Friday 29 July 2016

Bible Book:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” (vv. 17-18)

Matthew 5:17-20 Friday 29 July 2016

Psalm: Psalm 122


Let's admit it, on first reading these statements of Jesus seemstaggering and inexplicable. The New Testament majors on the graceof God and the need for salvation to be received through faith.Paul's letters whilst highlighting the importance of the lawregarded it as at best "our disciplinarian until Christ came" (Galatians 3:24). Even allowing for the factthat Matthew's Gospel is the most 'Jewish' of the Gospels and thatits accounts are almost always edited with an understanding glancetowards the Old Testament, we are frankly staggered to read here ofJesus' own attitude to the Law and the stringent adherence heespouses.

So, what do we do with this? We can dismiss it as an editorialmanipulation if we choose. Though we would have to ask the purposeof making this up. We can argue about the exact meaning of thewords used by Jesus: and there is some value in that. However,perhaps the most profitable way to consider these verses is toremember that at the time of Jesus, the term 'law' could beunderstood in a number of different ways. It was used to refer tothe Ten Commandments (nine of which are restated in the NewTestament). It was used to refer to the first five books of theBible (Pentateuch) which was regarded by the Jewish people ofJesus' day as the perfect summation of the law. The phrase 'the Lawand the Prophets' was used to describe the whole of Scripture (OldTestament of course), and lastly the law could also be used todescribe the myriad regulations added over the generations by theScribes and religious professionals. Essentially, the earlyexpressions of the Law (the Commandments and the Pentateuch) setout significant, broad brushstroke principles by which the Lordwanted people to live, but with the passage of timedetail-after-detail, and regulation-after-regulation had obscuredthese original principles and transformed the law in to a libraryof subheadings and clauses that imposed an unmanageable burden onthe people. And there was no way that Jesus would have looked atthis 'rule book' and said 'Let's keep it and make sure we keep itcompletely'. How do we know that? Because he didn't do it himself.There are many examples of Jesus breaking the law, in the sensealthough he would be guided by principles, but he would reject thesmall-minded interpretation and application of those principlesimposed by the Scribes (eg healing on the Sabbath - Matthew 12:10-14).

Jesus' words, if understood through this filter, are anencouragement to take the principles of godly living seriously; totake God's pattern for living as ourpattern for living - but not tobecome weighed down with all the human additions and regulatorybureaucracy that have become attached to them and crush the lifeout of living.

To Ponder

  • What saps the spiritual dynamism from your life?
  • If you had to name four key principles to shape the outworkingof your faith, what would they be?
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