Isn't the Old Testament Kinda Old?
In Jesus' "Sermon on the Mount" he comments on the importance of the Old Testament. In today's message, David explains how the Old Testament is still relevant today.
Good morning. My name is David Sorn. I am the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
We are continuing this morning in our series on Jesus’ great message he gave in Matthew 5-7.
Today’s message is “kind of interesting”
Over the next 4 verses, Jesus answers all of His critics and gives his position on the Old Testament, and then he takes their idea of it, and flips it on its head
And then he uses this new way of looking at the God’s law (as it was first given in the OT) as a foundation to everything he says in the rest of the chapter
So this is a pretty important message for everything we will talk about for the rest of this chapter
The first thing we need to do for this passage to make sense is to put ourselves in the shoes of Jesus’ audience
This isn’t always the easiest passage to interpret. It’s the one that people tend to skip when they are doing a series on the Sermon on the Mount
Think about Jesus’ listeners: When we think about Jesus, we tend to just think about God coming to earth and Him forgiving our sins, etc.
But his listeners were predominately Jewish…and He is their Messiah. The one they’ve been waiting for…for a long time.
And not only that, but He’s about to bring radical change to their “religion”
Because Christianity, which really is just the true fulfillment of Judaism, looks different that Judaism.
So people had all these questions for Him. Because He was challenging systems, challenging assumptions about God
And all of a sudden, Jesus had all of these critics who wanted to know what he thought about stuff and they were constantly trying to trap Him
And one of their big questions concerned what he really thought about the Old Testament (which was the Bible at the time), and what He thought of God’s law and commandments in it.
And the verses we have today are where He answers His critics
(Matthew 5:17-20) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. 20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
THE RELEVANCE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Before we get to how Jesus actually fulfills the Old Testament, the first and most obvious thing to be pointed out is that Jesus seems to really value the importance of the Old Testament.
“Not even the smallest detail will disappear”
“Teach the commandments.” Don’t “ignore” them
The OT is highly important to Jesus
The Old Testament is 39 books of the Bible that were inspired by God!
(2 Timothy 3:16) - NIV
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
That verse (often quoted by Christians) is referring (how the original readers would have heard it) mostly to the Old Testament.
But, it often get’s relegated to a second-class collection of books by Christians
I mean, what if you could find another book of the Bible? What if you found out there was another book completely inspired by God himself? Wouldn’t you want to read it?
For example…I didn’t read Galatians for 7 years (professor said a lot of bad things about in college)
When I read it last month, I just devoured it. I kept reading it and reading it.
Well there are a lot of books that God inspired that most of us haven’t read, they just happen to be in the Old Testament.
But they are God-breathed books. They are important!
So why are we avoiding these books of the Bible?
MISINTERPRETATION OF THE OT
I think it’s because we have wrongly and theologically misinterpreted what Jesus thinks about the OT (which is why these verses are very important)
First of all, Jesus says that He fulfills the old testament. Whoa! What does that mean?
Can you imagine all of the rabbis sitting around debating what the OT meant for their time, and how they should do certain sacrifices and obey certain laws, and then this new rabbi (JC) walks in and says, actually the OT has pretty much mostly been pointing to ME, and I’m going to fulfill its prophecies and complete its sacrificial system
Jesus really changes the game.
And He fulfills a lot of things from the OT, which then require things to be done differently
For instance, the OT prophesies that a King will reign forever. He has now come
The OT prophesies that a messiah will come and He will help bring God to the whole world (not just the local Jewish people), and Jesus does that.
Perhaps, one of the most noticeable fulfillments is what Jesus does to the sacrificial system
Used to be that if you committed a certain sin, you would bring a ramb, or a lamb, or even a dove to be sacrificed at the temple
It was a simple of atonement and justice. That God was forgiving you and diverting justice as well.
However, the Bible says that NOW, JC is the perfect sacrifice for once and for all, so there’s no need to do that anymore
Well, that’s a major change
Very different for me to think about Jesus’ sacrifice than for me to go find a ram and sacrifice it
However, here’s the important catch…the principle of penalty and payment for sin (sacrifice) is still a valid principle that needs to be taught…
Or another way to say it is: I can only truly and fully understand what Jesus did for me on the cross when I understand the sacrificial system of the OT
When I read about how God diverted his wrath away from His people onto the sacrifice, when I read about how the shedding of blood was necessary for the forgiveness of sin, when I read about God would remove the guilt of a human and transmit it somewhere else (Jesus’ death makes so much more sense to me)
So Jesus didn’t come to abolish the OT. He didn’t come for us to get rid of it. Not even the smallest detail that describes what seems to be the most inconsequential fact
He didn’t come to abolish it. But to fulfill it.
Every year I do a movie marathon w/ my friend Jared
Grew up watching Rocky 3 and 4.
But watching Rocky 1 and 2 helped give me the context I needed to better understand Rocky 3 and 4
Just like the Old Testament gives really important context to the New Testament
Let me give you another example from literature this time.
How many of you are familiar somewhat with the “Chronicles of Narnia?”
The first book that C.S. Lewis wrote and the one that is almost always recommended you read first is: “The Lion, the witch, and the Wardrobe.”
However, chronologically speaking, Lewis later wrote a prequel (which takes place before the LWW) called the “Magicians Nephew.”
Yet, almost anyone who’s familiar with the series will still tell you to start with the LWW, not the Magician’s Nephew.
And the Bible is really similar actually.
If you’re in a place where you’ve never read the Bible before or you’ve maybe just read a little….start with the New Testament.
It doesn’t chronologically come first…but it’s the best building block to start w/
I have people ask me all the time, “Where should I read in the Bible? What books should I read first?”
So, being the nerd that I am, I actually developed a chart
(Put NT Pyramid on screen)…explain
(Put OT Pyramid on screen)…explain
If you’re interested, we printed some of these pyramids, take one on the way out.
And as Jesus points out in today’s passage, it is really valuable to eventually get to the point where we are studying the OT as well
And not just to see how He fulfills it but ALSO because so many of the commands and truths of the OT are still SO important today
I think we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater a little bit with the OT.
Sure there are a couple of things that don’t apply to us anymore (because of Jesus’ fulfillment) i.e the sacrificial system, some other ceremonial things they did, and some governance things they did
However, a lot of God’s commands (10 commandments for example) are still quite relevant today
A lot of questions could be asked about specific verses/commands in the OT, and obviously I can’t answer every question in one message, but that is part of the reason we have House Groups. We REALLY value community, and it’s a chance for you to not only dig into how this applies to your life but to ask questions of other people…
Another thing about the continual relevance of the OT, not only are the commands on moral living still relevant, there are a lot of prophecies in the Old Testament that refer to the end times as well, not just Jesus’ time.
It’s quite the fascinating collection of books
Let me say one more thing about Jesus’ fulfillment of the law, and then I want to look at verse 20 again…
Jesus is not only fulfilling the Scripture, but he is going to enlighten us with its intended meaning as well. Which he really does over the next 25 verses or so.
And this is why these verses are so important for what he’s about to say in the rest of his sermon
He keeps saying, “You have heard it said, but I tell you”
He fulfilled the law by not only reemphasizing its deepest meanings, but by giving us the Spirit of God which helps not only better understand the Scriptures, but better live them out as well.
It’s a pretty all-encompassing fulfillment
I want to take a look at verse 20 again
Because Jesus keeps talking about how important the OT is, and even how important the commandments are for us to take seriously. Even if they are from the OT
And then…he makes this outrageous statement in verse 20
(Matthew 5:20) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
20 “But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!
So he basically says that unless you are a better person morally (righteousness) than the Pharisees, you can’t into heaven
That’s a big statement.
Well, first of all, who are these Pharisee people?
They are the some of the main religious teachers of Jesus’ day. They were a sect (kind of like a denomination), they were responsible for interpreting the law, applying it.
They were like Biblical scholars, but they didn’t just write books tucked away in seminary libraries, they were constantly with the people telling them how to live.
YET, they were notorious for being overly serious about following everything in the law to the nth degree and they found endless rules to add on to the law of God to make sure you didn’t break them.
For instance: Sabbath example (3/4 of a mile, donkey in a well)
They also had many other over-the-top things that they did
Decided that there were 613 combined commandments and prohibitions
Show picture of phylactery
So, keeping all of this in mind, Jesus says, unless you’re more righteous than these people, you’re not going to heaven
What?!? Well, that certainly disqualifies me, and maybe some of you too. How are we supposed to be more righteous than these people?? They were psycho.
As you keep reading the teachings of Jesus, you see that he begins to constantly challenge the Pharisees and their rules.
In fact, I find it interesting that Jesus spends most of his time yelling at Religious people and hanging out with Sinners, but Christians today ironically spend most of their time yelling at Sinners and hanging out with Religious people
But Jesus starts to really challenge all of the Pharisees rules and prohibitions. And he challenges not only their motives but their process for pulling it off.
For change is not done by effort on the outside, but by transformation from the inside out.
Change comes from God’s grace.
And they knew this even in the OT (I desire mercy, not sacrifice…create in me a pure heart O God), it’s just that humans tend to mess it up…We LOVE to make it about US. And WE STILL MESS IT UP TO THIS DAY.
We simply cannot help ourselves from becoming like the Pharisees..
We can’t help ourselves from turning Christianity into nothing but a set of rules or from making it all about pleasing God by doing certain things and not doing certain things
But Jesus, in this passage and in the rest of the Gospels, guides us to the true intention of God’s law. His fulfillment of it.
The law (how to live for God) is not a measurement by which we can earn God’s favor.
Meaning. It’s not a ruler. (Get out Yardstick) He’s not rating different people a 9/10 or 3/10.
But we like to turn it into one (even if we know about God’s grace)
And maybe that’s because we hate that God’s grace evens out the playing field.
We like to think that we’re better than others, so we still find ways to classify ourselves on the ruler (I don’t drink, I’m not divorced, I’m haven’t cheated on anybody, I don’t watch THAT TV show…)
However, measuring yourself against the law of God can be useful for one thing (Galatians tells us this) as a tutor to Christ.
If you really take a good look at yourself against God’s standards, we realize that we don’t measure up.
We realize that we need a savior and forgiveness. It’s because I know that I’m constantly breaking every “rule in the book” that I know I need a savior.
So, how does your “righteousness” surpass that of the Pharisees? It’s doesn’t. It probably even close.
But, if you accept what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross (you accept that you don’t measure up and never will). The Bible says, not only does He forgive you, but HE MAKES YOU RIGHTEOUS. He makes you “perfect in his eyes.”
And, in Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom of God, you are now more righteous than the Pharisees because you believed not in your own goodness but His. (He turns the ruler upside down)
And even more than that…he makes you perfect in His eyes. The Bible says it this way… “He gives you His righteousness”
That’s why Jesus says things to the Pharisees like, “Even the Tax Collectors and the Prostitutes are going to enter into the Kingdom of God ahead of you.”
So let me ask you…by what system are you measuring yourself on the ruler?
The old way? Or Jesus’ upside-down Kingdom of God way?
Does God love you because of what you’ve done or haven’t done? Or does God love you because He just loves you?
He loves you. He loves you.
And HE makes us righteous. Not us.
If you look under your chair right now, you should see a pen and a card. Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.
If you’re here for the first time, there’s a question on there too, that helps on know how you found out about us
We are going to take an offering now as well
This is just a way for the people of this church to come together and give back to God a portion of what He has given us. If you’re visiting, feel free to just let the offering cans pass you by.
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Let’s pray for the offering.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.