Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on March 23, 2014
Turn in your Bibles to Matthew 5:21-26. Today, we continue our journey through Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As we work through the text today, and every Sunday for that matter, it is important for us to remember that every passage has context; meaning that the Bible is not to be read as random unconnected statements of facts, but that we must read it as it flows from one passage to the next. Today that is doubly true, because we are looking at a portion of text that is within a singular Sermon and it flows out of a statement that Jesus just made. So with that said, let us look read our scripture, pray and then exposit it.
Jesus then goes on to say that for us to get into heaven our righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees. As we saw last Sunday, this creates a problem for us, because Romans 3:10 tells us that, “None is righteous, no not one.” Therefore, we lack righteousness, yet we need righteousness to get into God's Kingdom. As I said, Jesus proclaims that he fulfills the law, therefore He is righteous. Therefore Jesus has what we need, righteousness. And the good news is that Jesus will give us His righteousness, and the way we receive it is through faith in Him.
Having said that, the religious leaders during the times of Jesus, the scribes and the Pharisees, had made a mess of this age old truth. Instead of placing the focus on faith in God, they put the emphasis on faith in good works. And Jesus was calling them out during the Sermon on the Mount when he said:
In the days of Jesus, the Old Testament was written in Hebrew and not many people could read Hebrew because the language of the day was Aramaic. In addition few people had copies of the Old Testament. If you were a commoner, people like you and me, the way you would know the Bible was through teachers. They would orally tell you what the Bible said, but they wouldn't just read it to you, they would teach it. This is why Jesus said, “You have heard…” You can see this same pattern through the rest of Matthew 5, “You have heard, you have heard, you have heard.” What Jesus is referring to is the teaching of the scribes and the Pharisees.
The people couldn’t check to see for themselves what the Bible said, they had to trust the Scribes and the Pharisees. The Scribes and the Pharisees were the religious leaders of the Jews. They were the ones who were in charge. The problem with the people not having Bibles is that you cannot trust humanity. As I stated, the scribes and the Pharisees had a made a mess out of God’s Word. They had placed themselves, not under God’s Word, but over it. They manipulated it, changed it, added to it, and subtracted from it and then they went out and taught the people. As you can imagine, Jesus was not happy with them. In fact, Jesus eventually pronounces judgment on them in Matthew 23.
Never trust a person or a Church who doesn’t encourage you to check their teaching against God’s Word. If a Pastor or Priest or some other religious leader tells you to let them worry about what the Bible says, run away as fast as you can. If Sunday morning is all about rituals, and going through the motions and God’s Word is not preeminent, then welcome to Satan’s playground. For Satan loves to twist and distort what God’s Word truly says. He did it in the Garden, he did it in the days of Jesus and he is doing it today, and the main way he does it is by turning our eyes from God and to ourselves. This is exactly what Jesus is rebuking through the rest of Matthew, Chapter 5.
The Scribes and Pharisees had turned God’s law into something it was never meant to be. The Scribes and the Pharisees turned God’s Law into a list of things that you did externally in order to earn your way into heaven. They turned God’s law into a mechanical process, teaching that as long as you jumped through the right hoops, you would be accepted by God.
Jesus comes and blows the roof off of Satan’s house, and he starts with what we see as the “sinful” human act Murder.
Behind this teaching of the Pharisees is a different spirit, or intent, then what God intended. The spirit behind the Scribes and the Pharisees was to instruct that you could be good enough to get into heaven, all you had to do was obey externally. This is what we call works based salvation, that your ability to get into heaven rests in your own hands. Jesus comes to reeducate the people and the way he does it is important. Look at verse 22.
And what does the Author of the law say about murder?
How many times have you heard people say that they are going to heaven because they are a good person? When they say this they are thinking like a Pharisee and Scribe. They believe because they have not violated any major civil laws, they are “good.” Because they have never actually acted out their anger by ending someone else's life, the believe that they are good enough to get to heaven. This is just not true. For your thoughts towards another person is enough evidence to make you liable to the hell of fire.
The issue is not the level of the offense. The issue is, and has always been, your heart. Think about sickness and symptoms. Symptoms do not determine sickness. Symptoms point to the reality of our sickness. Physical murder is a symptom that you are a sinner, but so is insulting someone. They are symptoms of the same sickness..sin.
To end, Jesus then says this:
Do you know what? God detests this form of hallow religion. He is not a God that will be mocked.
What the people needed was Jesus Christ. For what stands in the middle of liable to the hell of fire and loving obedience is Jesus. For when we accept Christ in our lives, and His spirit comes and dwells in our hearts, we no longer go through the motions, we live out faith. We are convicted by the Holy Spirit to obey and we lay down our offering and we go and reconcile ourselves to our brothers. The only way we can do this is by Christ in us.
If you are sitting here today at Cornerstone Church and you call yourself a Christian, and there is someone out there that you have sinfully angered, and you think that you being here is the answer, then you don't get it. Sitting in these chairs doesn't save you. Christ saves you. And those who have been saved by Christ, live to reconcile. Reconciliation is your spiritual DNA. So stop fooling yourself, and make things right with your brother, before it is too late.