"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. 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." (v.17-18)
Fulfill: to carry out, to perform or do, to obey or follow.
Jesus was not coming to teach something new, He was coming to fulfill what was already being taught.
"Christ despised "the traditions of the elders," the religious leaders supposed Him to be a deceiver, going about to destroy the very foundations of piety. Because He threw far more emphasis upon great moral principles than upon ceremonial institutions, many were ready to imagine that He repudiated the entire Levitical system. Because He was the Proclaimer of grace and the Dispenser of mercy, the "Friend of publicans and sinners," the idea became current that He was opposed to the Law." (Pink, A.W. (2011-06-28). An Exposition of The Sermon on The Mount)
"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." (v.19)
Relax: to slacken, to make less strict, weaken, lessen, reduce.
Obedience flows out of belief. If we truly believe, we will obey! We will do what God asks of us and teach it to others.
"For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (v.20)
Exceeds: To surpass, to be superior, to go beyond.
There is a righteousness that exceeds that of “religious” people, it’s beyond external deeds . . . it’s a renewed heart, gifted through grace.
Jesus said He would fulfill the Law by obeying it perfectly and would fulfill the prophets’ predictions of the Messiah and His kingdom. But the responsibility of the people was made clear. The righteousness they were currently seeking—that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law—was insufficient for entrance into the kingdom Jesus was offering. The righteousness He demanded was not merely external; it was a true inner righteousness based on faith in God’s Word (Rom. 3:21-22). This is clear from what follows. (Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1983-). The Bible knowledge commentary : An exposition of the scriptures (Mt 5:17–20). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.)
Though we are living in the New Covenant where His grace abounds, His law still matters. Obedience that flows from a renewed, thankful, changed heart is beautiful, it is great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Are you trying to dismiss His law and His commands for your life?
Are you relaxing what is taught in scripture?
Are you trying to attain righteousness through external religion?
If so, stop.
Remember the Cross.
Remember who we are in Christ.
Remember Jesus fulfills the law and we are fulfilled by Him.
Obedience doesn’t earn righteousness, but is a result of righteousness.
His fulfillment of the law is our fulfillment of His grace.