Text: Matthew 5:17-20
I. There is hardly a denomination in existence that does not appeal to the Old Testament for portions of their practices.
A. Many of the rituals in the Catholic church find their roots in the Old Testament, such as the burning of incense.
B. Protestants are not beyond dipping into the Old Testament. The common usage of instrumental music is justified by pointing out that it was used in the past.
C. Many appeal to the Ten Commandments, though most will say the Sabbath is modified into Sunday.
D. A few argue keeping large portions of the Old Law, including the Sabbath.
E. Matthew 5:17-18 is commonly referenced as proof that the Law, at least in part remains in effect. Today we will examine this passage to see what it says.
II. What is the Law and the Prophets?
A. When speaking of the law of Moses, there are variety of terms used to refer to it.
1. It can simply be called “the Law”.
a. All the law - Galatians 5:14
2. It can be called “the Law and the Prophets” where it is divided into two parts – the Law revealed by Moses (the first five books) and the rest of the Old Testament that was revealed by a variety of prophets.
a. Acts 28:23 - Reading from Moses and the prophets.
b. Used as both simply Law and Law and the prophets - Romans 3:21
c. It can be called “the Law, the prophets, and the psalms” where the poetic books: Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon are divided from the rest of the prophet’s writings.
(1) Luke 24:44
B. The Law and the Prophets were taught until John - Luke 16:16
C. It refers to all the Old Testament
1. A summary of the Law and the Prophets - Matthew 7:12
2. Two quotes, one from Deuteronomy and the other from Leviticus is called a summary of the Law and the Prophets - Matthew 22:37-40
a. Paul uses the same summary and quotes from the Ten Commandments - Romans 13:8-10
D. God did not allow His law to be subdivided
1. Deuteronomy 12:32 - Do not add or take away.
2. Deuteronomy 13:18 - Required to keep it all
3. James 2:10-11 - If you stumble in one point, you are guilty of all
4. There was a curse on anyone not keeping the law fully - Galatians 3:10
E. Even in our text, in Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus emphasizes the keeping of the entirety.
1. Not one jot or title would pass away until all is accomplished.
a. In other words, not the least letter or pen stroke.
b. Pen strokes were critical in Hebrew. There are many letters that differ only by a very small stroke. A change of that stroke could dramatically alter the meaning of a text.
2. To annul the least command would make one least in the kingdom
a. There is no command that is too small or too insignificant to be removed.
b. This is what Jesus accused the Pharisees of doing - Matthew 15:3-6
c. Nothing can be left undone - Matthew 23:23
F. Yet, most reading this text claim that Jesus was referring to only a portion of the Old Testament.
1. I know of no one arguing that animal sacrifices are to continue, but it was a part of the Law.
2. Even the sacrifices were to continue until all was accomplished.
3. No part, no matter how trivial it might seem would end - Luke 16:16-17
III. Abolish versus Fulfilled
A. Jesus contrasts the idea of abolishing the law with fulfilling the law.
1. Yet frequently people will act as if Jesus is contrasting abolishing the law and continuing the law.
2. The word translated "abolish" means to destroy something, to dissolve something, or to overthrow a system.
3. The word translated "fulfill" means to make something complete or to bring something to its completion.
a. Some will cite Matthew 3:15 and argue that "fulfill" doesn’t mean come to an end.
(1) The answer is that it doesn’t always mean come to an end, it can mean bring to completion or to fill up entirely.
(2) In this passage, Jesus did not say “all righteousness will not pass away until all is fulfilled.” In other words, the word “fulfill” is not used in the same manner as in Matthew 5:17.
b. Look at Luke 7:1, here there is no doubt that the word means come to a completion or bring to an end.
c. See also Acts 19:21. As is often the case, the usage of the word makes a difference in its meaning.
B. By stating that he came to fulfil the Law, Jesus is implying that the Law in its current state was not complete.
1. The law was unable to impart life - Galatians 3:21
2. The law made nothing perfect - Hebrews 7:18-19
3. It had fault - Hebrews 8:7
4. It could not cleanse from sin - Hebrews 10:1-4, 8-10, 14
5. Without Jesus, the flaw would remain - Hebrews 9:15
C. The difference between abolishing and fulfilling the law is the same as the difference between declaring a mortgage note null and void and paying off a mortgage.
1. Both end the terms of the mortgage, but only one fulfills it.
D. Jesus did not cancel the law
1. Jesus lived under the law - Galatians 4:4-5
2. Jesus was a servant to Israel - Romans 15:8
3. Galatians 3:17 - Just as Moses’ law did not annul the covenant to Abraham, so Jesus did not annul Moses’ law
E. But what about Ephesians 2:14-16, which says Christ did abolish the law.
1. The word “abolished” here is different from the one in Matthew 5:17.
2. In Ephesians, the word refers to the removal of something that has become useless and interfering. See Luke 13:7 where a useless fig tree is destroyed.
3. Jesus fulfilled the Law - Luke 24:44
4. Peter declared that Christ fulfilled the prophets - Acts 3:18
5. Now that it was brought to its completion, it has become useless - Hebrews 7:18; 8:13
IV. Christ’s statement concerning the permanence of the Law was conditional
A. There are two conditions given
1. Either Heaven and earth would end
2. Or all is accomplished (Greek for “happens” or “is done”).
3. In other words, the accomplishment would occur before the end of the world.
B. The statement is no different than a parent saying, “You will sit at this table all night until those peas are eaten.”
1. Either the child will sit there all night
2. Or the child will finish his peas.
C. Similar statements
1. Matthew 24:34 - Jesus’ prophecy would be completed before the generation dies out.
2. Luke 21:32-33 - The world would end before Jesus’ prophecy wasn’t completed within that generation.
3. These are statements of surety. The accomplishment would be done. It is more sure than the sun rising tomorrow morning.
D. People who only focus on one condition, the end of the world, miss the point that a second condition would occur before the first.
E. The Law was a temporary measure until Christ - Galatians 3:19
F. Now that its purpose was fulfilled, its authority came to an end - Galatians 3:24-25
G. Jesus was the end of the law - Romans 10:4
1. He was the goal of the Law and its concluding point.
V. When people claim that portions of the Law remain in effect, they essentially claim that Christ did not fulfill his mission.
A. In responding to those who wanted to bind circumcision on Gentile Christians, Paul stated - Galatians 5:2-4
B. Let us acknowledge what the Law and the Prophets said about itself - Jeremiah 31:31-34
C. The Old Law could not bring forgiveness of sins, but the new covenant can because it is founded on the fact that Christ died for our sins.
D. Will you not take advantage of that precious gift today?
In Vayikra Rabba, s. 19, it is said:
Should any person in the words of De 6:4, Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is דחא achad, ONE Lord, change the ד daleth into a ר resh, he would ruin the world." [Because, in that case, the word רחא achar, would signify a strange or false God.]
Should any one, in the words of Ex 34:14, Thou shalt worship no OTHER, רחא achar, God, change ר resh into ד daleth, he would ruin the world." [Because the command would then run, Thou shalt not worship the ONLY or true God.]
Should any one in the words of Le 22:32, Neither shall ye PROFANE וללחת techelelu, my holy name, change ח cheth into ה he, he would ruin the world." [Because the sense of the commandment would then be, Neither shall ye PRAISE my holy name.]
Should any one, in the words of Ps 150:6, Let every thing that hath breath PRAISE, ללהת tehalel, the Lord, change ה he into ח cheth, he would ruin the world." [Because the command would then run, Let every thing that hath breath PROFANE the Lord.]
Should any one, in the words of Jer 5:12, They lied AGAINST the Lord, הוהיב beihovah, change ב beth into כ caph, he would ruin the world." [For then the words would run, They lied LIKE the Lord.]
Should any one, in the words of Hosea, Ho 5:7, They have dealt treacherously, הוהיב beihovah, AGAINST the Lord, change ב beth into כ caph, he would ruin the world." [For then the words would run, They have dealt treacherously LIKE the Lord.]
Should any one, in the words of 1Sa 2:2, There is none holy AS the Lord, change כ caph into ב beth, he would ruin the world." [For then the words would mean, There is no holiness IN the Lord.]
These examples fully prove that the mia keraia of our Lord, refers to the apices, points, or corners, that distinguish
ב beth from ט caph;
ח cheth from ה he; and
ר resh from ד daleth.
For the reader will at once perceive, how easily a כ caph may be turned into a ב beth; a ה he into a ח cheth; and a ר resh into a ד daleth: and he will also see of what infinite consequence it is to write and print such letters correctly.