Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-8
We are going to look into the structure of the Sermon on the Mount and examine some of the doctrine found there. This is doubly important because it is Yahshua’s teaching, and His own doctrine that is delivered to us.
Because of the doctrine of antinomianism (anti-law) that is prevalent in Christianity, many do not see the connection of Yahshua’s Sermon on the Mount with G-d’s Torah. Christianity places the emphasis on the blessings of the Beatitudes and not on the entire content, which muddles understanding of the Sermon, and clouds Yahshua’s declarations regarding G-d’s Law. Nevertheless, Yahshua directly addresses the Commandments of G-d and interprets them in light of His revelation to us. In this activity we see that he follows the prediction of the Jewish Sages that stated; when Messiah comes, He would interpret Torah for us.
In the first section of the Sermon, Yahshua has been describing the characteristics of a believer; now in the section I will address He will tell us how to be a believer.
Let me start with Mat 5:18 contained within the Sermon included within chapters 5 and 7. Now I’ll read verse 18 ” For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Yahshua is affirming for you and me that the Torah is still legally binding upon us as the standard of life in Him. He underscores this affirmation by telling us that not one jot or tittle shall pass away from the Law or Torah until all that the prophets and the Bible predicted and was written about comes to completion, and you and I know that this will not be until the G-d establishes a new heaven and a new earth. Therefore, if we confess to follow Yahshua any other teaching to the contrary must be wrong. The antinomian (anti-law) interpretations of Paul must also be wrong if our Bible is inerrant.
I find it incredible that people will follow misinterpretations of Paul to the ignoring of Yahshua’s clear words about the Law. In retrospect, if you had a problem with a company and you couldn’t get satisfaction from the lower echelon of employees then whom do you go to, the President of the company. When in doubt about G-d’s Torah go to the head of the company, Yahshua HaMashiach, He sets the policy.
Let’s Continue onto verse 19. Yahshua tells us to keep and teach G-d’s Torah. Then in verse 20 he introduces “righteousness” and warns us that our “righteousness’ must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees to enter the Kingdom of G-d. Well, you can’t dismiss that statement for Scribes and Pharisees are among us today. Some have tried to define me as a Pharisee because I teach adherence to the Word of G-d, but that is not so, for a Pharisee is one who teaches someone to follow another standard besides G-d’s. Now that could be your very own pastor, a friend or anyone in Christianity who tells you the law is dead or that you don’t have to abide by it or you can pick and choose which commandments to follow. That is a Pharisee because he teaches another way and not G-d’s way.
At the time of Yahshua’s advent the Scribes and Pharisees represented the religious leaders who perverted the Torah of G-d and were hypocrites in the process. In this introduction Yahshua lays down the whole question of righteousness. In short, “What is it?” In verse 17-18 Yahshua says that everything He is going to teach is in perfect harmony with the Old Testament, the Torah and G-d’s Laws. That there is nothing He is going to teach, that in any way, contradicts them.
He first gives us the principles and then the details regarding this question of righteousness. I’ve observed that one of the problems today is that too many of us are wrapped up in the details so much that we forget the principles. This was and is a failing of Jewish Law so that the details became so involved that the principles have been forgotten, and frankly there is no difference today for Christian denominations, for if there were, why so divisions and multiplicity of conferences and organizations. Perhaps you don’t know it but there are over 2000 Christian denominations.
The second proposition Yahshua lays before us is in verse 19 and 20 and declares that His teaching is in such harmony with the Torah that those opposed to it are in complete disharmony with His doctrine. It doesn’t matter if they teach against Torah by overlaying it with man’s traditions, perverting it or if they invalidate it by deeming it dead, and not pertinent to modern believers or teach that because of the covering of sins by Yahshua, we need not the Torah. Yahshua says they are in disharmony with His doctrine. The same purpose is sought for and achieved by these proponents’ and that is the perversion and abrogation of Torah (Law or instructions).
We also have another observation to be gleaned from Yahshua’s message. He was not content with just stating His doctrine. He also criticized other doctrines. Pastors and even rabbis are constantly called on to deliver positive messages never negative ones or anything that may not be politically correct or may be offensive to someone. This is a sign of “itching ears.” We read in 2 Tim 4:3, For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.
Unfortunately, that day is upon us, for we are told not to criticize other views; but Yahshua definitely criticize views opposed to His doctrine, and we should too no matter the cost. It is our duty as believers that views that oppose Yahshua’s doctrine should be exposed and denounced and done so frequently. And that leads us to another question. But first, we must answer the first one. What is righteousness? It is adherence to G-d’s Torah as the only standard given us by G-d Almighty by which to live. To do less is condoning sin.
Now to the second question, “Why did Yahshua attack the progenitors and teachers of other opposing doctrines? Number one, Yahshua knew beforehand the criticism and questions His opponents were asking themselves. Did He come to do away with the Law? Is He turning back resolutely upon the whole of the past? Is He teaching that there is some new way to G-d? He astutely answered those questions in His introduction to this section and it was a resounding NO! Today we have a whole new cadre of opponents to Yahshua’s doctrine, and their own answer, albeit false, to the above questions are a resounding YES! They are seemingly blind or ignore that their position completely contradicts Yahshua’s own doctrinal position as He gave it in this Sermon.
It’s important for us to understand that there are two popular views concerning the Sermon of the Mount which separates people into two camps, but I suggest there is a third: First, the view that the Sermon was only a brilliant exposition of Torah and the second is that Yahshua cancelled or abolished the law completely, and that He introduced grace in place of it. Both are wrong in and of themselves. The third is that He did neither.
He did not annul the Torah nor introduce “grace only” for salvation. Too many of us forget that “Grace only” albeit, necessarily fortified by trust, forgives only “past sins” (Romans 3:25}, and that repentance turning away from sin assures us of forgiveness after we are reconciled to G-d through Yahshua. To repent of sin, we need a standard by which we measure our conduct and that is the Torah in its fullness.
Now, let us look at Yahshua’s actual teaching. We can put it into the form of two principles. In order to do so I am going to examine verse 17 and 18. “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.” This little word “fulfill” causes no end of problems for English speaking readers. So many suppose it to mean that by fulfilling the law Yahshua did away with it. The Greek does not mean that, and the sense of the word is to “give us an example,” but even more so it is a rabbinic euphemism that means when someone fulfills Torah “they have interpreted it correctly” and when someone destroys Torah “they have incorrectly interpreted it.” So if Yahshua were observed doing mitzvot, that is doing a commandment, and doing it rightly, he would have been referred to as “having fulfilled the law.” Common sense tells you that the Law is still there for the next time and is not abolished by virtue of anyone fulfilling it. In this activity we also see Yahshua fulfilling the prediction of the sages that the Messiah will correctly interpret Torah for us to show us how to live according to G-d’s standards.
Then we read the reason “why” he lives a Torah observant life in verse 18. “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
The first proposition is that G-d’s law is absolute; it can never be changed, nor even modified to the slightest extent. It is absolute and eternal; its demands are permanent and can never be abrogated or reduced until “heaven and earth pass.”
The second proposition is that He has not come to destroy the Torah but to carry out G-d’s precepts and to perform them to perfection as an example for us to follow. Yahshua said all the Law and all the prophets’ point to Him and culminates in Him, but He does not say it abrogates Torah for in two verses He confirms the whole of the Old Testament. He put His seal of authority, His imprimatur upon the whole of the Old Testament canon, the whole of the Law, and the whole of the prophets. You can come to one conclusion only; He believed it all, and not only certain parts of it. He quoted almost every part of it. To Yahshua HaMashiach the Old Testament was the Word of G-d, not something outdated or done away with; It had authority, which nothing else possessed nor can possess. Here then, is a vital statement with regard to this whole matter of authority of the Old Testament and the validity of the Torah.
If we say we do not believe in the accounts of creation, Abraham as a person, Israel’s election, and the promises given to the Jews; if we do not believe that the Law was given by G-d to Moshe and is not valid for us today, if we discount the dietary laws as unnecessary, and discount certain laws pertaining to public hygiene, then we are in fact flatly contradicting everything our Lord Yahshua said about Himself, the law, the prophets and everything in the Old Testament that He said was the Word of G-d. Not only that, He said it is going to stand till all is finally fulfilled, that is G-d’s complete plan for humanity, in the sense of brought to completion. That means everything down to the smallest detail. It is G-d’s law it is His enactment.
Now this is of vital significance. People say they like reading the New Testament but not the old. Its boring, etc. et al. They even wonder why the early church incorporated it with the New Testament, perhaps not realizing that the early church in fact tried to dismiss the Old Testament with its laws and it’s G-d of justice by not including it in the canon, but they realized that they couldn’t. First, there would be no foundation for the New Testament without the old and second the old casts light upon the New Testament. You cannot understand the New without the light of the Old. You cannot understand Who Yahshua is without the Torah for he is the living manifested Torah. Those that read or teach only from the New have a distorted view of G-d, His Kingdom, Torah, Messiah and His redemption for us.
But above all, this is the pronouncement of Yahshua, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, our Paschal Lamb, the propitiation of our faith, the sacrifice for our past sins, our Cohen Gadol, the Son of G-d who says He did not come to supersede the Law, the Torah, the prophets, the Old Testament, but He came to show us its meaning, relevance, it residency in Him personally, so that we too might aspire to be like Him, Holy and obedient to all of G-d’s Torah. He regarded the Law as authoritative for all, and He Himself who was the Manifested Torah lived by its precepts fully. And you and I, if we are true believers and followers of Yahshua are to do the same. The moment you begin to question the authority of G-d and the Son of G-d you will find yourself in endless trouble and difficulty. We must be very careful in what we say and teach about the Old Testament Scriptures. Watch Yahshua’s quotations from them, the quotations from the Torah (Law) and the prophets, the quotations from the Psalms. He quotes them everywhere. To Yahshua they are always the Scriptures that have been given, and in John 10:35, “cannot be broken,” It is G-d’s own word that will be literally fulfilled to the minutest detail and that Word (Torah-Old Testament-Law) will last while heaven and earth are in existence.
Far from the Torah being abrogated it is more important today than ever before, because Yahshua’s opponents teach against it leading many astray and into damnation.
Yahshua said in Mat 5:19, Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Again, from Heaven, from the right side of the Father He defined for us, a true believer in seven different passages in the Book of Revelation, a seven- fold witness of spiritual perfection: Yahshua the Son says, a True believer is one “who carries the testimony of Yahshua, and who guards (keeps and teaches them) the commandments of G-d. That is, a true believer is one who is reconciled to G-d (YHVH) through G-d incarnate (Yahshua, which means G-d saves), and then follows G-ds instructions (Torah).
It is beyond me that there are those that persist in denigrating the Torah of G-d (G-d’s Law) and teach others to do the same, defining G-d’s Law, His Torah as unnecessary, not for Christians, not relevant to our time, or else they pick and choose those they will follow, all in the face of such incontrovertible evidence from the Father and His son that all the Torah is relevant and the Standard of G-d for those that profess Him. To not follow Torah is tantamount to defying Him, and such a one is guilty of rebellion.
John defines sin for us in 1 John 3:4 and I will read that verse. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” So, we see that sin is the transgression of the law. Without the Law there would be no sin. And we have to remember here that John is addressing believers and not unbelievers. If the Law were not relevant to believers, He could not have made that statement for if the Law is dead to us we could not transgress it. And that means all the Law (G-d’s Torah).
So, the next time someone tells you that the Law is dead, “nailed to the cross,” not for Christians, think back to this message and the words spoken by Yahshua Himself. Be aware that Satan is challenging you in the person of the doctrine of antinomianism and that you have been given an opportunity to stand up as a true believer, to denounce an opponent of Yahshua’s doctrine as He Himself did. For when we acquiesce to opponents of Yahshua’s doctrine by not defending the truth we share with them in their sin.
in order to demonstrate that to fully understand scripture we must look for the concept and not just look at the particular. From our text, I will now explore how Yahshua revealed the concepts in the statements he addressed in this passage.
First, we will look at the commandment “Thou shalt not murder.” If you look at the particular, you might go through all of life and never know you have committed this sin giving a false impression of righteousness. Yahshua said the following: “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven.” What does Yahshua mean by this statement? If we are not commanded to understand the spiritual element of the commandments and have only to obey a list of particulars, then many of us might be able to claim righteousness in the observance of the letter of the Law. Many committed believers love G-d with all their heart and hold Him sovereign as creator and master. They do not murder, commit adultery, give false witness, desecrate Shabbat, they honor their parents, they do not steal or envy the good fortune of our neighbors and so on, but when we examine the concept behind the particular it is a far different story. When addressing this commandment of the Decalogue, Yahshua made these remarks: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou Shalt not murder and whosoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.” You ask what’s wrong with this, after all it’s written in Scripture. The Law says thou shalt not murder; but that does not just mean: Thou shalt not commit murder” for to define it is such a way is to imagine that we escape it. In fact, we may be guilty in a most grievous manner of breaking this commandment without ever having taken a life. Yahshua proceeds to explain that this commandment includes not only physical murder, but also causeless anger in our heart against our brother. Gossip and character assignation are in the same category for it kills. Yahshua here is adding the spiritual content, the concept behind the particular Law. We, in the spirit of this Law have nursed thoughts about a person that is as foul as murder and most of us are guilty of killing someone by character assignation either willingly or indirectly by carrying gossip even if it is true. We are forbidden to do it for it is likened to murder. Then there are other ways of destroying someone short of murder and Yahshua addresses this when he says do not say of others “Raca” (a term of utter vilification “worthless”). We can destroy a man’s reputation, we can shake someone else’s confidence in him by whispering criticisms or by deliberate fault finding. “Thou shalt not kill (murder),” does not mean only destroying life physically, it means even more the trying to destroy the spirit and soul, destroying the person in any shape or form. Yahshua makes a third point; “But whoso ever shall say, thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.” This means an expression of vilification, of abuse. It means the bitterness and hatred in ones heart, finding its way into words. It does not mean the “word” itself but the emotion informing the word. Yahshua points out to us in these examples that the commandment is not only about the particular but also more pointedly about the concept that the particular springs from. Here we are confronted not only with an actual murder, but also with all that is within our hearts, feelings, and sensibilities, and ultimately our spirit, that is regarded by G-d as murder.
We now are at the passage where Yahshua addresses adultery. You have heard it said by them of old time, “thou shalt not commit adultery,” but I say unto you, “That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Here again those that only understand the letter of the Law: “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” without seeing the concept supporting it, have reduced it to one particular matter, and therefore nullified it. They have forgotten the whole spirit of the Law. Sha’ul tells us that “The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life. These who see the letter only, say in effect, “As long as you do not commit adultery you have kept the law,” but, Yahshua disagrees and points out the concept, the spiritual element of the Law where even harboring lustful thoughts is sin. When we see only the letter of the law and not the concept it is built upon, we do not see the exceeding sinfulness of sin. If we do not see the concepts behind these commandments, we do not see the doctrine of sin. Today’s religious leaders fail to recognize the doctrine of sin because they do not see the concept behind the teaching. That is why churches are in such sad shape because failing to evangelize by first teaching the Law, and the doctrine of sin instead teaching profession only. Conversion means nothing, if you do not have a meaningful understanding of sin. Not just the particular, but also the concept behind the particular because without that you do not have an inclusive picture of the mortification of sin. Yahshua in His Sermon teaches us that the conception of holiness and the sanctified life, which would regard it as a matter of our physical being, is more than the particulars we read in the Scriptures. Moreover, we are not left with guessing what the concept is for the particulars are commented upon thoroughly in other biblical citations. We but just have to find them and intelligently apply them to arrive at the concept being taught. Then we will realize the nature of sin and all its consequences.
Commentators on the Sermon on the Mount most often avoid Yahshua’s teaching on divorce. We cannot study some parts of Scripture and avoid the rest for that is sin. It is moral relativism, taking what we are comfortable with and disposing or ignoring the rest. In this section, Yahshua again employs the formula “you have heard it said…but I say unto you.” It is in this section that He is explaining the Kingdom relationship to the Law of G-d. He even emphasized the importance of the Law by saying: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Bearing all this in mind, we need to look at what the Mosaic Law in Deuteronomy 24: 1-4 portends. The first thing we notice is that Moshe did not mention adultery in the matter of divorce. We have to remember that anyone taken to be an adulterer was stoned to death. Therefore, we need to keep this principle in mind. The Mosaic Law laid down divorce in three main principles. It was permitted when there was some natural, moral or physical defect discovered in a wife. Frivolous reasons were to be eliminated by this Law. It also required a judicial process unlike earlier times and forbade a man from remarrying a former wife. The concept here is that marriage is not something you can walk in and out of at will. Many of the Pharisees and scribes saw the particular as getting a divorce for any reason was acceptable and missed the concept that the Law of Moshe pertaining to divorce was designed to limit divorce because it was a holy institution and not to be entered into lightly. Now to the main heading what does Yahshua say about this matter of divorce? “But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.” If we consult Mathew 19: 3-9 we are more informed on this subject, because it is a fuller explication of what Yahshua puts in summarized form. The Pharisees and scribes had come to Him to trap Him and asked, “is it lawful for a man to put his wife away for every cause?” They themselves were actually sanctioning this view of the commandment and the particular and not the spiritual concept supporting it. Yahshua answered them emphasizing the sanctity of marriage. Divorce was permissible only for the cause of fornication. Now, look in 1 Corinthians, chapter 6, where Sha’ul warns us about becoming one with the flesh of a harlot. A harlot or prostitute is a symbol of false religion, false worship. Are we to be united with a harlot, obviously not! If a person is a harlot meaning an unbeliever, then that person according to the Torah is the “living dead.” The point here however is that Yahshua is saying the only cause for divorce is fornication. The particular = physical fornication or adultery, but the obvious is that physical adultery was judiciously handled by stoning to death and divorce was not necessary, so the fornication spoken of here, the concept supporting the particular obviously informs of us more than what the particular infers. It is spiritual fornication, serving anything other than the Living G-d. If a believer is yoked with an unbeliever, “the living dead,” who is a spiritual adulterer than the concept behind the particular “except for fornication” informs us that divorce is permissible when yoked to an unbeliever who will not repent and come to the One True G-d. G-d’s Marriage is echad, one flesh, one focus, one direction, and we are to be set-apart from all ungodliness, even a partner who denies the sovereignty and headship of YHVH Elohim.
Now a quick summarization on Yahshua’s teaching about taking oaths. If you read the scripture addressed, Mat 5:33, and I will read it for you: “Again, ye have heard that it hath been said by them of old time, Thou shalt not forswear to (commit perjury) thyself, but shalt perform unto the Lord thine oaths:” you will not find those exact words anywhere in the Torah, which is to say Yahshua was not dealing with the Mosaic Law per se but the false interpretation of it. The Mosaic Law was intended to restrict oath taking to serious important matters. To the Pharisees and scribes their interpretation meant you could take all kinds of oaths to do all sorts of things and cancel them later, but as long as you never committed perjury, you were not guilty before the law. Yahshua however says: Mat 5:34 “But I say unto you, swear not at all…” We see here that Yahshua addresses the concept, not the particular of perjury, but that of taking spurious oaths and thereby bridling man’s propensity to lie to lend credibility to the lie by backing it up with an oath. The issue here is not that of taking an oath in a law court for if that were so then like the Quakers, we would refuse to take an oath in any venue based on Yahshua’s words. “Swear not at all.” The Ten Commandments warns us not to testify falsely in judicial proceedings presupposing that we may be called on to testify in such, so this is a good example of a group of people taking something out of context without considering the whole Torah. So, what is the concept we are dealing with here? Simply, we are to reserve oaths for serious matters and not to take them unthinkingly and insincerely. The second thing is that is that we do not use the Name of YHVH in a careless way and this means not taking oaths in the name of YHVH or even by His creation but to affirm our oaths simply with an affirmation of truth.
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart