The law. What is it? What is the purpose? Throughout church history this has been a huge topic. Today we have an article that speaks about the Ceremonial law being fulfilled, but I would like to just stretch that further, and say it is the whole law that is fulfilled. When we read Matthew 5 we see this most clearly.
Christ is the fulfillment of the of the law
The fulfillment of the law
Ceremonies, symbols, and laws including feast days, sabbaths, temple, priest, king, prophet, clean and unclean laws, 10 commandments, and so much more point to, prophecy about, or symbolize the work and person of Jesus Christ. And it is not just these ceremonies and symbols but all the writings: narrative, prophetic, poetic, wisdom and apocalyptic, in the law, the psalms and the prophets also point to him and his work.
It is his shadow and his work that is cast backward so that throughout the Old Testament we can see the shape of the gospel of Jesus. It is as if the New Testament is the light which shines upon the Lord Jesus and his work in the Old Testament showing us the exact shape of his work for us. In that sense it is important for us to realize that there is no disconnect between the Old and the New Testament, as if they are two completely separate unrelated stories. No they are one and the same story. Yet there is something significant that is different. Very different. Just as there is a huge difference between your shadow and you. You are not your shadow. And yet your shadow is you in a sense.
This is why the author of the Hebrews says, “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming--not the realities themselves.” Or speaking about keeping certain feast days Paul tells the Colossians that these feast days “are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Or again in Hebrews 10:5, “They serve a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle, "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." You see the God wanted the shadow to fit the reality even when it came to tabernacle. It is like the old testament is the architectural drawing laying out exactly how the building would be built and the new Testament is the building itself.
For this reason, the Old Testament is written with great care, and absolute obedience to the Spirit, for they were actually looking into was the salvation that we would receive In Christ. Peter says, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.”
Christ and his work is the reality of that to which the Old Testament points. The end goal of the law was not the law, but Christ. It was he who embodied Gods law to his people perfectly. It was he who took upon himself the curses of that law and was exiled from Gods presence by hanging on the accursed tree. Thereby he set us free from under the law. From under its power of condemnation. He came to do the will of the Father? What was the will of the Father? It was revealed in the Old Testament.
So to sum up, the main purpose of the Old Testament law was to reveal what Gods perfect holiness, in setting out what he required, both in terms of what obedience looks like: perfect, and what disobedience deserves: death and eternal exile from Gods presence. Jesus fulfilled both: In his life he was perfect, in his death he received the eternal wrath of God. So that the new covenant is new not in that it is something altogether different. Not it simply means what the law required Christ did. So that he might be the end of the law, and so that we might not life under that law, but in freedom.
With this in mind then we understand a little better what it means that Christ is the fulfillment of the law. It is not as if he abolished the law and set something else in its place. No. He fulfilled in the sense that he is the end or telos of it.
So what purpose do the law and prophets have then for us?
The Purpose of the law
One if the primary uses of the law is that it reveals the sinfulness of sin, and the need for a savior. Whether it is the temple or sacrifices, or the laws. They show the need for a mediator, a perfect priest, and perfect sacrifice. We confess this at the very beginning of the Catechism in Lords day 2, where we are asked, “From where do you know your sin and misery?” and the answer is “from the law of God.” Paul echoes this in Romans 3:20, “Through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Also In romans 5:29 where he says, “Now the law come in to increase the trespass.” And in Galatians 5:18 he makes the even more powerful statement that those who are under the law are not under the Spirit.
When the law was put into effect, sin took the nature of willful disobedience, a rebellion against a God who has covenanted himself to them. The purpose of the law was to highlight the utter holiness of God on the one hand and maximize the utters sinfulness and lostness of humanity on the other. Both Driving us to the need for Christ.
Perfect obedience to the law was required for salvation. This was Paul’s contention with the Jews of his own day. They had far too shallow a few of the law. It was outward to them. It was not about the inward desires. They did not understand the depth of God’s demands on their lives. This is what the law was meant to show.
I think we can say with confidence that it is still true today. People still think outward obedience is enough. But Paul says no there is only one obedience that is sufficient, and that is the obedience that comes by faith in Christ. Or the obedience of Christ. Its amazing to me that That Romans begins and ends with that statement. In Romans 1:5 he says that he was sent “to bring the obedience of Faith.” And at the very end in 16:26 he gives glory to Jesus who came to “Bring about the obedience of faith.” How a
Therefore when we look at the Old Testament law we would speak more correctly of it being a the law of Christ. Because it is no longer Moses’ law, but Christ law that we obey. In Isaiah 42:1-4 we read that God's chosen servant will one day establish justice throughout the earth and that "the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law". If we take this passage to refer to the Messiah, then we could paraphrase it by saying that the Christ, when he comes, will teach God's law to the Gentiles. Jeremiah 31:31-34 similarly predicts the coming of a time in which disobedient Israel will receive a new covenant, consisting of a law written on the heart and therefore obeyed. This is about the law not being outside of us to condemn us anymore but written in our heart by the Spirit to make us holy. In this way the law is still our guide, but as something which is within us to guide us not without us to condemn us anymore.
There is an obedience under the law that will condemn you and an obedience of faith in Christ that will save you. How are these different? How can you tell the difference? Well on the outside you may not be able to right away. It may be that someone that is under the law is doing outwardly what someone who has the Spirit of Christ is doing. But one is doing it because Christ lives in him, the other in self-righteousness.
The Effect of the law fulfillment in us
When it comes to the law the questions is simply, ”is it wrong or right. Is it sinful or not sinful?” And then acts accordingly. That is what the law of country does. There is no relationship that compels you to obey. It is simply reward or punishment that compels you. The police officer is not there to love you, he is there to make sure you obey the law. That is in a sense how the law partially functioned. We read about this in Galatians 3. Now the long-term benefits are good of obeying the laws generally. Just like it was in the old testament. The problem was this law was so high and perfect, and supreme, they continually fell short, and the guilt piled up, and the shame that went along with it. But rather then face the fact of their own condemnation, they revised the law so that they could live up to it, and the pride and self-righteousness grew.
Then Christ came and fulfilled the law for us. In Him we don’t obey the law out of a motivation of guilt or shame, or on the other hand out of self-righteousness. Only a response of love and thanks. And how do we love him? by obeying his commands. The more someone loves and show you their love the more you live from that, and it energizes you.
And so the law of Christ goes deeper than is it right or wrong? But will this help the other person to see and know Jesus Christ better? It is about motive working out in action.
Your first motivation to buy the bag of chips that your wife loves so much is not so that you wont have guilt feelings for not doing it, but because you love her. Faith in Christ means that it is Christ that motivates us to obey not the law. I can read the hear the law a million times and not be more obedient to it. Unless you see Christ in it, you will fail.
You may ask why the pastor is not stressing obedience to the commandments more. It is because I know if I stress the work of Jesus as the telos of the law, you will live in obedience. Not out of duty, but out of joy. Not because you must but because that is your deepest desire. .
And your desires will come out in actions. Because we all always do what we want. You will be known by what you do. But it is not your fruit that defines you. It is Christ. He wants joyful obedience! You ever wonder why the NT command us to often to “be thankful” or to “be joyful.” Because if we are not joyful or thankful we simply do not understand the gospel.
So If all of life is a burden that you have to do because it is expected to you, maybe its time to throw in the towel, and give up on works righteousness that have been causing you to feel empty, doubtful, and hurt, and turn to Jesus.
You see it is so easy to become a slave to self-righteousness. To be filled with guilt and shame that you are not good enough, or doing enough, or on the other hand be filled with pride that you are good, and doing better than the sinner sitting three benches in front of you. Or become slaves to your sinful nature where all you do is follow your instinct, and gratify your every need, rather than be free from both of these. Free from all doubt, free from all guilt, free from our works because you are in Christ, free for the need to satisfy sin. While at the same time you are free to pursue holiness, free to follow Christ, free to say no because the Spirit unites you to Christ and it is a spirit of self-control.
As 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God gave us a Spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” With the Holy Spirit inside of us, we are able to possess self-control and demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit. As a result, we can live in a way that is honorable to God.
I preach to you, obedience - absolute obedience to the Lord God; God requires nothing less, nothing more. Where do you find this. In Christ. He died for you, but also lives in you. I preach the obedience of a child, not the obedience of a slave; the obedience of love, not of terror; the obedience of faith, not of dread. I urge you to a deeper faith. For that will lead to obedience. Every time our father Abraham obeyed it was because he believed the promise! Do you obey because you believe in Christ? In every case in which you and I shall render true obedience, it will be the product of our faith. If it does not flow from faith no matter if you are doing the worlds greatest deed it is not good in the sight of God.
If any of you are now disobedient, or have been so, the road to a better state of things is trust in God. You cannot hope to render obedience by the more forcing of conduct into a certain groove or habits, or by a personal, unaided effort of resolve. There is a free-grace road to obedience, and that is receiving, by faith, the Lord Jesus, who is the gift of God, and is our sanctification. We accept the Lord Jesus by faith, and he teaches us obedience, and creates it in us. The more of faith in him you have, the more of obedience to him will you manifest.