This is the 3rd post in a series, for the previous post please click HERE.
“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. For 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. Therefore 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. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:17-20 ESV
This is a very popular proof text for SDA, Specifically:
- “not an iota, not a dot” ESV
- “ one jot or one tittle” KJV
- “Therefore 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”
It is important to note here that commandments does not mean the Ten Commandments like the SDA teach. They want you to read that into the text. It does beg the question as to which commandments though, fortunately this is made clear with other scripture. Do however notice that this is said right after the Beatitudes and right before Jesus Christ starts issuing Commandments all throughout Matt 5, 6, and 7.
Here are a few things to point out:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets”
- The Greek word here for Law is “Nomon”
- This is most consistently used throughout the Bible in reference to the Old Covenant Torah.
“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law [Nomon] of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord” Luk 2:22 ESV
“Therefore 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”
- The Greek word here for Commandments is “Entolon”
- This is most consistently used throughout the Bible in reference to the teachings of Jesus. In Matt 5 this would logically be referring to the Beatitudes.
“For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments [Entolon] of God.” 1 Cor 7:19 ESV
I think that it is illogical to assert as SDA do that when Jesus Christ used two different words in the same breath here, he was referring to the same exact thing both times. Based on the greater context of scripture is its much more logical to assert that he used two different words to refer to two different things.
So to say this plainly, I believe that Jesus Christ was speaking to the Old Covenant when he said “Nomon” or “Law” and that he was speaking to the New Covenant when he said “Commandments” or “Entolon”.
What does it mean then to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Torah)?
- “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” ESV
- “I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” KJV
- “Law until all is accomplished” ESV
- “pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” KJV
A plain reading reveals that Jesus is referring to a point in which the Law will be fulfilled/Accomplished.
Common definitions of Fulfilled per Dictionary.com:
- “to carry out, or bring to realization, as a prophecy or promise.”
- to satisfy (requirements, obligations, etc.): a book that fulfills a long-felt need.
- to bring to an end; finish or complete, as a period of time: He felt that life was over when one had fulfilled his threescore years and ten.
Samuel Fisk Analyzes Matt 5:17-20 ESV in Dialogue with a Seventh-Day Adventist Pages 7&8 as follows:
“Jesus did not come to destroy any law, not even the ceremonials, but he fulfilled them. “Fulfill” means to complete, accomplish the purpose of; as we find in Luke 24:44, He said “all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me.” Now we know that refers to things to be completed. The word in this Luke text is the same word in the original as “fulfilled” in Matthew 5. And in Acts 19:21 the same word is translated “ended;” while in Acts 7:30 it is translated “expired” (“when the forty years were expired’)! All that shows the word surely means brought to the place where it fully served its purpose. In Matthew this word occurs 17 times, and 13 times it has to do with prophecy being fulfilled, which could not mean being continued.”
How did Jesus Fulfill the Law and the Prophets?
“by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” Col 2:14 ESV
“by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,” Eph 2:15 ESV
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” 1 Pet 2:24 ESV
“When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” Jhn 19:30 ESV
When I read all the related text, I see that to claim we are still under the Old Covenant would be to diminish the finished work of Christ on the cross.
If you want more material on Matt 5 I recommend these two sources
Click HERE for an audio sermon on the 10 Commandments by Pastor Mark Martin, a former SDA Pastor.
Further reading on this can be done in Sabbath in Christ by Dale Ratzlaff, please click HERE for more information. I highly recommend this book if you want to dig your teeth into the sabbath from an ex-adventist theological perspective.
A copy of Dialogue with a Seventh-Day Adventist by Samuel Fisk can be downloaded HERE.