Summary: From Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells how He didn't come to destroy the law or prophets, but to fulfill them.
The Sermon on the Mount
“Jesus, the Law, and Believers”
As we proceed in our study of the Bible and Jesus’ teaching it’s important to understand His authority and His relationship to the Old Testament Scriptures.
In our study tonight we’ll see that Jesus neither abolishes nor cancels out of the Old Testament. Rather, what’s we’ll see is that He corrects misinterpretations by presenting the passages’ true meaning. So let’s read our passage.
Read Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus begins by saying,
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matthew 5:17 NKJV)
Right off the bat Jesus is makes it clear that He wants to remove any and all doubt or potential misunderstanding that may arise over what He has been teaching. Jesus doesn’t want there to be any fuzziness in this regard.
He’s saying that He didn’t come to destroy the Law, but to fulfill it. The word, “destroy,” here means to tear down, abolish, annual, or to make invalid. So in the beginning of His ministry Jesus denies that His purpose or mission was to abolish or to invalidate the Holy Scriptures; rather His mission and purpose was to fulfill them.
What I’ve found sad is that many Christians today are trying to do the exact opposite. You hear it in statements like, “That’s the Old Testament.” This has been used in doctrines like the giving of the tithe, fasting, or anything that we don’t like or don’t want to do.
But there exists a basic principle of interpretation that states if a custom or law no longer applies given the culture one lives in, it becomes imperative to find the principles behind it so it can be transferred.
This is especially true when it comes to the Bible and our understanding of the New Testament in relation to the Old Testament.
Here’s one that’ll wet your whistle and we’ll look more fully at this in a couple of weeks. The Law states that a person who commits adultery was to be put to death, Leviticus 20:10.
Today, in our country at least, we don’t put people to death for adultery. How then are we to reconcile this Law of God?
What was the principle behind the law that we can transfer? Let me present this, if the person who committed adultery was put to death, what this would do would free the innocent spouse from the marriage, because that is what death does, it would allow for remarriage.
Therefore, since we don’t put people to death, and since the New Testament says divorce for marital infidelity was permissible, what this effectively does is frees the innocent spouse.
I know this opens up a can of worms without a fuller understanding, but you’re just going to have to wait until this part of Jesus’ sermon.
Jesus didn’t come to invalidate the law; rather He came to fulfill it. Jesus came not to annul the Old Testament Scriptures, rather to bring them to their intended goal, to it’s intended meaning regarding their Messianic fulfillment.
This idea can best be illustrated in the following six interpretations Jesus gives. It’s a common statement Jesus makes. He starts out by saying, “You have heard that it was said,” but then He says, “But I say to you.”
Jesus is giving us the fulfillment. The Law and the Prophets, and the whole of the Old Testament is being brought to completion in Jesus.
Look at how the Apostle Paul brings this out.
“Let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17)
Paul is saying that Jesus is the fulfillment of both doctrine and their Old Testament observances.
First is looking at what we eat and drink, or the dietary laws, or what is and isn’t permissible to eat.
In the New Testament Peter had a vision where all kinds of unclean animals as listed in the Law as unclean. These were presented before Him and God tells him to eat. But Peter said no because he had always kept the dietary law.
But God replied, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” (Acts 10:15 NIV)
Now, while God’s ultimate purpose was to get Peter to go to the Gentiles and present the gospel message, because Jews considered the Gentiles as ‘unclean,’ the implications are clear that God was repealing the dietary laws.
So, whether someone wants to keep the dietary law or not, this is not something a person is to be judged upon, because its fulfillment is found in Christ, which is seen in what Jesus said about Himself.