Lesson for August 30-September 5

Most Christian denominations would uphold all the teachings of Jesus we’ve studied so far, even though Satan has introduced many confusing theories and ideologies which undermine these foundational beliefs.

But his crowning work of deception is yet to be seen in the last weeks of our study of the teachings of Jesus. We will take up the first one this week, the Law of God, which presents many problems for Christians. How it is to be kept has even come down to whether it should be kept.

We spent a whole quarter this year, three months, trying to decipher God’s Law and all its implications for our lives. (Search for “Christ and the Law” on the Outlook site to access this deeper study.) But this week we will zero in on what Jesus taught about this pivotal topic. Did He actually keep the Ten Commandments and how does He want us to relate to the Law today?

Key Text: ” ‘If you love Me, keep My commandments’ “ John 14:15 NKJV

Commandment-keeping devoid of love is of no interest to God. But commandment-keeping combined with love is definitely approved. Not only that, but it’s a sign of our love for Him. If we love Him, then we will keep His commandments. What could be plainer?

The only recourse if we are attempting to avoid the obvious is to ask which commandments are we talking about. Even though the context of this verse may indicate His reference to His new commandment to “love one another; as I have loved you,” found in John 13, our study this week will help us understand our relationship to the law, in its entirety.

Sunday: Jesus Did Not Change the Law

We know that Jesus was present and actively participated in the creation of our world. John opens his gospel with this truth: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” He goes on to positively identify the Creator as Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus likewise present when the Ten Commandment law was given to Moses? There are Bible verses that attest to Jesus’ presence, such as when we read, “and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.” I Corinthians 10:4 NKJV

Can we safely say then that the Ten Commandment Law was part of “My commandments” that Jesus spoke of in our key text? Perhaps it will help to hear what Jesus had to say about the Law in His Sermon on the Mount, in particular, Matthew 5:17-19.

” ‘Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title will by no means pass from the law till all be fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” NKJV

If you doubt whether Jesus was referring to the Ten Commandments from this statement alone, read it in context. For much of the remainder of His famous Sermon addressed commandments in the Decalogue. Jesus gave them a broader application by pointing out the need to keep the spirit of the law, not just the letter of the law.

Yes, it appears that the only change Jesus made as far as the Ten Commandments was that they should be keeping them better, not less.

Discussion Questions: How would you summarize Jesus’ attitude toward the Law from the Sermon on the Mount, particularly Matthew 5, beginning with verse 17? What did He say about the Law being changed (v. 18)? When will “all be fulfilled”?

From Christianity’s earliest years, theologies have developed that threaten a true understanding of the role of the law and grace in our lives. Extremists have taught that freedom from the law’s condemnation is freedom from obedience to the law. How would you explain your understanding of law and grace?

Monday: Jesus Deepened the Meaning of the Law

Matthew records these words at the end of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount: “for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Matthew 7:29 NKJV

Listen to how Jesus repeatedly expressed His opinions about the Law in Matthew 5: ” ‘You have heard it said to those of old [referring to their traditions]…But I say to you that…”

This must have sounded blasphemous to the scribes and Pharisees, but to the common people, who were tired of the yoke created for them by their rabbis, it was very appealing. Either He was from God, or He was God Himself. Thus they eagerly listened to His words.

Jesus’ purpose was not to be in opposition to religious authorities. And He certainly didn’t intend to change or nullify anything in Scripture, and that would include God’s Ten Commandment Law. He made that clear before He even starting preaching about the Law: ” ‘Do not think I came to destroy… He even verified the everlasting nature of the law with “one jot or tittle will by no means pass from the law”.

Here’s how Jesus showed a deeper meaning to just a few of the Ten Commandments:

  • murder (Commandment #6)–“whoever is angry with his brother” Matthew 5:22 (anger is as much a sin as murder)
  • adultery and coveting someone’s wife (Commandments #7 and #10)–“whoever looks at a woman to lust for her” Matthew 5:28 (lust is as sinful as adultery)

Jesus also said that they must not only love their neighbor, but even their enemies. In other words, their keeping of the law must come from love deep within the heart. No superficial obeying of the rules would do. An inward cleansing by the Holy Spirit is the only way to achieve this enhanced version of commandment-keeping. Without the Spirit, there is mere formalism.


Later in Matthew Jesus supported tithing as a means of supporting the ministry (Matthew 23:23), but He cautioned against losing sight of “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.” Again, He deepened the meaning of keeping the law.

Discussion Questions: What do justice, mercy, and faith have to do with our returning of tithe to God? And what do they have to do with the law?

How can any of us “keep the law” as Jesus portrayed in the Sermon on the Mount? Was He pointing out that we can’t keep it in our own strength, or that there’s no point in keeping it at all?

What did Jesus mean by saying that He had a new commandment to teach them in John 13:34? What was new about it?

Jesus included the words “as I have loved you”. What was new about Jesus’ love?

Tuesday: Jesus and the Seventh Commandment

The seventh commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” does not appear to affect most people. But Jesus connected it with the tenth commandment about coveting anyone other than your own spouse. Are lustful thoughts and looks for someone other than your spouse the same as the physical sexual act of adultery? Jesus tells us so in Matthew 5:27, 28.

This idea of breaking one commandment leading to breaking another one reminds us of James 2:10 which says, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” NKJV

Jesus spoke again in the Sermon on the Mount about adultery, as it pertains to divorce (Matthew 5:31, 32). He said in v. 32: “But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” NKJV

Matthew 19 tells how the Pharisees posed a trick question to Jesus by bringing up the issue of divorce again. They had misinterpreted Moses’ instruction about divorce and had used the phrase some “uncleanness in her” (from Deuteronomy 24:1) very loosely to allow divorce for the most trivial offenses. But Jesus made it clear that God’s original intention was that marriage was for the two to become one flesh and not be separated.

He further explains Moses’ command: ” ‘Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.’ ” Matthew 19:8 NKJV So, instead of contradicting Moses, as they were hoping Jesus would do, He merely explained his actions, pointing to their hard hearts as the reason for divorce to be questioned in the first place.

Discussion Question: Read Matthew 5:29, 30. What evidence do we have that Jesus was using figurative speech here? Does He really intend for us to cut off our hands or pluck out our eyes? (Read how God felt about cuttings of the flesh or even tatoos on the skin in Leviticus 19:28.) What were Jesus’ real intentions in using such forceful language when faced with the possibility of sinning?

What are some other examples of Jesus using figurative language? [Matthew 19:24–a camel going through the eye of a needle; Luke 19;40–the stones would cry out]

 Read Matthew 5:19. Why is it difficult to just break one commandment without breaking them all? Give examples.

Wednesday: Jesus and the Fifth Commandment

Although not mentioned in the famous Sermon on the Mount, we find that Jesus also addressed other commandments, such as honoring our parents, in other parts of the Gospels. Two such passages worth reading are Matthew 15:1-20 and Mark 7:1-13, which speak of the same event.

Jesus confronts the scribes and Pharisees about the fifth commandment with the assessment “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”, which was actually a quote from Isaiah 29:13. He tells them ” ‘…Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.’ “ Matthew 15:6

Their tradition of declaring Corban, or something dedicated to God and the temple, created a spiritual loophole for them to deny their parents support and to keep their wealth to themselves, thus invalidating the fifth commandment.

Discussion Questions: Read Isaiah 29:13. How does honoring God with our lips and not our hearts lead to worshiping Him in vain?

What part does the law play in our worship?

Thursday: Jesus and the Essence of the Law

When we examine two passages in Matthew we seem to get different views of the law. See how Jesus answers the question about which commandments we should keep:

  1. The first one is in Matthew 19:16-22. Here a rich, young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to have eternal life. Jesus replies that he should keep the commandments, and he then asks Him “Which ones?” The Pharisees thought of the first commandments as more important than the last six. Perhaps that’s why Jesus listed the ones He did to the rich, young ruler. When He is told he already keeps them, Jesus told him to go, sell all he has, and follow Him.
  2. In Matthew 22:35-40 a lawyer of the Pharisees asks Jesus which is the great commandment in the law. Jesus replied:

” ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’ “ Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV

Discussion Questions: What is the essence of the law in the answers Jesus gives in the verses above?

What evidence do we see in people as a whole today that they value the last six, involving our duty to others, as more important than the first four? How did Jesus prioritize the commandments?


Isaiah, a book full of Messianic prophecies, summed up what Jesus taught about the law. “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable.” Isaiah 42:21 KJV

Consider the work of a magnifying glass. It doesn’t change what you’re looking at, indicating that the law hasn’t changed either. It makes it appear larger, so we can see it better. This is what Jesus did for us. By allowing us to experience His righteousness, He magnified the law, so we could see and understand it better. His righteousness is the very embodiment of the law.

On His love hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40). He came not to destroy the Law or the Prophets (Matthew 5:17), but to fulfill them, or make them come true.


“The most eloquent statements supporting the perpetuity of God’s law come not from seminary dissertations but from lives consistently lived in accordance with God’s will.” ~the teacher’s comments in the quarterly

Would people look at your life and come away seeing the law as something to be desired or avoided? Try to make your life a support for God’s law, rather than a reason to dismantle it.

Think of each of the Ten Commandments this week and re-word them in a positive way. Instead of refraining from doing certain things, how can we substitute an action that fosters these principles in a positive, loving way?

Next week: The Sabbath

To read the Sabbath School lesson, or to find more resources, go to www.ssnet.org