of the Law


Thursday Reflection


25th February 2021

...not come to abolish...

17 "Do not think that I have come to
    abolish the Law or the Prophets;
    I have not come to abolish them
    but to fulfil them.

.... Matthew 5:17

Throughout my time as a Reader,
especially as a prison Chaplain,
I have had many people say to me,
'Why do we bother about
the Old Testament?
It's no longer important,
Jesus has come to change all that.'

My reply is to direct them
to Matthew 5:17, the verse above,
for I believe we need to read
the New Testament in the light
of the Old Testament.

The verse puzzles many who read it
and try to understand it.
Yet it gives us the most
important reason to include
the Old Testament in our Bible.

If Christ came to announce
an utterly new covenant of salvation
with humankind,
our interest in the Old Testament
would be merely historical,
or circumstantial;
it would have no application
for our lives.

But the New Testament,
and the new covenant of Christ,
was not given to us in a vacuum.
It refers to, and relies on,
the Law of Moses and
the words of the prophets.

In other words,
except where Christ deliberately
changes it,
the law of the Old Testament
remains in full effect.

Anyone who has read Paul's letters
will know that the primary purpose
of the Law was not to set out
a moral code, but rather,
to show us that our actions
inevitably disobey the will of God.

Nothing could be clearer from reading
the Sermon on the Mount
(Matthew 5-7) than this:
Jesus expects us to follow the
moral code of the Old Testament,
not simply in our actions,
but in our hearts.

This does seem a bit of a
because God knows we will fail
to live a perfect life.
He expects us to follow the law,
yet he knows we will fail;
but it is critical to know that he
expects us to follow it,
because most people don't like
what the Law requires of them.

We want the forgiveness that
Jesus brings, and we want the
comfort of his love,
but we don't want to hear
that we cannot strive for enormous
riches and lust for big houses,
that our goal in life cannot be
to enrich ourselves and make
ourselves famous
to the detriment of others.

By nature,
we want to be rich and successful,
we want to gratify our appetites,
and that is ok as long as we use our
riches to help others and
our actions do not hurt others.

Do you remember the children's song?
J-O-Y, J-O-Y, this is what it means,
Jesus first, yourself last,
and others in-between.

We cannot have the grace of God
without first having the Law of God.
If we tell ourselves that we may
do whatever we want,
because the only bar is
part of the 'Old Testament',
we ignore Jesus' words.

The Old Testament is alive;
any changing is only applicable if it
has been modified by Jesus;
and pretty much the only modification
made by Jesus were formal;
the 'Spirit' of the Law
remains unbroken.
(The greatest exception is that
he took away human judgement and
punishment through his
death on the cross.)

We neglect the books of the
Old Testament at our peril;
there is a tremendous amount
of good stuff concerning
Jesus and living a
God-filled life in it.

It may be interesting to watch,
or just listen to a song
'Laudate omnes gentes'
via the link shown below.