The Scriptorium

Fulfilling the Old Law

Jesus fulfilled it, and so must we. Matthew 5.17, 18

Matthew 5: The Sermon on the Mount: Righteousness (4)

Pray Psalm 19.7, 8.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes…

Sing with a grateful heart Psalm 19.7, 8.
(St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The Law of God is perfect, His testimony sure.
The simple man God’s wisdom learns, the soul receives its cure.
God’s Word is right, and His command is pure, and truth imparts;
He makes our eyes to understand; with joy He fills our hearts.

Read
Matthew 5.1-18; meditate on verses 17, 18.

Prepare.
1. Did Jesus think the Law of God was no longer valid?

2. How much of the Law did Jesus consider to be valid?

Meditate.
The apostle Paul insisted that the Law of God is righteous (Rom. 7.12). That lines up perfectly with Jesus’ teaching about the Law in this section, where He is expanding on the idea of righteousness. If we want to know what righteousness looks like, all we have to do is read the Law of God.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law. He did this in two ways. First, He completely obeyed it, without failing in one jot or tittle. Second, He bore the judgments of the Law of God for us, who cannot fulfill the Law of God, although we are expected to obey it. All the Law is fulfilled in Jesus, but not so that we can regard it as having passed away, or that we need no longer obey it. All of our salvation is fulfilled in Jesus; but that doesn’t mean everyone will be saved. Only those who fulfill their end of what God requires – repentance and faith in Jesus – will know the salvation of the Lord. And only those who work out their salvation in fear and trembling, day by day, will know more of our great salvation. Jesus’ fulfilling the Law shows us what our responsibility is as well. We work to fulfill the Law, not to be saved, but because we are saved, and seek the Kingdom and righteousness of God as the defining priority in life (Matt. 6.33).

All the apostles are agreed that we are still in the process of fulfilling the Law according to our part (cf. Rom. 3.31; Jms. 2.10-12; 1 Jn. 5.1-3; etc.). By obeying the Law, Jesus showed us just how important the Law is, not how irrelevant – as some Christians today seem to think. By neglecting the Law, we encourage lawlessness (which leads to a lack of love, Prov. 28.4; Matt. 24.12), and we hinder the efficacy of our prayers (Prov. 28.9).

The Law and the Prophets teach us how to love God and our neighbors (Matt. 22.34-40). Why would God ever want these to be neglected or ignored? Even the smallest details of the Law (jots and tittles) have power to teach us how to love God and our neighbors. And good works of love are the hallmark of true righteousness.

Reflect.
1. How did Jesus fulfill the Law? How should you fulfill it?

2. We’re not saved by the good works of the Law; but we’re not saved without them. Explain.

3. What would you say to a fellow believer who said we don’t need the Law of God anymore?

The Son of God, who is the author of the law and the prophets, did not come to abolish the law or the prophets. He gave the people the law that was to be handed down through Moses, and he imbued the prophets with the Holy Spirit for the preaching of the things to come. Therefore he said, “I have come not to abolish the law and the prophets but to fulfill them.”
Chromatius (fl. ca. 400), Tractate on Matthew 20.1.1-2

Show me how to delight and walk in Your Law today, O Lord, as I…

Pray Psalm 19.9-14.
Thank God for His Law – the Ten Commandments and the various precepts, rules, testimonies, and statutes that clarify and explain how the Commandments apply to our lives. Ask Him to help you delight in His Law, and in all His Word.


Sing Psalm 19.9-14.
Psalm 19.9-14 (St. Christopher: Beneath the Cross of Jesus)
The fear of God is cleansing, forever shall it last.
His judgments all are true and just, by righteousness held fast.
O seek them more than gold most fine, than honey find them sweet;
Be warned by every word and line; be blessed with joy complete.

Who, Lord, can know his errors? O keep sin far from me!
Let evil rule not in my soul that I may blameless be.
O let my thoughts, let all my words, before Your glorious sight
Be pleasing to You, gracious Lord, acceptable and right!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore