Matthew 5:17, The law and the prophets. Yeshua mentions two of the three subdivisions of the Hebrew Scriptures in this passage: the Law or Torah and the Prophets or Neviim. The Jews have traditionally subdivided the Hebrew Scriptures into three sections: the Torah, Prophets and the Writings. We see Yeshua referring to this threefold subdivision in Luke 24:44. In fact, the Jews of today do not refer to their Hebrew Scriptures by the Christian term of “Old Testament,” but rather by the Hebrew word TaNaKh, which is an acronym representing this threefold division. The T in Tanakh stands for the Torah or the first five books of the Bible, the N stands for Neviim or the prophetic writings in the Hebrew Scriptures, while the K stands for the Hebrew word Ketuvim, which means Writings and includes the book Psalms, Proverbs, Job and others.
I came to…fulfill [the law]. Yeshua came to fulfill the law so that the law might be fulfilled in us, not so that we can continue breaking it without suffering the consequences. He came to save us from the consequences of breaking the law, not from the law itself. He came to set us an example of how to fulfill not only the letter, but the spirit of the law and to empower us through his Spirit to live in up to the law’s standards of righteousness.
How many times have you heard someone say, “Jesus came to fulfill the law [in our place], so that we don’t have to keep the law ourselves.” Many people just repeat this church-system mantra without really stopping and thinking about it. But what do they really mean when they say this? Do they even know? Have they thought about the implications of simply repeating this oft-quoted religious cliche?
Let’s think about this for a moment. If Yeshua’s fulfilling Elohim’s law (also known as the law of Moses)means that he did it so that we don’t have to, does this mean that since Yeshua didn’t murder, commit adultery, lie, steal, worship other gods, dishonor his parents, take God’s name in vain or covet it’s now all right for us to do so, since he did it in our place? When a Sunday Christian is presented with this line of reasoning, he’s usually hard-pressed to come up with a logical response, since his initial assertion has been proven to be illogical. The basic tenets of Christianity assert that such behavior is sin.
Now if you ask a clergyman the same question, he’ll often answer you in one of two ways. He’ll either tell you that we only have to do the laws that Jesus or the New Testament authors specifically enumerated. Or he’ll tell you that Christians are obligated to keep the moral law, but not the ceremonial laws of which the Sabbath, biblical feasts and dietary laws are a part.
To start with, let’s deal with the first answer. If Christians only have to follow the laws that Yeshua and the New Testament writers specifically mention, then is it all right to have sex with animals, since this law is specifically stated in the Old Testament Torah, but not in the New Testament? What’s more, why do many churches teach the tithing principle, which is a law found in the Torah, but not in the New Testament if we only have to follow the New Testament laws? Do you now see the speciousness of the argument that we only have to keep the Old Testament laws that are specifically mentioned in the New Testament?
The next argument involves dividing Elohim’s Torah-laws into two categories: the moral and the ceremonial laws. The problem with this argument is that neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament make such delineations. The law of Elohim is law of Elohim. It all stands or falls together. James, for example, speaks about the whole law and says that when one violates one of Elohim’s laws, one violates them all (Jas 2:10). He calls the same law “the royal law” in a singular sense with no artificial subdivisions (verse 8). Similarly, Paul sums up the law of Elohim by one word: love (Rom 13:8). Yeshua and the apostolic writers in numerous places speaks about the law (e.g. Matt 5:17–19; Mark 12:28–31; Rom 3:31; 7:12, 14; 8:7) and makes no distinctions between moral and ceremonial.Continue reading