Plucked-Out Eyes and Cut-off Arms
Here is a sampling from the Sermon in the Mount.
For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:20-22, 27-29, 48 KJV)
Was Jesus serious about plucking out our eyes and cutting off our hands? Was He serious when He commanded us to be perfect, even as God is? Yes, most certainly! That’s exactly what you have to do if you want to be saved on the basis of your own righteousness by means of the Law.
But here is the truth about the Law, and here is Jesus’ purpose for preaching the Law so strongly.
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19, 20 KJV)
Beloved, when Jesus interpreted the Law, even more severely than the Pharisees, He was doing the opposite of what so many think. Instead of motivating men to keep the law to be accepted, He was seeking to discourage them from even trying. Jesus was actually playing the role of a Prosecuting Attorney. Like a prosecutor in a court of law, He had one goal–to prove men’s guilt before God. His goal was to leave us speechless, with no way to defend ourselves against God’s charge:
There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. (Romans 3:10-12 KJV)
And what was His ultimate objective? To motivate men to give up their hopeless quest for self-righteousness and to turn to Him for salvation.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9 KJV)
Self-righteousness will leave you with plucked-out eyes and cut-off arms, and a whole lot of condemnation. It is the “path that seems right to a man, but the end thereof is destruction.” But thanks be to God, the day you give up your futile efforts to be saved by works, you instantly qualify to be saved by grace. It is at that point that Jesus switches sides. And the fearless Prosecutor under the Law becomes your personal Advocate under grace.
Hallelujah! I feel like shouting.