Why The Commandments Still Matter – Matt 5:1-26

Based on my One Year New Testament Daily Reading in Matt 5:1-26

“It’s not about rules; it’s about a relationship.”

This is possibly one of the more popular phrases among hipster Christians. While I agree that our relationship with God is the most important aspect of following Christ, we can not throw out the clear commands that God has given us.

Jesus on Commands

Jesus abided by and even expanded on many of God’s commandments in the Old Testament. Jesus gave us more commands in the New Testament that we are to follow and instructed us to “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” in the Great Commission in Matt 28:19-20. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said,

“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.”

So, what relationship should a Christian have to the law?  

Mark Driscoll in his cleverly titled blog post “Does God Hate Cotten Blend T Shirts,”  explains that in the Old Testament there are three categories of laws:

  1. Ceremonial laws—referring to the priesthood, sacrifices, temple, cleanliness, and so forth, are now fulfilled in Jesus. These laws are no longer binding on us because Jesus is our priest, temple, sacrifice, cleanser, and so forth.
  2. Civil laws—pertaining to the governing of Israel as a nation ruled by God. Since we are no longer a theocracy, we believe that these laws, while insightful, are not directly binding to us. Romans 13:1–7 says to obey even non-Christian governments because God will work through them, too.
  3. Moral laws—forbidding such things as rape, stealing, and murder. These laws are still binding upon us, even though Jesus fulfilled their requirements through his sinless life.

In summary, only the “Moral Laws” are binding to Christians today.

Rules Rule

Jesus then shared the importance of the commands in Matthew 5:18–19 :

“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. 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.” 

God has given us commands for our own good. And as Mr. T would say “I pity the fool” who ignores a command and teaches others to do the same. But anyone who obeys and teaches others to obey will be called GREAT!

Warning: Rules Can’t Save You

Jesus continues by saying a shocking statement in Matthew 5:20 :

 “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!”

The Pharisees and teachers not only tried to keep the law better than anyone of that day but they also made up laws to keep themselves from getting close. When Jesus said that unless you are better at keeping the law than them, you are not getting in. I imagine people in the crowd  chuckling and thinking  “Ha, yeah right, Jesus, good one!”

It wasn’t a joke though. It’s true; unless we are more righteous than the goodiest goodie two shoes, we can’t get in to heaven.  That’s why we need JESUS!

Jesus substituted his RIGHTEOUSNESS for our SIN. 

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”  2 Corinthians 5:21 

Jesus lived the life we should have lived and died the death we deserved to die.  Christians who have received this free gift of grace should desire, out of love and gratitude, to live for Jesus.

He died for us, so we live for him.

Earlier in this same passage, Paul gives us the motivation for living for Christ:

“And he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”  2 Corinthians 5:15 

If you call yourself a Christian, I want to encourage you to take the rules of Christ seriously, not out of legalism but out of love for Christ.

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