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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Book Review: The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach From Old Testament Narrative Texts | Main | Studies in John (Lesson 8: The Healing of the Man Born Blind) »

    Images of the Savior (11 -- His Sermon on the Mount)

    Matthew 5:1-3 And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

    When God redeemed Israel from Egypt, he was accomplishing in shadow-form what he had determined to do in Christ, who redeems his people from their sin. Hence, just as God called Israel, his Son, from Egypt (Hosea 11:1), just as he baptized him unto Moses in the Red Sea (I Corinthians 10:2), and just as he proved him forty years in the wilderness; so he called Christ, his true Son, from Egypt (Matthew 2:15), who was likewise baptized at the commencement of his public ministry as the Son of God, and who successfully passed forty days of testing in the wilderness – all in true fulfillment of Israel’s typical history. This character of Christ’s time on earth, as the substance to which redemptive history pointed, is most instructive when we consider the timing and the nature of his justly famous Sermon on the Mount. For if we consider the first giving of the law on Mount Sinai, which came through the hand of Moses, the typical mediator between God and his people; then we must be struck with the parallels between that and this second giving of the law on the mountain where sat Christ, the only true Mediator between God and man, and the only absolute and final Law-giver. To this sermon as the giving of the fulfilled Law, we must now turn our attention.

    It is true that Christ, on this occasion, is functioning as Moses, who gave the first law to the people of God. But consider how much greater is Christ than the typical law-giver who preceded him. Moses spoke nothing on his own authority, but, when he was called up by God, was commanded, “thus you shall say to the House of Jacob” (Exodus 19:3); by which we must observe that only those words which God dictated to Moses, and nothing else, was he permitted to speak unto them. And again, when God had given Moses the pattern of the tabernacle, “See,” he admonished him, “that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you in the Mount” (Hebrews 8:5). By these solemn warnings we may learn that Moses spoke nothing on his own authority, but merely mediated the words of God to the people.

    Now consider Christ, our final Law-giver. He did not say, “Thus has the Lord spoken unto you,” although he might well have done so, seeing he was speaking only that which was in the will of his Father, and no more. But rather, that we might certainly understand that he was very God, and spoke always with his own innate authority, he framed his words thus, “You have heard that it was said thus and such; but,” he went on to declare, “I say this unto you” – and by these words we find very forcefully intimated that what he was saying unto the people derived from no other authority than his own. Which was a cause of astonishment to the crowds, who noted in amazement that “he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (Matthew 7:29).

    Consider as well by how much the law which Christ gave was greater than the law which Moses gave. For, first of all, the law of Christ drew out the essential principles to which the law of Moses gave witness by mere external commandments. Whereas Moses only said, “You shall not commit adultery,” Christ, speaking as one who knew in his own person the fullest intent of the law, spoke more plainly, that, “whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And thus with a great many similar commandments, which Christ set forth simply and clearly in their truest essence, and not just in outward commandments which men may delude themselves that they have obeyed.

    Second, note how the law of Christ took into account, in a much more thorough manner, the substitutionary fulfillment of the justice which the law demanded. The law indeed required an absolute and unflinching justice, being built upon the most equitable principle that, “as you have done, it will be done unto you.” And in this way the principles of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38) are most righteously expounded throughout the scope of the commandments of Moses. So the law of Christ, as uncompromising in rigorous justice as was the law of Moses, was greater in that it drew mercy and grace into the very bosom of the law’s stern demands. Now Christ no longer says, “as you have done, so shall it be done to you,” but rather, “as it has been done to you, so submit to the same deed a second time,” that is, accept the righteous recompense of justice in your own person, which ought to be borne by the one who has sinned against you. Thus Christ commands, “whoever shall strike you on your right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39), and many other similar things. It is utterly clear, in these exhortations, that we are thereby commanded to follow the example of our Savior, who, when he was sinned against, both demanded the just recompense of the law against that sin; and yet accepted that just recompense in his own person, and for the sake of the sinner. By so much does the law of Christ outshine the law of Moses! For where the psalmist only looks ahead to the days when “mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (Psalm 85:10); yet in the days of Christ, we find this reality accomplished in very deed. And as Christ has suffered the penalty of justice for sinners, most humbly and willingly, so he calls upon us to follow in the same pattern. The apostle Peter expounds as much, instructing us, “For even hereunto were you called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judges righteously” (I Peter 2:21-23). How much greater, then, is the law of Christ than the law of Moses: for the law of Moses expounded strict justice, and only foreshadowed substitutionary recompense; but the law of Christ fulfilled both the required justice and the promised substitution. This he accomplished on the cross, and now calls upon us to emulate his example. Oh how much fuller and sweeter is the fulfilled law of Christ than the law of Moses, which, as long as it remained unfulfilled, promised to bear down a most grievous curse on the heads of all who would be justified from its demands!

    Thus we have seen how much greater a Law-giver was our Savior than Moses; and further, how much greater the law of Christ is than was the law of Moses. It only remains for us to trace, very briefly, the basic heads under which Christ framed his blessed discourse.

    We notice, first of all, that just as the law came to Moses at the formation of that typical kingdom, the nation of Israel, so the Law of Christ was given at the in-breaking of the eternal Kingdom of Heaven, which Israel as a nation simply foreshadowed. It is most fitting, therefore, that the Law of Christ is prefaced with an account of who should be the citizens of this heavenly kingdom. Whereas only those people who obeyed God’s law were considered worthy to be counted among his people at the establishment of the first kingdom (see Exodus 19:5-6); so at the giving of the second Law, Christ restricted fellowship in the heavenly kingdom to those in whom the righteous law of God is fulfilled. But, even as the law may be kept by no one but Christ, so Christ instructs us that those who are meek in spirit, despairing of their own righteousness, and hungering for a righteousness which is not their own – only such could become an heir of the kingdom of heaven. Thus the citizenship of the Kingdom of fulfillment is restricted, most wisely and admirably, to those who have learned to despair of satisfying the Law’s hard demands, and who humbly seek the righteousness of another, that is, of Christ our Savior. So much for the first division of the sermon, comprising chapter five, verses one through twelve.

    Second, we find an interpretation of the law, and an explanation of its character as fulfilled in Christ our Hope. So the citizens of the true Kingdom are most sufficiently instructed how to live as those who possess a perfect righteousness, which indeed exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees; and whose task it is now to display in their lives that imputed righteousness, in order that God may be glorified. In this way, they are to live out the essence of the law, which Christ, as he promised, has written upon their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33); and they are to do so meekly, as those who have received righteousness not by their own merits, but by free grace. Thus of the second division, comprising chapter five, verse thirteen through chapter seven, verse six.

    Finally, having observed the blessings of belonging to the Kingdom of heaven, and having been instructed how to live a humble and righteous life, we are exhorted with many strong pleas and illustrations to seek the Kingdom and the righteousness of God more than any other false pleasure to which we may be drawn. God is good enough to provide the blessings of the Kingdom to those who but ask, in simple faith. But those who trust in the deeds which they themselves have done in Jesus’ name will be cast out. Oh, let us be diligent to seek the Kingdom of God in faith alone, lest we prove to be like that foolish man who rejected the rock of Christ’s teachings, and built his house upon the sandy foundation of his own wisdom and desires! This third and last division extends from chapter seven, verse seven to the end of the chapter, and of our Savior’s sermon.

    Oh, let us tremble before our great and merciful Law-giver, Jesus Christ! How simply and forcibly he instructs us of his immutable law, by no other authority than his own! How humbly and meekly he submits to the requital of justice in the stead of the sinner who deserves condemnation! With what great and impassioned exhortations does he plead with us poor, wretched, and helpless sinners to come find justice and mercy met together, and freely available to all who but seek and ask! Moses was indeed a great servant of God, and a mighty mediator of the law of Mount Sinai. Let us rejoice that a greater than Moses is here! Let us be eternally glad that the harsh law of old has been fulfilled in Christ, and that a law of strict justice mingled with free mercy is now ours to follow, in the footsteps of our Redeemer.

    Posted by Nathan on February 16, 2007 01:21 AM

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