17 "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away,not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; 26 truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.
27 "You have heard that it was said, `You shall not commit adultery.' 28 But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 "It was also said, `Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 "Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' 34 But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply `Yes' or `No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
Meditation: Why do people tend to view the "law of God"
negatively rather than positively? Jesus' attitude towards the law
of God can be summed up in the great prayer of Psalm 119: "Oh, how
I love your law! It is my meditation all the day."
For the people of Israel the "law" could refer to the ten commandments or to the five Books of Moses, called the Pentateuch or Torah, which explain the commandments and ordinances of God for his people. The "law" also referred to the whole teaching or way of life which God gave to his people. The Jews in Jesus' time also used it as a description of the oral or scribal law. Needless to say, the scribes added many more things to the law than God intended. That is why Jesus often condemned the scribal law because it placed burdens on people which God had not intended.
The essence of God's law
Jesus made it very clear that the essence of God's law - his commandments and way of life, must be fulfilled. God's law is true and righteous because it flows from his love, goodness, and holiness. It is a law of grace, love, and freedom for us. That is why God commands us to love him above all else and to follow in the way of his Son, the Lord Jesus who taught us how to love by laying down our lives for one another.
Reverence and respect
Jesus taught reverence and respect for God's law - reverence for God himself, reverence for the Lord's Day, reverence or respect for parents, respect for life, for property, for another person's good name, respect for oneself and for one's neighbor lest wrong or hurtful desires master and enslave us. Reverence and respect for God's commandments teach us the way of love - love of God and love of neighbor. What is impossible to humans is possible to God who gives generously of his gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit to those who put their faith and trust in him.
God gives us the grace, help, and strength to love as he loves, to forgive as he forgives, to think and judge as he judges, and to act as he acts with mercy, loving-kindness, and goodness. The Lord loves righteousness and hates wickedness. As his followers we must love his commandments and hate every form of sin and wrong-doing. If we want to live righteously as God desires for us, then we must know and understand the intention of God's commands for us, and decide in our heart to obey the Lord. Do you seek to understand the intention of his law and to grow in wisdom of his ways?
The Holy Spirit transforms our minds and hearts
Jesus promised his disciples that he would give them the gift of the Holy Spirit who writes God's law of love and truth on our hearts. The Holy Spirit teaches us God's truth and gives us wisdom and understanding of God's ways. The Spirit helps us in our weakness, strengthens us in temptation, and transforms us, day by day, into the likeness of Jesus Christ, our Merciful Savior and Humble Lord. There is great blessing and reward for those who obey God's commandments and who encourage others, especially the younger generations, to love, respect, and obey the Lord. Do you trust in God's love and allow his Holy Spirit to fill you with a thirst for holiness and righteousness in every area of your life? Ask the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with a burning desire and reverence for God's life-giving word so that you may grow day by day in the wisdom and knowledge of God's love, truth, and goodness.
1 Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD!
2 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,
3 who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!
4 you have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently.
5 O that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes!
17 Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and observe your word.
18 Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
Daily Quote from the Early Church Fathers: What you teach, you should do, by Chromatius (died 406 AD)
"While it is sinful to abolish the least of the commandments, all
the more so the great and most important ones. Hence the Holy
Spirit affirms through Solomon: 'Whoever despises the little
things shall gradually die' (Sirach 19:1b). Consequently nothing
in the divine commandments must be abolished, nothing altered.
Everything must be preserved and taught faithfully and devotedly
that the glory of the heavenly kingdom may not be lost. Indeed,
those things considered least important and small by the
unfaithful or by worldly people are not small before God but
necessary. For the Lord taught the commandments and did them. Even
small things point to the great future of the kingdom of heaven.
For this reason, not only words but also deeds are important; and
you should not only teach, but what you teach, you should do." (excerpt from TRACTATE ON MATTHEW 20.2.1-3)
[Note: Chromatius was an early Christian scholar and bishop of Aquileia, Italy. He was a close friend of John Chrysostom and Jerome. He died in 406 AD. Jerome described him as a "most learned and most holy man."]