“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”
Jesus did not come to destroy the law, as many were accusing Him of, especially the Pharisees. These Pharisees were listening to Christ’s teach and thought to themselves that this was new teaching and must be stopped. The law was established for the Jews and no on had the right to change the law except Messiah Himself. Of course, we know that Jesus was their Messiah, but we will put that aside for this post. The teaching Jesus came with did not destroy the law/ His teaching strengthened the law and made it even harder to obey. Then he says He came to fulfill the law. The Greek word for fulfill used here means to fill completely, or obey completely. Christ came and obeyed every step of the law. He was sinless and never broke any law that the Old Testament declared.
What truly happened is that the religious leaders of the day got caught up in the letter of the law. They saw the law word for word, memorized it, studied it and taught it day after day. The law encompasses the first five book so of the Bible. It became as familiar to them as the Lord’s Prayer is to us today. They could recite it word for word, but they could not see the deeper meaning behind the words. They missed what the spiritual applications were and they carried on as if they knew everything about this law.
We have a lot of people and churches today who live by the letter of the law philosophy. They demand you wear long sleeves, a white shirt and tie to every service because this shows dignity and honor to God. It is true that this honors God, but there is no Biblical reference on how to dress when we approach God. Others demand a women should not teach, or that women should not wear jewelry and must always put their hair up. These types of laws are the letter of the law, not the spirit of the law. The purpose of Paul saying things like this is that those who worshipped pagan gods adorned themselves lavishly with make-up and jewelry. Paul was saying that’s not necessary to please the true God. These types of outward appearance laws can also lead to piety and pride in an individual. I can identify with this because I used to be one who wore suit and tie every service. I always said it was to honor God as I was part of the leadership in the church. But when I think about it, the upscale clothing was only meant to impress others that I was more spiritual because I was going to dress appropriately for God. God is concerned with what is in our hearts, not our outward appearance.
Let’s look at some examples of how Jesus made the law even more difficult to follow. Many of these are in our future path to study, so I will try to be brief here. I don’t want to give away anything!
Matthew 5:18 – 47 is a part of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus compares the letter of the law with the spirit of the law.
Concerning Righteousness – The pharisees were seen as the most righteous people. Jesus says our righteousness must exceed theirs (Matthew 5:20)
On murder – The 6th commandment says thou shall not kill. Exodus 21:12 says if a man intentionally kills another they shall be put to death. Jesus goes many steps further by saying if we are angry with our brother we will face the council and if we call him a fool we are in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:22)
On our offerings to God – the OT put these offerings above everything else. Jesus said we should reconcile with our brother if He has offended us before offering our gift (Matthew 5:24-25).
On committing adultery – the 8th commandment condemns adultery In the OT, adultery is defined as sleeping with someone else while you are married. Jesus takes it a long way further by saying we commit adultery even if we look at a woman with lust (Matt 5:28).
On divorce – the Old Testament authorized a bill of divorcement for any reason. Jesus says if we put our wife away for anything but fornication, we cause her to commit adultery, and we commit adultery if we marry a divorced woman (Matthew 5:27-28).
In other places, He tells us to turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:38-40), to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41) and to lend our coat as well as our shirt (Matthew 5:40). Jesus always taught to go a step further than the law. He taught us to have mercy at all times.
There are many more examples, but I will stop there as a lot of this material will be covered in future lessons. The point is that the spirit of the law goes much deeper then the letter of the law. It goes into the very heart of a man or a woman and examines the inner thoughts and intents. When Jesus says He came to fulfill the law, He means that He came to show us the complete law, not just what is on the surface.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
This one verse really sums up what Jesus is saying. He is the Word made flesh (John 1:14). The word of God carries power all of its own. It is the most powerful force in the universe. When we stand on the word of God, we stand on a power that is eternal. It has been here since before time and will still stand when time ends. It is stronger than any force on earth or in hell. When the Word is applied to our situation, we can be sure the answer is on its way.
When the Word is applied to us, though, it’s power will infiltrate our very being. It divides the soul and spirit. There is nothing on earth that can accomplish this. It makes us realize what is in our soul that even our mind does not know. The Word will reveal our pride, our anger, our offenses and many other things that we can put out of our mind. It will bring to remembrance things from our past that will help us solve what is going on in our present situation. The Holy Spirit will then convict us of sin, righteousness and judgment (John 16:8-13). Our soul will want to hang onto sin, but our spirit will agree with the Holy Spirit. If we are listening, this is a moment when we can change the direction of our lives, Following the Spirit will have eternal effects.
When the word is applied to us, it divides the joint and marrow. The joint represents our physical body, that which makes us move about and do the things we do,. The marrow is where the blood is made, representing the inner workings of our very being. When
The Word divides these two, it starts to put into action those things that our inner spirit knows are right and good. In other words, we start to act more Christ-like in the things we do. The Word comes in and the Spirit starts to transform us into His image, perfecting us in our actions. This can be seen in everything we do and say. People around us are amazed by the changes taking place in our lives, and they start to ask. We then have an opportunity to witness to them about our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.
Lastly, the word discerns the thoughts and intents of our heart. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings” The Holy Spirit knows our heart, and it is searched by the Word of God. Do we really want to know God and draw closer to Him? Do we really want to be perfected by His love? Then we must allow His word to search our hearts. We must ask Him to search us and see if there be any wicked way in me. God knows if there is, but we do not. The Holy Spirit and the Word discern these things for us, not for God. The challenge here is to allow the Word to become more real than it ever has before. Allow it to penetrate your mind and really sink in.
The best Bible study I have ever been through is called “The Walk of Repentance” by Steve Gallagher. It is readily available on Amazon. This is a 24 week daily Bible study that will take you into every nook and cranny of your life. It will really make you take a hard look at your life and your actions against what the Word of God says. My good friend and I will be starting this book for a second time in a few months. We have decided we need this kind of study on a regular basis to keep ourselves walking uprightly before God. I challenge you today to take it up for the first time. It will bless you tremendously, I guarantee. But it will also challenge you deeply. If it does not, I personally will refund the cost of the book to you. But you must stay with it daily and finish the book to get this refund. I am not too worried about having to pay it back to you.
I went into this verse to show you the depth of the Spirit of the Law, or the Word. The way the Pharisees heard Jesus, He was destroying the Word that they protected with all their might. However, Jesus was showing them the deeper, spiritual part of the law that they were missing. They were only concerned with the outward law. In Matthew 23, Jesus pronounces woe to the scribes and Pharisees for several reasons. One of these reasons is that they ”shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Matt 23:13). In other words, they did not show them the true meaning behind the law that would get them to heaven because they did not take the time to understand it themselves.
Another of these is that they told people anyone who took an oath by the temple or altar, it was nothing, but whoever would swear by their offering or by gold, it meant everything. Here they ignored the fact that the temple and the alter are the spiritual aspects of their offerings of gold and other things, and are much more powerful to take an oath on.
A third is that they tithed the things they were supposed to tithe, which was good, but they forget to give out mercy, judgment and faith, which were the weightier matters of the law. They missed that God required these as well.
Let us not be so. Let us make sure we are following the spirit of the law in everything we do. Jesus revealed these things to us and that is how He fulfilled the law – He made it complete for us to understand. We now know what is required of us. Let us do all we can to learn this truth. Allow God to search you today and let you know where you fall short. We all do in some ways, and God is just waiting for you to ask. Get into the Word.