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Bible verse of the week: Jesus taught what 'fulfillment' of the law actually means, says faith leader

Matthew 5:17, from the Gospel of Matthew, is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, considered the central teaching of Jesus. A faith leader in Washington, D.C., shared perspective.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill them" (Matthew 5:17).

This verse comes from the Gospel of Matthew, one of the three synoptic gospels of the New Testament. 

Not much is known about St. Matthew, who is credited with writing the Gospel of Matthew, says Christian website Overviewbible.com. 

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When Matthew was called by Jesus to be one of his disciples, he was employed as a publican, or tax collector. This was "one of the most reviled professions in ancient Judaism," said the site. 

Although he's one of the authors of the Gospels, "there are just seven mentions of him in the entire Bible," notes the same source.

The verse from the Gospel of Matthew serves to teach Christians about the dual meaning of fulfillment, said Fr. Thomas Petri, president of the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C

"At the very beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, what most people consider the central teaching of Jesus Christ, we find him insisting that he has not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it," Petri told Fox News Digital.

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Although many of the laws in the Pentateuch — the first five books of Hebrew Bible — concern morality, Christians "historically have not believed themselves bound to observe the many ceremonial and dietary precepts found in the Torah," Petri explained. 

"In this teaching, then, Jesus can teach us what the fulfillment of the law is," said Petri. 

"Fulfillment is more than conformity to external rules: do not commit adultery, do not murder, an eye for an eye," he also said.

"Fulfillment is interior conversion: Do not even lust, do not even be angry, forgive your enemies," he continued.

This is "a much higher expectation, to be sure, and impossible for us to reach on our own," Petri said. 

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In this verse, "Jesus is making a comment about himself: He fulfills the law and the prophets. All of them. Perfectly," he said. 

"No human being has ever been able to observe and practice the hundreds of precepts in the Mosaic Law consistently or perfectly," he also said.

"Only Jesus, who is God and man, could do so."

Jesus was not only able to keep the precepts of Mosaic Law perfectly, but also "takes on the curse of those who break the law — who break the covenant with God," Petri said. 

By suffering and dying on the cross, Jesus "accepts the punishment reserved of us sinners," he said. 

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"​The Good News is that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and sent the Holy Spirit into our hearts," said Petri. 

He "not only fulfills the law and teaches us what fulfillment means, he empowers us to live accordingly."

Petri added, "The Holy Spirit works in us so that we increasingly become configured to Christ and are more able to live as he lived — and to love as he loved."

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