Here we go again, studying the first book of the New Testament of the Bible: Matthew. As I have said before, I am attempting to study this book in depth with a variety of helps by utilizing the Inductive Study Method, and then relaying what I have learned from it to you all. I hope that it helps you understand the various teachings as I am learning as well. And of course, I go as long as a cup of coffee.
This portion of Matthew in chapter 5, verses 17 through 20, has been titled in the study bible I use as “Jesus teaches about the law.” In my kids’ Bible, the heading of this section of verses says, “Jesus and the Old Testament Writings.” Both are correct to me and I don’t know which version of the Bible you have, but I utilize multiple versions to get a greater understanding of the principles behind the writings. The main point of studying the Word is to get the principle idea of the writings, and apply them to our lives increasing our faith and strengthening our relationship with God. A lot of the study aids are tied to the KJV, which is the main version I read from. However, I also employ the use of my kids’ Bible which is the “Easy-To-Read Version (ERV).” I also use the “Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)”, “New King James Version (NKJV)”, “Message (MSG)”, and a couple of study Bibles that have commentary in the footnotes that clarify some verses and add references so I can go back and see where a verse quoted in another verse or has referenced another scripture.
So with that, here is the passage in the ERV.
“Don’t think that I have come to destroy the Law of Moses or the teaching of the prophets. I have come not to destroy their teachings but to give full meaning to them. I assure you that nothing will disappear from the law until heaven and earth are gone. The law will not lose even the smallest letter or the smallest part of a letter until it has all been done. A person should obey every command in the law, even one that does not seem important. Whoever refuses to obey any command and teaches others not to obey it will be the least important in God’s kingdom. But whoever obeys the law and teaches others to obey it will be great in God’s kingdom. I tell you that you must do better than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. If you are not more pleasing to God than they are, you will never enter God’s kingdom.”
Jesus said that He wasn’t doing away with the law or the teachings of the prophets. He fulfilled them. Just like a water pitcher that was half full of water. We wouldn’t throw out all of the water. We would fill it up with more water to the brim. So he doesn’t throw it out nor does He turn His back on the teachings. He fulfills all the obligations, obeys all of the laws and rules, and does what no one else can do – He walks a perfect life. In the KJV and NKJV, the end of verse 17 says “to fulfill” which means “to satisfy, expire, and to end by fulfilling like other prophecies when fulfilled.”
Clearly in this text, He doesn’t say that we no longer follow the law. He fulfilled the obligations for us all that we could not keep. He was perfect and did exactly as the Father commanded in everything. He was teaching that the main principle was what we needed to follow. It wasn’t the specific rules and regulations. It is the root of our being that we need to look at when making the decision to do one thing versus another. The questions I need to ask myself are: “Is this glorifying or pleasing to God?”, “Is this decision helpful or harmful to anyone including myself?”, “Am I doing this out of selfishness?”, and “Am I teaching others by my actions to follow Christ or walk away from Him?”
There are three categories of law in the Old Testament: ceremonial, civil, and moral law. Ceremonial law related specifically to Israel’s worship. Its primary purpose was to point to Jesus Christ. These laws were no longer necessary after Jesus’ death and resurrection. While we are no longer bound by ceremonial law, the principles behind it – to worship and love a holy God – still apply. Jesus was often accused by the Pharisees of violating ceremonial law. The civil law applied to daily living in Israel. Because modern society and culture are so radically different from that time, all of these guidelines cannot be followed specifically. But the principles behind the commands are timeless and should guide our conduct. Jesus demonstrated these principles by example.
The moral law (such as the Ten Commandments) is the direct command of God and it requires strict obedience. It reveals the nature and the will of God, and it still applies today. Jesus obeyed the moral law completely. Also, I must add here that Praise be to God that He sent His Son, Jesus, to be the one-and-done, complete sacrifice for our sins and shortcomings. He gets all glory, honor, and praise.
The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other experts in telling others what to do missed the point of what the central point of God’s laws were. Jesus made it clear. Obeying God’s law is more important than explaining it. It’s much easier to study God’s laws and tell others to obey them than to put them into practice. God judges our hearts as well as our deeds, for it is in the heart where our real allegiance is. We need to be just as concerned about our attitudes, which people don’t see, as our actions, which are seen by all.
In verse 20, Jesus was saying that his listeners need a different kind of goodness altogether (out of love for God), not just a more intense version of the Pharisees’ goodness (which was legal compliance). Our goodness has to come from what God does in us, not what we can do by ourselves. Also, we need to be God-centered as opposed to being self-centered. Our goodness has to be based on reverence for God, not the approval from others. And it must go beyond keeping the law to living by the principles and purpose behind it.
So, here at the end of my cup are my conclusions and findings based on the little I know and the information I have at hand. Jesus walked a perfect life. He tells us not to do away with the teachings of Moses and the prophets. He tells us that all of those things were written and taught to point to Him. He is the culmination and focus of all of the Scriptures. I need to continue to look to Him for guidance on what the Father wants from me. And my life is more about faith-driven love and obedience than it is out of legalistic obligation.
Gotta go fill up my cup…