I Came to Fulfill, Not Destroy

Many people today are very confused about what the word love means. They think it refers to sexual passion or a wonderful romantic feeling, but actually, it is a spiritual condition that multitudes of people have not experienced.

There was a time when Moses, the man of God, made a request of the Lord, “Show me Your glory.” Exodus 33:18. The Lord said that he would be allowed to see as much as it was possible for him to see and live (Exodus 33, 34). In Exodus 34 when the Lord answered his prayer, it says, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.’ ” verses 6, 7, first part. So the Lord on this occasion told Moses what His character is like. The Lord clearly articulated the principle of the kingdom of heaven when He gave the children of Israel His law upon Mount Sinai. That law is an enunciation of the principle of love.

The Bible says repeatedly that the person who has love in his heart will keep the ten commandments (1 John 5:2, 3; Romans 13). The giving of the ten commandments was a reiteration to the children of Israel and to all the peoples of this earth, of the law that governs the kingdom of the heavens. This law was ordained in the hand of a Mediator. It was spoken by Him who has the power to change the hearts of men to bring them into harmony with the divine principles.

God had revealed the purpose of giving this law to the children of Israel before He gave it to them on Mount Sinai (Exodus 22:31). The Lord said to Israel, “You are to be holy men to Me.” The Bible says that no one can see the Lord, and no one can have eternal life if they are not holy (Hebrews 12:14). Without holiness we can never see the Lord.

The trouble was, and still is, that Israel did not perceive the spiritual nature of the law. It was seen as a series of things to do or not to do. Notice what the apostle Paul says in Romans 7:14: “For we know that the law is spiritual.”

Too often Israel’s professed obedience was simply an observance of forms, rituals, or ceremonies and not the surrender of the heart to the sovereignty of love. When Jesus Christ came to this earth, He represented to men what God is like in His character, His work, and His teachings, His holiness, His benevolence, and His paternal attributes. At the same time, He presented to them the worthlessness of mere ceremonial obedience. But when He did these things, the Jewish leaders did not understand what He was talking about, thinking He dwelt too lightly upon the requirements of the law, when He actually was setting before them the foundational principles on which the law is based.

Since these rulers were only looking at the externals and not at the principles underlying them, Jesus was accused of trying to overthrow the law. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus revealed in unmistakable language that this was not at all His purpose. He says in Matthew 5:17, 18: “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.”

Notice that it is Jesus Christ, the Creator of mankind, who is speaking. The Bible says very clearly that He created the world and upholds everything by the word of His power. He gave the law on Mount Sinai. He declared that it was not His purpose to set aside any of the precepts of the law, not even the smallest part of a letter of the law. When we study science or nature, whether something under a microscope or something in the heavens through a telescope, we know that everything in the natural world is under a law. Upon obedience to these natural laws, the order and the harmony of the natural world depend.

In the same way that there are laws that govern nature, there are also great principles of righteousness that control the lives of all created beings. And upon conformity to these righteous principles, the well-being of the entire universe depends. Before this world was ever called into existence, God’s law existed. The angels of heaven were governed by it and for the inhabitants of the earth to be in harmony with heaven, man also must be obedient to the divine statutes.

Psalm 103:20 says that the angels obey God’s commandments. To man in Eden, Christ made known the precepts of the law. When Jesus came to earth, He made it clear that His mission was not to destroy the law, or even part of it. His purpose was, by His grace, to bring man back into obedience to the precepts of the law of God. The beloved apostle John, who listened as Jesus spoke these words on the Mount, writing many decades later under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, described this law as a perpetual obligation saying, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4, and that whoever commits sin transgresses also the law. He makes it very clear that this law is not some new commandment. This law existed from the beginning (1 John 2:7), at creation, and was later reiterated on Mount Sinai.

Study the book of Genesis, and you will find that the people of that time understood the ten commandments and knew that to violate those principles was wrong and worthy of death. They called the breaking of these principles sin. I encourage you to read through the book of Genesis and write down every time one of the principles of the ten commandments is mentioned.

So speaking of the law, Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17. He uses the word fulfill in the same sense that He said to John the Baptist, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness [that is, fulfill the measure of the law’s requirement, to give an example of perfect conformity to the will of God].” Matthew 3:15

In the Old Testament we see the prophetic mission of the Messiah was to magnify the law, to make it honorable (Isaiah 42:21) and to show mankind its spiritual nature, to present its far-reaching principles and to make plain its eternal obligation. We see that Jesus does this in His sermon. He names the different commandments and shows that they extend not merely to outward observances, what you do or don’t do, but also to the heart and mind.

When we look at the character of Jesus, we see there a divine beauty, of whom the most noble, the most gentle among mankind are but a faint reflection. Concerning His character, the wise man Solomon wrote in prophecy concerning Him, that He is “chief among ten thousand. Yes, He is altogether lovely.” Song of Solomon 5:10, 16

When David saw Him in prophetic vision, he wrote, “You are fairer than the sons of men.” Psalm 45:2. Jesus is spoken of in the New Testament as the express image of the Father’s person, the brightness of His glory (Hebrews 1:3). And the self-denying Redeemer, throughout all of His pilgrimage of love on earth, was a living representation of the character of the law of God. To keep the law of God in its purpose and intent from the heart is to reveal the character of Jesus Christ. He said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments.” John 15:10. He also said, “I do always those things that please Him.” John 8:29

Jesus made manifest in this world what heaven-born love is like and how it reveals itself. Christlike principles underlie the principles of the ten commandments. He said, “[T]ill heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle [that is, part of a letter] will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:18. In His own life and character, He showed the unchangeable nature of God’s law. He proved that by His grace God’s law can be perfectly obeyed by every son and daughter of Adam. He said, “And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.” Luke 16:17

Jesus proved and taught that the law of God, the ten commandments, are unchangeable and will last forever. He did not teach that the law would be repealed or lose any of its authority, or that He had come to do away with it because the law of the Lord is perfect and it cannot be changed.

So long as heaven and earth continue, the holy principles of God’s law will remain.

It is impossible for sinful men, in themselves, to meet the standard of the law’s requirement. The apostle Paul said, “[T]he law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:14. That is why you and I need the gospel. That is why Jesus came as our Redeemer. It was His mission, not only to pay the price in His own body for our sins, but to make us partakers of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3, 4). It was His mission to bring us back into harmony with the law that governs the entire universe.

When we forsake our sins, when we choose to quit breaking God’s law and come to Jesus, and we see and accept Him as our Saviour from sin, as the Lord of our life, then the law is not done away with, but exalted. He then gives to us the Holy Spirit and enables us, by His grace and power, to live a life that is in harmony with His law. The apostle Paul says in Romans 3:31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.” How is the law established? When a person repents of his sin and chooses to forsake it, he realizes that he needs to come into harmony with the law that governs the whole universe of God, and Jesus gives him the Holy Spirit, enabling him to keep that law (Romans 8). Hebrews 10:16 says, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” But you must take care, because if you receive the Holy Spirit and do not obey God, then you are insulting the Holy Spirit.

Now it is true that the systems of types and ceremonies that pointed to Christ as the Lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world would pass away at His death, but the principles of righteousness embodied in the ten commandments are just as unchangeable as God’s throne. Not one command has ever been annulled. Not one precept has been changed. Those principles were made known to man in paradise as the great law of life and those principles will exist unchanged in paradise restored. When Eden again blooms on the earth, God’s law of love will be observed by all.

Think of this: the seventh commandment says, “You shall not commit adultery.” It is one of the most widely broken commandments all over the world today. But even before the ten commandments were ever given, the people in the time of Genesis knew that it was wrong to commit adultery.

Joseph was a slave manager in Potiphar’s house, and the Bible says, “It came to pass after these things that his master’s wife cast longing eyes on Joseph, and she said, ‘Lie with me.’ But he refused and said to his master’s wife, ‘Look, my master does not know what is with me in the house, and he has committed all that he has to my hand. There is no one greater in this house than I, nor has he kept back anything from me but you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?’ So it was, as she spoke to Joseph day by day, that he did not heed her, to lie with her or to be with her.” Genesis 39:7–10

As a result of his refusal to commit adultery, Joseph was thrown into prison. He would rather go to prison an innocent man than commit adultery. He said, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” Genesis 39:9

The Bible says that in heaven, God’s word is forever settled (Psalm 119:89). Nobody in heaven has any question about God’s law. Psalm 111:7, last part, 8, says, “All His precepts are sure. They stand fast forever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.”

Psalm 119:152 says, “Concerning Your testimonies, I have known of old that You have founded them forever.” If you really love God, you will keep His commandments. The apostle John says, “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” 1 John 4:7, 8

How do you know that you really love God? First John 5:2, 3 says, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.”

The same problem existed in the days of the apostle John that we see in the Christian world today. People said that they loved God, but they hated their neighbor and they did not keep His commandments. John says in 1 John 3:7–11, “Little children, let no one deceive you [on this point]. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you heard from the beginning.”

Oh, friend, is the love of God truly in your heart today?

Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: historic@stepstolife.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.