What did Jesus teach us about the (Old Testament) law? Did Jesus teach us to uphold the law during the Sermon on the Mount and follow all the rules and rituals of the Old Testament?
Many Christians believe that Jesus said we should stay true to the the Old Testament law during the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5. Lets have a look at Matthew 5:
Do not think that I came to do away with or undo the [a]Law [of Moses] or the [writings of the] Prophets; I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you and most solemnly say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke [of the pen] will pass from the Law until all things [which it foreshadows] are accomplished. So whoever breaks one of the least [important] of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [important] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever practices and teaches them, he will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-19The key word above is fulfill in verse 17. The original word used is plēroō:
play-ro'-oJesus came to complete the law, to finish it, to end it and to expire it!
From G4134; to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: - accomplish, X after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.
What about 'whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments'?Jesus did not come to teach us a more relaxed version of the Old Testament law. He came to replace it with a new law (Love).
He needed the Old Testament Law to stay in tact - to stay as strict and condemning as it was - so that He could end it. No one should teach a more relaxed version of the Old Testament laws - that is not what Jesus came to do. Anyone who teaches a more relaxed version will be called the least. The ones that taught the strict version of the law (think of the prophets and writers of the Old Testament) will be called great.
This is the only way Matthew 5 can be interpreted and understood. How else would you explain that Jesus says 'not one letter should fall away' but then in the next verses gives us examples of how whole sentences of the Old Testament Law are replaced by the law of love?
- In verse 21 He changes the law that says 'You shall not kill' by making it more strict (you kill if you hate).
- In verse 38 - 39 He does not make it more strict, but completely rejects the original laws of an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21) and he replaces it with the opposite!
A lot of Christian churches do exactly what Jesus said we should not do - they teach a more relaxed version of the Old Testament laws were they choose what people should still do (like tithing) and ignore laws that no one can follow today no matter how strict a fundamentalist they are - think of things like the following:
- No one should touch a woman that has a menstrual period - Leviticus 15:19
- A man who had an injury to his sexual organs is not allowed in church - Deuteronomy 23:1.
- Adulterers should be killed - Leviticus 20:10
- ... and the list goes on ...
Do you really think God wanted us to keep silly and harsh laws like these? These were man-made laws made by people who did not understand God. That is the reason Jesus had to come - to show us that God is a God of love.
The New Law
Jesus came to end the Old Testament Law. He came to teach us something new - something better - the true Law of God - LOVE.
I am giving you a new commandment, that you [a]love one another. Just as I have loved you, so you too are to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love and unselfish concern for one another - John 13:34-35