the law.  Far from doing that, I am here to tell you that unless your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you have no hope of entering the kingdom of heaven at all, let alone being the least in it.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 176)


The trouble with the Pharisees was that they were interested in details rather than principles, that they were interested in actions rather than in motives, and that they were interested in doing rather than in being.  The remainder of this Sermon on the Mount is just an exposition of that.  Our Lord said to them in effect, “You are pleased with yourselves because you do not commit adultery; but if you even look with lust in your eyes, that is adultery.  It is the principle, not the action only, that matters; it is what you think and desire, it is the state of your heart that is important.  You do not become Christian by just refraining from some actions and doing others; the Christian is a man who is in a particular relationship to God and whose supreme desire is to know Him better and to love Him more truly.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 181)


They saw nothing wrong with having evil thoughts as long as they did not carry out those thoughts externally.  They did not think God would judge them for what they thought but only for what they did.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 277)


Not only was the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees external, partial, and redefined, but it was also completely self-centered.  It was produced by self for the purposes of self-glory.  Above all else, those leaders sought to be self-satisfied, and their system of religion was designed to enhance that self-satisfaction by providing ways to accomplish external, showy things about which they could boast and be proud.  Their satisfaction came when they received approval and commendation from men.

In stark contrast, the godly person is broken about his sin and mourns over the wicked condition of his inner life, the unrighteousness he sees in his heart and for the righteousness only God can give out of His mercy and grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 279)


The One who demands perfect righteousness gives perfect righteousness.  The One who tells us of the way into the kingdom is Himself that way.  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me” (Jn 14:6), Jesus said.  The King not only sets the standard of perfect righteousness, but will Himself bring anyone up to that standard who is willing to enter the kingdom on the King’s terms.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 280)


God save us also from self-righteous judgmentalism…There is a universe of difference between the motivations behind legalism and discipline.  Legalism says, “I will do this thing to gain merit with God,” while discipline says, “I will do this because I love God and want to please him.”  Legalism is man-centered; discipline is God-centered.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 114)


Have you not learned that lesson of despair yet?  Is it necessary for the Holy Spirit to make you despair again?  Why not have one good despair and get it all over?  Why despair every few days?  Only because you are still hunting round for something somewhere, some range of goodness in yourself that you can present to God that will please Him, satisfy Him and answer to His requirements.  You will never find it.  Settle it that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.  Our righteousness, all that trying to be so righteous, the Lord says of it all, “Filthy rags!”  Let us settle this once for all.  If you are looking ahead of what I am saying, you will see what it is leading to.  It is leading to the most glorious position.  It is leading to that glorious issue mentioned by the Lord Jesus in this way, in those days before things became inward:  “Learn of me…and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”  That is the end.  But we shall never find rest unto our souls until we have first of all learned the utter difference between Christ and ourselves, and then the utter impossibility of our ever being like Him by anything that we can find in ourselves, produce or do.  It is not in us, in ourselves, in that way. (T. Austin-Sparks; The School of Christ, 14)


A Pharisee who does nothing but focus on avoiding sin is still concentrating on sin, which makes him or her little different from the person who voraciously lives in sin.  Both are consumed by sin–one to avoid it, the other to live in it.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 78)


We tend to view the Pharisees as being overly scrupulous in their study and application of God’s law.  Jesus, however, never makes that charge against them.  His critique is always in another direction.  It is their laxity about God’s law and their tenuous casuistry that undermined the prime force of moral law and drew his ire.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 40)


It is important to note that Jesus does not critique the Pharisees for being too tied to old-fashioned practices, caring about what the Torah says too much, or being too nitpicky about God’s law.  He charges them with ignoring God’s law and attacking God’s law by adding to it!  Indeed, Jesus says that the words of Isaiah are perfectly suited to describe the Pharisees’ worship:  (1) it is lip service rather than God-honoring, in which their hearts are far away from him, rather than truly loving him; (2) it is empty worship, mere form; and (3) it is human-made, not based on the prescriptions of the word.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 41)


The Pharisee takes as his aim keeping the law rather than becoming the kind of person whose deeds naturally conform to the law.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 184)


The Law is a moral mirror.  A person looking into it sees himself as he really is in God’s eyes.  Yet the Law can no more change a person than a face mirror can make a person clean.  One can look in a mirror to see the dirt on his face, but he can’t wash his face with it.  That’s not the mirror’s purpose.  So it is with the Law.  It reveals man’s sinfulness, but it cannot make him clean.  (C. S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on Romans, 74)


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace. (Martin Luther as quoted by Tullian Tevidgjian; Life Without God – Pt 7)


Law is not the source of rightness, but it is forever the course of rightness.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 142)


Heidelberg Catechism:

Q62.        Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?



  1. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law (Rom 3:20; Col 3:10; Dt 27:26).  Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin (Isa 64:6).


Legalism claims that overt action in conforming to rules for explicit behavior is what makes us right and pleasing to God and worthy of blessing.  Jesus called legalism “the righteousness…of the scribes and Pharisees” (Mt 5:20).

Legalism, superstition and magic are closely joined by their emphasis on controlling people and events.  Legalists are forced toward superstitious behavior because, in the interest of controlling life through their laws, they depart from the natural connections of life.  They bypass the realities of the heart and soul from which life really flows.  That is why Jesus tells us we must go beyond the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees if we are truly to enter into life.

Life does not come by law (Gal 3:21), nor can law adequately depict or guide life.  The law is the letter, and “the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6).  Legalists are evermore forced into merely symbolic behavior, which they superstitiously suppose to have the good effects they seek.  Magic or superstition, as is well known, also place absolute emphasis on doing everything “just right,” which is the essence of legalism.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 183)


Since entrance into the kingdom of heaven is not gained by external acts of righteousness, Jesus leads the audience to recognize that people must seek a different kind of righteousness–an inner righteousness that begins with a transformation of the heart, an undertaking David knew could only be accomplished by God (Ps 51:10).  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 232)


To speak of a “righteousness which goes far beyond that of the scribes and Pharisees” might therefore seem to be an impossible, even ridiculous, ideal.  As long as “righteousness” is understood in terms of literal obedience to rules and regulations, it would be hard to find anyone who attempted it more rigorously and more consistently than the scribes and Pharisees.  The paradox of Jesus’ demand here makes sense only if their basic premise as to what “righteousness” consists of is put in question.  Jesus is not talking about beating the scribes and Pharisees at their own game, but about a different level or concept of righteousness altogether.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 189)




  1. Jesus’ joy in the obeying of, commitment to, reverence of and identification with the Scriptures demands that followers of Jesus, who are born again, strive for the same regard. (Dt 30:6; Ps 119:97; Isa 66:1-2; Jn 10:37; 12:49-50; Rom 7:22; 14:17; 2 Cor 1:20; Heb 12:2)


And the fulfillment Jesus has in mind here in relation to the OT is not simply external conformity to its commands, but rather a heart alive to God.  This is what the law was calling for all along (Dt 30:6).  (David Platt, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Matthew, 94)


The early church saw so clearly in Jesus the fulfillment of Ps 40:8:  “To do your will, O my God, is my desire; your law is within my heart” (cf. Heb 10:7).  Jesus enjoyed doing God’s will.  It was “meat and drink” to him:  “My food…is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work” (Jn 4:34).  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 72)


Beyond the law’s function of exposing our sin and driving us to the cross, it also reveals to us what is pleasing to God.  The psalmist wrote, “Oh, how I love Your law!” (Ps 119:97).  If we love God, we must love His law.  Our Lord said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn 14:15).  With all these controversies in our world today, we need to pay heed to what Jesus says.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 103)


At no time has God shown more clearly the inviolable and absolute character of His own holy law than when He placed His own Son under it.  It is an astounding conception; and yet, as you read the Gospels, you will find how perfectly true it is.  Notice how very careful our Lord was to observe the law; He obeyed it down to the minutest detail.  Not only that; He taught others to love the law and explained it to them, confirming it constantly and asserting the absolute necessity of obedience to it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 167)


God’s law is no longer an external rule that we find burdensome.  Because God has given us a new heart committed to him and his ways, we want to obey him.  That is often one of the first discoveries a new Christian makes.  Whereas before he struggled against God’s law, now he finds that he has a heart to obey it.  So, in his followers, Jesus begins to show the law’s meaning, too.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 74)


Love asks:  How much can I give?   Legalism asks:  How little can I give?


To a Pharisee, the service of God was a bondage which he did not love but from which he could not escape without a loss too great to bear.  God, as the Pharisees saw Him, was not a God easy to live with.  So their daily religion became grim and hard, with no trace of true love in it.

It can be said about us, as humans, that we try to be like our God.  If He is conceived to be stern and exacting and harsh, so will we be!

The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings, and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 28)


Love God and do what you want.  (St. Augustine – Martin Luther)


It is impossible, however, to take Jesus seriously and not take Scripture seriously.  It is impossible to believe Jesus spoke absolute truth and not to consider Scripture to be that absolute truth, because that is precisely what Jesus taught it to be.  If Jesus was mistaken or deluded on this point, there would be no reason to accept anything else that He said.  At the outset of His ministry He makes clear that His authority and Scripture’s authority are the same; His truth and Scripture’s truth are identical and inseparable.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 251)


Love is not what gets you into the kingdom, but love is what you will show if you are already part of it.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 132)


Read these four Gospels, and watch His quotations from the OT.  You can come to one conclusion only, namely, that He believed it all and not only certain parts of it!  He quoted almost every part of it.  To the Lord Jesus Christ the OT was the Word of God; it was Scripture; it was something absolutely unique and apart; it had authority which nothing else has ever possessed nor can possess.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 163)


The one great principle was that in all things a man must seek God’s will, and that, when he knows it, he must dedicate his whole life to the obeying of it.  The Scribes and Pharisees were right in seeking God’s will, and profoundly right in dedicating their lives to obeying it; they were wrong in finding that will in their man-made hordes of rules and regulations.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 130)


CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: Questions we need to ask as to how 21st Century Christians are to now regard the Old Testament?:



  1. Are Christians obligated to observe the dietary laws? Answer: No!  Diet no longer defines believers.  (Mt 15:1-20; Mk 7:1-23; Lk 11:37-41; Acts 10:9-16; 11:4-10; Gal 2:12-14; Col 2:16-17)


When does God abolish the dietary laws for Jewish Christians?  The moment God removes the barrier between the Jews and the Gentiles, the validity of the food law ceases.  Abolition of these laws mean that Jewish and Gentile Christians enter into a new relationship and accept one another as equals in the church.  God himself removes the barrier, for he is the lawmaker.  (Simon Kistemarker; New Testament Commentary: Acts, 380)


  1. Are Christians obligated to observe the ceremonial/ sacrificial laws? Answer: No!   Jesus did it all.  For us to observe ceremonial or sacrificial laws would be to denigrate the work of Christ in fulfilling them.  (Isa 40:1-2; 53:1-1; Mt 3:15; 9:13; 27:51; Mk 15:38; Lk 19:10; Jn 19:30; Heb ch 8; 9:11-14; 10:11-22)


Go back again and read the books of Leviticus and Numbers; read all about the burnt offerings and sacrifices; read all about the tabernacle, and the temple ceremonial, all about the altar and the laver of washing and so on.  Go back to those details and ask yourself, “What do all these things mean?  What are they for, the shewbread, and the high priest, and the vessels, and all these other things?  What are they meant to do?”  They are nothing but shadows, types, prophecies of what is going to be done fully and finally by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He indeed has literally fulfilled and carried out and brought to pass every single one of those types.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 168)


In His death, resurrection and ascension the whole of the ceremonial law has been entirely fulfilled.  In conformation of that, as it were, the temple was later destroyed.  The veil of the temple had already been rent in twain at His death, and finally the temple and all that belonged to it were destroyed.  So that, unless I see that the Lord Jesus Christ is the altar and the sacrifice and the laver of washing and the incense and everything else, I am still bound to that Levitical order.  Unless I see all this fulfilled in Christ, unless He is my burnt offering, my sacrifice, my everything, all this ceremonial law still applies to me, and I shall be held responsible unless I perform it.  But seeing it all fulfilled and carried out in Him, I say I am fulfilling it all by believing in Him and by subjecting myself to Him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 170)


Jesus came not primarily to live in us by his Spirit, not primarily to obey the law, by keeping it perfectly–although these things are also true–but to die and in dying to cancel the claims of the law against all who would receive him as their Savior.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 80)


That is what God was doing throughout the OT period by means of the sacrifices.  He was building a conditioned reflex into the people so that when Jesus Christ should come they would understand his coming, and when they sinned they would know that they needed a substitute.  Just as the dog in his dog’s brain learned to recognize the sequence “bell means dinner,” so the people of Israel would learn to recognize the sequence “sin means death.”  And they would avoid their own spiritual death by means of a sacrifice.  God took centuries to teach this great spiritual lesson, and he did so in order that men would understand Christ’s death when he was crucified.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 81)


  1. What role does the Law of God revealed in the OT serve modern day Christians? Answer: The Law convicts us of sin, drives us to Christ, guides us in righteousness, humbles us of our pride, and teaches us to love.  (Psa 19:7-11; ch 119; 51:1-17; Mt 7:12; 11:13; 22:34-40; Jn 14:15; Rom 10:4; Gal 2:16; 3:24; 5:1-6; 2 Tim 2:15; 3:16-17; Jam 1:21)


The law which itself reveals the pattern of good works should drive us to Christ.  Christ is the point of the law; Christ is the goal of the law; Christ is the meaning of the law.  So if you try to follow and obey the law, but avoid Christ, you have missed the whole point of the law.  (R. C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 178)


The reason for this Bible centeredness is obvious:  faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:17).  It is by the word that we are born again (1 Pet 1:23-25).  We grow by the “pure milk of the word” (2:2).  We are sanctified by the truth of God’s word (Jn 17:17).  God’s word is profitable and equips us for every good work (2 Tm 3:16-17).  God’s word is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12).  It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph 6:17).  It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom 1:16; cf. 1 Cor 2:4; 1 Thes 1:5).  It performs its work in us (2:13).  It is “like fire…and like a hammer which shatters a rock” (Jer 23:29).  It does not return void, God says, “without accomplishing what I desire, / and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa 55:11).  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 275)


Legalists point to the law to show what they CAN do.   Christians who are saved by grace point to the Law to show what they cannot do and what drives them to Christ.


How could the young ruler understand his sinfulness if he completely misunderstood God’s law?  How can today’s sinners, who are totally ignorant of God’s holy law and its demands upon them, look at themselves as condemned sinners?  The idea of sin is strange because God’s law is foreign to their minds.  (Walter J. Chantry, Today’s Gospel:  Authentic or Synthetic?, 37)


Paul says that “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom 10:4, KJV).  He does not say that Christ is the end of the Law, as is often misquoted, for the Law still serves to show us our sin, our sinfulness, and to show us our need of the Savior (Rom 7).  But the Law is no more than a pointer, a reminder of our need for the righteousness of God.  To answer this need, Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness.  He is the “end” to which the Law pointed.  (Myron S. Augsburger, The Communicator’s Commentary: Matthew, 70)


There are three uses of the Law and commandments of God:

  • First —To restrain us from complete selfishness and violence, which would result in anarchy and constant war. (1 Tm 1:8-10)
  • Second—To bring us to repentance and faith in Christ, by showing us how we fall short of God’s glory and need His forgiving mercy (Rom 3:19-20; 7:13)
  • Third—to guide us in the daily life of faith, by showing us what God expects of us as moral creatures. (Ps 1; 19:11-14; 119:9-105; Heb 4:11-13) (Foundations of a Living Faith: The Catechism of the Free Methodist Church, 41-2)


The Law is still relevant for Christians as it is a R.U.L.E. for us.

Reveals to us God and His World

Updates us in that it allows us to see ourselves as we really are.

Lectures us by showing us our sinfulness and our need for a Savior

Educates us on how to live our lives for God  (Steve Brown)


Relying on the NT alone makes us one-legged believers.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 95)


Sin is lawlessness, says John (1 Jn 3:4).  But the Christian has turned away from sin, to a life of cleanliness.  That is why the apostle Paul asks, “Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith?  Not at all!  Rather, we uphold the law” (Rom 3:31).  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 77)


Reason is not God and possesses no such authority.  Its judgments are based on the tenuous, sinful, and subjective pre-suppositions of a creature and are neither grounded in being or in truth.  Reason can only establish a connection with being and truth insofar as it rests, not on its own mythical authority, but on God and His Word.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 14)


Satan would have us define ourselves as holy by the Law, when God gave us the law to define us as sinners. (Chuck Swindoll; Insight for Living radio broadcast, 9-9-98)


There can never be a true revival unless it comes in God’s way.  And it will never come except through the continued declaration, “It is written.”  There is in our day a neo-orthodoxy which is in reality a pseudo-orthodoxy because there is the attempt to establish the truth of some of the Christian doctrines without the underlying foundation of the authority of the Word of God.  All such attempts are building upon the sand.  The rock of the Scriptures must be the basis for all doctrine or there is no truth.  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Man’s Ruin, God’s Wrath, 209)


The LAW only tells us what not to do.  The LAW in no way equips us to follow it.  – Steve Brown


You were not created to be a law follower.  You were created to love and the Law is simply a guide, a rule to assist you to know how to love and how to define love.


The Law is a guide.  Your salvation is in Christ.  Therefore there is no room for pride, self-confidence or self-righteousness.  All have failed miserably under the Law.  (Eph 2:8-9)


The best reason to be good is to want to be good.  Internal change requires relationship.  It requires love.  “Who can be good, if not made so by loving?” asked Augustine.  When Augustine made the famous statement, “If you but love God you may do as you incline,” he was perfectly serious.  A person who truly loves God will be inclined to please God, which is why Jesus and Paul both summed up the entire law in the simple command, “Love God.”

If we truly grasped the wonder of God’s love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6 and 7—What can I get away with?—would never even occur to us.  We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God’s grace.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 191)


Their own authority, these critics tell us, is not the Scriptures, but the Lord Himself.  Now this sounds very impressive and very imposing at first, as if they were but stating that for which we are ourselves are contending.  It sounds as if it were a highly spiritual position until, again, you begin to examine it carefully.  The obvious questions to put to those who make such statements are these:  ‘How do you know the Lord?  What do you know about the Lord, apart from the Scriptures?  Where do you find Him?  How do you know that what you seem to have experienced concerning Him is not a figment of your own imagination, or not the product of some abnormal psychological state, or not the work perchance of some occult power or evil spirit?’  It sounds all very impressive and imposing when they say, ‘I go directly to the lord Himself.’  But we must face the vital question concerning the basis of our knowledge of the Lord, our certainty with respect even to His authority, and how we are to come into practical possession of it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Authority, 36)


The essential issue is between the authority of autonomous man and of the Sovereign God.  To allow God into the universe, provided that we open the door, is to say that the universe is our universe, and that our categories are decisive in human thinking.  We can accept the Scriptures as inerrant and infallible on our terms, as satisfactory to our reason, but we have only established ourselves as god and judge thereby and have given more assent to ourselves than to God.  But, if God be God, then the universe and man are His creation, understandable only in terms of Himself, and no meaning can be established except in terms of God’s given meaning.  To accept miracles or Scripture on any other ground is in effect to deny their essential meaning and to give them a pagan import.

Thus, the consistent Christian position must be this:  no God, no knowledge.  Since the universe is a created universe, no true knowledge of it is possible except in terms of thinking God’s thoughts after Him.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 17)


Christianity has, as Van Til states, “the epistemological presupposition of revelation.”  All facts being created facts, factuality can only be understood in subordination to God.  But to understand factuality, man needs a norm, and this Scripture provides.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 72)


Man does not establish authority; he acknowledges it.  This is the proper procedure, though seldom observed.  Man wants to acknowledge only that authority which he himself establishes or at the least gives consent to.  All other authority is offensive to his sense of autonomy and ultimacy.  As a result, the claims of Scripture are particularly offensive to the natural man, because so much is involved in the admission of their truth.

To recognize the claims of Scripture is to accept creaturehood and the fact of the fall.  The fall necessitates an infallible Saviour and an infallible Scripture as Van Til has shown.  Moreover, the concept of the infallible Word involves and requires the idea of God’s complete control over history.  This means that God is self-contained and ultimate, controlling all reality, with all reality revelational of Him, knowing all things exhaustively because He controls completely.  To accept fully the concept of the infallible Word is to claim all facts for God and to insist that reality can only be interpreted in terms of Him and His Word.  This runs counter to the natural man’s claim to be the point of reference and the source of ultimate interpretation of factuality.  But it is this sin of man which makes Scripture necessary.  Scripture speaks to man with authority, and with sufficiency, that is, as a completed Word.  It speaks with perspicuity, clearly and simply telling man who he is, what the nature of his sin is, what his remedy is and where it is to be found.  The attributes of Scripture are thus necessity, authority, perspicuity and sufficiency.  (Rousas J. Rushdoony, By What Standard?, 145)



Evangelist Fred Brown used three images to describe the purpose of the law.  First he likened it to a dentist’s little mirror, which he sticks into the patient’s mouth.  With the mirror he can detect any cavities.  But he doesn’t drill with it or use it to pull teeth.  It can show him the decayed area or other abnormality, but it can’t provide the solution.  Brown then drew another analogy.  He said that the law is also like a flashlight.  If suddenly at night the lights go out, you use it to guide you down the darkened basement stairs to the electrical box.  When you point it toward the fuses, it helps you see the one that is burned out.  But after you’ve removed the bad fuse, you don’t try to insert the flashlight in its place.  You put in a new fuse to restore the electricity.  In his third image, Brown likened the law to a plumb line. When a builder wants to check his work, he uses a weighted string to see if it’s true to the vertical.  But if he finds that he has made a mistake, he doesn’t use the plumb line to correct it.  He gets out his hammer and saw.  The law points out the problem of sin; it doesn’t provide a solution.


The antinomian tendency is much older than Luther and possibly as old as some reactions to Paul’s gospel.  It is based upon the mistaken conclusion–strongly rejected by Paul–that because we are not justified by keeping the law, but through our personal relationship of confidence in Jesus, in his death and his life, we have no essential use for the law and can simply disregard it.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 213)


The law by itself kills off any hope of rightness and righteousness through human ability and effort, but it kindles hope in God ever brighter as we walk in the law through Christ in us the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, pgs. 214-5)


Law comes with grace into the renewed soul.  There is no such thing as grace without law.  Even in human relationships, graciousness must have an order if it is to be graciousness.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 215)


Your worldview matters.  And it is not a question as to whether you have a worldview; it is whether you have a biblical one.  Your worldview, the way that you see life, is formed by many things.  It can be formed by the culture you are raised in, by your upbringing, by the books you read, by your education, and by the media you expose yourself to.  And the reason your worldview is important is that it is comprehensive.  It affects everything you do, from your personal morality to the way you spend your money to the way you vote to the way you live.

So what is a Christian worldview?  Simply put, there is a living God, and He has revealed himself in Scripture.  Therefore as Christians, we believe that we can find absolute truth from the Bible, regardless of what is politically correct, regardless of what we feel is right or not right.  We base our beliefs on what the Bible teaches.  That is what it means to have a Christian worldview. — Greg Laurie


The word of God is truth.  And we need to meditate or ruminate on truth until it becomes food for us.  That is why Jesus said that His food was to do the will of His father and Jesus also echoed the words of Dt 8:3.  In that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Are we taking in and chewing God’s word until it becomes food for our souls?  I feel the reason so many of us are spiritually malnourished is because we are not taking in God’s Word like this.  (paraphrase of Tim Keller)


James calls Christians to “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:21).  Implicit in James’ instruction is a distinction between an ungodly life of filthiness and wickedness and the Christlike life of humility or meekness.  Christians should receive the Word of God with meekness.  That is, in the preaching of God’s Word and in the Scripture, acknowledging it as the source of salvation and instruction in godly living.  As we come to the Scripture, we are to do so as people knowing our sinful nature, our spiritual poverty before God, and our need for the molding influence of God, which comes normally by his Word.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 77)


Whenever a Christian looks at God’s moral law with humility, meekness, and a sincere desire for righteousness, the law will invariably point him to Christ–as it was always intended to do.  And for believers to live by it is for them to become like Christ.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 273)


The word of God, when no further qualification is added, is his speaking, his communicating.  When God speaks, he expresses his mind, his character and his purposes.  Thus God is always present with his word.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 159)


It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God.  The Bible, read in the right spirit and with the guidance of good teachers, will bring us to Him. (C. S. Lewis; Letters of C. S. Lewis, 247)


“If the God of life does not respond to the culture of death (21st century western civilization – abortion) with judgment, then God is not god.   If God does not honor the blood of hundreds of millions of innocent victims of this culture of death, then the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Israel, the God of the prophets, is a man-made myth, a fairy tale, a comfortable ideal as substantial as a dream.

But, you may object:  Is not the God of the Bible forgiving?

He is!  But, the unrepentant refuse forgiveness.  Forgiveness being a gift of grace, must be freely given and freely received.  How can it be received by a moral relativist who denies that there is anything to forgive, except unforgiveness; nothing to judge but judgementalism; nothing lacking but self-esteem?  How can a Pharisee or a pop-psychologist be saved?

But, you might object:  Is not the God of the Bible compassionate?

He is!  But, He is not compassionate to Molech and Baal and Ashtoreth, and to the Canaanites who do their work who cause their children to pass through the fire.  Perhaps your god is compassionate to the work of human sacrifice, the god of your demands, the god of your religious preferences.  But, not the God of the Bible.  Read the Book.  Look at the data.  (Peter Kreeft lecture, “Culture War”)


Jews were to see their inability to keep the Law and, because of this, look to the Messiah all the more.  God designed the Law this way.  Moreover, even if by some miracle a Jew was able to keep EVERY SINGLE tenet of the Law, he would likely still fail in one—his attitude.  The Law, after all, creates a horrible “Catch-22” almost by necessity.  The better you “keep” the Law, the more you think yourself basically “good” and the less you humble yourself before God.  You quickly become self-righteous and prideful.  Thus, though you may be able to keep many outward tenets of the Law (as the Pharisees did), your motivation for doing so would have shifted from love of God to love of self.  All the outward piety in the world cannot cover a sick and twisted heart. Period.  — Chris Scripter


“…it is inappropriate to use the law as a means of staying close to God.”  (Stephen Brown, When Being Good Isn’t Good Enough, 126)


Scripture does not simply contain the Word of God; the words of Scripture are the very Word of God.  (Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, 230)


As the great St. Augustine once put it, “The NT is latent in the OT and the OT is patent in the NT.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 164)


  1. Why is it crucial that Christians have the same reverence, respect and regard for the Old Testament that Jesus had? Answer:  If we ever hope to be like Jesus we must begin by adopting the same values that Jesus embraced.  For Him the Law of God was of utmost importance.  (Gen 15:6; Dt 8:3; Ps 102:25-26; 119:160; Isa 66:2; Jer 31:31-34; Ez 11:19-20; 36:25-27; Mal 3:6; Mt 4:4; 5:17-20; 23:15, 23; 24:35; Lk 16:1-17; 24:44; Jn 10:35; 14:15, 21; Rom 8:1-7; 10:1-4, 17; 13:10; Gal 3:22-27; Heb 10:11-18; Jas 2:10; 1 Jn 2:3-6; 3:24; 5:3)


If you are a follower of Christ, then you must have within you a deep desire to want to love and obey God’s Word because that is what drove Jesus.  Constantly, Jesus refers to his actions as being what His father told him to do or Jesus does what he does so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.   How can you say you follow Christ and contradict the very principle upon which his life was based . . .  To fulfill the Scriptures?  You cannot call yourself a Christian and do less than read, obey and love God’s Word.  Otherwise, to call yourself a Christian and to live contrary to what we have just said, is to make a mockery of Jesus.  (Tim Keller; message on Acts 3)


The faith will totter if the authority of Scripture loses its hold on men.  — St. Augustine


The Christian who is interested in knowing his God is the Christian who wants to know what God says about himself in the Bible.  Such a Christian will not begin sentences with “I like to think of God as…”  She has learned not to blend together a little New Age or a little Hinduism with a little Christianity in order to yield a custom-fitted deity for herself.  No, the Christian church member who is serious about knowing God is the member who is committed to what the Bible says about God, because the Bible is where God tells us about himself.  (Thabiti M. Anyabwile, What is a Healthy Church Member?, 28)


I am very much aware that Scripture memorization has largely fallen by the wayside in our day of microwave meals and television entertainment.  But let me say as graciously but as firmly as I can:  We cannot effectively pursue holiness without the Word of God stored up in our minds where it can be used by the Holy Spirit to transform us.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 175)


The best way I can put it is that, before the change, I pored over the Bible, questioning and analyzing it.  But after the change it was as if the Bible, or maybe Someone through the Bible, began poring over me, questioning and analyzing me.  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, xv)


Biblical authority must never depend on human verification for it is the unquestionable Word of God.

The problem with much of the popular tactics used by many defenders of the faith today may be summed up as a problem of authority.  The apologist must see clearly that the nonChristian is in need of forsaking his commitment to independence and should turn in faith to the authority of Christ.  If however, trust in Christ is founded on logical consistency, historical evidence, scientific arguments, etc., then Christ is yet to be received as the ultimate authority.  The various foundations are more authoritative than Christ himself. . . . if beliefs in Christian truth comes only after the claims of Christ are run through the verification machine of independent human judgment, then human judgment is still thought to be the ultimate authority. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr., Every Thought Captive:  A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 79-80)


Bishop Ryle summed it up like this:  “The OT is the Gospel in the bud, the NT is the Gospel in full flower.  The OT is the Gospel in the blade; the NT is the Gospel in full ear.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 71)


With these words, is Jesus reversing his earlier teaching that we enter the kingdom of God through grace?  Surely not.  Rather, he is saying that our attitude to the law of God is an index of our attitude to God himself.  If we treat the law lightly and encourage others to do so (if we have a settled and consistent attitude of antagonism toward it), we show that we are strangers to the promise of the new covenant in Christ.  But if we love and keep even the least of the Lord’s commandments, and we encourage others to do so as well (if we have a settled attitude of obedience), that is a sure mark that we love Christ and belong to his kingdom.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 77)


Puritan author, Samuel Bolton, “The law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.”  The Law informs us of what God requires and the Spirit empowers us as we fulfill our duty.  (Alistair Begg; Pathway to Freedom)


In contrast to the two commands of Christ, the Pharisees had developed a system of 613 laws, 365 negative commands and 248 positive laws…By the time Christ came it had produced a heartless, cold, and arrogant brand of righteousness.  As such, it contained at least ten tragic flaws.  (1) New laws continually need to be invented for new situations.  (2) Accountability to God is replaced by accountability to men.  (3) It reduces a person’s ability to personally discern.  (4) It creates a judgmental spirit.  (5) The Pharisees confused personal preferences with divine law.  (6) It produces inconsistencies.  (7) It created a false standard of righteousness.  (8) It became a burden to the Jews.  (9) It was strictly external.  (10) It was rejected by Christ.  (J. Stowell; Fan the Flames, 52)


Pitfalls of the Moral-Struggle Doctrine:  But for all that, experience shows that pitfalls surround those who make moral struggle central in their thinking about the Holy Spirit.  Their tendency is to grow legalistic, making tight rules for themselves and others about abstaining from things indifferent, imposing rigid and restrictive behavior patterns as bulwarks against worldliness and attaching great importance to observing these man-made taboos.  They become Pharisaic, more concerned to avoid what defiles and adhere to principle without compromise than to practice the love of Christ.  They become scrupulous, unreasonably fearful of pollution where none threatens and obstinately unwilling to be reassured.  They become joyless, being so preoccupied with thoughts of how grim and unrelenting the battle is.  They become morbid, always introspective and dwelling on the rottenness of their hearts in a way that breeds only gloom and apathy.  They become pessimistic about the possibility of moral progress, both for themselves and for others; they settle for low expectations of deliverance from sin, as if the best they can hope for is to be kept from getting worse.  Such attitudes are, however, spiritual neuroses, distorting, disfiguring, diminishing and so in reality dishonoring the sanctifying work of God’s Spirit in our lives. (J. I. Packer; Keep In Step With the Spirit, 37-8)


The Pharisee had never seen the need of forgiveness and there is no more terrible sin than that.  I know of nothing worse than the person who says, ‘You know I have never really felt that I am a sinner’.  That is the height of sin because it means that you have never realized the truth about God and the truth about yourself.  Read the argument of the Apostle Paul and you will find that his logic is not only inevitable, but also unanswerable.  ‘There is none righteous, no not one.’  We know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law; that every mouth may be stopped and all the world may become guilty before God.’  If you have never realized your guilt or guiltiness before God you will never have joy in Christ.  It is impossible.  ‘Not the righteous, sinners Jesus came to save.’  ‘They that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick.’  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 31)


The Pharisees were in many respects the very best people of Jesus’s day.  But they located goodness in behavior and tried to secure themselves by careful management at the behavioral level.  However, that simply cannot be done.  Behavior is driven by the hidden or secret dimension of human personality, from the depths of the soul and body, and what is present there will escape.  Hence, the Pharisee always fails at some point to do what is right, and then must redefine, redescribe, or explain it away–or simply hide it.  (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 15)


“Whatever pretenses men make of thankfulness for the Word of God, however they speak of it as a privilege to have light and the means of grace, if they do not yield obedience to the light and conform themselves to the commands of it, they are practically unthankful and do in effect cast it behind their backs (Neh 9:26).  (Owen Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation, 127)


To worship God is also to bow before his absolute, ultimate authority.  We adore not only his power, but also his holy word.  Psalm 19 praises God first for revealing himself in his mighty acts of creation and providence (vv. 1-6) and then for the perfection of his law (vv. 7-11).  When we enter his presence, overwhelmed by his majesty and power, how can we ignore what he is saying to us?  So, in worship we hear the reading and exposition of the Scriptures (see Acts 15:21; 1 Tm 4:13; Col 4:16; 1 Thes 5:27; Acts 20:7; 2 Tm 4:2).  God wants us to be doers of that word, not hearers only (Rom. 2:13; Jas 1:22-25; 4:11).  (John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth, 4)


As we examine this, we will see how the best Jewish scholars were profoundly wrong in how they understood the Law and the Prophets.  The scribes and Pharisees were highly educated and deeply dedicated to understanding and keeping the law.  This serves as a warning for us.  The Bible is clear enough for any Christian to understand its basic meaning; nevertheless, the Word of God in every generation becomes distorted and misunderstood.  These distortions happen not because there is something wrong with the clarity of the Word of God but because there is something wrong with us.  We come to the Bible with our minds clouded by sin.  We must resist the temptation to read into the Bible something that is not there or to try to use the Bible, as Luther said, as a wax nose that we can twist to support our own biases and prejudices.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 101-2)


The extraordinary things that are foretold of His Person make it almost incredible that the Jews should ever have stumbled at Him.  It was their own ideas which led them astray.  They should not have thought of the Messiah as a worldly king, or a political personage, because they had been told the opposite by their prophets.  They had had these prophets read to them, but they were blinded by prejudice, and instead of looking at the words, they were looking at their own superimposed ideas–a constant danger.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 166)


Needless to say, this view of human reason contradicts the biblical point of view as it has been explained in previous lessons.  The fall of man involved the entirety of man; all aspects of his personality were corrupted by sin.  As a result, reason is not the judge of truth; only God can act as such a judge.  Moreover, sin has so affected mankind that even rational abilities are not neutral.  Christians seek to use their reason in dependence on God.  Non-Christians seek to be independent in their thinking; there is no neutral ground on which to deal with unbelief.  Human reason can be as much a hindrance as a help to faith in Christ.  As St. Augustine once said, “Believe that you may understand.”  To rest our faith on independent reason is to rebel against God.  Reason must rest on our faith commitment to Christ and our faith must rest on God alone. (Richard L. Pratt, Jr.; Every Thought Captive A Study manual for the Defense of Christian Truth, 74)


Let a man question the inspiration of the Scriptures and a curious, even monstrous, inversion takes place:  thereafter he judges the Word instead of letting the Word judge him; he determines what the Word should teach instead of permitting it to determine what he should believe; he edits, amends, strikes out, adds at his pleasure; but always he sits above the Word and makes it amenable to him instead of kneeling before God and becoming amenable to the Word.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 109)


The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next.  Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts.  (John Jay)


There are books that people make but the Bible makes people. (Superintendent Thomas Ramundo, 6-16-13)


Disappointingly, Newsweek editor Jon Meacham offers an editorial note that broadens Newsweek’s responsibility for this atrocity of an article:  “No matter what one thinks about gay rights–for, against or somewhere in between–this conservative resort to biblical authority is the worst kind of fundamentalism,” Meacham writes.  “To argue that something is so because it is in the Bible is more than intellectually bankrupt–it is unserious, and unworthy of the great Judeo-Christian tradition.”  (Family News from Dr. James Dobson, January 2009)


Worship Point: You will worship when you understand Who God is and what He has done for you “In Christ”.


To worship God we must know who God is, but we cannot know who God is unless God first chooses to reveal himself to us.  God has done this in the Bible, which is why the Bible and the teaching of the Bible need to be central in our worship. —James Montgomery Boice


The ultimate condemnation of the Pharisee is that there is in his life a complete absence of the spirit delineated in the Beatitudes.  That is the difference between him and the Christian.  The Christian is a man who exemplifies the Beatitudes.  He is “poor in spirit,” he is “meek,” he is “merciful.”  He is not satisfied because he has performed one prescribed task.  No; he is “hungering and thirsting after righteousness.”  He longs to be like Christ.  There is a profound lack of satisfaction within him.  That is the test by which we must judge ourselves.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 180-1)


It is not your sin that will keep you out of heaven . . .  It is your thinking that you are righteous . ..  That you don’t need Jesus.


The absence of authority in much contemporary preaching is directly attributable to the absence of confidence in the authority of the Bible.  Once biblical authority is undermined and eroded, preaching becomes a pretense.  The preacher stands to offer religious advice on the basis of the latest secular learning and the “spirituality” of the day.  The dust of death covers thousands of pulpits across the land.

But when the Bible’s authority is recognized and honored, the pulpit stands as a summons to hear and obey the word of God.  True worship takes place when the authority of the Bible is rightly honored and the preaching of the word is understood to be the event whereby God speaks to his people through his Word, by the human instrumentality of his servants–the preachers.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Give Praise to God A Vision for Reforming Worship, 118)


Gospel Application:  The Good News of the Gospel is that Jesus fulfilled everything revealed in the Law and the Prophets and transforms us by making us new creatures so we can fulfill all righteousness.


“Did Christ finish His work?   How dangerous it is to join anything of our own to the righteousness of Christ, in pursuit of justification before God!  Jesus Christ will never endure this; it reflects upon His work dishonorably.  He will be all, or none, in our justification.  If He has finished the work, what need is there of our additions?  And if not, to what purpose are they?  Can we finish that which Christ Himself could not complete?   Did He finish the work, and will he ever divide the glory and praise of it with us?  No, no; Christ is no half Savior.  It is a hard thing to bring proud hearts to rest upon Christ for righteousness.  God humbles the proud by calling sinners wholly from their own righteousness to Christ for their justification.  — John Flavel


Heidelberg Catechism:

Question number 60  Q.  How are you right with God?



  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gen 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).


Q 61.  Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?

  1. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God (1 Cor 1:30-31).  And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone (Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12).


You can be scrupulous in the affairs of your life so that you are not the least bit dishonest in business.  But you cannot make your heart loving if your heart is not loving.  You cannot become humble if you are proud.  You cannot make yourself pure.  Hence, the first reason why human righteousness will not get anywhere with God is that the only righteousness of which you are capable is external.  God demands a transformation of the heart.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 87)


Spiritual Challenge: Live out the reality and implications of being a Jesus follower.  Value and live as Jesus.


What Jesus now teaches is that outward conformity is not enough:  there must be a change within that makes external restriction theoretically unnecessary.  Human beings will always be under the obligation to conform to God’s nature.  With the coming of Christ we now see more clearly what God is like (Jn 1:18; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3) and therefore what is required of us.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 44)


Think about your own righteousness and presenting it to God.  What a joke!   You have nothing to offer the God of the Universe.  Even your most pure righteous deeds fall far short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23, Isa 64:6).   The only thing that can please God is God.  Therefore the only thing you can offer the God of the Universe is Himself reflected in you by the work of the Holy Spirit in you.  That is what brings glory to God.  That is what pleases God.  That is what brings merit to us before God.  It is God and God alone.  — Pastor Keith


As D. L. Moody said, “Those who read the Bible most find it ever new.”  The Bible that is falling apart, it has been said, usually belongs to someone who isn’t!  (David Jeremiah, Searching for Heaven on Earth, 306)


You know the old argument, of course, about faith and works.  Some say the one is all important, some say the other.  The Bible teaches that both these views are wrong: it is faith showing itself by works which is the mark of a true Christian.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 182)



Because Scripture itself is without error, when it is believed and obeyed it will save us from error.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 263)


The Bible is a supernatural book and can be understood only by supernatural aid.  (A.W. Tozer, Man: The Dwelling Place of God, 29)


The following is a concise list of characteristics found in true disciples.  If you were to rate each of them in order of importance, in what order would you place them?


• Careful student of the Scriptures

• Zealous and active for God

• Consistent in worship attendance

• Memorizes Scripture

• Unafraid to pray publicly

• Active in the affairs of the local congregation

• Fasts regularly

• Stands against unrighteousness

• Understands foundational theological truths

What does your list look like?  By the way, I suppose I should tell you I forgot to mention that all these items have one factor in common.  They are all traits and behaviors characteristic not of Jesus’ disciples, but of the Pharisees!

…Real and growing faith has little to do with a laundry list of religious activities. (Floyd McClung Jr.; God’s Man in the Family, 203-4)


Quotes to Note:

Pharisees look for sin.  Jesus didn’t discipline for sin but for a lack of repentance.  — Steve Brown


Our reading of the Scriptures is often far too superficial.  We just read a few verses and a brief commentary on them, then offer a brief prayer and rush off to work or something else.  But before we can know anything of joy in God we must spend time with these things, and meditate upon them.  To use the word of Isaac Watts, you have to survey them:  ‘When I survey the wondrous Cross.’  A mere hurried and cursory reading of the Scriptures profits but little and never leads to true joy.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, 160)



• Self-righteous service comes through human effort.  True service comes from a relationship with the divine Other deep inside.



• Self-righteous service is impressed with the “big deal.”  True service finds it almost impossible to distinguish the small from the large service.



• Self-righteous service requires external rewards.  True service rests contented in hiddenness.



• Self-righteous service is highly concerned about results.  True service is free of the need to calculate results.



• Self-righteous service picks and chooses whom to serve.  True service is indiscriminate in its ministry.



• Self-righteous service is affected by moods and whims.  True service ministers simply and faithfully because there is a need.



• Self-righteous service is temporary.  True service is a life-style.



• Self-righteous service is without sensitivity.  It insists on meeting the need even when to do so would be destructive.  True service can withhold the service as freely as perform it.



• Self-righteous service fractures community.  True service, on the other hand, builds community.  (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, “The Discipline of Service”)


A single statement taken directly from the Bible, even statements that are often invoked for personal application, may be used in ways contrary to the purposes of God, contrary to any meaning that he may have in mind for us.  That is why only the Bible as a whole can be treated as the written Word of God.  (Dallas Willard, Hearing God, 218)


They had drawn up rules and regulations for life and conduct which in their stringency went far beyond anything we find demanded in the OT Scriptures.  For example, in our Lord’s picture of the Pharisee and the publican who went up to the temple to pray, the Pharisee said that he fasted twice in the week.  Now there is no demand in the OT that men should fast twice in the week.  Indeed the OT asked for only one fast in the year.  But gradually these men had elaborated the system and had actually brought it to the point at which they exhorted and commanded the people to fast twice in the week, instead of only once in the year.  It was in such ways that they formed their excessively stringent code of morals and behavior and, as a result of that, everybody thought of the scribes and Pharisees as paragons of virtue.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 176)


The kingdom of God is concerned about the heart; it is not my external actions, but what I am inside that is important.  A man once said that the best definition of religion was this: “Religion is that which a man does with his own solitude.”  In other words, if you want to know what you really are, you can find the answer when you are alone with your thoughts and desires and imaginations.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 178-9)


Wherever the Biblical world view has been prevailed, there has been freedom.  Where it has been taken away, freedom has been lost.”  (Chuck Colson; Wide Angle Session 6:  “What Do I Do Now?”, Segment 2)


Henceforth my desire is not to keep the law but to please my Father.  We know something about that by nature.  Filial love, filial reverence, filial fear is so different from that old servile fear.  It is based upon the desire to please our Father, and the moment we grasp that we lose the spirit of bondage.  Our Christian living is not a matter or rules and regulations any longer, but rather our desire to show Him our gratitude for all He has ever done for us.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones; Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure, 172)


Now this is the most alarming thing that we can ever realize about ourselves.  Every one of us is subject to prejudice.  There is not one of us that is free from it; the devil sees to that.  And the prejudices are almost endless in number.  So that when we come to the Scriptures we come with a prejudiced eye and we see what we want to see.  That is what the heretics have always done, is it not?  They have always quoted Scripture.  Some of the modern heretics quote a little Scripture, not much, but even they do try to quote a little.  And, if you take the Scriptures with their prejudiced mind and understanding you can make them prove almost anything you like.  So the Jews were perfectly happy about themselves, because it seemed to them that the Scriptures everywhere were saying that they alone were saved and that everybody else was lost; whereas the truth was that they were lost and others were saved.

We must always beware of prejudice.  We must never read the Scriptures without praying.  We should never approach them without asking the Holy Spirit to lead us and to guide us and to direct us.  We should deliberately humble ourselves, we should talk to ourselves and say, Now why am I going to the Scriptures?  Am I going there only to find arguments to support my case, or am I going there to be instructed, to be enlightened, to have my eyes opened to the truth of God?  We should always try to come as little children and be ready to find that we are wrong.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 9, 321)


I feel increasingly that it is very regrettable that the NT should ever have been printed alone, because we tend to fall into the serious error of thinking that, because we are Christians, we do not need the OT.  It was the Holy Spirit who led the early Church, which was mainly Gentile, to incorporate the OT Scriptures with their New Scriptures and to regard them all as one.  They are indissolubly bound together, and there are many senses in which it can be said that the NT cannot be truly understood except in the light that is provided by the Old.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 167)



Scripture Fulfilled

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply