Thursday, November 10, 2011
Living In Light of the Kingdom - Part Three
The Centrality of Christ in the Kingdom (Matthew 5:17–48)
It is difficult to overstate the importance of these verses—particularly 5:17–20. In them, Jesus is presented as the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, or what we call today the Old Testament scriptures. This means that everything in the Old Testament is about Him in one way or another. For instance, the law of Moses points to Him and His teaching and His work on the cross that makes kingdom living possible. The history of Israel as God’s firstborn son anticipates the coming of a greater Son who, unlike Israel, is faithful to God in all that He does. The Levitical priesthood and the sacrificial system teaches the people about holiness and what is necessary to live in the presence of a superlatively holy God. King David leads Israel in battle against her foes while at the same time he is the sweet psalmist of Israel and he intercedes for the people in prayer. In these ways he foreshadows a greater king, prophet and priest to come who would transcend David without any of his weaknesses and liabilities. And with many voices, yet one message, the prophets of the Old Testament foretold the coming of a new day in which God’s messianic servant would restore the fortunes of Israel, vanquish his foes, establish the kingdom of God, and inaugurate a new covenant that would be characterized by the abundance of the Spirit, the personal knowledge of God, and the complete forgiveness of sins.
The centrality of Christ in the kingdom also means that everything that comes to us in the New Testament is ultimately grounded in His person and work. We cannot read the Sermon on the Mount without the realization that the preacher is on His way to the cross to die in the place of His people. He is the one who makes it possible for us to live as the sermon describes. And what is true here is true throughout the New Testament. The strength to live the Christian life is tied to his death and resurrection and to the giving of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. There is no other way, and we must understand this if we are to move forward in our walk with God. This is one of the things Jesus means when He speaks of a righteousness that surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law (5:20). As “righteous” as the Pharisees and teachers of the law were, they did not see their need of Jesus. And they did not understand that kingdom righteousness is forever tied to Jesus and what He died to accomplish on the cross. It is only as we are humbled and empowered by the Christ-centered gospel that we can begin to live the kind of lives that God requires of His people.
To be continued next post...