SHARPER THAN A SWORD

SERMONS

Hebrews 4:12-13 "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account."

All articles are written using the NKJV, unless otherwise noted! All articles are written by David Hicks, unless specified otherwise.

Weightier Matters

Introduction

The Lord was often challenged by the so called religious leaders of the Jews. Matthew records a couple of attempts to challenge the Lord by the Sadducees and the Pharisees. After failed attempts by the Pharisees and Sadducees, the Pharisees gathered together and one of them a scribe (a lawyer, one who interprets the Mosaic Law), challenged the Lord with a question, note:

Matthew 22:34-40 “But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" 37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets."

 

The sad fact concerning these challenges was that they were not presented with the hope of legitimate spiritual debate for growth. They were simply presented in an attempt to find contradiction in the Lord's teaching, so that they might discredit Him.

 

As the Law of Moses was delivered, it revolved around the original Ten Commandments (subsequently, all the Law of Moses encompassed the children of Israel fulfilling these commands). The first four of these commandments dealt with man's attitude towards God, and the final six dealt with man's attitude towards his fellow man ( Exodus 20:1-17 ; Deuteronomy 5:6-21 ). So, within the Lord's answer; if man loves the Lord God with all their hearts, they will keep the first four commandments; and if man loves his neighbor as himself, he will keep the last six (thus keeping all the Law – “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” ).

 

The teaching of Jesus effectively silenced any argument or come back that they might have had. However, the interesting thing here is that this question by the lawyer was not ingenious in and of itself (as a trap). Within the oral traditions that existed when Jesus came to earth (often given more significance than the actual teaching of scripture – see: Matthew 15:7-9 ), the religious leaders often debated this very question and used the contradictions that might be found in their teachings to take each other down a peg or two. So, you can see now just why this lawyer asked the question. It was his hope that the answer of the Lord would contradict something that He already had taught.

 

In the next chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus began a chapter long oral indictment of these religious leaders (a chapter which we often refer to as the ‘woes of the scribes and Pharisees').

Matthew 23:5 But all their works they do to be seen by men . They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments.”

 

Phylacteries: These were containers for strips of parchment, on which were often written three or four passages of scripture (usually the four each thought to be the greatest). These containers were worn around the neck as amulets, some being as large as a cubit and a half (approx. 27 inches). The average person may have worn them while praying or fasting; however, the Pharisees and Scribes wore them conspicuously, even having their garments altered to show them off. In this, we can see the practice of the day, to display and promote what you believed to be the greatest commandments.

 

In this same chapter of oral indictment (a chapter that includes the term “ hypocrites ” 7 times; “ woe to you ” 7 times; “ blind guides ” 3 times; “ fools and blind ” 2 times; “ serpents, brood of vipers ” once) , the Lord would draw attention to this practice and the subsequent short comings brought out by it, note:

Matthew 23:23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law : justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done , without leaving the others undone.

 

If you notice in this verse, the Lord did not say that it was not important to give a tenth of the products of the land as commanded within the Law of Moses. His commentary highlights the fact that they obeyed this command flawlessly to the point of ignoring all else (such as the proper motivation). In addition, they used their flawless practice of this specific command to judge others. In this practice they had obeyed God as instructed, but as if God owed them something for it .

So lost were they in the detail of these specific commands, that they had forgotten the big picture and what the Lord referred to as the weightier matters of the Law (weightier in the same way as, “love the Lord you God with all your heart” , fulfilled half the Law, and, “love your neighbor as yourself” , fulfilled the rest).

 

What we see in the Lord's teaching is that these religious leaders had failed to keep things in their proper perspective !

 

The Lord highlights the fact that had they been motivated by these simple principles taught within the Law; justice , mercy , and faith , they would have obeyed these, and everything else, thus fulfilling all the Law !

Justice: Often a synonym for fairness and was used over a hundred times within the body of the Old Testament teaching.

Mercy: This term is defined as, ‘compassion with a desire to help' or ‘compassion in action'.

Faith: Encompasses trust, belief, and obedience.

 

Likewise, we often notice this same problem within the body of Christ; it is easy to lose sight of the weightier matters of the Gospel of Christ. All the teaching of the Lord through His inspired writers are given to transform the Christian (those that pertain to Christ), from the lowly creatures they once were; to a new man (enlightened by the knowledge of Him, having been given all things that pertain to life and godliness – II Peter 1:3 ). So, this lesson is not designed to lesson any of the commands of the Lord contained within the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is however, designed to help us maintain a proper perspective !

We must be diligent in maintaining the proper perspective in the presentation of ourselves to God, through Christ Jesus our Lord. In addition, we must guard against the practices and motivations of the Pharisees!

There are many areas that this has application within the teachings of the New Testament. However, for the sake of application and training, we are going to look at just one.

 

One of the areas that we seem to be losing sight of the weightier matters consists of the discouraging culture in which we live today. So many are concerned with how we are going to turn society around and help to wrestle the course of this nation back on a path of moral fortitude (predicated on the teaching of Christ – as the nation was founded on , really !). Many are looking for one great and mass solution to the problems today. The fact of the matter is that this nation did not arrive in the present state overnight. Likewise, it will not return overnight!

 

It is however, an important subject, considering the illustrations given by the school masters of the Old Testament that pictured the wrath of God on the ungodly nations. It is a fact that the majority no longer accepts certain basic principles; God, the Bible, Jesus as the Son of God, etc…

We are presently in a mode of moral decline , church decline , and Christian apathy !!!

 

Even in light of the reality of this situation and the influence it has on the Christian, this is nothing new to the servant of the Lord, and truth be told, exists today because Christians have lost sight of the weightier matters !

 

We find within the teachings of the New Testament a similar circumstance to that which we face. The Apostle Paul, writing from prison in Rome , to the church at Philippi , will relate to them what I believe he would have said to you and me today, concerning the very issues we are talking about.

 

Philippi was a Roman colony, heavily influenced by Roman culture ( paganism , intellectualism , and immorality ). Thus we find these brethren in the same boat as you and I today, (without the built in freedoms we have to project what Paul is going to instruct them to do in this); living in a “crooked and perverse generation” .

 

In addition, keep in mind that this church was doing it right! They had elders and deacons (the proper organization of the Lord's church). Paul would use the term, “joy”, six times, and the term, “rejoice”, twelve times to express his attitude towards these brethren. There is not one rebuke within this letter towards them, only an affection and longing that they maintain what they have done so well, thus far!

 

Paul's concern for his environment was predicated on the image he projected and the strength he had against evil (teaching, speaking boldly, and living ‘in' Christ before the world). It was in this that he affected even the Praetorian of Caesar's own palace (see: Philippians 1:13 ). This projection of his faith caused the Jews of Thessalonica to state that he had “turned the world upside down” ( Acts 17:6 ). In a similar sense, this is the message he has for these brethren and likewise for you and me! The greatest affect we can have on our culture is to practice the weightier matters of the teachings of Christ. This will in turn affect our influence on our own environment and how we interact with it.

 

Thus his message to the Christians in Philippi is based on this principle.

 

Text:

Philippians 2:12-16 “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. 14 Do all things without complaining and disputing, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

 

In the upcoming lessons we are going to discuss three things listed within this short text ( something that we must do , something that we must not do , and something to be held onto ).

•  Work Out Your Own Salvation.
•  Without Murmuring and Disputing.
•  Hold Fast the Word of Life.

It is my hope that in the study of these three things, we can harvest the weightier matters truly needed today !

 

Next: “Work Out Your Own Salvation