Verse of the Day Devotion: Matthew 5:17

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” – Matthew 5:17 

Jesus is here at the beginning of His ministry.  He has been baptized by John the Baptist, went through the temptations from the devil and now is teaching to a crowd on the mountain.  As we read the account of the sermon on the mount, it is important to remember that Jesus came for the Jews, the chosen people.  “Jesus went away from there and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.’ But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, ‘Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.’ But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Matthew 15:21-24.  Note that He did cast out the demon because of her great faith.  (See Matthew 15:28) This is, of course not to say He came only to save the Jews.  He would go out to the gentiles through Saul of Tarsus.  “But the Lord said to him (Saul), “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;” Acts 9:15.

Because He came to the Jews, it was important that they knew He would follow the Law.  But their reason to follow it was different than His.  In Exodus we see why the Jews followed the Law.  “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine;” Exodus 19:4-5.  It was to have a special relationship with Him that was unending, their salvation.  However, salvation requires perfection which the Law could not address.

They did not fully understand this.  Their following the Law could not bring them perfection.  For this reason, the Messiah came.  “For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” Hebrews 7:18-19.  The Law was set aside because it could not bring perfection, the better hope mentioned here was capable, which was Jesus.  “Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.” Galatians 3:19. Until the seed would come.  And who is the seed?  “Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.” Galatians 3:16.

So, we see here that the Law was in place, as weak and useless as it was, until Christ came.  The purpose of the Law was to show our need for salvation, not for salvation itself.  “Because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20. The word ‘justified’ means to be declared righteous, therefore we cannot be declared righteous by the works of the Law.  Our sins must be removed, and the penalty must be paid.  And when the penalty is paid, the sin is not held against us, thus we are justified.  If Jesus had sinned, what He did would have paid the penalty for His transgressions, not ours.  But because He was blameless, His death paid for our sins.  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.

So, wrapping this up, we could not keep the Law perfectly, therefore we could not be saved by works.  Without perfection, we could by no means pay the penalty and be justified.  This required a perfect sacrifice.  Jesus came and lived a life free from sin by perfectly following the law.  Thus, because there was no penalty to pay for His own benefit, He was able to pay the penalty for ours.  But it took fulfilling the Law completely with absolutely no transgression. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” James 2:10. He fulfilled the Law so that we could be declared righteous and become children of God.  So, is the Law important?  Yes, for Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” John 14:15. However, it is to express our love for God, not to be saved, therefore, let us show our love for Him in all things we do.

William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries, Inc.

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