Christ, the Christian, and the Old Testament (Matthew Sermon 11 of 151)
March 21, 1999 | Andy Davis
The Law of God
I can begin with a story from my mission experience in Japan. We lived near a family of people who owned the largest pharmaceutical company in all of Japan, a multi-billion dollar corporation, the Otsuka family. We were teaching their children English. It's kind of funny because they had lived in America for a number of years and came back to Japan. We taught them for two years, and when we got done they spoke worse English than when we started. But we don't think that's our fault, they just weren't surrounded by English-speaking people anymore. We were just trying to stave off the inevitable decline. But, out of gratitude, they invited us to a dinner at one of their holdings, one of their pieces of land . It was an ancient Japanese home. One of the interesting things about Japanese culture is the blending of the ancient with the incredibly modern and that's the way Japan is. On the surface, it looks modern and then there's other aspects that are incredibly ancient and the two go together in an amazing way. We were being given a tour by a man, and he stopped at a stairwell and pointed to a mosaic up on the wall. He said that those ceramic tiles had been specially invented by a process and that they were the only ones with that pigmentation. The coloring in the ceramic tiles was of such an advanced nature that the color would last between 8,000 and 10,000 years without fading. I thought to myself, as a scientist, how in the world did they prove that? Into what oven, into what process did they do it that they come up with 8,000 to 10,000 years? But they did. They said that this was the closest thing to eternal that you were going to find on earth, and on that I had to differ. Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." I don't know how long those ceramic tiles are going to last. I don't know how long they'll hold their color. Probably, I won't be around to see it. I don't really have any idea, but Jesus clearly testifies in the verses we're going to look at today, that in the Scripture, we have something that will last until the end of time. Therefore, it's essential for us to give our full attention to the Scripture in order to understand it, because the Bible has been attacked throughout history, hasn't it? It makes sense because it is the foundation of everything we know about God and Jesus Christ. Satan marshals attacks and tries to overthrow the Scripture.
Theologian Bernard Ramm, said this, "A thousand times over, the death knell of the Bible has been sounded, the funeral procession formed, the inscription cut on the tombstone and the committal read, but somehow, the corpse never stays put." He added, "No other book has been so chopped, knifed, sifted, scrutinized, and vilified. What other book on philosophy, or religion, or psychology, from classical or modern times, has been subject to such a mass attack as has the Bible with such venom and skepticism, with such thoroughness and erudition, upon every single chapter, line and word? And yet, the Bible is still loved by millions, read by millions, studied by millions. Hundred years ago, German liberal theologians were attacking the Bible. All they did was destroy the faith of some, but the Scripture remains." The Scripture remains and it will, says Jesus, until the end of time.
This shouldn't surprise us, for Isaiah wrote, "All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of our Lord stands forever." And Jesus adds His testimony here. He says in Matt. 5:17 "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. 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 fulfilled. Anyone who breaks 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 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 teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven." This is a very strong statement that Jesus makes about Scripture.
The Sermon on the Mount: Seeing the Big Picture
Let's see if we can get our context. Jesus began in the Sermon on the Mount, by giving a series of character traits, which would characterize the heart of every true Christian. They are called the Beatitudes. He begins with an incredible statement in which He says, "Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." Then He runs through a series of character traits: mourning over sin, meekness, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, being merciful, being pure in heart, and being persecuted as a peacemaker. As we advance with the Gospel, we're going to be persecuted. We have all of these characteristics fitting together in the perfect heart of a Christian. Not one or the other, but all of them fitting together. This is the heart of the Christian. Anyone who lives this way, anyone whose heart is characterized by these traits will be a world changer. He or she will be salt and light in the world, having a tremendous impact.
But now Jesus is getting to a significant topic, — how should the Christian look at the Scripture? Realize at the time, that there was no New Testament. It was being lived out, even in their midst, as Jesus continued in His ministry, but it didn't exist yet. But the Old Testament existed and Jesus was dealing there with the issue of the law and the prophets, and how a Christian should relate to the law and prophets. And even more significantly, how He, Himself, as Messiah related to the Old Testament. This is essential, because we need to understand the purpose of God's law for us as Christians. What is it meant to do? If we don't understand it rightly, we will be in trouble. Jesus is going to lay down two essential principles here — two absolutely essential things.
First, He's going to say, "Absolutely everything I teach, everything I live, everything I work for is in perfect conformity to the law and the prophets. Everything I do, everything I say is in total conformity to the law and the prophets.” Principle number two, "Everything I teach, everything I live, everything I work for is in total disharmony with the teaching of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law." He sets Himself up as the righteous interpreter of the law and the Pharisees and the teachers of the law as false teachers. “And if you're going to follow them, you'll follow them to destruction,” Jesus said, “because unless your righteousness surpasses theirs, you will not go to Heaven.” Jesus is establishing Himself as authoritative - as the authoritative teacher of the law. He's going to go through elements of the law and say, “You have heard that it was said by the people of old, such and such, but I say to you such and such.” And as a result, the Pharisees, who had worked their way into a position of monopoly on Scripture instruction, will cry foul. And they're going to say that Jesus is overthrowing everything. He's saying, "No, I'm not. I'm just weeding out every weed that my Heavenly Father has not planted. I'm pulling it up by the roots. We're getting back to what the Scripture purely is, what it truly is, and I am the authoritative teacher to tell you what that is." It's amazing the authority that Jesus carries. So much so that, at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, the people were astonished at His authority because He taught them as one who had authority and not as the teachers of the law. So we have those two principles. Jesus says, "I'm in total conformity with the law and the prophets and the Pharisees are in total dis-conformity; therefore, I'm in total disharmony with them."
Let's see if we can understand what Jesus is saying. In verse 17, He says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I've not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them." Now, what are the law and the prophets? This is just a way of speaking, a Hebrew way of speaking, of the written Word of God. It's the way of summing up what was in the Old Testament — in the Scripture. The law, namely the Ten Commandments, came down from Mount Sinai from God. The beginning of the writing of scripture came with the finger of God when He inscribed in tablets of stone the Ten Commandments. He wrote them with His own finger, it says. That was the beginning of the written Word of God. Moses, after that, copied down what God told him to say. That scroll was the beginning of the writings of the prophets, Moses being the first writing prophet. Now, Moses would add hundreds of other commandments after that, in addition to the Ten Commandments. The scribes and the Pharisees, the Jews of Jesus' day, divided laws into two categories, positive and negative: 248 positive commands, 365 negative commands. This was a comprehensive law given by God covering every area of life. This was the law. The prophets took the law and drove it home to the hearts of sinful Israel so that they would understand how they were breaking their covenant, and why it was that they would ultimately be judged by God and be expelled from the Promised Land. They took the law and applied it to the hearts of the people. The law and the prophets sum up all the writings, all that activity of the thousands of years before Jesus came.
Jesus said, "Don't think that I have come to abolish." What does the word abolish mean? The word means to utterly overthrow or to raze to the ground, as in a building that's being removed for urban renewal. The idea is that the building is destroyed and laid to rubble and then the rubble itself is cleared away. There's nothing left. That's the strong word that Jesus uses. He says, "Don't think that I have come to do that— to abolish the law. That actually is the absolute opposite of what I came to do. I didn't come to abolish, but I came to fulfill." But Jesus seems, in the rest of this chapter, to be abolishing something. He seems to be wiping something away. What He is wiping away is that human system of interpretation that the scribes and Pharisees had set up in the place of the law. Realize what had happened. The Jews had been kicked out of the Promised Land, and when they came back, most of them did not speak Hebrew anymore. They spoke Greek, they spoke Aramaic, perhaps. So they could not read the Scriptures for themselves. They didn't own the Scriptures, they were too expensive. Individual copies would have been prohibitive. So these teachers of the law would read it in Hebrew and then they'd translate it a little bit and give some explanation. Human teaching became the law and Jesus began to strip this away and say, "No, let's get back to what the Scripture really says and what it really means." Jesus is going to set Himself up against the Pharisees as the authoritative teacher of the Word.
About this idea of abolishment—and this gets into the heart of the issue here—the Old Testament itself seemed to indicate that it would be obsolete at some point. For it says in the Book of Jeremiah 31:31, "The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah." Commenting on this, the writer in Hebrews, chapter 8, verse 13 says, "By calling this covenant new, He has made the first one obsolete and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear." It seems that that's in contradiction to what Jesus was saying, but you have to understand them differently. A portion of the law was fulfilled and was no longer needed when Jesus came, but other parts continue. Jesus is saying something different about the written word. He's saying, "Don't suppose that I came to do away with it as though it no longer has an impact. I did not come to do that, but to fulfill." The Jews thought of the law as being too difficult, too hard. So what they needed to do was to bring it down to something that they could do, however difficult. At least, then they would be able to live it out. That's what the Pharisees did. They took difficult laws and made them attainable if you just worked at it. If you just worked hard enough, you could be righteous by the law. And Jesus is going to strip this away. We have an image here of the fulfillment of the law and the prophets when Jesus came, just as if they were vessels filled up with the life of Christ.
Some scholars have divided the law into three categories: The moral law, the judicial or the societal law, and the ceremonial law. The moral law being things like, "You shall not murder. You shall not steal. You shall have no other gods before me." These Jesus fulfilled by His perfect life. The judicial law were laws that made the Jews a different kind of people as seen by the different clothes they wore, or foods they ate, or things that they did not do that others did. Jesus fulfilled that by living under those and by ultimately overturning them when they were fulfilled. Their purpose was distinct. Then finally, the sacrificial system, the ceremonial law, which Jesus fulfilled by His sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus said, "I didn't come to abolish any of these laws, rather to fulfill them."
The law had two basic functions, and this is very important. It's absolutely essential that you know why the law was given. If you go wrong on this, you'll be led into one of the areas of Jesus' day, self-righteousness or lawlessness, for example. The law was given for two functions, two purposes. Number one, to give us a demonstration of righteousness, that we would see what righteousness is. Not only that we would understand God's righteousness, but that we would understand our own lack of righteousness. The law was given to expose our sin in this matter. The law was given as a description or a demonstration of righteousness. Secondly, the law was given to identify the Messiah. The law came to set up a context, a Jewish context for Jesus, and when He came, He fulfilled predictions, He fulfilled laws, He fulfilled the written Word, so that we would know that Jesus was the one who had come.
Some population experts estimate that there have been about 10 or 11 billion people that have ever lived in all history, and the majority, the overwhelming majority, are alive right here today. So, we have the opportunity, through the missionary enterprise, to reach the overwhelming majority of those that have ever lived today, now. Well, in 10 or 11 billion people, how are you going to find, how are you going to identify the Messiah, how are you going to know who He is? By the fulfillment of the law and the prophets, which God set out that only one man in all history could have fulfilled, Jesus of Nazareth. But what was the law not given to do? The law was given as a demonstration of righteousness, and it was given to identify a Messiah, but what was it not given to do? It was not given to make us righteous. The law makes nothing perfect, says the writer of the Hebrews. Nothing is changed by the law. You are what you are. All the law does is show you what you really are, because you cannot live up to its demands. And anyone who seeks to become righteous by fulfilling the law is falling into the Pharisaic legalism, which Jesus seeks to overturn.
Christ and the Old Testament
How did Jesus fulfill the Old Testament? What did He do? First of all, understand the statements that Jesus makes that He did come to fulfill the Old Testament. In John 5:39, He talks to the Pharisees and to the scribes and says, "You diligently study the Scriptures." And by the way, that was an understatement. They pored over the Scriptures every day. They wrote letter by letter every single letter, one after the other. The studied the Scriptures with incredible detail. That was their job. That's what they did every day. And he said, "You pore over the Scriptures, you diligently study the Scriptures, because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that... " What? "Testify about me. Yet, you refuse to come to me that you may have life." The Scriptures, the Old Testament, testifies about me," said Jesus. Seven verses later, He said it again. "If you believe Moses, you would believe me for He wrote of me." Moses wrote about Jesus, so said Jesus.
Prophecies controlled all of Jesus' life. We've already seen that. Do you remember how the Gospel of Matthew begins? It begins with a genealogy, fulfilled prophecy. Jesus would be descended from Abraham, from Isaac, from Jacob. He would be descended from Judah, from Jesse, from David and on down. Every one of those steps was prophesied before Jesus was ever born or entered the world. Prophecy controlled how He was born and where He was born. He was born in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy. Prophecy controlled every aspect of Jesus' ministry and His life. It controlled His gentle manner. It said in the Book of Isaiah 42:3, "A bruised reed He will not break and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out." Jesus would be gentle in His ministry. It says also prophecy controls the way that Jesus taught, "I will open my mouth and utter parables and dark sayings of old," in Psalm 69. Jesus would teach in parables and so He did. It controlled the way that He taught and the way He carried Himself, for example, in controversies, and religious arguments with the leaders of His day. How did He begin the argument on divorce? In Matthew 19, He said, "Haven't you read in the Scripture that at the beginning He made them male and female?" He used Scripture for everything. He used Scripture for teaching. I'm convinced He had the whole thing memorized because in the midst of a controversy with the Jews when they were ready to stone Him, do you know what Scripture He pulled for when He said, "I said you are gods"? Psalm 82. You may have heard of Psalm 23, maybe some of you Psalm 22 or Psalm 16, certainly Psalm 51, but Psalm 82, right in the middle, a throwaway line. Are there any throwaway lines? Absolutely not. Every word is inspired. He knew it all. Psalm 82:6,"I said, ‘you are gods.’” In John 10:35, He says, “If he called them ‘gods’, to whom the word of God came — and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said ‘I am God’s Son’?" You can't break the Scripture. This is Jesus' clear statement. Jesus also spoke Scripture to the devil in the midst his temptation. He was saturated in the Scriptures. He said, "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes out of mouth of God." In the midst of temptation He reverts to Scripture. Jesus said, even in reference to His own statements, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." That extends therefore to the New Testament. All Scripture will last until the end of time. Jesus' death on the cross, and His resurrection — in that time more Scriptures were fulfilled than in any other aspect of His life. His last week of existence on earth was thick with fulfilled prophecy. When Jesus was arrested and His right-hand man Peter pulled out his sword and wanted to fight for Him, do you remember what Jesus said? He said, "Peter, put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. And do you not think that I cannot call on my Father and at once He will put at my disposal more than 12 legions of angels? Peter, if I were going to avoid arrest, it wouldn't be by that little dagger of yours. So, put it away. If I were going to try to avoid arrest, I'd call on 12 legions of angels and they would handle this small detachment that's come to arrest me. But, how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" Now, that is a beautiful summation of Jesus' attitude. Scripture says it, it must be fulfilled, and I am bound by it for Scripture cannot be broken.
When Jesus hung from the cross, Scripture records seven distinct sayings of Jesus — seven different times He opened His mouth and made a statement. The first of these was this, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani," He said. Do you know what that is? It’s a direct quote of Psalm 22:1. In Franco Zeffirelli ’s movie “Jesus of Nazareth” when Jesus cried out, "Eloi, Eloi," those gathered at the foot of the cross said, "Oh, He's calling for Elijah!" But one of them stroked his beard, said, "No, He's not. No, He's quoting Scripture. Even now, even here, hanging on the cross with His life-blood flowing out of Him, He's quoting the Bible." And he shook his head in amazement. Jesus was dying, and He's quoting Scripture. Jesus was identifying a prophetical passage of Scripture which predicted He would die by piercing, crying out ”My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Toward the end in John 19:28, John writes, "Jesus, later knowing that all things were completed and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, He said, 'I am thirsty.'" Jesus' motive according to John was to fulfill one last prophecy before He died; that He would drink vinegar. Now, who do you think brought that vinegar and put it at the foot of the cross that day? Some man, some woman, didn't know what they were doing, but they were under the control of prophecy. That bowl was there, they put it on a sponge, they lifted it to His mouth and He drank, and then all things were finished. And what was the last thing that Jesus said, in the Synoptic Gospels? "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." — a direct quote from Psalm 31:5. Three of Jesus' seven statements on the cross had to do with the written word of God, a testimony of his saturation with the Bible.
Jesus' death itself fulfilled reams of prophecy. The sacrificial death of Christ on the cross fulfilled all the sacrificial system. It came because you and I were under the law. And the law has demands, one commandment after another, 365 negative commands, 248 positive commands. Have you fulfilled them all every day of your life? And if not what will you do for the judgment? What will you do for the punishment that is due you? It says in the Book of James that if anyone falls at one command, he's guilty of the whole of it. Just as a beautiful pane of glass, if there's only one BB hole in it, you replace the glass. Like the glass in an aquarium. Can you imagine seeing sharks and different things swimming around there and seeing a little bullet hole down there at the bottom and saying, "Oh, that's alright. It's just one hole. No problem." That's what the law is like. If you fail at just one point of it, you're guilty of all of it. And we've failed at more than just one point. But Jesus took the law's demands, He took our punishment on Himself so that on Judgment Day we would not have to stand under the commands of the law, but rather we would be free from it.
But Jesus also fulfills the law in us. Through His resurrection, and through His death and His resurrection, and through the advance of the Gospel He fulfills all the prophecies, but then He fulfills the law in us. Romans 8:4 "In order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit." The Spirit lives inside us so that we can now walk in the light of the law and obey it. Jesus fulfills the Scripture all the way through. In Matt. 5:18 Jesus makes a comprehensive statement about the permanence of Scripture. Jesus says, "Until Heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear until everything is accomplished." It is comprehensive first of all in time. Look at what He says, "Until Heaven and earth disappear." There will be no time at which the law and the prophets disappear. It will stay with us, and so it has, 2000 years later, it's still here, fulfillment right in our midst. Comprehensive in time.
The Permanence of the Old Testament
Secondly, it's comprehensive in scope,"Not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear from the law." King James has, "jot and tittle." That little word jot, J-O-T, that's a transliteration of the Hebrew letter Yodh, Y-O-D-H. It looks like a tiny little apostrophe. Psalm 119 goes through the Hebrew alphabet, all 22 letters. And you can look at the Yodh. It's so small, you can't even see it, just little, tiny, little Yodh. Jesus says, "Not one Yodh will disappear. They will all be there until the end of time. Because they're exactly the way I want them." Comprehensive in scope. Every letter of Scripture will stay. Thirdly, comprehensive in power. Not one letter, not the least stroke of a pen will by any means disappear. No king can make it disappear, no spiritual force of evil in the heavenly realm, Satan cannot make it disappear. There's no power that anyone can marshal that will overthrow the law of God. It will last. There is no power in Heaven and on earth or under the earth that can overthrow the Scripture. Finally, comprehensive in purpose. Until everything is accomplished, everything will be done just as it is written and nothing can stop it. This is a very strong statement on the Scripture. Comprehensive all the way through.
But here we come into some difficulties. Didn't Jesus overthrow some laws? Didn't He, for example, overthrow the dietary regulations? How many of you recently have been offered some ham or some pork or bacon said, "No, no. I can't. I'd be breaking the laws of God and I wouldn't want to do that?" How many of you said, "No, I just can't wear those garments because there's a mixture there of linen and wool. I think it's a blend and I can't wear that"? That's a direct contradiction of Leviticus 16:17. Have you run into that difficulty? Why not? Because Jesus has fulfilled that and it seems to have been overthrown. It seems to have been removed. It says very clearly in Mark 7:19, "In saying this Jesus declared all foods clean." So go ahead and enjoy your pork, enjoy your bacon. There may be other reasons not to eat it, but becoming ceremonially unclean is not one of them. Jesus declared all foods clean. And as I quoted earlier, Hebrews 8:13 says,"By calling the covenant new, He has made the old one obsolete. And what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear." So in what sense does Jesus say they will by no means disappear? Well, realize Jesus said, "until everything is fulfilled." Each of those laws had its purpose, and when that purpose had been fulfilled, then its time had passed. But yet, it's still here. We can still read about it. Even though we're not under that requirement anymore, we can still read about it and it still has the fulfillment because it points forward to Christ. It points to Christ, and in that way it stands. The Scripture will last forever until everything is fulfilled.
Twin Dangers of the Law: Lawlessness and Self-Righteousness
Now, in verses 19 and 20 of Matthew, Jesus reminds us of two dangers with the law. You could call it the Scylla and Charybdis. They were two rocks on opposite sides of a narrow strait in the book The Odyssey by Homer. Odysseus was traveling and he came to these two rocks which had hideous monsters on them, one on the left and one on the right. One of them snatched sailors off the decks of your ship, the other one sucked water up so that your ship got sucked up into its stomach. It’s a mythological story, but modern scholars believe that this was the narrow strait of Messina between the island of Sicily and the toe of the boot of Italy — and if you sail between there now, they still call the rocks, Scylla and Charybdis.
The danger is that you don't want to go too far one direction and you don't want to go too far the other direction. You want to go right in the middle. If you go too far one way or the other, your ship will be destroyed. And what are the two ways of being destroyed? In verse 19, "Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of Heaven." That is the error of lawlessness. Then in verse 20 He mentions the righteousness of the Pharisees and that is the error of self-righteousness. These are two different approaches to the law. Lawlessness comes to the law and says, "I don't really care what it says. Really doesn't matter to me. I'm not under the law." Doesn't make a difference what God's standards are. Or, "I don't really care what God thinks. I'm going to do what I want to do anyway." 1 John 3:4 says that,"Everyone who sins breaks the law. In fact, sin is lawlessness." If you're here today and you've never given your life to Jesus Christ, you are under the law and therefore the law will point an accusing finger at you, point by point condemning you to eternity apart from God in hell.
That's how important the law is. It stands over you if it has not been forgiven through Jesus Christ. The law is absolutely essential. But in this day and age in America, we have a view of grace — cheap grace it's called. In other words, Jesus died for us. The blood cleanses us. We don't need to worry about the law anymore. We're not under law. The problem with all this is self-delusion because if you're living contradictory to the law, you are not a Christian. Because what does God do? He gives you the Holy Spirit and brings you back to the law so that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.
The opposite error is the danger of self-righteousness. The Pharisees looked at the law and said, "I can do that. I can do that." Remember the rich young ruler who comes to Jesus and says, "What good thing must I do to get eternal life?" And Jesus said, "Obey the commands." "Which ones?" the man said. Jesus listed some and he said, "I have obeyed all those from my birth." Self-righteous. The Pharisees were exactly like that. The religion of the Pharisees was a self-righteous religion in which they looked at the laws and said, "I can do that. All you have to do is this, do that, do the other and you'll be fine." It was an external religion. A religion of show. Jesus said, "You are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean." That was self-righteousness. And what is the danger there? Again, self-delusion. "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord.'" They're going to be surprised because they did not deal with the law properly. For what is the law designed to do? It's designed to make you submit. It's designed to make you a spiritual beggar. When you go through Matthew 5, it brings you back to Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the spiritual beggars, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven." It keeps bringing you back again and again to saying to God, "Oh, God, how can I defeat this anger in my life? How can I defeat the lust? Why is it I make promises and I don't keep them, God? What is the matter with me? Oh, wretched heart." It brings you back again and again. That's the purpose of the law. Not that we look at it and say, "I can do that". Or we look at it and say, "It doesn't matter." Proper submission to the law makes us a spiritual beggar. Improper submission looks simply at the law, and says, "By these commands, by obedience to these commands, will I find my righteousness." This was the Galatians' problem. They said, "If I get circumcised and follow the law, I'll be righteous in God's sight." No, you won't. The law makes no one righteous, it just exposes sin.
Secondly, improper submission means you look at the law, and you're so overwhelmed you say, "I just can't do it," but you linger outside the promised land and don't come to Christ. You're overwhelmed, you read Matthew 5:48: "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” You're saying, "That's what it takes to get to Heaven? Forget it. There is no way I can be perfect, no one's perfect, I'm not going to worry about it." So you stay outside. Rather, you should come to Christ, you should come to Him and believe in Him and allow His blood, His sacrifice, to cleanse you from all sin.
The Beauty of Proper Submission to the Law
Proper submission to the law is a beautiful thing. It involves simply recognizing that God never gives a command lightly. Every single command of God, He expects to be fulfilled in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit.
Let the law make you a spiritual beggar. Read through Matthew 5, and be crushed by it, and go back to Matthew 5:3. Read through Jesus' statements, not on murder, but on anger, not on adultery, but on lust, about marriage, about the promises you make, about loving your enemy, and let it come back and make you a spiritual beggar. And if you don't know Jesus Christ, tremble today. Tremble, because the whole law stands and accuses you, and it will on Judgment Day, unless you come to faith in Christ, and have His blood remove all that condemnation, which has been stored up against you, for the day of wrath.
Instead, come to Christ even today. Have the written code which stands against you, removed through the blood of Jesus Christ. And if you are a believer, come again to the law and say, "God, this is how you want me to live." "Everyone who hears these commands of mine and puts them into practice, is like a wise man who builds his house on a rock." "Everyone who obeys the law, and teaches others to do the same will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven," said Jesus. Proper submission to the law.