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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 4 - Fulfilling the Law - Part 2

October 28, 2022

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In Matthew 5:17, Jesus claims that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but rather to fulfill them. If people were not worried about His ministry, that it seemed to subvert or abolish the Law and Prophets, Jesus probably wouldn’t have had to tell them otherwise. It kind of does sound like He is getting rid of it or replacing it. Remember the image Matthew evokes with Jesus going up a mountain and teaching the people who had come to Him from all over the place, people escaping the oppression of a cruel master (disease, pain, demons, and other health problems).

One could say all these afflictions were outward manifestations of our ultimate wound and spiritual sickness at the core of every human, our sinful nature, and just as Israel escaped from Egypt to Sinai and God, these people were escaping from oppression. Only, like Israel before them, they didn’t understand their ultimate need. Jesus is the new Moses in this picture and He starts with 8 Beatitudes that seem to echo the 10 commandments that preceded the rest of the Law.

Is the Law just about our behavior though? Is it to curb our impulse to sin? What does it mean that Jesus fulfills the Law and Prophets and what, if anything, does that have to do with us today? Has the Law and Prophets been fulfilled already or is Jesus still at work fulfilling it? That’s what we want to debate presently. Again, it’s something people don’t see eye to eye on. Some people say the covenant passed down to Israel at Sinai is eternal because God’s word is eternal. Others believe it fulfilled a purpose at a time and place and continues to serve a purpose, although differently now. Still others believe the old covenant is null and void, just as torn asunder as the temple curtain.

Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
We're continuing to discuss what it means to fulfill the law, what Jesus says he has
come to do in the Sermon on the Mount.
Last time we pondered the mysteries of the universe, space and time, and how there is
something grand and culminating in Jesus' new covenant that he ushered in by his blood.
As Paul writes in Galatians 4 verse 4, in the fullness of time, God sent forth his Son,
born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive
adoption to sonship.
We discussed how Jesus' work is the culmination, in part, of what came before, is the greater
revelation, so to speak.
We also discussed how tricky this concept of law is in the New Testament, that it can
refer to just the first five books of the Bible, the whole Hebrew Bible, or something
else, a term sometimes referred to as works of the law or legalism, which stands in contrast
to relationship.
Paul writes in Romans how we are no longer under the law in the sense that it is a performative
job description to earn God's favor.
That's not how relationship with God works.
I want to pick up again with a description from the Old Testament, something beautiful
from Mount Sinai as we continue to draw parallels between the first covenant and the new way
Jesus reveals.
Let me turn to Exodus 34, because this is after the first tablets were made and Moses
comes down and sees the golden calf and is like, ah, man, crack.
Let's start this over again.
That didn't last long.
This is a beautiful description.
It says, Lord, says to Moses, cut for yourself two tablets of stone like the first.
I'll write on the tablets the words that were on the first tablets, which he broke.
Be ready by the morning and come up the mountain to Mount Sinai and present yourself there
to me on the top of the mountain.
No one shall come up with you and let no one be seen throughout all the mountain.
Let no flocks or herds graze opposite the mountain.
So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first and he rose early in the morning and
went up to Mount Sinai as the Lord had commanded him and took into his hand two tablets of
Now this part, the Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there and proclaimed the
name of the Lord.
The Lord passed before him and proclaimed the Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the
guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children
to the third and fourth generation.
Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped and he asks that, if I've found
favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us for it is a stiff
neck people and pardon our iniquity and our sin and take us for your inheritance.
And I think that's just stuck with me for a while now because I've been thinking about
these two images.
We have Jesus going up the Mount and teaching about the kingdom and we have this, you know,
the Israelites, they would have been about three months since the Exodus, right?
And they go to Mount Sinai and they get the tablets and then they blow it royally and
then here we get this, you get a second chance right away.
But Moses later, when they fail again, they're like, you know, it was in, I think this whole
thing, this whole journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai was to prove to Israel that, you know,
after they'd been, you know, in slavery and making a hard labor, like, no, no, you can
trust me.
I saved you.
I miraculously saved you.
Look at all these amazing terrors that happened on Egypt and look at the Red Sea parting and
you go through and then your enemies are destroyed because of it.
And then you're brought to Mount Sinai and they still had trouble believing him.
But I think, and eventually they failed to enter the Promised Land.
But Moses reminds the next generation before they're going in there and Deuteronomy 1,
you know, you have a chance now, you should have believed in the God of the Exodus, but
it didn't produce faith.
And I think that there's something here in all of this where we're entering into a covenantal
relationship and it's built on trust in that king to protect you.
And I think that the key there is faith is built through relationship.
You know, I keep what keeps coming back to me is the passage that you read right at the
beginning, Matt, where Paul uses the phrase under the law, that the law is on you and
pressing on you.
I looked at a scripture today and if you guys don't mind, I'm going to read it.
This is sort of at the other end of the of that whole process.
So the people blew it, they continue to blow it all the way through the book of Exodus,
so much so that that whole generation has to perish before God will allow the people
to enter into the Promised Land.
And Deuteronomy is Moses telling that second generation, giving them the law again.
And Deuteronomy and Deuteronomy chapter 30, I love this passage because to me, this is
this is God telling them, you need to obey the law, but he tells them why they need to
obey the law.
Deuteronomy chapter 30 and verse 11, Moses is telling the people speaking on behalf of
God, he says, now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you.
You don't usually think of law as not too difficult.
You think it's really difficult and that's why we failed.
But he says it's not too difficult for you or beyond your reach.
Verse 14, it says, no, the word is very near you.
The word is very near you.
It is in your mouth and in your heart.
So you may obey it.
There's a lot of emphasis on it being something that you speak, something that you do, something
that you perform, but primarily something that's in your heart.
See I said before you today, verse 15, for I command you today to love the Lord your
God and to walk in obedience with him.
And the emphasis on relationship, loving the Lord your God and obeying, loving him, your
obedience is based on your love for him and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.
Then you will live long, then you will live and increase and the Lord your God will bless
you in the land you are entering to possess.
And then this is among my, I always say my favorite passage.
This is one of my many favorite passages.
Verse 19, this day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you and I have
set before you life and death, blessings and curses.
Now choose life so that you and your children may live long and that you may love the Lord
your God, listen to his voice and hold fast to him.
I love that passage because he's saying, love the Lord your God primarily.
Now this is him exhorting them to live according to the law, but it's always pronounced in
this passage.
It's always love the Lord your God and obey him, not just obey.
And so I think that one of the things that Jesus is saying is that when Paul says you're
no longer under the law, I think of law like the constitution.
There are laws that we have in the city of Boston, in the state, in our country.
And you know, and I obey those laws.
One of those laws is that I shouldn't steal.
And so I don't steal because of the consequences.
But if that's all that I have is just worry about the consequences, then there will be
I can look for loopholes.
I can look for waste.
I can cheat on my taxes, which is the same thing as stealing.
But I can convince myself, oh no, this is a loophole because I'm being under the law,
because it's not based on a relationship.
It's just based on being under that law.
But if we look at Deuteronomy, and Deuteronomy is Old Testament, that's law.
That's one of the books of the Torah.
And it's over and over again emphasized here in Deuteronomy.
Love the Lord your God.
Walk with him.
His word is near you.
It's in your heart, not just in your mind, not just in your mouth.
It's in your heart.
Sounds a lot like what Jesus was getting at.
In the Sermon on the Mount, getting down to the heart.
That there is more in common with the Old Testament covenant and the New Testament covenant
than people might think at first glance.
And that both have similar foundations because we have the same God.
And both have to do with things of the heart, where Paul had written, you are no longer
under the law or works of the law, you might think.
You're not burdened by, I've got a job description that is impossible that I will never be able
to do.
But that it's more about trusting in God and somehow that starts to work in our hearts
so that we, I'm going to kind of get ahead of myself a little bit here, but we start
to fulfill the law.
I think that's part of it.
So I think I just want to start again with Matthew 5.17.
Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.
I've not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.
For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot will pass
from the law until all is accomplished.
And you know, other translations say not a jot or a tittle.
Usually he's saying the smallest letter or even a stroke, like how we distinguish between
an O and a Q in English will pass from the law.
This thing isn't going anywhere unless everything is destroyed, heaven and earth.
This thing is staying.
So if it's that important, I think we really need to understand what Jesus means by fulfilling
the law and prophets, by accomplishing all that is in the law.
And we talked a little bit about that, but now I want us to think about scriptures that
come to mind that have to do with fulfilling the law.
What do the New Testament writers talk about when they talk about fulfilling the law?
How can we shed light on this?
I'll just say right now, kind of quickly, that when Jesus dies on the cross, he says
it's finished.
And he could be referring to a lot of different things, but I think he is referring to the
crux of what he came on earth to do.
And at the beginning of his ministry in Matthew 5, he's saying, I've come to fulfill the law.
So I think there's something really important happening on the cross that is a part of this
Yeah, I think of John chapter one where it says verse 16 out of his fullness, we have
all received grace in place of grace already given for the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
And that the law and grace and truth aren't put there as sort of opposites.
They're put there as, to me, that's a progression.
The law came through Moses.
The law is foundational.
And I think part of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 5 is that, unless heaven and earth
are destroyed, not the least of the law is going to disappear.
And that is because the law is foundational for all of it, that if I wanted to, if I wanted
to destroy a house, if I destroy the foundation of a house, I'm sorry to have all these house
analogies, but I just bought a house.
And one of the things that we were looking at when we first were shopping, we like old
And we found that there were some old houses in Connecticut and we contemplated moving
to Connecticut, but there was a problem with all these houses that were built by this same
builder there.
The foundations were poor and the houses were beautiful.
They were beautiful and they were cheap.
And we thought this is the place to go.
And our realtor said, no, the foundations on many of these houses are completely compromised
and the houses, they look beautiful, but they're actually already falling apart.
You just can't tell now.
And the law is that foundation.
And I think what Jesus is saying is that the way that he fulfills that, he's built upon
that foundation.
And what he says there on the cross to him is that my building is now finished.
And so he's not going to build on it anymore.
And the law cannot disappear because if the law disappears, then the house doesn't stand.
I was just looking at Luke 24 where Jesus has resurrected and he's coming back and he's
trying to explain to the disciples what just happened.
Why didn I have to die?
Why did I resurrect?
And he's saying, well, everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the law of the
Moses, the prophets and the Psalms.
And yeah, I think what you're saying, Van, that Jesus came to build something, right?
And he came to in Luke 16 and says, the law and the prophets were proclaimed until John,
but since then, the kingdom of heaven is being preached.
I think he came to build the kingdom of heaven and advance the kingdom of heaven and the
that all started with what came before with the law of Moses, the prophets and the Psalms
with everything else.
That was the foundation that Jesus was building upon.
And then he sets that new foundation of being a Christ follower, being a part of this kingdom
of heaven.
There's a new paradigm, there's a new way of doing things, but it's anchored in those
promises that were over and over and over repeated in the Old Testament.
I think that's really important too.
That the promises, I think the promises are what, I want to come back to that because
I think the promises are key to enabling us to do what the law wants us to do because
it goes back to that trusting the one who has made the promise.
And it's that faith that gets us to, that energizes into love.
And I think for me, the key passage for fulfilling the law is Romans 13:8-10It says, Oh, no one anything except to love each other for the one who loves another has
fulfilled the law for the commandments.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not murder.
You shall not steal.
You shall not covet.
And any other commandment are summed up in this word.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Love does no wrong to a neighbor.
Therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.
And Jesus says pretty much the same thing in Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount.
He says in verse chapter 7:12, so whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also
to them for this is the law and profits, the golden rule.
Is it that simple guys?
Is that, is love?
Is that what it is?
I mean, that's what, that's what the scriptures saying here.
And I think what we need to be careful about is that we're letting Jesus or letting God
define what love is.
That's a great thing.
That is a really good point.
It is simple, but it is also hard.
Love is hard.
But the actual, that's why when you ask, when you sit back and you try to define love, I'm
not talking about defining it scripturally, but a child asks you what love is.
You say, go, go have your, it's bedtime.
I'll tell you tomorrow because it's hard to say.
It's a, it's a simple concept.
And this is what I love about the scriptures.
A passage like that you just read, Matt, is so simple, so straightforward that you have
to ask yourself, is that it?
Is that all there is?
Oh, that sounds easy.
Wait a minute.
What do you mean by love?
What do you mean by love?
What do you mean by love?
And you're right, Tim.
You can't define it if you define it any other way, except by what Jesus says it is.
But more importantly, what he demonstrates it is, then you're going to, you're going
to go off.
You're on the wrong plan.
You're building on a bad foundation.
I'm going to, I'm just going to highlight one thing you said and kind of not contradict
it, but maybe I don't fully agree.
Go for it.
With it's when you're thinking about what Jesus said versus what he did, you, you said
what he said, and he said more importantly what he did.
And if you mean everything is, it's more important what you do for compared to what you say.
I'm like toy with you because obviously like talk is cheap, but what I do think is pretty
endemic for American Christianity is just relying on what Jesus did, but paying very
little attention to what he said.
And that I think is very dangerous because Jesus does not, it doesn't seem to me that
Jesus or the apostles separate Jesus' teachings from his saving work on the cross that way.
So yeah, I just, I just think that like that's why we're talking about the Sermon on the Mount.
And in this room, like totally guess that, but it's really important to like just explicitly
say, we're talking about the Sermon on the Mount because we are deeply trying to understand
what is Jesus' teaching for how we are to be and be in our very core, right?
At our very heart.
And we want him to redefine to us what it means to live life, to live the good life,
whatever you want to call it, to be those redeeming agents in the world that are bringing,
making the world new again.
And I agree with you.
I think you're right.
And I agree that is a really important distinction to make because we do, we do end up, we get
in the old mindset of what would Jesus do without really knowing what he said.
I think that is really important too.
And it reminds, so I've just thinking of first John, you know, and because the world
will tell you all kinds of things about what love is that it's, and it's often me centric,
It's all about me.
Whatever makes me feel good is what love must be.
And when, wait a minute, maybe that's not what love means to God, you know, and in 1
John 4, it says, oh, where was it?
I had it.
Verse seven, beloved, let us love one another for love is from God.
It's not in the world to begin with.
So love is from God and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Someone who does not love does not know God because God is love.
And he goes on to talk about the sacrifice that Jesus said.
And, and be, but before that, he says anyone who's not walking in his footsteps doesn't
really know him, you know, that's, you can't really know love unless you're imitating Jesus.
And I, so I guess putting some of these pieces together, Jesus is saying, I've come not to
abolish the law, but to fulfill it.
And we're seeing that Jesus fulfilled the law through his life.
And that Paul teaches that the way we can fulfill the law is through love, right?
Which is really how a big part of how Jesus fulfilled it.
But that we also need to let Jesus define for us what love is.
And bringing that together in the sermon on the Mount, we have all these teachings where
Jesus says, this is what you heard in the law.
What I say, and he gives some other command and he's, he's not abolishing any of those
He's taking it to, he's, I think he's fulfilling them.
He's do, he's, he's presenting the, the culmination of it, but he does those, he says things that
I think our culture can think of as unloving in that they might cause even myself, right?
If you think of like love for self, like I could cause me harm, right?
So ironically, like right around the passage where it's time I'm loving your enemies, right?
Right before then he's talking about not resisting an evil person.
And if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn him the other also if someone sues you
and takes your tunic, sues you for your tunic, let him have your cloak as well, right?
Just take that like being willing to be wronged financially, like the ways in which you could
very easily say, oh, that's so unloving to like your family or to the people that rely
on you.
Like that is a hard teaching.
And it's one, I think, I know we're going to be wrestling with each of those things
in turn, but this is like Jesus is fulfilling the law and showing us what love is in the
sermon and it's, it's, we have to, we have to contend with the fact that our definition
of love is different.
And that is as good a place to stop for now in fulfilling the law we're called to love.
And isn't the love that the world teaches us though, we're called to imitate how Jesus
We're called to listen and obey him as he teaches the heart of the law.
There is so much more to discuss.
So please join us again next time as we wrap up fulfilling the law.

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