I’m going to talk about Christ being the fulfillment of the Law; but more importantly, what I learned about this while my life was being torn apart by rejection and disease.
First, the basis.
All men are sinful. “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).
The ethical distance between God and us are so vast that even our “good works are like filthy rags before God.” (Is 64:6)
God always needs atonement for sins because God must punish sins or else I could never respect him. He holds us to a standard, not based on our own subjective standards, but to the standards of how He created us. He wants us to love Him with all our hearts, minds and strengths, and to love others like we love ourselves. These summarize all of God’s law. (Mark 12:30-31) This standard is far higher than not stealing, lying or murdering which form part of the 10 commandments. It’s And, the Bible says that if you break one law, you break them all.
In God’s Old Covenant through Moses, you do good you get good. You do bad, you get bad. Some call it retribution law. Some know this is just our religious intuition. But one thing is for sure, all men have fallen short of the glory of God.
God tried to prove this point by challenging his people to be good by their own works, and even promising to bless them abundantly should they succeed. To add even further contrast to this point, God even promised to punish them should they fail.
“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Ex 19:5)
To my surprise, the people of Israel agreed to God’s terms even before seeing the terms and conditions.
“All that the LORD has spoken we will do.” (Ex 19:8)
What arrogance is this? This is a picture of Simon Peter’s confidence in his own flesh when he pointed to the other disciples and said, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” (Matt 26:33). The opposite was John, who always focused on God’s love for him and not John’s own works. John called himself, “the disciple that Jesus loved” (John 20:2).
When the authorities came for Jesus and Pilate sent Jesus to the cross, Peter was found denying Jesus three times. John was found at the feet of Christ, and Christ gave him the responsibility to look after His earthly mother. One had confidence in himself, the other had confidence in Jesus’ love for him.
What is true of Peter also rang true with the peoples of Israel that boasted they could do whatever God asked them to do. Even before Moses could present them the commandments written on stone, They broke the very first commandment by building and then worshipping a golden calf (Exodus 32), leading to 3000 deaths. Contrast this to the people who received the atonement of Jesus during Pentecost, leading to 3000 people saved (Act 2:41). This is a shadow of the difference between the Law and Grace through Jesus.
The Law is holy, but it cannot never make you holy. The Law is to reveal your sins, it can never cure your sinful nature. And, the penalty for sin is spiritual death … the solution is only through Jesus Christ.
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law… (1 Cor 15:56)
… But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! (1 Cor 15:57)
The Law was always intended to show people just how bankrupt they are, and their innate need for a savior, a redeemer. Those who keep trying to “beat” the standards of God’s laws by themselves are destined to fail. The entire portion of the Old Testament after Moses giving of the covenant of Law is history to show us exactly that. At the very start, even with such blessings and curses at stake, the people failed the very first commandment! That is an epic fail. Fast forward hundreds of years later, and the nation of Israel had been conquered time and time again by foreign powers due to their inability to honor God and His commandments. The last prophetic book in the Old Testament, Malachi, ends on a bleak note. Through the prophet Malachi, the God of Israel exposes just how corrupt the post-exilic generations have become after returning from Babylon.
The last historical book in the Old Testament is 2 Chronicles. This book ends with a list of Israeli kings that did evil in the eyes of God with a summary of the nation of Israel’s behavior to this point.
“The LORD, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy” (2 Cor 36:15).
In other words, the general picture we get from the book is that the long years of Israel’s exile did not fundamentally change the hearts of the people. God’s punishment through the Law could not change people’s hearts.
This is why Paul says that God “has qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor 3:6).
Now if the ministry of death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at the face of Moses because of its fleeting glory, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation was glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry of righteousness! Indeed, what was once glorious has no glory now in comparison to the glory that surpasses it. For if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which endures! (2 Cor 3:7-10)
Even King David, the best of them, looked to the future and envied this glorious future ministry of righteousness. (Romans 4:6-8, Psalm 32:1)
David, the man who beat Goliath, the man “who was a man after God’s own heart” envied what we have, because he knows firsthand the harshness of God’s Law and that our own works will always fail.
JESUS fulfills all the requirements of the Law.
TODAY, Jesus fulfills the requirements of the Holy Law on our behalf! The law was perfectly kept by Christ. And all its penalties against God’s sinful people were poured out on Christ. Therefore, the law is now manifestly not the path to righteousness; Christ is. In order words, when God looks at us, He judges us based on what Jesus has done and not what we have done.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).
Jesus is the ultimate end of where the Law is pointing to, and the Prophets were referring to Jesus all the while.
Jesus himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17-20)
All the scriptures bear witness to Christ. Moses wrote about Christ.
“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me… If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me.” (John 5:39. 46)
All the promises of God in the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus Christ. That is, when you have Christ, you will eventually have both Christ himself and all else that God promised through Christ.
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1:20)
Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us, and He was the object of what God’s prophets were prophecizing about!
This is the reason for the famous verses for salvation for mankind.
It’s a free gift to be received by belief.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
The Law, your own works cannot save us, there is only one way.
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
Jesus leads to eternal, and abundant life. Don’t confuse the two. You have both.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
What does abundant life look like today?
The gift of righteousness in Christ not only results in unity with God, so that when we die, we naturally are with Him in eternity. It also allows us to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven that is already moving on earth. This kingdom is partially here, but not in fullness. The fullness occurs at the end of the age when Jesus comes back again to make all things right in the world.
This abundant life is made of the hesed or loving-kindness and divine favor of God.
What does that look like?
Instead of trying to describe with my own words, it’s just to describe it based on the example God has shown in the Bible. You can know it by contrasting it with the Blessings and Curses that come with obedience to the Law in the Old Covenant. To understand God’s grace, “charis” in the New Covenant, “hesed” in the Old Testament, we must frame our understanding on what God had previously established and not use our own predispositions or cultural understanding of the word “grace”.
Blessings for Obedience
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God:
You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.
The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed.
You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out.
The Curses for Disobedience
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you:
You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country.
Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed.
The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks.
You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out.
The Pharisees, Jewish establishment and teachers of the Law knew very well what Jesus was saying when he said this:
I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it in all its fullness. (John 10:9-10)
Through Jesus, we have access to those blessings of obedience because we rest of Jesus’ righteousness, not our own. The fullness or abundance that Jesus was talking about was directly referencing the blessings and curses due to obedience to the Law. Without Christ, we are vulnerable to the destruction the devil has on this fallen world. With Christ, we can be physically blessed and set apart from the authority of the devil. Note that the devil can only kill, steal and destroy on earth. We are immune from this in heaven. So Jesus’ abundance was referring to earth as well.
These blessings are exactly the blessings of Abraham that every Jew has been longing for. The reason the scriptures say that we Gentiles might provoke the Jews to jealousy is that God shared that which was exclusive to them through the Law but through Jesus instead.
I ask then, did they stumble so as to lose their share? Certainly not! However, because of their trespass, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous… in the hope that I may provoke my own people to jealousy and save some of them. (Romans 11:11,14)
He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galations 3:14)
I once asked a pastor back when I was studying at Veritas Seminary, “in Christ, will God treat me the same way He treated Abraham?”
These were precisely the blessing of Abraham, who walked with God under grace and not of law. That’s why we are children of Abraham and heirs to the promise. We are not under Moses. We are under Mount Zion, and not under Mount Sinai. We are under the covenant of life and not the covenant of death.
This means that not only are we not separated from God at death, we are also not separated from God today in physical life.
This is the reason why NT promises exist:
Supply needs for every good work. (2 Cor 9:8)
All things working out for you. (Rom 8:28)
You can do anything through Christ. (Phil 4:13)
Peace that surpasses all understanding. (Phil 4:7)
Over-answered prayers (Eph 3:20) See post: Under Grace, God over-answers your prayers.
All of these characterized God’s treatment of Abraham who was under grace and not law.
Because through Christ’s atonement for you, it is as though that Christ performed on your behalf. God sees Christ when He sees you. We got Jesus’ imputed righteousness, and not righteousness from our own works. This is the reason why we can be at peace. If righteousness is from our own works, we will never be at peace, because we know we will always eventually fail.
We are not worthy of blessings, Jesus is. Our spirits are too corrupted to have the faith that leads to miracles, but Jesus does. We can latch our weak faiths to Jesus’ perfect divine faith.