Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. (Matt 5:17 NASB)
Paul spends a lot of time trying to pry us free from the law. However, Jesus, in this large chunk of the Sermon on the Mount takes the law and actually make it harder – well – IMPOSSIBLE to keep. He is also going to set forth a kingdom style of living for us.
What did Jesus do with the law? What does it mean when Jesus says I have come to fulfill the law? Paul tells us in Galatians 5:18
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”
And again in Romans 6: 14-15
“For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be!”
I am intrigued by this phrase “fulfill the law.” Jesus tells us that He would fulfill the law, but consider for a minute Paul’s words in Romans 8 (yes this is actually my favorite chapter of the Bible!)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
It is really important not to chop up this paragraph of scripture. So often people take the first line of this chapter, and let it stand completely alone, taking away from it, the full import and condition in which it is enclosed.
I have highlighted a couple of phrases above and want to briefly make some suggestions to you about your relationship to the law.
First, notice that it is the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus that has made us free from the law of sin and death. I like to think of this in terms of flight. What did Orville and Wilber do over a century ago? Did they undo the law of gravity? Is gravity abolished? Is it null and void? Not at all, but they learned some other laws, that “set them free” from the law of gravity. In fact, the laws of aerodynamics do not abolish gravity, but cooperate with gravity to enable a man who knows these laws (first generation) or even men who have been taught how to operate the proper equipment (later generations) to apparently defy gravity.
In my mind this is a great explanation of what happens with the law of sin and death. Because there is a higher law (or as Lewis puts it in the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, deeper magic) that can overcome the law of sin and death. Once we enter into life by accepting and receiving Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives, we are no longer limited by the law of sin and death. [Tweet This] Notice I use the word limited and not restricted. It is tempting to think of the law as something that keeps us from doing what we want. But the truth is that the law of sin and death has been holding us back from life abundant.
When the scripture talks about law, it is talking about what has dominion over you. If you are under a set of laws, you are under the ruler-ship of those laws, they are your master. If you do not obey, they execute punishment, based on their own code of justice. When you are under the law of sin and death, you do not have the ability to live as God intended. (see Romans 8:8) You cannot please God because laws you cannot keep, rule your life.
But now let’s look at the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus. In my figure, this is like the laws of aerodynamics. The law of sin and death does not go away, but it no longer applies to you. Does this mean you are free to sin? As Paul says “God Forbid.” That is never what freedom means in the scripture. We get that, even in the natural. When we talk about our wonderful country, the United States of America, we call it a free country. Does that mean there is no law? Not by any means. So it is in the Spirit. Jesus was the freest person who ever lived. So how did He live? Well, He was accused of breaking the law of the Sabbath. How did He break it? Was it to walk in disobedience of God’s law? No, it was to heal the sick, raise the dead and cast our demons. It was to do what He saw the Father doing. It was to do that which was good and pleasing to the Father.
If you think a Christian's freedom means you can sin, expecting forgiveness, you do not understand the grace of God. [Tweet This]
Think back to Exodus when God told Moses to go before Pharaoh and demand freedom for the Jews that were enslaved in Egypt. What did God have Moses say? Exodus 7:16
“And you will say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, sent me to you, saying, “Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness.”
The BBE says, “that they may worship Me.”
The point I am making is that you were never set free from all restraint to do whatever would feel good, and give you pleasure. What you have been freed for is worship. As long as you were serving the law of sin and death in the kingdom of darkness it was impossible for you to please God. But now everything has been taken out of the way of your ability to please Him. You are no longer the slave to sin, but now are the servant of righteousness. (Rom 6:18) You have even been given a new nature that desires, and is capable of, bringing pleasure to the Lord.
Back to this idea of fulfilling the law, Jesus says here that He came to fulfill the law, and then Paul uses the same term in regard to us in Romans 8:4 “in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us” So again God’s idea is not that the law was evil, but that it could be fulfilled.
What is the law anyway? The law, in particular the 10 commandments, is a reflection of God’s value system. So there is no way that God wants to do away with His value system, but rather He wants it to become our values system. How is it a value system? Think about it. The first 4 commandments have to do with honoring God, and making Him your first priority. The other 6 have to do with how you relate to those around you. Jesus summed it up into 2 commands, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. Simple!
This entire section of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is going to take the law as it was given to the Jews, and teach the true value system of Heaven. By doing so, He will make them un-keepable by any natural means.
I am so glad Jesus kept the law on our behalf, and is willing to baptize us in His Holy Spirit so that we can walk out a life pleasing to the Father. Aren’t you?
Thank you for reading this long-winded post. I really appreciate it.
Come back soon.