Jesus Did Not Abolish the Law By Fulfilling It.
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“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:17-19 NKJV

Jesus Tempted Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Jesus Temptes Image © Pacific Press from GoodSalt.com

Occasionally, while giving Bible studies, I will hear someone say, “Once Jesus fulfilled the commandments He did away with them. He fulfilled them so we don’t have to.” Well, let’s take a look at that. Does fulfill mean to do away with? My Websters Dictionary tells me that fulfill means to “carry out.” I don’t think carrying something out and abolishing it can be the same definition. My Roget’s Thesaurus tells me fulfill is the same as “pleasing or sufficing.” I don’t think that to “please or suffice” means “to abolish.”

Now that we have looked at Roget and Webster’s definition of the word fulfill, let’s see how the Scriptures use that word. How did Matthew himself use that word?

Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?” But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:13-14 NKJV

So Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism. Did He abolish it after He fulfilled it? No, of course not. Matthew, the same writer who tells us Jesus fulfilled the rite of baptism also records Jesus’ command,

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… Matthew 28:19 NKJV

So Jesus did not abolish baptism when He fulfilled that rite, but rather set an example for us to follow. Likewise, Jesus did not abolish the law by fulfilling it, but rather gave us an example to follow.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4 NKJV

The good news according to Romans 8:3-4 is that when the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, He not only fulfills the law for us but also fulfills it in us. It is not us doing the work, but the Holy Spirit who is working in us, fulfilling and writing the law of love on our hearts.

The rite of baptism “fulfills all righteousness” as I die to self and rise again, born of the Holy Spirit who now fulfills the law of love in me.

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About William Earnhardt

William Earnhardt has been a Bible Worker, literature evangelist and lay pastor in Oklahoma and Texas, before coming to Tampa Florida, where he has been the Bible instructor and lay pastor for the past ten years for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church. He has also held revivals and evangelism seminars, as well as soul winning workshops from Peru to Connecticut.

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Jesus Did Not Abolish the Law By Fulfilling It. — 8 Comments

  1. William, Happy Sabbath.

    You,ve made an important point. May be I put "fulfilling all righteousness" in different words. This Matthean statement is contextual. It is situated within the motif that Jesus is the Second Moses and in fact, greater than Moses in every aspect.

    God gave Israel the law through the hand of Moses on Mount Sinai. The law was given to Israel as a teaching tool for understand how good God is to human beings. That objective that God is good was not understood then and now. God sent his Son to show us the same Objective that God is good, holy and righteous and we,re to live amongst ourselves to that standard.

    May be we ask a leading question, in fulfilling all righteousness what did Jesus do that Moses did not do in communicating the (law) will of God to humanity? Jesus gave the law by extrapolating it. By that, it means that Jesus interpreted the law that was given through the hand of Moses by showing its breadth, width and depth. Jesus said, you have heard that it is said... but I say... In simple terms, Jesus qualitatively showed love, goodness, perfectness and holiness of the law. This qualitative characteristic of the law demonstrated that God intrinsically is love, good, holy and perfect, something that Moses was not able to live up to its perfect demand.

    In other words, in giving the law to Israel God had given Himself to the people he was pleased with. On the other hand, the law extrinsically invited human beings to live in perfect harmony amongst themselves. The quantitative side of of law which was never "fulfilled" until God showed us another way of looking at the Law/Him through Jesus. In these two persons, Jesus unlike Moses is the law giver and the law doer. In him we see that the law is fullfilled both qualitatively for he is born of the Spirit and quantitatively for he is the Son of Man. Though he was human, he did not take the donkey from the owner without his consent. But because he was God he saw it beyond human eyes and instructed his disciples to go over this village, you will see a donkey tied with the colt.

    Therefore now, Jesus proved that the law is holy and perfect and he obeyed its intrinsic and extrinsic demand doing it to the letter, he fulfilled all righteousness. We can never fulfill all righteousness outside of Jesus Christ. Ours is to follow him wherever goes so that we can learn how to have the mind that was in Him. The a holy Spirit works in us to have that mind though we can never see the donkey tied over the next village. To think that we can do the law perfectly is to minimize the effect of sin and the power of God to save us from it.

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  2. I liked the words of William, on fulfillment rather than abolishment of the law. It was refreshing to read the comparison with fulfillment of baptism rather than abolishing it. I enjoyed Joe's different approach to fulfillment of the Law. It reminds me of the last verse of 'Sitting at the Feet of Jesus' "Bless me oh my Saviour bless me, as I sit low at Thy feet. Oh look down in love upon me, as I see Thy face so sweet. Give me Lord the mind of Jesus, make me holy as He is. May I prove I've been with Jesus, who is all my righteousness." The fulfillment of the law is to trust and obey Jesus. In the sermon on the mount Jesus told a parable of the wise and the unwise builder. Matthew 7:24-27. Here Jesus taught the importance of obedience to what God calls us to do. This parable concluded the sermon which started with the beatitudes.
    What does God call us to do. Jesus said, "My brothers and My sisters are those who hear my word and do it Luke 8:21. Jesus implied, 'See Me' Mark 10:49-52. Jesus prayed that we would know God and Jesus Christ whom God had sent. John 17:3. Jesus said, to do the will of the Father Matthew 7:21, again as the last part of the sermon of the mount. I would say that the will of the Father is not only to feed My lambs, but to trust and obey Him. David of old also got the message. In the 23rd Psalms he said, He restoreth my soul, He leadeth me into paths of righteousness for His name sake. Lets let Christ restore our souls, and lead us into paths of righteousness for His name sake. Then we use the law as a barometer of our relationship with Him.
    Happy Celebration of Jesus Resurrection.

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  3. Thank you William for bringing up the problem of interpreting what "fulfill" means. I can't remember hearing someone using Mat 5:17-19 to argue that Christ did away with the law. Usually it was other texts they like to use in order to skirt around what they don't want to do (Rom 8:7).

    To me the word "fulfill" has a lot of food for thought packed into it not only concerning the law but also for baptism.

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  4. It goes deeper than the Law. Jesus said if you love Me ,keep My commandments (John 14:15). God has said he will show mercy to those who love Him and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:6).
    So it is love that we obey God's every word (Matthew 4:4)because He first loved us. Through our obedience we show our love which God loves (1 John 5:2-3).Our obedience to God is that which we do as James has told us (James 2:14-26).
    To mention the carnal mind as being any excuse is also admitting one is still carnal and hasn't then accepted the sacrifice and power of Jesus to be able to change us to the perfection He told us to persue in Matthew 5:48. If it was not posssible, He would not have given us the instruction. . We can celebrate in commemoration of the resurrection of jesus for our sins any day we wish. But the day which we have been given a command to keep is the day which God put into perpetual existance and said to remember it.

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  5. Tyler,
    In strict biblical theology the phrase "fulfill all righteousness" as read in the gospel according to Matthew 3.15 cannot include baptism of a believer in Christ. Yes, we may have different approaches and opinions over certain biblical text. However, there are established rules of biblical interpretation which I believe you know them quite well. Taking the term baptism from a Jewish scripture of Old Testament (OT) hereafter, it was a ritual of cleansing a worshiper of YHWH to be ceremonially clean enough to be in the commonwealth of Israel. The purpose was to set a line between holy and unholy worshipers. Significant to cleasing was was the agent of purification, WATER. A Jew who went around proselytizing pangans into worship of YHWH had to baptize the convert in the running water so that according to the law of Moses, the Jew (believer) and a gentile (convert) both remain clean during the ritual of baptism. The beliver is ceremonially clean but the cleanliness he has is not natural to him. It is borrowed to him by faith in YHWH which he must constantly maintain. That is to say the cleanliness of the believer is always dependent on YHWH merit and never independent from Him. Even though the believer is dependent of YHWH he has the status that he can perform YHWH work of cleasing. That is the reason why when a convert went into river say, Jordan for baptism, the Believer entered the water to purify the water and rhe convert(s) went in to deep himself without being supported by thebeliever lets he contaminates him and thereby become ceremonially unclean. What we learn from the Jewish ritual of baptism is that both believer and a convert were subject to be ceremonially unclean at anytime. So baptims was a continues ritual for believers. The scribes baptized themselves almost every time the wrote the name of YHWH. None of them fulfilled all rightousness because they were inherently sinful even after baptism.

    Coming to what Jesus and John the pabizer, we see one who needs baptism is the one who baptize others. He has baotized Rabbis, Pharisees and Saducees may be and Zealots. He never asked any of the to baptize him. He has superior moral authority over the rest so he called the brood of vipers. But, there came one teacher who even his colleagues would later call him goog teacher, he requests a baptism of repentence and had no sin. So John is overwhelmed by his appearance, and he says to him no, its You(Jesus) to baotize me not the other way round. Jesus insists that John, you baptize me to fulfill all righteousness. Why! I have no sin, but I came for sinners' stead. Unless I become sin, they will never be the children of YWHW. No one in his or her baptism will ever fulfill all righteousness of the law for we are not all clean otherwise we would not need to birth in the Sprit o

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    • Joseph, the study of baptism to me is indeed interesting. In studying the origins of the practice we can trace it all the way back to Aaron and his sons who Moses had to wash before they officially became priests (Ex 29:4). After that most of the washings had to do with the priests at the laver where they washed their hands and feet prior to officiating at the altar or within the tent (Ex 30:18-21), however, there were times when a full body wash was required and sometimes that extended beyond the priests.

      Full body washing was required of the High priest before and after the Day of Atonement exercises (Lev 16:4, 24) and was also required of the person handling the scapegoat and the one who handles the bull for the sin offering (Lev 16:26, 28). Then there is the ritual of the red heifer (Num 19) where both the priest and the one who burns the heifer are required to fully wash.

      Sometimes bathing was required that seems to be partially ritual and partially hygienic. For instance, when a person ate an animal that died naturally or killed by another animal (Lev 17:15-16) or in the case of leprosy in all it various forms (Lev 14) or bodily discharges (Lev 15). Other than those things in most cases washings involved hands or clothes or utensils and pots rather than full body washings. So we can see here that other than these things that involve hygienic purposes full body washings in the Old Testament were reserved for priests and their assistants in the performance of sanctuary services.

      By the time we get to John the Baptist the Jews had a full set of traditions involving washing in various forms such as before eating (Mat 15:1-2) which God did not command. Wikipedia has a whole article on "Ritual washing in Judaism" that is currently in use. Such things as requiring converts to Judaism be baptized is something I can find no reference to in the Old Testament (perhaps someone else can find something in scripture that would show a command from God but I can't) which is something that apparently came out of Parasitical teaching in an effort to protect against the sins of their fathers who constantly went after strange flesh and pagan religion. As a Jew, to consider Gentiles as unclean and therefore requiring such things as ritual washing because of it was something that disciples like Peter had to wrestle with on several occasions (Acts 10:28; Gal 2:11-12; Jn 4:9). Even though baptism was common among Jews of his time and commanded by Jesus after His ascension (Mat 28:19) it was still based more on tradition rather than rooted in a commandments from God.

      Because of this there are a couple of things that are quite interesting in the baptism of Jesus. First is that it was not a requirement of God under the Old Testament from what I can see but apparently a voluntary ritual instituted through Jewish tradition. Here is yet another instance where Jesus went with human traditions and customs that didn't interfere with God's commandments. It is also something that Jesus used, perhaps in ways we have yet to understand, that reflected back to the washing of Aaron and his sons and used as a ritual for entry into the priesthood of all believers (1 Pet 2:5,9). There is a lot of theology involved in baptism that I think we often overlook and therefore miss some of the real gems that are taught through the ritual. That is the reason that I said that it had a lot of food for thought. I think, like most other things in the Bible, we have only scratched the surface in understanding it.

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  6. One of the jobs I have had in the past was a technical support person. My role was to provide help to computer programmers who were having difficulty solving problems when using a certain set of tools. A programmer from interstate had called my desk with a problem he was trying to solve. After he had explained the difficulties he was having, I asked him to send me his specification and the computer instructions he had written thus far. After analysing his work, I realised that he had written 500 lines of instructions in an attempt to for a hedge of protections around certain issues he had perceived to exist. These 500 lines of instructions were just getting in the way of what he needed to achieve. In the end I deleted those lines and replaced them with 4 lines of instructions that would solve his problem.

    After receiving email receiving my changes, he had tested his program and found it doing exactly what he required. He then examined the changes I had made to get it to work. He rang me straight away and thanked me for getting it to work for him, then he asked me how I was able to delete his 500 lines of work and then use only 4 lines of instructions to do the job.

    The bottom line is that when you build hedges around things for protection, you really need to know what you are doing. The greater the complexity of the hedge you build, the greater the chance of getting lost in your own logic and going around in circles.

    The Pharisees in Jesus day had attempted to build a hedge around the Law of god. They had ended up creating something very complex difficult to follow. For example, in the case of transfer of property on Sabbath, it was breaking the Sabbath if you picked up something then passed it through a door or window to give someone. It was also wrong to extend your hand through a window or door to receive something and then draw that item back. There was no problem if both you and the other person had hold of the item as it passed through the door or window. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Talmud/shabbat1.html

    Jesus had every intention of removing the hedge the Pharisees had built because it was creating a burden on the people. While the intent was to protect the law, it made the law a case of nit picking and splitting hairs. The Pharisees saw Jesus intent and accused Him of wanting to remove the Law itself.

    This is the context behind Matthew 5:17-19 as I see it. Jesus has no intention of doing away with the Law. His purpose was to complete the Law, without the need of the pharisaic hedge. The Law of God is simple yet it reaches farther than the Pharisees comprehended. There is no room for nit picking or hair splitting. While the first Adam failed in keeping the Law, the second Adam (Jesus) completed the Law in every aspect.

    When it comes to the Law of God, I hate that word example that is often used. Jesus is our example. Reminds me of me school teachers when I got chastised at school. That boy over there, he is an example to be followed. Do as he does and you won't get into so much trouble.

    The more I study the sermon on the mount, the more I realise how short of the mark I am. To the person who tells me that Jesus is my example, I would like to ask them how well do they measure up to that example. The bottom line is that none of us come anywhere close.

    When superficially reading the last 5 commandments, I could say that I keep all those. I don't steal. I don't make a habit of lying. I don't go around killing people. I don't go around sleeping with other men's wives etc. If I really had an issue with anything, I could become a hermit. I certainly wouldn't have to worry about the "don'ts" then.

    The summary of the last five commandments is "Love your neighbour as yourself" and the ball game changes completely. Now we are talking relationships. It is saying that I am my brother's keeper. It means that I can break the law by omission as well as commission. It tells me that the ten commandments is a set of things to do, as well as a set of don'ts. It means that if I am angry with my brother, the onus is on me to reconcile that anger. If someone steals from me because they can't see any other way out of a desperate situation, the onus is on me to see to their need. The onus is on me in regard to the types of clothes I wear lest I cause a distraction in the mind of my neighbour. If my neighbour sees me as some sort of enemy, the onus is on me to demonstrate my love for him. In the same way God lets the sun shine and sends the rain to both the evil and the good, I am to deal with all my neighbours. I cannot lock myself away and be a hermit. Thou shalt not kill comes into play even when I forget to give the good news of the Gospel to someone and if that person doesn't get another opportunity to hear the Gospel.

    I fall very short of the mark. We all do.

    It is by the grace of God that Jesus completes the law on our behalf. I have seen Christ do amazing things in spite of my short comings. The best that any of us can do is ask Jesus to be our guide, to be the pilot of our ship. Ask Him to teach us how to love? As He teaches us, everything begins to fall into place. He continues to take up the slack where we fall short. He has made us a promise that He will save us to the uttermost. No stone will remain unturned. In the end we will live a life of righteousness, not because of anything we have done ourselves, but because Jesus Christ has made it possible.

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  7. Tyler, thank you for your detailed biblical account of baptims in Judaism. Also thank you for directing us to wikipedia where I read, converts to Judaism need to immense themselves in a "living water". I had mentioned in my last incomplete comments that a convert to Judaism needed baptism. You aksed if anyone can show you the OT scripture which states that a convert to Judaism needed baptized. I have not found it either. However, the New Testament (NT) is a commentary to the OT. We have for instance in Genesis 3 Satan is not mentioned as an initiator of the fall of man into sin. We only read of a serpant. It is the NT especially the book of Revelation that will link the the Genesis serpant with the work of Satan. So we can simply say, Satan tempted Adam and Eve something we cannot read in OT. So coming back to our subject we can also read paptism rituals backward. By that I mean, we can read baptims from NT in order to understand different forms and reforms it has taken in salvation history. In Matthew 23.15 Jesus mentions that Judaism is a religion that seeks converts. In Matthew 3 baptism is seen as a method of true conversion into Worship of YHWH whereby the hearts of sons were turned to their fathers', Abraham, Isaack and Jacob faith in YHWH. Taking to account the words of Jesus in Matthew 23.15 it is without doubt that John the baptizer had also baptized gentile converts. Matthew 28. 18 ff we read baptism as an evidence that one belongs to the kingdom of YHWH. Having established the premise of baptim in context we see that it has a ceremonial value even in NT. In OT, Tyler, you rightly mentioned full body for the high priest who would approach the mercy seat in the day of atonement. Once we have Jesus who is better than the Temple, better than the Angels, better than Aaron, who offered a better sacrifice we can definetely conclude that baptism in NT is simply ceremonial. I can put it in simple theology that baptims is consummation of inaugutated eschatology. In other words, baptism is the celebration of knowing my saviour before He fully and finally admit me to the kingdom of glory. Like John the who saw Jesus as the final full revelation of God, we must confess that when he opens for us no one can ever close us out of his kingdom. This is because in the whole heaven and earth there was not found anyone to open the sealed book except the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. The thief on the cross did not see baptims but he saw paradise open for him in that in Jesus had fulfilled the rightousness for sinner llike him. In Jesus he did not see a fellow culprit but God in saving makind from death.

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