Jesus Christ Fulfilled the Law – Meaning of Fulfilling the Law
How do we know when the word “Commandment” or “Commandments” in the New Testament actually refers to the Biblical Ten Commandments? Does loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself nullify the Ten Commandments? The Apostle John wrote that Jesus spoke of a “New Commandment.” What does John mean by this and does it change our obligation to observe the Ten Commandments? Does Jesus fulfilling the law bring an end to the law? All these questions will now be answered not by speculation or private interpretation, but by references from the Word of God.
In Matthew 5:17, Jesus assures us that He did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it. In verse 19, He states that we are not only to obey the law but we are to teach it also. Despite the clear instructions of Jesus that we are not only to OBEY the law but we are to TEACH it also, there are those that not only do not teach the law but they teach the law has ended and even severely condemn and criticize those that do teach the law. Their response to this passage is that fulfilling the law brings an end to the law, that is, destroys the law. Have a close look at this passage and see what Jesus would be saying if this were true. Consider if this paraphrased version makes any sense.
Starting with verse 17, this is what Jesus would effectively be saying, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to DESTROY THE LAW but I have come to DESTROY THE LAW. Now that I have come to fulfil the law and hence destroy the law, I am telling you that till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall, that is, not the crossing of a “t” or the dotting of an “i” shall in NO wise pass from the law that I am ending. And since fulfilling the law ends and destroys the law, I am telling you that whosoever therefore shall BREAK ONE of these least Commandments shall be referred to as least by those in the kingdom, and since I am abolishing the law, I am telling you that you are now to TEACH THE LAW also that I am abolishing. You have heard before that “THOU SHALL NOT KILL” but now that I am fulfilling and so ending the law, now I say that whosoever is ANGRY with his brother WITHOUT A CAUSE shall be in danger of the judgment and whosoever shall say, YOU FOOL, shall be in danger of HELL FIRE. You have heard that it was said by them of old time, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY” but since fulfilling the law ends the law, now I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has COMMITTED ADULTERY with her already in his heart.”
No one in their right mind could possibly say that this makes one iota of common sense or logic. One could not have a more absurd load of nonsense and contradictory statements if one tried. There is a Greek word for fulfilled that we will discuss later below that does mean to bring to an end, but the word used here is not that one. The Greek word used for fulfil in Matthew 5:17 means to do fully or to give full meaning, and to be obeyed as it should be. Clearly what we do not see in this passage is Jesus destroying the law as He informed us He would not do, but what we do observe is Jesus giving the law its full meaning by obeying and magnifying the law. The other fact that many overlook is that any relevant change that was to occur in the New Testament was always prophesied in the Old Testament. Where in the Old Testament does it say that Jesus would end the law or even one Commandment such as the fourth Commandment the Sabbath? It does not! Since this passage is actually showing Jesus magnifying the law, we should have an Old Testament prophet telling us that Jesus would in fact magnify the law. Does this scripture exist? It has to and does! We should not be strangers to this fact as we are given a Messianic prophecy that tells us that Christ would in fact do exactly this, and there is no mistaking that this is precisely what Jesus is doing in Matthew 5 and not destroying or ending the law as we are told ever so clear that He was not going to do.
Isaiah 42:21 “The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will MAGNIFY the law, and make it honourable.”
We are told the law would be magnified and made honourable, not destroyed. In the remainder of Matthew chapter 5 we see how Jesus has without a doubt magnified the law. We note the following; Matthew 5:19 from not only obeying the law but teaching it also, 5:21-22 from do not kill to not being angry with your brother without cause, 5:27-28 from do not commit adultery to being guilty if you look at a woman lustfully, 5:31 from divorcing by a letter to any man who divorces his wife except for sexual immorality, causes her or anyone who marries a divorced woman to commit adultery, 5:33-37 from not breaking oaths made to the Lord to do not swear at all, either by heaven or earth or by Jerusalem. And do not swear by your head, let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No, 5:38-42 from an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth to turning the other cheek and if someone sues you for your coat, give them your cloak also, 5:43-45 from love your neighbour and hate your enemy to love your enemies and bless them that curse you and pray for those that are spiteful and use you.
Does this give the impression that fulfilling the law ends the law? If this were true then all the following things have also ended. Our Joy, our Righteousness, the Word of God, the Scriptures and our obedience just to name a few. Obviously this is not possible. Below is the Thayer dictionary definition for the Greek word “fulfil” used in Matthew 5:17.G4137 “Pleroo” Thayer definition:
- 1) to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full.
- 2) to render full, i.e. to complete.
- 2a) to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim.
- 2b) to consummate: a number.
- 2b1) to make complete in every particular, to render perfect.
- 2b2) to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking).
- 2c) to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise.
- 2c1) of matters of duty: to perform, execute.
- 2c2) of sayings, promises, prophecies, to bring to pass, ratify, accomplish.
- 2c3) to fulfil, i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment.
Part “2C3” of the Thayer definition is a relevant part for the word “fulfil” in Matthew 5:17. Jesus certainly did not come to destroy the law; He obeyed and carried out the law to the full and magnified it! Jesus does not contradict Himself.
Does Christ fulfilling the law end the Moral law?
Below are some of the other things that would have also ended if this Greek word “fulfil” meant to bring an end to the law. Consider what these scriptures would say if “fulfil” meant to “end.” These following scriptures all use the same Greek word G4137.
Matthew 3:15 “…it becometh us to fulfil [end] all righteousness.”
John 17:13 “…that they might have my joy fulfilled [ended] in themselves.”
2 Thessalonians 1:11 “…and fulfil [end] all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”
Philippians 2:2 “fulfil [end] you my joy, that you be likeminded, having the same love…”
John 17:12 “…that the scripture might be fulfilled [ended].”
Colossians 1:25 “…which is given to me for you, to fulfil [end] the word of God.”
2 Corinthians 10:6 “…having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled [ended].”
Apart from those who are deceived and listening to the wrong spirit, everyone else including all the late famous theologians know and understand that it is an absolute impossibility for this particular Greek word “fulfil” to be meaning bringing an end to the law. The proofs given so far are one hundred percent conclusive and extremely overwhelming but let's go even further. The following verse is the Biblical definition for sin.
1 John 3:4 “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”
For further confirmation and just so there can be no doubt whatsoever.
Romans 4:15 “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.”
If there is no law, then there can be no transgression of the law, which is what sin is. Therefore, evil could freely reign and our Saviour would be obsolete. Who needs a Saviour to save us from our sin when there is no sin? We do not even need to repent of sin anymore, as without a law there can be no transgression of the law, which defines what sin is. Does the Bible say sin is gone? Does Paul say we can now sin that we are under Grace? Remember that sin is transgression of the law and if there is no law then there can be no sin. If there is sin then there has to be a law. It is that simple.
Romans 6:1-2 “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?”
Romans 6:14-15 “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace. 15 What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.”
Obviously sin does remain which is transgression of the law and Paul makes it quite clear that we are not to continue in sin which means the law still has to exist. Even in secular society, you cannot charge someone with murder if the law that says murder is a crime is abolished. If the law that says it is a criminal offence to commit murder does not exist then anyone is free by man's secular law to commit murder. If there is no law, there can be no crime. If it is a crime then there has to be a law. It is not a difficult concept to grasp. As just demonstrated, the same applies to God's Word and His law.
There are some who have a modified view of this and say that the law is gone but you still cannot break most of the Commandments. When you ask which Commandments individually, you find that fulfilling the law for these people really only does away with one Commandment, being the fourth Commandment the Sabbath. The same reasoning exists behind those who say loving God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself does away with the law. But again, when you ask about still obeying certain Commandments, one finds it still only effectively does away with that one Commandment again. Why is it that all these non-Biblical excuses always seem to be aimed at this one Commandment? What is it about this one Commandment that people are so desperate to avoid? Matthew 22:40 says that “ALL the law hang on these two Commandments” which should make it clear that loving God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself does not effectively make it nine Commandments anyway based on this one statement alone. Satan knows the importance of this Commandment and has achieved a massive victory here that most Christians are not aware of and should be.
The Bible informs us many times that this Commandment is a SIGN that it is God we Worship and that it is a SIGN that it is God we Love and it is a SIGN that shows that it is God that has sanctified us and made us Holy and that we are His children. Do we want to be His children and sanctified by this sign? This is not something to avoid! These SIGNS are NOT valid when we worship on the day effectively instituted by Satan himself. There are also other promised blessings for worshipping on God's Holy day. This is why Satan attacks this one Commandment so hard. Why do we listen to him? It is also because the Word of God says no sacrifice remains for wilful sin (Hebrews 10:26-29) and so only those in the following verse reap the blessings of eternal life. Revelation 22:14 “Blessed are they that do his Commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” As God knows our heart, He winks at ignorance for those who do not know the Sabbath day truth and would otherwise obey, but denial of truth is death. Satan through his agency changed the Sabbath to Sunday in the third century and for hundreds of years this power murdered and tortured anyone that kept this Commandment on God's Holy day, and as a result, the true day was murdered out of existence! Satan did this because he knows the importance of the day. The question is why don't we? It is not about wether we think this day is important or not, it is about wether God says that it is important. To not keep this day Holy is sin. Watch short video of a true story of a Death in Red Square for Sabbath keeping. See who changed the Sabbath to Sunday.
So can we have a situation where the law is gone but you still have to obey all of it but one Commandment? Already this does not make sense for those who truly love God and are not looking for reasons to disobey this one Commandment that is too much of a burden to them. What if the secular law that says, “You cannot murder” is abolished and as a result, an evil person goes out and murders someone? The result is he would be arrested, charged with murder and brought before the court. The murderer would respond, “That law was abolished!” The court would respond, “Yes the law was abolished but you still have to obey it.” If you are not allowed to murder then a law has to exist that says that you cannot murder. You cannot charge people with killing another if there is no law. Again, the same applies to the Ten Commandments. You cannot say the law is gone but we still have to obey NINE?? of the Commandments. Since the Sabbath Commandment is a SIGN that it is God we love and that it is God that makes us Holy and His children, then loving God with all your heart would certainly include this one Commandment that so many try so desperately hard to avoid. The following translation says it quite well and gives a better understanding of what was meant by the word “fulfil.”
Matthew 5:17-20 CEV “Don't suppose that I came to do away with the Law and the Prophets. I did not come to do away with them, but to give them their full meaning. 18 Heaven and earth may disappear. But I promise you that not even a period or comma will ever disappear from the Law. Everything written in it must happen. 19 If you reject even the least important command in the Law and teach others to do the same, you will be the least important person in the kingdom of heaven. But if you obey and teach others its commands, you will have an important place in the kingdom. 20 You must obey God's commands better than the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law obey them. If you don't, I promise you that you will never get into the kingdom of heaven.”
Compare the Contemporary English Version with that of the KJV for clarity on the meaning of the word fulfil in verse 17.
Matthew 5:17-20 KJV “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 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. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least Commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least [by those] in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Just for a quick point revision, here are some of those reasons previously covered why “fulfil” does not abolish the law.
- If this were so, then our Joy, our Righteousness, the Word of God, the Scriptures and our obedience would also be gone just to name a few. Our “righteousness” and our “Joy” and the “Scriptures” do still exist I hope!
- Jesus would be contradicting Himself extremely seriously more than ten times in Matthew chapter five.
- You cannot be told to obey a law that is abolished or does not exist.
- You cannot teach obedience to a law that does not exist. How do you teach how to obey a non-existent law?
- If there was no law then there could be no sin and we would not require a Saviour and someone to intercede on our behalf with the Father for our sins. We do still have to repent of our sins don't we? Some would say no!
- Isaiah 42:21 says that Jesus came to magnify the law. There is nothing that says or was prophesied that Jesus came to abolish the law or even one Commandment.
- The Greek word for “fulfil” used in verse 17 means to make full or to give full meaning. Fulfilling the law as per Matthew 5:17 does not mean to abolish.
- How can the law that is NOT void be ended that we also have to establish and be doers of? Romans 3:31; Romans 2:13.
Now we have a clear understanding of this passage, we can now undoubtedly see that Jesus is telling us that not a “letter” or a “,” or a “.” or the dotting of an “i” or the crossing of a “t” is going to pass from the law as long as heaven and earth are still in existence. Are Heaven and Earth still here? Of course! Therefore every one of the Ten Commandments has to be perfectly intact. Jesus obviously never contradicts Himself or lies. The fourth Commandment is the largest of all the Ten Commandments and for this Holy day to be abolished or changed would be a lot more than a letter of the law. On this one passage alone, it is absolutely impossible for any of the Ten Commandments to have changed. They have however been magnified as we were told and we can see Jesus doing in this passage. Jesus is not changing the law or taking away from the law but making the law stricter. Select Gods Sabbath and Antichrist Truth for the misunderstandings or excuses used to avoid the Sabbath. Read also the Sabbath to Sunday change.
It is highly probable also that confusion has resulted from the meaning of the different Greek words used for “fulfil.” The following verse uses the word “fulfilled” but this one actually does mean to bring to an end. Compare this against G4137.
Mark 13:4 “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign when all these things shall be fulfilled?”
G4931 “sunteleo” Thayer Definition:
1) to end together or at the same time
2) to end completely 2a) bring to an end, finish, complete
3) to accomplish, bring to fulfilment 3a) to come to pass
4) to effect, make, (conclude)
5) to finish 5a) to make an end of 5b) to bring to an end 5c) destroy
The New Commandment
We find in the book of John, Jesus speaking with His Apostles about love which He repeats in more detail two chapters later. Both of these conversations have several similar points but one main theme, i.e. the “NEW” level of Christ like love.
1) They were both private conversations between Jesus and His Apostles.
2) The first time Jesus says, “A new commandment I give unto you” followed by in both chapters, “That you love one another; as I have loved you”
3) In one passage Peter says, “I will lay down my life for your sake” and Jesus replies, “Will you lay down your life for my sake?” and in the other passage, Jesus follows up his statement of “That you love one another; as I have loved you” with an example of how to do this, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
When Jesus died, He demonstrated the ultimate act of love. Did the disciples exercise the same Christ like love before this time? We find in Luke 22:24 “And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.” Jesus said in John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.”
In the Greek there are two words for “new”, one means totally brand new and the other meaning new to us. The word Jesus used here was not brand new but new to us, meaning it was a type of love that would be new to them that they were not currently practising. In order for the disciples to continue the work of Christ, they had to be able demonstrate the same Christ like example of love, so as verse 35 says, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” in the same way that Jesus loved them and laid down His life for the world. See John 3:16.
This is the new level of love that we all need to learn and walk in and what Paul expressed in Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be you therefore followers of God, as dear children; 2 And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and has given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” Here is love magnified to the full as demonstrated by Jesus in Matthew chapter 5. Jesus' ultimate example of love was laying down His life for others and He knew that most of His Apostles would need to be prepared to do the same as the Bible and history shows they did.
Loving your neighbour as yourself was not a “new” commandment and existed from the beginning but the level of love they needed to practise to be imitators of Christ was new in that they loved one another as Jesus loved them to the point of also being prepared to lay down their lives for each other as Jesus did for them and the whole world. So we find that Jesus not only magnified the law with what He spoke of in Matthew chapter 5 but He also taught that we need to demonstrate the same self sacrificing love of Christ Himself. This is the level of love that is the foundation of God's Moral law of love.
John said that there was nothing new about loving your neighbour as yourself and that this was a law from the beginning and the last six Commandments hang on this law. See Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:35-40. John explains this in 1 John 2:7-8, “I write NO new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning” followed by the words, “Again, a new commandment I write unto you” This sounds like a contradiction to the previous verse but John is pointing out what Jesus taught in that Loving your neighbour as yourself is now magnified to the degree that we should love one another to the point of being prepared to lay down our lives for each other as Christ did for us.
John furthers this in 2 John 1:5-6, “I beseech you, lady, NOT as though I wrote a new commandment unto you, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.” Jesus is the perfect model of the love of God in His perfect example of loving obedience. Christ loved us so much that He sacrificed His own life for us. He Himself explained in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.”
Adam Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, LL.D., F.S.A., (1762-1832)
“John 13:34 - A new commandment I give unto you - In what sense are we to understand that this was a new commandment? Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, was a positive precept of the law, Lev 19:18, and it is the very same that Christ repeats here; how then was it new? Our Lord answers this question, Even As I have loved you. Now Christ more than fulfilled the Mosaic precept; he not only loved his neighbour As himself, but he loved him More than himself, for he laid down his life for men. In this he calls upon the disciples to imitate him; to be ready on all occasions to lay down their lives for each other. This was, strictly, a new commandment: no system of morality ever prescribed any thing so pure and disinterested as this. Our blessed Lord has outdone all the moral systems in the universe in two words: 1. Love your enemies; 2. Lay down your lives for each other.”
The Two Greatest Commandments
Loving God with all your heart, soul and might and loving your neighbour as yourself was quoted not only by Jesus in the New Testament but is also found “from the beginning” i.e. in the Old Testament. Jesus was actually quoting the Old Testament scriptures as He quite frequently did. See Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Did ALL the law hang on these two Commandments when they were first quoted in the Old Testament? Deuteronomy 6:5 actually proves this stating that to love God with all your heart, soul and might is to keep everyone of the Ten Commandments that had just been read 17 verses earlier! The fourth Commandment is also love as it is a SIGN that it is God we love and worship. Loving God with all your heart therefore sums up the first four Commandments while loving your neighbour sums up the last six. It does not destroy any of these Ten magnificent rules of love. See also Romans 13:9. The Ten Commandments are a reflection of God's character of love and so the few verses translated “Commandment” that speak of loving God or our brother still apply to God's Moral law. Jesus demonstrated what loving obedience is about in John 15:10, “If you keep my Commandments, you shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's Commandments, and abide in his love.”
If we love God with all our heart, soul and might, will we have other Gods before Him, Worship idols, take His name in vain or deny God the quality time of Praise and Worship He wants from us on His Holy day? No! If we love our neighbour as ourselves, will we disrespect our parents, murder, sleep with another's spouse, steal, lie or covet anything that belongs to your neighbour? Again, No! It is clear that if you love God with all your heart and your neighbour as yourself you are keeping the Ten Commandments. This is why Jesus said in Matthew 22:40 that ALL the law hang on these two Commandments. All the law hung on these two Commandments when they were first quoted in the Old Testament so what has changed? Absolutely nothing! See also the greatest Commandment.
When is Commandments the Ten Commandments?
All the scriptures listed below where G1785 is translated as “Commandments”, the Greek shows the King James Bible has translated correctly in the plural, i.e. they are all N-APF, N-DPF, N-GPF and N-NPF where the “P” is plural. Several Greek words are used in the New Testament that are translated as “Commandments” but G1785 is the only Greek word that is used when referring to God's Moral Law of love. From this and the passage context we can be confident that absolutely every verse translated as “Commandments” refers to the Moral law except for four verses listed separately. Below is the Strong's dictionary definition for the word Commandment that is always used when referring to the Ten Commandments in the New Testament.
Strong's Definition for G1785:
From G1781; injunction, that is, an authoritative prescription: - commandment, precept.
|Verses using Commandment or Commandments that refer to the Moral Law|
|The Ten Commandments:
Matthew 5:17-19, Matthew 15:3, 6, Matthew 19:17, Matthew 22:36, 38, 40, Mark 7:8-9, Mark 10:5, Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20, John 14:15, John 14:21, Romans 7:8-13, Romans 13:9, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Ephesians 6:2, 2 Peter 2:21, 1 John 2:3-4, 1 John 5:2-3, Revelation 12:17, Revelation 14:12, Revelation 22:14.
Note the following in regards to the next group of scriptures below. Loving God with all your heart and loving your neighbour as yourself is to obey ALL of God's glorious Ten Commandments of love. See Matthew 22:35-40 and Romans 13:9. As already demonstrated, this is not a new law. See Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
Mark 12:28-31, John 13:34, Though this example is relevant to us, this conversation is between Jesus and His Apostles. See Adam Clarke's Commentary above. We also find this conversation amplified between Jesus and His Apostles in this next passage. John 15:10, 12, 1 John 2:7-8, 1 John 3:22-24, 1 John 4:21, 2 John 1:4-6.
|The Fourth Commandment:
|The Ten Commandments & Ordinances:
Luke 1:6, Hebrews 9:19.
These are the only four verses using the Greek word “entole” that are translated to the word “Commandments” and do not make reference to the Ten Commandments. You will note that the context is clear perhaps with the exception of Ephesians 2:15 which may not be clear to some. The ordinances were part of the ceremonial law which was carried out as a result of sin before Christ abolished this law by becoming our final perfect sacrifice. See the Ten Commandments and the ceremonial law for more detail.
|The four Plural verses that do not refer to the Moral Law|
|Not the Ten Commandments:
1 Corinthians 14:37, Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 4:10, Titus 1:14.
See also fulfilling the law meaning for a simplified explanation on the misunderstandings on the meaning of Jesus fulfilling the law.