The Greatest Or The Least In The Kingdom?: The Disciple’s Relationship To The Law (Matt 5:17–20) -- By: J. Daryl Charles
TrinJ 13:2 (Fall 1992) p. 139
The Greatest Or The Least In The Kingdom?: The Disciple’s Relationship To The Law (Matt 5:17–20)
Matthew 5:17–20 is an exegetical minefield.1 Critical scholarship has focused on questions regarding the authenticity of this material and the editorial activity of Matthew. Evangelical Christians, on the other hand, have applied their own brand of “scissors-and-paste” methodology to these verses, discounting Jesus’ teaching for more theological reasons. Both approaches, which fail to take seriously the wider context of Matthew’s gospel, have created a significant dilemma—a type of secular as well as religious antinomianism.
Consequently, the church has been left to ask: By what standard does the Christian live in the world? Does Matthew present Jesus as in fact setting aside the law? This is the fundamental issue of vv. 17–20, with consequent bearing on vv. 21–48. As the church considers the current crisis of ethics and morals in our culture, it is invited to reexamine the text of Matthew 5.2 Evangelical Christians, while asserting that morality must be rooted in the unchanging cornerstone of the Judeo-Christian heritage, have curiously undermined their own foundation by helping to create a false dichotomy between “Judeo” and “Christian” components. They have come to perceive Jesus’ mission as one of discounting, diminishing, or superseding the law, viewing the NT as fundamentally discontinuous with the OT.3
* Dr. J. Daryl Charles is Colson Scholar-in-Residence at Prison Fellowship Ministries and Lecturer in New Testament at Chesapeake Theological Seminary in Ellicott City, Maryland.
TrinJ 13:2 (Fall 1992) p. 140
There are, to be sure, several reasons for this view of law. One can point to the accent on Christian liberty found in the Pauline epistles. Moreover, evangelicals are often guilty of an uncritical reading of statements made by the Apostle that would seem to negate the law (e.g., Gal 2:15–16, 19, 21; 3:2, 10–14, 15–25; Rom 3:27–30; 4:13–15; You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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