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crowd of people listening October 6 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Matthew 5, 6, 7

True Righteousness and Grace Living

If you had a large group of people gathered together, hanging on your every word, what would you say to them? Would you tell jokes like you were in a comedy club? Would you say, “Let's have a party”? Would you make a political speech? Would you preach to them? What would you do? This was the situation in which Jesus found himself. Jesus taught masses of people who gathered together to hear him. What did he say to the masses in what is commonly called The Sermon on the Mount?

First, he told them what a life of blessing looks like for those who are children of God, heirs to the kingdom of God, (Matthew 5:1-12).

Next, he told those who were believers in God that their mission was to be salt and light in the world. Salt is a preservative and gives flavor. They were to preserve goodness and dispense grace, even during times of persecution (certainly this is a difficult thing to do). Light illuminates things. What Jesus wanted illuminated was their good character and deeds so that others would praise God and be attracted to Him, the source of light and life. Does your life preserve goodness and dispense grace? Are your good character and deeds illuminated?

After this, Jesus contrasted true righteousness with the righteousness of the religious leaders, the Pharisees. Many of us (like the Jews) would like to think that we could just follow the example of religious leaders. After all, they follow God, don’t they? Many do but not all. Many teach others the right way but do not follow the right way themselves. Others teach a form of righteousness, supposedly obtained by doing or not doing a list of things, but they have not submitted themselves to God’s righteousness. They are hypocrites. Are you?

The Jews were taught that keeping all the Law of Moses, interpreted by the additional traditions of the Scribes and Pharisees, would bring them righteousness. Jesus shocked the crowd and religious leaders who were watching by saying, “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,” (Matthew 5:19-20, NIV).

Jesus' mission, however, was not to abolish the Law and the Prophets, the charge of which the Pharisees and teachers of the Law accused him, but he came to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17). The Law refers to the Laws of Moses (primarily Deuteronomy). The words, “The Law and the Prophets” probably encompasses all the Old Testament teachings (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, ©1985, p.30). The Apostle Paul instructs us in Romans 3:21-22 “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe,” (NIV). (more...)

Salvation has always been by faith, not by keeping the Law. Even so, the Law is God’s holy standard. Jesus said to the large crowd of people gathered around him,

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, (Matthew 5:19, NIV).

Jesus told them to keep the Law by faith; obeying the Law was what pleased God and fulfilled his requirements; however, they were not to nullify it by their traditions. As Matthew 6 and 7 attest, the Pharisees had traditions that legally kept the letter of the Law but destroyed its intent. They practiced the Law hypocritically. They were like many tax advisors, lawyers and politicians; they were always looking for loop holes in the Law so that it would apply to everyone else except them.

Jesus spoke truth with authority over the traditions of the religious leaders. He said, “You have heard it said, but I say to you” [seven times he said this in Matthew 5]. What audacity! The religious leaders must have thought, “Who is this fellow that he can speak with authority over us?” We know the answer: Jesus is none other than the Son of God who came down from heaven, who was with God his Father and the Holy Spirit when God dictated the Law to Moses and spoke through the mouths of the prophets. He has perfect character. The religious leaders were hypocrites. Character is important to God. What we say and do matters to God. We need to go beyond the written law and exercise the intent of the law - acting with grace, humility and righteousness as Christians. We must act with faith and trust in God. This is true righteousness and grace living. This is what we must teach regardless of the size of our audience. Indeed, even if our audience is our children or grandchildren or Sunday School class, we must still teach them these truths.

A note to teachers and preachers: The crowds were amazed because Jesus spoke with authority, not like the teachers of the Law (Matthew 7:28). We, too, can speak with authority instead of being all squishy in our doctrine like milk toast. We have the truth of God in his Word, and that should be proclaimed with authority. People are looking for truth. Teach it, preach it, and apply it. Let’s not just teach about the Bible, giving various opinions, let’s teach the Bible. Let us teach and preach truth. Let us remember to teach not only the Law of God but also the grace of God. God gave both Law and Grace.

Lessons to live by:

  • We must be careful to follow true spiritual leaders, leaders who teach and preach the entire Bible and live it.
  • We must respect and obey all of God’s Word. We must not add to it or detract from it.
  • True righteousness is what God requires. True righteousness comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ (more...)
  • We must go beyond the Law as Christians - by faith we must act with grace, humility, and righteousness.

Today’s Bible Memory Verses: John 1:16-17 “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (NIV)

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