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!

  1. Filling Moses’ Shoes

    1. 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.)

    2. Read Matthew 23:3-4. Are the current leaders worthy of the
      title? (No!)

      1. What is wrong with them? (Their actions do not line
        up with their words.)

      2. 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?

    3. Read Matthew 15:1-2. What charges are made against the
      disciples? (They are not carrying the “heavy load” of the
      elders’ tradition.)

    4. 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

      1. 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.)

      2. 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.)

    5. 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.)

      1. Is that a lesson for us today? Do we emphasize
        unimportant things that distract us from considering
        the more important points?

    6. 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.)

      1. Are the disciples reminding Jesus of His own

    7. Read Matthew 15:13-14. What does Jesus tell us to do with
      regard to false religious teaching? (Avoid it. Do not
      follow it.)

    8. 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.)

  2. Bursting Moses’ Robes

    1. 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.”)

      1. Read Genesis 3:4-5. Does Satan have a list of
        standard temptations he uses repeatedly?

    2. 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?

      1. What do your children call you? (Compare Exodus

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 12:28. Is God opposed to church
      organization and titles?

      1. If so, why did the disciples call themselves (Acts
        15:23) “apostles?”

    4. 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.”)

      1. 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.)

        1. 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.)

      2. What does Jesus require of those in leadership
        positions, those who are administering the law?
        (Servant leadership – Matthew 23:11.)

  3. True Moses

    1. 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.)

    2. 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.)

    3. 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.)

      1. 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!)

    4. 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

      1. 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.)

    5. Friend, humans make errors in their laws and rules. Will
      you accept the challenge to keep your focus on what is

  4. Next week: Christ and the Law in the Sermon on the Mount.