Sermon: Christ and the Scriptures
Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20
In this week’s lessons, we see what Jesus’ view of Scripture was and how he used it in his ministry.
Theme: Absolute Authority
The first truth that we find in these verses is the truth that the Scriptures—and of course Christ was referring to the whole of the Old Testament—are absolute. They are eternal and unchangeable. They are the rock upon which the Christian can build. They stand written beyond any alteration or recall. They are the supreme court of all supreme courts. From their verdict there is no further appeal.
However, this is true, not only in a passive, but also in an active, sense. For the decision the Bible gives is an efficacious decision, one that actually brings about the fact stated. We might illustrate this aspect of the Bible’s function by a comparison of the Scriptures with the Supreme Court of the United States. Suppose that the Supreme Court is asked for a decision on a matter that is already common practice across the country but which has been challenged by suit. If the Supreme Court finds the practice to be in conformity with the Constitution of the United States, this decision is final. The practice must stand. If, however, as in the case of segregation in the public schools, the practice is found to be out of conformity with the Constitution of the United States, then the practice must be changed. And the decision reached at the bench of the Supreme Court is seen to be one that affects the conduct of millions of citizens and the ordering of their lives and their destinies.
Clearly, Jesus Christ believed that the Bible was the supreme authority over life in both of these senses. It was the court from which there was no further appeal, and it was the court whose decisions, already recorded, were affecting and would continue to affect the lives of men everywhere. According to Jesus the only possible course of action for anyone, including himself, was to live in total conformity to it. For even though heaven and earth should pass away, nothing would pass from this book until all had been fulfilled.
It is also evident from these verses that the Lord Jesus Christ considered each part of the Bible inspired. This is to say that according to his teaching the Bible was not only authoritative; it was authoritative in even the smallest part. Jesus said, “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
It is evident, even as we read this unusual phrase today, that the phrase “one jot or one tittle” was a rabbinical expression referring to the minutest part of the law. The thought, also quite rabbinical, was that not even the smallest part of the law would perish or be forgotten. The “jot” was the smallest letter of the Hebrew alphabet, the letter that we would transliterate by an “i” or a “y”. In written Hebrew it resembled a comma, though it was written near the top of the letters rather than near the bottom. The “tittle” was what we would call a serif, the tiny protrusion on letters that distinguishes a Roman typeface from a more modern one. The reader of the English Bible can see the difference this makes in Hebrew by comparing the Hebrew letter before verse nine in the Scofield Bible with the Hebrew letter before verse eighty-one. The first letter is a beth. The second one is a kaph. The only difference between them is the tittle. The same feature distinguishes daleth from resh and vav from zayin. According to Jesus, then, not even an “i” or a “serif” of the law would be lost until the whole law was fulfilled.
Do you believe that? You should believe that for Christ taught it. If you are Christ’s disciple, you cannot remain faithful to his teachings and say, “I like the Sermon on the Mount, but I don’t like the references to the blood of Jesus Christ; they offend me.” You can’t say, “I like prophecy,” but then neglect Christ’s ethics. You can’t say, “I like the New Testament, but not the Old Testament.” You can’t say, “I like certain things that Jesus Christ said, but not other things that Christ said.” You must take it all. For Jesus taught, in effect, that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).
What is the first truth from our text about Scripture?
Explain the importance of what Jesus meant when he talked about a jot and a tittle.
How is the concept of absolute truth often viewed today?
Reflection: In what ways is the Bible’s authority under attack?