I haven't given much thought to the words of Christ in Matthew 5:17 when he said, "I came to fulfill (accomplish) the Law." Maybe it's because I've heard these words my entire life. But this morning, Douglas Hare reminded me in his explanation of these words that maybe I shouldn't pass them so quickly. He poses the question, what does it mean for Christ to fulfill the law? Hare presents three different ways we can understand this word.
In Regards to the Old Testament
The Old Testament is I have always taken this passage to some level. After all, Jesus goes on in Matthew 5:21-48 which is often referred to has his Six Antitheses to share his interpretations of the Law and Traditions. This is a proper understanding of fulfillment. Jesus is talking about the Old Testament Law and the words of the Prophets. Hare writes it as
if we were to read this passage with this understanding. This passage means so much more though than just the fruition of the Law. That brings us to our second sense of the world.
As a Sense of Obedience
Paul writes a lot using the word fulfill with a sense of obedience or doing. In Galatians, we read, "Share each other’s burdens, and in this way fulfill (obey) the law of Christ." Here, we get the idea that there is on one side a way to keep the law and on the other a way to break it. That runs directly with v. 17 which starts, "I did not come to abolish the law." Christ didn't want to destroy the Law, to break it or to re-wright it, he wanted to follow the law, obey it. Hare writes the verse using this sense of fulfilling saying
That brings us to the third sense of the word.
A Sense of Establishment
The word fulfill can have a sense of establishment or confirmation. It was used in 1 Kings 1:14 when Nathan confirms Bathsheba's words. It is most likely that Matthew is anticipating some confusing from the antitheses that are coming and trying to be clear that Jesus is both trying to fulfill the truth of the Old Testament Law and confirm their truth. Hare writes the verse with this understanding in mind saying
Take some time and think it over. What sense do you think fulfill is taking in this passage?