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Archive for October 21st, 2012

What negative images and ideas of God have you had or heard from the Old Testament? God is harsh; God is unloving.  It’s confusing and archaic so that God is not relevant to where I live. God is changeable and unfair. Has God changed from the Old Testament to the New? If He has why and how can I depend on Him? If He hasn’t why are the two different? Are they revealing different aspects of the same God or is one illustrative and the other explanatory? And because of these fears, dislikes, and misunderstandings do we act like the Old Testament is passe? Do we ignore it?

In Matthew 5:17-19 Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.” (v.17) Abolish denotes doing away with its authority, usefulness, and relevence. Instead Jesus says He will fulfill it; He will complete and finish what is lacking in it. And in verse 18, “not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”  Again completion is in mind but I see more of Jesus meeting its challenge and living up to the requirements.

The Old and New Testament are different. What did he set aside? Juan Sanchez in the “Gospel Project” lists food laws (Mark 7:18-19), remember Peter and the sheet coming down from heaven, the temple (Matthew 24:1-2), remember the woman at the well and Jesus telling her how worhsippers would soon worship (John 4:21-24), and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:8-10), Jesus is the once for all sacrifice.

Jesus shows that the purpose of the Law is found in Him, by His fulfillment of it. But how is the law about Jesus, that is, how did He fulfill it? There at least 4 ways: 1) He is the fulfillment of prophecy. Christmas and Easter are particularly good times to remember this fact when we consider His birthplace, lineage, suffering, and resurrection. 2) He was, and is, perfect. Jesus has met the Law’s demands. He has accomplished every mark of righteousness and goodness stated and implied in the Law. 3) He has paid the price for our sins. Had He merely lived a perfect life He would have fulfilled the Law for Himself, but He has fulfilled it for everyone who has believed in Him as well. The price for a soul is high as we see in Psalm 49:7-9. Numbers 16:36-38 gives us a very tangible reminder of how costly it is for the sinner. Isaiah 55:1-8 nonetheless shows us it is freely given. So herein is another difference in the Old Testament and New. The Old seems to be asking, “There is a price; who can pay it?”, while the New says, “The price has been paid.” 4) He is the antitype of all types and the reality of the all symbols in the Old Testament. Following are but a few by way of example: a) the new temple- Emmanuel, “God with us”, b) Melchizedek, a priest forever without beginning of days or end of years and without a geneology, c) the bread (manna) from heaven, d) the Rock from which water flowed, e) the root of Jesse and seed of David, and f) the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Sanchez goes on to say that “the intention of the law was not about checking off a list of moral requirements but total obedience that flowed from a pure heart.” (p.77) Jesus ups the stakes in Matthew 5:20-22,27-28 if you feel you have kept the Law: “For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses thatof the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, ‘You good-for-nothing,’ shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, ‘You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell….You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Outwardly the Pharisees seemed quite righteous to the people of Jesus’ day, so that this would have been a surprise to them. But that is only the beginning. In terms of guiltiness before the law Jesus taught that intentions equal actions. Who among us has not been angry and thought similar things to what Jesus said. And how about the second example? That gets half of the population. But how about the women? How many of them have been guilty of enticing men with immodest dress?

The summary to all of this is that there are two ways to get to heaven. After another example about loving your enemies in Matthew 5:43-47, Jesus concludes by telling the first way to get to heaven, “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v.48) But only one person has reached heaven by that means and He was already there before He came to provide the second way, Jesus. If you are going to attempt heaven by works realize the height of the bar is perfection. Throw down all of your claims of ‘I’ve been a good person’ and ‘I don’t hurt anyone’. They are worthless and an affront to God. Realize that your only hope is trusting in what Jesus did on the cross in fulfilling the Law for you, if you will believe. As Spurgeon said, “The commands of Christ are not upon the legal tenor of ‘do this and live,’ but upon the gospel system of ‘live and do this.’ We are not to be attentive to the precepts in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Our master motive is to be gratitude to him who has saved us with a great salvation.” Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us; receive it by faith. Jesus will enable us to fulfill the Law as we trust in Him; work it out by faith. We aren’t teaching people to be good or lift themselves up by their bootstraps, but to trust the perfect example, Jesus, and trust His enabling power to do right.

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