Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 5:13-20

Christ Fulfills the Law

We continue with our Lord’s “Sermon on the Mount,” and we will be with it for the next several days.  There is so much in it that there is no way to do it justice.  As I have said before, the preacher’s task is to get out of the way of the Scriptures, that is, to be sure that in teaching them, he teaches them so as to elucidate their meaning, not obfuscate.  I hope I do that.

In 5:13-16, the Lord gives the job description of his people: to be salt and light in a tasteless and darkened world; tasteless, because sin is always boring.  Oh, it tingles the senses for awhile but must always have more to satisfy its cravings.  It’s called the “law of diminishing returns” – you have to have more of it each time to reach the same high as before.  That’s how sin operates.  The world is also dark. It is so because fallen man has a darkened mind and has made it so (Ephesians 4:18).  The Christian’s task is to be different and peculiar in this world.  Christians are supposed to stand out by their good works and genuine piety (Philippians 2:15).  In so doing, the world will either be impressed and give glory to God, or persecute those who behave so differently (2 Timothy 3:12).

The rest of the passage records Jesus’ high regard for the Law, not the Pharisees’ interpretation of it, but as it is written.  Now this does get confusing, after all, there are many things about the Law that Christians no longer practice – the sacrifices, dietary, circumcision, and other laws.  The New Testament explains this in different places.  Paul in Galatians makes it clear that faith in Christ makes circumcision as a law obsolete.  The Letter to the Hebrews deals with the Old Testament sacrificial code making it clear that Christ is our sacrifice.  Indeed, the Old Testament legal code was “but a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).  In short, Christ fulfilled the Law in his person and ministry and so is the end of the Law.  We are saved through faith in him.  HOWEVER, and this is important, the moral law never passes away.  By the moral law, I mean the Ten Commandments and other such laws that speak to right and wrong, not food and clothing, etc.  Why is this?  Because the moral law expresses God’s nature and heart.  God says, “Thou shalt not murder” because He is the living God who created life.  God says “Thou shalt not commit adultery” because He is a God of fidelity.  God could say nothing other.  No, we do not obey the Law to be saved – we obey it because we are saved.  Thus, we do not obey out of slavery and fear, but love and devotion.  James calls it, “the law of liberty” (1:25).  So love God and neighbor for Christ’s sake (Matthew 22:34-40).

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