Is the Old Testament relevant to New Testament Christians? We’ve been enjoying looking verse-by-verse at Matthew chapter 5, which is the first of three chapters which incorporate Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. A sermon spoken to his disciples who gathered to listen to Him one day on a hilltop in Galilee.
We just finished the section on the previous Little Lesson about Jesus’ words of us being the light of the world, and not hindering that light from shining, and so forth.
And we come now to what in many Bibles is a new paragraph. Of course, we realize that in the original Greek they didn’t have such things as paragraphs, so it’s up to the translators to decide where a new paragraph should start. And it’s important because new paragraphs imply that we’re not just continuing exactly on what we were talking about. This is a related subject but it’s a new subject in a sense.
So we’re looking at Matthew 5:17. A critical verse, I believe, in the Sermon on the Mount, and one worth our time to take a look at.
Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the prophets.” Now let’s just stop right there. What where are the Law and the Prophets? Well, that’s basically the entire Old Testament. You might technically cut out some of the historical books. 1 and 2 Kings. 1 and 2 Chronicles and so forth.
But the law, no doubt, that’s contained in the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch. You find of course, the Exodus from Israel, and then the giving of the law of Moses. But anything that God commanded to Israel has got to be considered part of the law.
And then you have the prophets, which we’ve divided them up into major … that is bigger, longer … prophets. And then the minor prophets, which are shorter. And there’s bunches of those.
And so the question I posed at the first part of our Little Lesson today: Is the Old Testament relevant to New Testament Christians? Well, Jesus says, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law and the Prophets.” I don’t know why He said that but I suppose there were some people who had that impression because of his teaching. They thought, “Well, He’s just doing away with all that.”
Well, He wasn’t doing away with the Law and the Prophets. Oh my goodness. The Law and the Prophets. The law was given by God. All the prophets were inspired by God speaking on behalf of God. And so that’s not passing away. God’s word’s not passing away. It’s always relevant at least to a degree, even if it’s not spoken directly to you and it’s really addressed to somebody else. Still it’s the word of God and what God said to that person has relevance to us because God is God and we want to know how He deals with people. And He’s consistent in his dealings with people. It shows elements of his character as we read what He says to other people that even He didn’t say it to us. Right? Right.
Okay. In the old covenant law and prophets we learn a lot of lessons about basic morality. You find the 10 commandments in the law of Moses. You find in the law love your neighbor as yourself. So these are things that are still very relevant. So Jesus says, “Au contraire, monsieur. I didn’t not come to abolish the law or the prophets. I don not come to abolish,” He says emphatically, “but to fulfill.”
So the opposite, the antithesis of abolishing is incorporated in that word fulfill. Now, when we hear that word fulfill, we often think of fulfilling the prophecies. We know that in the Old Testament it was promised that Messiah would come, and where He would be born, and what He would do, and so forth. What He would accomplish. And that He would be the suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53.
And so, we’re tempted to think that Jesus is talking here about, “Oh, I’m not doing away with all that stuff because there’s a lot of prophecies that I have to fulfill there yet as the Messiah. And of course, not just prophecies that I have to fulfill. But there’s a lot of future prophecies that will be fulfilled long after my time.” Because we can read about future times when God’s wrath is going to come upon this earth in a great way.
The great day of the Lord and the coming back of the Lord, and the setting up of his kingdom. All these are still yet to be fulfilled. So of course those prophets and those prophecies are relevant to us today because we’re waiting to see fulfillment of the prophecy.
But my point is this. That when Jesus says, “I did not come to abolish but to fulfill,” we often are tempted to think that He’s referring to fulfilling prophecies. But I think that He meant even more than that. And why do I say that.
Well, because He goes on to talk abut the commandments that are found in the Law and the Prophets and how they’re still relevant at his time. And they will still be relevant until heaven and earth pass away.
So, I would say that here in the Sermon on the Mount that is forthcoming, we see Jesus in a sense not abolishing the commandments, the moral principles and so forth found in the Law and the Prophets. We find Him even filling them to the full. That is clarifying, giving us a clear understanding of what was meant when God gave certain commandments.
And of course then correcting the false understanding that was so prevalent about the commandments and what God’s expectations were because of the false teaching and the perversion of the scripture by the Scribes and the Pharisees. And they’re going to be named real soon here as well.
So, I like to look at it as Jesus said, “I’m not going to abolish what you find in the Old Testament.” What we call today the Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets. “I’m going to fill it to the full. So, I’m going to fulfill prophecies that you find there. I’m going to clarify misunderstandings that you have about what’s taught there. I’m going to give prophetic insight myself beyond what’s found there. And last but not least, as far as misunderstandings are concerned about my commandments and what I expect, how my followers should live. I’m going to fill that to the full as well.”
That’s what He’s going to do. And a lot of what comes in the Sermon on the Mount.
Okay, so in our next lesson, we’ll jump into the next verse. An elaboration on what we just read in Matthew 5:17.
Thank you so much for joining me. See you next time.