“Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
(Matthew 5:19 ESV)
In this passage of scripture we are currently studying Jesus has just laid out eight characteristics of what is expected of a true disciple of His [Matthew 5:3-12]. These are collectively known as The Beatitudes.
He followed this by identifying further expectations that come with aligning oneself with Him including being salt and light. Today Jesus gives another responsibility of anyone who wishes to be one of His disciples. Such a person must agree with and uphold God’s law.
The Bible is not a collection of man-made religious concepts. It is God’s revelation of absolute truth. Its contents are not suggestions to be evaluated. They are requirements to be followed.
If anyone is going to become part of God’s family through faith in Christ [John 1:12], then God is going to expect them to respect these rules and also teach them to others. Notice that there is a reward for anyone who does them and teaches them. Such a person will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
However, just the opposite is also true. If a child of God relaxes even one of the least of God’s commandments and teaches others to do the same then that person will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.
Notice that Jesus is not talking about salvation here. Both types of people have been saved from the penalty of their sins and are in heaven. The issue is how they behave after being saved.
God’s children are not to pick and choose which commands to obey. We are commanded to follow all. But we have the option to knowingly sin if we want to. We are not robots. God lets people choose if they want to join His family. He also lets them choose how they will behave once they are a part of that family. But such a decision has eternal (i.e. permanent) consequences.
From this passage it is apparent that people will have rank in heaven. This rank will not come from how much money, or popularity, or achievement one had in this life. Those are earthly measures. Heavenly rank will be based on how a person viewed, defended, and taught Scripture while on earth. Note that we can “teach” simply through our lifestyle. We don’t have to be formal teachers.
We all sin. We sin out of habit or addiction or forgetfulness. Jesus is not talking about that here. He is talking about knowingly and willingly ignoring what God says is true. For example, many believers reject God’s command not to have pre-marital sex. Instead of agreeing with Him they have agreed with the world. They are consciously opting for short-term pleasure at the expense of long-term satisfaction. Such people will lose heavenly rank.
God’s moral law is a reflection of His very character. When a child of His brazenly ignores any of it they are insulting Him. They are saying that He is wrong. While such a person will still go to heaven, that person will not experience as much eternal joy as they could have.
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