Today’s question is, “What does it mean
that Jesus fulfilled the law, but did not abolish it?” In this video I’ll answer that question
from a biblical perspective. Afterwards, as always, I’ll share some helpful
resources, so stick around until the end. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come
to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth
disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear
from the Law until everything is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17–18). This important statement of our Lord gives
us insight into His mission and the character of God’s Word. Jesus’ declaration that He came to fulfill
the Law and the Prophets, not to abolish them, obviously contains two statements in one. There is something Jesus did and something
He did not do. At the same time, Jesus emphasized the eternal
nature of the Word of God. Jesus goes out of His way to promote the authority
of the Law of God. He did not come to abolish the Law, regardless
of what the Pharisees accused Him of. In fact, Jesus continues His statement with
a commendation for those who teach the Law accurately and hold it in reverence: “Therefore
anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly
will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands
will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Note the qualities that Jesus attributes to
the Word of God, referenced as “the Law and the Prophets”: First) The Word is everlasting;
it will outlast the natural world. Second) The Word was written with intent;
it was meant to be fulfilled. Third) The Word possesses plenary authority;
even the smallest letter of it is established. Fourth) The Word is faithful and trustworthy;
“everything” it says will be accomplished. No one hearing Jesus’ words in the Sermon
on the Mount could doubt His commitment to the Scriptures. Consider what Jesus did not do in His ministry. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus says that He did not
come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. In other words, Jesus’ purpose was not to
abrogate the Word, dissolve it, or render it invalid. The Prophets will be fulfilled; the Law will
continue to accomplish the purpose for which it was given (see Isaiah 55:10–11). Next, consider what Jesus did do. Jesus says that He came to fulfill the Law
and the Prophets. In other words, Jesus’ purpose was to establish
the Word, to embody it, and to fully accomplish all that was written. “Christ is the culmination of the law”
(Romans 10:4). The predictions of the Prophets concerning
the Messiah would be realized in Jesus; the holy standard of the Law would be perfectly
upheld by Christ, the strict requirements personally obeyed, and the ceremonial observances
finally and fully satisfied. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Prophets in that,
in His first coming alone, He fulfilled hundreds of prophecies concerning Himself. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Law in at least
two ways: as a teacher and as a doer. He taught people to obey the Law, and He obeyed
the Law Himself. In living a perfect life, Jesus fulfilled
the moral laws; in His sacrificial death, Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws. Christ came not to destroy the old religious
system but to build upon it; He came to finish the Old Covenant and establish the New. Jesus came not to destroy the Law and the
Prophets but to fulfill them. In fact, the ceremonies, sacrifices, and other
elements of the Old Covenant were “only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not
the realities themselves” (Hebrews 10:1). The tabernacle and temple were “holy places
made with hands,” but they were never meant to be permanent; they were but “copies of
the true things” (Hebrews 9:24). The Law had a built-in expiration date, being
filled as it was with “external regulations applying until the time of the new order”
(Hebrews 9:10). In His fulfillment of the Law and Prophets,
Jesus obtained our eternal salvation. No more were priests required to offer sacrifices
and enter the holy place. Jesus has done that for us, once and for all. By grace through faith, we are made right
with God: “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness,
which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross”
(Colossians 2:14). There are some who argue that, since Jesus
did not “abolish” the Law, then the Law is still in effect—and still binding on
New Testament Christians. But Paul is clear that the believer in Christ
is no longer under the Law: “We were held in custody under the Law, locked up until
faith should be revealed. So the Law became our guardian to lead us
to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer
under a guardian” (Galatians 3:23–25). We are not under the Mosaic Law but under
“the law of Christ” (see Galatians 6:2). If the Law is still binding on us today, then
it has not yet accomplished its purpose—it has not yet been fulfilled. If the Law, as a legal system, is still binding
on us today, then Jesus was wrong in claiming to fulfill it and His sacrifice on the cross
was insufficient to save. Thank God, Jesus fulfilled the whole Law and
now grants us His righteousness as a free gift. “Know that a person is not justified by
the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus
that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by
the works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Want to learn more? Subscribe so you don’t miss the next video! Visit GotQuestions.org for more great content. And check out the details section below this
video, there is one book I recommend, along with several related articles. If you’d like to learn about Bible Munch,
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linked right here. Now remember, Got questions? The Bible has answers, and we’ll help you
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