Jesus Came to Fulfill the Law (Matt. 5:17-18)
By Bob Lovelace
People are quick to quote the above passages to justify using a combination of the Mosaic Covenant along with the New Covenant. This is used for any number of things, but especially for items of worship that they particularly like that cannot be justified by the New Testament teaching concerning the church of Christ. The attraction of special clothing (cf. Ex. 28) for ministers and priests, along with the use of instruments, candles, incense, etc. would be examples. For the most part should any one of them be asked, Why not offer the animal sacrifices and various offerings and activities made by the Jews at the Temple? —these included the show bread set within Holy Place, incense offered on the altar of incense and the lamps with oil there (Ex. 40); moreover there was the burnt offerings of animals and of birds, the grain offerings even made in a pan, the peace offerings of the animals specified, the sin offerings being a bull without defect, or a goat or lamb as specified, and the guilt offerings being a goat or lamb as specified and even two doves or young pigeons (cf. Lev. 1-5) — they’d say that’s not necessary today. Why? Since we are not given these in the New Testament for worship are we free to choose one or all if we want to?
Circumcision was a part of the Law (Lev. 12:3)
It was enjoined for all males under the Law. Hear Paul: Gal. 5:11 “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.” In dealing with this very thing, those who sought to bind the Law upon the church, Paul warned: Gal 5:4 “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” You can’t fall off the roof of your house unless you get up there! Christians who went back to the Law for justification fell from grace, Paul said.
When the priesthood changed, that necessitated a change in the law also
The book of Hebrews obviously was written to Jews who were Christians in order to keep them from going back to the Law for justification. A main emphasis is that Jesus, as Savior, continues forever, holding His priesthood as our one Eternal High Priest permanently (Heb. 7:11-28). In Christ there is a better hope and a better covenant! Above all He offered Himself once for all for all time — being not from the tribe of Levi but Judah — being without sin and unlike the high priests under the Law who had to make daily offerings for theirs and others sins.
Jesus is the High Priest of the New Covenant (Heb. 8)
The writer explains that the Old Covenant foretold the New: Heb 8:1 “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;” Heb 8:2 “A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” … Heb 8:6 “But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.” Heb 8:7 “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.” The writer quotes Jeremiah’s prophecy that foretold the doing away with of the Old Law and the coming the New Testament, Jer. 31:31-34, and says: Heb 8:8 “For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:” Heb 8:9 “Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.” Heb 8:13 “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
You see, at the time the book of Hebrews was written the Law (the Old Covenant) was decaying, old, and ready to vanish away. In 70 A.D. all records of the Levitical priesthood were destroyed by Titus; “vanish” means just that — it is not coming back! What motives drive those who seek the Old Covenant for worship practices and justification today? Simply to please self and uphold longstanding human traditions that have been added to New Testament worship prescribed for Christ’s church.
The Law was the Jews’ “Tutor” to bring them to Christ (Gal. 3:24-25)
Paul is still dealing with the desire and teaching of some to go back to the Law, just like the Hebrew writer was. The Law was of limited duration to bring the Jews to Christ and His covenant; this Paul repeats while saying Jews who are Christians are no longer under the law and both Jews and Gentiles are reconciled in one body the church. He says that no one can be justified by the Law is evident; the righteous live by faith in Christ. That’s His point (Gal. 3:11). He then states that the Law was added to the promise made of the Savior, until Christ the Seed should come: Gal 3:19 “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” And again: Gal 3:24 “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Gal 3:25 “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” Gal 3:26 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” Gal 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” He concludes with both Jews and Gentiles in Christ, in His church, and under the New Testament law. He began this by saying as many as are under the works of the Law are under a curse and cannot be justified before God (Gal. 3:10-11). To preach a different gospel, i.e. a combination of both the Old Testament and New, or to add to the Gospel in any other way, makes one to be accursed (Gal. 1: 7-9). Only men pleasers seeking man’s favor and not God’s do so (Gal. 1:10). There is no other foundation than the Gospel of Christ (I Cor. 3:11).
Think that Jesus came to fulfill the Law
He tells us “how” to think as regards the purpose of His coming into the world: Mat 5:17 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” Mat 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Jesus preaching was “the time is fulfilled” —the kingdom of Heaven is near, thus indicating He was the Messiah, the Christ, foretold by the prophets and in the Law: (Matt. 1:18, Mk. 1:14-15; De. 18:15,18-19). John the Baptist was His forerunner just as Isaiah prophesied, Jo. 1:19-23. This is what Peter preached in the Temple after the church was established saying: Act 3:18 “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all his prophets, that Christ should suffer, he hath so fulfilled.” Read Acts 3:18-26.
As He approached His death He gave greater import to this fulfillment as the Law foretold His coming and death: Mar 14:48 “And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?” Mar 14:49 “I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.” If He had destroyed it He would not have been able to fulfill the Law. To Peter when they seized Him: Mat 26:53 “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” Mat 26:54 “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” Then after His resurrection to His disciples: Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, “These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”
Recently a top commentator on Fox News said that today neither Jews nor Christians believe in the death penalties for sins written in the Old Testament. Of course Christians don’t for we are not under the Old Testament; moreover the Old has been taken out of the way and nailed to the Cross (cf. Col. 2:14).
Jesus said in Mat 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” No one had the right to alter the Law, add to it, or teach a different purpose than was intended for it (cf. Rom. 10:1-4). That’s right, Paul said “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). To Christians about the Law he said: Col 2:14 “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Christ fulfilled the Law but that does not mean that God did not nail it to the Cross, thus it was abrogated when Christ died. The phrase “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not” is simply a way of saying what I say will come to pass (cf. Matt. 24:35). Now do you really think that means we are to keep the Law being Christians only?
Paul spoke of those blinded by the Law as holding to a ministry of death and condemnation (2 Cor. 3:4-16). Its value today is that it is part of the bible, God’s revealed Word. Paul used examples of the Jews’ disobedience and punishment as a warning for us to not disobey under the New Covenant (I Cor. 10:1-12). The entire bible is full of lessons and instruction offering comfort and hope to those who will obey God (Rom. 15:3-4). That doesn’t mean there is no law of Christ (Gal. 6:2), the New Testament, that all are subject to today (Rom. 1:16-17). Not only does it show the fulfillment of the promise of a Savior, but the Bible records the Creation. I can know when “mankind” began (Gen. 1-2).
The Bible is available for all. You can read it and see that the portion that deals with the Law given to the Jews only (De. 5:3) had a purpose, and that purpose it foretold itself. The purpose of the Law was written in the Law. Don’t you see?
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