September 2, 2013

Scripture and Commentary, Tuesday after the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

Morning – Psalm 40:1-16, 2 Sm.17:15-23, 2 Cor.6:11-7:1
Evening – Psalm 35, 47, Mt. 5:17-26

Commentary, Matthew 5:17-26

Many today vex God’s people with artificial divisions between law and grace.  The Old Testament people, they say, were under law, and were regarded as just by God through their keeping of the law.  Law, in this sense does not refer to the moral law, such as found in the Ten Commandments.  It refers to the ceremonial law of fasts and sacrifices and circumcision.  New Testament people, the argument goes, are under grace.  Therefore, we are regarded as just because Christ died for our sins.  The Old Testament people trusted the law; we trust Christ.  They were under law; we are under grace.

But this view is openly unbiblical.  No person has ever been regarded as righteous by God on the basis of performing religious rituals.  No person has ever been justified by his own works.  All are justified in one way only, by grace through faith.  God regards New Testament saints as righteous because Christ died for our sins.  That is grace.  God regarded Old Testament saints as righteous because Christ would die for their sins.  That is grace.  The only difference is that the Old Testament saints looked forward to the sacrifice of Christ, while we in the New Testament era look back to the sacrifice of Christ.  All of the Old Testament sacrifices and rituals pointed forward to the cross.  That is why, on the Emmaus road, our Lord began at Moses and all the prophets and expounded unto His disciples in all the scriptures “the things concerning himself” (Lk. 24:27).  He was not simply telling how the Old Testament foretold His death and resurrection.  He was telling them how the Old Testament foreshadowed His life and ministry.  He told them He is the real sacrificial Lamb, that takes away their sins.  He is the real High Priest, who offers the sacrifice and intercedes for His people.  The cross is the altar on which the sacrifice was made.  All of these things point to Christ.  He is their fulfillment.  They are shadows, He is the substance.  The Old Testament people did not understand this completely, but they knew that the Temple and the sacrifices pointed to something God was doing that would be the real atonement for their sins.  Thus, like Abraham before the law was given, the Old Testament saints were saved just like the New Testament saints, by grace through faith in what God has done to atone for their sins.

Thus, Jesus says in verse 17, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.”  He did not come to destroy them by introducing a new way of being “saved.”  He came to fulfill the law and prophets.  He came to complete what God had begun in the law and prophets.  He came to accomplish the atonement they foretold and symbolized.  That is how he fulfilled them.