The Coming of Christ is the Fulfillment of the Pentateuch: A Christmas Meditation on Matthew 1–7

gareth-harper-dABKxsPTAEk-unsplashDo not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets;
I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.
— Matthew 5:17 —

When we say that Jesus fulfilled the law, we often abstract what the law means. That is, instead of letting “the Law” be the five books of Moses (Genesis–Deuteronomy), we often put the law into the paradigm of the law and the gospel, or some other theological construct. Such formulations are good, but they are also one step removed from the biblical text.

In Matthew 5:17, the place where Jesus says that he has fulfilled the law, he actually identifies “the Law” and “the Prophets,” which tells us he has the five books of Moses in mind when he says “law.” Jesus does the same in Matthew 7:12. And throughout Matthew’s Gospel, when Jesus speaks about the Law (see 11:13; 22:40; cp. 5:18; 12:5; 22:36; 23:23), we find an ongoing focus on Moses’s five books. In fact, this focus on the five books of Moses, what we call the Pentateuch, is seen not just in the way Jesus uses the word nomos (Law) in Matthew, but in the way Matthew himself introduces Jesus.

Here’s my thesis: In the first seven chapters of Matthew, the tax collector-turned-apostle presents Jesus as the fulfillment of the Pentateuch. In canonical order, Jesus fulfills each book of the Law in each of the opening chapters of Matthew. Here’s my argument at a glance.

Matthew 1 Genesis Jesus is the New Adam
Matthew 2 Exodus Jesus is the New Moses
Matthew 3 Leviticus Jesus is the New Priest
Matthew 4 Numbers Jesus is the New Israel
Matthew 5–7 Deuteronomy Jesus is the New Covenant

Such a comparison between Matthew and Moses requires a thorough acquaintance with the Law, but for those familiar with Matthew, we know he has an intimate knowledge of the Law and employs it to structure his book and to tell the story of Jesus. And here, as we meditate of the birth of Christ, I want to sketch in brief how the coming of Christ fulfills each book of the Pentateuch. Continue reading

How Does Jesus Fulfill the Law? Christ, His Teaching, and the New Covenant

jon-tyson-195064-unsplashIn Matthew 5:17 Jesus says that he has not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. And as D. A. Carson has observed about these verses, “The theological and canonical ramifications of one’s exegetical conclusions . . . are so numerous that discussion becomes freighted with the intricacies of biblical theology” (“Matthew,” 141).

In other words, it is really easy to import one’s biblical framework into Jesus’s words. For how one understands the law and its use in the New Testament and how the New Testament relates to the Old Testament, will in large measure impact the way one understands Jesus’s words, which in turn reinforces, or reforms, our biblical-theological framework.

Therefore, the question before is, “How do we stay on the line of Scripture when we interpret Matthew 5:17”? By comparison with Matthew 10:34 (“I have not come to bring peace, but a sword”) and Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”), we learn that Jesus “non-abolishment clause” in Matthew 5:17 may not be absolute. Sharing the same structure as Matthew 5:17, Matthew 10:34 does not mean Jesus has forsaken his peace-making ways. Rather, his peace-making will include the restructuring (and severing) of family relations in order to make a new family of  peace.

From this analogy, we learn there are some things in the Law that have come to an end—e.g., Hebrews indicates that Christ’s sacrifice ends the old covenant system of animal sacrifice. Therefore, we should go back to Jesus’s words to learn how to apply the Law. And thankfully, because of Matthew’s repeated and technical usage of the word “fulfill”/”fulfillment” (pleroō), we can get a good idea of how to understand the relationship of the Law to Christ and from Christ to us.  Continue reading

Blessed are the Pure in Heart, For They Will See God (Matthew 5:27–30)

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Blessed are the Pure in Heart, For They Will See God (Matthew 5:27–30)

Sexual sin. It is a destructive issue we face more often than we like to admit.

Whether it is lust, pornography, adultery, same-sex attraction, or any number of other desires that deviate from God’s good design, we are inclined to bury these parts of our lives in the dark. Yet, in Sermon on the Mount, Jesus wisely and lovingly shines a light on our hearts. Getting to the heart of sexual sin, he explains what lust is, where it comes from, and how, by God’s new covenant grace, it be put to death.

This Sunday we looked at Matthew 5:27–30 to learn from Jesus what lust is and how to combat it. And the answer, which may or may not come as a surprise, is to look more at the beauty and goodness of God than to merely turn away from the flesh. While external barriers and accountability are helpful, it is a heart full of Christ that empowers us to flee from sexual lust.

You can listen to this sermon online, and you can find discussion questions and related resources below. In particular, there are notes below that deal directly with the subject of pornography. Continue reading

Razing Cain: How Christ Crucifies a Heart of Anger (Matthew 5:21–26)

sermon05Razing Cain: How Christ Crucifies a Heart of Anger

This Sunday we looked at Matthew 5:21–26, where we saw the first of six lessons Jesus gives us about the law of Moses applied to his new covenant disciples.

Interpreting the sixth commandment, “Do not murder” (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17), Jesus stressed the importance of making peace with those whom we have sinned against. In Sunday’s sermon we looked briefly at how Jesus applied Moses Words, but more importantly we considered a multitude of applications found in Jesus Words.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources are listed below. Continue reading

Circumcising the Heart: Eleven Things Jesus Teaches Us About Anger

angerIn Matthew 5:21–26 Jesus outlines his interpretation and application of the sixth command, “Thou shall not murder” (Exod 20:13; Deut 5:17). And though Jesus words are only six verses in length, we can learn at least eleven truths about anger from Christ’s wise words.

1. Anger is a matter of the heart.

As the cliche goes, the heart of the matter is the matter of the heart. And in Jesus first of six “antithesis” he clarifies that the point of command, “thou shall not murder,” is not really an antithesis at all. Rather, the command to not shed another’s blood is meant to awaken the heart of someone prone to anger. In other words, it is misguided to believe the Lord only cared about the heart in the New Testament.

The Lord has always cared about the heart. Each of the ten commandments were instructed to train the hearts of the Israelites. Deuteronomy 10:16 called upon the Israelites to “circumcise their hearts.” And the common indictment against Israel, under the old covenant, was the problem of their hearts (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Psalm 95).

Hence, Jesus is not giving a new commandment here, but reminding his disciples what the intentions of God were, are, and forever will be. In the law, God called his people to not murder so that it would awaken in them a desire to love, serve, and protect their neighbor. Therefore, Jesus rightly recalls the laws original intent and that the sixth command addresses a heart of anger. Continue reading

The Good News of the Law: “Getting” the Law, So That the Law Gets Into You (Matthew 5:17–20)

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The Good News of the Law: “Getting” the Law, So That the Law Gets Into You

What is the purpose of the Law? How are we supposed to apply Moses’ commands to our lives? How does Jesus read the Old Testament? Is there any good news for Christians in Law of Moses?

These questions and more have been raised by Christians for centuries. And one of the most challenging passages on the relationship of the Old Testament to the New is Matthew 5:17–20. This Sunday we considered these words of Jesus and how he helps us to read the Bible and apply the Law to our lives.

You can find the sermon audio online. Discussion questions and additional resources are also available below. Continue reading

Getting Into the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

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Getting Into the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1–12)

This Sunday we started walking through the Sermon on the Mount. Considering the question of true happiness, we first looked at how we should read Jesus’ words. And then we looked at the nine statements of blessing/happiness known as the Beatitudes.

After stating that the Beatitudes are not entrance requirements for the kingdom, but words of wisdom given to Christ’s disciples who are in the kingdom, we looked at each of the beatitudes. These words of Christ are meant to comfort us and challenge us and help us walk with our Lord, for the glory of our Father in heaven.

You can listen to the sermon online. Discussion questions and additional resources, including a sermon series on the Beatitudes, can be found below. Continue reading