Focal Passages: Matthew 5:17-22, 27-28, 31-34a, 38-39, 43-44, 48
What should New Testament believers do with the Old Testament law? Some people completely disregard it while others try to fulfill old covenant and new covenant commands simultaneously. The writer of Hebrews made a distinction between the two covenants, stating that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises” (8:6b), so “He has made the first obsolete” (8:13). Jesus gave us the key to understanding the relationship between the two covenants, when He stated that nothing from the law would pass away “until all is accomplished” and that He came to fulfill the law (Matt 5:17-18). The old covenant law that reveals our sin points us to the new covenant which provides redemption for our sin through the blood of Jesus. Old covenant animal sacrifices foreshadowed the crucifixion of Jesus, the once and for all sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 10:1-18).
Our culture praises the self-made man who pulls himself up from poverty to attain riches by his hard work and determination. However, there are no self-made children of God. The scribes and Pharisees tried to make themselves righteous by strict adherence to the Old Testament law, but Jesus said our righteousness has to exceed theirs. The parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector seems to clarify that Jesus was contrasting outward legalistic righteousness and true righteousness that marks the hearts and lives of Jesus’ followers (Luke 18:9-14). Our completion in Christ will not come by our works but by faith in what He can do through us as people who have been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20).
When speaking of a person who seemed a bit crazy we used to say, “The lights are on, but nobody’s home.” The scribes and Pharisees proved that people can have a similar spiritual condition. Everything can look good on the surface, yet his heart can be cold and dead toward God. Jesus proved that the sins of murder and adultery can be committed in one’s heart, and that the sins of divorce, lying, revenge, and hate can be easily, but wrongly, justified in the eyes of men. May God convict our hearts of inward sins and outward justifications for disobedience.