Matthew 5:17-20

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by kvanlaan, Nov 2, 2006.

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  1. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Dear Folks,

    I had previously posted a thread on this topic, asking for materials/sermons dealing with these verses because I was finding very little in my own search online. However, no results. Not surprising.

    What I want to do now is to try and get your opinion on it. Many Christians today, when the issue of the Law is raised, scream "legalism!" so loud, you can't hear yourself think. I have actually heard the words "those living under the law are doing Satan's work". If there was just a qualification that "those attempting salvation through the law are doing Satan's work on earth", it would be another matter. But as it was, it set my head spinning.

    We have the words of Christ telling us that no part of the law shall pass until heaven and earth has passed away. So, unless I missed the passing of heaven and earth somehow, where's the issue? On what basis is this a 'tool of legalism'? If our motivation in keeping the law is not His glory but our own, then yes, we are doing Satan's work (but that goes for anything).

    Am I way off base here? Any clarification would be appreciated.
  2. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Rev. Winzer, many thanks; this is a great overview. Have you ever preached on these verses? If you have, I'd love to see the text of the sermon.
  3. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

  4. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    A proper biblical understanding of what 'legalism' truly is would be helpful to those crying out 'Legalism'. From what I have seen, they are confusing it based upon their antinomian position. Would any of them claim legalism in regards to say, lying? No! In that regard, why would holding fast to Gods law ( as Paul says, Romans 3:31 Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law) be assaulting? I will tell you; it is simply poor teaching.
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Ken Gentry wrote a book-length refutation of that article. Most of Gordon's critiques prove too little and too much. On one hand, he critiques positions that Bahnsen never held (e.g., the argument from necessity) and on the other hand, he takes shots at the Westminster divines for fumbling scripture.

    And we won't even get in to Gordon's attack on the sufficiency of Scripture.
  6. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Is that what He is really saying? Or is He saying 'heaven and earth would sooner pass away' than would God dishonor His covenant?

    To Him the heavens and earth are like a blade of grass.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    The majority of evangelical and reformed and conservative commentaries on that verse have interpreted it that way. That doesn't make it right, per se, and it doesn't make them theonomists, but it should shift the burden of proof from the theonomist to the Klinean and his "biblical-theology" hermeneutic.
  8. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    How do you take these verses?
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Christ confirmed God's moral demands upon his people. See any conservative reformed commentary.
  10. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    I think the jots and tittles have passed away with Moses. Is that correct?

    Now we have the unvarnished standard in the perfect holiness of Christ. In other words, the eternal law. Right?:book2:
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    1. As regards to the first sentence, that is not what the verse says.
    2. The second sentence is too vague and ambiguous to be useful. Also, by what standard do you measure Christ's holiness, if not the law? And if you are measuring Christ's holiness by the law, then you in the end affirm the same standard for righteousness: God's law.
  12. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    1. "I fulfill."
    2. "...jots and tittles will not pass away until all is fulfilled..."
    3. He did fulfulfil the Mosaic Law, so now the jots and tittles are able to pass away.

    'seems logical to me. Unless he didn't accomplish His mission!?
    Sorry, I was unclear. I do affirm God's holy law. How's this:

    The ten commandments are his moral law in a Mosaic context. He fulfilled the Mosaic context; the eternal standard remains. We can know that standard well enough by it's image in the 10 commandments. What do you think? Thanks.
  13. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  14. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Are you saying that when the heaven and earth do pass away that's the end of the moral law?

    5th commandment: '....that thy days may be long in the land which Jehovah thy God giveth thee..'
    This is a transitory clause.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    It also says its a command with a promise, and that promise is affirmed in the NT (ephesians, I believe).
  16. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Eph 6:2

    Will the moral law pass away with the heaven and earth?
  17. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    And Reverend Winzer, I would greatly appreciate your thoughts. Scott and Kevin too. (I was studying this and I'm glad you had already started a thread.)
  18. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Rev. Winzer told me a couple of days ago that he was going to be going somewhere but would be back " a fortnight". Might want to dig this thread up in a couple of weeks if it's not still active then.
  19. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Scott, loved the comment about lying. I can just see the faces when I take that approach: "Brothers, I am dead to sin, and dead to the law - I can now bear false witness freely (it is no longer applicable as a sin; you see, as it was abrogated, it is now out from under Romans 6), among others."

    This matter really, deeply, concerns me. I am finding it more and more difficult to walk with less "legalistic" bretheren because of such stances. My second-favorite quote to the "doing Satan's work" bit was by the same gentleman: "I think we already know what we shouldn't do, so we don't need to talk about what we shouldn't do anymore." It went hand in hand with a "majoring on the minors" speech. But taking that approach means that soon we won't be majoring on anything but warm fuzzies and the Great Pumpkin. I don't want to end up taking U2-charist from a surrogate Bishop Schori while dressed up in clown apparel...

    The other problem is that being located where I am, we are witnessing to a largely untouched people; up until fairly recently, it has been a relative theological vacuum, as materialism is the big competitor. BUT, if God's eternal moral law can be dismissed and updated upon, it can then follow that Christ is only the next iteration of revelation in a series, and then when a local person who has heard the gospel goes on to hear the Mormon approach (and they are VERY active here), it can be seen as the next logical iteration of the same faith. That is, the Jews stopped short, the Christians carried it forward a bit and then stopped short, and now the Mormons have taken it to its logical conclusion and are 'updating' as necessary (they still have 'prophets' that get post-it notes from their god on a regular basis.)

    Sorry, this raises more questions than anything... I am very interested to hear anything else that anyone might have to offer.
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2006
  20. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritanboard Commissioner

    Psalm 119:89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.

    KJV Notes (Psa 119:89)

    Geneva Bible Notes:
    Psa 119:89 LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in (1) heaven.

    (1) Because no one should esteem God's word according to the changes of things in this world, he shows that it abides in heaven, and therefore is immutable.

    5769 ~l'A[ `owlam {o-lawm'} or ~l'[o `olam {o-lawm'}
    Meaning: 1) long duration, antiquity, futurity, for ever, ever, everlasting, evermore, perpetual, old, ancient, world 1a) ancient time, long time (of past) 1b) (of future) 1b1) for ever, always 1b2) continuous existence, perpetual 1b3) everlasting, indefinite or unending future, eternity
    Origin: from 05956; TWOT - 1631a; n m
    Usage: AV - ever 272, everlasting 63, old 22, perpetual 22, evermore 15, never 13, time 6, ancient 5, world 4, always 3, alway 2, long 2, more 2, never + 0408 2, misc 6; 439

    Gods law is a reflection of His character and His character reflects His law. Gods character is eternal. Hell is forever; the damned will always see Gods law before their eyes. Gods law reflects His glory. Gods glory reigns in Hell.
  21. reformedman

    reformedman Puritan Board Freshman

    To the original poster, you asked for information concerning antinomiansim and legalism with referrence to Matt 5. There is a resource that I could recommend. At a mens retreat meeting this year at Trinity Baptist Church which is pastored by A.N. Martin in New Jersey, a visiting pastor preached on this very topic and used this verse. It was a 3 session sermon over 2 days. Pastor Chansky, was very thorough and I dare say exhaustive in explaining the very important details and misconceptions that lead to antinomianism with respect to many verses. He refuted the idea of christian license and the 'all is completed in Christ' mentality.
    I learned a lot in those two days. If you can get the recordings I'm sure you will find that it is very detailed on the large scope of this idea. You might find it available on DVD.
    On a minor note, if you can get the DVD I recommend it over the audio tapes because his gestures are well related to his preaching.
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Friends I will be away from the discussion for a few days. A friend of mine who had been battling cystic fibrosis for a number of years passed away yesterday.
  23. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Mt 5:17. "Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfil.
    18. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished.
    19. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    20. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.

    Lots of jots and tittles have passed away from the ceremonial law.
    Paul and the Jerusalem council shall be called "LEAST in the kingdom of heaven".

    If one is to argue that we obey these laws in new testament ways, one is going against the color of language painted by 'jots and tittles' as 'smallest minutiae' of the exactness of the law.

    The jots and tittles have passed away.
  24. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Of course, if the jots and tittles have passed away then that also diminishes the need for a Saviour, even if only by little bits.

    I believe that the "pass away" and "fulfil" juxtaposition is often misrepresented. The law represents God's righteousness which we are expected to fulfil. But Christ fulfilled all that for us, and also for as many as are called unto grace.

    I might not live to see how God's grace will work for the salvation of one of my children, but I may still find consolation in His covenant, that it does not depend upon any righteousness that we may think we achieve. I may know that the role of the law for myself is that it is a guide unto the knowledge of sin, and that repentance and submission is the way the Spirit sanctifies me. Each day gains experience in putting away sin, and each day brings new revelation into God's law that I might put away more sin. So each day brings a growth in spiritual discernment, in wisdom, and in obedience.

    I'm glad we no longer live under the law, but rather that we may live under it to live in thankfulness to Christ for our salvation.
  25. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    Hi John,
    It's good to chat with you again!
    I know what you mean but there's another aspect as well. If the jots and tittles have not passed away, then in a very real way we are still waiting for Messiah. Often overlooked is that Christ begins with the two objects for fulfillment, namely the law AND the prophets.
  26. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate


    Always happy to work things out together.

    I think I see what you mean. We're likely taking the jots and tittles to mean different things. I am supposing it to be "the smallest detail" of the law. In that sense none of the law is "set aside" while it also means that it is all set aside. In one sense, of course, God's righteousness did not change, so none of it is set aside; but in another sense God's legal and moral wrath is satisfied, so the law's demands upon us are set aside. Both these include the whole law to its smallest details.

    The divisions that we impose upon the law, namely "ceremonial", "civic", and "moral", due to its differing applications, are ended in their application to the degree that they are finished in their task of pointing to the Redeemer that is yet to come. If that to which they pointed has come, then their pointing to Him as yet coming is done. Yet they continue to point us His work, whether it is to come or has come: to that same righteousness, but not as a demand upon reconciliation, but as a goal for sanctification. The law is not something to which we must attain to be righteous; but rather the law is something to which we strive because we are made righteous. No detail is set aside.

    For example, to sacrifice a lamb now would be to deny Christ's sacrifice; whereas it was demanded in the OT for righteousness as it pointed to Christ, now it would be an unrighteousness as a replacement for Christ. So also the civic ramifications of the law; now that the Israel of God is no longer a physical race but is a spiritual race, so the law's ramifications upon that race have changed. We can no longer apply it to the limitations which the body politic confined it. To do so would now be an unrighteousness, for God's people are not a body politic any longer.

    Coming to righteousness is not through the law but through faith. That is, faith brings about a desire for the law because we are made righteous in Christ. That can mean forgiveness of sins in the church, of course, but it can also mean applying punishments in the civil sphere to check lawlessness in men. If we were to punish all sin, then who of us would not be deserving of punishment? Yet we must take care who we punish, and for what reasons, that we not abuse the law and the grace of God.

    You are right about looking to things which we ought not to be looking to any longer, but I think you are misunderstanding that this is not what Jesus is referring to here. It must be understood in its messianic sense, I think. He is not saying that some law is set aside while another law is not. He is saying that the whole of it is set aside in one sense, while yet none of it is set aside in another. Jesus has fulfilled the law; He has not nullified the OT, but fulfilled that to which it pointed God's people. For after all, what animal sacrifice could pay for the sins of men? If a man were to sacrifice all his animals, would that reduce his guilt before God at all? Only as they represented God's sacrifice for sin were they efficacious. But now that God's sacrifice has been accomplished, to sacrifice an animal to atone for sin would effect nothing at all. The whole of the meaning remains completely intact, now no longer veiled but revealed.
  27. Blueridge Believer

    Blueridge Believer Puritan Board Professor

    From a Particular Baptist perspective, William Gadsby:

    Gadsby's Questions About the Law

    The following article was taken from William Gadsby's work The Present State of Religion where he dealt with the law as a rule of conduct for the Christian.
    Dear Sir, Friend G. informs me you wish me to write to you, and inform you what law it is that I say the believer is in no sense under. I therefore write to say (though I cannot help thinking you must know) that it is the law given to Moses on Mount Sinai, commonly called the moral law, or ten commandments, recorded in Exod 20, and hinted at, with its curses annexed to it, in Deut 27. This is the law I intend, and do venture to say that the believer in Christ is in no sense whatever under it; so that it is not a rule of life to that man who is led by the Spirit. As you promised to answer me if I should write to you, I will propose to you a few questions, and I hope I shall do it in the fear of God, and shall expect you to answer them In plainness of speech; and,

    1st. If the law Is the believer's rule of life, shall thank you to tell me what is intended by the letter written by the apostles and elders, and sent to the believing Gentiles, as recorded in Acts 15, and shall expect you to explain the chapter.

    2ndly. Hope you will tell me what the apostle means in the first six verses of Romans 7, where he says that the believer is dead to the law, and free from the law; and let me know how that law can be his rule, when he is as dead to it, and as free from it, as a woman is from her husband when she has buried him. Should you be disposed to say that the believer is dead to it as a covenant, not as a rule of life; you will, no doubt, point to those scriptures which make a distinction between the law as a covenant and as a rule of life; for unless you do this, you will not move me.

    3rdly. You will have the goodness to inform me what is intended by the first four verses of Romans 8; and let me know how it comes to pass that the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has made me free from the law of death, and yet that the law of death (called in another place the killing letter) is my rule of life; and how is it that it is my rule of life after it has killed me, and I am made free from it?

    4thly. You will read 2 Corinthians 3, and let me know how it is that the administration of death, written and engraven on stones, is the living man's rule of life, and how this can be consistent with what the observes in verse 2, where he says 'it is done away,. and in verse 13, where he says "It is abolished.' Now, my dear son, you are to tell me how that law which is done away and abolished still remains the believer's perfect rule of life.

    5thly. You will also show me how it is that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that when faith is come we are no longer under a schoolmaster, and yet that this schoolmaster is our rule of life after faith is come (Gal 3-24,25.)

    6thly. You will inform me how it is that if we be led by the Spirit we are not under the law, and yet that the law is a perfect rule of life to that man who is led by the Spirit (Gal 5:18) There are many things in the Epistle to the Galatians which you will find worthy of your attention in this business. I hope you will read the whole.

    7thly. Shall expect you to tell me how it is that the hand-writing which was against us, and contrary to us, is taken out of the way, and nailed to the cross (as Col 2:14) and yet remains a perfect rule of life. Should you be disposed to say that the ceremonial law is here intended, you will tell me how that law, which was the gospel in its day, came to be against the believer, and what there was in it contrary to him.

    8thly. You will be sure to inform me how it is that that law which is not made for a righteous man is the righteous man's rule of life (I Tim 1:9.)

    9thly. As Christ was made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law (as Gal 4:4,5) you will say how it comes to pass that they still remain under it in any sense that Christ was made under it, seeing he was made under it to redeem them from under it.

    10thly. But as whatsoever the law says, it says to them who are under the law (as Rom 3:19) and as the believer is not under the law (as Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18) you will inform me what the law says to them who are not under it.

    11thly. If the law contains the whole revealed will of God, as to matter of obedience, as Fuller and others have said, you will let me know upon what ground you prove that unbelievers have no right to be baptized, and partake of the Lord's supper, seeing that what the law says it says to them that are under it; and if it contains the whole of obedience it must require unbelievers to be baptized. You will be sure to reconcile this, if you can.

    12thly You will inform me how it is that while men contend for the law being a perfect rule of life to believers, and call those ill names who do not, they can and do, openly, knowingly, and designedly, break the fourth commandment every week. 'You will inform me whether doing every sort of work on the seventh day is walking according to that rule which says, 'Thou shalt not do any work, no, not so much as kindle a fire' (Exod 35:3.)

    13thly, and lastly. You will inform me how it is that Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth (Rom 10.4) and yet that the believer, who is got to the end of the law at once, namely, by faith in Christ, must come back again, and begin at the beginning, by taking it for a perfect rule of life.

    It does appear that most teachers think there should be a distinction made between the sheep and goats, but does it not appear that the greatest part of preachers, in this day, are attempting to give to the goats what belongs to the sheep, and to the sheep what belongs to the goats? For when on the one hand they address the unconverted, they tell them that it is their duty to look to Christ, and believe in him, and that they are warranted to offer them all the blessings of the gospel, thus making the gospel the unconverted man's rule of faith and practice; they, on the other hand, send the sheep to the law of works, and tell them that their comfort depends upon their walking according thereunto. And when any poor soul is in darkness, through the power of the world, the flesh, or the devil, instead of pointing them to Christ, and telling them that it has pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell, they tell them to 'remove the cause, and the effect will cease;' and thus the goats are sent to the law of life, and the sheep to the killing letter. But there will be a reckoning day by and by; and a thousand to one but some of these men will be proved to have got over the wall. Thus, my dear Sir, I have proposed a few plain, simple questions, and shall expect you to come to the point in your answers, and it shall be my prayer to the great Head of the church that God will be with you. Waiting your answer, I remain,

    Yours, tried, and condemned, upon the evidence of Diotrephes, by the Associated Ministers,
    Manchester, Aug. 8, 1806.
  28. non dignus

    non dignus Puritan Board Sophomore

    I like what you said John, that it is all or nothing. In one sense today it wholly has application to teach us about salvation, (quaranteeing our righteousness in Christ before the law which surpasses the righteousness of the pharisees), and in one sense it is wholly concluded wherein we see the moral law not in a pedagogical national context, but in a sort of grown-up transnational context. I hope I read you correctly.

    One thing we must avoid is saying it is only partially fulfilled, or that only the ceremonial laws are concluded. The moral laws of Sinai are concluded as well. We have to say all of it is in some sense concluded. Sinai now reflects God's holiness in a fuller sense today by NT revelation and by the Spirit indwelling.
  29. JohnV

    JohnV Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Yes, it seems we agree. I don't think I said as succinctly as yourself.
  30. kvanlaan

    kvanlaan Puritan Board Doctor

    Wow, this is a whole lot more than I had ever hoped for. This is going to take a while to sift through but it is exactly what I needed. Thanks everyone, I'm really enjoying this.
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