The Teachings of Jesus Christ Recognize the Possibility of His Followers Living Without Sin.
“He spoke as never man spoke” applies to this one, as well as to others which he brings before our attention. None of the Jewish lawgivers, prophets, priests, and doctors of the law went as far as He, requiring purity of heart and life. Heathen moralists, Confucius, Socrates, Solon, or even the “divine Plato” did not teach doctrines that equaled His in the demands they made upon the spirit and life of their disciples. Jesus knew perfectly what was required to be a child of God, an heir of heaven.
He knew what human abilities and circumstances were capable of. He knew the exact amount of Divine help that would be granted to people in their efforts to meet the demands of God and to entitle them to the inheritance to which He is an heir. He taught with these things in view. He taught with authority, with confidence, and with consistency. He was the truth, and what He said was in harmony with this absolute perfection of His being.
There is no part of Jesus’ history where it appears that He sanctioned or winked at sin in any form or circumstances. Nor can it be found where He allowed, approved, justified, or provided for the commission of sin.
Jesus unequivocally stated in His Sermon on the Mount the true character of His disciples. He pronounces the “pure in heart” blessed. He declares that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be filled. He speaks of them as “the salt of the earth,” in their pure, preserving, and uncorrupted properties. He said of them as the light of the world, clear, illuminating, blessed. These figures of speech imply the idea of a state of life exempt from the corruption and darkness of sin.
He then proceeds to expand upon the kind of internal and outward purity that He had come to illustrate in His own person and required His disciples. He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets but to fulfill it. He who would break one of the least of His commandments and teach men that they might do so and be guiltless, or that they were under any necessity to do so, should be called the least in the state of grace. Their righteousness was supposed to exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees; however exact, regular, complete, blameless theirs might be.
The traditions they received from the fathers were to be superseded by a spirit and action of piety exceedingly above them, which they call for. Not only was the actual deed of murder a breach of the law and sin, but anger is at the very heart. Anger is where murder comes from. When it is living with us, it is a sin, which should not be entertained for a moment. Even the expression of anger endangered the soul and should be avoided as hellfire itself. Animosity is a feeling to be removed immediately by confession, atonement, and reconciliation, or there is a possibility of imprisonment in that place of torment. Not only was the actual transgression of the seventh commandment sin, but the lustful look, known by the person himself, is a heart violation of the law, guilty in the sight of Jehovah.
Any members of the body of Christ who cause sin are to be watched and supervised. If they were proof against all self-control, it would be wiser to sever them from the body. It was better to live here and go to heaven in purity without them than go to hellfire in sin with them. Breaking of the marriage covenant, renouncing, equivocation are evils to be avoided as death itself. Meekness, charity, benevolence, love of enemies, prayer for our despisers and persecutors, perfection in these things are duties, privileges, and principles which He urges and commands His people to possess.
The Savior lays down other particulars essential to the faith He came to establish. The simplicity of motive and singleness of aim in love; secret prayer to the Father. Adoration, intercession, petition, supplication, submission, and thanksgiving in prayer. Forgiveness of the offenses which others have committed against us. Fasting, as a means of personal good and glory to God. Laying up treasure in heaven, as a place of security and incorruptibility. Undivided devotedness to the service of the Great Master of all. Seeking to live a life of righteousness and trusting in the Lord for all necessary earthly things, connected with diligent labor. Withholding judgment of others and the minutest examination of ourselves. The care not to present the holy things of Christianity offensive by presenting them in ways contrary to the nature of Christianity. The observance of the GOLDEN RULE, doing unto others as we would have others do unto us. Caution against the deceit and deception of false prophets and teachers. Only those who do the will of His Father will by any means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Finally, He sets forth the maturity of those who take His words and observe them in the experience of their hearts and the practice of their lives, in the parable of the wise man, who built his house upon the rock.
Such is a summary of the teachings of Jesus Christ in His ever-memorable Sermon. Is there anything overlooked that gives room for the entrance of sin? Is there anything stated which approves or makes allowance for sin? Does not this body of divinity strike its entire influence against the root, trunk, and branches of sin? Is it not a fan that thoroughly purges the floor, separating the chaff from the wheat with a refiner’s fire, mightily and perfectly taking away all the trash and leaving nothing but the pure valuable metal? Would there be sin in the man who lived by the rules and observed the things laid down by Him? Who could lay anything to His charge?
Did Jesus Christ design all these truths to be carried out in the lives of His people? Is it possible for them to reach the standard he set? There can be only one answer to these questions: either yes or no. The negative would make Him speak words without wisdom. It would make Christianity a mere theory. It would make Him a demanding Master, an undesirable Teacher, an unjust Lord.
If he meant some of the precepts to be observed and not others, then who is to judge those that are binding and non-binding? He has drawn no line of distinction. He has not made a difference in the obligation of one or the other. All stand together in one discourse. All are spoken with the same authority, wisdom, and knowledge. Can imperfect people step forward and make the selection of the feasible precepts and duties? If so, they would be based on their opinions, feelings, and inclination. In abolishing one, he might as well abolish them all. If one is of no effect, all are valueless. It must stand complete as laid before us in the Sermon or stand open to widespread neglect. If one part may not be attained, the other may not. If one may not be obligatory, the other may not. “Anyone who tries to keep all of the Law but fails at one point is guilty of failing to keep all of it.” “Therefore, whoever ignores one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do the same will be called the lowest in the kingdom of heaven.”
And, lest it should be thought that Jesus Christ recognizes the ability of the Christian as adequate to the attainment of this purity, let it be remembered that the contrary is the fact. He anticipates the objection that would arise from the Christian’s inability and points out the means of His strength by which he may do all these things. “Ask, and it shall be given you.” ” If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good things to those who ask him.” Matt. 7:11.
There is nothing contrary in Christ’s subsequent teachings to what He taught in His Sermon on the Mount. The two great commandments which He gave embody all the moral qualities of the perfect life which have just been described. His demand of all who would be His disciples, to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him, involves the idea of relinquishing, forsaking, and keeping separate from everything contrary to His will and pattern. Even if parents, brothers, sisters, children, lands, estates, the things most valued are the occasion or means of sin, or of uniting desires and engaging the service of the life, they must be relinquished to become His disciples. He must be all in all or nothing. He must have the warmest affection, the purest love, the most robust attachment, the holiest obedience. This makes the flock of Christ a “little flock.” This makes the gate to heaven a narrow one, through which “few” enter and are saved. This makes so many who would be His disciples turn away sorrowful, like the young man. This makes His disciples the most precious and best, the most excellent and invaluable part of the earth’s population, which makes them what He declares them to be, as before stated. This distinguishes Christianity from all the religions of the world and elevates it in light, purity, and grandeur, making it the glory of the earth and the admiration of heaven.
In the Gospel of John, there are many places where Jesus recognizes the doctrine of His people living without sin. In his final address to His disciples and the last prayer before He entered the agonies of His Passion. He told them that whoever loved Him should be loved by His Father, and they would come to Him and make their home with Him. He said to them that they were clean through the words He had spoken to them. Whoever believed in Him and were united with Him should ask what they would, and it should be done for them. He told them that His Father was glorified in that they produced much fruit. They would be His disciples because the things He had spoken to them were for the purpose of His joy remaining in them and that their joy might be complete. He told them that they were His friends if they did whatever He commanded them. They were to love each other with love equal in its purity, warmth, and devotion to the love with which He had loved them. He prayed that they might be sanctified through the truth and be kept from the evil of the world. He prayed that they might be one with each other, as He and His Father were one, and one with them, that the world might believe that the Father had sent Him.
The importance of these teachings, viewed in the light of Scripture, can be nothing less than the privilege of Christians to live in the world without committing sin. Can the existence of sin, in principle or practice, heart or life, be reconciled with the standard of Christian life raised by the Savior and placed before His people as the one they must attain before they can be His perfect disciples?
Christians who effectively illustrate these teachings of Christ are living exhibitions of true Christianity. It is not in theological speculations, discussions, “replies,” or “reviews” that the “beauty of holiness” is discovered and admired. It is not in the loud profession and high-sounding epithets in the relation of Christian experience that the glory of the Redeemer’s truth is seen and felt. No, there may be all these and yet the neglect of duty and the commission of sin. Here is a miserable disparity, which the world has ridiculed, and the Church mourned over. Many of those who name the name of Christ has yet to learn the difference between theory and practice, profession, and possession, connection with the Church and union with Christ, the knowledge of religious truth and its power, consecrating the affections and sanctifying the life. “Since you know these things, you will be happy if you do them.” Happiness is connected not with the knowledge of the truth. The Savior seeks practical people that will expound His teachings in the entirety of their everyday movements.
“Obedience is better than sacrifice,” as an offering to Him. “I want to do your will, my God. Your Instruction is deep within me” Psalm 40:8. This has a sweeter fragrance than sacrifice and offerings or burnt offering and sin offering. It is more precious to Him than thousands of rams or mountains of slaughtered oxen. It glorifies the Father, honors the Son, and praises the Holy Ghost. It is an abiding witness for the triune God in the world, a condemnation of sin, a counteracting influence to the workings of iniquity, a daily and hourly delivery of the holy teachings of Christ to the sons of men, which, “whether they listen or whether they refuse,” is a visual testimony to them that the world is not left without a religion that can elevate them from the mire of corruption, adorn them with the beauty of holiness, and ultimately exalt them to the throne of God in heaven.
by J. Bate and updated and revised by Nathan Zipfel