I Fought The Law and The Law Won
Pastor John Sloan
Introduction: It’s been almost five hundred years since Martin Luther wrote, “The law says ‘do this’, and it is never done. Grace says, ‘believe in this’ and everything is already done.” Such sentiments strike a cord when considering Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus issues such weighty commands, as: your righteousness must exceed “that of the scribes and the Pharisees” (5:20); “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (5:48). What do we do with such impossibly high standards?
Questions for Discussion & Discovery
1. In what ways has Jesus “fulfilled” the Law and the prophets (verse17)? How does that news provide comfort for you?
2. How is the Sermon on the Mount a “wall that we crash into that leaves us helpless and undone”? What reaction does that tend to provoke? What reaction should it provoke?
3. How should we approach the difficult commands in this section (and throughout the Sermon on the Mount)?
4. What does it mean to “relax one of the least of these commandments” (verse 19)?
5. Where do we find hope when we do fail to meet God’s standards?
1. Read Matthew 5:17-20.
2. “Now I think the whole trouble tends to arise because we become confused in our minds as to the relationship between law and grace. Law is not opposed to grace. Nor must it be thought of as being identical to grace. The law was given, in a sense, in order to show men that they could never justify themselves before God, and in order that we might be brought to Christ.” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones
3. “The purpose of the Sermon on the Mount is to demolish all attempts to believe that we have anything of our own that we can achieve or contribute to the divine equation. The moment that I recognize that I by my own efforts to atone, or to expiate, or to do better, or to fly right, or to do more, or to work harder, or to be nicer, are doomed to perdition— at that moment there is a release. And the release spells joy, power, significance, exuberance, happiness, creativity, love, and—come to find out—holiness.” – Paul Zahl
4. 01. We “reduce” the law when we soften its demands, concluding that partial obedience, or gradual improvement, is sufficient for God’s acceptance.
5. “As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount. … Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.” – C.S. Lewis
6. Read Matthew 5:19.
7. 02. We “relax” the law when we ignore its authority, determining that only parts of it (if any) are necessary to obey.
He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” – Matthew 20:23
9. “The peerage of Christ’s kingdom is ordered according to obedience.” – C.H. Spurgeon
10. “Our helplessness before the devastating comprehensiveness of divine expectation is what creates the space for God’s amazing grace, and the freedom it produces. Disaster becomes the pre-condition for a new, unfettered life.”
11. 03. As we come to rest in Christ’s work AND plead with God for strength to obey, God makes us to resemble the characteristics he demands.
12. “Therefore, my beloved … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13