The Sabbath Issue

Chapter 7:The Perpetuity of the Sabbath - Part 2

This explains the continuity and discontinuity of the Law in Matthew 5:17,18. On one hand, it will never pass away, but on the other hand, Jesus was bringing it to fulfilment, for through Him it would be accomplished. Clearly He had come to bring a change in the role of the Law, not to destroy it, but to bring in the fullness that the Law anticipated. He brought it to completion (fulfilment) in Himself, and that completion is expressed in the New Covenant. He did not just do this by fulfilling the Messianic prophecies (Luke 24:27,44, and the Ceremonial aspects in Himself through His death and resurrection, but also in His Teaching He was bringing the Moral Law to its fullest and highest expression, so that the New Covenant teaching, based on Christ’s teachings are the fulfilment of the Old Covenant moral laws, and are the norm for the New Age. 

A good example is the Sermon on the Mount itself, in which Matthew 5:17,18 belongs. For in these 2 verses, Jesus is explaining what He is doing in His teaching, including this Sermon. He is not just clarifying God's will as previously revealed, but primarily He is bringing in the realisation of that to which the Law pointed (see v21-48). The Mosaic Laws point forward to the teachings of Christ and have also been realised in them in a more profound manner. The word fulfil in 5:17, then includes not only an element of discontinuity (that which transcends the Law), but an element of continuity as well (that which transcends the Law is nevertheless something to which the Law itself pointed forward). 

Thus, at the end of the Sermon, He made it clear that it is His own teaching that is now ultimately decisive (Matthew 7:24-27). His own teaching takes precedence. Jesus fulfils and surpasses the Law. 

Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I HAVE COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” The new norm is Jesus' teaching. Jesus' teaching represents the New Law of the New Age. In His final teaching (John 14-17), given to prepare His discples for the time of the New Covenant, it is Christ's own Commandments (that would be completed by His Spirit through the Apostles) that are operative 9authoritative) for this Age: "MyCommandments" (John 14:15, 21, 23-26; 15:10, 12-14,17; 16:12,14: 17:8, 14, 17)

Therefore ‘these Commandments’ Jesus is talking about in Matthew 5:19 are His Teachings (Commandments), which He is bringing to man as the fulfilment of the Law (see v17,18), especially as expressed in the Sermon on the Mount: “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these Commandments (of Christ), and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Luke 16:16-17 (also Matthew 11:13): “The Law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the Law to fail.” Again we see the combination of continuity and discontinuity concerning the Law. Although the Law continues as the true Word (revelation) of God, the Ministry of Jesus is start of something new, the fulfilment of the Law and prophets. The whole Law pointed forward to His teaching and ministry, ultimately culminating in His death and resurrection, and lives on only in so far as it has been transformed through its fulfilment by Him. It is in His teaching completing, surpassing, and thereby transforming that of the Law that the permanent validity of the Law continues.

For Him, even the Law’s weightiest demands remain in force only within His teachings (where they are always modified by His own claims). He has not come to merely expound the true meaning of the Law, but to bring the revelation of God’s will to its fullest expression in the New Covenant. (He neither moves out from the Law in making His demands, nor does He usually relate His teaching back to the Law). 

Christ’s earthly Ministry was a transition time. In His Life, He submitted to the Law of Moses, but His Teaching and Ministry formed the basis of a New Covenant with a new Law. In this way, He is the: “prophet like unto Moses.” His teaching constituted the unfolding revelation of the New Covenant. The new Law (teaching) of the New Covenant would be completed by the revelation of the 
Spirit through the Apostles, building on the foundation of His own teaching (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13-15). He considered His death and resurrection would inaugurate this New Covenant (1Corinthians 11:25) which would necessarily replace the Old Covenant and Law.

1Corinthians 9:21: “to those who are without Law (of Moses), (I became) as without Law (not being without Law toward God, but under Law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without Law.” Here Paul make it clear that as a believing Jew, he was no longer under the Law of Moses. But that did not mean he was not under any law, for he was now under the Law of Christ. For Paul, God's dealings have moved on and he is no longer under the Law of Moses, but under the will of God in its fuller, higher and later expression in the New Testament Law of Christ. 

Thus any reference in the New Covenant to ‘Commandments’ we should obey, refer to the teachings and commands of the New Testament. For example in 1Corinthians 7:19: “Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” But under the Law of Moses, circumcision is a commandment! So the Commandments of God cannot refer to the Law of Moses, but to the New Covenant commandments. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a New Creation” (Galatians 

6:15). In other words the Old Law is inoperative for life as well as for salvation (justification), because we are now under a New Covenant and its Law of Love: “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6). A reading of Galatians will make clear that Paul is not just against submitting to the Law for justification, but also for sanctification and as a rule for life.

There is no evidence for the 7th Day Adventist claim that in the Bible the “Commandments of God” was a technical term that always referred to the 10 Commandments. Nor is the Decalogue ever reckoned as the essence or summary of the Law. Rather the Love Commandment (Deuteronomy 6:4) is the heart of the Law, as well as its hermeneutical key (Matthew 22:34-40). “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, 'you shall LOVE your neighbour as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). “Owe no one anything except to LOVE one another, for he who loves another has FULFILLED the Law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall LOVE your neighbour as yourself.” LOVE does no harm to a neighbour; therefore LOVE is the fulfilment of the Law” (Romans 13:8-10). Therefore the whole Old Testament Law, even in its moral aspects, has now been fulfilled in the New Covenant. We are now to live under the New Covenant Law of Love, which is the fulfilment of the Old Covenant Law. Trying to live under the Old Law of Moses is spiritually a backward step.

In his teaching, Paul draws on the Law (Romans 13:8-10, Ephesians 6:2) in laying down moral guidelines, but he does not just repeat it as if we were still under the Law (or at least the moral part of it), but rather he views it in the light of its fulfilment in Christ. Portions of the Law can be seen to be appropriate to the new expression of God's will in Christ. When he quotes 4 commandments from the Decalogue (Romans 13:9), they are clearly used as concrete illustrations of the New Covenant Law of Love (Romans 13:8,10) - the fulfilment of the Old Law. 

The central thrust of the Law is now worked out in the believer by the Spirit in terms of love. Although believers are not under the Law of Moses, it is not that they are now without the Law of God altogether, but that they receive God's Law only as mediated through Christ and His Spirit. The only Christian way to one's obligation to God is by fulfilling the Law of Love by walking in the Spirit: “that the righteous requirement of the Law (LOVE) might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).



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