Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Matthew 5:17-18 -- On Fulfillment of the Law

"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled."
Matthew 5:17-18

The transition from obeying the laws of the Old Testament to obeying the laws of the New Testament was a hard one for the people at Christ's time, and in some ways also for the Nephites, although, at least seemingly, to a much lesser extent.  These verses struck me today because I think we confuse the relationship of these laws sometimes, thinking that the law of Moses was archaic and pointless and that the law of Christ makes more sense.  In actuality, though, they are part of the same thing... the Gospel as a whole.  The strict performances in the law of Moses were designed by God as reminders of our obligations and duties, and as assistance and reminders of keeping God in our minds and hearts.  While there are certain dietary laws and other performances that we no longer need to follow, the gospel and the covenants that God made with his people remain valid.  Certainly the ten commandments have not been rescinded.  In fact, reading further in this chapter, they have been expanded and enhanced.  The gospel that Adam learned, and Abraham followed... this is still it.  The prophecies that were made throughout time by prophets are valid, and if they have not been fulfilled yet, they will be.
Christ performed the great and last sacrifice, which all previous animal sacrifices had pointed to and been symbolic of.  After he said these verses, and after his death and resurrection, he made it clear that the law was at an end: "For behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled; but the law which was given unto Moses hath an end in me" (3 Nephi 15:8).  He also made it clear that the gospel was still alive and well, and that the covenant and the truth was still around.  Fulfilling the law doesn't erase the past, or obliterate the veracity of the lessons of our ancestors.  It also doesn't make our version of the gospel easier.  In fact, although the law of Moses may have been stricter in a physical sense, arguably, the law of Christ is stricter in a spiritual sense, and places more responsibility on us to control not only our actions, but also our thoughts and emotions... to look behind the laws to the purposes of the laws and fulfil them completely, not look for ways around them.  The freedom of action offered to us is tempered with the requirement that we watch ourselves and change our hearts.
Today, let's make sure that we are being true to the gospel of Christ, and looking to him in all that we do.  Let's not make the mistake in thinking that God is being easy on us or letting us off the hook.  He isn't at all.  He asks us to think... to see the sin before it happens.  To stop anger so that it never turns into killing rage.  To stop lustful thoughts before they turn into adultery.  He asks us to practice some self control.  Not so different from our ancestors, we still quite often have a problem with that.  Let's remember them and learn from them.

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