Living by New Rules

Key Verse: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
—Matthew 5:17

Selected Scriptures:
Matthew 5:17, 18, 21,
22, 27, 28, 31-35,
38, 39, 43, 44

ALL THE DISCIPLES to whom Jesus was speaking in the context of today’s lesson were Jews. They were very familiar with the various laws, commandments, and ceremonies which the nation of Israel had been under since the days of Moses, when God first gave them his Law at Mount Sinai. How appropriate it was that here, on another mount, Jesus took the opportunity to explain some of the features of their Law and how they related to what God would now require of them as followers of his Son, and of a ‘higher’ law than that given to Moses. In our Key Verse, Jesus very wisely qualifies what he is about to say by stating that in no way did he come ‘to destroy’ the Law they had been given under Moses. Quite the opposite was true. It was a perfect Law and, as such, required a perfect human being to keep it. No one, up until now, had been able to claim the perfection needed to fulfill the Law’s strict requirements. Jesus, however, was a perfect human being, and, continuing in our Key Verse, says that one of his purposes in coming to earth was to fulfill, or keep, that very Law which no one else had been able to do. As he says in the very next verse, “I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”—Matt. 5:18

Having made these statements, Jesus then embarks upon the real focus of his lesson. He points out that the measurement for his disciples in determining their success in keeping God’s law is not to be found just in their ability to keep the letter of the commandment in an outward form. Rather, the true measure of a disciple’s obedience to God is shown in the innermost thoughts of the mind and intents of the heart. Referring back to numerous commandments of the Law, he says, “Ye have heard that it was said … Thou shalt not kill; … Thou shalt not forswear thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths: … An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: … Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”—Matt. 5:21,33,38,43

Under the higher law of Christ, the above commandments take on new meaning. For example, not only is it a sin to kill, but Jesus says that now “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” (Matt. 5:22) Not only should we not swear our oaths to the Lord, Jesus says that we should “Swear not at all; … But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.” (vss. 34,37) No more should we require the strict justice of ‘an eye for an eye,’ but rather show the spirit of tolerance, “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” (vss. 39,40) No longer are we to hate our enemies, but Jesus says, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.”—vss. 44,45

When Jesus was asked which was the greatest commandment, he answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” and the second, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law.”—Matt. 22:36-40

Dawn Bible Students Association
|  Home Page  |  Table of Contents  |