I often hear a comment that goes something like this, “Jesus fulfilled the law.” I hear this comment almost exclusively from those who are building a case as to why Christians don’t need to “follow the Law” (the “Law” being God’s law as given in the “Old Testament”). Does the word “fulfill” really mean “done away with”?
Paul writes in Romans 13:8-10 (NASB):
“Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
This is a beautiful definition of the word ‘fulfill’. It means that if you love your neighbor, you won’t do any of those things listed because you love your neighbor. In other words, if you focus on the “positive commands” from God you’ll end up doing the “negative commands” without even paying them attention. If you love your neighbor, you won’t even be thinking about murdering them or stealing from them or any other negative thing towards them.
God’s law is full of positive commands. “Love your neighbor.” “Love God with all your heart.” Help your fellow man. If we focus on those, we needn’t worry about the others that tell us what love is not.
Instead of looking at the “Law of God” as a list of commands regarding things we shouldn’t do or need to avoid, look at those things that are “commanding” positive behavior. Then bring that positive behavior into your life.
This is what Paul was trying to get across. Jesus (Yeshua) also told us the same. The example of him healing on the Sabbath comes to mind. The leaders were all concerned about their list of things to ‘not’ do, they forgot that there are good things that can and should be done on the day. Like helping other people. It is then that the Sabbath becomes the joy that it was meant to be.
The word ‘fulfill’ was never meant to mean ‘done away with.’ Rather, it is used to make a point. When we listen to and do the positive commands, then we won’t be going against the negative commands at all – we’ll be living the life God meant us to live, to its fullest. When we follow the positive commands, we will fulfill our lives and be smack in the middle of God’s will.
The law of God was given out of love. If we don’t know how to love, it will tell you. When we do love, we are following it.