"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
That is pretty much the standard, go-to verse for people who want to convince you that you need to be in bondage to the Law like they are. Yeah, let’s look at that.
First of all, this statement is found in Matthew 5: Jesus is speaking to people under the Law. He is not speaking to New Covenant believers. He’s speaking in the language of folks under the Law, speaking to people under the Law, but he’s not reaffirming the Law.
Go look at it. Read all of Matthew 5. In that conversation, Jesus is not saying, “Be sure to obey the Law!” He’s saying, “The Law is only the starting point!”
Verse 17 is one example: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” If you don’t do better than the people who do the law the best, it ain’t gonna get you into the Kingdom. That's what this whole sermon is about: the Kingdom.
Then he gets real serious. What follows is where Jesus deconstructs the Law. “You have heard it said, … but I say to you….” Five times he raises the bar above what the Law had required.
Then he goes on (Chapter 6 continues that sermon) explaining a better way. He doesn’t really talk about the Kingdom for a while, but he gets to it: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
That very sermon continues on through Chapter 7, too. He’s already dismissed the Law, the godly works of the old paradigm; now he dismisses the godly works of the new paradigm: “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’”
Yeah, that's not the goal either. "Depart from me, I never knew you." It's about knowing him.
Then he finishes preaching wanders down the mountain and demonstrates his new Kingdom by healing the sick and teaching about the Kingdom.
OK. That’s our context. Now let’s look at that specific phrase, “I came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it…”.
Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law. Now the Law is fulfilled. What does it mean when something is fulfilled?
My father fulfilled the mortgage on his house. Now that his mortgage has been fulfilled, that mortgage is obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless. That’s what “fulfilled” means. It’s done.
So, yes, ALL of the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant (for that's what the law is) are now obsolete, fulfilled, finished, powerless, now that the Old Covenant is dead and gone.
The Torah (the first five books of the Bible, containing the Law of the Old Covenant) is an interesting (and useful) history book. It tells the story of a covenant that God never wanted, and that never worked [Acts 15:10]. We can learn from their mistakes, and we ought to.
But it is completely without merit as a standard to live by today, if for no other reason than there is nobody, literally not one body, who is still part of the Old Covenant to which the Law applies.
People try to say, “But obeying the Torah (or at least the 10 Commandments) is good. It’s part of making us acceptable to God.
Balderdash! Obeying the Law is an obstacle, a stumbling block to us becoming acceptable to God. Obeying the Law in order to be acceptable is to throw his gift of grace back in his face.
I am so thankful that the Law has been fulfilled! This is such an excellent expression of God’s mercy!
You see, it is not even possible to obey the Torah in our day and age, and it hasn’t been possible for nearly twenty centuries.
A huge part of the law was the sacrificial system. And nowadays, there is no ark of the covenant (it was lost centuries ago), there is no tabernacle or temple (it was destroyed many centuries ago) with an altar to kill bulls and goat on. And James says, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."
More importantly, there are no Levites left to offer those sacrifices to God. The Levites were the only ones whom the law allowed to do that. Even worse, there are no records of Levitical bloodlines, and without those records, nobody could minister if there was a temple. Those are gone, literally forever.
All of the genealogical records (all of the documentation of who’s a Levite and who’s not) was destroyed when the Old Covenant was destroyed as the Temple was destroyed in the conquering of Jerusalem in the first century. [https://nwp.link/WikiAD70] There are many parts of the law that cannot be obeyed now, and stumbling in one point of the law makes you guilty of the whole thing. No wonder it was destroyed.
Scripture predicted that the Old Covenant was going to be done away with and the temple would be destroyed [Hebrews 8:13] and Jesus described it in detail [Matthew 24] a full generation before it went down. Literally, not one stone was left on another. (And because of his warnings, the Christians - the only ones who believed his warnings - escaped that destruction.)
Paul summarized this whole law business quite nicely: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [Galatians 2:21]
Does that mean that we live lives characterized by rebellion against the Law of the Old Covenant? Where the Old Covenant command was “Do not kill,” do we make murder our habit in order to avoid an old, dead Law?
You can hear how silly that sounds when we see it in black and white. No, we still don’t kill people. But that's not because of the obsolete rule book of a failed covenant that never applied to anybody but Israel anyway.
Rather, we don’t kill because we’re like Jesus and he doesn’t kill. We don’t kill because he’s teaching us to “love one another as I have loved you,” and murdering people isn’t actually very loving.
So throw off the lies that say, “You must live by the Torah! You must obey the Ten Commandments."
"Cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the free woman.” Cast out the efforts to obey as the way to please God. There is no inheritance for you in that path.
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