Matthew 5:17

Read Introduction to Matthew


Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.:


Jesus defended His view of the Old Testament here because religious leaders of Israel attacked His teaching. He rejected the doctrines of the scribes and Pharisees and this angered them. His teaching was so radically different from theirs that they thought He was a heretic.
 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
Since Jesus was about to contrast what He said and what the Old Testament said, He did not want to leave the impression that He came to abolish (Literally undo) the Law and Prophets.
The terms “Law” and “Prophets” refer to two of the three major divisions of the Hebrew Bible. The third is the Psalms. However, the meaning may carry the idea of the entire Old Testament.
Jesus fulfilled the moral and spiritual codes with His life and work. There are three codes in the Mosaic Law:
1.    The moral code or commandments—shows God’s standards for fellowship with Him.
2.    The spiritual code or ordinances—shows the coming Messiah by type.
3.    The social code or laws of Israel’s national society
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Jesus did not come to abolish Old Testament teachings but to “fulfill them.” He fulfilled them with both His person as the Messiah and His teaching about the kingdom. Jesus fulfilled the ceremonial laws that typified the coming antitype. He did not offer a competitive system to the Old Testament but established it.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, Ro 8:1-3
PRINCIPLE: Jesus’ death fulfilled all the demands of the Law.
APPLICATION: Jesus took the curse of the Law for us. His death was a fulfillment of the Law. Jesus’ death rent the veil of the temple to open the way into God’s very presence
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh… Heb 10:19-20
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Eph 2:13
Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)… Ga 3:13
Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant (Mosaic Law) and instituted a New Covenant. He fulfilled types (the illustration) by becoming the antitype (the reality).
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. Ro 10:4
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. Ga 3:24-26

16 Responses to “Matthew 5:17”

  • Dr. Richison,

    You made a switch in your initial remarks concerning the actual text from “Law or Prophets” to “Law and Prophets.” Your commentary was based on the second phrase rather than the actual text.

    Do you think that there is any significance in the change from “and” to “or” within the Matthean text; especially in light of the fact that the Law is what is dealt with throughout the sermon?



  • Justin,

    Thanks for your comments.

    The Greek text does indeed read “Law or Prophets” indicating that there is a distinction between the Law and the Prophets, which is the point I try to make. Jesus did not come to destroy the Law or the Prophets. The collective use of the word “them” indicates that Jesus viewed both the Law and Prophets as a unit as well. Jesus came to fulfill both the Law and Prophets.


  • Mr. Richison,

    It’s Dustin…not Justin. :)

    Is the word “them” in the Greek? In other words, does the Greek read “I have not come to abolish them…”; or does it read “I have not come to abolish…?”


  • Sorry “Dustin” about the name.

    The word “them” is not explicitly in the Greek but is there by implication of an object (ellipsis). That is, the sentence does not have meaning without supplying the object. An ellipsis is also a Greek way to emphatically make the point. Words are necessary for grammar but not necessary for sense. The laws of syntax requre at least three words to make complete sense (a subject, predicate, and an object). Second Peter, for example, is filled with ellipsis because Peter makes emphatic points about false teachers. Ellipsis in the New Testament is not there by omission or accident but from design to lay stress on the word omitted.

  • Is it possible that the Greek word ‘pleroo’ could mean to “make full” as in bringing a fuller meaning to the ‘Law & Prophets’?

    In the context of the passage, it seems to make more sense. After all, immediately following that verse, He said that not even the smallest stroke of the pen would pass from the “Law” till heaven and earth pass away and all is “fulfilled”[notice also a very different Greek word is used for "fulfilled" in verse 18].

    In comparing the Greek word “pleroo” to other passages:
    Mt 13:48: Which, when it [the net] was full [pleroo], they drew to shore
    Luke 2:40: And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled [pleroo] with wisdom:
    Mt 3:15 … for thus it becometh us to fulfil [pleroo] all righteousness…

    It seems to me that a better translation (and understanding) of what Jesus said would be “I have not come to abolish [them] but to make [them] full” or maybe “fully explain [them]“.

  • James, pleroo carries the meanings of ??????
    a fill
    b make complete
    c finish
    d provide fully
    e proclaim completely
    f give true meaning
    g cause to happen
    ??????: unit
    ?????? ??? ???????
    cause to think 30.29

    Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 2: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (199). New York: United Bible societies.

    We need to remember that the oo verbs, that is, suffixes ending in omicron omega are causative. Thus, the word in its essential means to cause something to be full. Thus, Christ made complete the law on our behalf. Your translation “make them full” would be the better of the two options.

  • Nice article, helps to highlight some important issues in the word of God. I ordered bacon (pork) for lunch and people around me told me that as a devout Christian I should not be eating pork. I told them that Christ has redeemed me from the law and also, what defiles a man is what comes out and not what goes in. Along the same line, Paul said in Colossians that we should not be judged but what we eat or what we dont.
    I believe Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law in this way; through Him those who believe are made perfect by grace and not fulfillment of any set standards (law). Through Christ, we received forgiveness of all unrighteousness in us and God sees us as holy, blameless, and beyond reproach. Whatever standard of behavior we were not able to adhere to (hence alienated from God), God has reconciled to Himself through the perfect body of sin-less Christ Jesus, our Lord. That is the basic foundation of my faith, in a nutshell. I am still seeking the Holy Spirit to teach me more.
    What is your opinion of food as far as our relationship with God is concerned?

  • without sin there is no law.

  • Am glad for christ fot making it for us his yoke is easy

  • That is a blessing indeed.

  • I believe the Law is still valid, Jesus was the flesh that was nailed to the cross, but His spirit(the Word) never will die. This was mentioned by John, John 1:1. The same Word that was written in the tablets of stones given to Moses. It wont be biblical if we say that the Law(Moral Law) which is contains the WORD of God be dead, Bible say,the grass withered, the flowers fadeth, but the Word of our God stands for ever..If you know who is the Word you will be able to clearly see,what law was nailed. If the Word is dead, than Jesus the flesh is still in the grave by now, and we believing a unrisen Savior.

  • Sils, the moral law never died and is still relevant to us today. There are three aspects to the the Old Testament law: 1) the moral law, 2) the ceremonial law such as the sacrifices, these were types (not the reality), Christ was the reality (the book of Hebrews), 3) the social or governmental laws of Israel.

    The moral law represents the standards of God's character and those standards never change because God can never change. However, that places a great demand on people, we can never live up to those demands but Jesus did that for us. Study the book of Galatians on this subject.

  • Unbelievers frequently quote this verse to both imply that we are extremists who should be stoning homosexuals and adultereres and killing disobedient children .. and make a moral equivilancy between us and Islamists:

    What is your response to those who make this claim regarding this verse linking it to OT passages calling for the Israleites to harshly and/or brutaly deal with sin: (Deuteronomy 6 for example). ?

  • Sometimes it helps me understand passages by comparing it to the oppositr. If Jesus said he abolished the law, we would be allowed to live in complete lawlessness, and do whatever our lusts took us with no consequences. Instead he did not stop the law, but allowed it to do its purose, and reveal our sinfullness. By fulfilling the law, Jesus caused believers to be sinless, as Christ is.

    Any comment?

  • Allison, it is dangerous to speculate about what the Bible might be saying, rather, we should take the statements of Scripture for what they say. 

  • R. L., There is a difference between the law under Israel and the church. Israel was a national entity and operated as a theocracy. As such, it had national laws about the stability of society. The church does not function on national laws but on the principles of grace. Therefore, to compare laws given to a national entitity with the church is a distortion of the NT economy. 

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