Do the Words of Jesus Apply Now?
Oh, the lengths some will go to justify themselves. I guess I shouldn't be shocked, but frankly, I find it difficult to understand how people can label themselves Christians and then turn around and deny that the words of Christ have any application now. I am finding it really hard to appreciate a book that recently was given to me. The book was written by a brother whom I know out in Oregon. This brother claims to have rethought the subject of marriage and divorce, and he has come up with the idea that the teachings of Jesus during his personal ministry just don't apply now, but that they belong to a bygone Jewish dispensation. I believe with all my heart that the teaching Jesus did before the cross comprises his will, and that his will came into effect after his death (Heb. 9:16,17). In this article I want to show that the teaching of Jesus during his personal ministry applies now, and particularly since this brother from Eugene denies it, I want to emphasize that the Sermon on the Mount is for this age.
Christ's teachings are for this dispensation. He preached the coming kingdom in Matthew 4:17, and a great number of his parables describe the kingdom ("the kingdom of heaven is like. . . "). He defined true greatness in the kingdom. He identified the foundation of the church he would build and promised Peter the keys of the kingdom. Jesus told Nicodemus about the new birth into the kingdom and spoke to his disciples concerning the type of character citizens of that realm must possess. He told how a rich man would find entry difficult. He taught about resolving problems between brethren and how matters should be handled before they are brought before the church. Does this sound like teaching for a past Jewish dispensation? Of course not!
Not only did Jesus preach the kingdom message, but his words are said to be new - they are unique. (This Oregon brother has the idea that Jesus merely taught the law of Moses.) Jesus claimed that he alone revealed the Father, and told his disciples that the prophets had not heard what he made known (Matt. 13:17). Jesus taught that Moses had not given them the true manna from heaven, but that he provided it through his words (Jn. 6:32-35,63). Furthermore, he said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (Jn. 14:6). The completeness of Christ's authority is proclaimed in Hebrews 1:1-3, and then the writer asks, "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him?" (2:3) Our brother's denial of the words of Jesus becomes more alarming when we recall that 2 John 9 warns that we do not have God if we do not abide in Christ's teaching (doctrine).
Now let's go to the Sermon on the Mount. (Our brother makes this to be only a restatement of the law of Moses and directions for those who were still under that law.) First, notice that this sermon was addressed particularly to Christ's disciples (Matt. 5:1; Lk. 6:20) and repeatedly he speaks of what will be acceptable in "the kingdom of heaven." I believe it is especially significant that Jesus again and again says, "You have heard that it was said," and each time he quotes from the Old Law; and then with each quotation he declares, "but I say unto you." In each of these declarations Jesus introduces something new; a new emphasis, or a new spiritual application or else something completely different from anything given hitherto. Where does the Law teach that calling someone a "fool" puts one in danger of hell fire, that lustful looking equals adultery in the heart, mat putting away a mate causes the mate to commit adultery, that a person is not to swear at all, that a disciple is not to resist an evil person but to turn the other cheek and go the second mile and that one should love his enemies? Where does the Law teach such? Nowhere. (The closest this brother could get to loving enemies under the Law was to show that the Law required an Israelite to love a stranger - that is not the same thing at all.) Other new teachings given by Jesus are: forgive or you will not be forgiven; seek the kingdom of God first; and as we judge others, so shall we be judged. Climaxing the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said that "whoever" heard him but does not keep his sayings is like a fool building on the sand, but he who hears and obeys is like a wise man building on a rock (Matt. 7:24-27). But according to the writer of the book, Christ spoke falsely when he said "whoever." According to the Oregon writer a person can hear the sayings of Christ and not do them and be a wise man!
In conclusion, the teachings of Jesus are authoritative for this age. I dare not seek to nullify the "whoever" in his teaching on marriage and divorce in Matthew 5:32; 19:9. I fear to reject his words and am concerned for anyone who does so. Jesus say, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him - the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day" (Jn. 12:48).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 18, p. 560