Fulfilling the Law

Church of Christ Bible LessonMatt 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

What ‘Law’ is Jesus talking about here? He says “the law and the Prophets’ – the whole Old Testament. He was not talking about the oral traditions or scribal law of the Jewish teachers, but the pure words of God – not the interpretations of men. Jesus said that He had not come to abolish God’s word, but to fulfill it. He came to accomplish all that had been promised and to complete the purpose of the Old Law. (Gal 3:24-25) Jesus came to make clear the real meaning and purpose of the Law. He explained the two greatest commandments that must be grasped – Matt 22:35-40. He taught respect for all laws, even civil laws that do not contradict the word of God – Rom 13, and He taught the overriding principle of love. (Rom 13:10)

But Jesus also came to fulfill the Laws demand for perfect righteousness (Rom 8:3-4) and to fulfill all of the prophecies concerning Himself (Luke 24:44-47). He pointed out that heaven and earth would sooner pass away than the Law not be fulfilled.

What did Jesus mean then when He said that “our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees”? Let us examine what he taught his disciples:

-Jesus stressed an inner cleanliness as opposed to outward appearance (Matt 23:1-8)

-He stressed a motivation of love as opposed to duty or fear (Luke 17:10)

-He taught of righteousness by grace rather than trying to earn it by works. (Eph2:8)

The Old Testament law was a necessary requirement from God to point out right and wrong, and to show men their inability to cope with God’s demands by their own power. That is why Jesus had to come in the flesh and fulfill the Laws demands. (Heb 2:17-18) And once that Law had been fulfilled, it was taken away. The death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in the New Covenant that God had declared was coming – Heb 8:8-13. We are now under the requirements of the New Covenant.

Have you followed the requirements of the New Covenant as laid out by Peter in Acts 2:37-41?

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Finding Common Ground

Church of Christ Bible LessonThe group that came together on Pentecost to hear Peter and the others (Acts 2) were much like those in our world today. They came from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and languages. They undoubtedly had different styles of dress and speech. While they shared the Jewish faith, they had little in common beyond that. Most of the people in our culture ‘believe’ in God. They may be weak of inadequate in understanding, but when you talk about God, they mostly think about the God of the Bible. But God brought them all together on that Pentecost and He intends for all of us to be united in one body – the church.

When they all came together, it was at first in curiosity about what was happening. There was a variety of reactions – some thought the twelve were drunk, others were just confused. As the Lord’s body, we need to ‘make some noise’ – we need to be visible, different from the world as usual, and interesting enough that people want to see what all the fuss is about. And we shouldn’t be surprised when people have different reactions. When people misunderstand what the church is about, they will call us names or be confused by what they see.

Like Peter, our words and actions should indicate to people that they have a problem with sin. Peter told them that they had killed the Messiah that God had sent to them. The reaction was ‘What should we do?” They saw the need to be forgiven. It had to be hard for them – they had traveled a long way to worship, thinking they were acceptable to God, and now to find out their true sinful condition. Peter’s answer to them was “Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.”(Acts 2:38) They were familiar with baptism, but it was for those who were unclean or outside of the Mosaical covenant. Baptism was for Gentiles, not ‘children of Abraham’. But this was exactly what God was commanding them to do. To admit that they were sinners – like those Samaritans or gentiles and to repent and undergo immersion in order to receive forgiveness of their sins had to be difficult for them to comprehend. Many today also find the command to be baptized shocking. They think that it may be needed for those terrible sinners, but that they aren’t in the same class. But just as those on Pentecost had to humble themselves and be baptized, so people today must swallow their pride and obey the same command.

Acts 2 tells us that 300 people obeyed and were baptized that day, but there were many more who heard what was said and couldn’t bring themselves to accept the plan that god had put in place. Don’t let your ‘religious heritage’, your cultural background, social differences, or simple pride keep you from the Lord. Come to Christ, obey His word and be immersed in baptism to gain the forgiveness of sins. (Acts 22:16) In doing so, you will have everything in common with those who have followed God’s plan from the very beginning and will find the forgiveness promised by the Lord.

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Church of Christ DevotionalsMatt 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men that they are fasting. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it is not obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father , who sees what is done in secret will reward you openly.”

Fasting was an essential part of religious life in Eastern countries. For the Jew, there was only one compulsory fast – the Day of Atonement – Lev 16:31. But the religious Jews made great use of private fasting. It was the custom to fast from the death of a relative until the burial, or to show sorrow for sin, or as an appeal to God in times of physical or spiritual need. Occasionally a time of fasting would be declared for the whole nation as a sign of national repentance – Judges 20:26.

While fasting was supposed to represent devotion to God and repentance for sins, it had the potential to be done for improper motives. One might fast as a sign of ‘superior piety’ – Luke 8:11-12. One might fast to show others how ‘devoted’ he was in order to gain their praise and admiration. So Jesus warns His disciples about fasting for the wrong reasons.

While we as Christians are not commanded to fast, there are some practical reasons to do so:

• healthy eating habits – makes us think about what we eat
• self-discipline – we learn to deny ourselves and break habits
• it teaches us to distinguish between needs and wants
• it teaches us appreciation of what we have
• it makes us more sensitive to spiritual things by sharpening senses

Jesus condemned the wrong kind of fasting- when it was done for outward show. But nowhere does the Bible encourage Christians to avoid the practice of fasting. We would do well to consider our own situation, and if fasting would help us get our lives into the proper perspective. However, we must follow the instructions of Christ and do it privately, so that it will not be obvious to others. Fasting is to be between the individual and God. In fact, Jesus condemned any religious practice when it was done for show. If we do things to impress men, we will get no reward from our Father. (He knows our hearts and our motives) What would the Lord say about the way that you ‘practice’ your religion? Is your heart right with God?

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Church of Christ ScriptureBaptized … Again ?

Is it right to accept as members, those from a denomination who want to place their membership with the church? This question comes up when a person who has been baptized in a denominational church. Then chooses to attend the Church of Christ and wants to ‘place membership’ or be identified as a member of the local congregation.

The scriptures are clear that one must be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven. ( Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1Pet 3:21, Mark 16:16) And it is also clear in the scriptures that it does not make a difference whom does the baptizing as long as it is done in the proper way (immersion) and for the proper reason (in order to have one’s sins forgiven). If a person was baptized in the right way for the right reason in a denomination, and sees the error of that denomination’s teachings and seeks fellowship with the Lord’s church, there is no reason not to accept them just as the Lord does – Acts 2:41, 47.

The real question is, did the denomination teach the truth about baptism – most of them do not. And if a person is taught incorrectly, can their baptism be right? For example, if the denomination teaches that a person is saved before they are baptized (by saying a ‘sinner’s prayer, or by simply accepting Jesus into their heart- both of which are never found as the way to ‘be saved’ in scripture) – and that baptism is optional or that it simply puts one into the church then can their baptism be valid?

If a person was baptized as a baby or as a young child, (they may not even remember their baptism) – the baptism is NOT valid because the scriptures teach that only one who can believe in Jesus and repent of their sins can be baptized per the scriptures.  A baby obviously cannot do that, and a young child is unlikely to be able to do those things that are necessary for themselves as the Bible points out in Acts 2:38 and Acts 3:19, and many other examples throughout the book of Acts. If a person had water sprinkled or poured on them for baptism, their baptism is NOT valid since the Biblical method of baptism is immersion (burial) – Rom 6:3-5, Col 2:12, Acts 8:35-39. And if a person was baptized not knowing why they were baptized, that baptism is NOT valid for there can be not belief and repentance without understanding. (Acts 19:1-5)

But if a person was baptized by immersion understanding that is was done in order to have their sins forgiven, having believed in Jesus as God’s Son and repented of their sins – then they HAVE been properly baptized and are accepted by the Lord. No one except God can look into the heart of a person to know what understanding they had when they were baptized. But if a person comes from a background where the truth on baptism is not normally taught, they need to examine their own baptism in the light of the scriptures. If after doing this, the person insists that their baptism was proper, then we must accept their word for it – after all, they will answer to God for their decision, not to us. But if there is the slightest doubt, they should be baptized properly to gain the confidence that they have indeed obeyed the Lord’s command!

Church of Christ Scripture on Baptism