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Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil
In this message we’ll discuss how the Lord Jesus teaches us that there is a bigger purpose when it comes to keeping God’s laws. While keeping the laws of God are the first step in our lives for Him, there is a much bigger purpose to it than just that!
In verses 17 – 48, the Lord is teaching what it means to fulfill the law of God rather than just keeping the law of God. The law of God being, not just the individual commandments in the word of God, but it is based on the greater law of love for God and for people!
Jesus would point this out by saying in Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. and why Paul would later say inGalatians 6:2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Fulfilling Versus Destroying
The Lord starts this section of Matthew 5 by pointing out inMatthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. There seems to have been this sense that Jesus had come to this world to do away with the law of God and the messages of the prophets. He makes it clear this was not the case. Jesus not only came to fulfil the law and prophets that pointed to Him as the Messiah and Savior, but also to teach us how to fulfil the law of God as well in our own lives.
The law and prophets of the Old Testament actually pointed to a greater calling for God’s people! The commandments of God in the New Testament do the same. If the Lord had come to destroy them, He would have done away with the very foundational messages that were meant to point us to this greater calling in God.
Keeping a Law Versus Fulfilling a Law
When we think of laws, it is probably natural to think of keeping those laws. Why else would a law be written unless it was meant to be kept, right? Jesus understood that this is how people naturally think. In this section of the scriptures, the Lord is showing us that God’s law was given, not simply to be kept (though that is certainly part of it), but to point us to a higher level of thinking and living that transcends simply abiding by the constraints of words on a page.
There is a significant difference between keeping a law and fulfilling a law. Keeping a law produces a sense of obligation and duty while fulfilling a law produces a sense of calling and purpose. Let’s look at this section and see what the Lord teaches us as it pertains to the difference between keeping the law of God and fulfilling the law of God.
Actions Versus Intentions
Matthew 5:21 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:
The Law of Moses dealt with people’s actions after the intentions. This is why it was said in the Old Testament law, “Thou shalt not kill (or murder)”. The law did not say, “Thou shalt not intend to kill”. It dealt with the action rather than with the intention. Subsequently, there were then punishments laid out in the law for people’s unlawful actions.
In this section of Matthew 5, Christ deals with people’s intentions before the actions. He is sharing throughout these verses that these issues need to be dealt with while they are still in the heart; before they become action, get you into trouble, and potentially ruin your entire life!
As the Lord would point out in Matthew 5:25 …and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. God intended for the outcomes of breaking His laws to be enough for us to deal with our intentions and prevent such outcomes from occurring. I’m sure there are lots of people in prison today who wish they would have dealt with their intentions in the heart before those intentions became action! But, for many of them, it is too late!
What the Older People Used to Say
Notice the Lord says, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time”. Most people are in a hurry to leave the old ways in the past and adopt every new way simply because it’s socially accepted at that time. It seems that every generation has a tendency of dismissing what the older generations used to say, even though it was the older generations that brought the current generation to the place of peace and prosperity they are currently enjoying.
Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment…
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “The old people used to say ‘don’t commit murder’. But, if our generation truly does want to be better, then it will be by dealing with these issues while they are still in the heart; before they become actions rather than just trying to abstain from the evil actions themselves”.
Simply trying to abstain from evil actions is keeping the law of God. Dealing with issues while they are still in the heart is fulfilling the law of God! As I mentioned earlier, keeping a law produces a sense of obligation and duty while fulfilling a law produces a sense of calling and purpose.
Fulfilling God’s law is also a far more empowering way to live because it gives YOU total control over most situations. It does this by giving control over the intentions, which control the actions, which in turn control the outcomes and THIS is what the Lord is trying to teach us!
Let’s not get so wrapped up in simply keeping God’s laws, but let’s fulfil them and so shall we truly understand what it’s like to be more like Christ!