Matthew 5:19

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Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.


Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments
The word “relaxes” means to loose, set free, untie. Here it carries the idea of putting aside or breaking. We cannot personally decide to abrogate any part of the Word of God that we do not prefer.
Jesus ranked commandments into “least” and greatest.
and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven,
Violation of God’s commands by teaching or practice places one at the bottom of the totem pole in God’s kingdom. This is especially true of teachers who abrogate God’s Word by systems of hermeneutics and theology.
but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Practice of the principles of the kingdom elevates one to high status in the kingdom. The issue here is establishing true principles by teaching and the application of principle to experience.
Those who teach principles of the kingdom will hold high status as well. There is a responsibility not only to do but also to faithfully teach principles from God’s Word.
PRINCIPLE: God does not give us the option to choose which commandments we want to teach or do.
APPLICATION: There is a proclivity to relax God’s standards either by teaching or practice. We want to explain them away in order to justify our sin. The “least of the commandments” is vulnerable to this thinking.
This passage does not sponsor legalism. Legalism functions by operation bootstraps, by self-effort. However, living under the principles of the kingdom is a way of life gladly embraced by grace. Christ ended self-effort to gain God’s approbation by personally fulfilling the law.
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believes. Ro 10:4

9 Responses to “Matthew 5:19”

  • Do you think Christians are obligated to study the OT Law and try to fulfill it? How do we balance this passage with the teaching of Acts 15 that frees Gentiles from obligation to the OT Law and with Paul’s teaching in Galatians emphasizing our freedom from the Law?

  • @Tom Wendel:
    I was looking up information about this same thing, and I found this commentary that clarified things well for me. Maybe you can take a look and see if it answers your question.

  • Tom,the law is broken into three divisions: 1) the moral law, 2) the civil law, and 3) the ceremonial law. All these categories relate primarily to the nation Israel. Since Israel was a theocracy, it was a nation who represented God on earth. We are all to keep the moral law but not the civil law of Israel nor the ceremonial law since Jesus fulfilled the entire ceremonial law. The books of Galatians and Hebrews argue that the believer is not to put himself under the law, especially since Christ met all the demands of the law.

  • In these two verses I believe that Jesus is stating that every single jot and tittle must be kept until all is fulfilled,… BUT He just explained to these people that “He” came to fulfill it. So then, all of it, even down to the least jot and tittle, would no longer be a weight on their shoulders.

    Verse 19 is the most difficult of the three verses.
    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.” It doesn’t seem a good idea to break this up into what is the moral code, civil, ceremonial, judicial, etc. But because of the very explicit amount of stress put on actually obeying every single jot and tittle, I think the emphasis is on the everyday “doing” of even the least of these commandments.

    I was thinking,… why would Jesus look out at these people and say “if you do and teach every single jot and tittle, to the very least one, you will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven”, when He knows that not one person on the face of this earth could do that? Only He could do that. So why would He say that? Also every person listening to Him must be thinking with shame and concern, “I’m going to be the least in Heaven, I’ve not kept every commandment”. I placed myself in that audience of people listening to Him and I believe that those words came down like a hammer in the hearts of those people, indicting them. Look at the weight of hopelessness and despair those words bring. Could it be that Jesus is using this to show the vast contrast between the heavy yolk that they are under and what He means when He says “I have come to fulfill this Law?” He’s looking at these people and He knows that they are all thinking of their own failure to keep the law. There is a vast contrast here, and many of those people would eventually understand what the Lord is saying when He says “I have come to fulfill every jot and tittle.” Christ is saying, “these laws, even to the very least of them, have passed from you unto Me”.

    I think that verse 19 could have possible been said to emphasize the vast contrast between a heavy yolk that was against us and contrary to us, and the incredible freedom from these laws that Jesus has brought to a close by fulfilling them all?

  • Sandra, the very premise of your thesis is not right. The “law” here refers to the Word of God. The idea is God will preserve His Word into eternity. Nothing will destroy it no matter what men may do. However, if any teacher teach others to minimize Scripture then that is an issue for Jesus. A number of passages in the New Testament say that Jesus fulfilled the law (all three aspects of the law, the moral, the civil, and the ceremonial) by His death on the cross. See the book of Hebrews on that point. This frees the believer in Christ from having to fulfill the law himself/herself. Verse 17 says that Jesus Himself fulfilled the law.

  • I understand that “the Law and the Prophets” refers to the Old Testament. I do understand that Jesus fulfilled all three aspects of the law, the moral, the civil, and the ceremonial by His death on the cross and that we, as Christians, are no longer under the OT Laws. It’s the very specific and obvious emphasis on the words “jot and tittle” and again reiterated with the words “the least of these commandments” that seem to stress that Jesus means this literally. There’s nothing here that really allows us to dissect the Law and only apply “every jot and tittle to the Moral aspect of it, is there? Using hermeneutic rules, we are to take the Word of God literally unless the verse demands we take it symbolically. Are you saying that these are simply symbolic phrases and Jesus just meant in general that we are to obey the Moral aspect of the Old Testament Law.

    Why would He state it in this way?

    I have, for a long time, been dealing with family which has embraced the Hebrew Roots Movement. This verse is used often by them and also by Sabbath keeping groups to verify their beliefs. However it also works against them, because they themselves do not keep every jot and tittle.
    So they elaborately twist this verse to explain their case and we seem to be bending over backwards to explain it to fit our beliefs.

    But if we stick with what it says and take it literally, couldn’t it have been used by the Lord as a teaching tool for the Jews who were listening and realizing the impossibility of keeping every jot and tittle, and that Jesus freed them from this heavy yolk when he fulfilled it?

  • Amen Sandra! It seems that Christ was speaking in a literal sense, just as he was literally speaking when he said:

    “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28

    No matter how high and lofty man would like to place himself, the “new” criteria Christ gives while he walked this earth seems to be impossible to keep in our natural physical state or in this flesh. Now if we walk in the Spirit 100% of our daily lives till death, then it MAY be possible. But as Ecclesiates 7:20 says:

    “For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not”

    How many people do you know in the circle of humans you associate with or have associated with in life, have not committed an act of physical sin? This is not to mention the thoughts they have pondered in their daily lives and we as well. I can’t think of a time where I have NOT broken the “revised” law of Christ, so to speak, in my life!

    There is no way out of it, you either come to the realization you are in dire need of a saviour and Christ’s blood is sufficient for your sins or you can “attempt” to live that spotless life on your own apart from the finished, fulfilled work of Christ. But if you choose the latter, just remember:

    “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one [point], he is guilty of all.” James 2:10

    “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” James 2:13

  • Grant,

    Have you given any consideration that Jesus is now referring to the “new” commands from the previous verses? I ask because He says “…but whoever practices and teaches these commands…” Just a thought.

  • In addition, I’m not suggesting that Jesus was NOT talking about the original 10 Commandments as well. What I found interesting is that He differentiated between commandments and commands. Maybe I’m just looking too much into this. The “blessed life” teaching have been likened to the NT’s 10 Commandments by some.

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