on Matthew 5 :17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law - Do not imagine that I am come to violate the law καταλυσαι, from κατα, and λυω, I loose, violate, or dissolve - I am not come to make the law of none effect - to dissolve the connection which subsists between its several parts, or the obligation men are under to have their lives regulated by its moral precepts; nor am I come to dissolve the connecting reference it has to the good things promised. But I am come, πληρωσαι, to complete - to perfect its connection and reference, to accomplish every thing shadowed forth in the Mosaic ritual, to fill up its great design; and to give grace to all my followers, πληρωσαι, to fill up, or complete, every moral duty. In a word, Christ completed the law:
1st. In itself, it was only the shadow, the typical representation, of good things to come; and he added to it that which was necessary to make it perfect, His Own Sacrifice, without which it could neither satisfy God, nor sanctify men.
2dly. He completed it in himself by submitting to its types with an exact obedience, and verifying them by his death upon the cross.
3dly. He completes this law, and the sayings of his prophets, in his members, by giving them grace to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, and their neighbor as themselves; for this is all the law and the prophets.
It is worthy of observation, that the word גמר gamar, among the rabbins, signifies not only to fulfill, but also to teach; and, consequently, we may infer that our Lord intimated, that the law and the prophets were still to be taught or inculcated by him and his disciples; and this he and they have done in the most pointed manner. See the Gospels and epistles; and see especially this sermon on the mount, the Epistle of James, and the Epistle to the Hebrews. And this meaning of the word gives the clear sense of the apostle's words, Colossians 1:25. Whereof I am made a minister, πληρωσαι τον λογον του Θεου, to fulfill the word of God, i.e. to teach the doctrine of God.
on Matthew 5 :17
Think not that I am come ... - Our Saviour was just entering on his work. It was important for him to state what he came to do. By his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, some might charge him with an intention to destroy their law, and to abolish the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets.
To destroy - To abrogate; to deny their divine authority; to set people free from the obligation to obey them. "The law." The five books of Moses called the law. See the notes at Luke 24:44.
The Prophets - The books which the prophets wrote. These two divisions here seem to comprehend the Old Testament, and Jesus says that he came not to do away or destroy the authority of the Old Testament.
But to fulfil - To complete the design; to fill up what was predicted; to accomplish what was intended in them. The word "fulfill" also means sometimes "to teach" or "to inculcate," Colossians 1:25. The law of Moses contained many sacrifices and rites which were designed to shadow forth the Messiah. See the notes at Hebrews 9. These were fulfilled when he came and offered himself a sacrifice to God,
"A sacrifice of nobler name.
And richer blood than they."
The prophets contained many predictions respecting his coming and death. These were all to be fulfilled and fully accomplished by his life and his sufferings.
on Matthew 5 :17
5:17 Think not - Do not imagine, fear, hope, that I am come - Like your teachers, to destroy the law or the prophets. I am not come to destroy - The moral law, but to fulfil - To establish, illustrate, and explain its highest meaning, both by my life and doctrine.