A Brief Summary of Jesus' Theology of the Scriptures
Text: Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus expressed the highest regard for the Scriptures. We may summarise His theology of the Scriptures in these statements. Three important insights must be highlighted:
1. He believed in “The Law and the Prophets”
a) Jesus believed in the Inscripturated Word.
b) The Hebrew Scriptures were already in existence and in use in His time.
c) He honoured the extant Scriptures.
2. He believed that the Scriptures were meant to be obeyed and fulfilled
a) The Scriptures had very real practical applications.
b) They were meant to be obeyed. Man was supposed to live by them.
c) Jesus saw Himself as fulfilling the Scriptures.
3. God Himself backs up every Word He has given to Man
a) The Scriptures were not to be dismissed lightly.
b) God backs up the Scriptures with His power until every word is fulfilled.
c) The Scriptures would outlast the supposed everlasting nature of heaven and earth.
THE HONOURING OF THE SCRIPTURES
The Scriptures were meant to be honoured. They were meant to be taught from one generation to the next. Anyone who disregards the Word of God must pay heed to this statement Jesus made.
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least
of these commandments, and teaches men so,
shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven;
but whoever does and teaches them, he shall
be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
What did Jesus have in mind as He made this statement? Let us ponder the following thoughts.
1. The Challenge to Have The Highest Regard for God’s Word
Jesus was fully aware of the existing views of the Scriptures held and taught by the religious authorities like “the scribes and Pharisees”. They paid far more attention to their religious traditions than the Scriptures themselves. He challenged all who listened to Him to make sure that they have the kind of regard of the Scriptures that He had. Jesus was making this remark with reference to the contemporary context! He urged His disciples to cultivate the highest regard for the Scriptures. He Himself had set the perfect example.
2. The Challenge to Test all who claim to be Teachers of God’s Word
Did the disciples fear that Jesus had come to destroy the Scriptures? Those fears should be allayed by now. Did the disciples also have the same cautious approach when they listened to what the scribes and Pharisees taught? They should. Prudence should teach them to test everyone by this dictum.
If anyone poses as a teacher of God’s Word, but his life does not reflect a high regard for the Scriptures, his ministry is suspect! The teacher who does not honour the Scriptures, but callously breaks God’s commandment is indeed “the least in the kingdom of heaven”.
REFERENCE TO THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES
At this point of time, Matthew noted that Jesus made reference to the religious authorities in those days. Let us ponder over what he said,
“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness
exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of God.”
The “scribes and Pharisees” were a sect within Judaism that held sway over Israel in the days of Jesus. Their external religious fastidiousness was well known. Few could match their religious fervour for observing the minutest detail of their traditions.
Some admired the scribes and Pharisees. Others feared them. Jesus was totally unimpressed with them. They may have a religious garb, but their religion was empty! Their religious fervour would not get them through the gates of the kingdom of God.
Jesus did not hold the scribes and Pharisees as THE example to follow. If anyone was truly desirous of entering into the kingdom of heaven, they must find “true righteousness” which He described as the “righteousness (which) exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees”.
This text from the Book of Isaiah may enlighten us as to what Jesus meant.
“Therefore the Lord said:
‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths
And honour Me with their lips,
But have removed their hearts far from Me,
And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandments of men…’ ”
God is never impressed by external religious appearances. He rejects such so-called “righteousness”. Many assumed that if any would qualify to enter into the kingdom of heaven, the scribes and the Pharisees would be the most likely candidates!
True righteousness went way beyond practising external religious rituals! He who wishes to enter into the kingdom of heaven could not do better than to heed what Jesus taught.