Jots and Tittles

“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18,19).
Our diesel generator at Khulna Bible College (in Bangladesh) is out of order. It seems that when it was installed a few months ago, the anchor bolts selected to attach it to the floor were made of common steel, rather than the more expensive and harder to find high-tempered steel. The heavy vibration of the one-cylinder motor has sheered off several of the bolts, which in turn created stress on certain parts, breaking them. The result is the expensive and time-consuming process of tearing down the installation, breaking up the concrete mounting pad, putting in new bolts (the right ones this time, we hope), pouring a new pad, and then repairing and remounting the generator. Meanwhile, we are without backup power for the regular electrical outages we experience in Bangladesh (I am working without lights or fan now).
When a preacher suggests that keeping God’s commandments is important, it is common to hear the immediate accusation of “legalism!” “Christianity is about faith and grace, not rules,” it is said. Certainly legalism is a threat and an evil about which Jesus had much to say. However, it is false to equate the appeal for submission to God’s will with the belief that tedious dedication to ritual and detail earns salvation. The latter is legalistic, but the former is simply Biblical and Christian. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
A key to distinguishing between the two concepts lies in understanding the nature and purpose of God’s commands. They are not arbitrarily chosen statutes given to demand servitude. Rather they are instructions given by the all-wise Creator, which lead to success in life. Ignoring these instructions causes exactly the kind of problem illustrated above by the generator that failed because the wrong bolts were used. When we do things God’s way, good results come. When we ignore the instructions, we do so at peril of costly failure. And just as in the illustration, the price of failure is often seemingly out of all proportion to the mistake made. There is an old proverb, “For want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; for want of a horse the message was lost; for want of a message, the battle was lost — all for the want of a nail.”
Submission to God is the expression of our love for and faith in him. It must not be accompanied by the belief that obedience places God in our debt or makes us righteous. Nevertheless, it must be genuine and as complete as we can make it. Jesus was not righteous because he obeyed God. Rather, he obeyed God because he was righteous. So must we.

One Reply to “Jots and Tittles”

  1. How very true. Humans give little thaught to the impact error can cause in life and loss in eternity….Jack

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