By Mike Willis
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall In no wise pan 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 (Matt. 5:17-19).
One of the charges hurled against Jesus was that he did not obey the commandments of the law of Moses (Matt. 15:2), because he rejected the traditions of the fathers. The charge of disregarding the Mosaical law was also leveled against Jesus’ disciples (Acts 6:11,13). They resemble the charges presently hurled against his disciples today: “You don’t believe the Old Testament.” Jesus’ teaching regarding the Old Testament law is fundamental to understanding the relationship between the Old and New Testaments.
Jesus Believed The Old Testament Was From God
Jesus accepted the belief that the Old Testament was a divine revelation from God (cf. Matt. 15:3-6; Jn. 7:23; Acts 7:53). He recognized its permanence (Matt. 5:18; Psa. 119:144,152,160; 111:7-8). Every jot and tittle of that law were important (Matt. 5:18).
The reference to every “jot” and “tittle” shows that even the least commandments of that law had binding force upon men. Jesus rejected the modern concept that emphasizes the spirit of the law rather than the letter of the law. The concept that unimportant things of the law can be disobeyed with impunity is contrary to his express teachings. He said, “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” (Matt. 5:19). He recognized that violation of the law in one point, even a small point, was a rejection of the divine lawgiver (Jas. 2:10) and brought one under the guilt of the law (Gal. 3:10). Hence, Jesus would have been labeled a “legalist” by modern grace-unity advocates and modernists.
The Law Lasted Until All Things Were Fulfilled
The New Testament writers realized the limitations of the law of Moses. Man could not be justified by obedience to the law of Moses (Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20) or by any legal system which conditioned salvation upon perfect obedience. However, the law did serve its purpose. It brought a knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7). It pointed mankind to the coming Messiah (Gal. 3:24; Rom. 10:3).
Jesus came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. Most denominational folks cannot harmonize this statement with the statements in Ephesians 2:14-17, 2 Corinthians; 3:11-16, and Hebrews 8:8-13 which discuss the abrogation of the Mosaical law. They resort to such non-biblical ideas as this: “Jesus abolished the ceremonial law but not the moral law.” There is no such distinction between moral and ceremonial law recognized in the Old Testament. Those who resort to such ideas misunderstand Jesus’ teaching regarding the Old Law.
Jesus recognized that the Old Testament would have binding force “till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:18). When all things were fulfilled, then the Old Testament would no longer have binding authority over the Jews.
Jesus Fulfilled The Law
Jesus came to fulfill the law. Several times the inspired writers designate something having happened to Jesus in order that the law may be fulfilled (Matt. 26:56; cf. Lk. 24:44; Acts 13:29; Rom. 10:4). Here are some of the ways Jesus fulfilled the law:
1. He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament (Lk. 24:44). He was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14) in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2); he was God with us (Isa. 9:6). He performed miracles (Isa. 35). He suffered vicariously that we might be forgiven of sins (Isa. 53). He established his kingdom in the days of the Roman kings (Dan. 2:44). Indeed, Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament, so that when he died on the cross he could say, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:28-30).
2. He fulfilled all that was typified by the Old Testament sacrifices. The sacrifices of the Old Testament foreshadowed the one sacrifice of Christ on the cross. (For a more extended development of this theme, see “Our One Sacrifice” on p. 3 by Jerry Fite.) See chart below:
|Old Testament Sacrifices
|New Testament Sacrifice
JESUS OUR ATONEMENT
|a. Male, without blemish (Lev. 1:3).||a. Without blemish (Heb. 4:15).|
|b. Offered continually (Ex. 29:38-39).||b. Offered once for all (Heb. 9:28; 10:9-11).|
|c. To make atonement (Lev. 1:4).||c. To make atonement (Heb. 9:12).|
|MEAL OFFERING||JESUS OUR BREAD OF LIFE|
|a. Lev. 2: a gift to God in grateful acknowledgment that the offer owed everything to God.||a. Jesus our bread of life (Jn. 6:35).|
|PEACE OFFERINGS||JESUS IS OUR PEACE|
|a. Purpose: indicates a right relationship with God; expresses fellowship and thanksgiving (Lev. 7:12).||a. Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14).
b. We enter fellowship with God through him (1 Jn. 1:3).
Indeed, Jesus did fulfill all that was foreshadowed by the sacrifices of the Old Testament.
3. Jesus fulfilled all that was typified by the tabernacle worship. The Old Testament worship in the Tabernacle was divinely revealed by God to foreshadow the true tabernacle of which it was a type (Heb. 8:2). The tabernacle was divided into two partitions: a holy place and a most holy place. (See chart below).
of Holy Place
Burnt Offering Altar
The people could not enter into either place; they could only approach the altar of burnt offering. The priest entered the holy place every day to keep the altar of incense burning. Once a year, the high priest entered into the most holy place to make atonement for sin.
Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people. The Holy Ghost, this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while was the first tablernacle was yet standing: which was a figure of the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;. . . . It was therefore necessary that the pattern of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb. 9:6-9,23-24).
Indeed, Christ fulfilled that which was typified by the tabernacle worship.
3. Christ fulfilled the Precepts of t;e Old Testament by his own perfect obedience. The Scriptures teach the sinlessness of Jesus (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:20-22). He demonstrated in his life the righteousness which the law required.
Consequently, we can see that Jesus did not come to destroy the law at all. He came to fulfill it and, by so doing, he established the law as being from God (Rom. 3:31). Jesus was to the law what a marriage is to an engagement, a flower is to a bud, and a completed picture is to a silhouette. When an engagement ends in marriage, a bud produces a flower, and a silhouette is finished in a picture, the engagement, bud, and silhouette are not destroyed; they accomplish their intended purpose and are left behind that the completed form might exist. In a similar way, Christ “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4).
The Fulfilled Law Was Abrogated
Once the law was fulfilled, it was replaced by the law of Christ. The Old Testament law given by Moses is “done away” (2 Cor. 3:11). Jesus “abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (Eph. 2:15). He “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14), thus freeing us from the obligation to observe the Sabbath or other Old Testament holy days and to recognize the distinction between clean and unclean foods (Col. 2:17). In fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah (31:31-34), Jesus took the old covenant out of the way that he might establish the new covenant (Heb. 8:8-13). Because the old covenant has been removed, we see these ‘ children? If we dress like and act like children we certainly things have changed:
1. Priesthood: from Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Christ.
2. Sacrifice: from animal sacrifices to the body of Christ.
3. Day of worship: from the Sabbath day to the first day of the week.
4. Place of worship: from the Temple to any place.
5. Items of worship: from items of Temple worship to those of N.T. (Acts 2:42).
6. Ordinances: from O.T. ordinances to N.T. ordinances (Acts 2:42 – apostolic doctrine; Acts 15:23-29).
Because of this change of law, what was binding in the Old Testament is no longer binding upon Christians today. What is taught and practiced must be authorized by the New Testament. Those who seek authority for a separate priesthood, burning of candies and incense, choral groups, mechanical instruments of music, etc. from the Old Testament err from the Scriptures and are fallen from grace (Gal. 5:4).
Indeed, Jesus did fulfill the law. Having fulfilled it, he made justification possible for us, not through the blood of bulls and goats, but through his own blood. We stand before God in awe of his marvelous work of redemption, conceived in the mind of God, prefigured in the Old Testament, and accomplished in Jesus Christ. Glory to God in the highest!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 20, pp. 610, 629-630
October 20, 1988