That passage about not abolishing the law is often used to justify the need to for Christians to use the Bible’s laws as a template for everyday life.
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill.
“For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.
“Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Let me pose a question to you based on Matthew 15:21-28. It’s where the Canaanite woman asked Him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. “When Jesus said to her ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,’ did He also come to the Gentiles?” What I’m proposing is that He had a primary purpose in coming –and there were secondary affects.
Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish, but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. And nothing would be taken away from the Law until all is accomplished. The key to this passage is understanding what He meant by the pivotal word “accomplished.”
That Old Covenant was with the whole body of Jews to establish them as a kingdom of priests to the world. Their internal priesthood –the Levitical priesthood– presented the pictures and dramas as prescribed by their Law. His mission here on earth was to show that what they had presented for centuries was actually a preview of the story of His life, death and resurrection. It was all recorded in the Law and the Prophets before He came.
His dying words were “It is finished!” The apostles were His official witnesses who would spend their lives echoing those words –testifying that the Old was done, complete, fulfilled, over. It had been accomplished. Only then could the New Covenant with a new priesthood and its new law declare Him as the high priest (from Hebrews 7:11-14).
He also appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. He explained the Scriptures to them: He was the perfect sacrifice that was slaughtered for all of the sins of all mankind. He took His blood into the true sanctuary and showed it to His Father. He sat down at the Father’s right hand because it was all done. The temple veil was torn to reveal that covenant was completed.
The new law (describing the ministry of the New Covenant) doesn’t use outward obedience to rules and regulations in order to communicate God’s salvation. That’s what the old one did. The new one shows that faith in Jesus –the One who was portrayed by the Old Covenant– is all that is required (John 6:28-29).
Paul explained it in Ephesians. The two peoples –the Jews and the Gentiles– would become one body that would be His ministers of the New Covenant.
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace.” (Ephesians 2:13-16)
There might be a remaining question for some. “If all this is true, then who is least and who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” It will be resolved on Judgment Day when everyone will see the only One who taught the fullness of the Law –that anger and lust make us all deserving of the fires of hell. And He is the only person who fully kept it –He was the One that it predicted. Those who believe that are there with Him as His bride. Those who do not believe will be least –but just for a short while –just until they reach their reward, eternal death.
Believers aren’t set apart and led by any part of the Old Covenant’s Law –including the Ten Commandments. Rather they follow the Law of the Spirit of Life (Romans 8:1-4).
To read more about this passage (about Jesus not abolishing the Law) in the context of Matthew chapter seven, take a look at the Sermon on the Mount.