Sermon on the Mount Part 2: Fulfilling the Law

Jesus makes statements that we might consider to me “mission statements” throughout His ministry, and one of those in in Matthew 5:17 – to fulfill the law and accomplish all it is meant to do. This heeding to the law and prophets is repeated in Matthew 7:12, and these two statements bookend the main body of Jesus’ sermon on the mountain.

What Does Jesus Mean By This Statement?

What does Jesus mean when He says He comes to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17? To answer this we are going to look at what Jesus is saying and defining some terms He uses.

“The Law & the Prophets.” In Matthew 7:12, Jesus uses this term to refer to the whole of what we would consider the Old Testament. John 1:43-45 uses this term in a similar manner. Also, Romans 3:21 and Matthew 22:36-40 use this term as referring to the whole of the Old Testament.

“Abolish” or “Destroy.” Jesus is not coming to make the Old Testament irrelevant. Instead, He has come to amplify the Law. He is here to fulfill it.

“Fulfill.” He is here to complete and to validate the Old Testament. He is fulfilling the prophecies of the Messiah recorded in the prophets’ writings’. Jesus is the answer and the focal point of what the Law and Prophets anticipate. In other words, the Old Testament serves a prophetic function, pointing to a Messiah that would be fulfilled in Jesus’ life and sacrifice.

Jesus’ existence would do away with the requirements and stipulation of the Old Testament in His death on the cross (Matthew 5:18), but He was not an invalidation of all that had built up to this point. Instead, He was the culmination – the fulfillment – of God’s plan.

What Does This Mean to Us?

Salvation is the ultimate accomplishment, but this is such a huge plan that it is impossible to sum up in that succinct statement. Where man failed God under the Old Law, Christ succeeds. Not only did He succeed in upholding that law, but He nailed that law to the cross, giving us a path where we can succeed through Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser