Jesus fulfilled Old Testament Law and Prophecies, He did not abolish them
17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven (KJV).
Jesus made some statements in the Sermon on the Mount addressed to the Pharisees that would be in sharp contrast with the Old Testament Law. Even though the fundamental Law was the 613 commandments within the Torah, the common understanding ofit expanded to the entire Old Testament by the time of Jesus’ first advent. During the early Second Temple period the religious authorities had left Old Testament Mosaic Law in favor of Rabbinic Judaism. Rabbinic Judaism is based on a man-centered philosophy. It also tied people up with so many conditions and rules there was no way a Jew could ever fulfill them. It would have been easy to conclude that Jesus wanted to abolish the Law that had been given through Moses, but Jesus assured his listeners that He had no such intention.
He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament by doing what those prophecies said the Messiah would do. He also “filled up” the law by pouring into it the meaning that had been forgotten by the teachers of Israel. This is what the Sermon on the Mount was teaching, that is, the intent of the Law. He applied the Law to thoughts and motives as well as to actions.
He also fulfilled the Law by accomplishing what the Law had failed to do. The Law revealed the standard of righteousness that God expected. The Law also revealed to people their sinful state and let them know that they were sinners, and their efforts were insufficient to earn eternal life (Romans 3:19, 20). The Law pointed out the need for a Savior, thus it served as a means “to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24). When we come to Christ, the Law’s purpose is fulfilled; “we are no longer under the supervision of the law” (Galatians 3:25).
In Matthew 5:18, Jesus was saying that not even the tiniest part of the Law would be removed or discarded “from the law, till all be fulfilled”. This occurred when Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). The Gospel replaced the Law which is the “good news”. God was now reconciling the world to himself through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19).
Jesus fulfilled the Righteousness God demanded
Jesus’ words highlight one of the principle functions of the Law and that was to reveal the righteousness that God demanded. God’s people under the old covenant owed their undivided obedience to the Law given from God through Moses, but Christians are under the divinely revealed Gospel.
Because the Sermon on the Mount was directed to the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, it is not easily discerned two thousand years later what a bombshell these words were to the people who heard Jesus speak them. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were considered to be the people who kept the Law most precisely. It was difficult to understand, even in that day, how anyone’s righteousness could ever surpass theirs.
Since the Pharisees followed a man-made law, which was developed in the four hundred years before Jesus appeared, it was not of God. These individuals followed their Rabbinic law consisting of giving, praying, and fasting purely for show:
1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. 2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: 4 that thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. 5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. 6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. 7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. 8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (KJV).
They claimed to possess a great devotion to the law, but their true devotion was to themselves, their prestige, and their traditions. In much of the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapter 5, Jesus contrasted the Old Testament Law and with the religious leaders of His day with His own teaching on a variety of subjects. In every instance, Jesus taught that sin and righteousness are found in one’s thoughts and motives as well as in one’s actions. To recognize this is to follow after the kind of righteousness that surpassesthat of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law. The next section of Scripture examines a portion of this teaching found in Matthew chapter 5:
Matthew 5: 38–42
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away (KJV).
In verse 38, the command of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” was part of God’s law (Exodus 21:23, 24; Leviticus 24:19, 20; Deuteronomy 19:16–21). It provided for the equal punishment of wrongdoing. It was meant to provide a punishment that fit the crime, nothing more or nothing less and no vengeance was to be taken. Its purpose was to limit acts of personal vengeance and thus to prevent bitter feuds from escalating into something worse.
In verse 39, Jesus made an assertion of divine authority. Whatever the letter of the Law said, God’s true will for man was now being revealed directly by His Son. A “smite on the cheek”, or a slap, was done to insult someone more than injure him. The essence of His teaching was the believer’s personal responseto personal insults and injuries. He was not abolishing law and order or the protection of the weak and helpless from cruel treatment by criminals. He was presenting the appropriate response to an insult by having the civic authorities handle the situation regarding preventing and punishing crime (Romans 13:1–4).
In verse 40, The “coat” was a tunic or the undergarment worn in the time of Jesus. If someone wants to be unjust enough to try to legally take your “coat” then “let him have your cloak as well”—your more costly and public outer garment. He was saying that it is inappropriate to be bitter or angry, even when you are treated unjustly. But rather show your attitude of goodwill by giving more than your adversary demands. This also does not mean that Christians are to be “doormats,” allowing people to take advantage of them. It means that Jesus wants his people to be more concerned about relations with others than with their personal rights.
In the first century Rome occupied Israel, Roman soldiers were authorized to draft a civilian at will to carry his pack for a “mile”. If a civilian cursed the solider or complained, he probably would be beaten. Verse 41 instead encouraged them to go along cheerfully and do even more than what was required. This attitude and action would disarm any hostility and promote goodwill. From this teaching of Jesus comes the familiar phrase, “going the second mile.”
In verse 42, common sense and even love for others must qualify our response to someone who asks us for something. We should not give to people who will abuse our generosity. If a person who has a drinking problem asks for money so he can buy more liquor, we must deny that request. We are not obligated to give what is asked for. Sometimes the requests are made from people who have the responsibility to provide, but do not want to, and react with inappropriate behavior instead. The ideal presented here is that of helpfulness and generosity. One is not to develop a callous heart toward genuine needs, but neither is a person to grant another’s requests indiscriminately.
Jesus fulfills Gods command to Love our Neighbor
Matthew 5: 43- 48
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (KJV).
“Love your neighbor”was plainly written in the Law (Leviticus 19:18). In contrast, “hate thine enemy”is not specifically stated anywhere in the Law. Even so, God’s people sometimes were ordered to destroy entire nations of enemies, killing men, women, children and animals without mercy (Deuteronomy 7:2; 1 Samuel 15:3). Many Jewish teachers interpreted such commands as orders to hate one’s enemies. The Greek word for “love” in verse 43 isagape, and Jesus uses it here to refer to unselfish goodwill in action. Jesus’ followers must not only refuse to harbor enmity toward their enemies, they are told to seek what is in their best interests and to pray for them. This is certainly possible but is very difficult.
It is also important to recognize who Jesus considered our neighbor. In the Old Testament the word appears in four different Hebrew forms. They are Strong’s #’s 5997; 7138; 7934; 7453; 7468. In the New Testament there is only one form in the Greek. It is Strong’s # 4139. Generally, the various Hebrew forms refer to someone that is extremely close to you. The Jewish usage of the term neighbor always means any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth, that is, another Israelite. It can also refer to a brother, lover, companion, friend, or husband. Some forms include a general member of the human family, or a person that lives in close proximity or even sometimes an enemy. The Greek usage is similar, but with only one word it does not have the individual subtle usages found in the Old Testament Hebrew.
The verses which exemplifies its usage the most is found in the book of Matthew. In the following section of Scripture, the Lord is responding to a challenging question from one of the lawyers trying to trap Him in a theological debate related to the Mosaic Law:
Matthew 22: 35-34
35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (KJV).
Here Christ is referring them back to the Mosaic Law in Leviticus 19:18 where the “neighbor” is narrowly defined as another Jew:
” ‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD (KJV).
The New Testament was written by and first given to the Jews. In fact, Christ made the declaration early in His ministry that He had come only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6; 15:24). Paul tells us that the Gospel is to go to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile (Romans 1:16). It is important to consider the Jewish roots of Christianity in order to properly understand the Biblical text. Stephen in his dissertation to the High Priest in the book of Acts uses the term “neighbor” to mean a fellow Hebrew, and the King James Version uses the word “brethren”:
24And seeing one [of them] suffer wrong, he defended [him], and avenged him that was oppressed, and smote the Egyptian: 25For he supposed his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them: but they understood not (KJV).
Here Stephen is speaking of Moses’ attempt to defend another Jew against an Egyptian and calls the Jew a neighbor. Fellow Christians are referred to as “neighbors” in the New Testament (Romans 15:2; Ephesians 4:25; James 4:11-12). This is consistent within the context of Jesus referencing Leviticus 19 while talking about fellow Christians meaning other Christians are “neighbors”. Christ in the same passage of Matthew told the lawyers that we must love God first and then love our neighbors the same way we love ourselves. We must consider the context also of Christ’s commandment to love one another as related in John’s gospel:
34A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35By this shall all [men] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (KJV).
As Christians we are commanded to have a love for one another. This is consistent with Christ’s usage of loving our neighbors in Matthew 22:39. Here He narrowly defines the love we are to have for “others” is to be first be directed to others in the Body of Christ. Those “others” who are outside the Christian community will see our special relationship to God. The apostle John captures this subject in his first epistle. He demonstrates that a true believer loves “the brethren”, other believers, otherwise stated as our neighbors:
1 John 3:14-16
14We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not [his] brother abideth in death. 15Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. 16Hereby perceive we the love [of God], because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down [our] lives for the brethren (KJV).
This follows directly from the Matthew passage in that Christ said the first commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. The second as mentioned is to love your neighbor the same way you love yourself. This is not a commandment to engage in loving oneself. He knows that with the sin nature still in us we already love ourselves. The sin nature obviates the need for this commandment.
Neither do these passages refer to us loving, in a humanistic sense, the whole world’s population. The love that Christians should have for each other is to mark us as Christ’s disciples. If the commandment to love others were to the general population then there would be nothing significant about the passage in John 13. We are commanded to love other believers. That is real believers, not pretenders or those that hate us. They that hate us are depicted as being non-believers in the 1 John passage. Notice that we are not commanded to hate back. In fact, Christ tells the listeners of His Sermon on the Mount to love those that hate and curse you (Matthew 5:43-44). What does that mean? It is important to realize the nature of Christ’s statement so as not to confuse it with the passages commanding us to love other believers.
The Sermon on the Mount is Christ’s explanation of the standard of righteousness, which God demanded, put in contrast with the Pharisaic interpretation of the kind of righteousness, which the Law demanded. The Pharisees interpretation was treating the Levitical passage as license to hate everyone that was not a Jew and particularly not a Pharisee. The Mosaic Law never intended this commandment to be carte blanche to hate any enemy. Rather, the Mosaic Law was given in the sense that one must love God and love those whom God loves, and conversely hate those who God hates. As an example, God hated the Canaanites because of their extreme wickedness and He commanded the Jews to exterminate them. Therefore, the Old Testament commandment was never meant to hate individuals through personal animosity or enmity.
The proper interpretation is to hate what God hates and love what God loves. God hates sin and we must hate sin. As far as loving our neighbor, we must first love other believers. We are not commanded to hate those that harm us or do not believe. We are to extend our love to the unbelieving community in that we would like to see them become children of God as we have become. All people are made in the image of God and a have worth. We should treat them with respect and concern. The love Christians have for each other is unique and a special living testimony to our connection to the Lord Jesus and the salvation that He has given to us.
Jesus pointed out that God gives numerous blessings to all people everywhere, even though they do not recognize Him as the source of these blessings. In fact, many live in defiance of His will for man, following what is evil and unrighteous. The patience and kindness of our Father in heaven should be a constant rebuke of others when in our flesh, we would prefer to retaliate.
There is nothing unusual about responding to good treatment with a good disposition. Even people who lack any kind of spiritual depth (pagans) can express gratitude to those who have treated them kindly. Jesus expects his followers to do more than others. The Christian is to go beyond what would normally be expected. In Matthew 5:48, the Greek word translated “perfect”means “complete” or “mature.” It indicates the complete development or final form of anything. The text is talking about such matters as loving our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We can and ought to love all those whom God loves, and we ought to do good to them as we have opportunity (Galatians 6:10). Loving our neighbors means we would like them to become believers. It does not mean we affirm or join in to their pagan practices.
The Sequence of Our Love
The sequencing of our love is to be:
- First, our primary love is to be directed to God.
- Second, our love is directed to other believers. We are to love those people first that God loves and realize that other Believers (Christians) are our neighbors.
- Third, our love is to be directed to those outside the church that need our assistance.
- Finally, we are to hate sin, and are to offer God’s love to sinners in hope that God will choose to save them. This stage is only after we have offered love and assistance to other believers. We are not commanded to first offer God’s love to those outside the church.
Daniel E Woodhead