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May 29, 2010

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  • Break vs Relax? Matthew 5:17-20

Break vs Relax? Matthew 5:17-20

READER QUESTION:
In Matthew 5:17-18 I believe that Jesus is stating and very much pointing to the fact that every single jot and tittle, down to the very least of them, must be kept until all is fulfilled,- BUT He just explained to these people that 'He' came to fulfill it. So then, all of it, even down to the least jot and tittle, would no longer be a weight on their shoulders.

Verse 19 is the most difficult of the three verses.
19 'Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.' It doesnít seem a good idea to break this up into what is the moral code, civil, ceremonial, judicial, etc. But because of the very explicit amount of stress put on actually obeying every single jot and tittle even to the very least one, I think the emphasis is on the everyday 'doing' of even the least of these commandments.

I was thinking,- why would Jesus look out at these people and say 'if you do and teach every single jot and tittle, to the very least one, you will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven', when He knows that not one person on the face of this earth could do that? Only He could do that. So why would He say that? Also every person listening to Him must be thinking with shame and concern, 'Iím going to be the least in Heaven, Iíve not kept every commandment'. But wouldn't that be His point? I placed myself in that audience of people listening to Him and I believe that those words came down like a hammer in the hearts of those people, indicting them. Look at the weight of hopelessness and despair those words bring. Could it be that Jesus is using this to show the vast contrast between the heavy yolk that they are under and what He means when He says 'I have come to fulfill this Law?' Heís looking at these people and He knows that they are all thinking of their own failure to keep every jot and tittle of the law. There is a vast contrast here, and many of those people would eventually understand what the Lord is saying when He says 'I have come to fulfill every jot and tittle.' Christ is saying, 'these laws, even to the very least of them, have passed from you unto Me'.

I think that verse 19 could have possibly been said to emphasize the vast contrast between a heavy yolk that was against us and contrary to us, and the incredible freedom from these laws that Jesus has brought to a close by fulfilling them all.

Does this seem to be an acceptable understanding of this verse?

VW ANSWER:
It is even more significant than this. "break" is a mistranslation of the word. This has been addressed in the past in a 'portion' - "Relaxing a Commandment" [link]

The word in the Greek means: to loose, untie, unbind, set free, undo, disolve, annul, do away with.

Darby says "do away with", LITV, MKJV, VW say "relax/es", NASB says "annuls". The others I have, including ALT all stick with "breaks".

What happens if a truck is loaded with lumber, the load is tied down with straps and ratchetted real tight. The load stays on to the destination. What if somebody comes along and loosens the straps by one notch of the ratchets? The load is going to shift...maybe work itself around and eventually work itself loose and falls off the truck. It doesn't reach its destination, and likely hurts objects and injures people.

What if a marriage certificate is annulled? It makes it, legally, as though the marriage had never existed. It not only 'breaks' the contract, but makes it as though it had never been entered into, in the first place.

To "do away with" is even more sinister. It presumes to say that the matter, whatever the matter in question, is not worthy to be supported... let's just get rid of it. It existed. But I reject it. So throw it away, based on nothing other than my own arbitrary decision to do so.

These are the terms that define what Jesus was saying. And notice the -object- of this discourse. Not necessarily -everybody- who was listening, but the one who "teaches men so". (vs19) And the reason I included vs20 is because it completes the contextual thought: "unless your righteousness exceeds that of the SCRIBES and PHARISEES..." (vs20)

In other words, those who teach, preach and prophesy God's Word, instructing them in the way of righteousness by word and behavior. The preachers and teachers.

We know that as long as we are "flesh and blood" our bodies are corrupt. (1Co15:50) As long as we are yet in these bodies, we -do- sin. If we claim perfection, we -lie-. (1Jn1:8) Jesus said that we are "completely clean", except, we need to have our feet washed of the world's dirt. (Jn13:10) which happens by the advocacy and propitiation of Jesus Christ before the Father. (1Jn2:1-2)

What I was always called "judgmental" for back in the early 70s in those IVCF Bible 'studies', and was continually castigated at that Baptist church college/career group where they regularly asked me to teach, was that I took their "what does this mean TO YOU?" methods, and turned the discussions around to, "What does the Bible -SAY-?" In IVCF the 'discussion' went around the circle, everybody 'sharing'. When it was my turn to 'share', I would go back to the passage that was allegedly under discussion: What does it SAY, and as such, how should we be LIVING? For that, I was "judgmental". In the college/career group, they always rose up and openly complained at me, interrupting, as I was standing at the podium...but...they also continually repeated their requests for me to teach. Thinking back on it all...it really didn't make sense, did it. If they hated my Biblical teaching so much, why did they always ask me to teach? And at the time I was too naive, not realizing they were not really saved, and that I should have "shaken the dust off my feet" against them...but I continually stood before them (at their request).

The Bible doesn't -really- mean this. God wouldn't judge for that. (annulling) Paul was much too critical and hard-nosed, so we view the -rest- of the NT, but don't pay much attention to Paul's writings. (do away with) Yes, the Bible says this, but in this instance don't you think God's grace will make exception, just this once? After all, I can't believe in such a control-freak of a God. (loosen) I don't think this really applies to me. (set free) We hold to the essentials of the Bible, but make allowances for people in the non-essentials. And these excuses go on-and-on, endlessly.

These are all examples of "relaxing" God's Word. Thus, in the context, Jesus spoke of the jot and tittle. Every last little detail. Such people are "least".

    "Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him." (Pr30:5)
If -every- Word of God is pure, pray-tell, -which- are the 'non-essentials'? Yes, we slip and fail the Lord. We confess and receive forgiveness. (1Jn1:9) But that is based on the assumption that our desire is to and for the -whole- Word of God. The "whole counsel" of God. (Ac20:27) But if we are purposely neglecting portions, base on our own carnality and disbelief, how can we even have any hope of knowing -what- we are obeying or disobeying? As it says of these end days...
    "speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared" (1Ti4:2)
In these bodies of corruption we know we can't possibly keep the Law perfectly. As Solomon says, "for there is no one who does not sin" (1Ki8:46) But the question is: what is our view -of- the Law? Are we seeking God "with the whole heart"? (Ps119:2) Or do we seek to minimalize God's Word so we can cater to our own fleshly lusts? If you continue down in Matthew ch5, one sees Jesus' discussion of the Law.. but "I say unto you" as He defines the -mind- and -spirit- behind the Law. In the heart adultery isn't merely the physical act, but the mind/heart that is behind the behavior; same with murder vs hate, etc. It is the mind and heart that seeks to "relax" the Law, in order to make 'allowances' for our lusts. And so people make allowances by redefining God's Word, and softly hiss, "graaaeeesss".
    "For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were set forth to this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny the only Lord God, even our Lord Jesus Christ." (Ju1:4)

    "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Let it not be! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Rom6:1-2)


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