Matthew 5:17-20

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

JESUS’ RELATION TO THE LAW

INTRODUCTION:

 

II Timothy 3:14-1714 But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

 

II Peter 1:14-2114 Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath shewed me. 15 Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance. 16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. 19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. 21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

 

Romans 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

 

Jesus regarded the Old Testament Scriptures as inspired by God and important in every detail.

 

In Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus points out His relationship to the law. He had not come to overthrow the Old Testament Scriptures but to fulfill them. Furthermore, He will fulfill them down to the smallest Hebrew letter or even a part of a Hebrew letter. Anyone who fails to keep even one of the least significant commandments found in the law and also teaches others to break the commandment will be regarded as insignificant in the kingdom of heaven; whereas, anyone who keeps or obeys the law and teaches others to obey it, will be considered great in the kingdom of heaven. In addition, the righteousness practiced and taught by the scribes and Pharisees is inadequate to enable them to enter the kingdom of heaven.

In verse 17 we see that –

    I.     JESUS CAME TO FULFIL THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS – 5:17

 

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

 

According to verse 17, Jesus did not come to destroy the law or the prophets; rather He came to fulfill them both.

 

The tense of think not indicates that no one is even to begin to think (i.e. to begin to believe or to begin to consider) or ever to think (i.e. ever to believe or ever to consider).

 

What no one is never even to begin to think, believe, or consider is that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets.

 

I is Jesus.

 

That I am come is that I came, and it has been translated in a way which emphasizes the result of its action.

 

To destroy suggests to end the effect (or validity) of, to put an end to, or to cause to be no longer in force in the sense of to abolish, to annul, or to make invalid. When used with the law or the prophets, it means to abolish the law or the prophets, to do away with the law or the prophets, to annul the law or the prophets, or to repeal the law or the prophets.

 

The law or the prophets refers to the Old Testament Scriptures.

 

Christ then asserts, I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

 

I am not come to destroy is repeated from the previous phrase and means I did not come to destroy.

 

To destroy indicates a purpose for which Christ did not come; whereas, but introduces a reason for which Christ did come: to fulfil, i.e. to fulfil the law and the prophets, to fulfil the Old Testament Scriptures.

 

But is introducing a statement of purpose in strong contrast to to destroy.

 

To fulfil implies to fulfil the law and the prophets, i.e. to fulfil what the law and the prophets said. He is not overthrowing the Old Testament Scriptures; rather, He is fulfilling them. Jesus fulfilled the law in that He obeyed it completely. He never disobeyed it even once throughout His entire lifetime. He also taught others to obey the law in contrast to what the scribes and the Pharisees had done. In addition Jesus fulfilled the types and prophecies found in the Old Testament. He furthermore completed the demands of the law when He died on the cross as a substitute for sinners. As a result, . . . Christ (is) the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth according to Romans 10:4 .

In verse 18 we see that –

  II.     JESUS CAME TO FULFIL EVEN THE SMALLEST DETAIL OF THE LAW – 5:18

 

Matthew 5:18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

 

In verse 18, far from overthrowing the Old Testament Scriptures, Jesus assures His hearers how thoroughly He will fulfill them. His fulfillment of the law will be so thorough and complete that every single letter down to the smallest part of a letter will be fulfilled.

 

For verily I say unto you is for truly (or for assuredly) I am saying (i.e. I am asserting or I am declaring) to you. What Christ is solemnly declaring is found in the rest of this verse.

 

Till heaven and earth pass is until the time when the heaven and the earth pass away (or disappear) so that they no longer exist.

 

Turn to Psalms 119 in your Bibles.

 

One jot is one iota. It represents the Hebrew yod, which is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Its size in comparison with the other letters in the Hebrew alphabet is like the size of the apostrophe in English compared with the other letters of the English alphabet. In Psalms 119 in many King James Bibles the letters of the Hebrew Bible appear individually in alphabetical order before each group of eight verses. Do you see the letters of the Hebrew alphabet in your King James Bible? Find Psalms 119:73 . Note that the letter before verse 73 is the yod. In comparison with the rest of the Hebrew letters, its size is seen to be considerably smaller.

 

Or one tittle is or one projection (or one hook) of a letter. It represents a small portion of one letter of the Hebrew alphabet which distinguishes it from another letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

 

For you to see what a tittle is, compare the Hebrew letter which appears before verse 25 with the Hebrew letter which appears before verse 153. The Daleth, which appears before verse 25, is distinguished from the Resh, which appears before verse 153, in the upper right part of the letter by a small pen stroke. The Daleth has a little overhang. This is the tittle. In English it would be like distinguishing the capital E from the capital F or the capital R from the capital P. Jesus is saying that not even a small portion of one letter of the law will fail to be fulfilled.

 

Back to Matthew 5:18

Shall in no wise pass from the law till all be fulfilled indicates that the entire law down to the smallest portion of one letter will be completely fulfilled.

 

Shall in no wise pass employs the strongest negative possible in Greek, which means that it is something which will absolutely never happen.

 

Shall . . . pass is the same word translated pass in the beginning of this verse and means will pass away or will disappear.

 

Till all be fulfilled is until the time when all things come to pass (or have taken place).

 

It should be noted that Jesus did not say that the law would never pass away. He said that it would not pass away until it had been completely fulfilled, and it was completely fulfilled when He died upon the cross in payment for the sins of all humanity.

In verse 19 we see what constitutes –

 III.     GREATNESS IN THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN – 5:19

 

Matthew 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.

 

According to verse 19, greatness in the kingdom of heaven will be achieved by obeying the law and teaching others to obey it. The scribes and Pharisees were themselves breaking the law and teaching others to break it. Jesus is the only One Who would ever keep the law perfectly and also teach others to obey it.

 

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so is equivalent in meaning to the condition if anyone will break one of these least commandments and will teach men so.

 

Whosoever is whoever.

 

Therefore introduces an inference drawn from the fact that the law is not going to be overturned until it has been completely fulfilled. Anyone who lives and teaches contrary to the law will not be highly regarded in the kingdom of heaven. By contrast, anyone who lives and teaches according to the law will be highly regarded in the kingdom of heaven.

 

Shall break suggests repeals, annuls, or abolishes; and its tense indicates that if he ever breaks, repeals, annuls, or abolishes.

 

One of these least commandments is one of these commandments, the least ones. It suggests one of these least significant (i.e. least important or most unimportant) commandments. Inasmuch as all of God’s commandments are important, it suggests one of these least commandments in man’s opinion.

 

And shall teach men so indicates that in addition to breaking one of the least of the commandments, he also teaches or instructs others to break the commandments.

 

And connects shall break with shall teach.

 

Shall teach is teaches or instructs, and its tense indicates that if he ever teaches them.

 

Men is the generic term for human beings and includes females as well as males and is understood in the sense of human beings or people.

 

Shall teach men so is shall teach people thus or shall teach people in this manner and suggests that He teaches people to break one of the least of these commands. Of course, this is something the Pharisees were doing.

 

The Scriptures warn against changing what God has said in the Scriptures by adding to it or taking away from it.

 

He shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven functions in the verse as the conclusion of the condition. If the condition is fulfilled, the conclusion will also be fulfilled.

 

He shall be called suggests he will be addressed as or he will be designated as.

 

The least is simply least, which suggests least important or least significant; and it has been placed in a position of emphasis in the Greek text, which reads literally, Least he will be called in the kingdom of heaven. Even some who have been genuinely saved may sometimes be guilty of breaking some things commanded in the Scriptures and of teaching others to do the same. Six times in chapter 5 Jesus will illustrate what the scribes and Pharisees were teaching the people in contrast to the understanding God intended for them in the law.

 

The kingdom of heaven is also mentioned in verses 3, 10, and 20. According to verse 3, the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are poor in spirit. In verse 10 it is learned that the kingdom of heaven belongs to those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. In verse 20 it is learned that if someone’s righteousness does not exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, he will not enter into the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is the rule or reign of the God of heaven over the earth. In this chapter it refers to the rule or reign of heaven in the lives of individuals. Although it sometimes (as in chapter 13) refers to professing believers, in chapter 5 it seems to be referring only to genuinely saved individuals.

 

But introduces a statement in mild contrast to whosoever . . . shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so.

 

Whosoever shall do and teach them is equivalent to the condition if someone will do and teach (them).

 

Whosoever is whoever.

 

Shall do and teach them is will do and teach. As indicated by the italics, them has been supplied by the translators and refers to the commandments.

 

The same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven is the conclusion of the condition. If the condition is met, the conclusion will also be met.

 

The same is this one or he.

 

Shall be called is the same term used in the first half of this verse and means he will be addressed as or he will be designated as.

 

What he will be called is great, which speaks of his importance.

 

In the kingdom of heaven indicates where he will be called great. Once again, the kingdom of heaven is the rule or reign of the God of heaven over the earth. In this chapter it refers to the rule or reign of heaven in the lives of individual believers.

In verse 20 we see –

 IV.     THE INADEQUACY OF THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE SCRIBES AND PHARISEES FOR GAINING ENTRANCE INTO THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN – 5:20

 

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Entrance into the kingdom of heaven requires more righteousness than the scribes and Pharisees have. They will not make it into the kingdom of heaven based on their own righteousness, and neither will their followers. In verse 20 Jesus indicates that the righteousness the scribes and Pharisees were practicing was not enough to enable them to be admitted into the kingdom of heaven.

 

As translated, for may introduce the cause or reason for what Jesus said in verse 19. It may instead be emphatic and understood in the sense of certainly or indeed.

 

I is Jesus, and you refers to those who were listening to Him as He spoke on this occasion. It is also applicable by extension to all who read the Sermon on the Mount.

 

I say unto you is I am saying to you, I am declaring to you, I am proclaiming to you, or I am telling you.

 

What Jesus is asserting is, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Its structure in the Greek text is that of a conditional statement.

 

The condition is except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, and the conclusion is ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

Except your righteousness shall exceed is unless your righteousness exceeds or if your righteousness does not exceed.

 

Your is plural and refers to those who were listening to Jesus deliver this Sermon on the Mount as well as to all those who read it.

 

Righteousness is uprightness and speaks of their behavior in life.

 

Shall exceed suggests abounds more than, is present in more abundance, or far surpasses. Shall exceed is emphasized by its placement in the Greek text.

 

The righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees suggests the righteousness possessed by the scribes and Pharisees. Their righteousness was an external and an outward show, but their hearts were wicked. However, they were supposedly the epitome or standard of righteousness, meticulously carrying themselves as keeping the law. However, like everyone else, they were sinners in desperate need of the salvation Christ had come to provide.

 

The scribes were specialists or experts in the law of Moses. They were well versed in the law. They were teachers and interpreters of the law.

 

The Pharisees were the conservative separatists of the day. They were the most conservative of the Jewish sects. They accepted the entire Old Testament as the Word of God and believed in miracles and in life after death. They were supposedly examples of people who obeyed the law. The Apostle Paul was a Pharisee prior to his salvation. Many Pharisees were saved in Acts.

 

Ye is you (plural) and refers to Jesus’ listeners as well as to all persons who read the Sermon on the Mount.

 

Shall in no case enter suggests will absolutely not enter or will in no way ever enter. It makes use of the strongest negative possible in the Greek language.

 

In this context, They will never enter into the kingdom of heaven suggests that they will never get to heaven itself. It goes beyond the realm of profession and refers to genuinely saved people. They will never be able to be saved on the basis of their self righteousness but will need to be justified (i.e. declared righteous by God the Father) as the result of their receiving Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

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