A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

I have come to fulfill the Law

[February 4, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.  (Paraphrase of Matthew 5:17.)

When I was writing Not Under Bondage, I thought a lot about what this means. One thing that came to mind is that the true, pure Law of the Old Testament laid down through Moses (not the Pharisaic additions and circumventions of the Law) was like a deciduous tree in winter: no leaves, just dry branches and twigs. The shape of the tree is present, but the color, the fullness, the robust, intricate, exquisite life found in foliage is absent.

When Jesus came He not only explained but demonstrably lived the fullness of what the Law means: love, justice, mercy, tender personalised attention to wounded and sick souls….the tree put forth its foliage; the leaves were abundant and flourishing. The tree’s final magnificent shape became gloriously visible for all to see. The branches and sticks hadn’t changed, they were all still there, but their purpose and reason had been fulfilled: they were there to structure and support the foliage.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:17-19  ESV)

Here is an extract from the ESV notes on this passage:

….Jesus “fulfills” all of the OT in that it all points to him, not only in its specific predictions of a Messiah but also in its sacrificial system, which looked forward to his great sacrifice of himself, in many events in the history of Israel which foreshadowed his life as God’s true Son, in the laws which only he perfectly obeyed, and in the Wisdom Literature, which sets forth a behavioral pattern that his life exemplified….Jesus’ gospel of the kingdom does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it as Jesus’ life and ministry, coupled with his interpretation, complete and clarify God’s intent and meaning in the entire OT.

….Jesus demands a commitment to both the least and the greatest commandments yet condemns those who confuse the  two….The entire OT is the expression of God’s will but is now to be taught according to Jesus’ interpretation of its intent and meaning.

….Jesus calls his disciples to a different kind and quality of righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees. They took pride in outward conformity to many extrabiblical regulations but still had impure hearts….  [Emphasis original.]

Just like the scribes and Pharisees took pride in outward conformity to extra-biblical regulations, many Christians today take pride in outward conformity to rules that come from over-emphasizing one Scriptural precept and under-emphasizing another. Take the rule against gossip:

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish….that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.  (2 Corinthians 12:20  ESV)  [Emphasis added.]

….refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not.  (1 Timothy 5:11-13  ESV)  [Emphasis added.]

How often is the precept about gossip expounded (indeed, hammered), compared to the Scriptural precept about exposing evil and wrong-doing?

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.  (Ephesians 5:11)

As for those [elders and leaders] who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear.  (1 Timothy 5:20)

Christians today don’t invent new rules in quite the same way the Pharisees did, but they create unBiblical rules by stressing some things while underplaying other things. The result is not much different from the Pharisaic system: believers are trapped and guilted into a false belief / conformity system, where everyone wears masks, the unregenerate pass themselves off as sheep and shepherds, the evil prey on the weak and the ignorant, and everyone pretends that it’s  fine because “we are following the Bible”.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:19  ESV)

[February 4, 2023: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to February 4, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to February 4, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to February 4, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 4, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. joepote01

    Good post, Barbara!

  2. Jodi

    According to most churches I have been in, “gossip” is defined as saying anything negative about anyone at anytime to anyone for any reason.

    • Yes, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it; or it would be, if it weren’t so tragic.

      According to that definition of “gossip”:

      Paul should not have rebuked Peter for refusing to eat with the gentiles while the Judaisers were in town (Galatians 2:11).

      Paul shouldn’t have denounced Diotrephes (3 John 1:9-10) or Alexander the Coppersmith (2 Timothy 4:14).

      Nor should he have mentioned that Demas loved this present world too much (2 Timothy 4:10).

      Peter should not have denounced all those false prophets in 2 Peter chapters 2 & 3.

      And come to think of it, John should not have denounced Cain in 1 John 3:12 (although maybe it’s okay to “gossip” about someone who has been dead for centuries; after all, when you make discerning critiques of historical figures, you can look pretty spiritual, can’t you?).

      And Jude should not have said —

      ….certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4 ESV)

      After all, some of Jude’s readers probably knew who Jude was referring to, and “we mustn’t gossip, must we? I mean, those people are doing ministry! Many of them are even in leadership! And we have to love everybody, don’t we! I mean, I mean….God loves everybody, doesn’t he!”

  3. Diane

    Your post was an encouragement this A.M. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen the teaching that gossip is anything repeated about someone that is negative, even if factual. Negative facts repeated about someone is always gossip no matter what the reasons for repeating may be.

    Sure does shut discernment down, doesn’t it? I have seen Ephesians 4:29 used to shut down negative speech as well. But we would not be able to do what is called for in the very next chapter of Ephesians and verse 11, if we do not speak of negative things.

    [Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    • Thanks, Diane, yes, I should have mentioned Ephesians 4:29 as one of the key verses used to condemn gossip. And you’re right.

      Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

      This verse in itself could be used to teach what gossip is, and what gossip is NOT. Here’s my attempt, feel free to enlarge or re-write it.

      Gossip is corrupting talk: talk that is done with malicious intent, or without heed for the unedifying or sinful consequences, and / or to immature persons who will likely not understand how to deal appropriately with what has been imparted to them.

      Talk that is good for building up (edifying talk) is talk that exposes and denounces sin to persons who need to know about that sin; or talk that seeks counsel from wise Christians or trustworthy people who can be sounding boards, advisers or companions as we seek to navigate through life’s difficulties.

      Talk that gives grace to those who hear is talk that encourages, stimulates or provokes the hearers to repentance and faith in Christ and to Christian virtue; it is talk that imparts sound doctrine and brings others to full-orbed biblical worldview.

      • Diane

        I agree with all you wrote, Barbara. I think that if one is spreading negative facts with a smile….relishing it and enjoying it….like how Proverbs describes gossip as a tasty morsel [Proverbs 18:8], then it is obviously not pleasing to God. But if one is heart-broken and grieving and educating someone with the facts, and is trying to warn [the] other….that’s helpful to me to differentiate. Think to myself — “am I enjoying revealing these facts or am I heart-broken and mourning about the sin.” Probably pretty elementary thinking there, lol, but I am simple. The sermons I have heard and numerous articles I have read equate corrupting talk with negative speech about someone, especially a leader. Not true, as you elaborated above. Corrupting talk is not negative speech that seeks to warn and prevent others from making the same mistakes you made. As if giving grace to those who may hear could never mean something negative that will save them from error. How can you be a watchman if you do not warn?

      • Diane

        Oh – forgot to mention that I bought your book last Sunday and it should be arriving today. I am looking forward to your address of Malachi 2:16.

  4. Jodi

    That’s a great definition of what gossip is and isn’t, Barbara!

  5. Jeff Crippen

    This is a HUGE point when it comes to exposing wicked, abusive people in the church. Yes, there is this notion that gossip is anything that is “negative.” I have pointed out evil to people in the past, warning them to beware of an individual, and have been attacked for doing so — accused of being “a gossip”. But evil thrives in the darkness and as long as it is permitted to hide. It is not gossip to expose it. If what we are saying is spoken with good intent and if it is true, then it is a good thing to say it. And it is a bad thing to not say it.

    • Diane

      But evil thrives in the darkness and as long as it is permitted to hide.

      Jeff – that reminded me of Ephesians 5:11 —

      Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; [NASB1995]

      You can expose without being emotional or disrespectful to the one performing these deeds, especially if performed by a professing brother or sister is Christ. Just the facts, and present questions for people. Is this something a brother or sister in Christ should be doing, teaching, saying, covering up….etc.. Why would a pastor cover up abuse for months at his church and then marry off a convicted pedophile to a young woman? Why would a pastor flee his own church while seeking refuge in another — leaving behind hundreds of people with whom he has not reconciled, nor has any intention of doing so Questions like that — that hopefully generate some uncomfortable feelings and cause people to think instead of going along with everyone else….or always thinking the best, which I also hear a lot. But I know that is an uphill battle as people want to keep their friends.

      There are times when you cannot think the best and have to fact the facts….imo, anyway. Thanks.

  6. Belle


    There are some things I have been taught that I need to think through in a balanced through Biblical way. I would love to hear thoughts on these. First, “Enter marriage with your eyes wide open and close them after marriage.” I used to think that meant that after marriage one should overlook the spouse’s sin, short-comings etc.. Secondly, “Don’t think about your spouses short-comings, but think only about the good things.” How do we balance all this out?

    • “Enter marriage with your eyes wide open and close them after marriage.”

      —sounds like poppycock to me. (1) It does not say anything remotely like that in the Bible. (2) Close your eyes to any sins or bad habits that your husband does? No: that would not be loving him; it would be enabling him to dig his sin ruts even deeper.

      “Don’t think about your spouse’s short-comings, but only think about the good things.”

      That one is a bit more tricky to discuss because it all depends on what the short-comings are. You should try not to dwell with resentment on things that annoy you if they are just little things having to do with his temperament, his tastes, or his skill-set. But if they are things that lead to him mistreating you and violating you (= abuse) then you should NOT ignore them. Read the definition of abuse we have on the side-bar of this blog. And then read chapter one of my book for an extended description of what constitutes abuse. If there is any abuse from your husband, you should not ignore it. [This link is broken and there is no replacement. The link was to Barb’s old Not Under Bondage blog. Editors.]

  7. Finding Answers

    The apt use of a deciduous tree in winter to describe the Old Testament, Mosaic Law is what I call the “head” (academic) stuff.

    The apt use of the same tree in full summer foliage to reflect Christ is what I call the “heart” stuff.

    I have not come to abolish the Law, but to fulfill it.

    My “cycle of healing” is like the cycle of the deciduous tree.

    • Jamie

      Finding Answers,

      I’ve been wrestling with passages that overlap with some of the things you’ve been talking about lately. I’m not sure this comment of yours is the most relevant one to what I’m trying to share with you, but what I am sharing is most related to the content of this post. So I’m putting it here. 🙂 I’m sorry if that seems a little bit out of sync.

      You came to mind so much while I was listening to this sermon from Sam Powell, so I want to recommend it to you….while also mentioning that there are sections which may be a little bit tough. There are sections I think you will find especially encouraging, too! 🙂 Here is the info:

      Sam Powell
      Until Death Do Us Part
      Romans 7:1-6
      March 29, 2009

      Until Death Do Us Part

      The title of the sermon is referring more to the way we were “married to the Law” before we became Christians. So it isn’t a sermon about traditional marriage the way you might expect from that title, but the parallels that Sam draws to traditional marriage while he is discussing the Law are especially helpful to me. e.g.:

      There is no dominion from the Law until you are put to death. That was our old master, that was our old husband and as long as we keep thinking that way, we are still married to him. — But we become dead to the Law that we should marry another; our death to the Law truly did result in our marriage to Christ. [Emphasis done by the commenter.]

      That example above starts around 22:26 [in the sermon]. I think you might also especially appreciate a section around 33:10 re: God as our Father.

      • Finding Answers

        Thanks, Jamie!

        I listened to the sermon, though I found focusing a bit difficult. Nothing to do with the sermon….one of those permanently damaged pieces was present in the background.

        I am processing a new perspective on me, and I may need additional information.

        The permanently damaged piece impedes drawing conclusions with any facility, and I don’t have a light, pressure-sense alternative.

        For the moment, I need to drastically simplify my thinking. The Holy Spirit is working in me (no matter what the father of lies or his minions say), therefore I am no longer under the Law.

        The sermon you suggested was timely.


      • Jamie

        I completely understand focusing being sometimes difficult. I had to listen to it twice. Then I listened to parts of it again today. 😉

        So I’m right there with you. ❤

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