Jesus Interprets the Law

MEMORY VERSE: “Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law.” —Romans 13:8

MATTHEW 5:17-20, 38-48

GOD’S laws are unchangeable and eternal. God’s work through and among his people may vary from age to age, but his law governing their conduct toward him and toward one another remains the same. The Law which was given to the people of Israel at the hand of Moses was not to be destroyed, and Jesus explained that he had not come to destroy that Law, but to fulfill it. Because the Israelites were members of the fallen and sinful race they were unable to keep the Law; but Jesus, being perfect, did keep and thus fulfill it.

It is a serious matter willfully to break any of God’s laws, and even more serious to encourage others to do so. The scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day, while not openly encouraging the people to break the Law, did tend to make it void by their traditions, traditions which resulted in a lower standard of righteousness than that set forth by God’s pure Law. So Jesus said to his disciples, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

It was prophetically spoken of Jesus that he would “magnify the law, and make it honorable.” (Isa. 42:21) The second section of our lesson is an illustration of the manner in which Jesus magnified the Law. Instead of “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,” which is an exact principle of justice, Jesus taught, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Further, “If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

Then Jesus gave an example of how tradition had been used to set aside the real intent of the Law. We quote: “Ye have heard that it bath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.” The Law taught that one should love his neighbor; but the Law did not teach that anyone should hate his enemy—this was a tradition. Notice Jesus’ statement, “Ye have heard that it hath been said.” The traditions of the elders of Israel were passed from one to another by word of mouth. It was later that these traditions were published in a book known today as the Talmud.

How Jesus magnified the commandment to love our neighbor—“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Jesus continued his lesson on love: “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” These are truly heart-searching questions for all who profess to be walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

The last verse of the lesson is especially meaningful—“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” This does not refer to perfection of the flesh on our part, for no member of the sin-cursed and dying race can attain to such a standard of perfection.

The New English Bible reads, “You must therefore be all goodness, just as your Heavenly Father is all good.” The word “therefore” takes us back to Jesus’ reminder that the Heavenly Father causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall on the evil and the good, the just and the unjust. If we are like our Heavenly Father we will bless our enemies as the Father does, and from this standpoint be his children.

If we are “all goodness” as our Father is—perfect, or all-comprehensive in this respect—while not free from imperfections, we will be emulating our Heavenly Father, and will be fulfilling the intent of his Law. And this, in the final analysis, is the operation of love in our hearts; and this is what our memory verse means. We have, as it were, a debt of love to be paid to all, and especially to our brethren in Christ.


Explain how Jesus fulfilled the Law.

How did Jesus magnify the Law?

How can we be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect?

Dawn Bible Students Association
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