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To Fulfill the Law

Pastor Dennis Smith

In the Gospel of Matthew, we find four great sections or blocks of Jesus’ teachings, each marked by a statement something like, “And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings…” (Matthew 7:28). The passage that we call the Sermon on the Mount in chapters five through seven is the first of these magnificent discourses.

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says the following: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” This statement actually sets the stage for much of what follows in the Sermon on the Mount. What did Jesus mean when he said he came to “fulfil” the law and the prophets? First let us understand that, by the law and the prophets, he was referring to the entire Old Testament. Jesus was saying that he had come to bring to realization all the promises and prophecies of the Scriptures. Now, there are those who would see Jesus’ words as a statement of commitment to keep or perform all the commandments of the Old Testament. We can certainly see that only Jesus, the God-Man, could do that. But I think that interpretation is inadequate.

I suspect that Jesus came to do more than just keep the letter of the law. I believe he came to reveal by his life and his teaching the spirit behind the letter of the law — to give man a fuller view of what the Scriptures really demand. As we read on in this passage we see Jesus expanding on the mere external requirements of the law. He explained that it was not good enough simply to refrain from murdering anyone: unrighteous anger can put a person in jeopardy of judgment. Refraining from the act of adultery was not good enough: a lustful gaze condemns us.

And so we begin to get the picture — it’s what’s inside us that is the problem. Jesus came to make that clear to us; part of what he meant by fulfilling the law was that he came to strip away our flimsy excuses that we have never killed anybody, never committed adultery, never… you fill in the blank. In light of the fullness that Jesus brought to the law, every person stands condemned and in need of the salvation that only he can provide.

As we seek to serve the Lord outwardly during these difficult and unusual times, let’s not forget to take stock of our inward and secret thoughts, desires, and feelings, and submit them to the Lord’s scrutiny and judgment. It might be helpful to pray as David did in Psalm 139:23-24:

"Search me, O God, and know my heart: Try me, and know my thoughts: And

see if there be any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting."

Perhaps the Lord wants to make you aware of something deep within you which, though hidden from men, is displeasing to him and hindering your Christian walk in ways you might never have guessed. It might be some bitterness, discontent, anger, fear, anxiety, impurity or...

Confess it and don’t let it stand in the way of your walk with God or your usefulness to his kingdom.

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