“For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” — Galatians 5:5-6
Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:17-20; Romans 7:1-8:14
Jesus did not come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. What does this really mean? The law said sinners must die—so Christ died for the sins of the world. The law said man must obey every precept of the law in order to circumvent the condemnation of God—Christ kept the law perfectly. And, by the death of Christ, His righteousness is made available to all who believe in Him, which gives us opportunity for salvation and eternal life.
Christ’s intent in this passage can clearly be seen in the six examples that follow. “Ye have heard that it was said of them of old time,” He says to preface the passages on anger, adultery, divorce, swearing, retaliation, and love for our enemies (Matthew 5:21-48). Why? He revealed the difference between the letter of the law and the Spirit of the law and how the law was fulfilled. Even a sinner can abstain from the act of adultery, but no man can deal with the issues of the heart that cause adultery. Anyone can refuse to swear, but it’s the law of the spirit of life that works in us to rid our nature of deception and greed. In Matthew 5:20, Christ indirectly refers to righteousness by faith. Christians need more than the works of the law for true righteousness—they need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It is a righteousness unavailable by works. Yet, it is a righteousness evidenced by our works. When we are truly made righteous by the blood of Christ, the fruit is righteousness in action.
Christ closes this section by making reference to our righteousness exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees. This isn’t because their righteousness was so bad. Quite the contrary. In humans terms, they did more righteous works of the law than I might ever hope to do. Yet, the righteousness Christ refers to is that which cannot be attained by man. It must come by the Spirit of God.
- In what ways did Christ fulfill the law? Acts 3:18; Luke 24:44-47; Hebrews 4:15-16; 2 Corinthians 9:8; Ephesians 3:20.
Note: “Fulfill” is translated from the Greek word playroo, which means to make full, to satisfy, or complete. Jesus fulfilled the law by becoming the perfect sacrifice, by keeping the law perfectly, and by completing the true work of the law in us—to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind.
- How does the fact that Christ came to fulfill the law establish its continued existence beyond His death? Romans 3:23-31; 7:7-14; 13:9-10.
- Why is it important to recognize that Christ’s death transferred the law from the tablets of stone to our hearts? Hebrews 8:8-13; Ezekiel 36:25-28; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. Is this transference evidence that Christ calls us to walk in the Spirit of the law and not the letter? Romans 8:1-14.
- Matthew 5:19 says that law-breakers will be least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but nevertheless, in the Kingdom of Heaven. How can we reconcile this truth with the fact that sinners won’t inherit the Kingdom? Ephesians 5:3-6; Matthew 25:14-30.
- What is the difference between the righteousness of the Pharisees and the righteousness needed to enter the Kingdom of Heaven? Galatians 5:1-6; 3:24; Romans 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11.
Note: The difference between the Pharisees’ righteousness and true righteousness is the source. Pharisees relied on the works of the law for their righteous. God calls us to put on righteousness by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
This week, examine your reliance on Jesus. Are you relying on His strength? Are you walking in the Spirit of the law, instead of the letter or are you striving to please God solely by what you do?
Read Romans 7:1-8:14 each day This week, and memorize 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. As your read and meditate, ask God to show you how you rely on yourself, instead of Him and His provision of grace.