the weblog of Alan Knox

Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets

Posted by on Mar 16, 2008 in discipleship, scripture | 22 comments

Later this morning, Maël, my good friend, brother, and fellow-elder (and occasional blogger) is going to teach from Matthew 5:16-20, God willing:

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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20 ESV)

As I have studied this passage this week, I have been overwhelmed by the reality that Jesus expressed here. 1) Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (the Scriptures). 2) The Law and the commandments remain. 3) Only those who are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees (who spent their life keeping the letter of the law) will be part of God’s kingdom.

The implications of this passage are phenomenal. I cannot keep the law and be part of God’s kingdom on my own merit. But, Jesus Christ fulfilled the law. As a child of God, his righteousness has been credited to me. I am righteous because he was righteous, not because of the things that I do. I am forgiven because he was forsaken on my behalf, not because of my ability to stop sinning.

Thus, when I recognize my sins – when I am convicted – my only response is Paul’s response: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25 ESV) and “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

What an awesome thought! God exchanged my sin for Christ’s righteousness. God exchanged my death for Christ’s life. Today, I live in righteousness – not because of what I do or don’t do, because of Jesus Christ and him alone! I hope I never “get over” this.


22 Comments

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  1. 3-16-2008

    2) The Law and the commandments remain.

    I’m not sure if this is exactly what Jesus is saying. Is he not saying that they will remain until they are fulfilled, which has been done by him already?

    In other words:

    1) Jesus came to fulfill the Law
    2) The law will remain until “all is accomplished”
    3) Jesus accomplished it all in his life, death, and resurrection
    4) Therefore, the law is no longer in effect

    Having said that, I completely agree with your conclusions about the righteousness of Jesus being ours through him. And I realize that was the major point of the post. So, no argument on the actual meat of the post! :)

  2. 3-16-2008

    Alan, it definitely seems to me that you are reading the evangelical, lutheran gospel into the sermon on the mount, when it actually is not there. I profoundly disagree with your reading. I think that;
    Jesus fulfulling of the law, is his interpretation of the law. The rest of the SOM shows Jesus interpreting the law, thereby “fulfilling” it. It also seems from chapter seven that Jesus actually demands of us (and gives us grace) to follow his teachings. The whole “Jesus in our place”-thing lacks good biblical support, in my view. It is based on the placing of Paul before the gospels plus the lutheran misreading of Paul.

    We will be judged by our own deeds, we cannot hide behind Jesus, so to speak.
    /Jonas Lundström
    http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188

  3. 3-16-2008

    Alan,

    How can we not cry a loud “Amen!” in response to your words?

    This sinner, for one, is more grateful than I can express, for God’s amazing grace revealed in the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, when the demands of the law ceased to have their hold on me. “tetelestai” was the cry from Jesus lips, “it is finished”, more literally, “the account is paid”!

    This was that to which the Old Testament pointed for so long, and which the Pharisees failed to see, even when it was happening under their noses.

    What a grievous position are those, today, in who attempt to please God by their own performance of ritual, rote and effort.

    “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”(Col. 2:13-14 NASB)

  4. 3-16-2008

    Steve,

    I’m not sure if this is exactly what Jesus is saying. Is he not saying that they will remain until they are fulfilled, which has been done by him already?

    Possibly, except that everything in the Law and the Prophets (the OT Scriptures) has not been completely fulfilled yet. I still believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of this, but it remains a future fulfillment.

    Also, Paul seemed to think that the OT Scriptures and the law were still beneficial to believers.

    I do agree that the conclusion is much more important than exactly what it means for the law and the prophets to be fulfilled.

    Jonas,

    I do believe that our deeds will be judged. However, I do not believe that the eternal state of God’s children (those born from above – by the will of God) will be based on that judgment (of deeds). I’d love to hear more about what you’re saying.

    Aussie John,

    Thanks for the kind words and for continuing my thoughts in this post.

    -Alan

  5. 3-16-2008

    While it is true that not everything in the prophets appears to have been fulfilled yet, Jesus didn’t make that distinction about the prophets. He said that he did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but then he says that nothing “will pass from the Law”.

    Again, this is quite nitpicky, though, and not hugely important in my opinion. Just taking a slightly different approach to the passage.

    I would be very curious to read more thoughts from Jonas about how the “Jesus in my place” thinking is a misreading of Paul, especially in light of Aussie John’s quoting of Colossians 2…

  6. 3-17-2008

    Steve/Alan. It will be a long discussion if we would try to sort out the different views on the atonement, I´m not sure we want to get into that? It´s ok for me, but I don´t want to push that agenda. So feel free to drop it.

    -I don´t believe Jesus died in our place. The greek should be translated “for us” rather than “in our place”. And if Jesus died in our place, why do we all (except the final generation) die? Actually, it seems that Jesus specifically teaches that he didn´t go the way of the cross in our place, he did it so we could take up our cross and follow him.

    -I don´t believe Jesus obeyed God in our place. I believe Jesus did it and gave us his spirit so that we could do it to, by God´s grace.

    -I don´t believe God needed the cross to be able to forgive. I believe God has always been the God Jesus has showed us, merciful and forgiving.

    -I don´t believe the cross is God´s punishment, but the punishment of the powers. Jesus didn´t die because God wanted it, but because of the clash between God´s kingdom and the world.

    /Jonas Lundström

    /Jonas Lundström

  7. 3-17-2008

    Jonas,

    I agree with many of the things that you said. For example, I agree that Jesus obeyed God and gave us His Spirit so that we can now obey God. However, your translation of the Greek preposition ὑπερ is troublesome for me. In many cases it should be translated “in our place” or perhaps better “on our behalf”. For example, the same preposition is used three times in 2 Cor 5:20-21, and in each case it seems that “on behalf of” would be the better translation:

    Therefore, we are ambassadors for (“on behalf of”) Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake (“on behalf of us”) he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV)

    Matthew 20:28 uses a different preposition: αντι, which means “instead of” or “in place of”:

    …even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for (“in place of”) many. (Matthew 20:28 ESV)

    I think Scripture teaches the substitutionary death of Christ.

    -Alan

  8. 3-17-2008

    Alan. I think issues like this cannot be solved by the translation of a single word. Anyway, my opinion is that neither anti or hyper has to mean “in the place of” (compare Mt 17:27, Jh 1:16 (anti)).

    -If Jesus died in our place, why do we all die?

    -Do you think that Jesus took God´s punishment upon himself etc? (penal substitution)
    /Jonas Lundström

  9. 3-17-2008

    Jonas,

    I agree that this issue cannot be based simply on Greek preposistion. My discussion of ὑπερ and αντι was in answer to your claim, “The greek should be translated ‘for us’ rather than ‘in our place'”. I do not think we can transalte αντι (as in Matt 20:28) as “for us” at all. It means “instead of” or “in the place of”.

    But, like you said, my understanding of atonement is not based only on the meanings of these preposition. Yes, I believe that all die (except the last generation) – and I believe that all are resurrected. Some are resurrected to life and some are resurrected to death. I think this is what Jesus was talking about in John 11:25-26.

    Similarly, I also believe that Jesus’ death was both penal and substitutionary. This is not the extent of the atonement, but I do believe it is part of the atonement. Isaiah 53 – and the NT usage of Isaiah 53 – seems to indicate that Jesus’ death was both penal and substitutionary.

    -Alan

  10. 3-17-2008

    Alan. I also think Jesus death was “plenal”, but it was the powers that punished Jesus, not God. God doesn´t need to kill in order to forgive, God forgives freely, out of free mercy, and doesn´t need anything in return. Satan (working through the jewish establishment and the romans) were responsible for Jesus death, not God. God turned it all upside-down by raising Jesus (Acts).

    I still don´t see the logic of Jesus death in our place. If he died in our place, it seems that we shouldn´t die, but we do. So physical death apparently is not the punishment Jesus bore instead of us. But Jesus wasn´t punished for ever and ever in hell on the cross either, and he wasn´t annihilated either, so what was the punishment he took in our place? I just can´t fit the penal substitution pieces together. (previously I could, my views on this changed about five years ago)

    In my view, the strongest argument against penal substitution is that it makes God appear different than we know God in Christ. Jesus is the true image of God, and he spent time with “sinners” and didn´t go around punishing people with fire and death. He forgave freely and loved his enemies. Isn´t God like that? (Luke 15)
    /Jonas Lundström
    http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188

  11. 3-17-2008

    Jonas,

    Actually, I think we see God’s love demonstrated in Jesus as well as God’s wrath. Not only did Jesus overturn the tables in the temple, he also spoke the “woes” to various groups of people as well as speaking of God’s eternal reward AND punishment of people. Yes, we should understand and demonstrate God’s love. But, we should understand God’s wrath as well. The difference is that, as far as I can tell, we are not told to imitate God’s wrath, only God’s love.

    -Alan

  12. 3-18-2008

    Yeah, my problem is that I think you should not put “love” and “righteousness”/”holiness”/wrath against each other. God is always love, so if God is angry with us, it is out of love. As I see it, God does nothing without love. So the woes of Jesus etc is for the well-being of the rich. I don´t believe in a punishment of God that has to happen because of God´s righteousness but without God´s love. So, for me, being expelled from God´s kingdom is a punishment that is meant to lead to the redemption of the one punished. It´s epic (aionios), but not eternal.
    /Jonas

  13. 3-18-2008

    Jonas,

    I also did not intend to pit God’s love and God’s wrath against one another. Instead, I believe that God always acts in a consistent manner. While I understand your concern about eternal punishment, Jesus does seem to compare the eternality of punishment/death to the eternality of reward/life. I don’t think we can choose one to mean “epic” while the other means “eternal” (i.e. Matt 25:31-46, especially vs. 46).

    -Alan

  14. 3-18-2008

    Quote: [“God exchanged my death for Christ’s life.”]

    Alan, I wondered if you could develop this further. It seems to me that that parts of the article may be speaking about the righteousness of Christ’s life being applied to the believer somehow. 1) Is this necessary, since the believer is in Christ? 2)Are there are any Scriptures that teach this? I’m not aware of any.

    Mr. Newell’s commentary on Romans has been helpful to me on this:
    ‘The expressions “the righteousness of Christ,” “the merits of Christ,” though not in Scripture, are continually in the mouths even of earnest men, who do not see that our history in Adam ended at the cross, that we died with Christ, and now share His risen life; and that we therefore do not need to have anything whatever “put upon” us… We were in Adam: we are now in Christ, standing in the full, the infinitely complete acceptance of Christ’s own person.’

    I suppose the question is, Does Scripture ever speak of the righteousness of Christ’s life being applied to the believer’s life?

    Thoughts?

    In Christ,
    Steve B.

  15. 3-18-2008

    Alan. We are moving away from views on the atonement now, but that´s ok with me. I just want to reemphasizing that I still can´t see what “Jesus died in our place” actually MEANS, if we still die, and if Jesus didn´t suffer eternal death on the cross either.

    What did God´s punishment of Jesus consist in? Is God thirsty for blood? Does God stand behind execution and torture?

    Anyway, I think Mt 25:46 should/could be translated “life of the age to come” and “discipline (kolasis) of the age to come” or something like that. The greek word for eternal doesn´t mean “without end”, at least not everywhere (Mt 28:20).
    /Jonas Lundström
    http://blog.bahnhof.se/wb938188

  16. 3-18-2008

    Steve,

    When I said, “God exchanged my death for Christ’s life”, I was not speaking “of the righteousness of Christ’s life being applied to the believer’s life”. Instead, I was thinking of Scriptures like Rom 6:4, Gal 2:19, Col 3:3, 1 Thes 5:9-10, 2 Tim 2:11. In other words, where I was once dead in my trespasses and sin, I am now alive in Christ.

    Jonas,

    Again, I was simply following your argument about eternal/epic punishment/life. You are correct that the Greek term translated “eternal” does not have to mean “eternal” – only context will help us determine whether or not it means eternal or simply “a long time”. In Matt 25:46, if the life is eternal, then the punishment must be eternal as well.

    Returning to the subject of atonement and physical death, I think Scripture makes a distinction between physical death and spiritual death. I was spiritually dead, but have been made spiritually alive with Christ. I will still die physically, but I will not die spiritually – I will always live spiritually in Christ. At some point, I will also possess a resurrected physical body which will not decay or die.

    This discussion is much beyond the scope of this post. It was not the point of the post to explain or defend a certain view of the atonement. I realize that my post does rely upon a certain view of the atonement, but if I were to try to describe what I believe about the atonement it would take many, many posts. Perhaps its best to leave this discussion for now.

    -Alan

  17. 3-18-2008

    Thanks for the clarification, Alan.

    The statement I quoted earlier from the article and also statements like `His righteousness has been credited to me` may have confused the issue some (which is why I asked you to clarify).

    The verses which you`ve referenced don`t mention the righteousness of Christ at all (of course, they can`t for the reasons Newell noted), but they do emphasize the fact that the believer is viewed as having died, been buried and risen with Christ. This union of the believer with (and in) Christ is the key to our present standing.

    Keep writing.

    Steve B

  18. 1-17-2009

    Matthew 7:12 “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

    In other words, in order to keep the Law you don’t have to keep all the nitpicky rules about not mixing wool and linen in your outfit, or the sacrifices, or the kosher rules. All that matters from the Law is to treat your fellow human beings right.

    Now lets see how you misinterpret Jesus:

    “As I have studied this passage this week, I have been overwhelmed by the reality that Jesus expressed here. 1) Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets (the Scriptures). 2) The Law and the commandments remain. 3) Only those who are more righteous than the scribes and Pharisees (who spent their life keeping the letter of the law) will be part of God’s kingdom.”

    1) Yes, Jesus fulfilled the Law and the prophets.

    2) No, the commandments of the Law do not remain, unless specifically reitered in the New Testament.

    3) Yes, our righteousness does have to exceed that of the Pharisees or we will not make it to heaven.

    “The implications of this passage are phenomenal. I cannot keep the law and be part of God’s kingdom on my own merit. But, Jesus Christ fulfilled the law.”

    Wrong. Since Jesus defines the Law only as treating your fellow man is you want him to treat you, you are able to keep the Law on your own merits. If you can’t treat your fellow man as you want him to treat you, then you must be a total moron incapable of the simplest tasks.

    “As a child of God, his righteousness has been credited to me.”

    Jesus never says any of that garbage. You are thinking of Paul the false apostle who saw a light and hear an unrecognisable voice, interpreted it as Jesus, and then went around spreading lies about Peter, James, and John (see Galatians 2) in order to make himself feel more important than he really was. In the end, however, “all Asia” departed from Paul (2 Tim 1:15), which means the Galatians eventually rejected him (Lystra and Derbe are in Galatia), and the Ephesians, and the Laodiceans and Colossians! Not many (if any) of the churches established by Paul stuck with Paul to the end, because undoubtedly they came to the realization that he was a false apostle deprecating the real apostles with lies to make himself seem more important (see also Rev 2:2).

    When Jesus says that our righteousness must exceed the scribes and Pharisees, he means we must interpret righteousness as he does in Matthew 7:12 as treating our fellow man right and not as the scribes and Pharisees as ceremonial observance. The Pharisees thought they could act like a devil to their fellow man (e.g. devour widows’ houses) so long as they had their ceremonies right. So also, Paulinists think they can act like devils to their fellow men so long as they have the doctrine of the Trinity right or the atonement right! But Jesus defines righteousness, and indeed the whole Law and the Prophets, as “do unto others as you would have them do to you”–that’s the whole Law, that’s righteousnes summarized in a neat little package. And does this need to be imputed? After his blood washes away our sins in baptism, we ought to be able to keep that righteousness of treating others right, and if we do, does our righteousness not exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees?

    Recall the parable of the good Samaritan, (Luke 10) and how the priest and the Levite pass by on the other side rather than help their fellow man. Perhaps they had ceremonial concerns in mind. The priest could not touch a dead body or he would be unclean. if he went to check on the man and it turned out the man was dead and not merely almost dead, he would be ceremonially defiled. So in the interest of keeping his ceremonies right, he does not help the man. so the Levite also probably is concerned with some ceremonial idea, perhaps “I don’t know for sure that this man is a Jew, and I’m not supposed to mix with Gentiles” or some such concern. Thus not helping the man was necessary to keep their rigid orthodoxy, to keep their righteousness as they saw it. So also a Paulinist may think to himself “what if this man is an anti-Trinitiarian?” or “what if he is a preacher of works salvation?” and so might leave the man in the gutter bleeding to death. But the Samaritan, having no notion of righteousness that required ceremonials or even doctrines, viewing righteousness only as treating your fellow man right, comes to his aide.

    I know it is hard for a traditionalist (for I was one all my life!) to see the story of the good samaritans this way, but this clearly is the point.

    “I am righteous because he was righteous, not because of the things that I do.”

    Foolishness. Pauline lies. John (a real apostle, not an imposter who saw a light and interpreted it as an apostolic calling) says in 1st John 3:7 “Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous.” What’s that John, he that “DOETH” righteousness is righteous? Wow! Isn’t that a novel concept?

    “I am forgiven because he was forsaken on my behalf, not because of my ability to stop sinning.”

    Wrong again, for Peter (again a real apostle, not an imposter who supposedly had a vision) says in Acts 2:38 “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Forgiveness if therefore received by a combination, by Jesus’ sacrifice indeed but also by repentance and even baptism. Jesus dying for your sins amounts to nothing if you refuse to repent, because you cannot be forgiven without repentance. Indeed repentance is the gospel or a large part of it, for where one gospel presents Jesus’ sending forth of the 12 by saying “they preached the gospel” (Luke 9:6) another says “They preached that men should repent!” (Mark 6:12)

    In short, question everything Paul says, and return to Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls, and to his true apostles who have more than a fantasy about a light and an unrecognisable voice to commend their apostleship.

  19. 1-17-2009

    PaulSceptic,

    You said, “[Q]uestion everything Paul says”. I do. I question everything that PaulSceptic says. I don’t see any reason to separate Jesus Christianity from Pauline Christianity.

    -Alan

  20. 6-24-2013

    Hmm, this passage raises some questions.
    1. Did Jesus Live THE LAW ?…Yes.
    2. Did Jesus Live THE LAW for us? Yes.
    3. Is the LIFE-STYLE of Jesus the TRUTHFUL WAY OF LIFE to Immortality, Heaven and to God?….Yes.
    4. Is THIS LIFE-STYLE OF JESUS the…DOOR….into God’s Kingdom?…
    .Yes.
    5. Are believers supposed to LIVE this Life-style if we are to follow Jesu ?…Yes.
    6. Is there a SEPARATE HEAVEN for Jesus and His Apostles who LIVED THE LAW , and a separate Heaven for the rest of mankind ?….No.
    7. If the answer to No. 6 is no, why should we live a life WITHOUT THE LAW and rule with Jesus and His apostles on God’s throne?
    8. Did Jesus Live THE LAW for us, so that we would not LIVE THE LAW ?
    9. Did Jesus ask us NOT TO LIVE HIS LIFE?
    10. Was the Law given to ONLY ISRAEL?
    11. Are Gentiles part of Israel?
    12. Are Gentiles converts supposed to LIVE THE LAW?
    13. Was the Law Moses’ Law or God’s Law.
    14. Somewhere in the Bible we read that because of the Hardness of Israel’s heart were the given the Law so, was Jesus who Himself lived the Law hard hearted?
    15. Did Jesus Live ALL THE LAW ? Did Jesus speak AGAINST the Laws in any way?
    16. Did Jesus and the apostles drop any hints about any differences in the Law?
    17. What is the OLDNESS OF THE LETTER…OF THE LAW?
    18. What is the NEWNESS IN SPIRIT OF THE LAW?
    19. If Jesus says ALL THE LAW is to be fulfilled, does this include both the OLDNESS OF THE LETTER of the law…and…THE NEWNESS IN SPIRIT of THE LAW ?
    20. Was Jesus “ONLY JOKING” when He said ALL THE LAW will be fulfilled?
    21. Did Jesus teach about THE LAWS OF GOD through Moses?
    22. If Jesus Did not teach about the details of ALL the Law to be fulfilled, who was to teach it?
    23. Did the apostles teach about ALL the Laws to be fulfilled?
    24. Why did Jesus and the apostles LIVE THE LAW after all the explanations they gave about the LAWS OF GOD?
    25.Were the apostles TAUGHT by Jesus ?
    26. Were the TEACHINGS OF JESUS…..through…the Apostles to the Gentile world….FINAL ?
    27. If the teachings of Jesus through the apostles for the Gentiles were FINAL, why did Paul indicate that He and the rest of the Apostles KNOW IN PART

  21. 6-24-2013

    25. If the teachings of Jesus through the apostles….FOR…..the Gentile world was FINAL, why did Paul admit that he and the apostles KNOW IN PART and therefore prophesy in part, but when He that is perfect is com THIS BEING IN PART….SHALL BE DONE AWAY?
    26. Was the TEACHINGS of the Apostle Paul and the rest of the apostles taught them BY JESUS? If yes , was this teachings IN PART? Did the apostles and Jesus live the full life or “part” of Godliness?
    27. If Jesus’ spiritual Doctrine was labelled “A FOUNDATION” of the house we build, what kind of HOUSE IS IT? Is it a PHYSICAL HOUSE or a SPIRITUAL HOUSE?
    28. If Jesus’ spiritual doctrine is a FOUNDATION of the House we build, what doctrine of God CONSTITUTES THE WALLS? When is the “WALL” to be built upon Jesus’ FOUNDATIONAL GOSPEL?
    29. Will it be built by the RETURNING CHRIST? I believe so because the apostles admitted that they were preparing THE WAY FOR THE RETURNI G CHRIST.
    30. Finally , where is THE CHRIST to appear ? Is it among THE JEWS AGAIN or is THE CHRIST to RE-APPEAR somewhere in the larger Gentile world? The Christ is to re-appear or COME AGAIN amongst the Gentiles , and this is revealed in St. John 10:15-16. This event has already occured. HE CAME AND HE TAUGHT….ALL ABOUT THE HOLY LAWS OF GOD. If the relevant topic comes up I would go into details about THE LAWS OF GOD AS TAUGHT by the HOLY SPIRIT-MADE-FLESH.

  22. 6-24-2013

    Franklin,

    Wow… that’s a long list of questions. I love the way that Paul answers many of those questions in Romans (in regard to the law especially).

    -Alan