Law Fulfilled, Not Abolished

Sermon for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany based on Matthew 5:13-20

Dear salt of the earth and light of the world: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them…” Jesus did not come to invalidate the Law or end its effectiveness. Jesus did not come to overthrow God’s Law or get rid of it like something that can be discarded. Jesus says the Law will remain in full force and effect until the end of time. “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law…”

Jesus does not say this to unbelievers. He doesn’t say it to the scribes or Pharisees. Jesus says this to His disciples. He says this to those who follow Him; to those He has called as His own.

Jesus tells believers that the Law must be fulfilled and not one single commandment is to be relaxed, not even the least of the commandments.

Christians are supposed to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We’re not supposed to hide the fact that we’re Christians. We are to love God and love our neighbour so much that others see it and give glory to our Father who is in heaven. We should be so helpful and generous and unselfish and kind that others around us take notice. We should be so full of joy and peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (cf. Gal. 5:22-23) that others look at us and says, “Wow! What a wonderful blessing from God that person is! Praise God for such a wonderful Christian!”

That’s not what others see most of the time, is it? Instead they see bickering and fighting among Christians and in the church. They see selfishness and stinginess. They see grudges held and anger and impatience. They hear gossip and slander, harsh words, and they see self-indulgence. They see the Law of God being relaxed, not just the least of the commandments, but even the greatest of them. They say, “Wow! I can’t believe you are a Christian! I expected more from you!”

So much for being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. How often we Christians have lost our saltiness and have hidden the light of Christ under a basket.

Trying harder is not the solution. God is not some little league coach saying, “Just try your best.” He doesn’t give marks for effort. Not one iota, not a dot of the Law can go unfulfilled, and we cannot fulfil it. We are in great peril because unless our righteousness exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, we will never see the kingdom of God. Unless you are perfectly righteous on Judgment Day, on that day, God will say to you from His throne of judgment, “Damn you!”

Since Christ did not come to abolish the Law, the Law must be fulfilled. Therefore, we flee to Christ for refuge. Why do we flee to Christ for refuge? Because Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

Christ did not come to invalidate the Law or to overthrow it. After all, “The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.” (Rom. 7:12) Christ came to fulfil the Law. He came to do what we cannot do. He came to accomplish everything demanded of us by the Law of God. He did not miss an iota; not a dot. He dotted every i of the Law and crossed every t.

The other thing we cannot overlook is how Jesus ends His sentence, “… not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Until all is accomplished; until the Law is fulfilled. That’s exactly what Jesus did. He fulfilled the Law, and thus He said on the cross, “It is finished.” It is accomplished. Everything demanded by the Law is fulfilled.

It’s not only the Law that Jesus fulfilled, but also the Prophets. Christ fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament, from the promise given to Adam and Eve of the offspring to crush the head of Satan (Gen. 3:16) to the promised sun of righteousness in Malachi (4:2). He fulfilled the prophecies of the Psalmist who wrote that His hands and feet would be pierced, that He would be forsaken by God the Father and that His garments would be divided and they would cast lots for His clothing (Ps. 22). He fulfilled the prophecies of Zechariah, that they would look on Him whom they have pierced (Zech. 12:10). He fulfilled the prophecies of Isaiah, that He would be the Suffering Servant, rejected by men, bearing our griefs and sorrows, and that we would be healed by His stripes and that He would take our iniquities (Is. 53). The Son of God took on human flesh and fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.

Scripture teaches that in Baptism we died with Christ (Rom. 6:8) and that the Law is only binding on a person as long as he lives (Rom. 7:1). Therefore, we have died to the Law through the body of Christ (Rom. 7:4) and we have been released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive (Rom. 7:6).

So, while the Law has not been abolished or overthrown and remains in full force and effect, we have been released from its demands because we are baptized into Christ who has fulfilled its demands. The Law remains for us to tell us what God’s will is for us, but it no longer condemns us, because Jesus was condemned for us. On Judgment Day, we will not hear God’s condemnation, because on the cross, God the Father said “Damn you!” to Jesus. Jesus was condemned for your sins and you have received His free gift of righteousness.

His free gift of righteousness covers all your sin, and on Judgment Day you will be perfectly righteous. In fact, you are already perfectly righteous right now. You are covered with the righteousness of Christ because He was covered with your sin. You have died to the Law, so even though you have not dotted every i and crossed every t of the Law, you will not be charged with your trespasses and sins. You are free from every penalty and punishment of the Law.

Thus, you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. Not because you have done so much good, but because Jesus has done so much good in you. In spite of your sins, the light of Christ shines in you. This is the real witness of a Christian in the world. It’s not about what we have done or left undone. It’s about what Jesus has done for us; how Jesus has saved us from our own sins. It’s about Christ’s light shining in us forgiving our sins, and we can’t help but let others see that light.

Even though not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law, you will not be condemned, because in Christ, you have fulfilled the Law. The Law has not been abolished, but in Christ, you have fulfilled every iota and dot of the Law. The Law will remain in full force and effect until the end of time, but Christ fulfilled the Law and the Prophets, so in Christ, you are holy, and righteous, and good. In Christ, you have fulfilled the Law. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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