When people ask me if I believe we’re still under the Law, I’ve adopted Bill Vanderbush’s answer: “Of course! I’m under the Law of the Spirit of Life!“ I’m not trying to be clever, just making an important point. Something changed at the Cross. Yet, we should not be too quick to dismiss the Law, because if we do, we might miss something important to understand.
I’ve been thinking about this for quite awhile, and recently I was pondering Jesus’ following statement:
17 “If you think I’ve come to set aside the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets, you’re mistaken. I have come to bring to perfection all that has been written. 18 Indeed, I assure you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not even the smallest detail of the Law will be done away with until its purpose is complete. (Matt.5:17-18 TPT)
I was struck by the statement, “until its purpose is complete.” In my Bible’s notes it says, “Or ‘until all its purpose come true.'”
This made me think, what is supposed to “come true” about the Law? It seems to me that whenever people use this passage, they’re completely focused on defending why we’re still under the Law, and by doing so, seem to completely miss the proverbial forest for the trees; they’re focusing on the means but never understanding the ends.
Sometimes, we read these passages like little children who don’t like being told not to play in the park after dark, never realizing it may become a dangerous place in the dark. We focus on rules to obey, never understanding their loving purpose.
We’ve even gone so far in our “childish” understanding as to tell people that God is against children who play in the park after dark. That’s the point! God hates naughty kids who play in the park after the streetlights come on!
Of course, this is an absurd illustration, but is it much different than our legalist interpretation of what Jesus is saying here?
And, if this is our understanding of the Law, then how will we ever know when its purpose is fulfilled? Or, when “all its purpose comes true”….or even know what that means?
And for those who want to use this passage to bludgeon wandering Christians, did we forget what Jesus says later in the same message?
12 In everything, treat others as you would want them to treat you, for this fulfills the law and the prophets. (Matt.7:12 NET*)
Of course, there’s the rub. We don’t consistently treat others the way we want to be treated. We’re innately hypocritical: “grace for me, but not for thee.” As Paul said, we do the things we don’t want to do, and don’t do what we know we should.
13 So, did something meant to be good become death to me? Certainly not! It was not the law but sin unmasked that produced my spiritual death. The sacred commandment merely uncovered the evil of sin so it could be seen for what it is. 14 For we know that the law is divinely inspired and comes from the spiritual realm, but I am a human being made of flesh and trafficked as a slave under sin’s authority. (Rom.7:13-14 TPT*)
This is why Paul’s teaching is in perfect harmony with Jesus’ teaching. He doesn’t focus on the rules like our legalist friends do, but on its purpose and intent. And when this is our focus, we’ll know when those purposes come true.
This is how Paul makes his case in Galatians:
12 But keeping the law does not require faith, but self-effort…. (Gal.3:12 TPT*)
19 Why then was the law given at all? It was given alongside the promise to show people their sins. But the law was designed to last only until the coming of the “Seed,” the child who was promised. (Gal.3:19 TPT*)
22 But the Scriptures make it clear that the whole world is imprisoned by sin! This was so the promise would be given through faith to people who believe in Jesus Christ. (Gal.3:22 TPT*)
23 So until the revelation of faith for salvation was released, the law was a jailer, holding us as prisoners under lock and key until the “faith,” which was destined to be revealed, would set us free. 24 The law was our guardian until Christ came so that we would be saved by faith.25 But now that faith has come we are no longer under the guardian of the law. (Gal.3:23-25 TPT*)
You really should read this whole chapter but, for brevity, I’ve highlighted the salient points to answer the questions: How will we know what the Law’s purpose is, and when that purpose comes true?
Is not the Law’s purpose to keep us under guard, like little children who still don’t understand why it’s dangerous to be in dark places, until we’ve learned why it’s better to live by the faith of the son of God? (Gal.2:20). Until we’ve learned how to be loved by God and learned how to love others, empowered by Jesus’ love filling us? (John 15:9-12)
For God is love, and to truly obey God is to love like He loves. And the only way we’ll ever do that is by learning how to be loved by Him first (1 John 4:19). For when we do learn this “new and living way”—having hearts nurtured by love and illuminated by the overflowing life of the Spirit—we fulfill the Law and truly are a light shining in a world that’s been playing in the park after dark for far too long.
16 So don’t hide your light! Let it shine brightly before others, so that your commendable works will shine as light upon them, and then they will give their praise to your Father in heaven.” (Matt.5:16 TPT)