The End of Moses’ Law

Last week I suggested that Jesus brought the entire Law of Moses to a complete and utter end, the 10 Commandments included. I based that claim on several lines of argument. The Mosaic Law is one indivisible unit, so that you can’t keep part of it and disregard the rest. The Law was God’s covenant with Israel exclusively, meaning it was never intended for the other nations like (most of) us Gentiles. Several NT writers state plainly that we are no longer under the Law. And most important of all, Jesus claims to fulfill it (Mt 5:17).

But how exactly does Jesus fulfill the Law of Moses? To answer that question, we need to remember that the word “fulfill” as the NT writers use it means “to bring to completion” or “to achieve its intended purpose.” Since the Law had several different purposes, Jesus fulfills it in several different ways.

One purpose of the Law was to define sin and righteousness (Rom 3:19-20, 5:13, 7:7). Jesus fulfills this purpose not only by obeying the Law perfectly in His own life, but by offering His perfect righteousness to all who trust Him (Rom 3:21-22, 10:4).

Another purpose was to drive God’s people to a Savior by provoking their sinfulness and revealing their bondage (Rom 7:8-9, Gal 3:22-23). Jesus fulfills this purpose by being the Savior toward whom the Law drove its subjects (Rom 7:24-25, Gal 3:24).

The Law upheld God’s justice by prescribing appropriate punishments for wrongdoing. Those who did not keep it were cursed to suffer its penalties (Dt 11:26-28, 28:15-58). Jesus fulfilled this function of the Law by becoming a curse for us (Gal 3:13-14).

The Law displayed the character of God, calling His people to “be holy as I am holy” (Lev 11:44-45). God’s intent was that Israel would flourish under God’s rule, displaying His goodness to the nations by their social order and blessed lives. Jesus fulfills this purpose by revealing God’s character to us in His incarnation (Jn 1:14,18). Further, He calls His people to an even greater standard of righteousness (Mt 5:20), and He transforms their hearts to enable them to do it (Heb 8:10-11). Now, as His New Covenant people live out their new identity, outsiders will “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:16).

Jesus’ new standard of righteousness has a label: “the Law of Christ.” More on that next week.