Understanding the Old Testament, Matthew 5:17-20, The Jesus Lifestyle, June 20 2021
Also 2 Timothy 3:10- 4:6
Holy Spirit, my teacher, as I dive into the Bible would you awaken my heart, expand my mind and shape my identity and life today. I want to live a Jesus shaped life.
How do we feel about the Old Testament?
Jesus shaped lifestyle is about valuing the OT. Jesus would have totally agreed with what we heard in Psalm 1, and what Paul says in 2 Timothy. ‘’ 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.’’
Theologian John Wenham sums up Jesus view:
To Christ the Old Testament was true,
authoritative and inspired.
To him, the God of the Old Testament, was the Living God, and the teaching of the Old Testament was the teaching of the Living God.
To him what scripture said, ‘’God said.’’ (Quoted in Nicky Gumbel, The Jesus Lifestyle, p 40).
We heard him say: ‘’Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’’ V17. The word for ‘fulfil’ can be translated as ‘complete / to reach a goal’. That is an incredible claim Jesus makes.
Jesus completes, fulfils the OT STORY.
When you open the NT, you might be surprised at the first lines in the first gospel – which is Mathew – it begins with Jesus ancestry. I remember a couple of years ago, Peter Gillies and I were visiting our Albanian link, (the Illyricum Movement), and I was asked to preach on a Sunday night on Mathew 1. Afterwards one of the women there came up to me and said when they had heard that this was the sermon focus, they wondered what there was to preach on …
In those first words of Matthew: Jesus Christ the Son of David, the Son of Abraham. Right at start, Jesus is declared – he completes the story of the OT Testament. There is a list of 14 generations from Abraham to David; then the next 14 are from David to Exile. The final 14 generations – are Exile to Christ – Jesus is the last name, the end of the line, the climax…
Son of Abraham. Abraham is called by God to leave his land, his people, his family and go to a land that God will show him. And God says… “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ” (Genesis 12:2-3). Later in Genesis 22, this covenant is repeated to Abraham, saying ”through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed.”
Jesus is to complete what was promised to Abraham. He is the one through whom the world will be blessed. Son of Abraham says Jesus has universal significance. Jesus has significance not just for the Jewish people but for all people, he is the one God wants to use to bless all the nations on earth.
Son of David. This title applied ten times across the gospel to Jesus. After David has become King, the Lord sends a message to him through a prophet. “‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom.
He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:11b-13). Jesus is the Son of David as promised who will reign as king of kings and lord of lords for his kingdom will last forever.
Jesus is the goal of history – the goal of the story that flows through Abraham and David and includes God’s promises to both. Jesus is a person of universal significance for the world and not just as Messiah. He will rule as Universal King when he returns, but now people can enter his kingdom.
Jesus completes the story.
We understand the story in the light of its ending. The Old Testament cannot be fully understood without Jesus.
If you go into a house which is dark, you can make out something of what is there, a sofa here, a lamp stand there, big screen tv etc. When the light is switched on, we are able to see the room in a completely different way.
‘’So it is with the light of Jesus we are able to see the whole Old Testament with an additional level of significance.’’ (Gumbel, p43).
The Old Testament helps us have a full understanding of Christ. You know you can watch the last episode of a Netflix series and get a lot out of it. So you can read the NT alone.
Yet you know, it helps to watch the earlier episodes to understand the climax and conclusion.
To understand Jesus, we need to read the earlier acts in the story of our salvation. To understand him fully we need the OT background, him as Messiah, as Suffering Servant, as Son of Man, as Son of David, as these all point to what it meant he was LORD.
So first. Jesus completes, fulfils God’s story.
Jesus says: ‘’Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’ Jesus is the fulfillment of OT at the level of promise.
Matthew we said begins with how Jesus completes the OT story. Then Matthew shows how he has fulfilled promise – prophecy. Chapters 1-5: OT promises fulfilled in his conception, his birth, his childhood, promise where Jesus ministry will be.
In total when you put it altogether Jesus fulfilled over 300 promises including 29 in one day when he was crucified. Promises of his birth in Bethlehem, his early life in Nazareth, his healing ministry, his betrayal, his suffering, his death between thieves, his burial, his resurrection, his ascension, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. All predicted in the OT – even though these promises were spoken over a 500 year period by different people.
Jesus himself said it twice when he was resurrected. On the Road to Emmaus: ‘’Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and enter his glory. And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said, in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’’ Luke 24:26-27. And later among the rest of the apostles he says: ‘’Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’’
However when I said Promises, do not just think Predictions / Prophecy. Remember also the covenant promises – our Bibles sometimes have a division, Old Testament New Testament. Testament means covenant – and at the heart of covenant is promise.
We already pointed to that in the description of Jesus as son of Abraham and son of David, two great promises – the covenants of God are being fulfilled in Jesus.
Jesus said: ‘’Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets: I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.’’
He affirms that he has not come to abolish the Law. That is a remarkable thing. What would Jesus have been saying? All we have is before us. Sometimes people say the Beatitiudes is a to do list. If so, that would have fitted into an existing line of thinking of the need to be holy before God to receive blessing… that surely was not new to the folks there. No they were hearing something else. He says – ‘’Do not presume that I came to abolish…’’ It can only be – that the kingdom is open and has come near in Jesus, to receive it, they only need to respond to him and his call. And they are blessed. It suggests, in fact, maybe people need to live out a day to day relationship with God, if we can be blessed solely by relationship to Jesus. So Jesus says – Do not presume that I came to abolish the Law and the Prophets.
So Matthew =Matthew 1, Jesus is shown to complete the OT story
1-4:14 – he fulfils OT promises
5 onwards in our sermon on the mount – Jesus fulfils / completes the OT LAW – as supreme teacher, he reveals the full depth and meaning of the OT law.
When we think OT law.
First. To keep the Law was to imitate God – Leviticus 19:2 The LORD said to Moses: Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘’be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.’’
Second. We have to remember. God’s law was given in the context of a covenant. The Law was given for their good, it was to keep them from harm, to bring them life. It was not a means of salvation or a way to enter into covenant with God. The law was a response to what God had done for them. Exodus 20, we read the 10 Commandments – it begins – I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt , out of the land of slavery.’’ Then God goes on to say what we know as the 10 commandments. Calvin says – before the 10 commandments there is 20 chapters of grace.
The OT covenant with Israel through Abraham is one of grace. God is saying he is the one who redeemed them, rescued them, you are now a kingdom and a holy nation and then is what your lives are to look like in that kingdom. Jesus has been declaring they are in the kingdom, and now he will share further what it means to live in that kingdom.
Jesus does not reject the Law. He says: the Law, not a single letter,will disappear until heaven and earth disappear. And the value of teaching the law – to dismiss even one part of it and to teach others to do the same, brings Jesus’ rebuke; to hold to the law and to teach others, brings Jesus’ praise. It has high value, and value for all time, until all is completed the scriptures point to.
One issue inside us can be, what we think of OT Law.
There are three categories of Law. 1. Ceremonial Laws. These include rules about sacrifices etc. NT – especially in Hebrews – is clear that these have come to an end. Yet we should study them. We see how serious sin is, we see our need for forgiveness. It helps understand the sacrificial death of Jesus – that HE is the final sacrifice – so we no longer need to make them.
2. There were civil laws. These related to the laws of Israel as a nation. The details may not apply today but the principles can still do so. For example the practice of gleaning. When collecting the harvest the intention was that the edges would be left or the trees would not be gone over a second time. The aim – to allow the poor and others to come in and be provided for. The poor may not come into our fields, or we may not even be farmers we work in other fields, but we see the principle – remember the poor. It asks the question – are there ways we can work / gain profit which can help the poor?
3. Moral laws. These for example are found in the 10 Commandments.
Jesus, in the coming verses will talk about righteousness and he will explore the law.
In fact he will widen the laws application. ‘ He will look deeper than the external action. He is not focusing on ‘do or don’t do the act’ he looks to the inward and moral. ’The precepts of the kingdom go beyond external obedience to the motivations and thoughts of the heart. ’’
He is calling the disciples to righteousness that surpasses the Pharisees etc in two ways. Firstly, as seen from Jesus later criticisms, some Pharisees were not applying or living out the law – they reduced it, or were creating get out clauses, or simply were talking about it but did not do it. The disciples need to surpass that ‘righteousness’.
But secondly it is about the heart. Jesus will draw out, to not do the external is not enough, the heart needs to be right; or to do religious acts but have a wrong motivation – this was not righteousness. Righteousness is about the heart, a righteousness which surpasses the Pharisees and scribes…a heart righteousness which can be brought about in the kingdom.
Jesus summarized the Law and Prophets when asked – Love God with all your soul, strength and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Paul in Romans 13, similarly quotes the commandments and then says: ‘’whatever commandments there may be, are summed in this role rule. ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’’
This summary by Jesus – it keeps us from legalism – do this, don’t do that, ticked that off my list…
But the breakdown of the laws in the OT keeps us on track what this looks like, to love our neighbor and love God. It is not good thinking – adultery is one a way to love my neighbor – when adultery is expressly forbidden!
Nicky Gumbel has a great example. In the UK when you learned to drive, you learned the Highway Code – all the dos and don’t when driving. Gumbel says that the Highway code could be summarized as ‘’drive carefully and considerately’. That is what matters. But we need the rules in that code to tell us how to drive carefully and considerately.
Jesus fulfilled the law by showing us what it really meant. He fulfilled OT law in the sense he lived it out also. He is the only person to have ever done that. By doing so, he made it possible for us to live a righteous life.
Galations and Philipians remind us : Gal 2 – if righteousness comes through the law, Christ died needlessly. Phil 3 – righteousness that comes on the basis of faith. So through Christ by grace.
Yet. We are called to live a righteous life. 1 Tim 6 Paul says to Timothy: ‘But you man of God, pursue righteousness… The role of scripture – teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.’
1 Peter makes the link: ‘’He bore our sins in his body on the tree that we might die to sins and live for righteousness.’’ 1 John 3: Do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as HE is righteous.’’
Due to the death and resurrection of Jesus, he sets us free from the power of sin, provided for us the righteousness of God, and he poured out the Spirit on every believer, so we can live for righteousness.
3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[b] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.[c] And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4.
He came to enable us to live a righteous life, by his Spirit, as we are righteous in Christ.
To reject the OT or to ignore it, is to reject the clear teaching of Jesus.
It was the Bible Jesus read as Yancey says.
Revd Dr Chris Wright beautifully sums things up:
‘’The OT tells the story which Jesus completed.
It declares the promise which he fulfilled.
It provides the pictures and models which shaped his identity.
It programmes a mission which he accepted and passed on.
It teaches the moral orientation to God and the world, which he endorsed, sharpened and laid as the foundation for obedient discipleship.’’ (Quoted in Nicky Gumbel, The Jesus Lifestyle, p 48-49).
We read it regularly, we seek to understand it.
Not only in terms of the culture and history and what it meant then.
But also how it is fulfilled in Jesus – how he completes the OT Story, how he fulfils the Promises how he fulfils the Law, and he will now teach how to put the law into practice, a response to what God is doing.
Once we have read the OT we then go back to the NT and re-read it, in a fresh understanding of who Jesus was and is.
Our closing prayer – is an ancient one…
‘’Thanks be you thee my Lord Jesus Christ,
For all the benefits thou has given to me
For all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
May I know thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
And follow thee more nearly,
Day by day. Amen.
 Kasdan, B. (2011). Matthew Presents Yeshua, King Messiah: A Messianic Commentary (p. 54). Clarksville, MD: Messianic Jewish Publishers.