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What the Bible says about Jot and Tittle
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 5:17-20

Jesus is saying, in plain language, that His teaching does not contradict the Old Covenant law, but it is the ultimate fulfillment of its spiritual intent. Even in the smallest matter, the smallest statement—the jot and the tittle—the law must be fulfilled.

Notice where His statement appears. Matthew places it immediately after Jesus' exhortation, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works" (Matthew 5:16). What if our works are good? Are we supposed to hide them? Then comes His statement regarding law. Is there a connection between good works and keeping the law? One would have to be quite obstinate to believe there is no connection between them. It is obvious that He is connecting good works with lawkeeping.

To strengthen the argument, He mentions righteousness in verse 20. What is the Bible's definition of righteousness? Psalm 119:172: "All Your commandments are righteousness." Thus, sandwiched between righteousness and letting one's light shine comes an explanation that He did not come to do away with the law but to fill it to the full, to help us understand its ultimate application—its spiritual intent.

Is it possible to keep the law in its spirit without also keeping it in the letter? It cannot be done. One must first keep it in the letter before learning how to keep its spirit.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Fourteen)

Matthew 5:18-20

The letter of the law that the Pharisees tried to keep was not enough—especially for us. We have to exceed the letter of the law. Here, Jesus was so specific about the continuance of the law from the Old Covenant to the New that He referred to the smallest punctuation and pronunciation marks contained in the written law, the "jot and tittle."

Most modern theology discards the letter in favor of the spirit, but one extreme is as bad as the other. The true Christian needs both the written letter of the law as well as its spirit to keep it properly.

To keep God's law properly, we have to learn to recognize the spirit of the law. The spirit of the law means God's original intent or purpose behind each law.

When God designed the Sabbath, for example, He intended it to be a blessing to human beings. He designed it to be a refreshing rest and an opportunity both to recuperate physically after six days of work and to draw close to Him in love and to worship Him, as well as to deepen love for the brethren through fellowship and outgoing concern.

Jesus knew the spirit of the Sabbath commandment. Therefore, He knew that the split second of divine effort involved in healing was a valid use of time on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12). Because of Jesus' insight into the divine purpose behind the Sabbath, He freed the crippled worshipper of his burden. He experienced a wonderful and exciting blessing because Jesus understood the spirit of the law. God's law is always a blessing to those who recognize the spirit of the law.

Martin G. Collins
The Law's Purpose and Intent

Galatians 3:16-17

Ceremonies identified Israel as a nation that was in the world but separate from all the other nations. It played a part in driving the Gentiles up the wall and building barriers between them.

What makes the spiritual family that God is drawing us into separate and distinct from the world? God makes it clear: It is the way we live, not ceremonies or rituals! Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:53).

God insured that the ceremonies could not be performed. He allowed the Temple and the altar to be destroyed, and scattered the Levites all over the world. Those three things were necessary for making sacrifices. In order to get the focus away from the nation of Israel and the Old Covenant, God made sure that they could not make those sacrifices. (1) They had to be made at the Temple. (2) They had to be made on one altar. And (3) it had to be done by the Levites, and, specifically, the family of Aaron.

God got that out of the way because He wants people to focus on the way His children live! And His children live according to His law. If you do away with His law, you cannot live according to His law. You cannot show the characteristics of God unless you know the way that He lives, and He lives according to His law, which describes Him.

Though God no longer requires ceremonies, this in no way means that the spiritual intent of those ceremonies is done away. Though we are no longer required to cut an animal's throat, bleed its blood out, and burn it on an altar—the intent, the stretching out of those principles, still applies.

Thus, Jesus said in Matthew 18:9, "If your eye offend you, pluck it out." Jesus requires sacrifices so that we do not sin. Paul also said, "Put to death therefore your members which are on earth" (Colossians 3:5). He restates this in Romans 12:1 and Ephesians 5:2.

The principle of sacrifice remains. This is why Jesus could say that not one jot or tittle of that law would pass until all is fulfilled (Matthew 5:18). In the book of Galatians, the laws of God are hardly even in question except as they pertain to justification. Those laws that define sin, which guide us in the way of God, are just as binding as they ever have been, and they will remain so because God is using them to prepare us to live at one with Him and His Family.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Twenty-Seven)


 




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