A little over two weeks ago, Answers in Genesis, a ministry I love, promote, financially support, and am blessed by, posted The Dangers of the Hebrew Roots Movement. Please read the previous posts in the series, as I am answering the allegations one by one.
answering answers in genesis, part one
answering answers in genesis, part two
answering answers in genesis, part three
answering answers in genesis, part four
answering answers in genesis, part five
answering answers in genesis, part six
answering answers in genesis, part seven
Somehow they seem to overlook or reinterpret the last part of Matthew 5:17. Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets.
Let’s look at the full passage in question, shall we, not forgetting that the first rule of proper Scripture interpretation is context, context, context. Somehow the author of the article seemed to overlook or reinterpret this important rule:
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 5:17-20
We have been taught in our day and age that Jesus fulfilled the Law, the Torah, when He died on the cross and was raised from the dead, which means, that since the Law has been fulfilled, we can ignore it now, and it is no longer required of us to do the commandments in the Law. That is why I get funny looks from church people when they find out I rest from labor on Saturday.
For the first witness, we have to realize that this understanding of the passage is not the one the church has historically held. Believers rested on Saturday and observed the Lord’s feast days, and observed many of the other Torah commandments, in some cases, for centuries after the age of the apostles. Then after the Reformation, Puritans and most of the Protestant denominations returned to strict observance of the Sabbath and other commandments, although not perfectly, as there was much that was lost still to be restored to the church. The idea that commandment-keeping has been done away with is a newly resurgent idea in the church, first proposed by the heretic Marcion and condemned by the early Church fathers (see The History of the Christian Church by Philip Schaff, volume II, especially chapter 11, The Heresies of the Ante-Nicene Age).
Jesus did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (verse 17). The Law is full of foreshadows and types which teach about the Messiah (see The Law of Love). The doing of many commandments (such as the Sabbath commandment) teach about and prophesy of the Messiah. Likewise, the Prophets are full of prophecies which proclaim the Messiah. So when Jesus says, “I came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets,” He is saying in essence, “I am He whom the Law and the Prophets declare!”
The meaning of this verse is not that Jesus kept the Law so now the rest of us can ignore it! If that was the meaning, then it would contradict several clarifying statements Jesus follows up with, for the second witness.
The first follow up comes in verse 18:
“For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law till all is fulfilled.” Mat 5:18
Here Jesus verified the permanency of the Law by saying that the smallest letter shall not pass from the Law until heaven and earth pass away – something that has not yet happened. He also verified the permanency of the Law by declaring that it will not pass away until all that is written in the Law and the Prophets has been fulfilled. All that has been written in the Law and the Prophets has not been yet fulfilled: Jesus has not yet returned for example. So the Law, i.e., God’s definition of what is righteous conduct and what is sinful conduct, is still in effect.
The second follow up comes in verse 19:
“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Mat 5:19
How can there be a dispute about this meaning? It is so very clear. So the Answers in Genesis article’s statement of the meaning of verse 17, that Jesus fulfilled the Law so now the rest of us can ignore it, contradicts two immediate clarifications Jesus makes to His original statement, if that was to be the meaning He intended. We know that truth cannot contradict itself and remain true. If His statements are true, then we have to keep examining His statements until they harmonize, or else our understanding or application has not yet arrived to the truth. It is not the word of God that is off.
For the third witness, let’s look at the chiastic structure of this passage (see the teaching tools of scripture if you are unfamiliar with chiastic structures):
Mat 5:10-48 chiastic structure:
1a.1) Mat 5:10-12 Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness’ sake;
1a) Mat 5:10a Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake;
1b) Mat 5:10b For theirs is the kingdom of heaven;
central axis) Mat 5:11 Blessed are you when they revile + persecute you + say evil against you falsely for My sake;
2b) Mat 5:12a Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven;
2a) Mat 5:12b For so they persecuted the prophets who were before you;
1a.2) Mat 5:13-16 You are salt + light/ let men see your good works + glorify your Father in heaven;
1b) Mat 5:17-18 Jesus did not destroy the Law but is the fulfillment of it;
1a) Mat 5:17 Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill;
central axis) Mat 5:18a For assuredly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away;
2a) Mat 5:18b One jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Law until all is fulfilled;
1c) Mat 5:19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven;
central axis) Mat 5:20a For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees;
2c) Mat 5:20b You will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven;
2b) Mat 5:21-43 You have heard it said thus of the Law, however you must fulfill it from your heart;
2a.1) Mat 5:44 Love your enemies/ bless + pray for those who hate + persecute you;
2a.2) Mat 5:45-48 That you may be sons of your Father in heaven/ you shall be perfect as He is perfect.
Notice that the structure even highlights the Scriptural doctrine that those who break commandments will still be in the kingdom of heaven, for salvation does not rest on our works of the Law (Rom 3:20), but those who depend on the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees – i.e., self-righteousness, depending on perfect works of the Law for salvation – will not even enter the kingdom of heaven. But the teaching of Jesus here at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount lays to rest forever the false claims of those who have taught men that God approves of their commandment- breaking. He is teaching, Do not merely obey the Law outwardly as the scribes and Pharisees, but obey it from the heart – then your obedience will look like Mat 5:21-48.
Mat 5-7 full sermon on the mount chiastic structure
What does πληρωσαι (“to fulfill”) mean in Matthew 5:17? – Tim Hegg (academic, off site)
answering answers in genesis, part nine
answering answers in genesis, part ten
answering answers in genesis, part eleven
answering answers in genesis, part twelve
“Fulfill” is such a funny word! It does not mean to “do away with”, but to make complete or satisfy… to achieve or realize.
II Timothy 4:5 (NKJV) – But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
II Thess. 1:11-12 (NKJV) Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why isn’t the word “fulfill” interpreted the same way in those verses?
(Thank you for the link to the Tim Hegg article!)
Yes, its normal meaning has been completely twisted. But praise God, He is restoring truth! And we get to be a part of that! <3