Jesus and the Law

 The Lord’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5—7) was not contrary to the Old Testament Law. In fact, the teaching of Jesus fulfilled the Law. When He died on the cross, He had so accomplished the keeping of God’s Law that He removed it from sentencing mankind to death for not keeping it. Because He so perfectly fulfilled it, He paid the penalty for all sinners and transgressors who break it.

Paul put it this way: “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross” (Colossians 2:13-14).

 When Jesus died for our sins, not only was He nailed to the cross, but the “certificate of debt” or the “decrees against us” that always condemned us, was also removed. Believers in Christ are “made alive together with Him” because God has “forgiven us all our transgressions” and has “cancelled” our debt to Him. The condemnation deserved by our failure to keep God’s Law is forever washed away, removed by the cleansing blood of Jesus.

Because of such mercy and forgiveness, our hearts overflow with thanks. With John Newton, every believer in Christ can sing, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

The wonder of God’s extravagant grace and forgiving love is beautifully captured in the New Living Translation version of Romans 5:8-9: “But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation.”

When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17), it may have surprised some of His listeners. Yet, Jesus always elevated Scripture and the teaching of the Bible. He took God’s Word seriously. He quoted from it freely. And He always spoke absolute truth.

The only time we get a glimpse of Jesus between His birth in Bethlehem and His ministry beginning in Nazareth thirty years later, was when He visited the Temple in Jerusalem as a child of twelve. There His parents “found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions” (Luke 2:46). The Lord’s knowledge and love of Scripture amazed them as, “they were astonished at his understanding and answers” (verse 47). Jesus knew He had to be busy about His Father’s business, which required knowledge of God’s Word (verse 48).

When Jesus said He was about fulfilling the “Law and the Prophets”—He was talking about what we now call the Old Testament. After His crucifixion and resurrection, but before His ascension, Jesus told his Disciples, that “all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled” (Luke 24:44).

Through His ministry, as well as in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus always elevated Scripture, while He sought to destroy false interpretations of Scripture. He had no reverence for man’s “traditions” as He held supremely to God’s revelation.

Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their lack of Bible knowledge. He said, “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29). These enemies of Jesus were so focused on the traditions of men; they failed to comprehend the clear teachings of God. Jesus said, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3). He went on to say they “invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition” (verse 6). The KJV reads: “you made the commandment of God of none effect.” In reality, Mark notes they “neglected” God’s commands (Mark 7:8), “setting them aside” (verse 9), “invalidating the word of God” (verse 13); all so they could follow man’s traditions.

We may judge the Pharisees harshly for their rejection of Christ, while at the same time, ignore God’s Word ourselves. To do so would place us in the same category as them. God wants us to know that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). God has given us a fully inspired book to guide our lives.

These inspired Scriptures we call the Bible, or the Word of God, can change our lives. Paul reminded Timothy, “from childhood you have known the sacred Scriptures, which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). These sacred Scriptures—this holy Book—these God-breathed words—can lead us to salvation by faith in Christ.

This Word from God is eternal, and will not change. “Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89). God’s Word is inspired, inerrant, settled and “fixed.” You can trust it.

His Word will also bring conviction, direction, holiness and wholeness—if we will read and heed its direction. Let us pray with the Psalmist: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your Law” (Psalm 119:18). If we make this our prayer, then spend time in His Word, God will truly show us “wonderful things” as He blesses our lives.

Author: Larry E. Clements

Follower of Christ, fortunate to be husband to Pat, father of 5, grandfather of 12, writer, associate pastor of Pauline Baptist Church

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