21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness’” (Matthew 7:21–23, NKJV)!
Self-identifying as a Christian does not make it so. The identifying mark of one who enters the kingdom of heaven is doing the will of God the Father who is in heaven. Self-identifying as a prophet of Christ does not make it so. Jesus has just warned of false prophets whose fruit is against the word of God (Matt. 7:15-20). Self-identifying as a miracle worker does not make it so. The incident of the sons of Sceva reminds us that only Christ’s apostles and prophets worked miracles (Mark 16:17-20; Acts 19:11-16; Heb. 2:3-4). Self-identifying as a wonderworker does not make it so. Simon amazed many Samaritans with his sorcery until Philip worked miracles by the power of God (Acts 8:5-13). Jesus does not receive those who “practice lawlessness” (iniquity). We do the will of the Father by looking into and living by His law, the “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:23-25). Let us carefully do God’s word and not be among those who identify with Jesus but do not obey God’s word (James 1:23-24). Only sadness and sorrow await those who practice lawlessness and hear Christ say, “Depart from Me!”
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NKJV).
Kingdom citizens are the Father’s children who receive “good things” from His hand in answer to our childlike prayers (Matt. 7:7-11). Whether we are falsely judged or suffer any other ill-treatment, God’s children do not “return evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, blessing” (1 Pet. 3:9). The Law and the Prophets taught Israel to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18; Isa. 1:21-23). Solomon’s proverb reminded them (and us) not to deal with others out of vengeance or to “settle the score.” He wrote, “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’” (Prov. 24:29). This “Golden Rule” urges every disciple of Jesus to look inward before acting outwardly. Our words and treatment of others should reflect how we want others to treat us. For example, our judgments will be righteous, not hypocritical (Matt. 7:1-5). We will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us for our faith (Matt. 5:43-48). We will turn the other cheek and not retaliate (Matt. 5:38-42). We will recall our Father treats us with all kindness, mercy, and love. And in turn, we will reflect the nature of our Father by giving “good things” to others (Matt. 7:11-12).
“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, NKJV).
Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, which included preaching the gospel of the kingdom (of which His sermon on the mount is typical, Matt. 5:17-19; 4:23; 5:1). In Matthew 5:20-48, He contrasted the righteousness of the kingdom of heaven with the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. Jesus did far more than just teaching Jews how to be faithful Jews. He taught Jews (and subsequently, Gentiles, Matt. 28:18-20) how to be “perfect” (complete) as citizens of the kingdom, His church. Today’s verse speaks explicitly to the nature of our love toward others, whether friend and foe (Matt. 5:43-47). In the Scriptures, the word “perfect” (teleios) means “complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.)” (G5046). The Father is complete in every respect, including His love (Matt. 5:45). He is the ultimate example for His children’s character and conduct. Would you please notice we must choose to “be perfect” like the Father? Jesus calls us to willingly choose to be like the Father in word and deed toward (1) Our brother (Matt. 5:21-26), (2) Lust (Matt. 5:27-30), (3) One’s spouse (Matt. 5:31-32), (4) Our integrity (Matt. 5:33-37), (5) Retaliation (Matt. 5:38-42), and (6) Our love of others (Matt. 5:43-47). May we devote ourselves daily to this worthy endeavor.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also (Matthew 5:38–39, NKJV).”
The scribes and Pharisees perverted the Law’s stated penalty against crime by turning it into their justification to return in kind when personally wronged (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:20; Deut. 19:21). The Law’s just punishment became their excuse to retaliate against others out of personal vengeance. Thus, they misapplied the Law’s prescribed treatment of wrong-doers while ignoring the Law also said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord (Lev. 19:18).” Jesus rejected their manipulation of the Law of God to claim personal retaliation. The righteousness of the kingdom compels us to do the following: (1) Be generous when others mistreat us (do not resist, turn the other cheek, relinquish instead of litigating, go the extra mile, and “give to him who asks,” Matt. 5:39-42). (2) Help those who seek our assistance (“from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away,” Matt. 5:42). Our righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). So, seek peace and pursue it (1 Pet. 3:11). Love your neighbors instead of retaliating against them. Be a peacemaker, and be blessed as a child of God (Matt. 5:9).
24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin (Romans 7:24–25, NKJV).
In Romans 7:14-25, the apostle Paul uses himself to portray the person who is under law, under sin. He is lost, outside of Christ, being ruled by sin. His spiritual condition is “wretched” (miserable, afflicted, impure). He is shrouded in spiritual death as he serves sin (Rom. 7:24; 6:16, 23). This condition describes every person lost and outside of Christ (Rom. 3:23). Who can rescue the wretched person from the bondage of sin’s rule and the death it brings? (1) The sinner cannot save himself. He is dead because of his sin (Rom. 7:9). (2) Another sinner cannot save a sinner. Both are guilty before God and worthy of death (Rom. 6:23). (3) The law of God that the sinner violated cannot save him. It indicts and convicts him as guilty (Rom. 7:13-14; 3:19-20). (4) More sin will not save the sinner. Giving in to sin only increases guilt, imprisoning the soul in evil (Rom. 7:14-21). (5) Only Jesus Christ our Lord can deliver us from the body of death caused by sin (Rom. 7:25; 5:6-11; Acts 4:12). We escape sin’s condemnation and obtain life in Christ by choosing not to “walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1-2). Christ’s gospel is God’s power to save the wretched soul from sin’s guilt, pain, and death (Rom. 1:16-17). The gospel calls us to believe, repent, and be baptized into Christ to escape the misery and eternal death caused by sin (Rom. 6:3-11; Heb. 5:9).
5 Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, NKJV)
Through Moses, the Lord repeatedly exhorted Israel “to be careful to observe” His commandments (Deut. 5:1, 32; 6:3). Was careful obedience only reserved for Israel because God commanded them from Mt. Sinai (Deut. 4:13-14)? No, the Lord God has always expected people to obey His commands, promising blessings to the obedience and warning the disobedient of punishment (Gen. 2:16-17; Exod. 20:5-6). God’s desire and expectation that we obey Him remains true under the new covenant, the gospel of Christ. For instance, Jesus expects those who call Him “Lord, Lord” to do what He says (Luke 6:46). We must do the will of the Father to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 7:21). Christ is the “author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9). But “to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Rom. 2:8-9). No wonder Paul commended Timothy for carefully following “good doctrine” from the apostle (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 3:10). God blesses obedience and punishes disobedience. This truth abides forever.
18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. (Hebrews 7:18–19, NKJV)
The “former commandment” is “the law” given at Mt. Sinai to Israel. God annulled (set aside, abolished) that law because it was powerless to perfect (complete) the one who comes to God. The law served its purpose of identifying sin (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:19). It sought to rein in Israel’s sinful conduct by teaching her holiness and the divine blessings that come from obeying God (Deut. 4:13-14; 8:1). But that covenant was temporary and “made nothing perfect” (Gal. 3:19-25). The law did not have the power to redeem souls from sin; it could not save the lost (Heb. 10:1-4, 11). It was a “shadow of the good things to come” in Jesus Christ (Heb. 10:1). Christ and His gospel (not the “former commandment”) bring a better hope to those who draw near to God for forgiveness. We dare not go back to the law of Moses to justify our worship and service to God today. To do so forfeits the grace that is in Christ (Gal. 5:3-4; 1:6-9). Remember, we are not saved by the “shadow” (the first covenant) but by the “substance” of the covenant of Christ (Heb. 10:1-4, 10-12).
7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. (Galatians 3:7–9, NKJV)
Keeping the law of Moses cannot save anyone from sin; it identifies one as a sinner (Gal. 3:10-12; Rom. 3:23). Salvation from sin comes “by the hearing of faith,” that is, by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:2, 5). Sinners hear that salvation comes by faith through the gospel, not through the law of Moses and its works. One’s faith is counted for righteousness by hearing, believing, and obeying the truth of the gospel of Christ (Gal. 3:1-2, 5-6). Before the law of Moses existed, gospel salvation “by the hearing of faith” was preached in the promise to Abraham: “In you all the nations shall be blessed” (3:8). This promised blessing is available in Christ. The gospel reveals the crucified Christ so we can receive the blessings of Abraham (Gal. 3:1, 13-14). The “blessing of Abraham” and “the promise of the Spirit through faith” is the salvation from sins preached to Abraham, fulfilled by Christ’s death, and heard in the gospel (Gal. 3:14, 2, 22-25). Every sinner who believes the gospel and obeys the truth is saved from sins, is a child of God, and an heir of the promise (Gal. 3:26-29). We preach the gospel of Christ so sinners can believe and obey the truth and be saved in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27).
8 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, 9 knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust. (1 Timothy 1:8–11, NKJV)
This passage identifies the “sound doctrine according to the glorious gospel” of God with the goodness of divine law. Law is “good” if we use it lawfully (v. 8). That statement probes our use of God’s law. If law can be used lawfully, then it can also be used unlawfully. God’s law identifies our sin against Him, and that is a good thing (Rom. 7:7, 12). But, law cannot save us from our sins (Rom. 3:19-20). So, the law teaches us we need deliverance from sin (Rom. 7:24). God provided Christ and His gospel to save us by grace through faith (Rom. 3:21-26). Today’s text teaches us God’s law restrains sin in our lives when we conform ourselves to it. That is how we use the law lawfully. Sadly, many twist God’s law to justify the very sins it identifies and condemns. Just look at the list of sins in verses 9-10. Religious people approve of many of them. That effort unlawfully uses God’s law. Law identifies us as sinners in need of salvation. It points us to the gospel for salvation so that Christians live by “the law of faith,” the glorious gospel preached by the apostles (Rom. 3:27-28).
22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:22–25, NKJV)
Scripture reveals a fundamental distinction between “the law” (of Moses) and “the faith” (the gospel) that “would afterward be revealed” in Christ. Failure to respect the “change of the law” results in many distortions of the gospel (Heb. 7:12; Gal. 1:6-7). The Galatians faced one such perversion of the gospel when some tried to bind circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (LOM) upon Gentiles for their salvation (Gal. 1:8-9; 5:1-6; 6:12-13). The LOM identified sin and confined its adherents (Israel) under sin (Heb. 10:4) while guiding them toward the promised blessings that would come “by faith in Jesus Christ” (v. 22; Rom. 1:16-17; 3:21-26). Now that Christ has come, His gospel provides the blessings of the promise; Redemption from sin. Now, no one is under the LOM; it served its purpose and has been removed (Col. 2:14). Therefore, we cannot revert to the Old Testament law to justify our religious beliefs and actions. To do so requires keeping “the whole law,” not just the part of it that suits our fancy (Gal. 5:3). Every attempt to use the LOM to justify oneself before God has the opposite effect; It separates that person from Christ (Gal. 5:4). Our “hope of righteousness” is “by faith” (the gospel), not by “the law” of Moses (Gal. 5:5-6).