Church of Christ
Locks Cross Roads
7) Matthew 5 - Jesus fulfilling the Law
Matthew 5:17 Think not I came.... Why was it necessary for Jesus to open this section of His message with this
denial?  Were some inclined to suppose that Jesus was coming to destroy the Law and prophets?

Yes, some viewed the law as an intolerable burden either because of a lack of the spirit of loving obedience to the
Father's will (Isaiah 28:13, Amos 8:5), or because of the awareness of sin they might have been caused to hope for
greater leniency in the messianic kingdom.

Also, the jealous religious leaders had their confidence shaken by Jesus' unconventional but obviously true religion.
His widespread popularity and they suspected His preaching possessed revolutionary implications which could
destroy the existing order and all their carefully-worded interpretations of the Law and the prophets.  They had so
thoroughly confused their traditional interpretations with God's original revelation, that to attack the one was to put
the other in doubt.  In other words, Jesus was taking the law into His own hands.

In the beatitudes Jesus had contradicted practically every dearly-held tenet of the scribes and Pharisees.  In this
present section He will make some sweeping criticisms of the Old Testament Law.
I came not to destroy (kataluein) "to do away with, abolish, annul, make invalid, repeal, ruin, bring to an end,
defeat," (Arndt-Gingrich, 415).

In Jesus' mind, the antithesis of "destroy" is "fulfill."  Thus, He did not come "to ruin, to bring to an end by defeating
the purpose of" the Law or prophets, but rather to fulfill them.

God gave the Law and the prophets to indicate the true nature of sin (Romans 3:20, Romans 7:13).  This is why the
Law must remain in force: it has been established as the standard against which those will be judged who will not
accept God's leniency through faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:31, James 2:9-11).  However, to those who surrender
their struggle and are willing to believe Jesus, ONLY TO THEM He becomes the end of the Law (Romans 10:3-4).  
The unrelenting, unforgiving Law will stand up at the judgment to condemn all who do not believe Him.

"I am the exact meaning of all that God intended to say in the Old Testament!"
Just how did Jesus fulfill the Jewish Scriptures?:

1) Jesus fulfilled the Law's purpose to demonstrate the standard of righteousness by showing Himself to be the
perfect Man and all that God had in mind when He originally gave the Law (Matthew 3:15, Hebrews 4:15, Hebrews
7:26-28, 1 Peter 2:22, 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 8:46).

2) Jesus fulfilled the Law's purpose to declare the exceeding sinfulness of sin (Romans 7:13) by living as a Man
above sin, thus condemning all sin that men commit (Romans 8:3), thus dissolving all the rationalizations they offer
to justify their sinning.

3) Jesus fulfilled the Law's righteous sentence by receiving in his own body the execution of the death penalty (1
Peter 2:24, Galatians 3:13).
4) Jesus fulfilled the Law's patterns and predictions of the new covenant.  He used the Law by pointing to the
purpose behind its true history, to its types and prophecies as having exact fulfillment either in Himself or in His
messianic rule.  (Luke 4:21 and 24-27, Luke 4:44-47, 2 Peter 1:19).  Some of its predictions find fulfillment in the
Church; others in all that Christ will yet do until the consummation of God's plans at the end of time (Acts 3:20-21).

5) His standard of righteousness requires of His disciples all that was really essential in the Mosaic code (Matthew
22:34-40).  Thus, the spirit and substance of the Law and prophets will be in effect: love for God and man.  This is
the real meaning of all of God's will given at any time.

6) He considered the Old Testament's message as binding in its true, originally form upon those to whom it had
been given (John 10:35, Matthew 5:18-20, Matthew 8:4, Matthew 19:16-20, Matthew 22:35-40).  To Jesus,
faithfulness to God's Word is NOT secondary.  God does care about what men do with the revelations He gives
them of His will.
7) He constantly corrected the Pharisaic concepts and corruptions of the Law and misunderstandings of the
prophets, which nullified the force of God's will (Matthew 5:20, Matthew 12:1-14, Matthew 15:1-20, Matthew 23:
1-36).  To the strict orthodox Jew of the time, service to God was a matter of keeping thousands of man-made rules
and regulations handed down from the ancients.  These traditions were confused with Gods Law which they were
intended to clarify, and, more often than not, they contradicted its true intent.

8) Consequently, He viewed as of no consequence the human regulations added by tradition.  He cared nothing
about the ritual hand washings (Matthew 15:2, Mark 7:1-5) or the traditional definitions of what constituted "work" on
the Sabbath.  Therefore, Jesus fulfilled the Law and prophets to the full extent that God had intended.  Jesus
COULD NOT defeat the true intention of the Old Testament without also undermining His own position and mission.  
To render vital and valid Jesus' salvation from sin, the Law must continue in force to describe and condemn sin.  
This means that Jesus, not having "destroyed" the Law, could then "abrogate, repeal, annul, abolish or render it
invalid" after He had fulfilled it.
Back to Matthew 5 Study Index Page