Do Not Think That I Came to Destroy the Law but to Fulfill It
By Let Us Reason Ministries
Law keepers always try to justify their 10 commandment keeping by Matt. 5:17-19. Lets look at what Jesus intent is when He states, “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.”
In the greater context of his sermon Jesus is giving contrasts of his correct interpretation of the law in contrast to the Pharisees interpretation. The Pharisaic traditions destroyed the law because they reinterpreted the law, not presenting it in the way Moses had intended. As long as Jesus was alive He had to keep the law the way it was written by Moses. He would fulfill the law as Moses had written it. Once He died and rose again He ratified what was needed to be kept under the law of Christ (not Moses). This law was either given directly by Jesus or through the apostles after the resurrection (Acts 1:2). The Sermon on the Mount is used to prove one is still under the law but Jesus is only explaining the true intent of the law in contrast to what the Pharisees taught.
In this section quoted (Mt.5:17-19) He goes on to say “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
What would be the least of the commandments? This is not the Sabbath or the 10 but all 613. The smallest “jot or tittle” of “the law and the prophets” will not pass away. The jot or tittle is the smallest stroke of the pen in the Hebrew alphabet. This would include all the ceremonial laws as well! If one insists on keeping the 10 then this means we would have to keep all the Torah laws that Israel kept, there would be no change from the new covenant. If the law is still in effect then so are the penalties for breaking the law. If one separates the penalties then the commands have no authority or justice on an individual. But Jesus also mentioned the prophets, that all they have prophesied will be accomplished.
Jesus fulfilled all the laws requirement by his perfect obedience, taking upon himself the penalty and the curse of the law and with his dying rendered it inoperative for the believer (Rom.10:4-5; Heb. 8:13). To say one is going to keep the Old Testament law because of requirement is to ignore the work that Christ did in our stead in the New Testament covenant.
As far as the word “fulfill” which many abuse, it does not mean to continue or reinforce. Matthew consistently used the word fulfill in a specific manner, once something is fulfilled there is not a future fulfillment. He quotes Isa.7:14 for the fulfillment of the virgin birth. Where he was to be born Micah 5:2, there is no awaiting for this to re occur in the future. To fulfill something means to bring it to a completion. It is used consistently this way through Matthews gospel (Mt.2:17,23, 12:17, 13:13,35, 27:9,35)
Here are a few examples: Matt 2:15 “and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Matt 8:17 “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.”
Matt 21:4-5 “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “Tell the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.'”
Matt 26:56 “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
All the Scriptures that Matthew writes about being fulfilled all mean a completion of something that is said. That something was prophesied or written and he fulfilled it or made it happen, bringing it to its end, having it come to pass.
Jesus’ last words before he left are found in Matt. 28:20 “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Jesus after the resurrection continued with the apostles for 40 days. We find in Acts 1:2-5 “Until the time he was taken up after he through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles he had chosen.” “To whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; “for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
An interesting correlation is that Jesus stayed with the apostles 40 days giving instruction, the same amount of time Moses was on Sinai receiving the commandments from God. Was he teaching them the same thing he had taught them prior? No, these were new instructions through a new covenant.
Acts 1:8 ” But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
As we can see, some commands are temporary and only for a certain time. This is also true for the Old Testament laws, many of the Old Testament laws are given new meaning in the New Testament. Whatever came through the cross and taught by the apostles were the teachings for the Church. Commands can be something God gives at a certain time. They are not to be confused as to always being kept at all times in the way they are said. Otherwise we would all have to go to Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit. Some commands are specific and one time events. Some are temporary such as the sacrifices, others still continue. Some are to certain individuals others are to the whole Church. For example: Jesus did not tell the disciples not to sacrifice animals during this time they were still under the law before his resurrection. Its obvious after he died the veil was rent and his sacrifice was once for all, they no longer had to do continue this. So when Mt.28 states to observe all things that I have commanded you it must mean and include what he spoke to the disciples after His resurrection, which could explain the very fact of why he stayed 40 days and did not ascend to heaven immediately after His resurrection.
Some examples of these temporary commandments are: Mt. 10:5-8 “These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus told the disciples not to go to the gentiles but afterwards in Mt.28 he tells to do so and this is where he says to teach them to observe all I commanded you. Acts 8:5 “Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them.” Acts 9:15 “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” Acts 18:6 “From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Was Paul disobedient? Of course not, the command of Christ had changed from what was previously given.
In Acts 15 [T]he gentiles are told that they do not have to be circumcised or keep the Law of Moses. The Old Testament consequence for not keeping the Sabbath was the death sentence (Ex. 31:14-17). God sought to kill Moses before he was going to Pharaoh because he neglected to circumcise his son.
Num. 28:9-10 states there is to be a sacrifice on each Sabbath. In the New Testament the sacrifices ceased.
Heb.7:12: “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
Heb.10:1: “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.” If the sacrifices were taken care of by one sacrifice and an eternal priesthood was installed instead of a continual changing of one. Doesn’t it make sense the law of God was also changed? Well that’s exactly what it says in Heb.7:12 “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law.”
So we see the priesthood as well as the sacrifices, in the law were changed yet Jesus upheld these during his 3 years of his ministry on earth. So his command “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you,” is focused on the instructions after the resurrection not on all the ones before, unless applicable.
The Old Testament Covenant was never intended to be permanent. (Gal.3:17-18, 22-25) Jesus used two examples in a parable to show the new is not to be joined with the old, (Luke 5:36-39) V.36 “No one puts a piece from a new garment on an old one; otherwise the new makes a tear, and also the piece that was taken out of the new does not match the old.”Heb.8:13 “In that He says “a New Covenant,” He has made the first one obsolete…”. Paul describes the Mosaic covenant in 2 Cor.3: 7 the HOLY SPIRIT tells us, is “passing away” and is “abolished” (verses 11,13), in its place we have the “ministry of the Spirit” and “the ministry of righteousness” (verses 8,9).
Jesus did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. To have it put aside. If continued it would become much the worse, even for the purpose for which it was intended; Jesus did not come to patch up Judaism, he came to fulfill it by his life teaching death and resurrection, not to patch up the old. Jesus’ purpose was expanded beyond Israel, to all mankind through his spirit something that could never be done under the old administration of the law.
V.37 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined. v.38 “But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved. The old wineskins were stretched out to their limit and any more fermentation would burst them. To try and mix the old (law) with the new (gospel) would destroy both. You are not saved by Jesus plus Moses, neither is one sanctified by Jesus plus Moses. V.39 “And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better. ”
Once the wineskin was used and stretched it could not be stretched more, it was useless and a new wineskin was needed. The Pharisees held on to the old law but those who found Christ to be their all in all found life in the new, they left the old for the new.
We are under the new law of Christ NOT the law of Moses. Some of the Old Testament laws are ratified in the new covenant and some are not. He did not polish up the Old Testament laws to shine better. The moral laws continue, as they are reaffirmed in the New Testament because they preceded the law of Moses (you shall not kill, no adultery, no lying or stealing). Man was created in the image of his maker and so had a moral likeness in his nature, though now flawed. These moral laws were relative to mans moral nature that was made in God’s image.
Rom 3:19-20: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
In Romans 7 (which makes a good study on this topic), he makes the argument of a bride to her husband. That if one dies the other is not longer bound. Rom 7:4: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another– to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.” V.6 ” But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
This is why Paul could say “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.”
Therefore, if Christ fulfilled all the law why do some try to bring people back under its bondage? I have found that it is because they have not studied the covenants carefully enough to discern which one to live under, therefore their confusion continues.