Question: A friend of mine says that he thinks Jesus says we should still uphold the Law, even though we aren’t justified it. I believe the verses my friend cites are Matthew 5:17-20. Is this what Messianic Jews rely on to validate their denomination of Christianity? And why don’t other Christians believe this way?
Answer: The Law was never a means of justification. In Romans 4 Paul argues clearly that Abraham was justified by faith, not by works of the Law. In 3:20 he says, “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law.” It is permissable for Jews to observe the Law (or anyone for that matter) as long as they don’t do it as a means of justification or view it as giving them a superior spirituality to others.
Jesus fulfilled the Law which makes many of its requirements obsolete. We no longer need to sacrifice, of course. He also interpreted the true intent of the Law. For example, keeping the Sabbath was never intended to exclude people from doing good things for others or providing their basic needs (Matthew 12:1-14). Tithing was not intended to be viewed as more important than mercy (Matthew 23:23,24). There are aspects of the Law that are timeless. The 10 Commandments give us God’s moral requirements for all time (with the exception being that the Sabbath is relegated to the seventh day, Saturday, whereas Paul indicates that it can be observed as a principle applicable to every day, Romans 14:5,6).
Messianic Jews don’t necessarily keep all the Law, though they see in it the fulfillment in Christ that He was talking about in Matthew 5.