Christian Living

Pay Attention When Jesus Says, “But I Tell You.”

Jesus fulfills the Old Testament Law and Prophets when he gives new meaning to the old ways

Jesus said he came to fulfill the Law and Prophets (Matthew 5:17). One way he did this, the most significant way, was to satisfy the anticipation found throughout the Old Testament for a coming savior, a Messiah, who would save his people.

Jesus also fulfilled the Law and the Prophets by changing the way people viewed God and treated others. We’ve talked about this in another post. Because of Jesus we became God’s temple, and we’re to serve as priests to one another.

That means we don’t need to go to church to seek God or have a minister lead us. Seriously.

A third way Jesus fulfilled the Law and the Prophets is by giving us an enlightened understanding of the intent behind the literal interpretation of what the Old Testament said and how the people thought.

He does this in the teaching we call “The Sermon on the Mount.” Each time Jesus makes this transition from the old way to the new way, he says the words, “…but I tell you.”

Consider the following examples:

Murder and Anger

The Old Testament said murder was wrong (Exodus 20:13). Jesus says we need to control our anger (Matthew 5:21-22).

Adultery and Lust

The Old Testament commanded us to not commit adultery (Exodus 20:14). Jesus says that lust is just another form of adultery (Matthew 5:27-28).

Divorce and Commitment

The Old Testament made it easy for a man to divorce his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1). Jesus says the only justification for divorce is adultery, else couples should stick together and make it work (Matthew 5:31-32).

Vows and Promises

The Hebrew traditions said to not break your promises, but to fulfill all the vows you made. Jesus says to not make a vow at all (Matthew 5:33-34).

Revenge and Forgiving

The Old Testament people could exact revenge on those who hurt them, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24, though this was actually to keep people from retaliating in disproportionate ways).

Jesus, however, says don’t resist evil (Matthew 5:38-39).

Hate and Love

Another old Hebrew tradition said to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for them (Matthew 5:43-44).

Jesus took the legalistic approach of the Old Testament Law and the people’s interpretation of it, and he turned them into principles to guide our behavior and exhibit the heart of God in how we interact with others.

May we follow these new ways of Jesus.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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