Jesus did/did not abolish the Law

Matthew 5:17-20

"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. I tell you the truth, 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. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same 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. 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."

Ephesians 2:13-15

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.

Hebrews 7:18-19

The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.

Some points on interpreting Matthew 5:17-20 from Hard Sayings of the Bible (article by F. F. Bruce):

Jesus' fulfillment of the Law applies particularly to the sacrificial system. The requirement of sacrifice in order for sins to be forgiven is still in effect, but the requirement has been fulfilled by Jesus' death. Since the sacrifices described in the Law no longer have to be carried out, people might think that the Law itself has been abolished (e.g. sacrifice was once required for forgiveness, but is no longer a requirement), but Jesus explains that he is meeting the requirement, not removing it. Or rather, the need for us today to meet the sacrificial and ceremonial obligations of the Law is abolished, but not the need for those obligations to have been fulfilled in Jesus.

Ephesians 2:13-15 is part of a discussion of the unity of Jews and Gentiles in Christ (Eph 2:11-22), hence verse 14 is emphasizing the fact that the laws which separated Gentiles from the Israelites (e.g circumcision) are no longer in effect. The need for post-resurrection followers of God to follow the ceremonial laws - which formed the barrier between Jews and Gentiles - was abolished; the law itself was not abolished, but fulfilled. It is also worth noting that the Greek word translated as "abolish" in v. 14 is different from the word for "abolish" used in Mt 5:17; the former is translated elsewhere as "fade away" and "pass away," while the latter is only translated as "destroy," "abolish," and "thrown down." (This bit of knowledge is from the NIV Exhaustive Concordance.)

Hebrews 7:18-19 refers to the regulations of the Levitical priesthood, as part of a discussion of the priesthood of Jesus (Heb 6:19-8:2). While the regulations served a purpose, ordinary Levite priests could not atone for sin once for all as Jesus did, and in that sense the regulations were "weak and useless." The requirements of atoning for sin through sacrifice that the Levite priests attempted to meet were not abolished, but fulfilled through Jesus.

Other responses (offsite)

Related articles

Top of page