Many times I am in Bible discussions whereby the Old and New Testament, or the Old and New Covenant are seen as opposites of each other. Perhaps the concept of law versus grace, legalism versus freedom all add to this perception. I will like to propose seeing both sides as one rather than opposing.
What does Jesus say about the Law?
Firstly I will start with Jesus’ declaration in Matthew 5:17 (NKJV) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfil.” If the old and new are opposites, why should Jesus be coming to the Old Covenant? In fact in the Gospel of John, it states in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Word of God. The Law and the Prophets were part of the Word of God, including the Psalms and wisdom literature like Proverbs. It is not possible for Jesus to be opposing the Law, the Word of God, as by doing so, He will be denying the essence of who He is.
What is the Role of the Law?
If Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law, then what is the role of the Law? We know that it tells us the standard of God with regards to holiness. If I can put it in modern day terms, the entry requirements into God’s presence. Entry requirements are baseline requirements. It is what is needed to qualify or pass. It does not point to perfection, which is 100%. God is holy and He requires holiness. Holiness is perfection, without flaws and blemish. Jesus is not just passing the requirements, he is the perfection of the requirements.
The Law is not Enough
Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler in Matthew 19:16-22, the young ruler was confident to say that he obeyed the law and Jesus did not disagree. Instead, Jesus invited him to be “perfect” (v21) by giving up all that he has and follow Him. Following the law is not sufficient for eternal life. The rich young ruler must be realised that even though he obeyed the law, he was not ensured of eternity, which is why he asked this question. As Romans 3:20 states that “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin”, the law functions like the alarm – to alert us that we have sin or trespassed. An alarm clock tells us when to wake up but it does not tell us the purpose of why we need to wake up.
What is the Gap?
What is the gap that Jesus needs to fill that the law is deficient in providing us the way to God? It is to reach deeper than the law to the nature of the law, put in action by the person of Jesus Christ, who is the root source. From a list of dos and don’ts that is task oriented, it went inside to our thoughts, emotions and will. If you continue to read Matthew 5:21 onwards, murder and adultery are no longer defined by actions, but by our intentions and internal reactions. The fruit of the Spirit is often quoted but the end of verse 23 “Against such there is no law” is usually not mentioned. These is the nature of Jesus Christ manifest through the fruit of the Spirit.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22-23
The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we can take own God’s nature as we allow Him to work in and through us. This character of God is consistent from the Old Testament as God reveals himself to Moses “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6-7
As God repeated calls Israel to be holy as He is holy in the book of Leviticus, this same call is for us too. When we fully walk in the nature of Christ, manifesting the fruit of the Spirit, we are fulfilling beyond the law in the Old Testament into perfection.
This is a high calling that I know in full honesty that I cannot fulfil. Only by the grace of God through Jesus can this even be a possibility.