What does Matthew 5:17 mean?
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
What does this scripture mean?
This scripture seems to be a stumbling block for some Christians because of two words: DESTROY and FULFILL. To destroy or to fulfill is the question here?
Jesus said “I am not come to destroy The Law.” He did not come to destroy The Law, but to fulfill The Law. That would mean destroy and fulfill cannot possibly mean the same thing. Destroy has to mean something totally different from fulfill. Jesus clearly told us what he did not come to do; he did not come to destroy The Law. If He did not come to destroy or abolish The Law, fulfill cannot mean destroy or abolish, as some would suggest.
If we say, His death on the cross abolished The Law, then Jesus contradicted himself after he clearly stated in Matthew 5:17 that He did not come to destroy The Law.
However, He then told us what he came to do, and that is, to fulfill The Law. We have already established that destroy and fulfill cannot mean the same thing. He came to do one and not the other. He came to fulfill and not destroy. Destroy and fulfill in this context are opposites. They are at different ends of the spectrum.
If I said to you, I am NOT going east, but going west, clearly east and west are not in the same direction. If they were in the same direction, I could also say, I am not going east but going east. If destroy and fulfill share the same meaning, Jesus could have easily said, I have not come to abolish The Law but to abolish The Law. (I have not come to destroy The Law but to destroy The Law.) That doesn’t make any sense at all. East and west are opposites, just like destroy and fulfill.
To destroy means, to get rid of, to abandon, to abolish, to end, to make redundant, to render void. Jesus said, “I have not come to destroy The Law.” Matter of fact He said it twice in this one verse:
- he said “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:
- I am not come to destroy.”
What he said in effect is: He did not come to destroy The Law. He did not come to abolish The Law. He did not come to put an end to The Law.
After telling us what he did not come to do, He then told us what He came to do.
“I have come to fulfill The Law.”
What would fulfill possibly mean? Clearly it cannot mean destroy. Some may argue that by dying on the cross, Jesus brought an end to The Law, hence fulfilling The Law. But isn’t that the very thing he told us He did not come to do? If Jesus actually fulfilled The Law by abolishing it on the cross that would make Jesus a liar and a deceiver, because he would be doing the very thing he said he did not come to do.
Most would point to the books of Romans and Galatians to justify that we are not under The Law. I have also read the books of Romans and Galatians. Point to note is, Paul did not convert Jesus. Jesus converted Paul. Jesus is not preaching Paul. Paul is preaching Jesus. How did people understand Matthew 5:17 before the books of Romans and Galatians were written? In other words, how would you explain Matthew 5:17 without the books of Romans and Galatians?
Jesus said in Matthew 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.”
Heaven and earth will have to pass for The Law to be abolished, Jesus said. Has heaven and earth passed? No! Therefore The Law cannot pass.
What did Paul say about The Law?
“Do we then make void The Law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31
Our own very Paul asked a very vital question: do we abolish The Law through faith? He answered, God forbid, we establish The Law – we promote, preach, uphold The Law.
Back to Matthew 5:17
“Think not that I am come to destroy The Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”
Jesus said, I am come to fulfill The Law.
So what could fulfill possibly mean?
In Matthew chapter 3:13-15 we read this:
“Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
Jesus went to John The Baptist to be baptized. John the Baptist replied by saying no, I have need to be baptized of thee. Jesus Answered him by saying let us fulfill all righteousness. What does fulfill mean in this context?
Was Jesus telling John to end, abolish, and destroy all righteousness? No, he was telling him to perform, do, exercise or execute the baptism – all righteousness. Matthew Chapter 3 & 5 both share the same meaning of the word fulfill.
The word fulfill has a dual meaning. Fulfill:
- It means to complete, to finish, and to end.
- It also means to perfect, to perform, to do, to exercise, to execute, to satisfy, to practice.
In the context of Matthew 5:17 the original Greek word used for fulfill is Playroo. Playroo means to perfect, to perform, to do, to exercise, to execute, to satisfy.
In conclusion, what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 was “I have not come to destroy The Law, but to PLATROO The Law. He came to perform, exercise, execute, do The Law.
Matthew 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 “PLAYROOED” fulfilled.
Paul asked, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Romans 3:31