The words of this post title, spoken by Christ, have always caused some confusion for me. If He didn’t come to abolish the law, then why don’t we still follow it? If not even the smallest character would pass away, where is it now? And what did He mean that he came to fulfill it? Well, I think I finally understand it.
The Jewish Law was the result of sin. It is a manifestation of, and a witness to, our sinful nature. What I mean is that if human nature had never fallen, there never would have been any need for the Law. It was a way for man to attempt to reunite with God by following certain prescription of behavior. Even if someone were to follow the Law exactly for the whole of their life however, this would not get rid of sin, there would still be an existential chasm between man and God (which, again, was proven by the existence of the Law).
When Christ came however, when the incarnate Word was united with carnal flesh, when the divine Trinitarian nature was united to our fallen human nature, Christ made it possible for man to once again return to the state of human nature before the fall. Christ did not abolish the Law by his incarnation because sin still exists and we have not been healed automatically. “Natural” human nature still exists with a large chasm between it and God. However, Christ fulfilled the law by making it possible to achieve the “end result” of it, communion with God. The coming of Christ was like the laying down of a bridge between our nature and God’s.
So no, Christ didn’t abolish the Law because we still possess sinful natures, instead he fulfilled it by making it possible for our nature to be cured of the sickness of sin.
I probably didn’t do a very good job of explaining, so I now quote Christos Yannaras in The Freedom of Morality:
Christ alone is the end of the Law (Rom 10:4) and freedom from the Law (Rom 8:2), precisely because He did away with the precondition for its existence when, in His theanthropic flesh, He destroyed the “middle wall of partition” (Eph 2:14), the existential distance between man and God. Thus the Law is not annulled but “fulfilled,” in the sense that it finds it fullness in love (Rom 13:10). The Law continues to manifest and affirm sin, but now the acknowledgment of sin is not proof of condemnation and death, not a “curse,” but a measure of acceptance of God’s love: the Law reveals God’s “frenzied eros” for man.
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