Does this mean that The Law has been nullified or disposed of under the terms of the New Covenant? Absolutely not, but this is the point where the proponents of legalism and grace both miss the mark! Many of the proponents of Sunday erroneously conclude that The Law has been rendered obsolete by the New Covenant. Likewise, many Legalists reach the mistaken conclusion that Christians are still obligated to observe most of the dos and don’ts outlined in The Law. I believe that a careful review of Scripture will show both extremes to be wrongheaded.
Jesus Christ said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 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. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19)
Jesus came to this earth to fulfill the requirements of The Law – all of them (everything in The Torah). He came here to perfectly obey all of God’s commandments, statutes, ordinances and judgments – to fill them to the full and fully accomplish God’s Will (as the original Greek wording implies). Likewise, he told his followers that he came here to fulfill the prophecies recorded about him in the Old Testament. The statement by Christ recorded in this passage from the Gospel According to Matthew is one of pure logic. If his purpose was to fulfill, it follows that his purpose was not to destroy or negate.
However, by fulfilling those requirements of The Law for us, we are no longer in a position to say that our own obedience to those precepts has earned or accomplished anything for us. In other words, we can keep the Sabbath and follow all of the other precepts contained in The Law and it will not contribute one iota to our salvation! It is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (and that sacrifice alone) that we are able to be reconciled to God and receive the gift of salvation. (II Corinthians 5:18, Ephesians 2:8-9 and Hebrews 9:6)
Paul said: “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” (Romans 3:20-28)
Does that nullify or do away with God’s commandments? Not according to the Apostle Paul. He wrote to the saints at Rome: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” (Romans 3:31) Christ didn’t nullify or destroy the law – HE FULFILLED IT. Moreover, by fulfilling that law, he established the principles behind it as holy and just for all time! Paul continued: “What shall we say then? Shall we continue to sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Romans 6:1-2)
Paul told the Romans that Christ had freed them from their past sins, and that God expected them to adhere to the principles of the law in their daily lives going forward. He wrote: “What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey: whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:15-16) Paul wanted them to understand that ignoring or willfully disobeying the principles behind God’s law was what earned them the death penalty in the first place! (Romans 6:23) What kind of benefit could any rational person expect to derive from continuing to ignore those principles going forward?
The law had effectively demonstrated what sin was – all of the dos and don’ts had meticulously defined sin. (I John 3:4 and Romans 7:7) The Israelites had the dos and don’ts, but they never understood or learned the spiritual intent of those commandments, statutes and judgments. Christ fulfilled all of the do’s and don’ts so that his people could get to the principles behind them, or as Paul phrases it “that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.” (Romans 7:6)