Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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. 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. 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.” Matthew 5:17-20
Some in Jesus’ day misunderstood and thought that Jesus was trying to throw out all that is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures because He offered forgiveness and life through faith in His name.
Unfortunately, some today assume that Jesus’ teaching does away with the Old Testament and makes these Scriptures obsolete and unnecessary for Christians. Many even believe and teach that one can be a Christian and disregard some or all of what the Bible teaches. But this couldn’t be further from the truth!
It is as Jesus said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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.” Jesus, the long-promised Messiah and Savior, came to fulfill all that is taught in the Old Testament, not to destroy it. Not the smallest letter (jot) of the Law or the smallest part of a letter (tittle) in the Scriptures will pass away until all is fulfilled.
Thus, Jesus went on to say: “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. 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.”
Thus, it is a grave offense to break even the smallest commandment in the Scriptures and teach others so. Those who do so will be least or excluded entirely from God’s kingdom (cf. Ex. 20:1-17; Rom. 6:1ff.).
And, as a study of the Scriptures will reveal, the righteousness which God demands is far greater than the outward righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. It far exceeds the righteousness of the churchgoers of our day who depend on their own righteous works and deeds.
The Scriptures demand perfect righteousness of heart, soul and mind. Jesus said later in His Sermon on the Mount: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). And God says in Leviticus 19:2: “Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy” (cf. Matt. 5:21ff.; 5:27ff.; 5:33ff.; 5:38ff; 5:43ff).The Scriptures demand a holy life in thought, word and deed — righteousness which we do not have and cannot attain by our own attempts to keep God’s Law. Instead of being righteous by keeping the law, the law condemns us. We read in Romans 3:19-20: “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (cf. Rom. 3:9-20).
But Jesus came to keep every commandment of the Scriptures perfectly for us. He regarded the Scriptures as the very Word of God and was obedient in thoughts, desires, words and actions to every teaching of the Law and the Prophets! He fulfilled all and regarded all as absolute truth. He fulfilled the righteous demands of the Scriptures for us.
Jesus also, as prophesied by the Law and the Prophets (the Old Testament Scriptures), took our place under God’s Law and took the guilt and punishment of our sins upon Himself, that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in Him and His blood shed for us upon the cross. In Isaiah 53:6, we read: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
And these same Scriptures declare to us Christ’s full atonement for our sins and the acceptance and pardon of a merciful God for Jesus’ sake. “We have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2; cf. 2 Cor. 5:18-21; Rom. 3:21-28; 4:3-8; 4:23ff.). The Scriptures offer to us the imputed, perfect righteousness of Christ Jesus that we might stand in God’s judgment through faith in Jesus’ name.
And, the Bible assures us that all who trust in Christ will be saved. Jesus said in John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” Those who trust in Jesus will not be condemned but have eternal life (cf. John 5:24; 3:16-18; Mark 16:16)!
Dear LORD Jesus, holy Son of God and true man, our Savior, thank You for fulfilling for us the perfect righteousness taught and demanded in the Holy Scriptures, and thank You for bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for all our sins and then rising again to grant us forgiveness and life — perfect righteousness — through faith in Your name. Amen.
[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version.]