Christian Bibles consistently refer to "the Law," meaning the Law of Moses, as given in the first five books of the Bible. The Hebrew term for this is the Torah. However, the correct translation of "Torah," is not "law" (not in the western legal sense of the word). Rather, Torah is correctly translated as revelation or instruction from God.
When understood in its proper Hebrew context, here is some of what the "New Testament" says about Torah:
1. Faith does not abolish any part of the Torah as a whole (Matthew 5:17-20, James 2:10)
2. Keeping the Torah is part of the faith that gets you to heaven (Matthew 19:17; Revelation 12:17; 14:12; 22:14)
3. You will abide in Jesus' love, if you keep Torah (John 14:15-23) as He abided in the Father's love by keeping Torah (John 15:10; Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15)
4. Faith in Jesus does not cancel out what the Torah says, it establishes it (Romans 3:31)
5. Torah is itself "liberty" and the standard we are to judge ourselves by (James 1:22-25)
6. It is those of the flesh who are not subject to the Torah (Romans 8:5-8)
7. If you say you know Him, and ignore His Torah, you are a liar (1 John 2:3-7)
8. It does not matter if you are a Jew or a gentile, what matters is keeping God's Torah (1 Cor. 7:19)
9.The "law of love" is that we keep his Torah - which is by no means a "burden" (1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6; Matt. 11:29,30)
These "New Testament" references to Torah, or Old Testament teachings might at first confuse people, as they aren't used to thinking in these terms. However, when the New Testament authors, and Jesus, spoke of law/commandments in their first century Jewish religious context, it must be interpreted as "Torah," unless there is a clear reason to do otherwise, as this was what it meant to them.
First, a brief look at two of the Greek words behind the text in verse 17:
Destroy = kataluo, meaning "to overthrow completely" or "abolish" It is actually a compound word. There is a preposition on the front meaning 'down' or 'against'. The root verb means 'to loosen' or such ideas as 'destroy' or 'teat down'. Typically the use of the preposition with a verb give extreme amplification to the idea. Therefore, Jesus did not come to utterly destroy,abolish or end the Torah, law.
Fulfill = plerosai, meaning "to fil" or "to complete." Interestingly Matthew has both of these verbs as aorist tense! The use of aorist tense here, a Constative Aorist, describes a single action or even as a whole. In other words, Jesus is saying this sums up his perspective!
The second half of verse 17 is used by some people to support a doctrine that says the believer in Messiah is now "not under the Law." Some claim that by "fulfilling the Law," Messiah did away with it, and the believer no longer has a relationship to it.
One need not look any further than this verse itself to see that such an interpretation is incorrect, as:
Jesus then goes on to emphasize in verse 18, that not even the tiniest part of the Torah (the "Law") is done away with, and won't be until the heavens and the earth are no more.Not only did Jesus come to establish and complete the Old Testament laws,He then takes it even further, and issues a warning to anyone who "breaks" any of the Torah, or teaches anyone to do the same. The Greek word for "break" is luo, meaning; "to infringe upon, loosen the force of, or render not binding."Hence, Jesus is teaching that His work in no way diminishes the authority or continuation of the Torah.
Verses 17-20 set the theme and agenda for the entire "Sermon on the Mount." Jesus the Messiah makes fuller the understanding of his disciples concerning the Torah and Prophets, so they can more fully express what being God’s people is all about. This is consistent with Judaism, as one of the Messiah's main functions would be to complete our understanding of the Torah & Prophets. The "evidence" for Jesus being the true Messiah is that He meets the criteria set forth in the Old Testament, which in turn says the Torah is eternal.
Much of the remainder of chapters 5-7 give specific cases where Jesus explains the fuller meaning of the Torah -- teaching the people to not only keep the Law, but to go beyond the "letter of the Law - understanding the Godly principles behind the commandments, as this is how we come to know God, which is His desire for us all.
The Talmud agrees with this and even states that Jerusalem was destroyed for not following what Jesus taught:
*Jesus never criticized the scribes and Pharisees for carrying out the Torah. In fact he told the people to follow their example (Matthew 23:1-3 ). He criticized them for only appearing to obey Torah and for not having a heart for obedience.
So, how obedient are you? Is your faith the indwelling power to please the Father, or the excuse to avoid His instructions? How unfortunate that we see Jesus as freeing us from the Law, meaning now we can do what we want. We should see Jesus as finally providing us with a way to be obedient. It is strange that we fail to see his consistent obedience. No one ever accused Jesus of breaking ANY law. Could others say this about you?