God’s Word on The Word
A man in Kansas City was severely injured in an explosion. Robert L. Sumner tells about him in his book 'The Wonders of the Word of God.' The victim's face was badly disfigured, and he lost his eyesight as well as both hands. He was just a new Christian, and one of his greatest disappointments was that he could no longer read the Bible. Then he heard about a lady in England who read braille with her lips. Hoping to do the same, he sent for some books of the Bible in braille. Much to his dismay, however, he discovered that the nerve endings in his lips had been destroyed by the explosion. One day, as he brought one of the braille pages to his lips, his tongue happened to touch a few of the raised characters and he could feel them. Like a flash he thought, I can read the Bible using my tongue. At the time Robert Sumner wrote his book, the man had "read" through the entire Bible four times with his tongue. How desperate are you to read and ingest that which is contained in this one book?
It was the saintly Whitehead who said once that, "The Bible contains the mind of God, the state of man, the happiness of believers, the way of salvation and the doom of sinners. Every doctrine in the Bible is holy, every precept is binding, and every decision is immutable. You must read it to believe it, believe it to be saved and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's guide, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword and the Christian's charter. Here paradise is restored, heaven opened and the gates of hell disclosed. Christ is its grand subject, our good its design, and the glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, daily, prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment and will be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor and condemn all who trifle with its contents."
And whether you unconventionally use your tongue like the Kansas man in Robert Summer’s book or your own God-given eyes to read it – it’s the book of all books!
It is a book beyond age; for it is the most ancient of all books. It is a book beyond mere interest; for it is the read by all classes in the world. It is a book beyond sales; for it the best-seller of any book. It is a book beyond language and linguistics; although it is largely written by uneducated men, it is superior in literary style and genius. It is a book beyond conventional unity; for it is a library and collection of sixty-six books, yet one Book. It is a book beyond preservation; for it is the most hated book of all time, yet it’s still in circulation and it still lives. And it is a book beyond human limitation; for it is the only book in the world whose Author is still alive. Yes, the Bible itself is the book of all books.
And you don’t have to season it. Just pour it out and pass it on. In fact, I would rather be in the Word of God than to be in Heaven – for in Matthew 24:35 it says that, ‘Heaven and earth might pass away; but His Word is going to stand forever.’ And in the text Christ deals with, and presents to His disciples and us the trinity of time and trilogy of time: the reality of retrospection and introspection and prospection. Here you have the past and the present and the future; and we catch a glimpse of eternity in the words that are couched and tucked away in these four verses.
- CHRIST’S BELIEF ABOUT THE LAW
Let me rush to say that, in the opening words of Christ’s great sermonic discourse of the Sermon on the Mount, after discussing the character traits of the Kingdom Citizen through the Beatitudes, and the influence the Citizen of the Kingdom has through being Salt and Light – Jesus reveals clearly and succinctly that He believes the Bible. Of course, most are aware that the Bible, at the time of the text, consists of the Old Testament books of Genesis to Malachi.
There are two main truths of Jesus we note regarding His belief about God’s Word:
First, that the Word of God is Inspired. Again and again, as we examine the words of our Lord in Word, He refers to Himself as the source and the subject of the Scriptures. Interestingly, in John 5:39, Jesus instructs them to, ‘….search the Scriptures…they testify of me.’ Tragically, the scribes were missing the key to the Scriptures: Christ! In fact, Jesus says to them in the 46th verse: ‘Now if you believed Moses, you would have believe me: for he wrote about me.’ In a nutshell, Jesus is the subject of the Bible. And Jesus Himself believed that the Old Testament Scriptures were inspired—they were the words of God!
Jesus also believed that the Word of God is Eternal. Jesus says here in the 17th verse, ‘Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.” The word for ‘destroy’ is katalusai, taken from kataluo, and it means to loosen down or quickly dissolve. The word here for ‘destroy’ is given the picture and illustration of a body being dissolved at death. Jesus says, ‘Don’t think my arrival equates or results in abolition of the Scripture.’ Now the obvious question that we raise is: why would anyone believe that Jesus came to loosen down or quickly dissolve the law or the Scripture? This is actually an accurate foretelling of things to come in the ministry of Jesus:
- In Matthew 12, He has many controversies on the Sabbath; and the people suggest He was trying to destroy the law.
- In Mark 7, He breaks the tradition and practices of the church elders. And they again suggest He was trying to destroy the law.
- In Matthew 21, He cleanses and reclaims the temple. They suggest He’s trying to quickly dissolve the law of God.
- And in Mark 2, He becomes known as a friend of publicans, sinners, pimps and pushers. And immediately they tend to accuse Christ of an attempt to hijack the prerogatives of God, hold hostage God’s holiness sand destroy the very law that God had commanded and decreed.
You can believe that Jesus Christ our Lord was revolutionary and maverick in many ways; but He did not come to do away with the Old Testament law. The discrepancy of the law is not a contradiction on God’s part; but upon a quasi-interpretation of law on man’s part.
We may understand what Jesus is trying to say if we better understand the definition of ‘law’. Incidentally, law could have meant several things to Jesus’ hearers:
- The Ten Commandments—as were given by Yahweh to Moses on the smoking summits of Sinai, as recorded in Exodus 20.
- The first five books of the Old Testament: referred to as the Pentateuch.
- The Law and Prophets, often referred to as the whole Bible.
- The Scribal Law—which were all of the many rules, regulations and commentaries on the Ten Commandments.
And by the time Jesus Christ came to earth the original Ten Commandments of our Lord had been defined in a summary of rules and laws called the Mishna. This was a book that contained over 800 pages of man-made laws and traditions based on their own commentary of the 10 commandments. Then there was the Talmud, twelve volumes of commentary to explain the 800 pages of the Mishna. And in all of these volumes and pages, there were myriads of traditions and commentaries on the Fourth Commandment regarding the Sabbath, which had become in Jewish mind as binding and sacred as the 10 commandments themselves. Unfortunately, all of these traditions were held over the people and enforced as law. Somehow, we fail to realize the pervasive nature this demonic and legalistic spirit has infiltrated them then and us now. For even us today can take the purity of the Gospel and somehow contaminate the good news with our own commentary and interpretations. And as with the Scribes and Pharisees in that day we often feel like we have to help God out. This is why Jesus clashed with the Scribes and the Pharisees on more than one occasion; and often why the church seems to clash with Christ today in the 21st century. How often have we become judgmental and overcritical over a particular brother or sister regarding what WE felt or thought God is trying to say as if somehow God needed you to cosign or extrapolate on what He has said? And I am convinced that commentaries may have their place but commentaries can be dangerous. They are dangerous merely by the fact that while they are resourceful, at the end of the day, they aren’t the SOURCE. The best commentary on what God said is God Himself.
As a Chaplain in the Hospital I am often involved in some of the legal procedures and wishes of the patient. Often a wife or a son or a daughter or whomever is the next of kin can serve as the ‘Power of Attorney’, and execute the wishes of the one who cannot make decisions for themselves, if the patient is incompetent, incapacitated, unresponsive or inept. And somehow the scribes and Pharisees, who have religion but no relationship, didn’t get the memo that the God of the universe is not incompetent; He’s not incapacitated; He’s not laying on some cosmic gurney somewhere and He can’t speak up for Himself. He is certainly able and competent; and He would declare, ‘I and the Father are One!’
And that is why Jesus goes on to affirm His belief that the Word of God is eternal. In verse 18 Jesus says and stresses that Heaven and Earth (which are the most stable elements one could consider) will not pass away until every “jot” and “tittle” are fulfilled. The “jot” (jodh) is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet; while a ‘tittle’ represents a brush stroke in the Hebraic form of sentence; Jesus points to the eternality and the timelessness of God’s Word.
II. We then move from Christ’s Belief regarding the Law, to His Behavior and the Law.
Jesus, our Lord, emphasis in this text that He has not come to alter, destroy or remove the law. He makes it clear that He has come to ‘fulfill’ the law. Fulfill, in scripture, is a word plerosai and it has the image of a vessel filled to the top. We believe the vessel to be the inspired Law and Prophets—the Scriptures would be fulfilled when what the Word records ultimately comes to full fruition and comes to pass. Christ’s behavior, actions and activity fulfilled the Law and the Prophets. Not only was God’s eternal word His doctrine, but also His duty. The Word of God was not only His precept; but also His practice and practicum. In a real sense, John 1:14 expresses Christ’s behavior: ‘…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.’ His life exemplified God’s Word from every standpoint. Let me give you three aspects in which Christ fulfilled the Word:
- Christ fulfills His Word through Prefigures
I once heard a comparison of the Old and New Testament. The New is the Old contained while the Old is in the New explained. The New is in the Old concealed while the Old is in the New revealed. The gist of those statements, in and of itself, is that Jesus reveals what the Old Testament conceals in types and shadows. Kind of like Walter Gisbon’s, ‘Who knows the evil that lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!’ In a real sense, Jesus gives substance to the shadows.
- Jesus is a prefigure in Exodus at the Red Sea. He’s the manna from heaven, in the water from the rock, in the manna from heaven, in the pillar of cloud by day and the fire by night.
- He’s a prefigure in the Old Testament Tabernacle through the showbread and the brazen altar, the ark and the mercy seat…they all point to Jesus.
- He’s a prefigure in the feasts and holy days of the Old Testament, from the Passover lamb to the firstfruits to the Atonement…they all point to Jesus.
The Old Testament is replete with pictures and types of Jesus which have been fulfilled by His life, death, and resurrection.
- In Genesis, He’s the Creator.
- In Exodus, He’s the Redeemer.
- In Leviticus, He’s the Sanctifier.
- In Numbers, He our Guide.
- In Deuteronomy, He’s the teacher.
- In Joshua, He’s the mighty conqueror.
- In Judges, He’s the Battle Ax.
- In Samuel He’s the root of Jesse and the Son of David
- In Chronicles, He’s the High Priest.
- In Nehemiah, He’s our mighty wall.
- In Job, He is the arbitrator who not only understands our struggles, but has the power to do something about it.
- In Psalms, He’s our song.
- In Proverbs, He’s our wisdom.
- In Ecclesiastes, He’s our purpose.
- In the Song of Solomon, He’s our Lover.
- In Isaiah, He’s our mighty counselor.
- In Jeremiah, He’s our balm in Gilead.
- In Lamentations, He’s the ever-faithful One.
- In Ezekiel, He is our wheel in the middle of a wheel.
- In Daniel, He’s the ancient of days.
- In Joel, He’s our refuge.
- In Amos, He’s our husbandman.
- In Obadiah, He’s Lord.
- In Jonah, He’s salvation.
- In Micah, He’s the righteous judge.
- In Habakkuk, He’s the Holy One.
- In Zephaniah, He’s the witness.
- In Haggai, He’s Protector.
- In Zechariah, He’s Lord of Hosts.
- Christ fulfills His Word through Prophecies
Not only did Jesus fulfill His Word through prefigures, but also through prophecy itself. In how He was born, the Word points to Him. In how He was raised, the Word still points to Him. And even how He died, the Word can’t help but point to Him.
- Christ fulfills His Word through Precepts
The average Bible student and every day Christian has meager knowledge or even interest about Jesus’ fulfillment of the prefigures and prophecies of the Old Testament. But if you are a believer today, you should be supremely interested in our Lord’s fulfillment of the divine precepts, the Ten Commandments.
An evangelist was trying to make a point in his service. He said, “Do we have anyone here who is perfect?” There was no movement in the church at all. He continued, “Does anyone here know of anybody else who is perfect?” A lady in the crowd raised her hand. The evangelist recognized the sister and asked, “You know someone who’s perfect?” The lady nodded and answered, “My husband’s first wife!”
The Ten Commandments reveal God’s ultimate standard and ultimate holiness. It is a description of God’s ultimate ideal for His people. The problem is that every man, woman, boy or girl who ever lived has yet to keep the law in perfect form, save Jesus Christ. At birth, we are law-breakers in some way, shape or form; and that’s what makes us sinners at birth by default and guilty by associational connection.
There are sins of commission—where by choice we do something wrong.
There are sins of omission—where by choice we fail to do anything right.
And then there are sins of disposition—those innermost attitudes and feelings of the heart (such as pride, lust, envy, hatred, jealousy and deceit.)
And while WE have fallen short, Jesus never broke a commandment, in act or attitude. Hebrews 4:15 says that He was “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Three times Pilate said, “I find no fault in Him.”
The efficacy of Jesus’ death on the cross depends on His fulfillment of the precepts, in and of itself. I reiterate the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” And the reason you can shout today is because all the millions of lambs that died on the sacrificial altar over the centuries prefigured the coming of ONE who “offered himself without spot before a holy God.” Jesus fulfilled the perfect precepts of God.
And that should be good news.
In Him I have new life: that’s regeneration.
I have a key to the house: that’s adoption.
I can now be called forgiven: that’s justification.
I don’t have to worry about how I’m going to foot the bill for breaking the law: that’s redemption.
I will see my Savior in paradise: that’s glorification.
II. CHRIST’S BURDEN FOR THE LAW
Basically and simply, in the text, Jesus lets us know that now, through His coming, He fills the Old Testament with meaning and accomplishment. Jesus not only loved the Word of God, believed it and embodied it; but Jesus, then and now, has a burden for the Word of God; and His burden is threefold:
- He wants us to practice it (Verse 19a)
Notice in the last part of Matthew 19 that “do” comes before “teach.” In a real and practical sense, Jesus is saying to us that ‘doo-ya-loo-yah’ ought never be dispatched from your ‘hallelujah’. The Christian disciple should model the law in our daily lives. James advises us in 1:22 to ‘be ye doers of the word.’ Even now, we have a large percentage of people who actually HEAR this word today and will go out and do something else. Of course, Jesus recognized how trifling we would be from time to time. And let’s be honest, the law is too strong, too extensive, and too holy for mortal man to keep, even by the letter. For that reason, Jesus says that He came to ‘fulfill’ the law. I love the words of Romans 10:4 that reminds us that ‘Christ (not us) is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes.’
In a real sense it is the WILL of God to have the SPIRIT of God use the WORD of God to make the CHILD of God look like the SON of God.
- He wants us to proclaim it (Verse 19b)
In verse 19 Jesus says, ‘Whoso ever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom.’ First, we practice—then we preach. I don’t know if you know it or not, but in a general sense, you’re a preacher! Your life is your pulpit. Question: How was your sermon last week? What did you preach about last night? What text are you planning to preach in the morning? No me; I’m asking YOU!
The word is in desperate need to hear the Word of God proclaimed. Mark it down, loved ones: the Word still WORKS! However, the Bible is like soap—it must be applied.
- In a world of sin, how are you preaching forgiveness?
- In this world of financial upheaval, how are you proclaiming God will provide?
- In this society of impurity and lust, how are you preaching holiness?
- In this world of hate, how are you preaching love?
Do you want to become “great” in the kingdom? Jesus says you have to practice and teach the Word!
- He wants us to perfect it (Verse 20)
Verse 20 may be the pivotal verse in Matthew 5. Jesus’ desire for His disciples is that their life-style ‘exceed’ in righteousness the life-styles of the scribes and Pharisees. The word exceed means to be over and above a certain number or amount. It portrays a river overflowing its banks. Jesus wants His disciples to go above and beyond the ‘righteousness” of the accepted standards of that day.
The customer in the bakery shop asked the little girl who was helping, “Young lady, do you ever eat the cakes?” The child replied, “Oh, no sir…that would be stealing. I just lick ‘em.”
The religious leaders of that day were only touching the surface of obedience. They majored on actions on the outside, but were far removed from God’s heart on the inside. And I would hate to come to church and carry out the rituals but never worship. It would be tragic if I can come to church to dot every I and cross every T but never meet Jesus. Because when I worship Him I’ll walk right. When I meet Jesus, He’ll make me talk right. When Jesus comes in my heart, He’ll make me love my enemies and pray for those who mistreat me.
A woman was married to a most demanding and abusive husband. This man, a severe perfectionist, placed a heavy burden on his wife through his expectations. She was given a list of chores and duties each week and was expected to accomplish each item. Her life was miserable under this taskmaster of a husband. Years passed and her husband died. The widow thought she would never marry again, but, in a few years she met a wonderfully kind man. They were married, and she sincerely enjoyed pleasing her husband. One day she discovered an old list at the back of a drawer, a list made out by her former husband for a certain week’s duties. Upon study, she realized that she was still doing this entire list each week for her new husband. The difference was, however, that she was doing the chores out of love rather than demand.
And when you get to know Jesus; and He really comes into your heart…you’ll begin to realize that every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before. You’ll start smiling when you should be crying; you’ll find yourself running and nobody is chasing you. You’ll declare, in the words of the hymnist Rufus McDaniel….
What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought
I have light in my soul for which long I had sought,
I have ceased from my wandering and going astray,
And my sins, which were many, are all washed away
I’m possessed of a hope that is steadfast and sure,
And no dark clouds of doubt now my pathway obscure,
Sine Jesus came into my heart.