An open Bible and a cup of coffee.

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

(Matthew 5:17-18)

At first glance, the Lord’s words in today’s verse passage seem to contradict what Paul wrote elsewhere. Whereas the Lord was clear that He did not come to destroy the Mosaic Law, Paul seems to claim otherwise. “For he is our peace” wrote the great apostle, “who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15). Elsewhere Paul wrote that the Sinai Law was “done away” (2 Corinthians 3:11 KJV) or is “passing away” (NKJV). The writer to the Hebrews declared: “In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old (“obsolete” NKJV). Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). What are we to make of the apparent contradiction between the Lord’s statements and those of Paul? The answer (it seems to me) lies in the Lord’s distinction between destroying and fulfilling. The establishment of a New Covenant certainly brought an end to the Law’s authority (as law) over the believer. “Ye are not under the law,” wrote Paul, “but under grace” (Romans 6:14b, cf Galatians 5:18). The fact that Christ brought an end to the Law (Romans 10:4) does not mean that He destroyed the Law. Think of the normal and natural progression in human beings as they move from infanthood to childhood, from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood. As an adult, we do not say that our childhood was destroyed as we matured. Rather, we view our childhood as having reached its natural end; our childhoods were fulfilled, not demolished! This is the correct way to think about not only the believer’s relationship to the Law, but to other aspects of human experience as well. Chief among these of course is natural death. In the present dispensation, death is “the way of all the earth” (Joshua 23:14; 1 Kings 2:2). “It is appointed unto men once to die” declares the Scripture (Hebrews 9:27). We ought never to think of the death of the believer as his being destroyed. Rather, we ought to think of his time on the earth as having been fulfilled according to the good plans and purposes of God. Since our proximity to God determines to what extent we are truly alive (John 1:4; 5:40; 6:53-54; 11:25; 17:3, et al), the dead in Christ are in some sense more alive than any of us (cf 2 Corinthians 5:8; Philippians 1:23). Let us praise God for His precious word, which not only instructs and corrects (2 Timothy 3:16), but provides us with patience, comfort, and hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5; 15:4).

God bless you,

Pastor John