Christ Contains the Law: insights from an early church leader on Matthew 5

While studying for my message at Eastbrook from this past weekend, “Real Righteousness,” I came across these words by an anonymous church father from homily 11 of an incomplete work on Matthew. I found these insights helpful in understanding how Christ does not abolish the Law but fulfills it. The author is commenting on the first of six examples by Jesus of true righteousness, here addressing anger and murder: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22).

This fulfilling of the law, depending on the circumstances, fell naturally into place. As Christ did and taught these things, he fulfilled the law–he did not do away with it. For Christ’ commandment is not contrary to the law but broader than the law. Christ’ commandment contains the law, but the law does not contain Christ’s commandment. Therefore whoever fulfills the commandments of Christ implicitly fulfills the commandments of hte law. For one who does not get angry is much less capable of killing. But on who fulfills what the law commands does not completely fulfill what Christ commands. Often a person will not kill because of the fear of reprisal, but he will get angry. Do you see then that the fulfilled law has the benefit of not being abolished? Consequently, without these commandments of Christ the commandments of the law cannot stand. For if the freedom to get angry is allowed, there are grounds for committing murder. For murder is generated by anger. Take away anger, and there will be no murder. Therefore whoever gets angry without cause commits murder with respect to the will, even if he does not actually do so out of fear of reprisal. The remorse may not be the same as if he had committed the deed, but such a sin matches the one who gets angry. Thus John in his canonical epistle says, ‘Everyone who hates his brother without cause is a murderer’ (1 John 3:15).

Consider the wisdom of Christ. Wanting to show that he is the God who once spoke in the law and who now commands by grace, he placed that commandment before all others in the law. And now he placed it at the beginning of his commandments. It was first written in the law: ‘You shall not murder’ (Exodus 20:13). He immediately begins with murder, so that through a harmony between commandments he is found to be the author of the law and of grace. ‘Everyone who is angry with his brother without cause shall be liable to judgment’ (Matthew 5:22). Therefore whoever gets angry with cause will not be liable. For if there is not anger, teaching will be of no use, nor will judgments be necessary, nor will criminal actions have to be held in restraint. Therefore just anger is the mother of discipline. Those who get angry with cause not only do not sin, but, unless they get angry, they do sin. Moreover, irrational patience sows the seeds of vice, nurtures negligence and encourages not only the wicked but also the good to do evil. Although a wicked person may be rebuked, he is not made to change his way; but a good person, unless he is rebuked, will come to ruin because evil rather than good prevails in his body. Anger with cause is not anger but judgment.”

[Anonymous, Incomplete work on Matthew, Homily 11, from Manlio Simonetti, ed., Matthew 1-13, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture 1a (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 101-102.]

Real Righteousness: the old and the new

This past weekend at Eastbrook, we continued our series “Becoming Real” on the Sermon on the Mount by looking at a very long portion of Scripture in Matthew 5:17-48. This long passage of teaching by Jesus looks at what it means to truly be righteous before God and in relation to others. Jesus has not come to abolish the Jewish Law but to fulfill it. He offers examples of what that looks like that are very important for us to consider.

You can view the message video and outline below. You can also view the entire “Becoming Real” series here, as well as the devotional that accompanies the series here. Join us for weekend worship in-person or remotely via Eastbrook at Home.


“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  (Matthew 5:17)

Jesus’ Arrival and the Time of Fulfillment (5:17-19)

  • Jesus and fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets
  • The continuing value of the Law and the Prophets
  • Real righteousness in the time of fulfillment

Different Pathways of Righteousness (5:20)

  • What is righteousness?
  • Moving from exterior to interior (Ezekiel 36:24-28)
  • A contrast between:
    • The old, deficient righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law
    • The new, surpassing righteousness of Jesus and His disciples

Six Examples of Real Righteousness (5:21-47)

Theme & text“You have heard it was said…”“But I say to you…”
Murder & Anger
(5:21-26)
Don’t murderDon’t be angry toward others; instead seek reconciliation
Adultery & Lust
(5:27-30)
Don’t have sexual intercourse outside of marriageDon’t look at others with lust in your heart
Divorce
(5:31-32)
If divorcing, give the necessary certificateDon’t divorce in this way
Oaths & Vows
(5:33-37)
Don’t break oaths or vows used to convince othersDon’t use oaths or vows at all; just speak the truth about things
Retaliation
(5:38-42)
Repay injuries on par with what has been inflictedInstead of harm, help the one who inflicts harm on you
Love for Enemies (5:43-48)Love neighbors and hate enemiesLove and pray for your enemies

Living as Disciples of Jesus with Real Righteousness (5:48)

  • Disciples’ vision: the incarnate righteousness in Jesus the Messiah
  • Disciples’ power: the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit
  • Disciples’ goal: the completeness (perfection) of God’s character

Dig Deeper

This week dig deeper into this section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in one or more of the following ways:

  • Consider memorizing Matthew 5:17, 20, or 48 this week.
  • Take some time to prayerfully consider one or more of Jesus’ examples of surpassing righteousness. Let God search your heart and life about this. Reach out to a friend to discuss what you’re learning. Perhaps you could pray for one another about this.
  • Consider reading Dallas Willard’s article, “How Does a Disciple Live?” or his outstanding book The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God

The Weekend Wanderer: 20 June 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


black anger“What the Bible Has to Say About Black Anger” – Here is Esau McCaulley in The New York Times connecting the psalms and the Cross of Christ with this present moment: “For Christians, rage (Psalm 137) must eventually give way to hope (Isaiah 49). And we find the spiritual resources to make this transition at the cross. Jesus could have called down the psalms of rage upon his enemies and shouted a final word of defiance before he breathed his last. Instead he called for forgiveness: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing,’ he says in Luke 23.”


N T Wright“Undermining Racism: Reflections on the ‘black lives matter’ crisis” – Here is a reflection by N. T. Wright on the current crisis of racial justice. The basic summary from Tom: “The churches are in the wrong, not because they haven’t obeyed the politically correct agenda, but because they haven’t obeyed their own foundation charter.” I encourage you to dig into this insightful take from one of the best New Testament scholars and biblical theologians of our day.


Robert Larry“These Are My Reactions” – A couple weeks ago, a friend and former ministry resident at Eastbrook Church, Robert Larry, shared some of his thoughts with me on what it’s like to be a black man and Christian at this time in our nation. After sharing those thoughts with me, I asked him if he would be willing to share it with a broader audience, which he agreed to do. After yesterday’s celebration of Juneteenth, I hope Robert’s words inspire us to think, listen to one another, and grow toward greater authentic unity as the body of Christ.


alan jacobs“On Misunderstanding Critical Theory” – One of the more heated debates within the recent conversations about racial justice, LGBTQ+ equality, and much more relates to the domain of what is known as critical theory. Some will utilize critical theory to question some of the basic elements of societal structures, while others will criticize the use of critical theory as self-undermining and antithetical to rationality. Alan Jacobs, author of numerous books including the pertinent How to Think: A Survival Guide for a World at Odds (which I highly recommend), has helpfully written about critical theory on his blog over the past month. I’d encourage you to take a read of these posts, which I found insightful:


Andrew Sullivan - debate“Is There Still Room for Debate?” – Andrew Sullivan enters into the difficult, if not disappearing ground, of public conversation over contentious issues. In past days, I have increasingly wondered if it is possible to have conversation and debates over difficult issues. It is something I have been considering deeply since reading Jacobs’ book How to Think (see above), as well as Christopher Smith’s book How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church. I ask myself both in regards to society and the church, “Do we even know how to talk anymore?” Sullivan makes an interesting attempt at addressing this flashpoint issue amidst flashpoint issues.


Supreme Court“Supreme Court rules that federal law protects LGBTQ persons from employment discrimination” – There has been a lot of attention to the recent Supreme Court ruling related to employment discrimination against individuals within the LGBTQ community. Here is a quick summary from RNS on the case and ruling. You may also want to read Russell Moore’s take, “After the Bostock Supreme Court Case,” and Daniel Bennett’s take, “LGBT Rights Ruling Isn’t the Beginning of the End for Religious Liberty.”


Screen Shot 2020-06-19 at 6.57.24 AM“Middle East Christians Grapple with Apocalyptic Pandemic” – From Christianity Today: “Imad Shehadeh sensed an apocalyptic felt need. As chatter increased in the Arab world over the soaring coronavirus death tallies in China and Iran, the president of Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary (JETS) in Amman began preaching on eschatology in lockdown. ‘The coronavirus could qualify as one of the calamities that point to the end times, but could also just be a passing plague,’ he said in a widely shared video series posted in March.”


Music: Wilco, “Love Is Everywhere,” from Ode to Joy

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 May 2020

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.


Zoom drain“The reason Zoom calls drain your energy” – Those of us participating in online web conference calls know that feeling of coming to the end of the day and wondering what happened. We didn’t really do that much, but we feel so drained. Is it because we are staring at screens for so long, because of bad body posture, or something else? That is exactly what Manyu Jiang explores in this very helpful and timely article.


Body of Work“A Body of Work” – If that previous article struck a chord with you, then you should really read Dr. Curt Thompson’s reflections on the same topic, but with additional theological and spiritual perspectives on life with God within the body with insights from interpersonal neurobiology. “The fact that our bodies do so much work that we do not consciously regulate reminds us that they are not mere extensions of our ‘real’ selves, as if who we really are is reducible to some private, internal collection of thoughts and emotions. That notion is a product of modernity, which would have us believing that our bodies, like the rest of creation, are things that we own, and therefore things we can manipulate for our own purposes, rather than gifts that we have been given to steward without our having any say in the matter. Gifts whose mere presence in the world are able to offer light and healing without our even being aware of it—until we no longer have access to that very presence.” If there is a must-read article in this edition of “The Weekend Wanderer” it is probably this one.


Trump-Evangelical-GettyImages-1192031829-780-x-508“Who Defines Evangelicalism? An Interview with Mark Noll” – I know, I know, you may be tired of articles about the definition of evangelicalism, but this one is different. This interview of Mark Noll by Eric Miller involves one of the preeminent historians of evangelicalism in this much-discussed subject while also addressing a recent book he helped to edit on the topic, Evangelicals: Who They Have Been, Are Now, and Could Be.. Noll was a history professor and authored the book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind when I was a student at Wheaton College, before he went on to teach at Notre Dame. There are few voices on evangelical history so respected in the broader culture and within evangelicalism as Noll.


Bruce Fields“Remembering Bruce Fields” – I did not know Bruce Fields personally, but I wish that I did after reading this remembrance from my friend, Vince Bacote. “Though he is no longer with us, there is still much to learn from him. Bruce was a highly reflective and humble man. He had tremendous knowledge but his discourse never laid an emphasis on how much he knew. Rather, what I picked up from him was a perpetual state of inquiry. He never hesitated to share his convictions but seemed aware that there was always much more to be known; he wanted to tread the academic path with curiosity, always seeking to learn more. He had a learner’s mindset and patience with the process.”


117097“How I Cured My Monday Hangover and Summer Slump” – A lot of pastors take Monday off to rest after a full weekend of ministry. I tried that for awhile, but found that I usually spent most Mondays rethinking everything from the weekend of ministry, leaving me with a distinctly sour state of mind. Before the pandemic, Friday was my usual day off, helping me feel like I had more of a normal weekend. Now, nothing is really normal, so we may need other help. I enjoyed J. R. Briggs’ reflections on natural body rhythms, seasons, and how that impacts our lives.


Screen Shot 2020-05-01 at 1.51.52 PM“Where to Look for New Life” – Wesley Hill writes a beautiful reflection on Holy Week, Easter, the New Testament, Philippians, and the kingdom of God in the midst of the pandemic. “According to the New Testament, the inbreaking kingdom of God isn’t only discernible in the moments of sunshine — the moments when the blind receive sight, the lepers are cleansed, and the poor have good news preached to them. It is equally discernible when those who face evil’s icy blasts are not undone by them but press through them in the power of Jesus’s indestructible risen life.”

 


 

Music: Jonathan McReynolds, “Make Room,” from Make Room

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]

The Weekend Wanderer: 2 March 2019

The Weekend Wanderer” is a weekly curated selection of news, stories, resources, and media on the intersection of faith and culture for you to explore through your weekend. Wander through these links however you like and in any order you like.

5491.thumb“The Future of Church-Race Relations” – I mentioned this interview of Jemar Tisby by Wesley Hill in passing last weekend, but returned to it again this week. I just cannot recommend it enough. Speaking of his book, The Color of Compromise, Tisby says in this interview: “Part of the genesis of this book was going to spaces where very well-meaning Christians would say, ‘Yes, we’re for racial reconciliation, yes we’re for diversity,’ but then not much would change….We have to take this as a foundational problem in the church and in the nation. I hope that the book will help to convey the urgency of the racial issues in America.” I couldn’t agree more.

 

Joseph Kim“How I Escaped from North Korea” – This testimonial from Joseph Kim gives an inside look at the challenges of life in North Korea, and the powerful role of Chinese Church in shining the light of Christ within that land. “In some ways, I imagine growing up in North Korea is like growing up anywhere else. I had a father and mother who rarely failed to show me love, and my older sister looked after me constantly. I caught dragonflies with friends and waited with excitement for cartoons to come on TV. Then, in 1995, the worst of the Great Famine descended on the land, and the privileges of my childhood were stripped away…”

 

tim-keller“Tim Keller on Changing the Culture without Being Colonized by It” – In this brief video, Tim Keller talks about the difference between pre-Christian, Christendom, and post-Christian contexts. “The West has taken over a lot of Christian ideas but taken them to an extreme. So, for example, the importance of human rights and doing justice has been turned into an extreme individualism. Because of these overlaps, a Christian can easily fall into getting co-opted by that individualism.”

 

89653“United Methodists Vote to Keep Traditional Marriage Stance” – “After days of passionate debate, deliberation, and prayer—and years of tension within the denomination—The United Methodist Church (UMC) voted Tuesday to maintain its traditional stance against same-sex marriage and non-celibate gay clergy, bolstered by a growing conservative contingent from Africa.” You can also read a more detailed log of what was actually up for debate and what was actually passed at the 2019 General Convention at John Lomperis’ blog.

 

anger“Anger Can Be Contagious – Here’s How To Stop The Spread” – Allison Aubrey explores the power of anger and how easy it spreads. “Even if you’re not aware of it, it’s likely that your emotions will influence someone around you today. This can happen during our most basic exchanges, say on your commute to work. ‘If someone smiles at you, you smile back at them,’ says sociologist Nicholas Christakis of Yale University. ‘That’s a very fleeting contagion of emotion from one person to another.’ But it doesn’t stop there. Emotions can spread through social networks almost like the flu or a cold. And, the extent to which emotions can cascade is eye-opening.”

 

moral outrage“The Case for Being Skeptical of Moral Outrage” – On that same theme, Scott Koenig talks about healthy skepticism related to moral outrage. “Moral outrage is the powerful impulse we feel to condemn bad behavior, and it serves the important role of holding wrongdoers accountable and reinforcing social norms. Yet moral outrage, at least on Twitter and other similar platforms, appears no more effective at reinforcing social norms than it is at driving people to theatrically overreact to the behavior of strangers. After all, it’s hard to see how things like doxxing minors or throwing shaving blades down the toilet, in protest of an earnest Gillette ad on “toxic masculinity,” help uphold ethical standards.”

 

89493“Get Close to Refugees, and Let Love Grow” – Kelley Nikondeha reviews two new books on connecting with refugees, You Welcomed Me: Loving Refugees and Immigrants Because God First Loved Us by Kent Annan and Once We Were Strangers: What Friendship with a Syrian Refugee Taught Me about Loving My Neighbor by Shawn Smucker. She writes: “We not only need but also want to have better conversations about immigrants. We want to hear the clear instruction of Scripture regarding refugees. We want the opportunity to wrestle together about how to welcome strangers, even as we remain vigilant about possible dangers.”

 

Bill Hybels

“Willow Creek Investigation: Allegations Against Bill Hybels Are Credible” – Here’s an update at Christianity Today on a story that I’ve been following in regards to Bill Hybels and Willow Creek. “An independent investigation has concluded that the sexual harassment allegations that led to Bill Hybels’s resignation last year are credible, based on a six-month investigation into the claims against the senior pastor and into Willow Creek Community Church (WCCC) and the Willow Creek Association (WCA).” You can read the entire 17-page report here.

 

mix tape“It’s cool to spool again as the cassette returns on a wave of nostalgia” – Those of us who are old enough may remember making mix tapes for friends back in the day. Well, the word on the street is that cassettes are making a comeback. “The cassette, long consigned to the bargain bin of musical history, is staging a humble comeback. Sales have soared in the last year – up 125% in 2018 on the year before – amounting to more than 50,000 cassette albums bought in the UK, the highest volume in 15 years.” Is this for real? Maybe.

 

Music: Ólafur Arnalds performing on NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concert.

[I do not necessarily agree with all the views expressed within the articles linked from this page, but I have read them myself in order to make me think more deeply.]