The Least of These Commandments (Matthew 5.19)


Which Old Testament laws are Christians obliged to keep, which are they not obliged to keep, and why?   At first glance, Jesus’ words in Matthew 5.17–20 seem to indicate that Christians are obliged to keep each and every commandment in the Old Testament. But, as I pointed out in yesterday’s devotional, we know that the New Testament Christians did not feel obligated to observe any number of laws.   Those very same Christians looked to the Old Testament laws for ethical guidance on other issues, however. In Romans 13.9­–10, Paul writes: “The commandments, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not … Continue reading The Least of These Commandments (Matthew 5.19)

Until Heaven and Earth Pass Away (Matthew 5.18)


Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-style-parent:””; font-size:10.0pt;”Times New Roman”;} According to Jewish rabbis, Moses’ Law contains 611 commandments. These commandments regulate every aspect of human life: spirituality, morality, calendar, dress, and even diet. Are Christians obligated to obey each and every one of them? In Matthew 5.18–19, Jesus seems to answer yes, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of … Continue reading Until Heaven and Earth Pass Away (Matthew 5.18)

Not to Abolish but to Fulfill (Matthew 5:17)


Normal 0 false false false MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 st1\:*{behavior:url(#ieooui) } /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-style-parent:””; font-size:10.0pt;”Times New Roman”;} Jesus was an observant Jew. The Law of Moses shaped his life, regulating his spirituality, morality, calendar, and even diet. And yet, he practiced Judaism in such a way that some thought he intended to abolish that very same law. For example, according to Matthew 12.1–14, certain Pharisees criticized Jesus for allowing his hungry disciples to pick small heads of grain on the Sabbath and for healing a man with a shriveled hand. They interpreted both actions as violations of the … Continue reading Not to Abolish but to Fulfill (Matthew 5:17)

Introduction to Matthew 5.17–20


Jews and Christians share many things in common. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of Jesus Christ (Acts 3.13). The promise God made to Abraham to bless both his descendants and the world through them (Gen. 12.2, 3) finds its fulfillment in the salvation offered freely to Jews and Gentiles alike (Rom. 1.16). And we have the Old Testament in common, although Jews do not believe there is anything “old” about it. (And neither should we.) And yet, we have many differences too. We believe that God is a Trinity of Persons: one God eternally existing … Continue reading Introduction to Matthew 5.17–20

Let Your Light Shine Before Men (Matthew 5.16)


The Sermon on the Mount contains two statements that appear contradictory to a casual eye. In Matthew 5.16 Jesus says, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” But in 6.1 he says, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.”   These statements appear contradictory because of similar concepts and vocabulary. For example, “Good deeds” and “acts of righteousness” (literally, “righteousness”) describe basically … Continue reading Let Your Light Shine Before Men (Matthew 5.16)

You Are the Light of the World (Matthew 5.14–16)


One time, at elementary school science camp, I got scared in the dark.   To be more precise, my camp counselor scared the bejeebers out of me and my cabin mates. How? He took us on a nighttime hike into the forest. Once we were sufficiently far from the ambient light of the campgrounds, he instructed us to sit in a circle, turn off our flashlights, and be very quiet. Then he recited “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. When he finished his recitation, he blew a whistle that sounded like a thousand fingernails scraping across a blackboard. (He … Continue reading You Are the Light of the World (Matthew 5.14–16)

You Are the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5.13)


In Matthew 5.13, Jesus tells his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” What does it mean to be “the salt of the earth”? And how can we avoid losing our “saltiness”?   In the ancient world, salt had two primary functions: to preserve and flavor food. Unlike America today, the ancient world had no reliable forms of refrigeration. So, if you wanted to keep meat from spoiling quickly, … Continue reading You Are the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5.13)

Conclusion to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.3–12)


We have come to the end of our study of the Beatitudes (Matt. 5.3–12). Before moving on to the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, however, we should pause and ask a simple question: Who is Jesus?   The question of Jesus’ identity is a persistent one in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life. It finds an explicit answer in Matthew 16.13–20, where Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” Then Jesus makes the question personal: “But who do you say that I am?” To which Peter replies: “You are the Christ, … Continue reading Conclusion to the Beatitudes (Matthew 5.3–12)