“Understanding The Law!”(Mt.5:17-22).
Back in the days when Christmas was approaching some households had a drive towards renewal. In those good old days of wooden furniture some people will take out their chairs, clean them up and polish them again to make them look new. In some such homes where there was not enough income to buy varnish, they mixed red oil with kerosine and used as varnish.
There is a sense of positive change when we rearrange the furnitures in our sitting rooms. Rearranging means you’ve neither bought anything new nor moved house. But there is a sense of change by just rearranging the same furniture.
There is a sense in which the only new thing that the Incarnation brought was the Incarnation itself. Every other furniture in the room remained the same, but a rearrangement took place.
The Lord Jesus Christ says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil 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 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.”
The Law was the Torah, the first five books of today’s Old Testament. The Prophets included not only the Major Prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel, and the other twelve, called the Minor Prophets, but also the Former Prophets, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. In fact, the Law and the Prophets was the whole Hebrew Bible.
When it is said that the Lord Jesus fulfilled the Law, it is in the sense that *”he gave it its full meaning. He emphasized its deep, underlying principles and total commitment to it rather than mere external acknowledgment and obedience.” He was challenging the observance of all the requirements of the Law. He stands against the hypocritical, Pharisaical legalism. A legalism that “was not the keeping of all the details of the Law but the hollow sham of keeping laws externally to gain merit before God while breaking them inwardly.”
It doesn’t make sense to follow the letter of the Law but ignoring the spirit of the Law. The interpretation of the Law and the view of righteousness by works is what Jesus challenges. The emphasis of his preaching is that righteousness comes only through faith in him and his work.
It is hypocrisy to condemn a murderer while at the same time you are angry with your brother – especially if you let the sun go down on your anger. You cannot bring before the court someone who calls another person “empty head,” but at the same time you address another person, “you fool!”
Laws are intended for a morally sane society where nobody is above the law. Sanctions on defaulters should not be celebrated as any punishment is intended to scare and deter prospective defaulters.
We are saved through faith in Christ alone. But we are saved to do the works of righteousness. Christ comes as the varnish to give a touch of beauty on the old furniture before we rearrange the old furniture in the same room. We become new creations but the same persons.
Let any externalistic interpretation of the any law be matched with the spirit of that law.
Prayer: Holy Spirit guide me to understand the spirit of the Law according to the interpretation of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen!
Have a blessed day! Peace be with you!
Rev Babila Fochang.