This post is sort of a follow-up to my previous post about how the blog got it’s name. It’s a little bit of an elaboration on how I’ve come to the conclusions I’ve come to about things and it’s because I believe it presents a more full and complete picture of the Bible and I think it eliminates a lot of confusion that Christianity tends to create…
For me, this confusion revolves around “The Law.” It is interesting to note Jesus’ own teachings on “The Law.” It is so very clear when you read it in context. He essentially starts his ministry there, with the law, in Matthew 5:17-20, saying
17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Alright… So here’s where I think we get messed up and I think it is so much of why Christianity gets this bad rap of being confusing. You have people preaching that the law doesn’t matter and that it’s all grace and then you have people preaching that the law is the only thing that matters and if you’re not abiding by it you won’t be saved. Neither of those teachings are consistent with the teaching that comes DIRECTLY FROM JESUS. Some people believe that “fulfill” here means end or finish… but that is essentially what abolish means. Abolish means to destroy or get rid of. I don’t even understand how it makes sense for people to translate it that way. He’s not coming to get rid of the law, he’s just coming to end the law? No. That’s nonsensical. Preaching that perpetuates confusion. The real translation there is “perfect” or “fully preach” or “BE.” So let’s read that differently…
“I have not come to abolish the law, but to PERFECT the law.”
“I have not come to abolish the law, but to FULLY PREACH the law.”
“I have not come to abolish the law, but to BE the law.”
When reading this in context, what Jesus teaches immediately following makes this translation of “fulfill” make WAY more sense. So what does he say next? He elaborates on the Law! He fully preaches it! He essentially tells them, this law you were given was not meant to be a checklist of dos and don’ts. It was meant to be a guideline of behavior and a person filled with the Holy Spirit who BELIEVES in me will go BEYOND the letter of the Law. You won’t just not commit murder, you will strive to not even get angry! You won’t just not commit adultery, you will strive not even THINK about committing adultery. You won’t get divorced just because the law says you can. You will ONLY divorce if your spouse is unfaithful. You won’t even MAKE a “promise” with anyone because your yes will be yes and your no will be no and that will MEAN something. You won’t repay evil for evil, you will give your other cheek! You won’t be doing your good deeds so that others see you meeting this “checklist.” You will be doing your good deeds because your father in heaven is PLEASED by it!
There’s also the matter of the part where he says “until everything is accomplished.” Some people interpret this to mean “until Jesus died on the cross.” And I’m sorry, but if EVERYTHING was accomplished by him dying on the cross, there would be no need for him to return… There would be no need for the 1000 years, there’d be no need for judgement, there’d be no need for anything that is promised to come. So.. until EVERYTHING is accomplished, the law will still have relevance for God’s people.
The truth of the matter is that what Jesus came to teach was much more complex than what the people had understood before that point. He was teaching them that this law they were given was not some kind of check list (as I referenced in my previous post). This was meant to be a WAY OF LIFE. It is how we should conduct ourselves when our heart is for God.
So… In essence, the old “law” was not GOOD ENOUGH for the people of God. It needed to be perfected, to be magnified, to be fully preached.. Because the people who were well educated on the law were adding their own things to it and finding loopholes and bringing in the worship of other Gods. They were also, in fact, using the law as a justification for sin and as a means of trapping each other. In other words, the people were messing it up and messing it up BAD. In Jeremiah, when asked why the land of Jerusalem would become a wasteland, it says…
13 The Lord said, “It is because they have forsaken my law, which I set before them; they have not obeyed me or followed my law. 14 Instead, they have followed the stubbornness of their hearts; they have followed the Baals, as their ancestors taught them.”
God was angry with His people for breaking the law, for doing their own thing and ignoring what God has asked of them – in the same way I am angry when my child disobeys me, disrespects me, and does what they want instead of heeding my instruction. This is something that many “teachers” of the Bible would like to neglect. They neglect the will of God. It is God’s WILL that we obey Him. It is God’s WILL that we keep his commands. It is His WILL that we LEARN what it means to love fully, to truly be HIS PEOPLE.
So, out of HIS love, God sent Jesus… He sent someone to expound on what it meant to LOVE fully, both God AND your neighbor. Jesus loved God and protected the innocent. He showed the people what it meant to not regard the law above doing what is right and decent and good. He sent Jesus to be the ultimate example of LOVE in paying the price for our sins so that we may SEE that kind of love and be transformed in our hearts to LOVE that same way. Those who are GOD’S have His law on their hearts and on their minds! Those whose hearts turn to HIM will be forgiven (Jeremiah 31:33-34)! So YES – we are not bound to “the law.” However, if we love Christ and we love God, we are then bound to LOVE…and SINCERE LOVE is BEYOND the law. It is everything included in the law…plus MORE. It’s not just doing what we were asked. It’s doing what we were asked AND THEN SOME.