Q. In what way did Jesus fulfill the law? (part 2)
A. (continued from part 1) Notice just a couple of examples. In the context of the angel telling Joseph how and why Mary was pregnant, we read. “Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). The miracle of Mary’s virgin pregnancy and the resulting birth fulfilled—completed—this prophecy found in Isaiah 7:14. The prophecy demanded that this event occur, and when it occurred, the prophecy was fulfilled.
I will give one more example. In John 19:23-24, John wrote of the soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ seamless coat, “Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.” The soldiers were unwittingly used by God to do the things written in Psalm 22:18. Once they did these things, the prophecy was finished. They did not magnify it. They simply did the prophecy, and once they did it, it was done. No one else has to do it again.
Here is a partial list of similar Scriptures: Matthew 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:54, 56; 27:9, 35; Mark 14:49; 15:28; Luke 21:20-22, 24; 24:44; John 12:38; 13:18; 15:25; 17:12; 18:9, 32; 19:24, 36; Acts 1:16; 3:18; 13:27; and James 2:23.
Clearly these Scriptures show us that when plēroō is used of the coming about of what was written or spoken in the law, or the prophets, or a prophet, or the Scriptures, or what Jesus had said earlier, the proper understanding is that of completion or bringing a message to the end for which it was purposed.
With this in mind, let’s look at Matthew 5:17, along with verse 18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 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.” Amazingly, many who comment on these verses completely ignore the fact that the word “fulfilled” at the end of verse 18 is not translated from plēroō. It is, instead, translated from genētai, which is a form of ginomai. There can be no controversy about the meaning of this word. It means “accomplished” or “comes to pass.”
So, in these two verses, Jesus is saying that 1) He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets, 2) He did come to fulfill them, 3) heaven and earth would have to pass before one jot or tittle—the smallest parts of the law, and, therefore, they stand for the entire law—can pass from the law UNTIL all is accomplished. I capitalized “until” because it is a word that so many expositors ignore here.
Jesus is giving us two either/or conditions. The law cannot pass until heaven and earth pass or the law cannot pass until all is accomplished. One or the other can do it. Heaven and earth have not yet passed, so we will leave that aside. But what did Jesus mean by all being accomplished? The natural meaning of the language is that He was referring to what He had just said in the previous sentence: the fulfilling or completing of the law and the prophets. Once He had completed the law and the prophets, the law could pass.
A supporting point that expositors often ignore is the fact that Jesus applied plēroō to not just the law but also the prophets. Why is it that so many people who accept that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies have a hard time understanding that, in the same way, He fulfilled the Old Testament laws—all of them? In fact, the two together—the law and the prophets—stand for the entire Old Testament. Matthew 22:40 tells us, for example, that upon the two great laws hang “all the law and the prophets.” Luke 16:16 says, “The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.” John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets. He forms the boundary between the Old and New Testaments, with their respective covenants. Acts 13:15 explains that “the law and the prophets,” obviously meaning the Old Testament, is read in the synagogue.
So, Jesus fulfilled, or brought to
completion, the entire Old Testament. This is supported by many other
Scriptures that I have often referenced in other articles on this
website. As one example, read Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the
law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” The word “end” here
is telos. This word means the aim (see Galatians 3:24); the
termination, the limit at which something ceases to be (read Romans
6:14; 2 Corinthians 3:11-13; Ephesians 2:15; and Colossians 2:14).
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