The Confession claims that SOLA FIDE and sola gratia are in fact compatible with law-keeping. Contrary to the claim of some, Christ did not free us from obedience to the moral law, but rather strengthened our obligation to render obedience. How exactly did Christ do that? Central to this discussion is Matthew 5:17-19 which we turn our attention to now.
Matt 5:15-17 “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. 18 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. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes 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 does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
What Are The Law Or The Prophets?
Either anticipating what He will teach or on the basis of what He had taught before delivering the Sermon on the Mount, the Lord Christ warns His listeners not to think that He has come to nullify the Old Testament Scriptures, but rather to fulfill them. Crucial to this text is the understanding of the word fulfill which we will turn our attention to in a few moments. But first, let us identify what is meant by “the Law and the Prophets.”
I think that the phrase refers to the Old Testament as a whole and not to the Decalogue or the Law of Moses specifically. The phrase occurs in Matt 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 24:14; 28:23; Rom 3:21. The clearest proof that this refers to the Old Testament is I believe in Luke 16:16 where Abraham says to the man in Hades that his family has the Law and the Prophets, meaning that they have the Word of God in their hands. Or, what Paul testifies before Felix that he believes “everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets” (Luke 24:14), by which he means that he believes the whole Bible (as he knew it, before the completion of the NT).
What is meant then by “the Law” in v. 18? I believe that the Old Testament is still in view, for the word or category “Law” is used in the NT for more than only the Pentateuch. For example, the Lord referring to Psalm 82:2 says “Is it not written in your Law” (John 10:34). The Lord again quotes from the Psalms (35:19) by prefacing it with “the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled” (John 15:25). And 1 Corinthians 14:21 quotes from Isaiah 28:11-12 saying “In the Law it is written”. In these instances we see the word or category “Law” being used as a reference to all the holy writings which we know as the Old Testament and not merely to the Pentateuch. Seeing therefore that the word “Law” in v. 18 and the phrase “the Law or the Prophets” in v. 17 refer to the same thing, i.e., the Old Testament Scriptures, I see n...