The Good & the Not So Good (Luke 16:16-17)

Our verses this morning are Luke 16:16-17.  It reads: “The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.”  This morning I pray that we would consider a number of important points from these verses: 1) The Law and the Prophets are good, 2) It is good that the Law and the Prophets were until John, 3) the news of the kingdom of God is good, 4) it is good that the Law will never be void, and 5) you are not good.

The Law and the Prophets are Good

When Jesus references “The Law and the Prophets”, He is speaking of the Old Covenant.  A covenant is an agreement between two parties.  In this case it is an agreement between God and the nation of Israel.  This covenant is called the Old Covenant because it has been replaced by the New Covenant (more on that later).  The Old Covenant consisted of the Law of Moses with its moral, civil, and ceremonial regulations.  The Old Covenant was a good covenant because: 1) God established it and everything God does is good, 2) in it “every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom 3:19), and 3) “through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Rom 3:21).

It is Good that the Law and Prophets were until John

While the Old Covenant is good, it was merely a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Heb 8:5).  The Old Covenant was good in that it revealed the presence of sin and showed, through the sacrificial system, the horrors of sin and God’s great displeasure of sin.  While the Law and the Prophets are good, Jesus is telling us that something even better has come to take its place: the New Covenant.  Hebrews 8:13 says, “in speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete.  And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”  The Law and the Prophets are good, but God brought them to an end because He has something better.

The Kingdom of God is Good News

What could be better than the Law of Moses?  It is the “good news of the kingdom of God”.  This good news that is preached is that Jesus lived the life I could not live and died the death I deserved to die so that I could receive the life He earned and avoid the death only He could avoid.  Jesus gives us His free gift of eternal life.  There is no longer a need for the sacrifice of bulls and goats because we “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  This kingdom of God is such good news that “everyone forces his way into it”.  Do not let that confuse you.  Salvation is by grace alone, but the sense here is that the one who is awakened by grace must then be willing to struggle to put to death the sin within them.  In other words, a radical response of repentance is required to enter the kingdom.

It is Good that the Law will Never be Void

We can rest assured that God’s promises will continue because it is easier for this universe to be destroyed than God be unfaithful.  When Jesus said “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void”, He is saying that everything God intends to happen will happen and none of His plans will be thwarted.  Not one letter of the law will fail to accomplish what He intended it to accomplish.  This is why Paul wrote in Galatians 3:24 that “the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.”

You Are Not Good

This section will be our application.  The reason Jesus tells His followers what is recorded in Luke 16:16-17 is because He wants us to stop trying to be good.  The reason is that when we try to be good, we are actually trying to be “good enough”.  When we try to be good enough, we set up a standard of goodness or we submit to a standard of goodness that we can easily meet.  This is problematic for many reasons and one of those reasons is that striving to be good enough results in enmity, strife, jealousy, rivalries and “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal 5:21).  When you strive to be good enough, you strive against other people because you are competing against them in the race to be considered good.  This was part of the problem of Pharisees.  They were fixated on other people considering them to be good.  The result was that people recognized that they were good, but also that they were not very nice.  They bragged that they were “not like other men” because of their good works (Luke 18:11).  The Bible does not tell us to try to be good because it is impossible to be good enough.  When it comes to goodness, the Bible sets the bar much higher than an easily attainable standard of goodness.  The Bible tells us to be “perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48), to “be blameless before the Lord your God” (Deut 18:13).  In essence, God says “If you want to be good enough, the standard is not your neighbor, but Me because the standard is perfection.

Not Good But Holy

The bad news is that you cannot be good so we should not even try.  The good news is that, while we cannot be good, we can be holy.  Peter wrote 1 Peter 1:15-16: “but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”.  Paul, in 1 Thessalonians 4:7 says, “God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.”  Hebrews 12:14 says, “strive…for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  It comes ultimately down to the question of identity.  Are you a person who wants others to consider a good person?  Or do you want to be someone who acknowledges they are not good, but that they have been redeemed by God and have received amazing grace.  Consider for a moment what it means to call yourself a Christian.  By claiming to be a Christian you forfeit all claims of goodness because you acknowledge that you are by nature so sinful and wicked that only the death of Jesus Christ, the Holy Son of God, could save you.  No, you are not good, but God is and He can make you much better than good: He can make you holy.