Honoring the Law (Matthew 5:17-18)

“Moses smashing the tablets” by Rembrandt

The Lord said long ago, “You shall not give false testimony against your  neighbor.” By  this command we understand that lying is evil. We see that principle affirmed when we read Revelation 21:8, which says that the end destination of “all liars” is the lake of fire. Consequently, Western civilization has largely codified mistruth as against the law of the land, and until recently, it was socially considered quite wrong to lie. But sometime between 1980 and 2010, it became socially acceptable. Shows like Seinfield made lying appear funny, even hilarious. World leaders like Bill Clinton denied the truth as a political strategy. The election and approval of President Trump made it clear that western society (as lead by the USA) is now perfectly OK with lying. One might go so far as to say that we are no longer living in a post-modern society, but a post-truth society. 

Yet that doesn’t change the reality of what is truth and what is not. Truth is always truth, and a lie – no matter how cleverly packaged, how often told or how widely believed – is still a lie. Lies can and will be found out to be untrue. The truth will always be the truth – it cannot change, or it ceases to be true by definition. Truth is an absolute. The practical reality of that fact is that if you base your life on truth, you have a more sure foundation than someone who bases their life on a lie. 

All the beatitudes Jesus gave us demonstrate this. The truth is that someone who knows the measure of their spiritual poverty before God is more blessed than someone who is deceived into thinking they are great before God and barely need Him. The truth is that God has always given the earth to the obedient meek – He did in the flood, He did it in the conquest of Canaan and He’ll do it again at the end of time. To base your life on such teaching allows that you can live securely and with peace of mind, because you know you are living rightly. 

Jesus teaches us that there is something else you can base your life on. Something that is just as certain, just as permanent and even more instructive. We can base our lives on the certainty of the whole of Scripture. He said “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” 

Jesus had a very high view of the Scripture. From the onset of His ministry He said that nothing He would do would nullify it – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets”, and that everything He would do would be in complete agreement with it – “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” In other words, He Himself chose to live His life entirely according to and in fulfillment of the written Word of God. That means that everything He did and said during His incarnation is a right application of Scripture, as is fitting for a disciple of God. It means that Jesus took the whole Law – right down to the smallest character and the dots that differentiated pronunciation – very literally and seriously. None of it could be written off as culturally irrelevant given the time that had past since Moses’ day. 

Modern secular society may brush past such integral commands as “Do not lie” as no longer applicable on account of the ages past, and the ignorant will always ignore the line between God’s moral law and the ceremonial law He assigned to the Jews (the cultural lines of demarcation that distinguish the Hebrew people group from other people groups). But the righteous Christ-follower must not have such illusions. Those of us under the New Covenant in Christ have the privilege to uphold God’s eternal truth, and to rightly apply it to ourselves – just as Jesus did. 

Faith and morals are two sides of the same coin.

A.W. Tozer

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

What law do you hold to? What law do you disregard?  Why?

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