Monday: Murder
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(Matt 5:21-26)

After He clarified His intention to uphold the law, Jesus started to explain a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. He begins by citing the sixth commandment (Exod. 20:13) and summarizing, from the law of Moses, the penalty for violation (Exod. 21:12, Lev. 24:17).

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The sixth commandment does not include all cases in which one person kills another. In cases of manslaughter, a person could flee to a city of refuge […]

Sunday: “One Jot or Tittle”
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Read again Matthew 5:17-20. How interesting that Jesus would greatly emphasize the law here, while at the same time making the statement that He did about the scribes and Pharisees, who so greatly emphasized the law, as well. What important lesson does this passage teach about true obedience to the law?

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Jesus begins this section with the assurance that He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matt. 5:17, NKJV). Although there […]

Sabbath: Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount
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Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 5:17-20, Luke 16:16, Matt. 5:21-32, Rom. 7:24, Matt. 5:33-37, 5:38-48.

Memory Text: Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot, or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:17-18, NKJV).

When most people think about the Sermon on […]

Friday: Further Study: Christ and Religious Tradition
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Further Study: For more information on this week’s topic, read Ellen G. White, Tradition, pp. 395-398, Woes on the Pharisees, pp. 610-620, in The Desire of Ages. Also read Matthew 23.

Let all who accept human authority, the customs of the church, or the traditions of the fathers, take heed to the warning conveyed in the words of Christ, In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. -Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 398.

Discussion […]

Thursday: Excessive Righteousness
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Matt. 5:20

Read Matthew 5:17-20. In the context of the week’s lesson, what are some of the ways that Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:20 could be understood? See also Rom. 10:3.

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If read in isolation, Matthew 5:20 could be seen as an invitation to out-Pharisee the Pharisees; that is, do what they do, only do it more.

But is this what Jesus is saying? Fortunately, the answer to that question is within our reach. Yesterday’s lesson pointed out […]

Wednesday: The Precepts of Men
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The substitution of the precepts of men for the commandments of God has not ceased. Even among Christians are found institutions and usages that have no better foundation than the traditions of the fathers. Such institutions, resting upon mere human authority, have supplanted those of divine appointment. Men cling to their traditions, and revere their customs, and cherish hatred against those who seek to show them their error. . . . In place of the authority of the so-called fathers […]

Tuesday: Traditions of the Elders
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As we saw, some of the rabbis paid so much attention to the rules and traditions created to assist in the keeping of the law of Moses that they failed to distinguish between the two. After a while, the words of the rabbis gained canonical status; people thought they were as binding as Scripture. In all probability, when the rabbis originally wrote their commentaries, they had no intention of adding to the pages of Scripture. However, their devoted disciples probably […]

Monday: Human Commandments
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Although the scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat, their source of authority for religious instruction extended beyond the Old Testament. The law that the Pharisees utilized consisted of biblical interpretations of leading rabbis. These interpretations were not intended to replace the Scriptures but to complement them. At first they circulated orally; later the scribes began to assemble them into books.

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The first official publication of rabbinic law did not appear until the end of […]

Sunday: Seat of Moses
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While the scribes and Pharisees appear to be two separate groups who just happened to be lumped together, the scribes were likely a subset of the Pharisees (see Acts 23:9). The Pharisees became a visible group during the time of the Grecian Empire. They are believed to be the remnants of a pious Jewish sect, known as the Hasidim, who helped to fight in the Maccabean revolution against Greece.

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The name Pharisees is derived from […]

Sabbath: Christ and Religious Tradition
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Read for This Week’s Study: Matt. 23:1-7, Matt. 15:1-6, Isa. 29:13, Matt. 5:17-20, Rom. 10:3.

Memory Text: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the percepts of men ” (Matthew 15:8-9, RSV).

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, suggested that one’s theology is influenced by four factors: faith, reason, Scripture, and tradition. He didn’t mean, however, that all sides are equally […]