Jesus said "do not think that I came to destroy the law and the prophets but to fulfill". However, if you follow Jesus in His teaching, you'll realize He was always clear about the line between the Kingdom of God, and the Law and the Prophets. He emphasized on the truth that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees, you won't enter the Kingdom of God. Yet sometimes Matthew 5:17 is taken as He said he would bring a more strict Law. That's not what Jesus meant.
He spoke concerning the Fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. The fulfillment began not when He was a mature Son, but at His birth, when we read it was prophesied that the virgin shall give birth to a child whose name will be Emmanuel, God with us. He certainly didn't have anything to do with what happened at His birth. It was a fulfillment of a prophecy. Everything about Him was fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Christ is THE fulfillment of all prophecies.
He is also the fulfillment of the Law, not because He kept the Law, but because His life was a demonstration of LOVE. Because Love is the fulfillment of the Law. This He did by showing the Greater Love, laying down His life for His friends. He didn't do it by keeping the ten commandments. His nature was the Son, and He was manifesting the Father. He was not a slave under the Law, to obey it. He was a Son in Father's House, and His DNA was in Him.
The entire Law and Prophets were the foretelling of the Story of Christ, of His Birth, Life, Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension, Glory, and Manifestation in other human beings.
The Law and the Prophets were not to be kept literally, but to believed, and to expect a Savior, the Christ of God, to involve them in HIS death and resurrection, through Baptism. This Mystery won't stop being revealed, just as the Sun never stops rising, when the morning has come.
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[The following is the full transcript of this teaching from our new YouTube series ‘What Jesus Meant‘. Please note that this video, like all videos, features Rose and Masoud speaking unrehearsed–they are unscripted and unedited, filmed in one take.]
Masoud: Hello everyone, and thank you for joining us with another session from What Jesus Meant series. Today we're going to spend some time on Matthew 5:17 where Jesus said: "do not think that I came to destroy the law and the prophets, I did not come to destroy but to fulfill". This verse has been taken in the past as “to do the law and prophets “, but today we are going to find out what He meant and how does that apply to Jesus and us? So, Rose can you explain to us what Jesus meant?
Rose: Sure. Actually when we were Muslim, we thought this verse was referring to incomplete and imperfect law of Moses which Jesus tried to add on, in order to make it perfect. But as Muslims believe Jesus couldn’t do so, and then God sent another messenger to complete the law of God. But today we want to look at it from the eyes of the Spirit because even today as Christians we may read this verse and think Jesus did follow the law, just as Jews were used to. But throughout scripture we see that the Jews constantly accused Him of not keeping the law, like them. For instance Jesus was accused of not washing His hands and not keeping the Sabbath. But we know, Jesus had a deeper understanding of the law, it’s even better to say that He had a true understanding of the law and the prophets.
And today we want to just take a look at it from that perspective. So Matthew 5:17, Jesus says:
Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets, I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
The word fulfill means to fill to the top, to bring to completion. Not to make something complete, but to bring to the fullness of something, in other words to show “what it was supposed to serve”. If we understand this verse then we can understand everything else Jesus said all the way to the end of chapter five, because He repeatedly said “You have heard that it was said, but I say unto you”.
Masoud: Yes, because He mentioned a couple of things in chapter five, right after this, that were taken from the law while He was giving a complete understanding of them. For example, about the divorce, sexually immorality or prayer and fasting. He introduced a true understanding concerning them.
Rose: Exactly. So Jesus had a different understanding of the law and the prophets. And that's why when in John 8, Jews brought the woman that was caught in the act of adultery to stone her to death, Jesus did something completely different. He let the woman go and told her that, “I'm not here to condemn you”. So many times Jesus and the apostles took what was written in the old testament and made a conclusion contrary to what Pharisees were used to. That's why it would be very helpful for us to always ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning of scriptures, specially the old testament scriptures. Because when we read the Old Testament, we do see that it says the one who committed adultery should be stoned, but Jesus, in this scene, did something completely different. What He did was based on more accurate understanding of the scriptures.
Now, let's see a few verses that speak of "fulfillment" of what was written. Matthew chapter 1 is the first time we can see that something was fulfilled that was written in the Old Testament. Verse 1:22 says:
So all this was done, that it might be fulfilled, that was spoken by the Lord through the prophet saying: behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a Son and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which is translated God with us.
If you go back and read previous verses, you realize that this talks about the birth of Jesus. So it's not that Jesus had done anything here to fulfill the law and prophets but He's birth was the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Let's check another fulfillment. Verse 2:17 says:
Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet.
So we see again something which was written by prophets is fulfilled here. And this is when king Herod sent to kill the children of Jews because he didn’t want the King of Israel to be alive.
If we continue throughout the gospel of Matthew we can find 13 different places which talks about fulfillment of words spoken by the mouth of the prophets. Another place we can see this, is Matthew 8:17, this is right after Jesus healed many:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet. He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.
Therefore, the only thing that we can trace in all these incidents, that brings to reality what was spoken by the prophets, is the “Life of Jesus“. His birth was the fulfillment of the prophet, His deed, His words, His death and His resurrection. For example, if we go to Matthew 13:35, says:
35 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying: “I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things kept secret from the foundation of the world.”
So, everything about Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies of the prophets. He spoke about the kingdom, He revealed the mysteries through parables. He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out demons, and everything else that happened in the life of Jesus was the fulfillment of prophecy which was written in the prophets and the law. He didn’t fulfill these by His own power and might but by relying on God the Father who performed all these through Him to reveal His plan, His will and His glory.
Masoud: So any prophecy that ever was spoken was from God Himself but was spoken through he mouth of a man called a prophet. And God says in Isaiah 55 that:
10 “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
And do not return there,
But water the earth,
And make it bring forth and bud,
That it may give seed to the sower
And bread to the eater,
11 So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void,
But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
So the word of God is the prophecy of God that must be fulfilled. And so when Jesus came as THE Word of God, He came to be the fulfillment of everything that was ever spoken and written. He definitely didn't destroy the law and the prophets, but He was fulfilling everything that was written in the law and the prophets.
Rose: Exactly. And if we go to the last chapter of Luke, we can see that Jesus said the same thing Himself but in a different language. It is the story of two men on the way to Emmaus, after the resurrection of Jesus. They were concerned about everything that had happened in the past three years and how it ended up by crucifixion of Jesus which had saddened their hearts, and now Jesus appears to them on the road. He says in Luke 24:25,
“Oh, foolish ones and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?”
So prophets obviously wrote about “the suffering of Christ” and “ the glory” that Christ had to enter in. And then we read what He did in verse 27:
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded to them in all the scriptures, the things concerning Himself.
He started opening up the scriptures and explained to them that everything was written in Law and prophets which were all about Christ. Now let’s look at verse 44:
Then He said to them, these are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you. That all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses and the prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.
So Jesus says, listen, I already told you when I was with you, I already explained to you that everything that was written in the law and the prophets must be fulfilled, and they were all about Me.
Now let’s go to Matthew 27. This is when Jesus was being crucified. This is the last time, before resurrection, that we see something which was written before is now being fulfilled in Jesus. So let’s read this verse and keep it in mind because we are going to get back to it later again. Matthew 27:35,
Then they crucified Him and divided His garments, casting lots that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They divided My garments among them and for My clothing they cast lots.
So the last time we see in the gospel of Matthew about the fulfillment of the words of prophets is about the “crucifixion of Jesus”. So the message of the gospel is about the life of Jesus, the way He was born, the way He lived, and then His crucifixion and resurrection which were all about the fulfillment of everything that was written in the law and the prophets. So we can conclude that, the law and the prophets were only prophesying about someone who was to come and fulfill them all. We can see this even in Matthew 13 where Jesus said the law and the prophets prophesied until John. So the law was also considered as a prophet.
Masoud: Exactly. So basically anything that the law and the prophets were saying was a witness to something that would come afterwards. And when Jesus came, He basically said:
I am that one. So when you read the law and the prophets, don't try to fulfill it yourself, because you can't, because it's not about you, it's about me (Jesus). And then when you see Me, you'll see yourself. So what, or who, you need to hear from now on is Me. It's not the Law and the prophets. Because if you go through Me, you will have a true understanding of the Law and the prophets, which is about your identity in Me. But if you go directly to the law and prophets, what you see, is not going to bring life to you but it will murder you, kill you. And in that case you haven't even listened to Moses who wrote in the law that said in Deuteronomy 18:15,
The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear.
And when Jesus was on the mount transfiguration, with Moses and Elijah, God said (Matthew 17:5):
“This is My beloved Son... Hear Him!”
So the fulfillment of the law and prophet is a Person, which is Jesus Himself. In Him, everything is revealed. Everything is fulfilled. Maybe I can just quickly mention one verse just to see how Jesus changed the understanding of a Pharisee like Paul who was trying to fulfill everything by his own works, but all of a sudden realized he can't. It's Jesus. And then everything he was trying to do in the law and the prophets, he came to the realization that I wasn't supposed to do it. I was supposed to BELIEVE it. And that's in Acts 20:16 and 26:21, when he was arrested. In his defenses he said in 26:2,
For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple and tried to kill me.Therefore, having obtained help from God to this day I stand, witnessing both to the small and great saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come, (Paul explains the whole purpose of the law and the prophets) that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to raise from the dead and proclaim light to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.
So Paul says, I "believe". I myself believe in this, and everything that was written was about what would come later. And then even Hebrews 10:1 says:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect.
So the law was talking about what would come.
Rose: Exactly. And it's interesting because even Paul says that it is written about the death and resurrection of Jesus. I want all of us to see this again. Now, we want to see something about the fulfillment of the Law, through Jesus. We've already seen that the prophets came to fulfillment through Jesus. And here we want to see how the Law came to fulfillment through Jesus. So let’s read Romans 13:10,
Love does not harm to a neighbor, therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Masoud: Well, the law is fulfilled when love is fulfilled.
Rose: That's right. The Law is fulfilled when love is perfected, completed or fulfilled. So now let’s read verse 8:
Owe no one anything except to love one another. For he who loves another has fulfilled the law.
So love is the fulfillment of the law while Jesus said, I came to fulfill the law. But how was love fulfilled through Jesus?Most of us probably know the answer. But let's find out what John has to say in chapter 15, verse 13:
Greater love has no one than this that to lay down one's life for his friends.
So the greater love is this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. The scripture says, this is how we know he loves us, that he laid down his life for us. So Jesus fulfilled the law by dying on the cross, by giving His life for His own friends so that others can live. He gave up his life so that we can live.
The fulfillment of the law and prophets for Jesus was to live what law and prophets said. And as we read earlier the Law and prophets were pointing to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. Just as Paul says in Acts 21 and 26, the law and prophets were never meant to be kept by "doing" but hey were meant to be "believed". So we are all called to believe the law and prophets because we know that the law and prophets were written about the Christ, about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which reveals the Love of God for mankind.
In our past teachings, we have often said that Jesus Christ is a Mystery, and must revealed. That's why the old testament is sealed and it won't open up (and we won't really see what is really written there) unless we read every scripture through one lens only, which is “the Christ”, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And let me tell you this, the moment you have the understanding of death and resurrection of Jesus, immediately you find yourself in those scriptures too, because all of a sudden you realize that there is a love that caused one person to die for my life so that I don't experience that death and as a result I can live. Then all of a sudden you realize there was a prophecy of a person who would bring love to the world by giving life, giving Himself so that you could live. And all of a sudden you see in the scriptures that even though it was talking about the death of Jesus, it is also talking about my death with Him on the cross. When you see what is written about the resurrection of Jesus, then all of a sudden you see yourself in the pages of the Bible and seeing, it is about your resurrection, the newness of life in Him. That's why you can also say I have not come to destroy the law and prophets, but to fulfill the law and prophets. And how do we do that? By seeing our-self in Him, letting His life in us to bear fruit, and loving one another. By reckoning ourself dead, today, by the death of Jesus, by dying with Him on the cross and raising with Him at the resurrection. So we are also called to fulfill it. And that's why the Spirit of the Lord is given to us so that we can read the scriptures, not through the religious mindset, but through the Mind of Christ and His understanding, which is the death of Adam on the cross and the resurrection of Christ after three days.
Masoud: So I would say while reading the Bible, the very first thing that every one of us must do is to put ourselves outside of the story completely and read the Bible as if every single word is about Christ. And if we don't do that, we are going to fail. And we're going to be mistaken about what the Bible says. So the first thing is to read the Bible as if God is just telling a story about Christ. You are not in the story. You are not important. I'm not important. There is nothing about what must be done. There is nothing about who we are, but absolutely everything about Christ. Once you see that, then you realize that, now I can go back and read it through the eyes of my union with Christ and understand what happened to "me" through the crucifixion of Jesus. When you do that, you come to realize why Paul would write (Romans 5:3-6):
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
So this takes the burden off from me and then it puts me far from work, but it puts me into a place that my heart is so drawn to this truth that I can believe. And when I believe it, my heart is energized and I can live according to what I have believed. There is strength in me. There is something in me that by the power of the spirit, I can now live differently, to live a transformed life, but not because I'm trying to fulfill anything, but because that thing is being fulfilled in me. So read it for Christ, as Christ, and then read it as your union with Christ. And that would change everything.
Rose: And I just want to bring one example here. Let’s go back to Matthew chapter five to take a look at one verse to put into practice what we just learned. How do we really need to read Matthew 5:43,
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
This is quoted from Leviticus chapter 19. But Jesus continues:
but I say to you, love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
The first thing that usually comes to our minds after reading this, is that, Jesus just changed the law! But He didn't. Look at verse 43 again and we will see that is fulfilled through Jesus Himself.
Verse 43 it says, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Who hated who and who loved ? We said that the crucifixion of Jesus was His love given, even to those who hated Him and crucified Him. So this verse says that He loved His neighbor. That's why He is going on the cross and He's dying for them. But at the same time, they hated Him so much that they wanted to get rid of Him and kill Him. So in the law was written, Love your neighbor but hate your enemy, and that was fulfilled at the crucifixion of Jesus because He was the one who loved His neighbor and they killed Him because they thought that Jesus was their enemy.
So if you read this verse, you realize, my goodness, this is fulfilled already at the crucifixion, through the crucifixion of Jesus. That's why the next verse says, but I say unto you...why does it say, but I say unto you? Because He was saying I fulfilled the verse before that. And because I fulfilled the previous verse, therefore now you are to see this scripture through my eyes, through what I have done and fulfilled. And it's only then you understand this deeper and you can walk differently, to be able to love your enemies.
Because now you know that scripture was fulfilled through the death of Jesus. He loved them, He died for them. And then you realize that we are not the enemy to kill or to hate anymore, but we are the friends of the one who loved us. So what we do is we also love our enemies, even if they want to crucify us. So we don't hate them, as verse 43 says, but love them. And I think every single verse in the old testament needs to be read through the fulfillment of that verse in Christ. And that's when we understand. One of the challenges that I personally had while reading the old testament was the part that speaks concerning the stoning to death of the sexually immoral. I read it over and over and I prayed about that. And I said, Lord, I want to know how did you come to that conclusion and how did you at the end forgave the woman who was caught in the act of adultery while it actually says in the old testament to stone her. Jesus always brought life our of the scriptures whereas previously they were used to bring death. Only because the scriptures were not understood through the crucifixion of Jesus. Only then I could realize what that part of the scripture was saying.
Masoud: Yeah, exactly. Because if you look at 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says:
The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
And if you go and take the letter of the law, you would have instances that says he/she/they must be killed. And if you want to keep the law, then you will have to kill. But if you come to this Spirit, Spirit takes that word and instead of death brings life out of it. And that was the purpose of the scripture. So Jesus said, you go and read the scripture because you think they give you life. But they were written about Me. So when you go directly to the old testament or to the Law and Prophets or even to new testament, if you read anything that is written without hearing from the Spirit, it kills and it causes you even to kill others also, not definitely murdering people with a knife or a gun, but there would be a burden that you would put on people. There would be hope that you would take away from them. Now I want to say something quickly and maybe we can end with this, that in Revelation 10:7 we read:
but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when He is about to sound, the mystery of God would be finished as He declared to His servants, the prophets.
God declared something to the prophets and all that they had was prophecy. Now, God calls that a mystery. So what was spoken by the prophets was a mystery. Now if you go and try to take it and say, "this is clear", "this is talking about this nation and that nation and this thing and that thing", then you are mistaken. But if you listen to the Spirit of Prophecy, the time is now, and the subject of the message is us, and its purpose is life. We just heard, it says in the day of the sounding of the seventh angel (meaning the 7th messenger, with the 7th message) the Spirit of God comes to bring an understanding of what was spoken as a mystery. When Jesus came, everything that was fulfilled, was things that were written in the old testament, yet they are called mysteries! No wonder they were we understood differently. Because it was a mystery. It was not revealed just by reading it. It was revealed when you would see Christ in them. And when you would see Christ, through Him, you could have a complete understanding of what it meant.
Rose: So do you mean when we read Jeremiah as he talked about Elam and Babylon for instance, didn’t necessarily point to a certain country or nation?
Masoud: Absolutely not! These are spiritual realities, which our understanding of them helps us to be transformed into the image of God, which is Christ Himself.
And now one thing that I need to address before we end is that often we have had this question, as apostle Paul apparently had, "so you're saying that we don't have to keep the law?". The answer is Yes. We say, you don't have to keep the law and you must not keep the law because if you try to do it, you would fail. But if you come to the realization of the mystery, you come to union with Christ, you understand who He is, and who is the one that is in you, you would raise way above the law because as we said, the law kills. And if you try to keep the law, you're going to kill. But if you come to the place of the Spirit, that actually gives you a revelation of what was written you'd live above the Law, in Love. And that means you would not be doing any of those things that the law says don't do. You simply are not going to murder. You're not going to lie, you're not going to steal. You're not going to do any of those things. Not because it is written in the Law, but because it's now your true nature. Your nature doesn't allow you to do that anymore. Your conscience is cleansed. It's not any more defiled and all you want to do is actually to live your identity out.
Rose: So basically what you are saying, you don't keep the law, you fulfill the law by living a resurrected life of Christ and reckoning yourself dead on the cross.
Masoud: Yeah, exactly!
Thank you guys for watching. Let us know if this helps you and if you're looking for more sessions like this. We are trying to answer any question that's coming in. And until next week, the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.