Christ came to fulfill the Law?

Matthew 5:17-20 English Standard Version Christ Came to Fulfill the Law 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The word G4137 πληρόω - plērōsai can it be translated perfect as in Rev 3:2, to perfect the law?


6 Answers 6


It is true that Thayer lists "perfect, consummate" a number, is the meaning for Rev 3:2 and Rev 6:11. "Perfect" is only correct if it has the old English meaning of "complete" as listed by BDAG.

However, that is not the meaning in Matt 5:17. BDAG lists six meanings for πληρόω

  1. to bring to completion that which was already begun, complete, finish, eg, Rom 15:19, Phil 2:2, Rev 3:2, 6:11

  2. to bring to a designed end, fulfill, ... eg, Rom 13:8, Gal 5:14, Matt 5:17, depending on how one prefers to interpret the context, πληρόω is understood here either as fulfill = do, carry out, or as bring to full expression = show it forth in its true meaning, or as full up, complete.

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    In the same way as Christ is the end (intended goal rather than termination) of the Law for righteousness? Jun 17, 2021 at 11:57
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    @MikeBorden the majority of Christians would say that Christ is the termination rather then that he is the intended goal as how to walk it out.. Jun 18, 2021 at 19:42
  • @DanielDahlberg I did not mean intended goal as an example for us to follow of how to walk it out. I meant intended goal as in that which was aimed for. Christ has hit the Law's mark through the Spirit and we miss the Law's mark through the flesh. Now that the new way of the Spirit has come the Law is no longer the way...but it hasn't vanished. Prior to Christ we could not fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law but now they are fulfilled in those who walk after Spirit instead of flesh. Jun 24, 2021 at 11:29
  • @MikeBorden “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets" Any interpretation that is to think its abolished in any way or preformens is a fatal mistake and wrong. When you understand (the doctrine of Christ) that Jesus did not do away with the Law (if he lead you away from the Law, he would be a false prophet, Deut 13:1-5), then you might be able to see that Paul did not nor has authority to do away and never goes against Christ "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom 8:4). ... Jun 25, 2021 at 11:03
  • @MikeBorden to walk after the spirit is to be obedient and to be disobedient is to walk after the flesh e.g your own will, instructions, and your fathers traditions. Paul never spoke against the Law but the law of man (I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. Gal 1:14) In Galatians which is a go to for many is Paul speaking of the law of man which is not the same as Gods law. ... Jun 25, 2021 at 11:04

Matthew 5:17-20 - to Fulfill the Law

Christ came to fulfill the Law?

Answer: The Law of Moses paved the way for the perfect Law: the "Law of Christ" (Gal. 6:2).

To avoid misunderstanding about this:

Galatians 6:2: "Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ" (emphasis added).

God gave the Old Law to the Israelites many centuries before the birth of Christ (Deu. 5:1-5). However, this law was never intended to be permanent; it was formally completed upon Christ's death on the Cross.

Some may find this unpalatable, but it is a biblical truth. When Christ cried out from the Cross, "It is finished!" (Matt. 27:50-51), the veil of the Temple was torn in two. What did this mean?

Well, because the "veil of the Temple" was a barrier between God and Man, there could never be any direct contact between the two. The veil excluded everyone (but the high priest, and he only once a year) from the Presence of God in the Holy of holies.

[ Note: Throughout the patriarchal period, many men offered sacrifices to God: Abel, Noah, Abraham, Job, etc., because the male head of the household was often considered its "priest", one allowed to do so prior to Moses and the Law.]

Christ's death changed that. He tore the veil from top to bottom, allowing us to speak to God through Him, as our High Priest. He is now our path to God the Father, allowing us "in Christ" to pray and have our prayers heard (and answered) by the Almighty without a physical high priest — and without bloody, carnal sacrifices (that typify the consequences of sin).

Christ abrogated the Old Covenant by fulfilling it (Matt. 5:17) with the New Covenant (and, indeed, a much more demanding one at that). Thus, He made the Old "obsolete":

Hebrews 8:13: "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear."

If we accept that words have meaning, then Christ's sacrifice "plērōsai" — fulfilled, or completed, or supplanted, or superseded the Law of Moses, pure and simple. The Law of Moses was sustained by the Aaronic Priesthood. Many passages affirm the end of this "Levitical priesthood" (as with the torn veil of the Temple) and of the Mosaic regime.

The Law of Moses was nailed to the Cross with Christ at death (Col. 2:14). In the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans, he wrote:

Romans 7:4, 6: "Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead...

6But now we have been released from the Law [of Moses], having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit [of Christ] and not in oldness of the letter [of the Law]" (emphasis added).

We are discharged from the Old Law, its having been superseded by the "Royal Law" in Christ (Jas. 2:8). That is, we have been set free from the entire O/T Law including its priesthood and sacrificial system.

Some may insist that this change was minor, where only the ceremonial or ministerial aspects were completed. However, this is not what the Letter to the Hebrews has to say:

Hebrews 7:11-12: "Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also" (emphasis added).

However we decide to translate this passage, there can be little doubt that the Mosaic order was reinstituted in a more perfect form upon the inauguration of the new priesthood, one in which all saints partake as priests and saints (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9, temples: 1 Cor. 6:19). And, this occurs through the new Law of Christ, also known as the Law of Liberty (Jas. 1:25, 2:12).

No matter how one decides to parse the Greek: plērōsai, the Law of Moses was fulfilled, or completed, or supplanted, or superseded by Christ.


Matthew 5:17-20: "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.

19Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven."

As stated above, Israel had held the Law of Moses in the greatest esteem, just as it should have been. Naturally, anyone suggesting otherwise would be met with contempt. Nonetheless, as God, Christ was very deliberate in His announcements early in His ministry of His relationship to the Law of Moses. He would thus fulfill the Law in every respect when, upon His death, He "paid off the debt" by completing it.

How did He fulfill the Law?: 1) By His perfect obedience; 2) By his manifestation as the Messiah; 3) By extending His teaching, thus lifting His Law (Law of Christ) to new heights — thus, superseding Old Testament teachings with His "perfect Law", and 4) nailing the Law of Moses to the Cross (Col. 2:14).

The New Testament would be fulfilled (cf. Lk. 24:44); it was "written for our example" (1 Cor. 10:11) as well as for our learning (Rom. 15:4). It is the perfection of the Law of Moses through elevation of its principles, whose changes in Christ are beyond anything previously known by the Law and the Prophets (O/T).

All previous bloody sacrifices were retroactively fulfilled back to Adam and Eve at Christ's death. The Covenant of circumcision was replaced by a "circumcision not made with hands" (Col. 2:11), and so on.

Verse 19 above demonstrates that Christ is now pronouncing the obligations everyone would have under His Law (i.e. not the Law of Moses), which is admittedly not obvious in the passage. Nonetheless, Christ elevated His Own commandments as supreme and that not even the least of them was to be disobeyed: "not the smallest letter or stroke" (5:18).

Beginning at verse 21, Christ then repeatedly announces: "You have heard it said…" followed by "But I [now] tell you…" Christ is fulfilling the Law while at the same time declaring that a new law is about to supersede the old one at His death.

The rest of the N/T, inspired by the Holy Spirit, would complete all of the New Law, thus supplanting the Old Covenant with the New one.


Thayer's Greek lexicon #4137 πληρόω

1. to make full, to fill up, i.e. to fill to the full
- a to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally
- b I abound, I am liberally supplied
2. to render full, i.e. to complete
- a. to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim
- b. to consummate: a number
3. to make complete in every particular, to render perfect
- a. to carry through to the end, to accomplish, carry out, (some undertaking)
- b. to carry into effect, bring to realisation, realise
- c. of matters of duty: to perform, execute of sayings, promises, prophecies, to bring to pass, ratify, accomplish
- d. to fulfil, i.e. to cause God's will (as made known in the law) to be obeyed as it should be, and God's promises (given through the prophets) to receive fulfilment

To perfect; free from faults or defects; make as good as possible

Well hath Isaiah prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men (Mark 7)

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    Thanks! Have been start to see it in that way if you love me you will keep my commandments a matter of love.. Jun 18, 2021 at 20:33

Moses law is to show people that they are sinful and to bring them to repentance. If you're sorry about your wrong behavior, then you need to know what is right behavior. Which is where Christ come in. So Christ is the completion of the process. You crucify your old man so the new man can live abundantly.


Yes, quite possible, for πληρόω/fulfill can implicitly mean "to perfect"/τελευτάω, for the law can be unfulfilled not only when not pursued to the end within the narrow and limited understanding pattern of the law, that was available before Jesus' advent, but also when a novel and broader understanding pattern is not seen in it.

Thus, to give an example: law "you shall not kill" is not fulfilled not only when one actually kills a neighbor, but it is not fulfilled also when one hates a neighbor, for he kills him in his heart by this hatred (Matthew 5:22). Therefore, Jesus' saying that He came to fulfill the Law means that He came to give a novel and broader, more spiritual dimension to the Law, which was not seen before His advent. Actually, after His advent and the HolySpirit-ualizaton of the Law, just to fulfill the Law in the older way is in fact a violation of Law, for now a new dimension of the fulfillment is at hand.

So, yes, indeed, Jesus "fulfilled" the Law in the sense of giving to it the infinite and perfect HolySpirit-ual dimension, that is to say, "perfected" the Law. Moreover, this perfecting entailed that man by his own resources and powers would be unable to withstand the new dimension of "commit no adultery", which now is "do not watch lustfully a woman" (Matthew 5:27-28), or "love your neighbor", which now extends to all humanity, enemies as well (Luke 10:37) etc. without God's grace through Jesus Christ's atoning sacrifice on the Cross working in his heart. And this is "fulfilling" or "perfecting" the Law, for now through this new dimension man should become perfect as Christ Himself (Ephesians 4:13) and as the Father Himself (Matthew 5:48).


Matthew 5:17-20 - to Fulfill the Law

What does the expression “to fulfill” mean? A builder for example fulfills a contract to complete a building, not by ripping up the contract, but by finishing the structure. However, once the work has been completed to the client’s satisfaction, the contract is fulfilled and the builder is no longer under obligation to it.

Likewise, Jesus did not break, or rip up, the Law; rather, he fulfilled it by keeping it perfectly. Once fulfilled, that Law “contract” was no longer binding on God’s people.

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