The Sermon on the Mount (Part 9)
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Teachers who unnecessarily burden New Testament believers with a form of law are quick to quote the first part of Matthew 5:17. They proclaim, “Christ did not come to abolish the Law!” And they miss the entire point of the rest of the verse.
Let’s look at some key words in these verses. First, ABOLISH. Yes, Jesus said that He did not come to destroy or blow up the Law. The Law is still in existence. In fact, Paul writes that the Law still has a purpose today. “But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous man, BUT FOR THOSE WHO ARE lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane” (I Timothy 1:8-9). This list describes the lost. The Law is for the lost. The Law exists to convict unbelievers of their sin.
But you are a “righteous man” having been made righteous by the work of Christ and your faith in Jesus. So the Law has nothing to do with you now. The Law is “not made” for you. Why?
Let’s look at the second word, FULFILL. Christ fulfilled, Christ completed, any requirement the Law placed on us. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:4). We have arrived at our righteousness through the gift of God’s grace, not through keeping any Law requirement. We are dead to the Law as is made clear in Romans chapters 5 through 8, the entire book of Galatians, II Corinthians 3, and many other passages.
Think about a contract that has been fulfilled. Once the obligations laid out in the contract are fulfilled, the contract is over. I don’t have to physically destroy the contract. I don’t have to tear it up and throw it away. Whether or not the paper copy exists makes no difference. If the contract has been fulfilled, the deal is finished. The contract no longer carries any weight or obligation. Christ prophesied in Matthew 5:17 that He was going to fulfill the Law. And that is exactly what He did.
Finally, let’s look at UNTIL ALL IS ACCOMPLISHED. The interaction between us and the Law ended at the cross. The cross is where all was accomplished. Jesus declared “It is finished” and the sacrifice was complete. We are now saved by grace through the shed blood of Jesus in our place. Our connection to the Law is permanently over. The tearing of the temple veil is a visual of the end of the old covenant of the Law and the ushering in of the new covenant of grace.
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day had twisted the Law into all kinds of requirements, confusion, and loopholes. Jesus is addressing the Jews saying, “You can tweak the Law. You can twist the Law. You can water down the Law. But until my death that fulfills the Law, every commandment remains intact. Christ did not come to lessen the requirements of the Law. In fact, He seems to crank them up a notch in the rest of Matthew chapter 5.
But for you and I, the Law – and what Jesus added to it – is over, fulfilled by Christ on our behalf. Jesus is again looking forward in this part of the Sermon on the Mount. Looking ahead to the cross where the Law would be fulfilled when “all will be accomplished.” You have been set free from the Law!