REVISITED and EXPANDED: Jesus said he came not to destroy the law but to fulfill (Matt 5:17).
Here is the full statement: 17 p“Do not think that I have come to abolish qthe Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but rto fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, suntil heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
rRo 10:4 Ro 13:8 Ga 3:24
sLk 16:17 Mt 24:35
How do people get out of his statement the that all followers of Jesus must observe and do what he fulfilled?
Also, how does that position reconcile a statement such as this?
Romans 8:4 – “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
Here are Some thoughts to challenge your assumptions:
Jesus in Matthew 5:17 is using two well known ancient Hebrew idioms. One of the problems with word-for-word Bible translations is that the Hebrew idioms, Colloquialiams, puns and Merisms are not translated.
These can be very important, and give historical and linguistic context. Not having this context leads to error in your Theology.
Much of what I do in my teaching is explaining these “Jewish-isms” or “Hebraisms” that most believers today do not know exist in their Bibles (I am including many Messianics and Hebrew Roots followers in this statement).
New Testament Scholars have consider that Yeshua was using the Hebrew idiomatic popular THEN AND NOW in discussing Torah issues. When rabbis contend over the correct meaning of a Scripture, they use the phrase “destroying the Torah” for misinterpreting the Torah and “fulfilling the Torah” for rightly dividing the Word.
It is frequently argued that if Jesus did not “abolish” the law, then it must still be binding. Accordingly, such components as the Kosher-rules requirement must be operative still, along with perhaps numerous other elements of the Mosaic Law. This assumption is grounded in a misunderstanding of the words and intent of this passage. Messiah did not suggest here that the binding nature of the law of Moses would remain forever in effect. Such a view would contradict everything we learn from the balance of the New Testament (such as Romans 10:4;Galatians 3:23-25;Ephesians 2:15).
Of special significance is the word rendered “abolish.” It translates the Greek term kataluo, literally meaning “to loosen down.” The word is found seventeen times in the New Testament. It is used, for example, of the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans (Matthew 26:61;27:40;Acts 6:14), and of the dissolving of the human body at death (2 Corinthians 5:1). The term can carry the extended meaning of “to overthrow,” i.e., “to render vain, deprive of success.” In classical Greek, it was used in connection with institutions, laws, etc., to convey the idea of “to invalidate.”
It is especially important to note how the word is used in Matthew 5:17. In this context, “abolish” is set in opposition to “fulfill.” Jesus came “…not to abolish, but to fulfill.” Jesus did not come to this earth for the purpose of acting as an opponent of the law. His goal was not to prevent its fulfillment. Rather, He revered it, loved it, obeyed it, and brought it to fruition. He fulfilled the law’s prophetic utterances regarding Himself (Luke 24:44). He fulfilled the demands of the Mosaic law, which called for perfect obedience under threat of a “curse” (see Galatians 3:10,13). In this sense, the law’s divine design will ever have an abiding effect. It will always accomplish the purpose for which it was given.
Jesus taught the Law, because the New Covenant did not go into effect until after He died and rose from the dead. Jesus was not telling us that we should not live in obedience to the Law. He taught that if we did not live in total obedience to the law, to the extent that we obeyed well beyond those who devoted every aspect of their lives to obedience to the Law, we would not possibly enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He did take several opportunities to proclaim the New Covenant, but He did not really teach it like He taught the Old. When the New Covenant went into effect, the Old Covenant did not cease to be in effect. This is a very important point to understand. The New Covenant did not replace what we understand to be the Old Covenant, the Law of Moses. Some people believe that the New Covenant is a renewed Old Covenant. I sincerely believe that Jeremiah made it clear that the New Covenant was not going to be like the Old Covenant at all (Jer. 31:31-34). The New Covenant addressed issues that were never addressed in the Old Covenant. They were both presented for two completely different purposes. That is why I can say they are able to co-exist together simultaneously. The Old Covenant addressed the concerns of the flesh and the new Covenant addressed the concerns of the spirit. The concerns of the spirit were addressed in the New Covenant through the resurrection of the Messiah, and the presentation of salvation and eternal life to all who would receive the free gift.
The primary purpose of the Old Covenant was to lead us to Messiah. This was very well described in Paul’s letter to the Galatians 3:24,25. The Law shows us our inability to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. When we are willing to acknowledge this fundamental truth, we will recognize that the only way we will possibly enter the Kingdom of Heaven is by the mercy and grace of our God. This is one of the ways it is still in effect to this day and has not been destroyed. The Law is still being used to show people their depravity and lead them to Jesus. If a person is consumed with their own pride and self righteousness, we should teach them the Law and encourage them more and more to live in obedience to the Law. The hope is that one day they will come to terms with their inability to be obedient, and also recognize that the law does nothing to change their heart or transform who they are. There is nothing wrong with the Law as it was revealed through the Old Covenant. It reveals that there is something wrong with us. Paul described this very well when he wrote 1 Timothy 1:7,8 saying that some were desiring to be teachers of the law but they understood nothing. He said that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, that is for its intended purpose. Otherwise, they are misusing what our God gave us.
Teaching believers in the Lord Jesus who have been born again of the Spirit of God that they are to govern their lives by the Mosaic law, or any other law, is misusing the law for a purpose other than what it was given for. Our lives are to be governed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit of God who will lead us and guide us in all truth (John 14:17 and 16:13). He died for all of our sins and no longer holds our sins against us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). If He no longer holds our sins against us, He will never punish us for our sins. If there is no punishment, there is no law (Romans 5:13). This is why our God now completely, fully and unconditionally loves and accepts us. If we are totally loved and accepted by our God, we are to live in response to that truth. We are now to engage our life and the world around us with what we have in our relationship with Him, not with what we hope to obtain in the world, fulfillment for our deepest desires for perfect love and acceptance. We are to live our lives with what we have, not live our lives with hope we will obtain what our God has already given by what we hope to obey but never will.
There are many people today who are trying to use the Law for purposes that the Law was never given for. There was no law given that suggested you would grow in your relationship with God through your obedience. There was no law given that hinted at the notion that you would know your God if you were obedient. These are assumptions that many people are making about the law that have no basis at all in the Scriptures. The most a person could hope for through their pursuit of the Law was what was promised by the Law.
These are the stated promises: that a person would have plenty of flour in their kneading bowl (Deuteronomy 28:5). Mildew would not overtake them (Deuteronomy 28:22). They would lend and not borrow (Deuteronomy 28:12).
All of the blessings promised through a person’s pursuit of the law were oriented towards the flesh. The condition that was given to obtain these blessings was to obey all of the commandments. This requirement is normally overlooked and people assume that it means their reasonable effort. To obtain the full benefit of the law, you must obey the entirety of the law (Deuteronomy 28:15), and the maximum benefit God promised was benefits for your flesh (See Paul’s commentary on the law in Romans 6). Without the Temple today, it is impossible to keep the whole of the Law.
The Law expressed two demands. The first demand was total obedience and the second was death.
Furthermore, people who proclaim that believers should keep the Torah today ignored the rest of Jesus’ sentence where the combination of “the Law” with “the Prophets” would seem to indicate that Messiah is referring to the whole Old Testament. “The Law” would then refer to the Pentateuch—the first five books of the Bible, which were written by Moses. The same would be true in Luke 24:44, when Jesus told His disciples, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”
So we see that Messiah fulfilled the whole Old Testament. This manifests itself in several ways. In the most basic sense, it means Jesus fulfilled all of the prophecies concerning the first coming of the Messiah. The Gospels are filled with statements like, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet,” “just as it is written of Him,” “that the Scripture might be fulfilled,” and similar phrases (Matthew 13:35; Mark 14:21; Luke 18:31; John 17:12, and many others).
In a more specific sense, the fulfillment of the Law means that Messiah completed the sacrificial system that became necessary because of sin. In the Old Testament, men lived under the condemnation of the Law. Sacrifices were needed to continually atone for their sins (Leviticus 4:35, 5:10). However, since Jesus gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, we are no longer condemned. “He himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2, (NET)).