November 22 – Red Letters – “I didn’t come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.”

Read Matthew 5:17-20

Do you value the Old Testament? In the red letters you read today, it is clear that Jesus did.

On the one hand, it is true that Jesus and His teaching were like new wine that could not be poured into old wineskins (Mk. 2:18-22). He is also the One, who instituted the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31-34). Still, His ministry and teaching did not replace or invalidate the instruction of the Old Testament.

In fact, in this passage, Jesus endorsed the Old Testament. He had absolutely no plans of doing away with it. In fact, He often cited it and even intentionally did things to fulfill it. In referring to the Law and the Prophets, He, in broad strokes, points to the validity of all of the Old Testament from Genesis through Malachi. In fact, He underscores the accuracy of each, every, and all the words of those 39 books. He makes it clear to us that the Father will see that every prophecy from the smallest to the largest is accomplished.

His endorsement of the Old Testament even reaches so far that He threatens punishment for those who disobey it or don’t teach it accurately. At the same time, He promises blessing to those who obey and properly communicate it. The scribes and Pharisees seem to illustrate this latter point. Although they honored God with their lips, their hearts were far from God. They had added requirements that reached far beyond the Law. They had expectations of others that they did not practice themselves (Matt. 23).

Keep this in mind. In pointing out the need for righteousness above that of the scribes and Pharisees, however, Jesus was not directing us to a performance-based approach to God. Your righteousness must not only exceed that of the Pharisees. You must attain perfection (Matt. 5:48). Not one of us is able to keep the demands of the Old Testament Law. No one but Jesus alone reflects that kind of perfection. Instead, the Law serves us as a reminder of God’s unattainable perfect standard, thus pointing us to the grace of God found in Jesus (Gal. 3:23-26).

These red letters, then, enable you to approach the Old Testament with confidence and with a better understanding of its purpose.

Steve Kern

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