(Today's post by Tim David)
I had the benefit of growing up in a Christian home. My parents did what they knew to be best. We went to church Sunday (morning and night) and Wednesday night. I went to a Christian school from kindergarten through high school; and later as a pre-teen through college I was heavily involved in ministry. I understood my sin-condition and need for a Savior at a relatively young age (between 9 and 10). All of that being said, after graduating high school I began to wonder – what if all this “Christianity” stuff was wrong? I have two uncles who are atheists…what it they had it right and there is nothing after this? I came to conclusion, at that time, that worst case scenario…I would keep practicing all of the stuff I was doing and I would live a “good” life.
Legalism…it’s become a popular term to describe a group of believers who have a long list of “Do’s and Don’ts” in order to be accepted. I would actually go a step further and present the argument that many of us are legalistic in our approach to Christ. I have caught myself often comparing myself to someone who I consider to be several steps in front of me on this spiritual path and then trying to be “good enough” to get there. The entire point of Christianity is that we aren’t good enough to get there. There were many of religious leaders in Israel who believed they were good enough – just look at the words of Paul who was still proud of his accomplishment.
I would love to go step by step through this next passage, but there is so much to cover. But let’s look at the overall reason for teaching this. Jesus is still very early into his ministry. He has just been baptized – officially starting the phase of His life that would abruptly end with his crucifixion. He starts off by dispelling the myth that He’s come to set the Law aside and create His new order. The entire point of Moses’ law was to prove not one person could follow the entire law throughout their entire life, thus necessitating a Justifier/Redeemer. Jesus is declaring, He is the guy…He’s the guy who can fulfill the purpose of the law. Then He goes on to point to the spirit of the laws, not just the “letter” of them. This is what legalism ignores. Jesus intensifies the law because He is God and knows how God is going to judge those who believe their justification is going to come from living perfectly under the law. Jesus hits pretty much all of the controversial matters at this point in Israel. Then He sums it all up in vs. 48 – “But you are to be perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
If this were the end of the story, I know I would be headed to hell (in a hand-basket). There is no spiritual “ruler” where I’ve done enough good in my life to cover my sin. That’s not the end of the story. This part of Christ’s sermon is intended to prove that the Law isn’t our ticket into heaven. Therefore, we need a ticket-holder to give us passage. I am grateful to say, I know Christ has granted me passage despite my not being good enough for Him to do so.