No, this is not a meditation on any trouble which Jesus of Nazareth had with law enforcement personnel of His time! The Law of God which came through Moses is in view. The Lord Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17,18)
Just how did the Lord Jesus FULFILL the law and the prophets? The short answer to that question is that He fulfilled them perfectly and completely, for “He has done all things well” (Mark 7:37). To offer a longer and more explanatory answer, it will be helpful to divide the question in half. The first half is then, “how did the Lord Jesus fulfill the prophets”? Let the teaching of Revelation 19:10 suffice for now. That verse tells us that the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ is the very heart and soul of every forth-telling and foretelling word the prophets ever spoke and wrote. It was the Spirit of CHRIST within the prophets, testifying of His sufferings, and the glory to follow (1 Peter 1:11).
The second half of our question is “how did the Lord Jesus fulfill the law?” This question can be further divided. Teaching the word of God means rightly dividing it (2 Timothy 2:15). This is not the division of the so-called higher critics of the Scriptures, who wrest them to their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16) by denying their Divinely inspired unity. Ours is a division of distinction; that is, one of discernment. For example, the Holy Spirit leads us to discern both Christ’s deity and His humanity, but He (the Spirit) also makes clear that these two natures are gloriously united in ONE altogether lovely Person. The Lord Jesus is the eternal Father’s unique, eternal Son. He is God incarnate…made flesh.
We can distinguish three aspects of the unified Mosaic Law:
1. the moral aspect,
2. the ceremonial (or Levitical) aspect, and
3. the civil aspect.
Considering God’s one, coherent law in its moral aspect, we see its perpetual religious and ethical demands on all mankind. This abiding moral standard, given to us by our Almighty Creator God, reflects His Divine holiness and is expressly set down in the Ten Commandments. They were written on two tables of stone with the finger of God, and that twice (Exodus 31:18, Deuteronomy10:2-4).
The covenant priesthood with all its animal and other sacrifices, as well as the attendant ministries of the Tabernacle, were given to Aaron and to his kinsmen of the tribe of Levi (and their descendants). This is in view when we speak of the ceremonial or Levitical aspect of the law.
A passage like Leviticus 13, “the law of the plague of leprosy” (verse 59), expresses the civil aspect of the law. Ancient Israel was the covenant family of God, as well as a theocratic state. That is, all areas of life were under the rule of God – including state government, religious worship, and moral standards.
The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled all the Law for His people. The government is upon His shoulders. The holy One of Israel now rules in His Church of elect ones from every nation, by His Word and His Spirit. Moreover, our great High Priest Himself became our Passover Lamb, the one perfect sacrifice which the law’s sacrifices only foreshadowed; they were but copies or patterns (cf. Hebrews 9:19-26).
Finally, His people being without strength, devoid of righteousness, guilty, dead in trespasses and sins, and not even able to be subject to the law, the beloved Jesus kept even the moral law for them! He earned the law’s reward of life by His obedience, and paid the law’s penalty of death by His substitutionary death on the cross.
A believer in the One Who now is risen and seated in unimaginable glory at His Father’s right hand trusts not in his “…own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9). “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes” (Romans 10:4).
Originally published, July 5 A.D. 1998