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Beyond Sin

We just completed the Days of Unleavened Bread. For a week of seven days, we put out and kept out leaven from our homes. We heard sermons describing how leaven "puffs up" or makes a false appearance that something is more than it actually is. We were admonished to deflate ourselves in humility and to let our lives be more in line with the truthfulness of appearance and action that God desires us to be and to display to others. During the week of Unleavened Bread, we observed the commemoration of the Wave Sheaf Offering and how it pictures the presentation and acceptance before the Father's throne in heaven of Christ's sacrifice in our stead. Our Messiah has now qualified to be King over the whole earth. The Wave Sheaf Offering marks the beginning of the countdown to the next of God's Holy Days, the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost.

That's where we come in. The Day of Pentecost is all about the saints, the disciples of Christ whom the Father has called out of this world's society to serve his son in obedience to the Father's laws of righteousness. We are now in our training for positions of authority in that government. With Christ as world king, he will administer the government of God the Father for the benefit of all mankind. How can we know, however, if we will really be a part of that government? What does God require of us?

Our Duty

In Matthew 19:16, we can see part of the answer given directly by our Messiah and King.

(Mat 19:16-26 NASB) And behold, one came to Him and said, "Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" {17} And He said to him, "Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." {18} He said to Him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; {19} HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." {20} The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?" {21} Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." {22} But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property. {23} And Jesus said to His disciples, "Truly I say to you, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. {24} "And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." {25} And when the disciples heard this, they were very astonished and said, "Then who can be saved?" {26} And looking upon them Jesus said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."

Let's look at that again. The question was "what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?" Our master's answer was, "if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." Protestants teach today that the ten commandments were kept for us by Christ, so we no longer have to keep them. Wouldn't this have been a perfect opportunity for Jesus to have said, "don't worry about those nasty old commandments, you don't have to keep them anymore; I'll keep them for you." Instead, he went even further. Jesus was even more specific when the gentleman asked "which ones." He listed five of the ten commandments and the second of the two "great commandments."


In fact, we can get the direct response from Christ Jesus when he was asked a similar question about which of the commandments is the greatest of all.

(Mat 22:34-40 NASB) But when the Pharisees heard that He had put the Sadducees to silence, they gathered themselves together. {35} And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, {36} "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" {37} And He said to him, "'YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.' {38} "This is the great and foremost commandment. {39} "The second is like it, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.' {40} "On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.

Did you get that? He said, "on these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." Why should the Law and the Prophets matter at all if Christ did away with them? The answer is that the Law and the Prophets do matter because Jesus stated flatly, in Matthew 5:17, that it was not his purpose to do away with them.

(Mat 5:17-20 NASB) "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. {18} "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished. {19} "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. {20} "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

More than the Minimum

Not only did Jesus uphold the ideal of greatness being measured by those who keep and teach the commandments, he went on to equate the keeping of the commandments with achieving "righteousness." He said that, in order for us to enter the Kingdom of God, we must have righteousness; and we must have it to a degree even greater than the scribes and Pharisees.

Christ wasn't the only one who said that the keeping of God's commandments is equated with righteousness. So did David in Ps 119:172.

(Psa 119:172 NASB) Let my tongue sing of Thy word, For all Thy commandments are righteousness.

In Matthew 11:7, our master described the greatness of John the Baptist.

(Mat 11:7-11 NASB) And as these were going away, Jesus began to speak to the multitudes about John, "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? {8} "But what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' palaces. {9} "But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I say to you, and one who is more than a prophet. {10} "This is the one about whom it is written, 'BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY BEFORE YOU.' {11} "Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.

If John actually was the greatest of all men ever born, then we can be sure that John's testimony is true. Look at John 1:29 to see what John the Baptist said about Jesus.

(John 1:29 NASB) The next day he saw Jesus coming to him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

So, John the Baptist stated that it was Christ's purpose to take away the sin of the world. A similar prophecy was given to Joseph, the betrothed husband of Mary, prior to Jesus' birth in Matthew 1:21.

(Mat 1:21 NASB) "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins."

How is it that he was going to save his people from their sins? Think about it. It was through forgiveness, as we can read in Luke 24: 46.

(Luke 24:46-47 NASB) and He said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and rise again from the dead the third day; {47} and that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

In Ezekiel 18:30, we can read of God's attitude about the sins of rebellious Israel.

(Ezek 18:30-32 NASB) "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct," declares the Lord GOD. "Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. {31} "Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? {32} "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live."

Deeds Appropriate to Repentance

Testifying before King Agrippa in Acts 26:20, Paul nails it right on the head when he stated what he had done.

(Acts 26:20 NASB) but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.

What are "deeds appropriate to repentance" and from what are we supposed to repent? Go back to Matthew 3:1 to see again what John the Baptist taught about repentance.

(Mat 3:1-6 NASB) Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, {2} "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." {3} For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT!'" {4} Now John himself had a garment of camel's hair, and a leather belt about his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. {5} Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea, and all the district around the Jordan; {6} and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins.

We can hear more about the "good news" that John the Baptist preached in the first chapter of Mark.

(Mark 1:1-4 NASB) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. {2} As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, "BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER BEFORE YOUR FACE, WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY; {3} THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT.'" {4} John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The third chapter of Luke gives us more background about John the Baptist and what it was that he preached.

(Luke 3:1-14 NASB) Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, {2} in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. {3} And he came into all the district around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins; {4} as it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD, MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT. {5} 'EVERY RAVINE SHALL BE FILLED UP, AND EVERY MOUNTAIN AND HILL SHALL BE BROUGHT LOW; AND THE CROOKED SHALL BECOME STRAIGHT, AND THE ROUGH ROADS SMOOTH; {6} AND ALL FLESH SHALL SEE THE SALVATION OF GOD.'" {7} He therefore began saying to the multitudes who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Continue in verse eight.

(Luke 3:8-14 NASB) "Therefore bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance [now doesn't that sound just like the way we heard Paul describe his ministry before King Agrippa?], and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I say to you that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. {9} "And also the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." {10} And the multitudes were questioning him, saying, "Then what shall we do?" {11} And he would answer and say to them, "Let the man who has two tunics share with him who has none; and let him who has food do likewise." {12} And some tax-gatherers also came to be baptized, and they said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" {13} And he said to them, "Collect no more than what you have been ordered to." {14} And some soldiers were questioning him, saying, "And what about us, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Do not take money from anyone by force, or accuse anyone falsely, and be content with your wages."

Now, doesn't that sound and awful lot like the eighth commandment, 'you shall not steal' and the tenth commandment, you shall not covet anything belonging to your neighbor?

So, we can see that John the Baptist, as well as the Apostle Paul, preached about repenting from sin. Beyond that, they preached that after repentance from sin, we should lead lives continuing to show deeds or works worthy of an attitude of repentance. Therefore, we are to be committed to lives of repentance from past as well as present sins.

In Romans 6:12, Paul shows that we are to continually put sin out of our lives.

(Rom 6:12-23 NASB) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, {13} and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. {14} For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. {15} What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! {16} Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? {17} But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, {18} and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. {19} I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. {20} For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. {21} Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. {22} But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. {23} For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Bound in Slavery

We and our fathers, apart from God, were slaves to sin. As slaves, we were owned by sin and by the father of sin, Satan the Devil, because we did his will and his bidding. While we were still slaves to Satan, however, we were purchased by a new master, God the Father, through the sacrificial payment of his agent, and our elder brother, Jesus Christ. For more insight on our status as slaves, see our sermons on Righteous Slavery.

Christ was qualified, since he is our elder brother, to buy us back from our former master, Satan. Christ was qualified, both through his spiritual status as well as through his physical genealogy, to be our kinsman redeemer.

You'll remember in the statutes of God in Leviticus 25:47 that it if an Israelite, due to financial problems, sold himself into slavery to another man, it was possible for him to be bought out of slavery by one of his own family. As we explored in our sermon, God Our Owner, Christ Our Redeemer, such was the concept of the kinsman redeemer. Let's look again at the kinsman redeemer command in Lev 25:47.

(Lev 25:47-48 NASB) 'Now if the means of a stranger or of a sojourner with you becomes sufficient, and a countryman of yours becomes so poor with regard to him as to sell himself to a stranger who is sojourning with you, or to the descendants of a stranger's family, {48} then he shall have redemption right after he has been sold. One of his brothers may redeem him,

As the agent of God the Father, Christ stepped in and bought us as slaves from our former master to be slaves to our new master. As we, in ignorance, did the will of our former master, so now, through the knowledge that has been revealed to us, we are to do the will and pleasure of our new owner, God the Father.

In 1 Corinthians 7:22, we can see that we were actually purchased.

(1 Cor 7:22-23 NASB) For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. {23} You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

In 1 Corinthians 6:19 Paul tells us that, as purchased property, we have a duty and obligation to live according to God's will.

(1 Cor 6:19-20 NASB) Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? {20} For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

Just what is sin, though? Of what are we to repent?

In the Old Testament, the English word translated "sin" comes from one of about ten Hebrew words but there are two used most frequently. The first is chata' which is Strong's #2398, to miss or go wrong; hence to sin. We find an example of this word used in Genesis 20:9.

(Gen 20:9 NASB) Then Abimelech called Abraham and said to him, "What have you done to us? And how have I sinned [that's chata, to miss or go wrong] against you, that you have brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done."

The second word most often translated "sin" is Strong's# 2403, chatta'ah, an offense and its penalty (sometimes it refers to habitual sinfulness). It is from the same root in Strong's #2398, to miss or go wrong. We find an example of this word used in Genesis 4:7 when God warns Cain about being in a bad attitude.

(Gen 4:7 NASB) "If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin [that's chatta' ah, an offense and its penalty] is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

In the New Testament, there are four Greek words translated "sin" but two are used most often.

The first is Strong's# 264, hamartano. It means to miss the mark, that is, to err, or to sin. We can see hamartano used in John 8:10.

(John 8:10-11 NASB) And straightening up, Jesus said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" {11} And she said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more [that's hamartano, to miss the mark]."

The other Greek word most often translated sin is Strong's# 266, hamartia. It is from hamartano and it, too, means a missing of the mark. We can see hamartia used in John 8:20.

(John 8:20-21 NASB) These words He spoke in the treasury, as He taught in the temple; and no one seized Him, because His hour had not yet come. {21} He said therefore again to them, "I go away, and you shall seek Me, and shall die in your sin [that's hamartia, a missing of the mark]; where I am going, you cannot come."

Notice the common denominator between all the words translated "sin" in both the Old and New Testaments: to miss the mark or to go wrong from the standards established by God.

Beyond Sin

Earlier, we heard examples from Christ's own mouth that if we want to have eternal life, we are to live by the commandments of God, especially the two great commandments. Is that all that's required of us? Is there anything else? It sounds a little like the old question that asks if the glass of water half full or half empty. Paraphrasing what our Creator stated for us in Exodus 20, we have heard what we are not to do outlined in the ten commandments: You shall have no other gods before Me; You shall not make for yourself an idol or worship them or serve them; You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy, in it you shall not do any work; Honor your father and your mother; You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; and You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Many modern theologians and so-called "Christian" ministers preach today that Christ did away with or kept for us the ten commandments. For their proof, many cite the writings of Paul. Did Paul really say what the ministers claim he preached? Was Paul's doctrine different than the rest of the apostles or different than the very words of Christ we just read? In 2 Pet 3:14, hear what Peter had to say about how it is that many people would twist the writings of Paul.

(2 Pet 3:14-16 NASB) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, {15} and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you [so, Paul had wisdom given to him by God, which Paul then imparted to the church in his writings], {16} as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

In 1 Corintians 7:19, it is very clear that Paul upheld the keeping of God's commandments.

(1 Cor 7:19 NASB) Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.

Later, in 1 John 5, we are told again to live by the commandments of God and we are given a rather frank comment on their weightiness.

(1 John 5:1-3 NASB) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. {2} By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. {3} For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.

We also heard Christ acknowledge the two great commandments as being the ones on which all else depends. The first is, YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND. The second is, YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF. These are the more positive "to do" commandments which are not seen as a collection of "do not's" but are seen more as an overall life's philosophy of positive action. Their implementation incorporates the "do not's" but they also go on beyond, to expand upon them.

Are there any other scriptures that shed light on how to put the two great commandments into practice in our daily lives? Yes, there are. James 2:10 cites the ten commandments as the base upon which to build but James makes it clear that we are to go beyond the mere foundation.

(James 2:10-26 NASB) For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. {11} For He who said, "DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY," also said, "DO NOT COMMIT MURDER." Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. {12} So speak and so act, as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. {13} For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. {14} What use is it, my brethren, if a man says he has faith, but he has no works? Can that faith save him? {15} If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, {16} and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, be warmed and be filled," and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? {17} Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. {18} But someone may well say, "You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works." {19} You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. {20} But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? {21} Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? {22} You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; {23} and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS," and he was called the friend of God. {24} You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. {25} And in the same way was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works, when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? {26} For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

What are "works?" Let's appeal to the apostle James again for the answer at the beginning of the book of James in James 1:19..

(James 1:19-27 NASB) This you know, my beloved brethren. But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; {20} for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. {21} Therefore putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls. {22} But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. {23} For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; {24} for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. {25} But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man shall be blessed in what he does. {26} If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man's religion is worthless. {27} This is pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father, to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Continue in the next verse.

(James 2:1-9 NASB) My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. {2} For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, {3} and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, "You sit here in a good place," and you say to the poor man, "You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool," {4} have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives? {5} Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? {6} But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court? {7} Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called? {8} If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law, according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well. {9} But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

We've seen in numerous scriptures that it continues to be our duty to live by God's commandments but, as we see in Luke 17:7, we must go beyond our mere duty.

(Luke 17:7-10 NASB) "But which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? {8} "But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me until I have eaten and drunk; and afterward you will eat and drink'? {9} "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? {10} "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'"

Profitable Slaves

Did you catch that? Christ commands us to say of ourselves, "We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done."

How can we become worthy slaves? We can become profitable slaves to God by going above and beyond what is our mere duty.

In the beatitudes of Matthew 5, we can see Christ expound on how we should daily put the commandments of God into practice.

(Mat 5:1-16 NKJV) And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. {2} Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: {3} "Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {4} Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. {5} Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. {6} Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. {7} Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. {8} Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. {9} Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. {10} Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. {12} "Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. {13} "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. {14} "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. {15} "Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. {16} "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Skip down to verse twenty-one.

(Mat 5:21-48 NKJV) "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' {22} "But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire. {23} "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, {24} "leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. {25} "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. {26} "Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. {27} "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' {28} "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. {29} "If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. {30} "And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. {31} "Furthermore it has been said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' {32} "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery. {33} "Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.' {34} "But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; {35} "nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. {36} "Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. {37} "But let your 'Yes' be 'Yes,' and your 'No,' 'No.' For whatever is more than these is from the evil one. {38} "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' {39} "But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. {40} "If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. {41} "And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} "Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. {43} "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' {44} "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} "And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Perfection Defined

If we are to be perfect as our Father is perfect, then it's obvious that God is the one who sets the standard. God is the one who determines what is holy, perfect behavior.

Do we venerate and hold as holy what God says is holy? Our lives are made up of time and we are to be judged by what we do with our time. Do we properly treat God's Sabbaths as what the Hebrew term translates as "set-apart rest" or do we treat the Sabbath as just another day of the week and scurry about our daily duties, even if not our daily jobs?

In Isaiah 58:1, notice what God has to say about treating His Sabbaths as common, ordinary days.

(Isa 58:1-14 NASB) "Cry loudly, do not hold back; Raise your voice like a trumpet, And declare to My people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sins. {2} "Yet they seek Me day by day, and delight to know My ways, As a nation that has done righteousness, And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, They delight in the nearness of God. {3} 'Why have we fasted and Thou dost not see? Why have we humbled ourselves and Thou dost not notice?' Behold, on the day of your fast you find your desire, And drive hard all your workers. {4} "Behold, you fast for contention and strife and to strike with a wicked fist. You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. {5} "Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for a man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed, And for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? {6} "Is this not the fast which I choose, To loosen the bonds of wickedness, To undo the bands of the yoke, And to let the oppressed go free, And break every yoke? {7} "Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry, And bring the homeless poor into the house; When you see the naked, to cover him; And not to hide yourself from your own flesh? {8} "Then your light will break out like the dawn, And your recovery will speedily spring forth; And your righteousness will go before you; The glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. {9} "Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, {10} And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. {11} "And the LORD will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. {12} "And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell. {13} "If because of the sabbath, you turn your foot From doing your own pleasure on My holy day, And call the sabbath a delight, the holy day of the LORD honorable, And shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, From seeking your own pleasure, And speaking your own word, {14} Then you will take delight in the LORD, And I will make you ride on the heights of the earth; And I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father, For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."

Today is God's Sabbath day. Yesterday was the day of preparation. Do we properly use the Preparation Day as God instructed the Israelites in the wilderness in Exodus 16:22? The preparation day is a tool made available to us to properly prepare for God's "set-apart rest."

(Exo 16:22-23 NASB) Now it came about on the sixth day they gathered twice as much bread, two omers for each one. When all the leaders of the congregation came and told Moses, {23} then he said to them, "This is what the LORD meant: Tomorrow is a sabbath observance, a holy sabbath to the LORD. Bake what you will bake and boil what you will boil, and all that is left over put aside to be kept until morning."

Do we follow what Nehemiah did on the Sabbath day in Nehemiah 13? God wrote down for our instruction the example set for us about proper conduct on the Sabbaths in Nehemiah 13:15.

(Neh 13:15-22 NASB) In those days I saw in Judah some who were treading wine presses on the sabbath, and bringing in sacks of grain and loading them on donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, and they brought them into Jerusalem on the sabbath day. So I admonished them on the day they sold food. {16} Also men of Tyre were living there who imported fish and all kinds of merchandise, and sold them to the sons of Judah on the sabbath, even in Jerusalem.

That's the key to the problem. It was bad enough that people brought food into the city to sell on the Sabbath. What made it even worse was there were dumb Israelites who were willing to buy food on the Sabbath. Look at the example preserved for us in scripture. Do you buy food at grocery stores or restaurants on God's Sabbath or do you use the Preparation Day that God provided for us to prepare food ahead of the Sabbath?

Continue in verse 17.

(Neh 13:17-22 NASB) Then I reprimanded the nobles of Judah and said to them, "What is this evil thing you are doing, by profaning the sabbath day? {18} "Did not your fathers do the same so that our God brought on us, and on this city, all this trouble? Yet you are adding to the wrath on Israel by profaning the sabbath." {19} And it came about that just as it grew dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and that they should not open them until after the sabbath. Then I stationed some of my servants at the gates that no load should enter on the sabbath day. {20} Once or twice the traders and merchants of every kind of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem. {21} Then I warned them and said to them, "Why do you spend the night in front of the wall? If you do so again, I will use force against you." From that time on they did not come on the sabbath. {22} And I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come as gatekeepers to sanctify the sabbath day. For this also remember me, O my God, and have compassion on me according to the greatness of Thy lovingkindness.

God is our righteous, holy Creator. In Leviticus 11:44, He sets Himself apart as the standard of holy conduct to which we are to strive. His conduct is to be our standard of conduct.

(Lev 11:44-45 NASB) 'For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy; for I am holy. And you shall not make yourselves unclean with any of the swarming things that swarm on the earth. {45} 'For I am the LORD, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, to be your God; thus you shall be holy for I am holy.'"

Again, we can read of God setting Himself as the standard of holiness in Leviticus 19:2. This time, however, he further defines that holiness by incorporating His commandments in the definition.

(Lev 19:2-18 NASB) "Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, 'You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy. {3} 'Every one of you shall reverence his mother and his father [that's the fifth commandment], and you shall keep My sabbaths [that's the fourth commandment]; I am the LORD your God. {4} 'Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves molten gods [that's the first and the second commandment]; I am the LORD your God.

Now, continue in verse eleven.

(Lev 19:11-18 NASB) 'You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another [that's the eighth and the ninth commandment]. {12} 'And you shall not swear falsely by My name, so as to profane the name of your God [that's the third commandment]; I am the LORD. {13} 'You shall not oppress your neighbor, nor rob him [that's the eighth commandment again]. The wages of a hired man are not to remain with you all night until morning. {14} 'You shall not curse a deaf man, nor place a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall revere your God; I am the LORD. {15} 'You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly. {16} 'You shall not go about as a slanderer among your people [that's the ninth commandment again], and you are not to act against the life of your neighbor [that's the sixth commandment]; I am the LORD. {17} 'You shall not hate your fellow countryman in your heart; you may surely reprove your neighbor, but shall not incur sin because of him. {18} 'You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself [that's the second of the two great commandments cited by Christ]; I am the LORD.

Many of us have read the Shema. It was part of Christ's answer to the question of the foremost or greatest commandment. "Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Ehad." In Deuteronomy 6:4, we can read the complete text from which Jesus quoted.

(Deu 6:4-9 NASB) "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! {5} "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. {6} "And these words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; {7} and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. {8} "And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. {9} "And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

How often do we do that? Do we daily recite to each other what Christ called "the foremost of all commandments? Do we teach them to our children every day or are the commandments just something to be discussed on the Sabbath? We need to make more of an effort to obey this greatest of all commandments on a daily basis.

Not Merely Commandment Keeping

Commandment keeping, however, is not an end in itself, as can we read in Ephesians 2:4.

(Eph 2:4-8 NASB) But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, {5} even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), {6} and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, {7} in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. {8} For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

So, not only does God the Father set the standard of righteous and holy behavior to which we should aspire, he also is the one who gives us, as a free gift, the faith we need to be saved. That does not, however, negate our commanded duty to continue to walk in good works as we earlier read in James 2.

In Colossians 3:12, Paul writes, in more detail, how we should go above and beyond our mere duty.

(Col 3:12-14 NASB) And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; {13} bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. {14} And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.


1 Pet 1:14 sums up our total obligations to God.

(1 Pet 1:14-19 NASB) As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, {15} but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; {16} because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." {17} And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man's work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth; {18} knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, {19} but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ.

What have we learned today? We've learned that we are to keep God's ten commandments and to have our daily life framed by continually putting into practice the two great commandments of God: love toward God and love toward neighbor. More than that, in order to be considered as "profitable slaves" by our Father, we are to go beyond the mere "letter of the law" of God's commandments and strive to live by the "spirit" or intent of what James refers to as "the perfect law, the law of liberty."

Sermon given by Philip Edwards
April 22, 2006
Copyright 2006, Philip Edwards

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