In Matthew 5 through 7, Jesus is describing perfect obedience. He presents some of the commandments, rules, or principles one must keep in order to …
- Be called great in the kingdom
- Enter the kingdom of heaven
- Not be liable to the hell of fire
- Be Sons of the Father
- Earn the secret reward of the Father. (4 times)
- Receive the forgiveness of sins.
- Miss the words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
This is first and foremost a Covenant of Works, and meritorious performance must include the following …
- Never be saltless or dark, but always being transformative and impactful
- Never being sinfully angry
- Never using ones mouth and insulting or cursing another
- Never remaining in an unreconciled state with an offended brother
- Never engaging in sinful sexual activity (adultery)
- Never engaging in sinful sexual imagination (lust)
- Never divorcing improperly
- Never wedding improperly
- Never being deceptive in speech
- Never harboring vengeance towards another
- Never being insubordinate to government who requires the extra mile
- Never being selfish towards those who would borrow
- Never being hateful towards brothers, neighbors, or even persecuting enemies
- Always be perfect like the Father is perfect
- Never publicly practicing righteousness, being charitable, or engaging in prayer
- Never being negligent in daily prayer
- Never being self-centered in prayer
- Never being unforgiving towards trespassers or debtors
- Never being passive towards temptation and the Evil One
- Never being public in fasting
- Never being materialistic; always focusing on the Kingdom to come
- Never sharing personal devotion or allegiance that belongs only to God
- Never being anxious or lacking faith
- Never judging improperly
- Never breaking the “Golden Rule” and always treating others properly
- Never teaching falsely or following false teachers
- Following false teachers
- Always doing the will of the Father
Let’s not hate these laws. Let’s not be devilish antinomians. The God of grace has given us these good laws, and they are wise and beneficial. Man was created to worship as image-bearers. Man was created to think and love like God, and this is a good start. We should not devalue or despise God’s laws.
But please remember, this is only a partial list. There are many more commandments presented in scripture. Much, much more is required for one to earn or merit God’s favor under the Covenant of Works.
And please remember, one must be much better at keeping God’s ordinances than were the Pharisees — and they were the best. No one tried harder. No one looked better. But despite their valiant morality and religiosity, they missed the mark. In order for one to receive any of the rewards of the Father under the Covenant of Works, one has to “be perfect as the Father is perfect.”
And please, do not think this is just Old Testament stuff. Jesus made it very clear; he did did not come to abolish these laws. Jesus came to keep these laws. He came to love. He came to be godly. He came to perfectly keep the Covenant of Works. And in doing so, he perfectly earned the Father’s favor.
Wow! That’s great for Jesus! But what about us?
How do we measure up? God’s assessment is not kind. With strictness he looks at us and says, “Failure.”
Can we do better? Maybe, a little bit. However, we cannot do good enough to merit any favor. Perfection is the only acceptable standard.
So, are we in trouble as men and women under the Covenant of Works? Absolutely! God does not lie nor change his mind. Excommunication and hell are all we have earned.
Is there any hope? Absolutely! Let us find great comfort in the way Jesus began his sermon, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven.” No comfort and blessing is found for those who are rich in Spirit. For those who think they are good, holy, and perfect enough to merit God’s favor. However, for all who see, mourn, and call out to Jesus, they get the kingdom of heaven with its present and future benefits. Because of the divine swap found in the Covenant of Grace, they receive forgiveness, miss hell, enter the kingdom, received the adoption of sons, are called great, get the secret reward, and hear “Delight yourself in me, for I know you.”
And now what? Read, repent, live, and love!
Read – Go back to God’s good Law and read it with delight. Be instructed by God’s good and gracious Law.
Repent – This describes your new identity and what Jesus is doing in you. See how you have sinned this week and have a little talk with Jesus. Ask him to renew your heart that you might desire — more and more — to walk in accordance with your sanctified self.
Live and love — In the power of the Spirit, practice your God-graced perfection. Love God. Love your neighbor, and enjoy being God’s salt and light.