This is a hotly debated topic, and for good reason; as it is fundamental to understanding God’s dealings with mankind, both now and throughout history. Anything this important is worth our time and effort, don’t you think? So let’s get started, shall we?
There are two places where the word abolish is used in the New Testament, in relation to the Law: Matthew 5:17-18 and Ephesians 2:11-16. Let’s take a detailed look at each of these and see what we can glean.
“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”
In this passage, Jesus is teaching not only in respect to the Law, but also the Prophets; or prophetic passages concerning Himself. There is no question that He did not abolish the prophetic passages, right? We point to these everyday in relation to Jesus. Therefore, we can safely assume the same is true of the Law.
To gain a better grasp on what is being said here, let’s do a quick word study. To do this I will be using the Complete Word Study Dictionary (edited by Spiros Zodhiates ThD) in tandem with the Strong’s concordance.
- Abolish: Kataluo (2647) – To dissolve, demolish, destroy, or throw down.
- Fulfill: Pleroo (4137) – To fulfill, bring to a full end, accomplish, complete. By implication, to fill out, complete, make perfect, accomplish an end.
- Until: Heos (2193) – Preposition. Meaning unto, as long as, marking the continuance of an action up to the time of another action, then followed by the indicative [or stated fact of the other action].
Using the above definitions, I believe we can safely paraphrase verses 17-18 above, as saying: “Do not think that I have come to abolish [dissolve, demolish, or destroy] the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish [destroy] them, but to fulfill them [bring them to a full end, complete, make perfect, accomplish the purpose for which they were given]. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until [up to the time that] all is accomplished.”
“Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.”
Let’s do another quick word study to make sure we understand what it is Paul is saying. To do this I will again be using the Complete Word Study Dictionary (edited by Spiros Zodhiates ThD) in tandem with the Strong’s concordance.
- Broken Down: Luo (3089) – To loose, loosen what is fast, bound, meaning to unbind, untie. By implication, to destroy.
- Abolishing: Katargeo (2673) – To destroy, cause to cease, do away with, put an end to. With Paul it always denotes a complete cessation, not a temporary or partial ceasing.
In this passage, Paul is speaking of uniting the body as one in Christ. The Law separated Jew from Gentile; but, according to the Law, a Gentile could convert to Judaism through circumcision and adherence to the Law. Based on the word study above, Paul tells us that Jesus broke down, or freed us from, this dividing wall of hostility through His death. And furthermore, that He accomplished this by putting an end to “the law of commandments that were expressed in ordinances”.
Wait.. Aren’t These Scriptures Contradictory?
On the surface, these scriptures do appear to be irreconcilable. On the other hand, they fit together nicely when you consider the full scope of what was accomplished by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Simply put, it was never Jesus’ mission to destroy the Law or the Prophets. He did not come to do away with the Law; and He certainly did not come to destroy the prophecies concerning Himself. He came to fulfill them. And by way of fulfilling them, they were rendered complete.
In other words, everything written by the prophets about His first advent have been fulfilled. Hence, we no longer look to them in a future tense; we now see them as evidence that Jesus was who He claimed to be. The same is true of the Law. The Bible tells us that the Law was put into place until (there’s that word again) Messiah would come, Gal. 3:10-29.
It’s essential to understand that the Law is the outward expression of God’s holiness. In that sense it is and always will be relevant. But it has never had the power to redeem, only to make sin known as sin (Romans 7:13). In giving His life for ours, Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us. No longer do we gain life through the letter of the Law; rather we live by faith in Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us (Romans 8:2-4).
The Sum of the Matter
In the end, we have all transgressed God’s holy standard, which is reflected in the Law; therefore we all stand justly condemned before Him. In fact, the Bible says that there is nothing good in any of us. All our good works are as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64). But thanks be to God; on that day when each of us stands before Him, the redeemed will point to Christ as their Advocate and Savior from the Law of Sin and Death; and will enter into eternity with Him!
Those who have chosen to reject His sacrifice, however, can only rely on their own merits; which can never meet God’s holy standard. As a result, they will stand condemned in the judgment; because although Jesus fulfilled the Law, He did not kill the Law. And those who do not know Christ will be judged by the Law.
Which brings me to my final point…
If you’re reading this, and you don’t know Christ as your personal Savior and Lord, I would urge you not to wait any longer. Our days here our numbered. I believe Jesus is returning soon, but your day could come at any time. None of us are guaranteed tomorrow. Regardless of what you may have learned in the past, the offer of salvation ends at the grave. If you die without knowing Christ, you have no hope of standing in God’s day of judgment. Please contact me for more information, or click here to learn more about coming to know Him as your Savior and Lord: How Do I Accept Jesus As My Savior?
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”John 3:16-17