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Matthew Gospel Commands Keeping the Jewish Law
 
There are only four gospels giving us the story of Jesus Christ. One of them teaches that we must be Jews if we want to be followers of Christ more so than the other gospels. The gospel is the Gospel of Matthew, supposedly written by Matthew the apostle of Jesus. This gospel is the most Jewish of the New Testament gospels.
 
MATTHEW DIDN’T SAY LAW ABOLISHED

The first five books of the Bible contain the Law of Moses, the Law that God gave to Moses. Matthew’s Gospel seems to make it clear that the Law of Moses is over God’s people no more. But does it really?
 
Jesus told the Jews that he did not come to abolish the Law of Moses and the Prophets but to fulfil them and that heaven and earth would pass away before anything in the law would pass away.

The use of law and prophets refers to writings for the first five books were listed as law or Torah and the rest was listed as the prophets.  It is the law as in writings and in commandments.  The term covers both.

Jesus uses the word katalusai word  which means make invalid'.  The word also appears where Jesus says the temple will be destroyed or abolished  (Matthew 26:61 and 27:40; Mark 14:58 and 15:29).  The word for fulfil is plarosai and it is is contrasted with katalusai so it is its complete opposite. Plarosai means to fill something that is not full.   It does not allow for alteration but completing.

Here are the suggestions about the meaning of the verse.  The verse is plain but people invent interpretations to obscure the plainness. 

 "He meant he would get rid of it but then it wasn't the time".
 
To say Heaven and earth will pass away before the least bit of the law is emphasing that the law is everlasting. It stops us arguing that fulfil the law could mean anything other than what it obviously means: keep the law.
 
To get an excuse to disobey the Law, some Christians have maintained that Jesus was not making a law that the regulations of Moses were still in force but merely saying he didn’t get around to abolishing them yet. So they say he is merely reporting that he hasn’t abolished them yet and that is to say he might do so later. Then why all that mouthful? Why not simply say, “I will abolish the law later.” There is nothing in Jesus’ words that indicates an intention to change or abrogate the Law of Moses. Those Christians are making their speculations into the word of God. They are distorting.
 
Jesus in Matthew 5 denies that he will alter the law but said he will fulfil it. His aim was the fulfilling the law for it came from God and is without error. If Jesus contradicted the law we must put that down to misinterpretation - it does not mean he meant to contradict it or that he thought contradicting it was okay.
 
Christians who hold that we are bound to keep the Law but don't have to for Jesus obeyed it for us argue that this is what he meant by fulfil
 
“Jesus said that he came to perfect the Law (Matthew 5:17). It was faulty and needed replacing.”
 
Perfecting the Law is not replacing it but is bringing it up to date or completing it or simply giving people the power to obey it better for a change by clarifying it and giving grace to keep it.

It is absurd to suggest that the Lord would give a bad Law. The only thing that is wrong with the Law if a good God wrote it is that it is not complete. Jesus expanded and clarified (not contradicted!) many of its rules (Matthew 5) so the Law was imperfect in the sense that it needed to be more comprehensive but not in the sense that it was evil or believed evil.
 
Page 5 of Not Under Law admits that Jesus affirmed that the Law was relevant and true for his day and future days. It rejects the view that when he said that the Law was to be fulfilled not destroyed and that anybody who breaks the least of these commandments will not be well off in the kingdom of God that he meant the commands he was about to give. He had not hinted that he was going to give any commandments of his own yet so he meant the commandments of the Law. And when it could mean the Law it must mean it for it is what he was talking about. The Law was the last thing with the Prophets that he mentioned.
 
“Jesus told us not to agree with the Law about hating enemies (Matthew 5:43). Thus he declared it wrong to follow the Mosiac laws today. The New Testament is full of exhortations to love all people and be and peace with them. They also prove that the Law is dead.”
 
Jesus did not say that the Law said this. He was quoting a Jewish tradition of his own time for this text he recited commanding the hatred of enemies cannot be found in the Law. He asked people to renounce it.
 
Jesus commanded turning the other cheek. That was not a contradiction of the Law for Jesus is discussing the abuse of the Law. Even Moses had to turn the other cheek at times.
 
Turn the other cheek means let reasonably minor offences go meaning you must keep retribution for big offences.
 
The Law commanded love of enemies (Leviticus 19:17,18).
 
The Law commanded brutal executions for those who committed certain sins such as adultery and failure to believe in the religion of the Hebrews.
 
How can the two commandments agree? How can we be expected to love enemies and then execute people cruelly? Some say that we are to love our enemies except the capital criminals. Others say that the capital criminals are not our enemies but God’s. Others say that for anyone who hates God hates us by implication if we need him like he says. Perhaps the Law didn’t realise this. Others say that it is somehow love to kill criminals in sadistic ways. We don’t know. But if we believe that the Bible is God’s word then we have to believe that the last could be right for there is no logic in claiming that the savage killings were love unless there is a God who has the power to make them for the best. The solution may be that God can hate people but we are not to for we don’t know the enemy like he does for he sees the heart. We kill them not because we hate them but because he commanded it.
 
Anyone who says that Jesus abolished the Law to allow the love of enemies is wrong. It is blasphemous to suggest that God was hate before and is love now for he is in a timeless state where there is no changing.  He would not be a God if he were untrustworthy.
 
“Matthew 5:31,32 has Jesus rejecting the rule of the Law permitting a man to give a certificate of divorce so the Law is not for us. Jesus taught that divorce was lawful when adultery had occurred. He said soon after that, that divorce for any other reason was against God’s will.”
 
But Jesus already said that the Law was right so he can’t be deliberately contradicting it. And if he was banning divorce except for adultery then he was not disputing the commandment he quoted for the Law permitted divorce. He was simply clarifying the commandment not distorting or changing it. In fact, Jesus may be saying that a woman is not made to commit adultery by divorce when she has been unchaste for she is guilty of adultery anyway. That would mean that Jesus did permit divorce when adultery had happened but he says nothing about remarriage being allowed. More plausibly, Jesus is saying that divorce is sinful when it is done with the possibility that the divorced one can marry again. The Law then may allow divorce without it being thought it can allow the man or woman to marry again. In other words it is really separation. Jesus is forbidding divorce that is intended to free the partners to marry again.

Matthew said that Jesus was opposed to a man having more than one wife (19:5,6). Christians may claim that the Torah gave polygamy it’s blessing. The Torah gives laws about polygamy but it does not say that it is right. It does permit it by implication for God could have forbidden it. But Jesus would have disagreed with this. Or he could have covered up the fact that its silence gives consent to polygamy. He said that the people were so stubborn that there were some sins Moses and by implication God couldn’t condemn for they wanted to do them. So God had to keep silent to keep his people. That silence was one reason why Jesus said that the Law needed to be completed meaning by further teaching and clarification.
 
This is another argument based on Matthew’s teaching on divorce. “Jesus said that any man who divorces his wife makes her commit adultery” and quotes the Law permitting a man to divorce his wife, with disapproval.
 
There is no need to take that meaning of it. Jesus said Moses permitted divorce for remarriage for the people were so stubborn but God didn’t. The Law never expressly permitted remarriage.
 
The divorce was really legal separation.
 
“Matthew’s Jesus condemns oaths which the Law allowed.”
 
Jesus said it was evil to swear and that yes or no should do. All Jesus meant was that oaths should not be necessary for people should tell the truth. He did not forbid oaths. It may be objected that he intended to forbid oaths when he said that what went beyond yes or no was of the Devil. He meant evil in the sense of should not be necessary. Jesus did not say that oaths are wrong when they are necessary but that they should not be necessary for they would not be if we were honest. Oaths are necessary even if people only lie for grave reasons. See what Jesus is getting at? It is that lying is never ever justifiable.
 
“Matthew 5:40 says that if anybody wants to steal your tunic let him take your cloak too. The cloak was a very important garment and could mean life or death to the poor who were plentiful among the people Jesus was speaking to. They needed it to keep them warm at night. Thus Jesus was clearly abrogating the law of the Old Testament on self-defence”.
 
Nobody has ever taken Jesus literally when he said if anybody hits you on one cheek turn the other. Not even pacifist Christians do that. They say we should not hit back but try to get away which is not turning the other cheek. There are circumstances in which we should turn the other cheek just as there are circumstances as to when we should let somebody steal our cloak. We can survive without it if we try. And Jesus never said you should give away your cloak if you need it to live. The argument assumes that Jesus was making an iron law to cover all circumstances. He left it up to us to decide if we should let the cloak go.
 
“The Law decreed that priests were to dress a certain way. It encourages public prayers. Jesus was against this in Matthew 6 because he said that God prefers secrecy about such things.”
 
Jesus meant that it was wrong to do these things to show off. He would not have been preaching at all if he thought that it was wrong to be seen doing good. This is the Christian reply and that is all that I will say.
 
“Jesus forbade military service and political involvement when he said that a man cannot serve two masters for a clash would be inevitable so he should be the slave of God (Matthew 6:24). The Old Testament supported the military so the Law was done away”.
 
But the context was about God and money. Jesus was saying we cannot be committed to God and be equally committed to money. God must come first. These words do not prove that it is wrong to have money. All they say is that God must get all the commitment and if you are going to use money you must use it to serve God. You could change it to make it say that if you are going to be in the army then serve God through it but do not be attached to the job but to God.
 
“Matthew 7:1 has Jesus forbidding judgment while the Law sanctions it”.
 
He plainly said that he forbade it when unjust hypocritical standards were used. He was not against righteous judgment. He did not want people who were worse than you condemning or punishing you. The punishing is not bad in itself but it is wrong when it is done for the wrong reason and the only reason a hypocrite will punish you is because of spite.
 
“Jesus says that his law is a light burden (Matthew 11:30) which proves he cancelled the Jewish Law for it was a heavy burden.”
 
Not true. The heavy burden can become light when God helps you to carry it. Jesus was just saying that God has made the heavy load of the Law a lighter one not by watering it down but by being more cooperative.
 
“Jesus said according to Matthew that you must not call any man on earth your father but only him who is your Father in Heaven contradicting Leviticus 20:9.”
 
Jesus said this in Matthew 23 and the context was about leaders who would lead you away from God. If God is your Father in Heaven you will treat him as a Father by honouring your own father but only in as far as your father works for and commands the will of God.
 
“Jesus said that Christians are to ignore the decrees of the Torah because you don’t put an old patch on new clothes (Matthew 9).”

The context is about people complaining about Jesus’ disciples not doing any fasting while John the Baptist’s did. Jesus is not speaking about the Law at all but about man-made religious traditions. The Law is not even mentioned in the text.
 
The gospels say that Jesus died voluntarily on the cross to save us from sin which leads some to argue that Jesus wants us to practice suffering love and to take abuse from our enemies and implying an extreme endorsement of non-violence (page 34, Christ and Violence) which would be contrary to the attitude of the Law. It is different for a man who can rise from the dead to do things like that. Jesus had to die to atone but we don’t have to suffer for that though we do have to suffer for doing right.
 
Christians admit that Jesus never once broke the Law though some think the only time was when he told a man who wanted to bury his father to let the dead bury their own dead (page 32, The Metaphor of God Incarnate). But even this exception is a matter of dispute. Jesus believed he had an urgent mission. He needed the man to be part of it. The man doing this was more important than burying the dead. So it was not Jesus’ intention to break the Law. So Jesus was just urging the keeping of the bigger law because there was a conflict and both couldn’t be kept. But perhaps there was no conflict. The law that the dead must be buried didn’t require the man to bury his father if he had other relations to do it. Jesus believed that letting others keep the law of burial was better than breaking the Law that God and the kingdom of God comes first by telling the man he could bury his father. Under the circumstances, the man didn’t have this obligation.
 
It is thought that Jesus broke the Sabbath. Jesus when he let his followers pick food during the Sabbath replied that they were hungry and the Law wasn’t that strict for David was allowed to feed his men with bread forbidden to anyone but the priests. This was a protest against the overly strict application of the Sabbath not the Sabbath.
 
Matthew has not declared the Torah void. It deserves its reputation as a Gospel for Jewish Christians.
 
GOD A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED Keith Ward, OneWorld, Oxford, 2003 recognises that the Christian claim that the Jews were legalists caring only for the letter of the Law is false (page 79). It says the Jews rather than just worrying about a legalistic outward obedience required good motives for this obedience just like Jesus taught that not killing was not enough and one needed to have a loving heart as well. Jesus was not contradicting the Law at all in the Sermon on the Mount (page 78).

 
For Jesus, the law of Moses is simply right and by fulfilling it he means finding a new way of respecting it. He made the law tougher. But what if it is true that Jesus abolished the ritual murders of certain "criminals" or "sinners" in the law? The law for example that adulterers must be murdered remains in force - it is just that God is going to murder them himself instead of asking us to do it. So there is no case for suggesting an abolition. 
 
MATTHEW WANTS LAW OBEYED

The Gospel of Matthew contains most of the proofs that the Law of Moses was just as obligatory for Christians as it was for the Hebrews that Moses gave it to.

 
In Matthew 5, Jesus says that he has come to fulfil the Law and the Prophets, the two major sections in the Old Testament, not to prohibit them. Then he says that not an iota shall pass from them. He is promising to preserve the perfectly. Then he asserts that it is a sin to break or abolish even one of their commandments.

 
The word for fulfil in the original text is the Greek word pleroo. Pleroo appears in Matthew 13:48 where a net is pleroo or filled up with fish. Pleroo means that instead of changing or cancelling the Law he would fill it up until it could hold no more which is the same as saying he will expand the Law and make it complete (page 16, The World Ahead, November December 1998, Vol 6, Issue 6).

 
He is saying that he will not do away with the rules in the Law. He said some stuff after that many take to be in contradiction of the Law. But he said he would not do away. So what comes after must not be interpreted so as to be supposed to be in contradiction to the Law.

 
Some have said that when Jesus said after he came to fulfil the Law that anybody who breaks the smallest of the commandments will be the lowest in the kingdom of Heaven he meant the commandments he gave later on. But when he was after speaking about the Law his listeners who were naïve and irreligious would certainly have assumed that the commandments had to be those of the Law. So, Jesus condemned people who broke the Law of Moses.

 
He did not simply mean, “I have not come to do away with the text of the Law but to fulfil it”. If he had he would have put the word text in in case his listeners who were ordinary people would misunderstand. The Law is not the text or it’s wording but is expressed in letters and words and in sentences. Jesus would not have talked as if he was expected to do away with the text and replace it

 
“He did not actually say that it would be a sin for him to repeal the divine laws,” reply the theologians who want to use this as an excuse for denying my natural interpretation of what Jesus said. But he never said, “It is a sin for anybody except me to alter the commandments of the Law”. He meant that even he himself was excluded from the privilege of altering the Law.

 
Jesus said that our keeping the law or righteousness must be better than that of the scribes and Pharisees to enter the kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20). We must obey the Jewish Law better than them. He did not like the Jews preferring the letter of the Law to the spirit of the Law. For example, the Jews read in the Law to love their neighbours. They interpreted this as meaning that they must love only those who live around them. But they did not understand that God meant that everybody is your neighbour. The misinterpretation is the letter of the Law and the real meaning is the spirit of the Law. If you take it overly literally it becomes the letter of the Law that you are obeying. Forget about the words and concentrate on the meaning.
 
Jesus said later that since the Law and the Prophets commanded that you do to others what you want them to do to you, you must obey (7:12). He categorically stated that the Law was still in force and said that this rule was a summary of the Law and the Prophets. A summary that drops out the parts is not a summary at all so Jesus was saying the Law should still be obeyed. If the summary rules out the brutal laws of the Law and the Prophets then it is not a summary.

 
The Church says that Jesus died for sinners to make up for sins. But it believes he didn’t need to die for all he had to do was obey God in our place and each act is full payment for our disobedience. The Church holds that since Jesus was God or supremely special to God only one act of obedience was needed to remove sin so Jesus made up for all sins simply by being conceived. To become man knowing that you have to give your life for sinners on the cross would be the same value as dying on the cross. After the atonement, Jesus told his disciples to obey everything the scribes and the Pharisees tell them but not to emulate their hypocrisy (Matthew 23:2,3). And their teachers preached that Jesus must be ready and willing to kill and give an eye for an eye for the Law says so.
 
Christ castigated the Jews for not obeying God’s word when it demanded that anybody who did not respect parents had to be put to death (Matthew 15). He told them they were setting aside the wishes of God which would not have been the case if this law had been cancelled for then it would not have been there to have been set aside.
 
On the strength of God’s own authority, Jesus commanded the love of God and of neighbour (Matthew 22). He said that to him these meant what the Law commanded for all it demands depends on these two principles. In other words, he wanted the Law to be observed in full for its nature was love.
 
The people were told by Jesus to obey the scribes and Pharisees because they preached the Torah. He denounced them as evil men so he would not have told them to do what they say when their ideas were only their own reasoning. “Observe and practice all they tell you; but do not do what they do, for they preach, but do not practice” (Matthew 23:3).
 
Jesus told a young Jewish man to keep the commandments if he wanted to enter Heaven (Matthew 19:17). Christians say that this is not a proof that the Law is still in force for he went on to say he should keep the moral rules forbidding stealing and adultery and so on or the ten commandments in other words. But Jesus mentioned only a few commandments and quoted them as some but not all examples so he would have meant the other laws in and out of the Ten Commandments too. He certainly did not mean the man to think that only a couple of rules were binding. When he was speaking to a Jew he would have been understood to have referred to the entire Law and he was preaching obedience to the Law during his ministry. And because he said commandments instead of Ten Commandments he must have meant the entire law. Remember too that the Ten Commandments were just a summary of the Law of Moses meaning that to approve them is to approve of all the other laws too. The first commandment, You shall have no God but me – or you shall put nothing else before me and will obey me, enjoins obedience to the Law of God, the whole Law. It is a part of the Law after all.
 
Jesus said we should treat others as we want them to treat us FOR this fulfils the Law of Moses and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12). He tells us we should like to be stoned to death if we deserve it. This line says it all.
 
The Law is still to be obeyed.

Jesus meant that the young man had to be saved by grace without good works and that the young man could do good works and obey the Law only if he were really saved. He is good because of salvation and not to earn salvation. In that sense, the man had to keep the Law to enter Heaven.
 
Conclusion
 
The Gospel of Matthew denies that the civil, religious and moral laws of the Old Testament are done away. It says they are in force. Christians then are to gather stones and to get ready to kill the local adulterer and we are to burn down the local Catholic Church for idolatry according to these laws.  Jesus said in Matthew 13 that "Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”  That is a clear affirmation that any teacher who advocates the terrible laws is bringing out treasures.  If you would open a New Testament you will see that it regards itself as an update of the Old and is very much based on it and continually quotes it as God's message. The Old Testament was Jesus' Bible. Jesus said that anybody who says any Old Testament rule is wrong will be the least in his kingdom. That is they are considered lower than a paedophile.  Strong affirmation!  Even if Jesus changed the law he did not consider it to be wrong - ever!