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Chuck Smith :: Sermon Notes for Matthew 5:21

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Intro. Jesus has just told them that their righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisee's if they want to enter the kingdom of heaven. He is now going to illustrate what He meant by that shocking statement.
A. The common people did not know Hebrew, therefore had to depend on the Scribes and the Pharisees to teach them what the law said.
1. I think of the poor people who have been deceived by the leadership of the Jehovah Witnesses, who instruct them in what they say the Bible teaches.
2. I think of the many who have let their children die needlessly because they refused to allow them to receive a life saving blood transfusion, because of the ludicrous teaching that the law's prohibition of drinking blood included blood transfusions.
B. Jesus is basically saying, "This is what you have been told that the law says."
C. Speaking with authority He then declares, "But I say unto you."
1. He is putting His teaching in contrast to the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees.
2. This is what they say the law says, this is what I say the law means.
3. Jesus is establishing His word as authoritative, at the end of this sermon they were amazed for He did not teach as the Scribes and Pharisees, but as One that had authority.
D. In comparing what they taught and what Jesus taught, we see that the basic difference is between the letter and the spirit of the law.
1. They were emphasizing the outward actions, and the letter of the law while Jesus was dealing with the attitudes from which the actions spring.
2. The Pharisees may be right in their actions, but they are wrong in their attitudes.
3. This is the consequence of making works the measure for righteousness.
4. We were able to observe it in what was known as the holiness movement in the last generation. Much like the Pharisee of whom Jesus spoke, "Father I thank you that I am not as other men, I am not an extortioner, or unjust, or and adulterer, nor like this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess."
a. The holiness group taught sinless perfection.
b. Through an experience they called sanctification, they assertedly entered into a state of sinless perfection.
c. Righteousness was usually measured by a series of negatives. I do not smoke, I do not drink, I do not attend the theater, I do not wear gold or fancy apparel, I do not go to the beauty shop.
d. Unfortunately they often were very hypercritical, judgmental, and guilty of slanderous gossip.
e. A young couple in Tucson.
5. Paul referring to the letter of the law declared, "The letter killeth, but the Spirit gives life."
6. Jesus is emphasizing that the real work is in the heart of a man, not in outward religious observances.
a. Paul confirmed this when he wrote to the Romans about the religious rituals.
ROM 2:28 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither [is that] circumcision, which is outward in the flesh:
ROM 2:29 But he [is] a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit, [and] not in the letter; whose praise [is] not of men, but of God.
b. The same could be said of water baptism. He is not a christian who is outwardly, neither is baptism which is that of the flesh, but he is a christian which is one inwardly, and baptism is of the heart in the spirit.
7. The Pharisees taught that the way of righteousness was by the obedience of the law. Concerning this, Paul a former Pharisee said:
GAL 3:18 For if the inheritance [be] of the law, [it is] no more of promise: but God gave [it] to Abraham by promise.
GAL 3:19 Wherefore then [serveth] the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; [and it was] ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.
GAL 3:21 [Is] the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.
GAL 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
GAL 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.
GAL 3:24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [to bring us] unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
A. I think that it is a part of human nature to have things spelled out for us. We want to see the lines that mark our limits. Then so many see how close they can live to that line without crossing it.
1. The question often asked is, "As a Christian, can I do this or that?"
2. How far can I go without crossing the line?
3. Jesus established certain principles, and a person who has the proper principles, does not need a list of rights and wrongs. You just live by the principles.
B. Jesus is illustrating the principle, but we must not take the principles and try to turn them into laws, or we have missed the whole point.
C. What are the principles that Jesus is teaching in this sermon?
1. The Spirit of the Law is more important than the letter of the law.
a. Take for example the teaching on the subject of adultery, the Pharisee thought that as long as he did not commit the physical act, he was justified, that he had kept the law.
b. Jesus said, that if you looked at a woman and lusted after her in your heart, you were guilty.
2. Keeping the law must not then be thought of in terms of actions only.
a. The attitude of the heart must be taken into consideration Your thought, your motive, your desires.
b. God is as concerned with what leads to the action, as to the action itself.
c. As far as God is concerned, the thought and the desire to sin, was as bad as the sin itself.
LUK 16:13 No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
LUK 16:14 And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him.
LUK 16:15 And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.
d. God measures things by a totally different standard.
3. The law is not to be thought of in prohibitions only, it is more than the "Thou shalt not's". It was intended to lead us not to just positive actions of good, but to love the good that we do. We need to be hungering and thirsting after righteousness.
4. There is more than just not doing evil, there is the positive doing of good.
a. At night when I lay my head on the pillow my issues are not, well this has been a good day, I have not killed anyone, I have not committed adultery, I have not lied or stolen anything.
b. The issues that should concern us are: has God been supreme in my life to day? Have I lived this day for the glory of God. Do I know Him better?
Sermon Notes for Matthew 5:20 ← Prior Section
Sermon Notes for Matthew 5:21 Next Section →
Sermon Notes for Malachi 1:2 ← Prior Book
Sermon Notes for Mark 1:40 Next Book →

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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