Was the Sermon on the Mount Nailed to the Cross?
by Terry W. Benton
There has not been a more fundamental question about how to rightly divide the word of truth and how to apply the scriptures than this one. At first, you might think this question is preposterous, but bear with me. There are brethren lurking in churches today who would affirm that Jesus' sermon was a commentary on the true intent of the law and that when the law passed or ended, then Jesus' commentary became moot as far as application of the commentary.
The law Jesus was upholding in His sermon was the righteousness of a law that was about to end at the cross. Therefore, it is concluded that all commentaries on the law are just as non-binding as the law that is commented upon. If I wrote a commentary on Exodus 20, my commentary would be inapplicable to anyone today because Exodus 20 describes a law that has been fulfilled and abolished. The argument is that if Jesus is upholding the true righteousness of the law, a law that was soon to pass, then Jesus' sermon becomes inapplicable today because we are not under the law that He was upholding and explaining. In fact, all the things said about the law in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are to be viewed as nailed to the cross according to this theory.
Perhaps you are thinking that this is not being taught by brethren today, but think again. There is a growing element of brethren who think that this argument is very sound. They believe that the Sermon on the Mount was nailed to the cross. They believe that Jesus' words about divorce and remarriage are nailed to the cross. All commentary and corrections Jesus made on people's misunderstanding or misapplication of the law become things that were nailed to the cross when the thing Jesus was explaining, the law, passed away and was nailed to the cross.
We will provide you with plenty of quotes and documentation to show that this is being taught in churches today. There is an element of truth in much that is said. For example I believe that Jesus was commenting on the true righteous standard of the law, and was indeed giving an exposition of those parts of the law that had been overlooked and neglected by the "scribes and Pharisees". However, I do not believe that Jesus' words and exposition was nailed to the cross. I do not believe that the righteous standard of the law was nailed to the cross. I believe the righteousness of the law ought to still be fulfilled in us (Galatians 5:14; Romans 8:4; 13:8-10). I believe that while some things contained in the law (types, shadows of things to come, prophecies) have been fulfilled in Jesus and His redemptive work, the righteous standard of moral conduct must still be "established" (Romans 3:31) and "fulfilled in us" (Romans13:8-10). I am convinced that the righteous standards expressed in the law are not chained to the law. Righteousness expressed by the law does not nail to a cross and end. Law can express the righteous character of God and His Holy standards, but while you can nail the law to a cross and end its authority as a system of law, you cannot nail the righteousness and holy standards of God to a cross and cause them to end. A particular vehicle that carries you to work for years may be exchanged or traded for another vehicle which will do the same thing. The thing carried by each vehicle, a human life, remains constant even when the vehicle is not the same. Likewise, the thing carried by the Old Testament, the righteousness of God, remains constant even when the vehicle is changed or exchanged. Jesus was both expounding on righteous principles carried by the law AND telling how those very righteous principles were required to be carried by those who would enter and live in His kingdom. Thus, the Sermon on the Mount is timeless. It does not nail to the cross with the old vehicle that served its purpose and was ready to vanish away. The cross, the gospel, the New Testament of Jesus would carry forth the righteousness of the law even when the law as a legal unit had come to an end. Thus, it will be my purpose to establish the following things:
- Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is timeless righteousness that must be followed by His kingdom.
- The righteousness of the law was carried by the law, carried by Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and carried forth by the kingdom of God's dear Son.
- The law as a total system with shadows, types, and prophecies can be abolished and fulfilled, while the righteous and holy standards of the law can still be maintained under a new and different system.
While I will labor to establish the above premises, I will also show the fallacy of those who contend that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has no application and demands upon Christians after the cross. I will not build a straw man, a position that no one actually holds, and then tear it down. I will give you numerous quotes, actual quotes, to demonstrate that there are brethren who hold that all of Jesus' words uttered before the cross have no binding application to us today. While I give the quotes, I will not give the name of the person I am quoting. The reason is because I hope the brethren in question will see their errors and repent without undue public embarrassment. The second reason is because I want brethren to recognize the error whenever and wherever it appears from whoever teaches the error. Calling attention to a particular person often becomes counterproductive when you have hope to win them back. Thus, for the time being, we will hold off on identity of person and will give actual quotes. Some are teachers and preachers who have had considerable influence upon others.
Do Brethren Actually Beleive that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount Was to be Nailed to the Cross?
Quote #1: Because you cannot be under two laws at once (Paul said it was spiritual adultery), Jesus either taught new law or old law. Since he said His law was "unto you" (the Jews He was speaking to), we know the law He taught was in effect when He spoke it. Since the law of Moses was in effect till the cross and the law He spoke before the cross was in effect when He spoke it, it had to be law of Moses."
The premise of the above quote is that Jesus was not binding new law but was expounding upon the law then in effect, the Law of Moses.
The minor premise is that if Jesus was giving new law before the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross, then He was creating an environment for spiritual adultery, giving approval for two laws at once. Since the Law of Moses was still in effect, then Jesus could not and would not give a new law code.
What is wrong with those premises?
- The righteousness of the law was that which the scribes and Pharisees were not keeping and which standard would be kept by those in His kingdom. While the Law of Moses was still in effect, Jesus would do no violation to that righteous standard if He said that righteous standard would be expected of those entering and living in His kingdom. Would it be spiritual adultery if the righteousness of the law is carried forth by the Law of Moses and the Law of Christ? How could it be? Righteousness is righteousness, no matter what law carries it forth. While Gentiles were not under the Law of Moses, they still often kept the righteousness of the law (Romans 2:14,15,26). Were they keeping two separate laws at once? Their law and the Law of Moses? No! But, their conduct was in harmony with "the righteous requirements of the law" (Romans 2:26). It does not create a situation of spiritual adultery for Jesus to uphold the Law of Moses and say that these righteous principles are expected now AND in the kingdom of the New Testament age.
- To say that Jesus either taught new law or old law is overstating the case. Jesus taught old law all right, but also made it clear that this standard of righteousness would be required of those entering and living in the new kingdom about to come. The "righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:4). Fulfilled in who? In us, Christians of the New Testament age and living in the kingdom. Is it spiritual adultery for Christians to desire the righteous requirement of the law be fulfilled in themselves when we are under the law of Christ? No! Spiritual adultery occurs, not when you want the righteous requirement of the law fulfilled in yourself, but when you want two complete law codes or law systems controlling you at the same time. While I may desire the righteousness of the law of England to characterize my life, I am still under the laws of the United States. It is only when I try to justify my behavior by means of the laws of England that I get into the conflict of two law systems. Thus, Jesus was bringing out the righteous standard that was required then (while the Law of Moses was still in effect), and which standard of conduct He would always expect of those who would enter and live in His kingdom.
Righteousness is always righteousness, no matter what law is in effect or will be in effect. The righteousness of the law would still be expected before and after the cross.
- The thrust of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is geared toward the kingdom that was then "at hand". It contemplates the responsibility of being a disciple, one who would be required to be salt and light in a world that was going to persecute and reject them. Entering the kingdom required that His disciples have a righteousness that exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). The Sermon on the Mount is not about the Law of Moses versus the Law of Christ. It is about the superficial, non-law of Moses-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees versus the true, deeper level of righteousness required by both Moses and Jesus in any age and to any that would enter Jesus' kingdom. For example, the Law of Moses was not just against adultery (the physical act) and now Jesus is calling for a check on lust (a new standard). No, the Law of Moses was against lust too.(See Exodus 20:17 along with Psalm 101:3; Proverbs 4:23; and Psalm 66:18). Jesus is not changing the Law so that now lust or adultery in the heart is to be considered a new sin. The point of contrast is between what the scribes and Pharisees had emphasized out of the Law of Moses and what Jesus is bringing out of that same law. The scribes and Pharisees gave emphasis to externals and neglected the deeper, internal standards of the law. Jesus is not giving new law. He is giving new points of emphasis that His audience had not heard before since the law was not really upheld by the scribes and Pharisees. While Jesus is upholding the true intent of the law, He is also expressing the very standards He would continue to expect of those entering and living under His rule in the coming kingdom. Jesus did not abolish the "righteousness of the law." That is still being fulfilled and carried by His kingdom of disciples. We are still required to fulfill the righteousness of the law. Love is still required. Love will still fulfill the law (Galatians 5:14; Romans 13:8-10). Obeying parents is still right (Ephesians 6:1-3). Now, it would be alright for Jesus to tell new principles He would expect of His kingdom of disciples, but that is not what He is trying to accomplish in this Sermon.
The Law of Moses carried righteous principles while also carrying the luggage of a hardened or undeveloped people, national laws for a physical territory and a physical boundary. Not everything carried in the Law of Moses is a principle of "righteousness". For example, it was right for an Israelite to be circumcised because it was commanded, but not everything that was commanded was commanded because it was first "right". It would not be a matter of "right" for a Gentile to be circumcised, but it would be a matter of right for a Gentile not to steal or murder. There are many things that are carried by the Law of Moses that are not matters of "righteousness". They are commanded for national reasons or for typological reasons (pointing to antitypes in Christ). Those things were right for Jews to practice because they were commanded. They were not commanded because they were matters of inherent right or wrong. But, other things are in the Law of Moses and are commanded because they are right. Any Law from God would encourage these right things because they are right. Jesus is preaching that His kingdom will do those right things that were expressed in the Law that the scribes and Pharisees tended to overlook and failed to say much about. Jesus was going to say what they had long neglected to say and practice.
Lust is still wrong. Divorce is still wrong. Many remarriages are still adultery. The righteous standards Jesus expressed in the great Sermon on the Mount must yet characterize His kingdom. Neither the Sermon on the Mount, nor the righteousness of the law have been nailed to the cross and abolished. The Old Testament as a covenant-law has been abolished and nailed to the cross. The righteous requirements of the law must be carried on. Jesus was carrying forth those righteous principles that must be carried forth by His kingdom. The Sermon on the Mount is a righteous code of conduct that cannot be abolished by a righteous God. The righteousness of the law lives on even when the covenant that expresses it must come to a close. The Sermon on the Mount is the constitution of God's standards for all time and must be upheld by those who would be in the kingdom Jesus was preaching. If you want to be in Jesus' kingdom, here is the standard of righteousness.
The Four Gospels Belong to the New Testament
Matthew writes His gospel long after the cross, and thus is a New Testament writer and "minister of the new covenant" (II Corinthians 3:1ff). Yet, he records for his readers some things Jesus taught while the Law of Moses was still in effect. For example, the Law of Moses was still in effect when Jesus told of righteousness in His Sermon on the Mount. He told how that righteousness in the "then" coming kingdom would be a righteousness that exceeded the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). He pointed out the superficial externals that the scribes and Pharisees gave emphasis to, and then contrasted their righteousness with what HE expected of those entering His kingdom.
Some brethren are teaching that Jesus' commentary on the true meaning of the law is now moot since that law has been abolished. If the law was abolished, then Jesus' sermon becomes moot to us and has no binding quality upon us, is the argument. It is contended that we must look for our instruction in righteousness only from what can be found after Acts 2 when the law of the Lord went forth from Jerusalem. All law before that point is Law of Moses stuff that was nailed to the cross. Here is a quote from an actual preacher of the gospel today:
Quote #2: "The prophets all said the law of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. Jesus did most of His law teaching in Galilee. If the law of the Lord was to go forth from Jerusalem and His teaching went forth from Galilee, you just have to conclude He was teaching OT law. It was not till Acts 2 we find the new law going forth from Jerusalem, just like the prophets said it would. "
Indeed the law of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem, but we must see that the law of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem contained the same standards of morals that were carried by the Mosaic law. The "righteousness of the law" continues to be fulfilled in us (Christians).
Listen to part of the law of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem.
For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
Paul is writing to Christians, those under the law of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem, and to them he said that the "righteous requirement of the law" (not the entire law itself, but the righteous requirement of the law) might be fulfilled in us (us Christians). Earlier he said that Gentiles, who do not have the law, show the work of the law and actually practice the righteous requirement of the law even though they were not circumcised (Romans 2:14,26). So, the "righteous requirement of the law" does not include circumcision and other shadows of the law. The law carried a basic righteous requirement, a standard of moral conduct that even Gentiles knew were matters of right and wrong. Christians still fulfill the "righteous requirements of the law." I might add that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is a documented expression of the righteous requirements that must be true of those who would enter and live in His kingdom.
Again, Paul brings out standards from the Law of Moses that are ever to be fulfilled in Christians:
Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, "You shall not commit adultery," "You shall not murder," "You shall not steal," "You shall not bear false witness,""You shall not covet," and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8-10).
Do Christians need to concern themselves with "fulfilling the law"? Paul is surely writing after the cross, and in the age when the law of the Lord had gone forth from Jerusalem, and yet here he is telling people to love because love fulfills the law. So, the law that went forth from Jerusalem is telling Christians to fulfill the law of righteousness that had been also expressed in the Law of Moses from Sinai. To Timothy Paul said that the Holy Scriptures he had learned from childhood (the Old Testament scriptures) could still give him "instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:15-17). Why isn't Paul calling upon Timothy to only focus on that separate and totally different law of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem? The answer is that the righteous requirements of the law are still "profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness." Those righteous principles found in the Scriptures would "go forth from Jerusalem." Love is commanded by the Law of Moses because the Law of Moses comes from a righteous God Who does not change. If we want to know God's righteous standards, the Law of Moses will help us.
Things that typified the better things to come such as circumcision, the Sabbath, incense, instrumental music, and animal sacrifices would help us to appreciate the spiritual blessings in Christ but would not help us understand the righteousness of the law. Right and wrong is universal. Ceremonies and rituals are not universal. Gentiles could keep the righteousness of the law without being circumcised (Romans 2:14,26). Therefore, circumcision is not a principle of right and wrong. Still, the law contained the standards of righteousness and Christians could read the Old Testament and receive "instruction in righteousness."
The law does not invent righteousness. It merely expresses what is already righteous with God. Righteousness does not cease when a law is fulfilled and abolished. Therefore, the early Christians did not see a conflict between righteousness as learned and instructed from the scriptures of the Old Testament and righteousness as learned through the gospel of Christ.
It is always right for children to obey their parents in the Lord. Paul felt no compulsion to turn a deaf ear to the Law of Moses and look for law exclusively from something that "went forth from Jerusalem." If anything, the law of the Lord that went forth from Jerusalem incorporated the same standards of right and wrong as was expressed in the Law of Moses. To Christians Paul said that "this is the first commandment with promise" (Ephesians 6:1-3), as if that command still had some validity and merit for the Christian's life.
For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Galatians 5:13-14).
Again, the righteous requirement of the law is "love". When Jesus boiled the Law of Moses down to two key requirements, He said all the law hinged on two principles: love God and love your fellow man. So, love is a righteous requirement that supersedes the law that contains it. The Law of Moses said to "love your neighbor as yourself", yet Paul is instructing Christians to live by that very principle found in the law. Now, if Paul could do that after the law was nailed to the cross, then Jesus would have no problem using that very same law to instruct those who would enter His coming kingdom. What Jesus taught "went forth from Jerusalem" through His disciples as they taught orally what Matthew later put in writing. The four gospels are among the things that "went forth from Jerusalem". Principles of righteousness from the law, such as "love" and obedience to parents also "went forth from Jerusalem".
The quote we have addressed assumes a totally different law of the Lord would go forth from Jerusalem. It assumes that Isaiah was telling the Jews that a totally new law would go forth from Jerusalem, a new law with completely different standards of right and wrong. Even the "righteousness" of this new law would be different. No, the fact of the matter is that no matter what the details of the covenant are, the law of the Lord would be in that covenant because right and wrong are always constant. Righteousness is righteousness no matter what law or covenant carries it. Isaiah was declaring that God's standards would go forth from Jerusalem and create commonality among people of all races and nations.
He was not saying that "righteousness" itself would change as to what it is. So, the vehicle changes: the covenant changes. Righteousness is carried in a new vehicle, a new covenant, and would be shared with the world by means of what would happen at Jerusalem. Indeed, even the Sermon on the Mount has come to us through what happened at Jerusalem.
Matthew's gospel is presented in nutshell form in Peter's sermon on Pentecost. Peter tells the same things in Acts 2 that Matthew was later to record more fully in his narrative of the good news. Matthew was inspired by the Holy Spirit to remember "all things that Jesus had taught" (John 14; Matthew 28:20), because Jesus taught the standards of righteousness that He said would characterize those who would enter and live in "the kingdom of heaven." Even now "the righteous requirements of the law" must be fulfilled in us (Romans 8:4). The law as a binding covenant is gone, nailed to the cross. The righteous requirements of the law live on in the gospel. They are exemplified in Jesus' holy character and are carried forward by His kingdom of disciples.
Quote #3: "Do not conclude from this that I contend that Jesus said nothing in MMLJ regarding the church or New Testament age. He said many things about the kingdom and the church, but they were merely statements of fact, parables, or prophecy. They were not law. The law was not given till Pentecost."
As we continue our quotes we begin to see where the quotes are going. Here it is contended that the four gospels contain "no law", just parables and prophesies and facts. What about "you must be born again" (John 3:1-5)? Just a parable? Just a fact? Just a prophecy? What about "eat my flesh and drink my blood" (John 6)? As we can clearly see by just calling out a few things (by no means not everything), we can see that the gospels present obligations for the believer. Christians would find the "righteousness" declared by the law and by Jesus as something they would need to "fulfill" in themselves. Indeed, the four gospels would present "righteousness" that all followers of Jesus would adopt because it was a "righteous requirement". Jesus did many things because they were part of the covenant the Jews were under. He did many things in the law because they were "righteous requirements" that any law from God would contain.
The Sabbath was a "shadow" (Colossians 2:14f), not a righteous requirement. Jesus kept the Sabbath because it was a shadow and part of the covenant He was under. It was not one of the righteous requirements of the law.
Circumcision was not one of the righteous requirements of the law (Romans 2:14-26). It was a shadow of the inward circumcision of the heart. As we noted, Gentiles could keep the righteousness of the law without being circumcised.
Consider also the following points from the Old Testament:
Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and Your law is truth (Psalm 119:142).
The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever (Psalm 119:160).
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3).
Thus, there was something about "righteousness" that is different from offering the required animal sacrifices. The point is that there is an element of the law that goes on when the sacrifices would end. Those are the things that would continue even past the covenant with Israel. These requirements of the law would extend past the cross and would go on even when the law was nailed to the cross. Jesus talked about those things He would expect of those who would enter His kingdom. Righteousness is everlasting. It is never nailed to the cross. It finds expression in the Law of Moses, in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, in the epistles of Paul, and in the heart and lives of every disciple of Christ. It "went forth from Jerusalem" in Acts 2, but it is not exclusive of what Jesus taught in His ministry, nor is it totally exclusive of what was found in the "righteous requirements of the law". We keep the righteous requirements of the law because the righteous requirements of the law are also part of that which "went forth from Jerusalem."
We have been addressing the fact that Jesus was living His life under the Law of Moses and teaching about the kingdom while the Law of Moses was still in effect. We have established the following facts:
- That righteousness is not chained to the Law of Moses.
- What was righteous, a Gentile could keep, even if he did not view himself as subject to the Law of Moses (Romans 2:14, 26).
- What was righteous is always righteous.
- Those who would enter the kingdom of heaven, Jesus' kingdom, would have to have a righteousness that exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).
- Jesus contrasts the righteousness that He requires with that of the scribes and Pharisees in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
- Yes, "the righteous requirements of the law" must be fulfilled in us, Christians (Romans 8:4).
The Righteousness of the Law Expounded By Jesus
Jesus was expounding on the righteous requirements of the law. Jesus taught the same thing that Paul taught and Paul taught the same thing Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount. Paul told Christians to love because love fulfills the law. Was He binding the law of Moses upon Christians? No! But, he was showing how Christians can fulfill the law. He even told Timothy that the Old Testament Scriptures are useful for Christians "for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16-17). Jesus was bringing out the facets of righteousness that He expected of those who would enter and live in His coming kingdom.. It is wrong to say that Jesus merely talked about a law that would soon be nailed to the cross. No! Jesus talked about righteousness. The law contained righteous requirements. But, those righteous requirements are what Jesus is addressing. Righteous requirements found in the law would characterize His kingdom of disciples.
Some brethren are over-simplifying things when they say such things as we quote below:
Quote #4: "MMLJ do not contain the law of Christ. They contain the law of Moses."
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (MMLJ) are four Christians writing in the New Testament age as "ministers of the new covenant" (II Corinthians 3:1-6).
They are writing long after the Law of Moses has been nailed to the cross.
Now, their story includes the story of Jesus' life and teaching while the Law of Moses was still in effect. The content of these four gospels are an expanded version of Paul's sermon in Acts 13:23-39. The facts of Jesus' life and death and teaching harmonize with the Law of Moses and form the foundation of kingdom teaching. The righteousness of the law is carried into the kingdom. Thus, Jesus did no violence to the law while He prepared for the coming kingdom and taught the righteous principles He expected to be carried out in the kingdom.
The law of Christ is indeed found in the righteous requirements of the law. Did the law teach love? If so, then you can find some of the law of Christ in the Law of Moses. No, the law of Christ and the Law of Moses are not identical in all the covenant parts, but they are identical as to holding up righteousness. To say that the law of Christ cannot be found in the gospels is overstating the case.
To say that the gospels merely contain the Law of Moses is way out in left field of the truth. All we need to do is ask a few questions to see that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John do not merely contain the Law of Moses. Consider the following:
- "Except a man be born of the water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God" (John 3:1-5). Is that the Law of Moses or the law of Christ? It is obviously the law of Christ.
- "Except you eat My flesh and drink My blood you have no life in you" (John 6). Is that the Law of Moses or the law of Christ? Again, this is obviously the law of Christ.
- "Abide in Me" (John 15). Is that the Law of Moses or the law of Christ? Again, it is obviously the law of Christ.
We could expound with many more examples that show that the gospels are not merely presenting the Law of Moses. They are New Testament books because they relate the unique things Jesus personally said about entering and living in His kingdom. The reading of Jesus' words would not be just interesting facts or interesting prophesies or interesting parables. They would be taken as obligations, rules of kingdom entrance and kingdom conduct. It is in fact ludicrous for Christians today to discard the words of Jesus simply because He said these things before the cross and while the Law of Moses was still in effect.
Further, we must consider also that the "new commandment" Jesus gave (John 13:34) was not the Law of Moses. This statement made by Jesus before the cross was remembered as a binding command. It is mentioned again in I John. Things Jesus said before the cross were remembered as rules of conduct by the early Christians (Acts 20:35). The supper was instituted before the cross and carried out by the church because of what Jesus commanded before the cross (Matthew 26; I Corinthians 11). It is ludicrous to say that "MMLJ do not contain the law of Christ" and then to imply that they merely contain the Law of Moses. A more serious error was never advocated by preachers of the gospel.
Quote #5: "Jesus taught the old law (Mt 23:1). MMLJ record the teachings of Jesus. Therefore MMLJ record the teachings of Jesus on the old law. The old law was taken out of the way at Calvary (Col 2:14).
Therefore, the teachings of Jesus on the old law were taken out of the way at Calvary."
Answer: The above quote affirms that Jesus taught the old law, and no one denies this, though we firmly deny that the Law of Moses is all He taught. But, there is a subtle implication that Jesus merely taught the old law. This is a serious error. Jesus taught many things pertaining to the coming kingdom, the righteous standards He expected which were also in harmony with the righteous requirements of the law. These are woven within the story of His life under the law. To make all His teachings inapplicable by neatly tucking them under a law that was abolished is a great injustice to His teaching. The Spirit was to bring to the disciples' remembrance all that Jesus commanded them (John 14:26; Matthew 28:20), because it was a vital part of what Jesus wanted in the new kingdom age.
To say that all Jesus taught was merely commentary on a now abolished law is to do serious injustice to the scriptures. If Paul could say that the Old Testament Scriptures are profitable for doctrine and "instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:15-17), then how much more would Jesus' teachings about life in the kingdom be profitable for doctrine and "instruction in righteousness?" The question is, does Jesus' Sermon on the Mount give the subjects of His kingdom "instruction in righteousness?"
The answer is obviously "yes". Why? Because "righteousness" is not chained to a law. Righteousness is not locked in to the Law of Moses. A Gentile could be righteous without the law (Romans 2:14, 26) and still do the things contained in the law. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is not locked into the Law of Moses so that it nails to the cross with the Law of Moses. The righteous requirements of the law are not nailed to the cross.
The Law of Moses as a binding legal code has been nailed to the cross, but the righteous principles it contained are not nailed with it.
The laws of England as a binding legal code has been abandoned by this country, but we did not abandon the righteous principles that were contained in that law. We have incorporated them into our own codes of law. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John join with the other New Testament writers to tell us what the righteous standards of Jesus' kingdom would entail.
The constitution of a kingdom of righteousness was presented by Jesus in His great Sermon on the Mount. If we discard this constitution because of when it was spoken, then Israel may as well have discarded Exodus 20 because it was described before those words were dedicated with blood and while the patriarchal form of law was still in effect. The Jews might as well have forgotten the rules regarding Passover recorded in Exodus 12-13 because it was spoken before the Sinai covenant was delivered and ratified with blood and delivered while the patriarchal form of law was still in effect for the Israelites. The fact is, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is to the New Testament what Exodus 12-13 and 20 is to the Old Testament. A greater piece cannot be found on the subject of "righteousness," and the kingdom of God is "righteousness" (Romans 14:17). If the kingdom of God is about righteousness, and can get "instruction in righteousness" even from the Old Testament Scriptures (II Timothy 3:15-17; Ephesians 6:1-3), then we must get "instruction in righteousness" from Jesus' sermon on the Mount because it is
- About kingdom righteousness, and
- Is the greatest source of instruction in righteousness found in any single place in the Scriptures, and
- Was written out for us by a "minister of the new covenant".
This is what we are about. These are our principles. These are the principles that transfer us into the kingdom of God's dear Son and allow us to shine as lights in a dark world. These are the principles that Jesus wanted in His disciples. Those principles did not nail to the cross with the legal code of the old covenant. Matthew is inspired to present them because of their great relevance to life in Jesus' kingdom.
To remind you of what we have been addressing, I offer you the sixth quote from a preacher of now a perverted gospel.
Quote #6: "Were there things in MMLJ that were regarding the kingdom of heaven? Yes. There are prophecies, parables, and facts. Is there law binding upon us given before the cross? No. There is none. There are prophecies of law, but the law itself was not announced to the world till Pentecost. It was from Jerusalem that the law of the Lord went forth."
As you can see, this quote will allow that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John all related facts, prophecies, and parables, but no law that binds us is given before the cross. Remember, that John relates a truth that obligates us. We are required to believe in Jesus as the Christ in order to have everlasting life (John 3:16). Are we bound to the obligation of something stated in the gospels? Of course we are. Another truth stated before the cross is "you must be born again" (John 3:1-5). Are we bound to any obligation here? Must we be born again? Our brother tries to neatly categorize the elements of the gospels so that he can say that nothing is binding law for us.
There is a motivation behind this theory. Many brethren are simply wanting to get rid of Jesus' teaching on divorce and remarriage. To do this, they have come up with this theory that makes sense to them. The theory is that Jesus was binding the Law of Moses and all that Jesus said before the cross would be nailed to the cross with the Law of Moses.
As you can see, the quote is leading to the idea that the law of the Lord would first begin to be taught beginning at Jerusalem in Acts 2. Everything before that is "the Law of Moses" only. How clever, but how misleading! The fact is that all 27 books of the New Testament "went forth from Jerusalem." That is, they began to spread forth from there. First orally, then later in written form. Another fact is that the Spirit would bring to remembrance the things Jesus had taught His disciples (John 14:26), and that too would be part of the law of the Lord that "went forth from Jerusalem." In fact, that is what Mathew, Mark, Luke and John are doing. They are recalling the things Jesus taught them that He wanted to be among the things that "went forth from Jerusalem." And, as we have noted, the "righteous requirements of the law" would be among the things that would "go forth from Jerusalem" (Romans 8:4; 13:8-10). Part of those "righteous requirements of the law" were expounded upon in Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, and these were things Jesus wanted for those entering and living in His kingdom.
Quote #7: "What we say is that MMLJ do not contain law for Christians. What I mean by law is a command for Christians to do that is sinful if you don't do it. MMLJ before the cross do not contain law for Christians. There was prophecy, facts and parables that apply to us today, but NO law. The law went forth from Jerusalem, not Galilee."
Are Christians required to "eat Jesus' flesh and drink His blood"? (John 6). Are Christians required to "believe" in Jesus in order to have everlasting life? (John 3:16). Are Christians required to confess Jesus before men? Are Christians required to practice a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees? (Matthew 5:20). Of course the answer is yes, yes, yes. Are Christians obligated to the "new commandment" Jesus gave in John 13:34? Of course they are. Are Christians responsible to remember the words of the Lord Jesus that "it is more blessed to give than to receive?" (Acts 20:35). Of course they are. Then if we bear responsibility to believe the "facts" and implement the principles, then how is it not obligation and law?
Quote #8: "How does the fact that it was unlawful under the law of Moses to murder and is also unlawful under the law of Christ to murder make Jesus teaching the Jews about murder applicable to us? Since the law of Moses was one law and the law of Christ another, how does a lawyer expounding upon one corpus affect the LAW in another? If a judge in Mexico talked about Mexican law on murder, that is of no consequence to American courts because Mexican law has no authority here. Neither does Jesus exposition of the law of Moses have any legal or binding effect on the law of Christ. They are separate laws."
The fact that New Testament Christians referenced the law of Moses for numerous binding principles (Ephesians 6:1-3; Romans 13:8-10; I Corinthians 14:34) demonstrates that the premise of the above quote is faulty. While the Law of Moses and the law of Christ are indeed separate laws, they come from the same righteous God. That is why Christians studied the Old Testament scriptures. From them they could learn "instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16-17). Christians, under the law of Christ, could learn from the Law of Moses wisdom, and learn examples to avoid (I Corinthians 10:1-13), and examples of faith to follow (Hebrews 11). While American courts do not appeal to Mexican law, Christians used the Law of Moses abundantly for "instruction in righteousness." The righteousness of the law is to be "fulfilled in us" (Romans 8:4). We do not make void the law. We "establish the law" (Romans 3:31). The law of Christ is based upon the righteous principles understood from the Law of Moses. Jesus taught that those righteous principles are expected of those who would enter the kingdom and live in it (Matthew 5-7). The Law of Moses declared some things that were just plain "right" (Ephesians 6:1f). The reason this was important to Christians is because it came from God, not as a shadowy type of things to come, but because it was a principle of right and wrong. Things that were types and shadows would give way to the substance (Jesus) they were faintly depicting (Colossians 2:14-16).
Since we are serving the same God, then principles of right and wrong are confirmed for us in the law of Moses. We do not need to adopt the shadows and symbols of the law. We can appreciate what they depicted, but we cannot use the rituals of shadow-religion when we have the substance-religion in Jesus. No, we are not under the Law of Moses, but the Law of Moses was a law from God that confirms what is right and wrong.
On almost every page of the New Testament is a confirming reference to something in the Old Testament. Christians used the Old Testament as a source of confirmation from God. It confirmed that Jesus is the Messiah. It confirmed that Gentiles were to be included in God's new covenant. It confirmed what "righteousness" is. It gave "instruction in righteousness." Christians did not adopt the shadows of rituals and ceremonies, days, months, years, new moons (Colossians 2:14-16), nor the "earthly tabernacle" and its services which were "imposed" and "symbolic" of the heavenly (Hebrews 9). They did not adopt the physical mark of circumcision in the flesh (Colossians 2:11-12), but they did look for God's cutting away of sins as it was foreshadowed in circumcision.
Right and wrong morals do not change. Adultery is always wrong. Homosexuality is always wrong. Stealing and murder is always wrong. Obeying parents is always right. Thus, any law from God will help to confirm the matters of right and wrong because those things are constant. The Law of Moses and the law of Christ are separate laws, but the law of Christ is not the total opposite of the Law of Moses. The righteousness of the law is to be fulfilled in us. Therefore, Jesus could speak to righteousness as He expected it in the kingdom He was preaching, and still do no violence to the law. Righteousness is not nailed to the cross and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount is surely not discarded from the Christian's constitution of righteous principles.
Quote #9: "The only way you can determine what is common between the law of Moses and the law of Christ is to compare the law of Moses and the law of Christ and determine the commonality of the two laws. You cannot determine from MMLJ what is common between the two laws. You must go to Acts and the epistles to determine commonality. It is clear then that the epistles (Christ speaking through the apostles and prophets) are the standard for the law of Christ. It is not MMLJ to which we appeal to establish authority for our behavior."
Acts and the epistles alone would not be a complete picture of the law of Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were ministers of the new covenant (II Corinthians 3). They were not ministers of the Old covenant. They were not seeking to add something to an already abolished law. While the gospels do not give us a complete picture of the law of Christ, neither does the book of Acts alone. It would be ludicrous to try to establish the law of Christ from the epistles alone. All 27 books "went forth from Jerusalem" as the "ministers of the new covenant" ministered these books to the world.
The gospels are foundational and present the same basic material as Peter presented in his Pentecost sermon or as Paul presented in his sermons in Acts (i.e. Acts 13:23-29). It was not Paul's mission in Acts 13 to present the Law of Moses but to show from the Law of Moses and the facts of Jesus why all men should believe in Jesus and submit to Him. Neither do the gospels set out to get people to follow the Law of Moses as a complete system. Their purpose is to show why Jesus is the anticipated Messiah, why the Mosaic system is satisfied and fulfilled in Jesus, and why Jesus now has all authority in heaven and on earth.
Isaiah would encourage people to practice circumcision, keep all the rituals of the Old Covenant, and look with hope for the Messiah. Matthew would encourage the Jews to lay down the rituals and not merely hope for the coming Messiah, but submit to Him because He has come, and Moses' cloak of authority has been passed to Jesus. The Old Testament said the Messiah is coming. The gospels say He has come. Believe in Him. It is obvious that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were not written to continue the Mosaic system. They are written to confirm that Jesus is the Just and Righteous Messiah Who alone can save all mankind. The gospels present the Messiah who preached the kingdom and spoke of the righteousness it would take to enter His kingdom. The Great Sermon on the Mount tells of kingdom righteousness.
The Argument that Jesus Was Talking to Jews Only
In an effort to make all the teaching in the gospels inapplicable to us, it is pointed out that Jesus was talking to the Jews, not Gentiles, during His ministry. Listen to the following quote:
Quote #10: "Brother ___, if we could find some indication that Jesus' commentary on the law of Moses was something He intended for us to follow, then well and good, but He said that He came to NONE but the lost sheep of the house of Israel. If He was teaching the lost sheep of the house of Israel, why would we expect the things He said to them to be applicable to us sheep who were of another pasture? His comment was "I say unto YOU [Jews]". How we get us Gentiles out of you Jews is beyond me."
Answer to that argument:
- He spoke the great commission to Jews only, but instructed that what He commanded them was to be taught to all nations. Matthew 28:18-20. Even if it is argued that Matthew 28:20 is talking about the commands He gave in the 40 days after the cross, those were still spoken to Jews only. Therefore, the fact that something was spoken to the Jews first, does not mean that it was only for them. But, notice further....
- Jesus said that the gospel He had been preaching before the cross to Jews only was to also be preached "in all the world" (Matthew 24:14). Therefore, the fact that He came to the Jews only, is not proof that His words were intended to be limited to them. Jesus here declares that what He had been teaching the Jews only regarding the kingdom was intended to be preached to all nations. But, notice further....
- The story of the woman who anointed Jesus (Matthew 26:6-13 - before the cross), was to be "preached in the whole world." Therefore, Jesus intended that His actions and interactions with people before the cross, as well as what He was teaching before the cross be among the things that would be "preached in all the world" (not to Jews only). Matthew and Mark are the only places where this story is told. But Jesus intended that this story be told in all the world, not just to the Jews. Therefore, Jesus intended that Matthew and Mark would be among those things that would be "preached in all the world." These things were among the things that would "go forth from Jerusalem." But, notice further....
- John 1:9 "That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world." John is writing his book to describe the Light of the world. Even though He came first to the Jews, His intention was to light "every man coming into the world" (not just the Jews). While Jesus was still a baby Simeon said: "A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel" (Luke 2:32). Notice now, that Jesus was intended to be a light to "every man" including Gentiles. Now, at the time John wrote his gospel (long after the Old Testament was nailed to the cross), he can now introduce Jesus as "the true Light which gives [present tense] light to every man who comes into the world." John was written to share the true light with everyone, not just the Jews. Therefore, John is not intended to be an Old Testament book for the Jews. The gospel was intended to be "for the Jew first, and also for the Gentile" (Romans 1:16).
- Paul included the righteousness of the law in the things he was divinely instructing Gentiles to carry out in their lives. The church at Rome, composed of many Gentiles, was instructed to love because "love fulfills the law" (Romans 8:4; 13:8-10). Again, this was repeated to other Gentiles in Galatia (Galatians 5:14). Therefore, the righteous principles of the law were intended to be the standard for Gentiles in Jesus' kingdom. Further, Jesus ' message of the kingdom was intended to extend to the Gentiles. Therefore, His righteous standards for the kingdom, given in Matthew 5-7, was intended to be the standards of all who would enter that same kingdom.
It is immaterial that Jesus went first to Israel only. He expressed His clear intentions that what He was preaching before the cross and interactions with people before the cross would be among the things that would be "preached in all the world" (Matthew 24:14; 26:9-13).
Those things He wanted "preached in all the world" are given to us in the 27 books of the New Testament, all of which are among the Spirit revelations that would "go forth from Jerusalem." Clearly, all 27 books are New Testament books. New Testament books often contain many important Old Testament facts (the gospels, Acts 7, Acts 13, Hebrews 11, etc.). This does not change them into Old Testament books. Genesis - Exodus 19 are in the Old Testament. This section contains patriarchal facts, but that does not turn them into books that do not belong to the Old Testament. Acts 7 talks about patriarchal facts. That does not remove Acts 7 from the New Testament. There are only two testaments. The first testament and the second (See Hebrews 8-10). The first testament contained Genesis thru Malachi. The second testament was written after the first was abolished. The first four books that appear in our present arrangement of the New Testament books tells us things Jesus was preaching that He said would be "preached in all the world." So, every time you hear someone make the "to Jews only" argument, just remember these things.
Quote #11: "I don't think anyone would argue that the sermon on the mount is a wonderful explanation of the law of Moses. That position is taken by a number of commentators including H. Leo Boles and Hendriksen. What we do take issue with is the idea that the sermon on the mount is binding on Christians."
Boles and Hendricksen believed that Jesus expounded upon the righteous principles of the law of Moses, but they did not take the position that the Sermon on the Mount is inapplicable to Christians. Boles clearly said that these things Jesus taught were "a positive law for the government of every subject of his kingdom." In fact, I don't think I have ever read any commentary that took the position that Jesus' words did not apply to the citizens of His kingdom. It has only been in recent years that this position has been advocated, and that by preachers (should I say "former" preachers) of the gospel. The above quote (Quote #11) is clearly advocating that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount has been nailed to the cross.
Quote #12: "We are agreed that Jesus taught truth. We are agreed that many things Jesus said during His earthly ministry are still true. Our difference lies in the teaching that He taught things that were binding then and still binding on us today. That cannot be established."
The subtle admission that Jesus taught "truth" that is still true is somewhat more palatable than a complete rejection of the four gospels. It is like saying that Genesis 1 is still true, but it contains no law that is binding upon us. Yet, some "truths" carry more than a fact of an event that does not cease to be true. For example, "if you continue in My word, then you are my disciples indeed" (John 8:31f), is more than a fact, but there is a responsibility to act on that truth. It "binds" us to action. It obligates us to "continue in His word". Jesus taught something before the cross that was binding then and is still binding on us today. Stay with what Jesus says and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. That is more than fact. That is binding law. We are called to action. This one verse alone is enough to "establish" that Jesus said things that are binding on us today.
Jesus' words were not nailed to the cross. When brethren seek to nail Jesus' words to the cross, simply because they were uttered before the cross, they have forced a theory upon the gospels that cannot be sustained. We must not allow this kind of maneuvering. Those who advocate this theory should be quickly recognized as perverters of the gospel who should be marked, avoided, and recognized as accursed children, clouds without water, promising liberty and making people slaves of corruption. There comes a time when all the warnings of II Peter 2 must be recognized as applicable to some who creep in among us. This, brethren, is one of those times. Beware and be armed! Fight the good fight of faith! Contend earnestly for the faith. Of some make a difference and try to snatch them out of the fire (Jude's words are very applicable in this controversy). There is a lot of empty deceit that craftily takes people into subtle but serious errors. Those who teach that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount cannot and must not apply to the kingdom He was teaching about (the kingdom of God's dear Son, the kingdom of heaven that was then at hand), are dangerous and divisive, perverting the gospel of Christ. Come out from among them or put them out from among you, if discussion is not possible or has become fruitless. Their words are spreading as gangrene. Preach the word and hold fast the pattern of sound words.