Driving to work one day, I had a revelation. I realized that speed limits had been set to protect me and those around me, not to hamper my freedom or prove that I was a lawbreaker. If I sped and lost control of my car I could hurt myself, the lady driving toward me, or the man on the sidewalk. The traffic laws are in place because human life is valuable and should be protected.
I made a similar discovery with the Ten Commandments. This “law of Moses” was meant to protect life and help people flourish (Deuteronomy 6:24, 10:13, 12:28). You can’t flourish when your life is in danger (Exodus 20:13), when your belongings have been stolen (Exodus 20:15), or you’re being pursued by a stalker (Exodus 20:17). You can’t flourish by working without a break (Exodus 20:8-11), taking murderous revenge (Exodus 20:13), or worshiping anything but God (Exodus 20:2-4).
So it’s no surprise that Jesus said He hadn’t come to abolish the law of Moses (Matthew 5:17). Speeding, theft, murder, and idolatry were still destructive even after Jesus came, so why take away the “guardrails”? What He came to do was fulfill the law—to fill it up with meaning, to restore its life-protecting intent, and to wrest it back from the religious teachers who had distorted it by turning it into a system of merit-keeping before God. This is what He spells out in the remainder of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1–7:28).
The Old Testament prophets spoke of a day when a Messiah would come and when God would put His laws into our hearts and give us His Spirit (Jeremiah 31:33; Ezekiel 36:27). That Messiah has come! Jesus shows us the life-protecting intent of God’s law and gives us power by His Spirit to live it.
NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Acts 27:27-44
Read Romans 2:28-29 and 7:14–8:11 to see how the law and the Spirit work together in our lives.
How have you sought acceptance from God by trying to live by Old Testament laws? Do you ever do the opposite and dismiss these laws altogether?