In the Old Testament, God gave Moses the Law–what we commonly refer to as the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, Jesus referred to the Ten Commandments during the Sermon on the Mount, but He began explaining them differently. The original purpose of the Law wasn’t to give people impossible standards to live by; it was to show the people they needed a Savior.
If we tried for even one day to live strictly and completely by the Ten Commandments, we’d fail. It’s impossible for us, as sinners, to live perfectly according to God’s standards. If the Law was the only way for us to be reconciled to God, we’d be separated from Him forever. God used the Law to show us that we can never come to Him through our own will, but over time, people began to see the Law as a list of ways they had to behave in order to be right with God. They refused to look at the sin in their lives and hearts that the Law exposed.
For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are (Romans 3:20 NLT).
Then Jesus shows up and starts talking about the Law in a completely new way. Matthew chapters 5-7 detail the Sermon on the Mount.
Here’s a summary of what the Law said vs. what Jesus said:
- Law – You shall not murder or you shall be liable to the court (Ex. 20:13). Jesus said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother ‘You idiot,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell” (Matt. 5:21-26).
In this context “brother” is a Greek word, Adelphos, meaning family, fellow countrymen, fellow human being or bother/sister in Christ–basically any person.
- Law – You shall not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14). Jesus said, “I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman (or man) with lust for her (him) has already committed adultery with her (him) in his (her) heart” (Matt. 5:27-30).
- Law – But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise (Ex. 21:23-25). Jesus said, “I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matt. 5:38-42).
- Law – You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord (Lev. 19:18). Jesus said, “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matt. 5:43-48).
By the time Jesus showed up on the scene, people had been treating the Law like physical actions that they should or shouldn’t do. Jesus turned their world upside down by telling them the Law was never really about actions; actions are just the result. The Law that Jesus spoke of has to do with what lives in our hearts.
You see girls, it’s one thing to be angry with someone but not physically murder them. Most of us can do that. I’ve been angry with my sisters many times, but both of them are still alive and according to the Law, I did what’s right by not killing my sisters. According to Jesus however, my anger with them makes me just as guilty as if I had murdered them. I’ve never ever physically cheated on my husband, but during a really hard time in our marriage, I thought about it–according to Jesus, that’s the same as if I’d actually done it.
This was always the purpose of the Law. The Law was meant to expose the motivations of our hearts. Once exposed, we submit those things to God and recognize that we can’t be righteous without Him. We ask Him to change us.
Girls, when was the last time you let God expose the motivations of your heart?
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).