Do Not Think
That I Have Come to Abolish
the Torah or the Prophets
Matthew 5: 17-20
New Covenant believers should also love the Torah. At Pentecost about three thousand were saved (Acts 2:41). But about thirty years later, tens of thousands of believers were all zealous for the Torah (Acts 21:20). Therefore, the Torah is not merely for the righteous of the TaNaKh. Even the Rabbi Sha’ul said: The Torah is holy (Romans 7:12).
Christ is the model disciple, the perfect Son who fulfilled all righteousness by completely obeying the Father’s will (Matthew 4:4 and 10). That same obedience should characterize believers today. Obedience to God was to be a priority in the disciple’s life (Matthew 6:33), and complete devotion to God the Father was the goal (Matthew 5:48). Thus, this same righteousness and faithfulness to God the Father and His commandments that is seen in the words of Christ here (Matthew 5:17-20), not only speaks to the true nature of the Torah, but also its relationship to Christ.
Do not think I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to complete (Matthew 5:17 CJB). Christ completed the Torah in that He accomplished all that the Torah or the Prophets had said of Him and His coming. Therefore, Messiah provided us with the fullest meaning of the Torah as demonstrated in His life and teachings.
Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yud or a stroke will pass from the Torah – not until everything that must happen has happened (Matthew 5:18 CJB). The yud is the smallest letter in the Hebrew Alef-Bet, and the stroke refers to the tiny artistic marks on the tops of Hebrew letters. By saying this, Jesus reminded his listeners that neither the smallest letter nor even the tiniest part of a letter of the Torah would ever be done away with.
The rabbis teach that when ADONAI gave the Torah to Isra’el, He inserted both positive and negative commandments and gave commands, saying: The king must not acquire great number of horses for himself. . . neither shall he take many wives or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of sliver and gold (Deuteronomy 17:16-17). But Solomon arose and studied the reason for God’s decree, and said, “Why did ADONAI command this? Well, I will acquire great number of horses, take many wives, and still my heart will not be led astray. Because God granted him a wise and discerning heart (First Kings 3:12), Solomon thought that he could marry as many wives as he wanted.
At that time the yud, the first letter of the Hebrew phrase yarbeh (that means the king must not take many wives), went up on high and prostrated itself before ADONAI and said, “Master of the Universe! Have you not said that no letter shall ever be abolished from the Torah? Behold, Solomon has now arisen and abolished one. Who knows? Today one, tomorrow another, until the whole Torah will be nullified.” And God responded by saying, “Solomon and a thousand like him will pass away, but the smallest letter will not be cancelled from you.”
Therefore, it is interesting to see that Christ agreed with this teaching, and as believers, we should strive to obey God and all of His commands. For as Christ said: If you love Me, you will obey what I command (John 14:15).
So whoever disobeys the least of the commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches others to do so will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:19 CJB). Actions speak louder than words. The teacher must apply the doctrine personally before being able to teach it to others. The scribes and the Pharisees did not practice what they preached (Matthew 23:2-4). Christ demands from us a much higher form of righteousness than the hypocrisy of false teachers.
For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and Pharisees, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20 CJB). Here the term far greater can best be translated as far exceeds. Like a river overflowing its banks, it is something that far exceeds the norm. In this context, Jesus is teaching us that the righteousness that He requires is one of genuine holiness, which far exceeds the hypocritical standards of the world.
In fact, not only does ADONAI require genuine holiness, He requires perfect righteousness. To be qualified for God’s kingdom we must be as holy as the King Himself. But of course, this is a standard we can never obtain by our own efforts. We are spiritually dead in our sinfulness. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). It is only through the grace of God, for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). When we trust/have faith/believe in Him, all His righteousness is transferred to our account. We are justified and considered perfect in His sight. What Christ is saying here in this passage, is that the Torah is not abolished in this process – but completed. The true path of the true believer is demonstrated through obedience to ADONAI and His commands.
During the Torah procession in messianic synagogues today, believers in Messiah kiss their bibles and then touch the Torah as it passes by. They believe that the Torah points us to Yeshua, and represents the holiness and purity of God. This custom is taken from the Psalms, where the Ruach ha-Kodesh instructs us to kiss the Son (Psalm 2:12).
Therefore, Christ, as the perfect expression of obedience to God the Father, did not come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets, but instead He completes our understanding of the Torah by calling us to live lives in obedience to His commandments. Solomon referred to the Torah when he wrote: She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed (Proverbs 3:18). Lord, bind our hearts to Your commandments.