We have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount, from the teaching of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. I have been summarizing his sermons from his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. Last time we talked about the righteousness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, the fact that Jesus told us that our righteousness must exceed their righteousness. This time we will continue with that thought—how their teaching on the law was quite inaccurate.
Jesus Points Out That the Law Taught By the Scribes and Pharisees Was Not Completely Accurate
Throughout His sermon He gives us six statements of theirs—things that they taught, which He would correct (from Matthew 5:21-43).
- 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’
- 27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’
- 31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’
- 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’
- 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’
- 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
In these six statement notice how each began the same way: “You have heard.” The idea here is that the people were taught by the Scribes and Pharisees what Moses said in the law. But in each case they weren’t taught correctly. They left things out. They didn’t explain everything. Mainly they didn’t teach the Spirit of the law—what it really meant. And sadly, in that day they were dependent on the Scribes and Pharisees teaching, because they could not read it for themselves. In the same way the Catholic teaching before the Protestant Reformation was also false, but the people didn’t know it and they couldn’t do anything about it because they did not have the scriptures.
Jesus Corrects the Teaching
Jesus set out to correct the teaching. He said, “I say unto you…”
Now Jesus was not correcting the Law of Moses. He was correcting the wrong teaching of the Law of Moses. He did not come to correct, or change, or do away with the law. He came to explain it, to teach it the correct way and to fulfill it.
Jesus Revealed the Spirit of the Law
The law was not meant to be a code of ethics or a list of things not to do. The law was meant rather to be certain principles for life. The Lord was showing the meaning and intent of the law—the Spirit of the Law. Here are five principles:
- It is the Spirit of the law that matters. And the Spirit of the law gives us life. We must interpret the letter of the law according to the Spirit.
- Conformity to the law must not be thought of as actions only. Thoughts and motives and desires are equally important.
- The law must be thought of not only negatively but also positively. But not only to do what is right but to love it.
- The purpose of the law is not to keep us in a state of obedience to rules but to promote the development of our spiritual character.
- The laws of God must not be regarded as an end in themselves. Their purpose is so that we come to know God better. If all we do is learn to keep the law then the law becomes our death. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life!