Lesson 8

Covenant Law

(Matthew 22, Exodus 20)
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Introduction: How many times do you have to tell your children something before it sinks in? An old adage is that you have to say something three times before it will be remembered. Our lesson quarterly is working on the premise you must say things four times, because the quarterly's lesson this week looks a lot like our lessons for the last three weeks. I am going to give you a break, and go on a little different course this week, while still trying to stay with our topic of the covenant. Let's jump into our study!

  1. Jesus' Test


    1. Let's read Matthew 22:34-36. Does verse 34 sound like a sports contest? The Sadducees' team lost a round to Jesus, so the Pharisees' team huddled to see if they could do any better. Is that what is happening here? (Yes, actually.)


      1. The Pharisees have a top lawyer present Jesus with the question found in verse 36. Assume you have never heard Jesus' answer before, and you were deciding which of the Ten Commandments was the greatest. Which would you choose?


    2. Read Matthew 22:37-38. Wait a minute! Which of the Ten Commandments is this? Is this even one of the Ten Commandments? (It is not.)


      1. Is Jesus cheating? This is not a commandment. It doesn't even sound like one of the commandments. How do you explain His answer? (The first four commandments ( Exodus 20:3-11) have to do with our obligations to God. Jesus took those four and summarized them as requiring total love for God.)


    3. Read Matthew 22:39. Is this one of the commandments? (No.)


      1. On what basis can Jesus give this answer? (Jesus is summarizing the last six ( Exodus 20:12-17)of the Ten Commandments.)


        1. Is this a fair summary? Do those six commandments say anything about love?


        2. How does "You Shall Not" get translated into "Love?" Are we using the wrong Bible translation? Was Jesus using the wrong translation?


  2. Love for God


    1. Let's look at Matthew 22:37 in more detail. What does it mean to love God with "all your heart?" (Read Exodus 20:3. To love God with all your heart is to give Him first place in your affections. Adam Clarke's Commentary says, "He loves God with all his heart who loves nothing in comparison of Him.")


    2. What does it mean to love God "with all your soul?" (The Greek word "psuchee" that is translated "soul" means "breath." I think this means our love for God is so great we are willing to give up our life (our breath)for Him.)


      1. Read Exodus 20:4-5 and tell me how you think this fits (if at all) the instruction to love God "with all your soul?" (If we are to love God so much we are willing to give up our life for Him, then clearly the days of our life should not be given to another god. We should not spend our life worshiping other gods.)


    3. Going back to Matthew 22:37: What does it mean to love God "with all your mind?" (This Greek word, "dianoia" literally means "understanding." Our intellect should be fully committed to God.)


      1. Read Exodus 20:7. Can you relate this to loving God with all our mind? (When I was growing up I was taught this text meant I should not swear using God's name. It no doubt means at least that. However, I think it means a great deal more. When we falsely claim God's authority for our selfish projects, when we take advantage of others in God's name, then we have misused His name. To love God with all our mind requires an intellectual honesty in dealing with others in matters of faith.)


    4. How is loving God with "all your heart" different than loving Him with "all your soul?"


      1. How is this different than loving God "with all your mind?" (While we have tried to dissect these three, the obvious message is that God wants us to love Him with our entire being!)


    5. Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life," at page 70 says this: "learning to love God and be loved by Him should be the greatest objective of your life. Nothing else comes close in importance." Warren says, "God longs for you to know Him and spend time with Him." Id. That is what we do in these lessons: spend time with God.


  3. Love for Man


    1. Let's look at Matthew 22:39 again. One of Martin Cruz Smith's books mentions a Japanese man whose only son was going to fight in World War II. About the father Cruz wrote "the son was the measure of his love." I was so struck by that language. The father loved his son as much as he was capable of loving. What does God tell us should be the measure of love for those around us? (Our love for our self should be the measure of our love for others.)


      1. What does this mean? When we get a new car, we buy one for our neighbor too? We buy a car for the starving children in nation X?


    2. Let's look at Exodus 20:13-17. Is this a practical explanation about what Jesus meant about loving our neighbor? (This is certainly a part of the definition. If you asked me "Would you want other people to refrain from doing these things to you?" I would say, "Yes!")


      1. Would you summarize these six commandments the same way Jesus summarized them? (No. I would summarize them by saying "Don't harm your neighbor.")


        1. How does "you shall not" get translated by Jesus into "love your neighbor" (and, by the way, the measure of the required love is the extent of your love for yourself)?


    3. In the gospel of Luke, Jesus is asked "who is my neighbor" just after He said "love your neighbor as yourself." Scan Luke 10:29-37. Did the first two travelers, the priest and the Levite, do anything in violation of the last six commandments? (No.)


      1. If you agree with me, how does Jesus get from the last six commandments to this story about the Good Samaritan?


      2. If you disagree with me, tell me which of the last six commandments the priest and the Levite violated?


    4. Let's look at another story that illustrates Jesus' view of the last six commandments. Read Matthew 5:27-28. How does Jesus get from "No adultery" to lustful looks? (It is obvious that Jesus treats the "don't harm" commandments as positive commands for our lives. The seeds of this are actually in the last six commandments. If you look at Exodus 20:17, the last commandment tells us to be careful of our mental attitude. If you do not covet your neighbor's things (including his wife or her husband) you are not going to be stealing it or committing adultery with "it." Instead of focusing on the actual violation (stealing, killing, adultery) the last commandment tells us how to avoid getting close to the violation.)


  4. New Covenant


    1. We have seen that Jesus has, at least on the face of things, radically expanded what is required under the Ten Commandments (the Sinai Covenant). When I hear people talk about the "New Covenant," some are making the point that we no longer have to worry about "keeping the law." We can pretty well ignore sin in our lives. How can that be squared with the idea that Jesus seems to be making the commandments a lot harder to keep?


    2. Read Hebrews 8:8-10. What does it mean to put the law in our mind and write it on our heart?


      1. Does this remind you of Matthew 22:37?


      2. How does the idea that the commandments, under the "New Covenant," are written in our hearts fit with Jesus' expanded definition of what the commandments require? (Logically, this fits perfectly. Jesus teaches us that the simple "do not commit adultery" is not the goal of the law. The law, instead, is intended to reach our mental attitude. If we would commit adultery, if we had the opportunity, then only our opportunity determines whether we sin. This says nothing about our heart. Under the "New Covenant," Jesus says that He will change our attitudes so that we want to do His will. Under the "New Covenant" attitudes and not actions are most important.)


    3. What do you think, did Jesus actually expand our obligations under the "New Covenant," or was a change in attitude what God had in mind all along? (Read Deuteronomy 6:6. The context of this is the Ten Commandments and it shows us that God has always had in mind our attitude instead of "you shall not." That is why I write "New Covenant" in quotation marks. The God's goal with His law has not changed. What makes the "New Covenant" really new is that Jesus fulfilled its obligations on our behalf. I am convinced, however, that Jesus' fabulous work on our behalf does not alter one whit God's deep desire that our attitudes should be in accord with His when it comes to sin. Instead of negating the law, Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf shows how deadly serious He is about His law.)


    4. Friend, God's covenant law is intended to promote love for God and love for our fellow humans. Will you make it your highest priority to deepen your love relationship with God?


  5. Next week: The Covenant Sign

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