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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 4: Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount *
Introduction: Last week's study ended with Jesus' saying that He came
to fulfill the law, not abolish it ( Matthew 5:17-20). Not only would
the law would remain according to Jesus, but our righteousness must
exceed that of the religious leaders of the day. We concluded (I
hope) that the law is like a map to help us in life, thus we did not
want it to go away. And, we decided that since we are covered by the
righteousness of Christ, we are miles ahead of the religious leaders
of the day. Our study this week is Jesus' next topic - a surprising
commentary about what it means to keep the law. How does detail about
the law make sense if we are saved by grace? Let's plunge into our
study of the Bible and see what we can discover!
- Temper Equals Murder?
- Read Matthew 5:21-22. When was it said, "long ago," that
murder was wrong? (We can go back as far as Genesis 4 and
the account of Cain and Abel.)
- Jesus adds that getting angry also subjects us to
judgment. Is killing someone and getting angry with
someone the same? (Obviously not, and Jesus does not
say that. Instead, He says both are a sin.)
- Why would Jesus compare the two and suggest
that they are related? (Recall how the moral
law is a "map" to help us avoid harming our
self by violating natural law? Getting very
angry with someone is a preliminary step to
murder. All of us have gotten angry, few of us
have murdered, but this is wise counsel to keep
us safe from murder.)
- When Jesus says calling someone "Raca" can get you
hauled before the Sanhedrin, He means using this
language was illegal under contemporary law. Raca
seems to be a word that shows contempt for the other
person. What does this have to do with anger and
murder? (Have you ever noticed that in war we develop
terms of contempt for those fighting on the other
side? It makes it easier to kill someone if you think
they are contemptible, without value.)
- We all know fools, the Bible frequently describes
them, why can't we also identify fools? (Think again
of our map. First step to murder is thinking someone
is of no worth. Second step to murder is getting
angry with the contemptible person. Next step,
murder! This is a map that tells us where not to go.)
- Read Matthew 5:23-24. Years ago I read this, and for the
first time it occurred to me that the problem was someone
holding a grudge against me, not me holding a grudge
against someone else! That seemed backwards. Why are we
responsible for people holding a grudge against us?
- When this new understanding came to me, I thought of
a former church member who deeply disliked me because
I had taken a stand for God's word - or at least that
is how I viewed it. Should we take steps to cure this
kind of problem - one where we think we are innocent?
- This text kept bothering me until I wrote the former
member a letter. She had an angry response, but it
helped me understand her anger. I wrote a
conciliatory note back. She shared our
correspondence with some of her children. I don't
think she will ever become my friend, but my letter
not only softened her attitude, her children had a
different view of my actions. One contacted me and
came back to church!
- Why does Jesus tell us to reach out to those who hold
grudges against us? (The map to murder is contempt
and anger. Murder is the complete opposite of love.
By reaching out in love, we try to reverse the course
of those following the map to murder.)
- Litigation is Wrong?
- Read Matthew 5:25-26. As most readers know, I'm a lawyer
and a law professor. Does the legal situation Jesus
describes seem familiar to you? (Not to me. It sounds like
a civil matter (a dispute between two people), but it ends
with a criminal penalty (being thrown into prison). The
best parallel to today is a criminal fraud. You take a
person's money and you are exposed to jail time.)
- Is Jesus on the same topic as He was when He
discussed people who have grudges against you? (I
think so. Here, your adversary thinks you have
- Is Jesus telling us that we should never go to court?
(In the Old Testament we see that Moses was a judge
( Exodus 18:13) and the people were ruled by judges
( Judges 2:16)for a time. This type of judicial system
is God-ordained! Therefore, God is not against a
third-party dispute resolution system.)
- What is Jesus teaching us here? (When someone thinks
you have cheated him in some way, try to resolve it
as soon as possible.)
- Looking is Wrong?
- Read Matthew 5:27-28. Is this only a sin for men, or do
you think Jesus' advice applies to both sexes?
- What do you think Jesus means? Is this like contempt,
anger and murder? Clearly those three things are not
the same, but do they lead in the wrong direction?
(Yes, that is one of the lessons here. Read James
1:14-15. Sinful actions begin with sinful thoughts.)
- If you are attracted to someone who is not your
spouse, have you crossed the line into adultery?
- How can you tell when the line is crossed?
- Many years ago, a handsome American President who was
known to be a committed Christian confessed that he had
committed adultery in his heart. I'm not sure he
understood Jesus' teaching. How many women would be
willing to have sex with a handsome American president?
(Probably quite a few. If you could actually commit
adultery if you wanted to, and you do not, I don't think
you have crossed Jesus' line. On the other hand, if you
would commit adultery if you had the opportunity, then you
have crossed Jesus' line.)
- Read Matthew 5:29-30. Can recently blinded people commit
adultery in their heart? (Why not?)
- If they can, what is Jesus teaching us?
- I just suggested this about Jesus' lust/adultery
teaching: if you would commit adultery if you could,
then you have sinned. Jesus seems to say here, take
away the opportunity (blind yourself, cut off your
hand) and you will be okay. Have I suggested the
wrong understanding? (We know that blind and maimed
people can sin, so Jesus must mean something else. I
think He means we should be willing to take radical
steps to avoid sin.)
- What kind of radical steps, short of maiming
yourself, can you suggest? (Consider what sort of
"non-sin" things lead you into sin? Even though they
are not sin, avoid them!)
- Read Matthew 5:31-32. Why do you think Jesus raises the
topic of divorce right after he speaks of insults, anger,
murder, lust and adultery? (They are all related. This is
a different aspect of adultery - divorcing your wife on a
- Much of what we have discussed so far deals with having
the right attitude toward others. Read Matthew 5:43-45.
How many people are your personal enemy? How many people
persecute you? (Unless you are in some special
circumstance (like living in a religiously hostile
country), or need to work on your emotional intelligence,
the chances are that you can only name one or two people
- What sense does it make to love and pray for those
who are your enemy? (Think of the great opportunity
for personal growth! This is a rare opportunity that
we do not have with most of the people we know.)
- Do you think this teaching has anything to do with
anger, name-calling and lust? Does it have anything
to do with natural law? (Yes! Who is most likely to
do you harm - your enemy. If you work to resolve the
problems with your enemy, you lower the chances that
your enemy will harm you.)
- Friend, sin starts in the mind. Jesus teaches us that if
we pay close attention to our thoughts and attitude, we
can promote the law of love and avoid crossing the line
into sin and the harm that results. Will you commit today
to be careful about your thoughts?
- Next week: Christ and the Sabbath.
* 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.