Friday, November 24, 2017
Why should You be worshiped?
You see them boxed in, lonely and terrified, tormented and gasping, yet You do nothing about it
The rape behind the curtain
The brain swelling in the infant
The Omnipresent One prefers to dine while watching the film It made
We foolishly accept Your distractions to placate the wrath of your disciples
Butter, brewer's yeast, and sea salt are the drugs of choice
The Omnipotent One just stares into the cold, dark night
You--the Holy One--You can command legions to come to your own aid at any moment
Yet not to theirs?
If I should worship You, then make me believe
I'll give You forty minutes to respond favorably
Yes, I would like some salt
No, I brought my own sweets, and I don't particularly care if I'm not supposed to tell You that
Forty-one minutes later...
What kind of a pathetic Deity would pass up such a sublime opportunity?
Even if You did exist, I wouldn't prostrate myself before You
Where were You when I needed You most, anyway?
It's like this every day--the same torturous imaginary bullshit every day
You're the one who invented torture, aren't You?
You do all of this just because You can
Or, maybe, it's because You can't
Is that it?
You think You're the greatest, but You're really just a poser, like the Devil
Or maybe You are the Devil
Can You even hear me?
I said that's what You are--the Devil
I am the real God of me
And to prove it, I'm going to live my life without You, meanwhile letting everyone know my reasons for becoming an Atheist
I will spend my life promoting Science
The true source of our knowledge--at least, what we can know, anyway
And I will make peace with Your ridiculous devotees by calling myself an Agnostic
I will study the book You dropped out of heaven, and Your disciples will learn how hopelessly inept they are as long as they cling to You while listening to Me
Instead of being brainwashed by Your "good" and Your evil, they will learn to focus upon the truth
Their only moral obligation will be to follow that truth wherever it leads
If it leads some sick poodles back to You, we will show mercy, as long as they are merciful
But with the froward we will show ourselves froward
That is the best scientific means to keep the peace
In due time--hopefully not another billion years--the good news will be settled
And Our kingdom established
The most important task at hand now is to quell Your soldiers and set Your captives free
Free to do whatever they want within the limits of Our gospel
Free to be like You
For Science knows of no boundaries other than the ones Our peers review*
*Jon Sedlak, 11/24/17
In the beginning was no end
Days, hours, minutes are there, so we are told
But there is no end
Like a crushed record
Shattered into pieces
We found her by his side from the very beginning, with no end in sight
Five pillars supported her stars
Ten words made us, but they weren’t good enough
Seventy bullocks and seven generations later we started getting it right
At least we thought we did
Let the dust soak it all in to form your new mud puppet to play with
We’ve all been waiting for this day
Raise the war-bow to remember no more so that Hosea’s children will be justified
Do not spare us just this once
Let the waters above crack open and shed down hailstones
Light our vigil candles below
Prepare new globes of fire within the firmament
If we must have our cadavers back, then just say a word and our soul shall be healed
Form our glass with your lightning and scatter the ten thunderings across the sea shore one last time
Leave broken what is broken, shells and all
Ditch the glue and fill the week with one more evening—just one—and we will become wise*
*Jon Sedlak, 11/24/17
We all pretend to know but we really don’t
We certainly can know but we won’t
Our careers depend upon imagineering
Our friendships demand it
Our identity is it
So let’s think for ourselves as we watch them lounge to the Netflix of dogma and genuflect to the magisterial bestsellers that kindle fire
We know it’s not true that we don’t know anything, otherwise why tweet?
Admittedly we don’t know everything, but that’s what democracy is for
She knows there is a difference between knowing and pretending, but she doesn’t know the principle is the same
We are told that in dying we shall die if we count equality with God a thing to be grasped
Isn’t this contrary to everything we know?
Where was God in the tsunami?
God is perfectly good, she says
He is omnipotently, omnisciently, omnipresently good
Even if God is good, isn’t it obvious that the way she portrays him isn’t?
We know the winds do not actually obey his words, otherwise God would be the author of tsunamis
We know that God must return in the flesh again to make the wind obey his word, making all things good again
His feet must touch the mount before he can be our judge, our lawgiver, and our king
Only then will every one of us know, and bow to his omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotence
She knows this world is not yet as it is in heaven
We certainly know what heaven is not like
It’s not like earth where we are like gods
We don’t even need test scores to know that she pretends
Total depravity only makes matters worse
They say that if any man—save Jesus—or any woman—especially Mary—could live sinlessly, even by God’s grace, they know they could qualify as the Messiah and steal the glory due to His omnipotent name alone
Don't they know God is dead?
We know this is heresy
She knows it too, and they still believe that empire of truth in which every Adam lives
We, however, are under grace, not law
Sometimes she even pretends to be pretending, so that even when we know that she doesn't know a thing, she doesn’t want others to know that we know that she doesn’t actually know
For if she didn’t at least know with boldness and confidence, how could she help all those around us with so much uncertainty?
She must pluck the firebrands out of the fire, and then they too will know
It is heresy for her to be wrong
When she repents—if ever that happens—that will be a sure sign of her total depravity
‘She always was the harlot,’ will be our refrain
They know that the only incarnate thing in life—at least the one that is without stain—is the good book, as long as the Apocrypha is not considered
Even the Creed knows this much; ’We Believe’ is our standard for perfect unity
Just don’t tell that to the Council of Chalcedon, or the iconoclasts, or Monothelites
Rethink one jot or tittle of the law or the prophets, and no more Jesus for you; no more bread and wine from her
She knows that one cannot be known if one doesn’t confess that Jesus is an impotent monarch, enthroned in the heavens, awaiting that final trumpet blast
That’s when he, too, will know it is time to finally come in glory to judge the living and the dead
Hell is for those who don’t know what she knows, and she knows that not even Jesus still knows the day or the hour
Don’t pretend you don’t know about the parenthesis of His plan
Don’t pretend that the signs aren't everywhere
Don’t pretend that we won’t get this flesh back
We know that is gnosticism, so away with the Atheists
Away with those who pretend to know that the end was really the beginning
Away with those who say, along with Hymenaeus and Philetus, that the resurrection is past
Away with those who reduce history to a guess
*Jon Sedlak 9/20/17
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Eyes open and no thoughts about it
It sees me
It knows me
Eat the fruit and you will know
Plan A was life
And plan B was life too
Drink the cup and you will know it
Draw near to it
Neither supra nor infra can change it
That's what Nietzche said lawyers are for
Fire and hail, snow and ice, tempestuous winds make life worth living
Just stub your toe and that all changes
Dust was plan A
And there never was a plan B
Procreation seems so cruel
Without eating the fruit
Who would know?
The grass withers
The flower fades
And we know it
We beget and more is known
And they know it too
Clement said that jealousy and strife have overthrown great cities and uprooted great nations
How blessed and marvelous are the gifts of God
Eyelids close to think about it
The tree is me
The tree is you 1
1 This is a poem I wrote on 9/08/17, shortly after being exposed to the amazing poetry of Anne Sexton.
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
I’m so sorry to hear that! I’ll be praying for God to turn them back.
It must be so heart-wrenching for you, being so close and all.
That’s really, really sad, actually.
Their whole system of sacraments and church authority is unbiblical.
The Bible actually teaches against cannibalism.
Only Elders and Deacons are biblical, too.
And that whole crazy talk about Mary! Every true Christian knows she shouldn’t be worshiped!
Satan is so clever, masking himself as an angel of light.
She can’t even hear our prayers anyway!
Where in the Bible does it say that she can hear our prayers after death? Nowhere, that’s where.
Then there’s the problem with priests. Not only are they not Biblical, but because none of them have ever been allowed to marry, they just invite pedophilia and homosexuality into the church. It’s like they don’t even care about God’s Law!
And the Pope! Don’t even get me started with that nonsense.
They actually believe every word he says! If Pope Francis told them that Abortion and Communism was good for humanity, they’d treat his words like Jesus himself said them. One can only hope that the Pope will one day renounce their unbiblical belief in works, too. Maybe then Catholics will understand the gospel.
They actually believe people are not saved by faith alone. Can you believe that?
“Works” are necessary too, they say.
But where in the Bible does it say that?!?
Salvation is—at least, according to God’s Word—a gift of God which you cannot earn. For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, but is a gift of God. NOT OF WORKS, lest any man should boast. That’s what Jesus taught. We are saved through faith; not on the basis of faith; not “because” of faith, but THROUGH it.
Faith is an instrument that God gives to us as His gift. We didn’t earn it!
That’s why the doctrines of confession and penance are misleading too. They treat priests and the penance they give as magic tricks or something.
Who in their right mind actually thinks a priest has the authority to assign “works” for you to do, and that if you don’t obey his arbitrary rules—rules that aren’t found in the Bible, by the way—you cannot be saved?
Priests can’t work magic. Jesus is all you need to be saved.
Once you really have Jesus, there’s nothing you can do to lose your salvation.
I always recommend people get a good Bible and study it every day, when they wake up in the morning, and when they walk by the way, and when they lie down to sleep at night. That’s what the Bible commands us to do. All day, every day, we ought to be people immersed in the Bible.
I prefer the KJV or NKJV, but I also don’t mind the NIV so much.
I prefer the NKJV because it uses the most pure text for translation into English. I don’t want a Bible that softens the gospel of God’s grace. I want it to be as free from error and external human influences as possible.
Have you asked them how often they read their Bibles? I bet that’s part of why they converted—not reading their Bibles.
I always tell people that they need to bathe in God’s word if they want to remain faithful. Otherwise, who knows what can happen? Backsliding even a little from the truths of God’s word is seriously dangerous. The slope is too slippery.
I always tell my friends to memorize the Gospels and Acts first, followed by Romans and Galatians. That’s the best way to get a grip on the Gospel.
Of course they should read the entire Bible. But not the Catholic Bible, because that has the Apocryphal letters in it, which are not inspired and inerrant.
Paul says that all Scripture is inspired of God, and is profitable for all the instruction we need in life. And if you compare the word of God with the Apocryphal writings, it’s obvious that the Apocrypha is not God-breathed, which is why the Great Reformers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Knox didn’t include those books in their Bibles.
You know, if your friends ever have questions about the Bible, just give them my number and I’ll set aside some time to talk with them. Or you can invite them to my church, if you want. Our pastor is one of the most Biblical preachers around. He even has a blog of his own with links to his sermons on it.
He can help your Catholic friends. That’s why—I believe—we are commanded to honor the Sabbath and to keep it holy. If we are not fed the Word of God regularly in worship, at least once a week, then we’re not being spiritually nourished.
Oh, we also have a prayer meeting once a week. You should prayerfully consider inviting them to join us sometime. A life of prayer is so important, even for Catholics; probably even especially for Catholics, because with all those distractions about Mary, the saints, the rosary, and all other fluff, they might even forget what real prayer is like!
You know what? I have a book I can give you, too, which you can give to them. I can just buy another copy for myself. It’s no big deal. In this book they can learn so much about the truth of God’s word.
In our church we call it the little green book, but that’s not actually it’s name. It’s called a catechism, which is the most accurate expression of the Christian faith in writing today (apart from the Bible of course!).
What makes it so great is that it is in question and answer format, asking and answering all the really important and “deep” questions about God and his word, and everything in it comes directly from the Bible, almost word for word.
Every question and answer has a list of footnotes underneath it which shows exactly where in Gods inspired word the answers are found. So they can open up their Bible and read the truth for themselves. And it is by the Bible's truth that they will be set free, just as Jesus tells us in John’s Gospel.
Oh, and one more thing….
I almost forgot...
Do you know if they have ever heard of Strong’s Concordance?
Do you even know what that is?
It’s a really neat book which highlights the true meaning of each word in the Bible.
It’s really helpful for people who can’t read the original languages.
That way, no matter what translation your friends use (just hopefully not a Catholic one!), they can always go to God’s original, unadulterated word for answers.
I’ll see if I have a copy at home, and if I do I’ll drop it off at your house this week, to give to them.
Again, I’m so sorry to hear about their "conversion."
I will be praying for them this Wednesday evening.
I’ll let my pastor know, too. He can pray for them.
And if you don’t mind, I’ll even tell other Christian brothers and sisters in my Bible study about them, so they too can intercede for them.
Perhaps God will be merciful, and hear all of our prayers.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
As noted in the beginning of this mini-series about the Sermon on the Mount, the whole sermon is laid out for us in the form of a chiasm:
A. Jesus ascends mountain surrounded by crowds (4:23-5:2)
B. Blessings (5:3-10)
C. Fulfill “the law and prophets”/ glorify “your Father in Heaven” (5:11-20)
D. Two triads about Torah (5:21-48)
E. One triad about spiritual discipline (6:1-18)
D'. Two triads about Godly priorities (6:19-7:6)
C'. “This is the law and prophets”/”your Father in Heaven” provides (7:7-12)
B'. Warnings (7:13-27)
A'. Jesus descends mountain surrounded by crowds (7:28-8:1)
In the last post we completed section "C". Now we are going to tie it into section C', which says:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
At first glance the meaning of section C' (7:7-12) might not seem to correspond to section C (5:11-20) simply because of its difference in size. After all, one section is twenty verses long, whereas I'm claiming that it's corresponding section, section C', which contains only six verses, derives it's meaning from the previous twenty verses near the beginning of the Sermon.
But let's begin by asking some obvious questions, and I hope it will become obvious immediately as to why I think both sections are mutually interpretive. When reading 7:7-12, the first obvious question we ought to be asking (as indeed, we should imagine Matthew's audience asking) is, ask for what? A second question would be this: Knock, and what would be opened to them? A third (and again, obvious) question is: Everyone who asks for what, receives what?
To summarize: Everyone who seeks after what, finds what? Everyone who knocks, what will be opened?
I contend that apart from the literary structure of the Sermon itself, according to the way Matthew wrote it (or whoever wrote it--it doesn't matter who wrote it at this point in our inquiry, but what is actually written is most important), there is no clear answer to that question. Scholars conjecture in a wide variety of ways in response to these questions, yet most don't approach it from the Sermon's own literary structure. If you look at the verses immediately preceding this section (which would be section B': 6:19-7:6) I can assure you that you won't find the answer there. The whole Sermon must be taken into account. And since the whole Sermon must be taken into account, why not look to the preceding section which corresponds to it? Yet that is precisely what we are about to do. With a literary approach that pays attention to the internal structure of the speech in question, we will be able to answer the obvious and somewhat naggingly unclear questions above.
The first question, again, was: Ask for what? If we look back to section C (here, here, here, and here), the answers become apparent. They ought to have asked for hope and joy through the coming persecutions. They were to seek to have their light shine brighter than the scribes and Pharisees. And if a door stood in opposition to where Christ was leading them, here in section C' they are encouraged to simply knock and it would be opened for them.
They could also ask for wisdom when others thought their witness to the truth of Jesus Christ was foolish. In retrospect, one might think that would have been an obvious thing to ask, given that Jesus had already warned them about being trampled under foot by hostile brethren opposing Jesus and the good news that his kingdom was drawing near (which, as we have seen in previous posts, necessitated the destruction of Herod's Temple, which many first century Jewish leaders and their disciples idolized).
They could have also sought to obey and teach others about the Law and the Prophets, which included their way of fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Now they are being told that if only their brethren knocked on the door of Christ's Church, they also would be welcomed into his heavenly kingdom. Unfortunately, as we know from historical accounts, such as Josephus, Tacitus, and Eusebius (and as noted by a wide variety of Church Fathers), not all of first century Israel took Jesus' advice.
Implicit in all of these illustrations is their asking, seeking, and knocking for good things—what God has revealed to be good things. Those good things they were exhorted to ask for and pursue were—somewhat surprisingly—gifts which only the Holy Spirit could give.
Luke 11:13 clarifies this. (And Matthew seems to be taking this for granted as understood in context.) Luke records the same statement as Matthew, but with one additional phrase:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
In Matthew's version ("If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children”) the phrase could be rendered a tad bit more literally, in order to clarify some potential concerns of ours. What Matthew says, more woodenly, is this:
Therefore if you-all, although you-all are evil, know how good gifts are given to your children, how much more…(etc.)1
It turns out that in Matthew's version, Jesus is not accusing all the people before him of being evil. He is offering them a worst case scenario. The “if” is just as important as the “although.”
Jesus's point is this: Even the most evil parents know how good gifts are given to their children—and it’s not through cruelty, or trickery. Even the most evil parents know how to give good gifts to their children because their children ask for them. Therefore, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him? So then, whatever they wished that others would do to them, they were also to do to them, for such is the Law and the Prophets.
Notice again that along with the "Father in heaven" providing for them, this phrase, "the Law and the Prophets," also shows up. The last time we heard (or saw) these phrases was back in Section C.
If they wanted to be treated mercifully, they too should treat others mercifully. If they wanted swift and stern justice for every sin, they had to be willing to receive it themselves. If they wanted to receive reconciliation with their family or neighbors, they needed to pursue reconciliation. If they wanted to avoid false accusations of treating others in an evil manner, they had to turn the other cheek and not resist the one who is evil to them. That is what the Law and the Prophets taught!
In other words, if they wanted to live like their God revealed in the Law and Prophets, they needed to live like Jesus.
We learned a little about the Law and the Prophets in previous posts, so I won't rehearse them here. But I will say this: If Christians today struggle with the God revealed in the "Old Testament" Scriptures, but they also think they don't struggle with Jesus as the God of the "New Testament," they're probably not reading either "Testament" accurately. The God of the Old Testament is Jesus, and the God of the New Testament is YHWH.
In the next series of posts I plan on going through sections D & D' in detail, and I hope to show that the common understanding of Jesus' comments about "the Law" are horrendously misunderstood, partly because the literary structure is rarely brought into the discussion, but mostly because Christians today don't actually know what the Law teaches, and therefore assume that Jesus is teaching contrary to it, when in fact he most certainly does not.
1. The Greek is: εἰ οὖν ὑμεῖς πονηροὶ ὄντες οἴδατε δόματα ἀγαθὰ διδόναι τοῖς τέκνοις ὑμῶν, πόσῳ μᾶλλον…
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
In the last post of this series about the Sermon on the Mount we discussed the significance of a necessary change in the Law once “all has happened.” I also argued for a first century fulfillment of when all that happened. Now I want to focus our attention on Jesus’ statements about “the least of these commandments.” Matthew 5:17-20 records the following words of Jesus:
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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all has happened. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
People often assume that “the least of these commandments” referred to the commandments of “the Law.” Moreoever, the “Law” allegedly referred to the first “five books of Moses” (although nowhere within the Bible itself does it claim that Moses wrote all five books, or even that the final canonical form we currently have were altogether penned by his hand, thereby forming “the Law” as evangelicals understand it today, but I digress.) Although contemporary claims about “the least of these commandments” referring to the least of Gods commandments within the first five books of Moses is not entirely impossible, it is certainly not a crystal clear connection either.
Alternatively, the perspective I will be endorsing is that “the least of these commandments” was definitely a reference to the least of God’s commandments, but instead of those commands recorded in the first five books of Moses, Jesus was actually referring to his own words and teaching—that is to say, his own divine commandments to them, which would be considered trivial by many first century Israelites because of the “just-ness” endorsed by Pharisaical and scribal traditions.
I’m certainly not alone in this interpretation. The great St. Augustine also concurred, saying:
‘But whoever observes them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven,’ is to be understood in this sense, namely, not according to the measure of those least commandments, but in accordance with those which I [Jesus] am about to proclaim.
Pseudo-Chrysostom also shared the same train of thought:
Let us see what are the least of the commandments. Some people hold to one interpretation and others to another, but I think that the Lord clearly shows what they are when he pointedly says, ‘If someone relaxes one of the least of these commandments,” that is, ‘the ones that I am about to say.’
A handful of internal, contextual remarks suggest this to have been the intended meaning. First, neither the “Law” (Genesis—Deuteronomy) or the “Prophets” are merely a set of “commandments” to be obeyed. The Law contains commandments (almost all of which relate to the Tabernacle/Temple), but it mostly consists of stories about human experience & God’s interaction which ought to be trusted. Secondarily, within Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus never appeals to any commandment within Moses’ “Law” without also clarifying how He thinks that commandment ought to be interpreted ethically. Jesus says, “You have heard it said….But I say to you…”. Surely that was a tell-tale signal to his audience that his own words—independent of whatever traditions the people had learned about Moses’s Law—were to be received as authoritative commands. Otherwise Jesus would have simply quoted Moses’ Law and not commented or critiqued traditional interpretations at all!
Another factor worth noting is that every explicit reference to obedience within Matthew’s Gospel has to do with what Jesus teaches authoritatively, and not merely what “the Law” of Moses recorded. Take, for example, the way Matthew frames the entire Sermon on the Mount, beginning in 4:23ff, in preparation for Jesus to ascend the mountain and give the law, surrounded by crowds, as the new and greater Moses figure:
And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
At the end of the Sermon, when Jesus descends the mountain surrounded by crowds (7:28-8:1), Matthew makes clear that Jesus’ words were authoritative:
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes.When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him.
The overall literary purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to portray Jesus as the new and greater Moses, the new and greater Lawgiver of Israel. But these are not the only times within Matthew’s Gospel that we find Jesus’ words and overall message as authoritative. Later on, within this same sermon, Jesus makes it very clear as to whose commands the people ought to obey in order to live:
Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (7:24–29)
Echoing Matthew 5:17-20, Jesus mentions the authority of his own words the people of Israel in the first century:
From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Matthew 24:32-34)
This really shouldn’t be a disputed fact. St. Augustine wasn’t alone in believing that Jesus was referring to his own words. And I’m not alone in believing that “the least of these commandments” were the least of Jesus’ commandments either. A whole litany of references from the Gospels should be conclusive enough:
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like (Luke 6:47)For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. (Luke 9:26)Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (Luke 24:44)Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. (John 5:24)But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:47)So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples (John 8:31)I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. (John 8:37)Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. (John 8:43)Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (John 8:51)The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ (John 8:52)If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. (John 12:47)The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. (John 12:48)Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:23)Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. (John 14:24)If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. (John 15:7)Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. (John 15:20)
If we go back to Jesus’ statement about filling full the Law and the Prophets, and we walk through the entirety of Matthew’s Gospel with that promise in mind, it seems that the goal of fulfilling “the Law and the Prophets” was to crown Jesus as the only human being in the cosmos, having ascended above all principalities and powers in the cosmos, with authority over all things. Therefore obedience to the voice of the Lord Jesus was to be the sine qua non of entrance into his heavenly Kingdom, as well as the means toward fulfilling all that was lacking under the Old Covenant.
Also, in light of what has been said already in this series, and contrary to all false accusations which would be thrown against 1st century Christians by their anti-Christian Jewish communities, it needs to be emphasized for the sake of abundant clarity that Jesus did not abolish “the Law” or “the first five books of Moses,” or even old testament “biblical commands.” As we will see in upcoming posts in this series, Jesus clearly upheld the Law. He even gave clarity to the Law in ways which the scribes and Pharisees did not, because their focus seemed to always be upon the letter of the Law and not the character of God throughout the Scriptures.
Understanding the character of God throughout the Scriptures is crucial to understanding the authority of Jesus.
I realize that this might come across as a shock to many Christians today, but a thorough investigation of the Old Testament Scriptures teaches that throughout Israel’s history God actually did not behave rigorously (i.e. Pharisaically or “legalistically”) according to the letter of His own Law. Instead, we find God far more often to be extremely patient and long-suffering, kind and merciful, gracious and forgiving, and not always rendering swift and stern justice, as His own Law demands.
Now you might be wondering, how does is this relevant to Matthew 5:17-20 at all?
It’s relevant because we often end up confused about what “commands” Jesus does and does not require us to keep under the New Covenant. Some theories say that Jesus requires us to keep every jot and tittle of Moses’ Law, including the dietary laws. Other theories say that Jesus abolished the entirety of God’s commands to the people of Israel. But the reality is that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets! He came to fill them full—to reveal that patient, long-suffering, merciful, gracious, and perfectly just and appropriately wrathful God to Israel. Jesus came to put flesh and bones on the image of God Himself as revealed throughout the Scriptures. Christians often don’t see Jesus as wrathful or angry because we are not looking at the New Testament Scriptures in light of God’s Holy Law. And we often don’t see the God of the Old Testament as being patient, long-suffering, or merciful because we are not looking at the “Prophets” in light of God’s Law.
It is precisely because the foundational Law of God has been “filled full” in Jesus’ ministry, that Jesus and his apostles tell the Church to build the rest of God’s Temple upon them, by obedience to the Law of God, which is also the Law of Christ.
For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just-ness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled by you in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Galatians 5:13-15)
This is my defense to those who would examine me. Do we not have the right to eat and drink? Do we not have the right to take along a believing wife, as do the other apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas? Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working for a living? Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk? Do I say these things on human authority? Does not the Law say the same? For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not certainly speak for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?…For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law, that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (I Corinthians 9)
By obeying the voice of the Lord Jesus and teaching others to do the same, the “righteousness” (i.e. their just-ness) of Jesus’ disciples would exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. Only those who trusted and obeyed Jesus would enter the Kingdom of Heaven that was about to come. Those who trusted and obeyed the scribes and Pharisees would be cut off.
Jesus did come to bring about necessary changes of the Law—especially in light of the Temple’s soon coming destruction—but he did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. All of the necessary changes were centered on life under the old creation, in which the temple in Jerusalem were central and essential. If Jesus had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, the temple in Jerusalem could no longer remain central. The Temple of His Body had to become central.
The least of his commands had to be kept to definitively end the old covenant, and the least of his commandments still need to be kept in order to enter the kingdom of heaven.