Sunday, May 08, 2016

By Teaching the Sermon on the Mount as a Christian Teaching, We Nullify the Word of God

One of the things Jesus was doing in the Sermon on the Mount was countering the teachings of the Pharisees. The Pharisees had created rules and traditions that watered down the Law in order to make it "doable" for them. (Jesus told them, "you nullify/make void the Word of God by your tradition" - Matt 15:6, Mark 7:13). In the sermon, Jesus made clear what the Law really said and meant, as opposed to the spin the Pharisees had put on it. Let me emphasize something: in the sermon, Jesus was teaching the law, bringing back its true meaning and intent (which effectively showed just how impossible it is to keep it).
Ironically, what the church has done today is they have watered down the Sermon on the Mount, putting a spin on the various things Jesus said in it, in an attempt to make His hard words "doable" or to make the sermon into a "Christian" teaching. Most likely unknowingly, what they have done is diminished, and thereby nullified, what Jesus was actually saying. In trying to make this difficult law sermon into a teaching on practical Christian living, they are oblivious to how they have made void the Word of God.
I don't say this to complain about the church, but to make the larger point that in order to truly understand the gospel, we have to recognize the things that are taught in the church today as the gospel that really aren't the gospel.


  1. If the 4 Gospels are the words of Christ under the Old Covenant and not meant for Jesus' followers after the Cross and Resurrection, then to what purpose were the Gospels produced after the Cross and Resurrection?

    1. That's a good question. I'd say the reason is because while Jesus' words were not meant for His followers after the cross and resurrection, there were still always going to be many Jewish people to whom those words would apply, for the purpose for which Jesus spoke those words.

      In other words, His words still speak to those to whom the words were intended.

  2. Are you saying Jesus' earthly words don't apply to followers of Jesus after the cross and resurrection on your own authority or on apostolic authority?

    1. To put it simply, I'm using the (authority of the) Bible to interpret the Bible. We know that Paul said He was taught the gospel directly from Jesus, and in Paul's explanation of the gospel he backtracks in several places to give the reasons why the law was given. One of the big ones is Rom 3:19, which says, "Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law so that every mouth may be stopped and all the world become guilty before God." In Rom 6:14 he says "you are not under law but under grace." Paul makes it clear elsewhere (and as a Jew, he knows it to be true) that the law was for Israel only, and not for the rest of the world (for Gentiles). Romans 2 is one of the examples of this.

      So the law speaks only to those who are under it (unbelieving Jews - those who have not come into the gospel yet). And it speaks to them to stop their mouths. The law stops mouths from justifying themselves before God. The law makes people guilty, but can't do anything about their guilt. The law condemns. The law is the "ministry of death" and "ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7). The law and the Old Covenant is not for Christian believers, but rather for Jews only.

      The law's purpose was the reasons I gave above, and so Jesus in His earthly ministry, when He was giving the law, He was not giving the gospel. Rather, He was giving the law for the very purpose that it was given: to stop mouths, to condemn, to make people guilty, etc. The purpose for that is to lead people away from self-justification (by the law) and to faith, which is the only way a person can be justified, which of course is a huge point that Paul made in his epistles.

      So it's not about any authority ("apostolic" or "my own") that I'm writing this. It's about the very case that the writers of the Bible made about the actual purpose of the Old Covenant and the reality of the New Covenant of God's grace (the gospel) that we're now in, that is nothing like the Old, and in fact stands in contrast to the Old.

    2. And just to be clear, I'm not saying that all of Jesus' words do not apply to us today. By no means am I saying that! But we do have to be very careful in understanding to whom Jesus is speaking and what it is He's actually saying each time we read His words.

    3. Can you give some examples of Jesus' words that don't apply?

    4. Most certainly. I could simply list off some examples, I've written plenty about it over the years, so I'll link to posts in which you'll find plenty of examples of what I'm talking about.

      First I'll point you to a two-part post from early last year called ”God’s Law and the Crowd-Thinning Words of Jesus”. Part 2 (see link at the end of Part 1) gets to what we're talking about here, but Part 1 provides much needed context.

      Next is a post from several years ago called ”There is life in the Red Letters... Sometimes.”
      and another post called ”Jesus always spoke truth, but…”.

      And then here's a five part series I did called That 'Love Thy Neighbor' Thing...
      . Most of the meat is in the last few parts, especially 3, 4 and 5.

    5. And if you've got more time, you could also listen to a podcast series that my friend and I did called "Why Jesus Taught Two Covenants". It's a 20-part series, so it would involve quite a bit of time... although I believe the point comes across clearly very early on in the series.