Matt 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks 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 practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
What ‘Law’ is Jesus talking about here? He says “the law and the Prophets’ – the whole Old Testament. He was not talking about the oral traditions or scribal law of the Jewish teachers, but the pure words of God – not the interpretations of men. Jesus said that He had not come to abolish God’s word, but to fulfill it. He came to accomplish all that had been promised and to complete the purpose of the Old Law. (Gal 3:24-25) Jesus came to make clear the real meaning and purpose of the Law. He explained the two greatest commandments that must be grasped – Matt 22:35-40. He taught respect for all laws, even civil laws that do not contradict the word of God – Rom 13, and He taught the overriding principle of love. (Rom 13:10)
But Jesus also came to fulfill the Laws demand for perfect righteousness (Rom 8:3-4) and to fulfill all of the prophecies concerning Himself (Luke 24:44-47). He pointed out that heaven and earth would sooner pass away than the Law not be fulfilled.
What did Jesus mean then when He said that “our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees”? Let us examine what he taught his disciples:
-Jesus stressed an inner cleanliness as opposed to outward appearance (Matt 23:1-8)
-He stressed a motivation of love as opposed to duty or fear (Luke 17:10)
-He taught of righteousness by grace rather than trying to earn it by works. (Eph2:8)
The Old Testament law was a necessary requirement from God to point out right and wrong, and to show men their inability to cope with God’s demands by their own power. That is why Jesus had to come in the flesh and fulfill the Laws demands. (Heb 2:17-18) And once that Law had been fulfilled, it was taken away. The death and resurrection of Jesus ushered in the New Covenant that God had declared was coming – Heb 8:8-13. We are now under the requirements of the New Covenant.
Have you followed the requirements of the New Covenant as laid out by Peter in Acts 2:37-41?