Matthew 5:17-20 Inside Out Law

The above picture shows how a person grows from the inside out.  It is taken from Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart.  As you read Matthew 5:17-20, see how the above diagram relates.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Inside Out Law

In the above passage Jesus enters into some of the toughest ground of the religion of his day.  The major teachers of the law had spelled out the requirements of the law in such detail that the interpretation of the law was that one had to live out each law perfectly in order to know God.  Jesus says that if one is satisfying God by living out the law, one has to exceed the expectations of the law-keeping pharisees.  In other words one can not do such a thing.  Jesus points out to his own followers that if they are his disciples their hearts will be transformed in such a way that they will keep the law as a matter of course.  It is the heart that strives after God that pleases God, not a slavish obedience that just avoids breaking laws.


  1. What does Jesus say about the law?
  2. Which legal requirements of the law are fulfilled in Jesus’ death and resurrection and therefore disappear from the Old Testament to the Kingdom of God?
  3. Which legal requirements does a person still need to uphold by living in the Spirit?
  4. How does Dallas Willard’s diagram relate?
  5. Do you try to get it right or have you been made right?  Do you act out of fear or gratitude?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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