“Great in the Kingdom” (Matthew 5:17-20
I. Introduction. A. Orientation. As we read the Bible And come across such statements That tell us that to doing this or that Will make us great, greater or greatest in the kingdom, We should pay attention: The Lord it telling us that He Places a premium on these characteristics And so should we.
We find one of these in our text this morning. B. Preview. This passage falls in one of the most famous sermons in Scripture – The Sermon on the Mount – So called because Jesus preached it From the top of a mountain.
Some see in this a second Sinai – A new giving of the Law.
Moses went up on Mount Sinai To receive God’s Law for His people.
Here, God takes our nature to Himself And climbs a mountain To again deliver His Law. Israel hadn’t listened to it. They didn’t love it and keep it, But twisted it So they could do what they really wanted to do. And so Jesus lifts it back up to where it was before So that we would know What God requires of us.
First, He reminds us of certain characteristics We should be cultivating, That are already in our lives by His grace: We call these the Beatitudes. We’ll look at these in the future, Lord willing.
Second, having these characteristics, He tells us what kind of effect we should have in this world: We should be like salt – Our presence should be a preservative To slow or stop the progress of sin.
We should be the light of this dark world –
We should be a witness to the Gospel Through our words and actions.
Third, He spells out this witness a bit clearly By reminding us of the principles we are to live by That we might be salt and light – That we might be like Him, That we might point the way to God. He reminds us of His Law.
Sometimes we forget That Jesus didn’t come into the world merely to save us – He did, and we should be so thankful for that – But also to transform us into His image So that we can point others to Him. That’s what Jesus means when He says, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (5:16).
The more we can do this, The more useful we will be to Him, Which is why He tells us this morning The more you keep His commandments And encourage others to do the same, The greater you will be in His kingdom.
This morning, Let’s look at three things: 1. First, that Jesus didn’t abolish the commandments or make obedience obsolete – rather, He made it possible for us to keep the commandments. 2. Second, that the commandments He wants us to keep are His moral commandments. 3. And finally, that the more we keep them and encourage others to do so as well, the greater we will be in His kingdom. II. Sermon. A. First, let’s consider that Jesus didn’t come to abolish the commandments or to make obedience obsolete – He came to make it possible for us to keep the commandments. He says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” Some believe Jesus means by this That He fulfilled them So that we wouldn’t have to keep them – That we obey them by believing in Jesus – We keep them in Him, It doesn’t really matter what we do.
But that just isn’t true. Jesus didn’t leave us prisoners to our sin – He broke the power of sin And freed us from it, So that we can become more like Him.
5 He gave us the power to obey it That we might be able to follow His example By His Holy Spirit. Paul says as much in Romans 8:3-4, “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
The author to the Hebrews tells us That the one of the greatest blessings of the New Covenant Is that the Law is no longer written on tablets of stone But on our hearts – He has given us the power to keep them. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Heb. 8:10).
The fact that He never intended to do away with the commandments Helps us understand why the Lord goes on to say: Heaven and earth will pass away Before the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law (v. 18).
That whoever annuls one of the least of the commandments And teaches others to do the same, Will be called least in the kingdom, But whoever keeps and teaches them shall be called great (v. 19).
6 That your righteousness must be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees, Before you can enter the kingdom (v. 20), And it will be because He has given you a holy heart.
Jesus didn’t come to do away with the Law, but to fulfill it That He might give us His Holy Spirit, So that it might be fulfilled in our lives as well.
B. Since He came so that we might obey, It’s important for us, secondly, To understand which of the commandments He wants us to obey.
The Law and the Prophets contain three kinds of Law: 1. Civil laws: Which the Lord gave to Israel To govern her as a nation. These are mainly applications of the moral law That also contain penalties for disobedience.
2. Ceremonial laws: That God gave to His people To govern their worship. Of course these also pointed To the work Jesus would do
7 To save us from our sins.
3. And Moral laws: That He gave to govern His people’s conduct. These express God’s unchanging standard Of proper conduct towards Him And our neighbor.
All of these laws can further be divided Into two categories: Positive and moral.
Positive laws are those that can be temporary, Such as the Ceremonial laws Or the separations laws That served to keep Israel separate from other nations – Such as not sowing two types of seed in a field, Or not weaving a garment from two types of yarn.
If God commanded it, You were morally bound to keep it. But He could just as easily change that law Without violating His morality.
The other kind of law is moral. These are the things that can’t change. It’s always wrong to worship a false god,
To break your vows, To dishonor your father and mother, Or to commit adultery.
Jesus fulfilled the Ceremonial Law – Which were positive – And so it has been set aside.
Israel ceased to be a nation, So the Civil Law was abolished – Except for the moral principles it contains Which are all contained in the Moral Law.
But the Moral Law remains. This was the Law on the tablets of stone, That the Spirit has written on our hearts – The same Law Jesus goes on to expound In the Sermon on the Mount. As we already saw in our Scripture reading this morning: He deals with murder, adultery, vows, The Law of retaliation, the law of love, Before moving on to matters of personal piety before God.
This is the Law He is fulfilling in us That we might encourage others to seek Him
That it might be fulfilled in them as well.
C. Finally, what difference does it make whether you keep them or not? Jesus says the more we keep them and encourage others to do so as well, the greater we will be in His kingdom.
First, He warns us Not to set aside even the least of these commandments Or to teach others to do the same At the peril of being the least in the kingdom. What does this say about the idea That we don’t have to keep His commandments?
What does this mean? Some commentators see this as a strong affirmation That to do so would exclude you from His kingdom. Is that possible? John says if we practice any sin, We are not born of God (1 John 3:9).
It could also mean That to the degree we depreciate God’s Law To that degree He will depreciate us in His kingdom. This seems to be implied by His other statement: “Whoever keeps and teaches them,
10 He shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
So, on the one hand, We need to guard against believing or doing anything That would weaken our conviction or that of others As to whether or not we should keep them.
On the other hand, To the degree that we do keep them And encourage others to do the same, To that degree, we will be called great in His kingdom, Because we will be more useful to Him, Because we will be more like Him.
Let me just encourage you in closing Not to believe what you hear – Even if it comes from a well meaning believer – That you don’t need to obey God’s commandments Since Jesus obeyed them for you.
It’s true that your obedience Won’t get you into heaven – Only Jesus’ obedience will – But it’s also true That if you are on your way to heaven
11 You will obey. Jesus obeyed so that you also would be able to obey. It’s one of the main ways You can know you are His: When you see His perfect and holy character Being formed in you.
It’s true that we’re far from perfect, But it’s also true that we should see More of Him in our lives as we press on towards heaven.
If you don’t see this happening, Then come to the Savior Who has the power to change you from the inside out And adorn your life with the power of His love. Believe on Him and be changed. Amen.