Let’s read Matthew 5:17-18, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to FUFILL. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will be no means pass from the law till all is FULFILLED” (NKJV). The key words in these verses which will help in answering your question are “fulfill” and “fulfilled.” Jesus did NOT come to DESTROY (i.e. overthrow) the law; He came to FULFILL (i.e. complete) it. Let’s explore some of the ways in which He fulfilled the Law.

  1. He “fulfilled the law” in His LIFE. The Law (the “Commandments of God”) gave to man the perfect STANDARD to live by and the Lord Jesus fulfilled the law by living a perfect, sinless life. In Psalm 40:7-8 we read, “Then I (the Lord Jesus) said, ‘Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” The Lord Jesus loved God’s Law and from the manger to the cross He obeyed God’s will perfectly as set forth in the Law.
  2. He “fulfilled the law” in His TEACHINGS. The Lord Jesus taught the Law with authority and passion. In fact, the passage we are considering is part of what we call “the Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew chapters 5-7) where He taught men the importance of the Law. After He finished instructing men we read, “And so it was, when Jesus ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Again, Jesus loved the law and with great zeal He expounded on the law. The Pharisees were guilty of “replacing the Law with their traditions,” but Jesus upheld the law and “completed it” by giving the law its true meaning.
  3. He “fulfilled the law” in His DEATH. Though Jesus taught men the law, He knew that men could NOT keep it. He also knew that the law condemned men for the Law said, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20). The apostle Paul taught the same thing, for in speaking of the Ten Commandments he referred to them as “the ministry of death” and “the ministry of condemnation” (see 2nd Corinthians 3:7 & 9). One of the main reasons God gave the Ten Commandments was to show men that they were sinners in need of a Savior. Romans 3:20 speaks to this: “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for BY THE LAW IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF SIN.” So, instead of the law providing a way for man to be righteous before God, it revealed their sin and condemned them. But in love for you and me, Jesus came to “fulfill the law” by paying the penalty for man’s sin. Galatians 4:4 and 3:13 states, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law…Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, HAVING BECOME A CURSE FOR US (for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’).” So, the law’s demands were met by Christ taking the sinner’s place in death and judgment on the cross. In Romans 3:21-30 the apostle Paul speaks in detail about Christ’s death for the sinner and how God justifies the believing sinner and then he ends on this note: “Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we ESTABLISH THE LAW” (verse 31). The good news of Jesus Christ “established the law” by declaring that its demands were perfectly met in the death of Christ!

You asked a very important question, “Are we supposed to still follow the law?” Scripture is very clear that once a person trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation they are no longer “under law,” but “under grace.” Romans 6:14 declares, “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” This simply means that the object of the believer’s life is not the Ten Commandments, but Jesus Christ. We don’t follow the law; we follow Jesus Christ! In John 1:17 we read, “For the law was given by Moses, but GRACE and TRUTH came by Jesus Christ. The believer is now privileged to be occupied with the GRACE OF GOD and the TRUTH OF GOD that came by Jesus Christ. It doesn’t mean we are “lawless”; it means that we now live our lives with the desire to learn more about our Savior and to please Him for giving His life for us. Perhaps the apostle Paul said it best in Galatians 2:20 and 2nd Corinthians 5:14-15, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and THE LIFE WHICH I NOW LIVE IN THE FLESH I LIVE BY FAITH IN THE SON OF GOD, WHO LOVED ME AND GAVE HIMSELF FOR ME….for the LOVE OF CHRIST COMPELS US…that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but FOR HIM WHO DIED FOR THEM AND ROSE AGAIN.” (285.5) (DO)