ON THIS PAGE
Picking and Choosing
Ten Commandments Only?
Keeping the Sabbath?
Ceremonial, Civil And Moral Laws?
A Unified Whole
The State of Israel Vs. Worldwide Christianity
The New Testament and The Law
Jesus and The Law
A Jot Or A Tittle
So Did Jesus Abolish The Law Or Didn’t He?
Types and Antitypes
Matthew 5... The Face-off
Some Examples of Intent
Jesus and The Spirit of The Sabbath
Fulfill The Law?
The Bible is, and always was, the only Word of God, providing, in it’s own words, a lamp to our feet, and a light to our paths. The Bible is our only sure guide to heaven, containing all the counsel and guidance we need along what is often a long and difficult journey. As Paul said …
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).
However the Bible contains both Old and New Testaments, each with seemingly different teachings and commands, which has led to more than a little confusion for those that have not grasped the seamless relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Many Christians struggle with the tension between the Old Testament emphasis on regulations, and the New Testament emphasis on grace, and are not clear what our relationship to the Old Testament should be, especially when it comes to the Old Testament Laws (particularly the Ten Commandments), and the keeping of the Sabbath and/or other Feasts of the Old Covenant.
For example the Ten Commandments, held in high regard by most Christians, are often prominently displayed on the walls of courtrooms, school rooms, and churches, which leads one to suspect that the vast majority of people (both Christian and non-Christian) believe that the Ten Commandments are foundational laws that all Christians are to conform to.
Picking and Choosing
Which then leaves out the vast majority of the laws of the Old Testament and the question of what we are supposed to make of them. Are any of them applicable to the Christian world? And if so, how are we supposed to decide which are still in effect. What criteria is to be used in making the determination as to which of the laws we follow, and which of them we ignore. There are usually two main schools of thought on the subject.
Some Christians will tell you that the Ten Commandments are timeless moral laws which apply to all Christians for all time, while the rest of the law is not applicable to Christians today.
Others have endeavored to rationalize their beliefs about which of the laws are to be obeyed by making a distinction between ceremonial, civil and moral laws, the last category supposedly the only one that is still to be observed.
Lets take a rational look at each of these viewpoints..
Ten Commandments Only?
If the Ten Commandments are the only Old Testament laws valid for today, we immediately run across the problem of Jesus identifying the second greatest commandment as being “You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”, which was a direct quote from the laws of Leviticus 19:18. If Jesus said one of the OT laws, outside of the Ten Commandments, was the second greatest commandment ever, then we have absolutely no basis for arbitrarily rejecting all the regulations in the Pentateuch. Inclusion in the tablets of stone can not be the sole criterion for our decision.
In any case, if the Ten Commandments are valid for today, most of the Christian church is in violation of the fourth commandment which, by the way, was clearly a ceremonial, not a moral law.
Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you  (Deuteronomy 5:12).
Keeping the Sabbath
The Sabbath is universally defined as Saturday and setting forth the reasons as to why Sunday worship is appropriate is not even necessary, since virtually no one keeps the Sabbath anyway. The Sabbath commandments regulate much more than just the day of formal worship. Starting at sundown on Friday until the appearance of three stars in the sky on Saturday night, the Sabbath severely limits what can be done on that day… The very term "Sabbath" derives from the Hebrew Shabbat which means "to cease". How many people cease from all work that is forbidden on Shabbat?
But the question has to be asked… Why only the Sabbath? There is absolutely nothing in Scripture to distinguish the Ten Commandments from the rest of the Old Testament laws, and the Sabbath from the other six Feasts that the Jews were beholden to keep (all seven are listed in Leviticus 23). In fact, they were all called "the feasts of the Lord" which simply means that they were instituted by the Lord Himself, a fact that lends them much solemnity and importance. They were “holy convocations” that took place at "appointed times". [See The Seven Feasts of Israel]
However keeping the Festivals of the Old Covenant is not quite as simple as it sounds. In the words of pastor Tim Warner…
Lets get one thing straight right up front. Keeping the Feasts according to the Torah Requires Offering Animal Sacrifices. There is no avoiding this conclusion. And, any changes to the festivals by rabbis to accommodate the fact that there is no longer a Temple or Levitical priesthood, or, any changes by Messianic Christians to accommodate the fact that the New Testament says Christ's sacrifice has ended the animal sacrifices, makes it impossible to observe these feasts according to the Torah. What we are left with is a lot of man-made tradition as a substitute to what God commanded. Some of these traditions include things like substituting eggs for the Passover lamb on the Seder. How is this any different from people using "Easter eggs?" Synagogue worship on Sabbath was never commanded by God. According to the Torah, all males must travel to Jerusalem 3 times a year to worship on the festival seasons. That was the worship God commanded in the Torah. No Jew or Messianic Christian on earth observes the feasts according to the Torah. And, there is a very good reason for this. The Temple was destroyed exactly 40 years [one generation] after Jesus began preaching, and the Levitical priesthood, which is necessary to observe the festivals, has been lost. So, how do Jews and Messianic Christians observe the feasts instead? Simply by following man's traditions, established by rabbis who flatly rejected Jesus as the Messiah. [Pastor Tim Warner. Should Christians Celebrate the Jewish Feasts?]
Modern Judaism takes the opinion of man more seriously than Torah. Since the temple was destroyed, and with it all the rituals that revolved around the building, including animal sacrifices, the Rabbis (elevated to the status of prophet) decided that prayer ranks higher than sacrifices. They decided that “one who puts on phylacteries, recites the Shema, and offered prayer to God would be regarded as having sacrificed upon the great altar”. [See Judaism And The Atonement]
Ceremonial, Civil And Moral Laws?
Those that believe that the content of the law is the criterion by which we make our decision as to which of the Mosaic laws are valid for today, also run into huge problems. For starters it has to be noted that no such distinction occurs in Scripture…. they have been imposed on the text from outside the text. In any case deciding which category many of the laws fall into, is not as easy as some may think. Any one who gives the matter some thought will realize that the Sabbath law in the Ten Commandments is not a moral law but very clearly a ceremonial one… moral and ceremonial commandments often found mixed together in the Old Testament. Also consider…
Jesus identified Leviticus 19:18 (“You Shall Love Your Neighbor As Yourself”) as the second greatest commandment ever. However this verse was directly followed by the commands to not breed together two kinds of your cattle, nor sow fields with two kinds of seed, nor wear clothing woven of two kinds of material" (19:19). Yet many have decided that verse 18 is a timeless moral law, therefore applicable to 21st century Christianity, while commandments in the very next verse are civil law, and therefore can be rejected. [Also See What is Holiness]
However, while instructions on sowing your field may sound like a civil law, it really wasn’t. In the words of J. Daniel Hays …
“One of the central themes running throughout Leviticus is the holiness of God. The discourse by God in Leviticus 19 is prefaced by the commandment, “Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.” Part of this theme is the teaching that holy things must be kept separate from profane things. While the significance of these commands against mixing seed or mixing cloth material may not be fully understood, it is clear that they relate back to the holiness of God. In fact all of the levitical laws regarding separation seem to relate to the overarching principle of God’s holiness and the separation required because of that holiness. How then can this law not be moral?” 
Besides which, the “moral law” of the Old Testament extend well beyond the Ten Commandments. There are commandments that order adulterers, fornicators, homosexuals and those who dishonor their parents to be put to death. For example..
If anyone curses his father or mother, he must be put to death. He has cursed his father or his mother, and his blood will be on his own head. If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death (Leviticus 20:9-10. See also 11-16).
So, when was the last time you heard of an adulterer being given the death sentence in the modern day church?
All of which makes me wonder why it is that you can read a thousand articles on a thousand different websites and blogs about all the reasons that the author believes Jesus did not abolish the law, yet you do not read one where the author claims to follow the whole law. I have wondered how many of these articles were written after a bacon breakfast!
Without giving the matter sufficient thought and study, we are picking and choosing which of the Old Testament laws we will and will not obey based merely on whether a law seems to be relevant. The fact of the matter is that the laws of the Old Covenant are…
A Unified Whole
As the apostle Paul said in his letter to the Galatians
Behold, I Paul say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Yea, I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. [Galatians 5:2-3]
In the words of Jason Dulle… [Emphasis Added]
The most prevalent view of the Law is that it is divided up into three categories: moral law, civil law, and ceremonial law. Although this way of viewing the Law may be beneficial for facilitating our mental categorization of the many laws, the concept is foreign to the Scripture. The Law of Moses was never fragmented into various parts, but was always viewed as one cohesive, unified whole. One had to keep all 613 commandments of the Law to receive of its benefits (Galatians 3:10-12). Moses said "cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them" (Deuteronomy 27:26) The Lord said through Jeremiah, "Cursed be the man that obeyeth not the words of this covenant, ...Obey my voice, and do them, according to all which I command you" (Jeremiah 11:3-4; See also Galatians 3:10). James summed it up best when he said, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (James 2:10; See also v. 11). The Scripture declares that to keep 612 commandments, and yet fail to keep one, is to break all 613. To break a "ceremonial" law was viewed in the same manner as a "moral" law. Perfect obedience was demanded to all the commands of the covenant, because it was a unified whole. [Read Article]
Which doesn’t find us in a very good position since Scripture declares that to keep 612 commandments, and yet fail to keep one, is to break all 613. We can not pick and choose which of the Old Testament laws we will obey and which we will not. If present-day Christendom is bound by the Ten Commandments, all Old Testament law should be obeyed, which includes the animal sacrifices, and all seven feasts, including the thrice yearly visits to Jerusalem.
Yet it is impossible to keep all the laws which, we need to remember, were given to a very small nation, the sheer smallness of which made possible the physical keeping of some of the laws. Once Peter took the Gospel to the Gentiles, and it began to spread to the furthermost corners of the earth, many of the laws became impossible to keep, becoming even more unworkable as the number of Christians mushroomed.
For example, if God intended the animal sacrifices to continue, why in the world did He let the Temple be destroyed? However even if the Temple were still standing and in Jewish hands, how long do you think it would be before the sheer weight of numbers of Christians converging on Jerusalem three times a year, would make the Israeli authorities throw up their hands in horror and shut down the airports. Chaos doesn’t even begin to describe the situation.
However there are several passages in the Old Testament that indicate that the Law, including the Ten Commandments and the Sabbath were given only to the nation of Israel, and that only at a certain point in their history (For instance, no mention is made of any of the patriarchs keeping the Sabbath) as the following verses illustrate...
The State of Israel Vs. Worldwide Christianity
The Bible says
And now, O Israel, hearken unto the statutes and unto the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which Jehovah, the God of your fathers, giveth you… For what great nation is there, that hath a god so nigh unto them, as Jehovah our God is whensoever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that hath statutes and ordinances so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day? [Deuteronomy 4:1, 7-8]
And this is the law which Moses set before the children of Israel: these are the testimonies, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which Moses spake unto the children of Israel, when they came forth out of Egypt, [Deuteronomy 4: 44-45]
And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and the ordinances which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and observe to do them. [Deuteronomy 5:1]
And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel. [Exodus 34:27,28]
There was nothing in the ark save the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when Jehovah made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. [1 Kings 8:9]
And thou shalt remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and Jehovah thy God brought thee out thence by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm: therefore Jehovah thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day. [Deuteronomy 5:15]
The last verse above makes clear that the Sabbath is not applicable to New Testament Christians, at least not to those who are Gentiles. Neither we, nor our ancestors, were slaves in Egypt rescued by God’s mighty hand and his outstretched arm. Moses first states that God delivered the Jews (Israelites) from Egypt, therefore (or because of that) God commanded the Israelites to observe the Sabbath Day.
“Many commandments deal with situations only found in an agricultural community, including what to do about dangerous animals (Exodus 21:28-32, 35-36), uncovered pits (21:33-34), and fires in fields (22:6)”. 
Besides which, several of the authors of the New Testament are pretty clear that the law was a curse we have been redeemed from.
The New Testament and The Law
This is particularly evident in the book of Galatians, which is almost exclusively devoted to the question of whether Christians should keep the Law of Moses, or the Old Covenant. While Paul expressly declared that he himself kept the law, saying in his defense... “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar, have I sinned at all." Acts 25:8) he was at the same time pretty emphatic that we were no long under the law..
Galatians: A few verses from Galatians have been quoted below, see Footnote 1 for others.
For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith. And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: [Galatians 3:10-13]
But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. [Galatians 3:22-26]
But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage? Ye observe days, and months, and times, and years. I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labour in vain. [Galatians 4:9-11]
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. [Galatians 5:18]
Hebrews: The author of Hebrews certainly agreed
In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin you had no pleasure. Then I said, 'Behold, I have come-- in the volume of the book it is written of Me-- to do Your will, O God.' " Previously saying, "Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the law), then He said, "Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God." He takes away the first that He may establish the second. [Hebrews 10:6-9]
But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, "This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them," then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, (Hebrews 10:15-20 NKJV)
Peter: convinced by the vision, recorded in Acts 10, that God had pulled down the middle wall of partition that had so long separated the Jews and Gentiles, ate with the latter, evidently disregarding the dietary laws of the Jews. However when certain Jews came from Jerusalem he withdrew from the Gentiles and appeared to be enforcing the distinction between the Jews and Gentiles. (Apparently Jewish rites were observed for some period of time by those Jews who became Christians). However Peter was actually chided by Paul, not for eating with the Gentiles, but for compelling the Gentiles to live as Jews, although he knew that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ [V.16]
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? [Galatians 2:11-14]
Ephesians: In the verses immediately preceding the one quoted next, Paul talked about what Christ has done for us, salvation is by grace.. a gift of God, not by anything we have done. He then went on to speak of the Gentiles who were called the uncircumcision, and were separated from Christ (Vs. 11-12), emphasizing the fact that the Law, that separated Jew from Gentile, was no longer in effect. Jesus had abolished in his flesh the enmity which formed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles and, through him, we both have our access in one Spirit unto the Father (V. 18).
For he is our peace, who made both one, and brake down the middle wall of partition, having abolished in the flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; that he might create in himself of the two one new man, so making peace; [Ephesians 2:14-15]
Colossians: Paul gets a little more precise in Colossians 2:14, 16, where he specifies that since the ordinances were nailed to the cross, no one was under obligation to observe the dietary laws, the Sabbaths etc.
having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out that way, nailing it to the cross; … Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a Sabbath day:
However the entire issue has been rendered far more complicated by the fact that the verses quoted above seem to flatly contradict statements made by Jesus Himself.
Jesus and The Law
Jesus not only kept all the Jewish feasts and observances but also instructed his disciples to obey the law saying
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, these do and observe: but do not ye after their works; for they say, and do not. [Matthew 23:2-3]
As He did on at least one other occasion. When (in Luke 25) Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he had to do to inherit eternal life, he answered with another question.. “What is written in the law?”. When the man correctly answered Jesus said "Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live" (Vs. 27, 28). In fact, the Jews were unable to convict Jesus of any transgression of the law (John 8: 46).
Added to this is Jesus’ unambiguous Jot and Tittle statement in Matthew 5:17-18, which says not one iota of the law will ever pass away…
A Jot Or A Tittle
Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes, which began with a description of the characteristics of those who will inherit the kingdom of heaven, or be “blessed”. But then, in verse 17, He changes the focus very slightly when He says..
Think not that I came to destroy the law or the prophets: I came not to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19).
I have heard and read much speculation about what commandments Jesus was talking about in verse 19. However the context leaves no room for guesswork… The chapter begins with Jesus talking about the law and the prophets, and nothing indicates that He wasn’t still doing so. The law and the prophets is however one of two expressions that may need clarification.
The Law And The Prophets: The Hebrew Bible is called the Tanakh, which is an acronym formed from the initial Hebrew letters of the three traditional subdivisions: The Torah ("Teaching," or the Five Books of Moses), Nevi'im ("Prophets") and Ketuvim ("Writings"). However the term The Law and the Prophets was a common expression used by the Jews to refer to the entire Old Testament. [See for example Matthew 7:12; 11:13; 22:40; Luke 16:16; John 1:45; Acts 13:15; 28:23 and Romans 3:21). In other words Jesus was talking about the Old Testament as a whole, calling once again to mind that there is no basis for making any distinction between Israel's civil, moral and ceremonial laws.
Jot Or Tittle: Jesus further emphasized this fact when He said that not one jot nor tittle (a proverbial mode of expression among the Jews) would pass away from the law until all things be accomplished. The word “jot,” or yod, is the smallest letter in the Hebrew alphabet, while the word tittle in the Greek means something horn like or, more specifically, the apex of a Hebrew letter. A change of any of these might vary the meaning of a word, and destroy the sense.
Interestingly the Greek word translated abolish has been used three other times in Matthew, all of which refer to the destruction of the Temple. [24:2, 26:61, 27:40].
Jesus’ statements that He had not come to abolish (or destroy) the law or the prophets and that the tiniest part of the law will not pass away until all things be accomplished, suggests that the binding nature of the law of Moses will remain forever in effect. However, as shown, this appears to contradict much of the rest of the New Testament.
So Did Jesus Abolish The Law Or Didn’t He?
Actually He did both.
However an understanding of just what it was that Jesus abolished, and what it is that will endure until Heaven and Earth pass away, is impossible without a basic grasp of two very important factors… a) The fascinating subject of Types and Antitypes, and b) An overall pictures of what Jesus was saying in a key chapter of the Gospels... Matthew 5.
Types and Antitypes:
Why are we forgetting that much of the Old Testament was but a shadow of something to come or a type, which in Christian theology is a factual happening in history that is a glimpse of one or more actual events yet to come. The significance of the original event was not always apparent when it took place. Certainly the historic and prophetic significance of the Seven Feasts of Israel is one of the most fascinating studies in Scripture. While believers are not require to keep these feasts, every believer should be very familiar with them, as they not only celebrate a historical event in Israel's past, but are, at the same time, a prophecy of future events… or a type. [See The Feasts of Israel].
The laws were certainly no exception, but were a precursor of things to come..
The Scriptures inform us that the New Covenant is not based on new law, but on the same law given to Moses in the Old Testament….
"But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." [Jeremiah 31:33]
...The transition was made from a mere letter-of-the-law, minimal standards approach, to understanding and obeying the spiritual intent behind the law, accomplished with the aid of the Holy Spirit. We are now living under the New Covenant which actually demands a higher degree of holiness and obedience to God. [Also See What is Holiness]
Note that while the exact terms the spirit of the law and the letter of the law are not found in Scripture, the phrase spirit of the law is used to refer to God's original intent or purpose behind each law, while the letter of the law refers to obeying the literal interpretation of the words (the "letter") of the law, but not the intent of Him who wrote the law. These terms have been derived from 2 Corinthians 3: 6-7, where Paul directly refers to the Ten Commandments, calling it a ministry of death. [Emphasis Added]
who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory? [2 Corinthians 3: 6-7]
And how do we know that any such transition was ever made? By closely studying the words of Jesus in…
Matthew 5.. The Face-Off
The overall focus of the book of Matthew was to connect Jesus to the history of Israel. Matthew quoted from, or alluded to, more Old Testament prophecies than any other author of the New Testament, citing in the first four chapters, no less than seven Old Testament prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. (See Matthew 1:22,23; 2:5,6; 2:15; 2:17,18; 2:23; 3:3; 4:14-16).
The Sermon on the Mount is the first of five extended discourses, or teachings, by Jesus in this Gospel, a delivery that took place in the very early stages of Jesus’ ministry. Both Matthew 5, and Matthew 13, clearly show that Jesus was in out-and-out opposition to the Scribes and Pharisees, which could have resulted in Him being accused of intending to destroy the law. He was therefore, at the very outset of His time, clearly stating what it was that He had come to do… to fulfill and not to destroy.
In many ways, Matthew 5 was a face-off between Jesus and the Scribes and Pharisees… the latter believed by historians to be the spiritual fathers of modern Judaism. There is no doubt that at one time the Pharisees were the most rigid defenders of Jewish traditions, even suffering martyrdom during the persecutions of Antiochus which, in part, led to their having great influence on the people. In the course of time they, instead of the priests, became the sources of authority. The Pharisees were distinguished by strict observance of the traditional and written law, looking to a scrupulous outward obedience to God’s law in order to merit blessing, all the while bragging that they were not sinners like other men.
For example, as said by Bible commentator, William Barclay
"The Law lays it down that the Sabbath Day is to be kept holy, and that on it no work is to be done. That is a great principle. But these Jewish legalists had a passion for definition. So they asked: What is work? All kinds of things were classified as work. For instance, to carry a burden on the Sabbath Day is to work. But next a burden has to be defined. So the Scribal Law lays it down that a burden is ‘food equal in weight to a dried fig, enough wine for mixing in a goblet, milk enough for one swallow, honey enough to put upon a wound, oil enough to anoint a small member, water enough to moisten an eye-salve, paper enough to write a customs house notice upon, ink enough to write two letters of the alphabet, reed enough to make a pen' —and so on endlessly. So they spent endless hours arguing whether a man could or could not lift a lamp from one place to another on the Sabbath, whether a tailor committed a sin if he went out with a needle in his robe, whether a woman might wear a brooch or false hair, even if a man might go out on the Sabbath with artificial teeth or an artificial limb, if a man might lift his child on the Sabbath Day. These things to them were the essence of religion. Their religion was a legalism of petty rules and regulations." 
Christ's words to the Pharisees in Matthew 23:23-24 were
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camel! [Matthew 23:23-24]
The words "Ye strain At a gnat", make no sense, and is believed to be a misprint, or an error of translation from the time of the 1611 KJV. The Greek means to “strain” out using a cloth or sieve. It is popularly believed, the Jews strained their wine and other potables in order to avoid swallowing any unclean insect, but I have been unable to verify this. However, it does not matter. Whether He meant it literally, or was using hyperbole, Jesus' point was that that the Pharisees took great pains to avoid offense in very small matters, scrupulously observing the smallest technical details of the law, while ignoring the bigger moral issues of hypocrisy, deceit, oppression, and lust.
They did a great job at keeping the letter of the Law, but ignored the spirit of it, often justifying themselves by twisting or even altering God’s commands, and introducing hundreds of rules and prohibitions of their own which were their interpretation of God’s law. Their exaggerated formalism, which insisted on ceremonial details at the expense of the more important precepts of the Law was, in fact, a perversion of God’s laws. For example, they seemed to completely overlook the fact that one of the basic precepts of the laws of Leviticus was that the widows and orphans be protected. However while the scribes and Pharisees painstakingly kept the ceremonial aspects of the law, they did not do what the Mosaic law prescribed... their neighbors. As Jesus told them...
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation" (Matt. 23:14).
In other words they practiced a vending-machine type of religion in which if they pushed the right buttons (prayer, alms, fasting etc.), God would dispense his blessings to them.
However these religious leaders were considered to be the epitome of righteousness and piety, and it must have shocked many people when Jesus told them that their righteousness had to surpass that of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20). (Actually Jesus is quite subtle in His dealing with the Pharisees in Matthew 5, especially when compared to His more than blunt words in Matthew 23, when He pronounced seven woes on them, called them “hypocrites!” and referred to them as “whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness”).
Beginning in the second half of Matthew 5, Jesus zeroed in on the spirit of the Law, considerably raising the bar. Jesus quoted several of God’s commandments showing how the scribes and Pharisees interpreted and outwardly obeyed each law, and then revealed what was God’s true intent in each case. He began each example with the words.. "You have heard that it was said … But I say to you …”
Note that these words did NOT mean that Jesus was abolishing His Father’s laws and instituting His own. He and His Father were in perfect harmony as shown in John 10:30, where Jesus said, "I and My Father are one". And in John 5:30, where Jesus said: "I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me." [All Emphasis added].
Pay close attention to His words.
Had Jesus been referring to Scripture, he likely would have used the phrase It is written, instead of it was said. The former phrase being more often used to introduce Scripture, while the latter is far more appropriate to unwritten Jewish tradition. For example… In His confrontation with Satan in Matthew 4, Jesus bases His answers to Satan’s temptations on passages of Scripture, using the word gegraptai, "It is written".
We know that Jesus did not set himself against the law of Moses (the Law and Prophets), a fact that He had just stated in the clearest of terms. What Jesus was setting Himself up against was the false and destructive interpretations and erroneous understanding of the law prevalent in his time, as amply demonstrated in Matthew 5:43 which has Jesus saying…
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'"
In this verse, Jesus is referring to Leviticus 19:18, which simply states “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. The hate your enemy bit was never part of God's law, but assumed to be the natural sequel to loving your neighbour, therefore apparently taught as law.
Four examples in Matthew 5 (verses 21, 27, 33, 43) were directly centered on the commandments. In the first, Jesus expanded the meaning of the sixth commandment "thou shall not kill" (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17), telling us that even whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. Prior to this, unjustified negative feeling towards another human being was acceptable as long as one did not actually commit murder. However since murder, like all sin, begins in the human mind, Jesus was addressing the adverse emotion behind the deed and calling it wrong (Vs. 21-26). The apostle John elaborates on this "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him." [1 John 3:15].
Note that thou shall not kill is better translated, You shall do no murder.
Since the Old Testament laws only forbade the actual act of adultery, the spirit of the law was ignored and lusting would not have been considered as a violation of the law. However, Jesus, once again getting to the heart of the matter, said that even looking at a woman with desire constituted adultery (Vs. 27-30). It is one thing never to commit adultery, but quite another to control lust in the heart and mind. He also came down hard [Vs. 31-32] on their lax approach to marriage, which quite literally gave people permission to divorce, replacing their anything-goes version with just one justifiable reason to break the marriage covenant.
Note on Modern Day Pharisees: Unfortunately the 21st century also has it’s fair share of Pharisees, who see no further than the actual words on paper and have no idea what God’s intent behind His laws are. These Pharisees are divided on the divorce issue, one camp insisting that in spite of Jesus’ clear words, even adultery is not justifiable grounds for divorce, while the second camp insists that ONLY adultery is. However all this legal wrangling does not take into account several other reasons a person may justifiably seek divorce... Abuse for one. It is hard to believe that anyone in their right mind would imagine that God would actually condemn a person seeking divorce under these circumstances. Again, it bears repeating that Jesus was reprimanding a casual anything goes approach to the marriage covenant. Unfortunately most of the reasons behind divorces today fall into the category Jesus would condemn.
Similarly, beginning in verse 43, Jesus instructed his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them, repudiating the commonly held belief that hating one's enemies was lawful and acceptable. [See Deuteronomy 23:3-6]
These examples, encompassing even our thoughts toward others, served to show the intent of the law extended far beyond the exact wording… that perfect obedience to the law took place in thought, word, and deed, a fundamental shift in theology that was first introduced in Matthew 4:17, which says "From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand". Repent, translated from the Greek metanoia, means a complete change of mind and emphasizes the idea of a radical change in one's attitude toward sin and God. [See Repentance ...The Missing Message]
Remember that Matthew 5 starts with the Beatitudes, which has Jesus saying things like the merciful will receive mercy and the pure in heart will see God. However since it is hardly likely that only the pure in heart will see God, or only the gentle will inherit the earth and only the poor in spirit will gain heaven, it is reasonable to conclude that Jesus was teaching that His followers should manifest all these character traits, and the many blessings promised are different aspects of inheriting God’s kingdom.
However, these blessings were also a direct reversal of the value system of the Pharisees.
When He said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”, He was challenging (and warning) the arrogant religious leaders who loved the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men. (Matthew 23: 6-7)
When He said, “Blessed are those who mourn”, one tends to think He was describing heartfelt repentance and remorse over sin (See 2 Corinthians 7:10). The mournful tax collector who humbly bowed his head in the Temple, beating his breast and crying out for God's mercy, was justified, while the Pharisee, who was also praying in the Temple at the same time, and who said… “God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector”... was not. Apparently the scribes and Pharisees didn’t mourn over sin, since in their minds they were already righteous, an attitude Jesus said would be humbled.
In verses 13-16, Jesus uses the analogies of salt and light to further expound on what He expected of His followers. While the Beatitudes described the essential character of His followers, the salt and light metaphors indicate that, from the small handful of Palestinian peasants on, His followers were to be an influence for good in the world.
He warned them to remain salty, preserving their unique characteristics… distinct from the world around them, lest they lose their flavour, fit only to be “thrown out and trampled under foot.” And to remember that .. If it isn’t shining, it isn’t light.
Some Examples of Intent
Behind every Mosaic command lies a principle that transcends time and culture, and is therefore applicable to all God’s people, regardless of when, or where, they live.
“These universal principles will often be related directly to the character of God and His holiness, the nature of sin, the issue of obedience, or concern for other people”. 
Which returns us to the afore mentioned commandments in Leviticus 19 about mixing seed etc. which, while they are not fully understood, definitely relate to the holiness of God, and the principles of separation. God’s followers are instructed to be Holy as He is Holy [1 Peter 1:16], and therefore separate [Also See What is Holiness]
"Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you," [2nd Corinthians 6:17].
Other commandments are also difficult to understand and
“…seem to be very strange to us because we do not understand their original context. Why did God forbid the trimming of beards (Leviticus 19:27-28; 21:5) or the cooking of a young goat in its mother's milk (Exodus 23:19; 34:26; Deuteronomy 14:21)? The cutting of beards and hair in this manner (and the closely related disfigurement - Deuteronomy 14:1) was common among the Canaanites. Cutting of the body was practised by the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:28). The worship of Yahweh was in no way to be confused with pagan practices. Most commentators point out that the Canaanites practised a fertility rite that required the cooking of a kid in milk, so this commandment seems to have been intended to outlaw such a practice. Another plausible explanation is that it was considered wrong for a kid to be cooked in the very medium by which it was previously sustained and nourished. 
However it is also noteworthy that some of the Old Testament laws are specifically renewed under the New Covenant. While it may seem a simple matter to locate these laws…. [Emphasis Added]
“…care must be taken to understand the context in which an Old Testament commandment is mentioned in the New. References in the Gospels or Acts are sometimes made to a certain Law simply because it was Jewish practice, and not because it was being renewed by Jesus or the apostles. Jesus' discussion of the practices of the Pharisees is a good example of this (see Matt. 23:23; Luke 11:42). Jesus mentioned tithing in passing as something that the Pharisees did, but there is no evidence elsewhere in the New Testament so suggest that tithing was practiced by the early church or that it was a requirement for Christians.  [See In-depth Article on Tithing]
Jesus and The Spirit of The Sabbath
This new way of thinking and adhering to the laws of God also applied to the Sabbath. The Pharisees had laid down rigid rules as to how the Sabbath was to be kept, making it more of a burden than the blessing it was originally intended to be. A day of rest was virtually unheard of in ancient times, but the Sabbath was more than just that. It was also a time for the people to draw closer to God, remembering how He had set them free from slavery in Egypt. However as time passed the rules became so stringent that they did little but set people up for failure.
However, Jesus' insight into the divine purpose behind this day of rest, caused Him not only to heal a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-12), but even allow his disciples to pick some grain on the Sabbath day. When criticized by the Pharisees, Jesus said, "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath" (Mark 2:27). This statement did not mean that man could do what he wished on the Sabbath, but that the institution was made for man’s benefit and was never intended to be kept at his expense.
All of which brings us to one final subject. What did Jesus mean when He said He came to fulfill the law?
Fulfill The Law?
Articles on various aspects of Matthew 5 abound. However the vast majority do mention that Jesus said He came not to destroy, but to fulfill (Greek plēroo) the law, but rarely offer an understandable explanation, probably with good reason, since neither the English fulfill, nor the Greek plēroo have clear cut definitions.
The English fulfill, itself has several different shades of meaning as in
- Bring to completion or reality; achieve or realize (something desired, promised, or predicted):
- Carry out (a task, duty, or role) as required, pledged, or expected.
- Satisfy or meet (a requirement, condition, or need):
All of which makes fulfill an ideal translation for plēroo, which is used some 90 times in the New Testament and similarly carries various nuances of meaning. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Lexicon (G4137) defines pleroo as
to make replete, that is, (literally) to cram (a net), level up (a hollow), or (figuratively) to furnish (or imbue, diffuse, influence), satisfy, execute (an office), finish (a period or task), verify (or coincide with a prediction), etc.: - accomplish, complete, end, expire, fill (up), fulfil, (be, make) full (come), fully preach, perfect, supply.
Although there are several subtle differences in meaning of plēroo, they are all related… this amply demonstrated in the ways the word has been used in the NT. Please note that only one or two examples of each use of the word has been quoted. For a more extensive list see Footnote 2.
1) In the following examples of fulfilled prophecy, it means bring to completion, or bring to reality.
Now all this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, And they shall call his name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us. [Matthew 1:22-23]
and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt did I call my son. [Matthew 2:15]
2) The next two examples use plēroo in the sense of literally filling..
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: Matthew 13:48 which, when it was filled, they drew up on the beach; and they sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but the bad they cast away. [Matthew 13:47]
And when the day of Pentecost was now come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound as of the rushing of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. [Acts 2:1-2]
3) While the following verses use plēroo in the sense of completing or finishing a plan, task or time period.…
After he had ended all his sayings in the ears of the people, he entered into Capernaum. [Luke 7:1]
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led captive into all the nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Luke 21:24]
And when forty years were fulfilled, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. [Acts 7:30]
4) It is also used in the sense of completely or entirely
in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Holy Spirit; so that from Jerusalem, and round about even unto Illyricum, I have fully preached the gospel of Christ; [Romans 15:19]
5) And it is also used along the lines of being as free as possible from all flaws or defects.. that there be nothing wanting, or lacking…
Be thou watchful, and establish the things that remain, which were ready to die: for I have found no works of thine perfected before my God. [Revelation 3:2. Written to the church at Sardis]
casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full. [2 Corinthians 10:5-6].
In virtually every case the word in the New Testament was used to mean fill, fill to the fullest, complete, or to finish. Jesus repudiated the Pharisaical obedience to the letter of the law, teaching that it was the principle behind every Mosaic command (or the spirit of the law) that was applicable to all God’s people regardless of when or where they lived. His teachings, far from abolishing Old Testament revelation (the type), carried it forward to it’s intended consummation (the anti-type).
Note: Yet another legitimate translation of plēroo is the English satisfy, which also makes a great deal of sense. Jesus satisfied the law by being the only man who had ever kept it in it’s entirety.
So yes! Jesus did abolish the Old Testament Laws, but He only abolished the literal interpretation of the words, the intent behind them would live forever.
However it has to be noted that this was not exactly something new. The intent behind the laws was always the governing factor... the books of Amos, who prophesied to Israel, and Isaiah prophesied to Judah providing classic examples…
I hate, I despise your feasts, and I will take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Yea, though ye offer me your burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, I will not accept them; neither will I regard the peace-offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let justice roll down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. [Amos 5:21-24]
The people of the time were obviously going through the motions and observing all the physical requirements of the law, but their hearts were far from God. Although they were still offering the burnt-offerings and meal-offerings, the Lord did not see any real righteousness.
Amos 8 tells us that they swallowed up the needy, and caused the poor of the land to fail. They asked when the Sabbath would be finished so they could buy and sell again. They were keeping the Lords festivals with their bodies, not with their minds, and were anxious for the close of the Sabbath so they could cheat on their weights.. making the ephah small, and the shekel great, [increasing the price both ways by paring down the quantity which they sold, and obtaining more silver by fictitious weights]. The also bought the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes, and sold the refuse of the wheat.
At all this the Lord swore that He would “never forget any of their works”.
Amos and Isaiah prophesied to Israel and Judah respectively… Isaiah following Amos by some 20-30 years. The Bible tells us over and over again that Judah followed in the footsteps of her sister Israel, as is very clear from the words of Isaiah 58:4-14. Here is some of what Isaiah says.. (But take the time to read all the verses).
58:4 Behold, ye fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye fast not this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high.
58:5 Is such the fast that I have chosen? the day for a man to afflict his soul? Is it to bow down his head as a rush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to Jehovah?
58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
58:7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
58:8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thy healing shall spring forth speedily; and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of Jehovah shall by thy rearward.
58:9 Then shalt thou call, and Jehovah will answer; thou shalt cry, and he will say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking wickedly;
So the supposed ‘righteousness’ of going through the motions [traipsing down to the temple to pray and offer sacrifice while oppressing the widow and orphan] spoken of by Amos was just as prevalent in Judah and brought nothing but God’s contempt and anger. It is this sham righteousness, apparently widespread in that day, is what Isaiah called Filthy Rags, addressing a specific situation not, as it is commonly believed, making a generalized statement that applied to all people of all time.
In innumerable statements the writers of the New Testament made it clear that the law of God had not been abandoned and could not be disregarded. However righteousness could not be obtained by a standard that had to be met, and that all dependence on such a righteousness was vain. Righteousness had to be accomplished in some other way. And so it was.. by faith in Jesus Christ.
But now apart from the law a righteousness of God hath been manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ unto all them that believe; for there is no distinction; [Romans 3:21-22]
so that ye may approve the things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and void of offence unto the day of Christ; being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God. [Philippians 1:10-11]
and be found in him, not having a righteousness of mine own, even that which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith: [Philippians 3:9]
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. I do not make void the grace of God: for if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nought. [Galatians 2:20-21]
For there is a disannulling of a foregoing commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (for the law made nothing perfect), and a bringing in thereupon of a better hope, through which we draw nigh unto God. [Hebrews 7:18-19]
Unfortunately the question does arise at this point as to how there can be righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, which takes us onto a whole other topic.. the doctrine of imputation. Something I had never even heard of until a few weeks ago. When I did however read about it, my reaction was identical to the first time I heard about Calvinism, or predestination. My first thought was .. You have to be kidding! …
I actually read
When God looks at man, he does not see man, but the righteousness of his perfect Son.
And one even more outrageous…
Since Christ's own righteousness is 'imputed' to the believer, God sees only Christ’s imputed righteousness even while the believer is sinning.
However this is a topic that is best left for another time and another page..
 William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew (Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1963), I, pp. 124-126. As quoted by Bob Deffinbaugh in The Fatal Failures of Religion: #2 Legalism (Matthew 5:17-48) http://bible.org/seriespage/fatal-failures-religion-2-legalism-matthew-517-48
 Applying the Old Testament Law Today. J. Daniel Hays.
 Interpreting the Law. Robert I Bradshaw. [http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_law.html]