“Grace is an outrageously relational term.”
– Dr. Ed Khouri
“How is the indwelling Spirit not relational?” – David Crabtree

Jesus is fully Lord or not Lord at All

Without trying to sound trite, it really IS about Jesus. He is the Lord of Grace. The Holy Spirit is fully in there too as He is called the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10:29). It is also about belief and unbelief in Jesus. He is either fully capable of saving and empowering us in righteousness, or He is not. Leaning to Law to assist with righteousness means we think that Jesus is less than able, which practically means we no longer trust His abilities to comprehensively save or to rule. Sounds very much like unbelief to me!

Jesus is the Absolute Fullness of God – He needs no help from Law

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Colossians 1:15-20

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.” – Hebrews 1:1-4

The point being made by both Paul and the writer of Hebrews is that Jesus because He is God, lacks no authority and needs no additional ‘system’ to administer righteousness and Grace. In other words, Jesus replaces all of the Old Covenant with Himself thus creating the New Covenant. In the past (Old Covenant) God spoke through, or exercised authority, through the Law and the Prophets. Now, in the New Covenant, in our time, God speaks exclusively through Jesus.

The Famous Mountain – the Law and the Prophets give way to Jesus

When Jesus was up on the mountain, shining in glory with Moses and Elijah present. The Father spoke and said

“This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” – Matt 17:5 (NIV)

Jesus has been appointed ‘heir of all things’ and Moses and Elijah were present on the mountain to submit the authority of the Law and authority of the Prophets to Jesus. Jesus is now the authority through Whom God speaks.

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” – Luke 16:16-17

Basically, Jesus is saying that the authority of the Law and Prophets ended with John the Baptist. Since then, the KINGDOM OF GOD has been announced. A new authority of God has come the old authority has ended its rule. Jesus also goes on to say that all who enter the Kingdom of God have to force their way into it. Seems strange to say ‘force one’s way’ but not in light of His next statement that says that it will be extremely difficult for people to give up their dependence on Law. People will need to force their way through the ‘walls’ of Law to live in an empowered life with Jesus.

“Ah! But!” you say…didn’t Jesus say the Law would remain in force?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished (fulfulled). 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” – Matt 5:17-19

This verse, along with a small number of others has been used over and over again in an attempt to prove that the Law (Torah) remains in force for believers, despite the fact that the New Testament teaches the very opposite.

Do we have a dilemma here? Not necessarily. It is true that the Law (Torah) does remain authoritative and ‘in force’. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:8-9.

“We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. 9 We also know that the law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels…” – 1 Timothy 1:8-9

What Paul is saying here is that the Law is good, particularly and exclusively for unbelievers! The Law is not made for the ‘righteous’ or believers in Jesus.

Let’s get back to what Jesus said in Matthew 5

Approaching these verses from a mindset that comes from the Old Covenant/Old Testament that is looking for a reinforcement of Law, one will find a seemingly ‘ready-made’ answer to whether or not Christians should be still under Law. The answer would be “yes”, but we would have a major clash with what the rest of the New Testament clearly states (in Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Hebrews) that the Law is obsolete and we are no longer under its supervision. Making Jesus say that the Law will always be binding on Christian believers puts Him at odds with what later New Testament writers have said. It is not an option to have Jesus and the other apostles in conflict with each other over the issue of Law. It would be an untenable dilemma.

Coming to the same verses from a New Covenant mindset already knowing that the Law is no longer our master and that we have died to our relationship with it (Romans 5-7), we seem, at first glance, to be in conflict with what Jesus is saying. I have no doubt that Jesus is not in conflict with Paul’s future comments. So, how do we find a resolution? Let’s ask a couple of questions…

  1. What did Jesus’ hearers understand about the word “Law”?
  2. What did Jesus mean by the words “fulfill” and “accomplished”?

What did Jesus mean by ‘Law’?

Jesus’ Jewish listeners would have no doubt whatsoever with what Jesus meant by “Law”. They were not the beneficiaries of later Christians’ view (Aquinas etc) that the Law was divided into Moral and Ceremonial Laws. They saw the Law (Torah) as a whole, and that is exactly what Jesus meant. If Jesus just had the “Moral Law/10 Commandments” in mind He would not have referred to the ‘least of these commands’.

Nothing in the Ten Commands would be considered “least”. Jesus was referring to the whole of the Torah. This would include the Ten Commandments, the laws relating to offerings and sacrifices, food laws, social and civil laws. All of it would remain in force until ‘everything is accomplished’.

The food laws relating to clean and unclean foods would not be regarded as trivial by the Jews. The food laws would not be considered among “the least” of the commands, yet Jesus “declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19). Jesus Himself set aside more than the ‘least of these commands’ in His own day.

What did Jesus mean by ‘fulfill’ and ‘accomplished’?

Jesus just let what He said ‘hang out there’. He didn’t elaborate. He wasn’t about to explain something that even His own disciples could not grasp, that is His death, burial, and resurrection. While on the cross He His final word (in Greek) was “Tetelestai!”, “It is finished!” In other words, “All is fulfilled.” Everything needed for salvation was fulfilled. All that was necessary for the Holy Spirit to come and empower every believer was fulfilled. Jesus Himself was sinless and fulfilled every requirement demanded by Law.

Now that all is fulfilled and the Holy Spirit has come, we (all who believe in Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit) are no longer under the supervision of the Law but under the supervision and empowerment of Jesus Himself through His Holy Spirit.

What Jesus meant by Matt 5:17

“Not one particle of the Law is to pass away until I have been crucified, buried and raised again.”  That word “until” was not made clear until after the resurrection and after Paul received his revelation about the “administration of grace” (Eph 3). Until all was fulfilled mankind would remain under the jurisdiction of the Law. Now that Faith has come (Gal 3:25), now that Jesus and the Holy Spirit have come, we are no longer under the supervision or guardianship of Law. We are under the direct supervision of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.

14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 17 “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” – John 1:14,17

Eternal Life for all who believe in Jesus

Jesus was extraordinarily clear, at least to Nicodemus and others, that all who believed in Him would receive eternal life. All believers would receive life and freedom. Freedom from the condemnation of the Law and freedom from slavery to sin. They would receive power, or Grace, to be declared righteous as a pure gift from God, and to receive Grace to have mastery over sin. Only Jesus, only Grace can give us that freedom to be righteous.

Unbelievers remain in bondage, and cannot receive Grace. They, therefore, continue to be ruled or supervised by Law which only brings continual condemnation.

It is for Freedom Jesus has set us free! (Gal 5:1) We are under His supervision only and not under any supervision by the Old Covenant.

Let’s be reminded about who Jesus really is. All the fullness of God is in Him. He is fully and absolutely competent to rule without any other assistance.

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Colossians 1:15-20

David Crabtree
Author: David Crabtree

David has spent more than 30 years in Senior Leadership, and is the founding senior pastor of DaySpring Church (Sydney) where he led for 27 years. He is currently living in Highlands Ranch (Denver), Colorado where he is a teacher, preacher and author. He is married to Narelle (also a senior pastor) and has 2 children with 6 grandchildren. Life's good! David and Narelle are also members of the Bethel Leaders Network (BLN) and have a role as BLN Builders.

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