Thoughts on the Way Home

Monday, January 19, 2009

ESV Study Bible on Matthew 5:17-20


Matt. 5:17 abolish the Law or the Prophets. The “Law” or “Torah” refers to the first five books of the OT, while the “Prophets” includes the rest of the OT, all of which was held to have been written by prophets (cf. Matt. 13:35, which cites Ps. 78:2; on “Law [and the] Prophets,” cf. Matt. 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Rom. 3:21). but to fulfill them. Jesus “fulfills” all of the OT in that it all points to him, not only in its specific predictions of a Messiah but also in its sacrificial system, which looked forward to his great sacrifice of himself, in many events in the history of Israel which foreshadowed his life as God's true Son, in the laws which only he perfectly obeyed, and in the Wisdom Literature, which sets forth a behavioral pattern that his life exemplified (cf. Matt. 2:15; 11:13; 12:3–6, 39–41, 42; also Luke 24:27). Jesus' gospel of the kingdom does not replace the OT but rather fulfills it as Jesus' life and ministry, coupled with his interpretation, complete and clarify God's intent and meaning in the entire OT.

Matt. 5:18 until heaven and earth pass away. Jesus confirms the full authority of the OT as Scripture for all time (cf. 2 Tim. 3:15–16), even down to the smallest components of the written text: the iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet (or the yod of the Hb. alphabet) and the dot likely refers to a tiny stroke or a part of a letter used to differentiate between Hebrew letters. pass from the Law. The OT remains an authoritative compendium of divine testimony and teaching, within which some elements (such as sacrifices and other ceremonial laws) predicted or foreshadowed events that would be accomplished in Jesus' ministry (see notes on Gal. 4:10; 5:1) and so are not now models for Christian behavior. Until all is accomplished points to Jesus' fulfillment of specific OT hopes, partly through his earthly life, death, and resurrection, and then more fully after his second coming.

Matt. 5:19 These commandments refers to all the commands in the OT (although many will be applied differently once their purpose has been “fulfilled” in Christ; v. 17). The rabbis recognized a distinction between “light” commandments (such as tithing garden produce) and “weighty” commandments (such as those concerning idolatry, murder, etc.). relaxes one of the least. Jesus demands a commitment to both the least and the greatest commandments yet condemns those who confuse the two (cf. 23:23–24). The entire OT is the expression of God's will but is now to be taught according to Jesus' interpretation of its intent and meaning.

Matt. 5:20 Jesus calls his disciples to a different kind and quality of righteousness than that of the scribes and Pharisees. They took pride in outward conformity to many extrabiblical regulations but still had impure hearts (see 23:5, 23, 27–28). But kingdom righteousness works from the inside out because it first produces changed hearts and new motivations (Rom. 6:17; 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 5:22–23; Phil. 2:12; Heb. 8:10), so that the actual conduct of Jesus' followers does in fact “[exceed] the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.”

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