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Why Did Jesus Say, “But I Tell You”?

A photo of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.
Why did Jesus refer to the Old Testament and then say, “But I tell you”? Was He giving us new laws to obey, or was He making an entirely different point? The Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes. Photo by Itamar Grinberg for the Israeli Ministry of Tourism.

by Peter Ditzel

The Bible records that Jesus many times used the words, “But I tell you,” or, as the King James Version puts it, “But I say unto you.” He did this after first either quoting the Old Testament or stating a principle from the Old Testament. Then He used what He said from the Old Testament as a springboard to teach a moral principle that sounded even stricter than the Old Testament.

Why did Jesus do this? Was it, as some claim, that Jesus was refuting or correcting Old Testament laws? (See, for example, “Jesus Refuted Old Testament Laws” and “6 Times Jesus Contradicted the Old Testament.”) Or was He merely correcting misinterpretations of the scribes and Pharisees? (For example, see “How to Avoid the Folly of the Pharisees.”) On the other hand, perhaps He was raising the standard of the law and in so doing, He was teaching that we Christians must obey the law more than the scribes and Pharisees. (See “What does Jesus mean when He says, ‘Except your righteousness shall exceed…?’”), and, (“More Righteous Than The Pharisees?“) There are many opinions, but I want to show you from the Bible the plain and simple answer to why Jesus said, “But I tell you.”

Q. If we are no longer under the law, why did Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, raise the standard of the law?

A. It’s pretty common for preachers to say that Jesus raised the standard of the law or amplified or magnified it. This question is based on this belief that Jesus came to magnify the law. Those who teach that Jesus magnified the law usually cite Isaiah 42:21 and tie it to Matthew 5.

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The Sermon on the Mount

by Peter Ditzel

[This article was revised in January 2019: Further information.]

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount has been called the epitome of His ethical teaching, His manifesto, and the key of the whole Bible. To understand the Sermon on the Mount and its relevance for you, you need to know who was Jesus’ intended audience and whether Jesus was correcting the misunderstandings of the scribes and Pharisees, whether He was fulfilling the role of the new Lawgiver by giving a new law, or whether He had an entirely different purpose.

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New Covenant Theology–Must We Obey a New Law?

by Peter Ditzel

[This article was revised in January 2019: Further information.]

New Covenant Theology teaches that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law, and that by fulfilling it, He ended it. But some within New Covenant Theology have also taught that Jesus instituted a new law that we must obey. Is there a new law with new commands that Jesus has given us under the New Covenant? If so, must we obey these commands?

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Q. If we are no longer under the law, why did Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, raise the standard of the law?

A. It’s pretty common for preachers to say that Jesus raised the standard of the law or amplified or magnified it. This question is based on this belief that Jesus came to magnify the law. Those who teach that Jesus magnified the law usually cite Isaiah 42:21 and tie it to Matthew 5.

Read more… →