The Law of the Kingdom

from the The Kingdom of God reading plan

Matthew 5:17-48, Matthew 13:47-52, Psalm 40:6-8, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:8, Mark 12:28-34

BY Rebecca Faires

Our relationship to the Old Testament law is changed in Jesus, who fulfills the law and clarifies the ethics that characterize the kingdom.

My last name is Faires. It’s pronounced “Ferris.” Yes, like Ferris Bueller. Or “ferrous,” as in something containing iron. Not “fairies,” like a group of woodland sprites. Nor is it “fairs,” like the plural of an event involving both cotton candy and hogs. And the plural of Faires (no matter how I try to avoid it by patiently writing out “The. Faires. Family.”) just has to be Faireses. This is a mouthful and, honestly, more of the letter “s” than I’d like to see before I’ve had my morning coffee. This occasionally leads to us being introduced not as the scribes, but as the “The Fairesees.” And I want to tell you that we (a little bit) deserve it.

No matter how well I comprehend the doctrines of grace, I still give myself a smug little “well done” if I manage to maintain a holy composure for one entire church service. It’s so easy for me to get distracted from the goodness of the Lord by the purported goodness of Rebecca. Are you, too, tempted to revel in your own rule-following and self-proclaimed goodness? 

The Pharisees were excellent rule-followers. They loved rules so much they made up extra ones. They had rules for everything. And they didn’t just stick with the Ten Commandments. They had a multitude of additions, subpoints, and expansions. And they were serious about each of them. They instructed others that this was how people merited heaven: by keeping the Law and the traditions.

And works-to-righteousness legalism is so appealing on the surface, because finally it feels like there’s something we can do to secure salvation for ourselves. The problem with legalism is that while it seems to uphold the law to a serious degree, it actually undermines it.

This is why Jesus was opposed to the supposed “righteousness” of the Pharisees. But He rejected their legalistic notions in a peculiar way. You’d think that the way to reject legalism would be to swing to the opposite perspective: antinomianism, or the rejection of rules altogether. The Pharisees thought the keeping of the Law would save them. Antinomians thought the law was not worth a second thought, and that grace would save them no matter what degrading sins they could dredge up. 

But Jesus said: “I did not come to abolish [the Law] but to fulfill” it (Matthew 5:17). Jesus rejects both a legalistic and an antinomian use of the Law. The law of God—not the heaped-up additions of men—must be fulfilled to the fullest degree. The law must pierce our hearts and change not only our external behavior, but our every thought and attitude. The law must be fulfilled perfectly: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). What an impossible standard!

The Pharisees, in truth, made little of the true Law, but made much of their own law-keeping. Christ came to fulfill the Law perfectly, so that repentant Pharisees and antinomians like you and me could have peace with God.

Post Comments (38)

38 thoughts on "The Law of the Kingdom"

  1. Paula Strong says:

    Oh how I remember being a Mon to four small children. It was near impossible to get those moments. Of course now I would do anything to have that time back. Now I still stay busy. Funny how you find so many ways to be busy. But now I just have to stop and spend my time with the Lord. Moms just do your best. Listen to the podcasts as you drive or do some chores. Pray throughout the day as you can. Quick prayers is all I could do. You will get have plenty of time when the kids are older – don’t worry it comes faster than you think. People used to tell me that and I would say yeah yeah yeah. Well it’s true. I promise. You are doing important God work right now. Praying for you and a little jealous.

  2. Brandy Deruso says:

    Lord i thank you for being free in you!

  3. Jen Brewer says:

    Thank you sweet sisters for all the encouragement to us mommas of littles. Very well said Churchmouse and free indeed. Reading the word before I go to bed as both my littles are asleep and have both kept me up the past 3 nights as I’m recovering from being sick. So easy to get angry and frustrated and then that spewing on to them during the day. Relate to another sister’s comment about wanting to speak life over my children! Thank you, Jesus, for being with me as I raise these children you gave me. It’s ok if I am two days behind in the reading. I’m where you want me to be in this season. Love to all you SRT family ❤️

  4. Julia Brown says:

    Free Indeed this is just what I needed to hear this morning! There is so much value in being in the word, but so often I just want to tune everyone out for a few minutes and dive into a book or mindlessly scroll. But choosing to be in the word is of so much value, even though it often seems in vain or like no one sees. Or that there is no immediate reward. Thank you for reminding me that choosing the word is always better. Thank you for the encouragement and understanding that while I don’t always want to choose the word it is always the better choice!!

  5. ADB says:

    Thank you!

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