Reflections for the Week of Sunday February 12, 2017 Sixth after Epiphany

Gospel: Mt 5.21-37 is from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus makes the commandments about murder, adultery, divorce, and bearing false witness more strict than in the Mosaic law (Torah). And preceding this text Jesus said, “Do not think I have come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Mt 5.17). These texts are God-given and express God’s holy nature and let us know without ambiguity what pleases God. But Paul says, “That no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for ‘the just shall live by faith’’” (Hab 2.3; Gal 3.11). And he goes on to say, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law” (Gal 3.13) and, “by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rm 3.20), and “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rm 3.23). The Bible makes clear that neither the Israelites in the Old Testament nor anyone else has kept the law perfectly except the Lord Jesus. Breaking the law condemns the law breakers to condemnation; “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them” (Gal 3.10). But Jesus bore our sins on the cross so that Sin could be condemned in His flesh and believers in Jesus the Messiah could have remission of sins. Paul says of believers who have received the Holy Spirit, “But now having been set free form sin, and having become the slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rm 6.22). Believers, all of whom have, of course, received the Holy Spirit, begin to manifest the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5.22,23), so that Paul can say, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rm 5.1). And we are further assured that “there is no condemnation for those who are in the Messiah Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rm 8.1). Christians who have the Spirit in them (and if one does not have the Spirit, one does not belong to Him), or who are “In the Spirit,” have died to the law (Rm 7.4) and “are no longer under the dominion of sin” (Rm 6.14a) “for you are not under law but under grace (Rm 6.14b). Christians have a new status: they are under grace by the Holy Spirit and are no longer under the dominion of sin. It is as though the sinner who was under a punitive condemnatory landlord has been moved to a new venue where the former landlord has no authority over him. The old landlord includes sin, law, satan, death, and condemnation. The new Landlord is the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ who brings grace, mercy, forgiveness, love, and peace. The Spirit encourages followers of Christ, and empowers them, to live according to the nature of God as He has revealed Himself to us. But our status, this new status that we have as Christians, is not based on behavior but on our relationship with Christ. As believers we have “received the Spirit of adoption” (Rm 8.15); we are the adopted children of God, loved by the Father as much as He loves His only begotten Son. If we engage in behavior that displeases Him, we need to repent and confess, as we do in the General Confession, but the parental relationship of love is not broken. This relationship is based on the covenant God made with Abraham based on his faith as described in Rm 4, and those who share Abraham’s faith, which is ultimately the faith that God can raise the dead as He did Jesus Christ, and become members of Abraham’s covenant family. Israel, Abraham’s natural family, were enslaved in Egypt but were set free in the Passover and the Exodus. Christ celebrated a new Passover and a new Exodus from sin, idolatry, exile, and death.

Memory Verse: The Spirit Himself bears witness…that we are children of God (Rm 8.16).

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