How Did Jesus “Fulfil” Yet
Not “Destroy” the Law?
Introduction. (Matthew 5:17-20). At the beginning of Jesus’ sermon on the mount, Jesus makes a statement about His relationship to the Law of Moses. This morning we will consider the meaning of this text asking, specifically How Did Jesus “Fulfil” Yet Not “Destroy” the Law?
I. What Does It Mean to “Fulfil” the Law and Prophets?
- The word translated “fulfil” in Matthew 5:17 is the word pleroo meaning “1. to make full, to fill up,... a) to cause to abound, ... 2) to render full, i.e. to complete... c.2. of sayings, promises, prophecies, to bring to pass, ratify, accomplish... ” (Thayer).
- Jesus came into this world as a Jew under obligation to the law (Galatians 4:4).
- He was not a rebel, who rejected the Law but was fully obedient to it without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
- His very birth into this world was a “fulfillment” of the Law and the Prophets.
- He was the Prophet Moses promised (Deut. 18:15).
- He was the Messiah Daniel foretold (Daniel 9:25, 26).
- In these respects He “fulfilled” the Law in that He was perfectly obedient to it and He brought to realization the promises that it had offered to mankind.
II. Would Jesus Set Aside the Law Or Leave It In Force?
- The Law would not pass “Till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18).
- He prefaces this by saying, “till heaven and earth pass away” nothing with pass from the Law. Is this teaching the Law of Moses would be in force as long as heaven and earth last?
- “Heaven and earth” passages (Matthew 24:35; Mark 13:31; Luke 21:33).
- In these texts the Lord is emphasizing the permanent nature of God’s word. Man can’t destroy it, ignore it or dismiss it - it endures.
- Luke records a statement even closer to the text in Matthew 5:17,18 - “...it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail” (Luke 16:17).
- Just before this statement Jesus declares - “The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Luke 16:16).
- What Jesus is declaring in Matthew 5:17, 18 echoes these ideas. The words of the Law do not “fail” - they are not rendered meaningless by His coming. Instead He accomplishes what they pointed towards.
- Paul tells us “the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24, 25).
- If the Law of Moses was the “tutor” to bring us to Christ this makes it clear that to be in the faith which Christ brought is to no longer be “under” the tutor (i.e. the Law).
III. The Law Was Not Intended to Be In Force Forever.
- Jeremiah 31:31-33 promised a “new covenant” that would be “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt...” (Jeremiah 31:32a).
- Jesus declares this covenant when He institutes the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20).
- The Hebrew writer quotes Jeremiah and then declares that God “has made the first obsolete” (Hebrews 8:7-13).
- Later, in discussing some elements of the Law, he declares that God “takes away the first that He may establish the second” (Hebrews 10:9b).
- Paul declares plainly that “Christ is the end of the Law” (Romans 10:4). This is just what Jesus said. He did not destroy it but fulfilled it in the sense that He brought its usefulness to an end.
- Paul says further that we are “not under law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14, 15).
- This refers to the system of grace that is revealed in Christ, which ...
- He elsewhere describes as being “under law towards Christ” (I Corinthians 9:21) or following the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).
- This is what God has revealed to us in the New Testament and the standard that man is obligated to obey in this age.