To believe is to obey

Posted on 29 May 2016, Pastor: Rev. Hans Vaatstra

Manuscript of this sermon is available for reading services.

Sermon Outline for this sermon.

Reading: Matthew 5:1-20, WCF 19: 7
Text: Matthew 5:1&2

To believe is to obey

Matthew 5:1-20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

The Sermon on the Mount; The Beatitudes
5 When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the [a]mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

3 “[b]Blessed are the [c]poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the [d]gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Disciples and the World

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [e]can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a [f]hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a [g]basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [h]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [i]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [j]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.

To believe is to obey

Reading: Matthew 5:1-20, WCF 19: 7

Text: Matthew 5:1&2

In this chapter of the Westminster confession of faith we’ve been studying the law of God. We’ve seen that when the law was first given to Adam it was given as a test of obedience and that Adam’s life depended on that obedience. Since Adam and Eve sinned, the law condemned them and they received the due penalty for their disobedience. They died. Since Adam is our representative head when it comes to the fall we suffer that same curse under the law.

However immediately after the fall God instituted a new covenant which we call the Covenant of Grace. The law of God is now subsumed within the Covenant of Grace. In fact the ceremonial law of God is grace because it provided the Old testament believers a sacrifice for sin and forgiveness of sins and was to them Good News.

So too can the moral law good news for believers because first of all we are no longer under condemnation because of our breaking the law. Jesus has taken that punishment from all who believe.

And secondly those who live by it fulfil the law of love according to Jesus in Matthew 22. Furthermore love is, (as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13), the greatest virtue.

Therefore the WCF rightly says that the law is not contrary to the Gospel but sweetly agrees with it. What’s more Christians, empowered as they are by the Holy Spirit, are able to keep the law. Hence the title of this sermon, to believe is to obey.

Well then, what better place to go in order to appreciate this truth than the law giver himself and his Sermon on the Mount recorded in the gospel of Matthew, chapters 5 through 7.
Now I’ve picked as my text verse one and two and derived from it three main points which are as follows

1. the compatibility of the law with the gospel.
2. the demand of obedience from everyone and
3. that the saviour is also the law giver and therefore the Law

1. The compatibility of the law with the gospel.

There is among some Christians confusion about whether or not the law and the gospel are compatible in this day and age. For example Galatians 5:18 says “if you are led by the spirit you are not under the law.” There are some who misuse this text to say that this means that all the Christian has to do is keep step with the Spirit. Let the Spirit guide you. Faith is all about sharing spiritual experiences not about law keeping because the law has been done away with now. It is a dead letter that say. This kind of faith also tends to exclude authority, be it the authority of the church or the authority of the confessions and even the authority of Bible. Faith is free from overbearing authority so the argument goes.
But what is faith without submission to God’s authority?

The New Testament talks about faith in a different way. In 1 Peter 1:22 faith is “obeying the truth”. In Romans 15:18 Paul says that the apostles have been sent to “call the nations to obedience to the faith”. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8 we read that “God will deal out retribution to those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So faith isn’t vague or subjective according to the New Testament. Believing means obeying.

Jesus taught that himself. When he sent out the twelve disciples for the first time we find Him saying in Matthew 10:37 “he who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me and he who loves a son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. He who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life shall lose it and he who has lost his life for my sake shall find it.” That tells us that believing involves behaving as a loyal soldier who is ready to follow his king’s orders through the all the hardships and risks of battle. He is ready to die for his king rather than just be an observer who watches and reports on what is going on but is uninvolved in the battle. Similarly in order to follow Jesus the disciple must obey him.

Jesus calls for the same obedience from us today. It is easy to fall into the trap of being like a mere observer of the faith. We can do that by just going along to church and perhaps commenting on the sermon afterwards but not really letting the word shape our lives and strengthen the obedience of faith. If we are mere observers of Christ and the gospel, and the Bible and not prepared to act in it then something is lacking.

Faith you see consists of three elements. There is knowledge or intellectual assent. We need to know who our Lord and Saviour is in order to have true faith. Then there is trust or the emotional element. We must trust in Jesus to save us and lead us. And then there is the volitional element of faith, we must be willing to follow or obey the Lord Jesus.
All three elements constitute a genuine faith which works; which not only says “I want to be a Christian” but says “I want to be an active Christian and an obedient follower of Jesus.”. This is exactly what Jesus set out to do when he preached the Sermon on the Mount, make disciples.
So contrary to the assertions of some the law and the Gospel sweetly agree with each other.

2. In the second place we see in the sermon a demand of obedience from everyone.

When Jesus began his earthly ministry he immediately had great crowds of people following him. Some wanted to be healed of their diseases. Others wanted witness another miracle and they wanted to listen to his teaching. Matthew 4:23 says that Jesus went about Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease. Matthew also records that Jesus went into Syria and the Decapolis beyond the Jordan and back into Jerusalem and Judea ministering and preaching everywhere he went.

Soon people were pouring in from every direction. Matthew watched Jesus closely and noticed that Jesus wasn’t just there for his disciples or the religious or for a handful of certain character types. He healed who ever needed it and preached to everyone.

Well we can appreciate that many were attracted by Jesus miracles of healing and his teaching but did they understand what the Lord Jesus was doing?

There was a clear purpose to what Jesus was doing. In Matthews account we notice that Jesus looked for a better vantage point so the crowds could see and hear him better. He found a hill and went up a little way up the side of it. He turned and sat down in the manner of a teacher of Israel with his own disciples closest to Him. Matthew records “and he opened his mouth and began to teach them.”

The Lord’s purpose becomes evident when we look at the content of the Sermon on the Mount. And without getting too caught up in all the details it is apparent that the whole sermon is designed to show readers what it means to be a follower of Jesus that is…. to be poor in spirit, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, to do more than just keep the merest prohibition of the law but to go the extra mile and love your neighbour, even love your enemies.
As I said before faith is not mere observation. The true believer is called to obey, to use the Lord Jesus words in chapter 7:24 not just hearing but also acting on Jesus words. And this is for everyone. Whoever hears the gospel; whoever reads the Bible, whoever hears Jesus words “come follow me”. Where-ever the gospel is preached and heard the call from Christ is the same “Come follow me?”

Are you prepared to heed the call or are you still sitting on the fence deciding whether or not you want to follow the Lord Jesus Christ. Or perhaps you are waiting for some kind of special and personal invitation, a word from the Lord or something unusual and out of the ordinary?

Well the Bible is your invitation. The Sermon on the Mount is your invitation. This sermon is your invitation if you haven’t yet decided there you want to follow Christ. It is as relevant today as it was when Jesus first preached because He is still looking for more disciples today. He’s looking for men and women young and old who will gladly be his disciples and follow him.

What you observe in the history of salvation, what other saints have done, what you see being done by believers around you in the church today, people swerving the Lord Jesus in different ways, using their gifts in order to help build the church and honour God,… What you observe must be translated into faith-obedience if you really want to follow Jesus. He wants all of us to fall in line with Christ’s army of disciples. Faith has to be more than just pew sitting and looking on. Faith means participating in discipleship. That brings me to the third point,..

3 The Saviour is also the Law Giver.

One thing that amazed the crowds as they listened to Jesus teaching from the hill-side that day was that he taught with his own authority. Chapter 7:28 reads “The result was that when Jesus had finished these words the multitudes were amazed at his teaching for he was teaching them as one having authority and not as their scribes.”

The scribes used to appeal to the laws of Moses and the prophets to support their assertions. They’d walk into the synagogue with their scrolls tucked under their arms as their sources of authority. Teachers today too can only repeat given truths. We can really only say, “Thus says the Lord”. But here in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is the law giver. Over and over we read “For truly I say to you”, and “I say to you” or “but I say to you!”
Jesus is letting the crowds know who he is. They will have wondered about that since they had already witnessed the demon possessed, epileptics, paralytics and diseased being miraculously healed. These miracles John would later say were recorded so that many may “believe that Jesus is the Christ the son of God and by believing have life in His name.”

And so as Jesus speaks he does so in such a way that he confirms what the miracles have already revealed. He is none other than God’s Son. He is both God and man and it is his deity which lies behind his authoritative teaching.
So what this means is that whoever recognises Jesus as the Christ and as the Son of the living God and the Saviour of the world, he or she cannot remain neutral or indifferent to his commands.
Accepting Jesus as your Saviour from sin must go hand in hand with accepting Jesus as your Lord. Jesus authoritative “Truly, Truly I say to you” is the voice of the Good Shepherd who a) gave his life for his sheep and who b) is the master. Therefore his sheep hear his voice and they follow him.
Furthermore after Jesus death on the cross and his resurrection Jesus took his disciples to a mountain and gave them the great commission. He commanded them to “make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey everything I have commanded”
The saviour is the law giver who looks for law abiding disciples.

And so once again we can only conclude from this that the law and the Gospel sweetly agree with one another as the WCF states.

If you truly believe the gospel you will accept that and you will also want to subject your life to the Law-giver.
In fact at the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus compares the man who hears and obeys his words to a man who builds his house on a rock. Now there was really no choice about where he could build this house. It had to be on the good foundation; on the rock. If he built his house on sand it would eventually collapse.

That’s the same for us. In Ephesians 2: 20 we, the church are being built on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles with Jesus Christ himself being the corner stone.” In 1 Corinthians 3 it also says that whoever believes is on the foundation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ and is saved.

If anyone thinks he can build his or her life on anything or anyone else other that the Lord Jesus Christ then all you’ll find is shifting sand because there is only one way to find forgiveness of sins, one way to the Father and only one way to eternal life.

Then,.. if by the grace of God you are on the rock who is Christ then you must to build well, because the law agrees with and follows the gospel, because Christ is both Saviour and Lord and because believing is obeying.