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  • Chad Werkhoven

Matthew 5:17-20 - Don't Try This At Home

Jesus looks at two extremes when it comes to keeping God's law and says 'Nope.'

Read / Listen

Read Matthew 5:17-20

Listen to passage & devotional:


Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 62

Q. Why can’t the good we do

make us right with God,

or at least help make us

right with him?

A. Because the righteousness

which can pass God’s scrutiny

must be entirely perfect

and must in every way

measure up to the divine law.

Even the very best we do in this life

is imperfect

and stained with sin.



The Sermon on the Mount comes near the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, and right out of the gate He seeks to squelch the two biggest misunderstandings that people would have about Him. He begins by stating that He in no way, shape or form will be an excuse for sinners who seek to abolish God's Law. The latest incarnation of this in our own society comes from those who seek to pit Jesus' love against God's law by claiming that it's unloving, and therefore un-Christlike, to uphold Biblical standards that come into conflict with people's personal choices.

Jesus lays out a stern warning to those who set aside even the least of God's commands, stating that they will be "called least in the Kingdom of Heaven."

Next Jesus calls out those on the opposite end of the spectrum: those who think they're so high and mighty and righteous that they can ride their own awesome law keeping efforts right into the Kingdom of Heaven. Not so fast, warns Jesus. If this is your plan, your righteousness better far exceed the pseudo-righteousness of the Pharisees. But these super-duper rule followers were so hung up in dotting the i's and crossing the t's that Jesus mentioned in v18 that they missed the righteousness of God standing right in front of them. Trying to make yourself right with God on your own is hopeless.

If this were the extent of Jesus' ministry, the gospel would be hopeless! Thank God it's not!

Dig Deeper

Last week we focused on one of the pillars of Reformed theology known as Sola Fide, a Latin phrase that simply means Faith Alone. By this we mean that you are made right with God solely because your faith in Christ and not because of works or rule keeping.

But this understanding, while good, needs to be nuanced a bit. You actually are saved by works. God will not set aside His holy, righteous and perfect standards. The nuance comes in that you are not saved by your own works, rather you are saved by Christ's perfect obedience which has been credited to you. God's law must be kept - down to the smallest letter and the least stroke of a pen. Nobody born in Adam had the ability to keep this law since we were all conceived and born in sin, but Jesus Christ, born of a virgin, could and did.

We'll spend most of the second half of 2023 looking at how you, as one who "can pass God's scrutiny" because you've been included in Christ, now relate to God's law. But suffice it to say for now, that although you are certainly saved by faith alone, you are not saved by a faith that is alone. As we'll see on Friday, true faith and trust in Christ produces a strong desire to live according to all of God's good and perfect law.

  • ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who defines goodness, holiness and righteousness and communicates them in His law;

  • ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that as your faith in Christ alone increases, that so will your desire to live according to God's law;



Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - Ephesians 4


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