Sermon: Christ Fulfills the Scriptures
Scripture: Matthew 5:17
In this week’s lessons, we learn what it means that Jesus fulfilled what was written in the law and the prophets.
Theme: Christ and the Law
The first great public utterance of the Lord Jesus Christ on Scripture not only set forth its complete authority, as we saw last week. It also contained the categorical statement that the Scriptures were to be fulfilled in their entirety by him. Jesus said, “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 way pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matt. 5:17-18). We are now to ask: In what sense did Jesus fulfill the law and in what sense did he fulfill the prophets?
I believe that there is only one sense in which we can say that Jesus fulfilled the law without being grossly misleading. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law by dying on the cross and thereby satisfying forever the demands of the law against those who should believe on him. All other views of Christ’s fulfilling the law are misleading in terms of this great purpose, even though they may be quite true in themselves.
You may be asking, “How can it be that something true in itself can be misleading?” Well, let me give you an illustration. Suppose someone should ask you, “Why was it that George Washington crossed the Delaware on the night of December 25, 1776?” Well, if you are a humorist, you might answer it as you do the question about the chicken crossing the street: “He crossed it to get to the other side.” That would be true, but it would be misleading. You might also say, “The troops were restless and dispirited; and they were in need of some successful action.” That too would be true, but it also would be misleading. The real reason that Washington crossed the Delaware was to get to the British troops that were in Trenton and defeat them by this unexpected maneuver. And he did it as part of a general strategy for the American War of Independence. To give any other reason, even if it is true, is to cloud that primary purpose.
Now it is the same way in terms of Christ’s fulfilling the law. Some teachers have said that Jesus Christ fulfilled the law by keeping it perfectly. This is true. There are even Scripture verses to back up this teaching. For instance, Galatians 4:4 says that Jesus Christ was “made under the law.” And when Jesus was baptized in the Jordan he answered John’s objection to baptizing him by saying, “Suffer it to be so now; for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). In other words, he was stating his intention of identifying himself with man in every respect and as a man perfectly to fulfill all that the law of God required. Some commentators have pointed out that Jesus also fulfills the law by means of his Spirit in the lives of those who follow him. For Romans 8:4 says that God sent his Son to earth “that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
These points are true. And yet, if we look at these interpretations of Christ’s coming to fulfill the law, we are likely to miss the main purpose entirely. Because Jesus came not primarily to live in us by his Spirit, not primarily to obey the law by keeping it perfectly–although these things are true–but to die and in dying to cancel the claims of the law against all who should receive him as Savior.
This is taught by the law itself. Now if someone asks, ‘How does the law teach it?” the answer is that when the law was given the lamb was also given, and when Moses was chosen to be the lawgiver Aaron was also chosen to be the high priest. In ancient Israel the law and the sacrifices went hand in hand. God had arranged it in that way so that when a man sinned before the law, as all men did constantly, he had a means of atonement by which his guilt was cancelled. This innocent sacrifice pointed forward to the full and perfect sacrifice of Christ.
What is the primary purpose that Christ came to fulfill the law? What other purposes are also involved?
How does the law itself teach this primary purpose?
Application: In your Bible reading, how much time do you spend in the Old Testament?
For Further Study: To learn more about how Christ fulfills the law, download for free and listen to James Boice’s message, “Christ, the Fulfillment of the Law.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)