Gibbs, Jeffrey A. “Matthew 5:17-20: Jesus’ Relationship to the Torah.” St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2006, pp. 263-275.
Gibbs notes that in Matthew 5:17-20 the overall logic of Jesus’ statements is made clear, in large part, through Matthew’s use of conjunctions. He draws an argument up with a series of statements which have significant logical connections (Gibbs 2006, 264). Gibbs considers Jesus’ statements in the passage to be predicated on an assumption that he has “unbounded authority about eternal things” (Gibbs 2006, 266). In this passage, Jesus teaches how his people are to consider their calling from God and how they are to live it out.
In Matthew 5:17-18 Jesus does not abolish or repeat and expand on God’s Law and Prophets. His work is to fulfill the Old Testatment. Gibbs relates this statement to the earlier citations of the Old Testament, in which various events served to fulfill the Scriptures (Gibbs 2006, 267). Gibbs notes that “Mt. 5:18 is actually the only sentence in the NT that contains two subordinate clauses handled by the conjunction ‘until’” (Gibbs 2006, 268). Gibbs concludes that the clauses show both a continuity and a discontinuity with the Old Testament. The Word of God is sure, but when all things are fulfilled, our relationship with the Old Testament will undergo change (Gibbs 2006, 270).
Verses 19-20 remind Jesus’ disciples to consider the Torah as very important. All the commands are important. The person who minimizes some will be considered of little importance in God’s kingdom. However, Gibbs recognizes that person as included in God’s kingdom (Gibbs 2006, 271). The “great” in the kingdom of heaven, who are to be emulated, are recognized by their servanthood. Thus Jesus redefines our concept of greatness (Gibbs 2006, 272(.
Matthew 5:20 explains why obeying God’s Torah equals greatness (Gibbs 2006, 272). Gibbs takes “righteousness” here to have a different meaning than in 5:6 and 5:10. Here it seems to be something particular that the disciples do (Gibbs 2006, 273). At the same time, though, the difference between the disciples and the Scribes or Pharisees is specifically that the Scribes nad Pharisees are not following Jesus. In effect, the disciples’ righteousness is a result of their being Jesus’ followers. Their works flow from the relationship, rather than leading to the relationship.