Recently at Bible Study a girlfriend of mine made this comment, “ …But Christ did away with all that” in reference to the Mosaic Law and the prophets.
I felt a Bible Challenge boiling up inside me. I imagined myself fumbling through my purse, finding one of my black knit gloves and thwopping it down on the table in front of her as an invitation to duel. Next I imagined grabbing my recently recovered NIV from the adjacent table and thrusting it forward in my left hand as my legs lunged and my right arm curled into a comic, theatrical, yet balancing swoop behind me.
Did I? :) Hmmm. No, but investigation was inevitable.
We have been concentrating on Jesus words in Bible study (represented here in red) because those are the words that will not pass away. What does Jesus say directly about the law?
Let the battle … uh … investigation… begin.
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not [a]the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches [i]others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever [j]keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-18 (NASB)
‘Abolish’ and ‘fulfill’ are two different things. Christ Jesus did not ‘abolish’ the law, he ‘fulfilled’ it.
Abolish in the NASB is translated ‘destroy’ in the KJV. It is word # 2647 – katalyō:- Throw down, abolish, destroy; to be a guest, rest, find lodging. It comes from ‘kata’ ( against, contrary to, opposed; down, throughout) plus lyō (to loose, release, untie; to break, destroy).
Christ is not breaking the law. He does not want others to break the law. Rather, He desires these people – the Jews – to keep it.
Fulfill is word # 4137 plēroō :-to fulfill, make full; to be filled, full, complete (often used with reference to the fulfillment of Old Testament Scriptures) The same word is used both in Matthew 5 (see above reference) and here in Romans 8.
Christ did fulfill the law. Every word that was spoken about him from the law and the prophets was absolutely fulfilled in the very smallest of details. He had the opportunity to declare it on the road to Emmaus and made good use of it.
25 And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary for the [a]Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 Then beginning [b]with Moses and[c]with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. Luke 24:25-27 (NASB)
23 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and [b]cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Matthew 23:23-24 (NASB)
Jesus is telling the Pharisees to do BOTH; to adhere to the letter of the Law and to administer the concepts the Law advocates. But what did Jesus advocate that the common Jew do? Obey the law.
23 Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, 2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; 3 therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. Matthew 23:1-3 (NASB)
It would appear that obeying the Law is not exactly the same as following the example set by the Pharisees.
Again Jesus directly advises those He has healed to perform the duties that the law requires for a specific reason: testimony.
8 When [a]Jesus came down from the mountain, [b]large crowds followed Him.2 And a leper came to Him and [c]bowed down before Him, and said, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” 3 Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. 4 And Jesus *said to him, “See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the [d]offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
Matthew 8:1-4 (NASB)
Is the law nullified by grace? No. It still exists. Quite the same way gravity exists.
It still prompts me to know exactly what wrongdoing is. BUT while hanging on the cross, Christ canceled the written code (the law) which stands against us. What that means is that even though the law does its job and brings our sin to light, it now no longer has the power to kill us.
Falling can be lethal. Yet, when gravity is disengaged, falling is no longer an issue. Other skill sets for the new environment are essential.
12 “In everything, therefore, [a]treat people the same way you want [b]them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7:12 (NASB)
25 Make friends quickly with your opponent at law while you are with him on the way, so that your opponent may not hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Matthew 5:25 (NASB)
Paul talks more about this new skill set:
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:22-24 (NASB)
The law teaches kindness but it doesn’t make people kind. Included are things like restitution, marital fidelity, etc.
Because the law says don’t do this, I experience what it is like to live not doing thus and so. I can spot wrongful action like some people can spot counterfeit money because right and wrong are described by the law.
I also get an opportunity to witness what happens when that “law” is broken. Justice comes into play. Justice is another good thing we would never experience without the existence and function of law.
16 But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. 17 Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is [a]true. 18 I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.” John 8:16-18 (NASB)
The words “your law” are interesting aren’t they? The Mosaic law belongs to the Jews.
Let me whisper a little secret in your ear. The Law was never given to Gentiles. They are not now nor have they ever been required by God to burden themselves with it.
The Law belongs to the Jews.
3 For I could [a]wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is [b]the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all,God blessed [c]forever. Amen. Romans 9:3-5 (NASB)
12 For all who have sinned [a]without the Law will also perish [b]without the Law, and all who have sinned [c]under the Law will be judged [d]by the Law; 13 for it is not the hearers [e]of the Law who are [f]just before God, but the doers [g]of the Law will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles who do not have [h]the Law do[i]instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having [j]the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. Romans 2:12-16 (NASB)
How do the Gentiles get God’s law? God writes His law on Gentile hearts. Thank you Jesus!
The Jews, to whom the law belongs, are privileged to point out when the Gentiles are keeping God’s law, what it looks like to keep or not to keep God’s law and encourage Gentiles to obey God with faith and joy (trying ever so hard not to be incredibly jealous).
Incidentally, the penalty associated with not keeping the law (Matthew 5:19) and teaching others to do the same is to be called least in the kingdom of Heaven. Conversely, to do and to teach them comes with a reward – being called the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.
16 All Scripture is [a]inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for [b]training in righteousness; 2 Timothy 3:16 (NASB)
12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (NASB)
I am ever so glad the LORD alone is my judge and that He loves me. That he has given me rules to live by and that his burden is light.
29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29(NASB)
Conclusion: The Law still lives. We who obey Christ and walk in the Spirit of Life can really enjoy His goodness.