The Law Fulfilled
Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Matthew 5:17-18
It is our privilege this morning to turn back to the Gospel of Matthew for our text for today's message, Matthew 5. I invite you to turn there with me. Matthew 5 as we continue our study of the Sermon on the Mount and we are in a very critical juncture in the text and come to a most strategic consideration that really provides a pivot point for understanding everything about the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ and everything about the nature of your salvation. These things that we are going to consider this morning are profound, they require the mental effort and the spiritual energy to comprehend them, but they repay the attention that we're going to give to them here this morning.
We talk of Christ as our Savior and we exalt him and we love him for that, the question that we sometimes take for granted, sometimes that never really gets asked even is: how can it be that Christ can be our Savior? What qualifies him to be our Savior? And beyond that, why is it that we need a Savior? Well, in Matthew 5:17-20 we are going to have that introduced to us yet again today.
Matthew 5, beginning in verse 17, Jesus said,
17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."
Notice in that final verse there, in verse 20, that righteousness is required to enter into the kingdom of heaven and that is key to understanding everything about the kingdom of God, and Jesus is addressing the whole issue of righteousness throughout the Sermon on the Mount and in a context in which he promises God's blessing for those who seek that righteousness. And as we've considered this particular text, these four verses of Matthew 5:17-20 over the past two or three times, we've seen that Jesus is doing an awful lot in this text and that's why we are taking five messages to expound it. This is really message number three in that series. At first we saw that Jesus was challenging and rebuking and really overturning the prevailing spiritual authority of the day. The Pharisees were the spiritual leaders of the Jewish community at that time and the things that they said and the things that they were taught were automatically received as true and accurate and representative of what the truth of God was. We have seen that Jesus demolished that. He challenged the Pharisees. He came and actually stood against them. This man who was clothed in human flesh like us, stood against the Pharisees and rebuked the prevailing spiritual attitude of the day. And you see that again in verse 20 saying, telling those that were gathered around as his disciples, those who were listening to him on that day on the Mount, he said, "Unless your righteousness exceeds the Pharisees, you won't enter the kingdom of heaven," saying by implication the Pharisees themselves were not in the kingdom of heaven and were not on their track to go there. This was a great challenge. This was a monumental conflict going on that might not necessarily be apparent on a first initial superficial reading of Matthew's Gospel.
Now on Tuesday, I know many of you weren't with us on Tuesday, but on Tuesday we saw, this past Tuesday we saw that all of the Old Testament was pointing toward Christ; that the law and the prophets were pointing toward him and developing over the centuries in anticipation of this coming Messiah and saying, "This is the one to whom you are to look." It gave a list, you could say, of qualifications and expectations and Christ shows up on the scene and says, "I'm here. I am here to fulfill everything that you have read in the prior centuries in the word of God." And now today, having seen that he opposed the Pharisees, that the Old Testament is pointing to him, now we're going to see what Jesus means when he says, "I fulfill the Old Testament. I fulfill the law and the prophets," as he said in verse 17.
Well, let's step back for just a moment and consider what is at stake here, knowing that we have some that are visitors with us, we are so glad that you are with us; others that have just been with us a time or two maybe and are still new to the teaching of the Bible. Let me tell you something very important about this teaching of Scripture and that is this: that God's law condemns all of mankind, condemns men for falling short of his standard, condemns men for not being what they are supposed to be and what his word reveals. In Romans 3:19-20 it says this, it says, "whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." God's law teaches us that we do not meet the law. It teaches us that we are violators of the law in our hearts, in the things that we say, and in the things that we do; that God commands certain things to be done and we neglect that, we don't do it. All of us if we thought somewhat earnestly about our lives for just a short five minutes would realize that the Scriptures condemn us when it says that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, strength and mind, that we are to acknowledge him in all our ways and to trust him in everything that we do. Well, you know, for most, for many anyway we could say, that those that have a Bible find that it's most often in the closed position in their household; that it gathers dust far more quickly than the TV remote does. And we should ask ourselves: how am I loving God with all of my heart, soul, strength or mind when that is true? When I am ignorant of God's word and I don't even have a desire for it? How could it be that I'm right with a holy God when his word is of no interest to me?
It condemns us in that way and as the law sets forth a standard of the things that we are to be and the things that we are not to do, we realize that we've stolen, we realize that we have told lies, we realize that we have lusted in our hearts, and that we have coveted things that were not ours and in multiple multiple ways, Scripture comes and it condemns us for our ungodliness, for our unrighteousness. That's what it means when it says "through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." God says you shall not, and you have. God says you shall, and you have not. So Scripture, far from congratulating man for his goodness, Scripture far from telling man that he has a spark of divinity inside him that just needs to be flamed into righteousness, tells us that we have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; that our righteousness is like filthy rags before God and that we are all broken and ruined; that to violate one aspect of the law is to break it all, to be a lawbreaker, to be guilty, to be condemned before a holy God; and that we are walking in this brief window of time as those who are under a black cloud of judgment and wrath against our sin.
This is very serious and, beloved, what it teaches us is this: is that we are not to trifle with God's word. We are not to look at it as some kind of superficial add-on that we can take or leave as we wish. God's word declares its authority over us all and condemns us for ungodliness and our unrighteousness. God has revealed his moral law and you do not meet it. You have not satisfied the standard of perfection that his word requires. And the word of God exposes us, it exposes our ingratitude, it exposes our lack of faith, it exposes our rebellion, it exposes our selfishness, it exposes our hatred toward our fellow man. It exposes our indifference to spiritual things. God has revealed his moral law and you and I do not meet it, and as a result of that, we face judgment.
Jonathan Edwards said this about the law and I quote, he says, "It serves as an instrument that the great Redeemer uses to convince men of their sin and misery and helplessness. It reveals God's awful majesty and justice as a lawgiver so to make men sensible of the necessity of Christ as a Savior." In other words, as God's word comes to you and exposes your sin, it should have an effect upon you. It should humble you. It should make you fearful of God. And to realize that you cry out and you ask, "How can I be reconciled? How can I be made right with this holy God whom I have violated, whom I have sinned against, whom I have not loved as I should?"
Beloved, I would not be a faithful pastor if from time to time I did not make it known and plain to you that the law condemns you. The law does not congratulate you for your righteousness. You fall short of it and Scripture testifies to that repeatedly. The law is not your friend, in that sense. The law does not come and say you are doing a good job, the law comes to you and says you fall short, and that is the fundamental starting point of Christianity. There is no salvation for someone who doesn't have some kind of recognition of that. And if you have been under the teaching of pastors or priests who have flattered you and told you what a good person you are, they were not doing you any favors. They were hiding the truth from you. They were distorting things and giving you a completely false impression. And beloved, it's that environment that makes the words of Christ so precious to us today, make them so vital in their importance.
Look at verse 17 with me again. We have the law condemning us but God does that and uses the law for a purpose as he brings that to our mind and to our attention. He does it so that we would look for a Savior; so that you would recognize your guilt and say, "How do I get out from under the burdensome weight of this condemnation? How do I escape? How can I be reconciled to this holy God that I have offended? How can I find righteousness that I don't have? How can I find forgiveness of my sins when I have already broken the law? How can I fix a window that I have already thrown the rock through and shattered it?" Well, all of that is necessary to come with the proper sense of humility to God's word, to ask the questions that alone could lead you to salvation in Christ, and here in Matthew 5:17 and 18, we find Jesus answering that great spiritual need that we have.
He says in verse 17, look at it with me again in Matthew 5:17 and 18. He says, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." You see, there is one more thing that I could say: don't be deluded into thinking that simply because God is love, and he is love, but don't think that his love simply means that he'll pass over your sin and just not care about it in the end. That's not true. Your sin must be dealt with and God does not just automatically erase the sin of men from their accounts so that everyone goes into heaven. There must be a conscious recognition that you need to be delivered from your guilt, you must be a recipient of mercy that you don't deserve if you are ever going to be reconciled to this holy God and go to heaven. Well, here in these two verses we find what it is that makes Jesus capable and qualified of being the Savior of men. The only one. The only Savior of men.
Look again at verse 17 as we dive now more specifically into the text. Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets." You say, "Ah, this is the Law, this is representative of that which condemns me. This must grab my attention," you say to your heart. "This must occupy my thoughts. This must occupy my mind. I must come to grips with what is said here, something in here is vital to my spiritual well-being." Jesus says, "I did not come to abolish but to fulfill." What? You mean to tell me that there is someone, there is one who answers every demand of the law? There is one who fulfills it? There is one who meets what it requires? We must pay attention to this.
When Jesus said, "I came to fulfill the Law," that word "fulfill" has the idea of "carrying it out; of meeting its purpose; of executing the plan that the law had in mind." The law and the prophets referring to what we now know as the 39 books of the Old Testament in English, that this was the word of God that was available at the time when Jesus spoke; the New Testament had yet to be written. So Jesus is claiming that he came to earth from heaven in order to accomplish everything that the Old Testament had in mind. He brought it all to pass. The things that the Old Testament was pointing to, Jesus says, "That's why I'm here is to fulfill it." After 1,500 years of progressive revelation from God from Genesis through Malachi, again in our English Bible, all that was being unfolded by Moses, by David in the Psalms, by the prophets, but the other writers of Scripture, Christ says, "Everything that they said in that majestic library of divine revelation, I fulfill. I came to do it. I came to keep it. I came to carry it out."
As we said on Tuesday, I'd encourage all of you to try to be with us on Tuesdays as you are able because a lot of important things are said on Tuesday. It's not just Sunday where God's word is spoken at Truth Community Church. But as we said on Tuesday, Jesus is making this monumental claim that he is the fulfillment of 1,500 prior years of divine revelation and he brought it all to pass. What Jesus is saying is, even though he is confronting the existing Pharisees who claimed to be the representatives of God and says, "You guys don't have it. Those are not the guys to listen to," Jesus says, "but don't get the idea that I'm actually setting aside God's real word. I'm here to fulfill it. These guys have perverted it. Now," he says, "listen to me." And as he makes plain, Jesus could never have been here to set aside the Old Testament.
Look at verse 18. This is still by way of a little bit of review, I guess. Why is it that he could not possibly be here to abolish the law? It's because the law is permanent. Verse 18, he says, "truly I say to you," this is a divine attestation, this is solemn testimony that Jesus is giving, "truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished." And what Jesus is saying is, "What the Law requires, what the Law set forth, I am here to accomplish it." This is why Jesus came.
Now, notice something important here because it sets the stage for what we're going to see now this morning. Jesus spoke about different divisions of the law: the law given by Moses; the prophets who spoke in different ways and over a period of time. So he's bringing forth different aspects – oh, this is so vital for you to understand – he's bringing forth the fullness of the Old Testament and setting it into the context of what he is saying. Not only that, speaking in those broad terms, he also invokes all of the detail of the law and shows that he has that in mind when he says, "not the smallest letter or stroke from the Law will pass away." So as Jesus speaks here in Matthew 5:17 and 18, he's speaking about the law broadly and he's speaking about it deeply. In breadth and in depth, in detail and in broad themes, Jesus says, "I'm here to fulfill it all." That means something. That means that when he says, "I am here to fulfill it," his fulfillment is answering the breadth and the depth of the law simply on the surface of what he said.
Now as we kind of pivot into things, beloved, understand that the law is multifaceted. There is a threefold division. A lot of theologians like to point out that the law has its moral aspects, that which governs and commands the morality of men everywhere. Paul says in Romans 2 that even those who did not receive the law have it written on their hearts. They had a moral code that is imprinted on their heart that reveals God's law to them. The law was made known in its civil sense in the way that it governed society in the Old Testament in the nation of God's people. And in its ceremonial sense, the law had sacrifices and feasts that were repeated year after year, looking forward to a time of their ultimate fulfillment. Well, in that multifaceted way, the law speaks and exercised and proclaimed its authority. The statement of God's law was broad and it was detailed and there was a lot of complexity to it. Jesus says, "I came to fulfill it," meaning that he came to fulfill it not in just a general vague kind of sense, Jesus came to fulfill it in detail. And what we are going to see today is we're going to see what Jesus meant when he said, "I came to fulfill the Old Testament. I came to fulfill the Law and Prophets." And beloved, once again at the risk of repeating myself, why do I repeat things? Sometimes it's because they are so very important because it's hard to learn, because it's easy to get bogged down and you forget, and so we repeat things again and again to emphasize them and to help you learn and to understand and appreciate what Scripture says. It's so vital to your eternal well-being.
Now, as we look at this, we remember that the law condemns us and yet Jesus says that he came to fulfill the law. Somehow there is a pivot point, there is a hinge between the condemnation of God revealed through the law and the fulfillment which brings you blessing in Christ. The hinge of that is found right here in the passage before us because Jesus says that he has fulfilled the law. He has answered its demands. He has answered its anticipations. Everything about him fulfills it, accomplishes it, brings it to pass so that your only hope is found in this one who met the law that you did not. That's why this is vital and so we're going to look at four ways this morning that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament understanding that it is this fulfillment that qualifies him to be your Savior.
Now, first of all, we can say it this way: Jesus fulfilled the messianic predictions. Jesus fulfilled the messianic predictions and here's what we mean by that. The prophets had for a long period of time given snapshots of what the Messiah would look like, what he would do, what he would be. We saw that in Moses, the law of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15, we saw this on Tuesday in case you were wondering, not following quite what I'm saying there, Moses said that God would, "raise up a prophet after me, listen to him." In David in the Psalms we see repeated references to pictures of the Messiah, pictures of him being crucified: not a bone of him broken; being betrayed by those that were close to him. "It was you, a trusted friend, who betrayed me," finding its fulfillment in Judas. Other prophets, Isaiah, Micah, Zechariah, too many others to mention, gave different snapshots, different aspects of which to attend to: that he would be born of a virgin; that he would be born in Bethlehem; that he would ride into Jerusalem on a donkey; that he would be crucified and suffer in a substitutionary way for the sins of his people, Isaiah 53. And on and on it goes. We looked at all of that on Tuesday. These prophets speaking 500, 700, 1,000, 1,500 years before the time of Christ saying, "Look for this one to come. Look for one like this." And in Jesus Christ, in his Incarnation, in his life, in his death, and his resurrection, we find all of the prophets answered; we find them fulfilled in Christ. Jesus fulfilled the law and the prophets in part by fulfilling and accomplishing and – watch this – being what the prophets had been forecasting for centuries to come. He fulfilled the messianic predictions. If you want to pursue this more, there should be CDs out there. That's what we covered on Tuesday, so I just mention it by way of review here. Jesus fulfilled the messianic predictions.
Secondly, now we get into some new material here. Secondly, how did Jesus fulfill the law and the prophets? Secondly, he fulfilled the law in his teaching. In his teaching and we are going to see this very plainly from the future context of Matthew 5. Jesus, remember, came into an environment where the Pharisees had hijacked, you could say, the teaching of God's law. They had made it something purely external while Jesus said they were like dead men's bones inside. They externalized everything. They loved in a parade of outward apparent righteousness that had no corresponding inner reality to it. They would tell people to withhold things from their own parents in order to give it to God and Jesus said they in so doing violated the commandment of God which said, "Honor your father and mother." Different things like that. The Pharisees had totally perverted what God's word meant.
Well Jesus, understand, Jesus fulfills the law in coming and, as it were, rescuing it, delivering it from that false perversion that the prevailing spiritual authorities had overlaid on it and hidden the true meaning of God's word from his people. And you can see this in the following context in Matthew 5 and we're going to look at six passages very briefly here because we'll cover them all in the future. But Jesus in the rest of Matthew 5, will say, "You have heard that it was said such and such." In a sense quoting and stating, "Here's what you have been taught before I came." Then he'll say, "Now let me tell you what Scripture really means by contrast." He clarified the law from the perversions that the Pharisees had overlaid on it.
I want you to see this. Matthew 5:21, just kind of follow along with your finger knowing that in days to come we are going to look at all of these passages far more closely. This is just by way of overview to show you that Jesus fulfilled the law in his teaching. In verse 21 Jesus said, "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.'" The key phrase here, "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court," and on it goes. You have heard that it was said this but I say to you this.
Jesus continues that pattern in verse 27, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." They say this, I say this.
Look at verse 31. You see the pattern. It's as plain as day. He says, "It was said, 'Whoever sends his wife away, let him give her a certificate of divorce'; but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery." They said this, I say this.
Look again at verse 33, "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not make false vows, but shall fulfill your vows to the Lord.' But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet." They say, I say.
Verse 38, "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also."
And finally in verse 43, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you," and on it goes.
All that you need to see for now is this sixfold repetition of the pattern. Jesus is quoting what the prevailing teaching was, of what the Old Testament meant at the hands of the Pharisees, and he says, "But let me tell you now what it really means." And again and again what Jesus is doing here is he is showing that there is an internal dynamic to the law; that the law commands not only external behavior but it commands heart attitudes. The law applies to who you are inside. 1 Samuel 16:7, "man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart."
Well, the Pharisees had twisted all of that beyond recognition. They had completely neglected the internal dynamic of the law and just made it something external that actually became achievable to accomplish, to do, and that was a complete misrepresentation of the teaching. Jesus here fulfills the law by rescuing it from that captivity that it had been under and said, "Let me tell you what it really means. It's not just that you shouldn't commit the physical act of murder, understand that God condemns the angry attitudes of your heart. It's not just that you should avoid physical adultery with a woman or a man who is not your spouse, understand that God condemns the inward attitude of lust. It's not just that you should love those who love you back, God commands you to love your enemies. God commands you to show kindness and consideration even to those that you oppose." Well, this was totally foreign to the religious environment of the day. Six times Jesus explained the true moral force of the law and six times he shows it goes deeper, it is more penetrating, it is more searching, it is more pervasive than anything that you have ever heard from the Pharisees.
Well, understand that as he does that, he's not simply laying out a moral code for his disciples to follow, he is doing something that is more transcendent, more significant than that. He is looking at the Old Testament in its individual parts and saying, "Let me tell you what it really means." He is fulfilling the purpose of the Old Testament by clarifying its intent with his teaching and all of a sudden that which men could nod superficially at and say, "Yeah, I haven't murdered and I haven't committed adultery. I don't smoke or chew and I don't go with girls who do," kind of thing. Jesus says, "You need to come back and look at the law all over again and realize that God is weighing the attitudes and motivations of your heart and if there is anger there, there is sin there. If there is lust there, there is sin there. And you can't simply excuse yourself by saying, 'I haven't done it outwardly.'"
This is a fulfillment of what the Old Testament taught and meant. I mean, this never should have gotten to this point anyway. The tenth commandment says, "You shall not covet," in Exodus 20. You shall not covet and so the law on its own terms dealt with heart attitudes and it is the tradition of false teachers everywhere to soften and lower the demands of the law so that people think they meet them and thereby hide from them their need for a Savior. Jesus says, "Don't fall into that quicksand. Understand that the law has this moral force," and he clarifies it and he fulfills the law and he honors it by bringing its true teaching to the front. Bless his name. And Jesus fulfilled the law and its teaching. So understand as we look at this in the future, when Jesus says, "But I say to you," Jesus isn't changing the law, Jesus is fulfilling it. He shows how it always applied to the inner man and in that way fulfilled its purpose.
Now, so Jesus fulfilled the messianic predictions, he fulfilled the law in his teaching, thirdly, Jesus fulfilled the law with his obedience. With his obedience. Jesus was born as a Jew and as a Jew the law had authority even over his own life. Galatians 4:4, you don't need to turn there. Galatians 4:4 says that Jesus was "born under the Law," under its authority, born with responsibility to honor its precepts and to keep it, so that even Christ was subject to the law's authority on earth. And what did he do during his 33 years or so in his earthly life? He did what the law commanded. He avoided what the law prohibited. He fulfilled in all detail. He did everything that was required by the law and Scripture makes this very plain and Jesus said it in his own words, that he obeyed the law to perfection without exception. Perfection without exception is what Christ did as he lived on earth and under the law.
In John 8:46 he spoke to his opponents, those that were hostile to him, and he laid a challenge out to them and he said, "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?" Look, if there was anything, any defect in his life, they would have pounced on it and proclaimed it because it was in their interest to do so, to undermine him, to disavow his authority, to pull him down off his lofty throne. Jesus said, "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?" No one spoke because there was no transgression to point out to them.
Scripture often affirms the sinlessness of Christ. Hebrews 4:15 says he was "tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin," so that Scripture testifies. Even Pilate said, "I find no guilt in the man. I wash my hands of this because there is no guilt in this man." And they cried out for his blood and Pilate says, "Why? What evil has he done?" And their response wasn't to bring forth a valid factual conviction, they just went and incited the mob all the further, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" They passed over the question to get to the result they wanted. Why did they pass over it? Because there was nothing to say. Our Lord was perfect in every way. His obedience was exquisite. It was detailed. It was without fail. So Christ fulfilled the law in the sense that he kept it in his own life.
Now, beloved, this has great significance to you. It was that righteous life that was offered up on the cross for your sins. It was that perfect righteousness that was sacrificed; that pure and innocent blood without defect that was spilled out at Calvary for sinners like you. And beloved, when you put your faith in Christ, when a sinner turns to Christ for salvation and receives him, one of the blessed things that God does as a gracious gift is he takes that perfect act of obedience of Christ and applies it to your account as if you yourself had lived it. Beloved, it is the obedience of Christ that he did in a representative capacity for you that is applied to your account and – watch this – and answers the condemnation of the law against you. It is because of the righteousness of Christ which satisfies, fulfills the demands of the law, that that is deposited, as it were, on your spiritual account and that satisfies the law of God on your behalf.
You couldn't have done it. You have not done it. You will never fulfill the law on your own merit, in your own efforts, and yet what Christ did, he did for his people. And as he kept the law, in the gift of salvation, that righteousness is applied graciously as a free gift to your account and this is why the condemnation of the law is silenced against true Christians, silenced against those that are in Christ, because we are joined together with him, we are in union with him, and we get the full benefit of everything that he did. And in that full benefit, that full obedience to the law, it spills over and accounts to us as well as a gracious gift from God. And that's why there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Why? Because a perfect righteousness has been applied and credited to your account.
God – watch this – this is why it is all of mercy, it is all of grace, and there is no element of human righteousness in it – God graciously accepts the obedience of Christ as though it were your obedience. God accepts his righteousness in a representative capacity on your behalf when you put your faith in Christ and that's why your justification, your declaration of righteousness from God, it is instantaneous, it is immediate, and it is irreversible when you put your faith in Christ. Why? Because the righteousness put to your account is perfect, impeccable and irreversible itself and that's why we have peace with God. That's why we can move forward with confidence. It's because Christ fulfilled the law in his life and we get the benefit of his obedience.
Fourthly, Jesus fulfilled the law in his death. Jesus fulfilled the law in his death. You know, there is no way to separate these things out. This is all of one cloth and it is so important for you to understand that this is all a unit; this is all unified; this is all indivisible. We talk about it in separate points simply for the sake of us being able to take it in and to understand it and to somehow get a portion of our mind around it but this is all indivisible. As Christ is moving forward fulfilling the messianic predictions, he is moving forward in righteousness in his life, moving forward in his teaching. It's all of one great wonder. It's all one great, majestic, single kaleidoscope of glory is what this teaches us to do. And here in this crowning point, point 4: Jesus fulfilled the law in his death.
Go back to the book of Deuteronomy, if you will, in Deuteronomy 28, remembering that we have already seen from Romans 3 that the law closes the mouth of everyone in the world, that all the world may become accountable before God. It silences us all. And part of the nature of the law is that it calls down curses on disobedience. There is a divine damnation that is pronounced on those who do not keep the law. Let's just state it bluntly like that. And in Deuteronomy 28:15 as Moses is speaking to the people of Israel, as he is about to depart this earthly life, he warns them and he says in verse 15 of Deuteronomy 28, "it shall come about, if you do not obey the LORD your God, to observe to do all His commandments and His statutes with which I charge you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country." And on and on it goes.
You see, the law is not to be – I'll say it again. I said it earlier, I'll say it again – the law is not to be trifled with. Your disobedience is a matter of eternal consequence. The fact that you fall short of the glory of God is a matter of eternal weight on your soul. This must be answered or you are destined to perish miserably forever and ever. This curse must be answered and it is repeated in various forms throughout the entire law and it is a curse that applies to us individually because of our own disobedience before God. Cursed is your soul apart from Christ. This is weighty stuff.
Now, the question is this: Jesus said he came to fulfill the law, as part of the law there are these curses on disobedience, these curses which go to your eternal jeopardy, and the question is how did Jesus fulfill that part of the law? How did Jesus fulfill that curse part of the law? Scripture blessedly is very very clear on this point as well.
Turn to Galatians 3 and, oh, if you do not know Christ, this should thrill your heart as the weight of the conviction that God's law brings upon your soul, as that comes to your mind and comes to your consciousness and weighs on you and causes you fear and disquiet in your conscience, here is the answer, the blessedness of it all. Galatians 3:10 says this, "For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Accursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them.'" Scripture repeats the Old Testament curse in the New Testament and says that this curse is on all men and on all of their works. And Paul interjects almost in a parenthetical way in verse 11 to say, "Now that no one is justified by the Law is evident." Justification is a word that means that the law declares no one righteous. No one can find their righteousness before God through obedience to the law, is what that is saying. No one is justified that way and Paul quotes the Old Testament from Habakkuk 2:4 and says, "For the righteous man shall live by faith." And he says in verse 12, "However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, 'He who practices them shall live by them.'" If you think that you can be right before God by obedience to the law, by your good works, that you can be good enough for God, understand that Scripture closes that door, slams it shut, locks it, bars it and throws away the key. No one is justified by the law. No one is good enough to go to God.
And here we are under this curse and in a great Gospel text in verse 13, Paul speaks to that and he says, "Christ redeemed us," he bought us out from under "the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us - for it is written," Deuteronomy 21:23, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree." When Christ was hanging on the cross, God delivered the punishment of the divine curse upon him. The curse of sinners' disobedience fell on the weight of the sinless shoulders of the Son of God. The Old Testament said, "Accursed is everyone who hangs on a tree," and at Calvary Christ hung on the wood of a tree, suspended between heaven and earth, bearing the wrath of God on behalf of sinners just like you. Christian, became a curse for you. This sweet, lovely, obedient, Son of God full of grace and mercy and compassion who called sinners who were weak and heavy laden to come to him, that impeccable Son of God hung and suffered for curse for you.
And why did he do that? Verse 14, sheer undeserved grace, so that, verse 14, "in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Beloved, there was an act of divine justice that was going on at the cross. God was honoring the penalty that his law required and he pulled out the full fury of that penalty and poured it out on the Lord Jesus Christ, and in his infinite being as God Incarnate, he absorbed the curse. He took the full weight of the full eternal punishment. He felt the full pains, the full pangs of your eternal judgment as he was suspended there on the cross. He became that curse on your behalf. Paid it in full so that you could go free. And as he did that, he fulfilled the law. He fulfilled the curse. He paid its price for those who believe.
Beloved, when we are talking about Christ fulfilling the law in his obedience and in his death, understand that we are describing the very and the only basis upon which you can be saved. This is the crux of the matter. Everything hinges on this. This is why Christ can save you. You violated the law, Christ kept it. The law cursed you, Christ paid the curse. And the question is: how do you become the beneficiary of that gift? He just doesn't indiscriminately apply it to everyone. Not everyone will be saved. In fact, Christ said, "Few are those who find it." Christ says, "Come to me." You receive him by faith. And when we say receive him, put your faith, put your trust in Christ, it means this: it means that you recognize the fullness of who he is and the fulfillment of the work that he did. The fulfillment of the law. The fulfillment of God's word is found in Christ. And you recognize that. You believe it. You trust in it and you receive it and you say, "I make that my own. "Christ, I receive you. I submit to you. I welcome you. I need you. I bow before you." And you rest in him, meaning that you understand that Christ paid it all on your behalf; that there is nothing that you can add to improve on the righteousness of Christ. You realize that Christ satisfied it all and you say, "That is the rest of my soul. I rest, I stake my eternal destiny entirely on what someone else did. On a life I did not live, on a death I did not die, I stake my whole eternity."
That is Christian salvation and the question is: have you believed in Christ like that? Have you received him like that? Do you see him high and holy and exalted over all? The King of kings, the Lord of lords, the alpha and omega? And you say, "He is that to me. He is my obedience before God. He is my answer to the curse. It's all in him. It's nothing of me." Have you received him like that? For alone in Christ is there salvation. This is why Christ can save you from sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "He made Him," that is, Christ, "who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." His righteousness exchanged for your sin as a free gift. It's a wonderful thing. The thing about it is you have to check your humility at the door. You can't take your baggage of pride and your works through the turnstile that leads to heaven. You have to leave it behind and walk through alone, walk-through on the basis of Christ and say, "I enter through him, not on myself."
So Christ, beloved, fulfilled the law in a wondrous way. He fulfilled the messianic predictions. He fulfilled the law in his teaching. He fulfilled it in his obedience. He fulfilled it in his death. What a wonderful wonderful Lord we have.
So here's the key, I'll say it one more time. You know, in public rhetoric, in secular rhetoric, maybe you don't repeat things so much, you don't make the same point over and over. A Christian pastor does because he wants to leave no stone unturned, he wants to leave no opportunity, he wants to give no quarter for anyone to walk out without understanding because there are eternal matters at stake that far transcend the principles of public rhetoric or public speaking. So I'll say it to you one more time, beloved: God's law, God's word, does not congratulate you on your obedience. God's word condemns you for your disobedience and that should humble your pride. It should slay your condescension toward your fellow man. It should make you have the sense of being solitary, alone, before a holy God, naked and without dress, and everything exposed before him, and you cry out, "Christ," in the words of the hymn, "I am naked. I come to thee for dress. Clothe me with your righteousness that I might be able to stand before this holy God." Humble your pride. Kill, mortify your condescension and then flee to Christ in love and faith. Why? Because he says, "Whoever comes to me, I will not cast him out." He graciously offers the benefit of his life, death and resurrection to you as a free gift to secure your eternal well-being, the forgiveness of your sins before a holy God. And beloved, do you understand, to spurn that offer is the greatest guilt of them all. To say, "I'm too good for that," or to say, "I don't want that," is to reject the most holy thing in all the universe.
Christian, renew your trust in Christ. Find your rest in him. As you come in weighed down with sin and temptation this morning, take a deep breath and say, "Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. I remember now, Jesus paid it all and I am welcome in the sight of a holy God through him and at rest." And you can let your shoulders down and you can relax because you have been reconciled to a holy God through this perfect Savior. To those of you that still stiffen your neck against Christ, against the Gospel, I beg you with brokenness of heart on behalf of Christ, I beg you, flee from the condemnation of the law of God and find your rest and find salvation in Christ because he alone can save you from the curse of sin.
Let's bow together in prayer.
"I hear the Savior say, 'Thy strength indeed is small; Child of weakness, watch and pray, Find in Me thine all in all.'
"Jesus paid it all, All to Him I owe; Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow."