Sunday: “One Jot or Tittle”

Read again Matthew 5:17-20. How interesting that Jesus would greatly emphasize the law here, while at the same time making the statement that He did about the scribes and Pharisees, who so greatly emphasized the law, as well. What important lesson does this passage teach about true obedience to the law?

Image © Lars Justinen from

Image © Lars Justinen from

Jesus begins this section with the assurance that He has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets (Matt. 5:17, NKJV). Although there is no reference to it, many see this as a formulaic expression for the entire Old Testament (see also Matt. 7:12, 11:13, 22:40, Luke 16:16, Acts 13:15, 24:14, Rom. 3:21). In spite of what His opponents claimed, Jesus did not attack the very book that revealed the will of His Father. Instead, His purpose was to fulfill the law and the prophets, not to do away with them.

The word used for fulfill (plero) literally means to fill up, or complete. It carries the sense of filling to the brim. There are two ways to understand fulfill. One is to place the emphasis on Jesus as being the fulfillment of Scripture (for example, Luke 24:25-27, John 5:39). However, the key to understanding this text lies in the immediate context, which shows that Jesus did not come to destroy Scripture but to reveal its inner essence.

Having established His overall intent, Jesus switched emphasis from the Old Testament in general to the law in particular. Almost as if He knew that people would one day accuse Him of abolishing the law, He cautions that as long as heaven and earth remain, the law will exist until everything is accomplished (Matt. 5:18, NIV). With this statement, Jesus confirms the perpetuity of the law.

In fact, the law is so important that all those who violate its precepts will be called the least in the kingdom. This is just a way of saying that they are wrong in what they are doing. Jesus is quick to point out that He is not promoting the empty righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees but instead a righteousness springing from a heart that loves God and seeks to do His will.



Sunday: “One Jot or Tittle” — 25 Comments

  1. While doing prison ministry we had one person that continually insisted that Mat 5:19 said that those that break the law and teach men to do so will be in Heaven but considered the lowest there. I find a real problem with statements such as that because it is clear in the Bible that those who do things like that won't be in Heaven:

    Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21 NKJV)

    Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10 NKJV)

    The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. (Matt. 13:41-42 NKJV)

    • Well a slightly different way of looking at it could be substituting "called" with "regarded". In other words, God's kingdom (now) *regards* those who break the commandments and teach men to do the same as "the least".
      Or put less awkwardly, God's kingdom has a low regard for lawbreaking.

      • "Some have thought that the commandment breaker will be there (kingdom of heaven), but will occupy the lowest place. This is a mistake. Sinners will never enter the abode of bliss. The commandment breaker, and all who unite with him in teaching that it makes no difference whether men break or observe the divine law, will by the universe of heaven be called least among the human agencies..." 3SP p. 2056

        [Moderator Note: 3SP (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol 3) has less than 500 pages, and the statement is not found in that book.

        However, we found it in the 5th volume of the Bible Commentary.]

      • Technically, Lisa, just fyi, jot and tittle actually mean the same thing: the smallest part of something - the dot of an "i" and the cross of a "t" - even they will not be removed from the law. Good answer. 🙂

    • Bonakele, what the King James Version translated as "jot" is actually a reference to "yod," the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet. A "tittle" would be a small marker like a comma, period (full stop), or quotation mark.

      • That sounds correct to me. There was no "i" or "t" in either Hebrew or Greek--but the analogy works out well anyways!

        • I just wanted to make sure that we don't miss the point. It is not whether the definition is of Hebrew, Greek or English origin. It is simply that God's Law must NOT be altered in any way to suit our individual fancies, likes or dislikes. We cannot choose to obey what appeals to us and ignore what does not. God expects 100% obedience to His Word at all times! He does not change. May God bless you all.

    • A jot means a very small amount. A tittle means a tiny amount or part. Therefore in the context above I would take it to mean the smallest detail or part of the law

  2. To answer your question Bonakele, the answer is in matt 5:18 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(KJV). The whole idea of topic is based on the law. The heaven is not yours when keeping all the law and skip one.

  3. Matt 5:18" jot(iota)or one tittle''.
    The smallest letter refers to the smallest Hebrew letter(Yod)and the smallest stroke of a letter to a serif (a hook or projection on a Hebrew letter).
    Jesus has left us very clear explanation concerning any changes that whoever might want to change either by adding to the law or subtracting from it.
    It might be difficult to see a 'serif' because it is so insignificant and tiny but Christ regards its great importance.
    Today we hear of so many people who teach others that the 'law' was nailed to the cross. Those people will have to give an account to God. Let us pray for them that God will give them a live conscience and open their eyes to the evil that they are perpetrating.

    • I was also amazed to discover that the Yod is used to make a notation "diacritic" meaning distinctive. Note the text states jot or tittle. What caught my attention was the use of the word OR, which may suggest the emphasis of two concepts. First, not even a jot, which by the way is an atom, I think reference the smallest aspect of the law. Second a tittle or Yod referring to the distinctive of the law. I think about 1 Peter 2:9 where God's children is described as peculiar. This peculiarity it appears may come as a result of the distinctiveness that results from keeping God's law.

  4. Goodday, or good morning Saints of God, where ever we are tuning in from. To the asked question, By one of our dear saints of God. Mr. or Ms. Bonakele what is one jot or one tittle. When the Pharises, made all their added rules and traditions and was almost forgetting Gods' laws, when God came to them, he (God), told them that he didnot come to destroy the law, but to fulfill, for verily I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in nowise pass from the law till all fulfilled. For the laws has already been written and set for us, so we who wants to change things to suit ourselves, and still trys to obey Gods laws but puts-them second to our newfound rules and laws, that's where Jesus steps in and lets us know that nothing can change not the smallest or the largest, not even the spelling of his word, not from jot to a paragraph or from tittle, to little, they may mean the same, sound the same, just leave it in my written words, nothing changes, till all be fulfilled, meaning his scriptures. Christ is the originator of the law; and seeing from the blindness of Pharisees illustrates how people who claim great light and knowledge can misunderstand and misrepresent the work of God. So the word jot or tittle tells us that nothing in the word of God must be changed. What we don't understand we pray to him to send the Holy Spirit to guide us in the searching of the scriptures for his true word,and not the word of man. As God continues to bless us may we keep holding on to his unchanging hands. Amen.

    • Where I live the sun set approx 7:50pm yesterday. Because many of us cannot wait for the setting of the sun, many break the edges of the sabbath. Can't that be considered one jot or tittle when we compare it to Isaiah 58:13-14. Yesterday myself and a group of us were discussing about how we break the sabbath and do not see anything wrong with it.

      • Marva, I hear what you are saying and there is indeed much that we can do to make the Sabbath a delight to the extent that we do not even need to worry about where the boundaries of the Sabbath are set. Keeping the Sabbath as a set of "dos and don'ts" is always hard and was never the intention of the commandment. Their must be a million ways to enjoy the Sabbath and unfortunately we have focused primarily on one of them - sitting in church and listening to preachers. I am not saying the "church" is wrong, I am simply saying it is only one thing that you can do on Sabbath.

        If all I could think about on Sabbath was sitting around and waiting for the sun to set I would get pretty bored too. I have so much to do that falls within the "rest" and "Sabbath enjoyment category that it often starts well before Sabbath begins and finishes a long time after. I am a keen bird photographer and one of the great joys of life is watching a group of pelicans feeding in the sunset light on one of the lakes near us, or watching the Rainbow Lorikeets searching for a place to sleep at night. Obviously not everyone is interested in birds and such activities may appear boring to others, but I am sure that most of us can creatively think of ways to enjoy the wonderful gift that God has given us.

        • Enjoying nature I think is great. I am only concerned when nature replaces the worship of the creator of Nature. I always here individuals reason that they would rather go in nature than sit in an enclosed four-walled structure to worship. I still believe that God expects us to come together in a dedicated place (church building) to worship and get our baskets (hearts) filled with all blessings we need for another week. When I was growing up Sabbath day was full of joy, delight, praise, be learning more about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. We arrived for worship at 9:15 am my time zone, all were participated in praise music, youth, mothers and their children, and adults all joined praise music. Then after the main worship( the sermon) we ate lunch then there were different activies such as continued discussion of the Sabbath Lessons, here is where brothers and sisters in Christ shared what insights the Holy Spirit has impressed in their heart on particular Sabbath School Lesson Topic. New praise songs were learnt for the next worship, new topics were introduced, different group such as single ladies and men joined to learn about God and how He values single-hood. Newly weds learnt and shared biblical principles on how to love their spouses and serve God at the same time using bible verses. There were all kinds of activities drawing us to worshiping and knowing God more. We were encouraged not enjoy the Sabbath of rest from all our hearts desires, hobbies, and anything that was self gratifying. I do miss my old time religion. I felt more close to God.

        • I do not think that nature should ever replace the worship of the creator, Ketura. Being part of a community that worships together is very important. However I am concerned that often we do not see beyond Sabbath meetings and think creatively how we can use the rest of the Sabbath hours. To some extent we are in danger of occupying ourselves with prescribed set of activities on Sabbath rather than using the time the way God really intended. Part of the problem with both rules and traditions is that they become prescriptive rather than indicative.

        • Why don't we use the bible (both old and new testament) to explain our reasoning about the Sabbath. The do's and don't and how the disciples and Jesus set the example. What did Jesus do and where he went in observation of the Sabbath. Because one jot and tittle might meaning a whole lot of things according to what reasoning people may use.

        • There is very little said in the Bible regarding how to keep the Sabbath. Below is my findings based on a study I did some time ago for a Sabbath School presentation.

          God blessed the 7th day of the creation week and sanctified it.  He rested from his work of creation on this day. Gen 2:2-3
          Deuteronomy 5:12-14 starts off with Observe the sabbath day

          We are commanded to remember the Sabbath day. Ex. 20:8-11; 23:12It is a day of rest from work.  The reason given is because the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them in 6 days and rested on the 7th day.  Re-inforces that the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

          The Israelites during their wandering through the wilderness collected enough manna for the day's rations for five days of the week.  On the sixth day of the week they gathered enough food for two days rations.  The seventh day of the week, no food gathering was done. Ex. 16:14-27

          The Sabbath is a sign between God and His people in recognition of God's sanctifying power. Ex. 31:13

          It is not permitted to kindle a fire in any of the dwellings on Sabbath.  Ex. 35:3

          In Nehemiah's day, the people were treating the Sabbath as a common day, trading wine presses, carrying sacks of grain and loading them onto donkeys, as well as wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads.  The men of tyre were also selling all kinds of imports to the Israelites on the Sabbath, even in Jerusalem. Nehemiah admonished the Israelites for this. Neh 13:15-22

          Proverbs 10:23, It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, And he adds no sorrow to it.

          Shouldn't carry a load on the Sabbath.  Jer. 17:21-27

          The Sabbath was made for man.  not man for the Sabbath Mark 2:27

          Psalm 92 is a song for the Sabbath day.  it starts off "It is good to give thanks to the Lord". The Sabbath is a day of giving thanks.  Thanks in our singing, prayers, and offerings.

          What God requires of us though is to Cease from evil, Learn to do good, Seek justice, reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow.  Isaiah 1:16,17

          I get the impression that any form of wrong doing on any day of the week profanes the Sabbath if we haven't confessed our sins and repented of them.  Why?, how is it possible to remember the Sabbath and the God who created it and to have un-dealt with sin at the same time?  Ezekial 22

          The Sabbath is a day of compassion. Mat. 12:7 There is compassion in the day of rest that God provides to us. This compassion extends also to our dealings with others. In the spirit of the Sabbath we must show compassion to those who need it.

          Luke 13:16 And this woman, a daughter of Abraham as she is, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, should she not have been released from this bond on the Sabbath day?"

          All burdens should be let go of on Sabbath.  Spiritual, Mental, Social, Physical.  Thus on the day of compassion, it is only right that we help others with their burdens.

        • Tyler, Commercial photography was never in my mind. If indeed my photographs every achieved commercial viability I would of course not do it on Sabbath. My purpose in describing my photography was simply to say how much I enjoy photographing birds on Sabbath and I see see that as a worshipful and enjoyable expression of the my gratitude for God's gift. It is also something that I can share with friends and family both churched and unchurched. My main point is that the Sabbath is not just about rules and jots and tittles. When I go for a journey in my car, I have to obey the rules of the road (or I would probably end up killing myself and others) but the purpose of the journey is something else again. I want to enjoy the trip and see new things and go to new places. if the only things to think about on a car trip were how well I was obeying the rules, the trip would be dull and tedious. In discussions such as this we tend to concentrate on the law-keeping and seldom relate the wide variety of experiences that we have that makes the Sabbath a joy.

          I will never forget the experience I had when staying in a hotel once on a Friday evening. A large group of Jews were welcoming in the Sabbath in the dining room. Everyone else there knew who they were and what they were doing. Nobody in our group felt embarrassed; envious was a better description; as the sang and told stories and ate special food. It was a pivotal moment for me. I suddenly felt very happy to be a Sabbath-keeper.

          Jesus expressed it well when he said that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.

        • Maurice, I could not agree with you more. I know things are done differently all over the world as regards to Sabbath observance. Some people live in very rural areas while others are in the middle of big urban areas. For those of us in large cities I have seen a tendency to equate Sabbath keeping with spending maximum time in church buildings with little consideration or interest in making spending time in nature a regular and important part of our Sabbath experience.

          Quotes like this one from CT 187 are becoming more meaningful to me: "In the natural world, God has placed in the hands of the children of men the key to unlock the treasure house of His word. The unseen is illustrated by the seen; divine wisdom, eternal truth, infinite grace, are understood by the things that God has made." Ellen White

          Seems ironic that the commandment to remember our Creator is not more closely tied to learning of Him through His creations in nature.

  5. Hi,
    First, thank you for praying for me. I have more peace and joy in my heart as reading of His Word makes things seem simple and straightforward.

    Jesus was obedient to the law as the law was a reflection, expression of His character. He does not change, there is no shadow or turning in Him, therefore the law can not change. "By his life on earth He honored the law of God. By his death He established it." COL 314.3 EGW

    Satan was the one trying to change the image of God's character and it's expression in law. He blinds us so we don't see that the sum of the law is the law of perfect love. I want to know the perfect love. I want to experience it from my God and I wish I could love Him like that too. I pray that God will help me to see His beauty, His glory in every sentence of the law.


    • Sara God bless you for your comment and I pray that He gives you the grace to know him more.God bless you.

    • Hi Sis, thanks for your comment. We do not say "God is loving, or Jesus is loving", but God is love because that is his character. The law is a transcript of Jesus. Who Jesus is, the law is. What the law is or stands for is what Jesus stands for. The three are inseparable. Therefore if someone have LOVE dwelling in them, the have the LAW dwelling in them, as a result, the have JESUS dwelling in them. One cannot say the have one or two and not the other. This carries us into Monday study.


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