Not long ago, I was in an administrative meeting where one of the people at the table said, “If we could codify our projections for revenue and expenditures, that would enable us to predict patterns so as to make fiscally responsible decisions for the quarters moving forward.” I nodded in total agreement. Also, I had no idea what that sentence meant.
Have you ever found yourself in a conversation where people were using words or phrases that you thought you knew, sort of, but only kind of? You nod along, as if to say, “Yep. That sounds good,” but have no idea what is going on?
Regarding Jesus’s mission, He said He “did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” the law (Matthew 5:17). What is this “law” of which He speaks? To make any sense of Jesus’s statement—and why it should matter to us—we first need to understand what “the law” really is. Let’s review.
During the Old Testament, God chose one people, the Jews (not the Egyptians, Assyrians, Phonecians, etc.), to be His people, promising through a covenant to be their God and to keep them forever. He gave them His law which came in two basic parts—the moral law and the ceremonial law.
The moral law tells us how we are to live in a way that is righteous, just, loving, and responsible with the time given us to live. The 10 Commandments are moral law. The moral law defines a perfectly righteous life. Jesus did not abolish this law, but rather fulfilled it completely in a way we never could.
The ceremonial law, however, was given so the people of God might be reminded that they were, in fact, the people of God, bound to Him in a covenant relationship. This law included the feasts, circumcision, holy day regulations, etc. This law was given to remind the Jewish people of their special union to God, one no other nation shared.
Jesus’s birth nullified the ceremonial law. Believers would no longer worship on a hill in Jerusalem, but in Spirit and in truth (John 4:24). New believers would not need to be circumcised. Believers could abandon the kosher diet and eat all the bacon they wanted.
But the moral law? Jesus kept it perfectly—and He did it for us. He lived the life we were meant to live—flawlessly—and then died the death we transgressors deserved, since “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). He lived in our place and died in our place, taking our record of sin and placing it upon Himself and cloaking us in His perfect record of righteousness. That’s what Jesus meant when He said He did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He meant to become our righteousness.
This is the reason Jesus was born: to become our righteousness and present us, redeemed and blameless, before the Father. We can now be reconciled to our Creator. Has anyone ever given a better gift?
Written by Russ Ramsey