Often I’ve seen verses from the Old Testament taken from the Bible and upheld as the standard that we should be living by today. As I mentioned in a prior blog, much of the Old Testament shows the failure of human ways to attempt to uphold righteousness. Why would we continue to try to replicate or mix in these ways into the New Covenant? There are many lessons to learn and could even apply to our lives individually from the Old Testament, however, I see many taken out of context and upheld as the way we have to live today to earn or maintain salvation.
We see that the Old Covenant was just a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17, Hebrews 10:1). Many today continue to worship in the ways of these shadow rituals when Jesus has fulfilled these things and set them aside (Hebrews 7:18-19, 8:7&13). Further, it seems the Law and Prophets were all pointing to Jesus (John 1:45).
That said, parts of Matthew 5 have been taken out of context to attempt to bind people back to the Old Covenant ways. Jesus did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, he came to fulfill them (v17). Further, these laws can only be set aside once fulfilled. This is what is meant by verse 18. If we try to uphold any of the law, we are responsible for upholding all of it. We will not be exempted from a single pen stroke (James 2:10). Now, verse 19 talks about the law again. We live in fulfillment of the law by the Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27). Like Jesus points out about the Pharisees (v20), if we attempt to uphold the law and teach it externally, we are actually just teaching people how to break the law by manipulating it to fit our agenda. The Pharisees were also missing the more important parts of the law (Matthew 23:23). Further, Jesus explains through the rest of Matthew 5 what attempting to uphold the Law by human means would actually look like. Jesus was showing it is only possible with him. Further, the last verse of the chapter shows what the Law actually represents, God’s perfection. We cannot hope to uphold that perfection by our human means (Romans 7:14).
I still see the Bible heavily upheld as a rule book today. Many show up to church on Sunday morning, pay tithes, and participate to the best of their ability in order to keep their fire insurance policy with God from lapsing. This isn’t the type of relationship Father created us for. God wants a love relationship with us, not a legal contract. Love is the fulfillment of the law (Galatians 5:14, Romans 13:10, John 13:34). The only thing law following produces is death (Romans 7:10) because we are not capable of upholding the law by our human means. Yet these standards are still upheld today as the way to earn righteousness by external conformance. Therefore, many exist in a cycle of constant failure and re-dedication/revival. We often feel we are not doing enough to please God, but this is exactly the point. We can never do enough to please God by our human efforts (Isaiah 64:6), but Jesus has already done everything for us and given to us that fulfillment. No revival is needed because the Holy Spirit lives in us and is eternal!
Now, there is still some use for the law. It seems it has a function to bring people to Christ (Romans 3:20). However, this doesn’t mean we force law onto people or else we bind ourselves back to those same standards–external conformance to earn salvation by human means. We can however show them the love of Christ in us and the Holy Spirit convicts them in his way and at his timing. Today law is still taught and enforced on many of those who have already came to Christ. This makes no logical sense if we have died and been released from the law (Galatians 2:19, Romans 7:4-6).
For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace.–Romans 6:14
You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.–Galatians 5:4