Today we will be looking at the topic of the kingdom, and how the commands of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, are intended to be the guidance of our actions through the transforming of our hearts.
Matthew 5:21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment; and whoever shall say to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council; and whoever shall say, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of the fire of Gehenna.”
Within the natural or physical kingdom of God of ancient Israel, it was necessary to establish rules and safeguards for the population. For a private individual to purposely take the life of another for personal reasons was forbidden, and an offense for which the natural judgment of capital punishment was necessitated for the good of the community.
However, Yeshua uses this basic tenet of the kingdom charter, the Ten Commandments, as a way of elevating the principle to include any intended act of unrighteous anger toward another. In one sense, just as some thought is necessary before an action, any act of murder begins with unrighteous anger towards another. By highlighting and restricting the offense of the emotion, the act will not be carried out. Therefore, to prevent murder, one must eliminate the unrighteous anger behind the action.
Stated another way, as Yeshua points out, the judgment that an individual could face by committing murder could equally be leveled by God against the emotion. The action starts there, so the ultimate judgment would apply there, as well.
This would have been a revolutionary way for Yeshua to be confronting the Jewish leaders with their own practices, and he knew it would have a condemning effect; that was the point. They were so focused on practicing the letter of the law that they were violating just about every intent of it.
For example, Yeshua confronted them many times on the hypocrisy of their actions, and how, as the recognized leaders within the wider Jewish community, they should have been setting the proper standards as leaders of integrity and faithfulness. Instead, they had become corrupted by their positions of authority, and mostly used their influence for personal agendas.
Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others. Blind guides! You strain out a gnat, but gulp down a camel!”
In a parallel passage in the gospel of Luke, Yeshua continues his rant against the religious establishment.
Luke 11:46, 52 – Then he said: “Woe also to you experts in the law! You load people with burdens that are hard to carry, and yet you yourselves don’t touch these burdens with one of your fingers. … Woe to you experts in the law! You have taken away the key to knowledge. You didn’t go in yourselves, and you hindered those who were trying to go in.”
These are only excerpts from the denunciations that Yeshua levels against the leaders. However, these hypocritical actions highlighted by Yeshua can be summarized within one specific charge that he expresses by using two successive examples for repeated emphasis.
Matthew 23:25-28 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside of it may also become clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of the bones of the dead and every kind of impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
In the context of all that Yeshua condemned the leaders for, this primary condemnation has to do with the appearance on outside versus the reality on the inside. They had been focused on the outward cleanliness of the cup and dish, but the insides were still dirty. Tombs can look beautiful on the outside, but the reality on the inside is that they are full of corrupted bodies and bones. This is the same principle we have been exploring from his teaching in the Sermon on the Mount:
Matthew 5: 21-22 – “You have heard that it was said to the ancient ones, ‘You shall not murder;’ and ‘Whoever shall murder shall be in danger of the judgment.’ But I tell you, that everyone who is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…”
According to Yeshua here, the true intent of the command not to murder is to reach to the emotion underlying the act. By condemning the inner emotion, the outward act is eliminated, and the command is enhanced. In essence, Yeshua is saying, “While everyone knows that murder subjects you to judgment, I tell you, in God’s eyes, the same applies to unchecked emotions. Therefore, do not call someone a fool or an idiot or be unrighteously angry with anyone.”
While this teaching may have seemed revolutionary at the time, it would only have been so because of the leaders’ disregard of the full instruction of Torah or God’s Word on this matter. This principle was taught in the Psalms and Proverbs.
- Psalm 37:8 – Cease from anger and abandon wrath; Do not get upset; it leads only to evildoing.
- Proverbs 14:16-17 – A wise person is cautious and turns from evil, but a fool is easily angered and is careless. A quick-tempered person acts foolishly, and one who schemes is hated.
As the teachings of Yeshua were passed on to his disciples and the message of God’s kingdom spread, the disciples carried with them the teaching of God’s Word as exemplified by the teachings of Messiah. John captured this same principle in his first epistle.
- 1 John 2:9, 11 – “The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother or sister is in the darkness until now. … But the one who hates his brother or sister is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.”
- 1 John 3:15 – “Everyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.”
- 1 John 4:20 – “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar. For the person who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.”
John speaks to this issue by pointing to the consequences of inner hatred of others: darkness, murder, lying, not demonstrating love of God. These are all the negative aspects of a life that is lived with only an outward appearance of religiosity but not being sincerely lived from the heart motives underneath. This is what Yeshua condemned the Jewish leaders for, and what we stand condemned of if we also are hypocritical in our faith. The final result of these actions and motives is only judgment and death.
So far, we have looked at the judgment not only of actions but of the motives behind those actions. In a moment, we will look at the opposite of judgment and death, the life and blessings that can be the result of the renewed heart in the life of a believer.
If judgment is the result of the combination of the emotion and the action, then conversely, a blessing can be inferred from the inverse emotion and action combination. For example, if the command is to not murder or even be angry with anyone, and if we do the opposite by not being unrighteously angry with anyone at any time and instead safeguard the lives and interests of others, this will result in a blessing both for them and for us. The action flows from the intention and inner emotion, and when the inner intent is good, the actions will be good. This is how Yeshua taught that a tree (its inner goodness or badness) will be known (demonstrated) by its fruit (its actions).
Paul goes a little deeper into this process and provides the reasoning why inner bitterness should not be a part of the believer’s life.
Ephesians 4:31-32 – “Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Messiah.”
If we have truly been forgiven in Messiah, then our hearts should reflect that newness because of the recognition of God’s forgiveness in our lives. Paul refers to this characteristic as the “new man” or the “new self.”
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, they are a new creature: old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
- Ephesians 4:20-24 – “But that is not how you came to know Messiah, assuming you heard about him and were taught by him, as the truth is in Yeshua, to take off your former way of life, the old self that is corrupted by deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, the one created according to God’s likeness in righteousness and purity of the truth.”
- Colossians 3:8-10 – “But now, put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator.”
When the inner desires and motive are captive to God’s will, it is then that the true intent of God’s commands will be fulfilled in our outward actions, resulting in blessing, not judgment. This was the whole goal of the new covenant of the kingdom that was spoken about by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel.
- Jeremiah 31:33 – “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days” – Yahweh’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
- Ezekiel 36:26-27 – “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will place my Spirit within you and cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances.”
This new living heart of flesh has been God’s plan all along, and had only become corrupted into a heart of stone when the letter of the law was put above the spirit of it. The apostle Paul teaches this principle to the Corinthian congregation.
2 Corinthians 3:6 – “He has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Paul then goes on to list the supremacy of the law of the spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:7-8 – “Now if the ministry that brought death, engraved in letters on stones, came with glory, so that the Israelites were not able to gaze steadily at Moses’s face because of its glory, which faded, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?”
The Ten Commandments were engraved by the finger of God in stone. In Paul’s line of reasoning throughout his epistles, the commands themselves, while holy and good, stir up within us the opposite intent by inciting us to the very thing they are intended to avoid.
Romans 7:10-13 – “The commandment that was meant for life resulted in death for me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me, and through it killed me. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good. Therefore, did what is good become death to me? Absolutely not! On the contrary, sin, in order to be recognized as sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment, sin might become sinful beyond measure.”
The violation of any of the commands results in a type of death. We cannot truly serve God through only the letter of the law; this is what the Pharisees and scribes were guilty of. We saw this earlier in the passage in Matthew’s gospel.
Matthew 23:23-24 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You pay a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, and yet you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These things should have been done without neglecting the others.”
They were so intent on being obedient to the physical law of tithing that they focused on the physical minutia and were oblivious to the larger intent behind those laws resulting in justice, mercy, and faithfulness. Instead of their obedience to the law resulting in life, their outward conformity without inward spiritual motivation resulted in only death.
Going back to Paul’s analogy with Moses and the Ten Commandments is that if the stone commandments were powerful enough to cause Moses’ face to physically shine with glory, albeit only temporarily, how much more will the application of the inner spiritual motives of those commands cause believers to shine even more gloriously for all eternity? This is the whole point of the law: to lead us to the new covenant of the kingdom in Messiah, in whom the fullness of the law through the Spirit of God, enabling those inner motives to truly conform to his will, is revealed. The law is not done away; as Paul writes, it is “holy and just and good.” But what I believe he is trying to convey is that the letter of the law, empty of the power of the Spirit of God, is what has faded away. In its place, through Messiah, is a renewed heart that is enabled to keep that same law through the empowerment of God’s Spirit. This is the message of Jeremiah and Ezekiel; this is the gospel of the kingdom!
We do well to keep in mind that the physical kingdom of ancient Israel was the template, the basis, for the universal and spiritual kingdom of God. As such, the principles in place then, such as the command not to murder, are still in force in the universal kingdom.
However, through the instruction of Yeshua within the gospel of the kingdom, he highlighted how they are enhanced further. This was the meaning and the promise of the law being placed on the heart of the believer within the universal kingdom. If the heart has been renewed, then no law will be violated. In effect, if all of the actions come from a renewed heart of righteousness, then the law will be kept perfectly.
This is the goal that Yeshua came to express. This was the intent of the gospel of the kingdom, and why it was considered good news! As believers, we have been freed from the condemnation and death of the natural law without the Spirit, because the law placed on our heart and empowered by the Spirit ensures we are acting with true motives and abiding within the instruction of God for all time.
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