When Jesus uses this phrase it has more than one meaning...
It refers to the 10 Commandments2.
It also refers to the commands given in the first 5 books of the Bible (Torah)3.
When Jesus says, ―The Law and the Prophets‖ He is speaking of the whole OT
But there was also a fourth meaning that referred to the ORAL or SCRIBAL LAWThe ORAL or SCRIBAL law is also called the MISHNAH. Now basically the Mishnah is a
collection of writings ABOUT ―The Law‖ (800 pages in the English translation). For manyRabbi‘s it wasn‘t enough to say, ―Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.‖
They had to createrules about how to obey the rules.
In the context of our passage today Jesus is probably referring to the whole OT in general. Jesussays,
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets
: I have not come toabolish them BUT to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until
everything is accomplished”
(vv. 17-18 emphasis mine)
Jesus uses two contrasting words in this passage: 1) abolish & 2) fulfill
First he says that His teaching and His presence on the earth DOES NOT mean that TheLaw (10 Commandments or the commands of the prophets) has gone away. Insead, Hecame to be the only human who could actually fulfill The Law & the Prophets.
Notice also that He does not say that He has come to OPPOSE The Law either.Jesus is not telling us that we can, because of grace, become LAWLESS
People were accusing Jesus of breaking the law - but in actuality Jesus wasfollowing the law the way God had intended -
from the heart. He wasn‘t
following the law the way the Scribes and Pharisees had interpreted it.Jesus is telling us that the OT (The Law & the Prophets) - is necessary even for those who have placed their faith in Christ. Not one of the tiniest commands (jot/title) will be removed from theLaw even after His death, burial and resurrection.
Now how can that be? Does that mean I have to bring a bull or a goat to church to be sacrificed?Before you parade your finest Jersey cow into the sanctuary let me explain a couple of things.
The Law can be broken down into 3 types:
: these were the laws pertaining to how Israel was to worship God
through sacrifice and ritual. We are, because of Christ‘s sacrifice, no longer bound to
offer animal sacrifices.