Day 4

Christ Fulfills the Law

from the The Sermon on the Mount reading plan


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

BY Rebecca Faires

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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Post Comments (65)

65 thoughts on "Christ Fulfills the Law"

  1. Lana says:

    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).

    1. IAB says:

      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 !

    2. Tochi Heredia says:

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

  2. Laura says:

    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.

  3. SusanT says:

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

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

    1. Stacey Cochran says:

      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.

  5. churchmouse says:

    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.)

    1. Christy says:

      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.

    2. Lana says:

      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.”

    3. Anna says:

      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!

      1. LadyGal4 says:

        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.

        1. Debbie Gartland says:

          Yes and Amen

    4. Marytony says:

      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. :)

    5. churchmouse says:

      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!

      1. FlipMistress says:

        I agree! I think the only time we can break the law is when it goes against the most important commnads- love the Lord your God with all your heart, and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is the most important boundary we can have.

  6. Karen From Virginia says:

    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.

    1. Carol Mylin says:

      AMEN!!!

  7. godlovingmum (australia) says:

    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

    1. aprilinsydney says:

      Hi, I’m in Australia too :)

  8. Lesley says:

    “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.

    1. PursuedByHim says:

      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.!

      1. godlovingmum (australia) says:

        Amen

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