Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law in lots of different ways, for the law comprises a variety of promises.
Earlier this year when we were looking at worship and the church, we saw that Jesus fulfilled the law concerning the temple, priesthood and sacrifices by his death on the cross and his entry into heaven. This means that no longer on earth can we have priests, temples and sacrifices, for our true priest is the Lord Jesus. He has now offered up for us the one full, perfect and sufficient oblation and satisfaction for our sins in the one true temple: heaven itself.
Jesus also fulfilled the law by being born of a woman born under the law to redeem those under the law. His obedient fulfilment of the law’s requirements enabled him to die as the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God.
Jesus also fulfilled the law by bringing into effect the messianic promises of the Old Testament. Not just the direct promises such as being a prophet like Moses or the seed of Abraham, but also those promises of the changes that would be made in God’s Messianic people (i.e. Christians). So, through the regenerating work of the Spirit, the law of God is now written on the hearts of God’s people, and they are moved to be obedient to that law.
This fulfilment of the law gives to God’s people the true meaning of the law. The Spirit inspired the law. So only those who are moved by the Spirit will truly understand what the law requires. While ever we know ourselves hopelessly guilty in the sight of the law, we will try to alter its implications. While ever we are trying to avoid the laws demands we will be tempted to twist it to suit our own purposes. But when we know that we have been fully forgiven through the righteous sacrifice for all our sins, and when we are moved by the Spirit to try and fulfil the laws of our loving father – then we will look for the full and true meaning of the law.
Suddenly there departs those hair-splitting futile distinctions about the meaning and application of the law. Gone are the “foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). Gone is the straining the gnat and swallowing the camel that fails to pay attention to justice mercy and faithfulness (Matthew 23:23-24). Now we look into the meaning of the law of God and see what God was really concerned with when he instructed that we must “not muzzle an ox” (1 Corinthians 9:9-10), or when he recounted the salutary events of the Exodus (1 Corinthians 10:1-12).
It is not that the Christians have one interpretation of the law, the Pharisees another equally valid interpretation and the Sadducees another equally valid interpretation. Jesus warned his disciples of false teaching when he said: “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6,12). He made it quite plain that the Sadducees were wrong; “You are wrong because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29) and the whole next chapter of Matthew is devoted to Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees.
Today there is great questioning about our observance of the law. We are accused of picking and choosing which bits we want to accept. We have no authority from Christ to reject any part of the law but are obligated to observe it all.
However, our observation of the law must be the through Christ and his teaching for he is the one who fulfilled the law and by His Spirit has changed us to want to obey God’s law.