The Law of God
(Matthew 5, James 1, Mark 7, Romans 3 & 6)
Introduction: If you follow this lesson you know that I teach salvation by grace alone. Our study this week reveals that the law, if properly kept, requires an extraordinary standard of conduct. This extraordinary standard makes some believe that God's law is not that relevant in light of grace. If we can't keep the law, and keeping it is not the key to heaven, why try? On the other hand, anyone who contemplates the universe knows the importance of the law. Laws, like gravity, rule everything. Not only is our universe controlled by laws, but there are natural laws that control the circumstances of our lives. The train wreck of nations and individuals who believe they are outside of the law can be seen all around us. Let's plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more!
- Jesus and the Law
- Read Matthew 5:17. How do we know that the law continues to be of great importance? (Some who argue grace say that Jesus did away with the law. Jesus says here that He did not come to abolish the law.)
- What does Jesus mean when He says that He came to "fulfill" the law and the prophets? (He came to fulfill the prophecies that pointed to Him. He came to fulfill the sacrificial system that pointed to Him. He came to keep the law perfectly on our behalf.)
- Read Matthew 5:18. We have two "until" phrases here. The first is "until heaven and earth disappear" and the second is "until everything is accomplished." Are those different times?
- If you answered that they were the same time, and that time is the Second Coming of Jesus, does that mean that in heaven there will be no law?
- Read Hebrews 8:10-12. What does this suggest about the future of the law? (That at some point it becomes so merged with our character that no one needs to continue to teach the law. That suggests that the law continues to exist in some form or another - even in heaven.)
- Read Matthew 5:19. What should teachers teach about the law? (Teachers should not only model law-keeping, they should teach about the importance of keeping the law.)
- Notice the very interesting statement about heaven. Do teachers who say the law is not binding go to heaven?
- The Scope of the Law
- Read Matthew 5:21-22. We recognize "You shall not murder" as the sixth commandment ( Exodus 20:13). Is Jesus saying that being angry, or calling someone a "fool," is the same as murder?
- What is "Raca," and why was it some sort of civil offense? (It means "brainless.")
- Read Matthew 23:16-17. Wait! Jesus calls some teachers "fools." Has Jesus violated His own rule?
- Read Matthew 5:27-28. We recognize "Do not commit adultery" as the seventh commandment ( Exodus 20:14). Is Jesus saying that looking is the same as doing?
- What is "heart" adultery? Is that prohibited by the seventh commandment?
- Read Matthew 5:29-30. We just read that getting angry is the same as murder and looking lustfully is adultery of some sort. Would plucking out an eye or cutting off a hand cure getting angry or lusting? (No. None of this seems to make sense. Getting angry is not the same as ending a life and looking is not the same as committing adultery. Removing body parts does not change our thinking.)
- Why is Jesus saying this? Would He know that this would make no sense to us? (Remember, we are the created ones so we need to accept the word of our Creator! But, if something that Jesus says does not make sense, perhaps we have misunderstood what Jesus is teaching.)
- If cutting off or pulling out body parts is no cure for sin, what do you think Jesus means by those statements? (He means that radical measures are sometimes needed to avoid violating the law. I don't think He is advocating these specific measures.)
- Does this "radical measures" idea help us to understand the anger and looking statements? (That is something to consider! If we say that we will be careful even about looking and getting upset, that is a radical approach.)
- Read James 1:13-15. What does James teach us about how we enter into sin? (An evil desire arises in our mind, and this leads to the actual sin, which then leads to death.)
- What does this teach us about Jesus' statements about anger and lust? (The specific sin is at least thinking about killing and committing adultery. If you are so angry that you would kill someone if you could, if you would have sex outside marriage if you could, then Jesus teaches that the sin has been committed. That makes sense to me. Why should sin turn on opportunity?)
- Is Jesus teaching us more than that? (James teaches us that sin is progressive. It is birthed in our minds. Thus, it seems reasonable to conclude that Jesus is telling us to watch our attitudes.)
- Read Exodus 20:17. What does this say about lusting after our neighbor's wife (or husband)? (This completes the picture for me. The tenth commandment specifically address the thoughts of the mind. As James says, sin begins with the thought.)
- Read Mark 7:14-17. Did this statement make sense to the disciples? (No. They wanted to know what Jesus meant. We are dealing with a series of statements by Jesus that require some careful consideration!)
- Read Mark 7:18-19. Is what you eat an act or an attitude? (An act. Of course, you had to decide what to eat. But, the point here is that what you eat goes into your stomach, it does not enter your heart (mind).)
- Read Mark 7:20-23. Let's revisit our discussion about anger, murder, lust and adultery. I previously wrote that getting angry is not the same as taking a life, and looking is not the same as committing adultery. Is what I wrote wrong? How does Jesus compare thoughts and actions? (The mind is the wellspring of all evil. Murder and adultery are simply the physical expression of what is going on in the mind. If for some reason, we are unable to do the actual deed, we do not get a pass for just thinking about how we would like to do it.)
- Our Response
- Read Romans 3:19-20. Can you now understand that the scope of the law makes us speechless? Does it seem right that the law makes us conscious of sin, but does not declare us righteous? (That sure seems right to me in light of the very high standard we have seen.)
- Read Romans 3:21-24. How do we become righteous? (Through faith in Jesus. We are justified by His grace.)
- Read Romans 6:1-4. What mental attitude does grace require? (That we died to sin. We do not want to live it in any longer.)
- Read Romans 6:15-18. What does it mean to "offer" ourselves to sin? Especially in light of our discussion of sin beginning in the mind? (The mind is the battleground. We offer ourselves to sin by deciding to enter into sin.)
- How would we "offer" ourselves to God, to obedience? (Read Romans 8:5-6. The goal is to set our minds on what the "Spirit desires.")
- Friend, will you today commit to offering your self to God? Will you plan that every morning you will say, "What can I think and do that is consistent with the desires of the Holy Spirit today? Spirit of God, lead my mind and my hands."
- Next week: The Sabbath.