What did the Savior mean by "I came to fulfill the Law" Matt 5:17-19
In Matt 5:17-19, the Savior could not have made it any plainer when He stated that not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law until heaven and earth pass away. And yet Satan, through his ministers today (2 Cor 11:13-15), has people completely twisting the words of the Messiah into saying just the opposite of what the Master said.
Mat 5:17 Do not think that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I did not come to destroy, but to fulfill.
Mat 5:18 For truly I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished
Mat 5:19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (NASV)
In the past I've heard ministers quote these very passages and then go on to explain that what the Savior actually meant when he said he came to 'fulfill' the Law, was that in his 'fulfilling' it, he put an end to it, or did away with it. In other words because he obeyed the Law, or fulfilled it, we no longer have to. He brought the law to an end.
Could this possible be what He meant by the word 'fulfill?' In order to show that word 'fulfill' could not possibly mean to "destroy" or "put an end to," we'll read verse 17 again and substitute the term, 'fulfill,' with the words "do way with", and see if the verse becomes any clearer.
Verse 17, Think not that I am come to destroy the law, ... I am not come to destroy, but to 'do away with' the Law.
The very thing that the Messiah is telling us not to do, that is, "Do not think" that He came to destroy or do away with the Law, is the very thing that Satan has so many people today believing. And they use the “Hard Sayings of Paul” to try to promote this 'No Law' concept. And because of the carnal or fleshly nature of man, there are many people who are very eager to embrace such an unscriptural doctrine as Salvation 'without' obedience.
Verse 18, For verily I say unto you, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter of stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
To the honest individual, it should be clear that 'heaven and earth' have NOT passed away yet, therefore according to the Messiah, NOTHING, not the smallest letter, has at this time, been done away with from the Almighty's Law.
Notice closely the word 'all' in verse 18. Some 'ministers' say that since the Messiah fulfilled, or accomplished 'all' the law, he did away with it and therefore no one else has to obey it. But is that true? Did the Messiah obey or accomplish "all" of the Law. This statement my sound shocking to some but the answer is "no", he did not 'fulfill' or obey "all" the law. As a matter of fact he didn't even fulfill half of the commandments contained within the Law. I'll explain why I say that below in "613 Commandments - "Did the Messiah obey them all"?
Back to Matthew verse 19, Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Who is going to be called 'great in the Kingdom?' It's the one that keeps the Heavenly Father's Law, and teaches others to do the same.
Do you believe that, you who think the Law has been done away with? Will those that are teaching others the need to obey the Law be called great in the kingdom of Heaven? Then where will you be that are telling people it no longer has to be obeyed? (See Matthew 7:21-23).
Those that break, or don't keep even the least of the commandments and teach others to do the same will not be "in" the Kingdom, but they'll be called least "by" those in the Kingdom of heaven".
This word in Matt 5:19 which is translated "in" could have just as easily been translated "by." Meaning those that will not even keep the least of the commandments will be called least "by" those in the Kingdom of Heaven".
You see the 'little' sinners will not inherit the kingdom, but rather it will be those that "are in" the kingdom, the ones who are walking as the Messiah walked, that will be looking down on these people who could not even keep the "least of the commandments" and referring to them as the "least among men."
Matthew 5:19, Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least by the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great by the kingdom of heaven.
Does it really make sense to anyone that someone "teaching men" to break the commandments is going to be "in the kingdom"? As our beloved brother Paul likes to say, "Yahuweh forbid!"
The Messiah died to set us free from sin, that is "all" sin, even the so-called little ones. (Gal 5:21; 2 Tim 2:19; Tit 2:14; 1 John 3:5-9)
(Here are a few of the dozens of times the word translated "in" in Matt 5:19 is used as "by" Mat 5:34; 5:35; 5:36; 12:24; 12:27; 12:28; 14:13; 17:21; 21:27; 23:21; 23:22)
Did the Messiah obey "all" of the Law? The answer will surprise you.
A 12th century Rabbi, named, Moshe Ben Maimonides, also know by the acronym, Rambam, is usually credited with dividing the Torah, the 5 books of Moses, into 613 commandments, 248 positive commandments "thou shall," and 365 negative commandments, "thou shall not." (actually the Torah, the Law, was broken down into 613 commandments prior to the Rambam)
The statement is often made, and correctly so I might add, that "no one can keep 'all' the commandments". And the fact is that "no one was ever expected to keep all the commandments."
Let me to explain.
Most of the 613 commandments, well over half of them, apply directly and specifically to the Levitical priesthood. Laws pertaining to the Temple service, the sacrifices, how they, the priest, were to dress and conduct themselves while officiating in the Temple and outside the temple.
Other commandments apply specifically to women, others to men, some to children. There are laws pertaining to lepers, others to the upkeep of livestock and so on. In other words 'most' of the 613 commandments "do not" apply to each of us as individuals. But the ones that do apply to every man, woman, and child, are to be obeyed by every man, woman, and child, as much as today, as the day they were given.
Did the laws pertaining to the Levitical priesthood, women, husbands, lepers, and livestock apply to the Messiah Yahoshua? No, of course not, none of those commandments would have applied to the Messiah. Did the Messiah obey the Law perfectly? Absolutely he did, the commandments "that applied to him" that is. But the fact is that he "did not" obey all the Law, for "all" the Law did not apply to him. In other words he never did fulfill "most" the Law.
Let me repeat that, the Savior "DID NOT" fulfill all of the Law, because "all" the Law did not apply to him.
Therefore when the Savior tells us in Matthew 5:17 that he came to 'fulfill' or 'obey' the Law, he "did not" mean he came to fulfill, or obey "all" of the Law, he meant quite simply he walked in obedience to all the commandments that applied specifically to him. And not the laws that applied to the Levites, women, husbands, lepers, livestock, and so on.
The reason for mentioning that is because so many ministers today, in an attempt to belittle or try to do away with the Law, say that since the Messiah tells us in Matt 5:17-19, that he came to "fulfill" the Law that somehow means that we no longer have to obey it. Hopefully you can see the Messiah did not fulfill, or obey, "all" of the Law. As a matter of fact when we consider that approximately half of all the commandments applied specifically to the Levitical priesthood, some to woman, some to husbands, lepers, and livestock, none of which would have applied to the Messiah, he "fulfilled" a very small fraction of the 613 commandments mentioned in the Law.
So the next time a 'ministers' tries to tell you that because the Messiah "fulfilled" or obeyed the Law, that somehow means you and I no longer have to, you can show him how that makes no sense whatsoever.
To view a complete list of passages that are often times misunderstood see "The Hard Sayings of Paul" - Part 2