A Note on Christ Talking About Fulfilling the Law and the Prophets

Summary

Christ came to fulfil not to destroy the law (law of Moses) and prophets (Matthew 5:17-20).

So then a fundamental question is: Are Christians obligated to obey the law of Moses to be righteous?

The scripture (Rom 10:4) says Christ is the end of the law (of Moses) and through Christ the believer fulfils the righteousness of God’s law by walking after the Spirit not after the flesh (Rom 8:4; 2 Cor 5:21; Galatians 3:21-29; Phil 3:9).

Indeed, it is by grace we are saved through faith to work the works of him who has saved and sent us (John 9:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Phil 1:6) for salvation is a gift from God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8) through Christ for which we ought to be thankful (Romans 7:25). In other words, we are not saved by works; but we, are saved to work (Matthew 5:16; James 1:22; 2:26); we are saved to live a saved life.

The believer (Christian) being dead to the law (Romans 7:1-6) lives this saved life of grace through a repentant (Matthew 4:17; Acts 2:38) faith (John 14:1-6;  Hebrews 12:1-4; 1 John 4:1-6) which seeks (Matthew 6:33) and sincerely (not pretend) strives (Hebrews 12:4) to walk after the Holy Spirit (John 6:63; 14:26; 16:7, 13; 1 John 22:23; Matthew 23:8; Psalms 33:6; Galatians 5:22-25) not continuing in sin (Romans 6:1-2) by walking after the flesh (Rom 8:3; 2 Cor 3:7; Galatians 3:1-5; 5:19-21; Col 3:5-6; Heb 7:18-19; James 4:4) but in obedience (John 8:31-32; 14:15-24) to the spirit of rather than the letter of God’s law/commandments (2 Cor 3:6; Romans 7:6). 

We so live confessing and repenting (1 John 1:9) of our failure (Romans 3:23; 7:14-24) to obey God having confidence God forgives us of our sins (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:6-7).

We so live not to get righteous but because we are righteous by our faith (Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:3-25) in the prophetic, Holy Spirit conceived, virgin born, sinless sacrificial lamb of God, crucified unto actual physical death, buried, resurrected, presented, and ascended Christ Jesus who came not to save a person from other people sins but to save a person from his/her own sins, not to save Israel from other nations  (Luke 19:10; John 18:33-37). 

Christians live under the New Covenant law of Christ and prophecies (fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled) which is superior to and better than the Old Covenant law of Moses (Hebrews 7:12, 22; 8:6-13; 9:11-17).  We so live recognizing that Christ will return to judge (Matthew 7:12-27; 19:28; Hebrews 9:27-28) each person unto eternal life or eternal death/damnation.

Details

As one considers these verses one should note the context.  This is part of what is called the Sermon on the Mount as Christ went upon an unnamed mountain to speak to the people. One would expect that he is mostly speaking to Jews/Israelites; but, there may have been others there since it was a public space.

Christ speaks of him coming to fulfill the law and the prophets not to destroy or do away with either. He says as long as heaven and earth exist, even the smallest part of the law would exist. Also, he says to teach them and obey them is better than to teach others to disobey even the smallest part of them and to disobey them oneself.  He indicates the scribes and Pharisees taught them but taught them wrongly and did not obey them (Matthew 23:3).  Christ said to enter the kingdom of heaven one must exceed their righteousness.

The Jews/Israelites of course knew about the law of Moses and at this point that would have been the law that was in their minds. So then Christ reference to law is a reference to the law of Moses when one considers the context.  However, God’s law is not limited to the law of Moses (e.g., Genesis 1:28-29; 2:17; Rom 8:2; Gal 6:2; 1 Cor 9:21) as shall be somewhat discussed later.  But again, in the context of these verses it is reasonable to presume Christ is limiting law to the law of Moses though he does not explicitly reference Moses.

Christ reference to prophets is a reference to what the prophets had said up to that point and would later say, for example, as in the case of John as recorded in Revelation.

Christ said he did not come to do away with the law; but, he came to fulfil the law and prophesies about him.  Indeed, he fulfilled some while he was here in the flesh whereas the time for others fulfillment is after his ascension (Luke 24:44; Acts 3:18).

Indeed, after Christ resurrection he appeared to the apostles speaking about all things that must be fulfilled concerning him.  For Christ says

(Luke 24:44)  And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.

So then are Christians obligated to obey the law of Moses to be righteous

In one of the pastoral epistles of God Paul (Romans 10:1-4) speaks of the end of the law (law of Moses). The context of the law in Romans 10:4 has to be the law of Moses just like in Matthew 5:17-18. 

(Rom 10:4)  For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.

And says:

(2 Cor 5:21)  For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

Indeed, it is by grace we are saved through faith to work the works of him who has saved and sent us (John 9:4; Ephesians 2:8-10; Phil 1:6) for salvation is a gift from God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8) through Christ for which we ought to be thankful (Romans 7:25). In other words, we are not saved by works; but we, are saved to work (Matthew 5:16; James 1:22; 2:26); we are saved to live a saved life.

So then Paul speaks of fulfillment of the law with respect to the believer beyond that which Christ fulfilled that was about Christ (Romans 8:1-6) saying:

(Rom 8:4)  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

So again God says through Paul by the Holy Spirit:

(2 Cor 3:6)  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

and

(Rom 7:6)  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

So then the believer strives to follow the Holy Spirit in obeying the spirit of the law of God not the letter of it.  

The believer (Christian) being dead to the law (Romans 7:1-6) lives this saved life of grace through a repentant (Matthew 4:17; Mark 6:12; Luke 13:1-5; Acts 2:38) faith (John 14:1-6; Hebrews 12:1-4; 1 John 4:1-6) which seeks (Matthew 6:33) and sincerely (not pretend) strives (Hebrews 12:4) to walk after the Holy Spirit (John 14:26; 16:13; 1 John 2:27) not continuing in sin (Romans 6:1-2) by walking after the flesh but in obedience (John 8:31-32; 14:15-24; 15:10-14; 1 John 2:3-5; 5:2-3; 2 John 1:6; 2 Cor 5:14-15) to the spirit of rather than the letter of God’s law/commandments (2 Cor 3:6; Romans 7:6).  We so live confessing and repenting (1 John 1:9) of our failure (Romans 3:10, 23; 7:14-24; Galatians 5:17) to obey God having confidence God forgives us of our sins (Acts 10:43; Ephesians 1:6-7). We so live not to get righteous but because we are righteous by our faith (Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:3-25) in the prophetic, Holy Spirit conceived, virgin born, sinless sacrificial lamb of God, crucified unto actual physical death, buried, resurrected, presented, and ascended Christ Jesus who came not to save a person from other people sins but to save a person from his/her own sins, not to save Israel from other nations  (Luke 19:10; John 18:33-37).  Christians live under the New Covenant law of Christ and prophecies (fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled) which is superior to and better than the Old Covenant law of Moses (Hebrews 7:12, 22; 8:6-13; 9:11-17).  We so live recognizing that Christ will return to judge (Matthew 7:12-27; 19:28; John 5:22, 27, 30; 12:47-48; Acts 10:42; 17:30-31; Romans 2:16; 2 Cor 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; 2 Tim 4:8; Rev 19:11) each person unto eternal life in heavenly bliss (John 3:16; 5:24; Rev 3:20-21; 21:7, 27) or unto eternal death/damnation in a place/condition labeled hell and lake of fire (Matthew 10:28-31; 23:33; Luke 16:23; Rev 1:18; 20:11-15; 21:8).

God through Paul by the Holy Spirit says those who are disciples of Christ are not judged by the law with respect to salvation and righteousness. For the law condemns to death since all are transgressors of the law of Moses and the law of Christ (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23; (Romans 7:14-24)); but Christ grants life (Romans 7:25).  All are to be judged by Christ based on whether our faith is after the Spirit or after the flesh (John 3:16-21; Romans 8:1-5).

So then Christ rescues (purchased, forgives, redeems, pays spiritual death penalty) the believer who walks after the Spirit rather after the flesh so that the believer’s righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.

Believers are not released to disobey the law of God under Christ (the law of Christ).

For in one of God’s pastoral epistles, Paul says the believer is not outside the law of God but under the law of Christ (1 Cor 9:20-21) and gives an example (Galatians 6:2) of the law of Christ.  In so doing, Paul says he and all believers are not to live outside the law of God but are to live under the law of Christ such that the law of Christ is the law of God and the law of God is the law of Christ.

What then is the law of Christ which is the law of God?  It is ultimately the law of love.

For in answering the question of what is the greatest commandment in the law, Christ responds as recorded in Matthew 22:34-40.

For clearly Christ is saying if we love God as we ought and love one another and ourselves as we ought then we will be obedient to his commandments as expressed in the law and the prophets.  For those who heard Christ of that day, the law in Matthew 22:34-40 spoken of was the law of Moses.  But for us who hear today after the law of Christ has taken effect under the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:11-17), it applies to the law of Christ for there is no law now for the believer other than the law of Christ (law of God under Christ).

Indeed, the Ten Commandments are divisible into two major sections as given in Exodus 20:1-17. Section 1 (Exodus 20:1-7) is about loving God first and foremost above all persons, places, and things.  Section 2 (Exodus 20:8-17) is about loving one another as one loves himself/herself.

Indeed, Christ says if you love me keep my commandments (John 14:15) and through John says God’s commandments are not grievous (1 John 5:3).

So then ultimately the question about Matthew 5:17-20 is how does the law of Christ which is the law of God under Christ relate to the law of Moses?

First let us observe that law has two components:  the requirement component and a penalty or sentencing component.

Now then let us observe that the law of Christ is superior to and better than the law of Moses (Hebrews 8:6-13).  For the law of Moses pronounced the sentence of death to those who violate certain laws which God considered severe enough and have sinful humans the authority to put to death.  This includes adultery.  But let us look what the law of Christ which is the law of God under Christ says.  For me, the best example is found in John 8:1-11 concerning the woman caught in the act of adultery.  I will only summarize.

They caught her and she was guilty.  Moses said condemn her to death now and kill her now.  Christ says to them who among you is guiltless so as to be righteous enough to condemn her to death.  They all left because they all knew that none of them was guiltless since if you violate any part of the law you are guilty of the law (James 2:8-11).

Christ said unto her neither do I condemn you go and sin no more.  Christ did not say she was innocent but in fact pronounced her guilty in telling her to go and not do that or any other sin. That is the grace of God that Christ gave to her that he died to give to all who come to him. He gave us a precursor to what it would be like after the law of Moses was ended by the law of Christ in Christ ushering in the New Covenant.

So in the case of the woman caught in the act of adultery Christ changed the law of God so that under the law of Christ the requirement remained but he took away the authority of humans to issue the punishment (penalty, sentencing).

Christ and the apostles make it clear that Christ reserves that punishment even the punishment of eternal death in Hell unto himself (Matthew 28:18; 2 Cor 5:10; Phil 2:9-11; Hebrews 9:27-28; Luke 13:28).

So then Christ did not destroy the law but he changed the law by removing the authority of humans to issue the sentence of death for any sin reserving it unto himself.

But Christ also expanded the law concerning adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

So then the law of Christ is the law of God under Christ; but, it is not the same as the law of Moses.  In fact, the law of Christ is written on the hearts of the believer by the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit sees fit (Matthew 10:19-20; Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 16:13; Hebrews 8:10-11; 1 John 2:27).  This does not mean that we don’t teach each other; it rather refers to the availability of the Holy Spirit to teach the believer. How do I know this is so?  Because John in concert with Paul in Hebrews 8:10-11 says it is so even as he teaches others:

(1 John 2:27)  But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

The law of Christ (law of God under Christ) includes certain aspects of the law of Moses but excludes other aspects of it.  Those aspects of the law of Moses included in the law of Christ are expressed in numerous places in the New Testament including, but not limited to, the Ten Commandments.  Those aspects of the law of Moses excluded from the law of Christ are also expressed in numerous places in the New Testament including, but not limited to, the law of tithing and law of animal sacrifice.

So then again we do not have the right to do wrong by violating the law.  What law?  It cannot be the law of Moses. For Christ is the end of the law of Moses.  So then it must be the law of Christ (the law of God under Christ).

For Christ himself says:

(John 8:31)  Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

(John 8:32)  And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

So then Paul says:

(Rom 6:1)  What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

The answer is God forbid (No, Away with such a thought, don’t even dare to think that way).

So again God says through Paul by the Holy Spirit:

(2 Cor 3:6)  Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.

and

(Rom 7:6)  But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.

So then the relationship between the law of Moses and the law of Christ is that we are called to obey the spirit of the law of Moses and not the letter of it for we are not under the law of Moses.

And so we are exhorted:

(Heb 12:1)  Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

(Heb 12:2)  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

(Heb 12:3)  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

(Heb 12:4)  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

And Paul says:

(Eph 1:3)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:
(Eph 1:4)  According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
(Eph 1:5)  Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
(Eph 1:6)  To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.
(Eph 1:7)  In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

For as Peter says:

(1 Pet 1:3)  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

(1 Pet 1:4)  To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

(1 Pet 1:5)  Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

And John says:

(Rev 21:1)  And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

(Rev 21:2)  And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

(Rev 21:3)  And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

(Rev 21:4)  And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

For Christ says:

(Luk 19:10)  For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.

(Joh 15:13)  Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Halleluiah

All Praises to the Most High God

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Sin and Salvation Christianity

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