Primary Scripture Reference: Matthew 5: 18-19 (NASB).
“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 (18). Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others (to do the same) 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 (19).
Let’s begin this presentation by taking a look at each word or phrase that has been underlined in our primary scriptural reference above.
#1: “For truly I say to you.
Everything that God spoke to us in His Word is the truth. By using this phrase, or by repeating the Word “truly” as in such verses as (John 5:24/John 6: 47/John 16: 20, etc.), is like how we would use such phrases as “without a doubt” or “make certain,” placing emphasis on the point or principle being conveyed.
#2: “until heaven and earth pass away”.
“Until” plays an important role in communicating the principle concerning the a-p-p-l-i-c-a-t-i-o-n of this passage of Scripture.
Until implies that there IS a time when some of what was being taught or put into practice during any given dispensation (period of time) will have served and fulfilled its purpose. Once this has been accomplished, it would be no longer appropriate to continue doing so, otherwise it brings into question what it was that has been accomplished.
The greatest example of this is the one-time (Romans 6: 10/Hebrews 10: 10/1Pet. 3: 18) sacrificial/atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ finished (John 19: 30) on the cross, having then fulfilled (Matt. 5: 17) what the animal sacrifices symbolically represented during the Old Testament dispensation.
The Man-made (religious) concept of “reproducing” the body and the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Communion), and/or offering it to God as a :new" sacrifice, is contrary to Scripture. The last altar (for that purpose) that God acknowledged was the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ on which the one time, atoning sacrifice was made. This sacrifice will never be reproduced by God and was never within the capability of Man in any capacity.
Here in the Church Age, born again believers are commanded to participate in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper (Communion), which is to “bring into r-e-m-e-m-b-r-a-n-c-e (1Cor. 11: 24, 25) ” (NOT to reproduce) the Person and the sacrificial/atoning Work that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the cross. This ritual is to be celebrated UNTIL He returns (1Cor. 11: 26). This ritual is to be celebrated in the manner in which God ordained, This ritual is very sacred and NOT to be taken lightly (1COr. 11: 27, 28), but neither is to be taken beyond the purpose for which it was instituted.
There are many principles and commands of the Old Testament that are still in force, as they reflect the unchanging character and the nature of God. A life that reflects the character and nature of God is what conforming to the likeness of Christ (Romans 8: 29) is all about. Conforming to the likeness of Christ has MUCH to do with EXECUTING the post (after) salvation spiritual life, but this is a post (after) salvation activity that takes place AFTER the issue of one’s salvation has a-l-r-e-a-d-y been forever secured.
An advancing disciple cannot afford to disregard or knowingly violate ANY command of God that is in force (James 2: 10).
“For whoever keeps the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, has been become guilty of all (James 2: 10 NASB).”
In context, "The Law" refers to the commands of the Old Testament, but the principle still applies to completed Canon of Scripture, here in the Church Age. The completed Canon of Scripture (Bible) consists of the 39 Old Testament Books of the Old Testament and the 27 Books of the New Testament. The Canon of Scripture (Bible) should not include the 12 (some say 11, 12 , or 13) Apocyphal Books that were composed between the years 200-100 BC. These Books were never accepted as Scripture by the Old Testament Jews as these Books were written during the 400 year period of silence when God did not speak to Man. Some of the teachings found in these books contradict what is taught in the 66 Books of the Bible. Old Testament Scripture beginning with the book of Genesis (the Book of Job is older) and ending with the Book of Malachi was composed beginning around 1500 BC and continuing on up until the 400 years of silence. The 400 years of silence ended with coming of the First Advent, later recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament. The rest of New Testament Scripture was composed during the First Century AD, ending with the writing of the Book of Revelation around 96 AD.
Adding to, taking from, or perverting Scripture in teaching or in practice is a sin that plays into the hand of the devil (Deut. 4: 2/Prov. 30: 6/Matt. 15: 9/Col. 2: 222, 23). This practice has been the downfall of "religious" people in every dispensation. The dispensation of the Church Age is no exception.
It is only by learning what the Bible DOES have to say that one can detect a false teaching or practice when it presents itself.
Equally important is the knowledge of WHEN any given principle or passage of Scripture HAS been accomplished/fulfilled if one is not going to be deceived into engaging in “religious” rituals and activity that contradict Scripture.
To the extent that one "knows" what the Written Word has to say is the same extent to which one "knows" what the Living Word (The Lord Jesus Christ-John 1:1) has to say.
A-n-y-o-n-e or a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g that contradicts Scripture in teaching or practice contradicts God. This is true regardless of who engineers it or how long it has been practiced as a tradition of Man.
The religious activity of Man that contradict Scripture are among the things that are held in high esteem by Man, but are detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15).
“And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed by men is detestable in the sight of God (Luke 16: 15 NASB).”
If any given born again believer is to become and is to continue to be the type of w-o-r-s-h-i-p-e-r that God desires (John 4: 24), there is much to be learned in order to distinguish accurate Bible Doctrine from the religious teachings and practices of Man. Here in these times of apostasy (1Timothy 4: 1), the “Christian Community- at –large is replete with false doctrine and false practices, and it is only going to get worse as we approach the time of the Rapture.
The accurate teaching of the Word of God for the making of disciples (students and appliers of the Word of God was/is the internal (inside) part of the Mission, aka The Great Commission, that its Head (The Lord Jesus Christ) gave to the Church (Matt.28: 19).
Throughout the course of human history, the devil has introduced and/or encouraged Man to disregard what God has established and to accept one of the many alternatives that “religion” has to offer. The Church Age dispensation is no exception.
The devil, through religion, presents the born again believer with many “alternatives” that appeal to human viewpoint. Fallen Man is bent towards human viewpoint because of the fallen nature (Romans 7) that is inherently hostile (Romans 8:7) towards God and the things of God.
The fallen nature not only remains with us AFTER we are saved, but intensifies the pressure that it puts on the soul keeping up with any progress that the advancing disciple is accomplishing in the post salvation spiritual life.
When a born again believer does not "feel" the pressure of the fallen nature nature on his/her soul, it is because the devil already has him/her right where he wants them. Hell, or what the Bible (Rev. 20: 15 NASB) refers to as the lake of fire will be filled with deceived souls who were "religious" and relatively moral during their appointed time here on Earth, believing that it was their religiosity, good deeds, and good behavior that "earned" them a place in Heaven.
When Paul composed what we now refer to as the New Testament Book of Romans, he spoke of his own o-n-g-o-i-n-g struggle with the fallen nature within him (Romans 7). What many do not know is that letter was written towards the end of Paul’s post salvation spiritual life, some thirty YEARS after he had been born again and had already accomplished much of his ministry!
One's post (after) salvation chosen type of worship does NOT increase nor does it decrease the integrity or the security of the salvation that a born again believer has already secured. There are as many "types" of worship as there are denominations. The only way to truly evaluate the quality of the worship practices of ANY given denomination or ministry is by the FRUIT that is produces. The fruit that God is interested in and is glorified by consists of saved and edified souls.
Re-introducing and imposing Old Testament practices on Church Age believers is not only contrary to Scripture, but causes believers, as in the case of the early believers in the ancient local assembly (church) in Galatia, to question the integrity of the salvation that they, as born again believers, had a-l-r-e-a-d-y received (Gal. 3). At the time, the issue was physical circumcision. That issue was resolved, but would soon be replaced with a never-ending list of do's and don't's that Man would engineer in the name of religion.
Paul described the ones deceived as being “foolish” and “bewitched (Gal. 3:1 NASB)”.
Adding “religious” requirements and rituals/practices to requirements of God was an issue that the Lord Jesus Christ had with the VERY religious Pharisees of His Day. The same scenario continues today, producing the same results.
“But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men (Matt. 15: 9 NASB).
This principle will be further addressed when we examine the “teaching others” phrase of our primary Scripture reference.
The “…heaven and earth pass away” part phrase that follows the word UNTIL is making reference to a future event when the physical elements of planet earth will be melted away with a roar and burnt up by an intense source of heat (2Pet. 3: 10 NASB). Rev. 21: 1 NASB also speaks of events AFTER the present earth has “passed away.”
Unless any given verse or passage has already been fulfilled, it remains in force.
Some say that they go by the Ten Commandments. The truth is that no one, with the exception of the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ has ever been able
to do so. Furthermore, there are more than 300 Commandments of the New Testament that apply to a Church Age believer.
#3: "the smallest letter or stroke"
In the original transcripts (scrolls) that became what we now refer to as The Bible, much care had to be taken when composing each letter as well as each word of the original languages (Hebrew/Greek/ Aramaic) that God the Holy Spirit inspired. Equal care must also be given when attempting to translate the original languages of the Bible into a second language. This was and is especially difficult when translating the original languages of Scripture into the ambiguous English language. While some English Bibles have been better translated that others, even the best of them can lose something in the translation when trying to find an English word or phrase that carries the same meaning or intent as did the languages of the original manuscripts that God actually inspired.
It is a part of the job of a pastor-teacher to address such issues when teaching the Word of God, as this is what it means to be "... handling accurately the word of truth (2Tim. 2: 15 NASB).
This expression referring to the smallest letter or stroke also means that even what appears (to us) to be the s-m-a-l-l-e-s-t d-e-t-a-i-l of the Word of God must be acknowledged if we are to interpret, apply, and honor the principles of the Word of God.
Attention to details was a lesson that Moses in one incident and those moving The Arc of God in another incident learned the hard way and paid a severe price for their error.
Moses was instructed to, "T-a-k-e the rod and to "s-p-e-a-k to the rock (Numbers 20: 8 NASB) for the production of water.
Instead of stricly complying with the details of the instructions he had been given, Moses s-t-r-u-c-k the rock (Numbers 20: 11), and as a result was never permitted to enter the Promised Land here on Earth (Numbers 20: 12). Human reasoning would not see the "big deal" of striking the rock instead of speaking to it, especially in light of the past and great contributions (Leading the Jews out of Egyptian captivity/ receiving the Ten Commandments, etc.) to the plan of God that Moses had been involved. Even though Moses failed to carry out God's instructions to the letter, the needed water (Numbers 20: 2) was still provided (Numbers 20: 11) to the people. Never-the-less, the penalty imposed on Moses remained in force. Moses died and was buried by God BEFORE the people of God entered into the Promised Land (Deut. 34: 5, 6).
In the case of those moving the ark, they placed it in a cart instead of carrying it on poles, as instructed (Exodus 25: 14). When the Arc started to tip, Uzza reached out to steady the load and was struck dead by God (1Chron. 13: 9, 10). Again, human viewpoint would not see the "big deal" in having transporting The Ark using a cart instead of carrying it on poles. Scripture records that David, was angry over what had taken place. Never-the-less, if they had done as they had been instructed (Ex. 25: `14), the incident (and death of Uzza) could have been avoided.
It is paying attention to detail that will keep advancing disciples of the Church Age from engaging in Man-made religious activity associated with the traditions of Man.
"But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the precepts of men (Matt. 15: 9 NASB)."
"And He said to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men (human viewpoint), but God knows your (*adulteress - Rev. 2:4 ) hearts; for that (Man-made religious activity) which is highly esteemed by men is detestable in the sight (divine viewpoint) of God (Luke 16: 15 NASB italics mine).
#4: The Law
In context, the phrase, "The Law," is making reference to commands, rules, regulations found in the first few books of the Old Testament. The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled the Old Testament Law (Matt. 5: 17). While (Church Age) followers are not under the part of the Law that has been fulfilled, the grace of God afforded to Church Age, born again, believers is not a license to sin (Romans 6: 1-12). Church Age believers are accountable (Romans 14: 12) for the Old Testaments commands that ARE still in force, and all of the 300 commands that are in the New Testament, as well. This may seem a little overwhelming, but the rule of thumb is that if whatever we think, say, or do we do reflects our love (Mark 12: 30/John 14: 15) for the Lord and concern for others (Phil. 2: 3,4/Matt. 7: 12), we are usually in compliance with the ALL Laws of God.
#5: "until all is accomplished."
As in the case of phrase #2, the use of the word "until" clearly reveals that there was, is, or will be a time that everything will be accomplished. The "all" in phrase #5 refers to the Laws and commands of God that He has set in place. Unit each one has accomplished its divine purpose, it remains in force. The command, for instance, to celebrate the Lord's Supper will remain in force until Christ returns (1Cor. 11: 26).
This is another example for the need for an advancing disciple to learn to discern the differences between what has already been accomplished, what is being accomplished, and what will be accomplished if one is going to be an ambassador the Christ (2Cor. 5: 20). It is the responsibility of an ambassador to be well versed on the policies of the kingdom that he/she represents, and to refrain from expressing any viewpoints that are contrary. Doing so would result in the recall and dismissal of the ambassador who violates the trust that he/she had been given.
"Do not add to His words Lest He reprove you, and you be proved a liar (Prov. 30: 6 NASB)."
#6: Whoever then annuls
In the secular world, to annul means to make void, to cancel, or to invalidate something that is presently in force.
The pronoun "whoever," in this phase, applies to any individual who by way of thought, word, activity, or practice, a-t-t-e-m-p-t-s to make void or attempts to diminish the significance of compliance with a command of God that has yet been filled/accomplished. I say "a-t-t-e-m-p-t-s" because in the sight of God, any given divine command or regulation remains in force UNTIL it has secured its intended purpose or objective.
Following the lead of the majority may provide one with a (false) sense of security in numbers, but it is not wise when one considers that when it concerns spiritual issued, the majority is usually WRONG (Matt. 7: 13, 14). This majority/minority principle not only applies to the issue of salvation, but what the post salvation spiritual life is all about, as well.
Legitimate change is both good and necessary if one is going to c-o-n-t-i-n-u-e to move forward in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Change IS good IF in the process, the nation, the organization, the family, or the individual(s) involved become more Christ-like (Romans 8: 29).
One can not live according to the ways of the devil's world and be in fellowship with God (James 4: 4).
The Written Word of God (The Bible) and the Living Word of God (The Lord Jesus Christ- John 1: 1) are inseparable. Complying with the Bible is complying with the Lord Jesus Christ. Compromising or rejecting what the the Bible has to say is compromising or rejecting what the Lord Jesus Christ has to say.
Here we see the importance of learning what the Bible has to say, as opposed to what Man-made religion says the Bible has to say!
If change causes one to compromise with or to violate a command of God, then the wrong seed has been planted and will produce evil results (Gal. 6: 7). Here we see the need for an advancing disciple to develop the spiritual maturity it takes to distinguish progress from compromise. They can initially appear to be one in the same, but in truth will lead one involved in opposite directions.
#7: so teaches others
The word "so" is critical in establishing the meaning of this phrase. In this case, the word "so" means to teach others to likewise annul the commands of God. The issues of annulling was addressed in the examination of phrase #6.
Obviously, God will deal with false teachers who in the name (authority) of Man-made religion promote false information WITHIN the Christian Community.
Granted, in many cases, this has been, is now, and will be done in ignorance and with well-meaning intent. However, a bullet fired in ignorance can be just as lethal as the one that is fired with malicious intent.
Man-made "religious" institutions were established and are maintained for the purpose of training candidates to eventually promote the Man-made "religion" and the religious activity of the religious organization that created it for that purpose.
Each (Man-made) denomination (or non-denominational group) has established its own criteria for a candidate to both enter and to graduate from their seminaries, Bible Colleges, etc., and be ordained. Generally speaking, such institutions and their graduates are held in high esteem, at least within their own denominations, but many fall short of the requirements and functions that God has established for those He gifts with the office of pastor teacher.
Note that there are no popes, cardinals, or (officiating) priests listed in the offices of the Church that God designed (Eph. 4: 11). The First century Church that God designed consisted of the collective body of all the independently functioning local assemblies that had been established through the work of the Apostles. These local assemblies were united in doctrine and offered mutual logistical support to each other, but at no time did Scripture ever authorize the creation of a centralized system of authority, vesting ultimate authority in one human being here on Earth.
It was when such a system of authority, bed-partnering with the Roman Empire, that many pagan practices were adopted into what had been the Christian Community at large. There is no greater potential for tyranny than when political and religious authorities join forces.
In the plan of God, the position of Apostle fulfilled its purpose and was eventually eliminated through attrition. In time, all of the existing eye-witnesses of the risen Lord has passed away, leaving no one who could fulfill the Acts 1: 33 requirement. The last Apostle (Paul) fulfilled this requirement in the most unique manner (Acts 9/1Cor. 11: 23/Gal. 1: 17, 18).
The personal mission that the Lord gave to Peter was to the remaining apostles. Peter played a significant role of preaching when the Church was established a the Feast of Pentecost and among the Jewish people.
Several of Apostles were in conflict with each other regarding the internal and external issues that faced the early and developing Church.
Furthermore, it was not on the person of Peter, but on the type of confession of faith made by Peter, that the Church was/is to be built. It was James, one of the the half-brothers (Matthew 13: 55) of the Lord Jesus Christ who would later assume the leadership role in the LOCAL assembly in Jerusalem.
As of the end of Apostolic period, the initial pastor teachers of each local assembly had been trained and ordained, and the replacement procedure laid out in Scripture was then in force.
The position of deacon was created to assist the pastor teacher by taking on some of his other functions so that the pastor teacher could be primarily focused on the study and teaching of the Word of God (Acts 6: 2).
The only difference between a pastor teacher and a Bible teacher is that the pastor teacher has administrative functions and responsibilities within his local assembly or ministry, as well as teaching responsibilities and authority.
Pastors that seek to please people rather than glorify God will fall short of his spiritual calling (Gal. 1: 10).
Many of the "candidates" and "graduates" of "religious" seminaries do NOT meet the requirements of Scripture (1Timothy/ Titus/ etc.). Many others qualify and do receive adequate training, but do not perform the t-e-a-c-h-i-n-g function very well. Instead of "equipping of the saints (Church Age believers) for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ (Eph. 4: 12 NASB italics mine)," they teach principles of morality and promote futile religious' activity.
In most cases, no one needs to be told right from wrong, as we all know in our heart of hearts when we are doing something that the Bible labels as sin. What many born again believers do need to be reminded of is that when he/she does what is wrong, he/she is sinning and is opening the door for divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) here on Earth and loss of reward/privileges in Heaven.
The divine solutions for sin is clear (1John 1: 9/John 8: 11). The function of a pastor teacher is to help clarify what God sees as sin, the need to acknowledge it, the procedure (1John 1: 9) to address it. The "confessional" that God designed is open 24 7.
What the advancing disciple needs to learn is what the post salvation spiritual life is all about and how to execute it, as this and NOT religious ritual is what brings glory to God. Bring glory to God was the purpose for which God created the human race in the midst of an ongoing battle between the forces of good and evil.
In some cases, the pastor teachers ARE doing their jobs, but the majority of many congregations are not really interested in applying in the information that they ARE receiving. One can "go to Church" once a week or once a day and still fail to be born again and/or move forward in the plan of God. It's one thing to learn the truth, but it is something else to do something about it.
"But prove yourselves doers of the Word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves (James 1: 22 NASB)."
The end result has been the state of end time apostasy that dominates large portions of what is generally considered to be a part of the Christian Community-at -large of our day.
One of the reasons that many born again believers do not "get anything out of going to Church" is because the pulpit of the local Church that they attend is not providing them with spiritual nourishment (Bible Doctrine) they need in order to continue to, "...grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pet. 3: 18 NAB). In other cases, the nourishment IS being provided, but there is a lack of appetite on the part of the congregation. In either case, there is a need for a 2Cor. 13: 5 self-examination and/or the need to make a spiritual assessment of one's chosen source of edification.
The divine standard for making such an examination and/or assessment is the f-r-u-it that is or is not being produced). The fruit of a Church or a ministry that God desires are SAVED and EDIFIED souls. Many "attend," but not all that attend are saved and Heaven bound. Many born again believers "attend," but are no further along the road to spiritual maturity that they were years or even decades ago. In this day and age of technology, one can "gather together- Heb. 10: 25 NABS) through one of the many means of commuication that are available today.
The issue of teaching is NOT limited to what comes from the pulpit!
Although those who study and are o-r-d-a-i-n-e-d to teach the Word of God are held to a higher degree of accountability (James 3: 1) for the quantity and the accuracy of what they teach, all born again believers come under the umbrella of "teaching." Each and every day, by what we prioritize, by what we think, by what we say, and by what we do, we are "teaching" and influencing others to do the same.
#8 keeps and teaches them
This phrase (#8) is just the opposite of phrase #7. Whereas as in phrase #7, where the ones being spoken of are annulling the commands of God, the one's being spoken of in verse #8 are "keeping" the law/commands of God.
To "keep," in this verse, means to acknowledge, preserve, defend, and obey. One acknowledges the command/law as having coming from God, and that it applies to the dispensation (e.g. Church Age) in which one is living. One preserves the commands/law by refusing to amend it by adding to it, taking form it, or otherwise perverting it to suit the social, religious, or political climate changes of the day. One defends it by counteracting any attempts to diminish or alter its purpose. Obeying the command/law simply means to comply with it in the manner and for the purpose for which it was given, until its purpose has been accomplished.
Now the conclusion.
One can be born again at any time and in any place where they are presented with the Gospel Message by whatever means of communication the God may choose to use. Being born again (John 3: 5, 7) is the result of making a ONE TIME decision to place personal f-a-i-t-h (trust and confidence) in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ that He performed ON THE CROSS. If born again, THEN one can then choose to connect to a source of edification in order to grow in the knowledge of God.
All born again (John 3: 5, 7) believers will have "a" home in Heaven (Romans 8: 1/ John 3: 18), but will not all born again believers will be called GREAT and share in the rewards (1Cor. 3: 14, 15)) and/or the privileges (Rev. 2, 3) that awaits ONLY those who choose to identify and to execute the post (after) salvation spiritual life of discipleship.
Discipleship is NOT for the purpose of either obtaining or retaining salvation (making it into Heaven). One can not even engage in discipleship until AFTER the issue of his/her salvation has a-l-r-e-a-d-y been resolved. Discipleship involves an already-been-saved born again believer being taught Bible Doctrine and applying what one is taught to ALL that one thinks, says, and does on a daily basis. The study and application of the Word of God is a never-ending activity during the course of one's post (after) salvation spiritual life here on Earth.
Discipleship does NOT improve the integrity of the salvation that a born again believer has already received. Total failure in the execution of the post salvation spiritual life does not diminish the integrity of the salvation that a born again believer has already received. Post (after) salvation sin does not undo the Eph. 4: 30 s-e-a-l-i-n-g/b-a-p-t-i-z-i-n-g (marking for identification) work, and r-e-g-e-n-e-r-a-t-i-n-g (Titus 3: 5) work of God that He (not religous clergy) performed the moment one was born again.
There IS divine discipline (Heb. 12: 6) here on Earth for sinning born again believers. Diving discipline can range in anything from living with a guilty conscience up to and including physical death of the body.
The long term goal of discipleship is reach the stage of spiritual maturity where God can use him/her for the spiritual service and edification of others, and to be His ambassador here in the devil's world.
A born again believer who does not engage in the life of a disciple (studying, applying, and teaching (by word/example) the Word of God) will be called LEAST in the Kingdom of Heaven. The born again believers who become disciples and ambassadors by learning and keeping the commands of God him/herself and by teaching (by word/example) others to do the same will be called GREAT.
We do not serve God in order to be called GREAT or to receive rewards/privileges in Heaven, but to be among the qualifying few, to whom God can say, "Well done, My good and faithful servant (Matt. 25:21 KJV)."