How Did Christ Fulfill the Law?
by Chad Ingram - December 7, 2022
Did Jesus Christ come to do away with the law, or did He come to fulfill it? What did Christ “do” to the law?
Teenagers in the Church are sometimes confronted with religious questions, such as whether New Covenant Christians are required to keep God’s law. Their friends may ask a question like, “Don’t you believe in salvation by God’s grace alone?”
Those who argue that God’s law was “done away with” will sometimes quote Jesus’ words that He came to fulfill the law. But the Bible never says that Christ did away with the law.
Christ 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).
So, what does fulfill mean? Is God’s law still supposed to be obeyed today? How would you respond to that question?
Defining the law
Fulfill can mean to complete, achieve, bring to fruition or bring about—in other words, to fill up.
What did Christ complete and fill up?
Christ brought the law to fruition by first defining what the law means and then by living the law perfectly.
Christ was a teacher. We see that by how He taught in parables.
To His followers, the law was like an unlearned set of vocabulary words. They talked a lot about it, but didn’t fully understand its true purpose and meaning. Christ was going to teach the law by providing practical definitions of the commandments.
If you have the vocabulary words, but no definitions, how can you know the exact meaning behind those words?
This is how Christ started fulfilling the law, by defining it.
Giving the spiritual aspect
Christ also revealed the spiritual aspect of the law. In other words, He taught the deeper meaning of the law.
When we look at the law from Exodus 20, we can see that it naturally falls into two parts or categories. The first four laws show us how to love God, and the last six show us how to love other people.
Christ magnified the law to show how the commandments included more than what one would expect—more than just “the letter of the law.”
Here are some of the spiritual aspects of the law Christ revealed:
- You shall not murder. Christ taught that you can commit murder even without doing the physical action. He revealed the spiritual aspect of controlling anger and emotions, and how we should not be angry without cause. We should always strive to be at peace with others (Matthew 5:21-26).
- You shall not commit adultery. Christ revealed that to lust in our mind or heart is the same as committing adultery (verses 27-30). We should keep our minds pure.
- You shall love your neighbor. Christ taught that we should love all. We should show love and respect to all because we all were created in the image of God (verses 43-48).
It is not enough to avoid physically breaking the law. We should be wary of spiritually breaking the law as well.
Fulfillment of the law
Christ taught the fullness of the law that we are to follow to this day if we want to be in God’s Kingdom (Matthew 19:17).
According to Jeremiah 31:33, the New Covenant is all about writing God’s law on our hearts and minds.
If Christ did away with the law and prophets, Jeremiah’s New Covenant prophecy would be meaningless. There would be no law to write on the heart and mind if it were abolished by Christ.
Christ said that if anyone teaches against the law of God, he or she will be considered least in the Kingdom. On the other hand, those who follow the law will be considered great in the Kingdom (Matthew 5:19).
Much of the world says that the law is done away with, and many follow only the laws they choose.
As Christians, we must teach that obedience to the law was validated by Christ. We cannot teach the law the way human beings want to view it, but the way Christ actually taught it.
He taught the fulfillment of the law through total obedience, in the letter and in the spirit.
Do we follow what Christ taught or what the world teaches now?
To understand this subject in more detail, see “Did Jesus Fulfill the Law?”