Online Worship for Holy Trinity, June 12, 2022
Sermon for Holy Trinity – Sunday June 12, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV)
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. **
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who is for those who believe,
The end of the law for righteousness,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
The Apostle Paul describes them as having ‘itching ears’ but it’s not because they have a rash or mosquito bite in the inner ear. In 2nd Timothy, the Holy Spirit directed the Apostle to describe and warn about the future. He spoke of a time during which people would no longer tolerate sound Bible teaching, but would instead choose teachers for themselves who said whatever they wanted to hear.
There will always be people who will not accept God’s Word as it stands. It’s worse yet when people who call themselves Christians set aside the simple truths of God’s Word. There is no question that is being done today, in our day.
The Resurrection of Jesus -- There are growing numbers of Christians who openly deny that Jesus really and truly rose from the dead bodily.
Millennialism -- There are still others who set aside the Confession of the Historic Church and Jesus’ own words and instead declare that Jesus is coming back to rule as an earthly king on the earth for a 1000-year period.
Immorality – Still others wish to get into the good graces of our corrupt society by approving of sins that God specifically condemns in His Word.
Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, didn’t come to this earth and enter into human flesh and blood to start a new religion. Jesus came to save sinners by being the fulfillment of the Scriptures, both the Law of God and His Promises made through the Prophets. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day saw Him as a dangerous rebel, but that was only because they were out of touch with the Word of God.
It was as I sat listening to a devotion presented at our Great Lakes Delegate Conference that one particular passage stuck in my heart and mind. It is the final verse of this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and it reminds us that if we come to Judgment Day with a ‘righteousness’ like that of the Scribes and Pharisees...we will be left outside among those weeping and gnashing their teeth. For the only righteousness that counts on that day will be the righteousness provided by God through faith in Jesus Christ.
So, we pray: “Sanctify us by your truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth. Amen.
We have expectations in this life. We expect certain things of our leaders, whether they be religious or political. We expect certain things of ourselves, our children and grandchildren. There are times when our expectations are set too high and other times too low.
The Jews of Jesus’ day had certain expectations of the Messiah. They expected that the Messiah would be a king like his distant relative David. They were right about that to a degree because the Scriptures of the Prophets foretold that the Messiah would be a king from David’s family (e.g., 2 Samuel 7:12-13). Unfortunately, their expectations went beyond what God foretold. They hoped the Messiah would lead them in political revolt and to lead their nation in a return to earthly prominence among the nations...which God had not promised through the Prophets.
When Jesus came to prominence during the 1st Century, there were surely people who had expectations of Him. It’s likely that some hoped He would overthrow the religious establishment or lead them in revolt against the Roman Empire.
Jesus wasn’t interested in fulfilling the expectations of Jewish Society. He did not come to lead revolt or usher in a brave new world of Jewish dominance, but to fulfill all that God had promised in the Scriptures.
He said it plainly --
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
If Jesus had spoken in today’s English, He might have expressed it like this: “Don’t even start thinking that I have come to do away with the Old Testament Scriptures.”
As Lutheran Christians, when we hear the word ‘Law’ we tend to think of the moral law or 10 Commandments. We might also think of the civil and ceremonial laws that God gave to the Jews and are recorded in Exodus and Leviticus and the basis for many of the laws of our society today.
When Jesus uses the expression ‘the Law or the Prophets’ He’s talking about the sum total of the Old Testament. We divide our Bibles into Old and New Testament. The New Testament hadn’t been written yet in Jesus’ day because it was happening. The Jews often divided the Old Testament into two parts: The Law and the Prophets. They saw the first five books written by Moses as the Law… and all the rest as the Prophets.
Jesus didn’t come to tear down or destroy the Old Testament Scriptures but to fulfill them. In other words, Jesus came to perfectly keep (or fulfill) the law given by God and also to be the fulfillment of all of God’s Promises made by the Prophets. He didn’t come to replace them, but to fulfill them.
In the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul assures us that Jesus is the answer to all of God’s Promises when He writes as directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:20):
20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes,
and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.
What’s more, Jesus promises us here that until the Day of Judgment arrives and heaven and earth pass away (cf. 2 Peter 3:10), nothing of the Old Testament will be set aside. It will all be fulfilled, kept as promised by God.
Jesus assures us that not even the smallest letter or tiniest vowel marking or punctuation from the Hebrew will be removed from the Old Testament Scriptures, but all will be fulfilled.
The same could be said of the New Testament.
The Word of God may be attacked and belittled by human beings, but it remains absolute truth. What’s more, there are consequences to relaxing God’s Word and teaching others what people have modified.
19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
There is surely a warning here for those who ‘reinvent’ God’s Word. God does not look kindly upon those who ‘reinterpret’ certain passages and topics of scripture to suit their ‘itching ears.’ Even those teachings that seem insignificant (or are thought to be least) are not to be ‘done away with’ or ‘relaxed’ and those who do such things will themselves be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven.
This isn’t only talking about those who reject or deny God’s Word. It’s talking about those who soft-pedal it and reinterpret it for one reason or another…and then teach others to do the same.
Jesus doesn’t say that they will be left out of heaven, only that they will be considered ‘least.’ It shows us that God is merciful to those who inadvertently teach incorrectly…but it doesn’t mean that ‘relaxing’ God’s Words is acceptable isn’t so bad. Jesus warns us about the consequence of doing so. We are not to overlook or pass by certain Bible teachings because it might make us unpopular with the world or with our friends.
On the other hand, those who carefully follow God’s commandments and His promises and teach others to do the same will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. God does look with favor upon those who treasure His Word and strive to follow it and would allow none to change or alter it.
But this doesn’t mean that by doing God’s Commandments and keeping His Promises a person can earn a better place in heaven! In a perfect world with sinless people that could happen…but we live in a fallen world and have corrupt natures. Which brings us to the final verse…the one that stuck in my head at Delegate Conference.
This passage stuck in my mind because it says the opposite of what many people think it does….
20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. **
If we are to understand these words of the Savior, we need to understand the term ‘Righteousness.’ A good working definition is this: “Righteousness is being right with God.” As those who have broken God’s Law, we need to be made right with God.
The question is: “How can I be righteous?” Is it something that I have to provide or do I obtain it some other way?
The Scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day believed that they could do what God’s Commandments demanded and would be accounted as righteous on the basis of their actions. When God said, “Jump!” They said, “How High?” When God said to the Jews: “I want you to give back 10% of your possessions.” They got out the salt and pepper shaker and divided their contents into 10 parts and made sure to take it up to the temple (and let everyone know that they had).
They were still sinners and their hearts were still corrupt…but they imagined that they were ‘even-steven’ with God because of that 10th of the salt and pepper shaker.
When Jesus says that our righteousness must ‘exceed’ that of the Scribes and Pharisees…He doesn’t mean that we should emulate them. He doesn’t mean that we CAN be right with God by trying to keep God’s Law. He doesn’t mean that the Scribes and Pharisees HAD done enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
In fact, God’s Word tells us that righteousness CANNOT be obtained in that way. In writing to the Roman and Galatian Christians, the Apostle Paul said it simply (Romans 3:28, Galatians 2:16):
28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
Let me say that in today’s English: “A person is right with God by faith and not by doing what the Law says.” Keep your salt and pepper tithe and trust in Christ. The Righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees and of all those who think they can make things right with God by ‘doing good things’ will never suffice with God.
We obtain right standing with God another way. True Righteousness with God is not something we provide, but God gives to us by faith in Christ.
The Holy Spirit directed the Apostle Paul to write to the Romans (3:21-24):
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…
For sinful human beings, the only way to be right with God is through faith in what Christ has done. Jesus kept every commandment of God perfectly and then died to erase our sin debt. Jesus’ perfect righteousness is credited to our account by faith alone.
For sinful human beings the matter is simple: “Do and die; Trust Christ and Live.” If we attempt to be right with God by our own imperfect actions, we will die in our sins. If we trust in Christ, that He is our righteousness and salvation, we will live eternally!
The Righteousness that exceeds the pathetic attempt of the Scribes and Pharisees…is the righteousness of God credited to us by faith in Jesus. God help us that we cling always to Him! Amen.