New covenant – new Way

Everyone knows that the Christian Bible comprises two Covenants: the Old and the New. The Old concerns God’s covenant or sacred agreement with the Jewish nation, while the New supercedes that Old covenant: the New establishes different terms for a different people – a people drawn from every tribe and tongue and nation.

But as we noticed in our study of chapter one of Matthew’s Gospel, there remains a covenant people drawn out from all nations and that nation belongs to Christ. In the book of Revelation, that people is called the Bride of Christ, and the bride belongs to Christ by covenant which cannot be broken.

 We are in the fifth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Last week we introduced the entire discourse of the Sermon on the Mount in chapters 5, 6 and 7. But we also effectively covered the first 16 verses. A people with a recognisably different mindset and nationality.

This week we look at verse 17 following in order to see the way in which this New covenant of Christ is different from the Old. The first thing we must notice is this. Jesus says he has not come to destroy the Old [the law and the prophets] but to fulfill them ! Even more challenging, Jesus says that our righteousness must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees [verse 20].

From verse 21 Jesus then explains how this fulfillment happens – how it meets the conditions of the Old Testament and simultaneously reveals the terms of the New covenant [or Testament] he is now establishing.

As explained last week, this change concerns a mindset, a mentality – our entire attitude and view of the world is fundamentally different. That is apparent from the Beatitudes – the content of verses 3 to 12 of chapter 5.

Meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers, righteous. All of which is based on our awareness of our poverty of spirit – our inability out of our own human and fallen resources to in any way please or serve God.

We are to be like Jesus. We have a role model, not just a set of instructions to follow. And that is what he explains in the final verses of chapter 5.

Thou shalt not kill becomes dealing with the root of the problem – anger. Thou shalt not commit adultery becomes dealing with the root of adultery – lust. Swearing an oath is another outward act – but does it reflect the inner commitment ?

The establishment of Justice on fear of retribution [an eye for an eye..] becomes a refusal to act out of the same self preserving attitude. Instead we are to love our enemies, not exact retribution. We are to set an example of God’s sacrificial love.

But I say unto you,

  • Love your enemies

  • Bless them that curse you

  • Do good to them that hate you, and

  • Pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you

No Jesus says we are to be perfect, just as our Father in heaven is perfect. We are to be like God in all his amazing attributes of Grace – a Grace expressed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.

A religious ritual is no longer called for. A faithful following of Christ’s example is ! And the rest of the sermon on the mount in chapters 6 and 7 elaborates this. Indeed it highlights the practical problems that emerged with the Old Testament practice – the hypocrisy of human beings

By outward observation, human beings can make themselves look good to other human beings. But the problem of sin remains; the problems arising from sin remain; the issue is not dealt with until we go to the root. And that is what Jesus does.

When you give to charity, do it anonymously. When you pray,  or fast, do it privately. When you look at other people, don’t look at them judgementally and hypocritically ie holding up the impossible standard of perfection we expect from others but refuse to observe ourselves. No, says Jesus.

Look at yourself first. Sort your own failings out before you even begin to consider the issues in others.

Of course, Jesus knows this. That if we deal constantly with the hypocrisy in our own hearts, we will look on others with the same compassion he has for us; we will stop judging them, and start loving them, despite their faults.

Just like Jesus does for us…

And Jesus ends the Sermon on the Mount with this. Build your life on his teaching and example. That way lies wisdom for living this life. That way lies freedom from sin. But refuse his teaching and example, and our life in this world will resemble the house built on sand. When the pressures come, it collapses.

And we only have to look at the world today to see lives built on self, and on acquisition collapsing in misery, and even fiscal ruin.

Take Heed.

Christian Preacher

By Christianity

The personal icon photograph shows God's creation, the world. It reminds us that God is the Creator of all - the almighty, the all knowing and all present - the one who is most important of all. The one to whom we owe all, and the one to whom we will answer for all. The site's header image of the Bible [King James Authorised Version], a map, a light and a compass represent to us that God's word in the Bible is our spiritual map, illumination and guide through this life. Those who obey his teaching will know his presence and power - Gospel of John, chapter 14, verse 23

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