False Ways of Interpreting the Law
Text: Matthew 5:21-48
Jesus was well aware of the many false ways in which the scribes and Pharisees handled the law. He knew that as He touched on controversial subjects He would also draw their ire. Nevertheless, He could not keep silent and allow them to promote their false ways of interpreting the laws of God. Error had to be exposed, even at the risk of one’s personal safety! Two issues may be brought up for further study.
1. Manipulation of the Law
The scribes were the “experts” of the Law. Their profession was to study the Law, interpret it and teach people how they are to apply the law. The average Jew would not have the privilege of devoting their lives to the study of the law. Thus they would not be able to know that the scribes were guilty of manipulating the law to their own advantage. By so-doing, others less knowledgeable were placed at a distinct disadvantage. Jesus came to the rescue of the man in the street.
2. Limiting the Application of the Law
The scribes limited the application of the Law to written statements found in the Scriptures. This meant that the scribes could do a number of things when the Scriptures were “silent” on some matters:-
a) They could interpret the silence of the Scriptures to their own advantage.
b) They could add their interpretations to explain the silence of the Scriptures.
c) They could then introduce their interpretation as the authoritative word.
All these things were done so cleverly that few even know that the traditions of the Jews had taken over the rightful place of the Scriptures!
VITAL HERMENEUTICAL PRINCIPLES IN INTERPRETING THE SCRIPTURES
Jesus taught very important hermeneutical principles to His disciples as He spoke. The key to interpreting the Scriptures correctly lay in having correct hermeneutical principles.
1. The Full context of the Scriptures
Jesus knew that the scribes selected portions of the Scriptures and employed them to justify their actions. Where it suited them, they would find other Biblical texts to condemn enemies. Jesus was against this approach to the Scriptures!
a) The Scriptures must always be interpreted in the light of the full Biblical context! To do less would be to limit the meaning and the significance of the Scriptures!
b) Jesus taught the full truth concerning God as the Judge.
i) God will judge those who break the Law (such as the 6th commandment).
ii) It is also equally true that God would judge EVERYTHING that man does.
“And God requires an account of what is past.”
“For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.”
The scribes did not appear to have stressed the fact that one day, all would have to face God as the Supreme Judge! Their focus was life on this earth. They were more concerned about the judgment of the Sanhedrin Council, than the judgment of God. Their focus was life on this earth rather than eternity in view! Jesus had to address and correct this problem!
2. Jesus taught on the issue of “Authority”
It is important to note that Jesus did not just display brilliance in the handling of the Scriptures. It is vital that we catch what Jesus was seeking to do as He dealt with age-old controversies that defied resolution!
a) Human authority
Jesus knew that the scribes appealed to their own authority. In the process of time, man-made teachings appear to be quite authoritative. Jesus had very little regard for the religious authority of the scribes and Pharisees. The scribes on the other hand held the highest regard of their own scholars. They despised Jesus and His teachings. To them He was a man who did not have letters.
b) Biblical authority
Jesus never disputed the authority of the Scriptures. He had the highest regard for the Scriptures. At all times, Jesus upheld the integrity of the Word of God as a Divine Word from God!
c) His own authority
Jesus, being the Son of God, possessed divine authority. He alone could say,
“But I say to you…”
(Matthew 5:22, 28, 32 etc)
Jesus wanted His disciples to know that He, their Teacher had the authority and power to teach as He did!
BECOME BETTER ACQUAINTED WITH THE SCRIPTURES
Controversies have always raged around the interpretation of the Scriptures. It behooves us to set aside time to study the Scriptures in greater depth!