The Law Maker and Promise Maker
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. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach [them], the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:17-19
During my Bible Worker ministry, I have occasionally heard people try to rationalize away Matthew 5:17-19 and the whole law by saying that Jesus did away with the law once it was fulfilled. This is where we need to exercise Isaiah 28:10 and compare other verses. In Matthew 3 Jesus goes to be baptized. In Matt 3:15 Jesus says it is necessary to be baptized to fulfill all righteousness.
After Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism, did He then do away with baptism? No. In Matthew 28:19-20 He tells the disciples to baptize. So Jesus did not do away with baptism when He fulfilled it, and neither did Jesus do away with any of the law after fulfilling the law. Paul also demonstrates what it means to “fulfill” God’s law:
“For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if [there be] any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love [is] the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13:9-10
I have also had explained to me that we no longer need the commandments because now we have love. Fact is we have always had love. It is because we have love that we do not steal, kill or lie about our neighbor. When we have love we fulfill the law by putting God and our family and neighbors before ourselves. Love is putting others first. The first four commandments show us how to put God first. The last six tell us how to put our family and neighbors first.
The beautiful thing is how it is all brought about. When the Lawgiver gave the commandments, He began with the reminder, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” Exodus 20:2 Here the Lawgiver is reminding His people that they did not free themselves from the Egyptians, but that He freed them while they were totally helpless. He then goes on to explain in Exodus 20 that He will free them from other gods. He will free them from adultery and murder and other sins.
So how is this brought about? The Lawgiver tells us in Exodus 19:3-5,
And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel; ‘Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people.’ Exodus 19:3-5
Just as the Israelites did not save themselves from the Egyptians, but God did, so we will not save ourselves from the power of sin, but He will. He goes on and tells us to obey His voice. My Strong’s Concordance tells me that word “obey” (shama) means to listen and be attentive. God is not demanding a legalistic obedience of works.
Many have the idea that the Old Testament is about being saved by law while the New Testament is about being saved by grace. But grace is just as real in the Old Testament as it is in the New Testament. God wants us to listen to His voice of promises! The Lawgiver goes on and says “keep my covenant.” Again, according to my Strong’s concordance, that word “keep” (shamar) means to guard or protect. Shamar is the same word used in Genesis 2:15 when Adam was told to keep the garden. Did God mean for him to obey the garden? No, He meant for him to cherish the garden. Care for it. Protect it. The word “covenant” is also a promise. So in Exodus 19:3-5 the Lawgiver is telling us that just as He delivered the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, He will also deliver us from spiritual bondage, if we will only cherish His promises!
Thus we find in the Old Testament the same grace we see in the New Testament.
“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” 2 peter 1:4
God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning. –Ellen White, Desire of Ages, page 311.