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Sabbath School Lessons on Christ and His Law
About the Author
Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
is the author of these Sabbath School lesson study outlines. He is the Reed Larson Professor of Labor Law at Regent University School of Law. Professor Cameron has devoted his life to promoting the Gospel and defending believers. In addition to teaching at an overtly Christian law school, he continues his 41 year practice of law which is limited to the litigation of constitutional rights and religious freedom cases for employees. He holds an undergraduate degree from Andrews University and a Doctor of Law from Emory University School of Law.
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Lesson 3: Christ and Religious Tradition *
Introduction: Recall our previous discussion about natural law, moral
law, civil law and ceremonial law? Our working theory is that each
level of law (with natural law at the top) is intended to support or
explain the higher level of law. We know, however, that this does
not square with what we observe in life. Some civil laws are clearly
contrary to moral and natural law. Humans substitute their own
judgment for that of God. We see the disasters which follow. How do
we deal with the failure of human lawmakers? Let's dive into our
study of the Bible and see what we can learn!
- Filling Moses' Shoes
- Read Matthew 23:1-2. What does Jesus mean by "Moses'
seat?" Did Moses sit on a throne and they still had it?
(No. Moses was the religious and political leader of God's
people. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees held a
similar position in Jesus' time.)
- Read Matthew 23:3-4. Are the current leaders worthy of the
- What is wrong with them? (Their actions do not line
up with their words.)
- We all understand why it is good to follow correct
teaching even if the teacher fails to follow his own
teaching. But, why would Jesus tell the people to
"obey" when it involved "heavy loads?" Loads that
appear, in the context, to be unjustified?
- Read Matthew 15:1-2. What charges are made against the
disciples? (They are not carrying the "heavy load" of the
- Read Matthew 15:3-6. How would you characterize Jesus'
response? When someone tells you that you are doing
something wrong, do you say, "You, too, are doing wrong
- Is that what Jesus is doing here - you are a
lawbreaker too? (No. When we go below the surface of
what is said, we see that the religious leaders argue
for their tradition. Jesus says their tradition
violates God's law.)
- Recall our discussion last week. What were the
ceremonial laws suppose to do? (They were to help us
understand God's plan of salvation. They were to help
us avoid violating the moral and natural laws. Jesus
says that this tradition is contrary to its purpose.)
- Read Matthew 15:10-11. Would it violate God's law for the
disciples to wash their hands? (No, but it would make the
people misunderstand God's law. They would be focused on
hand washing and turn their attention from the real
problem - what comes out of their mouths. Can you see how
the man-made law violates what is suppose to be its
purpose - to be in accord with the moral law.)
- Is that a lesson for us today? Do we emphasize
unimportant things that distract us from considering
the more important points?
- Read Matthew 15:12. What did we learn in the lesson last
week about giving offense? (Read Matthew 17:27. Jesus paid
the temple tax so as not to give offense.)
- Are the disciples reminding Jesus of His own
- Read Matthew 15:13-14. What does Jesus tell us to do with
regard to false religious teaching? (Avoid it. Do not
- Re-read Matthew 23:2-4. Jesus would not contradict
Himself, so we must find the solution to the apparent
conflict in the matter of giving "offense" and following
"everything" taught by the religious leaders. What do you
suggest? (I think this is similar to our discussion of
civil law. God is the author of authority and civil order,
but that does not mean that God intends that we should
follow human laws which violate natural or moral laws.
Thus, I understand Jesus to say that we should follow the
teachings of those who hold positions of religious
authority, avoid offending them whenever possible, but we
should reject those things that are inconsistent with
moral law. This would include teachings that are not
immoral in themself (like washing hands), but which direct
attention away from what is important.)
- Bursting Moses' Robes
- Read Matthew 23:5-7. What is the main problem with those
sitting in the place of Moses? (They have forgotten that
they are simply conveying the will of God to the people.
They start thinking that they might be like God. They have
begun to "swell.")
- Read Genesis 3:4-5. Does Satan have a list of
standard temptations he uses repeatedly?
- Read Matthew 23:8-10. In years past a member of my church
took to calling me "Rabbi" and it reminded me of this
text. Students normally call me "professor," many call me
"teacher" and my children call me "Dad" or "Father." Are
these obvious violations of Jesus' teaching?
- What do your children call you? (Compare Exodus
- Read 1 Corinthians 12:28. Is God opposed to church
organization and titles?
- If so, why did the disciples call themselves (Acts
- Read Matthew 23:11-12. What point is Jesus making? (Human
authority makes us proud. In the relationship between
natural law, moral law and civil law, it is a perversion
of the law to set the ones who are conveying God's will
above the rest. "You are all brothers.")
- Do you think Jesus meant exactly what He said, and
the words "Rabbi, teacher and father" should not be
used? (I don't think Jesus is saying that we cannot
call people by their roles in life or in the church.
Are "apostle," and "prophet" acceptable, and "rabbi"
and "father" unacceptable? Is "teacher" wrong in
Matthew 23, but right in 1 Corinthians 12? I think
Jesus' point is that we should avoid "honorifics" -
titles that are more than a simple job description.)
- Can you think of any of those? (How about
"Right Reverend," or "Most Reverend?" These do
not seem to be job titles, they are intended to
convey much more.)
- What does Jesus require of those in leadership
positions, those who are administering the law?
(Servant leadership - Matthew 23:11.)
- True Moses
- Read Matthew 5:17 and Colossians 2:9-12. Last week we
studied this text in Colossians and the circumcision
controversy. How does this relate to what Jesus says in
Matthew 5:17? (This is a perfect example of what Jesus is
saying. He fulfilled the law of circumcision.)
- Read Matthew 5:18. Is the law still valid? (Recall our
conversation about natural law and moral law? God gives us
the moral law, like a map, to avoid the pitfalls of
violating natural law. Natural laws do not disappear. We
need our map! Our map, like grace, is a gift from God.)
- Read Matthew 5:19. Is Jesus saying that bad teachers go to
heaven? (Yes. Grace saves us, not being good teachers or
commandment keepers. But breaking God's commandments and
teaching others to do so is pure foolishness that has no
reward in heaven.)
- What logic lies behind this? (What fool tells you to
ignore the map? What idiot tells you to violate
natural laws? God gives us the moral law to protect
us and give us freedom!)
- Read Matthew 5:20. Do we have to outperform the religious
leaders of Jesus' day? Those He called ( Matthew 15:14)
"blind guides!" (Yes, and the task is both easy and
logical. If we accept Jesus as our righteousness, then we
have exceeded the righteousness of any human. Logically,
we will focus on major things and oppose those who seek to
focus on minor things that distract us from what is
- What, exactly, are some of the major things? (Read
Matthew 15:17-20. What you eat, the cleanliness of
your hands, are minor things. Evil thoughts, murder,
adultery, sexual immorality, theft, perjury, and
slander are major things.)
- Friend, humans make errors in their laws and rules. Will
you accept the challenge to keep your focus on what is
- Next week: Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.
* Copr. 2014, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.