Summary: Paul said in Romans 6:14, “we are not under law but under grace”. So does that mean the law has no value to us? If we think because we are a Christian under the new covenant we don’t have to pay any attention to the old covenant we are mistaken.
“OLD TESTAMENT LAW AND THE NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIAN”
INTRODUCTION: (‘I tell you the truth’-first instance we find this phrase is in Mt. 5). We might think that because we are a Christian and under the new covenant, as I talked about last week in the Lord’s Supper, that we don’t have to pay any attention to the old covenant. Paul said in Romans 6:14, “we are not under law but under grace”. So does that mean the law has no value? Does that mean we should ignore the law? There are some churches that stay away from the OT altogether. If we do this we are doing ourselves a great disservice. The OT has eternal value and a lot to teach us. And not just in its stories and prophecies concerning the coming of Christ but also in its law. The OT law still has value for the NT Christian. Today we’ll take a look at how and why this is true.
1) "I didn't come to delete; I came to complete!" Vs. 17-Do not think that I have come to violate or dissolve the law; but to complete it. The Beatitudes precede what Jesus said here. He was introducing some radical ideas, things the religious leaders would not have taught the people. Some may have wondered if Jesus was trying to introduce things that would be contrary to the law. Jesus needed to dispel any notion that because he was challenging the religious leaders he was in opposition to the law when in fact, he was challenging their misrepresentation of the law.
The scribes would take what was written in the law and add to it. The religious leaders sought to ‘improve’ upon the law by adding by-laws and to the existing law so as, in their minds, to make sure no one came close to breaking the law. They thought the law needed clarifications and they, in their superior wisdom, were the ones wise enough to determine what these stipulations should be. But what that served to do was burden the people. [William Barclay’s notes on the Sabbath-pg.128-129]
Jesus was in contention numerous times with the religious leaders over what they considered to be violations of the law. Jesus had to show them that actually they were the ones who were in the wrong. Matt. 15:1-6. Jesus came to bring back the true essence of the law.
Geneva bible notes: “Christ did not come to bring any new way of righteousness and salvation into the world, but indeed to fulfill that which was shadowed by the figures of the Law, by delivering men through grace from the curse of the Law: and moreover to teach the true use of obedience which the Law appointed, and to engrave in our hearts the power for obedience.”
“But to fulfill them.” Jesus came to fulfill the law in three ways: he came to fulfill it by being perfectly obedient to it, he came to fulfill the prophecies of the OT that told of his coming and he came to fulfill the requirements for the atonement for sin-this he did when he died on the cross. John Wesley reiterated vs. 17 as Jesus saying, “Think not that I am come-Like your teachers, to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy the moral law, but to fulfill-to establish, illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and doctrine.”
Part of that illustration came in Jesus clarifying what was originally intended in the declarations of the law. In the following passage (Matt. 5:21-48) Jesus establishes the deeper understanding of what was intended in the law. “You’ve heard it was said…but I tell you…” Here we see Jesus addressing the commands, ‘do not murder’ and ‘do not commit adultery’ as well as others. It may seem like what he’s doing is rewriting the law but actually what he’s doing is bringing clarity to what was originally intended regarding the law. The law was not just external; it was also to be internal. Sin was not merely an act but also a thought. Jesus didn’t come to abolish the law and he didn’t come to change the law, he didn’t come to establish new laws, he came to bring clarity to the law and to teach the people exactly what God had originally intended when he gave the law.
2) The Law is here to stay. Vs. 18-‘until heaven and earth disappear’. The bible describes that when Jesus returns and the end comes the heavens and the earth will be destroyed and there will be a new heaven and a new earth. But, until that day comes, the law of God remains. ‘Smallest letter/least stroke of a pen’-not a dot of an “i” or a cross of a “t”; as if to say, “not the smallest mark”. You’ve heard the phrase, “not one iota” it comes from the Greek word used here, representing the smallest letter (jot or tittle) the smallest Hebrew letter and the smallest mark of a pen over a letter-which in the Hebrew writings, changing even the smallest mark can change the entire meaning so it was important to write things with meticulous accuracy. It was understood that when the scribes were copying the scriptures if there was the smallest mistake made the whole manuscript would be burned and started over.