The Law of God Fulfilled
Open Your Bible
Exodus 20:1-17, Matthew 5:17-19, Romans 8:1-4
My first semester of college, a friend invited me to a teaching and worship service. I went, and was stunned by the beauty of singing old hymns set to new tunes and hearing the gospel preached like I never had before. I had always been a “good Christian kid,” but that identity was based on following the rules. I can specifically point to the moment when my heart changed, and I understood how wrong I’d been. It was when we sang this hymn:
Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Bruised and broken by the fall;
If you tarry ’til you’re better,
You will never come at all.
Not the righteous, not the righteous;
Sinners Jesus came to call.
It shook the foundation I had been standing on for so long: follow the rules, don’t sin, and then God will love you. It said, quite simply, the opposite of that: Come, when you feel like you can’t or shouldn’t, because He has done all the work for you… and wants you anyway. Even now, typing the words, my breath catches in my throat. Could this really be true?
Romans 8 tells us that “there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus … What the law could not do since it was weakened by the flesh, God did” (vv.1,3). We stand before God, wearing the righteousness of Christ, not by our own doing but because of His life, death, and resurrection. Now, there is no condemnation. None. Not tomorrow, or the next day, or when we “figure things out,” or “do enough” to make ourselves worthy of His love.
Rereading the law in Exodus 20 today is sobering; I break those commandments by the day, and sometimes the hour. I covet as often as I breathe. I serve all sorts of idols, material and spiritual. I lie and cheat, in small ways and seemingly insignificant circumstances: “I’ll be there in 10 minutes,” I type, when my GPS says I’m 15 minutes away. I want them to think I’m responsible, that I have it together, I think to myself, trying to justify my actions.
My sin is double-edged: despite knowing the law, I break it, though I could never follow it anyway. The cycle of sin is endless, because we can never get out of the mire by ourselves. The law reveals our sinful nature, and we cannot do what it takes to follow it. We are sinful, and the law is a mirror that reveals our sin to us as if it were a stain on a shirt. But there is nothing we can do to remove that stain.
And so Jesus came and fulfilled the law perfectly, because of God’s great love for us (Ephesians 2:4–5). What Jesus says regarding the law in Matthew 5 is particularly important, because Jesus “did not come to abolish but to fulfill” the law (v.17). The law still matters, but it does not have the last word—Jesus does.
This is the hope we have during Advent, and all year long. Because our hope is in Jesus and not our ability to follow the law, we do not have to tarry or wait until we have it all together. That day will never come. But by His Spirit, we can come freely when He calls.