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Fulfilling the Law
- Jacob Ninan
Jesus said that even the minutest parts of the Law would be fulfilled. He came to fulfil the Law, and not to break it as some who observed Him thought (Mt.5:17,18). The Pharisees, and other such people who only understood the letter of the Law and missed its spirit, felt that Jesus had no regard for the Law because He refused to abide by their literal and extra-literal interpretation of the Law. But Jesus kept pointing out that they had missed the intent and spirit of the Law.
We realise that the Law was given to a people who had been slaves in Egypt for 430 years, who hardly knew God. They were more familiar with the gods and practices of Egypt. So the Law and the 'old covenant' which was given with the Law were only an introductory level course for Israel. The Law focused on external behaviour, rituals, ceremonies, festivals, etc., at this stage, God knowing that a final fulfillment would come later when Jesus brought in the new covenant. The Law was merely symbolic of the ultimate reality that would be unveiled with the new covenant.
Immediately after mentioning that He had come to fulfil the Law, Jesus explained how this was to be done. The law against murder, e.g., would be truly fulfilled in a person who would stop even hating his brother (Mt.5:21,22), and the one against adultery when a person would not even commit adultery in his mind (vv.27,28). What is happening here is that what was given under the Law in a primitive form was getting the full meaning now. In the same way, all the rituals, sacrifices, offerings, festivals etc., would find fulfillment in what Jesus came to do in the new covenant (Co.2:16,17).
So now when we read things in the Old Testament we have the privilege of looking not only at how things were taught in those days to Israel, but also how they find their ultimate meaning in the new covenant. It is sad to see Christians reading the Old Testament without this understanding and getting confused about what they should and should not do.
Unfortunately there seems to be a resurgence of OT ideas among Christians, with some of them taking up Old Testament practices, imagining that by repeating them with special regard to shapes, colours, procedure, etc., they can bring down God's blessings. You see how people are promoting the use of prayer shawls, seven sprouted lamp stands, ram's horns, feast of the tabernacles, etc. What they have missed to remember is that now that Jesus has come and established the new covenant, the old covenant has been made obsolete (He.8:13). Now that the veil protecting the Most Holy Place has been removed, we all can have direct, individual access to God all the time through the blood of Jesus (He.10:19,20). Our relationship is now spiritual based on faith and not on forms or procedure.
There are many practical implications to this in the way we Christians conduct ourselves. May God open our eyes to see them clearly, and teach us to walk in the fullness of liberty.