The Sermon on the Mount: Day 4

Christ Fulfills the Law

by

Today's Text: Matthew 5:17-20, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:23-26

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:17-20, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Matthew 11:28-30, John 14:23-26

When I was sixteen, I was not the sixteen of the movies. I expected that I would go to lots of parties and laugh with lots of boys. Instead, I did Bible quizzing. Do you know what this is? It’s amazing and intense. You basically memorize a book of the Bible and then meet up with other church kids and answer questions. There were even special seats that could sense when you stood up, since we were so quick to answer and the human eye could never have accurately detected who was the first up to “Complete the following verse: ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish…’”

In a flash I was up, “ThelawortheProphetsIhavenotcometoabolishthembuttofulfillthem!!!”

The year I quizzed, we memorized the book of Matthew. I was “Captain Bible Quizzing Nerd Pants.” I wish I had the motivation to memorize Scripture with the tenacity I did when I was sixteen. Back then I threw all my teenage energy into bookish and nerdy pursuits.

This is why the book of Matthew rings with the fervor of sixteen-year-old adrenaline for me. The whole book seemed SO IMPORTANT back then. This passage reminds me that the whole of Scripture is important: not just the parts we obsessed over as teenagers, not just the parts we like, and not just the racy bits in Song of Solomon.

Christ fulfills the whole of Scripture.

Some Jews, weary under the weight of the law, might have wished that Christ would totally abolish it. They, like me, might have wished they could just be free of the law to live as they liked. But the law of the Old Testament provides boundaries and a structure upon which to hang the grace Christ offers in the New Testament.

Imagine a playground high on a mountain. Now, try to stay calm, watching the kids climbing and swinging from up above. I know I would keep all my babies as close as possible, not letting them run because of my fear they would fall. Now imagine this mountain playground is surrounded by a sturdy fence. Suddenly there is freedom to play! The boundary gives freedom.

This is what Christ is saying: the law is excellent, and He fulfills it. If the law is a glass of water, Christ doesn’t pour it out, He fills it up for us. He doesn’t make the law void; He stamps it paid in full!

On the other hand, the Jews believed that anything belonging to God should be preserved—even the least of the commandments, which incidentally, they reckoned was found in Deuteronomy 22:6-7: If you find a bird’s nest, you can take the baby birds, but leave the mother bird (my paraphrase). These jots and tittles—they were the bread and butter of the Pharisees, the Super Law Followers.

But Christ does something truly amazing. He calls us to repent of both our sins AND our righteousness. Our “goodness” is not good enough, our righteousness is not righteous enough. Only Christ’s redemption is enough. The Pharisees obeyed the outside of the law, but we are called to obey the inside of the law, the truth, heart, and substance behind it. So go ahead and pay your tithe, but give God your heart.

It’s only when we realize that even our righteousness isn’t enough, that we can repent and trust ourselves to the righteousness of Christ.

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  • I am struggling with your daily teachings sometimes because they use so much jargon from the christian faith. I am a christian but I am using SheReadsTruth and other communities to grow in my faith. However, it is very difficult when they seem written for those that are already mature in their faith. How can we learn what the bible means if we cannot understand the jargon used to explain it? I think it would be useful if you could explain some of the things you are referencing. For example, I don’t understand what it means that He fulfilled the law? Or, “But the law of the Old Testament provides boundaries and a structure upon which to hang the grace Christ offers in the New Testament.” I have no clue what that means. It would be helpful if you could explain things more plainly.

    • Nancy

      You are not alone… I’m feeling the same way about this. It’s hard to study when you don’t understand part of it and the study doesn’t include references to help you try to understand it. I really want to use SRT to grow my faith but I’m struggling.

    • Brooke

      Hi ladies! May I help explain from my own study?
      So, what she means, and what the scripture means, about the “fulfillment of the Law” is the fact that when’s Jesus died on the cross, that He was the only person EVER to completely fulfill all that the Old Testament law required, and by dying on the Cross as our Savior, He extends the holiness and flawlessness to us.

      The Law Jesus had to follow is extensive, I’m talking from Exodus all the way to Deuteronomy. Every act, thought process, and heart filled act that God commanded the Israelites to do, as the only way to stay holy before God. Now, mankind couldn’t do that, because we are sinful, and that is where the sacrifices came in. Throughout the Law, you will find several passages about acceptable sacrifices so that the people could atone for their breaking of the Law.

      One consistent aspect is the need for the sacrifice to be “flawless”, otherwise, it was a further insult to the Holy God and was only going to make things worse. So when Jesus came, the Israelites were living under this law, and has to repeatedly sacrifice to rectify their standing before God. Jesus came, lived a perfect, flawless life and died as the flawless sacrifice to be enough to not only fulfill every “jot and tittle” the Law required, but to give us a NEW LAW that allows more freedom in who can come to God (normal Jews, not just the priests, and Gentiles, like most people), more access to God (like directly praying to Him in our living room, rather than having to go to a temple), and a life-changing relationship with God that gets into the heart of the Law, GOD’S HEART.

      Because Jesus fulfilled the Law, we have more freedom in how we live because while the boundaries are there, we don’t have to be concerned with the 600+ laws that the people pre-Jesus had to follow. We have to be concerned with whether we are following God’s heart behind giving the Law, because we don’t have to earn our “flawlessness”. Jesus gave it to us, through His death and resurrection.

      I hope this helped and that I didn’t confuse you farther. I would also advise that you find mentors in your churches to help answer these questions! It’s super helpful!

      • Brea

        Awesome explanation, Brooke! I’d also like to add that the law was originally created to show us how unrighteous we are. Without the law we wouldn’t even know how badly we need grace. God created the law knowing we could never uphold it and His plan all along was to send Jesus to be the only one Who could uphold the law. The law humbles us, showing us even our righteous isn’t enough for the Kingdom of God. Our righteousness only can come from Christ and following Him and what He has done. We can never “do” enough on our own. It’s such a weight off my shoulders (I have to remind myself of this often) that if I just follow Christ and have an intimate relationship with Him, that I don’t have to worry about the laws and through me Christ will produce fruits of the Spirit. All I have to do is give Him my every day.

  • Love your example of the playground on the mountaintop. So vivid!

  • Tochi Heredia

    I love that obedience doesn’t come from our own abilities nor righteousness. Our obedience is a byproduct of His grace, of his making a home in us ❤

  • Ashley BB

    Today’s study resonates with me because I want to be told exactly what to do/not to do. I want things laid out in a clear, orderly fashion so that I have something to judge whether I have been a success or a failure. For those of us who have strayed from the Lord (and returned) and found ourselves doing things and living like you would expect a Christian NOT to- the Law makes sense. I’ve always told my husband, “I TOTALLY get why God put those parameters in place! That makes sense why He would have us not do these things!”- for our protection, for us to be set apart, to be holy and known as His people and to look different from the world. I love the Law, everything that God makes is good, how can the law not be? But I can’t uphold the law on my own; would love to, have tried often (and still sometimes do) and fail every time- and that’s where I experience the utter freedom that Christ brings. The law does not need to be abolished, it is good- but it’s impossible to keep perfectly ourselves and we need the grace and salvation of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law by upholding it perfectly.

    Does that make sense?
    Thank you God that you gave us Your law from the get go, and that You provided Your son to uphold it and fulfill it in all of the ways that we never could. May we all experience the grace and freedom that we have in Jesus Christ!

  • GramsieSue

    Yes, Lord, I can get caught up in the jots and tittles and lose the meaning and intent behind the Law. And ultimately that is to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. In all I think. In all I say. In all I do. And in loving you I have victory. In loving you I have strength and power. It’s only when I forget You–lean on my own power and strength–that I fail. Sadly, this happens all too often. But Joy of joys–You don’t hold it against me. ❤️ You welcome me back, give me another chance, and strengthen me once again for the journey. How blessed I am to be a daughter of The King! ❤️

  • Caroline

    He is everything! He changes everything. His death paid of everything.

    So thankful we are not bound to the law, but bound to his grace + love <3
    http://www.in-due-time.com

  • Love the phrasing of obeying the outside of the law AND the inside of the law. What people see (actions of obedience) and what God only sees (the heart).

  • If Christ came to fulfill the Law for us & be a perfect sacrifice on our behalf… doesn’t that mean we’re under His grace? I understand the importance of the Law for those who were under it in the OT, but should we still be using it as a reference point for our lives today? It’s hard because I feel like so much of them are cultural & don’t apply to today, so then it becomes a “pick a choose” way to follow the Law.

    I’m just kinda thinking aloud, but if anyone has insight, I’d love to hear it. Like Churchmouse, I’m probably overthinking.

    • Rachel M

      This sermon really help me understand the different parts of the law and what matters today. Hope it helps or makes you think on it more: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/sojourn-galleria-sermon/id1158625806?mt=2&i=1000391048010

    • She Reads Truth

      Hi Ash! Thanks so much for reading along with us, and we’re so glad that you’re digging in and really seeking to understand what you read. Topics like this can be tricky, so we always recommend reaching out to a trusted spiritual leader, pastor or mentor to help you process questions like this. Being able to work through what you read with others in your community, especially when it comes to things like grace and the law, it can make a world of difference! We’re so glad to have you in our community!

    • Kristi

      Ash, I was just reading the notes for the Matthew 5 verses in my Study Bible and felt like they would offer some insight to you. Here they are:

      “If Jesus did not come to abolish the law, does that mean all the Old Testament laws still apply to us today? I’m the Old Testament, there were three categories of law: ceremonial, civil, and moral.
      1) The ceremonial law related specifically to Israel’s worship. Its primary purpose was to point forward to Jesus Christ; these laws, therefore, were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial laws, the principles behind them – to worship and love a holy God – still apply. Jesus was often accused by Pharisees of violating ceremonial law.
      2) The civil law applied to daily living in Israel. Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time and setting, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands are timeless and should guide our conduct. Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
      3) The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God, and it requires strict obedience. The moral law reveals the nature and will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely.”

      I know that was a bit long, but I hope it will help answer your questions! It definitely helped me to understand these verses better today.

  • I’m thinking of two analogies: one. We are told not to touch the hot stove as children but in curiosity we want to know why so we touch it and of course we get burned and suddenly the law makes sense. Two. Some people have invisible fences for their pets and the pet wears a color that will shock when they get to the boundary. The shock reminds them to get back not to go that way. I’m thinking that’s the Holy Spirit for us. God has set up boundaries. We test them because we are rebellious but the Holy Spirit acts like the shock collar reminding us of the law. We can’t live up to the law but the Holy Spirit nudges us when we stray so we can repent and turn back inside the boundary. And when we do touch that hot stove we learn a lesson in obedience. He gives us free will to choose and in our failure he nudges us back always

  • Loved the study questions in the book! If the law Jesus is referring to is the Ten Commandments, then I think when Jesus says he came to fulfill the law, he means this: he came to show us how to love God and our neighbors. It matters because this is the blueprint for how we should live our lives. But it’s also a reminder that we cannot do it alone. He gives us the strength to change our behavior with grace.

    I try to fulfill the law on my own when I try to change my behavior myself without asking the Holy Spirit for help. It never works in the moment and turns into a really frustrating experience. I also generally fail.

    How can we receive the Holy Spirit’s help? By asking for help in the moment! But to do this we have to be God-minded. We have to actually remember he is there and ready to help, even in the midst of a lot of craziness. ESPECIALLY in the midst of craziness. But as King David taught us, especially in the midst of great pleasure as well. We must always seek council from the Holy Spirit who lives in our heart (as my mom uses to tell me).

    • IAB

      Lana – I think what you are saying is so important- and as I am reading some books on parenting styles for showing Gods love and grace in our parenting – I think this is crucial – of teaching our kids how he Holy Spirit works within us. To know we fail – we make poor choices – often times repeatedly but asking the Lord and the Holy Spirit to come along side of us to help change our sinful ways is crucial ! Thank u !

    • Tochi Heredia

      “He gives us the strength to change our behavior with grace.”
      I loved this, Lana! Thank you for sharing your insight

  • I’ve read through the “Books of Law” a couple times, and I’m always overwhelmed by how many laws there are and how specific they are. Yet, the part that always stands out to me is that the Laws always come back to “because I, the Lord, love you” or “remember the Lord Your God”. This gives me hope that God did not give us the Law because “He is out to get us,” but because He loves us and He wants us to pursue Him like he has pursued us. Like the reading said, the heart behind the Law is so important! I like the way the Message puts vs. 19-“God’s Law is more real and lasting than the stars in the sky and the ground at your feet. Long after stars burn out and earth wears out, God’s Law will be alive and working.” Steadfast. Sure. Always pursuing.

  • Your playground analogy was on point. I will use that one in my Sunday School class. Thank you for this study.

  • Elisabeth7291

    I did Bible quizzing! Yes, it was intense. Corinthians here!

    • Stacey Cochran

      I did it too! I did Romans, James, Mark, Galatians, Ephesians, Phillippians, Colossians, and Philemon. I did it for several years straight. And many years out of it, I remember some, but not all. But it did give me a love of reading Scripture.

  • churchmouse

    Rebecca, your devotion gave me a headache. (speaking the truth in love here. Honest!) Through Christ I’m free from the Law as a requirement for salvation, for forgiveness of sin (ok. I got that). Yet I’m tethered to the law because I’m “called to obey the inside of the law, the truth, heart and substance behind it” (I can’t do that. I know me too well ). Following the inside of the law doesn’t provide salvation or forgiveness of sin because Christ paid that debt in full for me on the cross. But I’m still called to do it. So I’m free but not free. Thus, the headache. I feel like I’m trading one impossibility (keeping the jots and tittles ) with another impossibility (keeping the heart and substance of the law). I get the difference is that one was to obtain redemption but the other flows from redemption. I guess I’m left with leaning on the Holy Spirit to teach me. Which, I think, may be exactly the point. (I still have a headache. Maybe I’m over analyzing. Which is not your fault, Rebecca. You make me think. I tend to over analyze. And I hope I haven’t given my headache to anyone else.)

    • Christy

      It’s like going around in a circle, right? But in the middle of the circle is Jesus. If you’re just running in a circle facing forward, you get dizzy, stumble. But if you shift your focus toward him, toward the middle, you spin and spin but never fall. Just keep your focus on him, he’ll spin you.

    • Lana

      I wholeheartedly agree. There were times when Jesus flat out BROKE the law. He ate with lepers. He touched dead people. He advised NOT to stone women who have committed adultery. All those were Jewish laws that he broke.

      So to make sense of it all, I always assumed he was speaking about the Ten Commandments solo dolo. And when you break down the Ten Commandments, they’re all about loving God and your neighbor (your neighbor in particular by not taking his stuff).

      Which leads to my trusty go-to when all else fails: Mark 30:29

      29 “This is the most important,” Jesus answered:

      Listen, Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One.  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 

      31 “The second is: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other command greater than these.”

    • Anna

      When we are truly saved we will want to follow the laws. It no longer becomes a task that we dread but it becomes a want because we love Jesus. We can’t get in a legalistic mentality and think that we “add” to our salvation by works or that Jesus loves us more because of our works.
      We are called to follow Jesus and we need to do what He commands out of pure love for Him. Hope this helps!

      • LadyGal4

        Churchmouse, I completely understand your headache. But don’t forget the most important part, Christ knows we cannot fulfill the heart of the law WITHOUT Him. And we will never do this in it’s entirety on this earth, but does that mean we don’t attempt?
        Of course not. It’s daily sacrifice and and continual working toward the goal of Phillipians 3:14 “Press toward the mark of the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus”. Just like a runner, we keep that goal in our mind and we keep working towards it. I know I need Christ every day, keep doing His commands, love Him, and love others as Lana pointed out so very well.

        So don’t get bogged down with the headache :) . Look up! Take the focus off of the minutia and focus on loving Christ with your whole heart. Because when you do that, the rest will simply fall into place.

    • Marytony

      I understand your point, churchmouse. But remember, that the He makes us new. That means that he changes us from the inside out. Now obedience becomes a response to his love and salvation and not a pre-requisite to receive it. Hope this helps. :)

    • churchmouse

      Ok so this is weird that I’m replying to myself, to my earlier comment. After contemplating the Scriptures and the devotion, I come back to the Holy Spirit (which is a very good focus). I don’t have to follow the Law for two reasons : 1) I can’t and 2)Jesus fulfilled the law with His death and resurrection. BUT I am to bear fruit in His name. How do I do this? The answer is ABIDE IN HIM. Fruit only comes forth if it has stayed connected to the vine or tree. SO my focus needs to be on staying connected to Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit helps me do that. The Holy Spirit helps me stay fruitful – not an obligation (like the law) but a natural outgrowth from my connectedness. As I abide, I naturally bear fruit. There is a feeling of relief and freedom in this (which isn’t obtainable through the law). And with all this being said…. My headache is gone! Rebecca, I so appreciate that your devotion prompted me to meditate, pray and seek Him more. To Jesus, I cling. Watch out, fruit will be falling!

  • Karen From Virginia

    We not only repent of our sin but of my righteousness. My only boast is that I am covered in Jesus’ righteousness, boasting in my Savior’s cross and works. Not my own. Keep me here, Lord.

  • godlovingmum (australia)

    Loved todays devotional, and beautiful writing Rebecca. After struggling for a few weeks feeling unworthy and measuring myself far beneath other Christians who are more active in church ministry i read this and just felt a revelation of how He steps in, intercedes, fulfills, loves and that is freedom, and i choose to repent to receive that. Hallelujah, praise be to God❤xx

  • “Our “goodness” is not good enough… Only Christ’s redemption is enough.”
    I love how that is put. I so often feel that I have to measure up and be “good enough” but this is a great reminder that it’s not about reaching a certain standard of goodness but it’s about walking with Jesus and accepting his grace.

    • Brandi

      ❤️

    • PursuedByHim

      What freedom we truly have when we realize everything is about Christ and not us. It’s not about our decisions, not our mistakes, not our accomplishments, not our good days, not our bad days. It’s about Christ!

      I had a bad day at work yesterday. I reached a point where I knew tough love was called for, in a gentle manner, but most people don’t want to do that any more. They think if they cave to the squeaky wheel, the problem will go away. I am not happy about the way my superiors are handling the situation as I see it will cause a bigger problem and it won’t really go away as long as they give in to the person who complains the loudest and longest. However, I realize I need to not be angry…although I am! Reading these scriptures today and thinking through the situation, I realize my anger, justifiable as it may be, will cause me to sin and not be a good witness. It reminded me that I want more than anything to be a good witness for Christ. That revelation is freeing to m me!

      As free as we are in Christ, we will still make mistakes and not do what we know we should (or harbor anger rather than forgiveness), but God’s mercy gives us the opportunity to start over with a clean slate again and again and again! That realization is truly freeing! I am starting over today with this situation.!

    • Melanie Bisson

      This.

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