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In John 5:19-47 we find a lengthy statement given by Jesus where He clearly identifies Himself as God, ending with: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” We can recite all kinds of stories about Moses but one of the most famous is the account of how Moses received the Ten Commandments directly from the hand of God on Mount Sinai. I got to thinking about Jesus and His relationship to those Ten Commandments. In the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7, Jesus highlights the commands having to do with murder and adultery. Rather than repeating what the Old Testament law said, He actually made the “rules” about these two commandments even tougher to keep by saying that even a remark against someone spoken in anger can constitute “murder” and even looking at a woman and having lustful thoughts was an act of adultery. While many try to tell us that we are no longer bound by the Old Testament Law, Jesus' own words would seem to contradict that.
In that same sermon we have recorded these words: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 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 the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called the least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-20).
Salvation through perfect obedience to the Law? No, that's not what Jesus is saying. Starting from the bottom of the statement:
1. You can’t get to heaven by keeping the Law perfectly—but you could IF it were possible. The Pharisees and teachers of the law are working at it but can’t do it and the rest of you aren’t even up to their level!
2. Every last bit of the Law is still in play until this world ends.
3. I, Jesus, am the embodiment of what perfectly keeping the Law is all about.
FOLLOW ME, He says! (John 10:27 among many others) We don’t keep the law to save oursleves, something that is impossible; we keep it in obedience to the command to follow His example.
At the same time, the Lord seemed rather cavalier about keeping some of the “rules” that had become attached to the religious leaders' interpretation of the Ten Commandments. In Matthew 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-28, 3:1-6; Luke 6:1-11, He was criticized for feeding his disciples and for healing a man’s hand on the Sabbath. In commenting on this, John MacArthur writes: “Actually, no OT law prohibited the plucking of grain in order to eat on the Sabbath. Gleaning handfuls of grain from a neighbor’s field to satisfy one’s immediate hunger was explicitly permitted (Deut. 23:25). What was prohibited was labor for the sake of profit (Ex. 34:21), but that was obviously not the situation here..The Sabbath laws forbade labor for profit, frivolous diversions, and things extraneous to worship. Activities, per se, were not unlawful. Good works were especially appropriate on the Sabbath—particularly deeds of charity, mercy and worship. Works necessary for the preservation of life were also permitted, To corrupt the Sabbath to forbid such works was a perversion of God’s design. Cf. Matt. 12:2, 3” (One Perfect Life, pages 127, 130). The Rabbis had added to the law that God had handed down to Moses, and were now insisting that what they had instituted was to be obeyed by Jesus just as carefully as God’s law was to be obeyed. Jesus obeyed His Father, but ignored rules made by man in the name of His Father and in contradiction to the spirit of the Law given by His Father.
It is interesting, and a little disconcerting, to recognize again the extremes that we go to in our lives. We ignore obedience to the Law just because, as believers, we are no longer under its condemnation because of Christ's work on the cross. Or we add our own man-made rules to God's requirements and insist that ours are equal to His.
Paul writes to Timothy saying: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
A stern warning is delivered at the end of Revelation about adding or subtracting to what God has said (Revelation 22:18, 19). While many apply this only to this particular book, it should go without saying that God would not look kindly on any of what He has “God-breathed” being either ignored or “improved on” by us.