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Pastor Brian has called the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s stump speech – in other words this same message or at least its major themes were probably repeated by Christ numerous times and in many settings throughout His 3 ½ years of earthly ministry.  I like that designation.  Some of us just listened to the third presidential debate this past week … the stump speeches … the standard lines of the two candidates are already boring me … there is so much rhetoric … so much twisting of the truth and misrepresentation … so many big promises and so little power to make things happen … to really make a change in people’s lives … I admit I am somewhat of a political cynic … not to minimize the importance of our responsibility to evaluate the issues and to vote … and certainly not painting both candidates with the same brush when it comes to character and convictions … but when it comes to stump speeches … they tire me out ..

The Sermon on the Mount is 2000 years old … for me it is about 50 years old … but I’m not tired of it … I don’t find it boring …. It is exciting and fresh … because it is the Word of God and it is powerful … it communicates the essence of kingdom life … it shows me what true righteousness looks like when Christ reigns in our hearts … you want the true message of Peace and Security and Prosperity … it is all here in the Sermon on the Mount …

Christ is no mere politician of some local time and place

He is the fulfillment of everything the OT promised in terms of the coming Messiah:

  • He is the ultimate prophet who would not only communicate God’s message … but Himself be the incarnate Word of God
  • He is the Sympathetic Priest – the one mediator between God and man … who Himself is the very sacrifice that has paid the penalty for our sins
  • He is the Reigning Eternal King who is ushering in His kingdom according to His sovereign Reign

Don’t forget what we have covered already in the Sermon on the Mount … review your notes …

Today we come to a pivotal short paragraph that sets up the specific topics Christ is going to address to contrast His explanation of the law of God with that of the scribes and Pharisees.  He takes up the topics of murder, of reconciliation and forgiveness, of adultery and divorce, of the swearing of oaths, of retaliation vs love, of almsgiving, of prayer, of fasting, of materialism, of anxiety … the list goes on.

The contrast is going to be severe at every point …

– you have those who pride themselves on being the experts in the law … those who have made a profession out of telling others how to live in a way that will please God – the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees who are going to be exposed as white-washed sepulchres … trying to look pretty on the outside but stinking of death and condemnation on the inside

– vs. the Lawgiver and Lawfulfiller Himself – the Lord Jesus Christ

He never backs away from a confrontation where He sees an opportunity to shed light on the true nature of the kingdom of God and His righteousness

Let’s see who the real expert is on the subject of the law of God and the type of righteousness that is demanded by Him

Charles Swindoll: For many long years, faulty information had been taught by the religious aristocracy. With unquestioned authority, these religious leaders twisted the meaning of Holy Scripture, offered interpretations that were simply wrong, and demanded applications that were frankly impossible. Not content to let God’s Word speak for itself, they added to the commandments of God and required that everyone obey their additions without hesitation. When Jesus sat down and delivered His illustrious Sermon on the Mount, jaws must have dropped as His audience heard an entirely different interpretation, delivered in an entirely different mode of communication.

With boldness and clarity, He explained crucial truths in such a way that anyone could grasp the meaning. His teachings were both insightful and convicting. They stood in sharp contrast to the traditional religious instructions the people had been taught throughout their lives. And just as these truths were impactful among Jesus’ original audience, they have immense bearing for us today. . .

So, rather than setting aside, rejecting, or replacing the Word of God, Jesus had come to “fulfill” and to “accomplish” it (5:17-18). Jesus Himself would fulfill God’s Word doctrinally, ethically, prophetically, and personally. He would live its laws and interpret its words as God originally intended. He would fulfill its prophecies and promises as predicted.

Grant Osborne: The body of the sermon begins here. The central issue is the relationship of Jesus’ kingdom teaching (in a sense, a new Torah) to the old Torah or law. When one realizes the radical nature of this new ethical teaching, it is understandable that Jesus begins with this issue.  He wants to make clear that he is unswerving in his adherence to the Torah. This supplements but does not replace Torah; rather, it is the true explication of Torah, the implications that have not previously been understood.

Moreover, Torah is caught up and fulfilled in this new kingdom teaching. It is clear that Jesus brings something entirely new to the table—a new righteousness; but that new righteouness is not opposed to the old but is the true implication of it. The six antitheses in 5:21–48 draw out and exemplify this fact.

The scribes and Pharisees had developed the oral tradition in order to explicate the law more clearly for the people; they wanted to make its meaning evident on the practical level of living it rightly. Jesus is saying in effect that they have failed to do so. Only he can “fulfill” it, that is, bring it to its intended end or goal.



This past week Karen and I enjoyed travelling throughout the gorgeous mountains of Vermont – the changing leaves were just in their prime … God’s glorious beauty shouted from every mountaintop .. a dazzling array of colors … sometimes muted … sometimes very bright and vivid ..

Locals know us as “leaf peepers”

Now that we have advanced into the modern age with a digital camera … Karen can take pictures to her heart’s content (cell phones .. that’s a story for another day … not going there yet)

These new cameras with their Auto-Focus features are great … you don’t have to play with a lot of complicated dials and settings … just point and click …

But the level of light vs shadows available is a crucial variable you cannot control … you might have the same shot of a quaint old-fashioned church with a high steeple in the town square … set against the backdrop of some trees with every shade of orange and red imaginable… but if the sun is behind the clouds or you are in the shadows … the picture will not be the same as when the lighting is just right … The reality of the scene is the same … the church is what it is … but until you have the proper lighting you don’t get the full impact

That is the analogy we are going to look at this morning as we examine the relationship between the revelation of God’s righteousness in the OT Law and Prophets and the sharpened focus on God’s revelation brought about by the light of God’s glory in the person of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

The OT was a period of types and shadows.  The New Covenant revelation is one of completion and fulfillment.

  • Look at the feasts … what they were intended to signify ..
  • Look at all the different sacrifices
  • Look at the laws associated with cleanliness
  • Look at the OT characters themselves

Abraham – the father of those who would be called into the family of faith

Moses – picture of God redeeming His people

Joshua – a type of the Savior who would lead his people into the promised land

David – a type of the righteous King who would come

Christ was viewed as a threat by those who made it their business to major in God’s revelation.

Not welcomed with open arms; not recognized as the Messiah; but treated with suspicion and attacked as an enemy of the law of Moses


A.  (:17a) Wrong View of OT Revelation = Failing to see Progression in the context of Continuity

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets”

Def of “the Law and the Prophets” — More than just five books of OT

Seems to be a reference to entire revelation of OT

Sometimes a reference to just “the Law” can also speak of the whole (vs. 19)

The law itself divided into 3 components: moral, ceremonial, civil – but an integrated whole

with special application to the nation of Israel

(Caution: will be using some labels here … helpful in being able to speak to a system of thought)

  1. Forget About the OT = Deny the Continuity of God’s Revelation

(cf. my marketing campaign: “Forget About Bob”)

scribes and Pharisees had invested everything in trying to be experts on the OT law

a.  Unfounded Charge made against Christ (and later against the Apostle Paul)

Abolishing the Law — Christ speaking against the commands of Moses; not

submitting to them – Why would they make such a charge?

(Warren Wiersbe)

1)  His authority didn’t fit their mold (7:29)

He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes

2)  His associations didn’t fit their mold

This man rubs shoulders with the lowest class of sinners in society

3)  His activities didn’t fit their mold

How could He perform acts of healing on the Sabbath

Didn’t conform to their traditions … which they had elevated to

The same degree of authority as scripture itself

4)  His message didn’t fit their mold

Message of a call to repentance – not what the self righteous want to hear

b.  Ultra Dispensationalists – Sermon on the Mount has no application to today

Application: How do evangelicals forget about the OT?

Yes, the keeping of the law cannot save or sanctify us

Yes, believers are no longer under the law as the rule of life

But there is much of value in the OT and much that applies to us today …

  1. Reduce the Message of the OT to one of External Legalism

a.  Scribes and Pharisees of Christ’s day

misunderstanding of the communication of God’s message in the OT –

especially regarding the true nature of righteousness

b.  Legalists of Today

– Seventh Day Adventists

Application: How do evangelicals fall into legalism in their approach to spirituality?

the practice of adding extra commandments to the Law that Christ:

They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Matt. 23:4, NIV).

  1. Deny the Progressive Nature of God’s Revelation – 2 Examples:

a.  Theonomists  — want to see the civil laws and associated penalties promoted in our society today; fail to recognize the distinctive program that God has for the nation of Israel … since they see the church as fulfilling all that pertains to the nation of Israel (except they do allow for the cessation of the sacrifices) (Rushdoony, North – very intellectual … heavy stuff ..)

But they are compensating for the failure of the evangelical church to give enough attention to God’s revelation in the OT – a swing of the pendulum

b.  Messianic camp needs to be careful here – They come from a cultural emphasis of wanting to retain their special Jewish heritage while celebrating the fulfillment that Christ has brought to the types and shadows of the OT feasts, etc.  Sounds good … but has some areas where we need to be cautious:

– aren’t we supposed to be promoting a unity in the body of Christ where we no longer form cliques around areas of distinctive race or culture??  I would have the same issue of caution with other distinctive groups (Korean Presbyterian churches, Chineses churches) – I see the value … yet we live in a world of people of all backgrounds … shouldn’t our church be one that could attract everyone who wants to be a disciple of Christ??

– areas of emphasis – too easy to get on a soapbox about peripheral issues and get the attention diverted away from what should be primary

Application: How do evangelicals deny the progressive nature of God’s revelation?

B.  (:17b-18) Right View of OT Revelation = Seeing Progression in the context of Continuity

Christ came to Completely and Entirely Fulfill God’s Revelation in the OT

I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass

away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.”

In what sense did Christ fulfill God’s revelation in the OT:

– By His life of obedience … completely fulfilled all of the righteous requirements of the law

Gal. 4:4  “made under the law

Remember His baptism – “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness

Submitted to the instruction of his parents

Observed the feasts and the sacrifices

Earned the commendation of His Heavenly Father: “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased” –

shows that His righteousness was not just external but proceeded from the heart

– By the fulfillment of all prophecy – some yet future

– Most importantly, in His death and resurrection – He redeemed us, reconciled us —

Brought us into a new relationship with God under the New Covenant

Leon Morris: To fulfil has been understood in three main ways:

(1)  It may mean that he would do the things laid down in Scripture.

(2)  It may mean that he would bring out the full meaning of Scripture.

(3)  It may mean that in his life and teaching he would bring Scripture to its completion.

Each points to an aspect of the truth, and Jesus may well have meant that he would fulfil Scripture in more ways than one.



Remember 5:48Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”


My athletic career peaked in the 6th grade … (Doesn’t seem to surprise any of you)  I was a standout in the Junior Olympics that year.  One of my best events was the high jump.  Different than today when you have fancy techniques like the Fosbury Flop where you leap over backwards, head first … we just lined up … took a run at the pole and did a scissor kick to try to clear it.  Every time you made the height they would raise the bar … eventually nobody could make it …

Our passage this morning serves as the introduction to how Christ will interpret some very specific commands of God from the OT.  In each case he sets forth the contrast between what the scribes and Pharisees are teaching the people and the true intent of God’s Law.  He raises the bar … making the transition from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant by remaining consistent to the continuity of revelation while introducing the progressive aspects of that revelation.


Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Some important principles from this one verse:

  1. Teaching God’s Word is a Sobering Responsibility

Message of James: don’t just rush forward and babble away; guard the tongue;

Teaching ministry is not for those young in the faith . . . will puff them up

Know your limitations

  1. There are Differing Levels of Reward and Recognition in the Kingdom of Heaven

Should not be surprising

Does this primarily refer to privileged positions of responsibility in the Millennial Kingdom?

Certainly nothing to minimize or sneeze at

On the other hand can become a stumbling block to those who pursue with motive of selfish ambition .. must not minister from mixed motives

Remember back to previous context: “see your good works and glorify your Father

But the key here is that we all will fall short … the only one who is perfect in this area of obedience is Christ Himself – really continuing to contrast Himself with the scribes and Pharisees

  1. We need to Understand the Transition from the Old Covenant (the dispensation of the law) to the New Covenant

How does this mesh with our understanding of the New Covenant??  Impossible to cover adequately here … requires systematic treatment of relationship of the believer to the law – cf. book by Alva McClain – Law and Grace

Our focus today: What is Christ saying in verse 19??  Placing a high importance on the law …

Are there any millennial applications here … where the civil aspect of the law will once again become more prominent??  I don’t know

This might come as a surprise since we have been taught:

– “We are not under the law …”  in what sense?? Is there any sense in which the law is still the rule of life for the believer

– “Christ is the end of the law” – in what sense – are we to forget about the OT?

What don’t we mean here?

Some people use this verse as a justification to push for necessary obedience on the part of believers to:

– keep the Sabbath day holy  —

But: only of the 10 commandments not repeated in NT

Specifically said that it was given as a sign to nation of Israel

But: principle still has some merit from model of creation

give tithes (10 % of gross or net …income)

But teaching of NT on giving is that of sacrificial giving …

The Lord owns it ALL; we are stewards; how to exercise wise stewardship … not just giving money away … but investing wisely for eternity … lot of issues involved

What do we mean here?

What is the standard of life today for the believer?

Alva McClain:  “This standard is the will of God in the context of His grace given in our Lord Jesus Christ as revealed perfectly in the entire written Word of God.” (and as enabled by the indwelling Holy Spirit who unites us with the life of Christ)

  • The law is one law – an indivisible unity including moral, ceremonial and civil elements
  • remember James … if you break the law in one part … you have broken the entire law
  • Christ emphasized ceremonial aspects – “Show thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that  Moses comanded”  (Matt. 8:4)
  • The law with its injunctions cannot be separated from its penalties
  • The law can save no sinner – no one can keep it perfectly
  • The problem is not with the law – it is an accurate expression of the righteous character of God

Why then was the law given?

  • Remember that the covenants and promises were given first .. law added
  • Necessary for restraint of evil
  • Gives the knowledge of sin and of transgression
  • Clearly the Christian believer is no longer under the law – subject to all of its command and liable to all of its penalties – it cannot sanctify us either
  • That does not mean that the law has no relevance for us – it remains a valuable part of Scripture and the moral aspect continues to teach us about God’s standard for righteousness


“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Christ could not have painted things in more dramatic fashion:

  • How do you think the crowd would have reacted to a statement like this?  Certainly it got their attention … made them re-examine their thinking
  • How do you think the scribes and Pharisees would have reacted?  Stirred up their anger and opposition – who is this man of Nazareth to criticize us … to question our level of spirituality?

The Righteousness Required by God:

  1. Is a Free Gift — The Only Righteousness that Counts with God is One which He Freely Gives as a Gift of His Grace

Look at the Problem of Self Righteousness and Pride:

Cf. the problem of the rich man in Matt. 19:16-26 – came to Christ with the right goal: wanting to find out how to obtain eternal life … but asked the wrong question = “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?”   No problem … just go obey all the commandments … the standard of righteousness we have already seen = Perfection … knock yourself out

The law shows us the weakness of our flesh and how far short we fall of God’s standard

Disciples alarmed at Jesus’ answer – “Then who can be saved …with God all things are possible

Where am I driven by achievement … doing … doing … doing?

Where do I compare myself with others in order to puff myself up?

How do I come across to unbelievers as possessing some sort of special works righteousness rather than proclaiming the true message of the gospel: only a sinner saved by grace?

  1. Focuses on the Heart — The Only Righteousness that Counts with God is One that Flows out of a Heart Changed by God

Grant Osborne: The problem is inherent in all legalistic movements: certain patterns are identified with holiness, but they are too easily external (acted out) rather than internal (truly believed and lived). The result is hypocrisy (see Matt 23). Therefore, a mere righteousness by fiat is insufficient. The lifestyle God demands is of the heart, lived out in daily actions.

Illustration: When Karen and I got in the car to head off on our trip this past week … we noticed right away that we couldn’t see clearly because our windshield was dirty … we used the washer fluid and the wipers several times … but it didn’t seem to help .. then we realized that the problem was the inside of the windshield was still dirty!

Message of Matt 15 – Christ not after lip service; not after the external traditions that are man-made; only concerned with the righteousness that proceeds from the heart

Christ described the scribes and Pharisees in Matt 23:25-28

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.

You blind Pharisess, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also.

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.”

Why do we focus our evangelism on methods of manipulation and emotionalism and intellectual argumentation?  We fail to understand the true dynamic of how God works on the inside of a person’s heart in accordance with His sovereignty and grace to draw a person to repentance and faith.

Caution: As we study the Commands of Christ … make sure that we are not setting up another external code of do’s and don’ts where the burden is on our discipline and self effort to achieve … this would be a recipe for defeat.

The New Covenant is all about the law of Christ written on our heart within … with the empowerment coming by grace through faith in the one who indwells us – the person of Christ made real in our experience by the power of the Holy Spirit

Key passage: Romans 8:4  “in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.”

Out of a motive of thanksgiving for having been delivered from the dominion of sin and death … we now yield the members of our body as instruments to fulfill the righteous intent of God’s law with regards to loving God and loving others – and it is all accomplished by grace through faith .. identical to how we entered into the Christian life

The goal of the sanctifying process is nothing short of the perfection which the law of God requires

  1. Is Found in Christ — The Only Righteousness that Counts with God is the One that is Found in Christ

The scribes and Pharisees could not stomach this message; they wanted to protect the empire that they had built around exalting themselves as the experts in both performing and interpreting God’s righteousness

Get our focus back to the Person and work of Jesus Christ

  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of the Gospel of John =  Jesus’ special sign miracles point us to faith in Him as the promised Messiah, the Son of God – who alone can provide spiritual life
  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of Romans = Instead of boasting about prideful distinctions, all believers need to unite in promoting the worldwide message of the gospel which reveals the righteousness of God
  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of 1 Corinthians = we preach the foolishness of the cross; Christ has become to us wisdom from God, and righteousness  and sanctification, and redemption .. let him who boasts, boast in the Lord
  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of Galatians = Never surrender the liberty of our new life in Christ to the bondage of religious legalism
  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of Colossians = The key to spirituality is living out our union with the supreme and sufficient Christ (understanding that we are complete in Him)
  • the message of the Sermon on the Mount is the message of the Book of Hebrews .. God’s supreme revelation to us today is found in the person of His Son … the living Word of God


I would like to conclude with four simple points of application:

1)  We need to appreciate that Christ completely fulfills all of God’s righteous requirements as set forth in the Law and the Prophets. What does that mean for us?

  • we are no longer under the law
  • we enjoy all of the benefits of the New Covenant with the Law of Christ written on our hearts
  • grace does not mean that obedience doesn’t matter – message of Apostle Paul — should we continue in sin that grace should abound?  Called to Holiness
  • as disciples of Jesus Christ, out of love and devotion to Him, we make it our aim to live from the heart in such a way that He will be well pleased

2)  We need to value God’s message to us in the OT – studying it diligently to find those principles that guide us into understanding the will of God for us today in the context of grace.

  • Remembering the Principle of Interpretation: the progressive nature of God’s revelation does not annul the continuity of that revelation
  • 2 Tim 3:16  “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for  correction, for training in righteousness.” – speaking about OT Scripture

3)  We need to examine our own lives for any trace of self-righteousness or legalism and return in humility to living by grace through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit

  • we have been justified and given the righteousness of Christ as our own
  • we do not want to become puffed up with pride like the scribes and Pharisees – comparing our so-called level of spirituality to others … and viewing ourselves as the experts who hold the key to understanding God’s truth

4)  We need to be on guard against false teachers that will try to bring us back under the burden of the law and compromise the freedom of our new life in the Spirit

We need to look to our Lord Jesus Christ to sharpen our focus and raise the bar for us on our understanding of God’s revelation

As we continue in the coming weeks to examine this stump speech of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount .. that is precisely what should take place.