Jesus and the Oral Law

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This entry is part 7 of 12 in the series Knowing Jesus

The Sermon on the Mount is easily the best known of all Jesus’ discourses, probably because every beginning preacher is encouraged by his mentor to speak about that sermon. So even if you don’t read the Bible very much, you still would have heard, Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.

The sermon is a memorable work, with the poetic beatitudes leading the way. Each of these could be the subject for a much longer exposition. Blessed are the meek, for example, would make a strong theme for a full sermon. But early on in Jesus’ discourse that day, there is a statement that challenges the very structure of some Christian doctrine. Jesus said plainly that we are not to think something which a surprising number of Christians think anyway. Here it is, in Jesus’ own words:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

Matthew 5:17–18 NIV

There are two criteria that have to be in place for a comma or the crossing of a T to pass from the law. One: Heaven and earth have to disappear. (As I record this program, they are still here.) Two: Everything must be accomplished. And there is a rather large array of things that God has said he will do that haven’t rolled around yet, so we’re still waiting. This poses a huge problem for anyone who is aware of the contents of the law that Jesus is talking about. Let me explain what I mean.

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Ronald L. Dart

Ronald L. Dart (1934–2016) — People around the world have come to appreciate his easy style, non-combative approach to explaining the Bible, and the personal, almost one-on-one method of explaining what’s going on in the world in the light of the Bible. After retiring from teaching and church administration in 1995 he started Christian Educational Ministries and the Born to Win radio program.

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Image Credits: Diaspora Museum, Tel Aviv / Sodabottle (Wikimedia)