Matthew chapter 5 is our text for tonight, and we’re looking at verses 17 to 20. And, again, we come to this intensely rich and magnificent text. I don’t know if we’ve ever had a more wonderful time than we’ve had studying the Sermon on the Mount, and I want you to know it thrills my heart to see a full church tonight of folks who have come together to study again His Word. In studying Matthew chapter 5, we are looking at this great, the first sermon our Lord gives us in the chronology of the New Testament; and it is magnificent, it is wondrous, it is all that any sermon could ever be, as we are seeing as we move through it. In fact, I don’t know how it would be possible to stand on that hillside and listen to what He said, and to take it all in at one sitting.
My wife always says to me, “Honey, you always have so much material. You always have so much material. You could just cut down your material in half, and then, you know, it wouldn’t be so hard to absorb.” And I always think about Jesus, who must have stood there and given the whole Sermon on the Mount in one straight shot, and it’s enough to boggle your mind. It takes me one whole hour to get through one verse of this three-chapter sermon. Incredible statements made by our Lord that need so much background and so much filling in. Words cannot express how dynamic and far-reaching this particular text is in 5:17 to 20. Look at it as I read.
Our Lord says, “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, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 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. For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Now we find, for our understanding and interest tonight, that this passage sets forth the absolute base. It sets forth the rock bed foundation for truth, which is the Word of God. The law of God, as it’s stated in verse 17, which law will not pass away, which law cannot be broken, even in its least commandment. The absolute base for truth in the world is the Word of God. It is the Scripture. It is the static, abiding, objective source of all truth.
Now obviously then, this passage becomes a primary one in establishing one of the basic dogmas of the Christian faith, and that is that the Bible is the Word of God. You don’t have to be very alert even to know that today, the Bible has become a battleground. Liberal theology for years has argued that the Bible is not inspired by God, but the Bible is man commenting – some kind of a religious man, to be sure – commenting on his experience with God as he sees it, but that we can’t really trust that it’s God Himself. And that’s the front door, open, flagrant, head-on attack on the Bible.
The rear attack on the Bible today comes from those who say that, “What really defines truth for us is experience, and so we interpret the Bible our their experience.” The sideways attack comes along and says, “Well, the Bible isn’t enough; we need to add philosophy, and psychology, and human wisdom,” and so forth; and so the Bible gets it from the side, the back, and the front. And the constant shot at the Scripture, in our day, has deafened the real truth of Scripture in the ears of many, many people who should know better.
In fact, it’s amazing how that, when I stand up in certain circles and say that I believe absolutely in the inerrant Word of God, it becomes something that people chuckle about, because it’s rather antiquated and out-of-date. But this Scripture here tells us, I think, the number one reason why we believe the Bible is true, the number one reason why we believe it is the rock bed foundation of truth, the number one reason why we can trust it absolutely; and it is simply because Jesus said that it was absolute truth. Jesus said that it didn’t lie. Jesus said, “Not one jot or tittle would ever pass from it till all was fulfilled.” And frankly, folks, the Word of Christ on the Bible is good enough for me. I don’t know of any higher authority than that.
So here, at the very outset of Jesus’ ministry, early in His Sermon on the Mount, He gives His view of the Old Testament. He gives His view of the law of God. He gives His view of the Scripture. And by inference, incidentally, it even carries on to His view of the New Testament. It’s a powerful statement. Let me give you a little bit of a review of what we looked at last week.
The historical setting is interesting here, and you need to know why He says what He says. He was different than the other teachers in Israel; and He knew it, and they knew it. He didn’t preach and teach like the scribes and Pharisees did. He was meek and humble, and they were proud. He broke with rabbinic traditions, whereas they scrupulously observed the rabbinic traditions. He preached grace and mercy, and all they preached was law and judgment. He didn’t identify with any of the sects of His day – not the Pharisees, Sadducees, the scribes, the zealots, not the Essenes, not anybody. He spoke with absolute authority, and didn’t have to always be quoting some rabbinical source. He befriended publicans and sinners instead of turning His back on them, as the other religious leaders did. And He was never concerned seemingly with outward regulations, He was always concerned with the heart.
And because of these very obvious differences, the people’s question was this: “Is He truly an Old Testament prophet? Does He really believe the Old Testament? Is He one who is tearing down the old standards to set up some new standard? Is He a radical who wants to overthrow the Old Testament, the old law of God, the traditions?” and so forth.
And so that’s the historical setting in which this text occurs. They wanted to know about this new prophet; and what they wanted to know was, “What is His view of Scripture? What is His view of the Old Testament? What does He feel about Moses?” In fact, they asked Him that, in His lifetime, many, many times.
And so summing up, at this time, the people were wondering, “Does this teacher believe in the sacred Scripture? Does this teacher believe in the Old Testament? Does He believe in the law of God?” And His answer is a ringing, “Yes!” In fact, He takes the law of God from the barnacles of their tradition, which had corrupted it and dragged it down to a human level, sweeps it clean, and lifts it up to an altitude that had not been at in centuries. He gave a greater commitment to the Scripture than the most scrupulous, pious scribe or Pharisee ever thought of giving. He held the Old Testament higher than they ever did. And so that’s the historical setting. He wants them to know that this is no big change which will eliminate God’s law; this is in continuity with God’s Old Testament.
There is also a scriptural context here in the chapter that you need to see. Jesus is preaching about His kingdom here. He is announcing that He is a King – and that’s Matthew’s purpose in the whole gospel of Matthew. He has told us about the birth of a King, the homage of a King, the lineage of the King, the forerunner of the King, the prophecies fulfilled by the King – really what amounts to the victory of the King over the usurper, Satan, in His temptation. The whole setting has been established, and in chapter 5 comes the manifesto of the King. He declares the character of His kingdom, and it begins in verses 3 to 12.
He says, “Here are the characteristics that should be true of people in My kingdom,” and He gives all of the Beatitudes. He is saying, “It is character that causes people to enter My kingdom. It is what they are inside, before we concern ourselves with what they do on the outside.” And, consequently, He runs head-on into the legalistic externalism of the Jewish religion of that day.
So He wants to establish the character of His kingdom. First of all, it’s internal, verses 3 to 12. And then it becomes external as the testimony goes out, in verses 13 to 16, and He says, “We are salt and light.” And so this internal character is manifest externally in the world.
And then He says in verses 17 to 20, that living in His kingdom is not only a matter of character, it’s not only a matter of testimony, but it is a matter of commitment to obedience to God’s inviolable law, so that what He is saying is, “A true kingdom son truly obeys God’s laws.” He said it this way in another place: “If you love Me, you will keep My” – what? – “commandments. Whosoever keeps My word, he it is that loves Me. If you continue in My word, then are you My real disciple.”
In other words, Jesus was always affirming that true kingdom character and true kingdom testimony will be predicated on a commitment to obedience to the law of God. And it’s no different in this day. We cannot survive with a Christianity that is not biblical. We cannot survive with a quasi-biblical Christianity. We cannot manifest the true virtue of kingdom sons unless we are committed to the authority of the Word of God. That’s a message that needs to be preached.
People in the kingdom that belongs to Christ have a high, exalted view of Scripture. They hold Scripture above everything else. They would not desire at all to deny it. They would not desire at all to disobey it. Even the apostle Paul, struggling with the old habits of his life, says that, “In my heart, I delight in Thy law.” The Psalmist says, “Oh how I love Thy law.” And that is true of anyone in God’s kingdom who really has kingdom character and wants to manifest kingdom testimony. There’ll have to be a commitment to the absolute, inviolable authority of the Word of God.
Now this is a message that you’ve heard at Grace Church a lot. It’s no less important now than it’s ever been. In fact, if anything, it’s more important when the Bible is being attacked in a non-subtle way, and in a very subtle way. People will say, “Well, that’s only your interpretation,” or, “Well, we take the spirit of the Bible, not the exact words,” and on, and on, and on.
But the Word is the key to our righteousness, beloved. You see, we cannot manifest righteousness unless we know the rules, unless we know the principles, unless we live the life. And I’ll tell you another thing: when you live a righteous life in the world because you obey the Word of God, then and only then will you have an effective testimony in the world.
As I’ve said to you before, the problem in the world today is not that the church doesn’t articulate very well, it’s that the church doesn’t live separated from the world very well. We don’t have a believable testimony, because we don’t abide by the righteous standards that God has set forth. If we were the people the Beatitudes talk about; if we were those who were poor in spirit, mourning; if we would be meek, and we would be the ones who constantly are hungering and thirsting after righteousness; if we were merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, willing to be persecuted and falsely accused; if we were those kinds of people, we would be the salt and the light of the world. And that kind of righteousness is only born out of a commitment to the Word of God.
It says it in 2 Timothy chapter 3 – you know the text – and verse 16. It couldn’t say it any more clearly: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” I’ll say it again: righteousness, perfection, maturity, being able to do good works is based upon Scripture and a commitment to the authoritative Word of God.
And so our Lord here, in the context, is laying down a basic principle: If you’re going to live a kingdom life, and you’re going to know righteousness that can be a testimony to the world and a glory to God and a blessing to you, then you must predicate it on an absolute commitment to the authority of the Word of God. That’s why we say, at Grace Church, that what we want to do is to be obedient, above all things, to the Word of God, no matter what that costs us.
Now there are four things in these four verses as we break it down into an outline. Four aspects of the Lord’s view of God’s law. This is the Lord looking at the law of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, and He sees four things: The preeminence of the law, the permanence of the law, the pertinence of the law, and the purpose of the law. The preeminence, the permanence, the pertinence, and the purpose of the law. These are all factors of Christ’s statement regarding God’s word. It is preeminent, it is permanent, it is pertinent, and it is purposeful.
Now last time, we looked at the preeminence of God’s law, and the word “preeminence” means “the uniqueness,” the fact that it is the highest, and the noblest, and the best. It is preeminent. And in verse 17, I believe, as we saw last time, that Jesus gives three reasons why it’s preeminent, why the Bible has no equal, why the Bible stands alone, why the Bible is absolutely authoritative.
Reason number one, it is authored by God. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law.” He doesn’t even need to designate any more than a definite article – the law, because the law, everybody knew, was God’s law. And it was God’s law, authored by God, that made it preeminent. When God writes something, it’s preeminent. When God says something, it is preeminent. And that is the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ, implied, I believe in what He said, as we saw last time. And He really has in mind, you remember, where it says the law or the prophets, the whole Old Testament, with its moral elements, with its judicial elements, and with its ceremonial elements as well. So He says it is preeminent because it is authored by God.
Secondly, it is preeminent because it is affirmed by the prophets. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets.” And you’ll remember we discussed how the prophets took the original law of God and they repeated it, and they placed it upon the people as binding, and they indicted the people when they disobeyed it. They applied it to their lives. They reinforced it; they reiterated it; they preached it. And so it is preeminent, because God chose His prophets, who were nothing but His mouth in the world, to continue to reiterate, and to preach, and to reinforce, and to apply His law.
And finally and most marvelous of all, the law of God is preeminent, not only because it was authored by God and affirmed by the prophets, but most of all, because it was accomplished in Jesus Christ. At the end of verse 17, “I came not to destroy, but to fulfill,” and we went into the incredible reality of what that statement meant last week. Christ said, “I didn’t come to nullify the law, I didn’t come to abrogate the law, I didn’t come to lower the standard, I didn’t come to drop the standard, I didn’t come to set aside God’s law; I came to fulfill God’s law.” And that, we saw last time, meant every element of God’s law, every element.
In John 5:39, you’ll remember we told you, the Lord said, “Search the Scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life, and they are they which testify of Me.” In other words, He says, “I am the fulfillment of the whole Old Testament.” He was the fulfillment of all of it in one way or another.
In Hebrews chapter 10, and verse 7, “Then said I,” – this is Christ – ‘Lo, I come in the volume of the book it is written of Me.’” People, the whole Old Testament pointed to Christ. He was the moral fulfillment in that He alone kept totally the law of God. He was the judicial fulfillment in that He became the judge of a rejecting Israel. And He was the ceremonial fulfillment in that every type, and every analogy, and every symbol, and every picture found its ultimate fulfillment in Him. He fulfilled the law morally, ceremonially, and judicially. And He was the fulfillment of all the prophets; the prophets spoke of Him. The prophets, as Peter said, spoke of Christ, who was to come. He is the fulfillment of all of it, and that’s why it is preeminent.
Let me tell you something, people. This Book is preeminent, because it tells about Jesus Christ; and since He is the preeminent one, the apostle Paul says, “The book about Him must be the preeminent Book.” The law and the prophets were not set aside, they were fulfilled. And when He fulfilled all righteousness, when He set God’s law in perfect order in His own life, when He set Israel aside and called out His church, and all of the judicial features of Israel’s identity passed out of existence, “No more clean and unclean,” Acts 10 says, “No more Sabbath day,” Romans 14 says; none of those things that were identified with the judicial law in Israel. They all came to an end when He called out His church. That was fulfilled.
And when He fulfilled the sacrificial law by dying on the cross, the veil in the temple was rent from top to bottom, the whole sacrificial, ceremonial system came to a screeching halt. It was over – the whole thing. Because of what He did, He made it possible, according to Romans 8:4, because of what He did. He made it possible for us to fulfill the law through His power.
Now there’s nothing wrong with God’s law, nothing. The Bible says it’s holy, just, and good. And the psalmist was right to say, “Oh, how I love Thy law.” But it had to be fulfilled. All of those pictures needed a fulfillment. All of those types needed an anti-type. All of those prophecies needed a Messiah to fulfill them. All of the pictures had to have a reality. Someone had to be the perfect person and fulfill God’s moral law. Someone had to come and be the perfect sacrifice. Someone had to come as the judge, and graft into the stock of blessing a new branch; and Christ did it all, and fulfilled it all.
Now let me just add this footnote to what we said, and that was review of last week. The moral law was behind everything. Behind the judicial law and ceremonial law is the moral law of God, and those are standards of right and wrong in terms of behavior and attitude. And behind even the judicial law was the moral law. And behind the ceremonial law was the moral law.
You see, it’s the moral law. I don’t know how I can say this so you’ll understand it as simply, but let me try it this way. The moral law is nothing but the expression of God’s character. It is the expression of God’s nature. And to help people to understand the moral law, God developed, in Israel, the ceremonial law, to help them focus on His character. And He developed the judicial law to help them focus on His character.
But the judicial part of it and the ceremonial part of it were simply outgrowths of the moral law, which is unchanging. The judicial element has passed away, since Israel has been set aside for the time. The ceremonial element has passed away, since Christ has performed the final sacrifice. But behind all of that was God’s moral law, and in no way has God ever changed His moral standards.
In fact, the Jews had lowered them something awful, hadn’t they? Something awful. And Jesus lifts them back up where they belong. You see, the Jews had felt they were going to be all right if they just didn’t commit adultery. But Jesus put God’s law where it belonged, and He said, “No, no, no. God’s law says you shouldn’t even look on a woman to lust after her or you’ve committed it in your heart.”
The Jews thought it would be all right if they didn’t murder anybody, but Jesus took God’s moral law and put it up there where it was equal to His character, and said, “No, no. Not only should you not murder, you shouldn’t even think a thought of hatred toward somebody, or you’ve committed murder in your heart.” Let’s get God’s law where His character is, back up at His level. So the standard isn’t lower. The ceremonies are gone. The judicial identification of Israel as a separate nation, God’s people, is gone for the time as He works through the church. But the moral law stands in the background.
Now as people learn about this, they say, “What’s the basis of the moral law?” We always say the Ten Commandments. And people say, “Well, what about the Sabbath? Is the Sabbath a moral issue? How did the Sabbath get stuck in with all those moral things there?”
Now let me help you with that. The Sabbath was part of the moral law, there’s no question about that. So people say, “If it’s a part of that original moral law, does it still stand? If that’s the original moral law, and God’s character is revealed in His moral law, then doesn’t the Sabbath still stand?”
Well, let me tell you something interesting. There are elements in all those categories that are still around – ceremonial, judicial, and moral – and there are some elements that have been fulfilled, that are no longer observed. For example, let me tell you what I mean.
Now we do not accept today, for example, the judicial laws of Israel. We don’t wear the kind of clothes they were required to wear for their unique identity. We don’t cook our food – we’re not all kosher, right? We eat ham, and we do things like that. We eat stuff that would have been forbidden to them.
And that’s okay, because Acts 10 says, you know, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat; it’s no longer unclean. You can have whatever you want.” Of course, Peter went, “I can’t take this, Lord. You don’t realize it. I’ve been kosher all my life; this change is too fast, you see. And I’m supposed to go to Cornelius’ house and have a meal with him? Yikes, I can’t handle it,” see.
But nonetheless, God did change some of the judicial law. He set it aside. He was no longer uniquely identifying Israel in a separate way. And so there were elements of the judicial law that were set aside when Christ came and founded the church. Israel’s ultimate act of rejection, they were set aside, the church was begun, and some of those were set aside.
However, there are parts of that judicial law that are still binding. For example, God’s high standard for marriage in Israel hasn’t changed. God still desires honesty, purity, and wholesomeness among those that are married. God still desires monogamy and not polygamy. God still has the same feeling toward marriage, remarriage, divorce, and those things. In other words, when some factor of Israel’s judicial law touched a timeless, divine principle, it still goes on, even today. And so there are elements of it. When the Old Testament talks about marriage and divorce in Israel, it touches on God’s standards; and we find that it’s even repeated in the New Testament. So parts of the judicial law have been extended to all believing people.
Take the ceremonial law. We don’t kill lambs, and goats, and rams, and turtledoves, and all that. But do you know that we do some of the ceremonies today that Israel did? You say, “What do you mean?”
Well, Israel used to praise God; we do that. Israel used to pray to God; we did that tonight. Israel used to sing songs; we do that. Israel had a choir – did you know that? – and they had an orchestra; and we have all of that. You see, there are still elements of the ceremonial expression of Israel that are still around, so we shouldn’t be shocked because we see those things. That’s why, you know, you can’t go into the Bible and just whack everything up; you’ve got to be very careful. There are elements of the law fulfilled and elements that are binding, and they extend beyond the identity of Israel.
Now hang on here and I’ll tell you what I’m trying to get at. Just as there are elements of the judicial law that are still around, and elements of the ceremonial worship of Israel that are still around, why should we be so shocked if there was an element which was part of the moral law which isn’t around? If God can leave part of some, He can also cancel out part of other.
You say, “What do you mean?” I mean I believe the Sabbath has passed away. “Why?” It is the one of the Ten Commandments never repeated in the New Testament; every other one is repeated in the New Testament.
We know this, that the early church met on the first day of the week. Read the book of Acts. They started out meeting every day, and then it finally got down to the meeting on the first day of the week. You say, “Well, why did this happen?” Because the Sabbath had been – now watch this – fulfilled, fulfilled.
Look with me at Hebrews chapter 3 and I’ll show you. Now you remember, the Ten Commandments said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” But people get that messed up. The idea was not – now watch this one. The idea was not to not work, the idea was to be holy. Do you get the point? In the Sabbath law, God was not saying, “Please don’t work,” or else everyone who takes Sunday off is fulfilling God’s law. No. The idea wasn’t not working, the idea was being holy; and the concentration on holiness was aided by not being involved in earthly, gainful pursuits. But the idea was to be holy. So the point is this: God wanted people holy.
Let me tell you something wonderful. When Jesus Christ died on the cross and you put your faith in Him, instantly believing in Him, you were made – what? – holy. And the Spirit of God took up a residence in you, and the imputed righteousness of Christ given instantly to you. The Spirit of God took up residence in your life, and total righteousness was imputed to you, you became holy before God, so that in a real sense, the Sabbath concept, the picture of the Sabbath of the Old Testament is fulfilled in the righteousness and holiness that is granted to you in Christ.
Now look at Hebrews 3 and I’ll show you how this works. Hebrews 3:8, “Harden not your hearts as in the temptation” – or provocation – “in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers put Me to the test, proved Me, and saw My works forty years.” He’s talking about Israel now wandering around from Kadesh-Barnea; and they’re traveling around in the wilderness, unable to enter the Promised Land because of unbelief. They hardened their hearts, they put God to the test, “Wherefore” – verse 10 says – “I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘They do always err in their heart; and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter into My Sabbath.’”
Now it’s obvious from this text that the Sabbath God saw is a figure. The Sabbath was a representative of Canaan land, and He says, “These unfaithful, unbelieving, disobedient, hard-hearted Israelites are not going to enter My Sabbath. They’re not going to enter My rest.”
Remember the spies went into the land, they came back, and they said, “You know, it’s not an easy thing to do in there, but it’s a wonderful land, and God can give us the victory.” And nobody believed them, right? So verse 19 says, “They couldn’t enter in because of unbelief.” They couldn’t enter into what? The fulfillment of rest.
Now look at chapter 4. “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left of us of entering into His rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Now watch this. This is the term “Sabbath.” This is the idea of Sabbath.
First, Sabbath starts out in the Ten Commandments as a day. In the wandering in the wilderness, Sabbath becomes a land. In the book of Hebrews, Sabbath becomes a relationship. Do you see? And already in chapter 4, entering into Sabbath is entering into Christ. “For unto us was the gospel preached,” – now we’re into the gospel – “as it was to them. But the Word preached didn’t profit, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we who have believed do enter into Sabbath rest.” Now you get the point?
The Sabbath was a picture. It became a land. And finally it becomes a relationship. And when you enter into Jesus Christ, beloved, you enter into Sabbath. And from then on, twenty-four hours a day, all your life, you are fulfilling the law of the Sabbath; you are made holy. Do you see? That’s why the New Testament never repeats the original picture from Exodus 20, because the reality is fulfilled in Christ.
“There is a rest” verse 9 of chapter 4 says, “to the people of God. For he that is entered into His rest, He also has ceased from his own works, as God did from His.” In other words, there is the spiritual application. For the people of God who have entered into rest, we have ceased. We have fulfilled the Sabbath and its spiritual significance, as God did when He rested. So Hebrews 3 and 4 indicates that we did enter rest through faith, and Sabbath is fulfilled.
People say, “Well, you ought to worship on Saturday.” Look, I worship every day, right? I don’t need one day to remember to keep holy. I don’t need just one day to be holy in a week, I can be holy every day because of the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. I’ve entered into my rest. There’s no longer any need for the symbol, I have the reality, right? Now that’s why we don’t meet on Saturday.
You say, “Why do we meet on Sunday?” Well, because we celebrate the resurrection. The Lord rose from the dead on the first day, and that’s the way the early church did it, and we’re doing it the same. But frankly, folks, it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference if we met on Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or anything else. And if we keep getting the same crowds that we’re getting, a few years from now, we may be meeting every day of the week. Who knows?
And some people say, “Oh, but it isn’t Sunday.” Don’t worry about it. Listen, you’ve entered into your rest. Every day is holy unto the Lord – right? – every day. It’s just wonderful to meet on Sunday, because we can commemorate each time we meet the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Well, Jesus said then, “The law is preeminent, preeminent because it’s authored by God, preeminent because it’s affirmed by the prophets, preeminent because it’s accomplished in Me.” He has accomplished our Sabbath. And so factors in the judicial law, ceremonial law, moral law have changed because of Christ. He fulfilled some; ah, but some are yet to be fulfilled. Some of the prophecies haven’t been fulfilled yet, have they? Some are still future. But I’ll tell you what He says. Verse 18 he says this: “Not one jot or tittle shall in any way pass from this law, until every single bit of it is fulfilled.”
And that brings us to the second point, the point for tonight: The permanence of the law. I didn’t mean to spend so long on the other one, but I hope that’s helpful to you. The permanence of the law.
Oh, this is great, verse 18 – and I’ve already quoted to you, I don’t even need to do it again. The Jews were looking for a more lax system. They couldn’t keep up with the scribes, and they couldn’t keep up with the Pharisees; and, body, they were hoping somebody’d come and drop the standards a little bit so they could make it. And the Lord Jesus Christ lifts the standard even higher, and then He just wipes out the Pharisees and the scribes for their hypocritical approach to God’s law.
You see, what they were doing; they had substituted human tradition for the law of God, and Jesus came in and just wiped the human tradition away, just cleaned it off. The judicial law was fulfilled, for the most part; the ceremonial law was fulfilled, for the most part. Even some of the moral laws; I said the Sabbath was fulfilled. But God’s righteous standards never changed, and so He says, just so they don’t ever forget it, “Nothing is going to pass, nothing, until it’s all fulfilled.”
As I look at verse 18, frankly, people, it seems to me that it almost bursts its seams. You just don’t even know where to begin. You don’t even know where to plug in, you know, it’s just so rich. And I tried a hundred different ways to come up with an outline; and, finally, I just threw all the outlines in the wastebasket and said, “I’m just going to say what’s in my heart.” So if you can’t tell where I’m going, hang in there, and we’ll arrive at the same point at the end; and maybe you’ll look back and understand.
Let’s look at the verse. “For amen” is really the term here. “For amen I say unto you.” And the idea of adding the “amen” – and John usually adds the double amen. But when it’s amen, it means a solemn, sober, authoritative kind of an introduction. It generally refers to the idea of something that’s true, something that’s faithful, and so it’s frequently translated “verily,” which means “truly,” “absolutely.” and I like to use the word “absolutely,” because I like the word absolutes in a day of relatives.
And so we could say, “For absolutely I say unto you.” This is a strong assertion. This is a very tough-minded statement. This is an unmitigating claim. This is a serious claim on the part of Christ, a solemn truth. He says this: “Till heaven and earth pass.”
Now that’s another absolute. That’s almost a linguistic anachronism, to make something absolute. It’s like what we would say, “I cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye,” you know, or whatever things we say to make things absolute.
“Till heaven and earth pass.” That is a strong introductory phrase. He says, “The Word of God will be here until the universe passes out of its present existence.” And someday it will, frankly. Someday the universe will pass out of its present existence; the Bible is clear about that. And at that time, we’ll enter the new heavens and the new earth, and won’t need a Bible anymore, because we’ll be living righteousness, won’t we. And we won’t need the guidebook anymore, because we’ll be like Jesus Christ. But until that time, nothing changes.
Psalm 102:25 says, “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure. Yea, all of them shall become old like a garment; like a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years have no end.” You see what he’s doing? “The psalmist is comparing the eternal God with the passing universe, and he is saying that the universe will come to an end.
We begin to see it happen in Revelation as we read about the tribulation, and we see the stars fall out of heaven like untimely shaking of a fig tree, and the figs all fall. And then we see the heavens roll up like a scroll, just like a shade or something rolling back. And all of a sudden, blackness covers the universe, and God begins to act in judgment. And the final result of all of God’s coming in the day of the Lord is going to be the establishing of a new heaven and a new earth, the passing away of the whole universe as we understand it today.
Isaiah spoke about it in Isaiah 34, I think it’s verse 4: “And all the host of heaven shall be dissolved,” – and that’s talking about the stars – “the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll; all the host shall fall down as the leaf falleth off the vine like a falling fig from the fig tree.” And that’s the imagery that John uses in the book of Revelation.
In Isaiah 51:6, we find the same idea: “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look on the earth beneath; for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, the earth shall grow old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner; but My salvation shall be forever, and My righteousness shall not be abolished.”
In Matthew 24, the same message is given in verse 35. It says there, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My” – and I love this – “words shall not pass away.” In 2 Peter chapter 3, and verse 7, “The heavens and the earth, which are now preserved by the same Word, are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are in it shall be burned up.” The next verse says, “These things shall be dissolved.” In other words, there’s coming an end to the universe; but until the universe ends and we enter an eternal state, this Word shall abide.” What a great statement.
It’s a timeless Book. People have the stupid audacity to say, “What does a 2,000-year-old book have to say today?” Everything. It’s authored by the eternal, living God. It is His eternal, living Word. These words are alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and are a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And so till heaven and earth pass, this Word shall abide. Every type will be fulfilled; every prophecy will be realized; every law will be verified.
And Jesus can’t get more specific than He does in the next statement. Look at it: “One jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law.” You know, when I was a little kid, I thought, “Well, that’s wonderful. But what in the world are those?”
Well, I can help you a little bit. “Jot” is really a representation of a Hebrew letter. In the Hebrew, there is a letter called “yodh” – Y-O-D-H if you want a transliteration. Yodh is similar to an apostrophe, that’s all, an apostrophe. It’s a letter, however. It’s pronounced as a “y” sound. And a yodh is the smallest letter. In the Greek language, the little, tiny “iota,” obviously coming from the same kind of root: iota – Greek students call a iota subscript, where you take an “i” out of a word, and for certain reasons in the Greek language, they drop it under another letter, and it appears as another little, tiny apostrophe. And what He’s saying is, “Not the tiniest Hebrew letter, not the tiniest Greek letter shall pass from this law, till all fulfilled.”
People say, “Well, we don’t have to believe in an inerrant, infallible Bible, that every word is inspired by God, do we?” Yes. In fact, every yodh and every iota. When God gave His Word in the original manuscripts, every jot was inspired by Him.
And then He talks about a “tittle.” This is interesting. I don’t know how to show you what it is other than saying it’s a keraia, which is a very small item. I guess the best illustration would be, it’s the difference between an “e” and an “f.” An “f” is a line with two lines on it running perpendicular to it, and an “e” has three. And that last, little, tiny thing makes the difference between an “e” and an “f.”
And that’s what Jesus is saying. That little tiny keraia, that little serif that is on the tag-end of a letter that separates, if you will, a bet from a kaf. A bet looks like this, like a “c.” A kaf looks the same way, only it’s got a little, tiny line on the edge of it. And He’s saying, “Not one little, tiny serif that distinguishes a bet from a kaf will be removed from My law until the whole thing is fulfilled. Did I come to set it aside the law of God? Not on your life.”
Is this still God’s authoritative Word? Is it still God’s Holy Word for us? You’d better believe it. Jesus fulfilled part of it, but God’s moral law has never been set aside; and it’ll all be there until it’s fulfilled, and it’ll all be there till heaven and earth pass away. Conversely, folks, heaven and earth isn’t going to pass away till every single element in this Book is fulfilled.
Boy, it’s exciting to know the history of the world – isn’t it? – to know where it’s going and how it’s going to end up. Jesus takes His position on the side of verbal, inerrant inspiration. And I don’t know how anyone who’s a Bible-believing Christian who understands the authority of Jesus Christ could take any other position.
As He was speaking right there, some parts of the Old Testament had already been fulfilled, such as His incarnation and His birth. Other parts were being fulfilled, such as His prophetic ministry. Some parts were yet to be fulfilled, such as His death, resurrection, and final return in glory. But nothing was going to change from this Book and its binding character on the heart of man until every single jot and tittle was fulfilled.
And by the way, “fulfilled”’ here is a different word than it is in verse 17. Here it means “come to pass, come to pass.” It’s all going to come to pass. Dr. Arthur Pink writes, “Everything in the law must be fulfilled, not only its prefigurations and prophecies, but its precepts and penalty; fulfilled first personally and vicariously by and upon the surety; fulfilled second and evangelically in and by His people; fulfilled third in the doom of the wicked who shall experience its awful curse forever and ever. Instead of Christ’s being opposed to the law of God, He came here to magnify it, to render it honorable; and rather than His teachings being subversive of the law of God, they confirmed it, and enforced it.”
Now this brings up a vital subject with which I’ll close tonight, and that is Christ’s view of Scripture. To me, this is the only argument about the Bible. I only want to know one thing. You ask me if the Bible is true, just tell me what Jesus believed, because I’ll believe what He believed. He’s God. He is the single authority of the universe. All authority was committed unto Him. Whatever He speaks is absolute truth. You tell me what Jesus believed about the Bible, and I’ll tell you what I believe about the Bible, because I’m lining up with Him. That’s why it’s so important to know His view of Scripture; and Jesus gives His view right here. He says, “Not one jot or tittle shall in any way pass from the law, till all comes to pass.
You know, as you study the Bible, you see how Jesus believed in the Scripture. Sixty-four times He referred to the Old Testament always as authoritative. He said, “The Scripture cannot be” – what? – “broken.” Listen to me – You don’t need to look it up, we’re going to just keep moving, so hang on – the Scripture cannot be broken. You know, let me show you how much of a commitment He had to Scripture.
Look with me for just a quick moment at Matthew 22. And I don’t have time to give you all the illustrations I have here, but I’ll pick a few. Matthew 22:32. And I’ll just show you one simple illustration.
It says this, Matthew 22:32. Well, we’ve got to go back, we’ve got to get the whole story, verse 23. All right, we’ll go back to verse 23. “The same day the Sadducees came, and they said, of course, ‘We have a question.’” They didn’t believe in the resurrection, so they didn’t believe in future life. “They said, ‘Master, Moses said if a man die and has no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother.’” In other words, if you make a commitment to a woman and you die, who’s going to take care of the woman? Well, the brother moves in and takes over.
“Now there were with us seven brothers. The first one, he had married a wife, die; and having no issue, left his wife unto his brother.” In other words, there was no son to care for her, so the brother cared for her. “So the second brother married her, and didn’t have any children, and he died; and then all the way down. And, finally the seventh guy,” – six guys die – “the seventh brother marries her.” And by that time, I’d be saying, “Let me out of this deal; there’s something wrong here: seven guys in a row have dying.” But anyway, “Last of all, the woman died,” – which was peace for everyone, I suppose. Verse 28 says, “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife shall she be?” Then they thought, “Boy, we really asked one now. You get us out of this one, Jesus. Let’s see how You handle it.”
He answered and said unto them, “You err, not knowing the Scripture, nor the power of God. You’re ignorant of the Scripture. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.” Angels don’t marry, and neither is there marriage after death. “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have you not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying,” – and here He quotes the Old Testament, and He says, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”
You say, “What do you mean here?” The whole argument is based upon one tense: “I am.” And what He’s saying is this: “You must believe in resurrection,” – why? – “because God said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were’ – what? – ‘dead.’” He was still their God. It was an “I am” relationship, not an “I was.”
Now tell me you can tamper with the language. You can’t. Jesus bases His entire argument on just that one tense to show that they’re still alive. “I am their God; they’re still alive.” That’s reason enough to believe in resurrection.
You know, He was divine, He was God, and He placed His words, and the Old Testament as equals. In one place, He said, “Heaven and earth will pass away before God’s law passes away.” That’s in our text in Matthew 5. In Matthew 24, He said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away.” In other words, He equated His words with the Word of God as being absolutely authoritative and divine.
As you study the New Testament, you find that Jesus supports the Old Testament. Scholars, you know, they say the Old Testament’s full of myths. I remember the guy who, I read his book. He wrote about Jonah, and he said that Jonah wasn’t swallowed by a great fish; it was a dinghy tied to the boat, and the name of the dinghy was “The Great Fish.” And all that the writer is trying to say is they put Jonah in the dinghy. That’s the whole thing. And, of course, who ever heard of a dinghy that vomited? I don’t know how he gets out of that. But, anyway, that was the story.
You know, when you read all that kind of stuff in seminary and so forth, and yet as you read the New Testament, you find that Jesus confirms the Old Testament. The Old Testament isn’t a myth. Do you know that Jesus confirmed the Old Testament truths again, and again, and again?
People say, “Well, Adam was a myth, and Eve was a myth, it’s just a symbolic story, and this is what they teach people seminary.” And yet our Lord Jesus Christ confirmed the Old Testament events. He confirmed the identity of Adam and Eve. Jesus Himself confirmed the creation account. He confirmed the standard of marriage as God designed it in the garden in Matthew chapter 19. He confirmed the murder of Abel in Luke 11. He confirmed Noah and the flood in Matthew 24. He confirmed Abraham and his faith in John 8. He confirmed Sodom and Lot in Luke 17. He confirmed the call and the law of Moses in Mark 12. He confirmed the manna from heaven in John 6. He confirmed the brazen serpent in John 3, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
He established in His own mind and in the hearing of those who listened a reaffirmation of the authority and the accuracy of the Old Testament. And so we say we believe in the Old Testament because, in its very words, Jesus depended on it. For one whole statement in answer to the Sadducees, He depended on a tense in the Hebrew language. He placed His own words, divine words, as equivalent of Scripture, thereby guaranteeing their divinity as well. He confirmed the events of the Old Testament.
I’ll add another thing. He established that the Scripture was sufficient to save. In fact, you’ll remember when He was talking about Lazarus and the rich man, and the rich man said, “Send somebody back” – in Luke 16 – “to tell my brothers.” And He says, “If they didn’t believe Moses and the prophets, they’re not going to believe though somebody is risen from the dead.” In other words, the Old Testament is sufficient to save somebody from entering into that place of torment. He believed in the sufficiency of the Old Testament.
He also believed that Scripture would free men from error. He said – do you remember; I read it earlier: “You err, not knowing the Scriptures.” And in Mark 12:24, the same story is recorded again. He says, “Do you not therefore err because you know not the Scriptures?” In other words, our Lord depended on a tense in the Hebrew language for an interpretation. Our Lord said that everything that He saw in the Old Testament was true as it was recorded. Our Lord established the sufficiency of Scripture to save. Our Lord said the Scripture would free men from error. And so He established His view of Scripture.
And by the way, in Matthew chapter 4, our Lord even used Scripture in His own defense, didn’t He. Satan came to Him three times, and three times tempted Him in three different areas, and each time, Jesus answered with what? “It is written.” And He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Deuteronomy 6:3. He didn’t have to quote the Bible, He could have made up new verses. What was He doing? He was letting you in on a pattern of how to deal with temptation: deal with it with Scripture, the authoritative, powerful Word of God.
I recently heard a preacher say, “One thing I’ve learned is that when you get in the pulpit, you’ve got to somehow communicate without using the Bible, because the Bible turns people off.” And so he said, “I’ve spent a long time developing the ability to communicate to people without ever using the Bible.” He said, “I started out in my ministry saying, ‘This verse says this, and this verse says this,’ and I finally realized that wouldn’t get me anywhere. Now I say it in my own way, and people accept it.”
You want to know something? His words are impotent. God’s Word is powerful, right? He’s missed it. When Jesus dealt with Satan, He didn’t even put it in His own words – which would have been divine – He quoted Scripture.
After His temptation, our dear Lord went to Nazareth; and when He got to Nazareth, He began His formal ministry, and He went into the synagogue, and the first thing He did when He got in the synagogue was open a Bible, an Old Testament text; and this is what He read: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” And He closed the Book, and gave it to the minister, and sat down.
You know what He did the first time He ever gave a sermon in His own town? He didn’t do anything but read Isaiah chapter 61, verses 1 and 2, and sat down, and they were dumbfounded; they were smitten. The Word of God was powerful.
Some time later in His ministry, John the Baptist’s disciples came to Him, and they said, “Art Thou He that should come, or do we look for another?” And He stood right there and quoted Isaiah all over again right at them. He depended on the Scripture.
When He went, in Mark 11, to cleanse the temple, He did it in the authority of the Old Testament Scripture. When He went to approach to die on the cross, He did it on the basis that the Old Testament Scripture said He had to die. The point is this, people: If you’re going to accept Jesus Christ, and you’re going to believe that He’s God, then you’d better listen to what He says about the Bible. And what He says about the Bible is that it’s binding on you, and you’d better live according to its principles. If you want to be a kingdom citizen, and you want to have kingdom character and give a kingdom testimony, you’re going to have to obey the manifesto of the King, see. God hasn’t set aside His standards. Our dear Lord is the theme of all the Scripture. His authority is absolute.
One day, “The disciples were there with Him, and the crowd had left, and He said to them, ‘Will you also go away?’ – in John 6 – “And Peter says, ‘To whom shall we go? Thou and Thou alone hast the words of eternal life.” Do you believe that? I believe that. I believe everything Jesus said is authoritative; and if He said this Scripture is binding, this Scripture is true, that’s enough for me. He is the absolute authority.
People say, “Well, there are errors in the Bible, though.” You want to know something? Listen to this. That presents a three-fold possibility. If there are errors in the Old Testament, if there are errors in the Scripture, number one: there are errors, but Jesus didn’t know it. Right? That means He’s ignorant. If He’s ignorant, He’s not God, right?
Or, secondly, “There are errors, and He did know it.” What does that mean? He’s dishonest. Third possibility: there are no errors. If He knew it and hid it, He was a hypocrite. If He didn’t know it, He wasn’t God.
The other day a reporter said to me, “Do you really believe the Bible is literally true?” I said, “Jesus Christ, God in human flesh, believed it was literally true. That’s good enough for me.”
What did it mean to that audience on the hillside that day in Galilee? It meant there was a King there, and there was a kingdom, and those in that kingdom had a certain kind of character – unique in the world; not like the dark, decadent society around them; and they would be characterized by a genuine, internal righteousness; and that that righteousness would be based on an inviolable, unchanging law of God called the Holy Scripture; not the phony, righteousness of Pharisaic externalism based on the traditions of men. That’s essentially what He was saying.
“What does it means to you?” Means to me what it means to Isaiah. Isaiah 1:20 says, “The mouth of the Lord has spoken it.” Then if the mouth of the Lord has spoken it, that’s good enough for me.
Now I’m going to close with this. What do you do about it? I’m going to give you five things quickly. Number one: If not one jot or tittle shall any way pass from this law, till all be fulfilled, then, first of all, you’d better receive it as the Word of God. James 1:21 says, “Receive the word, the engrafted word.” If it is the Word of God, you’d better receive it. You’d better receive it because of the infinite majesty of the author. You’d better receive it because of Christ’s authoritative statements about it. You’d better receive it because of the price God paid to get it to you. You’d better receive it because it’s the only standard of truth, and joy, and blessing, and salvation. You’d better receive it because it’s the only necessary, essential voice to listen to. And you’d better receive it, because not to receive it will bring judgment.
Secondly: Honor it. Honor it. God says, “I have exalted My Word above My Name.” Psalm 119:103 says, “How sweet are Thy words.” Do you have an attitude of love and honor to this Book, or do you always chafe under it? Does it always threaten you? Or do you lovingly submit to the sweetness of its words?
Spurgeon said, “They called George Fox a Quaker. Why? Because when he spoke, he would quake exceedingly through the force of the truth he so thoroughly apprehended. Martin Luther, who never feared the face of a man, yet declared that when he stood up to preach, he often felt his knees knock together under a sense of great responsibility.”
Spurgeon went on to say, “It were better to break stones on a road than to be a preacher, unless God had given the Holy Spirit to sustain him. The heart and soul of a man who speaks for God will know no ease; for he hears in his ears that warning admonition, ‘If the watchman warn them not, they perish. But their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands.’” Spurgeon was saying, “You’d better this Book, and you’d better commit yourself to this Book if it’s true.”
Spurgeon went on to say, “Is the infallible revelation of the infallible Jehovah to be moderated, to be shaped, to be toned down to the fancies and fashions of the hour? God forbid us if we ever alter His Word!” You’d better honor it. You’d better get it up there where it belongs.
Thirdly: Study it. Second Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to show yourselves approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth.” You’d better study the Word of God. Jeremiah says, “Thy words were found, and I did eat them.” You’d better take it in and make it your own, allowing, as Colossians 3:16 says, “the word of Christ to dwell in you richly.”
Fourth: Defend it. Defend it. Jude 3 says, “Earnestly contend for the faith, once for all delivered to the saints.” Look, uses the word epagōnizomai, an intense kind of agonizing. You know, I go through that all the time, defending the faith, fighting for the integrity of the Word of God, fight for its purity and its authority against the onslaughts of those who would undermine it.
Spurgeon says, “The everlasting gospel is worth preaching. Even if one stood on a burning fagot and addressed the crowd from a pulpit of flames, the truths revealed in Scripture are worth living for, and they’re worth dying for. I count myself thrice happy” – Spurgeon said – “to bear reproach for the sake of the faith. It is an honor of which I feel myself to be unworthy. And yet most truly I can say the words of our hymn,” – and then he quoted a hymn – ‘Shall I, to soothe the unholy throng, soften Thy truths, and smooth my tongue, to gain earth’s gilded toys; or flee the cross, endured, my God, by Thee? The love of Christ doth me constrain to seek the wandering souls of men; with cries, entreaties, tears to save, to snatch them from the fiery wave. My life, my blood I here present, if for Thy truth they may be spent. Fulfill Thy sovereign counsel, Lord; Thy will be done, Thy Name adored.’”
And, lastly: Proclaim it. Preach it. Second Timothy 4:2 says, “Preach the Word.” Spurgeon said, “I cannot speak out my whole heart on this theme which is so dear to me, that I would stir you all up to be instant in season and out of season in telling out the gospel message. Especially repeat such a word as this, ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Whisper it in the ear of the sick, shout it in the corner of the streets, write it on your tablet, send it forth from the press. But everywhere, let this be your great motive and warrant you preach the gospel, because the mouth of the Lord has spoken it. Waft, waft ye winds, His story, and you, ye waters roll, till like a sea of glory it spreads from pole to pole.”
Beloved, aren’t you glad we don’t follow cunningly devised fables? Let’s pray.
Father, thank You again tonight for Your Word. Help us to be willing to receive it, to honor it, to study it, to defend it, and to proclaim it, for one who is so worthy, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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