“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. (Matt 5:17-19)
We have been going over the sermons by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, recorded for us in his book, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. In this post, from Chapter seventeen of his book, we will cover what he spoke on concerning what Jesus said to His disciples about the Law and the Prophets—or the Old Testament. I have four major points.
How Jesus’ teaching was different than the Pharisees’ and the Scribes’ Teaching
All that Jesus taught was in harmony with the Old Testament, however, it was in disharmony with Scribes’ and Pharisees’ teaching. And He was not reluctant to criticize them. In fact, He frequently exposed and denounced it.
Jesus was not like the Pharisees who spent all of their time teaching the law (from the Old Testament). He instead focuses His teaching on grace and the love of God. And he was quite different in the way He acted toward people; he mixed with all people, even with sinners. And He seemed to deliberately break the rules and regulations of the law—that the Pharisees were so adamant about keeping.
Two Flawed views of Jesus’ teaching of the Old Testament
The first flawed view is this: that Jesus in the Gospels was merely a teacher of the Law—that it was basically ethical and moral teaching and instruction, which came from the Old Testament; but it was Paul that was the founder of Christianity, and the one who began to teach on justification by faith and sanctification, etc. So these people say that the teaching of Jesus and Paul was vastly different.
The second flawed view is this: that Christ abolished the law completely and gave us grace in its place. The law was given by Moses, and grace was given by Jesus. Hence, the Christian should have nothing to do with the law (the Old Testament).
Defining three important terms in this passage
Law. The law here means the entire Old Testament, which consists of three parts: the moral law, the judicial law, and the ceremonial law. The moral law is basically the ten commandment and the teaching of it. The judicial law is the legislative law given to Israel to order their behavior. The ceremonial law concerned the burnt offerings, sacrifice, and rituals. This part of the law included teaching on various types, mainly to teach prophecy about Jesus Christ. I suppose we can debate about how much of the law was meant only for Israel and how much is meant for the rest of us. And it is something we should wrestle with and try to get to the truth. Certainly, all the law, in some way, will be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Prophets. The Old Testament prophets were the teachers of the law, and they were both forth-tellers and fore-tellers.
Fulfill. This term does not mean to complete, to finish, or to add to something. Hence, it does not mean that the Old Testament began, was carried to a certain point, and then Jesus carried it on a stage further. The meaning, rather, is to carry out or to obey.
Jesus teaching on the Old Testament – 5 points
1. Jesus makes two statements from Matthew 5:17-18: (1) the law cannot be changed; it is eternal and absolute; therefore, (2) He has not come to destroy or change the law, but to fulfill it—that is, to carry it out or obey it.
2. All the Law and the Prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. He is the fulfillment of the law. What a claim!
3. In light of the above statement we must conclude that Jesus has put His seal of authority on the Old Testament. He quotes the Old Testament frequently in the Gospels. Hence, our attitude toward the Old Testament should reflect our attitude toward Jesus.
4. Everything in the Old Testament is the word of God. Everything has meaning. Everything is inspired by God—every word! And every word will be fulfilled by Christ. Question: Will His word come to an end when it is fulfilled at the end of time? Well, since His word is eternal, I think it will continue in a fulfilled state for eternity. But I suppose we could talk about what that would look like.
5. Since He came to fulfill (obey) the Old Testament, we (His followers) must do the same—as best we can. And we can only do it in Him. He is our guiding light.
This theme of Christ fulfilling the Law and the Prophets will be continued in my next blog—according to what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has given us from His book.