Matthew 5:17-18 has to be some of the most contested verses in the entire Bible. Since it’s very unlikely that God would want any of us to be confused about anything in the Bible, there has to be an interpretation for these scriptures which corresponds with the context of what the rest of the Bible is saying. But what does the Bible really say about living under the law and whether we are still bound to it?
Matt 5:17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till Heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. (NKJV)
Jesus is giving us two conditions here:
1) The law cannot pass until heaven and earth pass away
2) The law cannot pass until all is fulfilled
Either one of these two things can do it. Heaven and earth have not yet passed, which leaves us with Option 2.
But what exactly did Jesus mean by all being fulfilled? Well, in verse 17 He was referring to the law and the Prophets. So in other words He was talking about the fulfilling or completing of the law and the prophets. Once He had fulfilled these two things, the law could pass away. In exactly the same manner that He fulfilled the Old Testament Prophecies, He also fulfilled the Old Testament Law.
Legal Requirements of the Law
Whenever a person is under a contractual obligation to someone else and they fulfill all the requirements of that contract, it means the contract is finished and over. But if they simply destroyed the contractual agreement before fulfilling its requirements, they are not released from its obligations, which is why Jesus said that He did not come to destroy the law. But the moment all the obligations of the contract are fulfilled, that person is set free from it! In exactly the same way Jesus did not come to destroy the law, but He fulfilled it.
Rom 10:14 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (NKJV)
Because all the righteous requirements of the law were fulfilled in Christ and since we are given the righteousness of Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit as a free gift when we put our faith in Jesus, it means that in Christ we too have fulfilled the requirements of the law and therefore the law has ended for us as well.
Rom 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (NKJV, emphasis added)
If someone’s mind has not been renewed to think in terms of grace, they might stare themselves blind against the last part of verse 4, thinking that we have to walk after the Spirit if we want to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law. But look down in verse 9:
Rom 8:9 But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. (NKJV)
This says that that if the Holy Spirit dwells in us, we are not in the flesh! So what these verses are actually saying is that if someone has the Holy Spirit inside them, it is proof that the requirements of the law have been met in them.