From Glory to Glory
A study of God’s Divine standards of holiness reveals that there are, in both Testaments, ethical norms that are part of a great moral unity that is as immutable as God Himself. This could not be otherwise because the ethical teachings of our Bible are but a revelation of the unchangeable character of God Himself. This ethical unity is seen in creation when the moral law of God was written upon the conscience of man. It is seen in the Decalogue where it is written upon the tables of stone. It is also seen in the ethical teachings of the New Testament where it was written upon tables of redeemed hearts.
The moral law of God was never meant to impart life, but rather to enlighten and guide life. In both Testaments salvation is by grace alone, apart from works, and based upon the atonement of Christ. In the case of the unregenerate man it leads him to a knowledge of sin, to a realization of his own helplessness to save himself, and it prepares him for the reception of life through faith in Christ alone. In the case of the regenerate man the law is written upon the heart to impart the knowledge of the will of God.
The Sermon on the Mount is an illuminating commentary on the moral law of God. The ethical teachings of our Lord not only reveal the eternal and universal nature of God’s moral law but they become the basis for the enlargement of Divine Revelation in the epistles. God reveals that mere externals that do not touch the heart or character are but secondary things, and that outward conformity was never the real intent of the law. It is inward and, in the hand of the Spirit, moulds the character to the image of Christ.
Transfiguration is a word that is found only three times in the New Testament (Matt. 17:2, Rom. 12:2. 2 Cor. 3:18). It is descriptive of a moral glory within, inherent in Christ and developed in the believer by the power of the Spirit of God. This moral glory is seen in the beautiful character of Christ and His consecrated people and manifests itself in perfect love to God and to man. It is upon these two commandments of love to God and love to man that the whole moral law of our Bible rests (Matt. 22:37-40).
Scripture distinguishes between the ceremonial and the moral law of God. The former was a means to an end, the shadow of things to come, the substance of which is Christ and His accomplished atonement (Col. 2:17). The latter is permanent and abiding for it is a revelation of the holy character of God. Thus, nine of the ten commandments are quoted in the New Testament and applied to our every-day walk. We are not under the law, however, as a means of obtaining justification or even as a help in keeping our justification. The latter was the error of the Galatians. The moral law of God is meant to serve the saints in two ways: first, as a rebuke to unsanctified hearts (1 Tim. 1:7-11), and second, as a guide to a life well-pleasing to God (Rom. 13:8-10).
The new birth results in a “new man” created after the image of God in righteousness and holiness, giving to the believer “the expulsive power of a new affection.” The new-born soul, in the beauty of first love seizes upon the commandments of God with supreme delight. The moral law of God, written upon the heart, is a revelation of the will of God, the doing of which becomes his meat and drink.
May these meditations be blessed of God to the spiritual enrichment of the Household of Faith.
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From Glory to Glory or Meditations on the Sermon on The Mount
The Gospel according to Matthew may be divided into seven parts: In the first part we are introduced to King Messiah by seven chosen witnesses which leave us in no doubt that He was God manifest in human form. They are: (1) His geneology (1:1-17) which proved Him to be the Annointed of God; (2) the Angelic host (1:18-23) who announced Him Immanuel-God with us; (3) the star (2:1-11) which revealed Him to be the hope of the world; (4) the Holy Scriptures (1:22, 2:5, 15, 17, 23) which distinguished Him as the Object of the spirit of all prophecy; (5) the Forerunner, John the Baptist (3:12) who taught that His Kingdom was a new order, founded on the Atonement and entered by new birth; (6) the Father (3:13-17) Who, at His baptism, witnessed to His eternal Son-ship and declared Him to be the Object of His heart’s delight; (7) the Holy Spirit at His temptation (4:1) where His moral supremacy over the devil was the proof of His absolute sinlessness.
The last part of Matthew describes His work of atonement on the cross. Then, between the introduction to His character and the description of His triumph over all the forces of evil at Calvary, there are five great discourses, all of which end with nearly the same words, “And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these sayings.” (7:28, 11:1, 13:53, 10:1, 26:1).
In these five discourses we have the teaching that builds character in His own likeness (Chs. 5, 6, 7), principles that guide Christian service (Ch. 10), instruction that imparts enlightenment as to the mysterious conflict between light and darkness (Ch. 13), maxims that regulate our Church life (Ch. 18), and prophecy that enables us to see the finality of the struggle between right and wrong in a Coming Triumphant Christ (Chs. 24-25). It is with our Lord’s first discourse in chapters 5-7 that we wish to deal.
Our Lord’s teaching is in perfect contrast with the teaching of the Pharisees. The Pharisees taught that God’s blessing rested on good conduct that was measured by obedience to ecclesiastical rites. Our Lord taught that God’s blessing rested on Moral conduct that had its roots in Christ-like character, the fruit of a new creation by the Spirit of God. A good Pharisee could be very religious and very wicked at the same time. Our Lord deals with what is basic, the foundation of character rather than the expression. He speaks of a condition of mind upon which good character depends, humility, mourning or a moral repugnance of all evil, meekness, mercifulness and purity.
In expounding the spirituality of the law, our Lord did not mean to set aside one jot or tittle of it. The people of His day knew the law only as it was taught by the scribes. But the scribes had mixed tradition with what had been inspired of God; hence our Lord seeks to separate the precious from the vile and reassert the voice of inspiration again in the expressions, “ye have heard,” “but I say unto you.”
The Lord’s people have been deprived of much by a subtle interpretation of these lovely chapters. The system of ultra-dispensational-ism known as “Bullingerism” teaches that the fulfilment of our Lord’s teachings must await that period of time after the Church has been taken home. This has resulted in an attitude of carelessness toward these precepts. We emphatically reject such an interpretation, and write for the purpose of counteracting such teaching, and with a view to helping, in a measure, to re-establish the authority of the words of Christ in the Church which He is building.
Our Lord, in these chapters, anticipates His own absence from earth, and His people’s being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (5:10). He spoke to His own disciples, though multitudes stood around and listened (v. 12), and assured them that faithfulness here will bring reward in the heavens (v. 12). This statement could hardly apply to an earthly people. Moreover, everything that our Lord taught here is embraced in the Epistles. In fact, we are given the solemn warning by Paul that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ are wholesome words and doctrine according to godliness (1 Tim. 6:3-4). Our Lord’s teaching is germinal. The rest of the New Testament is but an exposition of all that He taught. A. T. Pierson has rightly stated that, “There is not only harmony but progress in doctrine; truths found in germ in the Gospels are historically illustrated in the Acts, doctrinally unfolded and applied in the Epistles and symbolically presented in the Apocalypse.”