20th July 2020
'I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.'
Do not think I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets.
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. Matthew 5:17
This verse puzzles many who have read it and tried to understand it.
Yet it gives us the most important reason not to dismiss the Old Testament as irrelevant.
If Jesus has come to announce an utterly new covenant with us,
our interest in the Old Testament would be merely historical;
it would have no application to our lives.
But the New Testament, that new covenant of Jesus, was not given in a vacuum.
To use a legal term, it 'incorporates by reference' the Law of Moses
and the words of the prophets.
In other words, except where Jesus changes it,
the Law of the Old Testament remains valid.
Anyone who has read Paul's letters knows that the main purpose of the Law
was not to set out a moral code,
but to show us that we are far from perfect.
This is shown by our actions, which inevitably contravene God's will.
But nothing could be clearer from reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7)
that Jesus expects us to follow the moral code of the Old Testament,
not simply in our actions but also in our hearts.
This sounds self-contradictory, doesn't it?
God knows we cannot live a perfect life;
we are bound to fail.
He expects us to follow the law yet knows we will fail.
But God's Commands are given to protect us.
They are signs of his love for us.
It is important to know that we are expected to follow it,
because most people don't like what the Law is telling them.
They want the forgiveness that Jesus came to bring,
they want the comfort of his love
but they don't want to know that they are supposed to be self-sacrificing,
to put others first.
By nature they want to be rich and famous,
to wield power, to' have their cake and eat it'.
But we cannot have the grace of God without having first the Law of God.
If we tell ourselves that we can do whatever we want,
because those Laws are part of the Old Testament
and are not relevant to today's society,
we ignore Jesus' words.
The Old Testament is still alive, and still significant in today's world.
Any prohibition in it applies to us,
unless it was modified by Jesus, for example in Matthew 5
21 "You have heard that it was said to the people long ago,
'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.'
22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry
with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. (21-22a)
Jesus was wanting to make sure we know
that the Old Testament teachings matter.
They mattered during the time of Moses,
they mattered during the time of Jesus,
and they matter today.
All Scripture is beneficial for us!
Second Timothy 3:16 tells us,
16 All Scripture is inspired by God
and is profitable for teaching,
for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness.
The law and the prophets are binding,
they are authoritative, and they are the Word of God;
and Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets perfectly and fully,
and He's the only one that could;
and He did!
He not only obeyed them, He fulfilled them.
He brought clarity to them.
He made the law and the prophets what they were meant to be.
May we never disregard God's Commandments