Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil. — Matthew 5: 17
Jesus is the only one to have ever fulfilled the Mosaic Law and has become the lawgiver of the kingdom of heaven.
In the Sermon on the Mount, from which our Bible text is taken, the Son of God addresses both the people of Israel and—looking ahead— the people of the new covenant, in other words, those who partake in the kingdom of heaven. This kingdom has dawned in Him, and in this kingdom there is a new kind of law.
Jesus Christ, the new lawgiver
When it came to observing the Mosaic Law the behaviour of the Son of God was an insult to many Jews.
- He repealed the consequences prescribed by the law in response to transgressions—for example when His disciples plucked ears of corn on the Sabbath (Catechism 4.3).
- He prevented the people from inflicting severe punishment upon a sinner who had violated the Mosaic Law. This was the case of the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery and been brought to Him (John 8: 3–11).
- He healed those who, according to the Judaic understanding, suffered under the inevitable consequences of sin, such as sickness. In fact, He even raised those who had died as a result of sin (Romans 6: 23).
- He even had the authority to forgive the guilt that had been incurrred before God as a result of sin (Luke 5: 20).
By what power does He do this?
Jesus is the only human being to have ever fulfilled the Mosaic Law. He is the only person to have ever lived up to its demands. As a result He is blameless. He has led a sinless life and proven Himself in all temptations. As the Son of God He was born without any sin, and is thus unburdened by original sin. Jesus Christ is Lord over the Law, for He is also God. As such He has both given and fulfilled the Law.
The giver of the new law
As true Man, Jesus thus fulfilled the law in all its aspects, and was therefore spared its curse (Galatians 3: 10).
As true God, Christ can indeed enforce a new kind of law, namely that of the kingdom of God, which has dawned in Him, the Son of God. The binding elements of this law include:
- Love for God and our neighbour.
- Love for one another (John 13: 34).
- The commandment not to judge (Matthew 7: 1).
- The obligation to see the Son of God in our neighbour and to treat him accordingly (Matthew 25: 40).
We cannot invoke the new law given by the Lord to exempt ourselves from our obligation to observe the Ten Commandments proclaimed by Moses to the people of the old covenant. After all, the Son of God did not destroy this law, but rather fulfilled it. In His conversation with the rich young man, He even confirmed its validity for gaining access to the kingdom of heaven, that is to say, for the gospel (Matthew 19: 16–18).
Beyond that, however, it is also important for us to fulfil the laws given by Jesus for the new covenant, since they are binding upon the kingdom of heaven that has dawned in the Son of God and upon its inhabitants.
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for the divine service held on Sunday, 07 February 2016 at Midrand Congregation.