October 12, 2013

The Fulfillment of the Law

Matthew 5:17-20

“I have come [not] to abolish the Law and the Prophets … but to fulfill them.”
—Matthew 5:17


Two spiritual poisons are deadly to the soul: legalism and lawlessness.

Legalism implies that God loves and accepts us because of our performance. We ingest this toxin when we look at our own history of good behavior and think that’s why God loves us.

Lawlessness says we are free to live however we wish because God’s love is not based on our good works. We ingest this toxin anytime we brush aside the importance of obedience or minimize some sin in our life.

Jesus warns against both. To those who insist that God’s law is unimportant, Jesus says he has come to obey God’s law perfectly. Obedience to God matters so much that Jesus had to keep God’s commandments perfectly (fulfilling the law) so that we might have salvation.

At the same time, Jesus warns that if we try to gain God’s approval based on our moral performance, our goodness must surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were religious experts famous for their obedience to the law but still far from perfect, as Jesus often pointed out.

The good news is that although we cannot obey God’s law, Jesus fulfilled it for us. Then he was punished for our sake as a law-breaker so that God might view us as law-keepers! As the gospel lives in us, may we live a life of obedience that flows from gratitude to Jesus, who frees us from both legalism and lawlessness.

Merciful God, transform us so that we may live lives of grateful, joyful obedience to you. Amen.

About the author — Rob Toornstra

Rob Toornstra has served as pastor of Sunnyslope Christian Reformed Church in Salem, Oregon, since 2006. When not busy with pastoral duties, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Amy, and their three children.

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