Matthew 5.17 cont.
17 Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the prophets. I have not come to destroy them but to complete them.
Many efforts have been made to try and understand what Jesus meant by saying the He did not come to destroy the Law or the prophets.
W Barclay states that there are those who discount this verse as being said by Jesus, because it is such a puzzling saying. They hold that Matthew inserted it into the Sermon on the Mount as though Jesus had said it. However, this is not a creditable argument and does not agree with other scriptures, for instance:
For Christ has accomplished the whole purpose of the law. All who believe in Him are made right with God – Romans 10.4 (NLT).
A number of versions state that Christ is the end of the Law.
We can be certain that Matthew, prompted by the Holy Spirit, has faithfully reported what Jesus said.
In the days of Jesus the Jews would have understood the Law as referring to the Ten Commandments, and the first five books of the Old Testament. It was also held that the whole of the Old Testament was referred to as the Law and prophets. Added to this was the law of the scribes.
In his commentary on Matthew’s gospel W Barclay goes into some detail as to what the law of the scribes entailed. It makes fascinating reading. He enlightens us with how the scribes spent a great deal of time defining the Law, and clarifying what was meant by the Law. He illustrates the Commandment to Keep the Sabbath Holy and to do no work on it. (A beneficial commandment that is greatly abused in our time.)
The scribes went to great lengths to define what constituted work; one instance being whether a lamp could be moved from one position to another. Such detail completely ignored the general principle that God laid down in The Law. Obeying the law of the scribes meant focusing on the interpretation of work, whilst neglecting the principle of keeping the Sabbath Holy – devoted to God.
There will always be those who want to tie believers down to rules and regulations, but they do not bring us salvation, neither do they help us work out our salvation. Only Jesus can do that.