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The Law in the Gospel and the Gospel in the Law

Matthew 5:17-26

Pastor David Ernst

Sixth Sunday after Trinity
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Sun, Jul 19, 2020 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The question is, where is the gospel in our gospel for today? In these verses our Lord speaks of the law of God, His holy will for us to live as his children. But, we learn in catechism class that this law always condemns us, because nobody can perfectly fulfill it. Gospel means good news, the good news that Jesus Christ has paid the price for our sins on the cross, so in Him we are free from the condemnation of the law.

However, in our text for today the Lord says thus: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not a jot or a tittle will pass from the law, until all is accomplished, so that anyone who breaks the least of these commandments, and so teaches men, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that if your righteousness is not greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. "

The gospel tells us when we fall into sin, we can confess all our sins and God will be faithful and just to forgive us and purify us from all evil. How are we to understand “if your righteousness is not greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven”?

The scribes and Pharisees were religious men, models for the entire community. In outward appearance, they fulfilled all the laws that God gave to the people through Moses and many more rules. But, Jesus denounced them as hypocrites because they did not perfectly follow the law. But, here Jesus says that his disciples should be more righteous than they.

The law of God in the strict sense is the 10 commandments. This is the universal moral law that God wants all nations to fulfill. This law is found the first time in the book of Genesis when God created them male and female and instituted marriage as one man and one woman for all of their lives. This moral law is the basis of the law of Moses, but the law of Moses in a broad sense is much more than the 10 commandments. Before Mount Sinai, Jehovah made a covenant with the people of Israel to be their God and they the people of God. They were freed from slavery in Egypt, by the power and grace of God, but they were refugees, without discipline and unity. In that covenant God proposed to transform the refugees into a great nation, different from the other nations. Therefore, Moses gave them many rules for their daily lives, as individuals, as members of families, and as a nation. Some of these rules served to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of the Messiah, the promised Savior of all nations.

Jesus Christ came to fulfill this law of Moses by His obedience to the law in its entirety. First, Jesus fulfilled the moral law, but also all the rules that pointed to the coming of the Messiah. As the Son of Man, He fulfilled the moral law perfectly, as a descendant of Abraham and the Son of David, He fulfilled the covenant with Israel, and as the Son of God He fulfilled God's part in the covenant with Moses.

The books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus had said and our Lord reaffirmed that the fulfillment of the law is to love God with all your heart and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Jesus loved His Father obediently until death and loved humanity more than Himself. And more, Jesus made a new covenant in His blood with all the nations.

The moral law is based on the creation of heaven and earth, and creation implies the universal moral law. Human reason can understand God's design for us to live in the design of creation. Therefore, all cultural traditions agree that it is not good to steal, kill, bear false witness, or commit adultery. Furthermore, we have the revelation in Holy Scripture inspired by the Holy Spirit of the moral law in its fullness.

But, to fulfill this law, we must fulfill it in thought, word and deed, not only in external deeds. All bad works are rooted in thoughts and words. So the Lord said to them, "You heard that it was said by the ancients: Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever slays shall be exposed to judgment. and anyone who says to his brother: Raca, will be in danger of the council, and anyone who says to him: Fatuo will be exposed to hellfire. " In the following verses, He also said to them, "You heard that it was said by the ancients: You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart."

It is not enough not to do bad deeds for lack of opportunity or willpower. To be justified before God on our own merits, we must be clean in our desires and thoughts. Therefore, the justice that is more than the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is not within us, but is the perfect justice of Christ in which we are clothed by the blood of Christ.

We are free from the condemnation of the law by Christ. But, this is not an excuse to continue in the life of sin. We have a new basis for obedience to the will of God. Because God first loved us, we respond to Him in love, not fear of His wrath and punishment. This is more than the obedience of the scribes and Pharisees that is outward obedience, but not in the mind and heart. This is a change of mind and heart that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

As St. Paul says in our epistle (Romans 6: 1-11), “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? In no way! For we who are dead to sin, how will we still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death? Because we are buried with Him in death by baptism; so that as Christ rose from the dead for the glory of the Father, so also we walk in newness of life. "

Here is the gospel in our gospel for today. Our perfect justice is the justice of Christ. We have freedom, but spiritual freedom to live as children of God because of what Christ has done for us. All religions apart from the gospel of Christ says we must do to live the good life. But in Christ we have new life as a gift from God and in this we have peace that passes all understanding. Amen.

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