Turn in your Bible, if you will, to Matthew chapter 5, and tonight I want us to share just an opening message on one of the most marvelous passages of Scripture we could ever study: Matthew 5:17 through 20. Let me read it to you so that your thoughts will be set, and then we’ll discuss, tonight at least, the first verse.
Verse 17, our Lord says, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, ‘Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no way pass from the law, till all is fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’ For I say unto you, ‘That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.’” Let’s pray together before we study.
Father, help us tonight to be able to comprehend this deep, profound message from the Lord Jesus Christ. Open up the eyes of our understanding, enlighten our minds and our hearts, that we might truly rejoice in the truth of this great word. We give You the praise, in Christ’s name, Amen.
In a recent book titled The Interaction of Law and Religion, Harold J. Berman, who is a professor of law at Harvard University, and one of the most outstanding professors there, has developed a very significant thesis. His thesis in the book is that Western culture has had a massive loss of confidence in law and a massive loss of confidence in religion. He sees that one of the causes is the radical separation of one from the other; and his conclusion is that you cannot have law, you cannot have rules for behavior without religion, because it is religion that provides the absolute base for morality and for law.
Now the man is not a Christian, but certainly, we would have to agree with his thesis. He fears that Western culture is doomed to relativism in law because of the loss of an absolute. We have broken away from religion, we have broken away from the concept of God, we have broken away from absolute truth; and, therefore, we are stuck with existential relativism when it comes to making laws. He says law and religion will stand together, or law and religion will fall together. Religionless law could never command authority. There must be a transcendent value. There must be a super-rational absolute.
And in his book, he quotes Professor Thomas Franck of NYU. Franck says that, “Law has become undisguisedly a pragmatic human process. It is made by men, and it lays no claim to divine origin or eternal validity.” And this leads professor Franck to the view that a judge in a court reaching a decision is not propounding a truth, but is rather experimenting in the solution of a problem. And if his decision is reversed by a higher court, or if it is subsequently overruled, that doesn’t mean it was wrong, only that it was, or became in the course of time, unsatisfactory.
“Having broken away from religion,” – Franck states – “law is now characterized by existential relativism. Indeed, it is now generally recognized” – and listen to this – “that no judicial decision is ever final, that the law follows the event, is not eternal or certain, is made by man, and is not divine or true.” End quote.
Berman goes on to say, “If law is merely an experiment, and if judicial decisions are merely hunches, why should individuals or groups of people observe those legal rules or commands if they do not conform to their own interests?” And he’s right.
Why am I quoting all of that? To tell you this: we are endeavoring in our society to have rules without an absolute; and court, after court, after court overturns some other ruling. When you abandon God and when you abandon theology, you abandon truth. And trying to make laws without truth and without an ultimate value is impossible. You cannot build a consistent legal system on philosophical humanism, on a fluctuating, changing principle of what is right and what is wrong.
In the latest issue of Esquire magazine, there is an article by a man named Peter Steinfels. The article is entitled “The Reasonable Right.” He says this, and I quote, “How can moral principles be grounded and social institutions ultimately legitimated in the absence of a religiously-based culture?” End quote. The answer is they cannot. So, you see, some people are hinting at the issue: secular people like Steinfels and Berman and others. The are hinting at this issue, that if there is no absolute truth, and there is no absolute word, and there is no God who sets the standard, then there can be no real law. You’ll never get people to keep laws that are only judicial guesses.
And so we ask ourselves, “What is the absolute source of truth? What is the absolute standard of morality? What is the absolute rule of justice? Where does this evil society, floating on a sea of relativism, find its anchor?” That’s the question. Is there a standard to live by? Is there an absolute authority? Is there an unchanging authority, and inviolable law?
Well, from the words that I just read to you in Matthew 5:17 to 20, we find that, indeed, there is. And that law is none other than the law of God. And Jesus said, “Not one jot or tittle will pass from that law, till everything is fulfilled.” He did not come in any whit to set it aside, but to fulfill it. And anybody who teaches somebody to break the least of those commandments is the least in the kingdom. In other words, God has laid down an absolute, eternal, abiding law. In fact, in John 17:17, Jesus said to the Father, “Thy word is truth.”
And recently, people have been questioning this in terms of Christianity, and more particularly, in my own case. A lady called me the other day from a magazine – which will be printing another article on whether the Bible ought to be believed in terms of the home – and she said to me, “It seems to me that you don’t realize times have changed. The Bible doesn’t fit today anymore.” And I said, “No.” I said, “That isn’t the way it is. The way it is, is that today doesn’t fit the Bible anymore. It’s today that’s wrong, not the Bible.”
Somebody else said to me on a radio program, “That’s your interpretation. Everybody’s got his own interpretation; that’s the way you interpret it.” The point is this: if the Bible confronts you where you don’t want to be confronted, then say the Bible’s out-of-date or the Bible needs to be reinterpreted. Don’t face the reality that maybe you are out-of-date, and you need to be reinterpreted. That’s the perspective.
People today want to reinterpret the Bible. They want to deny its authority. Chapters we once believed to be written by God are now said to be written by some rabbi who added it in. Portions of the Scripture that we don’t agree with or don’t want to abide by, we just shuffle off out of the picture. We reinterpret the verses to say what we want them to say. We say, “Well, that’s cultural and it doesn’t relate to today,” anything at all to evade allowing the Bible to confront us at our time and place in the history of the world.
Well, Jesus is saying not one jot or tittle shall pass from it; every bit of it will be fulfilled. I am not abrogating or annulling one whit of it, and anyone who teaches anyone else to disobey the smallest command in the Bible will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. Nothing ever changes in the Bible, nothing.
We will see in our study that this is Jesus’ view of God’s law. And by the way, whatever Jesus thinks of the Bible is what I want to think of it. And I frankly get weary of the fact that people are constantly overturning historical interpretations, things that the church has believed for centuries, throwing them out if they conflict with the evil of today. They want to deny that the Bible is inerrant. They want to say, “Well, you see, there are errors in the Bible, and that’s one of them,” or, “The Bible isn’t really all inspired,” or, “It certainly isn’t authoritative,” or, “It’s just a cultural thing,” or, “Well, you can’t take everything it says.” And so we redefine Scripture to fit our sin.
And that’s what’s happening in our society today. And the sad thing is, if you think it’s tough on a society like ours, a secular society, to find an anchor; it’s even tough on so-called Christianity, because so-called Christianity is busy about denying the Bible. And without an absolute base, there will be no standard of behavior; and we will drift along like the world, without an anchor.
And so this Scripture is so very important, because here, our Lord tells us that we have an absolute. We have an inviolable authority. “Let it speak,” He’s saying. Let it speak. Let us shatter us. Let it crush your evil ways. Let it overturn your disobedient lives. Let it make us face God nose-to-nose, and either accept or reject His will, and take the consequence.”
Jesus said, “The Bible is an absolute.” That was His view; and it has to be our view. To remove the absolute character of the Bible, to say it has errors in it, to say it isn’t authoritative, to say it needs to be reinterpreted is simply to drift with the world away from any standard of righteousness.
Now in this passage, Jesus presents what He thinks of God’s Word. Of course, for Him at this time, God’s Word really was comprised of the Old Testament, and so this is Jesus’ perspective on the Old Testament. And we want to ask some interesting questions. Jesus said, “Not one jot or tittle shall pass away; I am come to fulfill it.”
And so immediately we say this: “Is the Old Testament binding on the Christian? How much of the Old Testament is binding on the Christian? Is the Old Testament totally commanded of us? Do we have to fulfill all those things? How important are all those things?” These are vital questions, and Bible students and scholars have wrestled with these questions for years and years. And I think that here, Jesus gives us a wonderful answer; and you can understand it, and you’ll see it as we move along.
Now let me set the scene for you a little bit. Christ had appeared in Israel. He appeared rather suddenly, rather startlingly, in a dramatic way. For thirty years, He had been there, but nobody really knew about Him. He was an obscurity in Nazareth. But all of a sudden, at His baptism, He hit the scene. The first thirty years of His life on earth had been lived in privacy outside his own immediate circle. He had done little traveling and attracted very little attention. But as soon as He appeared in public and was baptized, the eyes of everyone were fixed on Him. Even the leaders of Israel had to focus in on Him, and look, at Him and hear Him, and watch Him.
Of course, His meekness and His beautiful humility made Him easily distinguishable from the rest of the leaders in Israel who were proud, boastful, hypocritical; always looking for some way to lift themselves up, some way to aggrandize themselves. His call to repentance, and His proclamation of the gospel, and His announcement of a kingdom made people listen, and made them wonder, “What kind of a ruler is this? What kind of a prophet is this? Was He a revolutionary? He is so different. What was His attitude toward the Mosaic Law?”
You see, the issue is Jesus didn’t sound like the Pharisees, and Jesus didn’t sound like the scribes. He didn’t sound like anybody they were hearing in their day. And their natural reaction was to wonder whether He was really an Old Testament prophet or not. He didn’t echo the prevailing theology of His day. He refused to identify Himself with any of the sects of His time. His preaching was so different from the Pharisees and scribes, that people were inclined to think He intended to subvert the authority of the Word of God, and substitute His own. He threw over all the traditions of men; all the extraneous, legalistic rules, He disregarded. He kept putting an emphasis on inward morality.
He was a friend of publicans, and a friend of sinners, and a friend of all the worst riffraff in the society. He proclaimed grace, and He dispensed mercy, and their natural reaction was, “Is this a revolutionary new thing? I mean He doesn’t sound like the rest of the people we hear. He doesn’t sound like the scribes and Pharisees.” And so they were wondering, “Is He tearing down the Old Testament? Is He destroying all the absolutes of the Mosaic Law? Is He removing the foundations for some new thing?” After all, you know, it is the way of most revolutionary leaders to sever all ties with the past and do everything they can to completely repudiate the traditions that have gone before.
And by the way, for a long time in Israel, there were certain people who believed that the Messiah would do just that. There were some who believed the Messiah would radically overturn the Old Testament. These were sort of the anti-Pharisees. They were somewhat sickened by the Pharisees, and they were looking for a time when Messiah came and threw out all that law stuff, and they were thinking, “Maybe this is the one. Maybe He’d come in with radical changes, overthrow the ancient order of legalistic religion.”
So they were wondering, and rightly so; we can understand that. “Does this teacher believe in the Holy Writings? Does He believe in Moses? Does He believe in the prophets? Does He believe in the law in all of its fullness?”
After all, where all the scribes and Pharisees were always expounding the law, Jesus wouldn’t do that. He was busy talking about grace, and busy talking about mercy. And where the Pharisees and Scribes were binding the law on people, He was busy forgiving people. And where they were always talking about the outside, He was always talking about the inside. And He even blasted away at some of the most sacred of their traditions. Is this a new theology?
Well, right here, Jesus puts it all in perspective, and what He says, in effect, is this: “This is nothing new, nothing new at all. I’m going to reiterate to you, and I’m going to fulfill the whole Old Testament law. I will not set aside one jot, I will not set aside one tittle of that law till all of it is fulfilled.” And so the amazing manifesto of the king is in direct confrontation to their thinking. He wouldn’t lower the standard, He would raise it where it belonged.
You see, what had happened was this – now get this. And you’re going to have to listen tonight to get all what they were going to say. Their thinking was that the standard was so high, somebody’d have to lower it. His thinking was, “You’ve dragged it down so low, somebody’s got to raise it again.” Why? They had turned an internal law into an external thing, and He was going to drive it back inside where it belonged. In fact, He had a greater commitment to the law of God than the most scrupulous scribe or Pharisee. So He proceeds in this passage – and this is all I want you to get in general. He proceeds in this passage to support the authority of the whole Old Testament.
Now it bothers that people don’t read the Old Testament, study the Old Testament, know the Old Testament. It is the foundation to the New Testament. It is very important, and Jesus is supporting that Old Testament. In fact, He says, in effect that, “I’m not the one denying the Old Testament, the Jewish leaders are.”
Now that’s the historical scene. First of all, I gave you a little, kind of a theme to look for in this: the establishing of an absolute law. Then I gave you a little historical setting. Now let me put you into the context of Matthew 5. Look at Matthew 5.
In a sense, these verses flow right out of what has gone before. In verses 3 to 12, we have the Beatitudes; and you’ll remember that that is a list of the characteristics of a son of God, characteristics of one who lives in the kingdom, characteristics of a believer. So in verses 3 to 12, we have what we are as kingdom sons. This is what we are. In verses 13 to 16, we are told how we are to live: this is who we are, this is how we live. In other words, in one sense, we have a very doctrinal definition; in another one, a very practical issue of how we live.
So Jesus comes on the scene. In His first sermon, He says, “If you’re in My kingdom, this is who you are, this is how you act.” And immediately, the question comes up in my mind, “Well, I’ve read the Beatitudes, and isn’t easy to be like that. And I’ve read verses 13 to 16, being salt and light, and it isn’t easy to live like that. How can we be that, and how can we live that way?” And the answer comes immediately in verse 17: “You must uphold the Word of God.”
The Word of God becomes then the standard of righteousness. The Word of God give the guidelines, the principles, the requirements. How can we really live out a righteous life? How can we live out the Beatitudes? How can we be salt and light? Certainly not by lowering the standard, right? Certainly not by dropping the law of God, and saying, “It isn’t binding anymore. We’ll just love each other and waltzing along, doing our thing.” No, the standard stays where it was.
How can we live as salt and light? How can we be all we have to be? By keeping God’s principles of absolute obedience to an absolutely authoritative Word of God, in contrast, by the way, to the theology of the day, which only obeyed what it wanted to obey.
So the Lord introduces that thought here then, and it is a powerful thought, that the key to a righteous life is keeping the Word of God. And that’s why He says in verse 20 that the kind of righteousness the Pharisees have will never cut it, unless your righteousness exceeds theirs. Why? Theirs was external, and based on the traditions of men. “Mine” – He says – “is internal, based on the eternal law of God,” you see. That’s the difference.
So if we’re to be salt and light, we must be righteous, truly righteous. And the only way to have a true righteousness is to go beyond the phony externalism of the Pharisees and the scribes, and go to an inward righteousness that is only wrought in you by the power and the authority of the Word of God. So the Word of God is the basis of a righteous standard, and God never changed it. And when Jesus came, He didn’t abrogate the Old Testament, He just restated its absolute, binding character.
And, you know, people say, “Well, what about later on in the chapter when He says, ‘You have heard it said, “But I say.” You have heard it said, “But I say.”’ Isn’t He adding to the Old Testament? Isn’t He changing the Old Testament?” No. What He is doing is simply restating God’s original intention, because the rabbis had so perverted the Old Testament, that He has to raise the standard back up to where God put it in the first place.
Now listen; look at the text. I want you to see here Jesus laying down the law, Jesus saying, “Here is the absolute. Here is the standard for righteousness.” And there are four points. We’re only going to look at the first one tonight, but I want to give them to you. Jesus says these four things about the law: the preeminence of the law, the permanence of the law, the pertinence of the law, and the purpose of the law.
And as I said this morning, people, theses verses are so loaded that it’s like trying to drink out of a fire hose. They are just absolutely loaded with truth. They’re absolutely filled with truth. There is no way conceivable that our minds can even handle the hundredth or the thousandth of what is in these words. But I want to us to take sort of a leap in the dark and see if we can’t land on something exciting.
This is Jesus’ view of Scripture; and, folks, that settles it for me. Whatever Jesus thought of the Bible, that’s what I think. Point one – and that’ll be all for tonight. I’ll give you some subpoints though. Point one, the preeminence of the law, verse 17: “Think not that I have come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” To Jesus, God’s law, God’s Scripture, the Word of God was absolutely preeminent, first-place, unequaled.
Notice He begins by saying, “Think not.” And that’s exactly what they were doing. They were thinking, “Oh, well, He’s here. He’ll set the laws aside. He’ll set all of those things aside.” And He says, “On the contrary; I will not lower the standard one whit.”
We know from some Jewish writings that are available to us, that many of the Jews expected the Messiah to annul the law. They misinterpreted Jeremiah 31:31, where it says, “Behold, I will make a new covenant.” And they thought the new covenant would nullify everything that God had established in the old; but they were wrong.
And Jesus came along, and said, “I am introducing a new order.” He told them even to disregard the Sabbath. He violated many of their traditions; and it was natural for them to think of that. He rather ruthlessly swept away their traditions, their tithings of minuscule things. He mocked their constant washings; He ignored. He disregarded their oral and scribal law. He interpreted the written law in a way totally different than they did. He spoke as one having authority. But, listen: in no way was He revolting from the Old Testament; in no way was His gospel a gospel of indulgence.
And let me tell you something. If you’re a Christian today, God has not set aside His principles; they are still the same. In fact, you know, Jesus lifted up the law so high, and lifted up the Old Testament so high that He wound up exposing all the Pharisees and the scribes as hypocrites, didn’t He?
In verse 20, He goes right after them: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you’ll not enter into My Kingdom” In chapter 6, He says essentially the same thing in verse 1: “Take heed that you don’t do your alms before men to be seen by them.” Verse 5: “When you pray, you shouldn’t pray as the hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corner of the street, that they may be seen of men.” Verse 16: “When you fast, don’t be like the hypocrites, of a sad countenance.” In other words, “Whatever your righteousness is, it ought to be on the inside, not on the outside. Not the phony hypocrisy of an external religion.”
Chapter 15, verse 1 essentially says the very same thing. In fact, He goes through the whole book of Matthew saying it. “Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees.” And down in verse 7, He talks to them, and He says, “You hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesied of you, saying, ‘This people draweth near to Me with their mouth, honoreth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.’ You hypocrites,” He said.
Chapter 16, “The Pharisees,” – verse 1 – “the Sadducees came, testing Him; desired He would show them a sign.” Verse 3, in the middle, “You hypocrites,” He says again. Chapter 22, verse 18, just filling out Matthew’s thought: “But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, ‘Why test ye Me, you hypocrites?’” Finally, in chapter 23, He goes through the entire chapter – and I can’t read the whole chapter to you – calling them hypocrites, verses 13; hypocrites, 14; hypocrites, verse 15; hypocrites, verse 25; hypocrites, 27; hypocrites, 29; hypocrites. I mean, He was really after them.
And every once in awhile, someone would come along and say, “You know, Brother MacArthur, sometimes you come across negative.” Yeah, you’d better believe I come across negative; and I’m in good company. Sometimes you’ve got to come across negative. If you’re going to lift the standard of God high, then you’re going to expose everything that is phony, right? And that’s what Jesus did.
And so He arrives, and opens up His sermon by saying, “Here’s My standard of righteousness, and here’s how you live in the world; and the base of it all is to be obedient to God’s inviolable, unchanging law.” And anybody who doesn’t live by God’s standards, anybody who substitutes a manmade system is no more than a spiritual phony.
Well, let’s go back to verse 17. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law. No,” – He says – “I didn’t come to destroy it.” The word is kataluō. Means to abrogate, nullify, destroy. In a physical sense, the word is used of pulling down a wall, or smashing a house to the ground. He didn’t come to smash down the Old Testament. He didn’t come to pull it to pieces. By the way, that word is applied to the temple; and it is applied, in 2 Corinthians 5, to the body. So it’s used in a physical sense of the breaking down, or the destruction of a building or a body. And here, in the spiritual sense, He didn’t come to destroy the law.
Figuratively, the word kataluó is used in Romans 14:20, and again in Acts 5:38 to mean “come to naught, to render useless, to nullify, to annul, to disallow.” Jesus said, “I didn’t come to do that.” Now watch this one. But He said, “I came rather to fulfill the law.” Now, people, if you can just get a little bit of what I’m going to say now, I think it’s going to crack open a whole comprehension of the Old Testament that you may never have had in your life.
Listen to this. To our Lord Jesus Christ, the new covenant did not just throw away the old covenant; it did not just annul everything. The law was not set aside – now listen to me – it was fulfilled, that’s different. “I didn’t come to tear it down, I came to fulfill it.” That’s very different. And what our Lord is saying is that the law is preeminent. Nothing surpasses it; nothing takes its place. And He gives three reasons in this verse.
Reason number one: It is authored by God. It is authored by God. Watch this: “Think not that I am come to destroy” – definite article – “the law.” And they knew which law He meant. He meant the law of God. It goes without saying. They knew what He was talking about. He was talking about the law of God. The law, beloved, was authored by God.
In Exodus, where God first laid down the Decalogue, The Ten Commandments, listen to how it begins. “And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord thy God, who have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.’” That’s the way He begins: “I am the author of law, and I am the Lord your God.” The law is inviolable, the law is binding, because God is the author of that law.
In fact, in verse 3, He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” In other words, “This law will be the only law, because I am the only God.” Listen, beloved, He said of Himself, “I am the Lord, I change not.” And so the law of God is not some kind of a changing mode of human opinion designed to fit the whims of every society.
The law of God isn’t something you just adjust and adapt to whatever sin is going on in your day. The law of God never changes. They are God’s standards; and the first commandment is this: “I am the Lord your God, and thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This is an uncompromising standard based on the fact that He is the absolute sovereign and only God. This is not an obscure idol. This isn’t some remote deity. This is the holy God, the only God of the universe. He has created all things and all laws to govern them, and so they are binding. And by the way, God is still alive – right? – and His rules are still the same. His nature is unchanged; His laws remain.
Now let’s be specific about the law. To what does Jesus refer? Lots of people have discussed this. Well, Jesus uses the term “law” in a rather comprehensive way. When the Jews used it in Jesus’ time – and this is helpful – they had four things in mind, four possibilities.
First of all, sometimes they used the word “law” to speak of the Ten Commandments. Secondly, sometimes they used the word “law” to speak of the Pentateuch, or the five books of Moses. Thirdly, sometimes they used the word “law” to speak of the whole Old Testament. But, most usually, when they used the word “law,” they weren’t speaking of the Ten Commandments, the Pentateuch, or the whole Old Testament; but they were talking about the oral, scribal traditions that they had been receiving from these various rabbis. In other words, Jesus put it right in Matthew 15: “You have substituted the traditions of men for the law of God.”
You say, “How could they do that?” The most common use of law among the Jews of Jesus’ time was that it referred to these thousands of minuscule principles, external stuff that had replaced the internal law of God. And see, here’s the reason. Let’s say you believe you’re only going to be in heaven because you keep the law. But the law is inward, and the law demands righteousness, and the law demands a certain kind of character; and you’re a rotten person, and you really don’t want to give it up. Then what you do is invent a whole bunch of laws you can keep – see? – and you just invent a bunch of little rules and figure, “Well, if I just keep all these little rules, then I’ll be all right.” And if you can just get a bunch of rabbis to make a bunch of rules, and just keep piling up the rules, and keep all the little rules, you can convince yourself you’re all right.
This is something of their reasoning. They said, “Well, we’ll just make up a lot of rules. After all, the law covers every part of man’s life, so we should be able to deduce from the law a rule for every possible person in every possible situation.” So the scribes came along, and they dug around in the Old Testament, and they picked out every possible little deal, and they made thousands and thousands of funny little laws. And the people busied themselves. The people, by the name of the Pharisees, busied themselves trying to keep them, and then patting themselves on the back as if they were godly because they endeavored to keep all these little rules. Let me give you an illustration.
For example, the Old Testament law had said you couldn’t work on the Sabbath, right? “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Rest from your labors,” and so forth. Don’t work on the Sabbath, okay. But they said, “All right. Well, if we can’t work on the Sabbath, what is work? You’ve got to determine what work is. So they decided, “We’ll have a study on ‘What is work?’”
They decided, first of all, work was to carry a burden. So you couldn’t carry a burden on the Sabbath day.
Then they said, “What is a burden? Let’s decide what a burden is.” Well, the scribal law put down: “A burden is food equal to the weight of a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put on a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten an eye salve, paper enough to write a customs house notice, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make the pen,” and so on, and so on, and so on. Now all that stuff was the limit; anything beyond that is a burden.
Now can you imagine trying to handle all that stuff? They spent endless hours arguing whether a man could or couldn’t lift a lamp from one place to another on the Sabbath. They spent time arguing whether a tailor committed a sin if he went out with a needle stuck in his robe. They had a big discussion about whether a woman could wear a brooch; if it was too heavy, it was a burden. Or whether she could put false hair on. It was too heavy, it was a burden, if it weighed more than a fig. They also had a big argument about whether a man could go out on the Sabbath with artificial teeth, or – get this – an artificial limb, because that constituted a weight. And they also discussed if a man could lift his child on the Sabbath day. Now these things were the essence of religion to them.
Now they decided also that to write was work on the Sabbath; but writing had to be defined. So they decided, “He who writes two letters of the alphabet with his right or with his left hand, whether of one kind or of two kinds, if they are written with different inks or in different languages, is guilty. Even if he should write two letters from forgetfulness, he is guilty, whether he’s written them with ink or with paint, red chalk, vitriol, or anything that makes a permanent mark. Also, he that writes on two walls that form an angle, or two tablets of his account book so they can be read together, is guilty. But if anyone writes with dark fluid, fruit juice, or the dust of the road, or in sand or anything which doesn’t make a permanent mark, he’s not guilty. If he writes one letter on the ground and one on the wall, or two on the pages of a book so they cannot be read together, he’s not guilty, as long as they were separated.” Now that is a passage from the scribal law, believe it or not.
They also said to heal was work, so obviously this had to be defined. Healing was allowed when there was danger to life, and especially in the area of the eye, and the nose – or rather the ear, the nose, and the throat. But even then, you could only take steps to keep the patient from getting worse; no steps could be taken to make him get any better. It’s a pretty hard balance. So you could put a plain bandage on a wound, but no ointment. And you could put plain wadding in a sore ear, but not medicated wadding.
The scribes, you see, were the people who wrote out all this stuff, and the Pharisees were the ones who tried to keep it. So, you see, to the strict Orthodox Jew of Jesus’ time, the law was a matter of thousands of legalistic rules and regulations. Now when Jesus came along and said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law,” that’s not the law He was talking about. If there’s one law He wanted to wipe out from the start, that was it – right? – that was it. He was after that phony kind of stuff. He condemned it, and Paul condemned it in his epistles. Jesus was not talking about the traditions of men, He was talking about the law of God. He came to fulfill the law of God – absolutely inviolable law, a law that never changed.
Now let me help you to see what Jesus means by “the law” here. It could be that Jesus means the Ten Commandments. It could be that Jesus means more than that, the Pentateuch. It could mean the whole Old Testament. How do we know? Watch: “Think not that I have am to destroy the law, or the prophets.” That settles it. When you see the term “the law and the prophets” together, that is a reference to the whole Old Testament. It is used that way twelve times in the New Testament. Twelve times the New Testament refers to the Old Testament as the law and the prophets.
Let me give you some synonyms. Whenever you see in the New Testament the term “law,” “law of God,” “law and prophets,” “Scriptures,” or, “Word of God,” they are synonyms for the Old Testament, in most cases. Unless the context gives you a narrower definition, the term “law and the prophets,” “Scriptures,” “law,” “Word of God” those terms refer to the whole Old Testament, the whole Old Testament.
What is Jesus saying then? “I am not come to destroy the whole Old Testament, I am come to” – what? – “fulfill it.” It’s a great statement. Man, if those Jews had been tuned in that day, they would have known that they were staring face-to-face with the theme of the whole Old Testament. They were looking right into the eyes of the one who was the consummation of the entire Old Testament, the one spoken of in the law, the one spoken of in the prophets. This was He standing in front of them. He was the one who came to fulfill the whole thing.
In Luke chapter 16, and verse 16, I’ll show you three passages in Luke: 16:16, “The law and the prophets were until John,” He says. “Since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone presseth into it.” In other words, He says, “The law and the prophets continued till John. But when John came, he preached the kingdom.” And, of course, He himself was the one who fulfilled that kingdom.
Further on, Luke even gives you more insight in a more direct statement in chapter 24, verse 27. This is a great statement. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets,” – here we are with the law and the prophets again – “He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures.”
Notice this, people. The law of Moses and the prophets equal the Scriptures. Do you see it in that verse? The law of Moses and the prophets equal the Scriptures. “Beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning” – whom? – “Himself.” Who is the theme of the prophets? He is. Who is the theme of Moses? He is. Who is the theme of the Scripture? He is.
And over later on in verse 44, “He said unto them,” – Luke 24:44 – ‘These are the words which I spoke unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled,” – listen, nothing set aside – “all things fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets, and in the writings concerning” – whom? – “Me.” You see it? He is the fulfillment of it all. That’s what He’s saying in Matthew 5:17.
Tremendous concept, people, if you can just grasp this. Every single thing in the Old Testament points to Christ. And so Jesus is saying, “Look, I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re thinking I’m going to set this law aside. I’m not. I’m going to lift it up higher than it is today, and I’m going to reveal the hypocrites. You’re thinking that I’m going to put it all away, and we’re not going to have any of this hassle anymore, and we can just be free and easy, and it’ll all be wonderful. I’m telling you, God’s standard hasn’t changed. No part of the sacred Scripture will ever be destroyed or annulled. It will be fulfilled, and I Myself will fulfill it.”
Tremendous statement. What a claim. What a shattering claim, that He alone would fulfill the whole Old Testament. Shocking. Here was the one for whom it was all written. Here is the object of the whole Old Testament. It all points to Jesus Christ. In it’s God-ordained origin, it can’t be annulled; it has to be fulfilled.
Now let me share this with you. You can divide the Old Testament law into three parts; and let me give you that insight. Look at Deuteronomy chapter 4, verse 13. Deuteronomy 4:13. “And He declared unto you His covenant” – Moses talking to the people. Deuteronomy 4:13, just listen: “And He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even Ten Commandments; and He wrote them upon two tablets of stone.” Now that’s the first thing: God gave the Ten Commandments.
Then verse 14: “And the LORD commanded me” – says Moses – “at that time to teach you statutes and ordinances, that you might do them in the land which you go over to possess.” Now listen, and stop right there, and I’ll tell you what that means. God laid down, first of all, the Ten Commandments. And then He said to Moses and all the other prophets, to those basic Ten Commandments, “You had the statutes and the ordinances.” And that’s what He said to Moses. And so Moses went from the Ten Commandments, and under God’s inspiration, developed the ceremonial, the judicial systems, the whole outworking of the law in the life of the people.
And then the prophets came along. Now what was their job? Their job was to remind the people that the law was still incumbent, the law was still binding. It all goes back to the Ten Commandments. They were then basically God’s law. They were expanded in the statutes and ordinances that Moses gave in the Pentateuch; and then the rest of the Old Testament, the writings of the prophets, was to call upon the people to be obedient to these standards.
Now we can take the law of God and divide it into three parts: the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law. Now watch this. The moral law was for all men; the judicial law, just for Israel; the ceremonial law, for Israel’s worship of God. So the moral law encompasses all men, narrows it down to Israel in the judicial law, and to the worship of Israel toward God in the ceremonial law.
Now stay with me. The moral law is based in the Ten Commandments, the great moral principles laid down once and forever; the rest of the moral law is built upon that. The judicial law was the legislative law given for the functioning of Israel as a nation – very important. In other words, God said to Israel, “I want to set you apart from the rest of the world. I want you to be different. I want you to be unique, so you’ll have judicial laws. That’ll mean that you’re going to live with each other in a different way, you’re going to live with the nations around you in a different way,” this very unique law of judicial law to govern their behavior. Thirdly, the ceremonial law dealt with the temple ritual and the worship of God.
Now you say, “Which law is the Lord speaking of?” Now watch this one. He is speaking of all three, people. Some people say He’s just talking about the moral law. No, He’s not. He came to fulfill the whole thing, whether it was the moral law, the outgrowth of the moral law in Israel, the judicial law, or the law of worship, the ceremonial law; He came to fulfill every bit of it. It was all authored by God; it is all preeminent – all the principles, all the patterns, all the prophecies, all the types, all the symbols, all the pictures. Everything in the Old Testament is authored by God, and it all is fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
So we see, first of all, that the law is preeminent, because it is authored by God. Secondly, the law is preeminent, because it is affirmed by the prophets. It is affirmed by the prophets. Look at verse 17. “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.”
You know, the prophets – and just introducing that term “prophets” – cracks this thought open to us. The prophets simply reiterated, reinforced the law. They would say to the people of Israel, for example, “You’d better keep God’s law. You’re breaking God’s law. You’re falling away from His law.”
Sometimes they talked about Israel’s failure to keep the moral law. Sometimes they failed to keep the judicial law. How many times did He say to Israel, “There are unjust judges”? Sometimes they failed to keep the ceremonial law. Sometimes, He says, they didn’t do their sacrifice; but rather they sacrificed unto false gods. So the prophets constantly rang the chimes on the same thing: keep the moral law; keep the judicial law, which sets you apart as a unique nation; keep the ceremonial law, which is God’s definition of the pattern and standard for your worship.
And I can hear Isaiah saying that: “Come now, let us reason together,” saith the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you be willing and obedient, you shall eat of the good of the land. If you refuse and rebel, you’ll be devoured with the sword.” In other words, Isaiah is saying, “If you keep God’s law, you’ll be blessed; if you don’t, you’ll be cursed.”
In Malachi, the whole book, he calls out and says, “You’ve violated God’s laws of marriage. You’ve violated God’s law of taxation. You’ve violated God’s law of morality. You’ve violated God’s law of justice. You’ve violated every one of these things, and God is going to judge you.” So the prophets were God’s mouthpieces to reaffirm the moral law.
And so we say then, that the law is preeminent, first of all, because it is authored by God. And, secondly, throughout the whole Old Testament, it is reaffirmed by the prophets. In fact, the best definition of a prophet I know is in Exodus 4:16. And in an excellent way, God, by the analogy of Moses and Aaron, gives us the definition of a prophet. This is what it says; don’t look it up, just listen.
Exodus 4:15 says, “The Lord said to Moses about Aaron, ‘He shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.’” That’s what a prophet is, a mouth for God.
Jeremiah chapter 1, we find the same thing. Jeremiah is to be a mouth for God. “But the Lord said to me, ‘Say not, “I am a child.” For thou shalt go to all to that I send thee. And whatever I command thee, thou shalt speak.’” And so prophet just reiterated the law of God, spoke out the law of God.
All right, now we come to the third point. This is literally overwhelming. The Old Testament law – and we’re going to develop this in weeks to come as we go through the Sermon on the Mount, so just take as much as you can get tonight, it’s too much to handle anyway. But we’ll spread it out over the next few weeks.
First of all then, the law of God is binding, because it is authored by God. Secondly, it is affirmed by the prophets. Thirdly, accomplished by Christ. And this is the heart of the matter. It is accomplished by Christ.
Oh, people, if I could just share one-tenth or one-hundredth of what’s in my heart about this particular truth, I’d be satisfied. When Jesus said, “But to fulfill,” at the end of verse 17, when He said, “But to fulfill,” He was saying that, “The whole law I will fulfill.” Either in His first coming, in His return in the Spirit, or in His Second Coming, Jesus will fulfill the whole Old Testament ceremonially, judicially, and morally. It’s tremendous truth. Scripture finds its fullest meaning in Him. The Old Testament is wonderfully complete.
People say, “Oh, the Old Testament is not complete.” The Old Testament is complete. It is all that God wanted it to be. It is an absolutely wondrous, perfect, complete picture of the coming King and His kingdom. And the King came to fulfill it all.
You know, five times in the New Testament, Jesus claimed to be the theme of the whole Old Testament. Did you know that? Five times: Hebrews 10:7, John 5:39, Matthew 5:17, Luke 24:27, and Luke 24:44. Five times He said, “I am the theme of the whole thing.” In 2 Corinthians 1:20, the apostle Paul said, “All the promises of God in Him are yes and amen.” He is the one who fulfills it all.
Boy, just think of the Old Testament; and listen to this as I share it with you. In Genesis, He is the seed of the woman. In Exodus, He is the Passover Lamb. In Leviticus, He is the High Priest. In Numbers, He is the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. In Deuteronomy, He is the Prophet like unto Moses. In Joshua, He is the Captain of our salvation. In Judges, He is the Judge and Lawgiver. In Ruth, He is the Kinsman Redeemer.
In 1 and 2 Samuel, He is the trusted Prophet. In Kings and Chronicles, He is the reigning King. In Ezra, He is the faithful scribe. In Nehemiah, He is the builder of the broken wall. In Esther, He is the Mordecai. In Job, He is the ever-living Redeemer. In Psalms, He is the Lord our Shepherd. In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, He is true wisdom. In Song of Solomon, He is the real lover and Bridegroom.
In Isaiah, He is the Prince of Peace. In Jeremiah and Lamentations, He is the weeping Prophet. In Ezekiel, He is the wonderful four-faced man. In Daniel, He is the fourth man in the fiery furnace. In Hosea, He is the eternal husband, forever married to the backslider. In Joel, He is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit. In Amos, He is the burden-bearer. In Obadiah, He is the Savior. In Jonah, He is the great foreign missionary. In Micah, He’s the messenger with beautiful feet.
In Nahum, He is the avenger. In Habakkuk, He is God’s evangelist pleading for revival. In Zephaniah, He’s the Lord, mighty to save. In Haggai, He is the restorer of the lost heritage. In Zechariah, He’s the fountain opened in the house of David for sin and for cleansing. In Malachi, He’s the sun of righteousness, arising with healing in His wings. He is the theme of the Old Testament; every bit of it is His story.
Now the question is this: In what sense does Jesus fulfill the law? I’m going to make theologians out of all of you right now. In what sense does He fulfill the law?
Some say, “Well, He fulfilled it by His teaching.” Now listen to this: “They say that He completed the law by teaching;” and the idea is that He filled it out. The law was a sketch, and He colored it all in. He said, “Yes, the law says this; but I want to add this. Yes, the law say this; but I want to tell you this.” And some say He filled it out with His teaching, that there was a basically incomplete code in the Old Testament, and it needed added dimensions and new dimensions, and so He added to it. In a sense, He did expand the law of God. In a sense, He did elucidate the law of God. In a sense, when He sent the Spirit, the Spirit through the writers of the Epistles, elucidated even more of the law of God. But that can’t be the real reason. That can’t be the real meaning of “fulfill.”
First of all, that’s not what the word means. It doesn’t mean “to fill out,” it means “to fill up.” Doesn’t mean “to add to,” it means “to complete something that’s already there.” Jesus really doesn’t add anything new. Did you know that? He just clarifies God’s original meaning.
And let me tell you this: Jesus didn’t come to give a moral lecture. The law is not fulfilled by lecturing about it, the law is not fulfilled by adding to it, it’s fulfilled another way. And so some people say, “Yes, that’s true. He fulfilled it, because He met its demands.” In other words, there are some Bible teachers that say, “In His life, He kept every part of God’s law. He kept God’s judicial law, God’s ceremonial law. He worshiped in the right way. He was fair and equitable. He kept God’s moral law. He never violated a rules God made. He was perfectly righteous. He was the absolutely Holy One. He was the perfect righteousness,” and that’s true.
Matthew 3:15, He answered John the Baptist, who didn’t want to baptize Him, and He said, “Permit it to be so now; for thus it becometh to fulfill all righteousness.” In other words, “If the Old Testament says you’re to be washed in repentance, then I’m going to be washed, if that’s what it says.” In other words, He filled out every minute detail of God’s law, and in that sense, fulfilled it.
Well, you know something? That’s true, that’s true. He did do that. But that still isn’t the heart of what it’s saying here. That’s still not it. There is truth in all of that. He did add new perception to the Old Testament law; He did sum it up wonderfully. Oh, in fact, He took the whole law and reduced it to one thing: “Thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength, and thy neighbor as thyself,” right? He summed the whole law up beautifully.
And in the Epistles, through His Holy Spirit, He clarified it even more, and enriched it even more. And it’s true, secondly, that He lived it in His own life. He kept the law, there’s no question. He was without sin. He was flawless in His obedience. He provided the perfect model of absolute righteousness in fulfilling God’s Holy Word. But those still don’t get to the major point. There’s still another reason; and let me give it to you simply.
He fulfilled the whole Old Testament law by being its fulfillment; not by what He said so much, not by what He did so much, but by what He was. You say, “What do you mean by that?” What I mean by that is that He didn’t come just to rescue the law from rabbinical perversion. And He didn’t come just to be a model of righteousness. He came to bring in everlasting righteousness by being the Messiah that the law predicted. Do you see? In other words, it was what He was, as much as what He did and what He said.
Look at it this way – this is thrilling, just thrilling. Look at the judicial law. The judicial law, all the various rules that governed the behavior of Israel, all their legal codes, all the things they were supposed to do – Leviticus 26:46, statutes, ordinances, laws which the Lord made between Him and the children of Israel. God made special laws with Israel.
In Psalm 147, verse 19, “He shows His word to Jacob, His statutes, His ordinances to Israel.” Listen to verse 20: “He hath not dealt so with any nation.” In other words, God had peculiar laws for Israel; this is His judicial law which set them apart. They had certain dietary laws, right? They had certain laws of dress. They had certain laws of agriculture. They had certain laws within their relationships, certain things they had to do; set them apart, God’s judicial law.
You say, “How did Jesus fulfill that?” I’ll tell you how; listen to this. When He died on the cross – now watch this – when He died on the cross, that was the final, full rejection by Israel of her Messiah, right? That was it. And you know what? That was the end of God dealing with that nation as a nation. The judicial law that He gave to Israel passed away when God no longer dealt with them as a nation anymore, and Jesus built His church. Praise God, someday He’s going to go back and redeem that nation again, and deal with them again as a nation.
But for this time, when Jesus died on the cross, the judicial law came to a screeching halt. There was no more national people of God. There would be a new man, cut out of Jews and Gentiles, and it would be called the church, and the judicial law came to an end. That’s why Matthew 21:43 says, “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you.”
Now let me add this: keep in mind that the foundations of the judicial law are in the moral law, so that the divine principles behind it still exist. They’re still binding, they’re still there; but the judicial law related to Israel was set aside when Jesus died, because that was the full and final rejection of their Messiah.
What about the moral law, did He fulfill the moral law? Sure He did. In what way? In the way we mentioned earlier. Every rule God ever made, He obeyed, right? Every precept God ever laid down, He fulfilled. He never disobeyed anything that God established. Yes, He filled up the judicial law in the sense that He brought the whole thing to its ultimate climax. He allowed Israel, God did, to go the way they chose, and they ended their identity as His people at that point, until a future time, and summed up the judicial law, and it was over. And Jesus, by the living of a perfect life, fulfilled the moral law.
That leaves only one other: the ceremonial law. Listen, how did He fulfill the ceremonial law? Oh, this is fantastic. Let me tell you: He died on a cross.
Now listen to me; this is the last point, but I want to make it, and I want to make it good. He died on a cross, and when He died on that cross, the whole ceremonial system came to an end. In fact, when He died, it says the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. The Holy of Holies was unbared, and God was saying, “The whole Levitical, priestly, judicial system is over. It’s all over.” And so He fulfilled totally the judicial law, in a negative way, by being the victim of their final rejection. He fulfilled the moral law in the way He lived, and the ceremonial law in the way He died.
In Hebrews – and we could spend so much time in Hebrews on this last point. But in Hebrews chapter 10, verse 19 – just listen, don’t try to follow me, I’m going to wrap it up quick – it says, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus by a new and living way.” In other words, Jesus Christ opened a new day. He ended the ceremonial system. We no longer worship God with the blood of bulls and goats. We no longer go through all the offerings and all that stuff. It was only a few years after He died that He allowed the Romans to come in and absolutely destroy the temple. The whole sacrificial system, the whole thing came crumbling down when He died. It was over. It was all over. The new covenant brought in a new dawn, a new day. The ceremonial system was fulfilled.
Listen to me now: the whole judicial system was only good as long as Israel was God’s people; and when that was over, the system was over. The ceremonial system was only good until the final sacrifice came; and when it came, then it was done away. And that leaves only one element of God’s law abiding still. And what is that? The moral law. And that’s what undergirded everything; and that will be with us until we see Him face to face.
In Hebrews chapter 7, verse 18: “There is verily an annulling of the commandment going before for weakness and unprofitableness of it. For the law made nothing perfect, and the bringing in of a better hope; by which we draw near unto God.” In other words, what that couldn’t do, Christ did. He brought an end to the picture, because He was the reality.
In chapter 8, verse 8, “The days come,” says the Lord, “I’ll make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not the covenant I made with their fathers.” In other words, the thing is going to be different in Christ. Going to be something new, something changed, a new covenant, verse 13 says.
Chapter 9, verse 10, again, the same thing. “There’s going to be a new one, not be with food and drinks and washings and carnal ordinances,” – no – “when the time of the reformation comes,” – and that’s, by the way, a term for the New Testament. When the New Testament, the new covenant comes, that passes away. And what he means by that is not God’s moral law, but God’s ceremonies. You see, the point is, all the ceremonies were, were pictures of Christ, weren’t they? And when the reality came, He didn’t need the picture. Think of it this way: in every way, He fulfilled the ceremonial system.
Compare Him, for example, with Aaron, the high priest. Aaron entered the earthly tabernacle; Christ entered the heavenly temple. Aaron entered once a year; Christ entered once for all. Aaron entered beyond the veil; Christ rent the veil. Aaron offered many sacrifices; Christ offered one. Aaron offered for his own sin; Christ offered only for our sin. Aaron offered the blood of bulls; He offered His own blood.
Aaron was a temporary priest; He is an eternal one. Aaron was fallible; He is infallible. Aaron was changeable; He is unchangeable. Aaron was continual; He was final. Aaron’s was imperfect; His was perfect. Aaron’s priesthood was insufficient; His is all-sufficient. Aaron’s priesthood was not all-prevailing; His is all-prevailing.
Look at the tabernacle. What was that picturing? The tabernacle had a door; Christ said, “I am the door.” It had a brazen altar; He said He was the altar, the ransom for many. It had a laver; He said He would wash and cleanse us. It had lamps; He said He was the light. It had bread; He said He was the bread. It had incense; He said, “My prayers ascend for you.” It had a veil; He said, “The veil is My body.” It had a mercy seat: He said, “I am the mercy seat.” Everything pictured Him.
Look at the Levitical offerings. There was a burnt offering to speak of the perfection of life; He was that perfection of life. There was a meal offering to speak of dedication; He was that one, dedicated holy to God. There is a peace offering; He is the peace. There was a sin offering; He became sin for us, who knew no sin. There was a trespass offering; and He provided for our trespasses.
Think of the feasts in the ceremonies of Israel. The Passover; He is our Passover. The unleavened bread which speaks of a holy walk; He is the one who walked in holiness. The Feast of First Fruits: He is the one who rose from the dead, the first fruits of them that slept. The Feast of Pentecost: He is the one who poured out His Spirit. The Feast of Trumpets: He is one who someday has His angel blow the trumpet, and gather the elect from the four corners of the earth. The Feast of Atonement: He is the one who paid the price of atonement. The Feast of Tabernacles, which speaks of reunion: He is the one who will gather His people into His house forever. You get the point?
The point is that Jesus fulfills every part of the law, every part of the law. And when He came and stood there that day on that hillside in Matthew 5:17 and said, “I am come to fulfill the law,” He said something that should have knocked those people flat on their backs. And then they should have crawled to be prostrate before Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
The whole Old Testament is Jesus Christ; from front to back, it’s Jesus Christ. You know, the law itself couldn’t make anybody righteous. The New Testament says that again and again and again. Jesus had to come to do what the law couldn’t do. He had to come to grant His righteousness.
“The law” – it says in Galatians 3:24 – “was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that by Him, we might be justified by faith. But after faith is come, we no longer need a schoolmaster.” What law was he talking about there? What element? The ceremonial. The ceremonial pointed to Christ. Once Christ came, he is saying to the Judaizers in Galatians, “We don’t need the rituals anymore. We don’t need the rites anymore. We don’t need the circumcision anymore. The reality is here. He fulfilled it all. He fulfilled it all.” Tremendous thought.
There is one more thought: Because He fulfilled the whole law, so can you and so can I. That’s the most amazing part of all. Because He was perfectly righteous, because He fulfilled all righteousness, you and I can too. Listen to Romans 8:4, this is great: “that the righteousness of the law” – now what this – “might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Beloved, listen to that. You too can fulfill God’s law. You can fulfill God’s moral law. That’s the only part that is left.
The judicial law set aside with Israel. The ceremonial law came to a crashing halt when Christ came. Even the Lord said to Peter, “Don’t worry about unclean animals anymore. Don’t worry about rituals anymore. That whole deal is all finished.” But the moral law is left. And you say, “O God, could I ever fulfill the moral law?” And the Bible says that if we walk in the Spirit, we will fulfill the righteousness of the law; Christ in us fulfills it.
What a climax. He fulfilled the law, and He fulfills it in us. It’s tremendous to think about, people, how He has fulfilled everything the law and prophets ever spoke of. And tonight we didn’t even talk about the prophecies He fulfilled. We could list literally hundreds of them. He fulfilled them all.
No, they were looking at Jesus and saying, “Is this a revolutionary who’s going to throw over all the old stuff?” And He said, “Not on your life. I’m come to lift it up and reveal the hypocrites. And then after I’ve lifted it up, I’ll fulfill it every way it could be fulfilled – judicially, ceremonially, and morally. And I’ll even make it possible for those who come after Me, who believe in Me, to be filled with My Spirit; and they too will fulfill this law.”
Let me close with this. By someone unknown, this is written: “I find my Lord in the Book, wherever I chance to look. He’s the theme of the Bible, the center and heart of the Book. He’s the Rose of Sharon, He’s the Lily fair. Wherever I open my Bible, the Lord of the Book is there.
“He at the beginning, He at the Book’s beginning gave to the earth its form. He is the ark of shelter, bearing the brunt of the storm. He is the burning bush of the desert, the budding of Aaron’s rod. Wherever I look in the Bible, I see the Son of God. The ram upon Mount Moriah, the ladder from earth to sky, the scarlet cord in the window, and the serpent lifted high. The smitten rock in the desert, the shepherd with staff and crook, the face of my Lord I discover, wherever I open the Book.
“He is the seed of the woman, the Savior virgin-born. He is the Son of David of whom men rejected with scorn. His garments of grace and of beauty, the stately Aaron deck; yet He is a priest forever, for He is Melchizedek. Lord of eternal glory whom John the apostle saw; Light of the golden city, Lamb without spot or flaw. Bridegroom coming at midnight for whom the virgins look; wherever I open my Bible, I find my Lord in the Book.” Let’s pray.
I want to ask you a question as we close. Have you found the Lord Jesus Christ in the Book, and given your life to Him? He alone who can give you the absolute standard for your life, He alone who can cause you to live a righteousness that of yourself is impossible, He alone who can enable you to fulfill God’s law, He alone who can empower you to have the kind of character that He demands. Oh, if you haven’t, right where you sit, just your heart, and let Jesus come into your life. Receive Him as your Savior and your Lord, that He might fulfill the law of God through you by His power.
This article is also available and sold as a booklet.