When is the Law "fulfilled", Matthew 5: 17-19?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by shackleton, Jun 21, 2008.

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  1. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
    5:17“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (ESV)

    I understand this is a Theonomy text, what does "Until the [Law] is accomplished? What time is this referring to?

    The destruction of the Temple? The Second Advent or some other time?
  2. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    I have never seen it as a Theonomy text, I would say that it is clearly referring to the moral law. The time when "all is accomplished" would in my mind be the second coming.
  3. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    I understand it to mean Christ Himself is the fulfillment of the law. By living the absolutely perfect life in complete accordance with every aspect of the law, He fulfilled it to perfection. So, the Law was fulfilled, or is fulfilled, in Christ. Every type or shadow in the Old Testament was perfectly brought to ultimate fruition in Him. The "until heavens and earth pass away" bit is to emphasize the eternal infallbility of the Law...
  4. Hippo

    Hippo Puritan Board Junior

    So you believe that the moral law is no longer in force following the death of Jesus?
  5. shackleton

    shackleton Puritan Board Junior

    I think I remember someone saying Bahnson quoted this as a verse to back up theonomy and that was because Christ had not come to "abolish" the Law. That is why I was wondering what, "Until Heaven and earth pass away," and "accomplished" meant to theonomists.

    It does look like it is saying Christ fulfilled the Law and if he did how much of the Law are we responsible to follow? and if this is the case I was wondering what the theonomic answer to this was?
  6. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    Although Bahnsen denied that these verses were the only text that supported the Theonomic thesis, he did recognize it was "... such an explicit and important text and has often been made the center of discussion, [that Theonomy in Christian Ethics] gives it detailed discussion." (Greg Bahnsen, "Response to Wayne G. Strickland" in William van Gemeren ed. The Law, the Gospel and the Modern Christian. pp.297,298)

    To Bahnsen "until heaven and earth pass away" and "until everything is accopmplished" refer to the same event, namely the end of the church age (cf. Theonomy in Christian Ethics 3rd. ed. pp. 77-87).

    First Bahnsen says Christ "confirmed" rather than "fulfilled" the law. He he believes that he provided “…sufficient and necessary grounds for the translation of pleroosai as ‘confirm’ over against the other alternatives” which include "fulfill". (Bahnsen, Theonomy, p. 74.) From the rest of Bahnsen's exegesis of the passage he arrives at the conclusion "In all of its minute detail, (every jot and tittle) the law of God down to its least significant provision should be reckoned to have an abiding validity- until and unless the Lawgiver reveals otherwise." (Greg Bahnsen, "The Theonomic Position" in God and Politics, Four Views on the Reformation of Civil Government ed. Gary Scott Smith, Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co. 1989, pp. 40, 41.)
  7. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Like Clockwork.
  8. ColdSilverMoon

    ColdSilverMoon Puritan Board Senior

    Of course I don't believe that! For one thing, Jesus is resurrected and is no longer dead. In Romans Paul says that Christ is no longer dead but "the life that He lives He lives to God." (Romans 6:10). So Christ is still the living, ultimate fulfillment of the Law. And as Paul continues in verse 11, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." So the moral law is most definitely in force, as it always will be.

    Also, as He says in Matthew 5:17, He did not come to destory the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill them. Part of fulfilling them means illuminating the full moral ramifications of the Law.
  9. timmopussycat

    timmopussycat Puritan Board Junior

    In these verses it is not possible to restrict Christ's definition of "the Law or the Prophets" to the moral law alone for at least three reasons. The Old Covenant people did not so subdivide the law: so such a concept could not have been in his hearers' minds, (Bahnsen in fact provides a long series of citations from Jewish non-canonical writers to show that they held to the Law's eternity; the statements also show that this extended its least details: cf. TICE pp. 77-9). Given the ethical foundationalism of the Decalogue, none of its details can be described as "least". Christ's calling the disciples "the light of the world in vv. 14-16 transfers to the disciples a description that Scripture famously attributes to the Law as a whole in Ps. 119:105,130. (BTW, Christ's applying the light metaphor to the disciples rather than the Law, is what prompted his enemies' to think that he was out to destroy the Law.) Finally in v. 18 Christ extends the prohibition of change in the law down to its least letter and stroke.

    The words "until everything is accomplished" refer to the institution of the new covenant at the cross. For it was there that Christ "fulfilled" the law and the prophets in the sense of completing their "time in office" That "pleroo" the word used here and normally translated "fulfilled" did, on occasion mean "complete a time limited condition" is certain since it is used in this sense (translating "mala" Heb "fulfill) in the Septuagint translations of Gen. 25:24, 29:21.

    When Christ fulfills "the law or the prophets" he supersedes every stipulation of the Old Covenant by instituting the New Covenant at the cross. In doing so, he does not abolish the moral law with the ceremonials nor cause it to expire with the judicials and that for two reasons. First, the moral law was originally given to Adam in the garden and has been written upon all human hearts since that day. While it has been abolished as stipulations of the Sinai covenant now no longer in force, it still binds Jews due to their preexisting obligation to it as written non thier hearts, which God has not abolished. Second, an examination of the NT reveals that all the decalogue was carried over into the New Covenant as its fundamental moral axioms: for all ten commands are explicitly or implicitly stated as required.

    On the other hand there is no clear example Scripture where the Hebrew mala or the Greek pleroo "fulfill" ever took the sense of confirm. (2 Kings 1:14 is not really a good example to the contrary since the context makes it clear that Nathan intended to self-conscously "complete" Bathsheba's account by adding to her account a couple of additional names of those not on Adonijah's guest list.

    Athough Bahnsen provides a list of other possible examples from both testments where the word pleroo might mean "confirm" in each example he fails to prove his case since other known translations of pleroo are an equal or better fit.
  10. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    :agree: with your second sentence, but to me this makes it a pro-Theonomy text, as every "jot and tittle" cannot refer to the Ten Words of the Decalogue alone. However, this verse on its own does not prove Theonomy, as other passages in the NT may well have set aside the penology of the Older Testament.
  11. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    One should be careful not to read into the text the later apostolic solution regarding the application of the law to Gentile believers. Our Lord was speaking to Jews, for whom possessing and obeying "The Law and the Prophets" was a necessary marker of covenant relationship. The intent of the passage is to show Jesus' fidelity to this covenant marker as a revelation of God. The word "fulfil" was specifically used for the reason that it has a range of meanings depending on context. It allows for the "filling out" of what the law requires, as is found in the rest of Matthew 5; as well as an eschaological fulfilment in the person and work of Jesus, as is indicated in many of the fulfilment sayings in the rest of Matthew's Gospel. One point is clear -- Jesus did not come to release disciples from the obligation to the law. This should be the starting point of interpretation; and any understanding of fulfilment of the law which undermines this basic starting-point must be regarded as contrary to authorial intent.
  12. KMK

    KMK Administrator Staff Member

    Does Paul have this in mind when he later wrote Romans?

    Jesus Christ not only fulfilled the Law in His own person, but, through His redeeming blood has made it possible for His people to keep His commandments. :detective:
  13. MW

    MW Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's true on one level. But at the level where the Law as a covenant marker has been fulfilled by Christ, the apostles teach that Christ is the "end" or "goal" of the law for righteousness. We need to keep distinct the product as explained by the apostles and the process as depicted in Jesus; and also be careful not to separate them as if the one has no bearing on the other.

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