Summary: This sermon explores the relevancy of God’s Law and the only who ever truly fulfilled it. Jesus expected his disciples to experience that fulfillment in him.
The Law Keeper
Introduction: Holier Than Thou
When I was a freshman in High School, I was referred to in this way. It wasn’t intended as a compliment. I made some of my peers uncomfortable. I didn’t cuss, drink, smoke, or any of that bad boy stuff. I would later go through some of those, but at this time in my life I still felt pretty good about myself. I excelled in external righteousness. IOW, I looked like a pretty good Christian. That was after all what I had perceived Christianity to be all about. He who kept the rules the best was the best Christian. Who came to church the most? Who could recite the correct doctrinal positions on every issue? Who could say they had not drank, smoked, or cussed? Who could claim they had last prayed for forgiveness since their last sin?
I was pretty good at all that, but there were problems with pride. That pride blinded me from my own motivations for my “holier than thou” life, which was more about appearances than devotion to Jesus. This would lead to my downfall.
Why do I tell you all of this? Because we all still fall into the trap of pride based on external law keeping, but we need to remember that to keep the law is to do so perfectly or to be in violation of the entire law. So, is that what we want our relationship with God to be based on? But Jesus teaches us that the Law must be fulfilled. How is that going to take place in our life? How can I fulfill the law in a way that goes beyond superficial law keeping and do so perfectly? That’s not only an important question, but it is crucial to issue of my salvation. For I simply cannot go before God with the law unfulfilled in my life. Here’s what Jesus had to say about the Law (Read Text).
Move 1: Jesus came to fulfill the law.
Jesus wanted to head off any misunderstanding about the things he had to say about following him. He didn’t want anyone to think that he was there to do away with the Law. Jesus said some radical things and he often did not observe the law the way the Pharisees wanted. So, this led to some to think that Jesus didn’t regard the law. But Jesus knew and taught that the law pointed to someone beyond itself. It pointed to his coming and to his fulfilling or completing of the law. Most importantly he sought to fulfill the law in his death. For since no one had ever kept it perfectly it required the death of the one who had kept it perfectly on behalf of all of us who had not.
Jesus fulfills the law! That is good news to us, since it has already been done, maybe we don’t have to worry about the law anymore. Maybe it can be set aside and we can live our lives without regard to law. After all, we’ve always emphasized that we are NT Christians, so what do we want with that OT Law anyway?! But not so fast Jesus says!
Move 2: The law remains.
Jesus again does not want to be misunderstood. He is not saying that because he fulfills the law that it will no longer have any relevance to the disciple. In fact, he is saying just the opposite. He tells us in no uncertain terms that the law is not going anywhere. Not even the smallest dot of a letter will go away as long as heaven and earth remain!
Now this is challenging to what we have often taught. We’ve said that the Old Law was done away with and that it was no longer binding on us. Really? Have heaven and earth passed away? Then it is safe to assume that the law is still in effect. It is an extreme position to say that the law has been done away with. Another extreme is to say that it applies to all people of all time in exactly the same way. Both reflect a misunderstanding of the law.
The LOM is not the fullest revelation of God’s Law, but simply an expression of God’s Law given to a specific people, for a specific purpose in time. Therefore, it is foolish to insist that we must keep the covenant of circumcision, the Sabbath, and animal sacrifice for all time. That brings the focus back to the externals and not the eternal principles behind the LOM. We no longer need animal sacrifices because those sacrifices pointed to the need for a once for all sacrifice through Jesus. But that doesn’t invalidate the principle that sacrifice was needed to deal with sin, rather it affirms it. This extreme leaves us trapped in legalism.