In the Fulness of Time/Part 13
By: Dr. Thomas Figart
|By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2007|
|Is there a similarity between campaign pledges and the promises of Jesus in Matthew 5:17-18? Dr. Figart explains why he used this analogy, and what the differences are.|
Without exception, the political candidates this summer are promising to fulfill certain promises, most important, Social Security and lower taxes; in short, anything to take government out of the people’s hair and restore freedoms which have been usurped by the party in power. What usually happens is that once a candidate is elected, he tends to use his new-found authority to gain even more.
Now, this may not sound like an acceptable method of introducing Christ’s promise in Matthew 5:17-18 but maybe it is, at that, even if by way of contrast to modern political promises. Jesus was presenting certain Divine principles of True Discipleship in His Kingdom which He was introducing to Israel in Matthew 5:17-48. First and foremost, Jesus wanted to assure them that He would not take away the Old Testament. To the contrary, His purpose in coming was not to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. Note the very words He used:
- Matthew 5:17-18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.”
The emphasis is on the entire mission of Jesus, to fulfill all that was written concerning Him. True, He wanted to correct misconceptions which were being taught by His particular political and spiritual opponents, the Pharisees and scribes, but much more than that, He would fulfill precisely the actual Messianic prophecies written in the Old Testament. Therefore, when He said He did not come to destroy the Law, the pointed reference is to those who thought He was preaching against the Law because He opposed the so-called “experts,” the Pharisees! Christ’s statement shows that He was never in conflict with the Law; His conflict was with the traditions which made the Word of God (the entire Old Testament) of no effect (Matthew 15:6; Mark 7:13).
Jesus enforces verse 17 by verse 18; He will fulfill all! In putting it in this manner He also indicates that Divine inspiration of the Scriptures extends to the very words, and further, even to the letters and parts of letters. In John 10:35 Jesus affirmed that “the Scripture cannot be broken.” Here in Matthew 5:18 He indicates the highest regard for the inerrancy of the Word of God. The word “jot” comes from the Hebrew word “yodh” the smallest Hebrew letter and the “tittle” (keraia) which refers to the “horn” or small stroke of the pen which differentiates the looks of certain Hebrew letters. Thus, even a part of a letter makes a difference.
Obedience determines Rank in His Kingdom. Matthew 5:19
- Matthew 5:19 “Whosoever therefore, shall break one of the least of these commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus has referred to every jot and tittle of the Old Testament having to be fulfilled, and now He says that, to the same extent, these things should be taught and obeyed. Every divine principle is important, and Jesus will deal with a selection of these in the remainder of the chapter. Greatness in His Kingdom is also the subject of Matthew 11:11 where the least in the kingdom will be greater than John the Baptist. This greatness carries with it the childlike faith described 18:1-4, and the position and rank in the kingdom will be determined by the Father. This is indicated by the words of Jesus in 20:23 after He was asked to seat two disciples, one on His right hand and the other on His left hand in the kingdom. He said that “to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared by my Father.” This statement is significant also for what it does not say, that is, Jesus does not say that His kingdom from now on would only be a spiritual kingdom, so forget about an earthly, messianic Kingdom. Rather, He affirms that it shall be so when the Father brings it about in the fulness of time!
Thus, there are “least” and “greatest” principles which means that the commandments of God do have a rank among themselves. But even if the least is not taught nor obeyed, the teacher will not be called great in His Kingdom. This means that there will be greater and lesser teachers, just as there will be greater or lesser rewards (Matthew 5:12).
Righteousness: The Basis for Entrance into His Kingdom. Matthew 5:20
- Matthew 5:20 “For I say unto you that except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Jesus is no longer speaking of rank in the kingdom, but of requirements for entrance. The traditional self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees is described by Jesus in the parable of Luke 18:9-14 as “certain who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and despised others.” Obviously this is merely outward righteousness, not inward. In Matthew 23:27-28 Jesus compares the scribes and Pharisees as hypocrites, “For ye are like whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones and of all uncleanness. Even so ye outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.”
The true righteousness required for entrance into His kingdom is described by Jesus as God’s righteousness in Matthew 6:33 and by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:3 where he says to the Jews, “being ignorant of God’s righteousness (that is, ignorant of the perfect righteousness which God requires) and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” Paul knew well what it was to trust in Pharisaic righteousness, and he had to come to the place where he counted all this but loss, “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).
The same righteousness which saved Abraham in Genesis 15:6 (the righteousness which is of God by faith) has always been the only way of salvation, and so it will be required for entrance into Christ’s earthly kingdom, in the fulness of time.