As Christ was being crucified, He was fulfilling the Old Testament law. Due to God’s indisputable attribute of justness, it was required that the law be fulfilled and not just set aside.
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.” Matthew 5:17-18
No other man on earth could accomplish that indescribable feat. One of the favorite songs of the heroes at the Veterans Hospital includes the words, “…I had a debt I could not pay, He paid a debt He did not owe…”
Recall how the Apostle John felt when he thought there was no one worthy to loosen the seven seals of the title deed to reclaim the earth.
“And I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll, or to look at it. So I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and read the scroll, or to look at it. But one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.’” Revelation 5:1-5
So when the law had been fulfilled, God offered grace to all mankind. The fulfilled law meant that retaliation between men was no longer applicable.
For example, consider adultery in the Old Testament under the law.
“If a man is found lying with a woman married to a husband, then both of them shall die (by stoning) – the man that lay with the woman, and the woman…” Deuteronomy 22:22
Now Islam continues to believe that death by stoning is still appropriate, at least for the woman. But what does the New Testament say?
“Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery…they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’…He said to them… ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’” John 8:3-7
Then Jesus said to the woman that He would not condemn her either but she was to ‘sin no more.’ John 8:11
The Bible explains that retaliation by man has been replaced with God’s righteous judgment.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ … But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also…” Matthew 5:38-39
The above in no way means that people are free from punishment by man if they disobey the law of the land. While God is the ultimate judge, man has been appointed to administer civil order in the present era.
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake.” Romans 13:1-5
This key passage confirms that God has appointed all governing authorities to maintain law and order and whoever resists such authority directly defies God. The appointment of governing authorities is for the general benefit of all people. As long as citizens obey the law of the land they have nothing to fear. Citizens are admonished to obey the law not just to avoid punishment, but because of their innate awareness of right and wrong.
It is interesting to note that only three of the original ten commandments are part of our legal system, however, God’s righteous judgment will take into consideration all of the original ten.
Therefore, while Islam still employs retaliatory measures for sins committed according to sharia, the Christian will ultimately answer to Christ who is the ultimate judge of mankind. A Christian’s behavior, however, is monitored and adjudicated by civil appointees during this era to maintain order. The wonderful aspect of New Testament grace is that the Christian’s sins, past, present and future have already been paid for with the priceless blood of Jesus as He was fulfilling the law and thus forgivable if asked for. Such grace is not a license for the Christian to sin, on the contrary, if the Christian sins, he/she is to ‘repent,’ i.e. forsake that sin and ‘sin no more.’
Grace, as described above, is available to all nationalities, races, and ethnicities regardless of one’s past including their belief system. Consider the Apostle Paul, He experienced God’s grace even though he had been the chief persecutor of God’s people, i.e. Christians.
Final installment of series next week.