Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:17-18

There are some very interesting things that occur when Jesus gives what is typically called the “Sermon on the Mount”.  Another interesting thing is the comparison and contrast with Mount Sinai and Moses.  We’ll look at that later.

Jesus went up on the mountain to deliver His Law, the Law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

In Matthew 5:17 Jesus says that He did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them.

Matthew 5:17 (ESV) “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.

Now the word fulfill is argued over as to what exactly Jesus means by that.

Fulfill is the Greek word pleroo  meaning to make replete, i.e. (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: Used in the KJV as- accomplish, after, (be) complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.   (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

But then we can look at the next verse to see more explanation.

Matthew 5:18 (ESV) 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.

This verse is explaining the previous verse and the word fulfill.  See it even uses a different word to explain it better – accomplished.  However, those who feel the KJV is the only accurate translation have a little more difficulty here.  See the KJV translates this verse as:

Matthew 5:18 (KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Now that still explains verse 17 some, but not as well as the ESV. ( When defining a word it is best to not use the word in the definition.  🙂 )  But the interesting thing here is the word that the KJV translated as fulfilled is actually a different word than the word for fulfill in verse 17.  See the original Greek word is ginomai  not pleroo.

Ginomai  is a tough word to explain and understand.  Technically it is “to cause to be” but since that doesn’t help me with my poor English skills I had to look further.  So out comes an Englishman’s search to see how that word is used in other places in the Bible.  The best way to understand and translate a word from Scripture is with Scripture.  (Englishman’s is based off of the KJV.)

The underlined portion is the root word Ginomai.

Matthew 1:22-23 (KJV)
22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

Matthew 6:10 (KJV) Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Matthew 7:28-29 (KJV)
28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:
29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

Hebrews 4:3 (KJV) For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.

So now that helps even more:  

Ginomai – fulfilled, was done, be done, it came to pass, were finished.

Yeah, but then others will say but heaven and earth hasn’t passed away!  That’s right they haven’t but reread that verse.

Matthew 5:18 (KJV) For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Matthew 5:18 (ESV) 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.

Maybe reading a few more verses with this expression will help.

Luke 16:17 (ESV) But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.

See what Jesus is saying here?  It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Law to become void.  However, the Law and the Prophets will be fulfilled or accomplished.

We use similar expressions regularly. 

“On the second Tuesday of next week I’ll give you a hundred dollars.”

“When pigs fly I’ll stop loving you.”

But in this next verse the expression has changed somewhat.  See here it says Heaven and Earth will pass away but Jesus’  Word will not pass away.

Matthew 24:35 (ESV) Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, not just those prophecies about Him, but all the Law and Prophets.



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2 thoughts on “Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:17-18

  1. I don’t think I have ever before read a more exhaustive explanantion of the word “fulfilled”, :).

    However, I do understand the need to do so when examining what place the law holds in the life on the NT believer.

    I have always believed that Jesus Himself was the fulfillment of the law, never once thinking that the words He used in the verses you cite were a call for us to adhere to the law until heaven and earth pass away.

    How did I miss that such an interpretation was posssible?

    Berean Wife Reply:

    Terry,

    Well, now you know more about fulfilled than you ever wanted to know. 🙂

    I have read many, many articles promoting the Law of Moses as still applicable to the NT believers. This verse is one that they say only means Jesus fulfilled the Prophecy about Him such as Isaiah 53, and Psalm 22. However, they deny that Jesus also fulfilled the Law. Granted they admit that He kept the whole Law, but they argue that Jesus did not fulfill the Law of Moses. But that ignores the plain fact that Jesus said He would fulfill the Law. So I’ve sorta answered some questions that no one asked on the website but just in emails or in linked articles. 🙂 But then all the Law of Moses points to the fulfillment of Christ which He accomplished, not just the prophesy.

    It does amaze me that something so simple can be twisted to mean totally different. 🙁

    Berean Wife

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