by Mike Ratliff
17 Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὸν νόμον ἢ τοὺς προφήτας· οὐκ ἦλθον καταλῦσαι ἀλλὰ πληρῶσαι. Matthew 5:17 (NA28)
17 Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I do not come to abolish, but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17 (translated from the NA28 Greek text)
I have been dealing with legalism in many different forms lately. In every one of those forms there are attempts to make our salvation dependent upon our works in one way or another. How are we to respond? Outrage is the goal of our enemy so that is not appropriate. Also, look at the havoc going on in our society right now with what some are calling the “outrage monster” taking control of them as they give themselves over to their passions. That being true, we certainly shouldn’t go that way. Our responses should always be Biblically based always seeking God’s Truth to shine into the darkness of our enemy’s lies. In this post I will attempt to look at Law and Grace.
In the passage I placed at the top of this post, the noun that I translated as “Law” is νόμον (nomon) the accusative singular masculine case of νόμος (nomos), “originally referred to distributing and what follows from it, namely custom, usage, statue, law, especially in the context of distribution of goods, and of law and order.” In the churches I grew up in I heard many Bible teachers and preachers talk about the ‘law” of the Old Testament and the “grace” of the New Testament. This is a little misleading because grace has always been in operation and law is still in operation, although a different law is now in force.
Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I do not come to abolish, but to fulfill.” in Matthew 5:17.He even summarized the entire law into two: love God and your neighbor, on which “hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
So, if the old Law was fulfilled, what law is inspiration now? The law of love. As Paul wrote:
8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10 (NASB)
He also also told the Galatians:
14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14 (NASB)
2 Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NASB)
This new law is, in fact, far superior to the old. Jesus provides several examples in Matthew 5. While the old law said to not commit adultery, the new says to not even look with lust (vv. 27-28; cf. Exodus 20:14). While the old said to not swear falsely, the new says, “Swear not at all,” this, carelessly or profanely (vv. 33-34; cf. Leviticus 19:12). while the old said “an eye for an eye,” the new says “turn the other cheek” (vv. 38-39; c. Exodus 21:24).
As Galatians 3:1-3 declares, it’s not the old law that makes us “perfect” (mature); rather, the Holy Spirit does so through the law of Christ. While the old law was the “schoolmaster,” Christ now is the teacher (v.24).
Soli Deo Gloria!