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Day 2106 – Sermon on the Mount 4 – A Christian’s Righteousness Part 1: The Spirit of the Law – Daily Wisdom
12th January 2023 • Wisdom-Trek © • H. Guthrie Chamberlain, III
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Welcome to Day 2106 of  Wisdom-Trek, and thank you for joining me.

This is Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom

Sermon on the Mount 4 – A Christian's Righteousness Part 1: The Spirit of the Law – Daily Wisdom

Welcome to Wisdom-Trek with Gramps! I am Guthrie Chamberlain, and we are on Day 2106 of our trek to create a legacy of wisdom, to seek out discernment and insights, and to boldly grow where few have chosen to grow before. Today we continue with our ongoing series of messages I delivered at Putnam Congregational Church over the past couple of years. This first series of messages will cover the Sermon on the Mount, as recorded in Matthew 5-7. I pray that it will be a conduit for learning and encouragement.   Putnam Church Message – 06/06/2021

Sermon on the Mount – A Christian’s Righteousness Part 1: The Spirit of the Law

Matthew 5:17-30 So far, Jesus has spoken of a Christian’s character and the influence we will have in the world if we exhibit this character and if our character bears fruit in ‘good deeds.’ He now proceeds to define further this character and these good works in terms of righteousness, or as I like to call it, right living. Jesus explains that the right living He has mentioned twice, is a character trait we, as his disciples, should hunger after. (6) We may even suffer as we conform to God’s moral law. (10)  In our passage for today, we learn that our good deeds, which we will call righteousness or right living, must be better than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (20). The ‘good deeds’ are deeds of obedience. Jesus began his Sermon with beatitudes in the third person (‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’). He continued in the second person (‘You are the salt of the earth,’ and You are the light of the world). In today’s verses, he changes to the authoritative first person and uses for the first time his unique and dogmatic formulas I tell you the truth (18), and I warn you (20).   In verses 17-20, this first section teaches about the bridge of God’s old covenant, focused primarily on the nation of Israel and His new covenant, which is establishing His worldwide kingdom.  It contrasts the New Testament and the Old Testament, between the good news and the law.  I had initially planned to cover the entire passage listed in the bulletin, but unless you want me to speak for an hour, I thought it would be best to split it in half and finish the remainder next week. Therefore, we will cover Matthew 5:17-30 today.  The entire passage is broken down into seven lessons to learn.  We will cover lessons 1-3 today and the remainder next week.
  1. Teaching about the Law
  2. Teaching about Anger
  3. Teaching about Adultery (Lust)
  4. Teaching about Divorce
  5. Teaching about Promises
  6. Teaching about Revenge
  7. Teaching about Love for Enemies
  Teaching about the Law (Matthew 5:17-20) 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!   Jesus begins by telling us not to misunderstand why He came.  It was not to abolish the law of Moses, but to accomplish its purpose. Three Points Comparing the Law and Gospel First, the Old Testament contains doctrinal teaching. ‘Torah,’ usually translated as ‘law,’ means ‘revealed instruction.’  All the great biblical doctrines are there. Yet, the law was only a partial revelation. Jesus fulfilled the law in the sense of bringing it to completion through his person, his teaching, and his work. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud, and the New Testament is the Gospel in full flower.  (Bud and Flower)   Second, the Old Testament contains predictive prophecy. Much of it looks forward to the days of the Messiah, and either foretells Him in word or foreshadows Him in type.  Jesus ‘fulfilled’ it all because what was predicted would pass in him. They were but a ‘shadow’ of what was to come; the ‘substance’ belonged to Christ.  It is like when Paula makes a quilt.  When she has all the pieces cut, I can’t envision what the finished quilt will look like, but it becomes evident as she sews them together. (Show quilt pieces and the entire quilt)   Third, the Old Testament contains ethical precepts, or God's moral law. Yet, they were often misunderstood and even more often disobeyed. Jesus ‘fulfilled’ them in the first instance by obeying them.  He does more than obey them himself; he explains what obedience will involve for his disciples.  Jesus fulfills the law by declaring the radical demands of the righteousness of God. He stresses this in the rest of Matthew 5 by giving examples, as we shall see today.   Jesus summed up his position in a single phrase,  ‘I came to accomplish their purpose.’  Christ was the fulfillment of the law.  From this point forward, the scenario changed.  What was begun in Eden and derailed due to disobedience, Christ set in motion once again, which is the building of God’s kingdom on earth.  Jesus states clearly this as his view of Old Testament Scripture.   As citizens of God’s kingdom, personal obedience is not enough; Christian disciples must also teach others these lessons as part of our vocation of being salt and light, which we learned about last week.  While our salvation is not based on our good deeds, there is an indication in verse 19 that our obedience influences our standing in God’s kingdom.   The remainder of Matthew 5 contains examples of a greater, or somewhat deeper, righteousness which we are to aspire towards.  It consists of six parallel paragraphs illustrating the principle Jesus has just submitted in verses 17 to 20 of the permanence of the moral law.   What the scribes and Pharisees were doing to make obedience more readily attainable, they came up with a strict set of rules, which, if followed, could be considered righteous.  It is not unlike some churches today.  If you can follow what is deemed acceptable practices, you are considered a ‘good Christian’ regardless of your heart attitude.   Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law; he never disagreed with the authority of God’s moral code. Rather the reverse. Christ was much more concerned with a person’s heart attitude than following a set of rules.   Teaching about Anger  (Matthew 5:21–30) 21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’[c] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,[d] you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,[e] you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,[f] you are in danger of the fires of hell.[g] 23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice[h] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. 25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.[i]   The commandment You Must Not Murder is speaking of intentionally taking a person’s life due to anger or premeditation.  It is not referring to war or accidental deaths, although both may have consequences if negligence is a factor.   In my mind, I can see Jesus say; you are not to murder, DUH!  Who doesn’t understand that?  Instead, Christ says, let me teach you about your relationship with others while you are alive.   Jesus is teaching us that as a citizen of God’s kingdom, it goes beyond whether we follow through with the act of murder.  If we are angry enough to kill another person, we have committed the action in our hearts.   Jesus goes even further in His teaching about anger.  It boils down to how we treat our fellow humans, especially those who are also citizens of God’s kingdom. Jesus was more concerned about our relationships with others than if we dutifully followed a tidy set of rules.  Where’s our heart?   Not all anger is evil, as is evident from the wrath of God, which is always holy and pure. Even flawed human beings may sometimes feel righteous anger, but we should ensure that any anger is slow to rise and quick to die down.   Christ drills down on our anger.  Verse 22 is one that I may not verbalize, but it just might come to my mind, and it is calling someone an idiot.  Jesus warns us against calling a person the Aramaic word, Raca. It appears that ‘Raca’ is an insult to a person’s intelligence, calling him ‘empty-headed,’ or some English parallels like ‘nitwit,’ ‘blockhead,’ ‘numbskull,’ or ‘bonehead’!  The verse continues to warn us not to curse someone, which means to call someone a fool. A moron is another term that can also mean a fool. Still, it can hardly be used here in its ordinary sense, for Jesus himself called the Pharisees, and his disciples ‘fools’ and the apostles, on occasions, blamed their readers for their folly. Now, these things—angry thoughts and insulting words—may never lead to the ultimate act of murder. Yet, they are equivalent to murder in God’s sight. As we read in 1 John 3:15: ‘Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart.’ Anger and insult are ugly symptoms of a desire to get rid of somebody who stands in our way. Our thoughts, looks, and words all indicate that, as we sometimes dare to say, we ‘wish they were dead.’   Jesus continued in verse 23 to give a practical application of the principles he had just talked about. His theme was that if anger and insult are severe and dangerous, we must avoid them like the plague and take action as speedily as possible. He offered two illustrations.   Today we would say if you are in church instead of the temple.  The second example is a court of law.  In both cases, the basic situation is the same, and somebody has a grievance against us.  The lesson is the same, the necessity of immediate, urgent action. In the very act of worship, if we remember the grievance, we are to break off our worship and go and put it right. In the very act of going to court, we are to settle our debt on our way there.   We must not delay to put it right. We must not even allow the sun to set on our anger. Instead, to avoid murder in our hearts and God’s sight, we must take every possible positive step to live in peace and love with all people.   Teaching About Adultery/Lust (Matthew 5:27-30) 27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’[j] 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye[k]—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand[l]—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. Continuing Jesus’s focus on our relationship with others, He is more concerned with the spirit than the letter of the law. Therefore, the reference in this verse to adultery focuses on specifically being faithful in marriage.   The prohibition of murder included the angry thought and the insulting word, so the ban on adultery included the lustful look and imagination. So we can murder with our words and commit adultery in our hearts or minds.   There is not the slightest suggestion here that relations within marriage commitment are anything but God-given and beautiful. The focus here is we should not desire and dwell on obtaining something that is not ours to have.  Yes, it applies to a marriage relationship, but it can also apply to desiring anything intending to take it outside lawful means.  Of course, in marriage, it applies both to the husband and the wife.  It also applies to all of our relations with others.   God knows it is a slippery slope from looking to lusting to obtaining what we desire. But, it always starts in our hearts and mind.   The remainder of this section of verses is somewhat troubling. The command to get rid of troublesome eyes, hands and feet is an example of our Lord’s use of dramatic figures of speech. What he was advocating was not a literal physical self-maiming but moral self-denial. We must be willing to deny our desires because our desire to please God is more important.  To follow Christ means to reject sinful practices so firmly that we put them to death.  So let me boil it down so that even I can understand.  Don’t look at what is not yours to look.  Don’t touch what is not yours to touch. Don’t wander to places where you would have the opportunity to look and touch.   So to recap for this week, and we will continue next week, Christ came to complete the Law and fulfill its purpose.  As a result of Christ fulfilling the purpose of the law, we should apply the character traits found in the beatitudes, manifested in our influence as salt and light in a decaying and dark culture. The evidence of our influence is shown through our righteousness (right living) in our teaching for today, which we will continue with next week.  You won’t want to miss next week as we continue with the remainder of Matthew 5 on living right, evidenced through our good deeds.   Thank you so much for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and, most importantly, your friend as I serve you through this Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal. As we take this trek together, let us always:
  1. Live Abundantly (Fully)
  2. Love Unconditionally
  3. Listen Intentionally
  4. Learn Continuously
  5. Lend to others Generously
  6. Lead with Integrity
  7. Leave a Living Legacy Each Day
I am Guthrie Chamberlain….reminding you to ’Keep Moving Forward,’ ‘Enjoy your Journey,’ and ‘Create a Great Day…Everyday’! See you next time for more wisdom from God’s Word!    

Transcripts

Welcome to Day:

This is Guthrie Chamberlain, Your Guide to Wisdom

Sermon on the Mount 4 – A Christian's Righteousness Part 1: The Spirit of the Law – Daily Wisdom

hamberlain, and we are on Day:

/:

Sermon on the Mount – A Christian’s Righteousness Part 1: The Spirit of the Law

Matthew 5:17-30

So far, Jesus has spoken of a Christian’s character and the influence we will have in the world if we exhibit this character and if our character bears fruit in ‘good deeds.’ He now proceeds to define further this character and these good works in terms of righteousness, or as I like to call it, right living. Jesus explains that the right living He has mentioned twice, is a character trait we, as his disciples, should hunger after. (6) We may even suffer as we conform to God’s moral law. (10)  In our passage for today, we learn that our good deeds, which we will call righteousness or right living, must be better than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (20). The ‘good deeds’ are deeds of obedience. Jesus began his Sermon with beatitudes in the third person (‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’). He continued in the second person (‘You are the salt of the earth,’ and You are the light of the world). In today’s verses, he changes to the authoritative first person and uses for the first time his unique and dogmatic formulas I tell you the truth (18), and I warn you (20).

In verses 17-20, this first section teaches about the bridge of God’s old covenant, focused primarily on the nation of Israel and His new covenant, which is establishing His worldwide kingdom.  It contrasts the New Testament and the Old Testament, between the good news and the law.  I had initially planned to cover the entire passage listed in the bulletin, but unless you want me to speak for an hour, I thought it would be best to split it in half and finish the remainder next week. Therefore, we will cover Matthew 5:17-30 today.  The entire passage is broken down into seven lessons to learn.  We will cover lessons 1-3 today and the remainder next week.

Teaching about the Law

Teaching about Anger

Teaching about Adultery (Lust)

Teaching about Divorce

Teaching about Promises

Teaching about Revenge

Teaching about Love for Enemies

Teaching about the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)

17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

Jesus begins by telling us not to misunderstand why He came.  It was not to abolish the law of Moses, but to accomplish its purpose.

Three Points Comparing the Law and Gospel

First, the Old Testament contains doctrinal teaching. ‘Torah,’ usually translated as ‘law,’ means ‘revealed instruction.’  All the great biblical doctrines are there. Yet, the law was only a partial revelation. Jesus fulfilled the law in the sense of bringing it to completion through his person, his teaching, and his work. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud, and the New Testament is the Gospel in full flower.  (Bud and Flower)

Second, the Old Testament contains predictive prophecy. Much of it looks forward to the days of the Messiah, and either foretells Him in word or foreshadows Him in type.  Jesus ‘fulfilled’ it all because what was predicted would pass in him. They were but a ‘shadow’ of what was to come; the ‘substance’ belonged to Christ.  It is like when Paula makes a quilt.  When she has all the pieces cut, I can’t envision what the finished quilt will look like, but it becomes evident as she sews them together. (Show quilt pieces and the entire quilt)

Third, the Old Testament contains ethical precepts, or God's moral law. Yet, they were often misunderstood and even more often disobeyed. Jesus ‘fulfilled’ them in the first instance by obeying them.  He does more than obey them himself; he explains what obedience will involve for his disciples.  Jesus fulfills the law by declaring the radical demands of the righteousness of God. He stresses this in the rest of Matthew 5 by giving examples, as we shall see today.

Jesus summed up his position in a single phrase,  ‘I came to accomplish their purpose.’  Christ was the fulfillment of the law.  From this point forward, the scenario changed.  What was begun in Eden and derailed due to disobedience, Christ set in motion once again, which is the building of God’s kingdom on earth.  Jesus states clearly this as his view of Old Testament Scripture.

As citizens of God’s kingdom, personal obedience is not enough; Christian disciples must also teach others these lessons as part of our vocation of being salt and light, which we learned about last week.  While our salvation is not based on our good deeds, there is an indication in verse 19 that our obedience influences our standing in God’s kingdom.

The remainder of Matthew 5 contains examples of a greater, or somewhat deeper, righteousness which we are to aspire towards.  It consists of six parallel paragraphs illustrating the principle Jesus has just submitted in verses 17 to 20 of the permanence of the moral law.

What the scribes and Pharisees were doing to make obedience more readily attainable, they came up with a strict set of rules, which, if followed, could be considered righteous.  It is not unlike some churches today.  If you can follow what is deemed acceptable practices, you are considered a ‘good Christian’ regardless of your heart attitude.

Jesus disagreed with the Pharisees’ interpretation of the law; he never disagreed with the authority of God’s moral code. Rather the reverse. Christ was much more concerned with a person’s heart attitude than following a set of rules.

Teaching about Anger  (Matthew 5:21–30)

21 “You have heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not murder. If you commit murder, you are subject to judgment.’[c] 22 But I say, if you are even angry with someone,[d] you are subject to judgment! If you call someone an idiot,[e] you are in danger of being brought before the court. And if you curse someone,[f] you are in danger of the fires of hell.[g]

23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice[h] at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.

25 “When you are on the way to court with your adversary, settle your differences quickly. Otherwise, your accuser may hand you over to the judge, who will hand you over to an officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 And if that happens, you surely won’t be free again until you have paid the last penny.[i]

The commandment You Must Not Murder is speaking of intentionally taking a person’s life due to anger or premeditation.  It is not referring to war or accidental deaths, although both may have consequences if negligence is a factor.   In my mind, I can see Jesus say; you are not to murder, DUH!  Who doesn’t understand that?  Instead, Christ says, let me teach you about your relationship with others while you are alive.

Jesus is teaching us that as a citizen of God’s kingdom, it goes beyond whether we follow through with the act of murder.  If we are angry enough to kill another person, we have committed the action in our hearts.

Jesus goes even further in His teaching about anger.  It boils down to how we treat our fellow humans, especially those who are also citizens of God’s kingdom. Jesus was more concerned about our relationships with others than if we dutifully followed a tidy set of rules.  Where’s our heart?

Not all anger is evil, as is evident from the wrath of God, which is always holy and pure. Even flawed human beings may sometimes feel righteous anger, but we should ensure that any anger is slow to rise and quick to die down.

Christ drills down on our anger.  Verse 22 is one that I may not verbalize, but it just might come to my mind, and it is calling someone an idiot.  Jesus warns us against calling a person the Aramaic word, Raca. It appears that ‘Raca’ is an insult to a person’s intelligence, calling him ‘empty-headed,’ or some English parallels like ‘nitwit,’ ‘blockhead,’ ‘numbskull,’ or ‘bonehead’!  The verse continues to warn us not to curse someone, which means to call someone a fool. A moron is another term that can also mean a fool. Still, it can hardly be used here in its ordinary sense, for Jesus himself called the Pharisees, and his disciples ‘fools’ and the apostles, on occasions, blamed their readers for their folly.

Now, these things—angry thoughts and insulting words—may never lead to the ultimate act of murder. Yet, they are equivalent to murder in God’s sight. As we read in 1 John 3:15: ‘Anyone who hates another brother or sister is really a murderer at heart.’ Anger and insult are ugly symptoms of a desire to get rid of somebody who stands in our way. Our thoughts, looks, and words all indicate that, as we sometimes dare to say, we ‘wish they were dead.’

Jesus continued in verse 23 to give a practical application of the principles he had just talked about. His theme was that if anger and insult are severe and dangerous, we must avoid them like the plague and take action as speedily as possible. He offered two illustrations.

Today we would say if you are in church instead of the temple.  The second example is a court of law.  In both cases, the basic situation is the same, and somebody has a grievance against us.  The lesson is the same, the necessity of immediate, urgent action. In the very act of worship, if we remember the grievance, we are to break off our worship and go and put it right. In the very act of going to court, we are to settle our debt on our way there.

We must not delay to put it right. We must not even allow the sun to set on our anger. Instead, to avoid murder in our hearts and God’s sight, we must take every possible positive step to live in peace and love with all people.

Teaching About Adultery/Lust (Matthew 5:27-30)

27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’[j] 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your eye—even your good eye[k]—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand[l]—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

Continuing Jesus’s focus on our relationship with others, He is more concerned with the spirit than the letter of the law. Therefore, the reference in this verse to adultery focuses on specifically being faithful in marriage.

The prohibition of murder included the angry thought and the insulting word, so the ban on adultery included the lustful look and imagination. So we can murder with our words and commit adultery in our hearts or minds.

There is not the slightest suggestion here that relations within marriage commitment are anything but God-given and beautiful. The focus here is we should not desire and dwell on obtaining something that is not ours to have.  Yes, it applies to a marriage relationship, but it can also apply to desiring anything intending to take it outside lawful means.  Of course, in marriage, it applies both to the husband and the wife.  It also applies to all of our relations with others.   God knows it is a slippery slope from looking to lusting to obtaining what we desire. But, it always starts in our hearts and mind.

The remainder of this section of verses is somewhat troubling. The command to get rid of troublesome eyes, hands and feet is an example of our Lord’s use of dramatic figures of speech. What he was advocating was not a literal physical self-maiming but moral self-denial. We must be willing to deny our desires because our desire to please God is more important.  To follow Christ means to reject sinful practices so firmly that we put them to death.  So let me boil it down so that even I can understand.  Don’t look at what is not yours to look.  Don’t touch what is not yours to touch. Don’t wander to places where you would have the opportunity to look and touch.

So to recap for this week, and we will continue next week, Christ came to complete the Law and fulfill its purpose.  As a result of Christ fulfilling the purpose of the law, we should apply the character traits found in the beatitudes, manifested in our influence as salt and light in a decaying and dark culture. The evidence of our influence is shown through our righteousness (right living) in our teaching for today, which we will continue with next week.  You won’t want to miss next week as we continue with the remainder of Matthew 5 on living right, evidenced through our good deeds.

Thank you so much for allowing me to be your guide, mentor, and, most importantly, your friend as I serve you through this Wisdom-Trek podcast and journal.

As we take this trek together, let us always:

Live Abundantly (Fully)

Love Unconditionally

Listen Intentionally

Learn Continuously

Lend to others Generously

Lead with Integrity

Leave a Living Legacy Each Day

I am Guthrie Chamberlain….reminding you to ’Keep Moving Forward,’ ‘Enjoy your Journey,’ and ‘Create a Great Day…Everyday’! See you next time for more wisdom from God’s Word!

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