I Kings 18.20-39; Psalm 15; Matthew 5.17-19
The central question of the first decades of the Church’s life was the relationship between Christian faith and the Law given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every one of the controversies narrated in the New Testament has this question at its heart, and differing answers are proposed. Should Christians, and especially those of Gentile background, be expected to first obey the law (and in particular its demand of male circumcision as a sign of adherence) or should the Law and its ceremonial prescriptions be jettisoned as outmoded? For St Paul, the Law had largely served its purpose. [Galatians 3.24-25] For others parts at least of the Law had a continuing role. [Acts 15.29]
Torah can connote a wide variety of ideas. It is less ‘law’ in the sense of statutes than ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’. It can refer to the culture, the manners and morals, of a people, handed down from generation to generation. It is the manifestation of the presence of God in the midst of earthly human births and deaths and in all that transpires between them.
St Matthew has Jesus declare in this foundational first teaching that that Torah is not contradicted by his coming to earth. He has not come to abolish all that has been believed and taught. Rather, his presence on earth manifests God’s continuing intention to draw those willing to conform their lives to Him into the deepest possible fellowship with Him.