I was struck this morning while reading the Sermon on the Mount, how Jesus’ first teaching as recorded by St. Matthew is an ethics-laden sermon. Jesus called Israel to repent, and then went up on the mountain and issued all kinds of teaching on care for the poor, sexual ethics, the way marriage should work, conflict resolution and so on. He did not simply say, “Believe in me and everything else is covered by grace, Amen.”
He was not speaking about “how to earn salvation” either. The message is to his disciples and assumes a covenant status – these are people who are inside the community by faith. But he does not boil down his message to an altar call. He instead issues all kinds of commands as to what the life of a faithful believer should look like and it’s something that many today would probably call legalism. “How can you demand that I do x or y? I’m saved by grace, the letter kills and the Spirit gives life” I can hear some modern Christian say if a pastor was to teach this way.
Entry into the kingdom is by faith, staying the course and persevering to the end is by faith. But we do not know how to live or to judge rightly how to please God without consistent meditation on his Word. The entirety of the Bible is there to show us how a life in conformity to what He wants is to look like.