Lots of Christians are “one-thirds” Bible-believers, at least on a practical level. They might claim that the Old Testament is God’s word, but they certainly don’t show it in their study habits. They focus any daily Bible reading on the New Testament and ignore the other 2/3 of the book! That's something that bothers me. A lot. And that brings us to today's Scripture reading. We talked about this when we were discussing the Torah back in February, but here we’re going to look at it a bit more thoroughly. What exactly did Jesus do in relationship with the Law when he came?
Right at the beginning of the New Testament, in its first major teaching portion, Jesus shows how we should look at the Old Covenant. Despite what we might think, he did NOT come to do away with it, but to fulfill it. Now considering that Paul told us repeatedly we’re not under the Law anymore, how do we reconcile this?
I think that the balance is found in the perfect phrase: “not to abolish but to fulfill.” What does it mean that he “fulfilled” the law? Well, there are at least three ways we can answer that question, and none of them exclude the others. First, Jesus fulfilled the law in his life. He was perfectly sinless, and perfectly obeyed the Father’s will in every thought, word, and deed. Second, he fulfilled it in his death. When he died, his righteousness was applied to us, and now in his eyes we have perfectly fulfilled it. Finally, he fulfills it in our daily lives. As he begins and continues the daily process of making us like him, he fulfills the requirements of the law through us in how we talk, speak, and act.
Remember what we talked about in February? When studying the Law, it’s all about principles and applications. The principles never change (like caring for the poor), but the specific applications change as we move from ancient Middle East society to modern America (we don’t need to worry about gleaning crops, for example). By studying God’s word (all of it), we learn what pleases him, and he changes us into the likeness of Christ.
We don’t need to be concerned about our eternal standing before God. Through his sinless life and obedient death, Christ fulfilled the law on my behalf as far as that goes. But in pleasing the Father, that is something I do need to be concerned about. That depends on some choices I make everyday. Will I listen to his voice? Will I study his word? Will I ask for his help? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to follow his plan?
Lord Jesus, I thank you for giving up your life for me. Now it’s my turn. I belong to you, and no one else. Please make me like you. You perfectly pleased the Father in everything, and I’d like to do that.
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