Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 5:17-20.
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill (Matthew 5:17).
There are at least five key themes in Matthew 5:17-20:
First: Christ and the Old Testament (v. 17):
When Christ says he came not to destroy the law of the prophets, one may take this as a reference to the Old Testament, which ancient Jews often divided into three parts: the law, the prophets, and the writings (cf. Luke 24:44).
Christ here affirms the Old Testament as the first part of the Christian Bible. One of the earliest heresies was that of Marcion who rejected the Old Testament. Many today are “practical Marconites.” We should, however, read the Old Testament devotionally, and it should be preached in our churches.
Second: Christ and the Law (vv. 17-18):
Some Christians wrongly think that all the law is now void and null. Reformed theology teaches the threefold view of the law: the moral law, as epitomized in the Ten Commandments, is still fulling binding; the ceremonial law, is abrogated; and the civil law is expired, though the general equity of its principles might still be applied.
Paul will write that the law is “holy” (Rom 7:12). He will add: “But the law is good, if a man uses it lawfully” (1 Tim 1:8).
Third: Christ and the preservation of Scripture (v. 18):
When Christ says that not one jot or tittle of the law will pass away, he is making reference to the slightest pen stroke in the writing of Scripture. Christ promises the plenary verbal preservation of his Word.
Fourth: Christ and the doing of the word (v. 19):
Christ here warns against those who break the least of the commandments and teach others to do the same (v. 19a). They will be called least in the kingdom. Positively he commends the one who does and teaches these commandments (v. 19b). He will be called great in the kingdom.
Fifth: Christ and the higher righteousness (v. 20):
The scribes and Pharisees are usually the “bad guys” in the Gospels, but Christ here commends them. His disciples are to have a higher righteousness than the most religious men of their day. This touches the theme of the “impossible ideal.” We cannot attain such righteousness. It must come to us from Christ (2 Cor 5:21).
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle