The ethical teachings of Jesus are scattered throughout the Gospels and sometimes seem to be contradictory. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor."
The Teachings of Jesus
II. The Message (part 3)
A. The Kingdom of God
B. The Fatherhood of God
LESSON BEGINS HERE
C. Ethical Teaching of Jesus
1. Problems in Attempts to Arrive at an Ethical System
a. Jesus never provided an organized ethical system.
b. Ethical teachings of Jesus are scattered throughout the Gospels.
c. Ethical teachings of Jesus are incomplete.
d. Ethical teachings of Jesus seem at times to be contradictory.
e. Ethical teachings of Jesus at times seem to be impossible.
2. Attempts to Interpret the Ethical Teachings
a. Catholic Interpretation
b. Utopian Interpretation
c. Liberal Interpretation
d. Interim Ethic Interpretation
e. Existentialist Interpretation
3. Jesus and the Law
a. Jesus upheld the eternal validity of the Law.
b. Jesus by his practice taught the continual validity of the Law.
c. At times Jesus seems to have rejected various aspects of the Law.
4. Explanations of the Apparent Contradictions
a. Jesus was opposed to the oral traditions but not to the written Law.
b. Jesus distinguished between the civil and ceremonial aspects of the Law and the moral aspects of the Law. The former was no longer binding, but the latter was.
5. Summary of Jesus' Ethical Teaching
a. Need for a new heart.
b. Love Commandment
6. The Eschatological Nature of Jesus' Ethical Teachings
Course: New Testament Survey - Gospels
Lecture: Ethical Teaching
I want to talk today about the ethical teachings of Jesus. And when you start trying to figure out an ethical system, one of the things that you have to recognize is that Jesus never presented an organized ethical system. His teachings are scattered throughout the gospels.
Uh, many of them are incomplete and in various areas. Uh, some areas – such as economics, education, things of that nature – are not even discussed by Jesus that would be concerns for us today. Uh, some areas are discussed very, very briefly.
For instance, if you wanna know how a Christian is to relate to the state, you have, “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, to God the things that are God’s.” But that’s helpful in some ways, but it’s, it sure leaves a lotta unanswered questions.
And Christians, for instance, that lived in totalitarian states like Russia or Germany in World War II, how does a Christian respond in such a situation? And how do you delimit what belongs to Caesar? There, I mean, there were Jews in Jesus’ day that said, “Nothing belongs to Caesar.” So you don’t; they argued against paying taxes.
Uh, how do you know some of those kinds of things? So a lot of them are, are, are just so brief. His teaching on marriage is that he doesn’t like divorce. He’s opposed to it. Uh, but there’s more to marriage than, than that.
Uh, and there’s some teachings of Jesus’ that when you look at ‘em they look somewhat contradictory. They’re not systematically organized. He talks about not coming to abolish the law and the prophets, not a jot or a tittle will pass away.
And yet he says “It’s not what goes into a man’s stomach that defiles him but what comes out of his heart.” Marks adds the interpretive comment. Well, in so doing he did away with the ceremonial law, did away with the clean unclean reg-, regulations. Well, that looks like he’s abolishing certain things as well.
And when you look at the, his teaching, there’s a, the teaching on rewards. But there’s also teaching on grace alone. I mean, how, how much reward does the 11th hour worker or the thief on the cross get? How does that all work out?
Not explicitly taught. Uh, you have sometimes teachings of Jesus that look pretty much impossible. “You must be perfect as your father in heaven is perfect.” Luke has, “You must be merciful as your father in heaven is merciful.”
On the other hand, all you have to do is put, “You must be blank as your father in heaven is blank,” and you realize it’s impossible. Pick your best area. You wanna compare yourself to God in that. And so it looks like how can you be like God in those, in those areas?
And it’s not so much that you’re actions have to be perfect, but even your motives. It’s not just the outside of the cup, the inside of the cup that must be perfect. Well, it’s hard enough to make your actions conform to the law of God, but the innermost heart must be equally perfect.
You start saying, “Well, what in the world? How do you, how do you ever do that?” There are some teachings of Jesus that look, or they...Well, they look confusing, and you don’t know if they’re to be universal or not. Should we all be eunuchs for the kingdom of God’s sake?
In other words, is the ideal not to marry at all? Should the advice to the rich young ruler, sell everything you have and give it to the poor? Is that for everyone? You say, “No, it was just for him.” Then why include it in the b-, in the gospels?
Well, once it was used up for him, why repeat it? Somehow the gospel writers think there’s relevance to that in some ways. So you have a lot of confusion about Jesus’ ethical teaching. And the attempts to try and put them into a system I’ve listed here for you.
The term “Catholic” is not meant to be negative. It’s the way this is described because it develops very early in the church. Nor does the Lutheran interpretation or any of those, there’s nothing negative about those. Those are simply categorical terms used to describe a particular ethical system.
Let me got through some of the attempts to find a, a unity in the ethical teachings of Jesus into some sort of a, and organize it into some sort of a systematic form. One of the oldest, uh, maybe the oldest system of Jesus’ ethical teachings is what we call the “Catholic interpretation.”
Uh, this is seen as a two-level kind of ethic. There is a ethical demand that is placed upon every believer the Ten Commandments, the golden rule. But there is another level for the more dedicated, which requires selling all we have, giving to the poor, not marrying and things of, of this nature.
So you have this double layer, which everybody has to deal with the basic layer of ethical teaching. But there’s another, more dedicated level for those who dedicate themselves more fully to the Lord’s work. Now, it doesn’t take an awful lot of thought to think of how this two-level Christianity, or ethic of Jesus, is going to develop in the early church.
What do you have? You have on one side the laity. Then you have the clergy, OK? As early as to tell you in the end of the second century, he writes on, on marriage in the lo-, in the lord. And he, he has the second kind of, this two kind of level ethic.
“As I write these words, I am disturbed at the thought that I, who but recently exhorted you to practice monogamy and remain a widow, may be responsible, by my m-, mere mention of marriage, for making you disposed to give up the higher ideal.” Which is, of course, not marriage. “Still, if you are truly wise, you will see clearly that you ought to live that, lead the kind of life which is best for you.
“It is because this ideal is so lofty, so difficult, and so exacting that I have tempered, to some extent, my remarks on the subject. I have had no reason at all to bring the up this matter were it not for a very serious consideration that is engaged my intent, my attention.” The continence which makes possible a life of widowhood is something heroic.
“And therefore, it would seem that a woman can be all the more easily pardoned if she does not persevere in such a state,” this second level. “Failure is easy to excuse whenever success is difficult to achieve.” So this higher level of remaining unmarried or remaining a widow – well not remarrying – is an ideal. And it’s, not everyone can, can make it.
“But,” now the other level, “To marry in the Lord is well within our power, and so failure here means that our guilt is the greater for our having neglected a duty which we are able to fulfill.” And everybody is able to do that one.
“There is also this added consideration: when the Apostle writes that widows and virgins should, should so continue, his language is that of persuasion, since he says, I wish all to persevere according to my example. But when there is a question of marrying in the Lord he writes only, in the lord, he no longer advises, he expressly commands.
“Disobedience,” on the level for everyone, “Especially in the matter of this kind, is dangerous. For although a suggestion,” this higher ethic, “May be ignored with impunity, an order,” the sa-, the lower level of ethic, “May not, since the former is counsel proposed for our free choice, while the latter is a pre-, prescription of authority imposing a definite obligation. In the first instance, we are guilty of indiscretion; in the second, of insubordination.”
So you have this double layer. Uh, he advises her. He said that this noble, higher ethic is not possible for everyone. But this lower ethic – what Jesus teach, you marry in the lord – that’s re-, required. And if you disobey that, you’re in really serious trouble.
Earlier – in a work called “The Didache,” Greek word for teaching, or “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles” as it’s sometimes called – in chapter six – he has the same kind of ethical teaching. He says, “Beware less anyone lead you astray from the way of the teachings, since this teaching would be without God. If you were able to carry the full yoke of the lord, you will be perfect,” this higher level. “A full yoke of the lord,” this higher dedicated state.
Then he goes on, “But if you are not able, do whatever you can.” I said the lower level of commitment. Now, this sounds very Catholic, and yet it’s not just Catholic. It is a very common ethical understanding that dominates Protestant theology as well. Find it all over.
In Methodist theology, to be saved you must be justified. But after justification, you should seek this holy state of sanctification, two stages. Come from a charismatic background, you have to be saved and then what y-, should you do? You should be experience the “Baptism of the spirit,” second level.
Uh, campus crusade types, any are campus crusade? No? Ah, Bill Bright when you have, when you get saved, Christ enters into your heart. But later, what should you seek to do?
You should put Christ on the, in the throne of your heart, right? OK. If you’re in a holy mo-, holiness movement, you want to live not just a carnal Christian life but a...victorious Christian life. And you have this experience of this kind of commitment and the like. So it’s a very dominant kind of thing that we have.
Two steps, two levels, very, very, very dominant. Not just in the old Catholic interpretation, but very practical. I should say very much occurring in the Protestant theology as well. Now, there is something really nice about this two-stage level. And that is it makes salvation possible for people.
If you have to sell all you have and give it to the poor, become a monastic to be saved, at’s gonna be kinda difficult. But for the masses, all they have to do is believe in the Lord Jesus and keep the Ten Commandments. There’s something nice a-, and, and practical about that.
The problem is that Jesus doesn’t seem to talk that way. “If anyone would come after me,” Mark 8:38, “Let ‘em deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” This whole idea of starting the Christian life where you receive Jesus as your savior, and later you should try to work up to receiving him as Lord may be very common, but it’s not very biblical.
Because salvation for Jesus is, is, “Thou shall confess with thy mouth Jesus is Lord,” Romans 10:9. “And that if you receive Jesus as the Lord of your life, you’ll be saved.” And Jesus says the same.
So there’s no, there doesn’t seem to be a, a two-stage level that way. So that’s the real problem with this particular viewpoint. Now the utopian view is a view that seems to really exist as a counteraction to the Catholic view.
Here instead of seeing two levels the, the idea of total commitment is there from the beginning. Uh, the very, the Franciscan order, some of the left-wing Anabaptist groups, and the reformations, and pietistic groups, various holy groups, holiness groups. Tolstoy said Jesus intended to give a new law, and his commandments are to be seen as a law that every Christian should obey. Not just certain ones, but all of them.
And sometimes in this particular interpretation, various kinds of commandments were especially elevated to a higher status, such as “Judge not, let ye be not judged. Do not resist,” a kind of pacifism. “Do not swear oaths.” Sometimes their teach you being eunuchs to the kingdom of God, denigrated the view of marriage. And marriage was seen as a lesser option.
Judicial systems, governmental systems were looked down upon. Uh, the police, the judicial system, army and so forth uh, they became rather negative towards them. And there was usually a good reason, and that was they tended to be persecuted groups. And if you’re a persecuted groups, a persecuted group, police, army, judges are not highly valued.
And so there was almost kind of...If we could get a r-, rid of all of these kinds of things, like judicial groups uh, judges, police and so forth, then we could truly live as God intended us to live.
Now it does take very seriously Jesus’ teachings as being towards all believers, to every believer. Not just to a handful of elite and so forth and so on. But opposed to this view is the fact that Jesus isn’t anti-government. There’s a place for that.
When he says, “Judge not, let you be not judged,” it doesn’t mean you never judge anything. It’s kind of an overstatement kind of thing. And I think it is dominated by a naiveté that if you just get rid of all authorities, then we will naturally live out the kingdom of God.
I think that naiveté denies the fact that we’re fallen creatures. And the Bible and Jesus looks at governmental authority as a gift, enabling us to restrain our depravity into good sense that it, that he intends it to be. So that there’s nothing wrong with government. You should obey them and there’s something positive about this.
So the utopian solution, for me, is is too naïve about the real depravity that we have. Uh, we need judicial systems. We need the police and so forth, because we are fallen creatures.
The Lutheran interpretation, of course, ag-, associated with Martin Luther. And that is many times when they talked about the, the ethical teachings of Jesus, they focused in, on the most compact area of the Sermon on the Mount. So a lotta times when people talk about the Sermon on the Mount, then they talk about the ethical teachings of Jesus. And, cuz they are so compact in that group.
But Luther said that when you look at the Sermon on the Mount, it drives you to tears. Because you realize that if the poor in spirit are to be blessed, what happens when you look at yourself and you say, “You’re not humble? You tend to be arrogant and proud.” When it says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness,” and you realize you haven’t hungered and thirsted after righteousness like you should, imperfection.
It brings you to the realization you stand guilty under that. So that all the ethical m-, commands when you look at them, you realize you’ve failed, and that’s what Jesus intended. He intended these not so much to be rules to be followed, but to show us that we don’t keep them and to drive us to the grace of God.
Now that, that follows very much Paul’s understanding of the law. The law is to reveal our sin and show us the need of a savior. So Jesus’ teachings are the same way, to be understood to reveal our sinfulness and to drive us to faith in Jesus Christ.
Now the problem with that view is if you look at the Sermon on the Mount...Why don’t we turn at that, in our synopsis to this. Turn with me to page 49. The Sermon on the Mount is introduced by Matthew in this way, bottom of page 49, line 26, uh, under the first column of Matthew.
“Seeing the crowds, he went up to the mountain. And when he sat down his disciples came to him, and he opened his mouth and taught them saying.” So the Sermon on the Mount is addressed to the disciples.
In other words, the ethical teachings of Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount are not addressed to drive people to Christ. But they’re addressed to people who already been driven to Christ or his followers.
So the listener interpretation I think errs in saying it’s meant to drive us to Christ. It may do that in some instances to people, but that’s not his intention. Jesus gives his ethical teaching to those who are his followers.
And thus, it is not meant to drive them to Christ, but having been driven to Christ, now we have these teachings. It is after Israel is delivered out of Egypt and their bondage that they are given the law. It is after we have been delivered from our bondage in it to faith in Christ Jesus gives his ethical teaching.
So the ethical teaching, do not proceed conversion and lead to it. They come after conversion and are meant to teach us. Now the liberal interpretation dominated primarily in the 19th century, and it’s still dominant in certain circles today.
They said what Jesus really was doing in his ethical teaching was not to try to get the specific commandments and acts that you should do. He was trying to inculcate in our hearts certain basic principles and attitudes. He wants to change the disposition of our hearts. That’s what the ethical teachings are meant to do.
He doesn’t wanna put a, put a on us a burden, a new “legalism” in which we take all commands of Jesus. And we list them and say they, they’re a, a so many commands of Jesus that we need to keep. That’s, that’s what the rabbis did with the Old Testament. Jesus doesn’t come to do that.
What he wants us to do is to have a pure heart and pure motives. And much of the teaching he has as far as we’re in our day and age are, are to be discarded much like you would in harvesting some corn. You remove the outside sh- shuck the leaves and so forth.
And you have the kernel, the kernel of Jesus’ ethical teaching when you get rid of some of these specific teachings that are not relevant. Uh, that is this strong emphasis on the inner heart. Now there’s an element of truth in that.
It’s not just the outside cup that is to be clean, but the innermost being, the heart attitude. There’s, there’s element of truth here. And Augustine, way back in the 400s, said he summarizes ethic, “Love God with all you heart, and then do whatever you want.”
That, that’s kinda cute in a way, but I, I know some people who love God with all their hearts, but they’re really confused as to what God wants ‘em to do. Right? It’s not self-evident how we should behave, especially when it comes to loving your children or loving a member of the church when they need discipline.
What’s the loving thing to do? Well, some people could not conceive of love ever exerting discipline. So the idea of a hard attitude, yeah, that’s right. But that provides motivation.
But now, what do you know you should do? Love is not always self-evident. And so you have the teachings of Jesus, not only to talk about the need of a new heart, but also to give direction for that new heart.
And so the liberal idea is too romantic. I think it you have to understand that the liberal theology that leads to this really sees the heart as not being that bad after all. Depraved in our sense, nah, you don’t wanna talk about those things. You, there, God’s made us in his image.
There’s a divine spark in us. All we need to do is fan at the flame and uh, put the motivation there. And then we’ll know what to do, and we can do it.
And needless to say that World War I, and the horrors of World War I, destroyed theological liberalism because it became quite apparent that the heart was desperately wicked. And who could know it? And we needed more than just a hard attitude.
Now the interim ethic interpretation is associated with Albert Schweitzer, OK. Now Albert Schweitzer, kingdom of God. What view of the kingdom of God do we associate with Albert Schweitzer? Consistent eschatology. It’s all in the future. And what Albert Schweitzer said was the kingdom of God was entirely future.
Now this view takes Jesus’ announcement to the kingdom of God very seriously. But the future that for Jesus according to Schweitzer was the next few months, not 2000 years from now. So [entirely] future, but already the signs of, of it taking place are on us. And in a matter of weeks, months – not years – the kingdom of God is going to come.
And because of that, the ethic of Jesus’ teaching was an emergency, interim ethic. For this very, very brief time of a few weeks or months, this ethic now comes into existence. So the result is this, someone strikes on the right cheek, just turn the other one. It’s not time enough to worry about these things.
Uh, if someone takes you to court, just do it. Give ‘em whatever they want, because there’s not time to worry about these kinds of things. Uh, in the same way, therefore, don’t marry because there’s not time for that.
And let’s face it, if you believe that Jesus is coming next month, how many who are gonna continue a, a wedding plan that’s gonna take place three months from now? How many are gonna continue studying Greek?
So this emergency is such that we have this emergency ethic. They come and say walk one mile in so-, ga-, walk two. Don’t, don’t worry about these kinds of things. Divorce, marriage, forget about those things.
All these social institutions are irrelevant because of the, the short interim period we living in. He’s not describing what he believes but what Jesus taught. He’s trying to make sense out of Jesus’ teaching.
If you want to understand that Jesus thought the world was coming to an end in just a few months, it makes sense of his teachings. They’re very different theology. He, he simply said Jesus was deluded in this, and he was wrong.
It’s a very romantic ethic. When you think of totally devoting yourself in this way, you have to admire people like that even though they’re all screwballs.
Uh, so he has this uh, ethic of Jesus that is not realistic. Now, before you look down your nose at this, Albert Schweitzer had this weird view of Jesus. Thought the end was to come when he went to Jerusalem, he was gonna force God’s hand to bring the kingdom of God.
He dies on the cross deluded because God did not fulfill what he had aimed for, and he cries, “My God, my God. Why have you forsaken me?” The eyes of the deluded fanatic. His ethical teaching is wrong, because the kingdom of God didn’t come in the next few months. The end of history did not take place.
That’s his theology of Jesus. He was one of, one of two or three maybe the greatest Bach organists in all of Europe. He was one of the greatest theologians in all of Europe. He gave all that up, studied medicine and then became a doctor in the heart of Africa.
His view of Jesus, as warped as it what led him to that. Your theology and mine is better. Do you have, do I have that kind of commitment? Or does a better theology result in the need for less commitment?
I hope not. I hope not. So yeah, strange man. Uh, and, and his commitment to give his life in service to others because of what Jesus taught him, even though he had this weird view of Jesus is amazing. And some of us have such a good theology, and we don’t have that kind of commitment. That, that’s what seems stranger yet.
I’m talking about myself. I don’t know where you are, but makes me very humble. One of the things that’s positive about the interim ethic is its connection with Jesus’ ethical teaching and the coming of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God’s coming has something to do with the ethic Jesus teachings, teaches.
However, the ethical teaching, which Albert Schweitzer thought was all based on the end of history – because history’s about to come to an end, because the end is so near, therefore, do such, and such, and such and such – uh, loses sight of the fact. Why are you to be merciful? Because the end is near. No. Because God is merciful.
Why are you to be kind and loving? Because God is kind and loving. The ethic of Jesus is not dependent on some sort of a eminent end that gonna end the world, but on the character of God. And therefore, it is the timeless ethic in many ways. It’s connected with the coming of the kingdom of God.
But with the king-, character of the, the kingdom is coming, the character of the God we believe in. So the interim ethic interpretation doesn’t have real persuasion in the convictions as far as I’m concerned. The existentialist interpretation takes place mostly in the first half of the 20th century.
Here, like the liberals, they did not, the liberal interpretation, they did not think that the specifics of Jesus’ teaching were to be the concern of ours. What Jesus in his ethical teaching, what really is the essence of Jesus’ ethical teaching, is that we have to have an encounter with God. And that when you read Jesus teachings, what that front, confronts us with is the will and demand of God in our lives. And we have to make a decision.
We can remain as we are, or we can commit to follow God. As for the specifics, those are really quite irrelevant. Uh, unconditional decision and commitment, and that will lead us from freedom to, to freedom from the bondage this world around us creates in us and the bondage to law as a principle.
Yeah, some good things about this. Uh, Jesus does demand decision. On the other hand, Jesus didn’t say, “Make your decision, and then you do whatever you want.” But he gives instructions to those who are his disciples, to those who make that decision and are confronted with the will of God in Christ. Then there are teachings that follow.
If you do this, then do the following. So all of these systems have some interesting things about them, but on the other hand, they do not handle all the evidence well. Uh, Jesus and the law here we talked about times when he upheld the eternal validity of the law.
And sometimes he in his practice revealed that...You can look up the references yourselves. [29:00] Uh, but at times, like when he talks about marriage in Mark 10, he seems to abolish certain things of the law. Moses allowed for divorce, but Jesus doesn’t according to Mark 10:11, at least in that form.
Now, how do we explain this? Uh, there been some attempts to say, well, what, when Jesus talks against the law, he’s talking about the oral traditions, remember? Uh, when they had this tradition about Corbin, Jesus speaks about those traditions, those literally you could say damned traditions, because they’re against God.
They reject God’s real commandment for the traditions. So what Jesus was opposed to was not the law, the Old Testament, but the oral traditions. And sometimes that’s true, but there are other times when he is specifically referring to the law.
Because it’s not the traditions that say you cannot eat certain foods. It’s the law that teaches that. And yet, he now seems to abolish them. It’s not their traditions that have these view, has this view on divorce. It’s the law in Deuteronomy that has this view.
So there’s sometimes he seems to be opposed to that, and that doesn’t fit real easily. The second explanation is that Jesus distinguished between what we call, what we now call, the civil, the ceremonial and the moral aspects of the law.
The civil would be things like the existence of cities of refuge to flee to, various punishments for crimes. Uh, those civil rules are no longer binding because we’re not a theocracy. We’re not a, a, a state whose king is the Lord.
The ceremonial aspects, sacrifices, clean unclean, those are done away with. But the moral commandments, the moral law, remains, because the moral laws are reflection of the character of God that can’t change. This became a, a dominant way of understanding Jesus’ attitude toward the law with the reformers.
What Jesus did away with was the civil law. We don’t have cities of refuge. We don’t deal with the penalties the same way as they’re dealt with in the Old Testament.
Civil law’s done away with. The ceremonial law, sacrifices, clean and unclean, are done away with, but the moral law remains. Now there have been some arguments against that and say, “Well, you know, Jews didn’t think that way.”
That may be true, but Jesus seems to have thought that way. Because when he says, “It’s not what goes into a man’s stomach that defiles him, but what comes out of his heart,” isn’t he making a distinction between things done with respect to this, to the ceremonial law versus things that are done with regard to the moral law?
And that implied distinction between the civil and ceremonial and the moral law is carried on in the New Testament as well. So the New Testament writers followed Jesus’ teaching and bring it out into a more full blossom [inaudible] doesn’t, doesn’t matter what you eat if you, if you eat meat and give God thanks, so be it.
If you don’t eat meat and give thanks for vegetables, so be it. Let every person be fully persuaded in his own mind. And so you have this further carried out with regard to the New Testament.
And I think that’s probably a, a good way as any to understand his respect to the law. Some things will change. The civil and the ceremonial come to an end, but the moral law remains in that regard, OK.
A summary then of some of Jesus’ ethical teaching, the need for a new heart. Jesus not only provides a motivation, a new heart, but also an ability. We’re born again, and through the spirit now have an ability to do what we once wanted to do. Uh, Romans 8 and so forth carries that, that on as well.
It’s important that one’s external conduct be in obedience to the law, but that’s not sufficient. Along with external conduct must come a correct internal attitude. The heart must be well.
And I think for instance that I would understand the, uh...You’ve heard it said, but I say in Matthew 5, not as being Jesus abolishing of the law, but bringing out implications which show it’s not enough simply not to commit adultery. You must have a pure heart in which adultery does not take place, so both.
As to a brief summary, if you wanted to summarize, the Jesus’ ethical teaching, probably nothing is better than his own summary in Mark 12:29-31. Where he says, “You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, strength and mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
And that second part, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” is expressed in various ways. Uh, one is whatever you wish that men do to you, do so to them for this is the law of the prophets. Another one would be to love your neighbor as yourself expressed elsewhere. So that the essence of Jesus’ teaching really is the love command, loving God with all one’s heart, strength and mind, the neighbor as oneself.
Having said that, Jesus gives the content of what that love would be like in his teachings. He doesn’t simply say, “Love God with all your heart. Love your neighbor as yourself.” Eh, don’t worry about, doesn’t mean this provides far more motivation than simply content. And now what does it mean to love God with all one’s heart?
It means you give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s. You pay your taxes. It means that you do not lust after your neighbor’s wife. So the content is described in various other sayings, but the heart of it is to love God with all one’s heart, strength and mind.
The eschatological nature of Jesus’ ethical teaching, I have a quotation here from George Ladd in his book “Jesus and the Kingdom of God.” “There is an analogy between the manifestation of the kingdom of God itself and the attainment of the righteousness of the kingdom.
“The kingdom has come and Jesus’ fulfillment of the messianic salvation within the old age, but the consummation awaits the age to come. The kingdom is actually present, but in a new and unexpected way. It is entered history without transforming history. It has come into human society without [35:30] purifying society.
“By analogy, the righteousness of the reign of God can be actually and substantially experienced even in the present age. But the perfect righteousness of the kingdom like the kingdom itself awaits the eschatological consummation.
“Even as the kingdom has invaded the evil age to bring men into an advance, a partial but real experience of the blessings of the eschatological kingdom, so is the righteousness of the kingdom attainable in part if not in perfection in the present order. Ethics like the kingdom stand in the tension between present realization and future eschatological perfection.”
And that now not yet aspect of the kingdom of God is also experienced in our ethical situation. We’ve died with Christ and been raised into newness of life. We are part of the new creation. And yet we struggle with sin, and we grow within ourselves looking for the attainment of the perfect righteousness.”