Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. - Romans 13:8
Hey, folks - my name is Karter with a K. I graduated back in the spring with a Math Econ degree! While at UK, I spent a good bit of time serving at the B doing various things and attended Commonwealth City Church. The great Kat Rankin asked me to write this (hopefully) short devotional, but before you continue, be sure to thank her for putting this together! Getting a couple dozen college students to do something on time is certainly no small feat. Lastly, all references are in ESV (if you aren’t using it, get with the program).
The topic of reflection today is how Jesus fulfills the Mosaic Covenant (a.k.a. the Law), a claim He makes in Matthew 5:17-20. Notice I say reflection, not study, as this is hardly scratching the surface of one of the richest displays of grace in Scripture. The Mosaic Covenant, in short, is outlined in the first five books of the Old Testament and is an agreement (covenant) made between God and Israel. The terms of this agreement were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and include 613 commandments on everything from how to worship God, to eating, to punishment for crimes.
The rest of the Old Testament is a detailed record of Israel’s misunderstanding and disobedience to these laws, despite the warnings of numerous prophets. Seeing this disobedience, these prophets prophesied that God would have to soften the hearts of Israel if it were to ever obey God as the Law intended – that is, from a place of deep love (where the law is written on the heart), rather than in a rigid obedience.
Now, up until this point, the Jews listening to Jesus had been operating under the confines of the Law, convinced that overt obedience would curry favor with God. Later in Matthew, the Pharisees (who taught this strict obedience to the Law) try to trap Jesus into writing off part of the Law as unimportant. In response, Jesus states the demands of the Law can be summed up with the commands to “love the Lord your God (Matt. 22:37)” and “love your neighbor (Matt. 22:39).”
With this in mind, let’s return to Matthew 5. If you read beyond verse 20, you will now see that Jesus is about to rock the boat. With every successive point, He destroys the notion that it is outward obedience that makes one righteous. Instead, the fulfillment of these commands is found not only by following what they say, but the principles they outline. Notice Jesus’ formula for not just the rest of chapter 5, but the rest of the sermon: “You thought this was how you obey this commandment, but I am telling you the right way is much more demanding.” For instance, Jesus expands obedience of “thou shall not murder” from simply not murdering someone. Instead, you also violate this Law in law when you harbor resentment toward a brother.
Now, we still have an issue. The Law is more demanding than previously thought and we already sucked at obeying it because of the hard hearts that the prophets spoke of. Here is where Jesus fulfills the Mosaic Covenant. He takes on flesh and fulfills all the requirements of the Law, keeping Israel’s end of the Covenant. He fulfilled it in the most radical way possible – loving man to the point of death on a cross. In this death and resurrection, He grants the Holy Spirit and a new heart to those who believe in Him, enabling us to fulfill the Law of God by loving both God and our neighbor.
In your own life, do you have a healthy understanding of what it means to obey God? Or do you try to earn your salvation by following a list of dos and don’ts? Are you more susceptible to doing this with some commandments rather than others? Why?
How can you worship God deeper knowing how He has provided a way for you to participate in this new covenant with his Spirit and a new heart?
Spend some time in prayer reflecting on your need for grace in upholding God’s commandments. Pray that God would keep you from a works-based pursuit of Him.