Whole Life Whole Bible Day 33
Matthew 5:17 (NASB)
17 “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
Matthew 7:12 (NASB)
12 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.
Matthew 22:35-40 (NASB)
35 One of them a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, 36“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 5-7, known as the Sermon on the Mount, sets out the way of life of those who belong to the kingdom. From beginning to end, it assumes a world that we know — where people hurt others through anger, where women are demeaned through lust, where marriages collapse, where Christians are persecuted, where we worry about what to eat and what to wear even while others are forced to beg. Sound familiar?
We live in this world, but we do so as Jesus’ disciples, disciples of the one who, according to his own claim, fulfills the Law and the Prophets. Faithfulness to Jesus entails faithfulness to all that has gone before in God’s dealings with his people through lawgiver and prophet — but only as Jesus fulfills it. This means that the Sermon on the Mount is not just about getting to the ‘true meaning’ of the Law, but about knowing and following the one to whom the Law points. Far from setting aside the Law and the Prophets, Jesus carries them into a new era of fulfillment in which his authoritative voice will govern the disciples’ obedience.
Matthew 7:12 reinforces what is apparent throughout the sermon — that our discipleship happens in relationship not just with God but with others. Jesus declares that doing to others what we would have them do to us is the Law and the Prophets (echoing 5:17), the true direction towards which the Old Testament points.
He makes the same point to the lawyer in Matthew 22:34–40, where the whole Law and the Prophets are said to ‘hang on’ love for God and neighbor. The Old Testament continues in full force for disciples of Christ, but — mediated through Jesus who fulfills it — its regulations are understood and embodied as expressions of love of God and of one’s neighbor, worked out in every aspect of life.
All of this shows that Jesus’ teaching is not concerned with constructing a system of disembodied rules but with reorientating the whole of life around a new reality — God’s inbreaking reign. Jesus’ exhortations are not faceless demands; rather, they presuppose certain things about him and about the kingdom he brings, which means that the Law and Prophets are no longer the center of gravity — Jesus is. We are not just called to live a particular lifestyle but to follow a peerless Lord.
For further reflection and action
The principle emerging from Matthew 5:17–20 appears to be that all the Old Testament law applies to Christians, but none of it applies apart from its fulfillment in Christ; its validity continues only with reference to him. Look at the examples in Matthew 5:21–48 to see how this principle works out in practice.
Why might it be important not to abstract Jesus’ demands from the story told in the gospel as a whole, which reaches its culmination in the death and resurrection?
For Paul, too, love is the fulfillment of the law (Romans 13:8–10; see also Galatians 5:13–15). Think and pray about your week ahead — at work and at home — and the opportunities you will have to express love for God and love for others.
Visit LICC to find out more or get an overview of the Biblical narrative and the ways it can shape us by reading the Introduction to Whole Life, Whole Bible from the Whole Life, Whole Bible book.