Tuesday, March 17, 2020

FULFILLED = CANCELLED

[Mat 5:17-18 ESV] 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. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
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In the Sermon on the Mount, from which this is taken, Jesus made many statements that were contrary to the religious thinking of the day. Therefore, to make clear exactly why He was saying those things, He gives this explanation.

Even though it appears plain enough on the surface, it is interesting how many different interpretations we have of this passage. The biggest problem stems from the word 'fulfill' or 'accomplished.' Add to that the various pre-suppositions of differing theologies, and you have the ingredients for confusion.

Plainly stated, Jesus attacked the twisted thinking of those who had developed such minutely detailed explanations of what each law meant. These details of the given law made it impossible to keep the law for righteousness.

Most of what Jesus attacked in this sermon was the extreme literalism of the Pharisees. For instance, 'murder' was limited to causing physical death, but Jesus went after the root of what causes murder—hate.

However, it is verse 18 that lends itself to the most misunderstanding. Many think that until heaven and earth pass away the Law will remain. That is not what Jesus said.

He said that all will be fulfilled before heaven and earth pass away.

Jesus came and brought something different from what they were accustomed to. (Jn. 1:17) This statement of John indicates that what Jesus brought supersedes what Moses brought.

After the four Gospels, the idea of the law having any bearing on the life of a believer is challenged many times and from different angles. The NT message is clear—the law no longer has ANY place in a believer's life.

When a statement like that is made, people go immediately to "Well, then, that means people can do whatever they want." The reality is nothing has changed. People have always been able to do whatever they want. Giving them an 'excuse' is not necessary.

However, this is not an excuse to do "whatever we want" as thought by many. Those who have been changed by the Spirit of God only want to do what the Lord desires. We seem to forget that fact as we argue against the NT teachings about freedom.

This very argument against liberty is the basis of Paul's letter to the Galatians where he argued against the desire to be made perfect by fleshly effort. [Gal 3:3 ESV] Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Whenever this argument is employed, the person is declaring that we must of our own will and effort avoid anything that would be contrary to the ways of God.

There is something within us that desires to have something like the law. We seem to need known and recognizable boundaries. This type of security makes us leery of going out into the absolute freedom of the children of God. It is a scary place, to be sure. But, it is the only lace where one will experience the true joy of living in the Spirit.

The law has been fulfilled. It has been cancelled (Col. 2:14). There is nothing left for you to do. Jesus paid it all for you and as you.

Therefore, stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made you free and do not be entangled with the do's and dont's of religious fervor.


3 comments:

  1. My thoughts are many, but I think this an area of great depth. Jesus indeed fulfilled and cancelled the DEBT of the law, but that does not mean that He removed the responsibility for us to abide by the "intent" of the law, which you rightly stated as righteousness. My concern with discussions and debates that seem to often pop up around this is that so many seem to think that we have been given license to ignore all which the law intended to teach us. As I shared in a post on facebook, in the NT the law is referred to as our schoolmaster / tutor... one that shows us the way so that we may walk in that way once they themselves are gone. As you also pointed out, in His sermon Jesus actually elevated the "requirement" if you will as to what is expected, which is exactly how a teacher/tutor behaves. Once you get the first lesson, you then are expected to go beyond on your own. The DEBT that was cancelled was the debt of continued sacrifice, continued means of cleansing, various means of God's people setting themselves apart (circumcision/clothing/eating, etc), but once again NOT the intent of leading people into a righteousness, not the directions giving that show us and guide us towards what righteousness is. Jesus said if we love Him we will keep His commandments. His were certainly greater and more difficult by many standards to keep. As we allow His grace to draw us closer to Him certainly we are led to leave behind the old self, but apart from the commands of scripture, whether OT or NT, what is our standard?? Can we attain unto righteousness in the flesh, certainly not. Did or can the law itself lead us unto righteousness, obviously not else Jesus sacrifice was pointless. Can we have full view of what righteousness is apart from the do's and don'ts of the law and of Jesus' teaching??? I think we may abide and strive unto the fulfillment of commands without entanglement and do so in the same liberty that a child enjoys playing in their yard when they have been told DO NOT go into the street.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment and insights, Still Faithful.

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  2. STILL FAITHFUL, thank you for your in-depth comment. I have no idea how it took so long for me to be notified that you had left a comment. I apologize for the delay.
    While you make some interesting points, I am still considering one particular aspect of this whole thing about the law. Jesus saijd that He came to fulfill the law (Matt. 5:17). We tend to focus on the first part of that where He said that He did not come to abolish the law, and we neglect the meaning of the last part—fulfill.
    Throughout the Gospels, there are references to things Jesus said or did which are referred to as, "This was to fulfill the scriptures..." These were FULFILLED. Not to be repeated. Not done again by Him nor anyone else. Yet when we get to this one verse, we seem think that the fulfilment must continue with us. I am not able to reconcile these two realities.

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