“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV
Occasionally, while giving Bible studies, I will hear someone say, “Once Jesus fulfilled the commandments He did away with them. He fulfilled them so we don’t have to.” Well, let’s take a look at that. Does fulfill mean to do away with? My Websters Dictionary tells me that fulfill means to carry out. I don’t think carrying something out and abolishing it can be the same definition. My Roget’s Thesaurus tells me fulfill is the same as pleasing or sufficing. I don’t think you please of suffice something by abolishing it either.
Now that we have looked at Roget and Webster’s definition of the word “fulfill,” more importantly let’s see how the Scriptures use that word. Even more important and accurately, how Matthew himself uses that word.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:13-14 NKJV
So Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism. Did He abolish it after He fulfilled it? No, of course not. We know that the command to be baptized is all over the New Testament. Matthew, the same writer who tells us Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism also records Jesus’ command,
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Matthew 28:19 NKJV
So Jesus did not abolish baptism when He fulfilled that rite, but rather set an example for us to follow. Likewise, Jesus did not abolish the law by fulfilling it, but rather gave us an example to follow.
But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. Luke 24;21 NKJV
Some people scoff at Seventh-day Adventists for their great disappointment in 1844, when they thought Jesus was going to come. What many fail to realize, or just plain ignore, is that there were not Seventh-day Adventists in 1844! There would be no Seventh-day Adventists for another 16 years. Advent believers from several different churches and denominations were bitterly disappointed when Jesus did not return like they thought He would in 1844.
Later, they found Jesus had not let them down. His own prophesies and the Scriptures were clear as to what was to happen to the Messiah. They had misunderstood the Scriptures. They thought the cleansing of the sanctuary meant that Jesus would come and cleanse the world with fire. Instead the cleansing of the sanctuary meant something exciting was happening in the heavenly sanctuary.
Just because they made a mistake or did not perfectly understand Scripture does not mean they were not God’s people. The Holy Spirit continued leading them through Scripture to a more perfect understanding of what was going on.
When Jesus was crucified, His people, the disciples were greatly disappointed too. They, like the Christians in 1844, misunderstood Scripture and just outright did not hear a few things Jesus had tried to tell them over and over. Still, Jesus did not disown them.
Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:25-27
Jesus did not turn His back on the early disciples for not understanding that Jesus was suppose to die on the cross. He continued to lead them through Scripture. He comforted them in their sorrow (See Luke 24:17) even though their sorrow was caused by their own misunderstanding of Scripture. Most importantly they were still His people who He would continue to guide to greater light.
In 1844, God’s people were still God’s people, even though they too misunderstood Scripture. God comforted them in their great disappointment and continued guiding them through the Scriptures on to greater light.
If we surrender our lives to His service, we can never be placed in a position for which God has not made provision. Whatever may be our situation, we have a Guide to direct our way; whatever our perplexities, we have a sure Counselor; whatever our sorrow, bereavement, or loneliness, we have a sympathizing Friend. If in our ignorance we make missteps, Christ does not leave us. His voice, clear and distinct, is heard saying, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6. “He shall deliver the needy when he crieth; the poor also, and him that hath no helper.” Psalm 72:12. -Christ Object Lessons, Page 173.
Several years ago, when I first became a literature evangelist, I was attending an awards banquet for the best sales persons in the Southwest. I was awe struck by the nice shiny plaques and trophies the winners were receiving for leading the region in sales, hours worked, and other categories. I was so impressed that I decided right then and there that I was going to be Number One next year so that I could receive such a reward at the next awards banquet.
The next year I went out and worked from early morning until as late at night as I could. After all, if I couldn’t lead the region in sales, I could at least lead in hours worked by just working all the time. Sure enough by the end of the year I had led my region in hours worked and in sales! I could not wait to receive that award I had been fantasizing about all year! Only one problem: Due to finances there was no awards banquet that year. Nothing for me! No recognition! I was angry and upset. I had been slighted. I felt insulted by my leaders.
Soon after that, I was on my way to an appointment to show the Christian books to a family in Grove Oklahoma. As I was driving down an old dirt road, I ran across an old historic church and a very old cemetery next to it. Being the history buff that I am, I decided to take a few minutes and look around. It was interesting! Many of the people had died in the 1800′s. I saw many graves for children and little babies. One family had lost four babies over the course of a few years, and I was amazed at the faith of this family as they had a Scripture promise engraved on each grave marker.
As I was contemplating the suffering this family must have endured, it dawned on me that many of these people had died at ages a lot younger than I was. Soon I was contemplating the fact that I had outlived many of these people and, of course, was the only one alive right now. Soon a voice inside my mind started asking me the questions, “Why have you outlived these people, and why are you alive right now?” As I pondered the suffering and heartache of the families represented in the cemetery and in the world today, it hit me like a bolt of lightning! I am not alive today to win trophies and awards. Those trophies cannot heal broken hearts, they cannot forgive sins and they cannot give people hope for tomorrow. Suddenly I realized how selfish and silly I had been. I decided to minister to save people’s souls and give them hope and not to win awards. I then realized the meaning of the words in an old classic hymn, “When my trophies at last I lay down, I will cling to the old rugged cross.” I realized my trophies were my works, what I had earned. Of course nothing that I had earned, could ever heal a broken heart, forgive a single sin, or save my soul, let alone someone else’s!
Finally, the regional director felt sorry for me and sent me a very nice plaque. Several years after that, I was asked to have a vespers service for a church youth group camp-out. I asked them to have a bonfire going as I gave my talk. I showed the kids my nice shiny plaque and let them admire it as I talked about how hard I had worked for it. Then I told them how that plaque could do nothing to save me or anyone else. I then took the trophy and threw it into the fire. As the trophy melted in the fire and the kids looked at me with shocked expressions, I told them that “My trophies I lay down, and now cling to the old rugged cross.” I don’t need the trophy, I need the cross, for it can accomplish so much more for a hurting, dying world! Now, instead of being motivated by awards and trophies to save souls, I am motivated by the cross of Christ. “The love of Christ constrains me.”
I told you about my trophy. Now what about yours? Are you holding onto a trophy in your life today? Ask yourself if that trophy can heal a broken heart, or forgive sins, or give people hope. I encourage you to lay down your trophy and join me, as we all cling to the old rugged cross. Never again do I want to live to draw people’s attention to my trophies. I am alive today for one reason and one reason only—to draw people’s attention to the Cross of Christ.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. John 1:1-3 NKJV
We all know the sacrifice had to be spotless and perfect. Still, I believe there is a greater reason why only Jesus could atone for our sins. I believe the reason is found in John 1:1-3. Jesus, the Son of God was our Creator. When Adam and Eve sinned and ate of the forbidden fruit, they did more than eat a piece of fruit they were told not to. They stopped believing in God’s love to make them happy and decided to trust the serpent instead.
In order to solve the sin problem God had to do more than just provide an atonement for eating a piece of fruit someone was told not to. In order to solve the sin problem God must win back our faith in His love. On the cross God had to convince us that He loves us, so we would believe in His love again, and to heal us from the sin of not believing in His love. Sending an angel to die would not convince us that He loved us. It would have only convinced us that God did not care about the angels either. The only way God could convince us that He loved us, is if He, our Creator died for us Himself.
Why was it the Son of God who had to die? Because it was the Son of God who created us, and on the cross He wants to win back our love and loyalty. He knew that sending someone else to die would not accomplish that purpose. He died for us Himself, to prove once and for all that the serpent’s accusation was false. God was not withholding anything back from us that would make us happy. Contrary to the serpent’s accusation God would give anything to make us happy-even His own life!
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they [were] bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the LORD; and the LORD showed him a tree, [which] when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I [am] the LORD that healeth thee. Exodus 15:23-26
Why did God have Moses put a tree in the bitter water? How did a tree make the water sweet? In 1 peter 2:24, Peter refers to the cross as a tree. In a world of hate and bitterness, Jesus died on that tree to save us from a bitter world. Sin has caused suffering and bitterness but Jesus was lifted up on the cross to make our lives sweet again. I and many others believe this is why Moses used a tree to make bitter water sweet again.
If life has made you bitter, I would like to invite you to experience the grace that can make your life sweet again, by visiting the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. If you are not in the Tampa Bay area, you can find a grace filled church in your corner of the world here.
“Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.” John 19:25-27 NLT
As the eyes of Jesus wandered over the multitude about Him, one figure arrested His attention. At the foot of the cross stood His mother, supported by the disciple John. She could not endure to remain away from her Son; and John, knowing that the end was near, had brought her again to the cross. In His dying hour, Christ remembered His mother. Looking into her grief-stricken face and then upon John, He said to her, “Woman, behold thy son!” then to John, “Behold thy mother!” John understood Christ’s words, and accepted the trust. He at once took Mary to his home, and from that hour cared for her tenderly. O pitiful, loving Saviour; amid all His physical pain and mental anguish, He had a thoughtful care for His mother! He had no money with which to provide for her comfort; but He was enshrined in the heart of John, and He gave His mother to him as a precious legacy. Thus He provided for her that which she most needed,–the tender sympathy of one who loved her because she loved Jesus. And in receiving her as a sacred trust, John was receiving a great blessing. She was a constant reminder of his beloved Master.
The perfect example of Christ’s filial love shines forth with undimmed luster from the mist of ages. For nearly thirty years Jesus by His daily toil had helped bear the burdens of the home. And now, even in His last agony, He remembers to provide for His sorrowing, widowed mother. The same spirit will be seen in every disciple of our Lord. Those who follow Christ will feel that it is a part of their religion to respect and provide for their parents. From the heart where His love is cherished, father and mother will never fail of receiving thoughtful care and tender sympathy. -Desire of Ages, Page 752
Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson, mentions circumcision, which some people in some cultures now classify as barbaric. I have heard a few good Christians question why God chose circumcision for a sign that you belonged to Him? In certain safe circles faithful Christian men have asked, “why the penis of all places?”
We all know circumcision is no longer a sign of a covenant between God and us – thank goodness! Still it puzzles some believers as well as unbelievers alike as to why God ever had anyone do this. My purpose here is to answer the question, “why did God ever tell us to do this” and in the process we will see the gospel where before many people only saw a painful ritual.
The Scriptures say that Abraham had two sons, one from his slave wife and one from his freeborn wife. The son of the slave wife was born in a human attempt to bring about the fulfillment of God’s promise. But the son of the freeborn wife was born as God’s own fulfillment of his promise. These two women serve as an illustration of God’s two covenants. Galatians 4:22-24 NLT
God had made a covenant with Abraham and promised him a son. All God needed Abraham to do was believe the promise. Abraham saw that his wife was old and not even menstruating anymore, so instead of just trusting in God’s promise, he took his much younger handmaid Hagar and worked things out on his own. Together they had a son. This is the old covenant, which is man keeping the commandments in his own power, instead of just trusting God to write them on our hearts. The old covenant is legalism, or the works of the flesh. It’s a me-plus-Christ mentality instead of “Not I But Christ” (SeeGalatians 2:20), the motif Paul shared as the crux of the gospel.
So God had Abraham practice circumcision.
Then God said to Abraham, “Your responsibility is to obey the terms of the covenant. You and all your descendants have this continual responsibility. This is the covenant that you and your descendants must keep: Each male among you must be circumcised. You must cut off the flesh of your foreskin as a sign of the covenant between me and you. From generation to generation, every male child must be circumcised on the eighth day after his birth. This applies not only to members of your family but also to the servants born in your household and the foreign-born servants whom you have purchased. All must be circumcised. Your bodies will bear the mark of my everlasting covenant. Any male who fails to be circumcised will be cut off from the covenant family for breaking the covenant.” Genesis 17:9-14 NLT
Abraham’s part in the covenant was to keep himself from doing those things God had promised. Abraham was trusting in his flesh to work things out, so God had Abraham circumcise the part of his flesh he was trusting in, so that he could realize the gospel is not “me plus Christ” but “Not I but Christ.”
For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort… Philippians 3:3 NLT
… like the birth of the child of Abraham, and that of Mary, was to teach a great spiritual truth, a truth that we are slow to learn and ready to forget. In ourselves we are incapable of doing any good thing; but that which we cannot do will be wrought by the power of God in every submissive and believing soul. It was through faith that the child of promise was given. It is through faith that spiritual life is begotten, and we are enabled to do the works of righteousness. -Ellen White, Desire of Ages, Page 98
Abraham had that part of his body circumcised because that was the part of his body he was trusting, more than he was trusting in God’s power. Now we have baptism as a sign that we are casting away self-confidence, as we go under the water washing self away, and dying to self, we rise up taking the new breath we now live, not trusting in self, but trusting in Jesus.
Satan works hard to make us miss the whole point of this lesson by coming up with his own rituals, and then making male circumcision appear to be another cultural ritual. For example, female circumcision, which has no Scriptural significance is still widely practiced. It is seriously harmful to women and its practice often has ulterior motives.
Finally, some men who were circumcised as babies, and learning that circumcision is no longer Biblical or morally necessary, have become quite bitter towards their parents for “mutilating” them. To those I would say, first of all, you have not endured anything that Jesus Himself has not endured. Jesus was circumcised too. See Luke 2:21. No matter how awkward or “embarrassing” an area of your life may be, Jesus has been there and experienced it for you. He understands everything! Second, most parents were simply doing the best they could with the information they had at the time. All parents have to make decisions about the treatment of their babies on a range of issues and most make those decisions with the best information available. And with the health benefits, your parents may have made no mistake at all.
Satan likes to make the Gospel look foolish and even crazy in human eyes, and because circumcision is a sensitive issue it is an easy target. I pray my brief attempt has helped you to see the gospel where before all you could see was a Jewish ritual.
I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.
“Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And [Pilate] saith unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify [him], crucify [him]. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify [him]: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.” John 19:5-7
The law the Jews were talking about is found in the verse below, but notice the law states that one who blasphemes (which Jesus did not do but was accused of doing), should be stoned, not crucified.
“And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, [and] all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name [of the LORD], shall be put to death.” Leviticus 24:16
Notice in the verse below, the Jews were not ignorant of this law.
“I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” John 10:30-31
So why are the the Jews asking for Jesus to be crucified instead of stoned? I believe they have Deuteronomy 21:22-23 in mind.
“And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;)” Deuteronomy 21:22-23
If a man committed a crime worthy of death he could still ask forgiveness and have the hope of the resurrection, but if he was hung on a tree that meant he was accursed of God and it was good-bye to life forever. Remember Jesus was not dying the death of the righteous. The righteous still die that death themselves. He did not save us from that death. He was saving us from, and tasting the death of the wicked. So on the cross Jesus was not just tasting a six hour pain endurance marathon, where everything would be okay come Sunday morning. Thank God he was indeed resurrected, but on the the cross He had to face the death of the wicked, which meant He was facing going into total oblivion, as though His existence would be blotted from the universe.
“…so shall all the heathen drink continually, yea, they shall drink, and they shall swallow down, and they shall be as though they had not been.” Obadiah 1:16
This is what Jesus faced for you, so you could experience the acceptance of the Father.
“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Ephesians 1:6-7
“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring” Psalms 22:1
Jesus had always called God His Father. “In my Father’s house are many mansions.” “I always do those things that please my Father.” “I and my Father are one.” Yet when Jesus was on the cross, being treated as we deserve, He could not call God His Father, and so He cried out “My God, Why has Thou forsaken me?”
Could this be what made Jesus’ death the ultimate sacrifice? Many think of the physical torture Jesus endured while on the cross, but many have suffered physically just as much. As a matter of fact, if you asked a cancer victim if they would like another year of chemo or six hours on a cross, they will choose the cross over chemo! What made Jesus’ death the ultimate sacrifice goes a lot deeper than the physical pain. He died a death no one has ever died yet. John Huss sang hymns of praise while he was burning at the stake. If Huss could sing as he died for his faith, why wasn’t Jesus singing songs as He died? Why was He instead crying out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Because Jesus died a totally different death than Huss or anyone else has ever died. Huss died knowing he was accepted of the Father, but Jesus suffered God-abandonment for us so we could be saved.
The Saviour could not see through the portals of the tomb. Hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the grave a conqueror, or tell Him of the Father’s acceptance of the sacrifice. He feared that sin was so offensive to God that Their separation was to be eternal. Christ felt the anguish which the sinner will feel when mercy shall no longer plead for the guilty race. It was the sense of sin, bringing the Father’s wrath upon Him as man’s substitute, that made the cup He drank so bitter, and broke the heart of the Son of God. -Desire of Ages, Page 753
Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. ‘With His stripes we are healed. -Desire of Ages, Page 25.
Legalism: We make sacrifices to obtain God’s love.
The Gospel: God provided a sacrifice to obtain our love. Romans 5:10-12:
“ For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only [so], but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” In pagan religions the sacrifice enables the god to love the humans, while in Christianity the cross enables the humans to love their God.
Legalism: We keep the commandments in order to get a reward.
The Gospel: We keep the commandments because we love Jesus. John 14:15:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Legalism: We want to get sin out of our lives because of the investigative judgment.
The Gospel: We want to get sin out of our lives because sin crucifies Jesus. Isaiah 53:4-6:
“Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Legalism: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He is coming soon.
The Gospel: We want to give our heart to Jesus today because He loves us. 1 John 4:19:
“We love him, because he first loved us.”
Legalism: Good behavior is motivated by a hope of reward or fear of punishment.
The Gospel: Good behavior is motivated by our love for Jesus regardless of consequences. 2 Corinthians 5:14:
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet NOT I, BUT CHRIST liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Legalism: Self- centered. Obedience according to my own standards, in my own power, for my own glory.
The Gospel: God- centered. Obedience according to God’s standards, in His power for His glory.
“Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:11
Legalism: All about pride and rewards.
The Gospel: All about love and humility.
Galatians 5:4-6 (The Message) “I suspect you would never intend this, but this is what happens. When you attempt to live by your own religious plans and projects, you are cut off from Christ, you fall out of grace. Meanwhile we expectantly wait for a satisfying relationship with the Spirit. For in Christ, neither our most conscientious religion nor disregard of religion amounts to anything. What matters is something far more interior: faith expressed in love.”