THE LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson in our series on the life of Christ, we talked about how Jesus said we are the salt and the light of the earth. In this lesson, we are going to begin examining what Jesus teaches next starting in:
Matthew 5:17 " Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Early on in Jesus’ ministry, He wanted to make it clear that He did not come to destroy the Law of Moses or the Prophets. He came to fulfill the Law of Moses by keeping the commands perfectly without sin and to fulfill all the things the Prophets wrote about Jesus. Some are confused about this section of Scripture and think that it means we are still under the Old Testament Law, but we are not as I will show in just a minute. First, I want to explain the difference between fulfilled and destroyed.
Let’s say that you buy a new car and you sign a contract to make payments on that car. If you had the authority to destroy that contract, then you would have the authority to not fulfill your obligation to pay the rest of the payments you owed if you destroyed the contract. This of course would render the contract useless and pointless if could simply be destroyed.
However, if you make all your payments thus fulfilling your debt, then the contract is fulfilled and no longer binding because you have paid all your payments.
In a similar way, Jesus did not come to destroy the Law of Moses and the Prophets, otherwise it renders the Law of Moses and what the Prophets said about the coming Messiah as being useless and pointless. If Jesus destroyed the old law at this point, He would have only fulfilled a portion of what was foretold about Him.
However, He did not destroy the Law, He fulfilled it thus making the Law of Moses not binding anymore. However, He did bring forth a new covenant that also has laws in it, which is called the law of Christ. We still have commands to follow and keep, but they are different because they belong to a new covenant.
To further show how much emphasis Jesus put on the Law of Moses and what the Prophets taught, He said that everything would continue to be in force until He fulfilled it. In fact, He even says that every jot and tittle must be kept. A jot and tittle are some of the smallest markings in the Hebrew language, which means that everything in the Law Moses was important from what might seem minor to that which seems major.
Though Jesus is saying this about the Law of Moses and the Prophets, don't you think this same principle would apply to the new covenant? I think it does. The new covenant, which is called a better covenant, would certainly need to be kept from the minor to the major because it is still God’s Word and another covenant between God and man. Though some would like to think that the New Testament is more of a general guide than something that must be followed, the Scriptures teach differently. The same people would say, “I follow Jesus,” yet Jesus followed every word and action the Father showed Him. Therefore, if we are going to follow Jesus, then we must also do our best to follow every jot and tittle of the New Testament because it is what we will be judged by:
John 12:48 "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him -- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
Now let’s spend some time proving that the Law of Moses and the Prophets have been fulfilled and that we are no longer under the Old Law, but under a new covenant. I realize that this is one of those basic principles that are taught in the Bible, but you would be amazed at how many people in the religious world do not understand this idea.
I want to kill two birds with one stone, so not only am I going to show from the Scriptures that Jesus did indeed fulfill the Law of Moses and brought forth a new covenant, I also want to use one example of a religious group that calls themselves Sabaterians. Please understand that I am not trying to belittle this group because I think they have honest souls that love God, but they are very confused about what the Bible teaches when it comes to covenants and understanding what Jesus said about the Law of Moses and the prophets.
The Sabaterians believe that the 10 commandments is the law of God or sometimes they call it his moral law, and they say the other 600 + laws that Moses spoke after the 10 commandments are also Moses law or sometimes called the ceremonial laws, and they teach that Moses law or the ceremonial laws were done away with at the cross but the 10 commandments were not. They also teach that we should be observing the Sabbath as our day of worship instead of Sunday.
Is it true? Does the Bible teach that these are 2 separate laws and that only the ceremonial laws were done away with? As we will see the answer is no. The Bible does not differentiate between the 10 commandments and the other 600 + laws. Instead they are treated as one. Now let prove this from scripture. Notice what:
Hebrews 8:7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- 9 "not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD. 10 "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 11 "None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. 12 "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 13 In that He says, "A new covenant," He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
This section of scripture shows us that there was going to be a change in covenants. The first covenant, which was made with the children of Israel who came out of Egypt is the Mosaic covenant and that covenant was made obsolete by the new covenant that Jesus brought forth by his death. But the question is, was the 10 commandments included in the first covenant. The answer is found in,
1 Kings 8:9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt.
The Sabbatarian’s will even agree that the tablets of stone mentioned here are referring to the 10 commandments but notice this verse makes it clear that the 10 commandments were part of the covenant that God made with the children of Israel when they came out of the land of Egypt. Since this covenant was done away with by Christ, then so was the 10 commandments. Now look at:
Hebrews 9:1 Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant;
Please note that the writer is continuing on to show how things under the Old covenant were only temporary and shadow of the things to come. All these things mentioned in these verses would no longer be used, and the Sabbatarians certainly do not set up a tabernacle as described here. But notice that these things that are not in the new covenant included tablets of the covenant which is referring to the 10 commandments. So, the 10 commandants are part of the old covenant, and they were done away with at the cross.
In Rom 7 Paul talks about how a wife is freed from the law of her husband when he dies, but he goes on to say this,
Romans 7:4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another -- to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. 5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, "You shall not covet."
Paul, is letting us know that under the new covenant we have been delivered from the law and it is no longer binding on us just like a woman is no longer bound to her husband when he dies. Yet note very carefully what Law Paul is referring to in verse 7. The law that we have been delivered from included the command “you shall not covet” which is part of the 10 commandments. As you can see these passages show clearly that there is not a distinction between the 10 commandments and the 600 + ordinances that were given, and they also show that the 10 commandments were done away with when the law changed from Moses Law to Christ Law.
I also want you to consider that the 600 + laws are not really Moses’ law they are God’s law and this can be easily shown is several ways. For example:
Luke 2:22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, "Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD"), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, "A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons."
Luke calls this the law of the Lord and yet we find this in Lev. 12:2-8 which is part of those 600+ laws that Moses spoke. Also note,
Nehemiah 8:1 Now all the people gathered together as one man in the open square that was in front of the Water Gate; and they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD had commanded Israel.
Nehemiah 8:8 So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense, and helped them to understand the reading.
So the book of the Law of Moses was simply what God had commanded and verse 8 also calls this the Law of God. So, technically, this was not really the Law of Moses, it was the law of God. We can see this again in,
Nehemiah 10:29 these joined with their brethren, their nobles, and entered into a curse and an oath to walk in God's Law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commandments of the LORD our Lord, and His ordinances and His statutes:
Now lets move on to some N.T. passages.
Ephesians 2:12 that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, 15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, 16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
This is another passage that shows that something was taken away at the cross which of course is referring to the old covenant, which contains the law of commandments. This word “ordinance” simple means doctrine or teaching and I think it would be silly to try and say that the 10 commandments are not commandments of law or that they are not a doctrine or teaching. So, it should be easy for the honest person to see that the 10 commandments are included in the enmity that was taken away. When you consider that the covenant which included the Sabbath was only for the Jew, you can see that this covenant had to be done away with to break the separation between the Jew and the Gentile, which once again shows the 10 commandments were done away with at the cross. One last passage I want to look at on this topic is,
Colossians 2:13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
This is another passage the Sabbatarian’s will agree that Jesus did nail Moses law to the cross, but they claim it was only the ceremonial laws that were done away with and the 10 commandments are alive and well. However, I have already shown from scripture that there is no division between these things and when Jesus died on the cross he nailed both the 10 commandments and the other 600 + Laws to cross making them no longer binding on the Christians. This is further shown as continue on in this chapter,
Colossians 2:16 So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, 17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
The immediate question becomes, How can Paul say that you cannot be judged for these different things that were under the Old law including the Sabbath if the Sabbath was still binding on the Christian today? You cannot, which shows that Christians are not under the Sabbath today and we are not required to worship on Saturday. We are certainly not under the 10 commandments that Moses gave, but 9 of those 10 commandments have been reinstated under the New Testament. The only one missing is keeping the Sabbath.
Now let’s turn our attention to when the Law of Moses was fulfilled.
Jesus wanted to make sure his disciples understood when this happened. So, after He was raised from dead, he said the following.
Luke 24:44 Then He said to them, "These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me."
The point Jesus is trying to make to His disciples is something like this: Remember when I said the law would not pass away till all was fulfilled (Matt. 5:17-18)? Well, it has happened! This same thought is also found in:
Acts 13:27 "For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know Him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. 28 "And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. 29 "Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb.
This harmonizes perfectly with the numerous Scriptures that state that the Old Covenant was replaced with the New Covenant at the death of Jesus:
Hebrews 8:6 But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second.
Hebrews 9:15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.
Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
The handwriting of requirements of the law were nailed to the cross:
Colossians 2:14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
As we read earlier in Ephesians 2:14-16, Jesus put these things to death in His flesh. Paul tells us that the Christians were no longer under the law of Moses in:
Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! We also saw this earlier when we looked at Romans 7:1-6, but also consider what Paul says in:
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Those Christians who believed in Jesus and were led by the spirit were no longer under the law of Moses:
Romans 10:4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.
Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
Paul proclaimed if Christians tried to go back to the law of Moses for justification, they would fall from grace:
Galatians 5:4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.
Though the law was still being practiced by some of the Jews in the first century, its binding authority ended at the cross, and the New Covenant took its place. Contrary to those like the Saberterians who claim that we are still under the Law of Moses in some form or another, we have clearly seen that the law of Moses was fulfilled at the point of Christ’s death. We have come a long ways to prove this simple point, but I think it is important for to fully understand what Jesus was talking about when He said He did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it.
Let’s take a look at what Jesus said in verse Mt. 5:20:
20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
Many do not like it when you point out that a particular group is wrong in the way they do things or with attitudes that they have, yet Jesus is making a direct statement about the Pharisees and Scribes. He points out that if His disciples do not exceed the righteousness of these two groups, they will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Many would consider this as being harsh because basically he saying that these two groups will not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus points out that these two groups had many problems especially in Matthew 23. For example Jesus said in:
Matthew 23:27 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. 28 "Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
This was the main problem with the Pharisees and Scribes. They were not really concerned with being righteous but only looking righteous. As Jesus teaches in His great sermon on the mount, He continues to challenge His listeners to be better that they are right now. He wants His disciples to not just look righteous when people are looking, but to continue to be righteous inside and out even when people are not looking. If we simply go through the motions of Christianity and make no real changes on the inside, then we are not going to be any better off than these Scribes and Pharisees, which means heaven will not be our home.
In our next lesson, we will see how Jesus continues to set the spiritual bar higher and higher as He talks about some of the laws of Moses and how the people are to do even more. So, I hope you will join us next time as we continue on with this series.