...continued from previous post.
Most believers will readily agree that Christ is the fulfillment of the Law (after all, He says so Himself, doesn’t He?), but generally they fall short in understanding the fullness of this fulfillment. We generally speak of Christ as the fulfillment of the Law in what He did rather than in who He was—sound familiar? Jesus certainly did do the works of the Law; He obeyed the Law fully. But He didn’t prove Himself to be God’s Son because of what He did in “obeying” the Law; rather He did the works of the Law in “obedience” because of who He was as God’s Son. Do you see the difference? The distinction between the doing of Jesus as God’s Son and the being (ontology) of Jesus as God’s Son in fulfilling the Law is understood more easily when we consider that Jesus came as the definition of the Law and the definition of “Israel” as God’s “son”.
The Scripture presents the Law as defining what it means to be God’s “son”. Remember, God called Israel His son based upon His choosing them as Abraham’s offspring. First Isaac, the promised “begotten” son and then Jacob, later to be named “Israel”, were initial fulfillments of God’s promise to Abraham that he would have a son and that through his son, God would bless the nations of the earth. Jacob (“Israel”) fathered twelve sons (tribes) who collectively became “Israel”. Over and over again in the Scripture as God speaks to His people He refers to Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He does this to reinforce their understanding of their heritage as the collective “son” (seed) of Abraham and their relationship to Him as His “chosen people”, unique among the nations of the world by being called out of the world as His “son”. When YWHW sent Moses to deliver His people, He told him to say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My son, My firstborn. Let My son go that he may serve Me’” (Ex. 4:22-23).
God calls “Israel” His son, though they had forgotten (and continued to forget) Him. So, in the giving of the Law, God defines for them what it means to be His “son”. God is not giving the people a bunch of hoops to jump through. He’s defining for them what it means to be “Israel”, His son. They are His chosen “son” consecrated to Him. They are not as the other nations; they are uniquely called “out of the world” to be Yahweh’s “peculiar” people. They are separate from the other nations and they are to find their identity solely in their relationship to God. In the giving of the Law, God is showing them that everything about their identity as His “son” is defined by Him—not themselves, not the nations around them, and certainly not the “gods” of the other nations. Israel was God’s “son” and they knew it because God gave them the Law which told them who they were. And the fact that they continued to fail to be who they were called to be as God’s “son” (evidenced by the institution of the sacrificial system, which also testified of Christ) showed them (and us) that their very existence was not ultimate, that “Israel” as “son” of God would be fulfilled in another Israel, the true “Son” of God (which I’ve written about elsewhere).
As with everything else in the Scripture, “Israel” and the Law were types of Christ and prophesied of Him. So when Jesus and the N.T. writers testify that He has fulfilled all of the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (the entirety of the Scripture), they are testifying to the fact that Jesus, as the definition of the Law and Israel, has fulfilled these types in His very Person. The fact that He was obedient to the Law in His practice was due to the fact that He was the definition of the Law; He was the “Israel” that the Law defined. Jesus is what the nation could not be (and was never intended to be): the true “son” of God. And that’s because He is the true Son of God in His very nature. He obeyed the Law not because that’s what He did, but because that’s who He was. Jesus lived out the reality of who He was...that’s all. The things that He did were simply manifestations of who He was.
"To do" is a pragmatic concept; "to be" is an ontological concept. To do is the “imperative”; to be is the “indicative”. Jesus did the things that He did (He obeyed His Father, He obeyed the “Law”) not because He was commanded to but because He was perfectly conformed to His nature and simply lived out the reality of who He was as God’s Son. He could say of Himself that He came to do the will of the Father because as the Son of God it was His will as well.
So…what does that mean for us? We “obey” the Law by coming to Christ and finding our identity in Him. We are “sons” of God in the Son of God. As Paul stresses throughout his writings (and in agreement with Christ and the rest of the Scriptures—N.T. and O.T.), the requirement of the Law is fulfilled in us because we are joined to Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law. We have no obligation to the Law as such. If we look to commandments to direct our relationship with God, then we are refusing to believe Him when He declares that we are His Children in Christ, born by the Spirit to new life. We have been “born again” and now have a new nature; we have been restored as His “image-bearers”, His “image-sons”.
As those who have a new nature, we don’t find our identity back in “law” (we’re not defined by what we do)—our identity is found in Christ. It’s the Spirit’s work to conform us into the likeness of Christ, not ours; and He doesn’t do so through the Law or commandments! Our sanctification does not rise or fall with our “obedience” to some code of ethic. Though we still struggle with sin (unbelief that manifests itself through the “flesh”), our sanctification is sure and progressing by the work of the Spirit in us. The promise of God in Christ (the New Covenant) is the promise of the Spirit. And we are “sons” of God in the Son only by virtue of the presence of the indwelling Spirit (Rom. 8) who will complete His work in us. Why would we walk according to commandment when we can walk according to the Spirit? The flesh profits us nothing; it is the Spirit who gives life! Let’s listen to Paul: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you (we) now being perfected by the flesh?” We’re called to walk by the Spirit. Our calling is not to do but to be. We are Children of God because we’ve been joined to Christ by the Spirit who now indwells us. We’re not called to do anything, per say, but to be who we are.
To be continued...(the final post!).