What did Christ mean when He said that He had come to FULFILL the law? Doesn't this imply that He did away with the law?


Christ’s statement that He came to FULFILL the law does NOT mean that He did away with it — quite the CONTRARY is correct.

Notice what Christ said in Matthew 5:17: “Do NOT think that I came to DESTROY the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy BUT to fulfill.” Christ did not say here that He had come to destroy the law. Neither did He say that “fulfilling” the law meant, “destroying it,” because if that were true, Christ’s statement would read: “I did not come to destroy the law but to destroy the law.” This would make no sense.

In the Greek, the word for “fulfill” is “pleroo.” It is true that this word can designate completion or even cessation — but as will be pointed out, it can also mean a continued activity of carrying out something — depending on the context. For instance, in Luke 7:1, the word “pleroo” is used in the sense of “end” or “conclude”: “Now when He concluded all His sayings…” In Acts 19:21, the Greek word is translated as “accomplished” : “When these things were accomplished…” (The Authorized Version says “ended” in both passages.)

However, in the majority of cases, the Greek word “pleroo” conveys the meaning of “filling up” or “making full,” with the concept of continuing to carry out a specific task.

In our free booklet, “And Lawlessness Will Abound,” we explain on pages 17 and 18:

“Christ did not come to do away with God’s spiritual law of the Ten Commandments. He stated in Matthew 5:17 that He had NOT come to destroy the law, but to fulfill it-to magnify it, to exalt it and to make it more honorable (Isaiah 42:21), to fill it up with its intended meaning, to show how to keep it perfectly in the flesh. The Greek word for ‘fulfill’ is ‘pleroo.’ It literally means ‘to fill’ or ‘to make full’ (Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible). In Matthew 3:15 it is used in this context: ‘…it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’

“In Philippians 2:2, Paul states, ‘…fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love.’ Further, Paul reminds the saints in Colosse that he became a minister to ‘fulfill the word of God’ (Colossians 1:25), and he admonishes Archippus to ‘take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfill it’ (Colossians 4:17). None of these passages convey the thought that something has ended-rather, the obvious understanding is that something should be continued to be filled with meaning, or to be brought to perfection… God’s spiritual law, as defined in the Ten Commandments, the statutes and the judgments, ‘stand[s] fast forever and ever’ (Psalm 111:7-8), and… it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away ‘than for one tittle of the law to fail’ (Luke 16:17). A tittle is the smallest stroke in a Hebrew letter.”

In the above-quoted excerpt, the Greek word “pleroo” conveys the meaning of fulfilling a task in a continuing way, rather than completing a task and ceasing to do it.

In addition, note this quote from page 4 of the same booklet:

“The apostle James… silences those who claim that we today do not have to keep ALL of God’s Ten Commandments. Let’s read his decisive answer in James 2:8-12: “If you really fulfill [that is, keep] the royal law according to the Scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep [or, fulfill] THE WHOLE LAW, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of ALL. For He who said, Do not commit adultery, also said, Do not murder. Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a TRANSGRESSOR of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”

In this passage, the Greek word for “fulfill” is “teleo,” but the intended meaning is obviously the same: We are to continue fulfilling or keeping the Law — not ceasing to keep it. This conclusion is clear when we understand what sin is — and that we have to repent of sin to obtain eternal life.

Please note these excerpts from pages 14-15 of our free booklet, “Baptism–A Requirement for Salvation?” :

“What, exactly, is it that we need to repent of…? Simply put, we must repent of the sins we have committed. What is sin? The biblical definition is: ‘…sin is the transgression of the law’ (1 John 3:4, Authorized Version). Which law? The law of God’s Ten Commandments. James calls it the ‘royal law according to the Scripture’ (James 2:8). It defines our love toward God and our love toward neighbor. When we break even one of the Ten Commandments, we are guilty of having broken them all and have become a transgressor of the law (James 2:10-11). The law of the Ten Commandments is a spiritual law, as Paul explains in Romans 7:14, because it regulates not only our actions, but also the motives and intents of our heart. We sin when we commit adultery (Exodus 20:14), but we also sin when we DESIRE or COVET the wife of another man (Exodus 20:17), or when we look at another woman with the desire to commit adultery with her (Matthew 5:28). Additionally, we sin when we kill someone (Exodus 20:13), but we have already sinned by violating God’s spiritual law of the Ten Commandments when we even HATE another human being (Matthew 5:21-22; 1 John 3:15).”

Christ did not come to do away with God’s Law. Otherwise, there would be no more sin, and we would not need to repent of anything. But Christ said that we have to REPENT and believe the gospel (Mark 1:14-15). The resurrected Christ commanded His disciples that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name” (Luke 24:47). And Peter proclaimed that same message, as is recorded in Acts 2:38. Christ had come to FULFILL the Law, that is, He kept it PERFECTLY, giving us an example that we “should follow His steps” (compare 1 Peter 2:21). He did not keep the Law FOR us, so that we don’t have to keep it anymore. Rather, He told a young rich ruler: “If you want to enter into life, KEEP the commandments” (compare Matthew 19:17).

Note this quote from our free booklet, “The Gospel of the Kingdom of God,” on pages 24:

“Christ warned those of His time, as well as us today, that not everyone who would just say ‘Lord, Lord’ to Christ, would enter the Kingdom of God, but only the person ‘who does the will of My Father in heaven.’ (Matthew 7:21) This same thought is expressed in Luke 16:16: Everyone wants to desperately enter the Kingdom of God. But what does Christ tell us in verse 17: ‘And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail.’ In other words, if you want to enter into eternal life, KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS. Only those who do the will of the Father, which is, to keep the commandments of God, will enter the Kingdom of God. And now Christ continues to give us an example of such a commandment to be kept, in verse 18: ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced from her husband commits adultery.’ ‘You shall not commit adultery’ is one of the commandments that we are to keep. And divorcing someone for any other than Biblical reasons and then marrying again, is a violation of the law against adultery. In order to enter the Kingdom of God, in order to be part of the Kingdom of God, we must KEEP God’s Law. It is the SAME Law, as we are told in Luke 16:16, that had already been preached up until the time of John the Baptist. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the Law to fail.”

The teaching of the Bible is consistent. In order to inherit eternal life, we must keep God’s Law — the Ten Commandments, as well as the statutes and judgments, defining and explaining the Ten Commandments even further. Christ did not come to “fulfill” the Law by doing away with it or by destroying it. Rather, Christ came to “fulfill” the Law by making it more honorable (Isaiah 42:21 ), by MAGNIFYING it, by showing us HOW to obey it both in the letter AND in the SPIRIT. This includes ALL of God’s commandments — including the keeping of the Fourth Commandment, which enjoins us to keep God’s Sabbath holy (Exodus 20:8). For more information on that important subject, please read our free booklet, “God’s Commanded Holy Days.”

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