Lesson 68—June 7, 2015
Audio commentary by Life Focus Teacher David Daniel
Not Here to Destroy
Scripture: Matthew 5:17-20 (Key verse—17)
Lesson Goal: To gain a better understanding of Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets.
Introduction: To understand the Jewish mindset of Jesus’ day, John MacArthur gives us four different ways the term “the Law” was used:
1) In its most limited sense, it was used of the Ten Commandments.
2) In a broader sense, it was used of the Pentateuch—Genesis through Deuteronomy.
3) In a still broader sense, it was used to speak of the entire Scriptures (the Old Testament).
4) The fourth and most common use of the term “law,” however, was in reference to the rabbinical, scribal traditions—the thousands of details and external requirements that obscured the revealed Word of God.
In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus spoke concerning the true believer’s character, which is the result of the inward change of heart, brought about by the transforming power of God. In verses 13-16, Jesus shared two metaphors (salt and light) to help true believers understand their influence in the world. Now in verses 17-20, Jesus speaks concerning the fact that we should “not for one moment imagine that He had come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, the whole Old Testament or any part of it” (Stott).
No doubt there were those, especially the Pharisees, who were thinking that Jesus was going to destroy the Law. The Pharisees had kept a watchful eye on Jesus all the way back to the earliest days of His ministry, because He used words such as “Truly I say to you,” speaking by His own authority. Very quickly the Pharisees and scribes question by what authority He spoke, taught and healed. These religious leaders began to see the teachings of Jesus as not only opposing the Law, but perhaps abolishing it. In verses 17-20, Jesus offers the truth to answer any such charges of opposing or abolishing the Law.
(V17) “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.”
Jesus very quickly rejects the Pharisees’ line of thinking and refutes the charge that He was destroying the Law. To help our understanding, Stott reminds us: “‘the Law or the Prophets’ was one way of referring to the entire Hebrew Scriptures [our Old Testament].”
“Christ certified that He was not against the Law of God. He was not against the prophets whom God sent to the nation Israel” (Pentecost). In the beginning of verse 17, Jesus confirms God’s Law, all the Scriptures of the Old Testament. Jesus states very clearly and distinctly, in the presence of those who heard Him on this mountainside, that He was neither contradicting nor destroying the Old Testament Scriptures.
The key to understanding Jesus’ words: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets,” can be found in the last words of verse 17: “I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (emphasis added). Blomberg adds: “[When Jesus spoke of “fulfill,” He meant to] bring the Law to its intended purpose or goal.” “Fulfill” refers to/means the bringing to fruition of its completed meaning. Jesus was in no way abolishing or destroying the Old Testament, rather He was bringing it to a fulfillment. “The fulfillment Jesus has in mind here, in relation to the Old Testament, is not simply external conformity to its commands, but rather a heart alive to God” (Platt).
Please read Deuteronomy 30:6.
• In the light of what we have studied in Life Focus over the past 67 weeks, what is the meaning of this verse? Please answer with thought and prayer. Notice the word “heart.”
Let us remember that “the Law and the Prophets” represents the Old Testament. Jesus taught based upon the truth of the Old Testament. He did not abolish or destroy it, and neither should it be discarded by us. It is impossible to fully understand the New Testament apart from the Old Testament. What makes the Old Testament so real and exciting to us today is that we can now read it and know “the rest of the story”—the New Testament. We can now read and study the Old Testament in the wonderful knowledge and light of the New Testament.
Have you ever read the Old Testament in its entirety? Please do not disregard or discard the Old Testament. There are some wonderful nuggets to be found in it! On a damp and dreary day of early spring, as I write this June lesson, I am doing my personal devotion time reading through the Old Testament. This morning, I read from 2 Kings 20:1-20.
In Matthew 5:18, Jesus was establishing the fact that He was not doing what many of His listeners thought.
Most traditionalist Jews considered the rabbinical instructions to be the proper interpretations of the law of Moses, and they concluded that, because Jesus did not scrupulously [carefully] follow those traditions, He obviously was doing away with the Law or relegating it to minor importance. Because Jesus swept away the traditions of [such things] as washings and extreme Sabbath observance, the people thought He was thereby overthrowing God’s Law. From the outset, therefore, Jesus wanted to disabuse His hearers of any misconceptions about His view of Scripture (MacArthur).
Jesus’ word “destroy” in verse 17 is the Greek word kataluō, meaning “abolish, to utterly overthrow or destroy.” It is the same word used for the destruction of the Temple (Matthew 24:2 and 26:61) and of the death of the physical body (2 Corinthians 5:1). The basic meaning is to tear down, to obliterate. For people to give thought, even in misunderstanding, stirred the very heart of Jesus. He had no such interest in destroying the Law; in fact, He did not destroy even the smallest part of it. He came in fulfillment and to bring completion.
God’s Law was never intended to be just a matter of outward expression without an inward (heart) obedience. Please read Isaiah 29:13. Somewhere along the journey of time, the scribes and Pharisees had lost this importance and injected their own countless traditions and oral interpretations.
Please read Matthew 15:1-6. What did Jesus say that the scribes and Pharisees had done with their traditions?
The Pharisees and scribes made the Law all about external effort and ritual; thus, voiding it of heart obedience or faith in God.
To better understand how the scribes added their requirements to the Law, let us look at one example given by MacArthur:
For the Old Testament Law of honoring the Sabbath by not working on the Sabbath, they added the idea that carrying a burden was work. Then they decided that a burden is food equal to the weight of a fig, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put on a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member the of the body, water enough to moisten eye salve, paper enough to write a customs house notice, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make a pen, and on and on.
It was the keeping of such things that became the emphasis and essence of the scribes and Pharisees’ religion. When Jesus spoke of “the Law and the Prophets,” He was not speaking concerning these ridiculous rabbinical interpretations and traditions. Jesus was speaking of the Scriptures themselves (the Old Testament), not the trivia of Pharisaical interpretation.
Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus is the fulfillment!