Fulfilling the law, not abolishing it

Matthew 5:17-19           “‘Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.  For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or strike shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.  Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.’”


Hebrews 13:8                “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, yes, and forever.”


Galatians 3:24-26          “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.  But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.”


Ephesians 2:8-9             “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.”


The words of Jesus at the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7, seem to spark confusion and controversy among the New Testament church.  From my own experience many New Testament believers think the Old Testament is purely history, and that it has no bearing on the Christian life today.  I could not disagree more!  Yes the Old Testament is a beautiful history of the Jewish people; but it gives us such a glimpse into who God is, it tabulates His standard of measure, and it provides an incredible foundation and backdrop upon which God’s grace gains its beauty and value!  Without the Law and the Prophets, there is no standard; without a standard, there is no wrongdoing or accountability or penalty – there is no right and wrong; without right and wrong and an accompanying penalty for the wrong, grace is utterly meaningless – it is devoid of any value or significance.
The Scripture is very clear – we are not saved by the Law.  We are saved by God’s immeasurable grace through faith in Him.  However, we would never see our need for God’s precious grace if it was not for the Law!  The Scripture is very clear in this as well – the Law points us to Christ and our need for Him.  Recently a pastor friend of mine beautifully equated the Law to an MRI.  The MRI machine’s purpose is to identify the sickness or broken parts inside – it is never meant to heal or repair, only help with and affirm diagnosis.  Based upon the results of the MRI the doctor can administer a treatment plan that can do the necessary repairs.  Christ is the doctor with the perfect treatment plan – salvation through grace!  I believe part of the problem is that we don’t want to look at the Law because it is painful to do so – it is akin to “shaking hands” with and welcoming the negative results of an MRI.  Playing host to the Law stings and reminds us of our shortcomings and means payback time.  And in all reality it is!  But the recompense has been paid!  Here is where the rubber meets the road though … we cannot truly appreciate, value, and lay hold of the priceless gift of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf and the subsequent gift of grace given to us by God unless we possess enough audacity to greet the Law square in the face and truthfully identify where we stand.  Only then can we recognize our need for Christ!  The measure of glory we see in God’s grace will be directly proportional to the depths to which we confess and acknowledge our need for it.
The problem I perceive with today’s church is that we want to take hold of God’s grace without having to face the fact that we are in such need of it.  Therefore grace becomes meaningless and cheap … it turns into nothing more than a license to do as we please.  May we never lose sight of our total depravation, our complete necessity for His priceless gift of grace!  May we have the guts to take the honest look at the Law and recognize our shortfall.  May we understand fully that Christ came to fulfill the Law and meet God’s standard because we simply could not in our humanity.  May we never think that He come to abolish it so that a standard no longer exists.  Praise be to God for His awesome love toward us!