Grace And The Law

Q. As always thank you for you willingness to share your thoughts on these matters. My question for you is how do we weigh out the contrast between Matthew 5:17-20 and Acts 15:19-20 (Also the majority of the message of Hebrews). I have a Messianic Jewish friend that dwells very heavily on the Matthew verses, but most denominational churches teach a theology of Grace (and rightfully so) but begin to neglect the law. Is it something deeper than just, “the rules never changed, but the penalty is gone”? I have a hard time meshing that with the lifting of the kosher dietary requirements that Peter had given to him from Heaven, to me that shows that the rule (at least in that case) was changed. I know this is one of those subjects that is easy to run too far to either extreme so I was hoping you could provide a scriptural balance for it. Thank you for your help.

A. In Matt. 5:17-20 the Lord said that the Law and the Prophets would not be abolished by Him, but fulfilled. The Law is the standard of righteous living that God requires of His people. Failure to achieve that standard brings death. Jesus is the only one who could ever meet the standard. By doing so, He qualified to be our redeemer, taking upon Himself the penalty due us for our infractions. It’s not that the penalty is gone, but that it’s been paid in advance for those who accept it. Those who don’t are still held liable and will pay with their lives.

The Prophets told of a coming Redeemer who would do this. They of course spoke of Him. So Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by qualifying us for Eternal life. Since He did this, we no longer have to, but in Acts 15:19-20 we’re told to refrain from blood and from sexual immorality. These are especially offensive to God, since life is in the blood (Leviticus 7:14) and sexual sins are committed with the body in which the Lord also dwells (1 Cor 6:18-20).

Paul’s letters dwell heavily on striving to live a life pleasing to God by adhering to the standards of the Law. But we no longer do this out of fear to attain life. We do it out of joy to express our gratitude for having received it. This is a distinction that some in the Messianic movement fail to make.

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