You can’t simply state “Jesus fulfilled (“ended” – as is often interpreted) the law, therefore we are under grace.” without fully understanding what Jesus actually did, and what He said He actually did.
Take a little journey with me through Hebrews 8 and 9 in order to better understand how GRACE and THE LAW work perfectly in harmony.
Hebrews 8 – Paul refers to the New Covenant (under Christ) as perfect, and the Old Covenant (made with Israel under Moses) as having fault. Here is how he says it:
7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
I’ve often read this wondering how it is that a covenant God made with man could have fault in it. And that’s when I realized that the fault was not actually with God, but with man. And that is confirmed in verse 8 when Paul quotes the Old Testament and says:
8 For he (meaning God) finds fault with them…
In other words, the old covenant was faulty because it was made with man who was incapable of keeping up their end of covenant.
The new covenant, however, was perfect because it was made with Jesus, who perfectly fulfilled the law and stands in our place as our guarantor for our part of the new covenant.
Paul goes on to quote the Old Testament where God clearly says He’s not abolishing the law…but placing the law in the hearts and minds of those whom He saves after Israel (v 10). So now, God himself, and Jesus (the Son of God) have firmly stated that the law isn’t going anywhere. But rather, what is going away is the blood requirement for our transgressions (sin) against the law.
This is later affirmed by Paul in Hebrews 9 when he says:
13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he (being Jesus) is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
In other words, Jesus fulfilled the law by becoming the blood sacrifice for our breaking of the law. He fulfilled the requirement of the law for blood, once and for all.
So when Paul is talking about doing away with the law (making it obsolete – Heb 8:13), he is talking about Jesus doing away with the blood requirement for salvation. Under the old covenant it was necessary to constantly provide a blood sacrifice for sins. Through Jesus’ death on the cross, this requirement was fulfilled once and for all to the end of time for those whom He saves.
In other words, Paul affirmed what Jesus said when Jesus said, “I have come to fulfill the law, not abolish it.” (Matthew 5:17) He came to fulfill the law on our behalf because we are not able…thus making it possible for us to find true and lasting salvation through Jesus.
This is the grace aspect of the gospel.
God’s grace is that He placed our sin and punishment on His Son Jesus to serve in our place for what was rightfully ours…the punishment for our sin…death. This is the point of grace we all experience as those who have been saved.
But just because Jesus fulfilled the law does not mean the law has gone anywhere or been stricken from the record. Instead, the Author of the law, came and kept the law for us, and took on Himself our punishment making it possible for us to be saved. The law is still necessary to obey because it tells us what God’s standard is. In fact, Jesus Himself said that we demonstrate our love for Him and for the Father when we keep the law (His commandments – John 14:15).
As my pastor (Dr. Kevin Baird) puts it…
The law is impotent to save but not necessarily obsolete to obey.