A little over a year ago Steven Furtick, a Pastor in North Carolina, preached a sermon called “It Works Both Ways.” Recently on his Facebook page he took a two minute clip from that sermon and posted it on his facebook page.
In short he paints a picture of a parent who finds his child with a severe head injury after having fallen off of the monkey bars. The parent scoops the child up and heads for the car. As he begins driving, he doesn’t even notice the speed limits and even if he did he wouldn’t obey them, because of his love for his child. Similarly, Furtick says “God broke the law for love.” God after giving us the law, displayed his love by breaking it. In essence he loved us more than His own love.
There are many problems with this theologically and philosophically but it is not my purpose in this post to detail them. (If you’re interested in those Tim Challies wrote a very helpful post here)
The reason why the allegation that God broke the law particularly bothered me, and what I am hoping to demonstrate in this post, is that even a simple reading of a single chapter in the Gospel of Luke would show how meticulous Mary, Joseph and Jesus were in making sure Jesus kept the whole law precisely. As we have been teaching through Luke in our young adults group it is clear that in order for Jesus to be the mediator between God and man, He had to be the perfectly obedient God-Man. In fact, so great was the Trinity’s concern for keeping the law, that the One who was being sent to fulfill the law was placed in a family that would be meticulous in their obedience to all the law’s demands in bearing and raising Jesus.
Here are four brief examples from just one chapter of Luke’s Gospel which demonstrate Jesus and His family’s obedience to the law.
In his Circumcision (Luke 2:21)
“This is My covenant, which you shall keep, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you shall be circumcised.” Genesis 17:12
This is a command given to the Jewish people in perpetuity. Jesus as the promised seed of Abraham through whom God would bless all the nations, was circumcised in perfect obedience to the covenant.
In the temple presentation (Luke 2:23)
Mary after keeping the law and waiting until after her time of purification, brought Jesus to the temple in order to be offered to the Lord. Jesus was presented at the temple and was greeted by Simeon and Anna, Mary and Joseph made the appropriate sacrifice, and perfectly obeyed the law.
In Everything (Luke 2:39-40)
When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to (AL)their own city of Nazareth.
Just in case there would be any doubt as to whether there any minor infractions in which Jesus could have been said to break the law, Luke reassures us that Mary and Joseph performed everything according to the Law of the Lord. It would have been very easy to miss a law or make a mistake, but Luke assures us that Mary and Joseph were faithful and perfectly obeyed the law.
In celebrating the Passover (Luke 2:41-42)
14 ‘Now this day will be a memorial to you, and you shall celebrate it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you are to celebrate it as a permanent ordinance. Exodus 12:14
Luke 2:41 tells us that Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem every year. They never missed a beat. They were faithful, and perfectly obeyed the law.
Why does all this matter? Why is it important that we have an appropriate and biblical understanding of Jesus’ relationship to the law? Because without Jesus’ perfect obedience, He could never stand in our place as the propitiation for our sin. Without Jesus’ perfect obedience, His death could not atone for our law breaking. If Jesus had, like us, failed to “be perfect as [our] Heavenly Father was perfect,” He would, like us, have been under the penalty and punishment of God’s wrath.
But, as Luke and the other Gospel writer’s uniformly affirm, Jesus did perfectly fulfill the law. The death He suffered on the cross was not the result of His law breaking, but ours. His perfect obedience secures the righteousness we could never attain on our own.
In His baptism, Jesus fulfills all righteousness, as the perfect law keeper humbles himself and identified Himself with a ritual for sinners despite His perfection (Luke 3:21).
In His temptation, Jesus endures all enticement to sin, but never falls to its temptation (Luke 4:1-13).
And while Christ loved to disobey the Pharisees legalistic traditions he fulfilled God’s law perfectly throughout His life and ministry. Had He not done that, then we would all still be in our sin, and God could not be considered just and allow humans to enter Heaven.
I get Furtick’s temptation. He wants to be hip, cool, and innovative. That’s the temptation of many young pastors today. And saying something like, “God broke the law,” certainly sounds hip, cool, and innovative.
But flashy sermons, which are unfounded in Scripture, are not simply inaccurate, they are dangerous, deceptive, and mislead precious young Christians unaware of the lie. It is a huge temptation for young pastors to say something that has never been said before. The beauty of preaching through the Bible verse by verse is not only that it will inform your theology so that you are protected from making theologically incorrect statements, but it also limits personal opinion and allows you to stand on the shoulders of great expositors of the past that have taught the truth faithfully.
I’m so thankful that Christ didn’t break the law, that God’s justice is still intact, and that He can justly look upon me as perfect, having had Christ’s perfect obedience to the law imputed on me.
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